30 August 2014

...just as I am...??

Bill Muehlenberg lives in Melbourne, here in Australia. He was born in the US. He is an ethicist and blog-writer on many subjects, and weighed in on Monday on the subject of homosexuality. The reason?

Bill's article is here: Bill

The Christian News article is here : News

The woman at the centre of the storm is Vicky Beeching, a pretty blonde lesbian from the UK.  And a Christian singer and worship leader.

The thing that struck me was the language of both, Vicky is reported to have said this:
“What Jesus taught was a radical message of welcome and inclusion and love,” Beeching stated. “I feel certain God loves me just the way I am, and I have a huge sense of calling to communicate that to young people.”

Muehlenberg takes exception to this with his comment, “He doesn’t love people just as they are. In fact, He loves people too much to leave them just as they are,” he stated. “People just as they are are sinners alienated from God and headed for a lost eternity. A God of love could never just sit back and allow that to happen. That is why Jesus came and died a cruel death on a cross for our sake, so that we don’t have to remain as we are, but we can become what we were meant to be.”

I'm trying to see if I missed something and it appears that the issue of 'Just as I am"is the sticky wicket. If I say that God loves people as they are, without their need to change to please Him, then am I saying that our sin should remain with us? If I say that God welcomes people 'just as they are' into church or the community of faith, does that then justify how they have lived until then and will remain?

My mind rushes to biblical examples and I find an encounter or two between Jesus and people in what are called The Gospels. First a woman caught in adultery. (The story is found in chapter 8 of the Gospel of John.) Not a good place for her in a small village, she was caught in bed with a man not her husband. In that society at that time, she would have been stoned with rocks. The religionists of the day tossed her in front of Jesus as he was teaching a Bible group, and said, "Moses instructed us to stone such a woman; what do you say?"In our modern debate, would he love her just the way she was or would he add his voice to the 'stone her!' mob?

The Bible says this: "Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?”She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” (John 8.10-11)

Her accusers are long gone; Jesus could have either made her jump through some religious hoops to prove some measure of sincerity or he could have dismissed her out of hand. He could have welcomed her as is, and as she would remain, or ...he had many choices. What he did not do was to dismiss her. What he did not do was to tell her that adultery was acceptable. What he said was basically, 'you are wrong, stop doing wrong. I'm on your team and will help you live a clean life.'

Another example is a man who was executed next to Jesus the day they both died in Jerusalem about 2,000 years ago. The 'thief on the cross' was a problem to society and the punishment for his perpetual stealing was crucifixion. And there were two of them that day, one on either side of the man Jesus.

Real criminals really know they are really wrong and deserve punishment. And one of them did just that. Luke records the moment this way, "When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left.  But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." (Chapter 23.33-34).

One of the criminals heard that, with his heart, his ears opened, and his reality being shaped by the Messiah. We read "One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!”  And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise."(Luke 23.39-43)

Messiah Yeshua looked over to the thief on the one side and forgave him of his misdeed; there was no time to change and become a good citizen. He was going to die in minutes. God forgave him his sins and welcomed him into eternity 'just as he was.'

The clear teaching of the Bible is that you cannot clean yourself up enough to become righteous. All our 'righteous deeds are like filthy rags' according to the prophet Isaiah. (64.6) God is not able to be impressed by our good deeds.

And then when He does save us, and make us His, then He begins a clean-up operation to change us from the inside out. He changes our hearts. He changes our speech. He changes our attitude. He changes our sexual activities. He changes us from the inside out.

I like that God keeps things in tension. Yes, He loves us and wants to change us; yes, He welcomes us as is and says 'I think I can make that person understand. Eternity-- I'm glad God has it under control.

28 August 2014

Schaeffer on anti-Semitism

The Bible-believing Christian and the Jewish People
by Francis Schaeffer

Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984) was one of this century's most influential defenders of the Christian faith. He and his wife Edith founded the L'Abri Fellowship in Switzerland in 1955 where, over many years, thousands of students found their questions answered, their doubts removed and their minds and spirits renewed through the gospel. Dr. Schaeffer's writings, notably The God Who is There, Escape from Reason and He is There and He is not Silent comprise a powerful critique of modern thought and a defence of biblical Christianity. The following article originally appeared in tract form and in the Autumn 1999 Herald and appears by the kind permission of Dr. Schaeffer's family. We live in an age in which anti-Semitism is a powerful force. In many lands it has resulted in the death of countless Jews. In our own land it shows itself in various guises from time to time, and even among those who call themselves fundamentalist Christians we find an occasional individual who spends a large portion of his time assailing the Jew.

Considering anti-Semitism, the first thing that fixes itself in my thinking is the fact that Christ was a Jew. When we open the New Testament to Matthew 1:1, we find the very first claim made concerning Christ is that he sprang from Abraham and was a descendant of David. The Bible does not say that Jesus just happened to be a Jew, but the Word of God emphasizes over and over again that he was a Jew.

Jesus was a Jew
When he was eight days old he was taken to the temple and circumcised, as was every Jewish male. Therefore, we must remember that Jesus bore in His body the physical mark of the Jewish people. At the age of twelve he was dedicated at the temple, again emphasizing that his Jewish identity and Jewish faith were not incidental to him but that from his early training they formed his vital human background. The Bible teaches that during his public ministry as an adult man, while repudiating purely human Jewish traditions, his life carefully conformed to Old Testament standards. In fact, he lived in such a way that the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah were fulfilled fully in Him. He was the Jew of all Jews. In His public ministry we find him dealing almost exclusively with the Jews. Hardly ever did he touch a Gentile life. The twelve disciples were all Jews. The earliest church consisted completely of Jews. It was Peter the Jew who spoke to the proselyte, Cornelius. It was the believing Jews, scattered abroad by the persecution that followed the death of Stephen who took the Good News to Antioch in Syria where the first Gentile Christian Church was formed. The missionary who opened up the heathen Roman Empire to the preaching of the Gospel was the Jew, Paul. And if we ask why it was that the Jews received such an important place in the early Christian Church, we must realize that it was not an afterthought in the plan of God. For two thousand years God had been working in history to bring forth this very fact. He called Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees as the first Jew when the earth had completely apostatized from the living God. He promised him that the land of Canaan would be his, that he would have numerous seed and, above all things, that all the world would be blessed through him. God called Abraham forth for this specific purpose; that through him the Messiah should come. In the providence of God, for two thousand years the Jewish nation was the cradle of the coming Redeemer.

Before the Messiah
As we examine the history of that two thousand years, we find God constantly reaffirming his promise of the coming Messiah to the Jews, so that not only was the promise made to Abraham but also to Isaac and Jacob, and then it was narrowed down to the tribe of Judah, and then to the royal family — the family of David. As the years passed, God promised that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, that he would suffer, and also that he should rule in Palestine on behalf of His people, the Jews. In those two thousand years in which the way was prepared for the coming of the Messiah, but for the light that shone in Israel, all the earth was in a state of spiritual darkness. While our ancestors worshiped we know not what — but certainly not the living God — the Jews were called God's chosen people. They were separated from all other peoples of the earth. They were beloved of God, a kingdom of priests. In order that the Anointed One should come, even in their times of sin God kept His hand upon them so that a faithful remnant should be His. Jesus was not a Jew by accident, nor was it an incidental thing in the plan of God. According to both the Old Testament and the New Testament, if Jesus had not been born a Jew he could not have been our Saviour. As for the present time in which we live, Romans 11:17-24 teaches that we Gentile believers should not boast against the Jews, "the natural branches" of his Olive Tree, for if God spared not the natural branches, we are warned to take heed lest he spare not us. How clearly it is emphasized that if we who were "wild branches" by nature were grafted "contrary to nature" into the good olive tree, much more shall the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree. And what does Ephesians 2:14 stress to us but that by Jesus' death "the middle wall of partition" between Jew and Gentile was broken down. Not that the Jew should be cast aside, but that Gentiles should have place with the Jews by faith. Abraham is now our father and, as we Gentiles have put our faith in Christ, we are now spiritual Jews.

The Future of the Jews

The Word of God is explicit still about the future. In Romans 11:25 it is made clear that the blindness which now in part is happened to Israel is not forever, but "until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in". And then what is to come to pass? The 26th verse tells us that "all Israel" shall then be saved when the Deliverer "will turn away ungodliness from Jacob". The 29th verse is one that Christians love and use for ourselves, "For the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable." We may apply it to ourselves because God never breaks any promise but let us notice that the primary application in this place is to the Jew. God has promised great things for Israel as a nation, and the Word here tells us that he will bring them to pass. If he does not bring them to pass, then "the gifts and calling of God" are not "irrevocable". Clearly, again, in Zechariah 12:10 it is stated that the day will come when the Jews, "will look on Me whom they have pierced; they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son." In the day when Israel shall be saved they shall look upon Jesus and know that in His first coming he was their true Messiah. Again, it is not only the Old Testament, which promises that the land of Palestine will once more belong to the Jews. In the New Testament, also, in Luke 21:24, we are told that, "Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled". The Word tells us that the day will come when "all Israel will be saved", that the Jews will "look upon" Jesus as their true Messiah and that the Promised Land will be theirs once more. It is not only for the past, not only for the present, but also for the future, that we who are now Christ's should love the Jew.

The Irrationality of Christian anti-Semitism
We cannot expect the Gentile, who merely uses the term "Christian" to designate the difference between Gentile and Jew and to love the Jew, but we who are Christians indeed, in that we have been saved through faith in Christ, should love his ancient people. Above all things in this regard we should keep constantly in our minds that our Lord Himself was a Jew — born a Jew, lived a Jew, and died a Jew. We should bear in mind also that the great majority of those heroes of the faith I long to see when I go to be with the Lord were Jews. I want to see Abraham, and he was a Jew. I want to see Isaac, and he was a Jew. I want to see Jacob, and he was a Jew. I want to see Joseph, and he was a Jew. I want to see Moses, and he was a Jew. I want to see Joshua, and he was a Jew. I want to see Gideon and the other judges; and they were Jews. I want to see the prophets — Isaiah, Elijah, Elisha and all the rest; and they were all Jews. I want to see Daniel and Ezra and Nehemiah; and they were Jews. I want to see John, and he was a Jew. I want to see James, and he was a Jew. I want to see Peter, and he was a Jew. I want to see Paul, and he was a Jew. Those are only some of those I long to meet who bear the name of Jew. How could I hate the Jewish people? And if this were not enough for those of us who are Bible-believing Christians, let us note the command of God in Romans 11:31. He tells us clearly what our attitude in this age should be to natural Israel. We should show mercy to them and, my friends, mercy and anti-Semitism — in any form — do not live in the same household. We cannot seek to win the Jewish people individually to the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour if in our hearts we despise them as a people. Not long ago an influential Jew in New York City, the Labor Editor of one of the New York papers, quoted to me a little poem which he said was widely repeated among the Jews of that city. As I have considered this rhyme, I have found it to be more than an interesting jingle. It speaks wisdom concerning the man who bears the name of Christian and yet is anti-Semitic in his thinking.

    How odd of God to choose the Jews.

    But not so odd as those who choose

    The Jewish God and hate the Jews.

26 August 2014

Still Life: A movie of hope

Eddie Marsan plays a tough guy, but soft on the inside, on the TV series Ray Donovan. He showed me a very different side of his acting ability in the movie my wife and I saw on Sunday night, Still Life. I chose this photo to represent the flick as Eddie's character, Mr John May, is ever looking up, not to God as one might expect in a religious blog, but up to life. He seems to be querying it regularly.

He does most things regularly. He eats the same meal on return from his consistent work at an office in a local Council in South London. He is a quiet man, unassuming and yearns to bring honor and dignity to others, even when no one else will do that.  And he doesn't seem worried to gain anything by this action either. For over two decades he has worked basically alone in a small office, and keeps meticulous records with almost-OCD fidelity. But something else is driving him to do this work, and the word for it is OPTIMISM.

He is looking up. His job is to bring to final rest people who seem to have no living relatives. But he wants to find family members of deceased people and bring them to a bit of conclusion. John works with the local police as a detective for the coroner, trying to bring closure, coordinating funerals, burials, disposal of ashes, and wants to bring dignity and a bit of life in the face of death.

No one really seems to care; no one seems to notice him. I kept considering allusions to Alan Arkin in his 1968 role of John Singer in "The Heart is a lonely Hunter." He was brilliant (Academy Award nomination) as the deaf-mute who helped all kinds of people who always seemed to be troubled and troubling. Arkin's Singer back then reminded me of Richard Cory, from the poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson. Maybe it was only their endings, but Cory's dignity (forget that he was wealthy) along with Singer and here John May all spoke of a quiet fortitude and observable honor they brought to their worlds.

Cory: "And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked."

And maybe it's that 'humanness' which is ever hoping for something better than an uncaring industrial dumping of cremated ashes. John May kept a scrapbook of the abandoned lonely souls for whom relatives had no time. They were his own family. And some cases remained open long after the funerals, so that his optimism could honestly be fruitfully concluded.

Hope brings great energy. And John May keeps his energy inside his dignified frame, and only towards the end does he begin to explore it, tasting new tastes, considering his own possibilities of life. Hope does that. It lets us look up. It lets us consider things beyond ourselves and our current experiences. Hope allows us to launch out, because we have an anchor that keeps us safely assured while we launch.

The Bible says, "hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5.5) And it's that optimism, that hope, which John May characterizes. Uberto Pasolini has created a beauty of a film in his native England. 

Let me ask you-- where do you find hope? What gives you something for which you get up each morning? The humanness of John May and that which he wanted to give his clients is noble beyond the new administrator in the local council. But I don't think it's beyond the desire of the Lord of life. In fact, I think the optimism of John May is right for us all. For you and for me. I was challenged; maybe you will be challenged also. 

Then reach out, look up, for hope is available for us all, in the person of Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel and Light of the World. He brings dignity to each of us. He longs to be in relationship with each of us. 

Of everyone ever, 'he was always human when he talked.' Listen to what He says of you, of Himself, of our need for Him. And you will find life. It's better that you find it now than at the end of your own movie.

14 August 2014

Not for sale: Brooklyn Bridge

I love this picture of the Brooklyn Bridge taken from the Manhattan side. It's a grand icon of New York City. I remember being there when the bridge turned 100 in 1983. I wrote a flyer/ tract that we distributed that day, all about the bridge. And with some significant facts which thankfully are still true.

Since 1883, its granite towers and steel cables have offered a safe and scenic passage to millions of commuters and tourists, trains and bicycles, pushcarts and cars. The bridge’s construction took 14 years, involved 600 workers and cost $15 million (more than $320 million in today’s dollars). At least two dozen people died in the process, including its original designer. Now more than 125 years old, this iconic feature of the New York City skyline still carries roughly 150,000 vehicles and pedestrians every day.

On May 17, 1884, P. T. Barnum led 21 elephants over the Brooklyn Bridge to prove that it was stable.

Just before construction began in 1869, Roebling was fatally injured while taking a few final compass readings across the East River. A boat smashed the toes on one of his feet, and three weeks later he died of tetanus. His 32-year-old son, Washington A. Roebling, took over as chief engineer. Roebling had worked with his father on several bridges and had helped design the Brooklyn Bridge.

The jokes nowadays are often about someone buying or selling the bridge. "Have I got a bridge for you!"

To read the flyer, click Bridge flyer It's probable that it will download a copy onto your computer. Not bad, really it's not. Trust me. Oh wait, that's often the problem, isn't it? The guy who wants to sell you a bridge...can you trust him?

I guess today I want you to see the photo, consider the amazing feat which was the building of the bridge, and consider how far away you might be from the God who cares about your life and wants you to know Him personally. In fact, God personally built the bridge to get you back into relationship with Him. That's worth a read, isn't it? And maybe a prayer, too?

He's really listening. He cares.

I'm not selling you a bridge I don't own. I'm offering you to get to know the living God. Not a bad deal.

13 August 2014

Saudi king on the Gaza conflict


Posted on 2 August 2014 by Thomas Rose

In a stunning five minute statement read on state television late Friday, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, leader of Israel’s oldest and most implacable foe, called the Hamas-Israel war in Gaza a “collective massacre” caused by Hamas.

It is just the latest signal in a tectonic shift in Middle East geopolitics that has been largely overlooked by Western media seemingly still committed to building upon its decades-old narrative that Israel remains the united enemy of the Arab world.
In the 75 year history of conflict between Arabs and Jews in the Middle East, no state has been more consistently intransigent against the very notion of a sovereign Jewish presence in the region than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, founded by Abdullah’s grandfather, Ibn Saud, in 1923.

Just weeks ago, before Hamas’ current war against Israel, it would have unthinkable to suggest that a Saudi King would even hint that any entity other than Israel bore any responsibilities for actions perceived as harmful to Palestinians.
Abdullah’s statement, read by a news anchor on behalf of the ailing 90-year old Monarch, that the violence in Gaza has led to “various forms” of terrorism, whether from groups, organizations, or states, is seen in the Middle East and Arab states as a flat-out repudiation of Hamas.

Perhaps even more remarkable, while King Abdullah condemned the consequences of a war he termed “devastating” to Palestinians, he issued no demands upon Israel. As has been pointed out numerous times by Breitbart contributors, Saudi Arabia’s now open disavowal of any common cause with Hamas reinforces an emerging and wholly improbable new alliance uniting every Arab state save Qatar together with Israel and against the United States. 

As remarkable as was King Abdullah’s statement by itself, it pales in comparison with the transformation of the relationship between Egypt and Israel. From cold no-belligerents under President Mubarak, to near antagonists under the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohammed Morsi, today Israel and Egypt are tightly cleaved military allies.

In the harshest words ever used by a Saudi King to condemn any Palestinian “resistance” to what is routinely called “Zionist aggression,” King Abdullah’s statement said, “It is shameful and disgraceful that these terrorists are doing this in the name of religion, killing the people whose killing Allah has forbidden, and mutilating their bodies and feeling proud in publishing this.”

 The king went on to say of Hamas’ war against Israel, “They have distorted the image of Islam with its purity and humanity and smeared it with all sorts of bad qualities by their actions, injustice and crimes.”

06 August 2014

Conversation about Israel: An event

On Wednesday the 13th of August, at our monthly One New Man gathering in Waverley (Sydney), I will lead a discussion about Israel. A real discussion with real people who really have differing views. And we will be civil and listen to one another. And learn. And be surprised. You are invited. If you do not live near Sydney, we hope to live stream this on a video link.

What subjects would you like to include?

We will conclude with prayers for the peace of Jerusalem and the entire region.
Event info:
One New Man
Meeting at Jubilee Church building
30 Victoria Street
Waverley NSW

6 pm to 7:15 pm

05 August 2014

Peace rally

Now this is the kind of view you want to have at an attestation. Placards and panorama. Sweet. Patty and Margaret and I went to the announced location in North Bondi, and then we learned that the rally location had moved to a nearby park in Dover Heights. I'd not been to this park before, but when we arrived, along with the thousands of others, we were met with a tight security and police presence, and staged prayers, singing, speeches and photos. Balloons were sent into the air, and the rally went off without a hitch. 

This was not a protest, although there were tough words spoken about media bias. This was not an angry crowd, although when Hamas was mentioned, it was as if it were Purim and the 's' was an 'n'. (Only Bible people and Jews will understand that understatement.)  The real feeling was one of peace. The only conflicts happened when ultra-Orthodox Jews tried to get secularists to put on tefillin, but otherwise, it was a peaceful gathering. The police estimated 10,000 were there. The organizers were happy with that announcement.

 The people prayed for peace. They released the balloons for peace.

They prayed for soldiers, on both sides.

 This was not an angry crowd. This was a hopeful crowd.
They sang songs of peace.

They hoped for peace.

It was an attestation, not a protest.

There were signs about IDF and about Israel protecting itself. There were the signs of No Hamas and No Tunnels and such, but it was a peaceful crowd.

I was proud to be among them.

All the photos are in the album here Photos of Rally