14 April 2014

Finding reason in shootings and deaths

The news is just coming in and more will be revealed as the day goes on, but it's clear that a shooter came into Kansas City's suburban Jewish Community Center in Overland Park and shot people, then traveled the 2.6 miles to Village Shalom, the retirement and assisted living center nearby, and shot more. Three were dead in this shocking dual event.

Here's channel 41's news report in Kansas City:
KC News

The shooter cried "Heil Hitler" on the eve of the Jewish Passover, the season of our Redemption which begins on Monday night worldwide.

Two weeks ago another shooter walked onto the base at Fort Hood, near Killeen, Texas and like happened in 2009, killed innocent victims nearby. The shootings happened at several locations on base.
Four people, including the gunman, were killed, while sixteen other people were injured. The shooter, 34-year-old Ivan Lopez, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Senseless shootings; innocent victims; the phrases ring in our ears and pain us like a punch in the gut. Why did these madmen do what they did? Why does anyone do such irrational things?

Of course, here's the problem. We are seeking to know about rationality in irrationality.

Ayn Rand said, "Rationality is man’s basic virtue, the source of all his other virtues. Man’s basic vice, the source of all his evils, is the act of unfocusing his mind, the suspension of his consciousness, which is not blindness, but the refusal to see, not ignorance, but the refusal to know. Irrationality is the rejection of man’s means of survival and, therefore, a commitment to a course of blind destruction; that which is anti-mind, is anti-life."

These madmen and any number of others--think Columbine, think Port Arthur, think all wild and crazed murderous attacks-- they are irrational. And thus, anti-life. Shame.

Tonight begins the holiday of Passover, an eight-day holiday celebrating the deliverance of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt about 3,500 years ago. And Friday here in Australia, a national holiday is titled "Good Friday." This commemorates the death of the Jewish messiah in Jerusalem about 2,000 years ago. His name was Yeshua and although he had done no violence. The Jewish Bible predicted this about him, "He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face. He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed."
 (Isaiah the prophet, chapter 53, verses 3-5)

In the natural, looking for reason from those who killed Yeshua, some might have cited sedition or heresy. But really there was no really good reason to kill the innocent Son of God. No deceit was in his mouth. Isaiah goes on to say, "But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief." (verse 10) So although naturally there were no good reasons, and Ayn Rand would have cited something about the irrationality of the murderers, God had another plan. It's 'good' Friday because God saw to our problem, He saw to our need for forgiveness and delivered us from a tyrant far worse than Pharaoh. He delivered us from sin. No wonder the Lord was pleased. God wanted us back in relationship with Him, and only forgiveness could accomplish this.

I pray for all the victims and the families of the victims in Kansas City and in Texas. Let's work this year to make sense out of other people's sufferings and to live a life that pleases the Almighty.

13 April 2014

Funerals and living

My brother died on the first day of US spring. He was a fighter to the end as liver cancer beat him. Although it could be said that he drank himself to his grave, my sister wanted to say that he insisted on living life like Sinatra: his way. Death and life... what do they have to do with each other?

The rabbi gave a wonderful eulogy, of a person she'd never met. Her text is here. Eulogy 

My friend Tom was in attendance at the funeral and I handed him my camera to shoot some stills. He did a great job and the photos are here on my Flickr page

As a result of Michael's passing, I have been grieving for the last few weeks, saying Kaddish, wearing my black torn ribbon, pondering what it all means. Death is seriously part of life.

My brother had no relationship with his family for about 50 years. Oh sure he'd attend to various required moments and at brief times even seem to enjoy them, but his distancing himself from life as we knew it in the 1950s and 1960s in suburban Kansas City, in an Orthodox Jewish home, in black and white normalcy, was apparent to all who knew him. Don't get me wrong; he wanted to live his life out loud. He married twice. He had a family in California with whom he had no relationship for decades. He had a son from his second wife with whom he 'was tight' but who had not been home in over four years. He didn't even know he was a great grandfather, three times!

But then the pain in his hip was unbearable. He went last June to a doctor in KC and they found his body was suffering from Stage 4 Liver Cancer. Immediately Michael met death in the face. He was terminal. And if that be so, then how shall he die, and how shall he live?

As if the clock turned back to 1963, Michael became familiar again. He still had too many dress-up clothes, like 15 pairs of suspenders and suits he hadn't worn in years, but he reached out to and welcomed family contact. His daughters reconnected with him; his son came back twice in the 10 months until he passed. My time with him was renewed. I saw and spent time with him three times, in July, October and January. Those times were immeasurable. They were great. 

I wanted so much for him to say "Yes" to living in faith in the living God and in His Son Yeshua who died for him. I wanted Michael to encounter eternity in the person of Messiah, but that wasn't what Michael wanted.  I wanted him to read the Bible I gave him, and to be fair, he did glance at it a bit. Eternity is not mine to judge or oversee, and for that determination we await the Master's voice.

But in this transitory life, Michael found living again. Death is part of life. He didn't break relationships; he welcomed them again.  I'm glad for our final days together. I'm glad for his kindnesses to our sister especially. She served him tirelessly to the end as she had done with our parents in their days which ended a decade before.

Michael's life was much more than these photos of his life.

His was a hard life. His was a 68-year life.

Moses, the leader of the Jewish people 3,500 years ago, wrote a psalm. Most of the psalms in our Bible were written by King David 500 years later, but Moses wrote one of them. We call it Psalm 90.  In verse 3, we read of life's endings, "You turn man back into dust and say, 'Return, O children of men.' " As for the endings of our days, they usually are fadings, turning the lights out. Moses says of it, "We have finished our years like a sigh."  And in verse 12, the key is found. What does it all mean for us, who remain alive, who have a lot of living to do? "So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom."

That's it. Knowing that all of us are terminal should help us number our days, to make the most of the days in which we find ourselves. Now there are two ways to ponder and deal with this. We can 'live for today' with a 'devil-may-care' attitude and live as if there is no tomorrow. We can plunder savings accounts, cast off restraints, and fuggetaboutit all. But that's not what I mean.

Horace's famous "carpe diem" is not what I'm recommending. His quote is here: "Ask not—we cannot know—what end the gods have set for you, for me; nor attempt the Babylonian reckonings Leuconoë. How much better to endure whatever comes, whether Jupiter grants us additional winters or whether this is our last, which now wears out the Tuscan Sea upon the barrier of the cliffs! Be wise, strain the wine; and since life is brief, prune back far-reaching hopes! Even while we speak, envious time has passed: pluck the day (carpe diem), putting as little trust as possible in tomorrow!"

In that famous ode, Horace seems to be recommending to urge us to embrace the pleasures available in everyday life instead of relying on remote aspirations for the future. Green Day sing "Carpe Diem" and their words "Getting off a binge; get a second wind" remind me that some see 'oh well, there's no tomorrow, let's party" as the answer. But that's not the best.

Think of Eleanor Roosevelt's quote, "“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” The carpe diem style of Thoreau comes out in his “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”

I even liked what AA Milne wrote when Winnie the Pooh asked “What day is it?" "It's today," squeaked Piglet. "My favorite day," said Pooh.”

So, death is part of life. When we are met with death, we have choices to make. Live as if there is no tomorrow, or live in making the best of today because there might not be a tomorrow. The nuance is subtle; the differences are monumental.

Eminem is no hero of mine. I don't listen to his songs, but this one which focuses on the nonsense of his rise to fame and the madness of people on so many levels, from police to parents to attorneys to the youth who listen and worship him and his songs caught my eye today. He says, "That's why we seize the moment try to freeze it and own it, squeeze it and hold it Cause we consider these minutes golden. And maybe they'll admit it when we're gone Just let our spirits live on, through our lyrics that you hear in our songs and we can...

Sing with me, sing for the year
Sing for the laughter, sing for the tears
Sing with me now, just for today
Maybe tomorrow, the good Lord will take you away"

This carpe diem reflection is exactly NOT what I'm saying. You do have a life to live. Make the best of it. Live today as if there were no tomorrow, not without care, but with great care. Live today because it's the best day you've got. Serve people. Serve God. Learn something. Give something. Dance, sing, enjoy... of course. At your own expense, not theirs.

Yeshua said it this way, "Seek first God's kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6.33-34)  Let's serve others; let's make today count. And when tomorrow comes and we wake up in eternity, we can thank God that His purposes were met. That will be the most satisfying day of all.

Sounds like Moses. "Teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom."

Death is part of OUR life. Let's make the best day ever. Today. 

02 April 2014

Noah, the movie with help from R. Fink

OK, I'm in the US and will see the movie Noah in due course.

So many in Tennessee are saying it's not worth seeing. But I'm in the bastion of the Bible belt, just miles from the venue for the Scopes trial. Fair enough. Here are some comments from others, and I will add my own in due course.

Sides are being chosen. HotAir’s Ed Morrssey calls it “a mess,” while Steven D. Greydanus says it’s “deeply serious.” while cultural critic R.J. Moeller noted that “biblical scholars [also] criticized Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments when they came out.” This is just a sampling of opinion.

Darren Aronofsky's new $100 million blockbuster film Noah opened on Friday in 3,936 theaters to a huge wave of media attention. Google News lists over 1,400 stories on the film this morning and IMDB lists 2,217 articles -- many of them evaluating its merits or assessing the public reaction. Mainstream reviews are mostly solidly positive (Rotten Tomatoes 73, Metacritic 68) but the film is being blasted, damned and condemned in many conservative Christian circles. So far it has been banned in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country, as well as Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE -- but here in the U.S. those objecting most strongly to the film are Christians who find its portrayal of the Noah story "unfaithful" to the Bible.

Ken Ham, the self-styled Kiwi "Creationist" tells TIME magazine that the film is an insult to Christians, with "barely a hint of biblical fidelity," and thus "unbiblical" and "pagan." Glenn Beck, labels the film a "100-million-dollar disaster," objecting, among other things, that it is "pro-animal" and "anti-human." Erick Erikson, on his Redstate blog, concludes his scorching review with the suggestion that "we might should consider burning at the stake any Christian leader who endorses this movie." His tweet was picked up by MSNBC and other TV media last night and has now gone viral. Brian Godawa calls the film "Godawful" in the Christian Post, referring to "the sick twisted agenda that seeps through every frame of this movie."

Rabbi Fink from LA wrote this on his blog and this may help you understand where many of the stories came from: 
"In general, I’m not much of a Bible movie guy. But I was excited for Noah because I think it’s a story that is rich with complex questions that leave a ton of room for exploring old and new ideas. In this respect, Noah excelled. It did explore old and new ideas. Some of it was odd and very far afield, but it all makes sense in the context of the story.

That’s why I say Noah is a very Jewish movie. As far as I know, Christians have pretty monolithic views of the Old Testament. It’s just not as important as the New Testament to them and perhaps that is why there is less creativity and homiletics in Christianity. Also, Christianity is not a text based religion so there are fewer scholars and fewer opportunities to analyze text. Further, when studying religious trends, one scholar refers to “Biblical Literalism” as a marker of devotion to Christianity. Even the most fervent Orthodox Jews are not Biblical Literalists. Orthodox Jews treat the Old Testament as the basis for a sophisticated oral tradition. We are absolutely not Biblical Literalists. There are certainly boundaries of acceptable allegory and well established interpretations that are preferred over others. But it’s not true literalism.

For Jews, Midrash has such a prominent place in Torah study. There are many kinds of Midrash, and one form of Midrash adds details and background to the Biblical narratives. It’s common for great Torah scholars to learn a new approach or twist on a Biblical story found in a Midrash. Our versions of these stories encompass competing and contradictory views. Even today, long after the closing of the Midrash texts, many great rabbis, especially in Chasidic circles, will derive new lessons and find new twists in the story to teach an important idea.

In that sense, Noah takes the Jewish approach. The movie strays very far from the text. In the Bible, the story of the flood is long on construction details and specific dates but short on lessons and drama. The movie contrives much of its drama, but it’s not completely Hollywood imagination. Many of the superimposed conflicts and stories have roots in Torah and Jewish tradition. Whether it’s borrowing from the Book of Enoch or adapting from actual Midrashic teachings, much of the movie, with one giant exception, felt familiar enough to me.

Perhaps the most vocal and most common criticism I’ve seen from conservatives has been their objection to the ecological overtones of the movie. Aside from my personal opinion that worrying about this kind of not subliminal, subliminal message in a movie is silly, the truth is that our tradition supports this idea.

One Midrash teaches us that until Noah saved the animals in his ark, Man was prohibited from eating meat. Adam was a vegetarian. The animal world was protected and Man had no right to kill for his lunch. Only because Noah was responsible for the survival of the animals was he permitted to eat meat after the flood. Another tradition says that we couldn’t eat meat for our personal pleasure until we entered the Land of Canaan in the time of Joshua. According to one stream of Jewish thought, even then, eating meat is not ideal. Rav Kook famously held that vegetarianism was part of the Utopian Messianic era. This is not hippy drippy Hollywood. This is Judaism.

Similarly, in our tradition Noah was named for his farming innovations. One Midrash says that Noah invented the plow. It’s not a disconcerting invasion of foreign modernity to see Noah as a symbol of agrarian life. Another Midrash teaches us that Noah was super sensitive to the needs of the animals in the ark. He was a sort of proto-animal rights activist. That’s not the liberal movie industry, that’s Torah.

Throughout the movie there is a magical light source called zohar. It can be mined like a precious stone and could provide light and fire if used the right way. I thought this was a clever adaptation of the Midrash that explains the “tzohar” that Noah placed in the ark for light. One opinion in the Midrash is that the tzohar was a precious stone that provided light. It seems obvious to me that this is the source for zohar in Noah. The movie simply turned tzohar into zohar (which means radiance) and assumed that these stones were available to everyone.

Here are some other adaptations from Midrash that occurred to me during the movie. Don’t worry, I won’t reveal how these examples are used in the movie.  There is a Midrash that says that the animals came to the ark on their own. One Midrash teaches that people began to attack the ark as the rains began and the wild animals surrounded the ark to protect Noah and his family. Some rabbis teach that Noah had little faith and did not enter the ark until the water rose above his ankles. We have a tradition that Og was a kind of stowaway on the ark. There are more examples, but you get the picture. To someone familiar with Midrash, embellishments like these are expected and accepted. To Biblical Literalists, they might be offensive.

I also loved the portrayal of Noah as a conflicted hero. He is so easy to love and admire for much of the movie. Later in the movie he becomes an anti-hero. You’re rooting against him. To me, this was a modern take on the famous dispute between the rabbis about whether Noah was only righteous compared to the sinners of his time or if he was truly righteous despite his evil milieu. Before everyone is killed in the flood, Noah is objectively good. He is good compared to the people of his time. But when it’s just him and his family, there are no more evil people to compare with Noah, he falls and seems less righteous.

Noah is a pretty good movie. For people accustomed to learning lessons and studying rabbinic teachings that add to the Biblical text, the movie should not offend. But I do see why Biblical Literalists are so disturbed. I just don’t understand their expectations. At worst, they could view the movie about a fictional Noah the way they might view Neo from the Matrix as a fictional version of Jesus.

I thought it was really cool to see a modern retelling of the Noah story. Of course there is a ton of stuff that is decidedly not Torah or Judaism. But that didn’t bother me. I didn’t see the movie to learn the story of Noah. It’s a movie that tells the story of Noah in a new way but borrows heavily from text and tradition. Its purpose was to entertain, but it also has the side benefit of promoting discussion and debate about Torah. That’s a good thing too."

I'll see it and wonder later this week why the noise. They love making "Jesus" and "Bible" movies and releasing them near Passover/ Easter. Good profits, I should think. We'll see.

12 March 2014

Anti-semitism in Paris

French parade 2014

January 27th was “International Holocaust Remembrance Day.” On the eve of that day, 17,000 people in France marched through the streets of Paris shouting: “Jews, out of France!” “Jews, France is not yours!” “The story of the gas chamber is bull***!” According to the article, “At one point, in a show of raw, seething hatred, the crowd simply spits out the word “Jew, Jew, Jew!” You can watch the march here:

France has the third largest population of Jewish people in the world, so this is no small event. I spoke with a friend of mine who is a retired Marine officer and former strategic analyst, and he equated the parade in France last month to the “Brown-Shirt” marches in Nazi Germany. My friend said, "France today is Germany in 1933". In 1933, the Jews had about six years to get out of Germany, so how long do you think the Jews in France have today? Another friend, who leads a ministry that helps Jewish people return to Israel from the West, received a desperate letter from a rabbi in France pleading for assistance in bringing his family to Israel. We are actively working to help this man and his family, and to bring more awareness to the people in France of the danger they are in. They need help now, and we are working on a plan to do just that.

11 March 2014

Nostalgia as a file

Bob41BDay92.JPG by bobmendo
Bob41BDay92.JPG, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.
What is it about nostalgia that makes us look back at old photos like this one, or listen to "Come Together" by the Beatles 40 years too late or get all sentimental at the smells in our grandmother's house? What is the drive that nostalgia produces?

Lou Reed said, "I don't like nostalgia unless it's mine." I guess that's a note really about patience. Bill Keane said, "Many of my cartoons are not a belly laugh. I go for nostalgia, the lump in the throat, the tear in the eye, the tug in the heart." I get that lump. Maybe as I age and have more personal experiences. Maybe as I see other mates dying or approaching the end of sectors of life.

I understand why at the old folks' home they discuss their aches, their pains, their doctors etc together. I didn't use to feel so many physical problems as I have now. I don't discuss them because I've got too much of life to live and I'll play through them. I get it.

Nostalgia doesn't always tell the truth, though. Doug Larson is unknown to me. He said, "Nostalgia is a file that removes the rough edges from the good old days." This is fantastic. We used to talk about seeing the past with rose-colored glasses. The Apostle Paul said we 'see through a glass darkly.' We often make the past much better than it really was. We forget so much and choose to highlight our triumph or our success in an area of memory. Ah, revisionism.

And there really are times we should look back. To imagine how far we were from the top of Mt Kilimanjaro and then to reach the summit and look back, to say, "Thanks Lord, for letting me ascend, for letting me succeed." And no doubt to add, "And please Lord help me descend and tell about it."

Looking back has its purposes if we honestly evaluate ourselves and situations. If we only want to come out a winner or the best, nostalgia is unnecessary.

What about in comparison to today... was yesterday better? Nostalgia often as Larson said takes the reality off the past. We find a comfort in the eating of that hamburger again at that old diner or the sounds of the retro radio station and imagine ourselves in a bygone era without the teenage angst or hormones or pimples or complexes or parents or ... we use nostalgia as a file.

There are days when I do look back through old photos like this one taken 21 years ago in DC. And I'm pleased with what God has done in my life to make me into the kind of person I am. Oh, don't get me wrong...there's still a long way to go. I do need to grow in godly character and knowledge. I do need to care about people and about the world around me.

Shlomi Krulik died years ago. He was part of our congregation in NYC in the 80s. He used to end his testimony with the words, "I'm not the man I used to be. I'm not the man I want to be. But I'm getting better." I like his view on the past.

What do you think?
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/nostalgia.html#4cX2FuETXla3Hx52.99

07 March 2014

Queen Esther before the King

My friend and colleague Joe Bell in Eastern Tennessee (USA) wrote this for the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America website. It's too good to miss:

Purim: Remembering the Days of Queen Esther

By Messianic Rabbi Joe Bell

Dear friends,
According to the decree of Mordecai and Esther as recorded in Esther 9:20-32, the Feast of Purim was to be celebrated on the 14th and 15th of Adar, and it was established and confirmed that this feast should be celebrated and remembered throughout all future generations as a memorial of how the Jews were miraculously saved from the evil plot of the Jew hater, Haman!

To this day, Purim is still observed around the world by reading the scroll of the book of Esther (the Megillah), putting on elaborate comedy plays of the Esther Story, sending food gifts to one another, and making charity contributions. Mordecai said, "the celebration of Purim is the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration. He wrote them to observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presence of food to one another and gifts to the poor." (Esther 9:22)

This year, Purim falls on March 16th and 17th and Jews, Messianic Jews, and some Christians will be remembering and celebrating the incredible story of Esther and Mordecai during this time. It amazes me that in ancient Persia (which is modern-day Iran), a Jewish man arose to become the Prime Minister, even in the midst of severe anti-Semitism. 2,500 years ago, Mordecai the Jew became the Prime Minister of "Iran" and defeated the same diabolical political/spiritual force of anti-Semitism that we face in our world today.

The incredible story of intrigue and danger centers around another decree; a decree by Haman to destroy all the Jews in the Persian Empire. Miraculously, God lifted up Esther and her Uncle Mordecai to bring deliverance to their fellow Jews. When Queen Esther discovered the plot to destroy her people, she called for a three day fast and then hosted two banquets for the King and his chief advisor, Haman, the Agagite. During the second banquet, Esther stirred up her courage to inform the king of Haman’s wicked plan to destroy the Jews.

Initially, Esther resisted this call to act on behalf of her people. She was understandably afraid of the King. Nevertheless, her uncle Mordecai sent these famous words to her, exhorting her to step up to the challenge and to take action: “Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14).

Called to make a decision:
Queen Esther had to make a conscious decision to help her Jewish people. She knew that she could lose her life if she went before the king uninvited. Yeshua (Jesus) said, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the Gospel’s, the same shall save it,” (Mark 8:35). Answering the call of God for your life means being willing to lose your old life to follow Yeshua. "Not my will, Lord, Your will be done".

Helping God's chosen people today still requires a decision, a choice. There is no gray area. It’s black and white. Is God calling you to be an Esther, to help save the Jewish people in our generation?

Do the Jewish people need to be saved?
January 27th was “International Holocaust Remembrance Day.” On the eve of that day, 17,000 people in France marched through the streets of Paris shouting: “Jews, out of France!” “Jews, France is not yours!” “The story of the gas chamber is bull***!” According to the article, “At one point, in a show of raw, seething hatred, the crowd simply spits out the word “Jew, Jew, Jew!” You can watch the march here: video

France has the third largest population of Jewish people in the world, so this is no small event. I spoke with a friend of mine who is a retired Marine officer and former strategic analyst, and he equated the parade in France last month to the “Brown-Shirt” marches in Nazi Germany. My friend said, "France today is Germany in 1933". In 1933, the Jews had about six years to get out of Germany, so how long do you think the Jews in France have today? Another friend, who leads a ministry that helps Jewish people return to Israel from the West, received a desperate letter from a rabbi in France pleading for assistance in bringing his family to Israel. We are actively working to help this man and his family, and to bring more awareness to the people in France of the danger they are in. They need help now, and we are working on a plan to do just that.

In other recent Anti-Jewish news, the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said he, “will not recognize Israel as a Jewish State and will not sign a peace deal that does not include eastern Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.” To make matters worse, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry concurrently threatened Israel with a possible international boycott if Israel fails to reach a peace accord with the Palestinians.

Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s intelligence and strategic Affairs Minister said that, “Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with a gun to its head when we are discussing matters which are most critical to our national interests.” Naftali Bennett, the Industry Minister said, “We expect of our friends in the world to stand by our side against the attempts to impose an anti-Semitic boycott on Israel, and not to be their mouthpiece.”

What will You Do?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

Friends, the politically correct new way to be anti-Semitic is to say one is anti-Zionist. They say, “Oh, I have nothing against Jews… It’s Israel I have a problem with". I’m sorry, but if you have a problem with Israel, you have a problem with Jews.

James wrote that, “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:20). Many people tell me they love Israel and the Jewish people, but what they do tangibly and the priorities they choose is the real testimony of their conviction. The Bible explains in Matthew 25:31-46 that God will judge all peoples based on how they treated the Jewish people. God says He will separate the sheep from the goats based on what each person did for even the least of Jesus’ brethren (the Jewish people). This passage is confirmed in Joel 3:1-2, “When I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat. Then I will enter into judgment with them there on behalf of My people and My inheritance, Israel, whom I have scattered among the nations; and they have divided up My land…”

Nations of the world are threatening to boycott Israel if Israel refuses to divide the land including Jerusalem, the land God promised to Abraham (see Gen 15:18-21), and the land King David bought in order to build the Temple where the spirit of God rested for centuries.
What will you do? Will you remain Silent? The name of our ministry is taken from Isaiah 62, “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep quiet, until her righteousness goes forth like brightness, and her salvation like a burning torch,” (Isaiah 62:1). At For Zion’s Sake Ministries we have helped bring millions of dollars’ worth of humanitarian aid for the needy in Israel through our efforts with The MJAA’s Joseph Project.

Tens of thousands of people in Israel, both Jew and Arab, receive the necessities of life because many of you contributed at one time or another. We face modern day Hamans and a look into the eyes of history repeating itself on the world stage. God promises that if we ACT on behalf of the Jewish people and share in the work of saving them physically and spiritually, greater riches will come to the world.

“But if their (the Jews) transgression means riches for the world, and their (the Jews) loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!” (Romans 11:12).

Friend, you have been called to royalty in Messiah Yeshua, and you are a child of the King of Kings for "such a time as this". Will you decide to act as Queen Esther did? The Jewish people and the land of Israel need real friends today. They need friends in Israel; they need friends in France. Our work is enormous and the job ahead is fraught with danger and sacrifice. Will you be one of those who, like Queen Esther, was not afraid to lay down her way of life and poured herself into the plan that God had for her generation? If you are one of those, I pray that all the blessings of Esther, beauty, favor, meekness, prosperity, wisdom, grace, love, courage and victory, will come upon you, and that God will lead you in what you should do.

In Yeshua’s love,
Rabbi Joe and Dawn Bell

01 March 2014

Qantas in the air, or not

Another Qantas landing by bobmendo
Another Qantas landing, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.
A few hours ago, in the midst of a week of angst with 5,000 jobs ready to be axed by Qantas, when things couldn't get any worse for the national air carrier, things got worse.

The wing tips of a Qantas superjumbo A380 and a Qantas Boeing 747 struck around 4pm AEST as the planes were being towed out of a hangar. No passengers were on board.

The damage was substantial enough to force the cancellation of flight QF94 to Melbourne and QF16 to Brisbane. Hundreds are stranded in LA for another night.

When things can't get any worse, seems like they can get worse.

The 5,000 people who will lose their jobs and the terminals which will close as Qantas tries to save two billion dollars the next three years would have been bad enough. Today the stock exchange barely even noticed when Qantas shares sold one point lower. (Open 1.15; High 1.182; Low 1.145; Vol 23.467M) But lots of people will notice the bad luck of the Australian national airline this week. And especially those immediately affected either in LA or in Brisbane and Melbourne who will not notice the news and go out to get their mates in the morning.

Qantas needs more than Pollyanna's "The Glad Game" to get through next week. When things are going from bad to worse, what do you do? What should anyone do?

Honestly I've thought about this very thing this week, when Moses (the Bible one) at 80 years old, is told by the Almighty, out of the burning bush, to go to Pharaoh and get the Jewish people out of Egypt. They have been in a detention centre for about 400 years and Moses is the appointed deliverer.

The Jews have been slaves for centuries and when Moses shows up and informs Pharaoh the words he's just heard from God, Pharaoh scorns the words, knocks back the idea of a weekend retreat for the Hebrews, and hardens his heart.

Then Pharaoh turns and issues a new edict, and assigns the Hebrews not only to make bricks and build store cities for him, but also to gather their own straw. Moses shows up to deliver the Jews and ends up making things worse. (This is found in Exodus chapter 5)

So what do the Jewish people do? And what does Moses do? They both complain and things actually do go from bad to worse. For a while.

But after nearly a year, and 10 plagues, God Himself delivers the Hebrews from slavery and leads them towards their future home in Israel. No airplanes. No crashes. Just 3 million wandering Jews out into the wilderness.

The season of 'bad to worse' really does continue, and in fact, in every generation we have some 'bad to worse' times, but there will be a time when that's over. It's on the basis of eternity, when all crashes cease, when enemies beat their swords into plowshares, when Messiah puts his foot down on the Mount of Olives and runs the world, the way it's supposed to be. That's when bad to worse ends.

When Messiah Yeshua is revealed, and we are with him in glory, what a day of rejoicing that will be. Bad to worse will become all good and great and best. No matter what happens with your job or career, with your airplane travels or being stuck in another country, when Messiah Yeshua returns to earth, and only then, will everything be all good.

Please be ready.
Please pray and ask God to be Lord of your life.
It will get you through today. And tomorrow. No matter what comes.