Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

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Christmas Time Devotionals

November 23, 2010

Christmas Themed Devotional Readings: http://darthmaulmakesmesmile.wordpress.com/tag/Christmas-2008/

In 2008 I wrote a series of 28 Christmas-themed devotionals, beginning with http://darthmaulmakesmesmile.wordpress.com/2008/11/24/christmas01/.

At the time, I wrote:

I thought I’d take some time out to share a few thoughts on Christmas in the month to come, as a sort-of non-denominational pre-Christmas Advent devotional and musings column. I hope that it brings you some light, inspiration and excitement as we remind ourselves of the true meaning of the festive occasion.

I believe it is still relevant and hope you will consider reading it as part of your spiritual journey during December.

The devotionals incorporate Bible scriptures and links to further readings on related topics of faith.

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Beauty

September 27, 2010

If I can’t be beautiful, can I at least have the capacity to create something beautiful?

All right, I know, that comment alone goes against everything I believe philosophically, rationally, sociologically, historically, spiritually and scripturally about the true definition of beauty… but sometimes, looking at beautiful photographs of beautiful women in my general forays into art/photography land leaves me feeling a little bit crushed and hollowed out. Why can’t I look like that?

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Apologetics Links: Genesis 1 & 2 – contradictory?

September 6, 2010

A frequently asked apologetics question (and, admittedly, one that never really crossed my mind even in my most skeptical anti-Bible beliefs) is the perceived contradiction between the first two chapters of Genesis. My simplest preferred answer to this is that Genesis 2 is merely a fleshing out of the details of Genesis 1:24-31.

All links accessed 6 September 2010.

http://creation.com/genesis-contradictions

http://www.gotquestions.org/two-Creation-accounts.html

http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2010/09/03/feedback-genesis-1-and-2#

http://www.tektonics.org/jedp/creationtwo.html

http://creation.com/whats-in-a-name

http://www.christiananswers.net/q-eden/edn-ordercreation.html

Read Genesis Chapter 1 at Bible Study Tools (New King James Version)

Read Genesis Chapter 2 at Bible Study Tools (New King James Version)

*This post is not dealing with the issue of whether or not Genesis should be taken literally, just whether or not the first two chapters of the Bible contradict each other. Further information on the issue of historicity of Genesis can be found at the websites linked above, and clarifying questions should be directed to those websites.

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Article by Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

September 4, 2010

Hipster Faith | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

Good article that I just read.

My questions of late have dealt with a lot of this stuff. Yes, I appreciate the sentiments expressed by what this article calls ‘hipster Christians,’ but as someone who travelled in the opposite direction: from outsider to following Christ: I am troubled by what I see as merely fashionable rebellion.

Do we need to be any of this? Do we need to be worldly tattooed conservative semi-rebels who pretend we’re cool because we swear in church and wear tight jeans? Do we need to be ultra-conservative somber perfect politically right-wing killjoys? Do we need to go hear shock jock preachers who purport to hold the real answers for a postmodern world and be manipulated into thinking that we are somehow less narrow minded and less judgemental and more like Jesus now?

Why can’t we just be ourselves and let Jesus shape us as He has intended?

Church and Christianity in general have been a source of significant disappointment for me in recent months. If it weren’t for the shining example of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, not to mention my love of the Bible and the close friends in whom I see Christ’s hands and feet, and the intelligent individuals with whom I’ve discussed theology and apologetics, it would be very difficult for me to remain in church.

I have so much more to say on this topic but haven’t yet worked out a way to articulate it, so I’ll leave it at that. This university essay won’t write itself. I will try to return to this issue after higher priority work is out of the way; though I suspect that it is an issue that won’t leave me in the first place.

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Christian Apologetics Resources

September 1, 2010

1 Peter 3:15-16 reads:

But in your hearts set apart Christ as LORD. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

(New International Version, http://www.biblestudytools.com/1-peter/3.html)

Knowing the impact that Christians who follow this instruction have had in my own life, I have sought to follow it as closely as possible. To be able to “give an answer” when I can. Perhaps my reputation for doing this spread  a little amongst my fellow churchgoers, because I have found more and more recently that I get asked a lot of questions. Admittedly, my response often resorts to a line that I taught to members of the Bible study groups I used to lead: “I am not sure I can answer your question, but if you really want an answer, I will try to find one.”

Usually, when trying to answer people’s genuine questions*, or at least set them in a helpful direction, I generally refer them to one of several websites. In light of a recent increase in the number of questions I’ve been asked, here follows a list of the websites I have found most useful in helping fellow believers consider possible answers to their faith dilemmas.

* Genuine questions from genuine open-minded seekers, as in, not questions for the sake of being irritating!

I list these with the clear understanding that no apologetics ministry is infallible, and that all statements of faith must be measured against the Word of God (the Bible). I am also a  firm believer in academic freedom-of-thought, where all views deserve a reasonable voice in discourse.

If you have any suggested apologetics links, feel free to list them in the comments boxes. Be aware that more than one or two links will probably result in your comments being filtered for moderation / spam!

Creation Ministries International (Australia)

Creation: Frequently Asked Questions (Australia)

Creation Magazine (Australia)

Leadership U

Master Books

Every Student

Alien Intrusion (Australia)

Christian Answers

Josh McDowell

Institute for Creation Research

Probe Ministries

Archaeological Diggings Magazine

Ancient Days

Tekton Apologetics Ministry

Messiah Comes

Koorong Books – Academic (Australia)

Biblical Hermeneutics (Australia)

Kevin Conner E-Store (Australia)

RZIM

There are many, many books available on apologetics topics. Some books that I have read and found helpful are:

More than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell

The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey

The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

In Six Days edited by John F. Ashton

The Creation Answers Book by Don Batten et. al.

Jesus Among Other  Gods by Ravi Zacharias

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Identity Semi-Crisis

February 18, 2010

*Facebook readers are invited to view the original post. Simply go to http://darthmaulmakesmesmile.wordpress.com/2010/02/18/identity-semi-crisis/.*

Maybe it’s just the cold and flu medicine speaking, but I am having one of those weird pondering and musing weeks. Well, I guess it’s not that weird and unusual for me. It’s something akin to an identity crisis, I suppose.

Here’s my life in a series of confusing something-or-others. Paradoxes?

Warning: gross generalisations to follow. And I’m not attacking any one individual or person. Actually, I’m not attacking anyone, full stop. Please read it in the semi-amused observational curious questioning tone in which I have pondered it!

  • I’m in my late 20s, married with two school aged children. Few other late-20 something woman I know in my friendship circles have children as old as mine. In fact, few of them are in relationships, and those that are don’t necessarily have children. Those that do have children have newborns. The fellow mums of my children’s classmates seem to average in their mid-30s to mid-40s. I am not trying to be ageist, so please don’t take it that way. It just occurs to me that I don’t really fit in anywhere in my peer circles. As far as school mums go, I’m the little kid Gen Y who likes abrasive rock music and comical t-shirts and jeans and knows how to use computers. As far as my fellow 20-somethings go, I’m the socially malfunctioning old housewife who can’t afford an iPhone and who can’t go out on most nights because my kids go to bed early and my husband works late. (Being a mum is tiring work!)
  • As far as the 20-something mums go, most of them don’t appear interested in what I have to offer them as a fellow mother who is slightly ahead of them on the journey of parenthood. They seem to have a preference for asking their single, unmarried, non-parent peer friends for input than a mum with school aged kids who’s been-there, done that. Perhaps parenting styles and methods have changed a lot in the last eight years. Let’s face it, my hippy-esque preference for carrying the baby, raising the kids vegetarian, feeding babies on demand, and breastfeeding for almost two years doesn’t mesh well with the controlled feeding, timed, early introduction of solids, everything by-the-clock inflexible routines promoted in inexplicably popular parenting books.
  • I’m a country town girl living (rather miserably) in the suburbs.
  • I’m an ex-Catholic, ex-New Age, born again Spirit filled follower of Jesus. To the Catholics in my life, I probably come across as a bit over-enthusiastic about the whole Jesus thing. To the New Ager friends, well, they’re pretty open minded but understandably skeptical about Jesus followers. To the born againers, I’m potentially dangerous. (Insert LOL here.)
  • I find I feel closest to God when I am out in the peace and solitude of rural and bushland Australia, where I can listen to the birds, feel the wind in the trees, smell flowers, touch the earth, watch the clouds rolling across the sky. Somehow I have ended up in a non-denominational Pentecostal mega-church of several thousand believers. For many of them, they feel closest to God in the community of believers. The loud, musically oriented community of believers! (It is a brilliant Christian community and I love it.)
  • I am an outdoorsy person who has myriad allergies to plant pollens, animals and pollution. Sigh!
  • I am a quiet person who gets a kick out of public speaking.
  • I’m the token born-again Christian in an extended family of Catholics,  lapsed Catholics, New Agers and Atheists.
  • I am an artsy, writing-loving person who doesn’t seem to have heaps of talent in either area.
  • I want to be cool but I’m a nerd.
  • I’m a lacto-ovo vegetarian who grew up in beef and dairy-farming country.
  • I detest blind ritualism but I choose to celebrate the old Catholic feasts on which I was raised: Easter, Advent, Christmas, and Lent.
  • I’m pretty sure God has been speaking to me about my need to spend this year in a recovery and restoration mode: taking time out to pray, to study the Bible, to not exhaust myself in church activities, to focus on my children and my university studies. So it sometimes confuses me when other Christian women suggest that I am not involved enough in church and Christian activities. Is not following God’s word to me for this season greater than going along with the crowd?

All this has left me feeling like I really don’t fit in anywhere. I’m not trying to complain. This isn’t a whinge fest. It just makes me wonder what I’m meant to be when I don’t really fit in with what the people around me are doing! I guess I’ve never particularly liked being the same as everyone else, anyway. Life is more interesting when it’s diverse.

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Following Jesus – 4 – The Name

October 5, 2009

Jesus – what image comes to mind at His name? In my childhood, it meant that white guy hanging on the cross statue in our Church. I knew He was a miracle worker and that He taught people a highly moral lifestyle. I knew He was called the Son of God and that He was part of a Trinity. Still, it was merely head knowledge. In my teen years, He became symbolic of what I thought was a dead religion that persisted despite ‘scientific evidence’ to the contrary… a religion that was authoritarian and legalistic. In my early years as a university student, He once again became a good moral teacher. I knew a few people who called themselves His followers; and they managed to demonstrate this in their words and actions. Their lifestyle intrigued me – I wanted to know what made them so different. Their example drew me in. Of course, I tried to deflect their influence – I had hundreds of questions, many I thought would be devastating to their Christian faith, but they patiently gave answers (1 Peter 3) and treated me with a kindness I knew I did not deserve.

Maybe, when we hear Jesus’ name, the image that comes to mind too often is that of His followers. And not the ‘good’ ones. It’s the weird ones who go a bit ultra-mystical. Or the sort who seem to think the Good News of the Gospel is all about making more money. Or the types who seem to take delight in their moral superiority and use it to attack non-Christians. Maybe it’s the type who think Christianity is an excuse to judge someone else, ask people to ‘pray for that bad person,’ and then tell that person that they’re praying that they’ll escape God’s judgement. Or perhaps it’s the ‘Christian’ whose outlook seems to be fairly racist, bloodthirsty and committed to their own culture’s version of ‘success.’

Still, I don’t want to be negative, and I don’t want to pretend that somehow my own Christian walk has been exemplary. See, the thing that scares me is that maybe, for the many people in my life who do not believe in Jesus, when they hear the name ‘Jesus,’ they’re going to think of me. My life. My example. My words and actions. How have I treated them? Have I come across as narrow and judgemental? Or materialistic? Or moralistic and legalistic?

One scary thing about being a follower of Jesus is that my own life and example could have an impact – whether positive or negative – on the people around me. When some social issue comes into a conversation – some political thing, or maybe a moral issue like abortion – how are they going to interpret my response? Will I be loving and merciful, like my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, or will I be the hellfire and brimstone Bible thumper that leaves them wishing they hadn’t asked?

I don’t know how right it is, but I like to point people to Jesus Himself. As He is described in the Bible. Perhaps not enough people have read the Four Gospels these days for me to assume that people know the records of His life. The Bible records that, as a child, He and His family had to flee the violent ruler of their nation and seek refuge in Egypt (Matthew 2). As an adult, He worked at the family trade – carpentry (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3) – before beginning His ministry; which was marked by miracles (Matthew 11:20; Mark 6:2; Luke 19:37; John 10:25), astounding teachings (Matthew 7:28; Matthew 13:54; Matthew 22:33; Luke 4:36);and violent persecution (Matthew 26:4; Mark 14:1; John 7:25). He was murdered, but He rose again to life (Luke Chapters 23-24). Then, shortly after His resurrection, He ascended to Heaven (Acts Chapter 1). He then sent the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity, to Earth to inhabit His followers and empower them to live their lives for God (Mark 1:8; Luke 11:13; John 14:26).

One of the most astounding things Jesus said about Himself was this:

John 14:6 (NIV)

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

I used to think that rather offensive a statement. In my early Christian walk, I then tried to provide elaborate reasons and explanations for it. Lately I’ve been more inclined to suggest that there’s only a couple of ways to take this statement:

If Jesus is truly God Incarnate, the Creator, Sustainer, Saviour, and Redeemer of all Creation, then He is well within His rights to make a statement that, coming from a mere mortal, would be ridiculous – or a sign of insanity. That is, God is well within His right to be the decider of issues of eternity and salvation.

If He is insane, then one must wonder how He also managed to revolutionise the way that humans treat each other. We may well take for granted His teachings on justice, mercy, kindness, charity, forgiveness and goodness – but these values are not particularly intrinsic to humans, are they? Look at the broken down world, where one side of the world is dying from starvation and the other is dying from diseases resulting from overeating; where racism and war and hatred are daily occurrences; where the elderly are beaten and the young are abused and the unborn are routinely murdered; where people engage in incredible acts of cruelty towards our fellow creatures; where the wilderness is butchered for profits; where we know the right way to live but choose the selfish, hedonistic options instead.

With more than a little hint of C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, I am convinced that Jesus is either Lord, Liar or Lunatic. His amazing lifestyle, teachings, and descriptions of Himself don’t leave room for much else.

Following Jesus

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