24 December 2008

Two things in view and a baby born of a virgin

Pamplona baluarte
Originally uploaded by al_loromanchego
Sometimes two people can be looking at different things and making comments in contrast, and sometimes one person can be looking at two different things at the same time and making comments. This could be confusing. Let me explain.

For the first, the story is told of two ladies sitting on the porch on a Wednesday evening in Tennessee. One is listening to the church choir practicing and the other is listening to the sounds of the crickets. The first, "Don't they make beautiful music?" Replied the second, "Yes, and I hear they do it by rubbing their legs together."

For the 2nd, and more timely to the season is the story told by Isaiah the Jewish prophet some 700 years before the birth of Jesus. Isaiah is writing his prophecy to encourage two different sets of folks. One living in his time, much like the wall and bridge we see in the photo, and the other group of people who are living 7 centuries later, much like the faint far-away building in the background of the photo.

The hint of how this works in found in Isaiah chapter 7 verse 14. There we read "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel."

The hint? The Hebrew word for 'you' in verse 14 is in the plural. Whereas the context of the comforting words is a message to the king, King Ahaz, all of a sudden, there is a shift to make this plural. So a larger group can be assured of the sign, of the guarantee of God's presence. I believe this is the double view of the prophet.

The significance for us? God wanted to speak words of comfort to the king in 700 BC (or so) and that's good news for him. And God wants to speak good news and comfort to us about a virgin having a baby and his name would be "God with us" (That's how Immanuel translates).

When I hear the Christmas story, I don't think of Santa, or of presents or reindeer. I think of God comforting us, of sending his presence and of the redemption that's found only in the Son of the Virgin, Y'shua (Jesus), who gives eternal life to all who believe.

That's good news!

To all who read this blog... a very merry Messiah-mas!

Actual text of Isaiah says this, "Not long after this, the LORD sent this message to King Ahaz: "Ask me for a sign, Ahaz, to prove that I will crush your enemies as I have promised. Ask for anything you like, and make it as difficult as you want." But the king refused. "No," he said, "I wouldn't test the LORD like that."Then Isaiah said, "Listen well, you royal family of David! You aren't satisfied to exhaust my patience. You exhaust the patience of God as well! All right then, the Lord himself will choose the sign. Look! The virgin* will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel--`God is with us.' By the time this child is old enough to eat curds and honey, he will know enough to choose what is right and reject what is wrong. But before he knows right from wrong, the two kings you fear so much--the kings of Israel and Aram--will both be dead. " (Isaiah 7.10-16)


My new friend Alvaro, who lives in Madrid, shot this photo on a trip to Pamplona last month. Gracias, amigo, por la foto. Y Feliz Navidad y prospero año nuevo.

07 December 2008

Australia: The movie

An Epic story: Australia

I’m from Kansas. I grew up there in what has become known as the “Land of Oz.” The themes from “Wizard of Oz” and even the Judy Garland song “Somewhere over the rainbow” feature sharply in “Australia” the movie.

Baz Luhrmann directs the movie. Giant actors like Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman make this story of our country bigger than life, or at least bigger than Errol Flynn! There are cattle driving scenes which could be found in ‘epic’ movies, but too many zooms for such a grand adjective. It’s just not big enough for me.

Ever-good as an actor, Bryan Brown brings the king into our movie houses, and when he waltzes with Nicole, we are transported to another era and another place.

Many other Aussie actors like Tony Barry are well chosen. The film shows the harsh life in the 1940s in our country, and an epic love story, it all goes to bring us to another place.

The trailer features the twice-said line, “Just because it is, doesn’t mean [that’s the way] it should be.” I liked that thought. We who are involved in thinking outside the traditional method of thinking, whether in religion like me, or in politics or in basketball or whatever, look beyond the traditional borders and actually break or seek to break them. For us the epic is an encouragement.

The movie speaks of racism in its ugliest colouring from the Stolen Generations (creamies, meaning offspring or mixed black and white people) to those who intersect and engage with them. Again, a very good subplot to discuss and consider. It’s an ugly part of Aussie and most Western civilization. Earlier this year (as the film also highlights in the end segment) our Prime Minister apologized for such activities. Thank you Mr Rudd.

So what is the ‘other place’ the movie takes us to? 1942 Darwin and Japanese bombing? Of course. To romance between Nicole and Jackman? Of course. But to Oz? That’s another question.

Nicole tells the young creamy a story, and glances down to get her topic from the newspaper of the day. The story: The Wizard of Oz. So a girl (is it Nic?) sets about to a far distant land (is it Faraway Downs, her homestead?) with her dog (Nic brings a horse) and gets caught in a storm (is it the business dealings with Brown’s character or the 2nd World War itself?). OK, the similarities are clear there.

But where is Nic’s Oz? Is it romance or the homestead? That’s missing for me. It’s no coincidence that Australia is nicknamed Oz (or Aus) for people of the world. And her people are Aussies. So is Luhrmann intimating that Australia is Oz, and Dorothy would never have clicked her ruby slippers if only she had found Sydney or Darwin on the Yellow Brick Road? Perhaps. And it is a great land. And the people are great.

All the while, I’m thinking about another place. And being transported to where no racism lives, and no place is as it is, only because it is. Things are the way they should be. Without apologies, we can all get there.

The place is Heaven. The owner is God and we can be tenants if we desire and long for such. We don’t earn our way there anymore than Dorothy earned her way to the farm in Kansas. It’s given to God’s children, one by one, to all who put their faith in Him and in His Son, Y’shua.

This is indeed, the ‘other place.’

And one to find out about. I recommend the Bible for you who want to know more. Great place to start. And hey, in 3 hours, the length of the epic Australia, you could get a lot of reading done. And may I recommend you start at say, John’s Gospel . That’s a biography by John of the person of Jesus. John lived with Jesus, so it’s a firsthand account. Very reliable.

Enjoy the movie. If you live here, you will probably like the movie better than those who have never been here. And enjoy the ‘other place’ too. That will last for a long, long time. And with great reviews, too.

05 December 2008

A mother's love?

Mothers gone mad

The mother of a two-year-old boy whose body was found in a suitcase appeared in the NSW Supreme Court today for the first time since she was charged with his murder. Rachel Pfitzner is accused of killing her son, Dean Shillingsworth, and dumping his body in a suitcase lined with a plastic bag at a pond in Ambarvale, near Campbelltown.

According to court documents, she picked him up by the cord of his jumper and shook him until he went limp and started to gurgle and froth at the mouth. She allegedly told police she had tried to resuscitate him by tilting back his head and breathing into his mouth.

Over in the UK, here's another insane mother story.

A British mother was found guilty on Thursday of kidnapping her own nine-year-old daughter, probably to scoop the reward money when the girl was found.

The disappearance of Shannon Matthews prompted one of the biggest searches in British history, costing over £3 million ($6.83 million), but she was found safely 24 days later in the base of a divan bed at the flat of Michael Donovan.

Donovan, 40, was convicted along with the girl's mother, 33-year-old Karen Matthews, who is from Dewsbury in northern England. He is the uncle of her former partner. Prosecutors said Donovan kept the schoolgirl drugged and imprisoned in his flat less than a mile from her home as part of a plan he and Karen Matthews hatched to claim reward money.

But back home this one is worse.

A man who stabbed his fiesty environmentalist mother to death says his only regret is that he didn't murder her 20 years ago, a Sydney court has been told.

Adam Patrick Owens, 35, of Cremorne on Sydney's North Shore, has admitted murdering his mother Doris Owens, 69, between September 6 and 9, 2006.

The body of the woman, known as a staunch environmental campaigner in the seaside village of Swanhaven, near Sussex Inlet on the NSW south coast, was not found until September 12, 2006.

Owens pleaded guilty to her murder moments before he was due to face trial last month.

During sentencing submissions in the NSW Supreme Court on Friday, Owens asked for any mitigating factors to be ignored by the judge and a maximum sentence imposed.

"I knew exactly what I was doing. My intention was to kill her and anything else is incorrect," Owens told the court.

"It was quite clear what I was doing.

"I'm not in the least remorseful, nor am I repentant.

Wow, what are these people (not) thinking? A mother is a mother and they say there's nothing like a mother's love. (Spoken by a father, of course)

I'm shocked, but why? If people like Owens will not repent, if they will not be remorseful, for whatever reasons, then the world only gets worse. God help us. God help us to repent. God help us to love our mothers, our children, our friends, even our enemies. That would make God happy. And that, in turn, makes us happy. Won't it?

08 November 2008

Jewish Puerto Rican Christmas Hanukkah?

Originally uploaded by bobmendo
Shalom Blog readers.

Usually I write the story and the commentary here. But today I received an email from ISSUES magazine, from Matt Sieger, who wrote about my friend Shaun, and the seasonal nature of the story, and the reality of Shaun's life is too good to miss. So here you go, enjoy!

“A Not-so-Typical Holiday Story”

by Matt Sieger

As Shaun Buchhalter notes, being a Jewish Puerto Rican is probably more common in New York City than elsewhere. But that didn’t make it any easier. Especially during the December holidays.

Born to a Jewish father and Puerto Rican Catholic mother, 30-year-old Shaun grew up in what was then the very Jewish neighborhood of West Brighton Beach in Brooklyn. He and his immediate family, his paternal grandparents and his dad’s brother all lived within a block of each other in three separate high-rise apartment buildings. Although Shaun’s father was not religious, Shaun’s grandmother, Rita, was. Grandma Rita was determined to see that Shaun had a good Jewish upbringing.

“Despite my father marrying a non-Jewish girl,” Shaun explains, “Grandma Rita was adamant that I would have a strong Jewish identity. At Hanukkah, she would give me a gift on all eight nights. Hanukkah was when I got my first Nintendo and my first bike—from my grandmother.”

Shaun says his grandmother was competing with his Puerto Rican mother’s side of the family, which showered him, his siblings and cousins with presents on Christmas. Not to be outdone, Grandma Rita made great latkes, which Shaun ate with delight. Her home was the focal point of all the Jewish holiday celebrations.

Although Shaun’s mother is a traditional Catholic, she did not stress religion in the home. She attended Christmas and Easter services every year, but she did not make Shaun and his younger brother and sister go with her. Although he never had his confirmation service, Shaun did have his first communion at age seven. His grandmother Rita attended.

“She wasn’t excited about it,” Shaun recalls. “But I think she did it to support my mom, who she eventually did come to really love.”
Rita had arranged for Shaun to begin Hebrew school in order to prepare him for his bar mitzvah. But she passed away when Shaun was in fifth grade. As neither Shaun’s father nor grandfather was very concerned about his religious education, Hebrew school never materialized.

Soon after his grandmother’s death, Shaun’s family moved to Stony Brook, a New York suburb on Long Island. Shaun says there was a real shift in his cultural identity once he moved to the Island, as evidenced in part by his family’s Hanukkah observance.

“The menorah was always up. And in the beginning I would get gifts,” he remembers. “But by late junior high, it kind of trickled off, except from some of the relatives. My grandfather would still send a gift, but it was never quite as extravagant as when Grandma Rita was alive. Most of the gifts from my parents came on Christmas.”

Interestingly, it was Shaun’s mom, Miriam (often a Jewish name!), who made sure the menorah was displayed at Hanukkah. She also, until Shaun was married, would call him to remind him to light a Yarzheit candle in remembrance of relatives who had passed away.

Even though religion was not a focus in his home, Shaun always felt divided as the two sides of his heritage continued to tug at him internally.

“Usually your religion follows through your mother’s side of the family,” Shaun explains, “so there was always a tension. Am I Jewish? Am I Catholic? It was strange in that when I would visit my mother’s side of the family, they would call me a Jew and kind of make fun of me in that regard. Then when I went to my father’s side of the family for the Jewish holidays, they would tease me about being Puerto Rican!”

Shaun says he always believed in God. But he does not attribute that to his exposure to either Judaism or Catholicism.

“I did go to Catholic services more than I went to synagogue,” he notes. “But I didn’t get anything out of it. I don’t remember anything. If you had asked me as a teenager who Jesus was, I would not have been able to say what Catholics believe about him. I didn’t pay attention to anything. That was my nature. And I certainly didn’t read any materials. I didn’t read anything in school! So why would I read any of the religious stuff?

“Even so, I just always knew, always believed that there was some type of transcendent being. But it didn’t have much of an impact on the way I lived. Minimally, at most.”

Shaun enrolled at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. But after his freshman year, he knew it was time for a change.

“I recognized that I needed to get away from the stereotypical college lifestyle I was living in New York—hanging out, partying, girls,” he says. “I wanted my life to mean something more than that. My family had also ingrained in me that success was the result of education. So I transferred schools to pursue that. And I chose North Carolina to get away from New York.”

Shaun enrolled at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte for his sophomore year. The subject of God came up right away.
“My first day on campus, I noticed a beautiful girl,” Shaun says. “As I approached her, hoping to get a date, I got a big surprise. She told me she believed in Jesus and explained that she only would date someone who believed as she did. Natalie let me know right from the beginning the importance of her faith in God. Her lifestyle intrigued me.
“That first semester I had many interactions with Christians who challenged my understanding of God and religion. It got me started on my own process of thinking through spirituality. On New Year’s Eve, I found myself kneeling at the corner of my bed asking God, if he really did exist, to show himself to me. A month later I bumped into Natalie, and she invited me to a meeting hosted by a Christian group on campus. I attended, and the message was entitled “What Are You Living For?” It got me really thinking. A week later, in February 1998, I confessed as many sins as I could remember and asked Jesus to come into my life.”

As Shaun began to tell other Jews about his experience, his new faith was challenged.

“I still identified myself as a Jew, very much so,” Shaun says, “and I found myself interacting with many Jewish people, sharing my story with them. When they asked if I was still Jewish, I’d always say yes. And they would have this very hostile response to me. I wondered why these individuals were getting upset at me, just because I believe in Jesus. Due to my blended upbringing, I wasn’t aware of how big an issue it was for a Jewish person. But once I began to realize that, it made me want to explore even more the veracity of Jesus being the Messiah. As a result of my own personal study of the Bible and conversations with other Jewish believers in Jesus, I began to see the connection between Jewishness and Jesus.

“It was within about a year that my faith, culture and identity came together. Everything now made sense. I no longer felt a conflict—who was I going to disappoint, or which religion do I identify with more. It just kind of brought the two together.”


For more thoughts by others on Hanukkah and Christmas, you might want to order "A Messianic Look at Hanukkah and Christmas" by a collection of authors. Order here

29 September 2008

Trumpets...what's that about?

A Rosh Hashanah message.

I love holidays. Maybe you do, also. And tonight is the beginning of a seriously long holiday season. I’m not talking about wandering through David Jones and seeing how much holiday cheer is already up. The green and red of Christmas abounds …and if I remember right, it’s only September. So for the merchants of Bondi Junction, this is a seriously long holiday season. At least they hope so. And maybe for them, that makes their holidays worthwhile and bright.

No, when I mention holidays, and tonight’s beginning, I’m talking about the season of The High Holidays. It begins with Tishri. This Hebrew month is filled with strange and unusual holiday celebrations and includes tonight, 3 days from now, 10 days from now, fifteen days from now and then lasting 8 or 9 more days. There are seven holidays all up in the biblical record of Leviticus 23, and seven is the number of completion.
The holidays have odd names, too. Feast of Trumpets, Fast of Gedaliah, Day of Atonement, Festival of Tabernacles, Eighth day of assembly, The great hosanna, and Rejoicing in Torah. Nothing as clear as Anzac Day is it?

And tonight is the beginning. The name of the holiday on your Hallmark calendar is New Year, a translation of Rosh Hashanah. Now I know, some of you know that in the Bible, in Leviticus 23, we read of this day as a day of blowing of Trumpets and that it occurs in the 7th month. So there might be confusion. Fair enough.

I don’t want to belabor this, but God changed the calendar about 3,500 years ago, as he wanted us to remember our Exodus from Egypt as well as Creation. Tonight is still the new year reminding us of the anniversary of Creation, some 6,000 years ago. And the first month was changed in Exodus chapter 12 to Nisan, 6 months from now. We shouldn’t be surprised by this change. This Sunday morning in Australia we will change our clocks an hour. Now, you know, time doesn’t change, but our measurement of it does. And that’s all that God was doing in this 6-month biblical adjustment.
So let’s think about trumpets.

Trumpets? What’s that about? Next weekend in Manly is the jazz festival, so is there a biblical festival also for drums or guitars? Is there some festival for trombones or tubas? Why trumpets after all?
Let me tell you some thoughts.

Before there was email, before there was 24-hour TV news coverage, before there were mobile phones, there was the trumpet. Listen to these texts and my quick comments:
Joel 2.1: Blow the trumpet in Zion, sound the alarm on my holy mountain. Here the trumpet is used as an alarm, a strong signal to remind the Jewish people that trouble is ahead.

Matthew 6.2: “When you give charity, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues.” I suppose we could highlight the seating in synagogues even tonight, as people who have given larger sums are seated closer to the bimah. Trumpeting then is a way of showing off, of making sure people know how charitable one is. Sort of like the man who announced on national television that he was going to be teaching a course, “Humility and how I attained it.”

Leviticus 23.24: “In the 7th month, on the first of the month, you shall have a rest, a reminder by blowing of trumpets.” This trumpet was the reminder, sort of like getting a beep from your mobile or office notifications on your computer here, to help you remember the rest, and the purpose of the rest.

Numbers 10.2: “Make trumpets… and you shall use them for summoning the congregation and for having the camps set out.” Two different trumpet calls were employed here. One for calling the people together and the other as an exit notification.

Other texts of note indicate that trumpets were used for a king taking a throne (1 Kings 34.39), starting a Jubilee year (Lev. 25.9), even the announcement of the messiah’s coming (Zechariah 9.14). This is not an exhaustive list. As you can see, the Bible is full of reasons and purposes of trumpet calling.

My favourite however is the use of trumpets in the Bible book of Joshua, recorded in chapter 6. It’s one of the strangest stories in the Bible, and that’s saying a lot.
In this story, 7 priests carry 7 shofrot. The word ‘shofar’ is used for the first time in the Bible in this text. We are instructed as a people outside the walled city of Jericho what God wants us to do. Militarily, we are outnumbered. By military training we are outclassed. In strategy of defense in war, the walls are insurmountable. This is sure defeat for the people of Israel.

Even so, God opens the chapter with these words, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and the valiant warriors.” God must know what he is doing and saying, but please. Jericho? Maybe God could choose something easier for our first battle in the Promised Land? How about a clubhouse run by some Ammonites?

But like so many at the MCG last Saturday, there were many people who believed Hawthorn would take down the heavily-favored Mighty Cats. And that faith was well-founded and produced a fairly easy victory in the Grand Final of the AFL to the Hawks.

I suppose there is something similar and yet much more significant in the battle of Jericho. God was telling the Jewish people not to worry about the apparent strengths of the Jericho people. Don’t worry about being the underdog. He was saying, “Israel, you will win. I have given you the territory.”

Let me ask you, has God told you to go in and take the land? Has God told you or asked you to do something impossible? Friends, nothing is impossible with God. What about overcoming our sins? Today we enter the 10 days, the Aseret y’mei t’shuva. These 10 days we are scheduled to consider our sins and consider God’s love and hope for forgiveness. By every natural means, we would be disheartened. None of us deserves forgiveness. Did you hear the words of King David and his humility in Psalm 51? But it’s not up to us or our righteousness. Nothing is impossible with God!

Look at the method of conquest at Jericho. The Bible says the Jewish people were to march around the city 6 times, that is, once per day for most of a week. Then on the 7th day, to march around 7 times. A total of 13 trips. Each time the priests, the 7 priests were to blast the trumpets with a t’kiah. And finally on the 7th day, during the 7 loops, the 7 priests were to blast a long blast, which launched the peoples’ shouting. And it was the shout and the trump and the faith in the God who told us to do all that which eventuated in the collapse of the strong walls of Jericho and the subsequent conquest of the city.

The victory at Jericho was not about trumpets, but about the God who instructed us to blow them. And in these days we blow trumpets to remind us of that same God. Don't get distracted with the stuff which is religion. Real life is not about the prayer shawl or about the menorah or even the Bible. Real life is in the God of the Bible, the God who instructed us about the tallit or the menorah or the trumpet.
In God the impossible becomes the possible.

I’ve seen so many believers get caught up in the trappings of religion. The trumpets are reminders. They remind us to trust God, to listen to God, to learn from God. The trumpets are not there, or here, to be a talisman or amulet like a Kabbalah wristband. Listen to the trumpet and be driven to the Almighty!

And wait, there’s a trumpet yet to blast. Not only here tonight, and I thank Brian and Helen for blowing the shofrot for us tonight. But the words about the shofar blast which is yet to come is recorded for us in the Newer Testament.

Paul the rabbi turned Jesus-follower taught about the last days. He said (1 Thessalonians 4) when Y’shua returns that the angels will shout and the trumpet of God will blast. The dead in Messiah will rise first, and that resurrection will herald the consummation of all things.

When the final trumpet is blasted from heaven, believers in Y’shua will gather to meet him. And we’ll be there. That trumpet will herald a new era in eternity. And a new era for humanity. And for you and for me. And all those who trust in Y’shua as our Saviour and Lord.

Salvation comes from him. He is the Messiah who died for our sins and rose from the dead. He died that we might be forgiven and have life and have it eternally and abundantly.

You heard the story tonight of the Akedah, the binding of Isaac, a story from the Book of Genesis, traditionally read on Rosh Hashanah. And you probably heard the parallels in that story with the story of the Crucifixion of Y’shua. His death… his sacrifice… is our salvation.

May the seven priests with seven shofrot send a signal to you of God’s completing his work. It is finished…all done, God has done it all in Y’shua his son.

As we conclude tonight, I hope your holiday, actually your holiday season, is full of divine joy. May you know the Lord of the Trumpets and celebrate the fullness of God’s pleasure in knowing Y’shua, in rejoicing in the one who forgives us our sins. He tabernacled with us and will come again to bring us forever. Thanks be to God. And my wish for each of you is a serious and full-of-joy shana tovah.

28 September 2008

Berlin Declaration

The Berlin Declaration on the Uniqueness of Christ and Jewish Evangelism in Europe Today

An international task force of the Theological Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) met on the issue of the uniqueness of Christ and Jewish evangelism in Berlin, Germany, from August 18-22, 2008 to consider how the Christian community might express genuine love for the Jewish people, especially in Europe. Participants included Christians from Germany and Messianic Jews. The result was the following “Berlin Declaration.”

1. Love is not Silent: The Need for Repentance

We deeply regret the all too frequent persecution of Jewish people in Jesus’ name. We do not for a second deny the evil it represents. During the genocide of the Holocaust, when the Jewish people were in their greatest peril, most Christian believers were silent. Many, such as The Stuttgart Confession of Guilt right after World War II, have apologized for the failure to speak out and for not doing more to demonstrate genuine Christian love to the Jewish people. Some of our brothers and sisters in the European Christian community suffered as well for resisting the anti-Semites and perpetrators of the atrocities. Many more today feel embarrassment and shame for the general failure to protest. As a result, there is an evident insecurity about relations with Jewish people. Also, there is a tendency to replace direct gospel outreach with Jewish-Christian dialogue.We believe that genuine love cannot be passive. Jesus taught that authentic love could not be unfeeling when other human beings are in misery and need. Honest love must include an expression of Christ’s good news in word and deed. Therefore, Christians everywhere must not look away when Jewish people have the same deep need for forgiveness of sin and true shalom, as do people of all nations. Love in action compels all Christians to share the gospel with people everywhere, including the Jewish people of Europe.

2. Beyond Genocide: The Problem of Sin

We acknowledge within the sad record of European Christian history the “teaching of contempt,” intolerance toward Jewish people and Judaism, abhorrent acts of coercion, anti-Semitism in attitude, word and deed. The historical events of the Holocaust developed within a climate of anti-Semitism. The German Evangelical Alliance out of concern for that history has expressed shame and responsibility for Christian silence and too few attempts to stop the horror.

Jewish people interpret Christian failure to speak out as complicity in their genocide during World War II. However, there were some valiant Christians who did speak up, risking and sometimes losing their own lives to save Jews.

In light of rising European anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism vigilance is necessary now. Jewish people are not the only victims of genocide as evidenced today. The Holocaust survivor, Primo Levi, warned, “It has happened. Therefore, it can happen again.” The source of all genocide is sin. This sin affects all humanity, both the persecutor and the sufferer. God’s response to sin is the gospel. Therefore, this grace must be proclaimed to every human being.

3. The Solution for Sin: The Uniqueness of Christ

We recognize that genocide illustrates the enormity of sin. God is not responsible for genocide; we humans are. God has provided the solution.

It is often seen as unacceptable to challenge another’s religious views. Nevertheless, we regard failure to share the gospel as ignoring the problem of sin. No one should ignore Jesus’ assessment of human sin. Everyone needs what God offers by his grace: forgiveness of sin and a transforming divine presence in those who respond. Jesus did not seek to dominate, but gave himself on the cross as sacrifice for sin. His death cleanses from the guilt of sin and provides a new relationship with God. This benefit is neither earned nor entered into by birth. It is received through acknowledging our deep need for God to supply what we lack.

Confessing Jesus as Messiah affirms Jesus’ uniqueness as a person, especially to Jews, because Messiah (or Christ) is a Jewish concept. He is sent as the Word, anointed as Messiah and vindicated by God to sit at his right hand. Through resurrection Jesus shares in the divine glory, task, and authority. Jesus of Nazareth is more than a prophet or a religious teacher. Rather, he is the unique Son of God, mediating and administering God’s promise. By his divine authority, Jesus extends his offer to all. He exercises the divine prerogatives of forgiving sin and receiving worship. This is why we confess Jesus as both human and divine.

God calls believers to take the gospel to the world. Everyone needs to hear this message including the Jewish people. Proclamation to Israel was Jesus’ priority. It also reflects the apostles’ practice of going to the Jew first. Nothing has occurred since Jesus came that changes the need for Israel and the nations.

4. The Call to Action: Jewish Evangelism

Christians are called to share this good news, with sensitivity and humility. Witness to the gospel should be motivated by heart-felt love and expressed in practical ways. So, we stand in solidarity with the Jewish people, opposing anti-Semitism, prejudice and discrimination. This sinful behavior is irreconcilable with the calling of Christ’s disciples.

Most of all, we invite Jewish people and all others to consider the claims of Jesus. We share this gospel with Israel and all nations, not as an attack on the integrity of others. We uphold everyone’s right to freedom of speech, freedom of religion and an open forum for all. While respecting the views of others, we still challenge them to consider the message of the Messiah.

Christians have much to learn from the Jewish people. We recognize our need to hear Jewish concerns. We affirm the importance of dialogue in promoting mutual understanding and sympathy. Dialogue provides an opportunity to share deeply held beliefs in a context of mutual respect. Dialogue and evangelism are not mutually exclusive. We reject the notion that evangelism is deceptive in claiming that Jews can believe in Jesus. We also reject the accusation that evangelism is the equivalent of spiritual genocide. We affirm the right of Jewish believers in Jesus to practice those traditions that affirm their identity, reflect God’s faithfulness to his people and uphold the Messiahship of Jesus.

We recognize the important role of Messianic Jews in the work and witness of the Church. Their special contribution gives testimony to the Jewish origins of Christianity and brings understanding of our Jewish roots. They remind us of the Jewishness of Jesus and of the first Christians. They also point to the fulfillment of God’s promises to save his people. We encourage them to stand firm in their identification with and faithful witness to their people. The Lord is also glorified in the visible demonstration of reconciliation of Jew and German in the body of Christ.

The Next Step

Therefore, as Christians concerned for the well being and salvation of the Jewish people, we call for:

* Respect for religious conviction and liberty that allows frank discussion of religious claims
* Repentance from all expressions of anti-Semitism and all other forms of genocide, prejudice and discrimination
* Recognition of the uniqueness of Christ as the crucified, resurrected and divine Messiah who alone can save from death and bring eternal life
* Reconciliation and unity amongst believers in Jesus

* Renewed commitment to the task of Jewish evangelism

This statement was developed by a World Evangelical Alliance Task Force meeting on the Uniqueness of Christ and Jewish Evangelism in Berlin, Germany. It was adopted August 22, 2008. Participants included Henri Blocher (France), Michael L. Brown (USA), Darrell Bock (USA), David Dowdey (USA), Richard Harvey (UK), Rolf Hille (Germany), Kai Kjær-Hansen (Denmark), Michael McDuffee (USA), David Parker (Chair, Australia), Eckhard Schnabel (Germany/USA), Berthold Schwarz (Germany), Bodil Skjøtt (Denmark), and Tuvya Zaretsky (USA). For further information, see http://www.worldevangelicals.org/news/view.htm?id=2025 and http://www.baptisttimes.co.uk/news3.htm. See also the translations of the “Berlin Declaration” into German and Russian.

15 September 2008

Brickner on Palin and Israel and such...

The Jewish News in Australia reported last Friday that David Brickner, head of Jews for Jesus, living in USA, spoke at the church Sarah Palin attends. That is true. The headline of the short article said that Palin disagrees with what Brickner said. That's probably not true.

Find out for yourself...

From Brickner:
There is much media furor over my remarks at Wasilla Bible Church on August 17th. The comments attributed to me were taken out of context. The notion that the terrorist, bulldozer attack in Jerusalem this summer was God’s judgment on Israel for not believing in Jesus, is absolutely not what I believe. In retrospect, I can see how my rhetoric might be misunderstood and I truly regret that.

Of course I never expected the kind of magnifying glass scrutiny on a message where I was speaking extemporaneously. Let me be clear. I don’t believe that any one event whether a terrorist attack or a natural disaster is a specific fulfillment of or manifestation of a Biblical prediction of judgment. I don’t believe that the newspaper should be used to interpret the Bible. The Bible interprets the Bible.

I love my Jewish people and the land of Israel. I stand with and support her against all efforts to harm her or her people in any way. Please feel free to read my further explanations, in my Realtime article and in the interviews I did with Christianity Today and NBC.

David Brickner

03 September 2008


An essay on sometimes competing strands of ministry in the body of Messiah.

I'm going to be speaking at Christian City Church School of Ministry in Oxford Falls tomorrow and Harvest Bible College in Dandenong next Tuesday. Each of these colleges affords good opportunities for their students to experience many dimensions of the life of the church, including academics and spirituality and prayer and such. Then next Thursday I will speak to the Reformed Theological Seminary near Geelong. There I expect things will be a bit more academic and a bit different in style to that of these previous two.

This makes me think about what we produce at colleges and seminaries and such. What about what I'm reproducing in my ministry?

Sheep create sheep; pastors produce pastors; academicians self-duplicate and so do missionaries.

Now here's how this usually plays out. A pastor-driven church models pastoral care for the parishioners and thus home groups abound, and the maintenance and preservation of the church is vital and consistent. Outreach is usually to members of other churches and to members of church members' families. Growth is seen in personal growth and not necessarily in terms of numbers of attendants. Transfer and biological growth ensue, but usually little conversion growth. The highest title a person achieves and desires is 'pastor' or perhaps in more authority-structured churches, 'apostle.'

At universities, academics is highlighted and some Bible colleges and seminaries do the same. Their telos is to produce more academicians. A student will want to teach at a uni when he or she concludes their studies. Or they will want to gain another degree. Growth is seen as attaining more information and knowledge and of course, commensurate wisdom. 'Doctor' is the valued title, to be sure.

When missions are outreach oriented, and souls are at stake, the
development of styles of bringing others to Messiah Y'shua are
highlighted. Titles are usually dropped. Numbers of conversions are counted. Personal growth can be sidelined and so can programs of institutionalism. Academics and personal spirituality are useful tools to conversions, but not necessarily of great import to the mission. People who come to faith are tracked to become soldiers in the army of recruiters to bring in others.

So let's think about teamwork and not competition for a bit.

When I as a missionary attend an academic institution to speak about Y'shua or Jewish people from my side of things, I know I'm going against the grain. It's not wrong that the institution is self-propagating; it's the way we all work. So I have to give testimony to other angles on the same truths that they might teach. I have to share say, "Christ in the Passover" from a personal point of view, or an evangelistic point of view, or a Jewish life point of view, rather than (only) an academic viewpoint.

When I teach "Biblical Theology of Mission" I cannot duplicate the academic perspective, nor should I. What I need to bring is a Jewish highlighting, perhaps from personal experience or from historic Jonah vs. Peter at Joppa or even using Jewish objects of art to wrap around the information.

This way we are a team. The academic brings information from his or her point, the missionary from his.

Take the missionary visit to the church. We hope to help the church grow in relation to outreach which puts their neighbours in the view and life of the church. We hope that the church will include Jewish people in their thinking, outside the usual concerns of most churches and certainly outside the concern of most pastors, whose principle job is to care for the sheep.

The pastor is not wrong. The pastor in fact is doing exactly what they should do if they care for the sheep. Our role is to help the sheep see other things, to see more possible ministries in which they can participate.

We should not compete with the pastor nor the academician. We are on the same team with them.

Now that Jews for Jesus is over 30 years old, and most of our programming is moving towards developing the growth of 2nd and even 3rd generation Jewish believers, our situation of life is changing. We are moving away from direct evangelism as our singular definer and including major programs of personal growth and spirituality as well as academic growth. This is healthy and good.

So now we are looking at young adults who have grown up in the faith. Their models of growth have been pastoral for the most part. And thus, their style of ministry will encompass that aspect. Some will enjoy the rigors of academia and hope to fit in there. Good for them!

All the while, our ministry seeks to make Y'shua known to our people and has a core value of direct Jewish evangelism as our priority. And so we should.

But the young adults whose orientation has been pastoral/ congregational will need a fresh infusion of missional thinking. This will require us to think of reproduction in a fresh way. We have to 'win' the won to our cause. We have to help 2nd or 3rd generation Jewish believers to see direct Jewish evangelism as a great priority. We have to market evangelism in a different way, but always in a personal and challenging way.

It's perfectly acceptable for ministries to change foci. It's right to continually seek God to determine what He wants for us. Then we must be faithful to that desire and execute it.

31 August 2008


A year ago people in Australia kept asking me who would win the US election. I kept insisting we wouldn't know anything until a year on (August 2008). The two factors would be the war in Iraq and the economy. Nothing else really matters. Eventually everything is subjugated by those factors. External security and internal wallets.

Now the two slates are filled in with McCain/Palin (who?) and Obama (who?)/Biden.

But the factors that remain are Iraq and money.

The reports are coming in well in the Republican column. We are winning in Iraq. The surge is working. Iraqis have a lot of extra money and are growing in peaceful and democratic life. That says a lot for the Repubs.

Economic news will be spun and respun over the next 60 days, but if petrol prices drop or remain steady, if the grocery bill drops even a bit, and if people have a bit more money in their wallet (not in comparison to 2002, but in comparison to last year or even January), they will stay the course.

Follow the money. That's who will win.

27 August 2008


The Beijing Olympics came and went. 16 days of gold, silver, bronze. 2 weeks of tennis and swimming and diving and ping pong. Nations at war actually hugged after each race and contest. Nice to see. But unfortunately, it's over. Terminated. All done.

Down in Sydney, Colin is a memory now, the lost baby whale who found its way to Pittwater last week, and eventually was put down. The Australian newspaper reported, "The decision was made at a meeting of NSW Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) workers, scientists and representatives of other agencies after the calf's deteriorating health took a drastic turn for the worse.

Rescuers opted against making another attempt to shepherd the starving 4.5 metre whale calf into open water, the NPWS said.

The calf unexpectedly appeared on Sunday at The Basin, inside Sydney's Pittwater, and returned on Tuesday after being towed out to sea."

The country mourned the loss of the baby whale.

Meanwhile in Victoria "MPs will have a conscience vote on the bill, which, if passed, would remove abortion from the Crimes Act.

Under the legislation, introduced in (VIC) Parliament last week, women would be able to choose to have an abortion during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. Late-term abortions would be allowed if two doctors believe the termination to be appropriate on medical grounds and with regard to the woman's physical, psychological and social circumstances.

Women's Affairs Minister Maxine Morand also said that there was no link between the abortion rate and the restrictiveness of abortion laws." (The Age)

Wow, the nation as one cared about a whale, but the Brumby government thinks abortion on demand, well, it's ok. Abort...doesn't that mean to stop something? Terminate...doesn't that mean to end something? So what are the termination services really providing? An end of a life? End of the choice of the baby?

We care about Colin...let's care about all the babies in Victoria and beyond, and give voice to abortion causes, and stand for life.

08 August 2008

It's almost 8 in the morning on the 8th of August. There is nothing significant about the timing of today. But some sign-watching community may say otherwise.

It is Friday, so oh, maybe "TGIF, Thank God it's Friday" is a good thought. But 08.08.08... is that significant? I suppose if your birthday is today, it's a fun day. If you are living near Beijing today, the Olympics begin today. And that's probably why the Chinese chose the date for the Summer Olympics to begin.

On this date in history:

In 1945, the Soviet Union declared war against Japan during World War II.

In 1963, Britain’s “Great Train Robbery” took place as thieves made off with 2.6 million pounds in banknotes.

In 1968, Richard M. Nixon was nominated for US president at the Republican national convention in Miami Beach, Fla.

In 1973, US Vice-President Spiro T. Agnew branded as “damned lies” reports he had taken kickbacks from government contracts in Maryland, and vowed not to resign — which he ended up doing.

In 1974, US President Richard Nixon resigned after all the exposure from Watergate and the commensurate scandal.

In 1978, the U.S. launched Pioneer Venus II, which carried scientific probes to study the atmosphere of Venus.

In 1994, Israel and Jordan opened the first road link between the two once-warring countries.

So if you look at 08.08 in history, some things of significance occurred.

But what about today? 08.08.08. Does it herald something of significance in your life?

Here's my 8 am observation. If you are ready, and willing, and have never done this before... why not make today the most significant day of your life, by asking God to forgive you of all your sins, once for all, and receive Y'shua, the Jewish messiah, as the sin-bearer, and be forgiven?

God loves you and wants to be in relationship with you. Our sins separate us from Him. He sent Y'shua to bridge that gap. Asking Jesus to be your Saviour and sin-bearer..that's the way over to the other side.

If you can, do it this morning in a few minutes. At 8:08. Or at 8:15 or at 8:30 or as soon as you read this. Now is the acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation.
Then 08.08.08 will be the best day of your (eternal) life.

25 June 2008

Iguanas the Truth and Do you know who I am?

Today in the lower house in Sydney, NSW Liberal MP Ray Williams was ejected from state parliament after bringing a stuffed-toy iguana into the lower house. Mr Williams produced the toy as Premier Morris Iemma rose to answer a question from Nationals Leader Andrew Stoner relating to the incident at Iguana's Waterfront Bar at Gosford, involving John Della Bosca and his wife, federal Labor MP Belinda Neal.

Speaker Richard Torbay ordered Mr Williams, the MP for Hawkesbury, be removed from the house.

The row at the nightclub is now the subject of a police investigation after conflicting statutory declarations were made about the incident. Staff at Iguana's say Mr Della Bosca and Ms Neal, threatened and abused them.

Ms Neal and Mr Della Bosca, who has been stood down as education minister pending the inquiry, have denied any wrong doing.

Look, some sense is there in the Lower House in Sydney. If a public official acts up and does wrong, he should be reproved. Shame is a bad thing, but it is really better than mockery.

When the truth does come out, it will bring health to an ailing government from all these news reports and Current Affair newsmagazine conversations.

THE federal MP Belinda Neal is accused of interfering with a second statutory declaration, after the husband of her former staff member said the Labor backbencher told him not to include in his statement that she bought a bottle of red wine on the night she was accused of abusing Iguanas bar staff.

David Batten, the husband of Ms Neal's former office staff member Melissa Batten, told Channel Nine's A Current Affair last night that he was instructed by Ms Neal to leave out details of "alcohol" from his statutory declaration over the affair.

Mr Batten's claims were revealed after his wife told the program on Monday she was told to hand over for shredding an original statutory declaration in which she included the comment that Ms Neal had said to staff at Iguanas Waterfront on June 6: "Do you know who I am?"

Wow, Ms Neal would have been well advised to stick to truth. Seems her staffer of only three weeks, Ms Batten, is more committed to such. But you never know.

I recommend we all stick to truth.

So how do you know the Truth? Remember, there was a Jewish rabbi some 2,000 years ago who asked some of his friends, "Who do people say that I am?" Peter was among them and quickly answered, "Some say you are Elijah (the Jewish prophet) or John the Baptist (another who was considered as a prophet in Jewish circles) or one of the prophets." (Good answer Peter)

Y'shua (that's the rabbi's name) answered with a different kind of question that is alleged to have come from Ms Neal. "Who do you say that I am?" might come off as a kind of "Do you know who I am?" But it's not asked with authority, rather genuine curiosity.

Peter replied, "You are the Messiah, the son of the living God." And he was right again.

And if you know Y'shua as your messiah and lord, you will have Truth and eternal life.

That's not good for ratings only; it's good for your whole life.

02 June 2008

Another Jewish story

I found this story today and was so blessed, I hope you will be also.

The author is a Jew from the US,a clinical psychologist, who certainly knows how to weave a story.

It begins with...

In my youth I spent every afternoon studying the Hebrew Scriptures, five days a week, and on Friday night and Saturday I worshiped. As I grew older I worshiped for a time each day in the synagogue morning and evening. I would rise before dawn and before going to the morning service, in obedience to rabbinic tradition, I would put on tefillin—the boxes containing God’s law—on my forehead and arm.

Then one cold, clear midwinter night my life was shattered.

The whole story is here

13 May 2008

Shame on the Libs

Shame in the Camp

According to the Australian newspaper just a few hours ago, and their writer, Rick Wallace, Victorian political reporter

"ANOTHER senior Victorian Liberal has quit after being caught sending anti-Semitic emails as the crisis in the state opposition deepens.

Wallace reports, "Liberal campaign director Susan Chandler apologised for referring to a federal Liberal candidate as a “greedy f...ing jew” but has left her job at the party's Melbourne headquarters.

State president David Kemp said today she had the option of quitting or being sacked.

In an email to Liberal staffer John Osborn, Ms Chandler referred to candidate Adam Held as a “greedy f...ing Jew” after he asked for more campaign material during last year's federal election. Ms Chandler released a statement this afternoon saying she had many Jewish friends and was not anti-Semitic. “My comments were completely out of character and were made on the spur of the moment in an email during a difficult period of the election campaign,” she said.""

My thoughts? What I've learned is that people in the heat of moments say exactly what they think. We are like tea bags, and what comes out when people are put into hot water, demonstrates who they are and what is inside them. It's impossible to hide.

I'm sure Ms Chandler had some friendships with Jewish people and used such friendships in advancing her now-terminated political maneuvering.

Let the Liberals sort out their disarray, and I'm sure they will do so. But Ms Chandler needs to repent of hatred, needs to admit her true feelings and let God forgive her of this most obvious sin.

And isn't it good to know God wants to forgive us and give us new hearts? The Bible is rife with such statements. And really that's what comes out if we could put God 'into hot water.' What he is made of is love. What he is made of is hope for true internal change in us. And he will forgive the most wretched of sinners, and the 'best' of us.

07 May 2008

Will they let her play?

Will they let her play?

Tomorrow is the finals of the Bible Quiz in Israel. The JTA from Jerusalem reports, "Should Bat El Levy be asked at Israel's international youth Bible quiz next week about the messiah's coming, she may find herself in a bind.

The 17-year-old Jerusalem girl is a world-class scriptural scholar who, as it happens, believes in Jesus."

So who cares what she believes? She was Jewish before she believed anything and she'll be Jewish long after this quiz is even a faint memory.

Today's Jerusalem Post says,
"Both chief rabbis of Israel called on Tuesday to cancel the International Bible Quiz slated for the capital on Independence Day in protest against the participation of a 16-year-old girl who believes Jesus is the messiah.

"Choosing her as a finalist in the International Bible Quiz for Jewish Youth is a transgression of Halacha and is a distortion of the goal and essence of the quiz," wrote Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger in a letter to Education Minister Yuli Tamir. "The Chief Rabbinate of Israel vigorously protests [the participation] of this representative... Bible quiz participants have always been Jews who believed in the Torah handed down by Moses.

"The Chief Rabbinate calls to disqualify this girl from taking part in the quiz. If she is not disqualified, we call to cancel the quiz immediately.

"It is unacceptable that a member of a cult that has removed itself from the Jewish faith will take part in a quiz dedicated to a book that has been holy to the Jews since their inception as a people," the rabbis wrote.

"Nevertheless, Tzurit Berenson, 15, from Nahariya, one of the four Israeli finalists, said that she and the other contestants intended to participate in Thursday's competition.
"We asked our own rabbis what to do and they told us that we should participate," said Berenson, who added that she had taught herself the Bible and has been preparing for the quiz for years.

"Berenson said religious activists have been trying to discourage her and the other participants from taking part in the quiz, "but we have all decided to go ahead with it."

Isn't it a joy to know that 15-year-olds know the ideas of Tenach better than their older counterparts? Good on those young co-participants who challenge the rabbis and who just want to win in tomorrow's finals.

Shame on the ones who are trying to prevent another Jew from experiencing something Jewish. Who cares if any participant is a Jewish Buddhist or a Jewish atheist for that matter? Let these Jewish kids and young adults have a go.

01 May 2008

Road rage

Yesterday was a bad day for my new friend Ed. He hurried to his doctor appointment in the morning and as a result was late for work. He wanted to tell me that, but he lost his mobile phone. And he couldn't hear it ring, as it has a flat battery, so he can't even help himself to find it. Oy.

So he comes to work at the shop and parks behind me. No problem there. I get ready to leave a little early because I have to speak last night at a church meeting. So Ed comes down with me to move his car. Simple, right? Except he has left his lights on and now his car battery is dead. Double oy!

OK, so he puts his car into neutral, eases back down the slight hill of a driveway we have. I back out next to him and park, so I can use my jumper cables. This won't take long.

We put the cables onto each car, and the jump start is successful, but Ed's car doesn't want to hold the charge, nor keep running unless he keeps his foot on the accelerator. Oy, oy, oy.

We are making a quick determination about staying or leaving the office, when a woman approaches in her vehicle. Seems I'm parked a bit in her very oversized driveway into the megatower apartment block immediately behind our shop. She can (and does) negotiate her way into the driveway, uses her electric key to enter the property and drives away. Should be no trouble, right?

Except this woman rages against me for blocking her path. She obviously isn't happy. Maybe her Lexus is giving her trouble like Ed's car was giving him? Maybe she had a bad day at work or at the health spa? Maybe something else is going wrong with her. But she yelled at me! Could she not see the jumper cables? Could she not see we were trying to start Ed's car? Did she really think I wanted to park along the path/street and not in my spot a mere 15 feet in front of me?

Yes, I should have been quick to say "I'm sorry for blocking a bit of your drive." But I was a little busy with the jump.

Lesson to self: Be quick to fix other people's problems and never, never, never get in the way of a road-raging woman in a black Lexus in Bondi. And if you do, be very quick to apologize for the inconvenience. (That I could have really done, and should have said so to her. )

BTW, the photo is not of the woman. Don't try to iris scan and find her.

19 April 2008

Passover 2008

It's Shabbat, a day of rest and tonight is Pesach, a day to remember the deliverance, the lambs, and our exodus from Egypt. What a great weekend. The Ten Commandments tell us to remember the Sabbath day (for two reasons). First, in Exodus chapter 20, we read to keep Shabbat “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. " OK, so every week we remember the Creation of the World and we remember The Creator.

And we rest and don't do the ordinary things.

But in Deuteronomy we read the reiteration of the Ten Commandments and are told, in chapter 5, "the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant or your ox or your donkey or any of your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you, so that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day. "

In other words we have two reasons to remember and observe and keep Shabbat.

First God is Creator.
Second God is Redeemer.

Excellent ideas to ponder.

These are not contradictory remarks; they are conjoined. God as Creator made the world and in the Exodus of the Jewish people in about 1500 BCE, we see His involvement to redeem the world. This culminated in Jerusalem about a millenium and a half later, in the person of Y'shua.

Now get this. Y'shua showed He was Creator over and over in his earthly ministry. He healed the lame man (Matthew chapter 9) by declaring him forgiven and only God can forgive sins. Y'shua healed the blind man (John 9) by bending down and making mud and putting it on the blind man's eye sockets. He was demonstrating his own nature as Creator (see Genesis 2) when God made man out of the dust of the earth. He taught the angry crowd about His being God (John 8) when again he bent down and wrote in the dust the sins of the accusers of the adulteress. (Jeremiah 17, Exodus 31, 32).

Y'shua is Creator, the Banger behind the Big Bang, and the Uncause Cause of the Universes.

He also is the Passover Redeemer who delivered all Israel from Pharaoh and all people from Satan and the Curse of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). The House of Bondage is broken open. He was announced as the Lamb of God by his cousin John (John 1.35) and died for our sins, to save us from the slavery of sin.

No wonder this will be a great weekend for us. Shabbat reminding us of Creation and Redemption, and Passover on its heels. Enjoy. Celebrate. Remember. Rest. God has done great things for us. All.

09 April 2008

KU winning was not a miracle

I so enjoy the newscasters here in the US, especially here from where I'm writing in Kansas City. They inserted an entire section into the Kansas City Star this morning about the Jayhawks, as they should. The KU basketball team won the men's national championship in an overtime victory last night in San Antonio. It was a great game, with the best two teams in the tournament performing well, and giving the crowd, both there in the Alamodome and around the globe watching on television, a series of thrills.

Unfortunately, the Star's headlines editors entitled the insert section, "Miracle II." Throughout the articles writers sprinkled the reports with "miracle three-pointer" and KU was "in need of several miracles."

Now I'm a die-hard fan. And proud of it. I still have the 1988 final game between KU and Oklahoma, the game that never stopped, on video tape at home in Sydney. But let's get our terms right. The last shot by Mario Chalmers with 4 or 5 seconds left in regulation was not a miracle. It was a great shot, a terrific shot, an unlikely shot, but not a miracle.

You see, if you throw the ball at a certain angle, with the right speed, and the right length, it will go in. That's what science tells us. It's all about repeatability. That's why the Memphis fans should be upset at their Tigers for failing to hit the repeatable free throws at the end of regulation.

A miracle, let' see. What would a miracle have been for KU? Perhaps the appearing of a 6th man on the court, unseen to the referees, or even to the TV audience, but one who body blocked the Tiger big men and as a result allowed easy lay-ups for the Jayhawks. Or how about a time when the ball was physically going out of bounds, bouncing clearly off a Jayhawk, and for no apparent reason, the ball changes directions 180 degrees, increases speed, and kicks off a Tiger. Now that would be a candidate for 'miracle.' See? It's the unexplainable; it's the unrepeatable; it's the invisible.

I guess I'm a bit guarding of the term because, and get this, I DO BELIEVE in miracles. But every day is not another miracle. Every sunrise is not a miracle. Having a baby is not a miracle. It's the natural; it's the ordinary; it's the repeatable.

So when I read about people having cancer and being healed without a drug or battery of radiation, I sit up and listen. When I hear about Red Seas parting or manna falling from heaven in the Passover story, I take notice. God is the author of miracles, and He loves to shake things up a bit. And He will do things for you, as well.

Do you trust Him? Why not ask Him for help today?

05 April 2008


I'd never heard this word before. On the radio the other morning, they commented on this. My first guess was 'fear of the law.' And that would make sense in that I often take my foot off the accelerator when I see a policeman. But that's not what they meant.

They described this new phobia as "Fear of Being Out of Range on your cell (Mobile) phone." (No Mobile Phobia) No doubt this word is not American as US people title their mobile phones, "cell phones." Maybe it's an Aussie word. We'll see.

And I've certainly experienced this phenomenon. What if, when I'm driving here in the US, or between Tamworth and Armidale, someone tries to ring me and they get a 'out of range' commentary from the telecom provider. Oy! Oy vey! This would be so bad, as I spend a lot of time in my car or in the train or ... such.

So I immediately understood their 'new' word of the day. Nomophobia. May it not happen to you.

But what may be more significant, and more of a worry, is NoGophobia. That is the fear of not being able to hear from God. (French: you may need to call it NoDophobia, obviously) After all, when we cannot get a signal to Telstra or AT & T, no worries, God can always get through. I'm sure Billy Ray Cyrus has written something about that. But what if He couldn't? What if we had done something to prevent His communication with us?

Ouch, that wouldn't be good, at all.

So, this April, think about God getting through to you, let Him speak to you. Let His word dwell in you richly, and don't worry about being out of range. He knows where you are.

After all, that's a great comfort.

26 March 2008

Israelis and Messianic Jews

Of note today was the visit of the mayor of Ariel to young Ami Ortiz. The story follows from Jerusalem Post online edition.

Anti-missionaries suspected in attack
Yaakov Lappin , THE JERUSALEM POST Mar. 23, 2008

Police investigating the sending of a package which exploded in the home of a Christian pastor in Ariel are leaning toward the theory that a Jewish anti-missionary was behind the attack, the preacher told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

David Ortiz's 16-year-old son, Ami, sustained serious injuries in the blast, after opening the package, which was made to look like a Purim gift.

"They [the police], as far as I understand, do not suspect Palestinian terrorism. They suspect a Jewish anti-missionary motive," Ortiz told the Post by phone from his Ariel home, minutes after returning from the hospital.

"At the start of the investigation, they went in the direction of Palestinian terrorism. Now they're going in the other direction," he added.

Judea and Samaria Police spokesman Ch.-Supt. Dani Poleg said he could not comment on the investigation due to a court-imposed media blackout, in force since Friday.

Ami's life was no longer in danger, his father said, but he was still suffering from serious injuries all over his body.

"His neck had an eight-inch [20-cm.] gash like someone slit his throat. He has a ruptured lung. Doctors had to operate on his tongue. He has second-degree burns to his chest and arms, and there is no flesh on the thighs," Ortiz said, adding that doctors were forced to amputate two toes. "They're trying to continue to make sure that he won't lose his arms and legs. His whole body is full of fragments of shrapnel," he said.

Ortiz described the moments after the explosion when the teenager's mother, Leah, "saw flames coming out of the windows after going downstairs to throw out the garbage." After running upstairs, Leah saw "her son on the floor. She held his neck and she kept the wound closed with her hands." Using her paramedic training, "she made a hole so he could breathe. Then the ambulance driver who arrived kept him alive. When we got to hospital, he was operated on in five places," Ortiz said, adding that he considered his son's recovery to be "a miracle." Ortiz's Jewish-born wife, Leah, is a member of Jews for Jesus. The pastor says dozens of families in Ariel have been influenced by his teachings. "We have about 50 families," he declared.

He described a long history of tensions with anti-missionary activists in Ariel, which included flyers and a petition calling for the family to leave the city.

"My neighbor said he had been told by religious Jews that if we were the only ones living in this building, they would have bombed it," Ortiz said. "When we first came into this town, the rabbi visited us and told me I was not allowed to talk about Yeshua [Jesus] outside of my apartment. I told him that as far I know, this is not a crime in this country. This is a democratic country, people can say whatever they want outside their house," Oritz said.

"They put posters all over town warning residents to keep away from us and calling for us to be excommunicated, and there was a demonstration in front of our house. If all my neighbors had signed the petition calling on us to leave, I would have to leave by law. Some of my neighbors refused to sign," he added.

Four of Oritz's children have completed their military service in the IDF, he said. "I have served in the reserves for 15 years. I was shot at and stoned in Nablus. All of my children went to school here, they are normal children, we are normal people. Ami is the captain of his school basketball team."

Rabbi Dov Lifshitz, chairman of the Yad L'Achim anti-missionary organization, said he doubted that Jews were behind the bombing.

"Someone who thinks logically will not do this. It just harms the struggle. I'm sure this is not connected to the anti-missionary cause," he told the Post.

If the culprit is Jewish, the bomber "is either crazy or does not understand the struggle," Lifshitz added.

He estimated that Christian missionaries have succeeded in converting around 15,000 Jews to Christianity in Israel, adding that the missionaries target those "without defense - people ignorant of Judaism, such as Russian immigrants, and the lonely. This is why they succeeded, in a Jewish state, unbelievably. They have 120 branches in Israel," he said, blaming the Jewish Agency and the government for failing to provide a Jewish education to new immigrants.

"We are now pushing for legislation that would make it illegal for members of any religion to try and convert others to their faith," Lifshitz said. "Our struggle isn't against anyone. What we're saying is, we are Jews. Let us be Jews. Christians should remain Christians. In our 50 years of activity, we've never had any violence. We have a big argument with messianic Jews, but that doesn't include violence," Lifshitz said.

And this article is also part of Jerusalem Post online edition in another sector...
Members of the Messianic community in Israel said Monday that while the near-fatal attack last week on 15-year-old Ami Ortiz of Ariel marks a major escalation, it comes after years of anti-missionary violence directed at the community by both Jews and Muslims.

"We get the feeling that nobody in Israel is willing to take a strong stand against violent anti-missionary activity," said Pastor Howard Bass, head of the Nahalat Yeshua [Jesus's Inheritance] Congregation in Beersheba.

"We have experienced numerous attacks on the Messianic communities by haredim over the years," said Bass. "But there is very little sympathy for our plight."

Ortiz was seriously wounded after a parcel bomb in the form of a Purim gift blew up in his face. Ortiz is the son of David Ortiz, a prominent Messianic Christian pastor.

This was the most serious attack against the embattled Messianic community in Israel. Both Muslims and Orthodox Jews, who are vehemently opposed to Christian missionary activity, are suspected of sending the bomb.

The Messianic community in Israel numbers about 15,000, spread out in roughly 120 congregations across the nation. The community members, who believe there is no contradiction between being Jewish and believing Jesus to have been the Savior and the Son of God, has been steadily growing, in large part due to proselytizing activities. About half of the community's membership was born Jewish.

Bass, who was born Jewish, said that he saw the growth of the community of "believers" as another sign of the imminent second resurrection of the Messiah. He admitted that he shared his beliefs with his neighbors in the hope that he would influence them.

"When I was involved with politics I tried to influence people's political views. Now I do the same thing with religion."

Just this week Bass said that two surveillance cameras that monitor his house of prayer were stolen. Last Saturday, during prayers at the 100-strong congregation, a group of haredim stood outside and shouted, temporarily stopping the prayers.

Beersheba has a history of tension between haredim and the Messianic community.

In December 2005, just before Christmas, Bass's congregation was attacked by hundreds of haredi demonstrators who received the backing of the local rabbinic leadership. The demonstrators had heard rumors that busloads of Jewish children were to be baptized by the community.

Calev Myers, founder and chief counsel of the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, an advocacy group that represents members of the Messianic community, said that the police did not press charges against the assailants who forced their way into the church and forcibly stopped the baptism of two Israelis. The intruders threw chairs around and pushed Bass into the baptismal pool, according to Myers.

In Arad, another flashpoint for tension between the Messianic community and Orthodox Jews, the Chasdei Yeshua [Jesus's Loving-Kindness] Congregation, a tiny community of about 30, has been harassed repeatedly by the local Ger Hassidic community.

Lura Beckford, a Chasdei Yeshua member whose husband Edwin is presently under house arrest for attacking an anti-missionary activist in Arad last month during a confrontation, said that there had been numerous confrontations over the years.

"They've verbally attacked us on a regular basis and they even tried to burn down our chess club last February," said Beckford.

Meanwhile, Pastor David Ortiz, speaking to The Jerusalem Post from Schneider Medical Center, where his son Ami is hospitalized in serious condition, said that since he came to Israel over 20 years ago he has been the target of violence, mostly by Muslims.

"In the past, I have traveled into the neighboring Arab villages, which are all 100% Muslim, to distribute the whole Bible [Old and New Testament]," said Ortiz.

"Recently, with the deterioration of the security situation I stand outside the villages explaining to people about Jesus. Or I pick up local Arabs who hitchhike and I give them a Bible. I tell them 'This is the history of your people.'"

Ortiz said that he has been beaten up on at least one occasion by Palestinians from a neighboring village while distributing Bibles, and that a Molotov cocktail was once thrown at his car.

In the mid-1990's the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Ekrima Said Sabri, issued a fatwa [religious order] calling to kill Ortiz.

"The fatwa was even published in the Al Quds newspaper. I got a call from the US Embassy asking me to keep a low profile.

"Luckily, I am still here, still ticking. But I live my life as if every day could be my last."

Last November Isa Bajalia, an Arab-American evangelical pastor who works with Ortiz in proselytizing among Palestinians, told the Post that he was forced to flee his hometown of Ramallah after being threatened by a Palestinian security official.

Bajalia, who was born in Birmingham, Alabama, was ministering to a group of 30 to 35 people in Ramallah and carrying out missionary work there.

Ortiz said that he has also been exposed to mild anti-missionary campaigns initiated by Jews. Over the years pamphlets have been distributed in Ariel with his picture on them warning that Ortiz and others that belong to the Messianic community are "masquerading as Jews." But in general, Ortiz, who has brought significant Evangelical Christian financial support to Ariel, enjoys the backing of Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman.

Rabbi Shalom Lipshitz, head of Yad Le'achim, the largest anti-missionary organization in Israel, said that he opposed all violent anti-missionary action. But he added that he saw the Messianic community as an enemy to the Jewish people.

"There is no one who hates Jews more than they do," said Lipshitz. "They are trying to uproot Jewish faith, just like the Spanish did in the Inquisition. The only thing different is that these people cannot use physical force like the Spanish did. But they try to take advantage of the poor. They prey on Jews who do not know anything about Jewish heritage.

"We try to explain the 'truth.' We try to tell people that you cannot be Jewish and believe in Jesus at the same time. It just doesn't go together.

"Our job at Yad Le'achim is to make sure the Jewish people gets bigger, and fight people.”

09 February 2008

Threats... deal with it!

Threats and resultant damage
(Paddo Robbery, Air New Zealand hijacking, Bondi slashing)

Where will it all end? Some stories from the wires today are blood and danger. First, yesterday arvo an armed bandit held up a central Sydney post office. The man walked into the building on Oxford Street, Paddington, just before 5pm yesterday.

"(He) demanded money while threatening staff with what appeared to be a small firearm," police said in a statement today. "The staff complied with the man and he left the premises with an amount of cash.

The man is described as being of white appearance, between 163cm and 173cm tall. He has a thin build, with stubble around his mouth. At the time of the robbery he was wearing gold-framed glasses and a black and white track-suit jacket.

Across the Tasman
A woman charged with hijacking a small commuter plane in New Zealand was committed to a psychiatric hospital when she appeared in court on Saturday.

Asha Abdille, 33, a Somali immigrant, was committed after a brief appearance at the Christchurch District Court, Radio New Zealand reported. She also faced charges of wounding the two pilots on the 19-seater aircraft which was on a scheduled domestic flight from Blenheim to Christchurch on Friday when she attacked them with two knives.

She also injured a woman who was one of the six other passengers on the Air New Zealand flight.

Bondi Attacks
Back in Australia, Three men were slashed by broken bottles in an attack by a group of teenagers in Sydney's east on Friday night.

A group of Pacific Island teenagers were throwing bottles at a house in Hastings Parade at Bondi. "Three men who lived in the premises approached the group and spoke with them about the bottle-throwing," a police statement said. "The group then assaulted the men, using broken bottles as weapons."

Seems Good Samaritans ended up getting hurt but thankfully, not critically.

So what about threats?
And threats are nothing to take lightly. As a shopkeeper, I’m reminded of significant police recommendations about giving money to possible robbers. Standard Operating Procedures, they say.

Threats are often breathed out by thugs against people whom they consider lesser, easier, dominable. But really the threatener is the lesser person. A group or mob take on a house, and three stand-up-for-good men from inside. A Blenheim passenger takes on two pilots. An armed man took on a postie on duty at a counter.

The Bible tells us several times about threats:
• King David in the Psalms says, “Those who seek my life lay snares for me; and those who seek to injure me have threatened destruction, and they devise treachery all day long.” (38th Psalm verse 12)
• “Save me, O God, for the waters have threatened my life. “(David again, in Psalm 69.1)
• Finally in the book of history of the early community of faith, Acts of the Apostles, chapter four, we read, “And when they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which they might punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened.”

Threats without warrant are not only unjustified, they rarely are successful in any sense of the word with God-followers. People of good will and people of good hope don’t cow to such demeanour by the lesser threat-breathers.

Consider Y’shua, the Great One, of whom we read in the letter by his friend and follower Peter,

(Jesus was) being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously. (1Pet. 2.23)

Let’s speak well to each other. Let’s get along peaceably in these days. Taunts and threats are juvenile at best and illegal in most cases (certainly these cases listed) at worst. And let’s let the Bible teach us more things of right and wrong in a world gone mad by dismissing it.

This is not a threat… it’s good advise!

01 January 2008

The hourglass bridge

I’m in the basement of my rented house in Sydney’s northern suburbs and it’s 9 in the morning. Last night was another gorgeous night in Sydney with 70-degree temperatures at 1 a.m. as Patty and I along with another couple made our way home from a night on the town. We had eaten dinner at 9, and then walked down to the foreshore to see the fireworks display, which was very much worth seeing.

Now today is Patty’s and my 31st anniversary. I look older, but she doesn’t, and we have three children who still take up a lot of our time, and they are very much worth all we can give. We couldn’t be prouder of our kids.

On the bridge stretching across the harbour the designers of the New Year’s show often put a symbol. We’ve seen a coat hanger (the nickname of the bridge itself), a diamond (for the 75th anniversary of the bridge) and even the word “Eternity”. This year the designers attached an hourglass as the symbol to remember. It makes a good reminder of time running out.

A la the ball in New York’s Times Square, the hourglass made sense. Slowly the electronic balls made their way from top to bottom and finally the top was empty… Happy New Year! And revelry ensued. Actually revelry had been the word of the day all day already. From early morning, men and women staked unmarked sites near the shore, with tents and blankets, with full eskies and radios, readying themselves to welcome friends and frolickers to a fun-filled day and night. The dictionary tells us that revelry is “lively enjoyment or celebration, usually involving eating, drinking, dancing, and noise.” Sydneysiders join in this revelry with fervour and great energy.

According to this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald, “Ninety-four arrests were made across Sydney during the course of the night and the early hours of the morning, resulting in 92 charges - mostly for offences relating to anti-social behaviour.”

Walking down to get a good view of the fireworks, our friends and we noticed the thick blanket of discarded bottles and cans along the roads. Sounds of revelry filled our ears as drunken teens shouted and sang songs with great gusto. And across the way, the hourglass stood as a beacon.

Hourglasses are usually filled with sand not light bulbs. Last August, I walked next to one in Budapest near the National Monuments. The Time Wheel opened in 2004, when Hungary joined the European Union. It is an 8-meter-tall hourglass embedded in a granite and steel wheel. The sand goes down in exactly one year.
It’s very impressive.

When I grew up time was much more limited, not a year, but minutes. During games like Boggle and Yahtzee, we used those egg timers, plastic, still filled with sand, but less impressive.

So here I am, hours later, well-rested and happy to be celebrating with my wife another year. But the image of the hourglass stays fresh. Its impression is not its grandeur or even its location on the bridge. What impresses me this morning, and hopefully throughout 2008, will be the question. The question is begged by the time-reminder and stands firm, long after the glow of the bridge has dimmed. What will I do with time in 2008? Since time is running out, what will I do to make the world a better place? Since my time is running out, what will I make of my life?

Will I waste time in revelry and police lock-ups? Will I waste it on meaninglessness, or will I spend it with family and friends? Will I spend my time on bringing good news to people? Will I seek to benefit the world as its time is ending, or will I spend it on myself?

Good questions to ponder as the New Year begins. Won’t you join me in this pondering?

This is the ending of this blog for us in the South.

For those up north, in New York and London and Tokyo, it’s seriously winter. So maybe for them the words of Paul Simon’s song will help. As time is such a serious part of the thinking of New Year’s Eve folks.

Sidebar: Words by Paul Simon. Song is “Hazy shade of winter”
Time, time, time, see what's become of me

Time, time, time, see what's become of me
While I looked around for my possibilities
I was so hard to please

Look around, leaves are brown
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter

Hear the Salvation Army Band
Down by the riverside, it's bound to be a better ride
Than what you've got planned, carry a cup in your hand

Look around, leaves are brown
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter

Hang onto your hopes my friend
That's an easy thing to say
But if your hopes should pass away
Simply pretend that you can build them again

Look around, grass is high
Fields are ripe, it's the springtime of my life

Seasons change with their scenery
Weaving time in a tapestry
Won't you stop and remember me

Look around, leaves are brown
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter
Look around, leaves are brown
There's a patch of snow on the ground
Look around, leaves are brown
There's a patch of snow on the ground
Look around, leaves are brown
There's a patch of snow on the ground

Also for history, check out: http://wilstar.com/holidays/newyear.htm