01 September 2014

Jesus brings...a good ending


Jesus Brings... a Good Ending
By Bob Mendelsohn
Given at LCM Churches
31 August 2014

READINGS: Isaiah 46 and 2 Timothy 4

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”  (Philippians 1.6)

 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 4.7) “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12.1)

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20.24)

INTRODUCTION/ Salutation

Thank you Darren for letting me speak again to our folks here at LCM Anglican churches, all four services today, as we finish the series we have called “Jesus brings.” I hope the series has been useful to you, as you have learned about joy and comfort, and hope that God wants to give you here in Sydney and everywhere you travel.

 You have in hand a newsletter with an envelope and a card from Jews for Jesus, the organization for which I’ve worked since 1979, and I hope during my talk you will find a moment to tear the stub off the card, and to fill out the larger card. More on that later. When Darren and I spoke about what message I should bring on this final morning, I suggested whimsically I should teach on Jesus bringing… an end to the series. Which when all is done and dusted, is not a bad idea. Everything we do has a start, and an ending. How do we get a good ending after all?

Dave Whitehead is the Senior Pastor of GraceNYC and said this in a Bible update a fortnight ago: “Though you have been shaped by your past, something else can shape your future. The apostle Paul’s past was one of murder, yet he did not see that as a hindrance to his calling. If anything, Paul’s life is evidence that God can use anyone. So don’t let your past mistakes hinder you from pressing forward. The heavenward call in Christ Jesus calls you to let go of what is behind to embrace what is in front of you.”

My hope for you is a good ending

Since 2012, I have lost some colleagues in ministry. Jhan Moskowitz and I shared the same birth date, and he was two years my senior. We worked together for 30 years in various places and those three-times-a-year visits I have to San Francisco, especially. He fell on the steps in a NYC subway and the internal bleeding on the brain never stopped. He died very quickly. This year, Sean Trank turned 28 and the aggressive cancers in his body won in June after a 9-month battle. Alex from Kiev was 33 and died in July. Medical situations, deterioration, final goodbyes. That’s how quickly a life in service to God can be snuffed out. At the funeral of each, the highlights on video and in speeches talked about ‘a life well lived.’ I suppose that is impacting my thinking in today’s sermon. How will you live life well, and how will you finish well? A good beginning does not guarantee a good ending. Like the apostle Paul then, let’s consider how to finish well.

Comedian and actor Robin Williams committed suicide last month and the next day his wife and daughter had to pick up the pieces. A sad ending to be sure.

I remember Dr Jack Kevorkian in the US who died in 2011.[1] He was known as Dr Death as he assisted in the suicide of over 100 people.

Closer to home, you might have heard of Philip Nitschke. In July, The Medical Board of Australia suspended Dr Nitschke, after he admitted to supporting 45-year-old Perth man Nigel Brayley in his decision to commit suicide despite knowing he was not terminally ill. Last month he was once again in the news, in relation to the death of Max Bromson, a South Australian senate candidate. After suffering from cancer for five years, 67-year-old Bromson drank some poison, surrounded by his brother and sister and his two adult children. Bromson left a note and filmed himself taking the Nembutal to prove he acted alone. His family members were there because they did not want him to die alone, and said that his passing was dignified and peaceful – but they and Nitschke have been cautioned by police that they may face charges of assisting his suicide. Although I can understand was Mr Bromson was thinking, finishing well is not about taking our own lives.  As it is with Dr Nitschke, of Dr Kevorkian reports are clear out there that “60% of the patients who committed suicide with Kevorkian's help were not terminally ill” at all.

Today we are talking about finishing well. And by that I don’t only refer to finishing the month of August well, putting away our sermon notes and driving home. I’m talking about finishing the race, as the Apostle Paul said it, fighting the good fight, and thus Jesus bringing a good ending.  Let me then talk about it in this way. 1) What is our ending? 2) Starting well, 3) Pacing well, and finally 4) Finishing well.

I. What is our ending? What awaits us: Heaven

The race that is set before us, the good fight, is a comprehensive one, and ends with our going to be with Yeshua, with Jesus, when this is all over.

Before you tell me that it’s not a place with clouds and winged angels, before you knock it back and say anything about how little we know about heaven…let this sink in.  455 times in 434 biblical verses the word “heaven” is found. That’s got to be important.  (233 OT, 222 NT; 127 times in the Gospels alone).

Rachmiel Frydland, who died of natural causes in 1984, was born in Poland and came to faith in Messiah during the Holocaust. I was privileged to work with him for a few years in New York City, and his humility and knowledge were unmatched. He died in his 60s, and his regular quote, “he that endures to the end shall be saved.” (Matthew 24) made me think that he did endure, that he made it and he made it well.

Bottom line, Heaven is real. I know there are stories out there about people having experiences of seeing heaven and bright lights and such, and most of us are wary of stories like these, if you will, not needing such if the Bible really is true.  But I enjoy considering the reality of heaven. It’s as real as this pulpit, and even more so.

Some worry and use the old adage, “He’s so heavenly minded, he’s no earthly good.” But I argue today that without a heavenly mindset, you are going to wash out here on earth. We need to know where we are going and have that hope fixed.

Heaven is for real. And that’s the place of our true finishing well.

Where are we going to end? Jesus spoke more about heaven and hell than anyone else in the Bible.  He taught…

1)      …who would not get into heaven (unrighteous (Mt 5.20))

2)      …that our reward would be great in heaven (Matt. 5.12)

3)      …that the Father lives there (Matt 6.9, 7.11, 23.9)

4)      …who would get into heaven (poor in spirit (Matt. 5.3), the persecuted for God’s sake (Matt. 5.10), those who do God’s will (Mt. 7.21), those like little children (Mt 19.14)

5)      …that he was the Bread from heaven (John 6.51) and the only one to have ever come from heaven (John 3.13)

Heaven seems to be ‘above’ as angels went up into heaven (Luke 2.14-15), Jesus ascended into heaven (Mark 16.19), Jesus looked up in prayer into heaven (Mark 6.41 John 17.1), the tax collector wouldn’t lift his eyes to heaven (Luke 18.13), the Holy Spirit and the voice came down from heaven at Jesus’ baptism (Luke 3.21-22), and Stephen did look intently there (Acts 7.55). But I believe these verses represent the physical heaven we see, which we read about in the first verse of the Bible, where God creates the heavens and the earth. (Gen 1.1). That the word heaven is ‘shamayim’ in Hebrew
--> MˆyAmDv , a plural word, indicates that there is probably more than one heaven in heavens.
Consider Paul who knew a man who was caught up into the 3rd heaven (2 Cor. 12.2). That sounds like a multi-layer location that one-day we will understand.

That’s why we read in Revelation about an eagle, an angel and a bird flying in midheaven, which if there are 3, would make their location of flying in the 2nd heaven. (Rev 8.13, 14.6, 19.17). The first, that is, the lowest heaven may be destroyed one day, as in “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”(Matt. 24.35), but heaven, the realm of God, will never be destroyed.

Does that all now make sense?

Look, if that’s too much quick Bible referencing, I apologize, and you can come up and review my references, and such, but the end of the matter is this: God rules in heaven and where God is will not be destroyed. It’s a permanent place, perhaps in an alternate dimension, but it’s permanent.  Because God is permanent and He will welcome us to Himself. That’s the first part of finishing well—knowing where we are going and to whom.

Somewhere between reaching the end of Australian winter today and reaching eternity, let’s ponder how to get there.

II. Starting well

Secondly then, to finish well we have to start well. That may be obvious to you, but it’s really important that we get our directions and distance and dimensions and duty and deity all in a row.

Some of you run City to Surf each year. Some of you like my wife are mad cyclists and ride hundreds of kilometres each month. And how do people finish those endurance contests? I think it was Dawn Fraser who said of herself the hardest stroke she ever swam was the first one in each practice session.

So starting well really matters.

A tree wrongly planted will never grow well. A brick mislaid near the base of a wall will make the entire wall, even the entire building, angle wrongly and thus ruin what it’s intended to create. We have to start well on our journey to heaven.

If you are not yet a believer in Jesus, and if you are sorting this out for yourself, you are in a good place. Here at Lane Cove Mowbray church you can do that any number of ways with classes we conduct that are found on the website or by ringing the office. We want to help you start your new life in Messiah, and one-on-one meetings, or small groups are often the way to go.

Starting right means this: Believing that God wonderfully loves you and cares about your life. He wants to fill it full and give you the key to the door to heaven. He wants you to come to Him and find rest. We have a problem though and that’s endemic to all people, not only the madmen of ISIS and Hamas. We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3.23) We all need repair. Our sins have separated us from the Lord (Isa.59.1-2) and as a result we are actually prevented from heaven’s gates. But God saw to that when Yeshua died on the Roman cross. His death brought us redemption, forgiveness, if you will the clearing of the path between God and us. The way has been opened up for us. (Hebrews 10.20) And we can be born again. When does that happen?

When we receive Jesus as our Lord, when we confess Him as Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead, we are brought into relationship with the Lord and have actually started right. (Romans 10.9-10). When you do that, you should tell someone else, maybe in the pew near you, or me or one of the ministers after church today. Why? So we can help you continue in that path on which you find yourself. Starting right is good; today we are talking about finishing well.

III. Pacing well

Third, you have to set a strategy to get there and learn how to pace yourself.

Have you eaten in an all-you-can-eat buffet? I like the Spanish term for this: tenedor libre (Free fork). Recently I heard of a European country which is now assessing a fee to people who go through the buffet, where the one payment covers all the food any person takes, but that person leaves anything on his plate. In other words, if you take too much, and do not eat it, the restaurant weighs your residue and fines you.  Wow, you would have to take smaller portions I guess. They are doing this now in the City at a Korean restaurant as well. But my point is this-- finishing a plate of food…you have to pace yourself.

We see people start races in Tour De France and not finish. We see marathon runners at the Boston, New York, London marathons, and they drop out at the 13 mile or 20 mile marks. Why? They aren’t pacing themselves. Usually they start too quickly and run out of puff.  The worst result that triathletes or runners see on the board at the end of a race is the three-letter “DNF” (Did not finish).

The Biblical term for this is “Not Counting the cost.”

Listen to what God says through Isaiah:

 “Remember this, and be assured; Recall it to mind, you transgressors. Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’” (46.8-10)

God organized His own will to be accomplished as He saw the end from the beginning, and obviously paced Himself to get there.

The main trick for us is to read, mark, inwardly digest the words of the Scripture. We need to believe what God says and that will pace us to be sure. Paul said in our reading that there would be people who would watch more Christian TV and find teachers who would tickle their ears. These people would not endure sound doctrine, but would listen to the false myths. Keep your fingers in the Bible and you will do well.

Do you know the real trick in solving mazes? Usually people start at the START entry location and try to figure out how to get to the ending. But the real way to solve mazes is to start at the ending and make your way backwards.

I used to teach high school mathematics back in the US. When I taught geometry with its requisite proofs, many students would shake their heads at me and say, “I just don’t get it. I don’t know how to get to the ending.” But when they started with the ending, and worked their way with postulates and theorems and angles and ideas, back towards what hypotheses or what they had been given at the start, their lives and their papers found good success.

 This is true in religion of course as well. Some ministers start well and go off the rails. Their common distractions or traps are gold, girls, and glory, but that’s for another sermon.

The issue is that they started but didn’t finish. God guard us.

God keep us.

God keep us honest and forthright; keep us on the right track.

Yeshua said this about pacing ourselves in Luke 14:

 “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish. (Luke 14.28-30)

Every time I’ve moved to start a new ministry or made a significant change in one, I’ve had to consider the effects of that change. I’ve had to count the cost. Not only financial, but also time and other resources, what will this really cost me? What will it cost us? What impact will a new bookshop have? What will happen if we amalgamate two church building sites into one LCM churches idea? I think if you start and do not finish, it’s almost worse than never starting at all.

Map out your resources, map out what the liabilities and the assets are, map out your roadblocks and be honest. When you win, celebrate and shout. When you fail, write it down, learn…Pace yourself. Keep good records. Don’t rush; don’t lag.

Paul wrote in our text, “a crown of righteousness is laid up for us” and the hymn writer said, “Grace will lead us home.”

FINALLY

IV. Finish Well

Paul wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 4.7)  Isaiah in our text said, “even in your old age, and gray hairs, I will carry you, I will sustain you, I will rescue you.”

These thoughts today are designed to keep us looking to the hope that is our forever hope.

I grew up in a religion where things depended on my performance. God would be happy with me if I did the mitzvot; if I fulfilled commandments. But that’s not biblical religion. God’s job is to rescue us, to sustain us, to bring us to heaven. Our job? To believe what God says. (John 6.29)

This is a message for ministers like Darren, Andy, Ken, and David, and for Lisa and it’s for workers who ride the train each day to the CBD and it’s for sportspeople, and it’s for those of you long retired. It’s how we do life—some as young families beginning to consider how many children to have, or those of you watching the nest empty yearly.

The Bible says, “He that has this hope fixed on him, purifies himself, even as he is pure.” (I John 3.3) Our hope is not a new house in Vaucluse or Cherrybrook. Our hope is not a paid-off Mercedes or a sunny afternoon wedding and a great honeymoon as quickly as possible. Our hope is the return of Yeshua, our Messiah and Lord.  We will spend eternity with Jesus. When He returns, we are His, and we will be gathered to Him. That’s Heaven. Wherever He is, that’s where the Kingdom of Heaven is…why? He’s the King!

This hope is an anchor of our souls. Paul uses the term, “The helmet of the hope of salvation.” Think about that. The helmet, which is our hope, guards our mind. What we imagine, and what we do in our mind will affect us in the very long run. Guard your hearts; guard your minds; guard yourself and give yourself to Yeshua. He is Lord and the Hope of our Forever. Isaiah in our reading said, “Keep it in mind.”

 “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21.28)

This is not a human dream or a wish. It’s a sure thing like an anchor is a sure thing in a harbor. In Jesus we will finish well. Then our faith will put on sight and we will be forever with Him. Hallelujah! Thanks be to God.

 Friends, I’ve been with Jews for Jesus for 35 years and one thing I continue to see, in homes of Jewish contacts, in our book shop in Bondi Junction, out on the streets as we evangelize there as well, is that people are looking to find hope, real hope, and people who are not fake who are speaking about it. They are looking for real men and real women who start well, pace well, and finish well. May we be the kind of people who help many find eternity with Jesus.

One last thing. That envelope and card from Jews for Jesus is for you to use if you are a believer in Jesus and if you would like to help us continue to reach people in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and around the country with the good news of Messiah. I hope you will be generous. I hope you will fill out the card and give it to me up the back or drop it into the envelope. I hope you want to hear from us regularly through the newsletter. It’s a good piece with stories of evangelism in Russia, Israel, New York, and here in Australia as well. God is alive and well and drawing Jewish people to Himself. I’m happy to report to you often about how that works.

Up the back are some resources as well like books and calendars, music and DVDs which will help you in your witness with Jewish mates and colleagues. I hope you will pick up as much as you can use. And use what you pick up!

Patty and I want to thank you for 16 wonderful years here as part of our family of faith. We have been able to grow as people, as a couple, as a family because of those of you who are LCM Anglican church. Thanks again to Darren, and to each of you. Shalom!
____________________________
[1] Jacob "Jack" Kevorkian  (May 26, 1928 – June 3, 2011), an American pathologist, euthanasia activist, painter, author, composer and instrumentalist. He is best known for publicly championing a terminal patient's right to die via physician-assisted suicide; he claimed to have assisted at least 130 patients to that end. He was often portrayed in the media as "Dr. Death"; however, many consider him a hero, as his sacrifices helped set the platform for reform, with many states having since legalized physician-assisted suicide. He famously said, "dying is not a crime".

In 1999, Kevorkian was arrested and tried for his direct role in a case of voluntary euthanasia. He was convicted of second-degree murder and served eight years of a 10-to-25-year prison sentence. He was released on parole on June 1, 2007, on condition he would not offer advice nor participate or be present in the act of any type of suicide involving euthanasia, to any other person; as well as neither promote nor talk about the procedure of assisted suicide.






30 August 2014

...just as I am...??


Bill Muehlenberg lives in Melbourne, here in Australia. He was born in the US. He is an ethicist and blog-writer on many subjects, and weighed in on Monday on the subject of homosexuality. The reason?

Bill's article is here: Bill

The Christian News article is here : News

The woman at the centre of the storm is Vicky Beeching, a pretty blonde lesbian from the UK.  And a Christian singer and worship leader.

The thing that struck me was the language of both, Vicky is reported to have said this:
“What Jesus taught was a radical message of welcome and inclusion and love,” Beeching stated. “I feel certain God loves me just the way I am, and I have a huge sense of calling to communicate that to young people.”

Muehlenberg takes exception to this with his comment, “He doesn’t love people just as they are. In fact, He loves people too much to leave them just as they are,” he stated. “People just as they are are sinners alienated from God and headed for a lost eternity. A God of love could never just sit back and allow that to happen. That is why Jesus came and died a cruel death on a cross for our sake, so that we don’t have to remain as we are, but we can become what we were meant to be.”

I'm trying to see if I missed something and it appears that the issue of 'Just as I am"is the sticky wicket. If I say that God loves people as they are, without their need to change to please Him, then am I saying that our sin should remain with us? If I say that God welcomes people 'just as they are' into church or the community of faith, does that then justify how they have lived until then and will remain?

My mind rushes to biblical examples and I find an encounter or two between Jesus and people in what are called The Gospels. First a woman caught in adultery. (The story is found in chapter 8 of the Gospel of John.) Not a good place for her in a small village, she was caught in bed with a man not her husband. In that society at that time, she would have been stoned with rocks. The religionists of the day tossed her in front of Jesus as he was teaching a Bible group, and said, "Moses instructed us to stone such a woman; what do you say?"In our modern debate, would he love her just the way she was or would he add his voice to the 'stone her!' mob?

The Bible says this: "Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?”She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” (John 8.10-11)

Her accusers are long gone; Jesus could have either made her jump through some religious hoops to prove some measure of sincerity or he could have dismissed her out of hand. He could have welcomed her as is, and as she would remain, or ...he had many choices. What he did not do was to dismiss her. What he did not do was to tell her that adultery was acceptable. What he said was basically, 'you are wrong, stop doing wrong. I'm on your team and will help you live a clean life.'

Another example is a man who was executed next to Jesus the day they both died in Jerusalem about 2,000 years ago. The 'thief on the cross' was a problem to society and the punishment for his perpetual stealing was crucifixion. And there were two of them that day, one on either side of the man Jesus.

Real criminals really know they are really wrong and deserve punishment. And one of them did just that. Luke records the moment this way, "When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left.  But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." (Chapter 23.33-34).

One of the criminals heard that, with his heart, his ears opened, and his reality being shaped by the Messiah. We read "One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!”  And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise."(Luke 23.39-43)

Messiah Yeshua looked over to the thief on the one side and forgave him of his misdeed; there was no time to change and become a good citizen. He was going to die in minutes. God forgave him his sins and welcomed him into eternity 'just as he was.'

The clear teaching of the Bible is that you cannot clean yourself up enough to become righteous. All our 'righteous deeds are like filthy rags' according to the prophet Isaiah. (64.6) God is not able to be impressed by our good deeds.

And then when He does save us, and make us His, then He begins a clean-up operation to change us from the inside out. He changes our hearts. He changes our speech. He changes our attitude. He changes our sexual activities. He changes us from the inside out.

I like that God keeps things in tension. Yes, He loves us and wants to change us; yes, He welcomes us as is and says 'I think I can make that person understand. Eternity-- I'm glad God has it under control.




28 August 2014

Schaeffer on anti-Semitism

The Bible-believing Christian and the Jewish People
by Francis Schaeffer

   
Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984) was one of this century's most influential defenders of the Christian faith. He and his wife Edith founded the L'Abri Fellowship in Switzerland in 1955 where, over many years, thousands of students found their questions answered, their doubts removed and their minds and spirits renewed through the gospel. Dr. Schaeffer's writings, notably The God Who is There, Escape from Reason and He is There and He is not Silent comprise a powerful critique of modern thought and a defence of biblical Christianity. The following article originally appeared in tract form and in the Autumn 1999 Herald and appears by the kind permission of Dr. Schaeffer's family. We live in an age in which anti-Semitism is a powerful force. In many lands it has resulted in the death of countless Jews. In our own land it shows itself in various guises from time to time, and even among those who call themselves fundamentalist Christians we find an occasional individual who spends a large portion of his time assailing the Jew.

Considering anti-Semitism, the first thing that fixes itself in my thinking is the fact that Christ was a Jew. When we open the New Testament to Matthew 1:1, we find the very first claim made concerning Christ is that he sprang from Abraham and was a descendant of David. The Bible does not say that Jesus just happened to be a Jew, but the Word of God emphasizes over and over again that he was a Jew.

Jesus was a Jew
When he was eight days old he was taken to the temple and circumcised, as was every Jewish male. Therefore, we must remember that Jesus bore in His body the physical mark of the Jewish people. At the age of twelve he was dedicated at the temple, again emphasizing that his Jewish identity and Jewish faith were not incidental to him but that from his early training they formed his vital human background. The Bible teaches that during his public ministry as an adult man, while repudiating purely human Jewish traditions, his life carefully conformed to Old Testament standards. In fact, he lived in such a way that the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah were fulfilled fully in Him. He was the Jew of all Jews. In His public ministry we find him dealing almost exclusively with the Jews. Hardly ever did he touch a Gentile life. The twelve disciples were all Jews. The earliest church consisted completely of Jews. It was Peter the Jew who spoke to the proselyte, Cornelius. It was the believing Jews, scattered abroad by the persecution that followed the death of Stephen who took the Good News to Antioch in Syria where the first Gentile Christian Church was formed. The missionary who opened up the heathen Roman Empire to the preaching of the Gospel was the Jew, Paul. And if we ask why it was that the Jews received such an important place in the early Christian Church, we must realize that it was not an afterthought in the plan of God. For two thousand years God had been working in history to bring forth this very fact. He called Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees as the first Jew when the earth had completely apostatized from the living God. He promised him that the land of Canaan would be his, that he would have numerous seed and, above all things, that all the world would be blessed through him. God called Abraham forth for this specific purpose; that through him the Messiah should come. In the providence of God, for two thousand years the Jewish nation was the cradle of the coming Redeemer.

Before the Messiah
As we examine the history of that two thousand years, we find God constantly reaffirming his promise of the coming Messiah to the Jews, so that not only was the promise made to Abraham but also to Isaac and Jacob, and then it was narrowed down to the tribe of Judah, and then to the royal family — the family of David. As the years passed, God promised that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, that he would suffer, and also that he should rule in Palestine on behalf of His people, the Jews. In those two thousand years in which the way was prepared for the coming of the Messiah, but for the light that shone in Israel, all the earth was in a state of spiritual darkness. While our ancestors worshiped we know not what — but certainly not the living God — the Jews were called God's chosen people. They were separated from all other peoples of the earth. They were beloved of God, a kingdom of priests. In order that the Anointed One should come, even in their times of sin God kept His hand upon them so that a faithful remnant should be His. Jesus was not a Jew by accident, nor was it an incidental thing in the plan of God. According to both the Old Testament and the New Testament, if Jesus had not been born a Jew he could not have been our Saviour. As for the present time in which we live, Romans 11:17-24 teaches that we Gentile believers should not boast against the Jews, "the natural branches" of his Olive Tree, for if God spared not the natural branches, we are warned to take heed lest he spare not us. How clearly it is emphasized that if we who were "wild branches" by nature were grafted "contrary to nature" into the good olive tree, much more shall the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree. And what does Ephesians 2:14 stress to us but that by Jesus' death "the middle wall of partition" between Jew and Gentile was broken down. Not that the Jew should be cast aside, but that Gentiles should have place with the Jews by faith. Abraham is now our father and, as we Gentiles have put our faith in Christ, we are now spiritual Jews.

The Future of the Jews

The Word of God is explicit still about the future. In Romans 11:25 it is made clear that the blindness which now in part is happened to Israel is not forever, but "until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in". And then what is to come to pass? The 26th verse tells us that "all Israel" shall then be saved when the Deliverer "will turn away ungodliness from Jacob". The 29th verse is one that Christians love and use for ourselves, "For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable." We may apply it to ourselves because God never breaks any promise but let us notice that the primary application in this place is to the Jew. God has promised great things for Israel as a nation, and the Word here tells us that he will bring them to pass. If he does not bring them to pass, then "the gifts and calling of God" are not "irrevocable". Clearly, again, in Zechariah 12:10 it is stated that the day will come when the Jews, "will look on Me whom they have pierced; they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son." In the day when Israel shall be saved they shall look upon Jesus and know that in His first coming he was their true Messiah. Again, it is not only the Old Testament, which promises that the land of Palestine will once more belong to the Jews. In the New Testament, also, in Luke 21:24, we are told that, "Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled". The Word tells us that the day will come when "all Israel will be saved", that the Jews will "look upon" Jesus as their true Messiah and that the Promised Land will be theirs once more. It is not only for the past, not only for the present, but also for the future, that we who are now Christ's should love the Jew.

The Irrationality of Christian anti-Semitism
We cannot expect the Gentile, who merely uses the term "Christian" to designate the difference between Gentile and Jew and to love the Jew, but we who are Christians indeed, in that we have been saved through faith in Christ, should love his ancient people. Above all things in this regard we should keep constantly in our minds that our Lord Himself was a Jew — born a Jew, lived a Jew, and died a Jew. We should bear in mind also that the great majority of those heroes of the faith I long to see when I go to be with the Lord were Jews. I want to see Abraham, and he was a Jew. I want to see Isaac, and he was a Jew. I want to see Jacob, and he was a Jew. I want to see Joseph, and he was a Jew. I want to see Moses, and he was a Jew. I want to see Joshua, and he was a Jew. I want to see Gideon and the other judges; and they were Jews. I want to see the prophets — Isaiah, Elijah, Elisha and all the rest; and they were all Jews. I want to see Daniel and Ezra and Nehemiah; and they were Jews. I want to see John, and he was a Jew. I want to see James, and he was a Jew. I want to see Peter, and he was a Jew. I want to see Paul, and he was a Jew. Those are only some of those I long to meet who bear the name of Jew. How could I hate the Jewish people? And if this were not enough for those of us who are Bible-believing Christians, let us note the command of God in Romans 11:31. He tells us clearly what our attitude in this age should be to natural Israel. We should show mercy to them and, my friends, mercy and anti-Semitism — in any form — do not live in the same household. We cannot seek to win the Jewish people individually to the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour if in our hearts we despise them as a people. Not long ago an influential Jew in New York City, the Labor Editor of one of the New York papers, quoted to me a little poem which he said was widely repeated among the Jews of that city. As I have considered this rhyme, I have found it to be more than an interesting jingle. It speaks wisdom concerning the man who bears the name of Christian and yet is anti-Semitic in his thinking.

    How odd of God to choose the Jews.

    But not so odd as those who choose

    The Jewish God and hate the Jews.

26 August 2014

Still Life: A movie of hope

Eddie Marsan plays a tough guy, but soft on the inside, on the TV series Ray Donovan. He showed me a very different side of his acting ability in the movie my wife and I saw on Sunday night, Still Life. I chose this photo to represent the flick as Eddie's character, Mr John May, is ever looking up, not to God as one might expect in a religious blog, but up to life. He seems to be querying it regularly.

He does most things regularly. He eats the same meal on return from his consistent work at an office in a local Council in South London. He is a quiet man, unassuming and yearns to bring honor and dignity to others, even when no one else will do that.  And he doesn't seem worried to gain anything by this action either. For over two decades he has worked basically alone in a small office, and keeps meticulous records with almost-OCD fidelity. But something else is driving him to do this work, and the word for it is OPTIMISM.

He is looking up. His job is to bring to final rest people who seem to have no living relatives. But he wants to find family members of deceased people and bring them to a bit of conclusion. John works with the local police as a detective for the coroner, trying to bring closure, coordinating funerals, burials, disposal of ashes, and wants to bring dignity and a bit of life in the face of death.

No one really seems to care; no one seems to notice him. I kept considering allusions to Alan Arkin in his 1968 role of John Singer in "The Heart is a lonely Hunter." He was brilliant (Academy Award nomination) as the deaf-mute who helped all kinds of people who always seemed to be troubled and troubling. Arkin's Singer back then reminded me of Richard Cory, from the poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson. Maybe it was only their endings, but Cory's dignity (forget that he was wealthy) along with Singer and here John May all spoke of a quiet fortitude and observable honor they brought to their worlds.

Cory: "And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked."


And maybe it's that 'humanness' which is ever hoping for something better than an uncaring industrial dumping of cremated ashes. John May kept a scrapbook of the abandoned lonely souls for whom relatives had no time. They were his own family. And some cases remained open long after the funerals, so that his optimism could honestly be fruitfully concluded.

Hope brings great energy. And John May keeps his energy inside his dignified frame, and only towards the end does he begin to explore it, tasting new tastes, considering his own possibilities of life. Hope does that. It lets us look up. It lets us consider things beyond ourselves and our current experiences. Hope allows us to launch out, because we have an anchor that keeps us safely assured while we launch.

The Bible says, "hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5.5) And it's that optimism, that hope, which John May characterizes. Uberto Pasolini has created a beauty of a film in his native England. 

Let me ask you-- where do you find hope? What gives you something for which you get up each morning? The humanness of John May and that which he wanted to give his clients is noble beyond the new administrator in the local council. But I don't think it's beyond the desire of the Lord of life. In fact, I think the optimism of John May is right for us all. For you and for me. I was challenged; maybe you will be challenged also. 

Then reach out, look up, for hope is available for us all, in the person of Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel and Light of the World. He brings dignity to each of us. He longs to be in relationship with each of us. 

Of everyone ever, 'he was always human when he talked.' Listen to what He says of you, of Himself, of our need for Him. And you will find life. It's better that you find it now than at the end of your own movie.

14 August 2014

Not for sale: Brooklyn Bridge

I love this picture of the Brooklyn Bridge taken from the Manhattan side. It's a grand icon of New York City. I remember being there when the bridge turned 100 in 1983. I wrote a flyer/ tract that we distributed that day, all about the bridge. And with some significant facts which thankfully are still true.

Since 1883, its granite towers and steel cables have offered a safe and scenic passage to millions of commuters and tourists, trains and bicycles, pushcarts and cars. The bridge’s construction took 14 years, involved 600 workers and cost $15 million (more than $320 million in today’s dollars). At least two dozen people died in the process, including its original designer. Now more than 125 years old, this iconic feature of the New York City skyline still carries roughly 150,000 vehicles and pedestrians every day.

On May 17, 1884, P. T. Barnum led 21 elephants over the Brooklyn Bridge to prove that it was stable.

Just before construction began in 1869, Roebling was fatally injured while taking a few final compass readings across the East River. A boat smashed the toes on one of his feet, and three weeks later he died of tetanus. His 32-year-old son, Washington A. Roebling, took over as chief engineer. Roebling had worked with his father on several bridges and had helped design the Brooklyn Bridge.

The jokes nowadays are often about someone buying or selling the bridge. "Have I got a bridge for you!"

To read the flyer, click Bridge flyer It's probable that it will download a copy onto your computer. Not bad, really it's not. Trust me. Oh wait, that's often the problem, isn't it? The guy who wants to sell you a bridge...can you trust him?

I guess today I want you to see the photo, consider the amazing feat which was the building of the bridge, and consider how far away you might be from the God who cares about your life and wants you to know Him personally. In fact, God personally built the bridge to get you back into relationship with Him. That's worth a read, isn't it? And maybe a prayer, too?

He's really listening. He cares.

I'm not selling you a bridge I don't own. I'm offering you to get to know the living God. Not a bad deal.

13 August 2014

Saudi king on the Gaza conflict

SAUDI KING PUBLICLY BLAMES HAMAS FOR GAZA WAR

Posted on 2 August 2014 by Thomas Rose

In a stunning five minute statement read on state television late Friday, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, leader of Israel’s oldest and most implacable foe, called the Hamas-Israel war in Gaza a “collective massacre” caused by Hamas.

It is just the latest signal in a tectonic shift in Middle East geopolitics that has been largely overlooked by Western media seemingly still committed to building upon its decades-old narrative that Israel remains the united enemy of the Arab world.
In the 75 year history of conflict between Arabs and Jews in the Middle East, no state has been more consistently intransigent against the very notion of a sovereign Jewish presence in the region than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, founded by Abdullah’s grandfather, Ibn Saud, in 1923.

Just weeks ago, before Hamas’ current war against Israel, it would have unthinkable to suggest that a Saudi King would even hint that any entity other than Israel bore any responsibilities for actions perceived as harmful to Palestinians.
Abdullah’s statement, read by a news anchor on behalf of the ailing 90-year old Monarch, that the violence in Gaza has led to “various forms” of terrorism, whether from groups, organizations, or states, is seen in the Middle East and Arab states as a flat-out repudiation of Hamas.

Perhaps even more remarkable, while King Abdullah condemned the consequences of a war he termed “devastating” to Palestinians, he issued no demands upon Israel. As has been pointed out numerous times by Breitbart contributors, Saudi Arabia’s now open disavowal of any common cause with Hamas reinforces an emerging and wholly improbable new alliance uniting every Arab state save Qatar together with Israel and against the United States. 

As remarkable as was King Abdullah’s statement by itself, it pales in comparison with the transformation of the relationship between Egypt and Israel. From cold no-belligerents under President Mubarak, to near antagonists under the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohammed Morsi, today Israel and Egypt are tightly cleaved military allies.

In the harshest words ever used by a Saudi King to condemn any Palestinian “resistance” to what is routinely called “Zionist aggression,” King Abdullah’s statement said, “It is shameful and disgraceful that these terrorists are doing this in the name of religion, killing the people whose killing Allah has forbidden, and mutilating their bodies and feeling proud in publishing this.”

 The king went on to say of Hamas’ war against Israel, “They have distorted the image of Islam with its purity and humanity and smeared it with all sorts of bad qualities by their actions, injustice and crimes.”

06 August 2014

Conversation about Israel: An event

On Wednesday the 13th of August, at our monthly One New Man gathering in Waverley (Sydney), I will lead a discussion about Israel. A real discussion with real people who really have differing views. And we will be civil and listen to one another. And learn. And be surprised. You are invited. If you do not live near Sydney, we hope to live stream this on a video link.

What subjects would you like to include?

We will conclude with prayers for the peace of Jerusalem and the entire region.
Event info:
One New Man
Meeting at Jubilee Church building
30 Victoria Street
Waverley NSW

6 pm to 7:15 pm