30 June 2013

Atheist church?

So many who long for God by bobmendo
So many who long for God, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

Robbie Buck of the ABC Radio National presented an interview with Pippa Evans, comedian based in Melbourne, of the Sunday Assembly, a self-described "part-atheist church." (their website)

Here's Pippa speaking last month at their monthly gathering. image

by Photographer Dan Kerr

I have no problem with people assembling to share stories, to sing, to learn, to discuss...for whatever reason. Good on 'em! But I'm not thrilled with the idea of the word church being used for it. Church has come to mean 'sacred assembly' and a place where God is honored, and Y'shua is held in high praise. Songs are directed to Him. Prayers are sent to God. Sermon after sermon discuss what that the Almighty wants for our planet.
To have an 'atheist' church is like having a vegetarian for meat. It's like finding a mad Collingwood supporter wearing red and white when the Magpies play us at the SCG. That simply wouldn't happen. Nor should it.

A church is a church. I found it very odd when I first came to Australia in 1998, to find synagogues listed in the yellow pages directory under "Churches." If the term had been religious buildings, fair enough. But to use 'church' for such an appellation is to miss a lot of Jewish life.

My friend is an Anglican and has lived 85 years in Australia. I told him of a Jewish man with whom I was discussing the truths of the Bible, and he asked me "What is his Christian name?" I stared almost blankly. "What? He is Jewish. He has no Christian name," I replied. "Ah," said my friend, "I meant his first name." Of course, the common misuse of 'Christian' back in my friend's day carries over to a mostly-non-Christian country, and modern parlance still.

The Sunday assembly website says they have a three-fold purpose: "It’s a service for anyone who wants to live better, help often and wonder more." There are many Christian churches today, worldwide where the Gospel is so hidden that this triptych could well apply to them! But apart from the Gospel-light churches, I'm especially hopeful for the SA people. Let me explain.

They are establishing a habit (albeit monthly in Melbourne so far) of Sunday morning gatherings. That's a good habit. They are breaking the 'me alone' habit of so many who isolate especially on weekends, and thus helping us get our of ourselves. And the last reason (for now) that I'm happy is their use of 'wonder.'

I'm not thinking of the term evidenced in this photo of the golfers who wonder where the ball went.
Or whether the boy will ring the girl for the dance Saturday night.

No rather, I'm thinking of musing and wonderment. What you do when you see Niagara Falls or other natural wonders of the world. Wonder is good, as it points us to the Creator of Wonder, the God of Wonder, beyond all majesty.

That's what the HIllsong people are singing about in the top photo. That's what I'm hopeful for the people at Sunday assembly. They will meet on Sundays and sing and wonder. After a while, the focus and terminus of wonder will be in view. And that will be Y'shua. And they will have to continue their habit and wonder about HIm. Don't you reckon?

So let me ask you, "Who do you think Jesus is?" Don't you wonder about that one?


Their website: http://sundayassembly.com/

24 June 2013

Are they real?

Yes, they are real by bobmendo
Yes, they are real, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

Today I became a celebrity of sorts. At least I experienced what celebrities sometimes experience. A Facebook hacker created a fake Bob Mendelsohn account and asked my friends if they would 'friend' him. Many said yes. One of them is an expert on identity fraud and had a conversation with Fake Bob. We all quickly determined the fake Bob's real intent was to gain emails and gain bank accounts. His entire convo is at the bottom.

But that got me thinking about true and false and about real and pretend things. The photo is from Bayview Golf Club here in Sydney's north, where I've played a few times. Those elephants are real, to be sure. If they were not real I couldn't see them. But they are not alive. I've seen giant elephants in Thailand and in Botswana. But these are statues. The water is real. The rocks are real. Everything is real in the photo, but the elephants are not living beings.

For those who don't know, I'm a religious person and spend much of my time sharing what I believe with others, in Sydney where I live, and in other places where I travel. I also spend time on social media sharing this belief and interact with many.

So how would anyone determine what's true or false? One of my Facebook friends asked me where we had originally met. Luckily I remembered that one. Others noticed the fake Bob's grammar was not up to my standard. Others had received my warning and stayed away.

But let's say you want to find out using epistemology what is true and what is not true. What method would you use? How do you know what is true and what is not?

Wikipedia helps here: "Whether someone's belief is true is not a prerequisite for (its) belief. On the other hand, if something is actually known, then it categorically cannot be false. For example, if a person believes that a bridge is safe enough to support him, and attempts to cross it, but the bridge then collapses under his weight, it could be said that he believed that the bridge was safe but that his belief was mistaken. It would not be accurate to say that he knew that the bridge was safe, because plainly it was not. By contrast, if the bridge actually supported his weight, then he might say that he had believed that the bridge was safe, whereas now, after proving it to himself (by crossing it), he knows that it was safe.

Epistemologists argue over whether belief is the proper truth-bearer. Some would rather describe knowledge as a system of justified true propositions, and others as a system of justified true sentences. Plato, in his Gorgias, argues that belief is the most commonly invoked truth-bearer."

So I ponder that with the issue of Bible accuracy and Bible itself. The Jewish people have held to this book for 3,500 years. Christians have joined in the last 2,000 years. Is it belief that cause the claims of truth or is it truth that causes us to believe?

Let me say Jesus claimed to be 'The Truth." (John 14.6) I'm sticking by Him. If you think I'm presumptuous then know that I'm not claiming Truth status. I'm merely following the One who did. He claimed to be the Only Way to the Father. I don't make such a claim of my religion or my views. I can and have been wrong so many times, but He is never wrong. That's where I line up.

I'm not a fan of Frederic Fitch who in the 50s and 60s wrote the Paradox of Knowability into logic. I studied and taught logic to high school students in the 70s. Wikipedia again helps here: "Fitch's paradox of knowability is one of the fundamental puzzles of epistemic logic. It provides a challenge to the knowability thesis, which states that any truth is, in principle, knowable. The paradox is that this assumption implies the omniscience principle, which asserts that any truth is known. Essentially, Fitch's paradox asserts that the existence of an unknown truth is unknowable. So if all truths were knowable, it would follow that all truths are in fact known."

Too much? Listen, Y'shua, the Jewish messiah, claimed to the Truth. Two-thousand years ago, Jesus stood before Pilate, who questioned him. Jesus declared, “everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate responded with a question, saying “what is truth?”

Pilate said to Him, "What is truth?" And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, "I find no fault in Him at all. (John 18:38)

The question Pilate asked is still being asked today. What is truth, and does it really matter what truth is? Today it’s popular in many universities and schools, to teach that truth is relative, meaning, “there is no objective Truth”.

But I agree with Y'shua. He is the Truth. And that doesn't make my faith in Him the substance. I didn't grow up with this faith. I came to it later. And you can also.

Fake Bob or True Bob is not the issue. Fake messiah or True Messiah-- now we are talking!

What do you think? And how do you know? Let's discuss...

Actual conversation:
ME: hi

How are you doing ?

good. how are you?

I am doing great and so much happy today
How about you

yeah me too

Have you heard about the poker company in conjunction with Facebook for their annual promo ?

no, tell me more...

The Poker company with the conjunction of Facebook is doing their annual lottery promotion for the Year ended and saw our names on the list , did you got yours yet ?

no not yet...

You can't believe I got $50,000 from them delivered to my door step by UPS delivery agent and did you see the yet ?


Do you get your own money the agent yet ?

no. where shall I send the money? Do you want my bank details?

Oh no you only need to contact the agent so that you can claim your own money from the agent okay

fantastic. This sounds too goo to be true...

Yes i got the money from the agent and i pay on my bills and deposit some at the bank and your name appear on the winner list that you won as well

so what should I do now to get my free money??

You only need to contact the agent and let him know that you won and your name is there on the winner list
send message to them officerallen_now@yahoo.com

I'll do it now. Thanks a lot Fake Bob.
end of conversation.

Via Flickr:
If they weren't real I couldn't photograph them. But no, they are not alive. This is the feature near the 1st on Bayview Golf Club

20 June 2013

Remembering (For those born before 1980)

I did not write this, but I certainly appreciate it.

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can and didn't get tested for diabetes. 

Then after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-base paints. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, locks on doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had baseball caps not helmets on our heads.

As infants & children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, no booster seats, no seat belts, no air bags, bald tires and sometimes no brakes. Riding in the back of a pick-up truck on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and no one actually died from this. We ate cupcakes, white bread, real butter and bacon. We drank Kool-Aid made with real white sugar and, we weren't overweight. Why? Because we were always outside playing...that's why!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.  No one was able to reach us all day. And, we were O.K.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps. And then ride them down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendos and X-boxes. There were no video games, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVD's, no surround-sound or CDs, no cell phones, no personal computers, no internet and no chat rooms. We had friends,
and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and, although we were told it would happen, we did not put out many eyes.  We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them.

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment.  Imagine that!! The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

These generations have produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever.  The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.  

07 June 2013

He makes me lie down

55/366 Joshua at rest by bobmendo
55/366 Joshua at rest, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

Sabbath is God's idea. It was memorialized in the book of Genesis as history, when God worked for six days to create the world, and then took a day off. Then in the book of Exodus, when God gave us the 10 Commandments, the 4th one listed reminds us of that Creation event. "Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy." (Chapter 20, verses 9-11)

There is another reason to celebrate Sabbath, listed in Deuteronomy 5.15 "You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day."

So we take the day off to remember Creation and Redemption. Both are about God being active in our world. And our being inactive. For a day.

Mark Driscoll says, "Although we don't live in a traditional Jewish world with 6 days on, one day off. I think it's important for churches to hold to the biblical principle of the Sabbath. You will take a Sabbath. The Sabbath was made for man. Paul tells the Romans, 'some guys Sabbath on this day; some guys Sabbath on that day... love Jesus, get a break.' " Then Driscoll says, "If you don't take a Sabbath, one will be imposed on you. Burnout, breakdown, frustration. Heart attack. You will take one voluntarily or involuntarily. It will be at the beach with a Bible and a drink, or in a hospital with an IV, and a gown with no backside. Either way, you will take a Sabbath."

The Psalmist in the famous 23rd Psalm said this, "He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters."

How good is that. He the Good Shepherd cares about our lives. He wants the best for us, so that we can give our best for Him. And Sabbath observance is not about duties and prayers and carrying or not carrying. It's about rest. It's about restoration. Therapy, you know?

God is a good God. Get to know Him. Today is good. Or this Sabbath is good. Anytime, find rest in Him.

05 June 2013

Plain days

12/366 Aussie bush by bobmendo
12/366 Aussie bush, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

Today from Oswald Chambers' "My utmost for his highest":

"We have the idea that God is going to do some exceptional thing— that He is preparing and equipping us for some extraordinary work in the future. But as we grow in His grace we find that God is glorifying Himself here and now, at this very moment. If we have God’s assurance behind us, the most amazing strength becomes ours, and we learn to sing, glorifying Him even in the ordinary days and ways of life."

I love my wife and she's a terrific cook and homemaker. No one can do what she does with as little as I've given her over these 36 years. And I'm a well-fed person, to be sure, but honestly I remember very few of the meals that she's ever made for me. By that, I do not mean to degrade her, or her style, her flair, her excellence. Maybe I'm simply telling about me! That said, I find Chambers' words resounding in my mind today. And the photo I took of the Aussie bush reflects this as well.

What I mean is this. Plain days are ordinary. Normal. Continual. Most days are not exciting. Most of life is dull. But dull is underrated today. Too many people look for thrills and excitement. The need for 'fun' outweighs the need to be faithful. Married people often divorce because they get bored; they think it ought to be more.

Sunrises only last for a few minutes. Most of the day is the ordinary time. Most of the day is dull. Don't be so enamored with the sunset and demand it to last all day. IT won't. You will (both) be disappointed. Inspirations are useful for a moment, then we have to put our hands to the plow.

More from Oswald today: "Sometimes it is not the difficulty of life but the drudgery of it that makes me think God will forsake me. When there is no major difficulty to overcome, no vision from God, nothing wonderful or beautiful— just the everyday activities of life— do I hear God’s assurance even in these?"

Do you?