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."

23 October 2010

Selflessness and sportsmanship



I'm watching Game 6 of the American League baseball series. New York Yankees vs Texas Rangers. And I'm outraged. And pondering the idea of right and wrong. See if you agree.

After Alex Rodriguez got the first hit for the Yankees tonight, a double to center field, Ranger Colby Lewis threw a ball that hit Yankee Nick Swisher on the bounce and Swisher should have gone to first base with Rodriguez staying on third.

Instead, the home plate umpire ruled it a wild pitch and Rodriguez came home to tie the score. But it was a mistake by the umpires. Any umpire on the field who saw what happened could have overruled the call, but no one did. Shame.

I'm flashing back to May, 2005. Rome, Italy. The Rome Masters tennis match.

One set down and serving at 3-5 and 0-40 in the second, Spaniard Fernando Verdasco seemed on the brink of defeat against American Andy Roddick - even more so when his second serve was called out and the umpire started to announce the American as the winner.

Roddick, however, corrected the call, telling the umpire the ball was in. Verdasco went on to hold serve and break his distracted-looking opponent in the following game.

The set went to a tiebreak, which the Spaniard took easily with a series of whipped crosscourt winners. Roddick then put a forehand wide to drop serve in the opening game of the decider and the unseeded Verdasco went on to claim victory.

"Maybe I should have stood on the mark," Roddick told reporters after the match. "I don't think I did anything extraordinary, the umpire would have come down and said the same too. I just saved him the trip. When he (Verdasco) hit it, before I saw the mark, I thought it was out. On a hardcourt I wouldn't have done anything but then I walked back and saw it was good."

So Roddick won and Swisher lost. The Yankees tied the score just now, but I think they lost.

Some may argue that bad calls tend to even themselves out. And they may be right. But calling a bad call 'good' or a good call 'bad' ...that's a good sport. And there's no getting around that.

Roddick 1, Swisher 0.

What will you do today in truth telling? Even to your own apparent loss?

17 October 2010

Something about dying


Something about dying
Originally uploaded by bobmendo
Who doesn't like this season of the year? Vivaldi did. ee cummings did. God did. And it's beautiful up in the northern hemisphere. I'm visiting this week and then Monday return to springtime in Sydney.

But I've been struck again by the glorious colors of autumn.
A bit of a science lesson makes sense about now.

This from a "why does this happen?" type website. Written for young students.
"Leaves are nature's food factories. Plants take water from the ground through their roots. They take carbon dioxide from the air. Plants use sunlight to turn water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and glucose. Oxygen is the gas that we breathe. Glucose is a kind of sugar. Plants use glucose as food for energy and as a building block for growing. The way plants turn water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and sugar is called photosynthesis. That word means "putting together with light." A chemical called chlorophyll helps make photosynthesis happen. Chlorophyll is what gives plants their green color.

As summer ends and autumn comes, the days get shorter and shorter. This is how the trees "know" to begin getting ready for winter.

During winter, there is not enough light or water for photosynthesis. The trees will rest, and live off the food they stored during the summer. They begin to shut down their food-making factories. The green chlorophyll disappears from the leaves. As the bright green fades away, we begin to see yellow and orange colors. Small amounts of these colors have been in the leaves all along. We just can't see them in the summer, because they are covered up by the green chlorophyll.

The bright reds and purples we see in leaves are made mostly in autumn. In some trees, like maples, glucose is trapped in the leaves after photosynthesis stops. Sunlight and the cool nights of autumn cause the leaves turn this glucose into a red color. The brown color of trees like oaks is made from wastes left in the leaves.

It is the combination of all these things that make the beautiful foliage."

In a way the trees or at least the trees' leaves are dying. And it's in their dying that we see beauty.

Most westerners are clueless about dying and death. We're unaware personally since we are so separated from death and old people. They have their old folks' homes and we live with one or more parents. We get rid of old clothes and old mobile phones almost before the warranty expires. Dying...that's for others.

But to most of the rest of the world, dying is a part of life. It's a reality with which we all have to grapple. The rest of the world understands and things start and things end. All of us are born. Ecclesiastes (that book in the Bible) records "there is a time for everything...a time to be born, a time to die." So reality is that we will all die.

Is that going to be beautiful? I hope so for you and for your family. I hope so for me and my family. Not that I wish death on anyone. Certainly not. But reality is that we will all pass through this life only once, and we must make the best of it. Even making the best of the end of it.

When your processes start to shut down, and your time is at hand, do something even more than you did before. Do the best you can with what you have. Now-- you don't know what is ahead for you. Do it now.

And die beautifully. The trees know how to do that. And they are not advantaged by a mind or heart or spirit. Let God be all He wants to be in you. Give your life to the living One. He is the only One who will never (again) see death. God, the Creator of life, awaits you. And He awaits your willing responsiveness to Him. There is life. No matter your days, early or last days.

There's something (good) about dying. Paul the apostle wrote in Phil. 1.21 "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain." It's not about offing yourself; that's not what he means. It's about giving up of yourself to help others, to proclaim Messiah to others. It's not about you at all!

Again Paul wrote the believers in Corinth. 1Cor. 15.31 "I protest, brethren, by the boasting in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily."

It's self-sacrifice, not self-mutilation. It's self-abandonment not self-aggrandisement . It's about living for God and others. How's that? There's something good about dying.

11 October 2010

Torah processional


Torah processional
Originally uploaded by bobmendo
I love this shot I took yesterday at the Bat Mitzvah of young Ketzia Barron from Toronto, Canada. She and her family make the annual trek to Pennsylvania for the Jews for Jesus East Coast Ingathering. And this year, Ketzia celebrated her Bat Mitzvah. It was significant and she did a wonderful job. Her singing, her chanting, her speech... all excellent. And her parents are very proud. And rightfully.

But what I like about this photo is that no one of her family or her friends or her community is with her. She is alone. OK, so Rabbi Irving Salzman is carrying the Torah. But what is significant is that Ketzia is the only one following Torah. That statement is one which I hope stays with her all the days of her life.

Even if (God forbid) all her friends walk away; even if her parents leave the faith; even if no one else is helping her walk the way of God-- she can walk alone with Him. And she must!

Most of the time this doesn't happen. Most of the time, we do find community and friends and relatives who assist us in our walk with God. Most of the time God gives us grace in 'others' who affirm us and strengthen us. And this is the usual and the plan.

Nevertheless there are days when we feel alone. There are weeks and months when it seems like no one is with us. Even on those days, we are not really alone.

God Himself will be with us. So He said, “For the LORD will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the LORD has been pleased to make you a people for Himself." (cited in 1st Samuel 12.22)

and again, "Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What shall man do to me?” (Hebrews 13.5-6)

Walking with God sometimes feels desperately alone. But you are not alone!

01 October 2010

Roosters and Dragons


Roosters and Dragons
Originally uploaded by bobmendo
Press Release

New wave of peace in footy fans

Within 100 meters of the Easts Leagues Club, the home of the Sydney Roosters, a banner is attracting major attention. Draping arm in arm, in apparent affection, a cartoon of a rooster and a dragon is displayed in a bookstore in Bondi Junction. The sign, with text, “Even with enemies… our peace is in Y’shua” fills the large plate-glass window of the Jews for Jesus Books & Gifts shop at 576 Oxford Street.

Councillor Sally Betts, mayor of Waverley, spawned the idea. She sent out a message to local businesses this week, encouraging local shops to display a ‘Go the Roosters’ type of signage.

Betts wrote, “Join me in wishing the Roosters every success on the day and together we will make the most of this amazing grand final.”

Bob Mendelsohn, national director of Jews for Jesus, is a member of Easts as well as Norths. He says that Jews for Jesus wanted to make a display which characterized the spirit of harmony and peace which is at the centre of the Jewish High Holidays, which we are only now concluding here in Sydney. “The words of reconciliation and forgiveness, which so highlight Yom Kippur (The Jewish Day of Atonement), seemed more in keeping with us and with the banner, than a simple “Go the Roosters!” display.”

Mendelsohn says there are supporters of Jews for Jesus from all parts of Sydney, including The Shire, and he says, “In Y’shua, that is, in relationship with God through the Messiah, everyone can have real peace.”


Display is visible now at the shop.

Jews for Jesus
576 Oxford Street
Bondi Junction 2022
9388.0559
www.jewsforjesus.org.au
admin@jewsforjesus.org.au