Hurry up and Wait

If you have been in the military you’ve probably heard the phrase, “Hurry up and wait.” Generally, this is the source of much frustration with much rushing around to get everything done quickly so that you can sit around for hours bored to tears. Having served in the U.S. Army (1984-1986) I endured the hurrying up and waiting, yet toward the end of my enlistment, I began to understand not only the necessity, but also the brilliance of it.

Being prepared for something in advance is vital to being able to perform at your full potential. Going into battle without being prepared most often ends in failure or even death. Thus, if one has the choice and/or the opportunity to be prepared in advance, being frustrated because you were prepared in advance and then had to wait becomes a small price to pay for being ready to perform to your full potential when called to duty. Whatever is tied to your job — bags being packed, trucks being loaded, weapons being clean — must all be done in advance of going anywhere. The idea of “hurrying up and waiting” was just part of Army life, but a part of Army life, that was vital to success.

I don’t believe the military invented the concept of “hurry up and wait,” I think God did. We know that God is all about timing, but God is also about preparedness. Think of the parable of the Ten Virgins1. This is a parable directly calling for a preparedness mindset. All the virgins with their lamps, awaiting the bridegroom and expected to have what was necessary in place when He got there to light the way. And yet, half of them were not prepared and had to hear the words that would cut us all so deeply, “I do not know you2.”

This concept of being prepared in advance goes beyond just being ready for the coming of messiah. In the interim, we all have some form of work to do3. I personally believe that each of us has been called to something that will be of benefit to the Kingdom, but before we can walk in the fullness of that calling, we must first be trained. We must be given the tools necessary, be made ready, prepared, so that when God requires us to walk in the fullness of His calling, we are packed, prepared, and ready to go (so to speak).

It is often lost on the Christian world that the Great Commission4 is really a call to prepare the nations for the work that is ahead of us. The idea of “making disciples” means making students; being ready to teach those who desire to learn about the Lord and His will for their lives. Yet all too often, we see people being placed into positions like that of a teacher, before they have been fully taught themselves. There is a reason why the disciples walked with Rabbi Yeshua for three years before they were fully let loose to begin the process of teaching others. Even in the case of Paul, a learned man who studied under Gamaliel5 who was the grandson of Hillel (Hillel started the school Paul attended), we find him going away for a time to make the necessary connections before returning and walking in his calling6.

There is literally a time for everything7, including the time when God expects us to function according to His good will regarding what He called us to be. But being properly prepared often means that time will pass between the time we are called and the time we walk in that calling. Consider the commandment found in Torah8 about uncircumcised fruit9. Here we see that when a fruit tree was planted, the fruit itself, for the first three years, was considered by God to be — “uncircumcised” and “inedible.” Then, in the forth year, the fruit was holy unto the Lord and finally in the fifth year it was able to be consumed by anyone. The picture is that of a young tree with great potential being given the time to extend its roots deep into the ground, so that, having been properly established (prepared, if you will?), the tree will be able to produce quality fruit for a very long period of time. When we apply this concept in our own lives, we should see the importance of taking the time necessary to extend our own “roots” in the Word of God. Just as the tree is given time to extend it’s roots and become strong in order to produce fruit for a long period of time, we, too, should take that time to be properly discipled.

Perhaps now you see why one of the character attributes of God10 is patience. And seeing that we are expected to reflect Him in our words and deeds11, then patience, even during the time when it seems we are just waiting on Him, should also be an obvious character trait of ours. Yet being patient when you have such love and zeal for what we know is just ahead of us is not easy! In fact, it is very reminiscent of the “hurry up and wait” feeling I had when I served in the Army.

When I look out at the current landscape I see groups who are made up of people who now understand God’s ultimate plan of restoration and reconciliation such as United 2 Restore, B’ney Yosef, and others. Yet the “curse” that comes along with having been prepared for this is knowing that, as Hanoch Young12 has said many times, “It is like being the tip of the spear which gets to where it is going, first.” For those reading who have understood what God is ultimately doing today, you are like that tip of that spear that got to this understanding before the vast majority of the rest of Israel did. In fact, seeing most Ephraimites still do not know they are Ephraim… that “wait” might be a while longer. Now please don’t misunderstand, by “curse” I simply mean the frustration that comes with waiting — for we are truly blessed to understand and be a part of what God is doing today.

So where do we go from here? The answer is simple, we make wise use of the time13 and continue to study, prepare and be ready for the days ahead. The Jewish man wearing the tzitziot14 in Zechariah15 was prepared and ready to have ten men from the nations come to him. How do I know? Because, Yeshua told us that He “doesn’t know” those who are not prepared16; and those ten men, Zechariah wrote, heard that God was with that man. Only those who are prepared, in place, and ready, will be used for such things. Yes, the preparation and waiting can be frustrating, but the reward for having been prepared in advance — before walking in your calling — is immeasurable.

1Matthew 25:1-13
2Matthew 25:10-13
3Ephesians 4:11-13, 1 Corinthians 12:12-18
4Matthew 28:19-20
5Acts 22:3
6Galatians 1:15-18
7Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
8Strong’s # H8451, often translated as “Law” but literally means “instructions or directions”
9Leviticus 19:23-25
10Galatians 5:22-23
11Colossians 3:17
12Co-founder of United 2 Restore and Israeli tour guide ( http://www.kolyehuda.com/ )
132 Peter 1:5-10
14Numbers 15:37-41
15Zechariah 8:23
16See end-note #1

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BYNA Summit: Where do we go from here?

Impactful. Unifying. Hilarious. Informative. Positive. Inspiring. Healing. These are just some of the words that come to mind when I think of the recent B’ney Yosef North America (BYNA) Summit that was held February 12th -14th in Mesa, AZ.

The Summit kicked off in a most unique way, giving weight to a well known word, protocol. Among those who attended this gathering were members of the Akimel O’otham and Pee Posh tribes (better known in English as the Pima and Maricopa tribes), indigenous peoples of the American south-west. A time of mutual blessing was offered, gifts were exchanged as a sign of respect for one another, and new friends were most certainly made.

When it was time for the speakers, Al McCarn, executive director of BYNA, had the first slot. Al gave a talk on protocol and also something of a “State of BYNA” address, which by the way, is good (but I will come back to that). Al was followed that evening by BYNA elder and House of Aaron leader, John Conrad, who spoke on giving a good report. John laid out a great case on why speaking the words of life and blessing rather than death and cursing are, in part, what should set us apart from the world around us. The next morning brought about a most unique brother, Dr. Suuqiina of Indigenous Messengers. Dr. Suuqiina blended humor (gut wrenching at times) with what Batya Wooten might call, “Deep theology on a business card.” When you wiped away the tears from laughing, you would hear a one or two line theological point that really left you thinking. The afternoon speaker came to us from the Netherlands, Iris Bouwman. Iris, who leads Judah and Ephraim Ministries with long time friend Janny Holster, shared unique insights pertaining to the gathering of all of Israel, how Benjamin is the bridge, and she also shared pictures and stories from her travels around the world. That night, Hanoch Young (United 2 Restore) shared personal insights and observations as related to the many congregations he has visited in the last 3 ½ years. In many cases his experiences among Ephraimites have been positive, but that has not always the case. Hanoch’s talk was preceded by what may have been the funniest skit of the Parable of the Prodigal Son ever done. And somehow, in the 20 minutes of more gut wrenching laughter, the point was made that Ephraim, the Prodigal Son, has had a pride issue he needs, we need, to address.

The final morning brought us another talk by John Conrad, the singing of Israel’s national anthem (HaTikvah) and a closing prayer by Mark Webb, an elder in both BYNA and Congregation Living Messiah in Mesa. As one would expect, parting from old and new friends alike was difficult.

What stood out to me?

After each session there were round table discussions where all attendees broke up into groups of 8 and addressed various questions that were provided by a group leader, usually a BYNA elder. The general theme of the discussion was centered on who BYNA is and what BYNA might look like as we continue on the path ahead. I believe each person was able to contribute their own observations and understandings to their groups, but for me personally, there was one main repeating picture that kept resurfacing in my mind, namely, the kind of individual it takes to have ten men coming to you because they believe the LORD is with you.

Zechariah 8:23 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”(NKJV)

“Grasp the sleeve” is probably better translated, “seize the corner.” It is fairly well accepted that this is the fringes, the tzitziot, the same that was grabbed on Yeshua in Matthew 9:20. However, when it comes to this Jewish man in Zech. 8:23, there has to be more than just the fringes that drew 10 men to him. The fringes are a sign of God’s will, His instructions or Law, but anyone can wear an article of clothing, there has to be more. What about this man was special? What was it that those ten men “heard” about him that they knew that the LORD was with him? We can surmise that this man was walking the walk, speaking life not death, bearing a good report about those he encounters. But I think in every way he must have been a reflection of the one he served. Paul wrote in Colossians 3:17 that all we do in word or deed should be done, “in the name of,” Yeshua. To do something in the name of another means doing it in a manner consistent with his character, in a way that adds to his reputation, or is done in his authority or power. What Paul is saying is that everything we do should reflect the one we serve. The world around us should actually hear the Lord in our words and see him in our deeds and if they don’t, we are not operating in his name.

I believe the essence of the Jewish man in Zech. 8:23 is that he is operating in the name, reflecting the character of the one he serves. And in my view, how much of an impact BYNA can have is directly tied to how well each of us as Ephraimites can also reflect the one we serve. If we each can speak life and not death, be edifying and not strife filled, bless rather than curse, and above all… exude the fruits of the Spirit of God in everything we say and do – then we will begin to see lives changed on a scale we have only dreamt about. Beyond what I just shared, the difference between the Jewish man in that verse and anyone else is that he leads a set-apart (holy) life and has the inner peace to handle it. Moreover, he is humble… he knows it isn’t about him, it is about the one he serves and everything he says and does testifies to that. The ten men KNEW the Lord was with him!

The state of BYNA is good but there is still a lot of work to do. And most of it is hinged on us better resembling the Jewish man of Zech. 8:23. How much impact we have, how unifying we are, what effect we have on those around us… all intrinsically tied to to the idea that the increasingly dark world around us can and will only get darker, unless we allow the light of God to shine brightly in everything we say and do.

>> Check out the BYNA website in the coming weeks as all the talks and events will be offered for sale on digital download.

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In Search of Peace (Thoughts on the upcoming BYNA Summit)

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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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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An Open Letter to the Jewish People (on teshuvah)

Over the last decade or so, my family has been keeping the Sabbath and biblical Holy Days. We’re not Jewish, but we feel drawn to these days for our own reasons. In the process of observance and celebration, we consider ourselves blessed in many ways. As we annually cycle through the Appointed Times, we build upon those things we learned during the previous years. And, as each cycle comes around, I find my focus narrowing on reconciliation and restoration between and for all of the B’ney Yisrael.

Back in early September, as we began the final 40 days that lead to Yom Kippur, I began to see teshuvah in a completely different light. I made a commitment to reach out to those I knew I had wronged, and also, to those I believe I have been wronged by. This has been more than just another learning experience for me, it has been a humbling life lesson. I have stood before and asked forgiveness from those I know I have hurt. I have also stood before others in an attempt to find shalom between us, letting go of any memory that might have related to how poorly they might have treated me. Like I said, this has been a humbling and yet, somehow, oddly rewarding experience.

There is an aspect of teshuvah that I seem unable to satisfy at this time, and sadly, I might never satisfy this weight on my heart. That weight is found squarely on my inability to take the hurt of the Jewish people, a hurt caused by centuries of hostility at the hands of Christians, away. As a man loosely raised as a Christian, I now know that the Jewish people have, for the most part, a very unfavorable view of Christians, Christianity, and Jesus. And why not? Christians over the centuries have treated the Jewish people poorly. Starting early in the second century, various Christian leaders began to shape the paradigm of future Christians by writing about the Jews as if they were Christ killers, deplorable sinners, and a people out of God’s will and without purpose. As time progressed we see a growing lack of respect aimed at the Jewish people coupled with beatings, forced baptisms, and even death. When Hitler came into power, he claimed to be a Christian. Despite him being a poor reflection of the one he claimed to serve, the Jews should not be expected to have to discern who may or may not be reflecting the values of Christianity. Thus, from their perspective, if Hitler claimed to be a Christian, and I claim to be a Christian, then in their eyes, I am not much different than Hitler.

The truth is, I am unlike Hitler in many ways but I have no ability to undo the past. Not only do I lack that ability, I really can’t even make an adequate apology to the Jewish people for the wrongs that have been committed against them by those who have come before me. I can’t make right what others have made wrong, all I can do is take a stand for Israel, for the Jewish people, and attempt to reflect the true values and character of the God we both serve. Judah – your God is my God, and your people are my people. While I can’t undo the past, I can offer my respect and understanding and only hope, and pray, that one day this sentiment becomes mutual. And perhaps, as time progresses, others will come to a similar understanding and, in time, reach that same depth of teshuvah. When that happens, we’ll all taste an aspect of shalom that hasn’t been realized since Solomon.

Avinu Malkeinu, hear my prayer. I have, we all have, sinned before you. Have compassion upon us and our children. Our Father, our King! Return us in complete teshuvah before you. We ask you to bring shalom to chaos and union to areas of division. May a door of communication be opened between all who belong to you, our King. To you alone be the glory! Amen.

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40 Days and Nights

The number 40 is a very intriguing number. It shows up 146 times in Scripture and it seems like it has 40 purposes. Testing, trial, probing, correction, warning, encouraging… it is likely we don’t even know all of God’s reasons behind the repetitive use of this number. For brevity sake, I won’t list every occurrence, but here are a few uses of this number as they appear in Scripture:

~ The rain fell on the earth for 40 days and nights while the family of Noah were safely aboard the Ark.

~ Moses spent 40 years in Egypt, 40 years in Midian, and then 40 years in the Wilderness. The latter with the rest of the Israelite’s who would not see the Promised Land.

~ The spies spent 40 days investigating the Land promised to Israel.

~ Jonah warned Nineveh for 40 days that their sins would bring about destruction.

~ Ezekiel laid on his right side for 40 days to symbolize the sins of Judah.

~ Elijah fasted for 40 days at Horeb while Yeshua (Jesus) fasted for 40 days and nights before his ministry began.

~ Saul, David, and Solomon each ruled for 40 years.

Obviously there are many more examples and one of the most amazing appearances of the number 40 isn’t even found within the text, it is that many believe that 40 different authors were used to write the Tanach (OT) and B’rit Chadashah (NT). That may or may not be true as Moses certainly didn’t record his own death and there are questions about a second author in Isaiah. Regardless, clearly the number 40 has great meaning to the God we serve.

The month of Elul

Friday evening the new moon (Rosh Kodesh) will be visible, and that celestial event, as it does every month, marks the beginning of the new biblical month. According to the Hebrew calendar, that month is called “Elul,” and Elul, a 30 day month, is somewhat of a somber month in that it precedes the holiest time of the year. This is the time of the year when one begins to do some serious introspection, repenting, and drawing closer to both God and to His will for you as an individual and for this nation (Israel) to which we belong. The month of Elul ends on Yom Teruah, the Day of Trumpets (aka, “Rosh Hashanah”) and that begins what has been traditionally called, “The Days of Awe.”

The Days of Awe are truly the time when one really digs deep within themselves and seeks to have God reveal to them anything that might indicate where they have fallen short of God’s expectations. It is also a time when one might seek to make right any wrongs we have with one another. Pride is set aside and we walk in pure humility before God and neighbor in a true spirit of reconciliation. These 10 days end at the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur. This day has always been tied to not only our own sin, but the sins of our nation. It is a time of fasting, prayer, rebuilding, and maturing. It should be that we have been reminded of our sins while being made aware of those things we didn’t realize were sin. We then lay it all out before God cleaning the slate, if you will, before beginning the next annual cycle in our walk.

40 Days and Nights

If you did the math above, Elul being 30 days and the Days of Awe being 10, you realize that Friday evening marks the beginning of 40 days that end on Yom Kippur. I doubt that fact is incidental, in fact, recognizing it now almost seems like a call by God to make use of that time in a manner beneficial to not only us as we walk individually before our God, but also beneficial to our community at large. The closer we draw to God, and the more we walk in humility before Him AND our neighbor, the better our community (or nation) will function as a whole.

In the spirit of being United 2 Restore, I am suggesting that we all take at least some time out of each of the next 40 days to pray, repent, and reconcile so that we might receive not only forgiveness but also direction for the days ahead. All of us setting aside time each day will mean that as a united body we will stand together daily in prayer, lifting each other up. It also means that as we do this as one people, we will start to draw closer together and truly begin resembling a nation. To borrow part of a verse from Esther 4, if we have “come to the kingdom for such a time as this” then it is time that we collectively begin to act like citizens of that Kingdom. Let us take the next 40 days, beginning on Friday evening, Elul 1, to pray, repent, and reconcile to whatever degree we are capable of. May you be blessed and may HE be exalted!

If you are in agreement, I ask you to share this article with others. Shalom to you all!

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Restoration 101: Users Guide

Over the last three years or so, we have been using the phrase, “Revolution for Restoration.” So many people have come to this understanding and are in full agreement that the time is now to draw closer to one another awaiting the day that God makes us one in His hand. But how does one go about a revolution like this? What exactly is expected of each of us? How does this revival of epic proportions even begin?

Well, I would be entirely remiss if I didn’t begin by saying that this great revival begins when it is God’s timing for it to begin. We cannot force God’s hand in anything, He alone is God and He alone will do what he has appointed for Himself to do. With that said, the concept of restoration has become so prevalent throughout those who identify as Israel that perhaps this great gathering is closer than we might think? After all, why would so many have such a strong drive to unite with all of God’s Israel when just 40 years ago or less, this wasn’t even a consideration?

With His timing seemingly within reach, I find myself influenced by many aspects of Scripture as I consider those questions asked above. To address those questions I offer the following three points for consideration. Perhaps we all might glean something that we can use to discern God’s purpose for us in the days ahead?

1. Cycles of Righteousness – The Feasts of God (see Lev. 23) have been called “Cycles of Righteousness” by various teachers throughout time. The reason is that they run in an annual cycle and they each feature various aspects through which we can learn. They teach about the history that each feast was derived from, they carry a meaning that is relevant to the day in which you live, and they also point forward at work that God would do, in general, through His messiah. In doing this, the feasts reveal aspects of God’s heart and desire for His people as they reveal His righteousness. Since they repeat on an annual basis, they have been called, “Cycles of Righteousness.” The repetition of His Holy Days, year after year, helps to drive home the points being made, keep them fresh on our minds, and allow us to build on what we learned the prior year. The learning truly never ends.

For the purposes of this article, I am only going to look at an aspect of the first two fall feasts, Yom Teruah (Trumpets, AKA “Rosh Hashanah”) and Yom Kippur (atonement/ coverture). Yom Teruah is a high Sabbath that marks the beginning of the month of Tishri (generally in September) and traditionally the Jews have viewed this as the anniversary of the first day of Creation. It also marks the first of 10 days known as “the Days of Awe.” It is during these 10 days when one, traditionally, is expected to dig deep into oneself and recall all areas where they might have fallen short not only before God, but before each other. It is also the time when we ask God to reveal those areas where we fell unknowingly short. It is a time to reconcile our differences, repent and go and make peace between one another. We then stand before God at the end of those 10 days, on Yom Kippur, another High Sabbath and perhaps the highest of all, having reconciled any and all differences we had not only with God but with each other. It is a time of individual and national cleansing.

Revival can not come, restoration cannot happen, if we stand at odds with our brothers and sisters. God “hates” division among the brethren (Proverbs 6:16-19) and if we love God then we must love what He loves and hate what He hates. And if God hates division, then we must also hate division. Therefore, if we seek revival and restoration, we must take the Days of Awe very seriously and make peace with those we have wronged while repenting of those things we knew… and didn’t know of… before God.

2. Changing the culture – Our congregation has been following a triennial Torah Portion for the last 4 years or so. Last week we brought the book of Genesis to a close and when we did, a realization came to me. Joseph was able, seemingly single-handedly, to change the entire Egyptian culture. As we consider his time in Egypt, we see him begin as a slave with few personal rights. Yet despite all he had gone through in getting to Egypt, he retained a positive demeanor and managed to continue reflecting the character attributes of God. He impresses Potifer, makes an impact on at least one of his jail-mates, and then wins over Pharaoh to the point of being placed above all of Egypt, save for Pharaoh. His decisions and actions save the Egyptian people and through the entire process the Egyptians go from extreme xenophobia to an all out embracing of not just Joseph, but of Joseph and all the Israelites in that land. This is made obvious when Jacob dies, as all the elders of Egypt, including all the elders of Pharaoh’s house, travel with Joseph and his brothers to Canaan to bury Jacob. We even see that the Egyptians mourned over Jacob’s death for 70 days.

Joseph changed the culture of Egypt, not so much with words but with actions and a godly character. His walk reflected the one He served, which was Pharaoh perhaps in the flesh, but the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in his soul. Joseph “walked in the name of YHWH.” This means he walked in a manner consistent with the character and reputation of YHWH and it was that, above all else, that changed the Egyptian culture. This is what happens when our walk does the talking. Words are fine, there are times to answer questions and share truths. But nothing speaks louder than a walk that consistently reflects the one we serve. The the world around us sees God in our actions, and even hears Him in our words, lives are changed.

3. Going to your brother – A friend and mentor of mine, Frank Houtz, read Matthew 5:23-24 at our last Sabbath meeting. Like so many verses before this one, I learned that I had been hearing this backwards despite reading it properly. The verses state that if you come to the altar with a gift and then remember that your brother has something against you, that you are supposed to go to him and reconcile this and then come back and offer that gift before God. This verse is not telling me to go apologize and make right something I did wrong to my brother, it is telling me to go and make peace with a brother who has a problem WITH ME. What a humbling realization! This verse is telling me to push the button marked “PRIDE” and go to a brother who might have wronged me, and make peace. This could mean that I have to walk away from that meeting allowing that brother to think he was right and I was wrong the entire time even if I wasn’t. Talk about humility! And do note, these verses are dealing with a “brother,” a fellow believer, not a stranger or enemy. Yet Yeshua’s statement is not unique… we have others like it. The ancient sages once taught that the ones on the receiving end of a wrong-doing have an obligation to present an opportunity for someone to reconcile a wrong they have committed against us. That isn’t us going into that situation saying, “Here I am, I was right, apologize to me,” it is us standing before them in humility hoping they too see the need to make this right and reconcile. We also have 1 John 4:20 which reads, “If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.”

There are more verses like this that extend from loving your neighbor in Lev. 19:18 to Proverbs 25:21 which commands us to feed even our enemies (Paul quotes this in Rom. 12:20). This line of thinking even extends to Yeshua saying, “turn the other cheek” when confronted with an evil person. The theme of these, seemingly; to humble ourselves before all others in a manner that encourages peace. Loving neighbor isn’t exactly the easiest command to follow because sometimes our neighbor isn’t as cooperative as we might like. Yet, God’s will is for us to love them and love is shown, not spoken.

Bringing it all together

Everything that has been shared to this point is dealing with our relationship to not only God but all those we encounter, whether “brethren” or not. Are we willing to humble ourselves before a brother who wronged us for the sake of peace? Can we find it within ourselves to offer food (or meet any other need) to an enemy? Are we able to love a neighbor who abhors us? Is it possible to walk among the strangers without compromising our values or allowing the light of the one we serve to diminish from within us? Can we change the culture we find ourselves in by reflecting the one we serve?

Brothers and sisters, I truly believe we are able to take all the correct steps but I also know it will take great commitment, strength, and humility. It all must begin with us on our knees, daily, in order to address our own shortcomings and repent of those areas we have fallen short in. It will take us reaching out to those we have wronged and making those situations right. But even more, it will take a willingness to reach out to those who have wronged us, making peace on our end while praying that they do the same from theirs. It will mean us truly walking Torah as the spirit of Torah has been revealed to us. It is no longer enough to claim we walk in Torah, it is time to let the world see the Torah in our walk. We know what to do, it is time to do it.

As the fall feasts approach, I encourage you to take this time to seek the face of God like you never have before. This Revival, this “Revolution for Restoration” begins with each one of us getting right with God and each other. We have an opportunity right here, right now… to become part of the answer rather than part of the problem. And as more and more of us accept the challenge to humbly become part of the answer, then we will change the culture in which we find ourselves and bless the nation of Israel at large to which we belong. This house is being rebuilt one stone at a time, and only through love, peace, and mutual understanding will each piece properly fit.

We are all standing at a fork in the road. One path leads to an extended visit in the wilderness while the other leads to the Promised Land. The former really doesn’t take much work, our pride alone almost guarantees a lengthy stay in the wilderness. The latter will take work, it will take great amounts of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. In other words, it can no longer be us, me, I… it has to be Him through us or restoration and revival will remain but a dream.

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United 2 Restore: from Concept to Quest

If we will find out tomorrow that the things dividing  us today will not be as important we we currently believe them to be, then perhaps it is time to put them aside and stand United 2 Restore.

I always wonder what each scene was like when the God of Israel, the Creator of the Universe, spoke to one of His prophets. Was it a loud thunderous voice or was it a soft-still voice? Was it the prophet’s own voice in his own head, just speaking things that were obviously beyond his ability to speak? Perhaps each time is different? In whatever method God used to speak to the prophet Ezekiel on this particular day, what he heard and recorded in what is now called Ezekiel chapter 37, has ramifications that appear to be relevant to us this very day. What is written in this chapter, and in particular the verses below, have become the foundation for what we call, United 2 Restore.

At some point, two people represented abstractly by two sticks, would become one in the hand of God. This event is one of the most prophesied events in biblical history yet remarkably one of the most misunderstood and over-looked. The two verses below, reveal a work that takes place before God makes the two sticks one in His hand:

37:16 “As for you, son of man, take a stick for yourself and write on it: ‘For Judah and for the children of Israel, his companions.’ Then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel, his companions.’ (17) Then join them one to another for yourself into one stick, and they will become one in your hand.

We have two sticks, one is for Judah and the other for Joseph. The English translation here has Ezekiel joining them one to another into one stick. However, this doesn’t exactly capture the essence of the underlying Hebrew for this verse. The word translated as “join” is the word קרב ( qârav ) and it means: to bring or draw near, to approach. So instead of the idea that Ezekiel takes the two sticks and joins them so that they are one, it is his job to simply take the two sticks and treat them as if one… holding them close, drawing them near, until God does His work:

37:18 “And when the children of your people speak to you, saying, ‘Will you not show us what you mean by these?’– (19) say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Surely I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will join them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand.”‘

The picture that should be taken from this is not that Ezekiel will come back from the dead and be the one who brings Judah and Joseph close to one another but rather that those who are part of these two sticks should recognize the need to draw close to one another until God makes the two one in His hand. We don’t make the two one, we don’t usher in the Kingdom… we simply recognize that God is going to do this work and we should accept this whether or not our current theology is in agreement or not. Of course, accepting this, and walking in one accord with those represented by the other stick, is not an easy task when we ponder some of the current theological differences between Judah and Joseph. But before addressing that, we need to make sure we understand the answer to the question, “Who is Judah and Joseph?”

Two Sticks, Two Houses, Two Nations, Two Witnesses, Two People

The glory years of Israel, as a nation, seem to be the years that David was king. When David died and Solomon became king, things were still good but as time went on the light that was the reign of David began to fade and when Solomon died, the nation of Israel divided into two different kingdoms. To the south went the tribe of Judah along with Benjamin and part of Levi. This kingdom was called “Judah” and they continued, more or less, to walk in the statutes and commandments of God. To the north went the remaining tribes and the picture presented by their lives is a stark contrast to Judah. Israel, the Northern Kingdom, was seemingly full of corruption and idolatry. As time went on things only got worse and Israel continued to fall away from God. Despite prophetic warning, a rebellious Israel, the Northern Kingdom, was attacked by the Assyrians as punishment for their evil ways. Taken into captivity, and unrepentant, they eventually were scattered from Assyria into the nations as prophesied first in Deuteronomy 30:1-6 but repeated many times throughout the writings of the prophets. Though some returned, the vast majority, perhaps a million or more, did not. History records these Israelites as, “the lost sheep of the House of Israel.”

Judah remained in covenant but would itself taste a time of captivity for their own sins. Taken into Babylon, Judah would ultimately return during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah and we know them today as the Jewish people. So if one of the sticks is for Judah, and Judah appears to be the Jewish people, then the Jews are one half of the picture presented by Ezekiel. The question then becomes, “Who is Israel?”

The answer is found in the words of Yeshua, commonly known today as Jesus. He stated in Matthew 15:24, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” In a sense he was doubling down, if you will, on a statement made earlier in Matthew 5 when he said to his disciples, “Go to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” To what degree his message of “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17) relates to Judah can be the subject of future discussion. For the purposes of this article it seems clear that Yeshua was placing the weight of his mission on calling those who were still scattered into the nations and already known in that time and culture as “the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” For those who are not Jewish but who have come to see Yeshua as messiah, your identity should be clear. If he came to call the lost sheep of the House of Israel, and we have heard his voice and come in faith and his sheep hear his voice, then are we not the lost sheep of the House of Israel that he said he had come for? Is the other stick in the hand of Ezekiel made up of a group of people almost entirely ignorant of the fact that in the first century their “religion” was seen as a sect of Judaism? Would this also not mean that those who see themselves as “spiritual Israel” have simply lacked a piece or two of the puzzle that would have helped them see that instead of just “spiritual Israel,” they are in fact as much “Israel” as anyone can be? Two sticks, two people… the Jews and the Christians? Two witnesses, a great ones, as they have stood at odds over time yet have each, in their own ways, testified of the same God and the same coming Kingdom.

I realize that today the term “Christian” has a negative light in many circles. To the Jewish person it might represent turmoil considering the history of forced baptisms and in some cases death in the name of Jesus. Even within Christianity, there are certain sub-sects like the Hebrew Roots Movement or even Messianic Judaism which tend to shy away from the word for various reasons. I am not trying to offend by using it, I am simply trying to communicate, to make sure it is understood what is being stated here. The two sticks are two people, unique, separate, and only when God makes them one in HIS hand, do we cease being separate and unique.

Turning a Concept into a Quest

This is where the concept of United 2 Restore was born. In Ezekiel we have two sticks that represent two people. Once they were one, they divided and became two very different people, and one day they will be reunited and no longer so different. The picture that is provided in Ezekiel is one of mutual respect and understanding. You see, if Ezekiel was commanded to make them one, then either Judah becomes Joseph or Joseph becomes Judah… or war breaks out as either side attempts to make the other like themselves. Instead, Ezekiel was told to “draw them near,” not make them one. So, we draw near to one another but remain unique and separate until God makes us one. This means we need to learn to respect one another, get along with one another, knowing that God is going to do a mighty work, again, whether that work agrees with our current understanding and theology or not! It will happen because that is what God has stated will happen.

Yet, being United 2 Restore goes beyond just Judah and Joseph. We have the Samaritans out there who are part of Joseph and are said to be a people of 1000 today but who are likely in the millions and don’t know it because of their years in exile as well. They, as a people, are largely ignored by Judah and all but unknown to the rest of Joseph. But addition to a group like the Samaritans, we have a great obstacle that still, to this day, stands before us… racism!

As we watch the daily news feeds we see people fighting and separating based on the color of their skin. This problem might actually be exasperated by the people of God because we are well aware of the fact that God created all human-kind regardless of skin color. And yet, especially on the side of Joseph, we have congregations that are all black or all white. I know of places where a black Baptist church and a white Baptist church appear on the same street, within 100′ of one another. Between 10:00 and 10:15am on a Sunday morning, 100 cars come down that road, park, and the congregants go their separate ways. We are still segregated and in our holy meeting rooms of all places. Friends, if WE can’t get the racial problem right, how can we expect the world to have a chance at getting it right?

Being United 2 Restore means understanding that God’s plan of reunification is apparently a little larger than our own theological understanding. Though we should each hold on to the essence of what makes us each who and what we are, we should also be able to recognize that God, ultimately, will make two separate groups of people into one. Recognizing this requires us to at least draw near to one another, to acknowledge that, though the eyes of God, we are indeed family. What does draw near look like? Well, that is probably better left up to each individual and their current level of understanding. Still, we are to draw near, draw close, understand the fact that even if today we are separated by seemingly miles of theological points, through the eyes of God, all of His people are the same one family, the same one body, the same one house, the same one nation. To the eternal (timeless) God, this is already a done deal and it is our understanding of this that needs to catch up to God.

Thus being United 2 Restore means sacrificing for the good of the whole. It means that we are to understand that the nation is more important than the individual. It means that obscure doctrinal points (like pronunciations of names for example) are simply not more important than the well being of the community to which we belong. Being United 2 Restore means respecting one another even if we don’t agree on every point of understanding because one day, in God’s timing, we will stand together before Him as one. And friends, the things that we have allowed to divide us today, those things that we have allowed to stand between us and our drawing near as the picture in Ezekiel reveals… will no longer carry the weight that they seem to carry today. And if we will find out tomorrow that the things dividing  us today will not be as important we we currently believe them to be, then perhaps it is time to put them aside and stand United 2 Restore.

We ask you, Israel, whoever and wherever you are, to stand with us, add your voices to ours, become part of a Revolution for Restoration… turn a simple concept presented by a humble prophet into a quest that will one day change the world. Become part of an awakening that was started by God but that currently rests to draw near to all who are His until the glorious day that He makes us one in His hand. Blessed be the day when we are one, and blessed be He that makes us one!

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Community in the Feast

It is time we realized that God is not sitting on the judgment throne just waiting for us to mess up so He can condemn us. God isn’t looking for a reason to be mad at His people who are doing their best to follow His instructions.

Every year at feast time we have old wounds opened by disagreement on the calendar. I find it interesting that God called Israel to come together at Jerusalem three times a year, indicating that He holds a great deal of emphasis on community, but we disagree vehemently about when we should gather and often do nothing together because of the disagreement. Israel didn’t just celebrate the feast at the same time, they came together as a large community to do their moedim together. Today in the nations, the ability to do things together is hampered by the inability to agree on anything. Agreement should not be a prerequisite of unity, so in order to establish unity even though we disagree we must find an alternative to rigid debate. The community is superior in importance to the individual determination of the date.

Every position that we can take concerning how to determine the date and time of a festival will have something that does not fit. Let me give two conflicting examples which both cause problems.

Position A: The date should be determined in Jerusalem according to the crescent moon and the ripened barley there.

There would have been no way to use the moon in Jerusalem for determining the month on the American continent back during the time of Yehoshua. Signal fires cannot be seen over the ocean. If He had been in America, He probably would have kept it with the natives according to the moon here.

If Jerusalem is the important place to determine one’s time, shouldn’t we be consistent? Why don’t we start cooking our Passover meal around 3:00 PM Jerusalem standard time and continue the seder to midnight their time. That would be the practice in Jerusalem but would have us finishing our seder before the day began.

How about the Sabbath, do we keep it according to sunset here or in Jerusalem?  If we must use Jerusalem as our standard, we will start it closer to noon on Friday for us in Kentucky and about 8AM for people in California. It gets worse at the crossing of the International date line where some would have to keep the Sabbath all day on Friday. Wouldn’t this make Jerusalem a bad choice as a standard of when to keep Biblical commandments?

Position B: The date should be determined by the crescent moon and the ripened barley in the local area.

People located in the far north regions of Norway, Sweden, Canada, Alaska and Russia, may only get a feast once in their lifetime. They often go months without seeing a crescent moon or the sun.

Barley does not ripen in the southern hemisphere until our fall. So in the southern Hemisphere they will be keeping Passover when we keep Sukkot. That will completely reverse the types given in the feasts and will make the Australians look for the return of Messiah at the wrong time.

Messiah is said to be fulfilling prophecy according to the feasts in Jerusalem, so to use a time contrary to his fulfillment might make us foolish virgins missing some of the exact timing He will be fulfilling in the fall feasts.

Really, most methods of determining the time, dates, years etc. are not as universally applicable as one might think. They all have their limits somewhere. I hope that just mentioning these two opposite positions show that when we set a standard methodology, we often loose a lot of the intent of the Scriptures. It becomes important to organize the most important messages from those that are less import. I believe the community is superior to that of an exact determination. If we are using the date to divide the community, we are missing the point of the feasts. God recognizes the difficulty in making a uniform determination of the feasts in a location away form Jerusalem. It is time we realized that God is not sitting on the judgment throne just waiting for us to mess up so He can condemn us. God isn’t looking for a reason to be mad at His people who are doing their best to follow His instructions.

If you have become a divided congregation over the exact time to keep the feasts, please seek out a method of a unified practice. Our congregation encourages people to do as they are convicted, but also participate with the congregation at whatever time they determine for their practice. One can keep a High Sabbath a day or so prior to the congregation, but keep the congregation’s days too. This is a way to bring about unity rather than division. We need more coming together rather than tearing apart.

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Drawing Close

A few days before leaving on our 9 week trip to the States and Canada, as I was reading for the hundred plus time Ezekiel 37, I noticed that verse 17, which reads: “Then join them one to another for yourself into one stick, and they will become one in your hand,”  is not exactly that way in Hebrew. Examining the injunction “join” I found out that my previous understanding of that word, which was to “connect” them together and to make them one stick, was not the right or correct understanding of “karev” (kof-resh-veth), a verb that actually means to “draw near” or “approach”.  Picture the prophet holding one stick in one hand, and the other stick in the other hand, drawing them “one toward the other one”.   The verse continues: “so that they will be one in your hand”.  The last word translated “one” is a plural “one” – “achadim” (that is, “ones”).

As the prophet continues to draw these two closer together, they eventually end up next to one another in only one of his hands.  However, they are still two sticks, each distinct and independent of the other, which is to say that they are still two nations and two kingdoms. The next verse actually confirms the idea of the two sticks (“achadim”) in the prophet’s hand, as it reads:  “And when the children of your people speak to you, saying, ‘Will you not show us what you mean by these?’” (v. 18 emphasis mine). The reference there to the subject matter of the previous verse points, once again, to plural, “these”, thus telling us that the sons of the prophet’s people (which could refer to the Jews in Babylon) are still looking at two sticks.  The Hebrew word is “eleh” (alef – lamed – hey), meaning “these” (and not “this” – “zeh”, zayin- hey).

Continuing in verse 19, YHVH says very clearly that He will take the two sticks/trees out of the prophet’s hand and make them “one” – “echad” – in His hand.  Thus, if they would have been one (echad) in the prophet’s hand, it would not have been necessary for YHVH to make them one in His hand.  The following verse takes us back to YHVH’s word to the prophet: “And the sticks [plural] on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes” (v.20). This statement allows us to envision the prophet with two sticks in one hand, as mentioned above, one next to the other.  For them to be in this position, or to get to the point of being drawn so close to one another, major effort or changes will have to take place in both camps, not to mention the need to resolve the disunity that already exists within each respective camp.

YHVH’s prophetic declaration and order of procedure are very important to understand:   “Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again” (Ezekiel 37:21-22 emphases mine).  Here we see the two becoming one stick/nation and kingdom, not only in YHVH’s hand but also in their land.

History proves that YHVH started fulfilling the prophecy by having gathered Judah, bringing them to their land.  But now what about the second nation?  Zechariah chapter 10 talks about the days when Judah would be back in the land, and also that YHVH would save Joseph (v. 6) and then gather him to become the other stick/nation in the hand of the prophet.  “I will whistle for them and gather them, for I will redeem them; and they shall increase as they once increased” (Zechariah 10:8)

According to the above scripture, the first stage for the house of Joseph/Ephraim was/is to be saved. I believe that that means to be “redeemed” and to be restored to their original identity as the sons of Israel, a phenomenon which has been accelerating from the time that the historic old city of Jerusalem came back into the hands of the nation of Judah in 1967.   Next YHVH says that He will gather (kuf-vet-tzadi) them (referring to the dry bones), using the verb “kavetz”, which is seen, for example, in 1 Kings 20:1 as to “gather, assemble or concentrate forces” (such as the dry bones in Ezekiel 37:10).  Employing the same verb, Isaiah 60:4 reads: “Lift up your eyes all around, and see: they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be nursed at your side”.

If the redeemed members of the house of Joseph are going to become a nation in the hand of the prophet, they will have to be gathered first and foremost unto Yeshua their redeemer. Yeshua will then unify them by the oneness of His indwelling Spirit, ultimately into family communities: “Elohim sets the solitary in families… And makes families like a flock” (Psalm 68:6a; 107:41b), and I might add, with seasoned mature recognized leadership/elders (see Jeremiah 23:4). This unity is not conformity to outward or external religious symbols and practices, but is based on the evidence of the life of Elohim’s Son. “And because you are sons, Elohim has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Galatians 4:6).

The above verse indicates that the nation/stick of Joseph is made up of Elohim’s sons, who are governed by His Spirit.  It also points out that the king of this spiritual kingdom is residing in the hearts of His subjects.  The government of Elohim is “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (see Romans 14:17).  We know that Satan will not stand by allowing this restoration to go forward. He will work through the power of sin, which is in our flesh, to bring forth the unloving nature of his kingdom of darkness.  When he gains a measure of success in these efforts, we may become what YHVH hates, that is, “a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:16,19).  The power of sin is the next most powerful force to Elohim’s.  The only authority that has already defeated the nature and power of Satan’s is the wisdom of Elohim, which is the word of the execution stake. “For the message/word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of Elohim” (Corinthians 1:18).

“Elohim is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Yeshua the Messiah master and king.  Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Master Yeshua the Messiah, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (Corinthians 1:18).  This is not necessarily referring to what we do, but to what we believe to be true about the Father’s finished work through Yeshua’s death, burial and resurrection.  Next time, Yah willing, we will explore what that might look like.  In the meantime watch and pray, for the devil, with his wiles, is always looking to use us (our flesh) to abuse ourselves and others.  But the love of Elohim is in our hearts in order to encourage and build us up and others in faith, hope, and love. There are many parts to His body, and we all may have a different leading as to what He is doing to accomplish His purposes, but that is a matter of the heart, which only He knows.  Some may want to serve together in a framework of an organization, others feel to do it another way, again, according to the way they feel led.  But none has the right to judge what is in the heart of another.  We all have the privilege of forgiving one another when necessary.

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