Last January I traveled down near Nashville, Tennessee for the B’ney Yosef North America (BYNA) Plenary Meeting. I went in with real hope but also with great caution as I so wanted to see a group come together that would be geared around the concept of promoting peace and unity among the quickly expanding Ephraimite community. I was cautious, however, because I had no idea what direction this group had envisioned. There were some ideas shared at that meeting that, quite frankly, would have prevented me from becoming a part of this group. Yet, as we continued to discuss things, pray about them, and work together through them, a theme of reconciliation aimed mainly at the growing Hebraic Christian movement began to emerge. I came out of that meeting with a renewed zeal for the work before us and I found myself committed to helping this process in any manner that God would have me.
Once we left Tennessee, we began the work of planning a “North American Summit” which was to take place barely three months later. We all had work to do, jobs that needed to be done. Mine was to work on the writing committee to bring forth a set of principles we all could agree to. That became manifest in what is now called, “The Articles of Declaration.” Upon arriving in St. Petersburg, Florida, it became clear, very quickly, that most of the people that were present shared the same vision of promoting unity throughout our house first, before moving on to other work.
After almost a couple of thousand years of splits and denominations, the promotion of peace and unity on a body-wide level is truly in its infant stage. With so much division and strife throughout all forms of Christianity, it should be clear to us all that we can’t continue indefinitely using our current model. There is not enough peace throughout our entire body, or “house” if you will, for us to be fully able to touch a holy thing. By that I mean that without sufficient peace within us, we can only profane the holy things we handle. This is a concept that is not comprehended well throughout our house and yet it stands as one of the major problems we have at introducing the well understood ancient teaching of the need to be one in function rather than form. We must develop enough inner peace that we can be surrounded by others that might not see everything as we currently do, and yet, work together without profaning (and destroying) the effort for the good of the whole.
One indisputable truth stands before us all: One day ALL of God’s people will stand together as one! Before that time, before the full restoration of all things has come to pass, we simply will not see eye to eye with everyone who is part of the family. Our mission is made clear in Ezekiel where we see him taking the two sticks (one for Judah and one for Joseph) and is commanded to hold them “near” one to another. He doesn’t make them one he simply brings them close and it is after that time that God will make them one in His hand. If all of God’s people are to be drawn close to one another BEFORE the completion of God’s Torah being written in the mind and heart is accomplished, then we will be among people who might not see God or His word exactly as we do. That is just a fact of life that we need to understand and grow comfortable with. This isn’t a position that condones error or false doctrine, it is simply the recognition that until we are perfected, we will stand among imperfection, ourselves included.
BYNA might very well play a key role in the days ahead, however, success isn’t likely to come through a political process. Instead, success will come through the people who share the same vision and are united, through God, with a common purpose. I believe that purpose, one of working together toward the reconciliation and restoration of all of God’s Israel, was made clear coming out of that first Plenary Meeting. No longer should we view ourselves as independent little groups, and our more autonomous teachers might consider at least loosely joining this effort of promoting peace and unity through a unified face like BYNA. Instead, we all need to start thinking like the community or body we really are, recognizing that we remain a people dispersed among the nations who need to learn how to get along before we can even consider taking any future steps. We are connected through the same God and His Messiah, however, that Messiah is not returning for the same dysfunctional family that were punished with dispersion to begin with. Rather, he is returning for a family who matured enough to be held near, one to another. Therefore, our first job is in this process is to learn how to live and work together in peace for the good of the whole body. A body, whose head, will be who ushers in the Kingdom and brings with him the exiles who have been away from home for far too long.
And so as we head toward the second BYNA Summit which will be held February 12-14th in Mesa, AZ, we find ourselves standing again at a place in history where, like so many moments before us, our direction might very well be steered if ever-so-slightly, into a direction that will, one day, truly change the world. The question is, are we willing to follow God’s lead and work through this process that might last a generation or more… or has our fly-by “in the second” culture gotten the best of us? Can we work within the structure of God’s timetable, or has our society sped up to the point where we can barely even hear that soft, still voice?
I, for one, stand optimistically and believe that we can hear and can work within His timetable and purpose. But we have to be willing to place our desires in the back seat and let God through His Spirit steer this vehicle according to His will. We cannot usher in the Kingdom, but we can actively be part of those two sticks that are drawn close before the Kingdom comes. And in order to do that, our stick must have inner shalom, inner peace or we will continue to profane and disrupt all we are exposed to. The widely shared sense of direction that came out of that first Plenary Meeting in Nashville remains the same today. If we do not correct our mistakes, and join together in the common purpose of unity and the promotion of peace throughout this movement; then we will not take part in the events we all so desire to be part of and witness. The result will be that we wait this out in the wilderness knowing that the next generation will see the Promised Land. Oh Father, help us find that peace!
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