23 February 2013

Billowing clouds

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

The turbulence in today's weather is not the substance of this blog, but the beginning of the thoughts that prompt it. I awoke at 4 am to massive rain storms and the heavy rain has continued throughout this Shabbat. We must have received over 3" already of rain and it's not done by a long shot. Up in northern New South Wales, they are talking about receiving over 10" in 2 days. Oy.

But that's part of the cycle of life. Rain comes and rain goes. And the rain brings needed relief to the dams and to the drought-ridden areas which characterized Australia for so long. Bill Bryson titled his book about our country "In a sunburned country" before they renamed it. Drought and sun baking, that's Australia, certainly the bush or outback, to be sure.

Clouds that bring rain are normal. Clouds that bring hope which doesn't produce anything...they are empty promises and frustrating. Imagine if you will, the parched land out west, and a front of clouds like those pictured, begin to make their way over your property. You would get excited. You would anticipate rainfall. If then the rains do not fall, if the clouds come and then go, you would feel disappointment.

Hosea, the Jewish prophet, wrote about idol worshipers in Israel in chapter 13 verse 3 "Therefore they will be like the morning cloud, And like dew which soon disappears, like chaff which is blown away from the threshing floor and like smoke from a chimney."

That theme is picked up by Jude, the Newer Testament author in verse 12 "These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted." He is writing about false prophets, and false teachers. These are "ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Y'shua the Messiah."

False hope. False teachers. Empty clouds. Promises unmet and unable to be met.

Better to find Y'shua. Better to find the One who promises and fulfills what He promises.

Need help to find Him? Let me know.

20 February 2013

Prisoner X

Prisoner X by bobmendo
Prisoner X, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

The story is unfolding here in Australia although it was well known to many the last 2+ years. Here from an email from Michael Danby, Melbourne Ports, sending out the information from Andrew Bolt.

Believing the worst of Israel: Carr and The Age
by Andrew Bolt
FEBRUARY17,2013(7:21am)

Knowing a little more three days later, let’s review the Age report three days ago of the death of “Prisoner X”:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under pressure to answer questions over allegations that an Australian citizen committed suicide while being held in solitary confinement in the country’s highest-security prison.

Fact check: ”Benjamin Netanyahu is under pressure to answer question” rather personalises the issue by focussing on a hate figure of the Left, but let’s move on…

The man known as “Prisoner X” was held in conditions of such strict secrecy in Israel’s Ayalon Prison that not even the jail’s staff knew his name or the crime he was alleged to have committed, the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent program said on Tuesday.

It named “Prisoner X” as 34-year-old Ben Zygier and said it appeared the former Melbourne man had been recruited by the Israeli spy agency Mossad before his disappearance in early 2010. He had moved to Israel 10 years before that, changing his name to Ben Alon and marrying a local woman with whom he had two children, the program said....

The Israeli Government has gone to extreme lengths to suppress the story since news of Prisoner X’s arrest first appeared in 2010, with a judge issuing a gag order that prevented any mention of the case, or even the fact that there was a gag order, the ABC reported.

At the time, the revelation that a prisoner was being held in total seclusion in a private wing of Ayalon Prison for an undisclosed crime prompted human rights groups to launch a campaign to force Israel to reveal his identity.

“He is simply a person without a name and without an identity who has been placed in total and utter isolation from the outside world,” a prison official was quoted as saying at the time...

Fact check: Zygier’s family was notified immediately on his arrest and hired a lawyer to defend him. Israel also briefed Australian diplomats on Zygier’s arrest 10 months before his death and informed them of his alleged ‘’serious offences under Israeli national security legislation’’.

“It is insupportable that, in a democratic country, authorities can arrest people in complete secrecy and disappear them from public view without the public even knowing such an arrest took place,” the Association for Civil Rights in Israel wrote in June 2010.

Fact check: ”Complete secrecy” is false, and “disappear them” an exaggeration. True, the public at large did not know of Zygier’s arrest. But his own family did, as did anyone they may have told, including lawyers.

Human Rights Watch has also raised the alarm at the secrecy surrounding Mr Zygier’s arrest, incarceration and death, warning that Israel was required to notify another country if it takes one of its citizens into detention and if that citizen dies in detention.

Fact check: A false allegation by implication. That indeed occurred. Foreign Minister Bob Carr has conceded Australia was indeed notified of Zygier’s arrest 10 months befre his death.

It should notify the person promptly of any charges against them, ensure they had access to a lawyer and to someone outside detention, said Human Rights Watch’s senior Middle East researcher, Bill van Esveld, who is based in Jerusalem.

Fact check: Another false allegation by implication. Zygier had a lawyer, Avigdor Feldman, who met him in jail and was preparing a plea bargain.

“If the allegations are correct and Israel denied knowledge of his detention, then that is a ‘disappearance’ under international law,” Mr van Esveld said.

Fact check: False allegation by implication. Israel did not deny knowledge of Zygier’s arrest. It informed his family and the Australian Government.

He noted that while Palestinian prisoners were regularly detained without charge and often denied access to a lawyer for an unacceptable period of time, it was rare for Israeli prisoners to experience this kind of treatment.

Fact check: False allegation. Zygier was not denied a lawyer.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr described the allegations as troubling.

“It’s never been raised with me. I’m not reluctant to seek an explanation from the Israeli government about what happened to Mr Allen and about what their view of it is,” he told the ABC…

A spokesman for Senator Carr said on Wednesday that the Australian Embassy in Tel Aviv was unaware that Mr Zygier was detained in Israel until contacted by his family in 2010 when he died.

Fact check: Zygier’s arrest may not have been raised with Carr, but his department had indeed been told. Carr has since admitted “The Israeli government ... advised the Australian government”. His predecessor as Foreign Affairs Minister, Stephen Smith, has refused to say if he’d known of Zygier’s arrest.

“Even if Prisoner X has now been identified, his crime, however, remains a mystery, although it has been widely speculated that it would have involved treachery to warrant such extreme measures.”

The family asked for assistance to repatriate his body but did not ask for anything else...

Observation: The silence of Zygier’s unfortunate family suggests much.

The Australian government is now looking at the material raised by Foreign Correspondent to determine whether it warrants further action, such as making a representation to Israel.

“It’s common but not universal that countries do let us know [that they have detained an Australian national],” the spokesman said.

Fact check: Again, a false allegation by implication. The Australian Government had been told, and the real problem was the Australian Government’s poor internal communications.

Or perhaps the problem was with Carr himself. It is plain that he has been antagonistic towards Israel and only too ready to believe the worst of it. That has been obvious again in his initial reation to this case.

It also seems to be obvious that a similar attitude to Israel informed this Age report.

19 February 2013

Martin Luther, QandA Debate and public opinion

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

Last night I watched the ABC broadcast of a forum entitled "Q and A" here in Australia. Featuring the American scientist Lawrence Krauss and the Aussie apologist John Dickson and three other panelists, the issue of science vs religion popped up several times.

Krauss was forthright and brazen. He opposes anything divine being brought into the picture. Dickson was irenic and forthright. He landed the Jesus bomb several times, especially at the end.

The others weighed in, but really the issue revolved around those two. Tony Jones moderated well.

I so agree with Deakin University philosophy lecturer Patrick Stokes that Krauss evidenced the "new denialism." He says in his blog overnight,

"In response to a critical review by philosopher of physics David Albert, Krauss called Albert a “moronic philosopher” and told the Atlantic’s Ross Andersen that philosophers are threatened by science because “science progresses and philosophy doesn’t”.

Krauss’ gripe with philosophy seems to be, as Massimo Pigliucci eloquently points out, that philosophy hasn’t solved scientific problems. The same charge is levelled even more bluntly by none other than Stephen Hawking, who in 2010 declared 'philosophy was dead.'

According to these scientists, philosophy and physics were chasing the same prize – an understanding of the ultimate nature of reality – and physics simply got there first."

Krauss said, Whenever religion enters into the scientific conversation, "they get it wrong." That's too large and too defaming for me.

Dickson agreed with Krauss too often for my comfort. He knocked back 6-day creationists as if we were illogical and borderline stupid. And his agreement with climate change and pretty much all of science without qualifiers did not sit right with me.

That said, Dickson did a marvelous job testifying about Jesus and Christianity. He made a good appeal for "all that (science)...and Jesus." Meaning he did not need to defame the scientists in order to proclaim and acclaim salvation in the Messiah. That was very good.

Watch online here: Online Q and A

I like debate. I like controversy. I wouldn't be able to be a "Jew for Jesus" without such a liking.

That said, respect is key in a modern world. And forthright arguments applauded. I hope you like the show.

Martin Luther's famed letter to Pope Leo should honestly temper any debate about religion. It is in full, at the end of my blog today. Luther makes clear that he is not ruled by political correctness. He calls spades spades and is humble throughout. That's a good model of debate. And makes for a lively one.

Thanks to the ABC for such. Although I think the extra panelists often are unnecessary for the flurry, and the appeal to the general public is wide enough with a great topic and reasonable debaters who are able to bring the issues down to 'everyman' level.



Luther's comments to the pope here:
The Freedom of a Christian
Luther, Martin 1483-1546.

To Leo X, Pope at Rome, Martin Luther wishes salvation in Christ; Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Living among the monsters of this age with whom I am now for the third year waging war, I am compelled occasionally to look up to you, Leo, most blessed father, and to think of you. Indeed, since you are occasionally regarded as the sole cause of my warfare, I cannot help thinking of you. To be sure, the undeserved raging of your godless flatterers against me has compelled me to appeal from your see to a future council, despite the decrees of your predecessors Pius and Julius, who with a foolish tyranny forbade such an appeal. Nevertheless, I have never alienated myself from Your Blessedness to such an extent that I should not with all my heart wish you and your see every blessing, for which I have besought God with earnest prayers to the best of my ability. It is true that I have been so bold as to despise and look down upon those who have tried to frighten me with the majesty of your name and authority. There is one thing, however, which I cannot ignore and which is the cause of my writing once more to Your Blessedness. It has come to my attention that I am accused of great indiscretion, said to be my great fault, in which, it is said, I have not spared even your person.

I freely vow that I have, to my knowledge, spoken only good and honorable words concerning you whenever I have thought of you. If I had ever done otherwise, I myself could by no means condone it, but should agree entirely with the judgment which others have formed of me; and I should do nothing more gladly than recant such indiscretion and impiety. I have called you a Daniel im Babylon; and everyone who reads what I have written knows how zealously I defended your innocence against your defamer Sylvester.Indeed, your reputation and the fame of your blameless life, celebrated as they are throughout the world by the writings of many great men, are too well known and too honorable to be assailed by anyone, no matter how great he is. I am not so foolish as to attack one whom all people praise. As a matter of fact, I have always tried, and will always continue, not to attack even those whom the public dishonors, for I take no pleasure in the faults of any man, since I am conscious of the beam in my own eye. I could not, indeed, be the first one to cast a stone at the adulteress [John 8: 1-ll].

I have, to be sure, sharply attacked ungodly doctrines in general, and I have snapped at my opponents, not because of their bad morals, but because of their ungodliness. Rather than repent this in the least, I have determined to persist in that fervent zeal and to despise the judgment of men, following the example of Christ who in his zeal called his opponents "a brood of vipers," "blind fools," "hypocrites," "children of the devil" [Matt. 23:13, 17, 33; John 8:44]. Paul branded Magus [Elymas, the magician] as the "son of the devil, . . . full of all deceit and villainy" [Acts 13:10], and he calls others "dogs," "deceivers," and "adulterers" [Phil. 3:2; II Cor. 11:13; 2: 17]. If you will allow people with sensitive feelings to judge, they would consider no person more stinging and unrestrained in his denunciations than Paul. Who is more stinging than the prophets? Nowadays, it is true, we are made so sensitive by the raving crowd of flatterers that we cry out that we are stung as soon as we meet with disapproval. When we cannot ward off the truth with any other pretext, we flee from it by ascribing it to a fierce temper, impatience, and immodesty. What is the good of salt if it does not bite? Of what use is the edge of a sword if it does not cut? "Cursed is he who does the work of the Lord deceitfully." [Jer. 48:10].

Therefore, most excellent Leo, I beg you to give me a hearing after I have vindicated myself by this letter, and believe me when I say that I have never thought ill of you personally, that I am the kind of a person who would wish you all good things eternally, and that I have no quarrel with any man concerning his morals but only concerning the word of truth. In all other matters I will yield to any man whatsoever; but I have neither the power nor the will to deny the Word of God. If any man has a different opinion concerning me, he does not think straight or understand what I have actually said.

11 February 2013

Victory Cake...and disappointment

Victory Cake by bobmendo
Victory Cake, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.
Yesterday morning I watched a university basketball game on tv. It was live in the US and I am living in Australia, so the timing is always different than back there. I did not have cake as pictured, but my thinking was triggered by this photo from last week's Super Bowl in the US also.

The basketball game featured the US #5 team, the Kansas Jayhawks playing in Norman Oklahoma against the Oklahoma Sooners. At times it was a close contest, but the Jayhawks were never really interested in winning and went down to their third defeat in a row. Ouch. I was wearing a KU t-shirt. Three other KU fans were in the living room of my home with me at the time. Two current students and my wife. Disappointment was the mood of the morning, no matter how close the boys on the court appeared to get. Failure. Sadness.

I watched last weekend in San Francisco when I was at my friend Susan's home. She is a keen 49er fan, and fully expected her side to get through and win the football game in New Orleans. She had invited many others to share in the game experience and to celebrate with her when the game was over. But no one celebrated with her, because the Baltimore Ravens beat her beloved team by 3 points. Her victory party was spoiled.

The cake was left uneaten. I however, did have a piece, as is evident here, and tried to expand the word "Go 49ers" to read "Gone 49ers" but it didn't work out.

What do you do with disappointment? What will you do with the next thing you want to happen, and it doesn't happen? The career move uninvited, the pay rise that doesn't come, the girl who says 'no' to your demonstration of interest... what will you do?

When things don't work out the way you want, may I recommend a conversation with the God of heaven and earth? Honestly, talk with the One who well knows about human enterprise and human failures. He understands our weaknesses and wants us to learn from our wishes dashed.

Phil Keaggy was not a great poet, but he is a great musician. I found his words of the song "Disappointment" back in the late 70s to be a real comfort. Maybe this will help you also. I will also include the YouTube of the song at the end.


Disappointment - His appointment,
Change one letter, then I see
That the thwarting of my purpose
Is God's better choice for me.

His appointment must be blessing
Though it may come in disguise
For the end from the beginning,
Open to His wisdom lies.

Disappointment - His appointment
Whose? The Lord's who loves best.
Understands and knows me fully,
Who my faith and love would test.

For like loving, earthly parent
He rejoices when He knows
That His child accepts unquestioned
All that from His wisdom flows.

Disappointment - His appointment
No good thing will he withhold
From denials oft we gather
Treasures of His love untold.

Well, He knows each broken purpose
Leads to fuller deeper trust
And the end of all His dealings
Proves our God is wise and just.

Disappointment - His appointment
Lord I take it then as such,
Like the clay in hands of potter
Yielding wholly to Thy touch.

All my life's plan is Thy molding.
Not one single choice be mine.
Let me answer unrepining,
Father not my will but Thine.

Sing along here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wNMh2PnvJw


Via Flickr:
Handling disappointment is never easy, but is made much easier when we ponder how God uses the wishes dashed to grow us into better people.

10 February 2013

A man walks into a bar...

A certain psychiatrist had fallen into the habit, each day after work, to stop in the local bar for a drink to relax. Being a man of strange tastes, his favorite drink was a chicory daiquiri. Dick, the bartender, had only this one customer who requested this strange concoction, but because the doctor was a regular, he kept a supply of chicory, in the refrigerator.

The doctor always stopped in at the same time every day, so Dick was able to prepare the drink ahead of time and have it ready and waiting for this regular customer.

One day, as Dick was preparing for the doctors arrival, he discovered he had run out of chicory. He was frantic to find a solution to his problem. Then he noticed a bottle of hickory flavoring on the shelf. In the hopes the doctor would not notice, he prepared the drink and slid it onto the bar just as his customer sat down. After the Doctor took the first sip, he asked, " Is this a Chicory daiquiri Dick?" "No, it's a hickory daiquiri, Doc!" was the reply

06 February 2013

Faithfulness

"You never know who is listening to you." That's what Lisa told me this afternoon in San Francisco. Seems that 25 years ago, in New York City, when I was preaching at our gathering, a place we called "Kehilat Y'shua." I was preaching about the binding of Isaac, what is called in Hebrew "the akedah." In the crowd that night was a Jewish woman from Brooklyn, named Lisa.

Was she a believer? Neither of us remembers, but what is clear is that what she heard she recalls and it impacted her that night.

You never know who is listening to you. So you speak and teach the Truth. You hope that people will hear. You hope that everyone will hear. You hope that anyone will hear. You hope that someone will hear.

Even if it takes 25 years to learn that they did, it's worth preaching and teaching the Truth. That's a great encouragement to me.

By the way, keep listening if you'd like to some Bible classes and sermons from me. You can find them on my website here:
Sermons Enjoy!

05 February 2013

Purim 5 years on

The news from Israel in 2008 during the month when we celebrate Purim was shocking. Ami Ortiz, then a 15 year old, and son of a pair of New Yorkers with whom we used to worship, had opened a package. A bomb exploded leaving him almost lifeless on the floor at his home in the Land. After time, he is now up and about, alive again and a forgiver of the very man convicted this week of other murders.

Here is the story:
Ortiz
Here was a story back in 2001 from Time magazine:
Time

I'm pleased that justice was meted out on American-born Jack Teitel.

I'm sad that justice was meted out on American-born Jack Teitel.

If it doesn't break your heart that someone is going to get penalized for crimes, if you only want pain inflicted on people, if you cannot wish for good for another human being--- something is desperately wrong with you.

God help us all to have such grace in our hearts.

02 February 2013

For Jewish people or not?

Up out of the water by bobmendo
Up out of the water, a photo by bobmendo on Flickr.

Baptism is not to be a confusing thing. It is a ceremony like we did on Thursday in Balmoral Beach here in Sydney. It is an initiation rite of the believing community which has four reasons to be done. I will show you those in a moment.

But is it for Jewish people? Of course! Back in Bible days it was the last rite for a Gentile in their conversion to being a Jew. So it had to be Jewish. In modern days people go to the mikveh like i used to on Friday afternoon to welcome Queen Sabbath. Women go to cleanse themselves monthly after their period. Before a marriage, the couple will go to the mikveh for cleansing. So the use of the ceremonial cleansing pool for washing is very Jewish.

What makes this unique is that it is a one-off, not-to-be-repeated event. And there are four reasons to do it.

1) Y'shua did it. We read in Matthew chapter 3 verse 16 (Henceforth 3.16) After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him"

2) Y'shua taught that we should do it. And the disciples agreed. We read in Acts 2.38 "Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Also Y'shua said in Mark 16.16 “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned."

3) It is an outward sign of an inward faith. In the same way that my wedding ring does not make me married, but rather reminds me and others that I am, baptism doesn't save us, but does remind us that we are. It is outward and part of the 'welcome' by the community of faith. That's what is happening in the photo here with our young Jewess in Sydney who is making a public proclamation of her faith which already was real. And the community is welcoming her and accepting her as 'one of us.'

4) The apostle Paul said in Romans 6.4 "Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life." Wow, it's a cemetery and a resurrection moment. We re-enact that by placing the candidate in the waters horizontally and then lifting him/ her up. We had just finished that in this case.

When the deacon and evangelist Philip had preached Y'shua as Messiah to the town of Shomron (Samaria) in Acts 8 and particularly to a eunuch from Ethiopia. Acts 8.36 "As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch *said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?”

So what about you? What prevents you from being baptised?