28 September 2011

Lshana Tova

LshanaTovaeCard by bobmendo
LshanaTovaeCard, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

5772 begins tonight. May you have a blessed and sweet new year, full of hope and joy. May G-d Himself reveal Himself to each of you in clarity and delight. Shana tovah um'tuka.

21 September 2011

Jews, Gentiles, and Israel

Back in the 1970s I ministered at a place in Lawrence, Kansas called The Mustard Seed. The church grew out of a Bible study group I started in 1972. I was the founding pastor but in 1977 left leadership and eventually left town in 1979. But I've returned every now and then and find it a wonderful place for the Gospel. A woman who was part of our group then was Valerie. And over the decades we have kept up and certainly so in the world of Facebook.

Today she and I wrote because her church in Oklahoma is asking her to bring some teaching about Israel. She's not Jewish, but her love for the Jewish people is clear and her desire for God's glory is sincere.

So Val and I messaged what she might teach and I thought I'd share it with you, if you are in such a circumstance at your church.
Maybe have a three-part series. Each would have plenty of biblical references and modern day examples. 1) God's plan for Israel (to be saved and to teach others about him) and 2) what God is doing with Jews today (sort of a collection of God stories in testimonies of today) and 3) God's plan for the Jewish people at the end of times.
For 1) Use the Biblical Theology of Mission link on Sermons. 2) For Testimonies, why not use some of the Videos here or the life stories of others (for text) Life Stories. For 3) Israel, see God's plan for Israel

Of course, most of you reading this are not in a place where there are significant numbers of Jewish people. So you might wonder, then, what does this three-part series have to do with Gentiles?

How about an application for Gentiles? That is, how about the role of Gentiles viz this three-part teaching on Jewish people. ( I guess this is the 4th part)
"For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things." (Romans 15.26-27)
so 1) Gentiles have a role to play in financial support of Jewish believers

and "But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them." (Romans 11.13-14)
2) Gentiles have a 'jealousy' thing to do for unsaved Jews, to compel them to come in.

Hope that helps if you are asked to (or ask your pastor yourself!) bring such a series. Even if you don't do this officially, you might want to study this on your own. What do you think?

19 September 2011

Hollow, void, and empty space

I'm often amazed at natural phenomena. The way a bird soars above me near the cliffs of the sea, the erosion of massive rocks by gentle creeks, and such things as this hollowed-out tree. Thanks to SArcher for the photo. She lives in Arkansas in the USA.

What makes me look twice at this is the injured tree looks beautiful, but it's really harmed. That injury is what causes the tree to hollow. For much useful information about trees, especially for those considering buying a home with shade trees, see Tree Damage and get a pencil to take notes.

It's Spring here in Sydney, and throughout Australia, one of everyone's favourite times of the year. And back in the USA where SArcher lives it's almost fall. That's a time when things go into hibernation and slow down ...a lot! Many from Australia are traveling to the US now, to the Northeast where the autumnal colors are increasing and the yellows, reds, and browns all will highlight this slow down.

Eventually, of course, all things slow down completely and die.

I took this photo outside Bryan, Texas in Sleepy Hollow. Yup, that's the name of the town. And this is a real gravestone. No photoshop performed.

For some, death and dying are boring or decay-ridden. For others it's a beautiful experience. One thing is sure. It will happen to us and to all we love. And to all about whom we don't care. Life happens. Death happens.

That said, Y'shua said, "I am come than you might have life, and have it abundantly." (quoted in John chapter 10) God does not want our lives to be boring, or broken, but rather healed and restored. That's one of those good news messages of this time of (Jewish) year. We start over soon. The year is 5772. And God wants you to have full life, and full of life with Him.

Don't go through life hollow, decayed, broken, or void. Repent of your sins. Let Y'shua give you eternal life and get every hindrance out of the way until you can receive Him.

Shame...does it even exist?

Here are some definitions to help, if you need them. These are from this website: Shame "Shame is closely related to, but distinct from guilt. While shame is a failure to meet your own standards of behavior, guilt is a failure to meet other's standards of behavior. Shame tell us “you have not done your best” guilt tell us “you have harmed another, you have not been compassionate, you have ignored the golden rule.” Shame is personal, while guilt is public. Shame reflects on the “human being”, and guilt reflects on the “human doing”.

Many words in our vocabulary describe forms of shame. They often differ in the intensity of the shame they express, but the basic archetype is the same. Here is a partial list, in approximate order from the most mild to the most intense: uncomfortable, uneasy, embarrassment, chagrin, self-blame, feeling guilty, humiliation, dishonored, feeling ridiculous, self-condemnation, self-reproach, mortified and “toxic shame”. Honor is the absence of shame."

What prompts this tonight? I spoke with Pastor Ruth at the Revival Life Centre in Penshurst tonight. I preached there about Jesus and the Jewish Day of Atonement. The teaching was well received. I'm sure there is a podcast of it on their website. Or there might be one. OK, I'm not sure.

That said, what Ps Ruth and I spoke of was a line in the Bible she found about dressing like a prostitute. I don't know the reference, but she had just read it. The discussion that followed involved conversation about manufacturers and women's necklines, cleavage, and embarrassment about a wedding dress she had seen.

I get it.

Earlier today, a warm sunny spring day in Sydney, I was in a Maccah's in Sutherland to use the wi-fi. Every 10 minutes or so another group of teenagers came into the cafe and wore even less clothing than the group before them. It was more and more unnerving.
Shame. They didn't have it at all. Young boys and girls were very comfortable scratching in private areas in public, exposing themselves in inordinate ways, and even as I say this, I wonder when I became my father or grandfather. Maybe I've always been so, but lately I'm more attuned to this. And the level of comfort in bad behaviour might be owing to 2 and a half men or the media in general or to lazy principals at school or to 100 little reasons, but end of the day, it has to stop.

Daniel the prophet said as much, 2500 years ago: quoted in chapter 9 verse number 8 “Open shame belongs to us, O Lord, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against Thee."

But shame is not necessarily the end of our emotions and conclusions. It is reparable. If we are honest and repent. Then God looks with kindness on us, as His word declares.

Shame was dumped on Y'shua, like all our sins and failures. He took our sins on himself. "He became sin who knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in him." That's a great exchange! And again, "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

Let's get it right. Let's live in humility and modesty and not in shamelessness. But even if we do feel ashamed; if we do fall short of God's standards, let's honestly repent and receive the forgiveness that is offered us in the Beloved. Amen?

17 September 2011

Going through motions

This is known as 'air guitar.' For those who don't know this is a practice of appearing like one is playing a guitar, even with commensurate sound tracks in the background, but without a real musical instrument.

Today I'm thinking about going through the motions without real connection. The story is told of a new cocky hot-shot trying to make his way in New York City. He takes an office, barely bigger than a broom closet, on the 48th floor of the Empire State Building. He brings in his boxes of important papers and his university degree freshly mounted and framed. He's ready to go. He puts his phone on the desk. He mounts the degree. He affixes his name on the outside of his office door. Then it happens. A knock at his door.

He grabs the phone, and quickly sits behind the shiny desk. He yells, "Come on in." The door knocker enters. The executive 'continues' his conversation on the phone..."Yes, please, like I told you. $200,000 into the shares in off-shore drilling. Look, I've got to go. Someone's here to see me. Ciao."

"Yes, may I help you," the young executive quickly says in welcome.

"I'm here to hook up your phone," says the knocker.

All too true. We often are more interested in being noticed or being important or being something we are not, than attending to reality. We often go through the motions of life, without engaging life at all!

Last night my wife and I had a nice dinner and came home early. She was tired and retired. I wanted to watch the Sydney Swans in their footy elimination contest against the Hawthorn Hawks I had recorded earlier. It was a disappointing result, but there were flashes of glory. As the game ended, I hit the wrong button on the wrong remote control. I turned off the television.

But I still wanted to watch the news. I changed the channel. But nothing happened. Of course not. I was changing the remote that was not engaged. It was the remote for the Foxtel and not for the TV itself. I was clicking and wondering what was going wrong, but the tv wasn't working. I thought..."Oh no, the tv is out. And I wanted to see the news." But it wasn't the television's problem at all. It was mine.

Going through the motions is a waste of time and effort. But we often resort to this and then blame the motion instead of ourselves for its failure.

Back in the 70s I used to paint houses to put myself through university. And one day I had failed to reload my paintbrush and wondered why the few boards on the house were a different color than the others. Why? I had gone through the motions, but had not really painted the section later observed.

Today, on this Shabbat, please, do what you need to do and/ or want to do, and do things well and fully. Don't be an air guitarist. Play a real guitar. Make beautiful sounds. Paint well. With brush full of real paint. Love your wife. Do real things. Really.

And you will be glad for your commitments. At least I hope so.



________________ from Wikipedia: other references:
Going Through the Motions, a 1982 novel by Katherine Govier
Going Through the Motions, a 1979 album by Hot Chocolate
"Goin' Through the Motions", a song by Blue Öyster Cult from their 1977 album Spectres
"Going Through the Motions", a song by Kansas from their 1983 album Drastic Measures
"Goin' Through the Motions", a song by Diana Ross from her 1989 album Workin' Overtime
"Goin' Through the Motions", a song by Robbie Nevil from his 1991 album Day 1
"Going Through the Motions", a song by Aimee Mann from her 2005 album The Forgotten Arm
"Going Through the Motions", a song sung by Buffy in the Buffy episode Once More, with Feeling
"I Sweat (Going Through the Motions)," a song by Nona Hendryx from the soundtrack to the 1985 film Perfect

16 September 2011

More Max Brenner

Back in July I wrote about the boycotts on Max Brenner chocolate shops. It's outrageous that this activity continues in a free society. To read my blog then, see it Brenner here

Back in August the Australian ran a piece about this. They wrote, "MAX Brenner says he is a man of peace who hates all forms of violence. So how has this chocolate maker become the target of anti-Israeli protesters in Australia who accuse him of being complicit with the Israeli military?

It's a claim which has outraged many who see the campaign against the 24-store Max Brenner chocolate chain in this country as an ugly echo of the anti-Semitism of 1930s Germany when Jewish businesses were targeted...In 2001, the Max Brenner chain became part of the much larger Strauss Group, Israel's second-largest food and beverage company. But Strauss also provides food and care packages to Israeli soldiers. This, in the eyes of anti-Israeli activists, justifies a boycott.

Ms Bullimore, the co-ordinator of the protest campaign in Australia, denies that activists are simply targeting an innocent chocolate-maker. "We are trying to highlight Israel's human rights abuses,' she told The Weekend Australian."

After heated debate today in NSW Parliament, Fred Nile reported to his people as follows: "The NSW Green Party has attempted to defend its support for the Anti-Jewish BDS in a heated Parliamentary exchange that lasted over 2 ¼ hours.

The BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) is a campaign which targets Jewish businesses, academia, arts and culture around the world in order to damage the international image and the financial position of the Democratic State of Israel, as stated by the Palestinian manifesto issued in 2005. That manifesto also states the ultimate objective of the BDS is to end the Jewish "occupation and colonization of all Arab lands", echoing the Hamas rally call for the complete destruction of Israel "from the river to the sea". In Australia, the BDS has been championed by the NSW Green Party and the Socialist Alliance.

The Rev Hon Fred Nile MLC, Leader of the Christian Democratic Party, joined a multilateral condemnation of the BDS and the Green Party in the NSW Upper House yesterday. The Hon Shaoquett Moselmane MLC, Parliament's only elected Muslim Member, was the only non-Green individual to defend the BDS." (For Media Interviews contact:
Rev Fred Nile (02) 9230 2478 or 0418 619 731 Research Assistant: David Copeland (02) 9230 2978)

Fred had already written his people earlier: "I wish to speak on a serious development: the boycott of Jewish businesses, particularly of the Max Brenner chocolate and coffee shop in Melbourne's QV Centre. In July members of the Socialist Alternative organisation demonstrated at the Max Brenner coffee and chocolate store because they said the Jewish-owned franchise company had aided the Israeli army, a claim that I reject totally", said Rev Fred Nile.

"Thirteen men and six women were taken into custody after an altercation with police, and sixteen were charged and bailed. The charges included assaulting police, riotous behaviour, besetting the premises and trespass. Jewish Labor member of Parliament Michael Danby called the protest "stupid"."

I recommend you read Jeff Sparrow of the ABC on his blog from last week (9/9) The Drum Opinion He does his bit of evaluation and ranting about ranters. Always a good exercise. And it's all prompted by the Max Brenner situation. He does say, "Australia's fascists are tiny and ineffective. Yes, they have sent people to the Brenner rallies in Brisbane and Sydney but they're incapable of mobilising serious numbers."

Of course, not everyone likes Nile or Sparrow. Note the anonymous commenter on the blog WhiteLawTowers. Anony takes the blade out against the Jews and Sparrow together. Not very kindly, either, I might add.

All that said, please, please let's all go to Max's and get a hot choco. Let's continue to stand for honesty and openness. Let's stand for free trade and freedoms of religion and speech. And leave Max alone. Protest a cafe? Puh-leazzzze.

12 September 2011

Rafael Nadal and others on 9/11

Rafael Nadal on September 11: "It's a hard day for all the people here in New York, all the people in America. But I think for all the people around the world, too, no? Because this kind of tragedy for everybody is hard to accept, hard to understand. I am not an exception. I felt much pain and I suffered, too."

That's a key for us in Australia to understand. ‎9/11 changed the way we wait in travel, changed the way the West looks at the Arabs of the world... it's massive. It's not only the 2,900 who died in NYC, in DC and in the crash in Pennsylvania. Bali bombings, London trains, Madrid.. the West is different after 9/11.

A couple more things to ponder before I get on to 9/12 (or as we Aussies say 12/9). 2900 people dying is horrible. It was murder. It was not a tragedy. My friend Glenn Harris said, "9-11 wasn't a 'tragedy' and don't call it that. It was a MASSACRE perpetrated with malice aforethought; not by insane madmen, but by devout Muslims who sincerely believed they were advancing Islam and thus helping mankind. This is what their book teaches, and it is the end result of any system that teaches that 'the end justifies the means.' Jesus told us to persuade. Mohammed told them to wage war."

Final thought: 2900 people dying and the resultant shame, wars, discomfort, mistrust, etc... that's all bad. Very bad. And watching the reading of the names at the World Trade Center late last night was compelling and brought a tear to my eyes. Yesterday I preached at a church in Sydney about the death of Jesus. I know, only one fellow. And so long ago. Should it still have impact?

I say wholeheartedly, yes!

The apostle Paul said so. Here in full is a quote from Paul's letter to the Roman believers, recorded in chapter 5.
"God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Messiah died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus the Messiah, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned — for until the Law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus the Messiah, abound to the many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification.
For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Messiah Jesus. So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men." (verses 8-18)

Jesus' death brings all of God's judgment into Himself.
Jesus' death accomplished the justification of all people, including you and me.
And all the Muslims and Jews and Buddhists and everyone...whoever will receive Jesus as Lord and Saviour. The salvation of God is available for all people. How great is our God!!!

Receive Jesus as your Lord.
Receive eternal life.
Receive forgiveness of your sins.

You will be born again.
You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.

10 September 2011

9/11+10

Dateline 11 September
Where were you 10 years ago?

History buffs and those with good memory will tell you their thinking, their location, their conversations. Others will have a general idea. If you told the story to others at the time, you will likely have a better memory. If you blogged or journaled about your thoughts then, it's even more sure that you recall.

I took this photo of the Twin Towers in about 1983, off the ferry coming back from the Statue of Liberty. And when I think about the loss of those two buildings, and the resultant aftershocks, I still sit with sadness.

The night of 9/11/01 my wife and I were at home in Sydney. We watched the episode of the tv show "West Wing." Wikipedia reports about "18th and Potomac": In a brief conversation with Mrs. Landingham, directly before she goes to collect her new car, the President says he'd like to have a word with her on her return. Later in the show we find out that she was killed in a car crash that occurred at 18th and Potomac - adjacent the main entrance to the Congressional Cemetery. The title of the episode references this pivotal event. The President is thus never able to tell her this news.

It ended about 1040 pm.

Moments later, at 10:46 pm (our time, 8:46 am in NYC), five hijackers crashed American Airlines Flight 11 into the World Trade Center's North Tower (1 WTC) and at 9:03 a.m. another five hijackers crashed United Airlines Flight 175 into the South Tower (2 WTC).

The television in Sydney showed the replay, again and again.
The shock.
The horror.
The video, the confusion.
The shock.
We sat silently.

Immediately I sent an email to our then New York City leader Mitch Forman in case he didn't know. He lived at our operations centre in Manhattan on 31st Street. Watching the morning news was not part of his usual routine at The Center. I rang. Told them to watch the news...quickly. And suggested they might do some particular things.

I went back to my lounge room with my wife and daughter. She was 11. We sat silently. News was splashing and forthcoming. Disarray and disquiet. The scenes were anything but comfortable.

At about midnight a friend from the US rang. She also lived in Sydney and had been watching the television. We commiserated. We couldn't believe what we were watching. Shock. Horror. Dismay. We wondered what was next. Who knew there would be more with the Pentagon and the United airlines flight that landed into the fields of Pennsylvania?

Lessons:
1) America is resilient and no matter what terrorists or the axis of evil or its own corrupt corporate executives throw at it, America seems to buoy itself and survive. And thrive! And fly the Stars and Stripes.

2) Patriotism is rife and only increased after 9/11. The number of American flags proliferated throughout 2001 and ever since. Not since the late 1960s when "America: Love it or Leave it" bumper stickers abounded had we seen so many patriotic attestations. Songs of national heritage like "God bless America" have now become standard fare at the 7th Inning stretch in baseball games, before the singing of "Take me out to the ballgame." Americans love their country. They are not embarrassed about proclaiming that.

3) Evil knows no earthly bounds. And ruthless observation is required to check evil at every checkpoint. That's why the US has spent hundreds of billions of dollars not only on US soil, but wherever planes are exiting to enter the USA. The upgrades for security, the combining of 22 other government agencies into the Homeland Security department, all of it... designed to watch, and to catch evil have been somewhat successful.

4) Only God rules the worlds. People might strive for their versions of justice or recompense or retaliation, but at the end of the day, all man's efforts fail. The Bible makes it clear that the Lord has compassion for the lowly, the downtrodden, the afflicted. And He ever works to make His way known. Sadly governments of men and plots of evil men might thwart His kingdom for a time, but in the end He has His way.

America, we from Down Under wish you success in the continued rebuilding of faith and confidence after the 9/11 attacks. It's not easy.

Place your confidence in the Almighty.
That faith will not disappoint.
That will succeed, and although it might appear to delay or be delayed, wait for it.

His going forth is certain as the dawn. He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rains watering the earth.

09 September 2011

Rugby World Cup

You don't want to miss any of the action as tonight the Rugby World Cup launches in Auckland. The crowds of 50,000 have thronged around the city square and the harbour all day today. The hype is meeting the challenge. The noise is meeting the anticipation. Will the All Blacks get up and finally win, which although they've been the favourite most every tournament, have not done since the very first World Cup back in 1987? That was the year my adopted country Australia lost to France in a stunning upset, and allowed the Kiwis to triumph handily in the final over the French.

Some of you reading this will remember the movie from 2010, Invictus, starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. That brought the excitement of the every-four-year battle to many in the Americas who didn't know much about it. This photo of the real characters that Freeman and Damon played might strike your memory. It's Nelson Mandela and Francois Pienaar in 1995. South Africa dominated in those days.

Then came John Eales and the Aussies. And that's when I moved to Sydney. Great excitement. And I went to a match at Olympic Park. Here's my wife celebrating a try by the Waratahs, our state side.

Many folks have seen the haka, the tribal dance and battle cry of the New Zealand warriors.
Many of the NZ sports teams do that before a contest, but if it works in any sport, it very much works in rugby. You've never seen it? You must!

It's a good sport, quick, fast, with its own rules, and very different to what might seem similar sports. Enjoy it Americans. And hey, you never know, the USA team might just get up, even though US is playing in the same pool (read: division) as the Aussies. Good luck to all 20 teams.

07 September 2011

Ned Kelly and the Missing Skull

Big Ned Kelly by bobmendo
Big Ned Kelly, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

Australia has many "Big" tourist things, like Merinos, Pineapples and Prawns, but this statue of Ned Kelly caught my eye at the servo named "Neds." Sensible.

I grew up in the US and had never heard of Ned Kelly before I moved here. We had our own with Jesse James and Al Capone and other lesser known bad-guys-we-want-to-know. For those outside of Aus, or at least outside of the awareness, Kelly's skull is the topic of late in science.

Born about 1854 to an Irish convict exiled to Australia, Kelly became a folk hero as a very young man. He took up arms against a corrupt British constabulary, robbed banks and wrote an explosive manifesto. He was shot and arrested in a final shootout in which he wore homemade metal armor (Hence the get up in the photo), and in 1880 he was hanged by the Anglo-Irish establishment he despised.

Legends, especially of anti-heroes, make for great stories, but most parents don't want their children emulating these folks. And Kelly would have gone into oblivion in the early part of the last century, except a mistake was made at the grave site.

Seems the men who dug graves in those days of the 19th Century used to use a certain lime to stimulate the grave's decomposition. As fate would have it, though, the gravediggers used the wrong lime which actually prevented decomposition, or at least stalled it big time.

So imagine, decades later as men were digging in 1929, moving earth to make room outside the Melbourne Gaol (jail, it's what it's called outside the US...) they found what appeared to be a site full of skeletons. And as juveniles did in those days, some grave robbers came upon the scene and took several bones and even a couple skulls. The one belonging to Kelly was one of those.

Or was it?

Truth is made clear in the real evidence of science and other methods of forensics. The search disappointed on so many levels, until 3 years ago when another digging excavation brought more bones and more hope to the surface.

The scientists found relatives in the direct line of Kelly's mother. They found clothing which might allow for DNA research. They queried everything as a good scientist does.

At the end on Wednesday, the forensic institute announced the disappointing results of their analysis. It appears that after all this time, after being abducted more than once, placed on display for the world to see, hidden for decades, cherished, handled, sought after and tested, the skull is not Ned Kelly’s. So said Fiona Leahy, a historian and legal adviser at the institute.

All that hope. All that hype. All that disappointment. All we have left is memories of the legend and iron masks on Halloween. Alas.

Sometimes we depend on science, but science can only tell us what it knows. It cannot tell us what it doesn't know. That's fair enough. The word, "science" is from the Latin word for 'knowledge.' And if there is knowledge, then we shall find it, and if there is not, then by definition, science has to be silent.

I speak often to people about religion and science. About Bible and God and controversy related to atheists and scientific debate. Let's be clear. No one has to dismiss honest science and facts to believe in God. No one has to dismiss God to welcome science and information. If God is True, then truth can handle being near other truth. That's sensible, too.

I found a set of YouTube videos which you might like on this subject and its implications. Check one here Debate . And you will find heaps more as you investigate.

I'm not afraid to investigate. I taught high school mathematics back in the 70s. My major in university was maths like Dr Lennox and my minor was in biology. I ask you to join me in this query as well. Don't lose your skull. Don't feel a need to check your mind at the door of honest inquiry.

Come on, let's reason together. Though your sins be as scarlet, they will be white as snow. (Isaiah chapter 1)

06 September 2011

Confined space

Confined...really? by bobmendo
Confined...really?, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

I'm not sure what the city of Sydney was thinking when a law was passed that requires the labelling of this grate or this sewer cover with the words, "Confined Space." It seemed pretty obvious to me, but I've seen that kind of notification in the Sydney Harbour Tunnel where the 'north' and the 'south' directions are each labelled with dozens of arrows. Not really needed, but some legislator thought it a good idea also.

Confined space. I don't usually like those. I've walked on submarines in Virginia and in New York City and am amazed at the configuation of the bunks. I thought it was bad to sleep on bunk beds in Scotland last month, but for different reasons. There was a snorer in each hostel where I stayed, and that was terribly off-putting. Very noisy.

But the bunks on subs are crammed tighter than a drum. They are seriously confining. The sailors have to sleep in a stack of bunks in very little vertical room. I don't know the dimensions, but trust me, it's confining. No room to twist and turn.

I found the word 'confine' in my Bible today. Exodus 21.29 talks about a man whose ox has a bad habit of goring others. And if the man has been warned about this problem, and 'does not confine' the ox, and then "it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and its owner also shall be put to death."

Yup, that's the rule.

So, wait a minute. Why is 'confine' only used once in the Good Book? Actually the Hebrew word is 'shamar' meaning 'guard' or 'keep' and it means a lot more than a leash. It means the owner has to keep a guard like a shepherd guards, or like a watchman who has the responsibility of maintenance of a jewelry store or a delivery of Armaguard moneys.

That same word is used of God who 'watches' over Israel. Not to confine us at all, but to care for us, to love us, to make sure nothing evil happens to us. I'm ever grateful for the Shamar of Israel. (Psalm 121 says he never slumbers nor sleeps, but He keeps Israel.) Awesome.

So if you are feeling confined by religion or by religious activity, maybe it's time to look up and see your God who is keeping you in all circumstances. If you want to be wayward, I guess that's confining, but really, it's a joy!

04 September 2011

Old photo: New Father's Day 2011

Mendelsohns1984.JPG by bobmendo
Mendelsohns1984.JPG, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

27 years ago we took a family photo in Kansas City. Things are different today as Mom and Dad both passed away a few years ago, Michael's family dissolved a bit, and we added Anne in 1990, and Booker joined in the fun a couple months ago.

It's Father's Day in Australia today. Over here we don't keep to the same dates as the US and some other countries. Guess it took longer for the Hallmark cards to make their way over.

So I'm reflecting on my dad and the impact he made in my life. Some of the characteristics and ways of my life that are most visibly owing to him. And I'm glad. Honestly I am. And proud to be called a Mendelsohn. And a son of Elic Mendelsohn.

Thanks, Dad, for 53 good years together. May I be a good dad in as many ways as you were. And may your memory continue to be a blessing to many.

03 September 2011

Oxygen gathering

Singing by bobmendo
Singing, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

This week I spent two and a half days at the Australian Technology Park. Next door is Channel 7. And the reason I was there had nothing to do with technology or television. It was a conference convened by the Katoomba Christian Convention folks.

The speakers included two major folks: John Piper from the USA and John Lennox from Oxford in the UK. Piper is a pastor and has been for over 30 years. He lives in Minnesota. Lennox is best known for his debates with Richard Dawkins. He challenges the New Atheists.

The program included major speeches, great coffee breaks, time for lunch and dinner with encouragement for mixing with others, and electives that covered heaps of topics including family relations, discussion with other generations, and the Q and A session with Dr Lennox. BTW, he's a professor of mathematics at Oxford University.

For many the highlight was not the teaching, nor the fellowship, although they were both wonderful. The highlight might have been 2,000 folks singing together.

I enjoyed the music, the mix of old and new songs, the solid and sympathetic band, and the sound of the multitudes as one.

The Bible says, "And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. “And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will breign upon the earth.”
And I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels aaround the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”
And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying,
“To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”
And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped." (Revelation 5.9-14)

Join us, won't you? Let's sing!