30 May 2012

Signage in Ireland

 Sean is the pastor of a Church of England parish on the Northern Ireland/ Southern Ireland border and Patrick is the priest in the Roman Catholic Church across the road.
One day they are seen together, pounding a sign into the ground, which says:


As a car speeds past them, the driver leans out his window and yells, "Leave people alone, you Oirish religious nutters! We don't need your lectures."

From the next curve they hear screeching tyres and a big splash.
Shaking his head, Rev. Patrick says "Dat's da terd one dis mornin'."
"Yaa," Pastor Sean agrees, then asks, "Do ya tink maybe da sign should just say, 'Bridge Out?'"


25 May 2012

Open House

Leigh Hatcher and me by bobmendo
Leigh Hatcher and me, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

We recorded a segment today for airing on Sunday night on 103.2 FM in Sydney. It will be broadcast across the nation on Sunday night, during the first hour of "Open House". If you want to listen, visit their website: http://www.hope1032.com.au/ and look for "Open House." If you find this blog after Sunday the 27th of May 2012, you might be able to visit their website http://www.openhousecommunity.com.au/ and check out old shows, whatever they call it in those days.

The man who interviewed me is a pleasure to listen to on radio and to see on TV. His name is Leigh Hatcher and he was with Channel 7 in Australia for years and for the last few with SkyNews. I watch him most mornings for a bit of updates.

The subject this Sunday is Pentecost and Shavuot. Same holiday; two very different faith traditions, but there are similarities and I try to highlight those in this interview.

For more, visit my website after the C3 church in Maroubra records me this Sunday. And my sermon will be there, and the text will be up also. http://www.jewsforjesus.org.au/resources/

I love doing radio. I have the face for it. Maybe you will enjoy our conversation, too.
Talk to you on Sunday night!

24 May 2012

Distancing ourselves

Eugene Polley is pictured here, and he died of natural causes Sunday at a suburban Chicago hospital, said Zenith Electronics spokesman John Taylor. The former Zenith engineer was 96. So the photo was taken a while ago. As was the invention which brings up the reason for this blog.

In 1955, if you wanted to switch TV channels from one show to another, you got up from your chair, walked across the room and turned a knob. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk.

That's also the year that Polley invented a new product to go with a new Zenith television. They sold the tv with Flash-Matic tuning. The TV came with a green ray gun-shaped contraption with a red trigger. The advertising promised "TV miracles." The "flash tuner" was "absolutely harmless to humans!" Most intriguing of all: "You can even shut off annoying commercials while the picture remains on the screen." That became what we now know as the "remote control."

Polley was proud of his invention even late in life, Taylor said. He showed visitors at his assisted-living apartment his original Flash-Matic and how it had evolved into the technology of today. "He was a proud owner of a flat-screen TV and modern remote," Taylor said. "He always kept his original remote control with him."

Polley's Flash-Matic pointed a beam of light at photo cells in the corners of the television screen. Each corner activated a different function, turning the picture and sound off and on, and changing the channels.

We don't know tv without such remote.

What other distances have now been conquered? I watched in the Summer of Love, July, 1969 as one small step for (a) man happened on the lunar landing with Americans Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr.  The Apollo astronauts put a set of mirrors on the moon to calculate with more precision the distance to/ from the moon. They found that when the moon is closest to earth it is 363,104 km (225632 mi) away. When it is at its furthest point, it is 405,696 km (252,099 mi) away. The average distance is 384,393 km (238,854 mi) away. And last month worldwide we saw the moon at its closest in years. So, space is getting smaller, in a way.

People engaging in war and battles throughout history were more often than not engaged in hand-to-hand combat. That all changed with the advancements of gunpowder and thus we could shoot from afar, rather than knife, sword, fist, one another into submission.  So gunmen can shoot at presidents or congresswomen, or strike in drones controlled from hundreds of miles away. Now nameless and shameless homicide bombers (most wrongly call them "suicide bombers.) can blow up others in their determined methods of war without any personal considerations.

My friend and colleague in ministry Darrel Proffitt in Houston (Katy) Texas, shared a story from the internet. It's unhappy on so many levels, and yet so telling of our distancing from one another: "Yvette Vickers, a former [model] and B-movie star, best known for her role in Attack of the 50-Foot Woman, would have been 83 in August 2011, but nobody knows exactly how old she was when she died. According to the Los Angeles coroner's report, she lay dead for the better part of a year before a neighbor and fellow actress, a woman named Susan Savage, noticed cobwebs and yellowing letters in her mailbox, reached through a broken window to unlock the door, and pushed her way through the piles of junk mail and mounds of clothing that barricaded the house. Upstairs, she found Vickers's body, mummified, near a heater that was still running. Her computer was on too, its glow permeating the empty space.
The Los Angeles Times posted a story [about Vickers' death] that quickly went viral. Within two weeks … Vickers's lonesome death was already the subject of 16,057 Facebook posts and 881 tweets. She had long been a horror-movie icon …. Now she was an icon of a new and different kind of horror: our growing fear of loneliness."

I wrote Darrel back, "When neighborhoods became 'hoods, it means we lost the role of the neighbor. Tall fences, privacy, internal entertainment systems... we don't have to know people anymore. Shame on us." And Darrel wrote me back about a man who has written much on this subject. Darrel encouraged me re:  "Robert Putnam's book _Bowling Alone_? He describes this phenomenon accurately."

So now I have ordered this book from Putnam and will read it soon, and probably re-engage with this topic. 

In the meantime, check on your neighbour, won't you? 

Read more here: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/kansascity/obituary.aspx?n=eugene-polley&pid=157747711#storylink=cpy

20 May 2012


Iran's supreme leader recently said his country would help any Muslim nation or group that attacks Israel. He's called the Jewish state a cancerous tumour that will be cut out of the Middle East. With Iran's nuclear weapons program advancing daily, that goal may be in sight. This view of Jews as sub-human sounds a lot like Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, but it goes back much further. In author Andrew Bostom's book, The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, he describes Islam's early conquests of Jewish tribes in Arabia. "Mohammed's frustrations in spreading his message were frequently recompensed by murderous attacks on the Jews," he told CBN News. Bostom explained that Mohammed demonized Jews because they rejected him as a prophet.

"Mohammed himself invokes some of these themes," he said. "For example, one of the punishments of the Jews is their transformation into apes, or apes and pigs, the verses that are commonly heard now." This "apes and pigs" imagery is found in Islam's core texts, like the Koran and hadiths. The most notorious is the following hadith, often quoted by al Qaeda, Hamas, and other Islamic terror groups. "Judgment Day will come only when the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them, until the Jew hides behind the tree and the stone, and the tree and the stone say, 'Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.'" In some verses of the Koran, Jews are referred to as "perverse," "evil," "greedy," and the "heirs of hell."

The Iranian regime takes these verses seriously, starting with the man who founded the Islamic Republic, the Ayatollah Khomeini. "His image of wiping out the Jews was that all of the Muslims of the world should get together with a cup of water and simply wash it away. Today, Jews play a central role in the end times ideology of Iran's mullahs. They believe the Mahdi, or Islamic messiah, will return to earth, conquer Jerusalem, and massacre the Jewish inhabitants of Israel. Former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani said that while Israel is a one-bomb country, Iran and the Islamic world could survive a nuclear exchange with the Jewish state. According to this view, the heavy losses would be worth it for the greater good of wiping Israel off the map.

Source: CBNnews.com

So maybe today would be a good day to love a Jewish person, to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, to commit your self to make Jewish people feel loved and not like a pig. Let's share the Gospel with all people and let's love all and... now wait a minute, that includes Muslims. That's right, even people involved in terror groups or who have passed on Mohammed's horrible teachings about Jews, even they need to hear the Truths about Y'shua and His love for all people, especially His own people, the Jews. And that in Y'shua, all people can be reconciled to God and that's good news for everyone!

16 May 2012

Judgment begins with the house of God… or does it?

This is part one of two parts on Judging
The news today and these days continues with arrests and trials of lowlife criminals and larger-than-life politicians who seem to escape every bit of scrutiny. That is, for a while. Take the names of people we barely knew in Parliament like Peter Slipper and Craig Thomson. By the way, today Thomson was cleared of almost all allegations of dodgy election funding following an investigation by the Australian Electoral Commission. He still has to answer other charges and will do so on Monday, about using his credit card for personal and sleazy activities.[1]
What’s even more fascinating is that Peter Slipper, Speaker of the House, who has stepped out of the Speaker's chair while sexual harassment and Cabcharge rorting allegations against him are resolved, is the one who will decide whether Craig Thomson should face a parliamentary privileges committee investigation into his declaration that the Labor Party paid his legal fees in the Health Services Union scandal.
As the Coalition contemplates a motion to refer Mr Thomson - who has suspended his membership of the Labor Party pending the outcome of allegations he used HSU funds for personal expenses including escort services - to the parliamentary privileges committee, The Australian has confirmed Mr Slipper, who still holds the Speaker's post, is the one who is required to make a "considered decision" on the merits of the move.
The privileges committee would be able to recommend a punishment - including suspension. Federal Court judge Geoffrey Flick approved an attempt at

[1] All this followed the release earlier this week of the 1100-page Fair Work Australia report into the Health Services Union’s (HSU) national office, which alleged the embattled MP spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of members’ funds on escort services, cash withdrawals, spouses’ travel, hospitality and federal election campaigning.
Mr Thomson continues to maintain his innocence and in a statement released earlier this week described the investigation as “nothing short of a joke”. He says he will defend himself in parliament later this month.

private mediation this week among various HSU East factions and the federal government.
I share this with you, and maybe you will understand it much better than I do, to show you that this aching in our gut, this desire for justice, will not be found in the current Australian system. And maybe it won’t be found in the UN or any other system.
There is hope, though.
A new book was released this week, and the Melbourne Age wrote today, “When Colin Campbell Ross was sent to the gallows at the Old Melbourne Gaol in 1922, few would have guessed his name would be cleared by a humble librarian more than 80 years later.
Kevin Morgan was the librarian, historian and author whose book, Gun Alley, was instrumental to Ross receiving a pardon in 2008 for his wrongful conviction for the rape and murder of a 12-year-old girl in a Melbourne alley.”
(Read more:
It’s not uncommon for Patty and me, and maybe you do this also, to spend an evening at home watching one crime show or another, which really isn’t about the crime but about the puzzle of the solving of the crime and how our heroes have done that. Whether it was Miss Marple or other Agathe Christie tales, NCIS, or Sherlock Holmes in his first portrait or even the latest versions which bear almost no resemblance to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s personae of London at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. [1]

[1]  Holmes is famous for his astute logical reasoning, his ability to adopt almost any disguise, and his use of forensic science skills to solve difficult cases.
Holmes, first appeared in publication in 1887, was featured in four novels and 56 short stories.

Friends, the Torah teaches us “Justice, justice shall we pursue that you may live and possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” (Deut. 16.20). Establishing courts is a hallmark of the sons of Noah, that is the Gentiles who convert to the Jewish way of life.  And what is that justice to be about? To help the downtrodden, to set captives free and to make sure the voiceless have voices.
The story is told of Esau, Jacob’s brother. The story is designed to teach the ungodly about justice and eternity and to stop living for sinful pleasures in this life. Seems that Esau was told that Abraham had died. Esau responded, “If evil has befallen even Abraham, there can be no justice and no Judge.”[1] The rabbis give “two reasons for the custom of eating lentils in connection with mourning the dead. 1) Their roundness reminds us that death comes in an inexorable cycle to all, and 2) their absence of a mouth represents the mourner who sits in silence.”[2] Esau hardly represents a righteous person and his grumbling and lentil eating is a highlight of rabbinic opposition.  Esau misses the point of justice, and so does the evil one in today’s world.
Now with this in view, listen to these words from Y’shua our Messiah. [Read Matthew 7.1-7]  “Judge not, lest you be judged. ..for in the same measure, you will be judged…” It’s clear that Y’shua is emphasizing that we should err on the side of kindness and fairness. It’s clear that judgmentalism and what will later be titled Phariseeism is not the way to go. That said, even so, listen to the following words, “Do not give what is holy to dogs.” That means we have to decide about someone whether they are being dogs or not. What’s the problem with this? It sounds like ‘judgment.’ In fact, Y’shua also said, “Judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7.24)
So what’s a person to do? Judge or not judge? What do you say?

[1] Genesis Rabbah 63.11
[2] Jonathan Eybeschuetz, “Ethical Rebuke”, page 330-331, recorded in Jewish Preaching (1200-1800: An Anthology, Marc Saperstein)

10 May 2012

FedEx, the arrow and Jewish people and Jesus

FedEx by bobmendo
FedEx, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.
I often am asked about Jewish people. The questions include issues of messianic prophecies, eternal destiny, and personal evangelism. And often after I preach, and 'make it clear' to the church, I will get this question, "Why don't the Jewish people see the truth about Jesus? You make it so clear."

It's not that Jewish folks are ignorant; in fact, we are nothing close to ignorance. But seeing what you didn't see before; that's an issue of revelation.

For instance, do you see the arrow on the FedEx logo? You have seen the trucks and vans pass you for years, and subliminally the arrow points the way, but most folks never see it.

I'll show you a couple more shots, and then you will see it.

Once you see it, you won't not see it.

I suppose that's the way it is for me and for many of us Jewish people in our discovery of Jesus. We saw him, we heard about him, we heard parts of the story, but we never really saw him.

We read Genesis 3; we read Micah 5; we've read Isaiah 53, but we never really saw it. Only when God opens our eyes do we see the Messiah, and we see Y'shua, Jesus of Nazareth, as the One.

He was there all the time. Then He opens our eyes and we see Him. Thanks be to God.

05 May 2012

122/ 366 Too cool

122/ 366 Too cool by bobmendo
122/ 366 Too cool, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

I have no reason to use this photo to write a blog. Actually I have only one reason to use this photo. I'm so delighted to show off my grandson who lives in the US. Isn't this a great shot? Doesn't he seem like a cool cat that Paul Schaeffer would welcome to the CBS orchestra?

Reunions (Part 5 (of 5!)) How to remember and Mustard Seed Beginnings

How are we to remember?

By two things. First, by musing. Pondering, considering the history you remember. The opposite of muse-ment is ‘amusment.’ It’s the entertainment of ourselves with tv and movies, with endless sport and endless noise which does not allow us to think, quiet our souls and really think. So first thing to do is muse. Psalm 77 shows us King David doing this pondering, meditating:

"Then I said, “It is my grief, that the bright hand of the Most High has changed.”  I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; Surely I will remember Thy wonders of old. I will meditate on all Thy work, and muse on Thy deeds. Thy way, O God, is holy; What god is great like our God?" (verses 10-13)

Second, we remember by the telling of tribal stories. Do you realize that the Bible is one long tribal story? It’s the telling of what God did and what we did and how it has all worked out so far. And thus we need to be telling tribal stories. Tribal stories are truths of actual events and actual people that a people tell and re-tell and keep communicating far into the future. It keeps stories as truth (and not fable or fiction [that is, it prevents revisionism]) and reminds us like the Bible teaches us to do, of who God is, what He did, what He told us to do, and what we are by nature. And each song we sing is itself a tribal story. Each hymn and modern song from the Bible is a rehearsing of the stories of the people of God. Last weekend we told the stories of the early days. Following then are many of those early day stories:

I moved from Kansas City in early January 1972, in one way chasing a woman, in another trying to ‘start the church of Lawrence’ and expected to sleep in a crashpad or on the streets, and ended up that first night at the Holiday Inn on 23rd and Iowa at the request and payment by the Ohio House people. They didn’t want to let me stay and infect their evangelical home with charismatic doctrines (back then there was very little overlap in this regard). 

During the next week I met with Harold Mallett, the pastor of nearby First Presbyterian Church, and told him I was in Lawrence to start the church of Lawrence. He was gracious beyond measure, and allowed me to start BASIC (Brothers and Sisters in Christ), a weekly Saturday night gathering a la the gathering in Wichita (held at Faith Presbyterian) or the House of Agape on Sunday nights in KC (held at Second Presbyterian). Pastor Hal was ever gracious and let me teach a Sunday school class there. 

In February that year I moved into the House of the Fourth Watch, with the music group Ninth Hour (Chuck Lemmon, Bob Lee, and many others) out east of town off K-10. I stayed about a month. We learned a bit more about community, about fellowship and love of the brothers. And how to make Mendo Mess. 

In February I prayed regularly with Steve Churchill, who was attending KU, and was one of the people who was to have a key leadership role in the new church. He had joined us at BASIC. We prayed that God would confirm for us His desire to have a house ministry (like House of Agape, Harvest House, and so many other Jesus communes). We asked for “a little bit of money.” The next day Steve received a letter telling him of the sale/transfer of mutual funds into his name, from some relative of no immediate knowledge of anything we were doing. The amount: $20,000. We believed that was ‘a little bit of money’ and thus Steve immediately went to realtors to find a suitable place for us.

After a long bit of searching and a lot of knock-backs, Steve encountered a realtor who was a Christian. I had met the realtor when I prophesied during an evening service at the Free Methodist Church on 22nd Street. He was keen to help the fledgling community become what we wanted, and to sell us a house. The 1538 Tennessee Street house was Steve’s as of the beginning of April. Steve, Chris and I moved in immediately. Others quickly followed.

Steve, Chris Samuelson, Terry Bysinger, Dan Spencer, Dave Payne… so many young people who were keen to serve God and make a difference in the world. That’s the beginnings of the Mustard Seed. 

It was Tuesday night, April 10, 1972, when I taught the first Bible study at the house. 5 people attended including Libby Berger and Mary Robinson (later May). I spoke about Matthew 17.20, “if you have faith as a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it shall move; and nothing shall be impossible to you.”

Three weeks later I went to a rubber stamp company on Massachusetts Street in downtown Lawrence and had a stamp prepared. 

The Mustard Seed
1538 Tennessee
Bible study Tuesday 7:30 pm

 I began stamping the Gospel tracts we picked up from The Gospel Tract Society of Independence. Steve came home one night and asked, “What’s the Mustard Seed?” I said, “That’s our name!” Not that I did much in collegiality in those days.

In 1974, Derek Prince came to visit at First Presbyterian Church and he came to the Tennessee house for dinner. Hopefully Iris Lannon (later Armstrong) was the cook that night. He spoke that evening at the church about Ezekiel 37, The Valley of Dry Bones. Derek always had a love for Israel. In the sermon, Derek spoke about finding another bone, with whom to be in relationship, and to make sure your bone and you knew what mattered to each other. That night, I met with Nick Willems and we immediately knew that our lives needed to be bone-to-bone and thus we ‘annexed’ the Sunday night group that was happening at the Engel house where Nick and Ineke lived. 

Tribal stories abound in the beginnings and in the continuing of the Mustard Seed.  Back then we were iconoclasts and knocked back anything that smelled of ‘church.’ We did not want a Sunday morning meeting because that’s what churches did. We even had a group of us who played sport on Sunday morning, in the fall titling our group, “First church of the holy gridiron.’ We disparaged anything historic, to our loss, to be sure. But that’s part of who we were.

Last Saturday night (on the reunion weekend) I told about meeting a pastor who told me he had a doctorate of divinity. (D.D. is a very prestigious academic degree) I disparaged him whispering to myself, “Doctor of Divination, I imagine.” We wouldn’t call ourselves a ‘church’ but rather a fellowship. Our elders and pastors were not such, but initially ‘sheepdogs’ so we didn’t assume a title beyond ourselves. 

Tribal stories are not only found in Lawrence, or in the deep dark Africa, but in the Bible. Israel tells its story each year in Passover and all the feasts. How God delivered us and made us into a people for Himself.

And the Church does it with communion each Sunday. We tell the story of the cross and the resurrection. That’s the place where we make sense of it all. Our own shame. Our own failures. All the things that make us angry. God was nailed at the cross. It centers us better than a down dog in yoga. It centers us better than one toke over the line. It centers us to find Y’shua nailed to the roman cross. 

Friends, this is not so much a reunion as a homecoming. Like the Jayhawks do or Lawrence High School does each fall. Oldies gather back to celebrate the past and hope for a good future.

But in Christ we know Hebrews 6.10 is true and will ever be true. It is about that future that we are convinced.
”For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love, which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.” (Hebrews 6.10)

In other words, we can spend this weekend looking backwards and dreaming of ‘the good old days.’ That’s not useful. We can spend this weekend saying then was then, but now is now and discount the past. That’s not useful. Or we can look backwards, ponder what God did in the past, use it to strengthen us today to His good work, and ponder what we are to become in the future. 

It’s that understanding that gives me the title of this talk, “Then, and now.. and then.” I believe that in the future the Mustard Seed Church will continue and will thrive and be a bold witness for Jesus in Lawrence and beyond. I hope that the few hundred which worship here will continue to grow and the Matthew 17.20 verse will remind us that we have a long way to go until mountains are moved. We are small but “Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds; but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches” (Matthew 13.31-32) We started small, very small, and have grown and ministered to thousands of people over the decades. And we have miles to go before we sleep, amen?

Thanks to Dr Barry Foster and all who helped him for organizing this weekend.
Thanks to Pieter Willems for continuing to lead this church well into the 21st century. Aren’t you looking forward to what God will do tonight and tomorrow? And until He returns? And then His return?

Final prayers...

04 May 2012

Reunions (Part 4)..What to remember

Yesterday we looked at some Bible passages about memory and remembering. We saw that remembering is actually a defense against idolatry and human self-aggrandising. Pride causes us to reject all of the past and not to remember at all.

Today we look in more outline form at what we are to remember. After all, not everything can be substantially useful to remember, right? So what are the guidelines in memory? What ought we to remember?

First, we remember who God is.  He is the Creator and Redeemer. He is the Sustainer, Deliverer, Friend, Lover of our souls and Saviour. Remembering who God is and was and will be is strengthening for us, to be sure. Ponder each of these aspects of God's nature, and rejoice in His person. Love Him for who He is.

Secondly, remember what God has done. Not only for the planet in creation, but in human history, in Jewish history, in your history. He made covenant with you. He has forgiven us of our sins. All our sins are forgiven. When He sent Y'shua to die for us, He died for all our sins, and since they were all in the future at that stage of history, the blood of Messiah washed us of all our sins in the past (to us), present, and future.

He taught us His truths, and by them has challenged us. Back in the day God destroyed the world in Noah's generation leaving only 8 souls alive. Throughout time He delivered Israel time and again (and thus will deliver us, forgive us, teach us, challenge us into the future, too)

Thirdly, we are to remember what He has told us to do. We are reminded of His Law, precepts, and commands. That Law keeps us, rather than we keep the Law. We are told to love one another in the same way that Y'shua loves us. We are told to tithe and be very generous, and I recommend that all of us bring an offering (or send one later) to the church today here at the Mustard Seed. We should ever be thankful for what God did for us here. Beyond this, we are told to take care of widows and orphans, for that is true religion. Similarly we are to honor elders. Don't miss it, honoring often carries the meaning of 'payment' and thus we are required to monetarily tend to those who teach us and watch out for our souls. We are told to look beyond yourself and care for others, even those outside the household of faith.

And I wouldn't be much of a Jewish adviser here if I didn't remind you of God's heart for the 'apple of His eye,' the Jewish people. We are told in Psalm 137 to remember Jerusalem, and if we don't, we are in trouble. We read, "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget her skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you. If I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy. (Psalm 137.5-6) and thus this still teaches us and commands us and expects from us. God wanted you to obey Him back then; He still does and those commandments actually help us to be maintained in Him.

Fourthly, we are to remember our own human conditions. What God says about the nations/ our sin/ our separation from Him is pretty substantial. "REMEMBER, DO NOT FORGET HOW YOU PROVOKED THE LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness; from the day that you left the land of Egypt until you arrived at this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD." (Deut. 9.7) We provoked him. And again here: "The enemy has come to an end in perpetual ruins, and You have uprooted the cities; the very memory of them has perished."(Psalm 9) and again to the wicked God says, "These things you have done and I kept silence; You thought that I was just like you. I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes. Now consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you in pieces, and there will be none to deliver." (Psalm 50.21-22) It’s not good to be on opposite sides of the Almighty.

I believe he wants us to share our testimony. That is, we should be telling our own personal stories to others. The unbelievers might have a go (ridicule) at you because of your beliefs in the Triune God or eternal hell, but they can never knock the power of a living testimony. I believe there is a two-fold power in that. 1) The power of testimony to the unbelievers, in that they can hear hope even in their lives as they identify with you at one place in the story or another. And 2)the power of testimony to ourselves to remember how we needed God, our own condition, our desperation, and His power to save. We were lost. He saved us.
We are to remember the human condition summed up in "Our sin nature." (Romans 3.23) and as a result that we deserve judgment.

Within this I found a very interesting verse about how God is ever surprised with our forgetfulness (Jer. 2.32) 

Fifthly, we are to remember to expect God to move in human history. Listen, God wants to do things to us. God wants to do things for us and God wants to do things for the world in which we live.

This is from today’s reading in “My Utmost for His Highest” a devotional I’ve read since 1973 when Mack Harnden from the Yeshua House gave me my first copy. I’ve read it ever since, then listened to it daily on cassettes, and now read it online. Written from talks given by Oswald Chambers in around 1920.

The Graciousness Of Uncertainty
"It doth not yet appear what we shall be." (1 John 3:2)
Naturally, we are inclined to be so mathematical and calculating that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing. We imagine that we have to reach some end, but that is not the nature of spiritual life. The nature of spiritual life is that we are certain in our uncertainty; consequently we do not make our nests anywhere. Common sense says - "Well, supposing I were in that condition . . ." We cannot suppose ourselves in any condition we have never been in.

Certainty is the mark of the common-sense life: gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness, it should be rather an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. Immediately we abandon to God, and do the duty that lies nearest, He packs our life with surprises all the time.

When we become advocates of a creed, something dies; we do not believe God, we only believe our belief about Him. Jesus said, "Except ye become as little children." Spiritual life is the life of a child. We are not uncertain of God, but uncertain of what He is going to do next. If we are only certain in our beliefs, we get dignified and severe and have the ban of finality about our views; but when we are rightly related to God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy.” (29 April devotional)

In tomorrow's blog, we will continue with the question of How to remember and see what else we can learn about musing and pondering. Shalom for now

03 May 2012

Reunions (Part 3)

118/366 Group Photo by bobmendo
118/366 Group Photo, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

Yesterday we wrote about reunions, memories and memory. And about the national day in Australia entitled "Anzac Day." It's a day of honoring the military heroes of the past. And the phrase “lest we forget” is central to the commemorations. The phrase is actually biblical and is the main focus of our Bible study in this blog.

“Give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons.” (Deuteronomy 4.9)

We are told to individually guard our soul, and to remember things we saw and keep them in our heart forever, and to teach them to our kids and grandchildren. Does that sound like what we are doing this weekend? This ought to be every reunion’s theme.

But for many it’s only going down memory lane; it’s old tapes. It’s old school and retro, but it’s not the ‘new thing.’ Who cares, honestly what God did for us back then? Isn’t God always doing a ‘new thing?’ Shouldn’t we ‘sing a new song to the Lord?” (Psalm 96)

Most of us are familiar with the quote from George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” So maybe that plays into our consideration of things in the past.
Nick Willems, whose memory is indeed blessed and ought not to be forgotten on this auspicious weekend, loved Psalm 103, and I thought of him in the reading of verse 2, “Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and forget none of his benefits.”

We remember things about God, and hopefully much about Him!

The story is told of the pig farmer who lost his voice. It is a classic for Pentecostals and charismatics. The farmer used to go out each day at the same time and slop (feed) the hogs. One day he lost his voice and in order to ‘call’ them found a stick, and began to pound on a nearby fence post. The pigs discovered it was their Farmer Jones, and came rushing towards him, and found their daily food. So it went on the next day. But on the 3rd day, just before Farmer Jones got to the pigpen, a woodpecker began pecking on a hickory tree. The pigs thought it was Jones and ran towards their lunch. But he wasn’t there. In fact, the running pigs scared the woodpecker, who then flew to a nearby oak tree. And he began pecking; the pigs came chasing; the bird flew away; the pigs came chasing… you get it. And all the while, Farmer Jones continued to bang the fence post with the pigs’ lunch. They chased and chased, and never ate.

We charismatics often chase after the newest and the latest and the greatest and most up-to-date and often forget the old and standard, the tried and true, the way it might work because it has worked for centuries. Today you probably won’t learn anything brand new, although that’s possible, but it’s more than likely that you will be re-newed in remembering something you learned in the past and have forgotten.

Listen to these Bible texts:
Dt. 4.9 tells individuals that we have to keep our own soul. You have to keep your soul. Take time with God. Keep your finger in the Book of Life. Pray. Verbalize, talk to Him. He loves that. That’s keeping it fresh. That’s keeping it in your heart. And then pierce your family with that. Teach them diligently. Your kids. Your grandkids. Yup, it’s your job to teach grandchildren. I’m just learning that since my grandson is only 10 months old.

We believe Proverbs 3.1 and 4.5, which tells us to remind our children to remember God.

“Watch yourselves (plural) that you do not forget the covenant of the LORD your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a graven image in the form of anything against which the LORD your God has commanded you.” (Deut 4.23)

Danger: You will make idols. So what does God tell you in order to prevent that?
Remember and don’t forget! And by helping one another to remember. It’s one of the ‘one another’s’ in the Bible. Help each other remember. That’s done by tribal stories, reminding one another of what God has done. Maybe that’s why we fellowship at reunions or in weekly gatherings or anytime.

“Watch yourself, that you do not forget the LORD who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Deut 6.12 ) He’s the God of history who did stuff in the past. And will again. Share what God did in human history, in Jewish history, in delivering the Jewish people in the Exodus. That story is told each year at Passover. Share what God did even in your history.

“Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes, which I am commanding you today.” (Deut 8.11) God’s word maintained keeps us in the future.

And what is the cause of our forgetting? Deut 8.14 tells us it is our pride which is lifted up and knocks us back.

Deut 8.19 warns us that God will doubly cause us to perish if we forget him. The Hebrew verbs are duplicated, that is, the word for forget is repeated and the word for perish is repeated.
“If we forgettingly forget…. We will perishingly perish.” Don’t miss it; God wants you to remember… or else, you will perish!

Does God remember?
But honestly, don’t you think you have done pretty well at following Jesus and that it’s often He who has forgotten His promises and His plans? Maybe He recognized that we would think this and there are many comments in the Bible about this.

“For the Lord your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them.” (Deut. 4.31)

And my favorite text in this regard is in Isaiah. Back in the 70s, Lamb, the Jewish Gospel singing group sang it. “Can a woman forget her nursing child? And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.” (Isaiah 49.15) God’s promise is that He will not forget. Relax. God remembers you.

Tomorrow we will look in Part 4 at What we should remember and How we should remember. God bless!

Reunions (Part 2)

“Then and Now(…and then): A study in Forgetfulness and Memory” [Part 1] Last weekend I attended the 40th anniversary reunion of the Mustard Seed Church, a congregation I started in January 1972 in Lawrence Kansas. The joy of gathering together with those from those earliest days and from the current church gave occasion for dozens of stories, most of which began “I remember…” or “Do you remember…” Memory and memories is my topic today. What is the point of remembering? What should we remember and what should be relegated to the world of forgetfulness?

When we were in college, many of us quoted three favorite Bible texts just before we took examinations and quizzes. Prov 10.7 “The memory of the righteous is blessed.”
John 16.13 “Spirit will disclose to you what is to come” and John 14.26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” We counted on that ‘bring to your remembrance’ citation often.

Of course, that Proverbs passage has now changed as we age. We might read it like this: “The memory of the righteous people who have passed away is still blessed”. When we pass through historical markers, our lives help us to reflect on the Bible, on what God meant, and as a result, we learn more. That’s why we keep reading. That’s why we keep ‘doing theology’ in seminaries and as the world changes, our understandings change and grow. To be fair, some folks don’t like reunions.

I understand that. Their weight and appearance is less beautiful than in the past. Their hairline is receding or long gone. Their hopes for a good marriage and beautiful children were dashed when their spouse left and the kids went on drugs. Who wants to dredge that up? A reunion is a place of embarrassment and shame or relentless pain, they might imagine. Those folks are not with us today.

On the other hand, some folks love reunions.
Their children are graduating Duke and Harvard. Their beauty salon continues to make them look like they naturally appeared 30 years ago. Or they just don’t care about appearances at all and never have. They prefer the people from ‘back then’ and love history and facts and …

Today we are going to look at memories and forgetfulness.
This morning in my email box I received the Daily Bible Verse. I’ve enjoyed Dave Whitehead’s comments and selections for years. I know he is a pastor in New York, but have never met him. He often brings me a glimpse of God that I need.

Posted: 28 Apr 2012 09:15 PM PDT
Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.” – Deuteronomy 4:10 (NIV)

Throughout the Bible, God has called His people to step away from their normal activities to gather together and learn of Him. Moses was faced with the promise that God made to Abraham of a people “as numerous as the stars”, and God wanted His people to know of Him. So step away from your normal activities and learn of God’s ways; teach them to others. When you do, you are stepping into the story of God that started with Adam, was fulfilled in Jesus, and is manifest in His church.”

That’s it-- pretty simple and straightforward. Take time apart, ponder God. Maybe that’s why some of you are here this weekend.
Last Wednesday in Australia was a national day, Anzac Day, a day to remember the memory of the fallen, in wars, mostly devoted to World War I heroes titled diggers, and commemorating their service to our country. In the US we use a similar moment and calendar event on Memorial Day. The theme is “Lest we forget” and starts with dawn services and tributes. Each year there is increased participation and national loyalty, along with the commensurate support for our troops serving around the globe.

That phrase “lest we forget” is actually biblical and is the main focus of our Bible study in the next blog.

02 May 2012

Reunions (Part 1)

It won't be long and high schools and universities will be gathering folks from the past (alumni) and toasting their successes and their durability. In the next few blogs I'm going to be musing on the tradition of reunions and considering why we look backwards at all. And the biblical theology of memory itself, and what are we to remember, and what are to forget. Stay tuned!