29 November 2015

Is there really hope?

Mention the words Columbine or Colorado Springs, Sandy Hook, Port Arthur, Paris' Bataclan Theatre, and 9-11 and immediately images of terror and pain, mass murder and head-shaking fill your mind. The world is bad and getting worse. When the G-20 gathers, when Congress or Parliament in Australia or the UK conduct talks and seek answers, most thinking people simply wish them well, but doubt any real substantive changes will occur. Where is there hope?

Last summer I stood in Amsterdam, in the shelter/ home of Anne Frank. If anyone knows daily fear and chronicled it well enough to become the journalist of the new world, it was this mature teenager. She wrote in her diary, “Where there's hope, there's life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again.” Hope gives life, to be sure, and real hope is even deeper. But in light of recent and continuing terror, I ponder the question, "Is there such a thing as false hope?"

William Ruddick writes in Bioethics, Vol. 13, #3-4, 1999, in his abstract of his piece Hope and Deception: "Convinced of hope's therapeutic benefits, physicians routinely support patients' false hopes, often with family collusion and vague, euphemistic diagnoses and prognoses, if not overt lies. Bioethicists charge them with paternalistic violations of Patient Autonomy." He begins his essay with Ambroise Paré's maxim, "Always give the patient hope, even when death seems at hand." (XVI)

Bildad, a friend of Job the ancient in the bible said these words, "Can the papyrus grow up without a marsh? Can the rushes grow without water? While it is still green and not cut down, yet it withers before any other plant. So are the paths of all who forget God; and the hope of the godless will perish, whose confidence is fragile, and whose trust a spider’s web. He trusts in his house, but it does not stand; he holds fast to it, but it does not endure. He thrives before the sun, and his shoots spread out over his garden. His roots wrap around a rock pile, he grasps a house of stones. If he is removed from his place, then it will deny him, saying, ‘I never saw you.’ (Chapter 8.11-18)

Bildad is saying that there is such a thing as false hope. Planting roots of a plant in a rock garden will cause disappointment. So he says, 'the hope of the godless will perish.' What if my hope in education or in government or in a new candidate for government is misplaced? What if my hope is false hope? Where can I turn?

Many of us have been disappointed. We have placed our hope in people and things and they have failed us. The dashing of our hope has caused deep disappointment and the pain of our disappointment has filled us with the fear of being hurt again. That fear has held us back from entering new relationships as freely as we once could. Once burned-twice shy, as the saying goes.

Job says that the hope of the godless fails. He is talking about godless hope-a hope that excludes God and makes us dependent on the things and people of this world for our core fulfillment. This kind of hope often fails because it requires others to be what they don’t have the resources to be – the answer to our need for a relationship with God. In contrast, hope that doesn’t disappoint is centered first in God because it knows that no one can be faithful in a way that God is faithful. No one can love as God can love us. God alone is fully dependable. God alone will not let us down.

Hope is most real when it is based on what we know about someone. It is most dangerous when it is based on unrealistic expectations because that sets us up for another failure.

That's why this picture is so powerful to me.
It's the picture of someone from above a pool, reaching to rescue someone drowning. The actual story which inspired this painting is in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 14. In that chapter of the Bible, Yeshua is seen walking on water. Then Peter is looking around and says, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And Yeshua said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Yeshua." Wow, that would have been thrilling. And exhilarating and full of glory! "But seeing the wind, Peter became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Yeshua stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?"

This story is real to me just now. The Bible makes it clear that God wants to be in relationship with us, not only those who never have heard of Him, or who go from sinner to saint in a prayer. He wants to be in relationship with us who have walked with Him for decades. Each of us fails. Each of us is still walking in feet of clay. God's hand is not so short that it cannot save us. (Isaiah 59.2) Our sins separate us from Him, but His hand is ever reaching to get us out of the troubles in which we find ourselves. Hope "does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5.5)

This is for believers AND for unbelievers. This is for those who are new to the faith and those who are long involved. Hope does not disappoint. Thanks be to God!

26 November 2015

For US folks... a Thanksgiving poem

My Thanksgiving

The autumn-time has come; on woods that dream of bloom,
And over purpling vines, the low sun fainter shines.
The aster-flower is failing, the hazel’s gold is paling;
Yet overhead more near the eternal Star appears!

And present gratitude insures the future’s good,
And for the things I see I trust the things to be;
That in the paths untrod, and the long days of God,
My feet shall still be led, my heart be comforted.

O living friends who love me! O dear ones gone above me!
Careless of other fame, I leave to you my name.
Hide it from idle praises, save it from evil phrases:
Why, when dear lips that spake it are dumb, should strangers wake it?

Let the thick curtain fall; I better know than all
How little I have gained, how vast the unattained.
Not by the page word-painted let life be banned or sainted:
Deeper than written scroll the colors of the soul.

Sweeter than any sung my songs that found no tongue;
Nobler than any fact my wish that failed of act.

Others shall sing the song, others shall right the wrong,—
Finish what I begin, and all I fail of win.
What matter, I or they? mine or another’s day,
So the right word be said and life the sweeter made?

Hail to the coming singers! Hail to the brave light-bringers!
Forward I reach and share all that they sing and dare.
The airs of heaven blow o’er me; a glory shines before me
Of what mankind shall be,— pure, generous, brave, and free.

A dream of man and woman Diviner but still human,
Solving the riddle old, shaping the Age of Gold!
The love of God and neighbor; an equal-handed labor;
The richer life, where beauty walks hand in hand with duty.

Ring, bells in unreared steeples, the joy of unborn peoples!
Sound, trumpets far off blown, your triumph is my own!
Parcel and part of all, I keep the festival,
Fore-reach the good to be, and share the victory.

I feel the earth move sunward, I join the great march onward,
And take, by faith, while living, my free hold of thanksgiving.

- John Greenleaf Whittier

13 November 2015

Distance from here to there

Distances are hard to measure in the skies. To measure distances in the universe, a person would need to construct what is commonly referred to as a "cosmic distance ladder". In other words, astronomers use different methods to determine the distances to objects; the specific method which is used depends on how far away the object is. But all of the methods are wonderful combinations of science and mathematics!

I travel a fair bit and enjoy seeing the world through my camera and my own eyes. If you are familiar with Flickr, and even my Flickr site, you know I have thousands of shots of nature and enjoy seeing what God made.

When I'm close to a flower or the beach, the distance is fairly easy to determine. When I'm on an airplane and see the clouds or this rainbow which I saw from the golf course on Monday, I cannot so easily figure out how to measure the items. Of course, as a former mathematics teacher, I could use angles and radii and approximately measure items in the distance, but without all the formulas and measures, it's another story.

When the thunder sounds and lightning flashes, the formula is fairly simple. Count the number of seconds that pass between a flash of lightning and the crack of thunder that follows it, then divide that number by five. The resulting number will tell you how many miles away you are from where lightning just struck. (For metric conversions, divide the number of seconds by 3 if you want the answer in kilometers. A three-second count say, would place the lightning strike about 1,020 m away, or roughly 1 km.)

OK, if you are not mathematically oriented, then you might simply learn to take cover if the lightning/thunder differential is less than 3 seconds. That's easy! Don't delay.

Measuring is important historically. They built pyramids and Stonehenge, The Great Wall of China, and so many major substantial structures without computers. They measured well and those structures are still here as a result. The Book of Deuteronomy reads, "then your elders and your judges shall go out and measure the distance to the cities which are around the slain one." (21.2) Measuring mattered back then. Consider this about distance and the ark of the covenant. "When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God with the Levitical priests carrying it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it. However, there shall be between you and it a distance of about 2,000 cubits by measure. Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.” (Joshua 3.3-4) They had to know what a cubit was, and then how to measure distance.

And they had to know how to get from here to there, and from there to here.

All around the golf course on Monday I kept looking for signs to help me get from 1st hole to 2nd to 3rd...to the 18th. And knowing where we are going, and measuring our energies, and measuring our expenses-- those are all part of determining our distance.

Nothing is clearer if you know about God, than that there is a great distance between humanity and the Almighty. I guess that's what Yom Kippur is about. That's what spiritual retreats are about. We learn that we are far from Him, from His plans, from His desires for humanity and making His Kingdom come among the poor, the hungry, and the suffering. And that distance is measurable. The prophet Isaiah said, "But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear."

But there is a way to shorten that distance. Hebrews 4.16 reads, "Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." God wants us to come to Him, and His arms are open to you. To me. To all of us.

The real answer is Yeshua, as we read in Hebrews chapter 10. "Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water."

You want the shortest distance between two points? Between you and God? It's found in Jesus. Get to know Him. He's the Messiah and Saviour and lover of our souls. Want to talk about Him? Let's chat.

12 November 2015

World Trade Centre and seeing forever

Last week I ascended 102 stories of the new One World Trade Center in downtown New York City. The elevator took 47 seconds, and thus traveled 22 miles per hour to get me there. I was not alone. The queue outside was not too long on that Tuesday, and I was happy to exit the lift at the top. The view was blocked by a video screen which quickly ran a history of the development of the area and of the building itself. Then the screen lifted and voila there was the world outside From above as the sun set across the City.

I was delighted with the views. As I walked forward, the path took us past the restaurant/ cafe and then we paraded onto the 100th floor where the expanses were visible in all 360 degrees. I remembered the Twin Towers had a similar view, but this one was clearer on this day. No clouds; just New Jersey in the distant background as the sun kept setting.

The theme of the show was 'see forever' and the company that sells photographs of you superimposed on the scenery (which of course I had to buy, you know, just had to) is named See Forever .com or such. Here's my photo in the sunset But it's not the same sun and it's not the same day and it's not the same location and ... but otherwise it's all true.

So I got to thinking about seeing forever. Could I really see forever from the top of the WTC? In one way the phrase means that I have unlimited viewing. Nothing got in the way of my seeing into the far distance. The only limitation I had was my own optics. In other words if I had a big enough telescope or binoculars, I could have seen Argentina or at least Miami. Even so, that would have only allowed me viewing of places on earth, so my telescope would have needed to point further up and I could have seen Alpha Centauri or the Southern Cross or such. But hey, I can do that from anywhere... no need to see from the top of a building in NYC, you know?

So what else might 'see forever' mean? It could mean that I can see into forever, that is, look into the future (and I suppose the past as well, although rarely is that the intended meaning.) The prophets of the Jewish Bible (nicknamed by some the Old Testament) were those who could see into the future and make predictions and tell forth the justice and mercy of the Almighty. Perhaps this is the 'see forever' understanding to take away from the WTC that day. To be fair, the Jewish prophets like Isaiah, Joel, Micah.. never claimed to see everything, only to teach/ preach what they did see, but they understood their limitations. A wise man knows his.

So let me recommend the third way to see this phrase. That is to see that there really is a forever. If you understand that life on earth is not all there is or will be, and I'm not speaking cosmologically, but rather that your life of its 30 years, 70 years, 91 years and 214 days, however long, is not all there is to your existence, then you are 'getting' it. We were born to live forever. (Deuteronomy 29.29, John 6.51) And that's because God lives in eternity and lives forever. (Ex. 3.15, Dt. 32.40, Ps 10.16) And He desires us to have a relationship with Him which is real and good. We have sinned, long ago and even yesterday, and God doesn't blink at that and at those. (Ecc.7.20, Ps.51.5, James 1.15) However, He has satisfied His own justice by sending Yeshua, the Jewish messiah, to die for us in Jerusalem and to be raised from the dead on the 3rd day. Sin, the great prevention of our spending eternity with Him, has been eradicated and thus we can not only see forever, we can live forever with the Lord. That's better than Argentina or Alpha Centauri.

Want to read more? Check out the Bible verses above, and have a quick word with the Lord. That's what they call prayer. Ask Him if this is all true. Ask Him who Yeshua is. Ask Him.. you will have plenty of time to ask Him lots of other things, too, if eternity is real. You don't have to spend the $32 to ascend the World Trade Center. You can talk to God right in your home or on the train. You can meet Him just now. No need to wait until Tuesday. Want to do that?

31 October 2015

Sneaky, deception and magicians...is there hope?

Sleight of hand is a remarkable visual and sometimes audial trickery that most of us admire. We watch David Copperfield and generations ago watched Harry Houdini, and we are amazed and scratch our heads. “How did he do that?” when he saws a lady in half or makes an elephant disappear. Even those magician shows we watch, when they slow down the trick… most of the time I don’t see how they do it.

I watch the football here in Australia and am constantly amazed when I see what they call a ‘dummy’ play. This is where one player pretends to offload the ball one way or another and ends up with almost-Copperfield-like sleight of hand and moves the ball forward with rapid-fire trickery. We applaud that play and wonder why the defense doesn’t know what he will do. Of course, no one knows what he will do, and perhaps even the offensive player doesn't know what he will do, until he sees the defense react one way or the other.

This is true in many sports and many situations of life, but it doesn’t work when we are trying to work our way religiously in a real way toward the Living God.

God demonstrates no sleight of hand and practices no dummies. He is ever real and honest and forthright. And he calls us to real and honest and forthright living as well. I’m not sure that I’ve ever read the word sneaky as one of those adjectives that applies to the Living God. In fact, I’m sure it doesn’t.

So why is it that we pretend and sneak and live double lives in these days? What is it about the possibility of privacy that is so commendable and allowing in the 21st century? What lessons can we learn that prevent our going there?

The honesty and forthrightness demonstrated in the Scriptures is not only a high mark to admire, but one to which we should aspire. When the prophet Nathan caught King David with his pants down, David didn’t say one thing and practice another. He agreed with Nathan’s assessment and called himself a sinner in need of forgiveness (2 Samuel 12.13, Psalm 51) and let the chips fall where they may. He didn’t lie anymore but clearly said he was guilty and had sinned against the Lord. He had after all committed adultery and murder, and as a Jewish man those are two of the Big Ten that you shouldn’t be anywhere close to committing.

Others saw themselves as wrong, like Isaiah the prophet who when confronted by the holiness of the Lord, said “Woe is me, for I am ruined.” (Chapter 6) King Solomon said “There is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7.20) And Solomon should know, as he lived wildly and spent his money anywhere and everywhere he wanted, to no satisfactory conclusion.

When we sin, if God is a good God, He will send guilt our way to correct us and challenge us and amend our ways.

Guilt is a lousy master but a wonderful teacher to get us on the right path.

The constant refrain from the Scriptures is that people who are sinners, whose hands are dirty, should cleanse their hands and purify their hearts. (James 4.8, Job 17.9, Psalm 24.4)

What does God promise to those who do this cleansing, detox program? “The righteous will hold to his way” (Job 17.9), and “He shall receive a blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” (Psalm 24.5) and James summarizes it best with, “He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (4.6-10)

25 October 2015

Removing enemies

By Bob Mendelsohn
Given in Lane Cove, NSW
From Judges 1-2, Joshua 23
25 October 2015

Thanks to the band for great music today, and to Darren and the staff for allowing me to speak today. Those regulars here know that I have been with Jews for Jesus for a few decades, since 1979 actually and you will get a chance to support that missionary organization today and my work in it particularly using those white cards inserted in your news sheet, or donate up the back at the book/ resource table in the hall.

Music and rhythm
I really like the music of church, in fact, I like a wide variety of music, and find myself tapping along on the back of a pew or the steering wheel of my car quite often. It’s the rhythm which I pattern. The book of Judges has a rhythm all its own. Let me give that to you right away so you can recognize it throughout the teaching series at church, or whenever you read the book.
The rhythm is
1) Israel is disobedient
2) Israel cries out for help
3) God delivers us from our enemies by means of available men and women
4) We forget God and fall into sin again.

I’m sure you will meet that rhythm again and again.

When I think about Bible books that I like to teach in new situations, I always prefer John or Genesis, Proverbs or Revelation, you know, where God is active and teaching and helping us who want to learn about His plans. The narratives like John or Genesis where the storyline preaches even without much work from me and Revelation because it’s about so much of God and us together. Proverbs because it’s so informational and great in short thoughts to help us get through the days. But if there is a book I usually avoid, it’s Judges. You see, Judges is not only about good judges and we will study them over the next fortnight, but it’s also about disobedient and ever-stubborn Israel.

If I teach that to Jewish people I worry that they will think all I ever talk about is sin, and not about God’s faithfulness or such. If I teach that to Gentiles, like I am today, I worry that you might get an attitude of “Those stupid Jews who never get it right.” Anti-Semitism doesn’t need me to stoke its flames.

That said, the book of Judges IS in the Bible and IS useful and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3.16). So I will go there. And especially because the church staff have asked me to bat opener in this series on the book. Today then, we begin in learning this season of Israel’s history.

Removing the enemies: Military might
The book opens with military conquest. That should excite Marise Payne and Duntroon grads, and some of you historians. So Israel’s military victories should give us reason to rejoice in God and to honor Him as God our Saviour. We should memorialize our victories with piled stones and rocks, with trumpets and loud praises. And we should have completed our victories across the country, but if you read the text carefully, you will see some of these things missing.
In chapter one we conquered the enemies around us: Canaanites, Perizzites (v. 1-20) from Dan to Beersheba, including Gaza and Jerusalem. It was an amazing, quick and powerful overcoming. God was with the Jewish people. (.19)

Removing the enemies: Problem
Then the words drop like cannonballs on our text, “But the sons of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem; so the Jebusites have lived with the sons of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day.” (.21) Living with the enemy was not God’s plan and that allowance, that permission, that disobedience would haunt Israel then, and honestly, to this day. (1.21-36) And the problem is like we see in other Bible stories, like Saul and Agag and the Amalekites, like Eve and a little disobedience, like Ananias and Sapphira, is that a little disobedience is a lot of trouble to the person then and to the people of God in the future. And the problem is not one of obedience first. It’s a matter of faith in God.

God wants to be in relationship with us and when we let the enemies live in the land, then their gods eventually become a snare and a trap. Look, I’m a golfer and I know a trap when I see one, and when I can, I avoid them at almost any cost.

So what is God saying? Get rid of the people who have foreign gods because if you don’t, your ball will fall into the snare and sand trap, into the golf water hazard, or in rugby into touch, you will fail. So the matter is not really one of obedience first, but rather faith. If God said something, if He tells me something to do, then I must first believe Him and then go to do it. Disobedience is foremost an unbelief issue. Does that make sense? And how do we enter into relationship with the Almighty? By faith and faith alone.

Removing the enemies: Purpose
Why did God want us to remove the Canaanites, Hittites, Jebusites, and all the other nations in the land of Promise? The idolatrous peoples of the land had heard about the Jews, and about their escape from Egypt. They could have turned to the Almighty for forgiveness, but did not. They chose to live godlessly and the Lord knew that if Israel had opportunity to stay with these nations that eventually even the Jews would turn away from Him. That was not good on so many levels and God’s plan was about keeping His people with Him, and thus away from the enemy nations.

I’m not saying 21st Century Australia is at all the same as 15th Century BCE Israel, but some lessons can be learned. Israel then was not allowed what we call multiculturalism. That was the beginning of woes in ancient Israel.

The danger was that Israel would imitate the nations around her. And by walking away from the Almighty, we would actually fail God’s promises, and God’s promises had never failed and never will (Josh. 23.14ff). We would comply with idolatrous nations and live their lives instead of ours. Isn’t this exactly what happened in chapter two?

An angel of the Lord shows up and reminds Israel to be separate from the seven nations in the land, and that God will keep His covenant. He tells Israel that it’s personal. How do we know it's personal? Look at the personal pronouns God uses in verse 1 and 2: I brought you up out of Egypt and I led you into the land which I have sworn to your fathers; and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you,...you have not obeyed Me;
We did not listen to His voice.

Removing the enemies: Thorns in your sides
Then the angel uses a phrase you might have heard before in the Newer Testament. The phrase, “Thorns in your sides” is sometimes the phrase we hear the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians
“Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me — to keep me from exalting myself!” (2 Cor. 12.7) You may have been taught that the problem Paul had was something about blindness or weak eyes. You may have heard that this ‘thorn in the flesh’ was something physical. But the phrase is a clear reference to people. Consider the three times the phrase is used in the Older Testament.

Num. 33.55 ‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall come about that those whom you let remain of them will become as pricks in your eyes and as thorns in your sides, and they will trouble you in the land in which you live.

Josh. 23.13 know with certainty that the LORD your God will not continue to drive these nations out from before you; but they will be a snare and a trap to you, and a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good land which the LORD your God has given you.

Judg. 2.3 “Therefore I also said, ‘I will not drive them out before you; but they will become as thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.’”

Here we see God’s warning to the Jewish people in Moses’ day, in Joshua’s day and now told us by the angel of the Lord, that if we don’t trust God, and don’t remove the people from the land, that they, people, they will become like thorns in our sides. Therefore I conclude, in the same way, Paul had people who followed after him, centuries later, who told false gospels, who taught the people wrong things about Yeshua, legalizers, people who insisted that the people needed more than faith to find forgiveness. The thorns in Paul’s sides were people who taught wrong information about God.

OK, back to our story.
Chapter two verse 1, God’s longing is clear in the text. The angel of the Lord speaks and reminds them in terms of covenant: “I made a covenant with you and I will never break that covenant; you were to keep it; you were not to make a covenant with the other nations.” But what happened? We didn’t listen to him. The English text in our Bible says “obey,” but the Hebrew translates listen. The understanding is if you listen to God’s word, you will obey it.

The angel finished his commentary with the ‘thorns in your sides’ phrase and what was the result in Israel that day? Weeping. (.4) That’s why the town is called “Bochim” which is the Hebrew word for ‘weeping bitterly’ or ‘sobbing deeply.’ And I like that the word is not singular, but is written in the plural. Why? Because at least two are weeping; God and the Israelites. God joins us in our pains.

But even though that sobbing and the sacrifice that followed were genuine, and all Israel went home to their new land, after Joshua died, that sobbing turned disingenuous.

We read, “Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals, and they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them” (2.11-12). The cycle and the rhythm of Judges begin again. Failure here is evident.

Removing the enemies: What do we learn?
1) God’s desire is for us to trust him, no matter what we see. Many often make the bulk of their study of the book of Judges into a mockery of the Jewish people, in our failures as followers of God to do just that. But the real story is the story behind the story, that throughout history, even this troubling history, God is ever reaching out to save us, to know us, to be in relationship with us. And He will do everything He can to ensure that we are brought into a place of decision. He may use enemies; He may use friends; He may use a Jewish man from the US, but He will get your attention, and His longing to be in relationship with you will be known by you. What you do with that longing…that’s up to you, isn’t it?

2) Victory is ours if we do trust him. He will cause us to walk in His ways and find delight in Him and in His plans. That’s the major reason to remove enemies. Throughout the book of Judges you will read of one military victory after another. I believe in our lives we can also have spiritual victory, if we win the battle of faith. The Centurion of Matthew chapter 8 is heralded by Yeshua as one whose faith outshone all the faith of all Israel. The Apostle John wrote, “This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5.4)

In my ministry with Jews for Jesus, the joy I have in seeing Jewish people come to faith in Messiah is unmatched. They can be the most righteous or the least righteous, the nicest or the most crooked, but when they listen to Henry David Thoreau or the Gospel itself, they win. Thoreau said, “If a man loses pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured, or far away.”

3) The world, the flesh, and Satan, summed up as The Enemy, want us to allow for him, to hang out with him, to live a double life. Compromise is easy in these days, but if we are victorious in our walk with the Lord, then the only way Satan can beat us is to cause us to pretend, to live sneaky lives and if so, two things are sure. One, we will get caught eventually and two, the enemy will have won if we continue. Yeshua said, “no man can serve two masters” (Matt. 6.24) and the book of Judges is calling us to wholehearted, single-focused faith in the Lord Himself.

4) When we fail, God will deliver us, if we call on Him and trust him.
That’s what I see as the overarching principles and lessons of the book of Judges. Each week for the next while the pastoral team will unpack specifics about this bible book. And what we read in the book of Hebrews, “And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, And all these, having gained approval through their faith,” (Heb 11.32, 39)

Maybe next year before the Lane Cove Fair, we will re-read this sermon. And learn about going out to battle. We go to proclaim Jesus as Lord of Lane Cove and Lord of Heaven and earth. And we go, not in our own strength, but in that of our righteous Savior. We go because He went. And you can do that without a festival or a face-painting stall. Talk to your neighbour. Talk to your boss. Help kids at Scripture in school to get it. Tell people on the train and the bus. Let’s go there.

That’s what I tell my team of Jews for Jesus. We go to His own Jewish people because He did. We trust the Lord to give us people with whom to witness. And our victory is in trusting and knowing Him, and sharing Him with others. He loves them much more than we do. I think of Marvin, who got saved last month with me. His interest in God was minimal to say the least two months ago, but a weird vision in the night awoke him to the possibility of a real God, and within a month, this 32 year old Jewish man was not only professing Jesus as Lord, but I was baptizing him in Sandringham Beach with other believers watching. Or Naomi, the Israeli lawyer who while I was witnessing to her last year at a café in Quakers Hill gave her life to Yeshua and is living in His power today. Let us go in His name, no matter the cost, no matter the false teachers and other thorns out there. Let us go to proclaim Yeshua, Lord of all. And let’s see what victories God will give us. Amen?

20 October 2015

To stir or not to stir...good question

I enjoy cooking, and find all kinds of reasons to include sauces and spices in simple vegetable concoctions. Mustard and raisins and chia seeds...they can all make their way into the least likely main dishes. And I like the idea of stir fry. Now I'm sure there are times when real chefs tell us not to stir, as the result will be too thin or too mushy or too something. OK, I get that, but generally my meals are better served if the flavours are allowed to blend.

Here in Australia, we have a national commitment to stirring. By this I am not referencing the culinary arts, but rather the troubling kind. You know, someone who stirs up situations only to 'get a rise' out of someone or some group. "He's just a stirrer" is a brand of commendation in Oz. So as a messianic Jew, this comes naturally to me. I was always a bit of a rebel, and an activist, especially in my later teens, and that has stayed with me through the decades.

But what about troubles that really do need to be calmed? I read a report last year during hostilities in Israel from the Economist here It had to do with kidnappings and resultant closures of walls and the stirring of bad blood. There the term is one we should avoid. This infusion of hostilities into the already-troubled waters of Israel and the Palestinian conflict is not a good blend.

Neal Colgrass of Newser online service wrote in January this year North Korea is alleging America Is 'Stirring Up Bad Blood. Colgrass quotes the BBC, National Public Radio and the Associated Press in his article. There is trouble brewing, to be sure, and that brew is titled 'bad blood.'

Stirring bad blood seems to be the mantra of those who want to malign any involvement of outsiders. Of course 007 would have us learn the difference between martinis made well and unwell, but that's another imagery. Here we are talking about stirring for the sake of stirring, or stirring for the sake of making things better. And that's something with which everyone will not agree.

Koreans will not agree with US sanctions.
Palestinians will not agree with Israeli force.

The Houston Astros baseball team probably agree with the writer (Adam Chandler) of Taylor Swift and her curse as he recounts the troubles Taylor stirs up when she performs at baseball stadia during the Major League Baseball season.

I guess, the bottom line is... when you stir things up, is it for the greater good? Is it for the best purposes? Or are you only a stirrer for stirring sake? I like the idea of soul-stirring music and dance and art. I am often inspired by the likes of Simon Tedeschi whom I heard perform Mussorgsky's Paintings at an Exhibition a fortnight ago in Sydney's Angel Place. I'm inspired by the paintings from the Hermitage I saw in Melbourne's National Gallery last month. The dance performed by the Sydney Ballet Company in Triptych earlier this month was soul-stirring, to be sure. And almost every time I see a performer at an Olympics standing on the top platform having earned the gold medal, and hearing their national anthem played, it's almost the definition of stirring. Let's let that be our goal in stirring today. And tomorrow. How's that?

The Bible says of the wicked, "Rescue me, O LORD, from evil men; preserve me from violent men who devise evil things in their hearts; they continually stir up wars." (Psalm 140.1-2). Good prayer King David.

Peter the good friend and colleague of Yeshua, who was a very capable minister of the Gospel and who died to make it known throughout the world, said this in his general letter, "I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder." (2 Peter 1.12-13). So this arousal to good memory, this stirring of the mind, is intentional, to bring us to a reminder, to call to mind good things. This is rehearsal. This is good stirring. Let's practice this one today. OK?