Tuesday, May 24, 2011


"Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the L-rd of hosts will perform this." Isaiah 9:7

I have been inspired today; so inspired that I have FINALLY mustered the wherewithal to write a short blog about an important event that happened this morning of May 24th, 2011. At approximately 11 o'clock CST, Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, addressed a joint session of Congress in the House of Representatives in Washington D.C. He visited 'our House' representing 'his house'---the modern day 'House of Israel'! In the midst of 24 hour cable news, a worldwide web, ubiquitous virtual communication and constant and continuous media distraction, he delivered what I believe--I hope---is a significant and historic address, cutting right to the heart of a matter which has persistently perplexed nation after nation, generation after generation: that is, the issue of 'peace in the Middle East.'

I will not---and cannot--- in this brief blog, add anything to what he said. It is so eloquent, so direct, so clear, that anything I say would simply detract from his message. Rather, I would like to respectfully suggest---nay, strongly urge---you who read this, to find his speech and listen to it. It is a 'must hear' presentation, framing the debate about what to do in that region of the world in terms that are full of truth and undeniable realities. His passion is palpable, his reasoning impeccable and his facts indisputable. Not only that, he speaks with the time-tested and 'forged in the fire' authority that is so rare in these days of political posturing and poll-driven equivocation.

Two lines that stand out to me were the following: "Israel has no better friend than America and America has no better friend than Israel." He also said: "Israel is not what's wrong about the Middle East; Israel is what's right about the Middle East!"

Truth be told, I have grown weary of the description of what's going on between Israel and the Palestinians as a 'peace process'. Israel IS at peace with it's Arab neighbors---and with the Palestinians who live in their midst. It is those who want to deny Israel's right to exist that are at war with her! It has been said---and I paraphrase---that if the Arab world was disarmed, there would be no war in the Middle East; but if Israel were disarmed, there would be no Israel. Another Israeli prime minister, Golda Meir once famously said: "We will have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us."

We who read and believe the Bible know that, ultimately, peace will only come--- not only for Israel but also for the whole world---when Yeshua, the Messiah, returns to Jerusalem to establish His kingdom! He alone is 'Sar Shalom', the Prince of Peace, spoken of by Isaiah the prophet; and He will reign forever and ever, seated upon the 'throne of David'. What a glorious promise; what a privilege to be invited to be part of that kingdom.

As a believer in Yeshua, I know that Israel's deliverance---and safety---comes from G-d alone. There is no salvation for her---nor for anyone else---apart from Messiah. "My heart's desire and prayer to G-d for Israel is that they may be saved." Rom. 10:1

This hope of Paul the Apostle is my hope as well; and the hope of all who believe that the gospel is "the power of G-d unto salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek (gentile)." Rom. 1:16

Consequently, I am under no illusion that the current State of Israel is the final 'state' of the people of Israel. There is coming a day when "all Israel will be saved"; and a renewed and regenerated Jewish people will be regathered to a restored land "in which righteousness dwells." That day is coming soon...

...but on this day, I am encouraged by what I have heard---and I want you to hear it. too!

I want you to hear the 'clarion call' issued by Benjamin Netanyahu in 'our House'! I want you to see the warm and enthusiastic welcome he received from our leaders and the repeated ovations offered in response to his call. It is essential that America---and all the nations of the world---understand what he so eloquently expressed: that Israel is here to stay, that Jerusalem must remain her 'undivided' capitol, and that she is ready and willing to 'make peace' with anyone willing to forsake violence and 'make peace' with her.

In the hour in which we live, it is imperative that we know where and how to stand regarding the poorly named 'Arab-Israel peace process'. Believers in the L-rd Yeshua and people of all faiths---indeed all people of good will---need to see this issue clearly and understand it's implications.

That is why I recommend you avail yourself of this truly inspiring speech made by the Israeli Prime Minister. I pray our American President---whom Netanyahu repeatedly and appropriately honored with his words---will take those words to heart and make the correct decisions regarding the future of Israel and the Middle East. We are at the 'hinge of history'---to use Netanyahu's expression---and we must swing in the direction which will bring about true and lasting peace; that is, on this side of G-d's eternal and everlasting 'kingdom of peace'!

If we can find it within ourselves to do the right thing, '..history will applaud you (America)!' That was the promise Mr. Netanyahu made; and I believe it is G-d's promise as well. After all, He has already said:

"I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse (those) who curse you." Gen. 12:3

What I---and the rest of the world---observed today, cut across party lines; Democrats and Republicans alike stood side by side, applauding what they heard. Though there have been disagreements between our two countries, Netanyahu reaffirmed and reinforced our historic friendship and mutual interests and values, expressing eternal gratitude for all that America has done to help Israel survive and thrive. He congratulated our President on his recent success in ridding the world of one of her worst terrorists, and thanked the Congress for inviting him to come and share his heart. It was to me a thrilling moment; one I pray will not be overlooked or swept aside by the tide of unrelenting news items and all-pervasive pop culture happenings.

Once again, I urge you; find the speech and listen. Share it with friends and family and members of your faith community. Pray about what you hear, as I hope to do.

Thank you for listening to my 'call'---from my house to yours---to 'pray for the peace of Jerusalem'; and for the final peace to come with the return of Yeshua HaMashiach, Messiah Jesus, the Prince of Peace!

Shalom---Peace to you and yours,
Marty (and his!)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Bench-mark for a Friend

In Jewish tradition, family and friends wait one year before placing a headstone on the grave of a deceased loved one. This 'stone setting' ritual is a ceremonial conclusion to a season of grieving; a kind of closure for those who are still shaken by a great loss. Though the pain of that person being gone does not go away, permission is given, in a sense, to 'move on' with life, knowing that the one being mourned would want that for you as well.

Tom Howard is a man who would have had that sentiment. In that spirit, I note his one year passing with this brief post to you who are visiting us here.

As you may know, Tom was a well respected pianist, songwriter and composer, our producer and arranger for over twenty years and, most of all, our very dear friend. He passed away unexpectedly on January 29th, 2010, approximately one year ago. I shared with you then some thoughts on his life, his death and his memorial service. Oddly, it seems a long time ago that all this happened -- and like yesterday!

Tom's loving wife Dori wanted to mark the day of her husband's passing in a special way.

It was a Saturday when she and Tom had set out on a walk on an unusually snowy weekend. The Howard's were from Minnesota and snow was their natural environment! And so it seemed fitting they would join some of their friends on a trek through a Nashville park. It was on that walk that Tom had a heart attack and passed away. What would have been a pleasant, leisurely afternoon turned into a traumatic and tragic day for her and their companions.

Yet, that terrible memory was turned into a beautiful memorial by Dori and others who loved Tom Howard.

Tom has no gravesite, so there was no headstone to be set. Instead, a gorgeous granite bench was built in his memory. A simple brass plaque bears his name, with an inscription written by his family, punctuated with a verse from the Bible -- Ephesians 2:6 -- which reads:

"...and raised up together (to) sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus..."

Strangely, it was a Saturday -- January 29th -- exactly a year since Tom's last day on earth, that a small band of friends joined his wife and his children to dedicate the bench to his memory. Quite coincidentally, it had been placed in the very spot where Tom had passed from this life into the next. Near it was an older bench, bearing the name's of a couple who had been some of the first new friends Dori and Tom had made after their move to Nashville from Los Angeles. Tom had sat on that bench before breathing his last and leaving us -- for a time.

And that was the reality of which we all spoke -- and the truth we acknowledged in our commemoration; that we will see Tom again; that we all will be together again one day in the presence of our Lord Yeshua -- Jesus!

Memories were shared; stories were told; poems were read; prayers were said; laughs were had; tears were shed. It was a sweet and fitting tribute to an irreplaceable soul. One of the realizations we all had was that, to each of us, Tom was our best friend! He made each of us feel that we were the most special and treasured person in his life, even though we knew there were others with whom he enjoyed that same closeness! Somehow, he could share himself completely with you -- encouraging you, inspiring you, building you up -- and still have enough left over to do the same with myriad others who had the blessing of knowing him -- and calling him friend!

None of us will ever have another like him -- and the loss is still palpable. Therefore, it was fitting -- and comforting -- to have the opportunity to remember him on that day and to consecrate that location to his memory. People walking there -- as he and Dori did so often -- will be able to pause and reflect, hold hands and pray, talk and laugh and embrace the moment, all the while reposing on the bench that bears Tom's name.

One colleague of Tom's commented that he thought of it as a piano bench. That was a perfect reflection, creating in all of us the picture of Tom sitting there, surrounded by the beauty of nature, playing hymns of praise to his Creator!

He would like that.

Should you ever have the chance to take a stroll in Edwin Warner Park, Nashville, Tennessee, perhaps you'll be able to sit for a spell and enjoy a moment with God and His handiwork -- courtesy of our friend, Tom Howard.

He would like that as well.

We miss you, Tom; and we will see you again -- but not yet, not yet.

Shalom -- and thanks for listening.