Food for Thought–Questions You May Be Afraid to Ask About the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

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Questions You May Be Reluctant to Ask About the Israeli Palestinian Conflict

1. Does this go back to the Bible? Is this some modern outplaying of Biblical prophecy?
Answer: No. What we’re watching now has everything to do with the creation of the State of Israel by the United Nations, the subsequent decolonization of the Middle East, and the way that process was  mishandled.

2. Does this have anything to do with the 1967 Six Day War? Yes. It’s as if the war never ended. It is as those who lost East Jerusalem have never accepted Israel’s victory in that war. You’ll hear the term “pre-1967” borders thrown around quite a bit.

3. Do most Palestinians have antipathy toward average Israelis? No.

4. Do most Israelis hate their neighbors? No.

5. What about these settlements? In certain contested areas of land, Israel is continuing to build new homes and settle families in these areas. The people settling in these areas are usually very devout Orthodox families who believe do believe in the Biblical commands to settle the land. Here, theology and politics clearly overlap. These settlements would be the first areas in any negotiation that the Palestinians would probably want back. They would be the last areas the Israelis would want to give back. Those settlements which have been returned were done so at great political and social cost to the government and wider society. Any images of troops moving whole families out of their homes hardens Israeli public opinion against dialogue with the Palestinians, especially after a period of bombing like the one we’re experiencing now.

6. Can your opponent today be your ally tomorrow? Yes. Go read your Bible.

7. Is this conflict within this conflict as cut and dry and as black and white as some would like to make it? Of course not.

8. Is the goal to let the people of the Middle East, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian decide their future without western influence? Yes. Colonialism made this mess. Will other forms of colonialism fix it? No.

Food for Though-A Devotion on Isaiah 56:1-8

A Devotion on Isaiah 56:1-8

By Richard Bryant

56 Thus says the LORD: Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed.

I meditate on the words: Maintain and Justice. I pray to do what is right. I ask for my salvation to come. I wait for the revelation of my deliverance. I ask, what will the revelation of my deliverance look like? Am I prepared for what I’ll see?
How am I maintaining justice today? Am I doing what is right in the eyes of the Lord? Am I ready for my salvation? Again, I ask, am I aware and ready to see the revelation of my own deliverance?

2 Happy is the mortal who does this, the one who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath, not profaning it, and refrains from doing any evil.

Does my face reflect such joy and happiness? Do I go about my day with happiness by holding fast and keeping the Sabbath? Am I honoring God by honoring my life and God’s commandments? Do I take time, even in the midst of this busy summer season to give myself a break and give God a few minutes? Do I turn the cell phone off, shut down the computer, and step back from the world so I can step toward God?

Again, I meditate on the words: Maintain and Justice. I pray to do what is right. I ask for my salvation to come. I wait for the revelation of my deliverance.I listen to the words of the prophet. I do not put words into his mouth. I let his images fill my mind.

3 Do not let the foreigner joined to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely separate me from his people”; and do not let the eunuch say, “I am just a dry tree.” 4 For thus says the LORD: To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, 5 I will give, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.

Meditate and pray upon this: what the Lord has given will not be cut off. We are connected to God. We can try to cut ourselves off from God but God will not disconnect from us. We become monuments to what God has done in our lives. Pray upon God’s connections and monuments in your life.

6 And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, all who keep the Sabbath, and do not profane it, and hold fast my covenant— 7 these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. 8 Thus says the Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them besides those already gathered.

Will I do as he says and live as he says? Will our house be called a house of prayer for all peoples?
Again, I meditate on the words: Maintain and Justice. I pray to do what is right. I ask for my salvation to come. I wait for the revelation of my deliverance.

Food for Thought-Some Thoughts on Evangelism and Matthew 13

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The best place for seekers and skeptics to have their questions answered is not in a service of Christian worship. Seekers and skeptics need one on one time with someone who will listen to them. They need to be with people can handle hard and difficult questions. Usually, this means a pastor. People in small groups who recite canned answers or simply give their testimonies and expect “it” to click are some of the least effective means of reaching skeptics. Conversation and honest dialogue works. Acknowledge that the questions they pose are genuine, solid and are worth exploring. Discount nothing. Listening is the key. When we respond, are we going to genuinely engage or will be simply reacting? Will we react in fear or respond to what we are hearing in faith? Will we keep listening? To do this, you need to be right there with whomever you’re listening to. Do and structure church however you want to, just know that the skeptics we need to reach will be reached over tea, coffee, and while out walking our dogs. Church is part of the equation but solid relationships and conversations are what heals hurt, doubt, and skepticism.

Church is a place for those who need help, want help, and those who sometimes don’t yet know they need help. Many people enter into side doors, Sunday School classrooms, small group meetings in comfortable living rooms, or worship settings seeking help. Other people don’t want help. They don’t need help. They are certain they have all the questions firmly answered. The doubts they have are real and are never going to be answered to an arbitrary standard they deem appropriate. I’m telling you now, these are the people we should most want in church. These are people we should want to be among our closest friends. They don’t understand us. However, we want to be understood and so do they. They take themselves seriously and so do we. We want people to see us for who we are, warts and all. To do this, we need to take the mystery of faith away. We must reveal Christian living to be the daily struggle that it is. The mystery of faith (according to the service of Word and Table) is in trying to explain and understand Jesus’ actions. No living human being as has ever “got” it. We accept it. We believe it. We live in to it. But there is no mystery to being a Christian. It’s hard. Some days it stinks, other days it’s great. If you want shatter a skeptic and destroy a doubter, take the mystery away. Confirm their doubts.  Let them see we are just the same.  Reveal to the world that Christianity is a warts and all belief system and people who claim to be anything other than that missed the Christian boat a long time ago. Kick the soap boxes out from under the self-righteous sexually obsessed scoundrels who are destroying our ability to do the real work of evangelism in the 21st century. The real deal is an amalgamation of imperfect but God loving people who keep trying to get living right. We’re just a group of people with an understanding that the world doesn’t have to be this way, the time is NOW, and death isn’t all she wrote.   So where are those relationships where the confounding nature of grace might begin to go to work on those most hardened skeptics and doubters?

–Richard Bryant

Food for a Thought-Mayakovsky

What circles have I come,
The ragged manipulations I’ve run,
Bright suns racing toward the metro platform,
Running past Tajik imams preaching reform,
Soviet yellow walls wail past those who fall,
Masters crawl seeking margaritas who are tall,
While the piano plays everyday I’m away,
Mayakovsky remains comfortably numb in his grave.

–Richard Bryant

Food for Thought-The SemiColon

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The SemiColon

My precious semicolon;
your vertical period,
a comma stolen,
resting on a myriad,
of independent clauses,
denoting dangling theories,
participles of the past,
that force me to pause,
to look beyond one idea,
and consume with applause,
what lies inside your verbal Ikea,
right angles of existential guffaws,
scooped around mental gallerias,
illuminated by my typographic faux pas.

-Richard Bryant

Food for Thought-My Lucky Hat

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My Lucky Hat

I was nervous as a cat,
on that gloomy morning,
when I could not find my lucky hat,
I was always loosing that stupid thing,
one time a puma,
stole it in the rain,
last week,
I was full of pain,
when a ruthless hooligan,
grabbed my cap,
while I traveled,
partially back,
from hearing the fans clap,
for my favorite band,
Acoustic Tuna Fish
and the Delusional Sweat Glands”,
the Sweat Glands played,
ridiculously long sets,
of fugitive Nigerian reggae,
I can easily recall how much I began to fret,
when I heard “Shell Oil is Dancing Too Close with My Baby Today”,
then I realized my head was getting wet,
my lucky cap had been whisked away.
what lunacy, I say!

–Richard Bryant

Food for Thought-Have You Understood All This? Thoughts on Matthew 13:31-52

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Jesus asks the disciples in verse 51, “Have you understood all this?” We don’t get an indication of a pause, delay, or the looks on their faces. He’s just run through a litany of some of the most important parables he’ll ever tell and which explain some of the most central concepts related to the coming “kingdom of God”. Matthew only says they answer with a single word, an affirmative, “yes.”

That question scares me. If Jesus came to me today and asked, “Have you understood all of this?” could I honestly give him the “yes” answer? This is one of the most important questions Jesus asks his disciples. It is a question I believe we need to hear him asking to each one of us. We’ve had a great deal of material thrown our way. It’s a tremendous amount to digest intellectually and spiritually. To understand it on the first go around, on one hearing, would be nearly impossible. Jesus isn’t introducing hard concepts. He’s not asking us to do differential equations. This is stuff we should be able to grasp. It’s in the living that the problems occur. How do we make the hard choices and prioritize like the people in the parables?

I think Jesus understands this. I believe he realizes we too often jump in and give hasty answers to hard questions. That’s why verse 52 is so important. “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of God,” is how he begins. Trained is the operative word there. Training is a process, an ongoing, step by step series of learning events. Scribes were some of the most methodically trained religious leaders in the era of 2nd Temple Judaism. In some ways, their training never ended. They were always in the text, learning new things, memorizing, living and breathing the scrolls. Our understanding, Jesus is saying, is always evolving. We are always growing into our understanding of the kingdom of God. It’s something that never stops and like the scribes, we keep working on, with that level of intensity, each day.

Food for Thought-Richard’s Ongoing List of First World Problems

The store is out of Nutella.
No one sells the right kind of bottled water.
There’s nowhere to charge your phone on this boat.
There is no wifi.
There is a long line at the coffee shop.
There is nowhere to park our car.
The petrol was expensive.
Your computer is slow.
Your internet connection is slow.
You have to wear your sunglasses without Croakies.
You can’t find any coasters for your end tables.
Netflix isn’t working.
Where is my Ginger Ale?
The ceiling fan makes too much noise on high.
This elevator is never going to get here.
The seat doesn’t go far enough back to put my bare feet on the dashboard of our car.
They were out of sprinkles at the soft serve bar.
It rained two days in a row.
I forgot my password.
None of my friends get what “gluten free” means.
I forgot to pay the homeowner association dues.
You can’t Sushi at gas stations.
Have you seen my other pair of shoes?