27 May 2016

Light in the Darkness: VIVID 2016


According to their website, Vivid Sydney is a 23-day festival of light, music and ideas. Vivid Sydney features many of the world's most important creative industry forums, a mesmerising free public exhibition of outdoor lighting sculptures and installations and a cutting-edge contemporary music program.

Vivid Sydney is where art, technology and commerce intersect. It begins on 27 May and lasts until 18 June. Vivid Sydney was voted Australia’s Best Event in 2013 and Best Tourism Event in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

And each year the festival grows, in locations and in numbers of visitors. This year the talks in 150 sessions will range from Chatswood to Randwick to Marrickville and feature topics like "Turn Interaction Into Action: Daily Habits For Innovating" and "Creating a Sense of Place for Migrant Communities" Speakers include Kučka and Margaret Zhang, Tom Dawkins and Myf Warhurst.

This is obviously a great way to get Sydney-siders out and about during the chills of late autumn, to spend a bit of money on food and drink, and to enjoy our great city.

The evening arrives early in autumn and visitors can be treated to the light shows at the MCA, the Opera House, Taronga Zoo, and many other venues from as early as 5:30 pm. And what makes the viewing so good is that light shows up in dark places. It would make little sense to run Vivid at midday in Quito, Ecuador when the sun's rays are directly overhead. Light only makes sense in darkness, that is, it only shows up when around it is dark.

In fact, light and dark cannot coexist. The one diminishes the other. And if there were a real battle of sorts, then light would always triumph.

Maybe you want to read a bit more on this... I recommend the following:

On Hanukkah and candles Candles here
or this one on Law and Grace in the Bible
or this one which is the story of learning of the death of my grandmother, Bessie and reflections

Let me ask, what do you think? What will bring light to your darkened world?

03 May 2016

Broken hearted (Love, whose month is ever May)


It's a rather odd phrase-- broken hearted. There are medical influences that cause the heart of a man to tear, but that's not what anyone really means when they use this phrase. It has to do with pain and aches on the inside, perhaps regrets and suffering sometimes caused by others, and sometimes caused by ourselves. Usually this has to do with a situation of discomfort, and a desire on the part of the hearted to wish things could improve.

Some people really don't know how to handle other folks; most of us wish we did, but admit that we have a long way to go.
So what is a broken heart? It's used in reference to a state of extreme grief or sorrow, typically caused by the death of a loved one or the ending of a romantic relationship. As in "she broke my heart" or "that one is going to grow up to break many hearts" and such.

There is another use of the phrase, too.
The singing team from Hillsong in their song "Hosanna" wrote these prayer lyrics, "Heal my heart and make it clean; Open up my eyes to the things unseen.
Show me how to love like you have loved me.
Break my heart for what breaks yours,
Everything I am for Your kingdom's cause,
As I walk from earth into eternity

Of course, their use of broken heart has to do with being moved to be concerned about other things that matter. It reminds me of the heart-strings being pulled by the sight of a blind person with flies around his face, or a small child newly orphaned looking at her bombed village's hut with tears. So a broken heart can mean a heart that stops thinking about itself, and cares about others for just a moment.

No wonder there is confusion about hearts and broken ones at that. When we see a homeless war veteran, our heart ought to 'go out' to such a person and his family. I suppose that's the 'brokenness' that others reference. "That just breaks my heart to see him eating out of the rubbish bin by the cafe," we say.

In terms of God and His compassion for people, He especially cares about the widows and orphans and He especially wants us to care for them as well. A cursory reading of either Testament will highlight this concern. (e.g. Job 22.9, Isa. 10.2, James 1.27) We ought to care for those whom care forgot.

So may I aver that there are two uses of this concept and they really do overlap. 1) A broken heart is when someone experiences the pain of love lost. Shakespeare said in "As you like it" (Act 2): "If thou remember'st not the slightest folly that ever love did make thee run into, Thou hast not loved." He well knew the pain of wrongly placed love. He said in Love's Labours Lost "By heaven, I do love: and it hath taught me to rhyme, and to be melancholy." (Act 4, scene 3)

But 2) the other use of broken heartedness is compassion. It's the concern we feel for the weak and the downtrodden. Our hearts break for them. And that's a good thing. So how do we dovetail these two thoughts?

Francesca Battisteri wrote this song:

Truth is harder than a lie
The dark seems safer than the light
And everyone has a heart that loves to hide
I'm a mess and so are you
We've built walls nobody can get through
Yeah, it may be hard, but the best thing we could ever do, ever do

Bring your brokenness, and I'll bring mine
'Cause love can heal what hurt divides
And mercy's waiting on the other side
If we're honest
If we're honest

Don't pretend to be something that you're not
Living life afraid of getting caught
There is freedom found when we lay our secrets down at the cross, at the cross

It would change our lives
It would set us free
It's what we need to be
Bring your brokenness, and I'll bring mine
'Cause love can heal what hurt divides
And mercy's waiting on the other side
If we're honest"
They used to say "God can heal the broken hearted, if we give Him all the pieces.' But now I think He can heal us if we just turn to Him and are honest. Lord, heal our sick and broken hearts. Make us ministers of your life and love. Give us compassion for the hurting. Others who are hurting much worse than us. And don't help us to help them SO THAT WE ARE BENEFITED. The issue is never us. Lord, help us to forget about ourselves and care for others, full stop.

No one knew that better than Yeshua. He was the Lord of life and love and we read of His broken heart for the Jewish people of His day with "Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd." (Matthew 9.36) And He knew the other kind of disappointing heart break with his friend and colleague Judas in Luke 22.48: 'Jesus said to him, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?" '

You want a model of broken heartedness that makes a difference in this world? Check out Yeshua. Best one to model, to be sure.

24 April 2016

20 things you should know about your pastor


Here are twenty things I believe are true about most pastors I know. I hope you will work together with your pastor for the good of the gospel!

1. He loves God and you a lot. (Be mindful.)

2. He is a painfully limited human being. (Be realistic.)

3. He probably has a pretty low view of his “performance”. (Be kind.)

4. He wishes he were a better preacher. (Be awake.)

5. He really does want God’s best for you and your family. (Be open-hearted.)

6. His work knows no time or locational boundaries. (Be patient.)

7. He hears much more negative information than positive. (Be encouraging.)

8. He has chosen a vocation in which few remain. (Be praying.)

9. He has chosen a highly leadership-intensive call. (Be lead-able.)

10. He needs help. (Be available.)

11. His God-given vision is bigger than himself and the church. (Be faith-filled.)

12. He wants to personally meet all the needs, but knows he can’t. (Be understanding.)

13. He’s going to say some dumb things every now and then. (Be forgiving.)

14. His family is patient with you, so be patient with them. (Be conscientious.)

15. He is greatly encouraged by your faithfulness. (Be there.)

16. He is passionate for God’s Word to be made practical to you. (Be hungry.)

17. He longs for church to be your spiritual oasis. (Be loving.)

18. He dreams for your and your family’s spiritual health. (Be receptive.)

19. He needs to hear that you prayed for him. (Be interceding.)

20. He’s just a regular guy. (Be real.)

From http://caryschmidt.com/2014/02/20-things-you-should-know-about-your-pastor/

23 April 2016

500 years of ghetto... are we out yet?


This article highlights what happened 500 years ago last month. The senate of Venice mandated "that all Jews residing in the city live together in a monitored and gated area, separated from the Christians; thus Jews were relocated to a small island encircled by walls, where a foundry used to be (in the Venetian dialect, ‘ghetto’ was the word for foundry)."

Ever since then we have been seeking our freedom from such governmental action, and looking at the Christian power elite as 'them' who would use any opportunity to incarcerate 'us' again. Of course, today we celebrate Passover, the quintessential holiday of Jewish freedom from slavery in Egypt. We had been jailed, incarcerated if you will, in the detention centre known as the land of Goshen, for hundreds of years under one Pharaoh or another. So being in a ghetto was not a new experience for us as Jewish people.

At the time of Haman, many Jewish people were living in Shushan in Persia. At the time of the captivity of the northern 10 tribes (not really 'lost') into Assyria, our experience was anything but freedom. 140 years later, the Babylonians captured the two southern tribes, and took us away. Release came later, but for a while we all were in about one spot. In the first century, many Jewish people were living in what we call Israel today, but not all of us. At the time of Rashi, many Jewish people were living in France and throughout Europe. But in 1516, the Jewish people, who had already been kicked out of Spain (1492) and the entire Iberian peninsula in the late 15th century, were now being pushed to another limitation. Ghetto might be a kind of music or culture today, but then it was simply a culture of prevention.

We were prevented from choosing our own lodging. We were prevented from travel. We were prevented access to universities and certain professions. Our buildings had limitations. The Christian leadership throughout Europe had a serious negative impression and interaction with Jewish people in those days. And many Jewish people despised those who dominated us. No collegiality. No relationship.

Prevention is not welcome to any group or society. Freedom to express ourselves, freedom to enjoy sunshine or beaches, freedom to join other groups or movements-- that's welcome. But prevention? Not at all. Who wants that?

The ghetto remains as an almost-haunted location. My wife and I stood there in July, 2003, and I'll never forget the eerie feeling. I wish for my people to come out from there to this day. The 'sounds' of silence in that place, early that summer morning were chilling. I couldn't shake the memories that I had never personally experienced from those 16th century moments. The gate at the front of the ghetto was 4 inches thick. Preventing to be sure.

Now to be fair, we are not without freedoms here in Australia, or in Israel or in the US. But the real freedom that God wants us to have, each of us, is the freedom on the inside. I mean, a jailed person really can be free. A jailer or any person outside of prison can still be 'in prison' in a way. They can be full of bitterness or lack forgiveness. Their hatred can be a prison itself. What then allows a person real freedom?

I believe real freedom comes from knowing the Prince of Life, whose execution nailed non-forgiveness for eternity. When Yeshua died on the Roman cross, his murder accomplished what no human martyrdom could ever attain. He died for the sins of the world. He died to give everyone freedom on the inside. He was the one who said what has adorned libraries and churches and halls of learning for centuries, "You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free."

What is the difference between a gated senior community and a ghetto? Answer: Who holds the keys. If you have the keys, you can come and go at will. If others have the keys, then you do as they require.

So what will get us out of the ghetto? The One who died for our sins and rose from the dead. Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah died to set us free. No matter where we live. With whom we live. In or out of jail. We can live. You can live. Be free today on your hospital bed, in the detention centre, in Patmos, Bora Bora, Sydney or Perth. How? Receive Yeshua as your Lord and Saviour. Be born again. You will know freedom then. Passover or any day.

Are we out yet?

17 April 2016

Accolades abundant

60 points in his final game as an NBA superstar for Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. An ending to an amazing career spanning 20 years, which is the longest of any such star, came to an end this week. Terrific ending and a terrific player. His personal life was in chaos for a season or two, but he overcame the difficulties, they say, and came through with flying colours of blue and gold. The tribute video is online, and Kobe was sitting to watch it as the evening began. High praises from a massive crowd.

I sometimes watch golf on the television. I prefer playing golf, to be sure, but some events draw me to the screen. The US Masters is one of those, as the men putt on what appears to be glass, as a champion like 46-year-old Ernie Els can miss 5 putts from less than 2 metres and keep missing, like three holes-in-one on the 16th in Sunday's final round including one which bounced off another ball on the way to the cup. Amazing moments which are well noted. And then there was the final appearance by two-time champion and Kansas City native Tom Watson. He had a good crowd around him most of the first two days, but the ending was so powerful it was to be watched over and over.

A still shot doesn't even come close to the thrill of the moment.
Ever the gentleman and a good ambassador for the game, Watson wiped away a tear or two. His farewell was emotional for anyone with a living heart.

Accolades were abundant for Kobe and for Watson. And well deserved, to be sure. All the while, I was pondering the accolades that are sure to come for another champion. His name is more well known but not so much in sporting circles. He lived before either golf or basketball were invented, but there were struggles to score nonetheless. He had to score with the crowds, when often they were hostile to him, almost like Kurt Tippett playing again at the Adelaide Oval against his old teammates at the Crows.

Yeshua, born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth, had a following of other Jewish people throughout Judea and Galilee, what we call modern Israel. And in many places he heard the roar of the crowd, but in other places the cheer turned to jeering. On what some title "Palm Sunday" the crowds were full of hope and expectation. "Hosanna," they shouted. But just days later, "Crucify him" was in their choral voice.

Accolades don't often last but in this case, the world will turn to applause and praise of the messiah. In the book of Revelation, we read "And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.” And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they existed, and were created.” (4.8-11)

Today listen to the words of Yeshua. Consider who he is. Sports heroes come and go. Praises on the court or on the course come and go. But the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, He is here to stay. Join the "Hallelujah chorus" of living creatures who give him praise. Let accolades be abundant... from YOU.

12 April 2016

Clever Texan


A man get stopped by a game warden with his basket full of fish.

Warden: do you have a permit for all these fish?
Man: no sir. These are all my pet fish.
Warden: your pet fish? How's that?
Man: well, every night I take all my pet fish for a walk to the lake, I let them swim for about half hour and then I whistle and they all come back and jump in my basket and we go home. We do this every night.
Warden: Well that's just a crock of lies!!
Man: here I'll show you... (Releases the fish in the lake)
Warden: well this I got to see!!

5 minutes later...
Warden: well??
Man: what?
Warden: the fish!! Where's your pet fish??
Man: what fish??

An open letter to Australian messianic Jews and non-Jews


10 April 2016

Dear Aussie Jewish believers,
I’m so troubled, and there’s no way to dance around this.

Here’s what happened. Last week, a 57-year-old Jewish believer died in Sydney. He had not organized his own funeral, and long story short, his mother, in her 80s, who is the one who paid for everything, didn’t want him to be buried with other believers. “He’s Jewish; the chevra has to organize everything; he will be buried in the ordinary Jewish section.” And even though his daughter, a teenager, a Jewish believer herself, wanted me to perform the funeral, the grandmother said no. As a result this man’s testimony ended with his passing.

If he had organized a messianic funeral at the special section we have set up, we would have gathered as a community to support all the family. They would have heard all the ordinary elements of a Jewish funeral, and also we would have pointed others to Messiah Yeshua. Some use video flashbacks and eulogies. Sometimes there are two locations to the burial: the service at a funeral home and the burial itself at the cemetery.

In the same way that a person makes a testimony in their life during bris, Bar Mitzvah and in their wedding, so in death a messianic Jew can also testify. We are buried near one another in a section called “Messianic”. Typical set up so that the community esprit d’corps continues even after we have passed on.

Individuals make arrangements for plots or niches directly with Woronora. Their contact details are (02) 9545 4677. Location: 121 Linden Street, Sutherland, NSW 2232

Right now the cost of the plot is $13,000 and may be shared with a spouse (thus each costs $6,500- stacked). That rate will no doubt increase over the years. The cost of a niche (for those who choose to cremate) is appreciably less. The niche is shown here. The plots may be sold (like real estate) should circumstances warrant or situations change.

Anyone who wants to identify with the Jewish people and in this case with the Messiah of the Jewish people, Yeshua, may be buried in the Messianic Section of Woronora. This serves intermarried couples that would otherwise be prevented from being buried together by other religions.

Each plot in Woronora is monumented with the same headstone, Headstones, although there is opportunity for variation in measure. Due to the method of the MBS (Modern Burial System) employed, the headstones will remain exactly as they are laid from the beginning. This is new and will prevent the ‘jagged teeth’ of the Prague Jewish cemetery or falling headstones even at Eastern Suburbs or Rookwood.

I understand that distance from family matters, and if you live in Perth or Melbourne, even in Newcastle, the distance seems too far. But reality is that families move, and we simply don’t have enough of us to make such a section in each capital city. In the meantime, this is IT.

Please consider this for you, for your family, and both book in with Woronora and email me to let me know of your decision.

God bless you in this life, and in the life of the world to come. Let us exalt His name together. (Psalm 34.3)

Bob Mendelsohn

09 April 2016

Death, be not proud


The XIX century gave us information from people who seriously considered the realities of life. And death. For instance, Mark Twain, the Missouri-born author and life-observer said, "The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time." Also I always enjoy reading Samuel Butler on so many topics. On death he said, "To himself everyone is immortal; he may know that he is going to die, but he can never know that he is dead." Reality bites, no?

What is causing me to ponder death again? Ageing in my own body brings this to bear often, as does the reality of the calendar. Then this week three more Jewish men, two from my home town, and one of those from my class in school, all passed away. It's never easy to read obituaries and wonder-- is that it? After all those years, all those hours at work, all those photos, all those journal entries, family holidays, and late-night walks with a crying baby... what are they all about? Most obituaries are marked by a list of family members and some mention of occupations. Is that all that sums up our life?

Twain's comment about being prepared to die based on living fully tells me that I can't be looking backward at my accomplishments nor at the worries of life in the future, but take care of things today, and live in right relationships for sure. We only know death is coming, like Butler said, but never really evaluate our own death after it happens.

Here are some other XIX folks and their considerations. Mary Ann Evans, whom we know as her pen name George Eliot, said, "Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them." Many in the Jewish world understand that, and the anniversary (' yahrzeit' ) of the deceased brings special mention in synagogue, on plaques alit again, and even memorial candles. It's right even as I thought of and prayed in thanksgiving for the memory of some family members even this week as well. But memory-- is that all there is? "The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?" so said Edgar Allan Poe. Ah, the 19th century...so full of characters like Poe and his dark side, long before Hogwarts or Darth Vader. But what Poe is onto there isn't bad. Yes, there is a terminus and we will all reach that moment when life ends, the monitor shows a flat line, the final breath departs from our quivering lips, and we pass into eternity. But the vague nature of the passing, and certainly we have no personal experience of the final chapter ourselves... all does seem a bit shadowy and vague. What will the ending look like? What will it be like on the other side?

I believe that life from the dead is not only possible; it's guaranteed by the Author of Life. God began life even before the Garden of Eden, as recorded for us in the Bible, the Tenach, the Holy Scriptures. He made light to shine out of darkness and breathed (I believe the word 'yipach' literally means to blow (as into an instrument) and that's the word used for God breathing) the breath of life into Adam there. How awesome! How personal! How sure then for us, millennia later to be able to experience His personal touch and care.

It may seem a bit shadowy and vague, but in history, when Yeshua, God's only Son, was killed by the Romans, on the 3rd day He was raised again to life by the same Spirit that dwells in us. Oh death, where is your sting? (Hosea 13.14)

What do you think?