28 December 2010

Pick a little, talk a little

Today's Melbourne Age newspaper reported, "Melbourne's Catholic Archdiocese has failed to announce or fully implement changes requested by Victoria Police to the church's sexual abuse inquiry process, more than a year after serious deficiencies were exposed. The failure has sparked fierce criticism from victim groups and lawyers and comes with police recently launching two separate investigations into sexual abuse involving a serving and a former Victorian priest." (More in The Age here )

I'm pretty upset about any abuse to anyone. The Church, and any group in society has to protect its most vulnerable. Wives, children, widows...the Church needs to be on their side long before it's ever on its own protectionist path. Silence about this is not golden.

Ricky Ponting continues to insist the video umpire was wrong not to award Australia the wicket of Kevin Pietersen in the Boxing Day Test incident that prompted his $5400 fine yesterday. The Australian captain this morning apologised for his prolonged complaints to on-field umpires Aleem Dar and Tony Hill but justified his challenging of the verdict of video-umpire Marais Erasmus, insisting Pietersen had inside-edged a delivery from Ryan Harris on day two at the MCG.

Ricky admitted to Simon O'Donnell on The Cricket Show just now that the justice due him was right. He admitted to talking too long to the field umpires.

As I read these stories this morning, immediately I thought of The Music Man and this great countersinging. Enjoy the video and then I have a couple more comments.

Meredith Wilson in "Music Man" and the ladies singing "Pick a little/ talk a little"

New Year Resolution? Let's not talk too much. Let's not talk too little. Listen to this advise from God's Word.
The Bible in Proverbs chapter 14 verse 23 says, " In all labor there is profit, But mere talk leads only to poverty." Smart advise.
Solomon also said in Proverbs 10.19 "When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise."
I like the king's advise reported in Ecclesiastes 5.2 "Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few."

The Bible is full of wisdom about speech and about conversations.
Enough said.

25 December 2010


Photo of Adoration of Magi by Murillo.

The New York Times this morning reports about Iraqi Christians living in terror. Many are fleeing. The official numbers of Christians are down from 1.4 million (in a population of 30 million in country) to 500,000. What prompts this? The siege and bombing of a church in October during a service... and now some mis-information from a church in Egypt with Islamic threats.

The article is in full below:

Last night in Sydney, at our little Anglican parish, the assistant minister shared about a couple contrasts. One between a set of wise men viz other wisdom and the other contrast between two kings, Y'shua and Herod. I liked his sermon and the information.

One of his minor points was that the wise men of the story, the magi (See Matthew chapter 2 in the Bible) were not necessarily wise or royal men at all, but that they were prominent men who took a journey of hope.

Here's what it says, "Now after Jesus was (A)born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of (B)Herod the king, [a]magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, "Where is He who has been born (C)King of the Jews? For we saw (D)His star in the east and have come to worship Him."

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.

They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet (Micah chapter 5): AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH,ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH;FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.'"

Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time (H)the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him." After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way. (Matthew 2.1-12)

Some say, the magi were a caste of wise men specializing in astronomy, astrology, and natural science.

The one thing everyone agrees on is that they were Oriental. They were 'from the east.' Probably China or Iran or Iraq. What were these Gentile kings or wise men or astrologers doing, looking for the king of the Jews? I believe they were looking for the one whose star they saw, and for whom they had already been hoping. Why were they looking for something Jewish?

Again I look to the history of the Jewish people. Daniel the prophet and Esther the queen (famed heroine of a book of the Bible) both served in The East for a season of their lives. And Daniel had taught them about the coming Messiah.

Wikipedia reports, "The Magi are popularly referred to as wise men and kings. The word Magi is a Latinization of the plural of the Greek word magos (μαγος pl. μαγοι), itself from Old Persian maguŝ from the Avestan magâunô, i.e. the religious caste into which Zoroaster was born, (see Yasna 33.7:' ýâ sruyê parê magâunô ' = ' so I can be heard beyond Magi '). The term refers to the priestly caste of Zoroastrianism (Kurdish religion).[5] As part of their religion, these priests paid particular attention to the stars, and gained an international reputation for astrology, which was at that time highly regarded as a science.[6] Their religious practices and use of astrology caused derivatives of the term Magi to be applied to the occult in general and led to the English term magic. Translated in the King James Version as wise men, the same translation is applied to the wise men led by Daniel of earlier Hebrew Scriptures (Daniel 2:48). The same word is given as sorcerer and sorcery when describing "Elymas the sorcerer" in Acts 13:6-11, and Simon Magus, considered a heretic by the early Church, in Acts 8:9-13."

The wisdom of Daniel is well known. He served in 605 - 530 BCE. And he served in Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar and then when the Persians conquered Babylon about 539 BCE he was still there. Either way his ministry center was in the East.

Traditionally the view developed that the wise men were Babylonian or Persians or Jews from Yemen as the Makrebs or kings of Yemen then were Jews, a view held for example by John Chrysostom. The majority belief was they were Gentiles from Babylon, which was the centre of Zurvanism, and hence astrology, at the time;

These Gentiles from the Orient, had a good orientation. They had been taught about God and about His saving the people of the world by Daniel and/or Esther. They knew what they were hunting and they searched until they found him. And in the finding of Y'shua, they found new orientation.

Dictionary: Orientation: –noun
1. the act or process of orienting.
2. the state of being oriented.
3. an introduction, as to guide one in adjusting to new surroundings, employment, activity, or the like: New employees receive two days of orientation.
4. Psychology, Psychiatry . the ability to locate oneself in one's environment with reference to time, place, and people.
5. one's position in relation to true north, to points on the compass, or to a specific place or object.
6. the ascertainment of one's true position, as in a novel situation, with respect to attitudes, judgments, etc.
7.Chemistry .a. the relative positions of certain atoms or groups, especially in aromatic compounds.
b. the determination of the position of substituted atoms or groups in a compound.

You too can find orientation, your own position in the community wherever you live. You too can find orientation, stability, life, centering, from finding yourself in relation to the Messiah, that little baby born in Bethlehem, who lived and taught and healed and then was murdered by the Romans on a cross and rose from the dead, some 3 decades later.

By putting your faith in Him, as the wise men did, you can have eternal life and orientation, no matter what your circumstances, and no matter your community, or their hostility.

God help the Iraqi Christians to find peace.
God help the Egyptian Christians to find peace.
God, help all of us to find peace viz the Prince of Peace, Y'shua, born in a manger, died for our sins. Coming soon again.

Merry Messiah-mas!


The Jewish custom of fixing the direction of prayer and orienting synagogues (Mizrah) influenced Christianity during its formative years. In early Christianity, it was customary to pray facing toward the Holy Land. The orientation of churches toward the east has persevered until the present day in a number of Christian denominations.
The orientation of churches is the architectural feature of facing ("orienting") churches towards the east (Latin: oriens).
The orientation of churches towards the east confused some people into seeing Christianity as being sun worshiping


Article from NY Times NY here
BAGHDAD — As they gathered to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the congregation here first contemplated death, represented by a spare Christmas tree decked with paper stars, each bearing a photograph of a member of a nearby church killed in a siege by Islamic militants in October.

The congregants on Friday night were fewer than 100, in a sanctuary built for four or five times as many. But they were determined. This year, even more than in the past, Iraqi’s dwindling Christian minority had reasons to stay home for Christmas.

“Yes, we are threatened, but we will not stop praying,” the Rev. Meyassr al-Qaspotros told the Christmas Eve crowd at the Sacred Church of Jesus, a Chaldean Catholic church. “We do not want to leave the country because we will leave an empty space.”

He added: “Be careful not to hate the ones killing us because they know not what they are doing. God forgive them.”

Throughout Iraq, churches canceled or toned down Christmas observances this year, both in response to threats of violence and in honor of the nearly 60 Christians killed in October, when militants stormed a Syrian Catholic church and blew themselves up. Since the massacre, more than a thousand Christian families have fled Baghdad for the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq, with others going to Jordan or Syria or Turkey. Though the exact size of Iraq’s Christian population is unclear, by some estimates it has fallen to about 500,000 from a high of 1.4 million before the American-led invasion of 2003. Iraq’s total population is about 30 million. This week, a new threat appeared on a Web site that said it represented the Islamic State of Iraq, a militant group that claimed responsibility for the October church siege. The Web site referred to a church in Egypt that it said was holding two women because they had converted to Islam, and vowed more carnage. “We swear to God, if there are only two of us left,” the text read, “one of the two will keep fighting you.”

Churches in Kirkuk, Mosul and Basra canceled or curtailed services for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and warned congregations not to hold parties or mount displays. In Baghdad, decorations were seen in stores, but many churches scaled back or held only prayer sessions.

While Our Lady of Salvation, the church attacked in October, was among those that canceled services for Christmas Eve, it planned to hold services on Saturday. The Epiphany Dominican Convent canceled midnight Mass and then early Mass on Christmas morning so worshipers could avoid risky travel at vulnerable times. During the week, the church moved one Mass to a nuns’ convent, so the nuns would not have to travel in religious dress.

“People are lost,” said the Rev. Rami Simon, one of five brothers at the convent. “They don’t know where they live now. Is this Iraq?”

For those who dare to attend services, he said: “I say, you must accept to live like the first Christians. They celebrated in a cave and no one knew about it. So we are not the first to live it.”

But he added: “If I wasn’t a priest I would not stay one minute in Iraq. As a priest I find myself a missionary in my country. And some stay because we are here.”

At the Sacred Church of Jesus, attendance has dropped by half since October, Father Qaspotros said. When people tell him they are afraid to come to church, he said: “I tell them, You are not supposed to be afraid. You are supposed to connect with God, and death is not the last step. If we die, we survive for God.”

For Faez Shakur, 25, who attended Father Qaspotros’s service on Christmas Eve, this was the message he took away. “Whenever there is disaster,” he said, “it means a new day, a new life.” When he saw the tree decorated with the faces of the dead, he cried, he said. But he was where he belonged, he said. “We don’t have anything else,” he said, “just to pray and continue.”

23 December 2010

Computers really do tell us what to do

I found this review (below) from a book I read in the 1960s. The book entitled Colossus by DF Jones, featured the first computer [used in WW2] which ends up dominating the world. [More on that computer below] Back in the 1960s people used mail and spreadsheets and designed artwork, all by hand. Mysteriously there was an electronic possibility called the computer, then only known to governments, military and mathematical and engineering university students and faculty. I learned computers at the University of Kansas, and taught computers in the 1970s in a high school outside Kansas City. Then it was Fortran and Cobol and BASIC languages and a bit of batch work that would take hours to formulate and moments to execute. It was all so unknown.

What prompted my recall of this book today was an online article in the New York Times. Found here The article "Wall Street Computers Read the News, and Trade on It" was written today by GRAHAM BOWLEY.

In the article Bowley reports, "Math-loving traders are using powerful computers to speed-read news reports, editorials, company Web sites, blog posts and even Twitter messages — and then letting the machines decide what it all means for the markets. The development goes far beyond standard digital fare like most-read and e-mailed lists. In some cases, the computers are actually parsing writers’ words, sentence structure, even the odd emoticon."

And my mind for some reason immediately flashed back to Colossus. And control. And our desire for things to 'be right,' to be fixed, no matter the cost. So some yielded to the computer to solve things. Some yield today to governments or society or family or whatever to decide, when the decision continues to remain theirs.

Read the review and then I'll have a few more comments.

"Even more relevent today, the 60's SF novel COLOSSUS is a dark, wonderfully realized intellectual horror story, as well as a much-deserved slap at both technocrats who feel that the problems of human nature can and will be solved by devices completely lacking in human nature, and fuzzy-brained, romantic, philosophical purists who believe they can draw a line between themselves and The System (which, in this case, is named Colossus-Guardian), "dropping out" and heading for the hills when things go bad. In COLOSSUS, Jones offers no slick way out; he has provided no hills for the isolationists or the technocrats to head for. Both of these philosophies, which seem to have morphed and grown in popularity in the last generation, fall victim to the same kind of fantasy: personal responsibility for the human condition can be shirked by the individual and transferred to someone -- in this case, something -- else.

Jones's novel takes the position that the worst thing that can happen to you is to have an idle wish granted. In the 1960's, it was World Peace and the end of the Political Cold War; today it is World Harmony and the end of Racial and Ethnic Strife -- a different board, but the same game, and the same players and pieces. By transferring all personal responsibility for the fate of mankind to a highly powerful, completely logical computer-complex, humanity finds out that in giving up its responsibility for the problems of hunger, war, crime and the rest of the perpetual litany of complaints, it has also given up its power to effect and control the solutions to those problems. The Draconian computer straps Humanity down on a Procrustian bed, and dispassionately proceeds to stretch and cut with the insensitive logic (and dark humor bordering on political and social obscenity) of a fairy-tale ogre.

Existentialists -- Sartre, Ortega y Gasset, Camus and others -- argue that what makes man MAN is the ability to make himself, to respond to the brute facts of the world in ways not determined by the past, or one's own lock-step habits and past traditions. In the 60's, humanity faced destruction, not because of the mechanical weapons built by competing super-powers, but by the mechanical behavior of the humans (from president or premier down to soldier or store clerk) comprising those powers. Thirty years later [this review must be a decade old], mankind marches to a different but no less mechanical drummer, individual people giving up their personal judgment in favor of membership in racial, ethnic and cultural enclaves, governed by unyielding rules and codes and principles. Not only are these rules of "human" behavior as predetermined and rigid and inflexible as anything a computer could come up with, they even take away the one freedom offered by the Cold War: defection; membership in socio-political groups these days is predetermined as well. Perhaps, with the right programming, it is time for Colossus -- who is not merely a physical machine, but the embodiment of the harshest philosophy of life imaginable -- to come back and "get things organized". We are as tempted by cruel and inhuman solutions today as we were a generation ago. But before making this choice -- the last choice one can ever make is to give up one's duty to make choices -- today's generation should read this book. And stop. And think. For itself." (END OF REVIEW: found on google search here

So who is responsible? Who will fix things?

Moishe Rosen wrote a little book over a decade ago entitled, "The universe is broken; who on earth can fix it?" I guess that question is begged when we ponder the notion of brokenness and responsibility. We look for fixing. We look for repair in so much of life. And then we know that we are the ones who have to fix things, around the house, at the office, in our shop front. And yet...

Is there something more than physical repair? Is there a spiritual dimension out there? Is there reality that we cannot see? And if so, is it broken as well? And if so, who can fix it?

DF Jones makes us ponder our own responsibility well in "Colossus."
Rosen makes us ponder our own responsibility well to yield to forces outside us in the heavenlies in "Universe."

Maybe this will help you understand Christmas. It's a story, to be sure, of angels and shepherds and wise men and virgin and Bethlehem in Judea so long ago. There were no Santa Claus or reindeer in the original. There was no shopping. There were no malls. It was Jewish, in the land of Israel.

God looked at our human condition, separate from Him, sick in our own devices to handle and manhandle things, and yet failing so miserably in the simplest situations of getting along. Who can fix it?

And in His timing and kindness, God sent Y'shua [some use his English name "Jesus."] as a baby, to grow, to learn, to develop, to fit in and yet never fit in, to teach, to do miracles, to heal, to explain how heaven and only heaven, had all the answers to the mysteries of life. Only in relationship with God and specifically through him, Y'shua taught, was there life and abundant life at that.

Our problems were not technological. Our problems were social, yes, but more basic than that. They were spiritual and we had cut ourselves off from relationship with God by our sin. Our willful sin and rejecting of God and His Kingdom. Ouch.

No Colossus could fix that. Only Y'shua could. And He did when He died on a cross and bore our sin, our penalty in death, and then rose from the dead on the 3rd day.

The New York Times can tell us that computers have a mind, or a mind of their own, but our responsibility is to repent, to turn from our sin, to give our lives to Y'shua and turn and help the planet to get better.

The results in your own life will be colossal.

Merry Christmas!


Wikipedia reports, "Dennis Feltham Jones (1917 – 1981) was a British science fiction author who wrote under the byline D.F. Jones. He was a naval commander in World War II and lived in Cornwall.

His novel, Colossus, about a defence super computer which uses its control over nuclear weapons to subjugate mankind, was filmed as Colossus: The Forbin Project."


The Colossus machines were electronic computing devices used by British codebreakers to help read encrypted German messages during World War II. These were the world's first programmable, digital, electronic, computing devices. They used vacuum tubes (thermionic valves) to perform the calculations.

22 December 2010

12 days of Christmas...the back story

From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics.

It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.

-The partridge in a pear tree was the Messiah Y'shua. (Whose birth is the centre of this day)
-Two turtle doves were the Older and Newer Testaments (the Whole Bible). (which testify of the true faith)
-Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love. (See the chapter in the Bible: 1 Corinthians 13.)
-The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John. (calling for our response in faith)
-The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Pentateuch, the first five books of the Older Testament.
-The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation. (on which lots of things were laid!)
-Seven swans a-swimming are the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit--
Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy. (see Romans 12)
-The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes. (Found in the Bible in Matthew chapter 5: People who are poor in spirit, those who mourn, the Gentle, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake)
-Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit--(Found in the Bible in Galatians chapter 5)
Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.
-The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments. (Found in the Bible in Exodus chapter 20)
-The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples. (Without Judas, who betrayed Y'shua for 30 pieces of silver)
-The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.
for a one-by-one, detailed explanation of the Creed see my lessons here: Apostles Creed It's the lessons 1-12. But you are welcome to read more and more... of course.

Merry Messiah-mas!

17 December 2010

A Social Network Christmas

1 in 7 people on the planet are on Facebook.
Not very many really know the Christmas story.
But put this on, listen carefully, and then you will both understand Facebook and Messiah-mas.

Good work Igniter!

15 December 2010

Celebrit-ism and cashing in on Oprah

Walter Cronkite was the newsman who brought me evening news when I was a child. Every weekday at 5:30 pm, after the school day faded into afternoon frivolity, Hebrew classes or quick school studies, I stopped to watch the CBS evening news with this icon of American journalism. We found out about international and national news from this trusted man. Never a whimsical sort, and always full of information that seemed reliable. That was news.

That, however, is not the way things are done anymore. Katie Couric, formerly of the NBC Today show, joined CBS and reads the news nightly. Her perky style and loyal following on the morning show gave CBS executives great hope that she would bring a boost in the ratings to the tired CBS program. That worked for a while, and whatever the numbers are today, this spoke to me those years ago when Katie jumped ship. And now things are even clearer.

I live in Sydney, home for the last 12 days of Oprahmania. I'm weary. It's almost like a hangover from the massive explosive larger-than-life consumption by the media and by the public of this icon of American daytime television. I wrote a previous blog about Oprah. (See it here ) But today I'm thinking wider and further. It's about celebrities and our inordinate voyeuristic demand for more and more information about people with whom we have no real relationship.

I call it celebritism. Any ism is weak, to be sure, and like Moishe Rosen used to say, the only 'ism I believe in, is nepotism. But whimsy aside, as a society, driven by whatever weakens us or by whoever is leading us, we now demand a person of beauty rather than substance. We are looking for someone we like more than someone we trust. Perhaps this changed in the US in 1960 when John Kennedy looked better on national television debates than his opponent Richard Nixon. Ideas like medicine seem to be more consumable if dressed up in something we like. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

Back to Oprahism. This phenomenon in Australia cost the Aussie taxpayer a little over 5 million dollars. (Some in the US will ask "Aussie or US?" And today we are at parity, so stop asking that question!) Wow, 5 million to get someone to our shores. No one has paid me to visit their country. Ah, but I'm not going to bring 302 other tourists and give away Western Australia necklaces to each guest on my show. I'm not going to be seen by 40 million Americans today on my daily show. And when Oprah's show is seen in January, worldwide, they say the return on investment from the small cost of 5 million dollars will be more publicity than any Australian tourism office has ever spent.

What drives this? The cult of personality. The cult of celebrity. Newscasts nowadays feature entertainment news. But this is rarely about the actual shows that are playing. It's usually gossip information about who is breaking up or sleeping with whom. Today Andy Lee and Megan Gale broke up. See, that's entertainment news.

Last month, Australia paid 3 million dollars to get Tiger Woods to play a golf tournament in Melbourne. He didn't win, although he did well, but cashing in on Oprah or Tiger or whoever, it's all about the celebritism that is running amuck in our society.

So how do we fix it? Admit that we care for real stuff, character traits like honesty and loyalty. Demand of yourself to look at things that matter, in the long run, like your family, and poetry, like trees and ocean, those birds that sing each morning. Ask of yourself to be faithful and kind, no matter who gives you a necklace. Try to help the poor and needy. Care more about those who cannot pay you back.

Seems too 'goody-goody'? I think not.

14 December 2010

Israeli causes panic in New Zealand

A ferryboat captain called police after spotting a man described as wearing "boxes" with "wires taped to his leg and forehead."

An Israeli tourist visiting New Zealand caused a minor panic on a New Zealand ferry on Sunday after the captain reported to police that a passenger was carrying a "suspicious article," NZTV reported.

The incident happened on Sunday as the Interislander ferry Kaitaki sailed across the Cook Strait from Wellington to Picton. Some media in New Zealand even reported a hostage situation aboard the ferry, even though the passenger was cooperative with police, according to the report.

The man was described as wearing what appeared to be "boxes" with "wires taped" to his body. "One individuals had two boxes attached, one box taped to his leg and one box seemingly taped to his forehead," a transportation services spokesman was quoted as saying in the report.

Jewish websites described the man as having worn his tefillin (phylacteries) on the morning ferry voyage.

He was stopped by police at the ferry's destination after it finished crossing the Cook Strait and was released by the police without being charged.

Armed police reportedly forced the man and a companion to the floor after the ferry docked at Picton on South Island.

New Zealand race relations commissioner Joris de Bres said the police response was "unfortunate" and showed "an exaggerated fear of terrorism" in the country. "It's just a reminder we ought to pause and think before we jump to conclusions," he told the Dominion Post.

Kevin Ramshaw, of the ferry operator Kiwirail, told news agency NZPA that the captain had followed normal procedures by alerting police to a possible threat.

"One individual had two boxes attached, one box taped to his leg and one box seemingly taped to his forehead," he said. "There were what seemed to be wires attached to them," he added.

Mr Ramshaw said the 750 passengers on the ferry were "probably" not aware of the alert. "Staff felt the better thing to do was observe and stay away," he said.

Phylacteries - called tefillin in Hebrew - are two small boxes of black leather with straps attached to them.

Observant Jewish men place one box on their head and tie the other to their arm as part of their morning prayers.

In January a US Airways flight bound for Kentucky from New York was diverted to Philadelphia after a young Jewish man's phylacteries triggered a bomb scare.

11 December 2010

Build bridge, then cross it

Step one: Develop Design
Step two: Gather materials
Step three: Gather helpers
Step four: Build bridge

For many folks, that's enough. They have noted a great gulf and they want to repair the separation. The chasm is a hindrance to relationships and they want that hindrance removed. I say, good for them!

Those who know about my life or things about which I write will know that bridge building in religious terms is often related to people on apparently opposite sides of a particular issue. In my world of Jews for Jesus, it's usually related to those who are labelled Jewish and those who are labelled Christian. Of course, I never know on which side of the proverbial fence people would want me to reside. But that's for another blog.

The Great Divide of Jewish and Christian dialogue is a function of ruined relationships over nearly two millenia of religious conflict and warring. The bloodshed throughout history of one religious mob taking on the religion and the leadership of another is enough to fill Lake Victoria. Religion is often the cause of wars, but again that's not the topic of my blog today.

Today I'm writing about the 'dialogue' movement within Christendom which seeks to (re)build relationships with Jewish people and to build bridges of peace between peoples of good will on 'both sides.'

I'm all in favor of people making amends. I'm keen for those who damage others to make restitution. I'm happy for a handshake from people rather than a sword or a knife, a grin rather than a gun. Who wouldn't?

Those people who work for reconciliation and peace, who spend energy to work in committee of Christians and Jews, who want people of good will to extend that to one another, certainly have my attention and respect. After all, there is much we can learn from each other. And who is to say that 'our version' of the conversation or history is necessarily accurate anyway?

That said, I know some who are more content to build a bridge than to cross it. I guess what bothers me at times is finding believers in Y'shua, real believers, who really believe in the real Messiah, who are reluctant or reticent or resistant to sharing that faith with Jewish people, because... well for many reasons, like 1) all the Jews have suffered, 2) I have not earned that right or 3) I may not be right in the end. Everyone has a bit of truth.

Brothers and sisters, let's work to be at peace with all people. Let's build bridges of peace. And then go ahead, have some chutzpah and cross that bridge... share the faith, explain what you believe about your own sinfulness, your own redemption that Y'shua bought for you on the cross. How He rose from the dead and is returning soon to gather all His to Himself. Go on, cross that bridge, ok?

05 December 2010

WikiWhispers and Truth telling

Once again I'm happy to report on reporting and the desire of people to know truth. Of note this week is the chase for "Catch me if you can" Julian Assange. The Sydney Morning Herald this morning reported that the hiding Aussie is not welcome back in his native Australia. He said in a live Q and A session yesterday 'However … the Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, have made it clear that not only is my return impossible but they are actively working to assist the United States government in its attacks on myself and our people.''

Alas, he still calls Australia 'home' but is not welcome. What's the problem?

Something about 250,000 documents that were classified as private, or top secret were leaked via Assange's website Wikileaks. The WikiLeaks drop has caused enormous diplomatic problems for the US, with Senator Clinton describing it as ''an attack on the world''. Some senior US politicians have called for Mr Assange's arrest as a terrorist; others for his execution.

Mr Assange said on The Guardian website that he had stepped up security around his hiding place following threats.

Terrorism, if I understand it, is about the disruption of freedom and seeking to make people look over their shoulders at ghosts. It's living in fear. Whether someone is chasing or not. Is what Assange did causing such? The idea that private and top secret memoranda could be tracked and disclosed doesn't make me confident in the privacy laws of any country.

Something else is going on, though. In many western countries a 'freedom of information' act came into being over the last few decades. Check out the Australian law or more particularly the Victorian act . This one from the USA was signed into law in 1966!

We long to know, real truth, not what is being fed us by the media or by the government or by our parents or... Society's information must be corroborated in such a way that we can really honestly trust what is being said. Something in our human nature longs for truth. Almost Truth.

The Russian language allows for a difference between truth and Truth. You might know the Soviet newspaper Pravda. Compare the other word for truth, "istina." Now these two words mean "truth", but there's a slight difference in meaning. 'Istina' is a great deal more lofty or elevated than 'pravda'. In sentences like "Neo you're the One because you know the Truth" or "the Truth is out there" russians would use 'istina'. Most would agree that 'pravda' is neutral. it's used in phrases like "you must tell me the truth.'

So when we ache for information ("People want to know"), we evidence something inherent in humanity to know. And there's something deeper than simple information. It's to know God. Truly. That's the basic human desire. To know and to be known. It's called relationship.

God wants to relate to us, personally, and truly. Istina. That's more than facts; it's life eternal. Y'shua said, (John 17.3) “And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." That's istina! It's deep and personal. That's the longing of everyone, for more than leaked documents. It's for the poured out life of the Almighty.

What about you. Longing to know? Ask God who Y'shua is, and listen, "hear o Israel." You will be surprised at what you hear!

For more philosophy on this read this website Philosophy of Truth.

02 December 2010

Look Who's Coming!

The Big O could be a slur if she were still a large woman, but the larger-than-life appearances of Oprah Winfrey to Australia will leave her 'Big O' all over Sydney beginning in just 13 days. Amazing how much global awareness is centering on this American fixture of Daytime television. The Oprah Winfrey Show will be filmed for 2 days running at the iconic Sydney Opera House. New South Wales premier Kristina Kenneally said, ""We are delighted that The Oprah Winfrey Show has chosen NSW as the location for their ultimate adventure and Sydney's most famous icon will become known by Oprah show fans around the world as the Sydney Oprah House." Oy.

It's not the 300 fans whom Oprah is bringing with her that is causing all the chaos. It's the millions of loyal fans to the show and the generated income for tourism which is making us give up so much of our traffic ease and convenience to welcome the Queen of US Daytime TV to our shores. Macquarie Street will be closed between Albert Street and the Opera House between 6am and 11pm, while Albert Street between Phillip and Macquarie Streetss will be closed eastbound from 2am to 11pm on 14 December. There is talk about the Big O adorning our other icon, the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Many Sydney children are more concerned about Santa Claus making his way to their chimney in 3 weeks to deliver presents.

Some 60,000 Melbourne fans last night were thrilled with Bono's U2 and their 360 show. Who else is coming to Australia in December? Jimmy Buffett, Golfer John Daly and his wild Aussie flag outfit are out on the links at The Lakes Golf Course this morning playing in the Australian Open. Erratic as ever, he bogeyed two and birdied four of the first 8 holes he played today. Entertaining? You betcha!

The D25 tour is Australia-bound. Detroit techno juggernaut is 100-percent coming to Sydney and Melbourne on the weekend of 10 and 11 December.

I guess there is a lot to feel excited about. Some call this 'the silly season.' I think there is a lot of opportunity to remember who was the most important visitor who came to town.

Not to Sydney or Melbourne, but to a little village about 14,000 km from us in the Oprah-invasion town. The village? Bethlehem. The time? About 2000 years ago. The reason? To save the world from sin. What? Sin?

Yes, the problem was not "The Big O" but "The Big I." Living for oneself, being more concerned about me, myself and I. Being self-consumed and disregarding the plights of the other guys. That was the problem in those days. Can you imagine that things have gotten any better in the world of personal computers, iPods with personal speakers, privacy laws and larger-than-my-neighbour's privacy fences? The world has gone mad with me-ism, and The Big I is the cause.

Worse than that, we have sinned against God. By disregarding him and living for ourselves. Shame.

How to overcome that?

I suppose noting how selfish we are is the first step.
Admitting we cannot personally fix the problem is the second and most significant step.
Looking outside ourselves to God, as He is the author of Life, and the One who gave His only Son to forgive us of our sins...that's the hardest step. And yet, that's the one which will free us to live outside the silly season. He will give us reason to care about others and the strength to do so.

Y'shua (some call him Jesus Christ) is the Jewish Messiah and the Saviour of the world. He will overcome your sin, and give you new life. That's better than a 360; that's a 180!

And He not only came to Bethlehem those two millenia ago. He comes to each person, to each hamlet and village and town to you ... by His Holy Spirit... to give you eternal life. Now, that's a visitor you want to welcome. That's The visitor you NEED to welcome.

God rest ye, merry, gentlemen, let nothing you dismay.
Remember Christ (Y'shua) our Saviour was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan's power
When we were gone astray!

Tidings of comfort and joy.

Merry Messiah-mas!

For more: read Oprah's protection ring

01 December 2010

What about Bob: The Life Story of a Jew for Jesus

Now the 12 minute version of my personal story of faith. Hope you enjoy!

A bit of photoshop fun

Originally uploaded by bobmendo
What makes Hanukkah so fun is the latkes and the doughnuts and the dreidels and today, a bit of photo humor. I hope you smile as you find the menorah in the stripes and remember that God does miracles.

Even though the zebra has been photoshopped, God really does and did miracles for the Jewish people at this time of year. In about 168 BCE, the Syrian Greeks were having battles with the Ptolemies of Egypt. Their battlefield? What we know today as the land of Israel. A football pitch if you will, with the likes of Antiochus Epiphanes leading the charge.

One day a crew of the Greek king slaughtered a pig in the sacred Temple of the Jewish people in Jerusalem. That made a lot of Jewish people upset and over in Modi'in, a small village about 30 km from Jerusalem.

Here's the rundown from Wikipedia. (Seems like wiki everything is in our news each day): From the Hebrew word for "dedication" or "consecration", Hanukkah marks the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem (Second Temple) after its desecration by the forces of the King of Syria Antiochus IV Epiphanes and commemorates the "miracle of the container of oil". According to the Talmud, at the re-dedication following the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucid Empire, there was only enough consecrated olive oil to fuel the eternal flame in the Temple for one day. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight days, which was the length of time it took to press, prepare and consecrate fresh olive oil.

Hanukkah is also mentioned in 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees. The first states: "For eight days they celebrated the re-dedication of the altar. Then Judah and his brothers and the entire congregation of Israel decreed that the days of the re-dedication... should be observed... every year... for eight days. (1 Mac. 4:56–59)" According to 2 Maccabees, "the Jews celebrated joyfully for eight days as on the feast of Booths."

I'm of the opinion that Hanukkah was originally the celebration fo the Feast of Booths, which the warriors were not able to celebrate that year since they were at war. That's the only 8 day holiday mentioned in the Tenach (The Older Testament).

Even so, Hanukkah is a lot of fun. We light lights, eat foods drenched in oil and spin tops called dreidels. At our book shop in Bondi Junction, we are selling candles and dreidels and giving away Bibles and hoping for more and more folks to ponder how to dedicate themselves to the Living God each day, even today.

Look, the number one miracle of Hanukkah was not oil, but the victory of the few, the Maccabees over the powerful Greek army of Antiochus. It's David vs Goliath again and we win again. That's not outsmarting, that's not being clever, it's military conquest and that's honestly a miracle.

And God still does miracles these days.

He saves people from disease and distress. He brings hope where there is honestly no reason to hope. And mostly He saves souls, those who trust in Him for their eternity, by putting their faith in Y'shua. He's the One who died for our sins and rose from the dead. That itself was a miracle and He continues to offer us all new life.

That's not trick photography either. It's the real thing.

Hanukkah s'meach!

Propaganda, Nuclear Energy, and Pop Culture

I enjoy listening to the radio on the way to the office of Jews for Jesus in the mornings. And usually I'm tuned to FM103.2 in Sydney, listening to Aaron and Dan. Today was no exception and their comments about nuclear energy spawned this blog. I had already heard Karl Stefanovic and Lisa Wilkinson talk about the proposal by some in the ALP to put nuclear energy on their conversational docket in their 2011 caucus.

The Brisbane Courier Mail reports this morning, "Prime Minister [Julia Gillard] is under pressure to put the divisive issue [nuclear energy] on next year's ALP national conference agenda with MPs claiming voters care more about rising power bills than gay marriage."

Several people are cited including WA former frontbencher Mark Bishop, MP Chris Hayes, and Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson who said "those advocating nuclear power had as much right to have the issue debated at the showcase event as those backing changes to gay marriage laws."

But back to Aaron and Dan. When they reported this news item, they immediately knocked back the idea of nuclear energy. Both readily admitted to being unaware of all the information and that they were not sure of all the issues. That said, they repeated what the media and pop culture had taught them. Aaron remembered Silkwood, the movie from 1983 starring Meryl Streep. (Info and photo below) and the associated nuclear problems there. And of course Chernobyl was brought up.

Then, and more significantly, the boys mentioned and dwelt on the Simpsons rendering of the problem of nuclear energy. Dan said he updated his Facebook page at that moment on the show with something about nuclear energy...three-eyed fish.

For those who don't know, for the last twenty years, millions of young people (and not-so-young) have daily watched how Homer Simpson, with a low IQ of 55 due to his hereditary "Simpson Gene”, his alcohol problem, repetitive cranial trauma, and a crayon lodged in the frontal lobe of his brain, performs his tasks in the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. This includes sleeping and snoring in front of a T-437 Safety Command Console. Homer is the Safety Inspector at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, where, even though we can see luminous rats, the disposal of waste in a children's playground, plutonium used as a paperweight, cracked cooling towers (fixed in one episode using a piece of chewing gum), skeletons in the basement, the creation of a mutant subspecies of three-eyed fish and even a giant spider, no severe accident has ever occurred.

Look, the debate is mammoth and deserves to take place, even on Australian soil, not from Hollywood and the propaganda machine there. (See my blog on Fair Game, the movie)
There are advantages in nuclear production. Nuclear power generation does emit relatively low amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2). The emissions of green house gases and therefore the contribution of nuclear power plants to global warming is therefore relatively little.
This technology is readily available, it does not have to be developed first.
It is possible to generate a high amount of electrical energy in one single plant.

That said, there are disadvantages abundant in nuclear energy production. The problem of radioactive waste is still an unsolved one. The waste from nuclear energy is dangerous and has to be carefully looked after for 10,000 years according to United States Environmental Protection Agency standards. (OK, this seems big)
Despite a generally high-security standard, accidents can still happen. It is technically impossible to build a plant with 100% security. (And yet we still produce cars and airplanes which continue to see accidents as well.)
Nuclear power plants as well as nuclear waste could be preferred targets for terrorist attacks. (But that hasn’t stopped us from building skyscrapers, nor should it)
Radioactive waste is produced, which in turn can be used for the production of nuclear weapons. (And yet, people, not guns, kill people)
The energy source for nuclear energy is Uranium. Uranium is a scarce resource, its supply is estimated to last only for the next 30 to 60 years depending on the actual demand.
To build a nuclear power plant takes 20 years. (OK, if we had built one in 1990 we could be using it now)

You see, there are arguments and counterarguments.

This site is useful. Library website

Currently nuclear energy provides 16% of the world's electricity.

What I find fascinating though is the power of pop culture to enter and almost outweigh the real debaters before the debate occurs. Let's honestly discuss matters. Let's put cartoons and cartoonists into proper perspective.

Mr Ferguson said, "Healthy and constructive debate on a range of policy issues has always been good for the party." I believe it's good for the country and for the world to enter into serious debate about this, and not let propaganda outstrip sense and sensibility.

For more information:
In 1983, a movie came out starring Meryl Streep. The name: Silkwood. IMDb reports "Fairly accurate recounting of the story of Karen Silkwood, the Oklahoma nuclear-plant worker who blew the whistle on dangerous practices at the Kerr-McGee plant and who died under circumstances which are still under debate.... On November 13, 1974, Karen Silkwood, an employee of a nuclear facility, left to meet with a reporter from the New York Times. She never got there."

29 November 2010

Fair Game-- Telling the Truth

My wife and I saw 'Fair Game" on the weekend. It stars Naomi Watts and Sean Penn. They play the power couple in Washington DC, Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson. And they play the couple very well. As protagonists they are searingly convincing and we cheer for them from the outset.

One blogger writes "The true story of former CIA operative Valerie Plame and her husband retired diplomat Joesph C. Wilson is told in this thriller/melodrama based on Plame's book "Fair Game: My Life As A Spy, My Betrayal By The White House." Here is part of the review from Publishers Weekly, and I quote [...The problem with this book is that it has been heavily redacted by the CIA—and in parts is almost impossible to read.]" If only it were a true story. It is based on a true story, but there are some real problems.

Plame's status as a CIA agent was revealed by White House officials allegedly out to discredit her husband after he wrote a 2003 New York Times op-ed piece saying that the Bush administration had manipulated intelligence about weapons of mass destruction to justify the invasion of Iraq. This false information about a uranium sale between Niger and Iraq is important because it was implied as factual when Bush was listing information about Iraq during his State of The Union Speech in early 2003. The setting is only a few years ago, and strangely we in Australia were not privy to much of this insider talk about spies and yellowcake uranium, about cylinders and the goings-on of then US Vice President Dick Cheney. The story makes for a good tale, but the unpacking of the story is tired in so many ways. The use of hand-held cameras that take us into the scenes in Niger (however it's pronounced) or into Baghdad are wearying and if you have good inner ear balance, may make you nauseous. It felt like Cloverfield, Taking LIves or Saving Private Ryan. My worst memory of this kind was Blair Witch Project.

OK, not a big deal, but I still didn't like it. The other thing, and the more bothersome item was the use of a "Hollywood add-on", a character whom we come to really like, and for whom we feel great empathy. This wasted, and fictional, subplot involving an Iraqi doctor (Israeli actress Liraz Charhi) who works with Plame to find out the extent of Iraq's nuclear program. This also concerns the doctor's physicist brother in Baghdad, played by Khaled Nabawy, who Plame promises will be safely relocated if he helps out in dobbing in other scientists who would know relevant data about the mission to create Weapons of Mass Destruction. (WMD)

The movie gets preachy so often; that part is tiresome, too. And at one point Wilson is seen lecturing from a lectern to a large group of students at a university. This was consummate preachiness.

We get Chief of Staff Scooter Libby (David Andrews) and Senior Advisor Karl Rove (Adam LeFevre) basically just being evil as they plot to discredit the heroic couple. There's a cameo by Sam Shepherd as Plame's wise father that's so badly shot that we can barely see it's him until halfway through the scene.

Now, all that said, I think it's a good flick in many ways and I am sure that Watts and/or Penn will be nominated for Oscars.
The Christian Science Monitor said in their review, "This is not to say that "Fair Game," directed by Doug Liman and written by the brothers Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, is an outstanding piece of political moviemaking. Preachy, sketchy, disjunctive, and with a blistery, solarized sheen that makes it look microwaved rather than photographed, "Fair Game" is a movie that for the most part trades on the Wilsons' notoriety instead of delving into the heart of it."


But of note to me as I reflect on this movie is that fiction doesn't need to be interspersed with a documentary. I felt like I was being programed as if in a Michael Moore movie showing. "Washington DC is corrupt. Washington DC is corrupt. Washington DC is corrupt..." Is it? Honestly, are all politicians interested in their careers and only their careers? Is no one there 'for' the little guys? Does everyone in DC seek his own good? Please, now universal and corporate, but how ignorant.

Otherwise director Liman is declaring what the Bible says. And they wouldn't want that, would they? "There is no one who does good, no not one." (That's what the Good Book teaches.)

At the end we left wondering how much of the show was Hollywooded. (Pardon the verb). And how much of the tale, spun by screenwriters from the memoirs of both Plane and Wilson, is accurate anyway? What if she really did demand that he go to Niger? What if ...oh, so many 'what if's.'

The Monitor continued its attack on the flick with "At the same time, at the height of the scandal, Plame and Wilson posed together in Vanity Fair in their Jaguar convertible, she camouflaged in head scarf and dark glasses. This brazen gesture is barely touched on in the movie. If Liman had connected the couple in that photo with the indignant twosome of his film, he might have succeeded in creating more than a passable piece of politico grandstanding"

See, some facts are not facts at all. So when does propaganda begin? (Or am I being preachy?)

There was a scene when the fictitious doctor asks Plame how she can look people right in the eye and lie to them. I want to ask Liman the same question. And maybe Wilson and Plame. And maybe you. Do you lie? Do you want to understand and live in the truth, no matter the cost?

The phrase "fair game" in the title of Mrs. Wilson's memoir refers to a comment that Karl Rove, then the Deputy White House Chief of Staff for Strategic Planning under US President George W. Bush reportedly told Chris Matthews, the host of NBC's television show Hardball with Chris Matthews: "I just got off the phone with Karl Rove. He says, and I quote, 'Wilson's wife is fair game.'

All that said, truth is worth everything. And truth is Fair Game. And lying is never easy to swallow. Whether it's from the White House, the Hollywood elite or from my neighbour. Let's speak truth to one another. Let's live in the cost of the truth. And pay it gladly. Life is so much easier to live when we tell the stark truth. Am I preaching? If it's truth, so be it!

24 November 2010

Christmas in an American Food Court

I always enjoy the fun of seeing people surprised. And this certainly happened in the US at this food court just a week or so ago. Maybe you will enjoy the video as well.

Beyond that, however, the song itself is one of my favorites. I first sang this in junior high school back in the 1960s at Meadowbrook Junior High School in Prairie Village, Kansas. My parents and I were Orthodox Jews and whenever our choir got to the point in the song (quoting John the Revalator), "The kingdoms of this world have become...the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ" I would simply mouth the word "Christ" and not sing it. I felt that it was a bit of an honor to give the man Jesus, and I wasn't willing or ready to go there.

Things changed for me, of course, when I was 19, and the book of the Revelation from which this quote is taken became one of my favorite books of the Bible.

So much was this on me, that in 1977, when Patty and I married, I wanted this song sung during the ceremony. I guess it was too much, and we didn't have it sung. But I still love it.

A few weeks ago, not to be morbid, but to be forward planning (is there any other kind of planning?), I worked on my funeral. I have a bunch of items (modular) to include and even wrote a message that I hope someone will read there on my behalf. Of course, the chorus "Hallelujah" is included and there should be no reason not to sing it that day. I'll invite you to join us now in the singing, and then in the pondering, if you are around.

22 November 2010

My own story... from 1971!

I hope you will enjoy the telling in just a few minutes of my personal story, how I came to believe in Jesus, although I was an Orthodox Jew. I grew up in Kansas City in the 1950s and 1960s. A peaceful time which became a turbulent time as hippies looked for peace and meaning. Surprises came to my family again and again...and for the fuller story, I'll be adding the longer version so you can see more details. Here it is Bob longer

Thanks for watching, and commenting if you'd like.

19 November 2010

Journeys begin with one step

window jog.JPG
Originally uploaded by bobmendo
The reality shows tire me. They feature stories of wayward youth and troubled pasts colliding with hopes and aspirations. The tears and the teary music remind us of 'not yet' dreams which just might be fulfilled if we vote for our candidate or vote someone else off the island.

And one of the tired words overused on each of those shows is the word 'journey.' Simply put a journey is a distance to be traveled or the time required for a trip. I would think the word emanates from the French for 'day' like journal or soup du jour. But let's not digress.

The producers of reality shows wear us down with stories, and the hosts and judges weary us further with epic journeys of their own.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” That quote is attributed to Lao Tzu (Chinese taoist Philosopher, founder of Taoism, wrote "Tao Te Ching" (also "The Book of the Way"). 600 BC-531 BCE)

As I walked into the Qantas Club today readying to answer emails and prepare for my journey to Melbourne, I heard an announcement "Thank you for making your journey with us today on Qantas." AAAAuuuggh, I thought this was only on the television. Oy.

I sat down and opened my briefcase and found the magazine I had brought along. "Blessed" The magazine of Awesome Church in Five Dock, NSW. It looks like it's been around a long time, but this is actually Volume One. It's really the first step in the journey for Awesome Church. Pastors Gary and Lissa write articles, as well as others are included. How good is God to give them this method of communicating to their own people and well beyond!

So then I found this photo I took out our balcony of the hotel in Malaga Spain a few years ago. Good times. And the walker and the cyclist and the joggers and the swimmer...each began with one step. I looked up on Google to find out which was the hardest stroke for swimmers and the answers were typically ranged from breaststroke to butterfly to... but I remember a famous swimmer from the past who answered, "The first stroke of the day on a cold day."

I guess Lao Tzu was right. The first step is the beginning of it all. Each man's run honestly begins with baby steps way back when. The Bible records
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." (King Solomon in Proverbs. 9.10). So to end well, we have to begin well.

I wish Awesome Church every success in their new journey adventure. And I wish me success as I travel to Melbourne. And I wish you every success in being blessed by God today. Make sure you fear God, and your wisdom will be growing very well.

16 November 2010

Every parent's boast

Every parent's boast
Originally uploaded by bobmendo
Some people put their treasures into safety deposit boxes with jewels and important documents. Some put their treasures in their museums and offices in a gallery of artworks that span the decades if not centuries. I have three treasures, and they are not mine, in the same sense of ownership.

I love it when my children ring me or email me. I like it when they notice that I was gone for a few days. I like it that they want to hang out for a round of spades, double solitaire or Jeopardy on TV. We have fun doing crossword puzzles and eating out together. We especially like to share holidays together as a family.

When I was in Michigan 10 days ago, I saw this license plate on a car as I was racing into the rental car return area. And although I was a bit stressed by the lack of time I had misgauged, I had to pull out my camera and shoot this. Although the boast was not originally mine, I can appropriate it.

I have great kids.

Funny to call adults 'kids', but I guess that's the thing about a parent. We ever think of our offspring as both 'ours' and as 'kids.' My son is 31 and seriously an adult. He's lived on his own since he was 19. My elder daughter is 27 and moved out of house when she was 18. Over two years ago she moved countries back to the US. My 'baby' is 20 and 5'11" and will enter 3rd year university in the new year. Who would call them 'kids?' Only their parents.

The concept of 'ours' or possession is fascinating. My wife.. I say that expression. But does Patty belong to me? In a real way, yes. We belong to each other. The evidence of marital ownership is in our wedding documents, our photos over 33 years, our marriage bed, the regular thoughts we have of one another, and our dreams of what's ahead.

So in a way, our 3 kids are ours. But in every good way, they are adults and growing and making long-lasting decisions which impact our lives and theirs. And my confidence in them grows over time. I'm so proud of my Great Kids. I wish you could know them, too.

11 November 2010

Keeping the Faith

Larry and Averie Alverson
Originally uploaded by bobmendo
Keeping the faith. The year was 2000. Ben Stiller, Edward Norton, A story about two friends, a priest and a rabbi, who fall in love with the same beauty (Jenna Elfman). Fun movie, funny gag lines, but not the best of movies. Apologies to Stuart Blumberg who wrote the movie.

Is that what I'm picturing here? A minister, a rabbi and a woman? Good try, but nope. This is Pastor Larry Alverson from Trinity Assembly of God church in Flint (Mount Morris) Michigan and his wife Averie, along with me, of course.

What's with "Keeping the Faith?" Back in 1971, I came to faith in Jesus, the Jewish messiah. And wanted both to keep the faith and pass it on. And I was able to pass it on to my Jewish family, to other friends, and work colleagues, and then in 1972 I was privileged to start a congregation in Lawrence, Kansas, along with some other fellows.

From his website, we read about Larry. "Pastor Larry was born into an army family in Olympia, WA. His dad, COL Bill Alverson, served in the Korean conflict and two tours of duty in Viet Nam. Army life meant a lot of moves. Pastor Larry went to 13 schools for his first 12 grades of school, living in several states and three years in Europe.

"Pastor Larry finished high school in Kansas and went on to the University of Kansas, where he majored in business. It was there that he met the two loves of his life. First was Averie, who also graduated from KU with a business degree, and then a year after they were married, Jesus Christ came into his life."

You see, it was 1972 when Averie met her friend, a cashier at the university student union book shop, Jeannie, who was a member of the church I started. The name, The Mustard Seed, was something I chose one day in prayer. We started small, like a seed, and hoped to grow. Who knew that Larry and Averie would be part of the growing tree?

So Jeannie led Averie to Christ early that summer and she understood 1 Peter 3 (a chapter in the Bible) to instruct her about keeping the faith, and that would help her (as yet) unbelieving husband to unpack the issues, to learn about Y'shua, and to find eternal life in Him. And that's just what happened.

A couple months later, Larry was born again on his way home from Topeka to Lawrence, and pulled off the highway to pray and ask Jesus to forgive him of his sins. God was more than willing to give Larry faith.

I baptized them both a short time later and they have continued in faith now 38 years on. And God is well honored. They have indeed kept the faith.

And they have passed it on for decades as well. Since 2002, they have ministered at Trinity AOG and I was privileged to preach there last weekend. Go to the Trinity website Trinity to hear or watch the sermon, and experience along with us the joy of finding friends from 38 years, and appreciate with me God's helping us to keep the faith until He returns.

08 November 2010

Buds in autumn?

Buds in autumn?
Originally uploaded by bobmendo
I enjoyed our walk in suburban Detroit on Saturday. The chill was in the air, the sky was high and crystal blue. Autumn leaves abounded in piles in some yards and in disarray in most. Then above me, on the mighty oaks were buds. Thousands and thousands of promises, in the form of buds. I don't know that I ever really thought about them before that.

This from a nature center information document: "Winter branches are not bare! Winter twigs are studded with jewels. The tip of each branch contains the packaged promise of next year's growth. This package is called the bud.

A tree bud consists of next year's leaves, stems, and perhaps flowers, which are folded, twisted, crumpled, pressed together and covered by a waterproof coating of modified leaves called bud scales.

Buds are small. You have to be close enough to touch a tree to notice its buds. Take time to examine a twig in fall or winter. You will be amazed by the diversity of color, form, and texture of these distinctive features of our winter flora. Tree buds come in any shape that can be constructed with a curved line." (http://www.wildwnc.org/education/naturalists-notes/this-buds-for-you)

God always provides for his creatures, even for his botanical ones. He, after all, created everything.

He even created you and me. And that promise/ provision of the future in the bud, is in us as well. Maybe that's why we believe we will be ok when we sit in a bus or train or airplane. Why we trust our unseen future when we attend classes at school or university. Maybe that's why we take new jobs or take leaps off snow lifts into fresh snow-covered mountains.

The adventure of living requires us to live in faith. But faith is not empty. Nor are the buds. Faith is filled with confidence because of the God who has demonstrated himself in the past. I wish I could return to this park near the middle school in West Bloomfield come springtime. I wish I could take a photo of this tree and we could all enjoy the fruits of our faith. We could see leaves and abundant leaves at that filling this massive tree. And those leaves would cause the tree to breathe and live again.

God has put buds in us, anticipating buds which long to experience the reality of the life of the Almighty. Our times are always ready for springtime, but often we have to walk through all seasons to get there. Be patient. Be anticipating. Be faith-filled.

God knows.

01 November 2010

The Tragedy of Forced Marriages and Conversion of Christian girls to Islam

from http://www.crosswalk.com/news/religiontoday/11638059/

Shah Taj, a fourteen-year-old Christian girl in Pakistan, was on her way to school last year when a vehicle occupied by three men pulled up beside her, grabbed her, threw her in the car and sped off. As frightening as this may seem, her ordeal had just begun. She described what happened: “I was standing at the bus stop. Three Muslims came up to me in a car. They were armed with weapons. They pushed me into the car and took me to a hotel. While there, one of them raped me. Afterwards, at gunpoint they took my thumb impression and my signature, placing them on blank papers.”

“I tried to make noise; but they pointed their guns at me and threatened to kill my father and my brother if I make a noise.” Taj was forced to marry a Muslim man and convert to Islam. They had used her signature and thumbprint to create a document saying she had converted to Islam. Like Shah Taj, Christian girls throughout the Islamic world are being abducted and trafficked for commercial sex and coerced into domestic servitude. Muslim men are offered financial incentives to marry Christian girls - an incentive designed by fundamentalists to convert girls to Islam forcefully.

Recent investigations have revealed information exposing the criminal phenomenon of forced Islamization of Christian girls which occurs on an alarming scale. On April 16, 2010, eighteen members of the United States Congress wrote to the State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Office, concerning continued “reports of abductions, forced marriages, and exploitation of Coptic women and girls in Egypt.” The Egyptian government and state security have routinely denied the problem’s existence, refusing to sanction cases that have been commissioned to court.

International Christian Concern (ICC) recently visited Egypt to investigate. Meeting with human rights lawyers and activists who have defended Egypt’s Christian minority, they obtained names, birth certificates, and conducted personal interviews with the parents of victimized Christian girls. Source after source exposed astonishingly similar cases. Forced marriages are systematically orchestrated. What appears to a girl to be a natural and inconsequential friendship with a young man may on the contrary be a deceptive plot to lure the girl into a forced marriage.

A Muslim man or his accomplice exploits the girl’s trust by convincing her of the man’s friendship. “They are planning and organizing a plot to fool this person. it may seem like friendship or falling in love, but in actuality, it is a planned seduction,” Bishop Thomas of the El-Quosia Diocese in Upper Egypt told ICC. Most forced marriages are accompanied by physical abuse and sexual violence. Once the paperwork is finalized, it is as if the Christian girl never existed.

The town she grew up in, the names of her parents, and the date she was born become mere memories, known only by those closest to her. All documents revealing the girl’s childhood or family history are burned or tucked away in bureaucratic files where there is no likelihood the girl’s whereabouts will ever be discovered. She becomes a ghost, with no past, but only an uncertain future, but only an uncertain future which will likely be lived-out as a resented wife to a detached husband.

The girl is then kept captive in her husband’s home. The Muslim husband may take a second, third or fourth wife, using the “Christian” girl as nothing more than a servant. If the girl is bold and fortunate, she may escape. However, according to a report by Christian Solidarity International, girls who are able to escape “usually remain so heavily burdened with social and legal problems that anything like a normal life is impossible. While they may be successful in obtaining a divorce from their Muslim husband, they are rarely able to obtain a reversal of their religious status.”

In Cairo, Mamdouh Nakhla, a Coptic lawyer and the Chairman of the Al-Kalema Organization of Human Rights, said he has reported hundreds of cases of abduction to the police, and their response is always the same. “The police say the girl is happy with her marriage and happy to be a Muslim and they demand that I stop looking for her. The police know where she is, but they choose not to tell me. There is an ‘unsaid contract’ between the police and the kidnappers.”

Mr. Nakhla then takes the case to the District Attorney, who orders the man and the girl to appear in court. The man appears alone, having prevented the girl from attending the hearing. Before the judge, the man either denies the accusations, or professes that the girl willingly chose to marry him and is happy in her present circumstance. The District Attorney then refers back to the police to verify the man’s statement. The police, honouring their agreement with the man, return with a positive report confirming the kidnapper’s testimony. With that, the District Attorney closes the case.

According to Mr. Nakhla, since January 2006, there have been more than 2,000 cases of girls who have appealed to return to Christianity, but have been denied their right to testify in court. Human Rights Watch reported, “The abducted girls typically face no difficulties converting to Islam and acquiring identity documents recognizing their conversions, but those who subsequently wish to return to Christianity meet with refusal and harassment from the Civil Status Department (CSD) of the Ministry of Interior.”

Regrettably, the three men who abducted Shah Taj will likely never be punished for their crime. “I hate what has happened to me,” explained Taj. “They kidnapped me and raped me, that’s why they must go to prison and be punished.” Yet, Christians throughout the Islamic world are unable to justly punish those who have violated their daughters by deliberate assaults of planned seductions and kidnappings. Wagih Yacoub, a Coptic human rights activist, told ICC that in Egypt, the rights of Christians are not equal to those of Muslims.

“The only way to protect yourself and protect your people is by the law; but if the law is not on your side, then you have no assurance of protection. We are the minority in this country. The Muslims have the support of the Egyptian government, their religion and the police security. The Christians cannot stand against an entire government.” In Egypt, Christians makeup roughly ten percent of the population, yet they remain a marginalized religious minority on account of being governed by Islamic Shariah law, a principle source of Egypt’s legislation.

Even though it is stated in the Egyptian Constitution that, “The State shall guarantee the freedom of belief and the freedom of practice of religious rites, in practice, it severely violates religious freedom. As of 2008, Christians held less than two percent of seats in Egypt’s People’s Assembly and Shura Council. With little political power, the Christian community is left vulnerable to discrimination and oppression, incapable of defending themselves against even the most apparent and fundamental human rights abuses.

Source: Intercessors Network

29 October 2010

Take time

Chris and Ywan Atkins are often seen together when the Sydney Veterans Golf Association (a gentelmen's association) welcomes their wives to medley days. This shot from this week at Richmond Golf Course, is one of my favourite couples. Chris and Ywan ride in the cart. Ywan takes photos. She drives Chris around since he has some serious hip and leg trouble. But he's a good golfer. And she's a terrific companion.

I like that they go together. The club has made an exception for them to go together. Everyone on the course is supposed to carry their own clubs. They are usually not allowed on the course if they are not playing. But I really appreciate the club's ruling that Ywan can go with her man.

Marriage is a function of the wedding in which we spend a lot of time, energy, resources and effort, to be sure. Without the wedding there is not marriage. Check.
But marriage is a function of much more than that. It's time together. It's life together. It's experiences together. I'm married 33+ years and when I ponder what makes this work... it's time.

So good on the SVGA for allowing this handsome and fun couple to be together. Good on you if you spend time with your spouse. God is more often well honored in the simple things, you know?

28 October 2010

Homosexuality... the worst sin?

Bible class
28 October 2010

‘Go and sin no more’

The media is filled with tragic reports of late about gay bashing and gay bullying in the rash of teenage suicides linked with homosexuality.

I read a blog the other day which said just what I would say, only it said it much better. So I will quote from it. Then we will review some biblical texts and see a bit more on the subject.

All the while, homosexuality is not the only sexual sin I will address tonight. The Bible says that any sexual activity outside of marriage is not right. But let’s start with homosexuality and see how much time we can commit to further discussion.

“Some homosexual activist groups lay blame [for the gay bullying] at the feet of conservative Christians who teach that homosexual conduct is wrong, as well as pro-family groups (such as Focus on the Family) which oppose elements of the homosexual political agenda, such as same-sex "marriage."

The Christians and pro-family leaders I know are unanimous in believing that no person, especially a child, should be subjected to verbal or physical harassment or violence--whether because of their sexuality, their religious beliefs, or for any other reason. Such bullying violates the Christian's obligation to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, and receives no support from the pro-family political movement.

Where bullying has occurred, the blame should be placed on the bullies themselves--not on organizations within society who clearly oppose bullying. I suspect that few, if any, such bullies are people who regularly attend church, and I would not be surprised if most of the "bullies" did not have the positive benefit of both an active mom and dad in their lives. Religious faith and a return to traditional family values are more likely to be a solution to the problem of bullying than a cause.

However, homosexual activist groups like GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) are exploiting these tragedies to push their agenda of demanding not only tolerance of homosexual individuals, but active affirmation of homosexual conduct and their efforts to redefine the family.

There is an abundance of evidence that homosexuals experience higher rates of mental health problems in general, including depression. However, there is no empirical evidence to link this with society's general disapproval of homosexual conduct. In fact, evidence from the Netherlands would seem to suggest the opposite, because even in that most "gay-friendly" country on earth, research has shown homosexuals to have much higher mental health problems.

Within the homosexual population, such mental health problems are higher among those who "come out of the closet" at an earlier age. Yet GLSEN's approach is to encourage teens to "come out" when younger and younger--thus likely exacerbating the very problem they claim they want to solve.

Some homosexuals may recognize intuitively that their same-sex attractions are abnormal--yet they have been told by the homosexual movement, and their allies in the media and the educational establishment, that they are "born gay" and can never change. This--and not society's disapproval--may create a sense of despair that can lead to suicide.

The most important thing that we as believers can offer to homosexuals is hope--hope that their sins, just like the sins of anyone else, can be forgiven and their lives transformed by the power of Messiah Y’shua. His command to love our neighbor clearly embraces the homosexual as well. But love does not require affirming every behavior in which an individual engages. For a parent to encourage a child to indulge their every desire would not be love, but rather its very opposite. The same is true of self-destructive behaviors in which adults may engage--whether it is the excessive use of alcohol, drugs, reckless driving, or heterosexual activity outside of marriage.

Since homosexual conduct is associated with higher rates of sexual promiscuity, sexually transmitted diseases, mental illness, substance abuse, and domestic violence, it too qualifies as a behavior that is harmful to the people who engage in it and to society at large. It is not loving to encourage someone to indulge in such activities, no matter how much sensual pleasure they may derive from them. It is more loving to help them overcome them. This is why, in the public policy arena, we will continue to oppose any policy or action that would celebrate or affirm homosexual conduct.

The model for a faith-filled response to homosexuals may be the story of the woman caught in adultery recorded in John chapter 8. When the crowd responded with violence, by gathering to stone her, Y’shua said, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." Knowing that they were all sinners, the crowd melted away. But Messiah’s words to the woman he saved were crucial. He did not say, "Go, for you have not sinned." Instead, he said, "Go and sin no more."

There is no contradiction between believers’ compassion and a call for holy living. But the life which is holy (from a spiritual perspective) or even healthy (from a secular perspective) requires abstinence from homosexual conduct. We would do no one a favor if we ceased to proclaim that truth.

Consider these biblical injunctions.

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6.9-10)

“We know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching” (1Tim. 1.8-10)

The Levitical commandment is clear as when we read, “And you shall not have intercourse with your neighbor’s wife, to be defiled with her. Neither shall you give any of your offspring to offer them to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the LORD. You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination. Also you shall not have intercourse with any animal to be defiled with it, nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it; it is a perversion.” (Lev. 18.20-23)

I’m keen to help us understand tonight that homosexuality is not the greatest sin. In the first passage, homosexuality is listed after adultery and fornicators and idolaters. After it is thievery and coveting and drunkenness and swindlers! It’s not the only sexual sin listed in the Scriptures. It’s not the worst of them all. There is no priority in the listing. They are all wrong, and counter God's plans. He wants people to be free and living in these sins prevents real freedom. My opinion is that God hates things which ruin family.

Let me explain.

When God created humanity as recorded in the Bible in Genesis 1 and 2, he wanted a holy family which would reflect who he is on the planet. Everything which is counter to his plan, to his purpose, to his nature, that was to be done away with. It was to be avoided.

And we see that in the Garden of Eden. God wanted family. Later, after the story of the flood, God wanted Noah and his family to replenish the earth and subdue it again. That means, to dominate in the sense of rule in his righteousness. Not to dominate like an overlord, but like a carer for the planet, like Y’shua. In Abraham and Sarah, and her as good as dead, God continued to bring ‘family’ to the planet. In Isaac, and Jacob and through the Jewish people, we were to reflect the nature of God and his notion of family to the world. We were not better; we were to be his representatives, his ambassadors.

No one did that better than Y’shua, our Messiah, who brought eternity to men, and who lived and taught and died and rose again, the Eternal Son of the Eternal Father. Don’t be confused with pictures and paintings of The Holy Family (Joseph, Mary and Jesus). I don’t know why Mary gets a place. I don’t know why Joseph does. The real family is Father and Son and Holy Spirit, all as one, ever one, who truly are God and represent God to humanity.

Family … nothing matters more than that. Hence, no bestiality. That ruins both families (the beast's family and the human's family). No adultery. That ruins both families (the one of the man and the one of the woman). No homosexuality. That ruins the children (adopted of course, as nature doesn’t allow man to man to procreate a child). That ruins others in society. Honestly and forthrightly, I cannot say this more clearly.

And yet, this must be our call. As a family, of believers in Y’shua, as Jews and some of you who are not born Jewish, to welcome anyone and everyone who comes to us. Our doors are open. No one is excluded. That does not mean that we affirm everything everyone does. Of course not. But what we are saying is that adulterers are welcome here. Adultery is not. Homosexuals are welcome here. Homosexuality is not welcome here. Murderers, liars, revilers, everyone, Jews, Gentiles, blonds, Kiwis, everyone… welcome is our operative word. And then…God does his work in making us his people. We are not here to live our standards, but rather to learn his standards and to live them out.

In that is life. In Him is life. And in no one else.

The most important thing that we as believers can offer to homosexuals is hope--hope that their sins, just like the sins of anyone else, can be forgiven and their lives transformed by the power of Messiah Y’shua. His command to love our neighbor clearly embraces the homosexual as well. But love does not require affirming every behavior in which an individual engages. For a parent to encourage a child to indulge their every desire would not be love, but rather its very opposite. The same is true of self-destructive behaviors in which adults may engage--whether it is the excessive use of alcohol, drugs, reckless driving, or heterosexual activity outside of marriage.

The model for a faith-filled response to homosexuals may be the story of the woman caught in adultery recorded in John chapter 8. When the crowd responded with violence, by gathering to stone her, Y’shua said, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." Knowing that they were all sinners, the crowd melted away. But Messiah’s words to the woman he saved were crucial. He did not say, "Go, for you have not sinned." Instead, he said, "Go and sin no more."