10 July 2016

Crowned!


After another series of challenges, national voting and tearful journey speeches, a new VOICE has been crowned in Australia. Season 5 winner is Alfie Arcuri, a Sydney-based architect, and 27-year old fairly new singer. He won the hearts of tens of thousands of his loyal voting fans and captured the crown tonight in a beautiful Grand Finale on Channel 9. Congrats, mate.

Later tonight I'm planning to watch the men's final tennis match at Wimbledon between newcomer Canadian Milos Raonic and Scotsman Andy Murray who will face off for the championship. The crowd will favour Andy of course. The Brits are hoping there is no Brexit in this match, and with the loss of Wales from the Euro 2016 football series, they are putting their strawberries and cream down, picking up their champagne flutes and toasting their 2013 winner.

Later yet, we will have another final to watch. I'm weary just thinking of all these finals. Portugal vs France, Euro 2016 Final, Cristiano Ronaldo vs Antoine Griezmann. Some team will be crowned. Some tennis star will be crowned. Alfie Arcuri was crowned. I'm thinking about crowns.

Click on the link for the YouTube video

Then this song came across my YouTube lists. I appreciate the language and the sounds. Some hymns are majestic. This is one of those.
I hope you listen to the YouTube of Robin Mark singing it with a choir.

And I hope you take this message on board, and crown Yeshua the Lord of your life. Submit to His Lordship and you will find true life. Not for one season. Not until the next leader or president or Prime Minister is hailed, but throughout eternity.

02 July 2016

Election 2016: Australia Decides


You have to wonder what system these election people use at home to keep track of things. The endless to-do lists written on a pad of paper must abound in their houses, if they can find them right next to the FAX machine and piles of carbon paper. I was astounded again this morning when I went to vote in my local polling station. Outside each venue were individuals representing each of the major parties and several lesser ones. They hand out pieces of paper to convince us to vote for their candidate. As if I'm going to read anything at the last minute. As if my reading that single sheet of information will sway my thinking.

Then I entered the building, after standing in the queue. A man with a yellow vest functioned as the concierge to the ballot issuing table, although he seemed more interested in chatting with everyone than getting us to the right table in a timely fashion. A woman sat with a book the size of a telephone book in front of her. That book contained the register of residents in our suburb. My wife and I sat in front of her and told her our names. We could have used any names. The woman sought no identification from us. She verified our address. She asked us "Have you voted already today?" We said, "No." She crossed off our names. With a pen. Maybe it was precise. And she tore off two sheets for each of us, each from a separate pad. The green ballot contained 8 names and we were instructed to label our preferences from one to 6 or one to 8; who can remember? In the past you had to number only one box above the line to vote for the party of your choice. Now you have to number at least six boxes.

We voted only once today. We could have gone into any of three polling locations within a few hundred metres, and used any of our neighbours' names and voted again and again. We could have gone to dozens of polling places throughout our suburb and a couple others. The system is archaic and paper-filled. What if someone had found out that I actually voted three or ten times? Would they have tossed all the ballots registered and duly processed all day at each of those locations? Our name is not on the ballot. The system is fraught with the danger of corruption. In Chicago the old line "Vote early, vote often" would certainly be applicable. Nothing would prevent this. Oh wait, maybe a computer might help. They have those in some suburbs in Australia, I've heard.

The whole system was explained the other day by Adam Gartrell here in the Sydney Morning Herald.

The white paper was the NSW ballot with about 150 candidates and was about a metre long. A metre. The booth where we were sent to fill out those two paper ballots measured significantly less.
Who thought this one up?
And we were told to vote for 12 people or 6 parties or 9 upper names and ...oh who can remember? 150 candidates. Luckily I had a pile of handouts to help me choose based on a photo and a short list of why the other guys are so bad.

If you were in the Victorian electorate of Higgins, you got shafted. See the ABC report here as the wrong ballots were distributed early this morning. People there were told to vote for the South Australian people, even though they lived in Victoria. Good luck sorting that out. Oh, if only there was a computer down in Higgins. You know, you can actually choose filters on a computer so that selections and de-selections are easy to count and to create. If only.

Come on, pollies. Let's get up to the 20th century. Maybe you could use the computers that used to work in schools, that have been retrenched and replaced with updated models. Bring them to polling stations next year. Stop the obvious chance for corruption. Stop the long queues. Stop growing the length of our ballots. Please. Thank you.

27 June 2016

Hunt for the Wilderpeople: The movie, a review, and some thoughts


Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) is a defiant 12-year-old city kid who finds himself on the run with his cantankerous foster uncle Hec (Sam Neill) in the million-hectare New Zealand bush outside Hec's place. A national Kiwi manhunt follows, and the two are forced to put aside their differences and work together to survive in this very funny and heartfelt adventure.

I laughed out loud more times than I can remember in recent years in a movie theatre. Apologies to the folks at the Randwick Ritz on Sunday arvo. This buddy movie was at times "Thelma and Louise" and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and at other times it was Bing Crosby and Bob Hope on the road to Singapore. The one-liners were precious; the timing was impeccable; the scenery stunning. I liked it all. No wonder Rotten Tomatoes gave this a 100 rating.

Murray from Flight of the Concords (Rhys Darby), who has been in much more since 2009 when that Kiwi series finished, plays a wild bushman flawlessly. He is not alone in flawless role-playing. In fact the entire cast is so full of caricatures it's super-predictable. But that doesn't diminish the effect any more than our knowing Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner are going to have different results at the painted cave. In fact, perhaps it's the predictability of the uncle and kid in their mis-adventures, the trio of bounty hunters, the mad Child Services Worker, Paula (Rachel House) and her offsider, each person in the cast is cartoon-like, and yet believable, that makes this such a good movie.

My favourite of course, was Aunty (Rima Te Wiata) whose lines to Ricky, and her birthday song to him (apparently written on the spot as required) endear her to everyone in the cinema.

Odd things. The credits include sections headed "Wildercrew" and "Wildercast", with the latter including the subheading "Wilderdogs". I have no idea what that all means. A very fun trivia note: The Toyota that Hec and Ricky use to escape from Psycho Sam's hideout is called Crumpy, in reference to Barry Crump, the author of the book on which the screenplay was based. An identical vehicle was driven by Crump in a long-running series of Toyota commercials in New Zealand, where Barry played a bushman taking a city slicker named Scotty for a drive through the bush. Scotty was played by Lloyd Scott, who appears in this film as "Tourist". Some fun connections with Kiwi tv-cinema history.

No spoiler, no spoiler alert. It's a classic buddy movie with great lines, fantastic scenery, and painful ties between the two protagonists. You will enjoy this no matter who you are, or from what country you come. A good laugh, even at predictable pacing, will be worth your while. Let me know what you think after you see it.

19 June 2016

Who can mourn? Orlando shooting


Miranda Devine of the Daily Telegraph wrote this piece which is worthy of republishing. Her sensibility is clear. We are all humans, and what aches our hearts is that anyone can do such evil in our world today. It's not because I'm pro-this or anti-that which makes me compassionate. I'm human. That's it. And our morality shaped by thousands of years of a biblical narrative helps me care about others. Her conclusion is "Empathising with people who are different from you is morally sound."

Here is her article from 15 June :
ANYONE with normal human feelings who has watched one of the Islamic State propaganda videos of homosexual men being thrown off buildings could not fail to be horrified and saddened.

You can’t help imagine how the poor man felt as he was dragged to that rooftop, bound and gagged, knowing his fate. And as he fell, not struggling, feet in black socks pointed skyward, in his last seconds of life, you would experience a wave of sympathy and love for him.

This is empathy and is what keeps us human, the shared fraternity with other people. It is when we start dividing ourselves up on identity grounds, and lose our sense of common humanity, that poison starts, and hatred flourishes.

That’s where war comes from. It’s what led to ISIS and Hitler’s concentration camps, where you dehumanise people in order to commit atrocities on them.

And it’s what Orlando killer Omar Mateen did. Before he murdered 50 innocents with an assault rifle in a gay club in Orlando Florida on the weekend, he dehumanised them.

An American-born Muslim, he pledged allegiance to ISIS during a call to police from ­inside the club mid-massacre, and referred to the Islamist Boston bombers as his “homeboys”. He had previously been under FBI attention for associating with jihadists. When a teenager he celebrated the 9/11 attacks on New York. He has claimed to be a relative of Osama bin Laden and a member of Hezbollah. His Afghan-born father has made bizarre videos supporting the Taliban.

So it’s not hard to figure out how Mateen dehumanised his victims when he entered that gay nightclub.

The Koran decrees that homosexuality be punished by death. We see that edict played out in the pure, Koran-abiding, Islamic State in Syria, where homosexuals are thrown off buildings. We see it in Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Mauritania, Nigeria, Qatar, Somalia, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the 10 countries in the world where homosexuals are executed. All are Muslim.

That is what you call homophobia, as taught in the Koran, as espoused by imams such as Farrokh Sekaleshfa, now a guest in Sydney, who gave a sermon in Mateen’s hometown Orlando just two months ago, saying gays must die, “it’s the compassionate thing to do”.

No, it’s not hard to figure out where Mateen’s violent homophobia sprang from.

Yet, the politically correct Left seem disappointed he turned out to be a Muslim and are ready to believe his father’s claim that the attack had nothing to do with religion, but that his son was just ­angered after seeing two men kissing.

They try to claim the massacre solely as a homophobic hate crime that “we all” have to combat.

This was another Islamist attack from the Stone Age on western civilisation, on our plurality and freedom to say what we want and live how we please. Gay clubs are a manifestation of that plurality.

Yet, unless you are gay, ­according to the ABC, the Mardi Gras collective and Fairfax and Guardian columnists, you’re not allowed to mourn and be horrified by the tragedy, and if you are a social conservative who opposes same-sex marriage you are as much an enemy of LGBTIQ people as the Islamist who pulled the trigger.

It would be as if after the Islamist attack on the Bataclan in Paris, only rock fans could mourn.

The reason we mourn for the victims is because they were people, just like us. But the insinuation is that you can only care if you identify as ­belonging to the group to which the victims belong.

Nothing better proves the divisiveness of “progressive” agendas than politically correct Leftists claiming a monopoly on mourning. They were busy trying to erase Islam from the equation, yesterday, yet, Chris Neff, a lecturer in public policy at the University of Sydney, told the SMH that politicians had “erased the queerness”.

“This was not an ­assault on all freedoms, this was an assault on queer freedoms and on queer identity and this was targeting to kill 50 people who were queer.”

Of course it was. That’s self-evident. It was an attack on a gay nightclub by an adherent of a religious ideology that throws gays off buildings.

But, that doesn’t gel with the Left’s hierarchy of victimhood so they try to deflect blame on their bogeymen, Christian conservatives.

Cynical opportunists of the Left were no better than ­Donald Trump when they used the massacre in Orlando to push their agenda.

The ABC’s PM program ­directly linked the massacre to the same-sex marriage plebiscite, quoting Fran Bowren, co-convener of the Lesbian and Gay Mardi Gras, saying Orlando was a “warning note that we should all be heeding” before the plebiscite.

“The No arguments are very personal, they’re very personally attacking, and they are targeting individual people … opening the door for the hate speech of the No side is, I think, very dangerous.”

Upholders of traditional marriage stay silent. You’re not just wrong, you’re evil.

John Birmingham in the SMH blamed conservatives opposed to Safe Schools program and same sex marriage, linking them, but not Islamist imams preaching death to gays, to “the consequences of hatred (which) always ends in blood”.

New Matilda ranted: “Malcolm Turnbull Is Trying to Turn Queerphobia Into Islamophobia” after the PM referred to “evidence that the killer was linked to Islamist extremism”.

Jenna Price in the SMH wrote: “What I’m looking for is leadership that says we are all sorry … I don’t want you to pretend that this is any other kind of terrorism than the one that has existed for ever, gay hate and gay murder.”

Guardian columnist Owen Jones walked off the set of Sky UK because he was offended by a journalist saying Orlando was an attack on us all. “You don’t understand this because you aren’t gay,” he snapped.

What happened to empathy and human solidarity? What a world where we only care about people like us. Empathising with people who are different from you is morally sound. Otherwise there are no safeguards when political inclinations change. If you don’t have safeguards of reason and universal conscience you can easily be persuaded by some demagogue or ideology to do evil things. You can see some people as not fully human.

The bloody consequences are evident in Orlando.

13 June 2016

Is it safe?


The news reminds us that the world is a time bomb. See the headlines: "Explosion at Shanghai Pudong Airport caused by “self-made explosives,” at least 3 injured." From the Philippines, "MalacaƱang yesterday admitted that journalists in the country are exposed to danger everyday, noting several of them have been murdered since the 2009 Maguindanao massacre." From Orlando Florida. "50 killed in Florida nightclub, shooter pledged ISIS allegiance" The list doesn't end. Last week: "Tel Aviv shooting: Market attack kills four Israelis" and Istanbul: "Kurdish group claims deadly car-bombing" where 11 people died last week including 7 police officers.

Bad news travels quickly. Terrorism is successful when this news finds its home in the heart of people who learn of these tragedies without a safety net.

Remember this video clip from Marathon Man starring Dustin Hoffman?
The dentist asks, "Is it safe?" And after being assured that it ISN'T safe, the procedure ensues. By the way that's Sir Lawrence Olivier as the dentist.

But this question, "Is it safe?" is the number one question I get asked about travel to Israel just now. Or visiting Bankstown in Sydney's southwest (where this headline arose last month "Bankstown shooting: Man killed, two injured at Sydney shopping centre." Or New York City. And I must tell you what I tell everyone...honestly, there is no place where anyone can guarantee everyone complete safety from harm. A person can be standing on the sidewalk in North Hollywood as a 63-year-old woman was in April this year, and a car struck and killed her. Would you say the Valley Glen area is safe? Yes, 99.9% of you would say so. But this woman testifies otherwise.

So does this information scare you? Are you feeling like staying in just now? Consider this elderly couple out in Western Australia. WA crash in home . It just keeps happening.

Look, our advise is not to stay home or to go out. Our advise is to make sure that your life is settled with the living God. Make sure you know He knows you. Make sure He loves you and you have made a commitment to Him in the person of the Saviour Yeshua the Messiah. Safety? Yes, we can increase it by observing certain sensible rules of conduct, certainly in public. But there will be a day when it ends, when all our carefully planned options run out and when we will be meet our maker.

Those young people dancing at the concert in Paris or all over on Friday the 13th of November last year could never have imagined such a scene. (The attacks in Paris on the night of Friday 13 November by gunmen and suicide bombers hit a concert hall, a major stadium, restaurants and bars, almost simultaneously - and left 130 people dead and hundreds wounded.) The reality is that "is it safe?" is answered with a loud 'no.' There is no airport, no nightclub, no deli or cafe which is immune to a terrorist who might want to perform evil acts.

And yet, I'm not nervous. I'm not scared. Why? Because it is safe? No, but because eternity and I are settled. We have sorted out the issues of life. This world is temporary and the future world is eternal. Nothing here can ruin our eternity.

Yeshua, the Messiah of the Jewish people and Saviour of the world said this, "Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered so do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows." (Matthew 10.26-31)

The assurance of our relationship with God, the Father, through Jesus His Son, gives us perspective. No matter how horrible the Orlando death rate climbs, or the results of the next bomb or shooting by an ISIS madman, we who know the living God are not rattled. Yeshua is our mainstay. He is our Rock. He is our Hope. And He is our Life.

Know Him and everything else diminishes. In Him is true safety. King David said this in the Psalms. "In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety. (Psalm 4.8-9) Rest in the Lord, and she'll be right, mate.

10 June 2016

Tel Aviv Shooting and bravery


Terror struck Tel Aviv yesterday. No one is ever really safe there, or where you live, but the highlights are visible as the networks covered the area's emotion right away. The map shows where the Sarona Market is in the centre of the nation's largest city.

Two attackers identified as Palestinians opened fire Wednesday night at a popular food and shopping complex near the Israeli Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, killing four Israelis and sending other patrons scrambling to safety.

Two terrorists were captured, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said, with one shot and the second arrested at the upscale Sarona Market. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called "a savage crime, murder in the heart of Tel Aviv."

"We will take the necessary steps to attack the attackers and defend those who need to be defended," Netanyahu said. Surveillance footage from a cafe near the shooting scene showed chaos as panicked customers knocked over chairs and tables as they rushed to escape. People crawled across the floor and others carried children in their arms.

No sensible person wants such an event to occur. Certainly no one wants this terrorist act in their back yard or neighbourhood. (NIMBY) We need to pray. Father, protect those who are there in the Land. Protect the native Israelis, whether Arab or Jewish or other. Protect the tourists. Protect the Arabs from the backlash which might occur if some extremists have their revengeful way.

Prayer matters. God listens. Please listen to God.
What does He say about terror? What does He say about Tel Aviv? What does He say about life in general?

Those questions matter. And the question, "What does God say about you?" That may be the most significant question to consider just now.

Be assured that He has spoken through the agency of His Word, the Bible. And we want you to process that with us, if you'd like. And if you want to talk about the shootings or about terror itself-- we want to hear from you.

Now concerning bravery, may we commend to you this particular YouTube Video about bravery. It will take you 20 seconds. It could seriously change your life. (Some of this is taken from CNN's Michael Schwartz, Phil Black and Oren Lieberman who reported from Jerusalem. CNN's Ralph Ellis, Emanuella Grinberg and Steve Visser reported from Atlanta.)

08 June 2016

Stormy weather in Sydney


This weekend the city of Sydney was assaulted by storms that levelled homes and killed people. Three lives were lost in floodwaters - two in New South Wales and one in the ACT. A man's body was found in his car at Leppington in south-western Sydney on Monday, and a 65-year-old man was found dead in a car in floodwaters at Bowral in the Southern Highlands. Down in Canberra, the body of another man was recovered from a swollen river after he was trapped in his car and swept away by floodwaters.

Homes were levelled especially on the Northern Beaches of Sydney as pictured here.

New South Wales Emergency Services Minister David Elliot said when it came to the issue of insurance cover, buyers should beware. "I don't know what the government can do to encourage people not to buy coastal homes," he said.

"This is something that when you buy a home you need to consider — all the opportunities and all the possibilities that may affect anything that you purchase. This is why we tell people, when you buy property, when you take out an insurance policy, make sure you know what your insurance policy covers. It's not the role of the government."

Building on sand is not a good idea, no matter how close to bedrock you build. It's dangerous to build near the sand. My family and I went on a boat near Cince Terre in 2003. The scenery was awesome. The stunning views along Italy's west coast captured our imaginations. They had planted vineyards along the coast and built houses. We wondered, "How did they get the building blocks up there?"
The best place to build is on a rock. But I didn't come up with that. "everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand." Yeshua, the Jewish messiah taught that 2,000 years ago and that was recorded in Matthew chapter 7.

I think Yeshua is talking about life, that is, where will you build your life? What principles do you employ to make your life better? What methods do you use to help your neighbour to experience life? On what (morals) will you build your life? On what hopes do you build your life? Stay on the Rock, the Faithful One. Moses the Lawgiver said that, "The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He." And the Newer Testament says it more clearly, "Israel, all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Messiah." (1 Corinthians chapter 10)

Do you want a solid life? Do you want a security from the storms of life which are sure to come to you? Give your life to Jesus (Yeshua's English name) and trust Him. You won't be disappointed.