30 October 2011

On, off, on...what to do with cancellations

After labor talks between US National Basketball Association (NBA) players and owners ended Friday with no deal in place, the league cancelled games through Nov. 30. "It's not practical, possible or prudent to have a full season now," commissioner David Stern, who added that the amount of money lost by both sides is "extraordinary," said after the meeting. The issue of how to split revenue remains the largest obstacle to ending the lockout.

"We made a lot of concessions, but unfortunately at this time it's not enough, and we're not prepared or unable at this time to move any further," union executive director Billy Hunter said.

Here at home Qantas has shocked the flying world and the business world and maybe your world, with the announcement that they grounded their entire fleet in light of the continuing union strikes. This happened while seventeen world leaders attending a Commonwealth summit in Perth were booked on Qantas flights and were trying to get home. (The queen was here for the summit, but has her own plane)

The Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, said her government would help the Commonwealth leaders fly home. My guess is she is less concerned about the non-global leaders. And so far the strike is estimated to cost the Australian airline AUD20 million a day. And 68,000 people per day will not be able to fly (except those Miss Gillard organizes personally).

The Australian government called for an emergency arbitration hearing, which was adjourned at 2 this morning, after hearing evidence from the airline and unions, who are protesting planned job cuts. It will resume later today when the government will argue that the airline be ordered to fly in Australia's economic interests and in light of its being iconic.

The Australian and International Pilots Association said that Qantas CEO Alan Joyce’s decision to ground the entire Qantas fleet is “nothing short of a maniacal overreaction.” AIPA Vice President Richard Woodward said the move was pre-meditated, unnecessary and grossly irresponsible. “Alan Joyce is holding a knife to the nation’s throat,” Qantas Captain Woodward said.

Full stop.

When plans change, what do you do? Cancellations are annoying for kings and queens, CEOs and little guys, and you and me. Cancellations cause us to adjust, and most of us don’t want to do that. I'm not even sure if the Melbourne Cup will be on.
On Tuesday this week in Melbourne, at Flemington Raceway, the horse race that stops the nation, the Melbourne Cup, is on. At least we think it will be. Now Qantas has stopped the nation, and who knows who will make it to Melbourne to watch, to show off their new spring carnival costumes and punt on the biggest sporting event in Australia in November every year.

What do you do when things don’t happen the way you happen to want them to happen? Do you easily adjust? (Blessed are the flexible; they do not break.) Or do you live in frustration and anger and hostility?

God wants us to learn His ways and to find His path, even when no one else is travelling that direction. Set your face like flint towards the end you know to be right, and even if things bump into us, or knock us or delay us, we can and must find the continuity to reach the goals we have.

The Bible says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and don’t lean on your own understanding. In all your ways (cancelled or not) acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3.5-6)

23 October 2011

5772 and welcomes!

This month we celebrated the Jewish New Year 5772. And we welcomed it with trumpets and festivities and holy crying and seeking forgiveness. And last week in Israel, Gilad Shalit, after over five years in a Hamas prison, was released to his family and waiting country. The welcomes pictured were overwhelming. And the exchange for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners leaves much by way of controversy. Then this week we also welcomed Queen Elizabeth II, the monarch of England and the Commonwealth. She went to church today to a welcoming crowd and our comments are prompted by all these welcomes.
Hamas had demanded the release of about 1,000 prisoners held in Israel in exchange for Shalit's return, including some whom Israel considers "heavyweight terrorists," who were directly – and sometimes personally –involved in the planning and execution of dozens of deadly terror attacks against Israelis.

Finally last week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Hamas had agreed to a prisoner-exchange deal that would secure Shalit's safe return. As part of the deal, Israel agreed to release 1,027 Palestinian security prisoners, in two stages.

The deal was welcomed by 80% of the Israeli public, but several High Court petitions were filed by families of terror victims in an attempt to suspend it. The court rejected the petitions, stating that since the prisoner exchange deal was a matter of State in which the government had full authority, the court had no room to intervene in its execution.

Thus after nearly five-and-a-half years in Hamas captivity, Shalit was finally reunited with his family. Welcome home, Gilad!

Back in Canberra, and decked out in their Sunday best and brandishing flags and flowers, an enthusiastic crowd cheered as the monarch arrived at St John the Baptist Anglican church with Prince Philip for Sunday worship.
The queen, 85, is in Australia for a 10-day tour -her 16th and possibly last here- which will culminate in her opening the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth on Friday.

Queues began building outside the sandstone church shortly after sunrise and they finally saw her, wearing a primrose-yellow dress and hat with white gloves.

St John's was consecrated in 1845, some 70 years before Canberra was named Australia's capital, and Sunday was the queen's sixth visit to the lakeside parish, which is regularly attended by ex-prime minister Kevin Rudd. Now the foreign minister, Rudd and his family were among 100 regular parishioners selected to join the royal couple for the invitation-only service.

The queen and Prince Philip returned to Government House after church for a lunch with 50 prominent Australians including Oscar-winning actor Geoffrey Rush and champion paralympian Kurt Fearnley.

Welcome is a key word in life. In Hebrew, "baruch haba." And whether wilkommen or welcome, or aloha, God says that to us as well! Jesus said this [recorded in John 6.37] “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. He welcomes us. And I encourage you to welcome Him to your life.

He's more alive and more real and more significant than a visit to the Oscars or an Oscar winner. He's more royal than any Queen of England or a royal flush in Las Vegas. He's more heroic than the most devoted soldier in the IDF or any army. And He wants to welcome you into His family.

Say baruch haba. Say welcome to the Messiah. Y'shua said this, too, related to welcoming Him. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.
Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you shall not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES (welcome) IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’” (Recorded in the Bible in Matthew chapter 23. Verses 37-39)

Start a new life in 5772. Start it today. He's worth all the rejection and the considerations. He's worth all the pain and suffering. He's God's Messiah, foretold in the Jewish Bible by Jewish prophets. Welcome Him and He will welcome you into His forever family.

20 October 2011

Beauty on beauty

patty.flowers.jpg by bobmendo
patty.flowers.jpg, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

The British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II is in Canberra today and went along to the Floriade, the great display of thousands and thousands of flowers across the nation's capital.

A few years ago my wife and I went there to enjoy the same scenery the queen saw today. And I shot this photo to show beauty on beauty. Hope you like it.

And I hope you find things to give you a reminder of God's eternal love and his sense of beauty, too. We say 'our God is an awesome God' and we mean it. In nature and in life, we learn of him.

12 October 2011

Prostitution back on the agenda in South Australia

South Australian Labor Backbencher Steph Key has stated her intention to introduce a private member's bill on the 20th of October to decriminalise prostitution. The bill aims to legalise street walking and the establishment of small brothels in suburban areas. However, under the model, no sex business can be carried out within 200m of any child-related centre such as a school or child-care centre, no people under the age of 18 are to be employed as sex workers and any conviction of a person for an offence relating to prostitution will be immediately "spent" and not retained on a person's record.

This will be the seventh attempt to change the state's prostitution laws in recent years. The latest attempt was defeated in the Legislative Council several years ago, where MLCs voted 12-7 to defeat the proposal. Since then, no one has been keen to tackle what is considered an issue which should be put in the "too hard" basket. All parties will allow a conscience vote on the issue of legalising, or decriminalising prostitution. This makes it hard to gauge what support there will be for Ms Key's Bill. Certainly, in the Lower House, there will be a hard core of Labor MPs from the Right who will oppose it, as there will be from the conservative wing of the Liberal Party.

While there is a chance the Bill could pass through the Lower House, passage in the Upper House - the chamber where it was defeated last time - is very problematical. It will face strong opposition from Family First and MPs from both sides. Family First's Robert Brokenshire says his party cannot support decriminalisation and favours strong powers for the police to combat criminal elements controlling the sex industry. "It's not only prostitution but also the drug dealing that goes with it," Brokenshire says. "In Victoria, where they have licensing of brothels, a lot of backyard brothels have sprung up and there is no protection for the girls who work in them."

Port Adelaide Mayor Gary Johanson, an independent candidate in the forthcoming Port Adelaide by-election, shares Mr Brokenshire's misgivings, especially in relation to streetwalkers. He says the council has had many complaints from young females walking down Hanson Rd or going to the shops at Arndale who had been approached by men seeking sexual favours. He believes legalising street prostitution will only make this situation worse. Other critics of the legislation believe that prostitutes should be provided with support and assistance to leave the harmful and exploitative industry.

The Australian Christian Lobby has issued a statement saying it believes decriminalisation or legalisation of prostitution promotes a culture of acceptance among men as well as in the wider community. Prostitution becomes something which is legally acceptable and therefore socially acceptable; it is just another "job" for the women who "choose" it and provides a necessary "service" to the men who "need" it. It makes it easier for vulnerable women and girls to be drawn into the industry and fosters degrading attitudes among men towards women, including the view that women's bodies are products which can be purchased and used for sexual pleasure.

Decriminalisation and regulation of prostitution are invariably put in place with the objectives of controlling prostitution and creating a safer and more open environment for sex workers. However, these aims are generally not met and in most cases the very opposite outcomes occur. In particular, legalisation of prostitution creates an environment in which human trafficking is more likely to occur. Further, it also creates an environment in which underage prostitution is more likely to occur. Above all else, prostitution is degrading and destructive for women and girls. It is a form of abuse and violence against women by the men who purchase them.

In 1999, Sweden passed the Act Prohibiting the Purchase of Sexual Services. Sweden recognises prostitution as a "serious form of male violence against women and children" and, in keeping with the country's commitment to gender equality, sought ways to protect women from prostitution by focusing on the core cause - the demand for women to provide sexual pleasure, without which prostitution would not be able to flourish and expand. The women's movement played a pivotal role in the country introducing the laws, highlighting the fact that prostitution is at its core an issue of respect for women and gender equality.

Under the Swedish law, prostituted women are not criminally liable; it is the purchaser of sex who is committing the crime. It covers all forms of sexual services purchased in any circumstances. Although the law was initially met with criticism by police and judicial authorities, they are now supportive of the legislation. As can be seen by the situation in Sweden, society can reduce the amount of prostitution by addressing the core cause of prostitution: the demand from men who purchase women for sex. Other Nordic countries are now following Sweden's lead, and South Korea has had a similar system since 2004. Maybe South Australia could follow suit.

Source: Compiled by Australian Prayer Network from information supplied by the media

09 October 2011

Philip Jensen on 2 pastors and 1 silence

Philip Jensen is an Anglican minister in Sydney. He wrote this piece on his own blog. I liked it enough to share it with you today. Let's see to whom else we can pass this on.

What The Media Does Not Report

A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral.

Originally Published: 7th October 2011 Tagged: censorship media

In the last year, two pastors have caused sufficient international concern that the White House has spoken about them. But only one has been mentioned in the Sydney media.

Both pastors profess to lead Bible believing churches. Both have come into conflict with Islam. Both have been criticised by their own governments.

Yet, in many respects, they are very different. One operates freely in an open society while the other is imprisoned by an Islamic regime. One is proud of the actions he is accused of, while the other suffers from trumped up accusations. One is an embarrassment to the Christian cause; the other is a hero whose stand for the gospel gladdens the heart of all who love the truth.

This time last year the media was full of Pastor Terry Jones - the Florida Charismatic who threatened to publicly burn a Quran. At that time he was talked out of it – even President Obama called upon him to desist. However, earlier this year he went ahead with his plan in front of a congregation of fifty members, gaining yet more worldwide media attention.

While acknowledging the right of free expression, Christians were embarrassed and critical of this pastor’s actions. It was offensive and unnecessarily provocative. It led to riots and deaths in Islamic countries. It didn’t accord with the teaching of the scriptures that “if possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18). Idolatry is always wrong but destroying idols doesn’t remove them from peoples’ hearts. Burning a Quran may show that you don’t fear it or even respect it, but it doesn’t convince anybody of its errors. Paul eschewed worldly methods of warfare in his attempt to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3f).

Now the world’s attention has shifted to another Pastor, Yousef Nadarkhani. His problem was attempting to register his church in Iran. He became a Christian when he was 19. Now in his early thirties, he is married with two small children and is the pastor of an evangelical church with about 400 members.

According to international media reports, Pastor Nadarkhani, was imprisoned in 2009 and in late in 2010, was condemned to death for apostasy. He is accused of evangelizing and baptizing people. On appeal he has been given three chances to renounce his apostasy and return to Islam. On each occasion, he has resolutely refused to renounce Christ or to acknowledge Muhammad as the prophet of God.

Unfortunately, confusion reigns over the details of the legal process. The Sharia law and the Constitutional law seem at odds over the issue. International pressure seems to have reduced the threat of an imminent execution. The charges have suddenly changed and though the court records only mention apostasy, he is now accused of being a Zionist traitor, a rapist, an extortionist and a brothel owner.

Western governments haven’t been duped by this confusion but have denounced the proceedings. The British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, is reported as saying:

"I deplore reports that Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian Church leader, could be executed imminently after refusing an order by the Supreme Court of Iran to recant his faith."

This demonstrates the Iranian regime's continued unwillingness to abide by its constitutional and international obligations to respect religious freedom.

"I pay tribute to the courage shown by Pastor Nadarkhani who has no case to answer and call on the Iranian authorities to overturn his sentence."

And a White House spokesman has condemned the conviction:

“Pastor Nadarkhani has done nothing more than maintain his devout faith, which is a universal right for all people. That the Iranian authorities would try to force him to renounce that faith violates the religious values they claim to defend, crosses all bounds of decency, and breaches Iran’s own international obligations.”

As yet, I cannot find any reference to Pastor Nadarkhani’s plight in the Australian public media. Searching the ABC and SMH websites gives no results. Even the SBS website, supposedly concerned not just for Australian but world news, has no reference to this case. Australia is being kept in the dark about this appalling attack on religious freedom and life threatening attack on an Evangelical pastor.

Why is this story not being told? It’s a story of the land from which many of our refugees and boat people are fleeing. It’s a story of great interest to the Australian public – not the least to Australian Christians. It’s a story of enormous drama as a man, standing by his principles, fights for his life. It’s a human interest story of personal pathos as a man is called to put his principles before the safety of his wife and young children. It’s a tale of great courage where a man repeatedly refuses to recant in the face of imminent execution. It’s an example of a man of principle all too rare in our world today. Why is it not being told in the Australian media?

Our media is interested in Iran. It recently reported about the young American hikers who had crossed over the border of Iran and were released from prison. Their carelessness, capture and eventual release were headline stories. But the much more morally important story of Pastor Nadarkhani is ignored. Why?

The media were quick to tell the tale of the lunatic fringe, of an American backwoods Christian pastor burning a Quran. It caused a stir all around the world - in part because the media went to such lengths to report it. But somehow, in Australia, they don’t tell of the Christian pastor who refuses to recant his beliefs on pain of death, in front of one of the most tyrannical and oppressive regimes of the world – surely that is a story worth telling. Does this illustrate our media’s incompetence, or bias, or political correctness or just plain censorship?

Please pray for Yousef, his wife Fatemah, and their sons Daniel (9) and Joel (7).

07 October 2011

How many times?

Bob addressing the crowd by bobmendo
Bob addressing the crowd, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

How many times?

Given at Yom Kippur 5772
9 October 2011
Sydney Australia

INTRODUCTION
We’ve been here before, haven’t we? We’ve been together for Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur. We’ve celebrated Passover and eaten lamb and drunk four cups of wine. We’ve read the Al Chet and repented of our sins, year after year. We’ve sung the Avinu Malkenu (which is usually not sung on Yom Kippur when it falls on Shabbat until the Neilah service), and asked God to be gracious to us. We have done this before. And you have to wonder… did it work then? Will it work this year? When the shofar sounds at the end of our services, will we be forgiven? Will the sounds be muffled and repetitious like the voice of Charlie Brown’s teacher in the television show or will we actually hear steadfast declarations of hope from the Almighty?
How many more times do we have to do this?
When I first pondered the title, “How many times?” I flashed on "How Many More Times,” the song on English rock band Led Zeppelin's 1969 debut self-titled album. I used to listen to that with great frequency back in the day. Then I thought of Bob Dylan’s song, Blowin’ in the Wind to which I gave myself even more often back then and throughout the decades. His anti-war ballad of the 1960s Flower Children was almost our neo-national anthem. “How many times must a man look up before he can see the sky? Yes and how many deaths does it take till…”
Bob Marley sang, “How many times have I told you I love you,” but his disappointment of her departure is very evident.
You might however be younger than Dylan, Marley or Page and for you the Pussycat Dolls wrote, “How many times? How many lies? How long you been sneaking? How long you been creeping around?” Their lament of faithfulness in the bold-faced unashamed-ness of her boyfriend’s sneakiness made her to “ go[ne] and thrown out all the records. All the ones that ever reminded me of you
I've gone and tore up all the pictures 'Cause there was not one shred of truth”
So when I hear “how many times?” used to introduce a song, I would need to ready myself for a song from the past decades and more importantly one of disappointment. I’m sure to hear that although I’ve been good, and brought good things to a relationship or to a job or to someone else’s life, that it was not met with good, in fact, it was mocked and ridiculed. I’m going to be shown to be ignorant of their unfaithfulness and disappointed.
However, I hope you aren’t readying for disappointment just now as you read the title of the message in the program or here online. In fact, I want you to hear something very different, in fact, a message of hope and one of outreach from heaven to you. A message of tireless fidelity and awesome love. That’s what’s in store for you for the next few minutes. See if this makes sense to you.

DOES REPENTANCE WORK?
This season called the Ten Days of Awe are all about reconciliation. We get right with neighbours. We get right with God. We get right with anything and everything we can. Or at least we are charged to do so. And once a year, this is a very good thing to do, you know? We have already chanted Kol Nidre. We have already confessed in Avinu Malkenu that we have no good works of our own. We have admitted with our souls painfully exposed the sins of our lives the last year if not the last few days. Is that enough?
I imagine if we asked after services tomorrow in synagogues around the city, around the country, around the world, that we would find most Jewish people not very confident about our reconciliation. We would wonder, “Did it work?”

I remember my grandmother passed away in 1995 just hours before Rosh Hashanah. My mother rang me to tell me of Bessie’s passing away, and told me, “I guess her prayers last Yom Kippur didn’t work.” Wow, the popular interpretation, at least in our worldview, was that the prayers we offered during the Holidays were intended to renew our contract for another year with the Almighty. This annually-renewable contract is a very limited view of the Bible and of the covenant God has with us Jewish people, but it’s one held by many. No wonder we scratch our heads and wonder, “Did our prayers work this year?”

FORGIVEN AND FORGIVING
That’s why this story we read tonight in Matthew chapter 18 (text at the end, if you don't have a Bible) is so significant. Within the story is the assurance of the love and forgiveness of the Lord to all people, good guys and bad guys, grandmothers and rabbis, crooks and neighbours. This is a story of good news for all people. And please, notice with me the beginning, the story line, the question that began Y’shua’s reply.
Matt. 18.21 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

By this, Peter is being very generous. Jewish tradition limited forgiveness to three times, perhaps based on Amos 1:3, 6, 9 and Job 33:29-30 (also Luke 17:4). Peter thought his willingness to forgive seven times was much more generous than the rabbis required and thus surpassing the righteousness of Pharisees and teachers of the law (Matthew 5:20).
Maybe Peter was aggravated by his brothers, the other disciples. Maybe he had forgiven them before and was done with it all. And sometimes, don’t you feel like that also? Don’t you feel like you’ve given enough… forgiven enough… dropped your expectations so low that they are in the basement already and yet people still disappoint you? So maybe Peter is generous; maybe he’s weary. Either way, he’s confronted by a challenging answer of great disproportion. Y’shua tells him 70 times 7 times (or 490 times) he needs to forgive.

What that says is that Peter needs to quit keeping score of how generous he is. Peter needs to stop thinking of himself in social situations. Peter is being told that generosity goes well beyond human comforts and human calculations. What is says to me is that God, who is well represented in the story as the king, does not want us to keep score.

This expression of 70 x 7 may be a deliberate allusion to Lamech's revengeful and bitter words in Gen 4:24: "If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times." Now in Y’shua there is the possibility of a radical reversal from seventy-sevenfold vengeance to seventy-sevenfold forgiveness.

We look at this story on so many levels. First we see the Forgiving King. And we see the awesome debt the first servant owes; it’s 10,000 talents. This amount is so large that it cannot possibly be a personal loan. Even as taxes from a province it is an incredibly huge amount. Ten thousand was the largest number in the first century. The value of a talent varied from six to ten thousand denarii. A denarius was a common laborer's daily wage. A minimum daily wage here in Australia would be approximately $100. Ten thousand denarii, or one talent, would be the equivalent of $1,000,000 in today's economy. Ten thousand talents would be 10 billion dollars. Needless to say, Y’shua used ten thousand talents as a ridiculously exaggerated sum of money that the servant owed the king.
How long would it have taken the servant to have paid the loan back? Eternity! He never would have been able to pay it off, so what did he do? He begged for mercy. He cried out with a deep longing, and the king was merciful. The king forgave the debt to his own praise and glory. What a king!

That would have been a great story right there, you know? The story would be: SERVANT OWES A GREAT DEBT, KING FORGIVES THE SERVANT-- end of story. That would make the news to be sure.
But the story goes on. We see the servant as someone who is unforgiving. He finds a fellow slave who owes him one millionth of the first servant's forgiven debt. That’s nothing. OK, it’s something for a slave/ servant in those days, even as a person who lives on Centrelink gifts might view it, but it’s nothing by comparison. The 2nd servant owed .000001 the amount of the first servant, approx. 3 months’ wages. That was much more payable. That debt was manageable and was probably personal.

And you want the 1st servant to proclaim what he had heard. You want the 1st servant to share the forgiveness of the debt which he had received, but that’s not what happens. He is told to get ready for debtor’s prison and the 1st tosses the 2nd into jail. Yipes, nothing like you would imagine. It’s unthinkable! It’s unconscionable. It’s just…wrong!

The 2nd servant thinks to himself, ‘How many times….” And there seems no answer. The story ends with the fate of the 1st servant, but nothing is told us of the 2nd. At least, nothing more than the debtor’s prison sentence. Something aches in you when you hear this, doesn’t it?

O, JERUSALEM, JERUSALEM
I have another story, taken from Matthew’s gospel also. It’s near the end of Y’shua’s earthly ministry and he’s trying to get the attention of the Jewish leadership. He wants them to listen to him, all the while knowing they are not listening. The lines are taken from Matthew 23. We read, ““O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. (Matthew 23.37)

Here we have another tale of longing, and aching. We hear another Bible character saying, “How long?” or “How often” or “How many times?” And again it’s an aching for relationship. That’s what seems to drive the biblical writers, and certainly The Biblical author, Y’shua in this case. He wants us to know Him. He wants us to stop living away from Him and to gather as chicks gather to their mother hen. I can tell you as a father and a brand-new grandfather that nothing satisfies me more than being with my family, and being in a good relationship with each one.

What bothers the Almighty, what saddens him, what makes him say, “How long?” or “How many times?” is the reluctance of the people of God to approach Him.

WHAT PREVENTS OUR APPROACHING GOD
Two things prevent our approaching God. One, our thinking that we don’t need Him. We’re doing fine, thanks. No need for God. No need for spirituality. No need for forgiveness. I’m doing fine. A Jewish man told me this week that he didn’t need to pray tonight because he had not sinned this year. Oops, that’s his first one, then.

The second reason we don’t approach God is that we think Him unapproachable. Or we don’t believe He exists. Or we think he’s harsh and unwilling to be kind. Both of these stories in tonight’s sermon highlight the longing and personal desire of the Almighty in fantastic opposition to this view.
Both of these are wrong. In the first case, we don’t know ourselves. In the 2nd, we don’t know God well enough.

Dear friends, be honest about you, and be honest about God. You are a sinner needing God’s forgiveness. God is loving, and longs to extend that forgiveness to you.
Y’shua didn’t only teach about this. He went to a Roman cross and died for us. God raised Him from the dead on the 3rd day to usher in a new Kingdom with Y’shua as our King.

Receive Him as Lord and Saviour in your life. Start 5772 with a new beginning. It’s better than apples in honey. It’s better than 10 billion dollars in lottery savings or forgiveness. It’s eternity with God and it starts as soon as you say ‘Yes, sir.” Don't leave him wondering “how long?” Say “Yes” and it will be eternity with God for you. That’s good news, to be sure!



___________________

Other uses of “How often” or “How many times” in the Bible:

1Kings 22.16 Then the king said to him, “How many times must I adjure you to speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?”
2Chr. 18.15 Then the king said to him, “How many times must I adjure you to speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?”
Job 21.17 “How often is the lamp of the wicked put out, Or does their calamity fall on them? Does God apportion destruction in His anger?
Psa. 78.40 How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness, And grieved Him in the desert!

____________________

The story:
Matt. 18.21 ¶ Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
Matt. 18.22 Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
Matt. 18.23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a certain king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.
Matt. 18.24 “And when he had begun to settle them, there was brought to him one who owed him ten thousand talents.
Matt. 18.25 “But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made.
Matt. 18.26 “The slave therefore falling down, prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will repay you everything.’
Matt. 18.27 “And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.
Matt. 18.28 “But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’
Matt. 18.29 “So his fellow slave fell down and began to entreat him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’
Matt. 18.30 “He was unwilling however, but went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed.
Matt. 18.31 “So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened.
Matt. 18.32 “Then summoning him, his lord *said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you entreated me.
Matt. 18.33 ‘Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, even as I had mercy on you?’
Matt. 18.34 “And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.
Matt. 18.35 “So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”

Hooray for sales

Hooray for sales by bobmendo
Hooray for sales, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

Sunday and Monday at our Jews for Jesus Book shop in Bondi Junction, is our annual Spring Sale. 9 a.m. to 5 pm both days. 9/10 October.

Everything is 20% off, and all music is 30% off!

I'm guessing that a lot of people will be in the shop both days and you might just see someone else you know, and wouldn't that be great?

Stock up on gifts for the holidays and pop on in for a visit at the very nice Jews for Jesus book shop. 576 Oxford Street, 100 metres from Westfield, (Beach end). Two little blocks from the bus and train interchange. Bondi Junction.

01 October 2011

A fairly ornate synagogue

A fairly ornate synagogue by bobmendo
A fairly ornate synagogue, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

I visited Marseilles France in 2009, and went to this synagogue. The levels of beauty struck me, The generations of history were evident. Even though there are tens of thousands of Israel's enemies within a few kilometers outside, I felt safe. All told, this is good stuff. It was ornate and yet, something said, 'empty.'

Today is Shabbat Shuva, the Sabbath between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a day of solemn introspection. Or so it is for many. For others neither of those marker holidays has any meaning. For others it's that time of year when Jews get to have their 'day in the sun' but otherwise it's insignificant. For many, this is a holy time of year.

And this synagogue and so many like it around the world, where I've visited and where I haven't... all say to me in measure 'empty.' Where does that come from?

Jesus is recorded in the book of St Matthew: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! For I say to you, from now on you shall not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Matthew 23.37-39)

This was spoken 40 years before the Temple ('our house') was destroyed by Titus and the Roman invaders/ conquerors. (which occurred in 70 AD). Y'shua (the Hebrew way to say Jesus) is predicting a couple significant things.

1) He's saying that we will not have 'our house' much longer and that what we do have after that will be empty and desolate. and
2) He's saying that His return is based on a particular response by "Jerusalem" (usually meaning "Jewish leadership"). That response is in modern Hebrew: "welcome." Y'shua is saying that He will remain reserved in the heavens until enough of the Jewish leadership says 'welcome' to Him. That day is coming.

All that said, to say that although Jewish synagogues this week are filled with congregants and although ornate in measure, they are given the appellation "desolate." And I can understand why.

It's not the numbers of people that makes a place empty or filled. It's the presence of the Almighty. For that I long for my people. For that Y'shua longed. "Oh Jerusalem" he lamented. He longed to gather Jewish people to Himself. He longed to care for them like a mother hen gathers her chicks. But she was unwilling.

Friend, don't be unwilling. Welcome Him who wants to welcome you. Whether you meet Him in a shack or a full synagogue, welcome Y'shua. There (and there alone) is life abundant.