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."