Showing posts from June, 2018

Zechariah: The Coming King

A sermon given today at Springwood Church of Christ, outside Brisbane, Queensland  Shalom friends here at Springwood. Thank you for joining us today as we consider a biblical passage and its implications for us in the 21stcentury. Thank you to Pastor Geoff, my long-time friend and colleague in this keen interest in things Jewish.  You have a white involvement card from Jews for Jesus which I’ll ask you to tear on the perforation and fill in. Then later during the offertory will you be so kind as to drop that card into the plate? By that you are extending to me the privilege to speak to you again long after today, through the agency of the Jews for Jesus newsletter. Thank you for that.  I grew up an Orthodox Jew in Kansas City, in the middle of the US, and those days I had no interest in the things of Jesus and the Newer Testament. I did always enjoy Jewish things, and Jewish life, but I must say that the prophet Zechariah didn’t capture my interest. However, since coming to faith in Yesh…

If I could speak with Woody Allen...

Would Woody Allen want to talk to me about this incident which involved him? I'll hope so. Maybe he's still asking this question...

The year was around 1985. The scene was the Upper West Side in New York City. Specifically it was inside Leo's Barber shop on 73rd and Amsterdam. About 11 a.m. on a weekday. I was inside the shop and Leo was cutting my hair. His shop was unusually empty. He depended on a steady flow of customers to pay the bills. He was originally from Italy. I was the only one inside with him on a normal workday-- that seemed odd. I asked him why.

He told me that Mr Woody Allen had hired the shop from midday and that I was the last customer of the day. Seemed that Woody had hired the shop for a previous movie he made, and that he and Leo had 'a relationship' of sorts. I did note a photo of Woody on the wall behind me. And if Woody were going to take the whole place, I wondered what movie it might be. Leo didn't know.

A few moments later, almost o…

If I could speak with Charles Krauthammer...

Today I wrote this as a "Letter to the Editor" of the Mercury newspaper in Pottstown Pennsylvania

Kathleen Parker wields a glorious pen in her praise of Charles Krauthammer. He is deserving, of course, as her story-after-story recounts. I only know him from afar, living in Australia, but watching and reading him over the decades.I wish I could know him, even in his last weeks. I think I would be better for it. And maybe I could share a bit of eternity with him.
I met Kathleen 18 years ago or so in South Carolina, and I became enamored with her, her style, and dare I say, she is a great storyteller herself. 
The mingling of both these legends in one story... I'm very grateful to have found this link. 

I wrote that I would value meeting him. And that maybe I could share eternity with him. By that I mean something significant which could transpire if I met with him. I have prayed for Charles since I heard the announcement of his weeks-to-live. I wish him only the best. And pai…

Pondering God (Part 30): The Summary

30 May. Final devotional thoughts on God. A summary.
Over the month of May, I've been involved in a major evangelistic outreach in Jerusalem with Jews for Jesus. And each day of the month I've also taken some quiet time to reflect on the Almighty, His plans for humanity, and simply put, His person.  Today, as the campaign and the work ends, and I leave in the morning for Sydney, thus losing 30 hours or more of a day in travel, I thought I'd let today be the summary day of all we have shared.  Perhaps when you see this listing, and you return to re-read (or read for the first time) some of what we have shared, the information will drive you back into His arms. After all, the purpose of our devotions, the purpose of our conversation, the purpose of all this pondering is to focus on God, on who He is. The more we know about Him, the more we know Him. The more we know Him, the more we know life.  So let's review:
God is. Plain. Simple. Scary. Awe-inspiring. God is.  Faithfu…

Pondering God (Part 1) God is

These 30 lessons were originally written in May 2018 in Israel. As devotional thoughts, they are intended to inspire and help everyone think again and again about God; the real God; the God who lives and loves and calls all men to Himself. All 30 are here on Blog as they originally were written as Facebook posts each day in Jerusalem. Feel free to comment on each, any, or none of them. Please, please ponder again who God is. Then this series will be a success. Thank you.

1 May. Thinking thoughts about God all month. This from the Book of Hebrews “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

God is. Plain. Simple. Scary. Awe-inspiring. God is. No need for us to prove anything about Him. Or to gender fix Him. Or to defend Him. He is. 

Let’s start there. There is a God. And He still is.

Pondering God (Part 2)

2 May. A month-long study on the being we call God. From the words of the Bible itself. Today, God is faithful. What does that even mean? "Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments" (Moses wrote that in Torah, Deuteronomy 7.9) Faithful. No matter what. No matter the situations. No matter His own feelings. No matter our actions ...He is faithful. Paul, a former rabbi, then apostle wrote about this in his day a haiku: "If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself." (2 Timothy 2.13) Don't you love Him today because He initiated this relationship in which we live, and He will keep us, faithfully? Lord, I fail you many times, I fail others, and yet, you remain faithful for you have made promises which you will keep. I'm not worthy. You are awesome and faithful. I give you thanks.

Pondering God (Part 3)

3 May. Continuing our study of who God is. Eternal, everlasting, forever. He was, and is, and is to come. NOT He was, He is and He will be. There is no 'will be' about God as if He were underdeveloped. He is always at full capacity. Nothing wearies Him; nothing in the universe stops Him. 

Some look at the Hebrew name "YHVH" which some call "Jehovah" or "Yahweh" or any number of odd alternatives. In that four-letter word are all three tenses of the Hebrew verb "to be." Some Bible versions translate "YHVH" as "The Eternal" as a result. 

The Bible says, "From everlasting to everlasting, He is." "Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God." (Psalm 90.2)

I suppose some assurances from this reality include (but are not limited to) His not being surprised by anything, thus He has a plan, and that plan will find fulfillment. U…

Pondering God (Part 4)

4 May. Continuing our study of who God is. God is true. Not only does He represent something which is true, He embodies Truth. Against the noise of fake news accusations, it's good to know that there is Truth, and we don't have to wait for CNN, the ABC or FoxNews to verify this. Verification complete already. By the way, the word 'verify' means "to make true.' The Bible says, "Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written, “That You may be justified in Your words, and prevail when You are judged.” (Romans 3.4 [quoting Psalm 51]) Yeshua said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." (John 14.6) Truth emanates from Him. And truth is comforting. Every investigator wants that; every husband and wife want that. Every student sitting exams and every examiner want that. 
Search no longer. God is true.

Pondering God (Part 5)

5 May. Continuing our study of the being whom we name God. God is Spirit. Not only spiritual. Not only spirited. He's a spirit, and He's The Spirit. Ponder with me the nature of spirituality. It's other than physical. It's another dimension. Factors that prevent bodies from certain motion or activity are not the same in a spiritual realm. 

Isaiah the prophet wrote this amazingly perceptive and declarative statement from the being we know as God. Seems that the people who talk about God as Tri-une (3 in one) are not off at all. 

"Come near to Me, listen to this: From the first (Creation), I have not spoken in secret, From the time it took place, I was there. And now the Lord God has sent Me, and His Spirit.” (Chapter 48, verse 16)
Yeshua said, "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4.24)
He's not in our league; He's outside our dimensions and perceptions. And yet, God, by His Spirit, invites us to know Him person…

Pondering God (Part 6)

6 May. We continue studying the nature of God (all month). God is awake/ alert. So many people here in Australia or France or almost any western country demand time off. It's sad that when most young people today are interviewed for a job, they want to know their times off, their vacation length, their federal holidays offered, in other words, how little work will count for full-time work. They want their times off, which are reasonable. 

But God has no time off. He wants no time off. He begs us to relate to Him. He longs to be in relationship with us. That takes time. His time. And of course, your time.

The Psalmist wrote, "He that keeps Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps." (Psalm 121.4). Life is good when you consider that the God of heaven and earth, the One who never sleeps, will be watching over you, watching with you, watching on your behalf. 

The God who never sleeps has His plans in mind, and will bring them to pass. Nothing can prevent Him. No time can limit Him.

Pondering God (Part 7)

7 May. Continuing our study of God. He's not on your side. He is above the fray of human contest. Joshua was a general who was about to conquer the land we now call Israel, and to take it from the 7 nations in those days. (about 1400 BCE) "Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” He said, “No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?” (Joshua 5.13-14)

In this era of caustic tribalism and binary thinking, and on this day which is still celebrated in the Russian world as THREE things: 1) Day of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation
2) Radio Day (holiday of workers of all industries due, like Labor Day), and 3) The day of the Presidential reg…

Pondering God (Part 8)

8 May. Our pondering of God continues. God is Father. Dad. Daddy. Sir. Omni everything. He ever knows. He was here first. He is a person, not a human, but personal. He's not an It. Or the Great Idea. He's the Higher, no wait, the Highest Power. Dads can do anything. At least that's what we thought when we were young. "My dad can beat your dad at...." Fathers love their kids. I think grandfathers love their grandkids, even more, but that's another story. I'm not talking about the distant, remote, abandoning fathers, or the ejaculate into the test tube sperm donor dads. I'm talking about real dads. From Hugh Beaumont to Fred MacMurray, from Tim "The Toolman" Taylor to Homer Simpson. Each dad has his quirks and his embarrassing moments. We all fall short. But dads are there for their kids. Graduations, weddings, concerts, basketball games... dads are there.  Oswald Chambers (whom I quote often) said, "God is my Father, He loves me, I shal…

Pondering God (Part 9)

9 May. Pondering God. He is gracious, compassionate, abounding in mercy and truth. That's in the Older Testament, again and again. (Exodus 34.6, 2 Chron. 30.9, Deut. 4.31, Jonah 4.2) When asking most people, on the street, or in church, or in shule about who God is, the majority answer with words like Judgmental, Powerful, Fierce, Angry. In fact angry is the #1 answer. 

VERY few answer and mention His grace, His rachmones, His kindness. 

But God is all that and more. GRACIOUS. Giving us what we don't deserve. MERCIFUL. Not giving us what we deserve. In other words Mercy keeps us from hell; Grace gives us heaven. 

GRACE, like a musical grace note, adds something significant but you barely notice it. 
Today, I call you to notice. And to give him thanks.

Pondering God (Part 10)

10 May. Continuing our study of God. He is Comforter. A place to rest. I don’t have to live up to anything. I don’t have to think about anything. He welcomes me into his arms like a parent when the child scrapes his leg by falling outside. We run to Him for comfort. God knows how to comfort us and performs it for His pleasure. We benefit both ways. 

Isaiah said (quoting God) “comfort my people” (chapter 40.1) Nahum was the prophet whose name means “comfort.”

Yeshua said, “the Comforter, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things” ( John 14.26 ). The Greek word for comforter there is parakaleo which can also mean advocate or lawyer. Not that lawyers generally bring people comfort. But a helper. Called to help me. Little old me. 

Thanks be to God for His personal comfort to me. And to all who trust Him.

Pondering God (Part 11)

11 May. Continuing our daily God pondering. Singer. Yes God sings —even over us. His song is not one of mockery or conquest. It’s not to celebrate His marvelousness or the emptiness of the idols. His song is love. 

Zephaniah the prophet wrote, “The LORD your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” Quiet and rejoice and shout and sing. That’s such a deep thought to ponder. 

What makes the robin sing in the USA springtime? What makes the crested cockatoo screech in its singing or the young man to serenade his intended?

It’s love. 

God seriously loves us with deep commitment. Each of us. 

Listen for His song. Today, tonight—. When you are alone or in a crowd. Listen and smile. Even now.

Pondering God (Part 12)

12 May. Continuing our study of God. He is Lord of the Sabbath. Lord, from Latin word Dominus, sounds like One who dominates. Think of a triumphalist wrestler after a televised match, fist bumping his chest and bouncing around the ring. Domination like we expect when our football team plays against the team in last place, at the bottom of the ladder. Domination, like we want when we sit an exam, taking the SAT, and come out with a high score. We 'killed it,' we shout. Domination.  Except that's not how God is. Every other conqueror throughout history, after a victorious thumping of the losers, demands payments, tributes, taxes, honor from the conquered. But God is not like that at all. He OFFERS to be our Lord. What??? Yes, He is Lord of heaven and earth. Yes, He can dominate. Yes, He will establish His kingdom and HIs ways. Yup...that's all correct.  However, unlike any other ruler in history or in the future, He OFFERS Himself to us, to be our God, for us to be His …

Pondering God (Part 13)

13 May. Continuing our study of God....who is He anyway? Shepherd. Taking the lead in walking with animals isn't an easy thing to do. Shepherding sheep is about more than walking. It's about sleeping in their space, and taking them to proper locations for food and drink. It's about protecting them from wolves and other predators. It's a gig that includes healing or fixing their legs when they are damaged, and dealing with new births when lambs are first on the scene. 

To be a shepherd means to care, and to give up your life for the sheep. 

Adonai Roi. The Lord is my shepherd. Probably the most known psalm of King David. Psalm 23. It's recited at every Jewish funeral. What does it mean that He's my Shepherd? 

It means He guides me. He looks out for me. And He has been doing so for a long time. He did not begin this ministry of care for me last year, or 40 years ago, but when I was born, and even before. He has always been my shepherd.

Yeshua is the Great Shepherd of…

Pondering God (Part 14)

14 May. God is.... the Blessed God. Now this might sound a bit redundant or unusual to you. Am I saying that God is the dispenser of blessings? Sort of, but not quite. He's not the eternal Pez dispenser. In fact, blessed sounds like an objective adjective. That is, He is the recipient of blessings, which makes no sense to those who know that He is above it all. In other words, He needs to receive no blessing since He IS blessed. Usually I write my own devotional thoughts on these ideas, but when I found John Piper had written something so clearly to explain this, I feel it best to cite him particularly and quote his answer to this odd adjective. John Piper: "My thesis is that in the Scripture when God "blesses" men they are thereby helped and strengthened and made better off than they were before, but when men "bless" God he is not helped or strengthened or made better off. Rather (with C. A. Keller in THAT, I, 361) man's blessing God is an "expr…

Pondering God (Part 15)

15 May. God is.... the Word. I know you are thinking that Grease is The Word. But that's a latecomer to the contest. In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.
You might be saying, "Wait, if something is _with_ another, then it cannot _be_ the other." And your quick assertion is a reasonable conclusion. Except that we are talking about the Almighty. And His ways and HIs nature and His characters are not always our ways.  When I say God is The Word, I mean that everything God says about Himself is completely reliable. I mean He is His own best promise. "I give you my Word," people say when they mean, "I promise you." This also means as reliable as they are, so is their word. When God says, "I promise" whether it be re: a flood, or a covenant with Abram, Isaac, Jacob, David, and Yeshua, it means God is giving us His Word.  But He is more than promising. He is saying, …

Pondering God (Part 16)

16 May. Continuing our thoughts and pondering of God. Who is He? Today, God is Author. I love to read, and am frustrated this week that my time is fully engaged in other things, preventing a quiet night with a good book. But I do get to read highlights of the news in the paper, and some kind comments from others on FB and emails. But an author. That's another category of writing altogether, you know? Do you know the Strong's Concordance? Look what it says about this word. 795 [747] archeĊ“gos, n. [806 + 72]. author, originator, founder; leader, ruler. These are the variant renderings of the Greek word. The one who starts things. He initiates. He authors something significant according to the writer of the book of Hebrews. "Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (12.2) Yeshua is the author of faith.
He initiates faith. He helps us in our w…

Pondering God (Part 17)

17 May. Continuing our study of God...who is He? He is the finisher of our faith. The brings to completion what He begins. I continue to hear of people (I met a few tonight) who were diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. They have a great self-image, but their sentences never seem to finish. Their projects lie half-completed in their basements. They start so many things, but never finish them.
God, however, is not like that. He always finishes what He begins. Imagine that! Imagine being the boss of someone like God. 

Give him an assignment and you can be sure that it will be finished. Ask him to visit someone or to write a symphony or to answer your emails that are backing up in your in-tray... and voila, in due course, you are sure they will be done. That, my friend, is comforting. 

Paul was a rabbi who knew well how to begin things, but wasn't sure about their endings. He wrote, "He who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Messiah Yeshua." (Philippians 1.6)