15 June 2011

United voices, but not unity


This is from some blog or news service; I can't tell the difference anymore. Seems the only Jewish radio station in all of Australia, with a community license, has lost its license. They stopped broadcasting on Monday at midnight. Shalom Lion FM, and shalom MJR (Melbourne Jewish Radio).

The Australian Communications and Media Authority also announced that they do not intend to issue any further community broadcasting licences in Melbourne.

The Jewish Community Council of Victoria’s President, John Searle said “the loss of the licence is very unfortunate”. He added, “It is devastating news for our community for whom the benefits of the licence were enormous. It provided not only a means of communication within our community, but also a wonderful window through which information could flow to the wider community.”

That makes sense. So many people learn about Jewish things from peering inside the sights and sounds of Jewish life. They visit the local synagogue. They attend Jewish film festivals and watch "The Nanny" and "Seinfeld."

Why would ACMA nix the station then? Searle: “...because Melbourne had too many Community Radio Stations...and at least two other groups had been formed (in addition to “Lion FM”), each with a view to either applying for the community broadcasting licence or being involved in community broadcasting. It would appear that the “fight for the licence” might have been a contributing factor in the ACMA decision, as clearly, ACMA did not see a unified community”.

That also makes sense. From the outside, all Jews are ...well Jews. So, I can imagine an ACMA staff meeting, And if they can't become one voice, then why should we give two or three different licences, when so many others are putting up their hands to get a voice?

I hear Rodney King saying, "Can't we all just get along?" or Michael Jackson singing, "We are the world" or even a campfire ablaze and we are singing along with the strumming guitar to some 60s folk song.

Unity doesn't necessarily come because we are all alike in some measure. Put four 6-year-olds together at a multi-family gathering because they are...well, they are the same age, and see if they 'just get along.'Why if we put 20 'not perfect' adults into the same room do we think they will get along perfectly? It's illogical. The problem is not with the wishes or desires of people to contract niceness or good harmony or peace, but with our own self-consumption and selfishness.

Dare I say it, the problem is sin.

The answer is not harmony singing or contracts, but in repentance and forgiveness. That's God's answer to the human dilemma and it's logical and reasonable. And right.

If you want unity, you have to know and be known by the Living God who makes all things His, under His lordship and when that happens, we submit to His will and life gets good. Or at least better.

Y'shua's prayer was "the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are one." (John 17.22) Good prayer. And it will be answered, in due course. And the answer will come when we seek God's glory and not our own. May it be, even today.

14 June 2011

Grounded and flying high

Yesterday I flew back early from Brisbane to Sydney. Early because I had heard that there was a massive cloud of ash coming from Chile and the Chilean volcano was still spewing. I heard that as the airplanes were grounded in Europe from the Iceland volcano, so this one would hit Australia. I wasn't nervous, but thought it best to leave early. I got back in plenty of time, as nothing to/from Sydney was affected, immediately. But the news today is awash with the troubles of the thousands being made visible.

The Age (from Melbourne) reports this morning, "Thousands of air passengers remain stranded in Melbourne despite the ash cloud from the Chilean volcano beginning to dissipate and airlines resuming flights out of Tullamarine and Avalon airports yesterday." The Age article

The AAP reported, "The air force was called in yesterday to fly Tasmanian federal politicians to Canberra after they could not travel on commercial flights."

Disruption is never convenient nor pleasant. I'm sorry for the dis-ease of the politicians and the thousands yet left without travel as they planned. Thanks to Dee and Dean for rising early yesterday to make my life easier by driving me to the Brisbane airport. And thanks to God for His allowing us to change plans. I always say, "Blessed are the flexible; they do not break."

What will come to you today, to upset you or to thwart you? What will come your way to knock you off course, or to give you an opportunity to amend your way or your ways? If you keep your eyes on Messiah, you will do well. Then no matter the cloud or the sunshine, you'll be able to handle it.

G Giffords and Jewish identity

The news is good today about Gabrielle Giffords. The media is running the photo (below)showing her alive and well. The shooting in Arizona on 8 January left many dead, some in shock, and Giffords fighting for her life. Who is she? And what is this about her being Jewish?
Giffords was born in Tucson, Arizona, to Gloria Kay (née Fraser) and Spencer J. Giffords. She was raised in a mixed religious home by her Jewish father and Christian Science-practicing mother. She has identified herself solely with Judaism since 2001, belonging to Congregation Chaverim, a Reform synagogue, in Tucson. She is Arizona's first Jewish congresswoman. Would the Orthodox Jewish people count her as a Jew? Not really. But Arizona does. And certainly Congregation Chaverim does.

And I do. And the Bible would, too. Abraham begat Isaac. Not Sarah. (Of course, Sarah did, but the Bible's use of patrilineal genealogy is well noted) Isaac begat Jacob. You get the idea. So Giffords' father's Jewish identity is enough for her to be a true claimant of the Jewish religion.

The Reform Jewish world established this as an appropriate marker for someone claiming their identity. See Resolution on Patrilineal Descent from March, 1983. This is a break from what they site in the resolution, "According to the Halacha as interpreted by traditional Jews over many centuries, the offspring of a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father is recognized as a Jew, while the offspring of a non-Jewish mother and a Jewish father is considered a non-Jew."

And yet, the document goes on "Both the Biblical and the Rabbinical traditions take for granted that ordinarily the paternal line is decisive in the tracing of descent within the Jewish people."

So there seems to be discussion about parenthood and Jewish identity. And it has only increased since 1983. In 1979, my son was born and had to be 'converted' to Judaism by the rabbi in Kansas City, before they would allow his circumcision, but by 1983, when my older daughter was born, the reform movement had concluded that she would be Jewish due to my identity. Something we already knew and believed, but now it was official.

And Ms Giffords already was living it long before 1983. Too good.

The discussion can be seen in the thousands of webpages dedicated to the subject. For a quick look, see Jewish Gentile Couples and have a wander there. Or if that website appears too big, try this one article about Stephen and Laura Katz Katz article

Mazel tov to Gabby Giffords on her recovery.
Mazel tov to Stephen and Laura on their lives together.
Mazel tov to you, if you find the One whose identity can seriously shape your own.

10 June 2011

Animal rights

It’s all over the news. Look what’s happening with Indonesian abattoirs and the traumas of slaughtering formerly-Australian cattle. The RSPCA and Animals Australia are taking out adverts on television. They are organizing a national day of protest against animal cruelty on 18 June.

121,000 Australians work for the beef industry. The value of live cattle exports in the year 2010 was $678 million. There are 10,000 jobs directly related in Australia to the live cattle export trade. So it’s no small matter that the federal government under Prime Minister Julia Gillard (actually Agriculture Minister, Joe Ludwig) has ordered a suspension of the exporting of live cattle to Indonesia until the government over there can guarantee the humane treatment of the animals before they are slaughtered.

Wait, did I say ‘humane’? That means human, and thus, I’m a little confused. Shall we treat animals like we treat humans? Or better than humans? We don’t sell humans to other countries for a profit, or even at a loss!

The Australian Agricultural Coshares is a conglomerate of the largest beef producers in country. And they are lowering their expectations of beef futures down from $60 million to $50 million as a result of the government interference. Or rather protectionism. Or involvement.

Most Australians had never heard the word abattoirs until the ABC ran an expose 12 days ago.

Right now there are 100,000 Australian live cattle awaiting slaughter.Did the beef industry know about the abuses of the animals in Indonesia? When did they learn about it? Are they responsible for the actions of the people to whom they sell the cattle? What about industrialists in Western Australia who sell mining materials to China. Are we going to require China to ‘live up to our standards’ viz these materials? Or in anything? The farmers, ranchers, and the industry has to have some warning from government or else their futures predictions are false, and their hopes for sales are false. I’m questioning the rights of government and I’m not the only one.

In regards to slaughtering, I think about Jewish people and slaughtering animals. We have rules and the shochet, the ritual slaughterer, who is well trained. Among other features, shechita slaughter severs the jugular vein, carotid artery, esophagus and trachea in a single continuous cutting movement with an non-serrated, sharp knife, which is intended to avoid unnecessary pain to the animal as consciousness is lost quickly due to loss of cerebral blood pressure. Is that humane? Or kind enough RSPCA?

Back in the days of the Bible and the Temple, God required sacrifices, even daily, for various reasons, but the number one reason that I can figure, is to remind the Jewish people each day of our sins, and the desperate condition in which we find ourselves. The cost of repairing our relationship was large, and involved bloody sacrifices.

Some wonder if that will be reinstated if the Temple will ever be rebuilt in Jerusalem. IF it is, and I’m not sure it will be, then sacrifices will probably be reinstated. But the sacrifices will be unnecessary as we now have seen the repair accomplished with the death of The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

That’s right, the inhumane treatment of Jesus, Y’shua the Messiah, by Roman soldiers which ended in the ultimate crucifixion of the Nazarene, left him dead. And buried. And then on the 3rd day God raised him from the dead. Never again to die. Thanks be to God for his loving gift.

08 June 2011

Shavuot, Pentecost, some shaking and Jesus

Christchurch 2011. Devastation. Earthquake. And tremors that continued. Six months after the larger but not fatal earthquake had hit the same place. This though was the most expensive natural disaster in our sense of history in New Zealand at 15 billion dollars. In total, 183 people were killed in the earthquake, making the earthquake the second-deadliest natural disaster recorded in New Zealand (after the 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake), and fourth-deadliest disaster of any kind recorded in New Zealand.
Months later, in April this year, Fukishima Japan. Earthquake and tsunami. And then weeks later, another earthquake as tremors continue. The nuclear reactor is in danger. The people of Tokyo are only 170 kilometres south and often worried of the situation.
For most of us, life is a driving force, keeping and getting life, almost whatever the cost. That’s a prime driver for humanity and for us as humans, amen?

Tonight in Bondi and in Jerusalem and in New York City Jews are celebrating Pentecost and are eating blintzes and cottage cheese. They will stay up all night reading and praying and learning the Book of Ruth.
What is their motivation and what can we learn from their busy-ness and their thinking? And what does God have to say to us as 21st century people about what gives us life?

Images of Mount Sinai
For that, we have to return 3,500 years to the point in Jewish and really world history, where God gave the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) to mankind, specifically to the Jews, then that the Jews might pass on the information to the rest of humanity. Pentecost is called the ‘Time of the Giving of the Torah.” Why ‘giving’ and not ‘receiving?’ Because every time we listen to the Bible read here at church or in our private devotions, on Christian radio, or wherever, we ‘receive’ the Bible’s truths. One time, God gave it, but each time we can receive it again.
The scene in Sinai was raucous to say the least. The book of Exodus unveils the scene as one of chaos. What’s there? Look, there is fire and wind and a voice. Ezekiel 1 is read on Shavuot and it’s designed to link with and show us the exaggerated activity of a storm, a wild storm, uncharacteristic storms of high energy and God’s voice coming from within it.

Ezekiel says, “And as I looked, behold, a storm wind was coming from the north, a great cloud with fire flashing forth continually and a bright light around it, and in its midst something like glowing metal in the midst of the fire.”(Ezek. 1.4)
Later on in the Bible, the writer of Hebrews shows us even more of that scene and contrasts it with our Mt of Revelation.

“For you have not come to a mountain that may be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word should be spoken to them. For they could not bear the command, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned.” And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, “I am full of fear and trembling.”
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel. … For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less shall we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven… Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb 12.18-29)

What a scene of awe and fear. This is stuff Spielberg would love to create. This is massive cyclone like we have seen thundering across the plains in the US of late, even in my state of origin, Missouri, where the tornadoes came through and so far more than 130 are dead.

“And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. And Mount Sinai was altogether on a Smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in Fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long.” (Exodus 19) You get it.

With all of Israel standing, quaking, and basically traumatized after 400 years of slavery, terror at the Red Sea, a narrow escape, and a month and a half of wandering in the wilderness, building the Golden Calf and thinking it’s all lost, then they saw the lightning and thunder and great wind, and wondered if it was all over. I would have been afraid, and I imagine I’m not alone.

Fear was on them. Moses returned and brought two tablets of stone. On them were 10 phrases. And God used those 10 words to define a constitution for the former slaves.
Listen, fire shakes things up. Earthquakes shake things up. We all need a good shake up now and then, don’t we? I even heard some commentator reviewing why the tornadoes are going on in the US… he referred to Global Warming.

I believe that Sinai was one of the first places of Global Warming ever recorded. And God was heating things up for Israel and on Israel that we as Jews might take a renewed, invigorated, ‘on fire’ religion and go to the nations.
The Spirit came on the church as a fire; he came onto Jesus as a dove. Jesus needed no cleansing; we are desperate for it.

Go to the Nations with God’s Tongue
The story is told: God offered the Word to 70 nations, but each said no. He came to the Jewish people and offered us the Torah. Moses said, “How much for the 5 commandments?” God said, ‘they are free.” Moses replied, “I’ll take 10.” By the way, I can say that joke; I get worried if some others do.

Luke tells us at beginning of Acts 2 that there were people from every nation. This would reflect the 70 nations believed to exist. And sometimes they were called 70 tongues, since a nation usually is defined not by geographic borders, but by its language.

70 nations were offered the Torah; they refused. As a result of Pentecost, the 70 nations will hear the Gospel.

It is significant to note that a Jewish commentary on Exodus, recalling chapter 10 of Genesis, which sketches a map of the 70 nations which were then thought to comprise humanity as a whole, leads them back to Sinai to hear the word of God: "At Sinai the Lord's voice was divided into 70 languages, so that all the nations could understand" (Exodus Rabbah 5, 9). So too in the Lucan Pentecost, the Word of God is addressed to humanity through the Apostles, in order to proclaim "the mighty works of God" (Acts 2:11) to all peoples even with their differences. A clear overcoming not only of national differences, but of the Tower of Babel problem resident on humanity, the inability to speak at peace with one another.

A few years ago I was in Melbourne, and upon arrival at the airport I rang a Jewish woman I’d met on the phone a year before. She is a Mendelsohn and when our team was cold calling Jewish surnames, I rang her and dozens of others. She seemed interested and I marked her name as such on our computer. So on arrival I wanted to meet up with her. She was open and had a friend, Alice, come by from next door. Alice is a Baptist, and wanted to know how Jews, Jesus and Jews for Jesus went together.
Now my new Jewish contact is originally from Scotland, and although I’ve traveled the world, I had a very difficult time understanding her accent. Sure, her words were English words, but they were foreign sounding to me. It was her dialect (a Greek word meaning ‘tongue’ and used in Acts 2 of what the disciples received that day) that threw me off.

Long story short, this woman prayed with me to accept Jesus that afternoon. She is reading her Bible now and Alice is helping her. She is being looked after by a church which meets just around the corner from their flats. God is good!
What Babel evidences, the inability of people to speak with each other, Pentecost overcomes as people from 70 nations can hear the same words in their own language and respond in faith, amen?

Tongues divided the world in Babel; tongues unite the world in Pentecost.

And remember what the 120 did when they got the Holy Spirit that Pentecost day? They went downstairs and outside and preached so that the 3,000 could find eternal life. We hear the Gospel; we respond and believe and we go to preach it.

What is in our hearts comes out our mouths. Jesus said, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.“ (Matthew 12.34) In fact 15 times in the Newer Testament, people are filled or the phrase is used “filled (or baptized) with the Spirit” and each time what follows is speaking. If you believe in Jesus and have a relationship with him you will speak about him to others. And they will hear and learn and some will come to faith in Jesus.

Conversion and Pentecost
One point to mention about this holiday is the uniqueness in relation to sin. At every festival the Torah informs us that one has to bring a sin offering. Only on the festival of Shavuot is the word 'sin' not mentioned. Why? “For on the festival of Shavuot, the day of the receiving of the Torah, all Jews are like the convert "newborn", and so free of all sin.” (R Levi Yitschak of Berditchev)

What R Levi Yitschak means and what we mean may be different. Let’s be clear. We all need to be cleansed of sin. We all need shaking up. And in Pentecost we have God calling us to listen, to hear his words in whatever languages, and to be born from above. He wants to fulfill His words of Jeremiah 31. There God predicts through the ancient prophet,
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them, “declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
“And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (31.31-34)

This new covenant is God’s promise. This new covenant is enacted on Passover, 7 weeks before Pentecost when Y’shua took up the 3rd cup during the seder and initiated it. And in his dying and rising from the dead, we can all be forgiven of our sins, we can all be converted, we can all know God. It’s a new covenant, not like the covenant of Moses (the Old covenant). This is conversion in the best sense of the word.

And why do we read the Book of Ruth? The rabbis say we read Ruth because King David, her descendant, died on Shavuot and because Ruth was a convert and at Sinai we were like converts. God transformed us from ordinary people to a special nation.
And why do we eat dairy products? The word of God is likened to “milk and honey” and we eat to remind ourselves of the sweetness and refreshment found in the Word of God.

Conversion brings life, not death
In Exodus 32 we read of the return of Moses with the 2 Tablets of the Law. And the Jewish populace was behaving riotously and the brother of Moses, Aaron, lied about how the Golden Calf incident happened. Moses was angry and invited the people to join him. The sons of Levi did (Moses’ tribe too) and that day the text tells us, “So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day.” (Exodus 32.28)

Now if you know much about Bible, you know the precision of biblical numbers is a worthy study itself. For instance, exactly how many men came out of Egypt from each family and each tribe? No round numbers here; no approximations. Even after the Resurrection, Peter goes fishing and catches 153 fish. (John 21.11)

So it’s very surprising to read the phrase “about 3,000 men” in Exodus. Is it random? Not at all.

Acts chapter two shows us that as a result of the preaching of Peter, Jewish people interrupted his sermon and said, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2.37) and Peter told them to repent and get baptized and get filled with the Holy Spirit, for the ‘promise is for you, and your children, and all who are far off” (This means the Jews, the Jewish families, and Gentiles). And who responded? “So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2.41)

No coincidence here. What brought death in Moses’ day brought life in Peter’s day. And to the exact number of people.

And Paul made a point of this in 2 Corinthians 3.

“Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, how shall the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory?” (3.5-8)

So the Spirit brings life and the Law brings death. But let’s be too simple here. What we mean by Spirit always contains Scripture. What we mean by Law contains more than Scripture. Here’s what I mean.

'The Law' is a checklist system, with requirements and guilt for failure and pride for satisfaction. It starts in the Scripture, but goes past its intent. 'The Spirit' (as Paul used the term) is God’s word enabled in our lives. It’s the requirements of the Law put into our hearts of flesh. (Jer. 31).

Spirit without the Word is Emotionalism; Word without Spirit is legalism.

But together, they are what Paul calls “Spirit” and we could say“ The Spirit and the Word bring Life.” Jesus said “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” (John 6.63)

That’s it…that’s how we win in this transitory life. We trust the Spirit and God’s Words, they bring us life. Fukishima plant technicians and US tornado survivors, and Christchurch earthquake survivors all share victories of still breathing, but what you and I can count on is that those who trust Jesus and are anointed with his fire and word, enter into life and live it to the fullest.

About 3000 folks can live; 5,000 the next day (Acts 4) and who knows how many in Penrith or in Sydney or Melbourne or around Australia will hear God’s word and live, even today?

Pentecost is not Passover. On Passover we are forgiven. On Pentecost we are empowered to proclaim the Gospel. Let’s be out sharing this message. Let’s go out and tell.

04 June 2011

Calendar

It's advertising time for the new calendar for 2011-2012, which really is the calendar for 5772. You can order it here

Why should anyone order a $22 calendar when the life insurance company or the funeral home or the butcher might give you one for free? The artwork by Amy Sheetreet, an Israeli artist, is worth the price by itself. And each page is able to be framed, after the year is over. Each month has the information about what portions of Bible are read in synagogues worldwide. You can know about holidays like Passover and Hanukkah and when they happen, since Jewish holidays rotate according to the moon and not the sun, like Aussie holidays like Anzac Day.

Each month has information which will be useful for you to understand the Scripture and the promises God has given each of us.

Of course, if you live in the USA, you can order from the Jews for Jesus website there, but here in Australia, we are the only ones who will have this edition. Get it early. Last year we sold out by October!

02 June 2011

Same story...different location

I'm putting up the link to the Vimeo broadcast from Michigan of my testimony and some tips on Jewish people and what we think and how to witness to Jewish people. Should be good, if you have an hour. Here it is

I guess telling the story is a biblical thing to do. The Apostle Paul told his story and it's recorded three times in the book of Acts. I wonder how many times he really told it. Probably hundreds. And every time I share what God did for me, back in 1971 and beyond, I remember that God still is, that He loves to bring people to Himself, and that He is alive. He's not only the God of the Bible, but He's alive and well and wanting relationship with us all.

Even you.
If you'll listen.

May you have a story to tell as well.