22 December 2013

Loss and found

I have just returned a few minutes ago from the Domain in Sydney. A great night of singing Christmas carols with tens of thousands of Sydneysiders from every continent of earth. Only I didn't stay to the end. I had to look around for something I lost. Actually it was stolen. My camera bag was taken from right next to me while I was handing out tracts in front of the Department of Lands Building as thousands passed by me on their way to the Domain.

I spoke with Darren and Belinda, with Siobhan and Daniel and all their friends and family, with young Matthews, and a few others. A Muslim man wanted to discuss the flyer and the resurrection of Jesus. Another Christian said, "Good on you, mate!" It was a good hour and a half. I had already handed out 1400 flyers.

Then two young Jewish teens came by. Jasmine and her cousin Carmen spoke with me for a moment. I told them to read our website. They live in Randwick and attend high school. Just then I turned back to my bag, and IT WAS GONE!

Less than two metres away from my feet, next to my bag of tracts, which remained, my camera bag was gone. I looked around quickly and saw a couple young boys running, but they had no bag. Still I gave chase. But they had nothing. I found a policeman and quickly told my story. He said "I've seen nothing."

Two ladies, one named Bernadette offered to help. But there was nothing to do. I found another policeman who was helpful. She told me to go to Lost and Found which I did in a moment. They took my details. So did Lost and Found. But there's little hope of someone from the cleaner crew or some other noble person like Bernadette finding the bag and turning it in to the police.

I'm at a loss. I'm out thousands of dollars of camera equipment. I'm sad. And it's not the first time I've had a camera bag pinched, but it feels so wrong. I feel so stupid, and it was 'just there' and then it wasn't. Loss.

My loss however pales compared to that of Jeff and Janet whose 21 year old son was found dead last week in Pennsylvania. They had a $100,000 reward out for any information about him, but that was too little too late. He was taken from a bad area of town and was never seen again. The Bernstein loss must be immeasurable. As is the loss of 22-year-old Daniel to Phil and Sue up in Michigan. I only met the son briefly in October and he was a treasure to everyone he met. But he too was found dead and his parents' grief was extreme. Phil is a pastor and spoke on Moving Forward a couple weeks ago, and about 6 weeks after his loss here: Moving Forward

My loss of a camera and some lenses and the bother is not even worthy to be discussed much less compared to the loss of baby #5 of Ben and Joelle in Sydney. Ben described it after the baby's birth and passing on Facebook: "After a non-eventful labour where everyone was in perfect health with perfect vitals we decided to transfer to hospital as Joelle was not progressing. Our baby showed no signs of distress and we decided to leave while baby and Mum were still healthy before any signs of deterioration showed. Unfortunately on arrival a heart beat could not be found. It was revealed in surgery that Joelle had suffered the beginnings of a catastrophic uterine rupture which is around 1 in 100 chance of happening with multiple c-sections. It could not have been predicted and there were no signs in the car that it had happened. Joelle was in perfect health though tired. It had only just happened and baby was fine when we left. If it had been longer Joelle would have bled out and lost her uterus or even worse, died. The timing was both incredibly unlucky and lucky. Please pray for us and show compassion in our loss. We are both devastated."

Another pastor in Queensland here tweeted about Tosh & Vicky Sturgess who lost their 3-hour old child. Loss multiplied.

I read a website about 'getting help' in times of trauma and loss. It might help you help others today. Emotional trauma

I suppose I'm writing to show myself the perspective of losses and how mine pales. And I'm remembering this photo which I shot on the M4 freeway in Sydney's west. One man's photo is another man's disaster. We just don't 'get it' when we are not the person suffering the loss of a thing or the loss of a son or the loss of a coin.

If you can, pray today for a bit more peace for the parents of the lost children. Pray for me for the recovery of the lost camera/ bag. Pray for the person who stole it from me for his heart to be caught out and shame to be real.

May you know the joy of finding lost things. And if you don't know Messiah, the One who died for our sins and rose from the dead, and the One about whom all these Christmas carols are sung... if you don't know Messiah Yeshua, then the Bible calls you 'lost' and you need to be found.

That may be a bit harsh, but reality bites. And being found is something you can do. It's about putting your faith in Him, and not in you. Faith in Him and not in humanity. Faith in the Savior who died for all your sins. May my loss today help you to be found.

Merry Messiah-mas!

07 December 2013

Change or die

My first cell phone by bobmendo
My first cell phone, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

I remember carrying the cell (mobile, hand) phone around Washington DC. The year was 1993 and I was busy traveling from one appointment to another to visit Jewish people, and had to have my phone with me in the new 'reachable' world. After all, the office was not my only haunt; when I was out people had to be able to reach me.

The phone was jacketed by a leather pouch, and the phone itself was nothing different than what I had at home. It was portable only in that I carried it around, but otherwise it looked like a regular desk phone.

Then they brought out the brick and the pouch was gone. The new mobiles from flip phones and sliders to iPhones etc were ushered in. All that is left of those early days are old movies and sentiments and fading memories.

Which today make me think about all kinds of 'old' things. (Hard to call something 20 years old old: compare a university student). Kurt Cobain has been dead for 19 years, Seinfeld has been off the air for 14 years, that is, no new shows since 1998. Is that old?

Sometimes I play sports with older folks and they call me "the young lad." Or they say, "When I was your age..." Age is always relative. My kids think I'm the old guy, and I'm going to guess my grandson will say that with more clarity and conviction. [maybe he already does, but I don't speak toddlerspeak]

All this thinking about age and changing to remind myself, and anyone else who is listening, that reality requires us to change as we age. The cell phone which was only a phone changed and we have smart phones and apps and all things at our fingertips anytime and anywhere. The TV no longer is black and white and analog is gone. My bellbottoms and afro haircut were supplanted by other looks.

This from Alan Deutchman in his book "Change or die" and a review from last year in California. They aver that people will not change and can prove it scientifically. "You want odds? Here are the odds, the scientifically studied odds: nine to one. That's nine to one against you. How do you like those odds?

This revelation unnerved many people in the audience last November at IBM's "Global Innovation Outlook" conference. The company's top executives had invited the most farsighted thinkers they knew from around the world to come together in New York and propose solutions to some really big problems. They started with the crisis in health care, an industry that consumes an astonishing $1.8 trillion a year in the United States alone, or 15% of gross domestic product. A dream team of experts took the stage, and you might have expected them to proclaim that breathtaking advances in science and technology -- mapping the human genome and all that -- held the long-awaited answers. That's not what they said. They said that the root cause of the health crisis hasn't changed for decades, and the medical establishment still couldn't figure out what to do about it."

This makes it that much more significant that people actually do change. The best change ever of course, is to go from darkness to light. From living for yourself to living for God. From sin to salvation in Yeshua. Holy people know that change on a personal level is a function of our relationship with the Almighty.

Change is not something we conjure or create. We are responsive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. That's where real change happens-- inside our hearts. Then the externals are much easier.

Listen, change is never easy, but it's a lot easier to change in belief or in behavior when we belong to the Lord, and live to represent Him.

Let's see how that works out for you.

06 December 2013

Neither Jew nor Gentile?

A believing friend wrote me last week, taking me to task on something I said about Jews and non-Jews. She didn't like it that I titled her a non-Jew, based on an understanding about the New Testament views of the redeemed.

Here is what I began to write her back... enter into the discussion if you like.

You are right, the Bible is clear "there is neither Jew nor Greek," and then proceeds to tell us that there is "neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Messiah Jesus." So let's unpack that a bit. The same apostle who says that, told wives to submit to their own husbands (Eph 5.22) and "let a woman learn in silence with all submission, and I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man..." (1 Tim. 2.11-12). That same apostle told men "older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience" (Titus 2.2) and that the "younger men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works..." (Titus 2.6-7) Paul also taught about women and head coverings in 1 Corinthians 11, which he did not require of men. So what I'm saying is that although "there is neither male nor female" that there clearly are roles and distinctives for men and women. I'm glad there are facilities for men and for women both at arenas and stadia and in theatres.

Same thing goes for "neither slave nor free." Onesimus was the slave of Philemon (see letter of Paul to Philemon verses 10-18) whom Paul sent back to Philemon to get back to work. His slavery was not removed just because Paul led him to faith in Messiah. And Philemon was free, but also has certain rules applied. Paul told masters to "give up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven" (Eph. 6.9) Slaves in fact are to "be obeidnet to those who are your masters according to the flesh.." (Eph. 6.5). In other words, although "there is neither slave nor free" clearly there are distinctions and rules that apply to one or the other.

So how do we understand the "neither...nor" statements of Paul? It has to do with inheritance and access. God has given everyone access to Him by faith. No one is better. No one is worse. No one is 'outside' and thus an outsider. We all can approach the living God. The distinctions in the Temple area which prevented slaves or women or handicapped people or... are not able to prevent us in these days from following Messiah. Awesome, eh?

What do you say?

05 December 2013

Wendy Zukerman from the ABC radio

Interviews are funny things. You think you know what you want to say, then someone puts a microphone in front of you, and ...um... er.... what I meant was .... seem to rise up in my mind.

But I've been trained and know that ums and ers don't work on radio, especially national radio, so those were not there. And the clanging of the dishes was apparent and the clatter of chatter abundant as the people at our Hanukkah gathering shared joy and fellowship with one another.

The question remains though, did I say what I wanted to say, and will the editor or the journo (shown) allow me to say what I want, or will they cut and paste and make me sound, ... less than what I wanted.

The verdict is out until probably a month or more from now.

May God give Wendy clarity of mind as she works on this article/ radio piece for the ABC. May she find eternity in Yeshua also. May the people of Australia find joy in finding Messiah's love.

If you are a praying person, please join me in these significant prayers. Thanks. (PS, don't you like my Hanukkah tie?)

20 November 2013

Wrong call

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

I hear it a lot in professional sports that the referee has a lot of discretion and an umpire can overrule a linesman and the fate of the game changes. Certainly that happened at the end of the football (NFL) contest on Monday night (Aussie Tuesday) when the New England Patriots played in Carolina against the Panthers.

I really don't have any affection or disdain for either team. They are both pretty good in so many areas. Tom Brady is the veteran quarterback and leader of the Patriots and was orchestrating a final charge down the field for a possible winning strike against the home side.

This photo taken off the television shows the bad call by the referee. The players in blue are converging on the ball and on the player in white. Problem is, the blue guy can't touch the white guy after 5 yards from the original line (way back where the other players are standing) until someone touches the ball.

No one had touched the ball and thus the blue player was wrong and should have been penalised. The back judge originally threw a yellow flag to indicate an infraction, but was later and quickly overruled by the senior statesman on the referee crew.

For more on this episode: http://www.nepatriotslife.com/2013/11/pats-made-mistakes-but-blind-eye-cant.html

I like what this previously unknown-to-me author @LiamPCunningham said calling the next play, the "Play that never was."

Look in the course of an entire game, there are many many times when a call does go one way or another for or against your team. That's life.

But in the last 2 minutes of the game, the league has already taken the challenge opportunity out of the hands of the coaches and created a justice-panel up in the stands somewhere. That panel should have overridden the referees override. Obviously.

All that to say, I'm sorry for the Pats to lose on a bad call. They might have lost on the play that never was anyway. But they might have won, too. It felt like a proper conclusion to the 45th anniversary of the Heidi episode. (see wiki here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heidi_Game)

What might have been? What was? What wasn't? We'll never know.

I'm writing today to express disappointment in the officiating crew both on and off the field. And then, I'll get back to other things that matter a whole lot more than 53 men on each side playing a very serious game of gridiron.

19 November 2013

Choices....how many is enough?

Everywhere Else by bobmendo
Everywhere Else, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

From a TED talk in the USA. Selections chosen and moderated by NPR (National Public Radio)

What do you think? How many choices paralyze and how many liberate?


OK, misconception number five - who doesn't like to have lots of choices, right? Like, say, for example, salad dressing.


BARRY SCHWARTZ: I want to say just a word about salad dressing.

RAZ: This is Barry Schwartz. A social psychologist, and this is from his TED talk...


SCHWARTZ: A hundred and seventy-five salad dressings in my supermarket, if you don't count the 10 extra virgin olive oils and 12 balsamic vinegars you could buy to make a very large number of your own salad dressings in the off-chance that none of the 175 the store has on offer suit you.

RAZ: Which is what it's all about. Why we are happy, why we live more fulfilling lives because of our limitless choices.


SCHWARTZ: The official dogma of all Western industrial societies runs like this - if we are interested in maximizing the welfare of our citizens, the way to do that is to maximize individual freedom. The way to maximize freedom is to maximize choice. The more choice people have, the more freedom they have. And the more freedom they have, the more welfare they have. This, I think, is so deeply embedded in the water supply that it wouldn't occur to anybody it is not true.

RAZ: How - how can that be? I mean, choice is what we all want, right? I mean, choice is a good thing.

SCHWARTZ: Absolutely, and it is a good thing. People want control, they want autonomy. The mistake that we've made is to think that since choice is good, it's only good.


SCHWARTZ: So I'm going to talk about what's bad about it. One affect, paradoxically, is that it produces paralysis rather than liberation. With so many options to choose from, people find it very difficult to choose at all. I'll give you one very dramatic example of this - a study that was done of investments in voluntary retirement plans. A colleague of mine got access to investment records from Vanguard, the gigantic mutual fund company of about a million employees and about 2,000 different workplaces.

And what she found is that for every 10 mutual funds the employer offered, rate of participation went down 2 percent. You offer 50 funds, 10 percent fewer employees participate than if you only offer five. Why? Because with 50 funds to choose from, it's so damn hard to decide which fund to choose that you'll just put it off till tomorrow, and then tomorrow and, of course, tomorrow never comes. So that's one of affect. The second affect is that even if we manage to overcome the paralysis and make a choice, we end up less satisfied with the result of the choice then we would be if we had fewer options to choose from. The more options there are, the easier it is to regret anything at all that is disappointing about the option that you chose.

RAZ: Too much choice actually makes us less free. Its paralysis rather than liberation, which sounds...

SCHWARTZ: That's right.

RAZ: ...It sounds crazy.

SCHWARTZ: It does sound crazy. I mean, imagine you have cereal for breakfast every morning and you alternate between Rice Krispies and Corn Chex.


SCHWARTZ: I don't like Rice Krispies and Corn Chex, the fact that there are alternatives makes my life better.

RAZ: Right.

SCHWARTZ: And so the logic here is that when you add options, you don't make anybody worse off because you can ignore them, and you make somebody better off.

RAZ: Yeah.

SCHWARTZ: And that's perfectly sensible, logically. It just turns out not to be true psychologically.


SCHWARTZ: This hit me when I went to replace my jeans after years and years of wearing these old ones. And the shopkeeper said do you want slim-fit, easy-fit, relaxed-fit? You want button fly or zipper fly? You want stonewashed or acid washed? You want them distressed? Do you want boot-cut. Do you want tapered? Blah, blah, blah. On and on he went. My jaw dropped and after I recovered I said I want the kind that used to be the only kind. He had no idea what that was. So I spent an hour trying on all these damn jeans and I walked out of the store, truth, with the best-fitting jeans I had ever had. I did better, but I felt worse. Why? I wrote a whole book to try to explain this to myself. The reason is that with all of these options available, my expectations about how good a pair of jeans should be went up. And what I got was good, but it wasn't perfect.

RAZ: So here's the thing, I hear that and I'm thinking, OK, this is about as American as it gets, right? I mean, you can choose whatever you want. You can do anything you want.

SCHWARTZ: Exactly so. So there's a cartoon that I show often, when I give talks, of a fishbowl. Your typical goldfish bowl. And there's a parent fish and a baby fish. And the caption reads you can be anything you want to be, no limits. Right, you know, we're supposed to laugh at the myopia of the parent fish - no limits - in a fishbowl that has nothing in it. But I think the deep insight is that everybody needs a fishbowl. So when you shatter the fishbowl, and my argument is that's sort of what 21st century affluent Western society is like, when you shatter the fishbowl and everything is possible, is that a good thing? And the answer, surprisingly to the assumptions we make, is that, no, it's not a good thing. Choice within constraint is essential. Choice without constraint is paralyzing.


SCHWARTZ: So there's no question that some choice is better than none, but it doesn't follow from that that more choice is better than some choice. Nowadays, the world we live in, we affluent industrialized citizens with perfection the expectation, the best you can ever hope for is that stuff is as good as you expect it to be. You will never be pleasantly surprised because your expectations, my expeditions, have gone through the roof. The secret to happiness - this is what you all came for - the secret to happiness is low expectations.


SCHWARTZ: Then there was this nervous laughter. But that seemed maybe a little too pessimistic. So let me say the secret to happiness is to have realistic expectations. And if you're going to err, err on the low side. It's really nice to be pleasantly surprised. It sucks to be disappointed.

RAZ: Barry Schwartz, he's a psychologist who wrote a book called "The Paradox of Choice." You can find his entire talk at TED.com. So if you could pick the perfect, like, the optimum number of salad dressings, right, on the shelf, what would it be?

SCHWARTZ: There's a little bit of research on this and it suggests that somewhere around 6 to 10.

RAZ: Six to 10?

SCHWARTZ: Yes. Somewhere between 6 and 10 everybody seems to be able to find one that they're satisfied with.


RAZ: Hey, thanks for listening to the show on misconceptions this week. If you missed any of it or if you want to hear more, if you want to find out more about who was on it, you can check out TED.NPR.org. You can also find many more TED talks at TED.com. And you can download this show through iTunes or through the NPR smartphone app. I'm Guy Raz. You've been listening to ideas worth spreading on the TED Radio Hour from NPR.

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17 November 2013

Courage to think and to do exploits

Dorothy and Toto from Kansas knew a thing or two about courage, and had enough to pass it on to the friendly lion, you know, the one without courage. He was nicknamed the "Cowardly Lion" and I suppose that's a proper appellation for him. Without courage one is rightly labelled cowardly. Remember what he needed? Courage. Very similar to what the Tin Man needed which was a 'heart.' Now I'm sure Frank Baum in his original writing was not leaning on the French language where 'courage' and 'heart' have the same root. In fact, I'm sure that the symbolism of the three industries of agriculture, military and the steel industry, about which many write was probably not anywhere close to Baum's thinking. Still, that's not our point today.

The Cowardly Lion makes his first appearance in the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. He is the last of the companions Dorothy befriends on her way to the Emerald City where he ambushes her, Toto, Scarecrow, and Tin Woodman. When he tries to bite Toto, Dorothy slaps him for trying to attack Toto where she discovers that the Lion is actually a coward which he admits that he is. The Cowardly Lion joins her so that he can ask The Wizard for courage, being ashamed that, in his cultural role as the King of the Beasts, he is not indeed brave. Despite outward evidence that he is unreasonably fearful, The Cowardly Lion displays great bravery along the way. During the journey, he leaps across a chasm on the road of yellow brick multiple times, each time with a companion on his back, and the leap back to get the next one. When they come into another, wider chasm, the Cowardly Lion holds off two Kalidahs while the Tin Woodman cuts a tall tree to cross it. In spite of his fears, he still goes off to hunt for his food, and he even offers to kill a deer for Dorothy to eat, but the idea makes her uncomfortable.

In other words, the lion is already brave and courageous, but thinks he is not.

OK, I can live with that (mis)understanding.

At times, we all need courage, and that comes from encouragement. Simple, I know, but still clear. Someone or something outside us has to put courage into our hearts. We need to know, to deeply know, that a 'yes I can' is in me. I find that encouragement in the Scriptures of the people of God.

Seven times in the Newer Testament the word is used, and once in the Older Testament. Six of the NT references are translating the Greek word "Paraklesis". All references are here:
Acts 4.36 And Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means, Son of Encouragement),
Acts 15.31 And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement.
Rom. 15.4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Rom. 15.5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus;
Phil. 2.1 If therefore there is any encouragement in Messiah, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion,
Col. 4.11 and also Jesus who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision; and they have proved to be an encouragement to me.
Heb. 6.18 in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us.

Paraklesis means "called alongside to help" and sounds exactly what we need often in life. Someone or something which comes alongside, (or in the Anglo-Franco: puts into our heart) to give us courage.

In those references above we read "For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." Paul wrote the Roman believers this sentence about the record of the Older Testament and the characters we find there. What God said previously in the Bible about Elijah and David and Moses and Ruth, Rahab, Tamar, Joshua and all of that should give us substantial hope for our lives today.

Two problems:
We often think wrongly about both encouragement itself and the characters of the Older Testament. We usually consider encouragement and hope as positive thinking, almost borderline "The Secret" thinking. We think it means power to do what we want almost like I'm going to be next celebrity or celebrity host on "Australia's Got Talent." Biblical encouragement is someone or something giving us power to do what God wants us to do or to think what we are supposed to think. Biblical encouragement gives us capacity to follow God in right living or right thinking. It's not about getting what I want or wishful lotto imagination.

The other thing we get wrong is biblical characters themselves. We see Samson as Victor Mature, strong and mighty, rather than viewing him as Adam Sandler or Woody Allen. There is no mention of his stature in the Bible, but we picture a mighty warrior. What made him mighty was the power of God (and his hair of course) and not his 24 Hour Fitness workout regimen. If all biblical characters are strong in and of themselves and I'm not, then I have no encouragement from them and what they do. If they are normal, looking like Mr Schwartz and not Mr Schwarzenegger, then I CAN derive courage from their exploits. Right thinking about them and right thinking about me combined with right thinking about God makes me courageous.

All this to say, for you, there is a chance you can be courageous to do what God wants and to think what God wants you to think. Be near people like Barnabbas. Be listening to godly wisdom. Give yourself to right living. Put yourself into the place where others are, whom you identify as encouragers (and not demanders).

I hope this encourages you today. And that with that encouragement you may have real future hope about what lies ahead.

By the way, for a real fictional movie about real courage see Courageous

12 November 2013

Prayer before they start

Prayer before the sortie by bobmendo
Prayer before the sortie, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.
It's customary to offer a prayer to God before things. The most common prayer is 'grace' said before a meal. "Lord bless this food" or "Bless us oh Lord for these they gifts..." are standard. In Judaism, if the meal contains bread, we say, "Blessed art Thou, oh Lord our God, King of the universe who brings forth bread from the earth." A quick, and usually intentional "thank you" to the Creator. Good plan.

For others prayer is something done on the side of an arena or stadium. Their team is needing to sink the final two baskets or to score a touchdown on the final drive of the 4th quarter so that victory can be secured. The scene is replayed so often I wonder if God even notices it, but I'll have to admit He knows and notices everything. Still, the teams and their fans pray that God somehow will favor them with a win, and not a loss.

I remember the maxim, "There's no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole." War brings out the prayers in many. When bombs are flying overhead and the enemy is pursuing, where can a man look but up?

And I have no problem with people praying in any such circumstance. In fact, it's right to pray in all circumstances, isn't it? "Pray without ceasing" is the biblical admonition. According to Jewish tradition, a person should recite 100 blessings (b'rachot) each day! This is not as difficult as it sounds. Repeating the Shemoneh Esrei (Amidah) three times a day (as many observant Jews do) covers 57 b'rachot all by itself, and there are dozens of everyday occurrences that require b'rachot.

Our first thought in the morning, even before we get out of bed, is a prayer thanking God for returning our souls to us. (Modeh ani) There are prayers to be recited before enjoying any material pleasure, such as eating or wearing new clothes; prayers to recite before performing any commandment, such as washing hands or lighting candles; prayers to recite upon seeing anything unusual, such as a king, a rainbow, or the site of a great tragedy; prayers to recite whenever some good or bad thing happens; and prayers to recite before going to bed at night. All of these prayers are in addition to formal prayer services, which happen two- three times a day every weekday and additional times on Shabbat and festivals.

All that to say, there is plenty of occasion to pray. And prayer has to be more than sanctified thinking. It might start with that, but goes well beyond that.

It's actually verbalized. And it's humble and it's real. Like these young people in salmon-colored tshirts about to go out on the streets and talk to people about the Almighty. They are praying for God to lead them to open-minded individuals. They are praying that their spirits would be open to odd folks. They are asking God to give them wisdom and love. Not a bad prayer at all!

Prayer is really conversation with God, as Rosalind Rinker wrote in 1959, and I think her clarity is still valuable to us in 2013. Check it out here: Rinker on prayer

You can pray alone. You can pray with others. You can pray quietly or loudly. He that sings prays twice. Prayer is getting into and staying in conversation and thus relationship with God. Not a bad thing to do, even if your team is losing in the 4th quarter or lost miserably already. Prayer is about getting to know God, personally.

And He wants to meet you, and get to know you, and let you know Him. Prayer is the key. Silence, then humility, then conversation, then listening, then thankfulness. Not a bad formula.

Before you start the next thing on this computer, why not say, "God in heaven, please help me to listen to You and to get to know You personally." Pick up a Bible online or off your shelves and have a read. You might find the book of Psalms is the perfect place to start.

And let me know how it goes by commenting here, ok?

10 November 2013


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

To me, worship is not singing, but it might happen when you are. It's an attitude and it's reflected in quiet, in humility, in love. This photos said that to me.

I find it silly when people say "Let's stand up and worship" when the Bible uses these phrases together: Psa. 95.6 Come, let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. and again in
Is. 46.6 “Those who lavish gold from the purse and weigh silver on the scale hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god; They bow down, indeed they worship it."

So worship says to me "bow down." It's about humility in body and soul. It's about saying to myself, "You are not" and saying to God, "You are."

Some get it (more) right when they invite us to worship in giving financially to God. I'll write more later about honoring God in our wealth, but for now:
"Honor the LORD from your wealth and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine. " (Proverbs 3.9-10)

This idea of honor means giving financially. As in "Honor your father and mother." but I will write more about that later.

For now, go somewhere today. Worship God in your heart long before you get there. Bow your heart to Him. Learn from Him. Get to know Him.

That makes sense to me.

03 November 2013

The theology of place

New gazebo by bobmendo
New gazebo, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

A nest in a tree is home to the bird and her young eggs. But one day the little ones are nudged out of the comfort and sent out into the world, to seek their own and their new home. I get that. I have three kids who all have moved from home and yet are ever ours and we are ever theirs.

The need for place, and the holy nature of place are in my mind today. This gazebo is a sanctuary of sorts, near a little Anglican church northwest of Sydney, in Pitt Town. The old parish building is on one side, and the newer building on the other, but this little shaded area is a stand-alone. And it's welcoming. And set apart.

Our little bookshop in Sydney's east in Bondi Junction will no doubt have to move within a year or so. Like so many urbanizing areas, the Junction is meeting the creativity and greed of developers so that little mom-and-pop shops are being replaced by multinational chains and Oxford Street is becoming Franchise Avenue. We will lose our lease in 2014 or so, and have to move. And thus, more thoughts today and this week about place.

Where will we set up? And what needs do we have in that place?

God established the idea of place as he set up Heaven and Earth. (Genesis 1.1) Then he established the Garden of Eden and placed man there. (Genesis 2.8) Cain was the first murderer and lost place, being sent out as a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth. (Genesis chapter 4)

When God wanted to meet with the Jewish people, en masse, he chose the Tabernacle (Exodus chapter 25) as the place. The Hebrew says this, "Build me a Mishkan (Tabernacle) that I may shakan (dwell) with them." (Ex. 25.8) The Hebrew is clear; dwelling with the Lord is the purpose of the tabernacle (tent).

That continued in the ministry of the Temple in Jerusalem, and to this day the purpose of buildings to Deity is that he may dwell with us.

That's why I find school hall meetings a bit less than 'regular' church meetings. Set-apart spaces which are dedicated to the Lord, and which have sacred symbols and sacred utensils, that all makes sense to me as place.

When an enquirer wants to find a minister, when a neighbor in a neighborhood wants to meet someone of religion, where will they go? Whom will they be seeking? The first thing is place; the second is person. Most 'uninformed' people who rock up to places of religion are not looking for Mr Smith or Rev Cohen, but rather find the place and seek 'someone' there. Place itself is the draw.

That's why I'm pondering anew what our place will look like in Bondi Junction in 2014. And hopefully you will be part of us and part of our outreach and our presence in the neighborhood and in the country.

At least, you are invited to do so.

24 October 2013

When Hanukkah meets Thanksgiving

When Hanukkah meets Thanksgiving by bobmendo
When Hanukkah meets Thanksgiving, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.   “Delivered from Fear: a Jewish Thanksgiving Story”

by Robin Joseph Blaha, guest writer

I know that most people don’t think of Thanksgiving as a Jewish holiday. But I always will. That’s because during Thanksgiving weekend 1973, I experienced the most wonderful, most mind-boggling—and most Jewish—moment of my entire life. It made me truly thankful on that Thanksgiving and every day since.
Believe me, what happened that weekend was as big a shock to me as it probably will be to you when you read about it. But, as they say, let me start at the beginning . . .

Born in Chicago in 1951 into a Jewish home, I am the oldest of five—four girls and a boy. My mother was a stay-at-home mom. My dad was part owner of Joseph Electronics with his brothers and father. Later he sold his portion of the business and became a stamp dealer.
Being Jewish was important to me but didn't have much to do with God. It was mainly about holidays we kept as opposed to holidays our gentile friends kept. I did like getting out of school on the High Holidays, and we attended temple once in a while on those occasions. The services didn't mean anything to me, though, and at times I had an irreverent attitude at temple. The most memorable holiday was Passover at Grandma's house. She made all the traditional foods from scratch and I loved seeing cousins at that time. We did light candles at Hanukkah and sang the blessing over the candles, but again, God wasn't a part of it.
In my early childhood I was plagued with fear. Although my parents were always there, they weren’t “there for me” emotionally, so I dealt with my fears alone. When I was fifteen, I started experimenting with alcohol, and my fear slowly gave way to rebellion. I began lying to my parents and going places they didn’t want me to go. I became a thief (stealing from my employer) and a shoplifter. By the time I was eighteen I couldn’t wait to leave home.
When my sister Judy’s Jewish friend Joann told her that Joann’s brother was at a communal farm, we decided to check it out. We knew the farm was near Freeport, just a couple of hours west of Chicago, but we never got directions. We tried to hitchhike to the farm, couldn’t find it, kept on going and ended up in Berkeley, California! There we tried LSD, and Judy nearly died. Fortunately, the LSD had no effect on me. We had to call our dad, and he wired us money to fly back home.
Nevertheless, I continued my rebellious lifestyle, which spiraled out of control. I became promiscuous, a drug abuser and an alcoholic. I should have died a number of times because of how I was living. My adolescence and young adulthood were so filled with confusion and rebellion that I don't remember even thinking about my Jewish identity. I do remember that I did not believe in an afterlife but believed, “When you're dead, you're dead.”
In the meantime, Judy had found her way to the farm. It turns out that the farm was a kibbutz-like community of believers who used the name Y'shua to worship Messiah, kept Shabbat and celebrated the Hebrew feasts. Judy learned about Y’shua (Jesus) and came to believe in him as the Jewish Messiah. When the pastor and his wife prayed for her, all of the bad effects from her LSD trip came to an end.
I was living in Ohio in 1973 and went home for Thanksgiving. Judy and my sister Lynne started telling me about Jesus and how he had changed their lives. Although I thought they were crazy, when they invited me to a local meeting that weekend, I went. The preacher was talking about the return of Christ and that we all needed to have our hearts right with him before he returned. I really didn’t understand what he was talking about because I had never heard of Jesus Christ before, except as a swear word. I had no idea that “Christ” was the Greek word for Messiah. But I knew I was not right with God.
When we got home, my sisters kept telling me I needed to be “saved.” Because they were new believers, they couldn’t really explain to me how. Finally Lynne quoted John 3:16 to me with my name in it: “For God so loved Robin, that he gave his only Son, that if she would believe in him she would not perish but have everlasting life.” In that moment I experienced a miracle. God himself revealed to me that this was true. God loved ME! He gave his son to die for ME! I began weeping and thanking him for loving me. Intellectually I didn’t understand yet, but I believed. I was “born again,” a new creature, as the New Testament describes it in that same chapter, three, of the Gospel of John [link to John 3:1-8]. Jesus had died to pay the penalty for my sin and I was forgiven.
Looking back, I realize that God had been drawing me to himself. I had some idols, and God had been tearing them down one by one. One of them was Neil Young. When I went to see him in concert, as the fans were calling out requests, he told them to shut up. I also idolized my friend's boyfriend—until I saw him scared and running for his life. God even used the movie Soylent Green to show me how bad the world was.
But that same weekend, immediately my parents took me to the rabbi’s office (as they had with Judy) so he could talk me out of my new faith. After he was done talking, I went out into the hallway of the temple and declared, “I believe Y’shua is the Messiah!” I don’t know if anyone heard me, but I knew it was true. After the weekend, I drove Judy back to the farm. The people there more fully explained to me all that Jesus had done. One week later I moved in.
God instantly delivered me from destructive habits such as drinking, smoking, drugs, promiscuity and swearing. The farm was a wonderful place for a broken person to mend. We learned to worship God, to love one another and to work together. A young man Steve had already been there three years, and in 1980 we were married. We have two children, Dan and Sharon, both now adults, and four beautiful grandchildren.
Through the years God has continually been working on me in other areas such as fear and anxiety. In every situation I have learned to trust that he truly loves me and is taking care of me. I have known him for 40 years and he is still changing me. When I do wrong, he makes me aware of it; I want to repent and stay right with him.
Steve and I own a reading clinic which we operate from our home. My workday involves one-on-one teaching of students who are either struggling with reading in school or who want to get a good start before going to school. My faith plays a very important role in what I do. I pray for my students, especially those with special needs.
God has brought me through many difficulties and has caused me to grow with each one. He is a most faithful loving Father. Slowly but surely he has delivered me from all my fears.

16 October 2013

When Israelis Encounter Yeshua (Jesus)

Some of the reactions of Israelis is not unlike the reactions of Jews in Australia, Germany, Russia, and everywhere. The issue of Yeshua is certainly central to many of us, and coming onto the radar of many. We hope this video will assist you in sorting things out, and in determining, "Who is that man?"

Breaking Bad... evaluated

breaking-bad-blog-600w by bobmendo
breaking-bad-blog-600w, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.
Guest writer: Andrew Barron

I got hooked on Breaking Bad this past summer when I read an interview with the show's creator. He said something like, it was hard for him to believe in heaven, but it was harder not to believe in hell. I have been following the 'chemistry-teacher-turned-methamphetamine-kingpin" up to its conclusion last night. It has been a riveting ride.

I was fascinated by the lead character, Walter White. He is a complicated man whose behavior always kept me guessing. Both a villain and a dupe, his actions were disgraceful and pitiable. He was capable of intentional malevolence and violence as well as sensitivity and charity. His bout with cancer made him a cancer on all he came to know.

After watching five seasons of this Emmy award-winning series, I found myself haunted by the question: "Under the right circumstances am I capable of the same?" "Could I be Walter White?"

Holocaust Survivor Yeheil Dinur would say yes. Dinur testified at the Eichmann Trial in 1961. After his opening statement DeNur fainted and was subsequently unable to resume his testimony. A film clip from Eichmann's 1961 trial showed Dinur walking into the courtroom only to see Eichmann for the first time since Auschwitz. The clip shows Dinur crying hysterically and then collapsing.

Dinur later explained that he saw Eichmann in a simple business suit for the first time. He was not the godlike army officer who had sent so many to their deaths. This Eichmann was an ordinary man. "I was afraid about myself," said Dinur. "... I saw that I am capable to do this. I am ... exactly like he. Eichmann is in all of us."

Breaking Bad has placed something steadfastly punitive at the core of its world: the dreadfulness of getting what we deserve - a world of law, barren of grace. The only way Walter White could ever be redeemed is the same way any of us whom the law pronounces broken and bad are - by restoration through God's good grace.

10 October 2013

Gravitational pull

Gravitational pull by bobmendo
Gravitational pull, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.
I like my grandson. I think of him a lot these days. He's only two years old and lives in the US, but we see each other now and then. This day I was taking his photo he was playing with sand in a sandbox. And discovering so much about life and sand and gravity. I liked what I saw. I think he liked what he learned that day. Gravity works. And things fall to the ground.

Tonight I saw the new movie out this year named Gravity. It stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, who are the only actors to play visible roles in the film. Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone who is a mission specialist on her first space shuttle mission, STS-157, accompanied by the commander of the shuttle, astronaut Matt Kowalski, played by Clooney. During a spacewalk to service the Hubble Telescope, Houston warns Stone and Kowalski that a satellite has been damaged causing all kinds of space matter to fly and that they must abort their mission.

The rest of the movie is the story of survival when the parts of that old satellite begin hitting the shuttle and then other outposts in space.

I liked the movie. I liked the cast. I liked the sense of wonder I experienced. The Variety writer Justin Chang posted that the film "restores a sense of wonder, terror and possibility to the bigscreen that should inspire awe among critics and audiences worldwide."

You can't however get away from the final scene which I will not give away. NO need for a spoiler alert. Suffice it to say, the title comes into play clearly, for the cast and for my grandson. Gravity works.

I am thinking of the idea of gravity tonight and about Stephen Hawking. According to Hawking, the laws of physics provide the real explanation as to how life on Earth came into being. The Big Bang, he argues, was the inevitable consequence of these laws 'because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.'

As John Lennox, professor of mathematics at Oxford University writes, "Laws themselves do not create anything, they are merely a description of what happens under certain conditions."

Lennox goes on to say, "What Hawking appears to have done is to confuse law with agency. His call on us to choose between God and physics is a bit like someone demanding that we choose between aeronautical engineer Sir Frank Whittle and the laws of physics to explain the jet engine"

Read Lennox's whole argument Lennox

So it's late at night and I saw a sci-fi movie but still can ponder things like wonder. I wonder if there were inaccuracies in the movie. I wonder if the scenes of earth were similar to what astronauts see when they are orbiting. I wonder what I would do if I had similar problems in space-- what would I do?

Listen the film has problems, not technical, but real. Or at least Bullock and Clooney have problems. Do you think you won't have problems? And what will you do with your real problems tomorrow or next week? I liked the movie's portrayal of problem solving, sometimes even hallucinogenic problem solving with unreal latch openings, but solving nonetheless.

I find the final scene's gratitude useful in my problem solving.  As if Bullock could affirm, "no matter what happens in my life, with my daughter, or with the blue-eyed man at the end of my tether, ... I'm grateful." And saying, "Thank you" is awesome.

Of course, knowing to whom to say it is even better. I recommend you say 'thanks' to God, and not to your lucky stars or to Gravity. You (and my grandson) can be thankful for gravity, but to say 'thank you', you have to have a person to welcome this gratitude.

29 September 2013

Law and Grace: The Beginning of a biblical review

Law and Grace: An unfortunate dialectic

A sermon given at Carlton-Kogarah Baptist Church, Carlton, NSW

Sunday September 29, 2013

By Bob Mendelsohn


Shalom to all of you here today in Carlton, and those who will watch/ listen/ and read along with us on the Internet in this information-shared world. Thanks to Pastor Steve for letting me come and thank you each of you for listening along with us today as we unpack a very fundamental and very confused topic this morning, that of the unfortunate dialectic: Law vs. Grace. As we consider this may I ask you to think a bit outside what you already believe, what you already know, what you already think, and let’s see things from another angle or two. Being challenged is a good thing, right? So let’s begin.

We have already read the Scriptures in Leviticus 19 and Romans 6. For those online, those are able to be read at the bottom of this manuscript.

Introduction: How many gods are there?

Of course every year in synagogue when I grew up, we read Leviticus, and then more particularly when I was a child, the first book I ever learned, that is, studied with a learned man, was Leviticus. If you get that right, if you get holiness right, everything else will be right.

So let’s turn there first.

For many, who only carry a pocket New Testament, this will be difficult. Consider what that carrying says to people.  By choosing only a portion of Bible, and not the entire 66 books, you are saying this is the good bit, or the important bit, or the bit I think matters more today. And sometimes a Gospel of John or a portion of Bible is all you are pondering at a time or season and that’s excellent. But carrying a Bible is a big signal to you and to those around you that the whole volume matters and has weight.  OK, my pet peeve is out.

So now we turn to Leviticus and if my guess is right, and if you are a marker in the Bible, you will have very little by way of marks in the 27 chapters. This is not an indictment, but rather an indicator of something I call bi-theistic evaluation. Here’s what I mean.

Many well-meaning Christian people could be labeled bi-theists. A monotheist is a believer in one God, and a bi-theist believes in two gods. You would normally tell me that no Christian is a bi-theist, and I would agree, that no Christian can be, based on dozens of biblical texts where he is the One and only God, who does not share his glory with another and that all other gods are not the real God.

But by practice and convictions, many Christians have a notion that the God of the Older Testament is fundamentally different than the God of the Newer Testament. Jesus, they would argue, is not the same as the God of the Older Testament. In the OT, he was old. He was seated probably because he was tired. He had gray hair. He was crotchety, like an old man in a nursing home. He was judgmental and angry. But they say, in the NT, God is nicer, and younger. He’s out healing and performing miracles. He has flowing dark hair and is adored by young adults and children.  But if you believe this two-god theory, you are a bi-theist and as a result will have a more negative evaluation of the Old Testament.

So if that’s you, and you are now turning to Leviticus, let’s see if we can glean from this text a mechanism of reading and understanding God, and this big issue of Law vs. Grace.

Definition of terms

Before I touch our text, let me define these two terms, which will help us throughout this talk. Both law and grace, as I understand them, are systems. I’m not using the term ‘law’ to mean a commandment. And that may be the difficulty for some of us. The word ‘law’ is used 164 times in the NT, 77 of those in Romans alone, 32 in Galatians; and law is used 199 times in the OT.  But listen, law is not the same in every case. That’s where the confusion comes.

Sometimes the word means ‘commandment’ and means an individual action required or prohibited.  James identified law with freedom as in “the law of liberty”(James 1.25, 2.12). King David cried out “How I love thy law!”(119.97, 159) Paul the apostle said, “The law is good.” (1 Timothy 1.8).  So I understand confusion about the matter. To most, and throughout the record of Scripture, and certainly in our passage in Romans, Law sounds like some compliance, and then it becomes a system of compliance. So that is my definition: Law is the system by which I gain God’s approval on the basis of my good works. And then grace must be different. Grace then is the system by which I gain God’s approval on the basis of what God did in Messiah Yeshua.  Both are systems. One more small difference in language. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve. So mercy keeps you from hell and grace gives you heaven. Understanding those, let’s look at our texts.

Older Testament reading: Leviticus 19

Checklist religion

In this foundational chapter of the Older Testament, God commands Israel many things: to be holy (.2), to fear mother and father (.3), not to make idols (.4), to burn leftover peace offerings (.6), to leave the corners of the field when harvesting (.9-10), not to steal or lie (.11), etc. Many of you older folks will quote the no tattoo rule (.28) when speaking with your teenage children. Other rules include not cutting the corners of your beard (.27), not eating raw meat with blood (.26), keeping your daughter out of the sex trade (.29), keeping the Sabbath (.30), avoiding reading horoscopes (.31), honoring old and foreign people (.32-34), keeping honest measurements and scales (.35-36), not eating fruit before its time (.23-25), and not wearing wool and linen at the same time (.19). Talk about power clashing.

So those of you who like to outline are frustrated just now. There seems to be no rhyme or reason for these laws, often superscripted with the term “Various Laws” as a header in your Bible, or at least no reason for their order. And although I’m an outliner from way back when, and like to keep things in such order, the text neither warrants nor needs such.

Inside the text is the most famous verse of the OT, and quoted by Yeshua: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” It’s in verse 18. I remember that as my Hebrew teacher when I was 7 taught us, that 1918 was the year World War 1 ended and that’s the address of this text. If we can learn this lesson, to love everyone, then war will not happen anymore. Harsh lesson that we keep needing to learn, and keep forgetting, you know?

So if you had an interpretation of this passage as laws that are law, and thus a system of compliance such that you would gain God’s favor, and if you had been taught that all this OT stuff is old and not to be kept anymore since we now have Jesus as our God and savior, what do you do with the laws of Leviticus 19? Do you now send your daughter out to be a harlot? Do you steal and lie? Do you read horoscopes and make old people stand while you sit on the bus? Obviously the simplistic and binary approach: Old=bad; New=good just doesn’t work.

In fact law is something so beyond your capacity to accomplish it, that it’s sad how many try to do so. There are two consequences to checklist religion, and I’m not limiting myself to Jewish or Christian religions. If you are successful at keeping the fragments of religion you maintain, you might feel smug or even proud. If you fail to succeed at your religion’s checklists, then you feel condemned. Neither pride nor condemnation is God’s desired result.  Checklist religion always fails.

Poor man in your midst

Look at the text in verse 9. We see that we should harvest our fields and then leave something for the poor. This is a law. Nowadays, how would a poor person come to find provision in the company of God’s people? Let’s say a poor person from Brighton-le-sands came to hear about a big local church and that they care about poor people. He rocks up to the church and finds a receptionist. He presents his case. She is sympathetic to him and rings the pastor. The PA of the pastor hears the call and the poor man presents himself to the PA.  Then the PA sends the poor man to the pastor in charge of food distribution or such. Now, the 3rd time in an hour, the poor man has to tell his story. Compare that with the biblical method of providing. In the Bible no one has to hear the story. No one is shamed. No one is embarrassed. No one feels owing and no one feels robbed or used or questions motives. It’s gracious isn’t it? So when you think of law vs grace as OT vs NT, you miss the point.

Dr Laura Schlessinger,  Aaron Sorkin, and Kevin Rudd on homosexuality

Same with the issue of sexuality, which our text intimates in relation to slave women and marriage. Obviously if you are familiar with the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20) you will recognize that many of these various laws of Leviticus 19 are informed by and an expansion of those commandments. Idolatry, stealing, adultery, Sabbath-keeping and others are expanded here. But what about sexuality? You may have heard Steve mention Dr Laura, the US talk-show presenter, who is well-known in the US as a fast-talking, ethic-pounding psychologist. This from Wikipedia: In the months before the premiere of her TV show in 2000, Schlessinger called homosexuality a "biological error", said that homosexuality was acceptable as long as it was not public, and said that homosexuals should not attempt to adopt children. She regularly compared gay parenting to pedophilia by reiterating her view that "a huge portion of the male homosexual populace is predatory on young boys."[31] Schlessinger was frequently criticized in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual (LGBT) media for these views.   (More about Dr Laura at the end of this manuscript, even surprising facts)

But what about sexuality? My question remains. Dr Laura is opposed on the basis of biblical considerations. And she’s right. But opponents will then point out that we don’t keep OT laws either. What about the famous scene in the tv show The West Wing, where Aaron Sorkin wrote for President Bartlett (Martin Sheen).

"My chief of staff, Leo McGarry, insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself or is it okay to call the police?"

Leviticus 11
7and the pig, which does indeed have hoofs and is cloven-footed, but does not chew the cud and is therefore unclean for ou.
8Their flesh you shall not eat, and their dead bodies you shall not touch; they are unclean for you."

"Here's one that's really important cause we've got a lot of sports fans in this town: touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean. Leviticus 11:7 If they promise to wear gloves can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point?

"Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother, John, for planting different crops side by side? Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads?

 [Online, the whole scene is in transcript: http://westwing.bewarne.com/second/25admonitions.html ]

Obviously Sorkin is venting. And as a result many Christians pull back from using any biblical (read: OT) reference when trying to teach a lesson about homosexuality. Similarly the noise was voluminous when my friend Pastor Matt Prater up in Brisbane asked then-Prime Minister on Q and A just before the election last month about his views on homosexuality. The PM Kevin Rudd scored many points with the audience, but lost miserably in the election 6 days later, as his mean-spirited views and hostility to the Christian pastor were unveiled. He also demonstrated a lack of biblical knowledge although he tried to be Sorkin-esque in mentioning slavery. The banter went like this:

"I just believe in what the Bible says and I'm just curious for you, Kevin, if you call yourself a Christian, why don't you believe the words of Jesus in the Bible?" pastor Matt Prater asked.

Mr Rudd responded: "Well, mate, if I was going to have that view, the Bible also says that slavery is a natural condition," he said, receiving a loud applause from the audience.

The PM Rudd won the battle for the moment in the audience but lost the war. The Bible does not say that slavery is a natural condition and in fact, even in our text we see a view that is counter-cultural from God. We should treat women, and foreigners, and workers and animals and fruit and all things and all people in an honorable way. This is God’s way. This is “love your neighbor as yourself.”

But what about sexuality? Our text is clear and there are many more texts that help us unpack this issue. The Law was given to help a newly-delivered slave community, coming out of Egypt after 400 years, to know how to relate to God, to each other and to the world around them. We still need to know how to relate to God, to each other and to the world around us. That’s why King David said he loved the Law. That’s why Paul said ‘the law is good.’ It’s useful he said. It matches God’s plan from the beginning that we should love one another.

The goal of Torah

“The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.

But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching.” (1 Tim 1.5-10)

The purpose of Torah was to keep us loving people and loving God. That’s the goal of our instruction then and now. Homosexuality and kidnapping (read: sex slavery) and lying and murdering and all kinds of evil damage society, causing mistrust and is as Paul says, “Contrary to sound teaching.” And remember the goal of all that teaching was love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere or un-hypocritical faith.

Mixing clothing and mixing marriages and mixing field crops and boiling a kid in its mother’s milk are all about the same thing. It’s the same as God dividing the light from the darkness in the beginning. It’s the same as Paul to the Corinthians: “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6.14)

God designed us with two feet but we cannot walk in two directions at once. We have two eyes, and unless you are the Aussie comic Tim Ferguson, interviewed by Margaret Throsby last week on ABC classic radio, (He has a condition called strabismus:  see this link: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001004.htm) you will probably be reading this sermon with both eyes looking in the same direction.

The apostle Paul referenced this phenomenon in his battle with Peter in the epistle to the Galatians.  We read “When I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Galatians 2.14) The Greek word for ‘straightforward’ is orthopodeo, straight footedness. Going in one direction, in other words. Peter was having it both ways and Paul rebuked him publicly and saved the freedom-message from going the way of checklist religion.

Where then is grace?

Remember we are not talking about compliance by which we gain God’s approval. We are talking about ordinary human good will and human good and sound teaching. We are talking about an ordered and civil society.

So where is grace?

That’s the system by which we gain God’s approval on the basis of what Jesus did on our behalf. It’s not about my good deeds or my behavior which will cause God to smile at me. Or to like me more. Or to listen to my prayers that much more intently.

This one won’t work or will it: Negotiation

The story is told of the little Catholic boy who was having a hard time thinking God was listening to his prayers.

“Dear God, if you will give me a new bicycle, I promise I’ll be a good boy and …” He thought better of that.  He started over.

“Dear God, I promise to make my bed every day and do my homework and then will you please give me a new bicycle?” He thought again about promises made and unfulfilled. He thought better. He went downstairs and got his father’s little sacred statue of the mother of Jesus, Mary.  He went back to his room, wrapped the little statue in a towel, put it under his pillow, and knelt down. Again he prayed,

“Dear God, if you ever want to see your mother again…”

Approval by one means

Look, you don’t have to negotiate with God. You don’t have to work your way to heaven. In fact, you can’t do that. All your good works are like filthy and bloody rags, Isaiah says. (“For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” Isaiah 64.6)

Consider this example. You have a full trolley of groceries. You are in the queue at the checkout and now everything is packed back and you give the checker your credit card. He swipes the card. Now you wait. The word on the credit card machine reads, “Processing.” And you wait. The line behind you seems to be growing and growing impatient. The machine still spins the word ‘processing.’ And your anxiety level rises. Then finally the word appears, “approved.” Your fears subside. Your smile returns to your face. You exit with relief and approval.

That relief, my friends, is the feeling this Orthodox Jew had when I gave my life to Yeshua 42 years ago. I who had sought God’s favor through prayers and religious observance had finally found forgiveness, favor and approval in one fell swoop, by receiving Yeshua, by receiving Jesus as my Lord and Savior. That’s all it took. God had already done everything I needed for his love and favor to be mine. All I had to do was to admit my sin, repent of my sin, and receive him as my sacrifice, as my forgiver, as the one who perfectly kept Torah on my behalf and become his.

Grace was overwhelming. I even sang it with the woman who prayed with me that night. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found, ‘twas blind, but now I see.” Paul wrote the Romans about this, when he said, “knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.” (Romans 6.6-7)

We are no longer alive to sin. We used to be very much alive to sin, but not any longer. Sin shall not reign in us. “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts” (Romans 6.11-12)

Those things are not us any longer.

You were buried. You no longer are alive to sin. You are alive to God. That’s sound teaching. That’s love from a pure heart.

Be motivated by grace and forgiveness, and you will not obey the lusts of the flesh.

For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, (the system by which you gain God’s approval on the basis of what you do), but under grace (the system by which you gain God’s approval on the basis of what Yeshua did.) (Romans 6.14) Thanks be to God!

A kind view of Law in OT found in a Christian website: http://www.biblica.com/bibles/faq/17/


The Bible in Romans chapter 6:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? may it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?  Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was braised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. for if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.

Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 6.1-23)

The Bible in Leviticus chapter 19.

      "Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘you shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. ‘every one of you shall reverence his mother and his father, and you shall keep my Sabbaths; I am the LORD your God. ‘Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves molten gods; I am the LORD your God.

‘Now when you offer a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD, you shall offer it so that you may be accepted. ‘It shall be eaten the same day you offer it, and the next day; but what remains until the third day shall be burned with fire. so if it is eaten at all on the third day, it is an offense; it will not be accepted. Everyone who eats it will bear his iniquity, for he has profaned the holy thing of the LORD; and that person shall be cut off from his people.

     Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the LORD your God. you shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another, and you shall not swear falsely by my name, so as to profane the name of your God; I am the LORD. you shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning. ‘You shall not curse a deaf man, nor place a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall revere your God; I am the LORD. you shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly.you shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the LORD.you shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. and you shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.(.18)

    You are to keep my statutes. You shall not breed together two kinds of your cattle; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together. Now if a man lies carnally with a woman who is a slave acquired for another man, but who has in no way been redeemed nor given her freedom, there shall be punishment; they shall not, however, be put to death, because she was not free. He shall bring his guilt offering to the LORD to the doorway of the tent of meeting, a ram for a guilt offering. The priest shall also make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering before the LORD for his sin which he has committed, and the sin which he has committed will be forgiven him.

     When you enter the land and plant all kinds of trees for food, then you shall count their fruit as 1forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden to you; it shall not be eaten. But in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, an offering of praise to the LORD. In the fifth year you are to eat of its fruit, that its yield may increase for you; I am the LORD your God.

     You shall not eat anything with the blood, nor practice divination or soothsaying. you shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard. you shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD. (.28)

     ‘Do not profane your daughter by making her a harlot, so that the land will not fall to harlotry and the land become full of lewdness. ‘you shall keep My Sabbaths and revere my sanctuary; I am the LORD. ‘Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God. you shall rise up before the gray headed and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the LORD. when a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. ‘The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God. You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measurement of weight, or capacity. and you shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin; I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt.

       ‘You shall thus observe all my statutes and all my ordinances and do them; I am the LORD.’”

Wikipedia entry on Dr Laura Schlessinger:

Marriage and family life

Schlessinger met and married Michael F. Rudolph, a dentist, in 1972 while she was attending Columbia University. The couple had a Unitarian ceremony.[60] Separating from Rudolph, Schlessinger moved to Encino, California in 1975 when she obtained a job in the science department at the University of Southern California.[61] Their divorce was finalized in 1977.[62]

In 1975, while working in the labs at USC, she met Lewis G. Bishop, a professor of neurophysiology who was married and the father of three children.[2][63] Bishop separated from his wife and began living with Schlessinger the same year.[64] Schlessinger has vociferously proclaimed her disapproval of unwed couples "shacking up" and having children out of wedlock. But according to personal friend, Shelly Herman, "Laura lived with Lew for about nine years before she was married to him."[2] "His divorce was final in 1979.[65] Bishop and Schlessinger married in 1985.[66] Herman says that Schlessinger told her she was pregnant at the time, which Herman recalls as "particularly joyful because of the happy news."[2] Schlessinger's only child, a son named Deryk, was born in November 1985.[67]

Schlessinger was estranged from her sister for years, and many thought she was an only child.[2] She had not spoken to her mother for 18[68] to 20 years before her mother's death in 2002 from heart disease.[13] Her mother's remains were found in her Beverly Hills condo approximately two months after she died,[69][70] and lay unclaimed for some time in the Los Angeles morgue before Schlessinger had them picked up for burial.[71] Concerning the day that she heard about her mother’s death, she said: “Apparently she had no friends and none of her neighbors were close, so nobody even noticed! How sad.”[13][71] In 2006, Schlessinger wrote that she had been attacked in a "vulgar, inhumane manner by media types" because of the circumstances surrounding her mother's death, and that false allegations had been made that she was unfit to dispense advice based on family values. She said that she had not mourned the deaths of either of her parents because she had no emotional bond to them.[1][13]