30 December 2009

New tolls

Sydney and the Toll Booth

Is it me or does the toll increase every 1 January around here? When most people are out having a good time on New Year's Eve on Sydney Harbour, the state government wants to remind everyone that our money is like the beer we drink at the pub. It's only ours for a short time. Some describe it as 'on loan.' We have it for now, but it will leave us very soon. Same with our funds in our wallets. The government will have it soon enough, thank you very much.

Take the increase in the tolls. Every three months the rates can rise. They could fall. (Someone wake me up-- I was dreaming for a moment) According to the law, the rates are fixed to the CPI the Consumer Price Index.

For instance, officially, the CPI has risen 36.5 per cent in the past 10 years, but tolls on motorways have gone up by between 52 and 100 per cent during the same period. I was a mathematics teacher in my 20s, and even though the governments of the world have brought in new maths, and every student has iPods, iPhones, and computers to help gather google information, 52-100 is still much larger than 36.5. Know what I mean? So who is kidding whom?

I'm a missionary now, and yet I run a book shop, albeit non-profit in Bondi Junction for seekers and the informed. We have nearly 500 products available and we do all right. If we were not doing all right, I'd ponder, "How do I get more customers?" or "How do I attract more money/ capital for the mission?" Sensible? Sure. Maybe that's what the state government is thinking. But are they....really?

When a store like Myer or David Jones is trying to get more capital, what do they do? They have a sale! They actually discount items to attract more (long-ranged) customers and keep the loyal ones inside. Aha! Such an old idea, you would think the government would have sorted this one out long ago. But no, they tax, and punish, rather than discount. Let me explain.

It makes sense to me that when the government is trying to increase its net worth that it should actually discount the toll, drop the fees, as a means of increasing loyalty and ridership, not for a month, much like a drug dealer would hand out free drugs to get people hooked, but forever. When the Cross City Tunnel was going belly-up and needed such a bailout, the government tried this freebie, but only for a very short term. Leave the costs down. Increase ridership. Get the people using these already paid-for roads!

As it is, now that the tolls will increase again on the Lane Cove Tunnel, on the Eastern Distributor and no doubt other crossings, the government is actually punishing the very people who have been paying for this service already. Don't punish the users; bring in more users! Sensible? I think so.

Who is with me?

29 December 2009

Sherlock Holmes...action hero?

It's like reading a menu at a New Jersey diner. So much to choose from, so little time (129 minutes). A little CSI and NCIS. A little The Wrestler. Throw in characters from the original Arthur Conan Doyle. A little Butch Cassidy and Sundance. Mix in Da Vinci Code and Columbo, and you might have the movie Guy Ritchie made of Sherlock Holmes, this time around. And we shouldn't forget Indiana Jones.

Kenneth Turan and Michael Phillips didn't rave, in fact Phillips gave it 1.5 stars. Ouch. The queue at Sydney's Fox Studios yesterday went out the door; those folks don't read Chicago or Los Angeles reviews.

My head was in it, but the real thrill was the action. It was cleverly re-hashed before the hashing. In the opening sequence, Holmes is being chased and has to deduce his escape. "First point of attack, right ear," Downey whispers in voiceover. "Two, throat. Three, cracked ribs. In summary, neutralized." Clever indeed!

Ritchie is not the first to do that, but this one really works.

What doesn't work is the demon-possessed Lord Blackwood who wants to usher in a new world order a la The Illuminati and dark brotherhood. The story is contrived, oh wait, all stories are. But this one seems a little too neat and puerile. The guns go blazing, although Holmes insists that guns won't work on him. Even so, Holmes trusts his own fists to do battle in due course with the 'resurrected' villain. Not consistent.

Did I get it wrong or did the casting folks? Mark Strong looked more like Sherlock Holmes in the Conan Doyle version than did Downey, but that's a small point.

I liked the imagery of the Tower Bridge. It was in construction at the fixed time of the movie. The current website of the Bridge carries the history. It took 8 years, 5 major contractors and the relentless labour of 432 construction workers to build Tower Bridge. When it was built, Tower Bridge was the largest and most sophisticated bascule bridge ever completed ("bascule" comes from the French for "see-saw"). These bascules were operated by hydraulics, using steam to power the enormous pumping engines.

Bridges are designed to take someone from one side of a river to the other. But this movie left us all on the same side. I wanted to get to the plot, that is, the single plot, but it was so busy with subplots and subthemes and the diner menu. Still it was an entertaining side of the river to remain on, to be sure.

What works for me is the Beowulf story of evil pitted against the good, and a hero who saves the day. I doubt I'm giving away anything to those people who have yet to see the movie, by saying that there is at least one sequel waiting in the wings.

No matter what else Hollywood dispenses for us in 2010 and beyond, the drama is made good by the hope that we all have, in the theatre and beyond, for a saviour. A hero. A person or group or organization or company or ...someone to knock back the evil and bring in an era of peace and good will. Even an antihero is acceptable as long as the good comes to be and thrive in the new world order. Or so Hollywood says.

And we want a hero to believe in. We want good to come. None of us is as smart as Holmes or Watson. His powers to deduce were so google-speed that it made him a bit too much. I like the speed of Columbo which I think was more 1890 and Conan Doyle, but I'll adjust. After all this is Holmes 2.0 and I can't look backwards anymore. They even upgraded Irene Adler from her mental (only) powers over Holmes to an easy-on-the-eyes seductress.

So we can all use an upgrade. We can all use a bridge to help us cross to the other side. We can all use a hero to save us. Ritchie and Hollywood have that right.

Is Sherlock Holmes an action hero? That's a bit much for me. I'll take Rocky as Rocky. And Falk as Columbo.

But if you want a real action hero who really can help you cross a bridge and get to the other side; if you want a saviour who can overcome the dark brotherhood of Satan, the enemy of all things godly, then trust in Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, the real Saviour of the planet. He needed no bullets, but by his actions demonstrated God's powerful love for all people. He taught and healed and walked on water. He embodied all God wanted for humanity and had wisdom beyond Holmes 2.0. And yet, and here's the rub, he died for us. Willingly. Without sophistication. Without trickery. With one purpose in mind... to redeem us to God and get us back into relationship with Him. Awesome.

No Hollywood trickery in that. Simple. Robust. Real. And it really works. All we have to do is believe.

The sequel is in your life. What will you do with Jesus?

27 December 2009

Two views

Looking back, looking forward

It can be confusing and downright dangerous to have your eyes looking in different directions. We are designed to be almost unidirectional. Our feet and our eyes and arms and ears all face the same way. If someone contorts into a different position we think they belong in the circus.

And yet at this time of the year we review. We look back. We want to know who died in 2009. We want to know what were the best moments on TV or the funniest interviews. We look backwards.

The Melbourne Age reported today the top 10 technology stories of the year. Safeguarding the internet from the scourge of illegal pornography, gambling and criminal activity was top of the national agenda this year as Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy continued to push his proposed mandatory internet filtering scheme.

Considered a misguided policy by many, the debate took a dramatic turn in March when a list of blacklisted websites was published online. The Government forged ahead regardless of the controversy and spent much of the year trialing the filtering scheme.

Zealous policing of the internet was not confined to blacklisted websites, and child abuse charges against Chris Illingworth were finally dropped in September by Queensland Police. Illingworth was charged last year for republishing a MA15+ rated video of a man swinging a baby by its arms, but the case ran out of steam following a review by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

Another Australian who was forced to defend himself in court this year was rewarded with a $445 million windfall from Microsoft when a jury found the company had breached a patent for security software he created in the 1990s. Although Ric Richardson’s victory has since been overturned by a judge, he hopes to appeal.

Microsoft made headlines again in October for ridding the world of its universally unpopular Vista operating system, and replacing it with Windows 7. It also attempted to trump Google in the search engine wars with the release of Bing, but its internet foe fought back with a public preview of the Chrome operating system and a limited beta release of an Outlook email competitor called Wave.

Our love affair with gadgets reached dizzy new heights in 2009 with the release of the iPhone 3G S, rumours of a new tablet PC, and rise of the netbook phenomenon. This was also the year that the iPhone apps market went into overdrive, bringing us delights such as the Zippo lighter app and the CityRail timetable. Our state and federal governments cashed in on the craze after releasing a flood of new data to the public.

Google also made steady progress in its mission to dominate the smartphone sector as a number of handset makers joined the Android movement, and in October the Kindle e-book reader from Amazon finally reached our shores.

There was no shortage of action for music lovers in 2009 with video games such as Rock band and Guitar Hero sealing their place at the top of gaming charts and inspiring a new generation of spin-offs. Music piracy also made headlines with the high profile case against Pirate Bay dismaying BitTorrenters worldwide. The fight against piracy continued on our own doorstep with seven major movie studios and the Seven Network suing internet service provider iiNet for allegedly permitting customers to download movies illegally.

The social networking movement kept us very well informed this year about what our friends and colleagues were up to as Twitter reached a $1bn valuation and became the latest fad for wayward celebrities wanting to chit chat directly with fans.

A new generation of web sensations were also spawned via YouTube creating instant celebrity for the likes of the Chk Chk Boom girl and Susan Boyle, while an entire Greek wedding party became the unwitting subject of a viral email campaign. Other unfortunate social networkers also landed on the wrong side of the privacy debate when they discovered there was a downside to their newfound ability to publish all their thoughts and activities to world when taking sick leave from work.

Not to be left out of the technology race, a New Zealand toddler stumbled upon a new way to acquire excellent toys in May when he won an auction for a $15,600 digger listed on the TradeMe site.

Thanks Melbourne Age.

But what about you. What were your top stories for 2009? New job? Disappointment with mates in the neighbourhood? Your relatives giving you expected presents at Hanukkah? Or none at all?

Then if you really ponder what I'm saying, you cannot only look backwards and continue to go forward. You have to draw a line, look one last time behind you, then make some plans and move into 'forward' drive.

Draw inspiration from the past. Learn lessons from the past. And push on into what is next.

But we'll look at this phenomenon in the next couple blogs, I think.

For now, make a list of what you would like to fix, in your flat or in your life. Consider what disappointments you experienced and which ones you caused in 2009. And let's learn from them all.

25 December 2009

Christmas... looking like this

Originally uploaded by Odessea
Some say that Christmas should be met with barbecues and prawns, with beach side esky parties and shorts and thongs. That's the way we do it in Australia. But for many up north, this scene is more like they imagine. It's Christmas if it's snowing and cold. Culture is a funny thing. Irving Berlin, a Jew, wrote "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas" no doubt with such a scene in mind. Tree tops glisten. No sleigh bells in this MOMA shot, though.

Others make Christmas into some shopping extravaganza with ribbons and boxes and all-night wrappings to make little ones happy when they awaken, way too early on this morning. The snow is designed to calm people, but little ones with trees and hopes for reward for being nice, not naughty, well it's too much for young ones.

Presents and trinkets, tinsel on the tree and merchandising. So much goes into making the holidays, the yuletide bright.

Or does it?

What about those millions of Christians all around the globe for whom a one-time shopping experience at our mall would be unbearable. They have never seen such arenas of salesmanship. They have never had that much money in their life, which we might drop in a single spree. Those who live in sub-Saharan Africa or in country China or India, who are surviving, and barely that. They however, are very happy this time of year.

Seems they know that Jesus is the Reason for the Season. Seems they have their priorities straight.

So is Christmas about the prawns or the poor? Is it about the presents or the perspective? Don't get me wrong. I love what my wife and kids got me today. Thanks everyone! And all the while, I know, and so do they, that life is more than presents and more than tinsel. It's about family and love and the greatest gift of all.... God's gift of life in Jesus.

That's what Christmas should look like. And hey, if it helps, enjoy the snow. All of it in NYC last weekend, or in London or in Kansas.... all good.

But even then, don't miss it. It's more than weather. Life is about whether or not you have found the Eternal One.

Merry Messiah-mas.

24 December 2009

End of an era....still singing

Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing o'er the plain.

I like the chorus of "Gloria" in that Christmas carol. And I like the songs of the season. Maybe you do too.

But somebody sent me this link today and it reminded me of my old days, back in the early 1970s, singing at Full Faith Church of Love in Kansas City Kansas, with Brothers Ernie, Catron, and Tom Blasco and so many others, letting loose and thanking God. I imagined then that we were singing with angels. It was early charismatic days, the choruses abounded. The clapping was thunderous in the old building on South 42nd Street.

Were angels heard on high then? Were they singing sweetly o'er the plains of Kansas? Maybe, but the chorus lent itself to merriment and I liked things that way. Sung in the key of G, you know, high enough to make us sing louder.

Now Brother Ernie is doing so. He's singing with angels in heaven. This year, Nick Willems, Oral Roberts, Frances Hunter and Billy Joe Dougherty...and so many others joined him. And hundreds, no thousands of unnamed (to us) saints arose in glory and are singing with angels.

We'll be there in due course.

For now, keep singing!
Enjoy these clips from You Tube, if you can, imagine yourself, singing along with angels, and saints from all places, in God's choir in the sky.

Click on this link God's choir

or try this sample one on too, from London Welsh Male Voice Choir in 2008

sample only

Best wishes to all for a Merry Messiah-mas, celebrating quietly or thunderously, with ancient carols or cutesy country-licked choruses, the joy of the season. Shalom.

07 December 2009

Hanukkah 2009

The lights will be lit, the dreidels spinning, the latkes frying... what a great time to be had by those who celebrate this holiday. The date roams around the December calendar, since the Jewish calendar is lunar. Each year, the holiday falls out on the 25th of Kislev, this year, that's 11 December. My family and so many others will gather worldwide to remember the holiday.

What is it we remember? The victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian Greeks, under King Antiochus Epiphanes in about 165 BCE. And the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem. And the finding of special oil, enough to last one day, but it lasted 8 days, according to the story.

Jews for Jesus will be celebrating this holiday together on 18 December, the last night, when all 9 candles are lit in Sydney. Specifically in Five Dock. For the info, check here...

Latkes, dreidels, singing, a Bible message...what else could you want?

You are most invited if you live nearby.
Celebrate with us; learn about God and his love for all people, and the desire he has for us to shine his light to the world.

10 October 2009

Hey, hey, is it comedy?

Controversy, worldwide controversy, was sparked last week in Australia. A group of medical doctors performed a skit on a television show on Channel 9. The show, “Hey, hey it’s Saturday!” was a hit for 27 years and many middle-aged folks remember the good old days of their youth. The fun features sketch comedy interlaced with cartoons popping up (much like an MTV popup) and interviews and celebrity guests.

Each two-hour show was packed with a kaleidoscope of guests both new and old plus the fabulous Hey Hey ‘live’ Band. And it wouldn’t be Hey Hey without Red Faces, Plucka Duck, Celebrity Head and many other classic bits.

[Pictured: Ozzie Ostrich and Daryl Somers in 1971]

So what’s the controversy?

Wednesday night on a reunion show, the doctors who performed the same skit 20 years ago, revived the Jackson Jive. (pictured)

Problem is the world is not the same as it was 20 years ago. We have grown and seen our world shrink in a new way. Isolation is not an option in the 21st Century. Good behaviour and bad behaviour are both more universal in scope and recognition.

What brought this to light?

Harry Connick, Jr is no stranger to Aussie television. The New Orleans-born singer has visited Australia many times over the years and even appeared back in the day on “Hey, Hey!” (It went off the air in 1999.) But Harry condemned the skit [, a parody of the Jackson Five in a ''red faces'' segment. The performers' faces were blacked up, apart from that of the comedian playing Michael Jackson] as racist saying the performers make blacks look like buffoons.

Some of the bloggers who defended the Jive said, "There is nothing racist about this ... it is a parody only of the Jackson Five, not black people in general.

Another said, "Michael Jackson hasn't been black in a long time ... race and skin colour are simply not of any significance to us here."

If only! Kudos to Connick. Kudos to Daryl Somers for apologizing on air within minutes of the embarrassing moments. Kudos to those countless bloggers who are in the majority and say “shame” on our country. We are behind the 8-ball and we need to come clean.

Just because ‘we’ve always done that’ or ‘we take the mickey out of everyone’ doesn’t mean it was ever right.

Name calling whether blackfellas or kikes or niggers…it’s just wrong!

Besides that, I thought the doctors/Jive were terrible. Their choreography lacked good timing, the steps were simple enough and they still couldn’t perform in unison. Their singing was flat and tired. I would have gonged them myself, long before the racist trouble; it was a bad routine.

So what about the comedy card? When can comedy parody an existing act? When can Sasha Baron Cohen perform Borat or John Safran play a black man?

The ABC television in Australia is set to air another episode of Safran’s show in a couple weeks. "Episode two will go to air as planned," says an ABC representative. "In this episode John makes a genuine attempt to see what it is like to walk in the shoes of others." Seems John for his new TV show has blackened his whole body.

I remember the book Black Like Me in the 1960s (book 1961, movie 1964) and am proud of Safran, whom I consider a friend, Safran has not just reached for the black shoe polish and a bad wig. His transformation was effected by Brian Sipe and Alexei O'Brien, Hollywood professionals whose credits include The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”

From Wikipedia: Black Like Me is a non-fiction book by journalist John Howard Griffin first published in 1961. Griffin was a white native of Mansfield, Texas and the book describes his six-week experience travelling on Greyhound buses (occasionally hitchhiking) throughout the racially segregated states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia passing as a black man. Sepia Magazine financed the project in exchange for the right to print the account first as a series of articles.

Griffin kept a journal of his experiences; the 188-page diary was the genesis of the book.

What Safran is doing is so different, it’s not even worth discussing in this context. But is it comedy? And is comedy fair game for out-of-bounds, bad-taste frivolity as we saw on Hey, Hey last Wednesday?

The Boston Globe (Ty Burr) said of Cohen’s Borat, “A comic put-on of awe-inspiring crudity and death-defying satire and by a long shot the funniest film of the year. It is "Jackass" with a brain and Mark Twain with full frontal male nudity.”
While Chicago Reader’s J.R. Jones said, “As clever as he is crude, Cohen alchemizes bad-taste comedy into Strangelovean satire.”

I guess the line is thin, and maybe that’s why so many are arguing and blogging about the crossing of the line with Jackson Jive. Bad is bad, because it is, not because a sociological subset says it is. We don’t have to wait for the black population of New Orleans to vote about the doctors-come-dancers and their bad routine. It was making fun and that’s that. And that’s out of bounds. Nothing redemptive about it; no hope of people learning about another culture.

So maybe that’s part of it. When I watched “Inglorious Basterds“(why is it misspelled?) the other night I thought Tarantino was in his element again. Violent, bloody, harsh, intemperate, and fun, captivating and not-a-lick-of-truth. It all started with “Once upon a time in Nazi-occupied France…” and it was a fairy tale. I certainly ‘enjoyed’ Princess Bride as a fairy tale much better, but as a Jew, I found Tarantino a fairy tale we could have wished for.

But did the buffoon watch note anything about Germans? Or about Americans? Or about filmgoers? Or drinking Englishmen?

That’s when comedy or satire makes us think less of people of a certain colour or size or religion.

The world has changed; we have to keep changing.

So, I’m proud of Harry Connick , Jr. And I’m proud of Daryl Somers for quickly apologizing. And we can all learn, and need to learn, and learn to live together in honesty and fairness. No more jokes involving kikes or niggers, ok? Let’s even go beyond that and say good things about each other. Wow, what a wonderful world that will be!

08 October 2009

Muslim leader wants Temple rebuilt

With apologies, this is a bit dated...
Posted: August 06, 2009

Originally found at

By Joel Richardson

In a historically unprecedented development, a famous Turkish Muslim leader and a prominent group of Israeli rabbis have joined together on one of their declared goals, to rebuild the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Adnan Oktar, who uses the pen name of Harun Yahya, is a controversial but highly influential Muslim intellectual and author with over 65 million of his books in circulation worldwide. Oktar recently met with three representatives from the re-established Jewish Sanhedrin, a group of 71 Orthodox rabbis and scholars from Israel, to discuss how religious Muslims, Jews and Christians can work together.

The objectives of the alliance include waging a joint intellectual and spiritual battle against the worldwide growing tide of irreligiousness, unbelief and immorality. But even more unusual is their agreement with regard to the need to rebuild the Jewish Temple, a structure Oktar refers to as the "Masjid (Mosque)" or the "Palace of Solomon." An official statement about the meeting has been published on the Sanhedrin's website. Concluding the statement is the following call:

Out of a sense of collective responsibility for world peace and for all humanity, we have found it timely to call to the world and exclaim that there is a way out for all peoples. It is etched in a call to all humanity: We are all the sons of one father, the descendants of Adam, and all humanity is but a single family. Peace among nations will be achieved through building the House of G-d, where all peoples will serve as foreseen by King Solomon in his prayers at the dedication of the First Holy Temple. Come let us love and respect one another, and love and honor and hold our heavenly Father in awe. Let us establish a house of prayer in His name in order to worship and serve Him together, for the sake of His great compassion. He surely does not want the blood of His creations spilled, but prefers love and peace among all mankind. We pray to the Almighty Creator, that you harken to our Call. Together – each according to his or her ability – we shall work towards the building of the House of Prayer for All Nations on the Temple Mount in peace and mutual understanding.

Understand the significance of the Muslim's Mahdi 'messiah' in Joel Richardson's new book, "The Islamic Antichrist: The Shocking Truth about the Real Nature of the Beast." Note: The book is also available in electronic form at reduced price through Scribd.

I was also able to meet recently with Mr. Oktar in Istanbul where he described to me his vision for the rebuilding of Solomon's Temple:

The Palace of Solomon is a historically important palace, and rebuilding it would be a very wonderful thing. It is something that any Jew, a Christian or a Muslim should welcome with enthusiasm. Every Muslim, every believer will want to return to those days, to experience those days again and, albeit partially, to bring the beauty of those days back to life.

Oktar has also stated that the Temple of Solomon "will be rebuilt and all believers will worship there in tranquility." During his meeting with the Sanhedrin rabbis, Oktar expressed his belief that the Temple could be rebuilt in one year:

It could be done in a year at most. It could be built to the same perfection and beauty. The Torah says it was built in 13 years, if I remember correctly. It could be rebuilt in a year in its perfect form.

Since the meeting took place, I have also had the privilege to discuss these things in some detail with Rabbi Abrahamson and Rabbi Hollander, two of the rabbis who met with Mr. Oktar. Regarding the rebuilding of the Temple, Rabbi Hollander explained, "The building of the Temple is one of the stages in the Messianic process." But another possibility that has been presented is that the Dome of the Rock that sits so prominently on the Temple Mount be used as "a place of prayer for all nations." This title is found in the book of the Prophet Isaiah.

"This should be fairly simple," explained Rabbi Hollander. "It is said that the structure of the Dome in Haram E-Sharrif (the Temple Mount) was originally meant by (Caliph) Omar to be a House of Prayer for Jews, and the Al-Aqsa for Muslims." However, he also explained that religious Jews would not be able to enter the Dome of the Rock unless they had first been ritually cleansed according to Jewish halakhic regulations.

While the prominence of the figures involved in this joint call to rebuild the Jewish Temple is highly noteworthy, other groups have also recently made news with unique vision for the Temple Mount. Yoav Frankel, an Orthodox Jew who has been deeply involved in interfaith dialogue with Muslims, also envisions a shared Temple Mount. This project is called "God's Holy Mountain" and is an effort of the Interfaith Encounter Association, a group dedicated to promoting peace in the Middle East. What is unique about the God's Holy Mountain project is that it envisions the day when the Jewish Temple will exist side by side with the Dome of the Rock.

"This vision of religious shrines in peaceful proximity can transform the Temple Mount from a place of contention to its original sacred role as a place of worship shared by Jews, Muslims and Christians," said Frankel in a Jerusalem Post interview. A colorful painting of this vision features prominently on Frankel's website.

Muslims, Jews and Christians share the Temple Mount in harmony.

A paper on the God's Holy Mountain website, written by an unnamed Muslim scholar, asks the following question: "Would a Jewish synagogue erected on the Temple Mount or the Noble Sanctuary make the Blessed Land less blessed? It will certainly add to its blessing because it will invite more voices that exalt and glorify the One God, to whom we all pray."

The vision of God's Holy Mountain may not be all that far off. The Obama administration has also suggested that Jerusalem could become an international city that would be shared by peoples from all three Abrahamic faiths.

Even the Knesset is getting in on the discussion. Members of the Israeli Knesset gathered together last week with several Jewish scholars to discuss the role of the Jewish Temple in Jewish life. Referring to those Muslims who do not acknowledge the Jewish history of the Temple Mount, Dr. Mordechai Keidar stated, "The struggle for Jerusalem is not territorial, it is theological. … Do we give in to the Muslim claim that Judaism is no longer relevant?"

While religious Jews have yearned for the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple literally for two millennia, some skeptical left-wing commentators have mocked the notion that this will ever take place. One anti-religion blogger recently claimed that, "most Israelis have no interest in a 'Third Temple' and would resent the way such a thing would symbolize the power of an already overbearing religious establishment." He then mocked the idea as something that only exists "on the outer fringes in the Israel of the real world" while any Christian expectation of a future Temple is mere "Christian fundamentalist fantasy." Yet, according to a recent poll conducted for Ynet News and the Gesher organization, over two-thirds of the Israeli public desires to see the Jewish Temple rebuilt, including almost half of the non-religious. According to Ynet News, 64 percent of those questioned responded favorably to the idea of rebuilding the Temple, while 36 percent were not in favor of such a project:

An analysis of the answers showed that not only the ultra-Orthodox and the religious look forward to the rebuilding of the Temple (100 percent and 97 percent respectively), but also the traditional public (91 percent) and many seculars – 47 percent.

Meanwhile, the work of the Temple Institute, a group that has openly dedicated itself for years to rebuilding the Jewish Temple goes on. They have already created many of the most significant priestly utensils and pieces of furniture necessary for the Temple once it is ready. In a recent video release, entitled "Dare to Dream / Dare to Build," several on-the-street interviews reveal the passion for the Temple that are held by many average Israelis. One young man expressed his belief that the building of the Jewish Temple "will bring harmony, some tranquility in the world, some peace." Another women joyfully states, "The entire purpose of creation is that we build the Holy Temple."

The suggestion of rebuilding the Jewish Temple is deeply significant to Christians, particularly those who are students of Bible prophecy. According to the Bible, an imposter messiah known as the Antichrist will someday invade the land of Israel and "set himself up" in the "God's Temple." The Apostle Paul lays this out quite clearly:

He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's Temple, proclaiming himself to be God. – 2 Thessalonians 2:4

As a result, many Christians who understand the biblical teaching regarding the last days take note of this news with a deep measure of caution and trepidation.

Another serious cause for concern is the fact that, according to Islamic sacred tradition, the Mahdi, Islam's primary messiah figure, will one day invade the land of Israel and establish his seat of authority on the Temple Mount. According to one sacred tradition, an Islamic army will come from Iran and conquer Jerusalem:

(Armies carrying) black flags will come from Khurasan (Iran). No power will be able to stop them and they will finally reach Eela (Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem) where they will erect their flags. – Sunan Al-Tirmidhi

Commenting on this particular tradition, Egyptian authors Muhammad ibn Izzat and Muhammd 'Arif comment:

The Mahdi will be victorious and eradicate those pigs and dogs. … Jerusalem will be the location of the rightly guided caliphate and the center of Islamic rule, which will be headed by Imam al-Mahdi. … That will abolish the leadership of the Jews.

As a Christian theologian who is well-versed in these matters, I expressed the reasons for my caution to the Sanhedrin rabbis. But in the end, while all three Abrahamic religions do share many common beliefs and characteristics, many differences remain. While the prophecies of the Bible and the dark nature of some of the Islamic traditions cause me deep unease, from an Orthodox Jewish perspective, my apprehension is entirely unnecessary.

Says Rabbi Abrahamson, "There is a Jewish teaching, referring to the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. that says, 'Had the nations of the world known how much they benefit and are blessed by the Holy Temple they would have surrounded it with legions of armies to protect it from any harm.'"


30 September 2009

Cleansing the graffiti

Cleansing the graffitti
Originally uploaded by bobmendo
Behind our book shop in Bondi Junction, a council worker spends literally hours cleaning up what some vandal took only minutes to accomplish. The spray can of paints make a design or a tag or something by which the graffiti artist made his mark. The cleansing took much more energy and effort.

I suppose in this season of the Jewish holidays, when repentance and forgiveness is so much the theme, this is a good photo to consider.

What does it take to ruin a situation? What time and effort does it take to speak too quickly, to touch inappropriately, to leer and lust after something which isn't yours... it might only be moments, but the effects can be far reaching. And damaging. And costly.

In October 1987, A Momentary Lapse of Reason peaked at #3 on the Billboard 200. Pink Floyd's 'reunion' album was a big success. (Seems fitting to quote this album which also contained "Dogs of War" in light of so much reference to this in Aussie news of late with Rugby League battlers the Canterbury Bulldogs).

A momentary lapse of reason. Consider these lyrics from "One slip" "One slip, and down the hole we fall
It seems to take no time at all
A momentary lapse of reason
That binds a life for life
A small regret, you won't forget"

Of course, you can argue that this is only a song, but how many times have we lived in the regret of wrong decisions. Of missed opportunities, of personal failures?

God knows, my friend. God knows your heart and your desires. And he wants you to know his desires for the planet and for your life.

Yes it might be one slip (or many as in the case of Kanye and John Della Bosca and Mike Duvall and John Edwards), and the full weight is rarely felt. We don't know how far we've fallen, as my longtime friend Bob Mumford used to say, "until you try to climb back up."

What about Razorlight's conclusion, "I get over the breaks
And I stumble and fall
And I get over the breaks
And sometimes stumble and fall
Yes I fall
Yes I fall
I stumble and fall"

Stumble, falling, how do we get back up?

That's what Kippur is all about. The holiday of Yom Kippur is about God cleansing us of sin and unrighteousness. He cares enough to deal with this as he wants to be in relationship with us. It's our sin that separates us from God. It's God's grace which brings us back into fellowship with him. Awesome!

Like in the photo, it took a lot on the part of the cleanser to accomplish this, so it was in the love gift of God, that he sent his only son, Y'shua, to die for us and bring us eternity. Thanks Lord! No wonder they sing "amazing grace."

This restoration is undeserved. This restoration is costly. This restoration is done by another and not by ourselves. Our response? Gratitude and humility. Thanks, Lord!

19 September 2009

Rosh Hashanah.. God is good?

God is good and ready to forgive
Rosh Hashanah message 5770
Given in Bondi Junction
18 September 2009

Tonight we greet a new year. It’s not like crowding into the Opera House steps to watch millions of dollars of fireworks go off on 31 December. The revelry of Trafalgar Square or Times Square is not apparent here. We might wear different apparel than usual, but not the wild and crazy clothing of New Year’s Eve. No, tonight is a night of awe and respect; it’s a night of self-introspection and repair. And, oh, please hear me, it IS a night of celebration. We are rejoicing in the newness that should characterize a new year. And it’s all based on the text of tonight, the Psalm we read early on, Psalm 86. And the key passage is “God is good, and ready to forgive.”

Last weekend I was in Brisbane, and enjoyed the first Brisbane Festival. The highlight was a large fireworks show called “RiverFire.” It was spectacular. The air force supplied a fly-over. I supplied a thousand Gospel tracts to the crowd which gathered almost as early as our crowds in Sydney fireworks displays do. And it was celebratory.
So what will you do to celebrate tonight’s New Year here in Sydney? May I suggest it’s not about resolutions of your own reformation and repair. May I suggest it’s not about revelry and fireworks. Although we hope to have enough to share, it’s not about apples and honey and honeycake after the meeting. It’s about the goodness of God and his readiness to forgive.

Of course, the words ‘ready to’ are not in the Hebrew text. It’s more skeletal than that in the Hebrew.
Other versions simply say, “You are good and forgiving.” Simple. Clear. Honest. But, honestly, is that something to celebrate? Open the Esky for that one?

Maybe we should ask John Della Bosca, who was caught out last month in a sordid affair of lust and lying.
Or we should ask that American congressman from California, who was similarly caught out, But listen to his acknowledgement of wrongdoing. “My offence was engaging in inappropriate storytelling and I regret my language and choice of words.” Seems Mike Duvall a 54-year-old congressman boasted to a fellow congressman, with his microphone still on, during congressional hearings, about an affair with a 36-year-old female lobbyist. He boasted about their sexual activities. But what did he confess? Sin? Infidelity to his wife? Failure to the family? Nope, only that he was boastful and the bragging was wrong. Oy.

I’m not stuck on sexual impropriety as if that were the worst sin.
Should we ask the French Interior Minister? Brice Hortefeux sparked accusations of racism with comments last week about Arabs. He said, “it’s ok when there’s one (Arab). It’s when there are a lot of them that there are problems.” All this caught on videotape during a filming at a Le Monde shooting.
Listen, I’m pretty sure that there are plenty of other sins a man commits. How about all those in the machzor, the traditional Jewish prayer book on this day, for which we repent? Shall I name some? OK, here’s a top 10 list (See the end of sermon, if you are reading online for the complete list/prayer):
1) Passing judgment
2) Scheming against a fellowman
3) Begrudging eye
4) Frivolity
5) Obduracy
6) Running to do evil
7) Tale-bearing
8) Swearing in vain
9) Causeless hatred
10) Embezzlement.

It is interesting to note that these confessions do not specifically address the kinds of ritual sins that some people think are the be-all-and-end-all of Judaism. There is no "for the sin we have sinned before you by eating pork, and for the sin we have sinned against you by driving on Shabbat" (though obviously these are implicitly included in the catch-all). The vast majority of the sins enumerated involve mistreatment of other people, most of them by speech (offensive speech, scoffing, slander, talebearing, and swearing falsely, to name a few).

You might be thinking, “Now wait a minute, I didn’t come hear to have you tell me about sins. I came to hear about New Year and trumpets and to go into 5770 in a new way. I want change, but not religious change.”

Fair enough, and worthy of consideration. But maybe Mr Della Bosca or the French minister or Kanye West are thinking other things just about now.
Embarrassment and shame. All part of the guilt of our sin. And all good. “What,“ you say? Yes, I say, guilt is good. Not only because I’m Jewish and we as Jews dwell often in our sins and the guilt of it. No, it’s because sin should bring guilt, and guilt should bring shame and then sin, guilt and shame should lead to repentance. If you know how bad you are, you will cry out to the God who ever lives to help us and bring us to a good place.

Let’s go back to the Psalm of the night, and see this again.
Psalm 86 reads like promises offered to the most desperate person.

Kathleen Parker, an American journalist I read often, said this in the shadow of the “You lie” comment by Joe Wilson, an unknown American congressman (from her home state of South Carolina), “Across the spectrum of society, people are behaving badly…from the rude tantrum of Kanye West at the Video Music Awards to the profane threats of tennis star Serena Williams when she disagreed with a line call.”
Parker’s conclusions about the unjustified scream in President Obama’s speech end with, “there are myriad ways for a congressman to voice objection to the president's ideas or his colleagues' proposals. But dueling has been out of style for quite some time, even in South Carolina. If our will to self-govern is to prevail, then incivility will have to become equally unfashionable.”

Parker calls for people to behave well, to be civil. And that’s a fair call. But is human reform enough to make a real difference?

Let me put this to you in a personal category. Let’s say you were a habitual liar. Each week you tell hundreds of lies. Some cultural psychologists aver that the averages are as follows:
“Most people lie to others once or twice a day and deceive about 30 people per week.
The average is 7 times per hour if you count all the times people lie to themselves.
We lie in 30 to 38% of all our interactions.
Uni students lie in 50% of conversations with their mothers.
- 80% of us lie on our resumes.
- 70% of all doctors lie to insurance companies.
- 100% of dating couples surveyed lied to each other in about a third of their conversations.
- 20% - 30% of middle managers surveyed had written fraudulent internal reports.
- 95% of participating uni students surveyed were willing to tell at least one lie to a potential employer to win a job, and 41% had already done so.
We are lied to about 200 times each day.” (http://www.geocities.com/changes1611/sins22lies2.html)

Wow, that’s a lot of lying going on.

So let’s say you want to try to get that better this year. How would you go about that? Would you make lists of the lies you told? Would you try to go back and make things right with those to whom you lied, even last week? Would you say you will try harder this year and reform your behaviour? All well and good. And maybe that’s part of the procedure in repair, but King David is helping us understand a deeper and more powerful method of restoration. It’s not about reformation; it’s about repentance.
The first and required way to fix all bad actions, is to cry to God for mercy.
Listen to verse one. Incline Thine ear, O LORD, and answer me; For I am afflicted and needy.

Help-- the shortest prayer ever uttered, and often the most real. O. Hallesby in his classic book, Prayer, takes the first chapter to its full meaning with the word helplessness. We can only really pray when we know how desperate we are to find the God behind or above the prayer. We cannot simply approach him; we cannot earn our way to him. We have no capacity to gain his awareness or qualities enough to warrant his observation. Everything about our relationship with the Almighty is of grace, and in that grace we stand.

Then verses 2 and 3: O Thou my God, save Thy servant who trusts in Thee.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, For to Thee I cry all day long.
Whatever else is going on in King David’s life in this moment, he knows that God alone is the one who can fix it all up.

Again verse 4: Make glad the soul of Thy servant, For to Thee, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
Do you hear the ‘because’ or ‘for’ in each verse? Why should God listen? Because I am needy. Why should God be gracious to me? Because I cry all day long. What is it about making the soul of the king glad? Because David lifts his soul to the Lord.
I like thinking about the reason behind things. Why do we do what we do on Rosh Hashanah with trumpets and apples? Why do I wear certain clothing and travel certain places? What motivates a Family First senator from Victoria to say and do what he does? Motivations are hard to read, almost impossible, and thus we are left with only actions to evaluate.

But inside us, and in our relationship with the Lord, He knows our deepest thoughts and our considerations. He knows our motivations and as such, we can say, “In the day of my trouble I shall call upon Thee, For Thou wilt answer me.”

It all sums up in verses 12 and 13 with
I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart, And will glorify Thy name forever. For Thy lovingkindness toward me is great, And Thou hast delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
Or the classic codified confession from Moses onward,
Thou, O Lord, art a God merciful and gracious, Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.

Do you know this God about whom David was so convinced? Do you know the mercy, the unfailing love and grace of the God of the Universes who can demand so much, who can cause us to see our darknesses and our dark side, and yet offer to us his unfailing love and comfort?

But you might say, "I don’t believe in God," or "I don’t need a God who demands so much." You might be one who prefers a nice God, a polite God, one who forgives …well, actually one who doesn’t expect much from us, and thus doesn’t need to forgive. But then you will miss it, my friend. Only those who know how painfully far we are from the Holy Lord of all the world (Adon Olam) can enter into the life and pleasure of God. It’s another one of those biblical oddities, that only the weak are strengthened; only the poor are made rich.

You might say, “I don’t believe God is good.” You may have experienced a lot of pain and suffering. You may have endured a lifeless relationship, and can only see God in the players who represented him. We all know about bad priests in Catholic churches and schools who ruined the lives of many under them. Many of our people, experienced in the evils of man’s inhumanity to man, endured the Holocaust in Europe and the rejection of others and think, justifiably, that God is either incompetent to save or evil in his own nature.

When we blame God for the things others do in his name we again miss it. When we cast aspersions on the God who made the world and fail to see our own failings, we amplify our need for him. God is so good, and we who ruin his name, who mock his name, who unjustly shame or pain others, we do him a disservice. God is not mocked. It is we who fail. It is we who need him.

Our Jewish people are the ones who should know this the most. Each year, on Rosh Hashanah, we begin again. We look inside again and cry ‘oy’ at the evils we have done. We ask for forgiveness.

God is good, and ready to forgive.
But we fail to acknowledge him. We fail to cry out of our need for him.
Into that scene came Y’shua. He’s the messiah our forefathers awaited. He’s the one who taught us to admit our sins. He’s the one who takes our sins on himself and bears them himself. He had done no violence, according to the prophet and according to the record of the Bible, there was no deceit in his mouth. And it hurt God in his heart to let Y’shua suffer.

But Y’shua, or as others call him Jesus, chose to bear our suffering. He chose to live our lives and take our pain. He chose to be wounded for us, and bring us to the reality of the forgiving God.

When met with a lame man, lying on his pallet, needing help, Y’shua offered depth of help the man found unexpecting. Each of the synoptics record it, “Matt. 9.5 “For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, and walk’?
Mark 2.9 “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Arise, and take up your pallet and walk’?
Luke 5.23 “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins have been forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?”

To be healed, to be free, to truly live a life of newness in 5770 or any year, Y’shua extended the forgiveness of sins to the man lying on his pallet. That’s what we need. That’s the only way to have a new year. Not in revelry or reformation. But in repentance and the grace that Y’shua brings.

If you’ve never accepted Y’shua as your messiah, as your Saviour, why not do it now? What a great day to be born again, on New Years, and truly start over?

Text of Al Khet (Confession of sins on Yom Kippur)
For the sin which we have committed before You under duress or willingly.
And for the sin which we have committed before You by hard-heartedness.
For the sin which we have committed before You inadvertently.
And for the sin which we have committed before You with an utterance of the lips.
For the sin which we have committed before You with immorality.
And for the sin which we have committed before You openly or secretly.
For the sin which we have committed before You with knowledge and with deceit.
And for the sin which we have committed before You through speech.
For the sin which we have committed before You by deceiving a fellowman.
And for the sin which we have committed before You by improper thoughts.
For the sin which we have committed before You by a gathering of lewdness.
And for the sin which we have committed before You by verbal [insincere] confession.
For the sin which we have committed before You by disrespect for parents and teachers.
And for the sin which we have committed before You intentionally or unintentionally.
For the sin which we have committed before You by using coercion.
And for the sin which we have committed before You by desecrating the Divine Name.
For the sin which we have committed before You by impurity of speech.
And for the sin which we have committed before You by foolish talk.
For the sin which we have committed before You with the evil inclination.
And for the sin which we have committed before You knowingly or unknowingly.
For all these, God of pardon, pardon us, forgive us, atone for us.
For the sin which we have committed before You by false denial and lying.
And for the sin which we have committed before You by a bribe-taking or a bribe-giving hand.
For the sin which we have committed before You by scoffing.
And for the sin which we have committed before You by evil talk [about another].
For the sin which we have committed before You in business dealings.
And for the sin which we have committed before You by eating and drinking.
For the sin which we have committed before You by [taking or giving] interest and by usury.
And for the sin which we have committed before You by a haughty demeanor.
For the sin which we have committed before You by the prattle of our lips.
And for the sin which we have committed before You by a glance of the eye.
For the sin which we have committed before You with proud looks.
And for the sin which we have committed before You with impudence.
For all these, God of pardon, pardon us, forgive us, atone for us.
For the sin which we have committed before You by casting off the yoke [of Heaven].
And for the sin which we have committed before You in passing judgment.
For the sin which we have committed before You by scheming against a fellowman.
And for the sin which we have committed before You by a begrudging eye.
For the sin which we have committed before You by frivolity.
And for the sin which we have committed before You by obduracy.
For the sin which we have committed before You by running to do evil.
And for the sin which we have committed before You by tale-bearing.
For the sin which we have committed before You by swearing in vain.
And for the sin which we have committed before You by causeless hatred.
For the sin which we have committed before You by embezzlement.
And for the sin which we have committed before You by a confused heart.
For all these, God of pardon, pardon us, forgive us, atone for us.
And for the sins for which we are obligated to bring a burnt-offering.
And for the sins for which we are obligated to bring a sin-offering.
And for the sins for which we are obligated to bring a varying offering [according to one's means
And for the sins for which we are obligated to bring a guilt-offering for a certain or doubtful trespass.
And for the sins for which we incur the penalty of lashing for rebelliousness.
And for the sins for which we incur the penalty of forty lashes.
And for the sins for which we incur the penalty of death by the hand of Heaven.
And for the sins for which we incur the penalty of excision and childlessness.

25 August 2009

Questionable release

(Beijing, Scotland, CIA tapes)

China has released two prominent legal activists after representations from the US. The activists are seen as important to the development of rule of law and public policy discussion of problems in Tibet and Xinjiang.

The unexpected release of Ilham Tohti, a Uighur economist and commentator, Xu Zhiyong, a public interest lawyer, and his assistant Zhuang Lu, was met with relief by human rights activists after they had been swept up in a wide political security crackdown.

Over in Scotland, the news about the release of Lockerbie bomber, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, met questioning by foreign press. As a result, Scotland's Parliament has been recalled to discuss the situation. The Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, is expected to defend the decision to free the only man convicted of the 1988 atrocity, which killed 270 people.

Last week he granted compassionate release to the terminally ill Libyan who had served eight years of a life sentence.

Britain is facing growing criticism from many countries, including the US, with its highest military officer saying he was appalled by the decision. Admiral Mike Mullen told CNN that the release of Megrahi was ''obviously a political decision. I was appalled by the decision''.

Sen Joe Lieberman pointed to shocking suggestions by the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, his son, Seif, and the head of the Libyan-British Business Council that the decision was influenced by Britain's interest in exploring for oil in Libya. The director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, has accused Mr MacAskill of making a mockery of the rule of law and giving comfort to terrorists.

But the US has its own problems with questionable releases. CIA interrogators threatened an al Qaeda prisoner with a gun and an electric drill to try to scare him into giving up information, according to a long-concealed inspector-general's report made public on Monday.

The gun and drill were used in two separate interrogation sessions against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, one of the sources said. Al-Nashiri is accused of plotting the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, which left 17 U.S. sailors dead. A federal judge in New York ordered a redacted version of the report released Monday as part of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU. Findings included threatening the murder of a child and the rape of a mother to suspects if they did not cooperate.

Wow, this is revelatory. And shocking. Questionable releases, whether Chinese activists or informing and guilt-bringing reporting or bombers who murdered hundreds of Scottish (and others) citizens…they bring a sense of right and wrong, don’t they?

We think out loud about our own desires and what is right in any situation. And often, if we are honest, we don’t know what we would do if we had the power to adjust things.

Imagine, or remember, some of the wrongs you’ve committed. Imagine someone coming to you and asking if you would like to be freed from the consequences of the wrongs. And then imagine that this person actually released you from the guilt, from the pains, from the suffering of the wrongs you had done.

What would you feel? Tremendous freedom; great satisfaction; awesome pleasure – you would feel many of these, wouldn’t you? You’d jump for joy. You’d at least smile as you walked out of the courtroom or the field or the basement of the wrongs in which you’d been living.

But how would others feel? How would those feel whom you had wronged? How would those affected by your behavior feel in light of the release you had just experienced?

The Jewish new year is fast approaching. In Sydney we will have a service on Friday night, 18 September, to remember and reflect. And to announce to everyone who attends, that God has done the most believable thing—He has paid your penalty and freed you from your sin. He has given you release from the guilt of your sin and made you alive with Him. And all because of Y’shua, the Just One who knows all you have ever done, and yet poured out His blood on the earth to save you from those sins. Awesome pleasure, and yet, undeserving... maybe a bit of guilt about receiving such an offer. How do you feel about this?

Some will say this release is questionable. Some will mock what God has done. But He did it nonetheless. The resultant reality is our freedom. Which would you rather have: the question or the answer?

I’ll choose the answer: freedom in believing in Y’shua. This works for now, for 18 September, for 2009, and into forever.

25 July 2009

Was there a flourishing Palestinian society before 1948

NOT by Bob Mendelsohn, but written by Charles Oren
Tuesday July 21, 2009

Published here

Too many writers on ME conflict base their ideas on the premise that there was a flourishing Arab society in Palestine that was destroyed by the creation of Israel.

However, there were 200,000 Arabs here in 1830, and conditions were very bad, just as in every other part of the Ottoman Empire.

Conditions improved after 1832 when Mohamed Ali permitted infidels to buy land since he wanted European support for his campaign against Turkey. Arabs migrated to Palestine attracted by the prosperity created by Christians building churches, consuls providing law & order and then Jews draining the swamps. There were 600,000 Arabs here when the Mandate started. This grew to 1,200,000 by 1948 due to British policy to encourage Arab immigration so as to thwart Jewish efforts to create a state. Most of these 1.2 m Arabs were new immigrants, 'colonialists' just as the Jews ...... except that we returned to the only land we had ever claimed as ours in 3,000 years. Even the Koran recognises this fact.

There were few Jews here in the 19th and 20th century. However, there were 15 m Jews in the world who had dreamt of Zion for 2,000 years. However, not a single Arab anywhere considered Palestine as his or Holy !

The 1947 partition plan was based on demography. A minority of these 1.2 m Arabs lived in the area allocated to Israel, probably less than 400,000. Of these, 150,000 remained in their homes and became Israeli citizens. Hence, only 250,000 Arabs fled rather than remain under Israeli rule. The others lived in areas allocated to them, and so cannot claim refugee status since they did not flee foreign rule.

And yet, everyone repeats the claim that there were 750,000 Arab refugees in 1948 ....... but ignore the 1 m Jews expelled from Arab states.

No one mentions the populations of the countries involved in the conflict. It can be presumed that today's readers do not know that there were only 600,000 Jews here in 1948 and they had no army or weapons since the Brits had confiscated all Jewish arms.

My own grandchildren cannot grasp this!

There were about 100 m Arabs in the countries around Israel who attacked in 1948. With those odds, it should have taken them only a few weeks to drive all the Jews into the sea.

And everyone accepts that they had a right to attack Israel !

This was a war of aggression that has not yet ended. Israel has a right to defend itself and to expect compensation, in cash and/or territory.

The odds were worse in 1967!

Russia had flooded Egypt and Syria with weapons after the 1956 fiasco while there was still a very effective arms embargo on Israeli.

Israel had grown from 600,000 in 1948 to 3 m in 1967. Homes, jobs etc had to be created for all these people. Just imagine the chaos in any other country if the population suddenly tripled ! No country today is able to create even a few new jobs for their unemployed.

It is an insult to human intelligence to claim that 6 m Jews are a threat to 1,500 m Muslims who are supported by the rest of the world that depends on their oil.

And finally, UN resolutions are treated as if they are based on justice without considering the number of Muslim and Jewish states involved.

23 July 2009

Does the universe have a beginning?

From the internet...

Did the Universe Have a Beginning?

This article is online at

For some Q and A, read

Scientific discoveries revive the ancient belief in a beginning to the universe. If we could rewind the history of the universe, what would we discover about its origin and development? Did it really have a beginning, or was it always there?

The influential ancient philosopher Aristotle stated, “It is impossible that movement should ever come into being or cease to be, for it must always have existed. Nor can time come into being or cease to be.”

Meanwhile, the biblical book of Genesis famously starts off, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

Which is it? Is the universe eternal—has it always been here? Or did it have a start at some point in time—did it have a birthday, so to speak? These are the two schools of thought that have enrolled followers since early times. (Actually, there was also a third school that postulated that the universe existed on the back of a giant sea turtle, but they’re mostly gone now.)

The seesaw of opinion has tipped one way or the other over time. But lately the weight of evidence has all been coming down on the side of the birthday universe.

In the old days when the Christian church dominated Western society, the creation of the universe was taken for granted. But slowly the scientific viewpoint pushed aside creation as well as the Creator. Now many scientists are thinking that the idea of a creation may not have been so far off from the truth as they thought. It’s looking like the universe had a beginning after all.

Remarkably, one of the first scientists to swing the pendulum of opinion back to the birthday-universe position was so entrenched in eternal-universe thinking that at first he refused to believe his own conclusions.


When Albert Einstein developed his revolutionary theory of general relativity in 1916, his mathematical calculations pointed to an extraordinary conclusion—the universe was expanding. And since if you rewind the tape on any expansion, you get back to a point where it started, that meant the universe must have had a beginning too.1

Einstein, however, was like most scientists of his day in that he believed in an eternal universe. Unwilling to accept a beginning to the universe, Einstein fudged the numbers in order to nullify the conclusion that the universe was expanding.

University of California astrophysicist George Smoot explains that Einstein’s main problem with an expanding universe was its implication of a beginning. A beginning pointed to a beginner beyond scientific investigation.2 However, once experimental data proved that the universe really was expanding, Einstein admitted his error, calling it “the biggest blunder of my life.”3

There’s a point worth considering here: if it could happen to Einstein, it could happen to anyone. Rarely is anyone completely objective when it comes to the issue of a Creator. While it is true that religious belief and philosophy became an obstacle for scientific inquiry in the days of Galileo, trends have changed. In the modern era it has at times been a prejudice against the possibility of a cosmic designer that has kept many scientists from honest and open inquiry.

Thankfully, the truth generally comes out in the end and scientists begin to see the light. For Einstein and others, it was something called red shift that started the parade of evidence for a universe with a beginning.


In the late 1920s, the American astronomer Edwin Hubble noticed something unusual as he gazed into the heavens. It wasn’t a new planet or little green men waving at him from Mars; it was something both more tedious and at the same time more thrilling.

Hubble had been spending countless nights at the Mount Wilson Observatory, studying the stars and galaxies and especially the spectrum of color in the light they sent our way. He discovered that the light from most other galaxies was shifted to the red end of the spectrum, which indicated they were moving away from us.

Furthermore, the farther a galaxy was away from us, the more red shifted its light was and, thus, the faster it was moving away from us. The only explanation for all of this was that space itself was expanding, causing all galaxies to move away from each other. In an expanding universe, from any point in space (including our own), it would appear that most stars and galaxies were racing away. And the farther away they were, the faster they would be racing.

There it was in the red shift: proof that Einstein had been right in the first place (before he fudged his formula) and that the universe really was expanding. Proof, in other words, that the universe was not eternal but had a beginning.4

And yet not everyone accepted the proof at first, including a scientist named Sir Fred Hoyle (former Plumian professor of astronomy at Cambridge University and founder of the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge). Ironically, it was Hoyle who originally described the event as a “big bang,” meaning to mock the idea. The name stuck. (According to physics professor Brian Greene, the term “big bang” is actually misleading since there was nothing to explode and no space in which an explosion could take place.)5 But unlike Hoyle, many other scientists began coming over to the side of the newly named theory.

The world’s leading astrophysicist, Stephen Hawking, who has held the esteemed position of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, calls Hubble’s discovery of an expanding universe “one of the great intellectual revolutions of the twentieth century.”6 The discovery that the universe had a beginning has led to a new science called cosmology, which attempts to understand what happened at the origin of the universe, how it works, and what will happen in its future.

The new science led cosmologists to take another look at a seemingly mundane insight from the 19th century, the second law of thermodynamics.


Einstein’s theorems based on his theory of relativity predict that the universe could not have begun without an outside force or Beginner.14 Since Einstein’s theory of relativity ranks as the most exhaustively tested and best proven principle in physics, his conclusion is deemed correct.15

Tests from an array of radio telescopes at the South Pole have confirmed the big bang to a still higher degree of accuracy than ever before.16 Background radiation measurements exceed 99.9% of what had been predicted.17 There are now more than 30 independent confirmations that the universe had a one-time origin.18


In addition to Hubble’s discovery, the second law of thermodynamics also predicts a beginning to the universe. You say you don’t know the second law of thermodynamics? Think again.

Let’s say you come into a room containing me and a bunch of your other pals, and you find a steaming cup of Starbucks coffee on the table. Being the thoughtful individual that you are, you ask, “Does this belong to anyone?”

To which I reply, “It’s been there for the last month.”

Well, you’d know immediately I was wrong or lying (probably lying). Why? Because the coffee wouldn’t still be hot if it had been there for a month; it would be room temperature.

That’s the second law of thermodynamics in action. This law states that everything continually moves from a state of order to disorder and that heat and energy dissipate over time. This is a law that has been verified by proof after scientific proof and has never been shown to be wrong.

Now let’s apply this law to the universe, just as cosmologists have. If the universe were eternal, it would have gone cold and lifeless long ago. The stars would have burned out. Planets would have broken up into clouds of dust. And even the black holes would have ceased vacuuming the universe of unsightly stars and planets.

When you see flaming suns and scorching meteors, in other words, you’re looking at a steaming cup of coffee that over infinite time would have long since gone room temperature. Since the universe is still full of pockets of heat and energy, it cannot be eternal. Who would have thought heat would be such a helpful clue? And that is just the half of it.


There is still another way that the measurement of heat help to prove that the universe is expanding. In the spring of 1964, two researchers at Bell Labs observed a persistent hiss while testing their microwave radiation detector. Regardless of which direction they pointed the antenna, the static was the same. (This is the same static as TV interference. The same static that was supposed to be gone when I paid $150 to have my satellite dish installed.) Those men, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, had discovered what scientists say is the echo from the birth of the universe.7

But how could scientists know for sure that the hiss they were hearing was actually an echo from the beginning of the universe? Mathematicians calculated that heat generated at the moment the universe began would have been enormous beyond comprehension. This heat would have gradually dissipated over the life of the cosmos, leaving only a tiny residual of about 3 degrees Kelvin (-270 degrees C).

Additionally, in order for galaxies to have formed by the explosion needed to have slight variations in the form of waves or ripples.

According to George Smoot, these ripples would result in very slight fluctuations in the predicted temperature and would reveal an identifiable pattern.8 Thus, if the temperatures matched up, the birth of the universe would be scientifically verified. Merely discovering the temperature to be 3 degrees Kelvin would not prove that the universe actually had a beginning, the fluctuations also needed to match.9

But how could we verify fluctuations so subtle?


In 1992, a team of astrophysicists led by Smoot launched the COBE satellite in order to verify the temperatures in space. The satellite would be able to take precise measurements and determine whether fluctuations in temperature existed.

The results stunned the scientific world. Not only was the three-degree temperature confirmed, but more importantly, the profiles of the fluctuations were discovered to be a match with what had been expected.10 Hawking called the discovery “the scientific discovery of the century, if not all time.” Smoot himself excitedly stated to newspaper reporters, “What we have found is evidence for the birth of the universe.”11 He also said, “If you’re religious, it’s like looking at God.”12

Astounded by the news, Ted Koppel began his ABC Nightline television program with an astronomer quoting the first two verses of the Bible. The other special guest, a physicist, immediately added his quote of the third Bible verse: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. … And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:1, 3).13

Evidence like that provided by the COBE satellite raises some intriguing questions, to say the least.

New telescopes such as the infrared Spitzer Space Telescope, launched in 2003, have opened up even bigger windows to our universe. They have prompted astronomer Giovanni Fazio, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, to remark, “We are now able for the first time to lift the cosmic veil that has blocked our view.”19

As a result of the accumulating evidence, the scientific community has long since begun asking questions about origins, such as the following:

• What was there before the big bang?

• Why did the big bang result in a universe enabling life to exist?

• How could everything originate from nothing?

Smoot ponders what was there before the beginning: “Go back further still, beyond the moment of creation—what then? What was there before the big bang? What was there before time began?”20 The same astrophysicist notes that “until the late 1910’s … those who didn’t take Genesis literally had no reason to believe there had been a beginning.”21 The Genesis account of creation and the big bang theory both speak of everything coming from nothing. Suddenly the Bible and science agree (a discovery somewhat embarrassing to materialists). Smoot admits, “There is no doubt that a parallel exists between the big bang as an event and the Christian notion of creation from nothing.”22

The evidence had begun to add up, and some scientists weren’t liking the sum.


Hoyle and other scientists fervently pursued alternative explanations to a one-time origin of the universe. Eventually, however, the evidence showed clearly that the universe had a beginning, and the big bang theory was proclaimed victorious. Ironically, it was evidence from Hoyle’s own research that helped confirm that the universe had a one-time beginning.

A beginning to the universe was like a bad dream come true for materialists who wanted to believe everything had always existed. It brought scientists face to face with the loical conclusions that primary cause must exist. That argument is a simple logical syllogism:

1. Everything that has a beginning had a cause.

2. The universe had a beginning.

3. Therefore, the universe had a cause.

But admitting a cause leads to the next logical question: who or what is the cause?

Think about it for a minute. Since time, space, matter, and motion are all a part of the created universe, then before the beginning it was timeless, spaceless, and motionless.

What can happen spontaneously from this state of affairs? There’s nothing moving, there’s nothing colliding, there’s … well, nothing. Not even the potential for anything to happen.

The fact everything came from nothing has forced scientists to acknowledge that something outside of space and time, something very powerful and with apparent volition, must have acted to bring about the beginning. That is, there must have been an intelligent Designer of the universe. Some might go ahead and use the name God for this Creator.

Well, in certain academic circles, this line of reasoning simply won’t do. Thus it is that many materialists have looked for a way to prove that the universe didn’t have a beginning. Smoot remarks, “Cosmologists have long struggled to avoid this bad dream by seeking explanations of the universe that avoid the necessity of a beginning.”23

Sir Fred Hoyle (he who mockingly coined the term “big bang”) was one scientist who strongly opposed the concept of a beginning for the universe. In 1948 Hermann Bondi and Thomas Gold joined Hoyle in postulating that matter was in a continual state of creation. They called their idea the steady state theory, which was an attempt to show that the universe is eternal after all, even though the evidence had long been trending against such a view. However, the COBE discovery of background radiation was the fatal blow to the steady state theory. 24

Next came the oscillating-universe theory. According to this concept, the universe explodes, contracts, and explodes again, eternally yo-yoing. This would be another way to permit a belief in the eternal existence of the universe. But the physics for this theory didn’t work.

More recently, some scientists, including Hawking, have begun considering the so-called multiverse theory. This theory accepts that our universe is finite, but it suggests that ours is just one of many universes. The whole multi-universe may be eternal, according to this theory, even though our particular universe is not. This theory is covered in more depth in another article in this magazine, but the key point to understand about it right now is that it has no evidence whatsoever to support it.

These theories fit neatly with the philosophy of materialism, whereas a beginning of the universe would raise the obvious question, who was there to start it? Professor Dennis Sciama, Hawking’s supervisor while he was at Cambridge, admits his reasons for supporting the steady state theory: “I was a supporter of the steady state theory, not in the sense that I believed that it had to be true, but in that I found it so attractive I wanted it to be true.”25

An origin of the universe meant materialists were suddenly faced with the questions that threatened their worldview.

Today most cosmologists and physicists accept the big bang theory as the scientific explanation of how our universe began. In fact, scientists believe they can trace the history of the universe all the way back to 10-43 of a second. Prior to that point in the history of our universe, all of our current theories break down and science can see no further back. The very beginning of the universe remains a mystery.

Imagine rewinding the universe back to its beginning, a time when there were no stars. No light, matter, or energy. Not even space or time. Suddenly an enormous explosion erupted from this nothingness at a temperature exceeding a million trillion trillion degrees.26 Time begins along with matter, energy, and space.

When a bomb ejects shrapnel into the air, both the bomb material and the space it blows into have already been there. However, in the beginning of the universe, neither space nor matter existed until the explosion. The space surface of the universe and the newly created matter came into existence.

According to the big bang theory, this explosion launched the entire universe, from the most distant galaxy, to the most colorful nebula, to quasars flashing like beacons, to our own comforting sun and nearby planets, to you and me with our questions about where we came from and what it all means. Since man alone thinks about the meaning and purpose of life, the beginning—and the cause of that beginning—must be fascinating to each one of us.

The verdict is in on the question of whether the universe is eternal or had a beginning. The idea that everything in the cosmos originated out of nothing seems mythical, yet it is now mainstream science.


1. Brian Greene, The Elegant Universe (New York: Vintage, 2000), 81-82.

2. George Smoot and Keay Davidson, Wrinkles in Time (New York: Avon, 1993), 36.

3. Greene, 81-82.

4. Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time (New York: Bantam, 1990), 38-51.

5. Greene, 83.

6. Hawking, 39.

7. Smoot, 80-83.

8. Ibid., 187.

9. Ibid., 240.

10. Ibid., 241.

11. Associated Press, “U.S. Scientists Find a ‘Holy Grail’: Ripples at the Edge of the Universe,” International
Herald Tribune (London), April 24, 1992, 1.

12. Thomas H. Maugh II, “Relics of ‘Big Bang’ Seen for First Time,” Los Angeles Times, April 1992, A1, A30.

13. Nightline with Ted Koppel, ABC, April 25, 1992.

14. Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, 3rd ed. (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2001), 224.

15. Roger Penrose, Shadows of the Mind (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 230.

16. E. M. Leitch et al., “Measurement of Polarization with the Degree Angular Scale Interferometer,” Nature 420 (2002): 772-87; J. M. Kovac et al., “Detection of Polarization in the Cosmic Microwave Background Using DASI,” Nature 420 (2002): 772-87; Matias Zalarriaga, “Background Comes to the Fore,” Nature 420 (2002): 747-48.

17. Gregg Easterbrook, “Before the Big Bang,” U.S. News & World Report special edition, 2003, 16.

18. Hugh Ross, “Big Bang Passes Test,” Connections, Qtr 2, 2003.

19. Paul Recer, “Newest Space Telescope: The Spitzer,” Seattle Post Intelligencer, December 19, 2003, A17.

20. Smoot, 291.

21. Ibid., 30.

22. Ibid., 17.

23. Ibid., 291

24. Ibid. 86.

25. Stephen Hawking, ed., Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time: A Reader’s Companion (New York: Bantam, 1992), 63.

26. Bradford A. Smith, “New Eyes on the Universe,” National Geographic, January 1994, 33.

13 July 2009

Jewish Christians in the Church?

Beth Hatefutsoth is the diaspora museum in Tel Aviv, Israel. The picture's caption reads:

Jews and Jewish-Christians prepare to worship at the Great Synagogue of Antioch, Syria, 4th century. Chrysostom, one of the fathers of the Church, reproves the Christians and demands that they separate from the Jews.

---Diorama, Beth Hatefutsoth, Permanent Exhibition

When I saw this diorama in Israel in 1983, I was amazed. Here was evidence in the 4th century of the reality that so many knock back...Jews for Jesus. Messianic Jews existed then and now, and caused a stir in each.

Rodney Stark makes a big deal, as do many about St John of Antioch, later titled Chrysostom (Golden tongue). According to Wikipedia, During his first two years as a presbyter in Antioch (386-387), Chrysostom denounced Jews and Judaizing Christians in a series of eight sermons delivered to Christians in his congregation who were taking part in Jewish festivals and other Jewish observances.[See Wilken, p.xv, and also "John Chrysostom" in Encyclopedia Judaica] It is disputed whether the main target were specifically Judaizers or Jews in general. His homilies were expressed in the conventional manner, utilizing the uncompromising rhetorical form known as the psogos (Greek: blame).

One of the purposes of these homilies was to prevent Christians from participating in Jewish customs, and thus prevent the perceived erosion of Chrysostom's flock. In his sermons, Chrysostom criticized those "Judaizing Christians", who were participating in Jewish festivals and taking part in other Jewish observances, such as the shabbat, submitted to circumcision and made pilgrimage to Jewish holy places.

Chrysostom claimed that on the shabbats and Jewish festivals synagogues were full of Christians, especially women, who loved the solemnity of the Jewish liturgy, enjoyed listening to the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, and applauded famous preachers in accordance with the contemporary custom.[37] A more recent apologetic theory is that he instead tried to persuade Jewish Christians, who for centuries had kept connections with Jews and Judaism, to choose between Judaism and Christianity. ( Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity. How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries, (Princeton University Press:1997)p.66-67.)

I'm not writing about church antisemitism against Jewish people today. That is abundant and shamefully abundantly clear throughout the centuries. What I'm referencing is church antisemitism against Jewish believers in Jesus today. And in 350 AD and that's not good by any means.

Chrysostom wanted Jewish believers to separate from the historic Jewish community and there are too many Christian pastors who want us to do the same. Quit eating kosher; quit keeping Shabbat; come over to our side. The title of the diorama was "Bear the Cross"... leave Judaism. Be one of us.

Friends, even the word 'Judaize' is a slur word. Judaize would mean to do Jewish things, or to invite others to do the same. It might even mean to "become Jewish." What exactly is wrong with that? The theme in the book of Galatians warrants another word--"legalize", or to 'seek favour with God by means of works' rather than by faith. But to name this action "judaizing" is a demeaning of the people to whom God gave the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Messiah according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 9.4-5)

The Church has been guilty in so many places of demeaning Jewish people, here in Australia, and around the world. God help the church to stop the wrong of St John of Antioch, to stop the wrong of the Spanish Inquisition (which targeted Jewish Christians, along with Islam converts as well), to stop the wrong of these days. Let Jewish believers practice their faith as they desire. Don't make me eat ham; don't discourage my celebrating Rosh Hashanah. Help us focus our practices and life and culture on Messiah Y'shua, the Saviour of the world and King of Kings.

11 July 2009

Jews and Jesus. The Great Divide

Jewish people all over the world are thinking about Jesus in unprecedented numbers, and it's not because they believe in him as messiah and Lord. And it may not be because of godly evangelistic campaigns worldwide. Since the turn of the 20th century Jewish academics and theologians have been revisiting the identity and the work and ministry of the Nazarene.

And how significant is that? Today I was witnessing in Bondi Junction, nearby our book shop in Sydney. And three young chassidim, ultra-orthodox Jewish men, were readying themselves for Shabbat. They were out to share what they believed as was I. One wanted to know if I had wrapped myself with tefillin that morning; another wanted to know why I believed in Jesus. But to even mention Jesus with a bit of honour was a surprise. The third used the derogatory slur "Yoshke" for Jesus and I corrected him. He recanted. He started calling him "Y'shua."

Wow, Orthodox Jewish people using the name Y'shua with honour and respect. I was surprised and delighted.

Last night I went to a lecture delievered by my recent friend Amy-Jill Levine (photo). She and I met last year about this time, and spent some good time discussing the issues of Jewish people and faith in Jesus. She had no problem discussing, she knew the terms, the parables, the words of Jesus and the apostles. And spoke them to me without a blink.

Sure, AJ is an academic. And her field of study and professorship is New Testament at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. So it should come as no surprise, except, wait a minute. AJ attends an Orthodox synagogue in Nashville. She's a faithful Jew. She does not believe in Jesus like I do, and tens of thousands of others of us.

So why the apparent comfort in discussing the issues? Isn't the Jesus of the New Testament the great divider? So how can centrist Jewish people who would radically disagree with our theological conclusions be comfortable in using his name and his parables, like it's a series of poems from Keats or stories from John Grisham.

Donald Hagner wrote about this phenomenon in the 1980s. He posited that the reclamationists, those Jewish academics like Neusner and Flusser and (he didn't know her then) AJ, accepted the ethics of Jesus, as little more than Talmudic Judaism re-tooled. But they refused the eschaton of Jesus, that part of the New Testament which allows him to claim to be the only way to the Father. His claims to be the Messiah. His claims to be the fulfillment of biblical Jewish desire for the consummation of all things.

In the Q and A session last night, a Holocaust survivor, a Mr Goldberg couldn't quite figure out what our lecturer was saying. He chronicled his own story from cheder in Poland to Auschwitz at 16 to learning of his parents' death inside the camps. He was saying he was a sufficiently schooled and real Jew, who although he didn't practice his religion and didn't really believe in God, wondered if AJ was using the parables of Jesus to bring Jews like him to believe in Jesus. Is that so? She denied it. Of course. She made it very clear that she found Jesus to be a serious Jewish teacher, not a liberal Jew, not a Roman-obsessed revolutionary. But not God.

It's a great conversation. It's all about the Great Divider. Hear these two quotes.
John 7.43 So there arose a division in the multitude because of Him.
John 10.19 There arose a division again among the Jews because of these words.
Seems that everywhere the real Jesus went, some believed and some didn't.

And that continued last night in Bondi, and today in Bondi Junction, and among people of good will and ill will, and throughout the world.

So what do you think? Who do you think Jesus is?

25 June 2009

Coverups and Mystery...it's all so secret...tell me on a Sunday

Seymour Sign City Road
Originally uploaded by bobmendo
The secret things; coverups and mystery... and a revelation

This week news presenters and reporters in the US had a go at President Barack Obama over his smoking habits. He in reply admitted that it was a persistent problem, that he had licked it 95% of the time and that he never smoked in front of the children or his family. That sounded good. That sounded honest. What precipitated this was a bunch of obfuscating, dance-around-the-issue answering that he had given only days before. And he had promised his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, that he would quit, if she let him run for president so many years earlier.

What prompted this series of Q-and-A was a major health care bill before Congress just now which includes a serious ban on advertising for young people, so that they never get started on cigarette smoking.

In another secrecy caper, Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina admitted to having a year-long affair with a woman in Argentina. Mr. Sanford said he had taken an unplanned trip to the South American country to recharge after a difficult legislative session in which he battled with lawmakers over accepting a portion of the federal stimulus funding. But that was not true. He went to see his mistress in Buenos Aires. The rising star of the Republican party knocked himself out of future candidacies and future fame in exchange for... a secret affair. If he had only titled it "adultery" rather than "an affair" it might have sounded far worse, but not to worry. His exchange of vocabulary is only the beginning of his troubles.

State Senator John Knotts blew the whistle on Sanford. He began investigating because he was worried about the missing executive, in case of a crisis that required swift decisions and Sanford had left no one in charge. Senator Knotts said that he was content to learn that the governor had been hiking on the Appalachian Trail, and would be coming home Wednesday. But when he learned Wednesday morning that the governor was actually in Argentina, he added: “It all could have been avoided if his staff started out not trying to cover up for him.”

Cover-ups and secrecy. The very word "Watergate" comes to mind. In fact, adding 'gate' to anything gives any secret the same juicy news-cycle rendering. Perhaps Obama will have 'smokinggate' or Sanford his 'Appal-tina-gate'. No matter, someone will spin things nicely, and they will both land on safe 'happily ever after' comfort. At least that's the usual for Dianas and Kennedys and even the US Veep, Joe Biden, after his 1992 plagiarism fiasco. We all forget. We're all human after all.

Mystery surrounds hidden things. Consider the case of Brooklyn's Atlantic Avenue tunnel, closed since the middle of the 19th century, but still holding fascinating tales of German gas production and diaries of presidential assassins. What else lies beneath a major metropolitan area? How about the case of Prime Minister Harold Holt? The Australian Prime Minister Holt vanished in 1967 while swimming off the coast of the state of Victoria. His body was never recovered. Dozens of wild and strange theories about his disappearance quickly developed. Some people believed he committed suicide or faked suicide to live in Switzerland with his lover. Other rumors included a shark attack, a Chinese submarine kidnapping him and a CIA assassination plot.

We love mystery. We watch CSI and The Mentalist, before it was Alfred Hitchcock and Sherlock Holmes books-turned-movies. We want mystery AND we want them solved. Sometimes in 300 pages; more often lately in 55 minutes including commercials.

One of my favourite Bible books is the one ascribed to Daniel, the prophet. He was a young Jewish man, a political prisoner for a time in Babylon (ancient Iraq) who went to what we might call university with three other mates. While in jail, an offer came to interpret a dream. Here are some select passages to highlight what happened:

Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him. Then the king gave orders to call in the magicians, the conjurers, the sorcerers and the Chaldeans, to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. (Chapter 2, verses 1 and 2)

Word got out that Nebuchadnezzar demanded that the interpreter of his dream not only had to interpret, but to reveal the dream. In other words, he had to know both what the king dreamed, but then to interpret what it meant. Daniel got the idea to ask his friends to pray for him.

Dan. 2.18 in order that they might request compassion from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his friends might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.
Dan. 2.19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven;
Dan. 2.27 Daniel answered before the king and said, “As for the mystery about which the king has inquired, neither wise men, conjurers, magicians, nor diviners are able to declare it to the king.
Dan. 2.30 “But as for me, this mystery has not been revealed to me for any wisdom residing in me more than in any other living man, but for the purpose of making the interpretation known to the king, and that you may understand the thoughts of your mind.
Dan. 2.47 The king answered Daniel and said, “Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery.”

Wow, what a heavy, what a day! "Dream-gate" was settled, and Daniel and his friends got seriously rewarded.

Dan. 2.48 Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts, and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon.
Dan. 2.49 And Daniel made request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego over the administration of the province of Babylon, while Daniel was at the king’s court.

The rest of the book of Daniel is pretty remarkable as well. And it takes less time to read than an episode of "Law and Order."

One serious mystery Daniel addressed was the coming of the Messiah. This topic is one of the most interesting and time-consuming secrets of the Jewish Bible.

Here's what Daniel wrote in chapter 9 of his book:

“Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place. So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary." (Chapter 9, verses 24-26)

Let's see if I can break down "Messiah-gate" with some precision.

According to this text, from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem to the coming of the Messiah there will be:
7 + 62 "weeks"= 69 groups of seven years so 7 x 69 = 483 years

For Jewish people, a year is 360 days.

483 years x 360 days in a year= 173,880 days

When was the decree to rebuild Jerusalem?

The decree to rebuild Jerusalem was given on the first day of Nisan, in the 20th year of Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 2:1).
In our Western calendar system (the Julian calendar) that date is 14 March, 445 B.C.E.

The total number of days from 14 March 445 BCE to 6 April 32 CE.: 173,880 days

No wonder Jewish boys don't read this section until they are 30.

No wonder this information is secret.

It appears that the coming of the Messiah, that his very death is predicted with uncanny precision, to fall out in April, during Passover, 32 CE (or 32 AD) The mystery is revealed, a person is going to die (be cut off) from the Jewish people at an exact moment in history, and that will accomplish what has never been done before, "to make atonement for iniquity, to make an end of sin."

Wow, someone is going to die for our sins and bring us to God.

In 32 CE.

In Jerusalem ('the most holy place").

Seems clear to me.

Does it to you? Has the smoke cleared? Has the gate been revealed?

So many more prophecies are out there. The X-Files wondered about the truth "being out there." And now you know. And now you can find out more.

That's good news for you. And for me. And for any humble enough to ask God himself. He won't keep secrets things from you.

Moses told us in Torah: Deut. 29.29 “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons."

Y'shua said it this way, "Ask and it shall be given." (Matthew chapter 7, verse 7) He loves to reveal things to you and to know you, and to be known by you. Want eternal life? It's all a prayer away.