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, "Malacañang 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.

28 May 2016

VIVID this week

What's new?

An amazing selfie of sorts projects your image into Darling Harbour with the use of three super cameras. Eyes on the Harbour makes you the star of the show at the Laser-Dragon Water-Theatre. Using groundbreaking Intel® RealSense™ technology, your face will be projected on a giant waterscreen 20m above the surface of Darling Harbour, in the middle of one of Vivid Sydney’s most popular attractions.

Just step up to the Intel® booth and have your face scanned by Intel® RealSense™ cameras. Either go completely natural or choose one of five wild looks, and a giant image of your face will be projected high over the waters of Darling Harbour. You’ll even have a copy emailed to you as a souvenir.

Intel® Eyes on the Harbour rears forth every half hour during Vivid Sydney, in between the Laser-Dragon Water-Theatre shows.

The ever-popular Light Totem continues at Circular Quay and the Fountain is ongoing at Martin Place.

For more information about VIVID, check out our Resource page here

Michael Brown schedule is filling up

You can follow the preaching schedule of Dr Michael L Brown in Sydney and help us bring such men of God to our shores. How? Bring a friend or a busload to any or all of these events, make sure you bring a donation to help us pay his expenses, and let's honour the man of God in our places.

So far, his schedule is
Shabbat service/ seminar
Church in the Marketplace
400 Oxford St, Bondi Junction NSW 2022
9:30 to 12:30
Registration is payable online:
Click here on Rego

SUNDAY 19 June
Michael will be preaching that morning at the 10 a.m. service at
Awesome Church
223 Great North Road
Five Dock NSW 2046
Website is here
Bring an offering, please.

Michael will be preaching that evening at the 6 p.m. service at
Jubilee Church
30 Victoria Street
Waverley NSW 2024
Website is here

MONDAY 20 June to Thursday 23 JUNE
Michael will be teaching each morning (Tues, Wed, Thurs) at the morning gathering and each evening (Mon, Tues, Wed)
Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism conference (LCJE)
Lady Game Road
Chatswood NSW 2067
LCJE website is here

After that, he travels to Melbourne and will be preaching and teaching there.

FRIDAY June 24
Israel in the Line of Fire Conference
Clayton Church of Christ
23 – 25 Burton Avenue
Clayton VIC 3168

Beit Hamashiach Messianic Congregation
206 Bambra Rd
Caulfield South VIC

“Is Jesus Kosher for Jews?” Event
Caulfield Park Alma Bowls Club
280 Balaclava Rd
Caulfield VIC

SUNDAY June 26
Australia For Christ Church
1070 Stud Road
Rowville, Victoria 3178
9am, 10:30am, & 5pm

For ongoing connection with this Jewish man in his work in the US and beyond, check his website askdrbrown.org

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.