April 30, 2012

  • Another Birthday Poem

    B"H

    Once again I have written another birthday poem for my wife.

    This year we decided to go out to eat so I wrote this short piece

    with that context in mind.

     

    Today is The Day

     

    Today is the day when we shall eat and drink.

    We'll have a great meal without filling the sink

    With pots and pans and cutlery,

    You might be wondering, "How could this be?"

     

    Most meals like this start with a trip to the store

    Buying meats and greens and spices galore.

    Then it's home again, home again clickity clack,

    But there's still something more so I have to go back.

     

    Next comes the cutting, the slicing and chopping,

    And did I mention there's always more shopping?

    Making a big meal for a group can be fun,

    That is if you like to always be on the run.

     

    Today of course was not like that at all,

    We all had some down time, we all had a ball.

    Watching TV and hanging around,

    And now we're out for a time on the town.

     

    I'm glad you could join us here in this place,

    As we savor our food at a much slower pace.

    The friends who are here are a gift from above,

    They show us GOD's favor and tangible love.

     

    So, I offer a toast, lift your cup with me,

    As we celebrate my wife, who is now fifty-three.

     

    © Shlomo Brabham  2012

April 2, 2012

  • Three Cheers for Rachel Held Evans

    B"H

     


    Some of you may not know who Rachel Held Evans is. According to Wikipedia “Rachel Held Evans is an American author[1][2] and blogger [3] who wrote the spiritual memoir Evolving in Monkey Town[4] published by Zondervan.[5 ]  I read a lot of blogs in a sort of scattered fashion and thus I happened upon Rachel’s work a while back.

     Last week, while commenting on the work of theologian N.T. Wright, Rachel nearly succumbed to the error of reforming him into an image of her own liking rather than accepting him for who he is. This was quite ironic since she opened her blog post by saying,

    "Today we continue our discussion of N.T. Wright’s Scripture and The Authority of God as part of our series on learning to love the Bible for what it is, not what we want it to be."

    Rachel is a good writer and she seeks to handle the texts she chooses with care and integrity. She quotes from her sources and lets the given author, N.T. Wright in this case, speak for himself. This is all well and good and I find that Rachel probes through Wright’s work in ways that prompt many healthy discussion points in the comments that follow. Unfortunately, some of the subject matter hits a bit too close to home for Mrs. Evans and she shifts from doing exegesis of Wright’s book to eisegesis.

    “But as Chapter 1 continues, Wright starts using a word that I don’t like very much: sovereignty.

    “God’s authority,” says Wright, “is his sovereign power accomplishing his renewal of all creation. Specific authority over human beings, notably the church, must be seen as part of that larger whole.” 

    I don’t like the word sovereignty because it’s the word that Calvinists use to explain why God predestines people for hell.

     Sovereignty, in their view, refers to God’s manipulation over everything that happens in the world, from natural disasters, to war, to hunger and disease, to the rape and exploitation of children. This view, in my opinion, naturally leads to the conclusion that God is the author and perpetrator of sin, which I find unacceptable. It’s a view that has gotten me into some pretty intense debates with fellow Christians, and a view that has been known to trigger more than one crises of faith. 

    And so, in a sense, I have surrendered the word “sovereignty” to the Reformed camp. Sovereignty is their thing, I tell myself, not mine. 

    But N.T. Wright is not a Calvinist, and he seems to like the word well enough...so why shouldn’t I? 

    Here is the place where Rachel goes astray, but I want to say this most gingerly. Quite obviously Rachel likes N.T. Wright’s works. She finds him engaging and insightful and thus while she has her own personal problems with Calvinism and the Reformed Tradition, she assumes that Wright is more like herself, a non-Calvinist, than is actually true.

    In a follow-up post several days later Rachel takes the stand for which I hereby applaud her.

    A correction (and confession) about N.T. Wright and Calvinism …

    “So I may have misspoken on Monday when I said that N.T. Wright is “not a Calvinist.”   

    As several of you have pointed out, NT Wright does indeed consider his views to be in keeping with Calvin and the Reformed tradition, and his recent debates with John Piper and company over justification are something of an internal skirmish rather than a theological divide.

    My mistake. I apologize.”

    It’s not every day that a person with Rachel’s following and influence also possesses the grace and character to admit they are wrong. I want to offer three cheers for Rachel for the following reasons:

    1. She was honest in acknowledging that a public correction was in order. She didn’t argue with those who posted comments informing her of this, but rather accepted their reproof gracefully.
    2. She was humble and forthright in taking personal responsibility for the error. “My mistake. I apologize.”
    3. She was courageous in asking for articles or books which could help her and her readers better understand N.T. Wright and his place within the Calvinist and Reformed Camp.

    Although I may not fully accept or endorse everything that Rachel teaches, I highly regard her as a fellow traveler on the way, a true disciple of The Master. I think she has a good heart and I fully encourage others to read and engage her blog posts and books.

    Blessings,

    Shlomo

December 21, 2011

  • Hanukkah - The Festival of Lights

    B"H

    H A P P Y    H A N U K K A H !!!

     Last night was the beginning of Hanukkah, The Feast of Dedication, also known as the Festival of Lights. Hanukkah is a great holiday because it is not only a lot of fun, but it is also saturated with deep spiritual meaning. Everybody loves to play the dreidel game and eat lots of candy - win or lose. This may seem like just a Hebrew version of spin the top, but the letters on the dreidel have a double meaning:

    1. N = Nun - nisht - "not" - nothing happens and the next player spins
    2. G = Gimel - gants - "all" - the player takes the entire pot
    3. H = Hey - halb - "half" - the player takes half of the pot, rounding up if there is an odd number
    4. S = Shin - shtel ayn - "put in" - the player puts one marker in the pot

     The dreidel, or sevivon in Hebrew, is a four-sided spinning top that children play with on Hanukkah. Each side is imprinted with a Hebrew letter. These letters are an acronym for the Hebrew words, נס גדול היה שם, Nes Gadol Haya Sham—"A great miracle happened there."

    (taken from the wikipedia website)

    The miracle being referred to is the mighty deliverance from the oppression of Antiochus IV. Although there is much to tell about the valor of Judah, his brothers and the other mighty warriors who fought with him, the main theme was the resistance against assimilation and the battle to remain true to their calling from GOD as a separate people, holy unto the LORD.

    This same struggle goes on even today for Jews the world over. Universal claims are heralded and in the name of solidarity and unity, sameness or amalgamation becomes the social standard. Those who insist on being different are ostracized and marginalized. This is true not only in secular terms, but also within the Body of Believers. Whether one speaks of the Jewish believer in the midst or anyone who holds to a separate code of conduct, such resistance to the established social standard usually results in mistrust and often expulsion from the group.

    I once heard a teaching by the late Martin Chernoff (an early pioneer in the modern Messianic Jewish Movement) on the topic of establishing Messianic Jewish Synagogues. In response to the hypothetical question, "Why belong to a Messianic Jewish Synagogue?" Rabbi Chernoff asserted, "To fight against the pull of the Anglo-Saxon culture." In order for a Jewish believer to remain true to his/her calling, there needs to exist a safe place where living a Jewish lifestyle is not considered a wayward action.

    The Body of Believers today needs to learn how to receive and accept Jewish believers in Jesus who:

    • keep kosher,
    • observe the Biblical Holy Days,
    • practice circumcision on their male children,
    • and worship using the Jewish liturgy.

    These particulars and more have often served as a stumbling block to fellowship and true partnership with non-Jewish brethren. (By obvious extension, the same could be said about Afro-American, Asian, Native American believers and etc. Those who don't fit the standard mold of modern evangelical praxis are often considered as fallen from grace and somehow therefore not fully regarded as equals in the Body.) I have argued several times here in this blog, as well as in the comments of many other sites, that what we need is a renewed vision of integration. It's not enough that we move towards multiculturalism or some expression of pluralism, but rather we need to clearly and purposefully embrace one another, including all our differences. GOD's call to unity should not lead us to uniformity. Oneness does not mean sameness.

    Holiness, the command to be separated unto the LORD, is one of the most overlooked and misunderstood concepts for today's believer. This is not only sad, but tragic. The Scripture Itself states that " ..without holiness, no one shall see the LORD." Heb 12:14. I have mentioned before that a lot of confusion arises from the mistake of interchanging the terms holy and righteous. In Hebrew, these are clearly two distinct words, kadosh = holy and tzadak = righteous. Holiness or sanctification means to be separate or distinct. We first of all recognize that GOD is holy in that He is separate and distinct from all that He has created. He is the Creator, all else is a part of His creation. He is separate and apart from that which He has made, even man which He fashioned in His image and likeness. GOD has commanded us, as His witnesses in this world, to be separate and apart (holy) just as He is apart. Lev 11:44, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:13-16.

    Righteousness is given to us by GOD. We are unable, by means of our own actions, to produce righteousness, but GOD has imparted His righteousness to us as a gracious act on His part. We are justified, or made right with GOD, by faith, but the commandment to be holy is fulfilled by obedience. Some things are allowed and some things are forbidden. This is expressly concerning carnal issues for Israel and all Jewish believers. What am I saying here?  GOD placed certain boundaries for natural Israel which set them apart from the other nations around them. They were directly commanded to not be like their neighbors (Lev 18:1-5), past or present. The Torah (Instruction code) given by GOD through Moses, was purposed to guide Israel in how to live as a covenant community and thereby to provoke the nations around them to jealousy.

     

    See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the LORD my GOD commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it. So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.' For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the LORD our GOD whenever we call on Him? Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today? Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen, and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons.                                                               Deut 4:5-9       

     

    All the various commandments that GOD gave to Israel of old pertaining to holiness are still in effect (See Matt 5: 17 - 19). Keeping these laws and decrees does NOT make one righteous. Holiness, as defined by the lifestyle prescribed in the Torah, is the essence of what it means to be a Jew. This is part of the natural selection by incidence of birth, but it also transcends it. "For they are not all Israel that are of Israel." Rom 9:6 . GOD's original purpose for Israel to be a light to the nations still remains. Just because we see the obvious faults and failure of the Jewish nation doesn't mean that GOD has changed His mind or altered His purpose for them.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------

    One additional word in closing. In case someone might infer from what I have written here that the Torah, or the laws given by Moses, should be applied by all believers, let me clearly say NO. This very topic and the related idea that salvation implied that the non-Jews needed to become Jewish and keep the Torah was addressed by the early Church and recorded, in brief, in Acts 15. There is only one pathway to a right relationship with GOD and that is through a heart determined to turn from evil and seek after the LORD and trust that the substitutionary atonement of the Messiah is sufficient to impart righteousness to any individual, Jew or Gentile.

    Just as the distinctions between male and female have not been done away with by the new birth, such is also the case regarding Jew and Gentile.

    -----------------------------------------------------------------

    Blessings, for love and peace, in the mighty name of Jesus the Messiah,

    Shlomo

    PS: Hanukkah is a lot of fun besides the various deep teaching matter. If you have a chance to celebrate it I highly recommend it.

    PSS: In case anyone might have noticed, this is a recycled post from Dec 5, 2007.

November 18, 2011

  • Remembering Glen Kehrein

    B"H

    From time to time I want to introduce and share the bio pieces of various brothers and sisters in the faith community. All too often we don't know, or fully appreciate, our brethren in The LORD.

    The remarks that follow below are from Dr. Wayne Gordon, a beloved brother who deserves mention in his own right for his work and service in the Body of Messiah. Dr. Gordon is the founding Pastor of Lawndale Community Church in Chicago. He is also the Chairman/President of the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA).

     
     
     

    Our hearts are saddened by the loss of our friend

    Glen Kehrein

     

     

     

    Executive Director of Circle Urban Ministries located in the Austin Community of Chicago, Il. and CCDA Founding Board Member.

       
     
     
     
     
     
       
       
       
     
       
       
     
     
     
     

     

     

    Fond memories of my friend Glen…

    I first met Glen Kehrein in the summer of 1975. He and Lonni were already well on their way to establishing Circle Urban Ministry, which has become a remarkable example of Christian Community Development. I was just getting ready to move to the Westside of Chicago to teach and coach at Farragut High School. I remember the conversation well. Immediately for the first time I sensed that Glen knew my heart and understood what I was saying. I wanted to move into the African American community but everyone I had talked to said it was a bad idea; not Glen. He and Lonni were already living in the African American community of Austin. Glen encouraged me that day to listen to God and follow my heart. That was the beginning of over 35 years of lessons learned from Glen. Circle has always been about five years ahead of us at Lawndale. We learned many lessons from Glen and Circle when opening Lawndale Christian Health Center and Lawndale Christian Development Corporation. Glen served on the Advisory Board of Lawndale Community Church from 1983-1990.

    It was during these critical years that we started our health center, housing work, development corporation and educational ministries. His insightful guidance saved us from many of the pitfalls that often occur in new ministries.

    What a blessing to be tutored by Glen. Our personal connection has also been very deep. We were in a support group together in the mid 80’s that met monthly for 4 years. It was there that I began to see the depth of Glen’s faith and commitment to justice, racial reconciliation and the disenfranchised people of our world. Our hearts have been woven together in ministry and the struggles of living out our faith in the inner city and raising our families. For several years Glen and Raleigh Washington had breakfast with Carey Casey and me to deal openly and honestly with the race issues facing Christians living in America. Glen was always cutting edge when it came to race and continued to break new ground consistently.

    I remember one lunch with Glen especially. Anne and I had felt we needed to move out of Lawndale for 2-3 years. This was one of the hardest decisions that I had ever made.

    It was during that lunch that Glen cried with me and understood my heart and our decision. He counseled me and supported us fully through the difficult days.
    Of course Glen was a part of the early discussions of CCDA. He helped found CCDA and was very significant in shaping our early direction. He has been a faithful board member since we began. Our second conference was hosted by Glen and his wonderful staff.

    Last Friday, Anne and I were blessed to get to visit Glen at his home in Austin. We had a special time with Lonni and Tara. We watched as Tara demonstrated her love for her dad: being sure his every need was handled so carefully. We also visited and prayed with Lonni as she was grieving her life long marriage to her best friend and lover! While with Glen, we sat quietly contemplating his special place in our lives. We read scripture, prayed and shared our love with each other. I called John Perkins and held the phone to Glen’s ear. I heard Glen simply say “Thank you John” as John shared his love and admiration for Glen.

    I told Glen “ I love you and will see you soon” and he simply replied “I love you.”

    Glen’s fingerprints are all over Lawndale, CCDA and me personally! I will miss his thoughtful critiques, his robust laugh, his listening ear and his understanding heart. Thank you Lord for Glen Kehrein, my brother.

    -Wayne Gordon

     

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

     

     

    Glen Kehrein
    Founding Executive Director
    October 16, 1948 - November 12, 2011

    Who would think that a white farm boy from Wisconsin would have a monumental impact on Christian community development and urban ministry? In 1968 Glen Kehrein stood on the roof of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and watched the smoke billowing from the riots that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. That experience launched a life-long desire and mission to address social injustices and the needs of the poor and disenfranchised.

    After a series of God-directed events, Glen Kehrein was hired by Circle Church to be the Community Outreach Coordinator for its efforts to serve the Austin neighborhood. Through the more than 37 years of Circle Urban’s existence, Glen has provided vision, leadership, compassion and results to bring the Light of Christ to Chicago’s Westside.

    On November 12, 2011, Glen went home to be with the Lord following a year-long battle with colon cancer. As Founding Executive Director, Glen exhibited passion and leadership to bring about a transformation of our community. Glen also demonstrated his leadership and selflessness through his role as a founding member of the Christian Community Development Association, serving on numerous boards including the Evangelical Free Church of America and personally mentored dozens of people desiring to serve the Lord through urban ministry.

    Glen served the Lord, his family, and this ministry faithfully through the years. His quick wit, sense of humor, and compassion will be greatly missed. Please continue to hold his family in prayer before the Throne of Grace during this time of loss.

    Visitation and services will be held at:
    Circle Urban Ministries
    118 N. Central Ave.
    Chicago, IL  60644
    Visitation will be Friday November 18th from 5 to 8 PM
    Service will be Saturday November 19th from 11 AM to 1 PM

    In lieu of cut flowers please consider a potted plant or a financial gift to help the family with Glen’s medical expenses. To make a financial gift please send a check made out to Lonni Kehrein. Please mail them to Lonni in care of Circle Urban Ministries, 118 N. Central Ave., Chicago, IL 60644.

    Thank you for your prayers and support.

    (Please be advised that donations made to help defray Glen's medical expenses may not be tax deductable. Please consult your tax advisor.)

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    There are other links to remarks and kind thoughts shared by friends and family on the Circle Urban Ministries FaceBook page.

     

    May our Heavenly Father comfort all of us who mourn Glen's passing and assure us by the fellowship of The Holy Spirit that all who seek to live their lives for GOD's glory will one day receive a rich reward in His eternal kingdom. Amen.

     

    Shlomo

     

May 9, 2011

  • Mother's Day Poem - 2011

    B"H

     

    You say that this year you don’t want flowers or candy,

    Would you rather I spend it on Sophie and Mandy?

    You want to go to an auction if you could have your way,

    So you can place your bid on the pick of the day.

    They say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,

    I say “Follow your heart, if that’s your pleasure.”

    Why should you eat steak if you really want fish?

    This is your day so you should have your wish.

    So you went to the auction and what did you find?

    Was it peaceful and relaxing, did you gain peace of mind?

    To this question and such “No,”  is what I would say,

    But I’m glad you had fun, Happy Mother’s Day.

     

    © Shlomo Brabham - 2011

     

April 20, 2011

  • A Season To Celebrate

    B"H

    Today is my wife's birthday, so I wrote a poem for her and I want to share it here.

     

    Another year has come and gone and we're a little bit older,

    But our days are growing rich and a little less colder.

    Together we have raised a girl and a boy

    Through laughter and pain

    Through sunshine and rain

    The seeds we once planted are now flowers we enjoy.

    When you were young you invested your talents and skills,

    To build a home where our dreams would one day be fulfilled.

    So now we celebrate this season with you,

    Happy Birthday my dear wife as you turn fifty-two.

     

    © Shlomo Brabham - 2011


April 17, 2011

  • Prayer Requested

    B"H

    Early this morning a man was assaulted and stabbed multiple times on the steps of 1st Presbyterian Church here in Macomb. Even in a small rural town such as this, tragedy, via violent crime, is no stranger. I want to encourage all my readers to pray for the victim, his family and also the individual who is guilty of this horrible act.

    Once a month a free meal is served to all local residents. This is a cooperative effort undertaken by many local citizens and several Churches and other organizations. The monthly Project H.O.P.E. meal is presently hosted by 1st Pres in their basement Fellowship Hall. While this event has been growing in its scope and outreach each month, unfortunately, today's meal was canceled due to the above mentioned incident.

     

     

April 14, 2011

  • A Kitchen Prayer

    B"H

     

    A Kitchen Prayer

     

    Lord of all pots and pans and things, since I've not time to be,

    A saint by doing lovely things or watching late with thee.

    Or dreaming in the dawn light or storming Heaven's gates,

    Make me a saint by getting meals and washing up the plates.

     

    Although I must have Martha's hands, I have a Mary mind,

    And when I black the boots and shoes, Thy sandals Lord I find.

    I think of how they trod the earth, what time I scrub the floor,

    Accept this meditation Lord, I haven't time for more.

     

    Warm all this kitchen with Thy love, and light it with Thy peace.

    Forgive me all my worrying, and make my grumbling cease.

    Thou who did love to give men food, in room or by the sea,

    Accept this service that I do, I do it unto Thee.

     

    By Klara Munkres

     

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

     

    For many years this little poem hung in my mother's kitchen and I read it there over and over. Finally I committed it to memory so I could share it with others who never met my mom. In 1998, after my father died and we inherited their house, my wife packed up this delicate wall hanging and now it graces the eastern wall of our home. We are far removed from New York these days and harbor no plans to return there other than for an occasional visit. Nevertheless, the warm memories we hold from that place are still with us, despite the distance and the years.

     

    Blessings,

     

    Shlomo

July 5, 2010

  • A New Beginning

    B"H

    After such a long hiatus I want to revive this blog site if there are still any interested readers. I have a number of topics I'd like to explore so I will try to post something here about once a week.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------

    As many of my former readers will remember I am mostly concerned about how the Community of Believers in Jesus lives in our present age. For several years I have been reading and researching the topic of race relations and the place that the Body of Messiah should have in the discusson. I have stated repeatedly that I believe the disciples of Jesus have a mandate to lead in this crucial area because of the dynamic of the New Birth. Although many of the secular writers and thinkers may pose some very insightful thoughts and critiques, none of them has the power or ability to produce the Brave New World they quest for. In order for a new world order to emerge, we will need not only a new worldview and a radical change of perspective in our thinking and our relationships, but we will need individuals with new hearts and renewed minds fit for the task.

     

    In all honesty, it remains to be seen whether the disciples of Jesus, which is the Church at large, will be any more successful in fulfilling the call to build a better alternative to this present world system. When Jesus began His ministry He stated that the Kingdom of GOD was at hand. How often does one hear any mention of The Kingdom of GOD these days? The Lord's Prayer opens with the petition that the will of GOD as expressed in Heaven would also be realized here on Earth.

    If the prayers of Jesus are to ever find fulfillment in human history then it seems to this writer that there needs to be significant changes in both our thinking and lifestyles. There is a huge gap at present between what is and what should be.

    I want to invite all of my readers to chime in here and add your perspective to the conversation. How might our experience of the presence of the Kingdom effect change towards a greater demonstration of GOD's love and care for the world and all of its inhabitants? In other words, I'd like to discuss these questions:

    Does our demonstration of the Kingdom match our declaration of it? If so, how so?

    If, on the other hand, the conclusion is negative and our collective witness testifies against the presence of the Kingdom, why is this so and what, if anything, can we do about it?

     

    Blessings,

     

    Shlomo

     

November 25, 2009

  • There's Still Hope

    B"H

    My First Urban Faith Article

    Last year, just after the presidential election, I wrote a blog entry entitled "We Have Been Slightly Healed." Now, after several conversations and e-mails, Brother Ed Gilbreath has finally succeeded in getting me to make a few revisions and submit this piece to his on-line magazine, Urban Faith. You can check out the article here.

    We have added a few paragraphs that included mention of the Nobel Peace Prize that was awarded to Pres. Obama in October and a section at the end which is an exhortation to the Community of Believers. I pray that this will be the beginning of my regular input on topics of race and religion and that the LORD might be able to use it for His purposes and glory.

    I pray that there will be some honest and thoughtful comments and responses both on the Urban Faith site, as well as via FaceBook.

    Blessings,

    Shlomo