For the time they are a changin’

We are living in truly amazing times. In my understanding, nothing less then the beginning of the time described by the Prophet Yermiyahu (Jeremiah), “….in those days the House of Yehuda (Judah) will walk with the House of Yisrael (Israel) – Yermiyhu (Jeremiah) 3:18. Does that sound like a very bold assertion? Yes, for sure… but let me tell you what has been going on in Israel over the last number of years that causes me to feel that way.

It has only been approximately slightly more then 30 years that ‘Ephraim’ – Lost Israel among the nations, has begun to awake to their identity. Across the world, they have come to realize that they too are part (alongside their Jewish brothers and sisters) of Israel. Dispersed Israel, in the earliest stages of awakening to their identity; prior to their promised regathering and reunion.

Although, among the people involved, there is much excitement about this, they have generally been unknown to both Christians and Jews, worldwide. At least until recently…. The last few years have witnessed a surge in understanding of who these people are – not in the United States, but in Israel. This awareness has come, not from hearing about this movement, or reading about it. It hasn’t come from watching any DVD’s or a YouTube video. And, it has not come from hearing someone lecture about it. It has come, rather, from seeing and speaking to Ephraimites, in the streets, towns and cities of Israel.

Those in this movement who foolishly thought they could issue proclamations to the Government of Israel and make demands, thankfully appear to be only a small minority. Rather, actually being in Israel, participating in the Chagim (festivals), volunteering and being involved in society has made the difference, though. It has created an awareness of the very fact that Ephraim exists, and desires to come home and be reunited with their Jewish brothers and sisters. But, it has come from a position of love and mutual respect for the Reconciliation and Restoration of ALL of Israel.

It has come from Jewish people observing returning Ephraim march in Jerusalem’s Parade of All Nations. Held yearly during Sukkot, the parade has always featured a huge presence of Christian Zionists from around the world. They are sponsored by the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, an organization of Christians who love Israel. However, beginning in 2014 (for the first time ever!), and every year since, marching behind the banners of United 2 Restore have been Ephraimites from around the world! Coming from countries as diverse as Fiji, Canada, Sri Lanka, Holland, Papua, Germany, Singapore, Peru, South Africa and the United States, they have marched together; as Ephraim/Yosef (Joseph) returning. The banners they carried were of Judah & Ephraim coming together, and an illustration of the prophecy of Zechariah of the 10 men of the nations holding on to the Tzitzit of the Jewish man; with the caption from Sefer Bereshit (Book of Genesis), “It is my brothers that I am seeking…” said by Yosef (Joseph) 37:16.

It has been from ‘chance’ encounters with Israelis while standing in line at the grocery store, ordering a cup of coffee and other elements of daily interaction. But most importantly, the heart of wanting to be in Israel is what is most apparent. I keep hearing stories of seemingly, ‘divine appointments’ happening, again and again. And no, not just during Sukkot, Simchat Torah or Shabbat – but in every location, at all times. It has happened to me, numerous times – and many times with people who are personally unaware of the number of people involved in this movement. They are just there in Israel, because they feel they need to be. And when I share with them, my experiences with Ephraimites from around the world – they are stunned by the scope of this amazing movement. They often think they are among the first people who have been brought to this understanding. The movement of the return of Ephraim and the Restoration of ALL of Israel…

More and more Ephraimites are coming on volunteer programs; their college age children are applying to study for a semester or a year in Israeli universities. They are studying Hebrew in their communities around the world. They are reading legitimate Israeli news websites on a regular basis, and raising funds to support social welfare organizations in Israel. They are starting to feel and most importantly, to act as part of the nation of Israel. They and their communities, congregations and fellowships are wrestling with what exactly does it mean to be part of the Restoration of our Nation – the Nation of Israel. Not just part of a new denomination – but focusing on the national aspects, which their ancestors hadn’t even considered for more then 2,700 years…

We are on the verge of a whole new situation, an entirely new reality. One where people are laser focused on what unites us, rather then what could potentially divide us. One where we are driven by the concepts of mutual respect for the Reconcilliation and Restoration of ALL of Israel. One where we are truly United 2 Restore…. Yeah, as those song lyrics said, so long ago – “For the times, they are a changin’…”

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A Stick of Many Colors

An awakening is occurring today, a phenomenon wherein non-Jews in uncountable numbers are identifying as part of Israel. When these people read Ezekiel 37 and the two sticks, or Jeremiah 31 and the two houses, they see themselves as being part of the stick of Joseph, part of the House of Israel. This awakening certainly appears to be a work of God as the odds of so many unrelated people coming to this same understanding without collusion appears astronomical.

In general, it has truly been a blessing to stand back and watch as so many have come to a new understanding, a more Hebraic paradigm. Yet this awakening, this new paradigm is not happening without blemish. There are many people who are either polarized or who are polarizing, and varying degrees of division has been the result. The awakening has become a movement that blesses more than it curses, but it continues to curse at unacceptable levels.

Most of the strife, I dare say, is the result of a lack of quality discipleship. When we throw in a spirit of pride and good ole’ human stubbornness into the mix, it becomes clear that unity throughout the movement is understandably unattainable at this time. But things are slowly changing. Individual efforts by many within this awakening are paying off, and many groups (like United 2 Restore) as well as various congregations are taking a very public stance to promote an environment wherein we can work together toward a common goal rather than allowing the minutia we find within certain doctrinal positions to continue to stand as a wall between us. One group in particular, B’ney Yosef North America (BYNA), has even gone as far as putting forth what they call, “Articles of Declaration,” which is a biblically based agreement that is centered purely on behavior, on how we might interact with our families, congregations, and extended community. BYNA is trying to bring peace to chaos, unity to place where division has thrived.

Efforts like these are worthy of our support because they didn’t just recognize problems within the movement, they have gone out on a ledge to address them. They have discerned a lack of harmony in certain areas and have been willing to extend a hand of peace when others have stood back and only watched. But there is yet another area of disharmony, another great divide that is yet to be adequately crossed, racism.

There is no question that we have taken great strides toward ending racism around the world. Yet we still have many issues that need to be addressed. Secularly speaking, our political climate has continued to stir the pot of discord and tensions based on the color of our skin have escalated in some areas. In religious circles, we often find ourselves looking into the secular mirror as division by race remains more common than most probably realize. Though many churches have found a way to blend together and worship in harmony, a great schism continues to be the norm. I know of one street in a North Carolina town where there is a Baptist Church on either side of the road. One of them is a white church, and the other is a black church. At 10:15 on a Sunday morning, the street fills with cars and the African Americans go to their side and the white Americans go to theirs. Most every town in America has a predominately white church and a predominately black church. And, I should add, our history does make this understandable, albeit disheartening.

I propose to you that racial animosity will not depart from this world by anything done by the secularists. If anything, they are who stir this pot and profit politically through our social turmoil. The answer then, to our racial problems, must come through the people of faith. It must come through those who understand that our Heavenly Father has indeed created man in every color we see and that our coming together as brothers and sisters, accepting each other as He created us, is truly His will.

Being “united to restore” is more than just recognizing who the stick of Judah and the stick of Joseph are and working toward any future reconciliation. Being united to restore is also recognizing who the many individuals are that make up each stick and standing united with them. Israel will be gathered from every nation, speaking every language, appearing in every color. Since that is true, then being united to restore goes beyond Joseph reaching out to Judah, or Judah reaching out to Joseph, it is Judah and Joseph reaching out to and making peace with ALL who belong to their own stick. The promotion of peace within each stick is necessary before the two sticks can be drawn close as pictured in Ezekiel 37:15-17. Since color remains a dividing issue, then we need to stand up and proactively address this. We must openly and enthusiastically come together to put this lingering wound to bed once and for all. Unless we can stand together in harmony regardless of our skin color, unless our stick can stand as one set apart people with a purpose… we will not see the restoration and reconciliation of the Whole House of Israel happen in our lifetime.

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