28 May 2017

Margaret Court, Qantas and morality

No other tennis player in the last 50 years has come close to the record number of victories and the dominance on the tennis court as Margaret Court. She currently lives in Perth, Western Australia, and is the pastor of Victory Life Church. I've met her on a couple occasions and when I read this report from the Channel 9 News network, I was dismayed and disappointed.

Here's the rub. Margaret came out and said that she would not be using Qantas any longer. Seems that Qantas started this controversy with their announcement about gay marriage. Margaret Court simply is responding to their statement. And she has that right. But some in the gay and gay-loving community find her comments out of bounds and thus are demanding as Channel 9 reports the arena in Melbourne should be renamed.

Naming arenas for sports greats like Hindmarsh Stadium or Lambeau Field is not related to the ethics or the goodness of the named one. It's about the contribution to the sport. Rod Laver, Alan Border, Sir Donald Bradman... any one of these stadia could be stripped of their named rights if someone reports their being less-than- something. From what I've heard some significant sports figures were not exactly wholesome and fair-go-givers. John Kennedy has been shown to be a womanizer and yet, all across the US there are highways, libraries, and yes, even sports stadia named for him. Shall the thought-police or morals police start looking into every named location worldwide?

Martina Navratilova, herself a lesbian and tennis great, tweeted twice yesterday,"Maybe it's time to change the name of the Margaret Court Arena then... and I guess Margaret will be taking the boat on her next trip?:)," she tweeted.
She added in another tweet: "thank you Qantas for your support. And Margaret - you have gone too far. Shame on you... #wrongsideofhistory."

So what do you think? Is Margaret Smith Court on the wrong side of history? Or are the thought police going too far in preventing free speech and personal opinions?

I applaud Margaret Court. She's a champion on the court, and in the court of hostile public opinion. Everyone, including Ms Navratilova has a right to speak their mind. The world is a better place when we talk with each other. But tennis is tennis. Let the arena stay as it is.

22 May 2017

Jerusalem at the same time: Coincidence?

I wonder when Donald Trump, president of the US, decided to visit Jerusalem. Was it during his meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu? Was it after some advisor reminded him that Wednesday is Yom Yerushalayim? Or did he read my tweet that I was going to be in town starting Tuesday? Unless his motorcade prevents my movements, which is highly likely, and he gets out to shake hands (which is highly unlikely), I will never know. But I can imagine, can't I?

Yes, I'll be in Israel at the same time as the Donald. But our purposes are significantly different. He will be on a lecture tour, although he insisted that's not what he went to Saudi to do, and I will be meeting up with Jewish leaders and agencies for various purposes. There is room here at the Great Synagogue in the sanctuary...maybe we should have a default meet-up time and date, just in case it works out.

Wednesday will be the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, and as such will be celebrated with all kinds of activities and foods around town. Of course, reunification indicates something about unity, and if I remember right from my last year's visit, there was deeper division than I had experienced in a long time. More Palestinian flags, downright hostility to me by one man, in the Old City, not for being a Jew for Jesus, but for being a Jew! From what I overheard, that's not the mood of the young people, but I'm hoping that this week, across the town, there will be significant unity among believers and those who don't yet believe.

Maybe Donald and I will see eye-to-eye.
Maybe Donald and Bibi will see eye-to-eye.
Maybe I won't get caught in his motorcade.
Maybe Yeshua will return to set up His throne--- it's going to happen. And it's going to happen in Jerusalem. I'd love that to happen.

Whenever that does happen, be ready, dear reader. That reality of the return of Messiah, to establish His government, way better the Republicans in the White House or Macron in Paris or Hassan Rouhani in Iran. The rule or Kingdom of God will be established throughout the world, and all will bow their knee to the Almighty.

17 May 2017

The boring bits

I watched the news at 6 pm tonight. There were accidents and violent shootings, arson attacks on buildings and drugs associated with football players of note. But when I think about it, most of life will never get on the news. Most of life is boring. Most reality isn't news at all. Most of the traffic on the road will not have an accident. Most people will go to work on the bus or the train, and simply pay their fares, walk to the office, get their morning coffee, perform their daily tasks, and go home, on the bus or train, eat dinner, retire, and start over tomorrow.

The news isn't comprehensive at all. It's only the stuff that stands out, above or usually below, the levels of normal situations of life. Humanity and dare I say, nature, usually carries on in its regular course. The patterns or orbits of the planets are consistent, they say, but for many that simply sounds boring.

A woman named Barb Raveling says many things in her blog, and this one might speak to our point today. She highlights 9 Bible answers to the question of boredom, really just gets things back in perspective about percentages of thrills and ennui.

Filling up our ears with noise and losing time to contemplate, that's a massive result of the fear of boredom and the lack of completeness that is found in a relationship with the Lord. Most of life is the boring bits. Walking with the Almighty through it all, that's the thrill, not of a roller coaster, but of a God who extends His love to us, daily, hourly.

I'm not on the television show 24, although I try to take life 24 hours at a time. One day at a time. Surrendering my life to the care of God, who ever wants me to know Him and walk with Him each day. Boring? Ok, most of life is just that. I don't sink every 10-foot putt, nor return every lob to my opponent's court deep enough. I don't answer every unbeliever's questions with satisfaction, and the drudgery of sameness nips at my heels throughout each day. Yeah, so? I'm not in a Tom Cruise movie. I'm just me. And that will have to do for now.

01 May 2017

PM and President Trump to meet Thursday

The Australian reports today about the meeting this week on the USS Intrepid in New York City. Read the whole article here. In short there is a retelling of the testy telephone conversation in late January and the iconoclastic diplomatic behaviour of the neo-president, and some recommendations by Alan Dupont, staff writer.

He says, "Turnbull should pursue three objectives in his meeting with the US President: he should add his voice to those of other US allies urging Trump to play a constructive leadership role internationally; he should try to imbue the President with a deeper ­appreciation of the value of alliances in general and the Australia-US alliance in particular; and he should support a US accommodation with China that minimises the possibility of a full-blown conflict in Asia but pushes back against Chinese adventurism in the South China Sea."

On the ABC-TV Breakfast show this morning, the 'testy' call was described as "rocky' and "robust.' The presenters interviewed Professor James Curran. His bio reads like an academic champion. "Curran is a Nonresident Fellow at the Lowy Institute and Professor of History at the University of Sydney and a Research Associate at the United States Studies Centre. His most recent book is Unholy Fury: Whitlam and Nixon at War (2015). A former analyst with the Office of National Assessments, Curran was a Fulbright Scholar at Georgetown University and in 2013 held the Chair of Australian History at University College Dublin."

I liked his evaluation of the meeting to come. He mentioned the site on the Intrepid as iconic, a warship in NYC, not a meeting in the White House nor at Mar-a-Lago, which he says is "a step down in protocol terms." His take on the meeting is one which will "showcase a defense relationship" from the past. He doesn't anticipate any grand announcements. Curran mentioned the last time a sitting Prime Minister and US president met on a watercraft was President Lyndon Baines Johnson meeting in May, 1968 with Prime Minister John Gorton. Aboard the Sequoia, the two men couldn't hear each other over the sounds of the engine on the yacht as it chugged up the Potomac River in DC. Curran says it's "altogether fitting and proper" for allies to remember the past, shared struggles and sacrifices. But his assessment is that this alliance is "anchored in memory, moored to memory" with "rhetoric and imagery that is awash in sentimentality" but not doing the "hard thinking about what China's rise" means for us, and appears to be an alliance which is "cruising in its own sea of complacency and nostalgia."

What about the TPP? We shall see. Is it only the past we honour, or will there be a consideration as Curran says, of "the broader US/ Asian regional posture." We in Australia are hopeful.

I liked the whole conversation and thought to share it with our followers. The meeting itself is worth considering, but beyond that one, what is the purpose of your meeting with those with whom you will meet this week, or even today? Is it merely a photo op? Is it for the purpose of history and sentimentality? Is it to produce something worthwhile and ongoing?

So, when you go to work this week, as I've already started on our Sunday yesterday, will your going be productive? Will your meet-ups with folks at the trivia night at the local pub be nostalgic or future-looking? Will there be significance to much of what you do today and this week? That's a consideration that is well worth your evaluation. To that, we call you.

Let's make the best of life today. 14 times in the Gospels, 7 times in the book of Acts and 8 times in the rest of the Newer Testament, the word "today" is used. Overall in the entire Bible, it's 190 times! Let's make the best of today. Let's hear Him today and do His will. Let's not let church be a 'photo op' of us with the Almighty.

"For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you would hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, As in the day of Massah in the wilderness, When your fathers tested Me,
They tried Me, though they had seen My work. For forty years I loathed that generation, And said they are a people who err in their heart,
And they do not know My ways. Therefore I swore in My anger, Truly they shall not enter into My rest.” (Psa. 95.7-11)

Today. Seems a good day to make right with God. And your fellows. Are we good?

30 April 2017

A Bookshop Sale

For no apparent reason, we are conducting a sale of 20%... everything in our Jews for Jesus book shop in Bondi Junction is going to go on sale for one week only, from Friday this week (5th of May) to Friday next week (12th of May). Weekdays only. We are not open on weekends, usually.

Everything including all the Arnold Fruchtenbaum books, Art Katz books, CDs of Paul Wilbur and Marty Goetz, DVDs ranging from teachings to Hollywood movies, Judaica like shofars and prayer shawls, anointing oils and candles. It's a comprehensive sale, nothing is omitted.

If you have an extra Bible or more, and can bring it to the shop, anytime, we'd love to have more used Bibles to give away. We give them freely (Proverbs 23.23, Matthew 10.8), so please be generous, especially if it's a Bible that's still in good nick, but you just haven't opened in over a year. Thanks.

Have you listened to a podcast lately? They are all here. Bible classes, sermons, some one-off teachings. We think you will enjoy learning along with us.

We hope to see you in Sydney, 257 Oxford Street, Bondi Junction, anytime, but certainly during the FNAR sale. God bless you!

22 April 2017

To be or not to be...on Facebook

For about 7 weeks, I've been off Facebook. I have not looked at my page, nor noticed friend requests, nor private messages. What a pleasure it has been to have all that extra time for all kinds of other activities. I also remembered that social connection is worthwhile, so I spent more time on the phone and in-person contact with people in the US and here in Australia. When I was alone at an eatery, I didn't log onto my smart phone to see what others were doing; I read a bit, and pondered a bit, and enjoyed the silence of the media. Alone... not a bad place to be.

Wait, you say, God said, 'It is not good for a man to be alone.' And of course, I agree with that. And that has to do with lifetime relationships between a man and his wife. Still, there are times, when a man has to be alone with God, and a woman has to be pondering all that God is saying to her individually as well. I'm not Roman Catholic, but I always liked St. (Mother) Teresa's comment about prayer: Dan Rather, US news anchor on CBS-TV, once asked Mother Teresa what she said during her prayers. She answered, "I listen." So Dan turned the question and asked, "Well then, what does God say?" Mother Teresa smiled with confidence and answered, "He listens." Another of her famous quotes on solitude is here: "We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls." (Quoted in Quotes
For more famous quotes from this gentle soul, here they are .

I guess all this to say, take some time to pray, to listen, and to ponder. Enjoy your meditation time with the Almighty. If you have time to join in the community of Facebook, so be it. Share God's good love with others on social media. But if you feel yourself swallowed and consumed by the need-to-know or the look-at-me self-exposure, then pull back. My seven weeks away was refreshing and moderating. May you also find God in your April and May, and throughout your days.

11 April 2017

CT, rabbis and Passover for Jesus-- a response

by Rich Robinson, guest blogger

Rabbis Yehiel Poupko and David Sandmel’s recent article “Jesus Didn’t Eat a Seder Meal,” was written in response to the increasing interest of Christians in Passover and the celebration by some of Christian seders. Certainly, this phenomenon deserves exploration and comment. But I am not so sure that Rabbis Poupko and Sandmel’s response is the kind that is needed.

The authors explain Christian interest in Passover as partly due to American freedom. Yet more foundationally it coincides with the rediscovery that Christian faith is a tree that springs from Jewish roots—as the authors,in fact, suggest in their next paragraph. It is not merely “innate human curiosity” but a realization that Christianity is a fulfillment of Jewish hopes, centered on a Jewish Messiah, a hope that included the worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob on the part of the nations of the world, i.e. non-Jews. For many Christians, this realization has given new depth to their faith. Is it then a good thing or a bad thing that some Christians want to celebrate a seder? Is it good or bad for the Jews? To put it in other terms, is it a kiddush haShem or a chillul haShem (a sanctification of God’s name or a desecration of the same)?

The authors find the recent tradition of church seders “particularly troubling,” though whether “most Jews” will agree with them is a moot point. There are few things that most Jews agree on, and church seders probably do not head the list. But what is it that troubles the authors?

First they offer the matter of history. The seder as we know it, they write, did not exist in Jesus’ day. Well, no one is about to argue otherwise. In his seminal book The Origins of the Seder, Baruch Bokser wrote that the seder as described in the Mishnah—from whence the modern seder evolved—represents “the need to overcome the loss of the temple.” In other words, Passover post-70 is quite different than Passover pre-70. And the seder has continued to evolve: the custom of breaking and hiding the afikoman is unknown to the Mishnah.

What Jesus did at was a pre-70 Passover ritual, whether explicitly called a seder at that time or not. There was lamb, matzah, and bitter herbs. There were cups; the gospels tell of two, but we know that Mishnaic traditions often went back to earlier times, so we can reasonably suppose that there were four. In any event the presence of “cups” shows that traditions had already accrued beyond the bare essentials mandated in Exodus for the Passover observance. There was the singing of the Hallel, as Matthew 26 reports that the disciples “sung a hymn” and then “went out to the Mount of Olives.” In other words, they concluded their Passover with the Hallel Psalms. All this is a reasonable reading of the gospels. To what extent they told the story of the Exodus we don’t know, but we can hardly imagine that the origins of Passover played no part in the Jewish observance of that day.

It becomes rather moot, then, whether it is proper to describe Jesus’ Passover meal as a seder. It was a proto-seder, a pre-70 seder, a seder-in-formation; it was seder-like, it was seder-ish, it was kind-of-like-a-seder, it had elements of a seder—any way you put it, seder is the most relevant way to speak of it. That, certainly, is how Joseph Klausner repeatedly describes it in his Jesus of Nazareth. It wasn’t Rabban Gamaliel’s seder, but neither was his seder my grandfather’s. Seder is as seder does.

Beyond terminology, the authors make the point that at the Last Supper, the focus of Passover on the events of Exodus “takes a back seat” to Jesus’ new expression of faith, in which he created a new ritual. Theologically speaking, that’s not really on target (apart from the fact that Judaism has always created “new expressions of faith” down through the millennia). Correctly, the authors note that “the Jewish Passover meal inaugurates the Jewish people into its history.” That history, however, comes to be expressed in hopes for continued and ultimate redemption, as witnessed by the reusage and the reimagination of Exodus imagery in the biblical prophets. The messianic hope came to be an expression both of a final, climactic exodus and the desire for a renewed Davidic king: an event and a person. The authors recognize this when they go on to speak of the hope from redemption from exile. Yet the New Testament claims to realize those same hopes in the person of Jesus. That is, he fulfills the hopes of the Jewish people, which is a hope that from the beginning was meant to encompass all nations (Genesis 12:3 is one of the earliest hints of this). Whatever newness Jesus brought must not obscure that the New Testament views itself as a continuation of the same story as in the Hebrew Bible, and the fulfillment of the same.

On to the authors’ next point, that Christian adaptation of Passover shows a “lack of respect.” Conversely, they say, Jews who encourage Christian seders fail to show respect to and understanding of Christian faith. But the Christian faith is not to Jewish faith as Christianity is to Hinduism, or Judaism to Shintoism. The Christian faith arises fully out of Jewish soil; to reiterate, Jesus fulfills Jewish hopes, which included the hope of the Gentiles coming to know the God of Israel. This is why the Apostle Paul can write in Ephesians 2:12-13, “Remember that you [Gentiles] were at that time separated from Messiah, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Messiah Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Messiah” (substituting “Messiah” for “Christ” to drive home the point). In other words, Gentiles who come to faith in Jesus do not replace Israel and do not negate God’s covenants with Israel but have been brought near to Israel and to those covenants. This too is a fulfillment of Israel’s own hope.

Given all this, one can also view Christian seders as showing not only respect for the Jewish faith, but also a warranted participation in the Bible’s own construal of Jewish and non-Jewish history. The Old Testament has for two thousand years been a dual possession of Judaism and the Church. (Sometimes I call the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible by the name my Jewish family used when I grew up; to me Old Testament always sounded more epic and grander than New Testament). Given that reality, one cannot simply write off Christian Passovers as an infringement of a Jewish possession. One could even argue that a Christian seder shows more respect to the Jewish people than does a Jewish seder in which everyone just wonders how much they can skip before they get to eat.

For various reasons, not necessarily mine, we find rabbis such as Evan Moffic (What Every Christian Needs to Know About Passover) encouraging Christian seders and providing resources for the same. Perhaps, in the name of interreligious understanding, it is time to recognize the unremovable Jewish scaffolding that upholds and constructs the Christian faith, and the part that the Passover story plays in that.

What is your response?