18 June 2017

Who wins?


Yesterday, the Sydney Swans came from 35 points down to beat the Richmond Tigers in a great Round 13 match at the MCG. I was cheering for Sydney, of course, but the real winner was footy. Anyone who likes the game will admit that the league came out the better, the winner.

Before 1989, the Berlin Wall was the Great Divide between East and West Germany. Many families were forced to be separated by the introduction of that divide when it was built in 1961. And although many submitted to its imposition, there were families that continued to meet and have reunions in Lake Ballaton, Hungary. Hungary was the winner; family was the winner.

I often speak in churches, from independent Baptist to messianic congregations to Catholic and ecumenical Pentecostal gatherings. It's such a joy to see the width of the expression of God's Kingdom. A friend of mine and I were speaking today about religion, and he's not yet convinced of the Bible's truths, about Jesus, about God's awesome love. Fair enough. When we spoke about the divides in the religions of Christendom, I suggested that he read the Gospel of John. There the words of the Messiah would be made clear. No one owns Jesus. Baptists and Presbyterians, Messianics and Penties.. none of us. That brought to mind these words of philosopher and Boston College professor Peter Kreeft.

"If the churches ever did reunite, it would have to be into something that was as sacramental and liturgical and authoritative as the Roman Catholic Church and as protesting against abuses and as much focused on the individual in his direct relationship with Christ as the Evangelicals, as charismatic as the Pentecostals, as missionary-minded as the old mainline denominations, as focused on holiness as the Methodists or the Quakers, as committed to the social aspects of the Gospel as the social activists, as Biblical as fundamentalists, and as mystical as the Eastern Orthodox."

I suppose to stay with my theme, the Church would be the winner. And maybe that's why I enjoy my preaching schedule. I so appreciate the width of the varied expressions of Messiah's life. Kreeft has it right. No one owns the messianic message. That is, none of us owns it. Yeshua Himself owns His own message. And when we stand together, we amplify His message to the waiting world. And then we become the winner. That's a classic win/ win. Who's with me?

To watch and listen to my sermon given today at an ecumenical gathering in Sydney, click here.

15 June 2017

Was Rodney King right?


James Hodgkinson from Illinois in the US was killed today near a baseball field just outside Washington, DC. He had a gun and was firing at members of the Republican Party congressional delegation who were practicing baseball. Some members of Congress went into and are out of surgery. No one else died. It was near 7 a.m. Wednesday. The policemen who killed Hodgkinson prevented more tragedy as there were at least 40 people involved in the practice session and many other locals in the area walking their dogs, out to the cafes, etc. For the moment, that episode is over.

I watched a press conference later that day about 4 pm. Featured were Rep. Mike Doyle, Democrat from Pennsylvania, and Rep. Joe Barton, Republican from Texas.
Here they are in the photo. Barton had been on the field at the time of the incident. Barton had his two sons with him, who were just outside the fence. Doyle and Barton have known each other for a long time, they said, and their comments were humanizing and warm. Their affection was not a photo op; their lives are well known to each other and the commaraderie was clear.

The two shared about the tensions in the government, about the hostility and tweets and the atmosphere of partisanship which has lately characterized Congress. And Doyle "hoped" and Barton was "sure" that things would change as a result of today's episode on the field. I heard an echo of the famous line from Rodney King. He famously said, "Can we all just get along?"

To help your memory, King was 25 years old in 1991, at the time of his arrest. Police tried to pull him over in Los Angeles, and had resisted arrest leading police on an 8-mile chase. When finally pulled over police brutality was videotaped. You can see the famous beating by four policemen (see this video from newsman Mike Wallace ). Wallace's report covers the trial and the resultant rioting in South Central and even King's famous line. "Can we all just get along?" (about 18 minutes in)
Here are some other YouTube videos: here and here also .

I agree with Doyle and Barton. Let's get along. Let's stop being so strident, no matter our political views. No matter our race. No matter. Let's learn what Jesus taught, to love one another. I really liked what Rep Tulsi Gabbard (Democrat of Hawaii) said in her interview with Fox News. "I believe failure is not an option... in a moment of unfortunate tragedy... is that opportunity for us as Americans, for leaders in this country to rise up, to set the example, to set that tone of dialogue in conversation... We all have different ideas... The most critical thing is that...we have to debate... actually working together and not demonizing each other."

Maybe Rodney King's famous calming line was right.
Jesus certainly was right.
Labour, Liberal, male, female, he said, she said... Hodgkinson's response was wrong.

Let's all get along.

14 June 2017

The deer, the water, and depression


A Christian man on Long Island wrote a song with words from Psalm 42. "As the deer panteth for the waters, so my soul longeth after thee." It's a prayer of the Sons of Korach, whichever sons those are. I always enjoyed singing this song. Not that I deeply considered the text from that particular psalm. Then last week, a group of us discussed Psalm 42 and Psalm 43 (they probably were originally one psalm) and this verse popped up.


Let me put this line of the song into its literary setting.
As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival. Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence. (Psalm 42.1-5)

The little 'Bambi' deer in the photo and in the Marty Nystrom song is exactly NOT what the Psalmists are writing. The author(s) are desperate, more like a vagabond, a lonely man, a starved, aching desperado. Their anguish is summarized in the words, "My tears have been my food", "I will say to God, “Why have You forgotten me?", and "Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me." Those are not gentle words of a smiling deer, but the deep, heart-felt cries of man-in-pain. Deep pain. Aches that describe a depressed, down-in-the-dumps singer.

So why is that in the Bible, anyway? Shouldn't a Bible-believer sing happy-clappy songs throughout his days? When someone finds eternal life in Messiah Jesus, shouldn't they have a good life, full of pleasure and without suffering or angst?

In his classic Making Sense out of Suffering, Peter Kreeft argues well for the need for suffering. Without it, we would have a bad story. Without it we would not learn kindness. Without it we fail to grow in wisdom. He says, "the most popular modern answer to the question of what it means to be a good person is to be kind. Do not make other people suffer. If it doesn’t hurt anyone, it’s O.K. By this standard, God is not good it he lets us suffer. But by ancient standards, God might be good even though he lets us suffer, if he does it for the sake of the greater end of happiness, perfection of life and character and soul, that is, self.”

The apostle John wrote about the overcoming of the Devil in Revelation chapter 12. "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life unto death." The pain of life, in the midst of others' pleasures, that seems to be the fate of those who want to win.

Kreeft continues in that book, "“When the worldly toys in which we foolishly place our hopes for happiness are taken away from us, our foolishness is also taken away, and this brings us closer to true happiness, which is not in worldly things but in wisdom.”

Philip Yancey writes in Where is God when it hurts?, "God does not, in the comfortable surroundings of heaven, turn a deaf ear to the sounds of suffering on this groaning planet. He joined us, choosing to live among an oppressed people-- [Elie] Wiesel's own race-- in circumstances of poverty and great affliction... Jesus did not receive an answer to the questions of cause. "Why? ...why?" he called from the cross, and heard nothing but the silence of God. Even so, he responded with faithfulness, turning his attention to the good that his suffering could produce...Jesus' suffering was not a matter of impotence; he could have called on a legion of angels...God took the Great Pain of his own Son's death and used it to absorb into himself all the minor pains of earth. Suffering was the cost to God of forgiveness."

Suffering is purposeful, but depression? How is that useful? When is that to be relieved?

Maybe this article by Mary Leigh Keith will help. And the links they share at the end, also. You are not alone. We have walked this way before. And we are surviving. And finding God now and then. And that's worth it all. Like a deer, come find the water. The refreshing is in His presence. In that double psalm, it's at the altar. It's where the throngs were. The psalm ends with "hope in God." That conclusion, no matter the attending feelings-- that's where life really is.

What do you think?

28 May 2017

Margaret Court, Qantas and morality


No other tennis player in the last 50 years has come close to the record number of victories and the dominance on the tennis court as Margaret Court. She currently lives in Perth, Western Australia, and is the pastor of Victory Life Church. I've met her on a couple occasions and when I read this report from the Channel 9 News network, I was dismayed and disappointed.

Here's the rub. Margaret came out and said that she would not be using Qantas any longer. Seems that Qantas started this controversy with their announcement about gay marriage. Margaret Court simply is responding to their statement. And she has that right. But some in the gay and gay-loving community find her comments out of bounds and thus are demanding as Channel 9 reports the arena in Melbourne should be renamed.

Naming arenas for sports greats like Hindmarsh Stadium or Lambeau Field is not related to the ethics or the goodness of the named one. It's about the contribution to the sport. Rod Laver, Alan Border, Sir Donald Bradman... any one of these stadia could be stripped of their named rights if someone reports their being less-than- something. From what I've heard some significant sports figures were not exactly wholesome and fair-go-givers. John Kennedy has been shown to be a womanizer and yet, all across the US there are highways, libraries, and yes, even sports stadia named for him. Shall the thought-police or morals police start looking into every named location worldwide?

Martina Navratilova, herself a lesbian and tennis great, tweeted twice yesterday,"Maybe it's time to change the name of the Margaret Court Arena then... and I guess Margaret will be taking the boat on her next trip?:)," she tweeted.
She added in another tweet: "thank you Qantas for your support. And Margaret - you have gone too far. Shame on you... #wrongsideofhistory."

So what do you think? Is Margaret Smith Court on the wrong side of history? Or are the thought police going too far in preventing free speech and personal opinions?

I applaud Margaret Court. She's a champion on the court, and in the court of hostile public opinion. Everyone, including Ms Navratilova has a right to speak their mind. The world is a better place when we talk with each other. But tennis is tennis. Let the arena stay as it is.

22 May 2017

Jerusalem at the same time: Coincidence?


I wonder when Donald Trump, president of the US, decided to visit Jerusalem. Was it during his meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu? Was it after some advisor reminded him that Wednesday is Yom Yerushalayim? Or did he read my tweet that I was going to be in town starting Tuesday? Unless his motorcade prevents my movements, which is highly likely, and he gets out to shake hands (which is highly unlikely), I will never know. But I can imagine, can't I?

Yes, I'll be in Israel at the same time as the Donald. But our purposes are significantly different. He will be on a lecture tour, although he insisted that's not what he went to Saudi to do, and I will be meeting up with Jewish leaders and agencies for various purposes. There is room here at the Great Synagogue in the sanctuary...maybe we should have a default meet-up time and date, just in case it works out.


Wednesday will be the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, and as such will be celebrated with all kinds of activities and foods around town. Of course, reunification indicates something about unity, and if I remember right from my last year's visit, there was deeper division than I had experienced in a long time. More Palestinian flags, downright hostility to me by one man, in the Old City, not for being a Jew for Jesus, but for being a Jew! From what I overheard, that's not the mood of the young people, but I'm hoping that this week, across the town, there will be significant unity among believers and those who don't yet believe.

Maybe Donald and I will see eye-to-eye.
Maybe Donald and Bibi will see eye-to-eye.
Maybe I won't get caught in his motorcade.
Maybe Yeshua will return to set up His throne--- it's going to happen. And it's going to happen in Jerusalem. I'd love that to happen.

Whenever that does happen, be ready, dear reader. That reality of the return of Messiah, to establish His government, way better the Republicans in the White House or Macron in Paris or Hassan Rouhani in Iran. The rule or Kingdom of God will be established throughout the world, and all will bow their knee to the Almighty.

17 May 2017

The boring bits



I watched the news at 6 pm tonight. There were accidents and violent shootings, arson attacks on buildings and drugs associated with football players of note. But when I think about it, most of life will never get on the news. Most of life is boring. Most reality isn't news at all. Most of the traffic on the road will not have an accident. Most people will go to work on the bus or the train, and simply pay their fares, walk to the office, get their morning coffee, perform their daily tasks, and go home, on the bus or train, eat dinner, retire, and start over tomorrow.

The news isn't comprehensive at all. It's only the stuff that stands out, above or usually below, the levels of normal situations of life. Humanity and dare I say, nature, usually carries on in its regular course. The patterns or orbits of the planets are consistent, they say, but for many that simply sounds boring.


A woman named Barb Raveling says many things in her blog, and this one might speak to our point today. She highlights 9 Bible answers to the question of boredom, really just gets things back in perspective about percentages of thrills and ennui.

Filling up our ears with noise and losing time to contemplate, that's a massive result of the fear of boredom and the lack of completeness that is found in a relationship with the Lord. Most of life is the boring bits. Walking with the Almighty through it all, that's the thrill, not of a roller coaster, but of a God who extends His love to us, daily, hourly.

I'm not on the television show 24, although I try to take life 24 hours at a time. One day at a time. Surrendering my life to the care of God, who ever wants me to know Him and walk with Him each day. Boring? Ok, most of life is just that. I don't sink every 10-foot putt, nor return every lob to my opponent's court deep enough. I don't answer every unbeliever's questions with satisfaction, and the drudgery of sameness nips at my heels throughout each day. Yeah, so? I'm not in a Tom Cruise movie. I'm just me. And that will have to do for now.

01 May 2017

PM and President Trump to meet Thursday


The Australian reports today about the meeting this week on the USS Intrepid in New York City. Read the whole article here. In short there is a retelling of the testy telephone conversation in late January and the iconoclastic diplomatic behaviour of the neo-president, and some recommendations by Alan Dupont, staff writer.

He says, "Turnbull should pursue three objectives in his meeting with the US President: he should add his voice to those of other US allies urging Trump to play a constructive leadership role internationally; he should try to imbue the President with a deeper ­appreciation of the value of alliances in general and the Australia-US alliance in particular; and he should support a US accommodation with China that minimises the possibility of a full-blown conflict in Asia but pushes back against Chinese adventurism in the South China Sea."

On the ABC-TV Breakfast show this morning, the 'testy' call was described as "rocky' and "robust.' The presenters interviewed Professor James Curran. His bio reads like an academic champion. "Curran is a Nonresident Fellow at the Lowy Institute and Professor of History at the University of Sydney and a Research Associate at the United States Studies Centre. His most recent book is Unholy Fury: Whitlam and Nixon at War (2015). A former analyst with the Office of National Assessments, Curran was a Fulbright Scholar at Georgetown University and in 2013 held the Chair of Australian History at University College Dublin."

I liked his evaluation of the meeting to come. He mentioned the site on the Intrepid as iconic, a warship in NYC, not a meeting in the White House nor at Mar-a-Lago, which he says is "a step down in protocol terms." His take on the meeting is one which will "showcase a defense relationship" from the past. He doesn't anticipate any grand announcements. Curran mentioned the last time a sitting Prime Minister and US president met on a watercraft was President Lyndon Baines Johnson meeting in May, 1968 with Prime Minister John Gorton. Aboard the Sequoia, the two men couldn't hear each other over the sounds of the engine on the yacht as it chugged up the Potomac River in DC. Curran says it's "altogether fitting and proper" for allies to remember the past, shared struggles and sacrifices. But his assessment is that this alliance is "anchored in memory, moored to memory" with "rhetoric and imagery that is awash in sentimentality" but not doing the "hard thinking about what China's rise" means for us, and appears to be an alliance which is "cruising in its own sea of complacency and nostalgia."

What about the TPP? We shall see. Is it only the past we honour, or will there be a consideration as Curran says, of "the broader US/ Asian regional posture." We in Australia are hopeful.

I liked the whole conversation and thought to share it with our followers. The meeting itself is worth considering, but beyond that one, what is the purpose of your meeting with those with whom you will meet this week, or even today? Is it merely a photo op? Is it for the purpose of history and sentimentality? Is it to produce something worthwhile and ongoing?

So, when you go to work this week, as I've already started on our Sunday yesterday, will your going be productive? Will your meet-ups with folks at the trivia night at the local pub be nostalgic or future-looking? Will there be significance to much of what you do today and this week? That's a consideration that is well worth your evaluation. To that, we call you.

Let's make the best of life today. 14 times in the Gospels, 7 times in the book of Acts and 8 times in the rest of the Newer Testament, the word "today" is used. Overall in the entire Bible, it's 190 times! Let's make the best of today. Let's hear Him today and do His will. Let's not let church be a 'photo op' of us with the Almighty.

"For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you would hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, As in the day of Massah in the wilderness, When your fathers tested Me,
They tried Me, though they had seen My work. For forty years I loathed that generation, And said they are a people who err in their heart,
And they do not know My ways. Therefore I swore in My anger, Truly they shall not enter into My rest.” (Psa. 95.7-11)

Today. Seems a good day to make right with God. And your fellows. Are we good?