Posts Tagged ‘Christian living’

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musings on Psalm 139

March 29, 2011

Psalm 139 – 13 For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them. (NKJV)

Please excuse me for asking what will no doubt come across as a stupid question to my theologically inclined friends, but here goes. Psalm 139 says, to me, that God made each individual with a specificity and attention to detail. However, can this not also be a potentially negative thing*? Or is it an inherently uplifting and positive scripture?

It seems too easy to perhaps draw out what will probably sound incredibly shallow**: if God created me to be like this, why? Why this… broken ugly hideous visage? The faults? The imperfections? Okay, I know the whole thing about how we live in a broken fallen world that was once very good, since damaged, one day to be restored. But, is that it? Is that all there is to it? To the question of one’s fundamental worth?

Anyway, just wondering. I don’t know if anyone has any thoughts on it but any comments would be welcome. I have a working feminist position on the issue (initially sparked by reading Wolf’s The Beauty Myth) but I have largely been disappointed with Christian approaches to the concept of beauty.

For the record, I do not want to impose any particular mould (“iron maiden” as Wolf described) upon other women; I disagree with externalised, cultural definitions of beauty as being far too narrow to encompass the breadth of human female variety. Problem is, I find it very easy to take it out on myself.

 

*not to imply that the only valid positions are necessarily positive

** but I am confident I’m not the only one who thinks these things

 

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Christmas Time Devotionals

November 23, 2010

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

In 2008 I wrote a series of 28 Christmas-themed devotionals, beginning with https://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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Article: “An Equal-Opportunity Destroyer”

September 22, 2010

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/september/24.71.html

Extract:

“If you’ve heard the word porn in church recently, in a small group or from the pulpit, chances are you hardly blinked. Thanks to ministries like Promise Keepers and Operation Integrity, the research of sex addiction expert Patrick Carnes and neuroscientist William Struthers, and individuals courageous enough to admit they have a problem, American churches have squarely faced porn’s destructive and tragic effects. We know porn is highly addictive, and we have more tools than ever to break its stranglehold. Praise God.” Read More.

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Captivating

September 14, 2010

Today I picked up an “old friend” of a book – John Eldredge and Stasi Eldredge’s Captivating (2005). I simply can’t recommend it enough. It is one of the (sadly) very few Christian women’s books that I have read, and re-read, and been transformed by.

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Thoughts on Australian politics

July 20, 2010

At the risk of inadvertently turning this into a political blog, I want to highlight the important issue of chaplains in Australian schools.

In recent times, chaplains have been made available in many schools to help students work through their issues. I have, as a parent, even employed the services of my children’s school chaplains when one of my kids was struggling with some issues. The chaplains responded quickly and provided excellent standards of counselling and assistance for my child, who subsequently saw a great improvement in social relationships with other children at school.

Some politicians (particularly the left wing, though some of those have supported chaplaincy) have suggested that the widespread religious education programmes in Australian public (Government-operated) schools and chaplaincy should be replaced in favour of non-religious “ethics” classes and psychologists.

While I understand the arguments in favour of this position, I personally believe that the holistic care of a chaplain (not just mental and emotional but also spiritual) and the opportunity for children to learn about the spiritual/ religious foundations of many Australians’ lifestyles are important and significant.

For fellow Australians who are interested in learning more about what chaplaincy is about, and who want to see it continued after the next election, please look at these websites:

National School Chaplaincy Association (with information on contacting your local representative in support of chaplaincy)

Access Ministries – chaplains and religious education teachers

Here are some articles on how chaplains and religious ministers have helped in the aftermath of the Black Saturday crisis, in early 2009 when bushfires claimed the lives of hundreds of Victorians.

“Parishes, chaplains step up to help fire victims”

“A Chaplain’s Story”

“The Firefighters”

National Research Findings on Chaplaincy in Australian Schools (Link to a PDF)

“Responding to the Bush Fire Tragedy”

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Article: Churches Adopt Adoption

July 8, 2010

I just read this article in Christianity Today, “Churches Adopt Adoption“. It’s such an exciting thought that people are seeking positive change to impact the lives children. How heartbreaking, then, was the thought of an adoptive mother putting her 8 year old boy on a plane because she, quote, “I no longer wish to parent this child.” As the mother of an 8 year old, I can’t even imagine what hardship a mother would have gone through to feel that the only solution would be to send her little boy on a plane back to his home country. However, at the risk of saying too much on a topic I don’t know enough about, I’ll just leave it at that.

Here’s the link: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/july/11.23.html?start=1

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The Awesome Song of Songs + a lament on self-righteous singles

May 12, 2010

Reading this on facebook? Please view and comment at the original post!

*Warning: big generalisations

Gledhill, T. (1994) The Message of the Song of Songs. Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press.

Koorong Books

If you read only one Bible study on Song of Songs, make it this one. It covers a lot of detail and is a positive read. It is so refreshing to read a Bible study text that affirms sexuality, rather than treating it as something to be dissected, abhorred and feared.

Today I read an article on a Christian website that seemed to characterise marriage as God’s ‘back-up’ plan for the Christian who has no self-control. It appeared to be a simplistic dichotomy between married versus unmarried. The single Christian is perceived as somehow superior to the married Christian.

Usually I find the articles on that site as being high quality and excellent; but this particular article really did come across as the poorly thought-out. Perhaps I misunderstood it. The author is clearly writing as a single man – there is a peculiar kind of arrogance (for want of a better word) that a lot of young single Christian men seem to have regarding their lifestyle / lifestage.

These foolish attitudes ignore the original created very goodness of marriage (Genesis 1 and 2). It also implies that somehow God sees the single as greater  than the married. Yet, as I repeatedly tell my peers, marriage is what has transformed me – it is through marriage and parenthood that I came to know Christ, that I shed much selfishness, that I have had to learn grace, patience, endurance, forgiveness and generosity. I have had to learn self-sacrifice. I can no longer go out to drunken parties and sleep in late and do what I feel like, because it is not about me. I can’t just buy what I want – the money is not mine but ours. Everything I do impacts on the lives of other people. I am an individual, yes, but I am a social being who exists within the context of family and community. Not that I consider myself communitarian, but we are more than just our individuality – we are all social creatures, designed in the image of a Triune God, purposed for LOVE, and love can only exist when we realise that ‘I’ is not the centre of the universe. (Yes, obviously single people are capable of love so please don’t think I somehow characterise “them” as the “Other” or as soulless robots.)

Now, I have read other articles by the same author that I have found useful and insightful. However, I must admit that these days I find little substance in Christian preaching that comes from young, unmarried, determinedly and self-righteously single (as opposed to those who are genuinely called by God and gifted to walk in celibacy / singleness). It simply rarely applies to my life stage. I am in my 20s and trying to discover who I am and where I am meant to go, as a woman, as a wife, as a mother and daughter and sister and cousin and niece, as a student and in my future career, and as a member of a local community of followers of Christ. There is a level of annoyance that I experience when unmarried Christians my own age start preaching on the benefits of what appears to be a generally self-absorbed life style. Singleness does not equal greater devotion to God. When I am scraping together money to pay another set of bills, trying to keep my kids in private Christian school, when I really would rather just have that money to buy myself some new jeans, or I’m trying to be patient towards my husband, trying to ignore my own convenience to serve my family, well – that’s when God comes in. Because only He can give me the grace, strength and energy that I need to get through these challenges. Only He can provide when the bills cost more than our income. Only He can help me create a healthy marriage.

I understand that many young Christians may be called to a time of singleness, but I think some unnecessarily inflate their pride by assuming that they are too good for marriage, that marriage is God’s Plan B. It also ignores the practical realities of marriage and parenthood in the Christian context – leave it too late and biology will have its way: the human female body is, I have heard, designed to reach peak child-bearing age in the mid-20s. It all goes downhill from there. A young woman who ever wants the possibility of having a family will need to bear this in mind before it is too late.

Gledhill’s Song of Songs is an excellent study that shows that sex really is designed by God as part of the whole human experience. I mean, it really does become a thing of beauty when considered through God’s eyes. It is a well-written and balanced text and I certainly recommend it, particularly to married or almost-married Christians. I for one would love to see Christians, in general, shed their bizarre hang ups and legalistic ideas regarding sex. I do get tired of the Christian marriage books (usually American, it seems to me) that treat sex in marriage as a series of “do nots” but miss out on the glorious complexity of the human being and the marriage relationship.

I also get tired of reading complicated manuals on dating, etc. Really, is it that complex?All this stuff on ‘the girl should not ask a guy out’, ‘you should have your first chaperoned date by age 15’, ‘some kinds of sex between a man and wife are sinful’… blegh. Whatever. If we spend all our time constructing these difficult and complicated and not-in-the-Bible rules, we’re going to miss out on the glorious full and abundant life God has for us. That extends to making up some rules, based on half-read Bible verses, about how God is disappointed every time a Christian gets married. Because He’s not disappointed. Marriage is given as an example of the love Christ has for His church. It is by no means an inferior state of being.

*Disclaimer – I am not trying to bag single Christians. I do not believe that married or unmarried is the argument or debate here. We are all unique and we need to ask God to open our eyes to what He would have us do.

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Identity Semi-Crisis

February 18, 2010

*Facebook readers are invited to view the original post. Simply go to https://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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Great article I just read

December 11, 2009

http://www.esquire.com/features/best-and-brightest-2009/shane-claiborne-1209

I know… Esquire? But it’s a great article for Christian and non-Christian alike. Check it out!

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Slavery

November 21, 2009

At church this evening, they spent some time exploring the issue of modern day slavery. I guess it’s one of those things that sits in the back of my mind. It’s a surprise that slavery is still a very real, very common practise. Surely, in this day and age, we would think ourselves enlightened enough to completely abolish such evils. So, when I learnt that slavery is most certainly extant across most of the world, it was really quite troubling.

Not having the knowledge nor expertise to formulate a commentary, I simply list here a couple of links that might prove useful for the reader who wants to learn more.

http://www.worldvision.com.au/ourwork/Solutions/DontTradeLives.aspx

http://www.fairtrade.com.au/

http://www.myspace.com/lc2lc

http://www.joyfulheart.com/misc/newton.htm

http://www.melbourne.anglican.com.au/main.php?pg=news&news_id=18665&s=1470

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/abolition/slavery_business_gallery_05.shtml

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/wilberforce_william.shtml

(All links accessed 21 November 2009.)

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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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Following Jesus – 3 – Nature

September 28, 2009

Abell 2667 - From www.nasaimages.org

Abell 2667 - From http://www.nasaimages.org

Nature is full of some incredible things. The magnificent beauty of the galaxies. The colour and scent of flowers. The satisfaction of eating fresh vegetables that have grown in the garden. The majesty of the large beasts. The cuteness of the small beasts!

There’s some amazing stuff out there. The more that humans explore nature, the more we find. The further we travel, the more stars we find. The smaller the objects we can see, the more layers of reality are discovered. The intricate workings of the human body still have their many mysteries. Even the simplest life form is incredibly complex.

God is amazingly creative. He’s made a world of such awesome wonders. It’s amazing how creation isn’t just functional, it’s beautiful. Think of the creatures that inhabit the dark depths of the ocean but are spectacularly colourful. Or the incredible designs on butterfly wings.

The interesting thing with following Jesus is that nature takes on a new significance: nature has been made by a loving creator for His purposes and enjoyment. He has made humanity, in His image and likeness, to dwell in this world of matter.

The spiritual life isn’t about denying the material things, but putting them in their correct priority. We do not pretend that suffering doesn’t exist; we use what we have to alleviate suffering.

Luke 12:33 (NIV)

Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

Nature is not, then, a deity in itself. It has been made by The Deity, to serve His purposes. However, nowhere do I see in the Bible that this is permission to plunder the Earth’s resources. Indeed, when we damage the environment, we destroy the world in which other people live. Caring for the environment is, I believe, a reasonable way of responding to God’s creation. Think of how He made a beautiful Garden, Eden, and placed the man and woman there to tend it and care for it. He did not say, “go and destroy this Garden in your quest for material possessions.”

Genesis 2:15

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

I read a while back an interesting idea that Christian environmentalism incorporates the human element.* Rather than deifying nature, and downgrading humans, it seeks to take into account how the human treatment of the planet affects not only nature but all humanity, too. It included an awareness of such things as the manufacturing conditions of the products we buy. I personally believe there are many good environmentalist arguments for vegetarianism, for example, as well as acknowledging that many foods suitable for human consumption are instead fed to farm animals, which are then consumed by the small proportion of rich Westerners who can afford fast food. I digress. What was the point I was trying to make? Ah, yes – that being a follower of Jesus necessarily impacts on the way I perceive nature.

All too often we followers of Jesus have been linked to a philosophy of guns, hunting, destruction of the planet, and cruelty to animals and even to our fellow humans. But surely there is a distinction between religious ‘Christianity,’ in which man-made rules become the highest law; and a life genuinely lived following the Lord Jesus Christ and living as those called to tend His Garden? While such things – environmentalism, issues of diet, and our treatment of nature – may well be secondary to the primary issue of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, one of our greatest apologetics is found in the way we live our life.

Peter 3:15-16 (NCV)

But respect Christ as the holy Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have, but answer in a gentle way and with respect. Keep a clear conscience so that those who speak evil of your good life in Christ will be made ashamed.

Finally, acknowledging God as Creator has significant effects on my life: I have Someone to thank for the glorious wonders of nature. I can enjoy and appreciate animals, plants, the changing seasons, the stars, the weather, the land formations… I can also be creative – as I am made in the likeness of Creator God, so He has bestowed at least a little of His creativity on all His people. I have a reason to care what happens to the planet, and to do what I can to look after the environment. And I can enjoy the spectacular discoveries of the natural sciences, as human exploration reveals more and more of God’s spectacular works.

*David Tyler, Creation – Chance or Design?

Following Jesus

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Following Jesus – 1 – Testimonies

September 14, 2009

Revelation 12:10-11 (NIV)

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”

1 John 5:11 (NKJV)

And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.

I became a follower of Jesus just over seven years ago. It was an amazing, pivotal moment in my life. Where once it had seemed as though the whole world was dark and doom, and I felt despairing and fearful, encountering Jesus was like someone throwing the light switch on the world – I had a glimpse of a world bigger than me, greater than I could imagine. Even though things were still broken, light shone through the cracks.

It was a very personal experience, one that I’ve shared before at various church meetings and with other believers (and a few non-believers!). In some ways, I think my testimony – that is, my story of meeting Jesus – may seem unique, as I had been involved in occult belief systems prior to this time in my life. Yet, every committed follower of Jesus I have met has a story of how they arrived at their beliefs.

For some, their story is one of grace and mercy throughout their lives. They have grown up in a Christian family, or maybe somehow became involved in a Church from a young age. Their story is one of a progressive growth and realisation of the personal connection they have with Jesus. Many of these people have a point – or series of points – in their life, where they made a commitment to following Jesus. It was no longer about their parents’ faith, nor going along with the crowd. It was realising that they were in desperate need of a Saviour. Some may have rebelled against what they saw as their religious upbringing, only to eventually come back to the community of believers.

In my own ‘conversion’ – a convenient term; but I don’t think it quite conveys the reality of the experience of becoming a follower of Christ – I had a lot of questions that needed answering. It took well over a year of learning about Christianity before I was willing to take a leap of faith and follow Jesus. Not only questions, but there was a lot of baggage in my emotional and spiritual life that had to be examined. I was carrying a lot of hurt and unforgiveness towards others; yet here was Jesus declaring that we must be forgiving if we desire to follow Him (Matthew 6:12, 14).

Becoming a follower of Christ also meant a series of difficult choices. Everything in my life had to be examined. Every choice and decision. Difficult circumstances were plentiful, but now I was presented with a new question – give in to despair or trust that maybe God can bring good out of the hard times? (Romans 8:28.)

Following Jesus

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ICR on Progressive Creationism

September 9, 2009

Here’s a link to an interesting article (accessed 1 September 2009), talking about the basics of ‘progressive creationism,’ one of the many attempts to form a theory that combines popular science with Biblical Creation:

http://www.icr.org/article/progressive-creationism/

Quote from the article: “We conclude that progressive revelation—each additional verse shedding infallible light on previous revelation—demonstrates conclusively that “old-earth Progressive Creationism” must be abandoned by those who claim to believe that God has not erred in His written revelation of truth in the sixty-six books of the Bible.”

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The Wonderful Variety of the Body of Christ

June 7, 2009

1 Corinthians 12:4-27 (TNIV)

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. 12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body–whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

 Lately I’ve noticed that a lot of Christians around me, for whatever reason, have really, really strong opinions about what a real Christian is or is not. Now, I’m not going to pretend that my views are somehow greater or stronger or better reasoned than theirs, but a few thoughts have come to my mind. It’s all part of this … well, not liberal… not postmodernist… but something like that Christianity. It tends to be cynical, apologetics-oriented, and critical. And those aren’t necessarily bad things. In fact, I’m a lot like that. I like answers, lots of answers. I hate hypocrisy and don’t get it when people try to think that Jesus supports their guns, beers, violence and racism religion. (Have they even read their Bibles?) But sometimes it goes a step further than that.

To generalise (and not quoting anyone specific, here), here are some of the sorts of statements one might hear / read (some exaggerated, some not):

“Jesus didn’t say, ‘Let’s all go into politics and lobby the Government on Christian morals.’”

“The Bible says more about the poor than anything else. Unless you roll up your sleeves and serve the poor, you won’t go to Heaven.”

“All Christians should be concerned with the pro-life cause. Millions of babies have been murdered in the name of convenience, and all to support a billion dollar industry.”

“Christians should stop thinking so much about abortion and do something about the millions of children dying from starvation.”

“Christians all need to stop being so greedy and start thinking about the environment. We are called to be good stewards of God’s green Earth.”

 “Christians need to be wary of getting caught up in the environment. That stuff is the domain of hippies, pagans and idolaters.”

 “Christians shouldn’t worry about animal welfare. Let’s worry about people instead.”

“Jesus was a vegetarian, wasn’t He?”

 “Christians shouldn’t take their Bibles so seriously that all they do is study the Word. Some Christians actually believe the Bible – but instead of worrying about believing it, shouldn’t we just be trying to imitate Jesus?”

“Not enough Christians believe the Bible. If we actually believed God’s Word we might be compelled to imitate Christ, as He has commanded us.”

The list could go on and on. A world of opinionated believers, all of whom have an individual calling and gifting and uniqueness. All involved in different styles and traditions of Christian church and community. All having different careers.

I love the above Scripture in 1 Corinthians 12, because it reminds us that we all have a role to play. And for each of us, our roles might seem like the most important thing. And anyone else who doesn’t hold it as a priority might be, in our mind, not a ‘true’ follower of Christ.

 I have encountered missionary-types who find it unthinkable that I have no particular inkling to travel overseas. I have vague ideas of one day seeing Europe, but even this has more to do with my own search for my ancient ancestors’ heritage. I am very happily Australian. My belief that my “own backyard,” that is, my local community, has more than enough needy people, that I don’t need to travel overseas to find the needy, doesn’t sound like a good explanation to a lot of internationally-minded people. So, who is right or wrong? Maybe we can both be right, as long of us is following our unique callings in life.

The work of travelling missionaries is spectacularly important. I have met some amazing, wonderful, inspiring people who have taken on huge risks. They have travelled through jungles to meet with impoverished people living in garbage dumps and gathering scrap metal to try and make a living; they go and work in developing nations communities to institute positive social change, such as human rights action, distributing life saving medicines and helping people in construction work; they go to remote communities and teach sustainable farming methods. It is brilliant and admirable. Yet, not all of us feel called to go there. We can certainly support the work – through prayer, financial assistance and being a friend to missionaries. However, to be able to send financial aid, for example, requires holding down a job of some description, doesn’t it. In all practicality, of course. Yes God works through prayer, but He also works through the practical.

Then there are people who devote their lives to studying and teaching the Word of God. They seek out fresh revelation and teach people to apply the Word to their daily lives. They use their minds to study and learn the most amazing book in existence. They help the rest of us to understand and develop our theology, and to appreciate the wonder of God. Does that mean, therefore, that all of us, are called to be theologians? No, of course not – but that doesn’t mean theology is not an important task.

There are people I know who are called to work in the ‘real’ world. They are not meant to be cloistered in the employment of a local Church. ( They don’t feel the inkling to attend Bible College – and, among my peers, it seems that 2 out of every 3 is a Bible College student!)  No, they carry the hope of the Gospel and (hopefully) Godly, ethical business practises, and a generous spirit, to their workplaces. Whether that’s as a cleaner, business person, academic, professional, sportsperson – everywhere they are, they are to be the light of the world.

So, why then, do we spend so much time attacking each other? Why is it so terrible that so-and-so is actually called to serve God in business (for a convenient example)? Yes, it is possible. It’s not a prosperity Gospel thing. It’s a definite possibility that there are some individuals who may just be called to work in business, and earn money to serve the needs of the Church. They would be abusing this calling if they were rolling in cash and ignoring the needy and buying up on gold chains and goodness knows what. But there are some good business men and women out there who love God and love His people and support the Church through their financial savvy.

Why is it that some people would change the Gospel of salvation by grace alone (Ephesians 2) to a Gospel of works – no matter how noble those works may be? Yes, we are to do good works (also found in Ephesians 2, not to mention the wonderful and challenging book of James), but not as a way of earning God’s love – it is in order to express that love and joy and purpose that we find in His glorious grace.

I would love to see Churches as communities where each individual is recognised as having unique giftings and callings. Let’s celebrate the diversity, as all the different parts of Christ’s body work together – instead of complaining that each other has the wrong priorities. Whether someone is called to serve God as a secular business employee; housewife and mother; servant to the poor and needy; theologian; pro-life activist; anti-euthanasia activist; environmentalist; scientist; school teacher; animal welfare advocate; anti-slavery activist; cross cultural peacemaker; Government lobbyist; prayerful and devout disciple; preacher and prophet; musician or artist; medical doctor; academic; social activist; a kind friend to gays, hippies, New Agers and all the other unfortunately ostracised human beings out there; a political activist or a politician;… the list goes on…

… Let’s celebrate our differences and uniqueness and work together for a common cause: God’s Kingdom! A kingdom where love, hope and joy reign; where we look on the heart and not on the external.

One of the things I love about my local Church community is the sheer diversity. A lot of different ethnicities are represented: I couldn’t even begin to list them all, but we are  united by our common belief in and love for Jesus. Different types of people attend. We get a huge mixture of visitors, too. A lot of visitors from different denominations. Our Church is not aligned with a particular denomination, which means we get a massive variety in styles of Christian that attend. Personally, I find myself drawn to the company of the “fringe” types, I must add: the Goths and hippies who love Jesus; the metal heads and the comic book geeks; those amazing friends of mine who brave the wilds and seek to share God’s love with the poor in distant countries; and the adept students of the Bible. Oh, but in each person there is so wonderfully unique. Some brilliantly talented creative people. Some who engage in effective ministry through skills like cooking and domestic service. Those who have a brilliant gift for making others feel welcome. I hope that the variety continues to grow.

Links (accessed 7 June 2009)

The Book of James in the Bible  (New International Version)

Ephesians, Chapter 2 (Today’s New International Version)

1 Corinthians 12 with Bible study tools (Today’s New International Version)

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A little Hillsong…

April 13, 2009

Back in 2002, as a new convert to Christianity, it was almost immediately made clear to me that I’d better brush up on my knowledge of all music Hillsong (and, to a slightly lesser extent, Planetshakers). Having never heard of Hillsong before, I really had no clue what or why they were so significant. But it’s almost impossible to be an Australian Christian without meeting people who have made the pilgrimage to Sydney to sing along with a few hundred thousand other Christians. Being a Victorian, I will admit I have little interest in anything Sydney, and will happily stay in the south freezing cold with our all-black dress sense, cheaper housing and oversized population of wannabe writers and artists. Not to mention that there is roughly 1 cafe for every 2 Melbournians (possibly an exaggeration).

Anyway, it was during part of my husband’s and my quest to discover more about his Ukrainian heritage that we discovered that Hillsong have also made themselves a home in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. So, purely for interest’s sake, I present to you the Australian Hillsong worship song “All I Need Is You,” followed by the Ukrainian version. Wow! The similarities are eery, and I think the only obvious difference is the language.

By the way, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the Hillsong United band live once,  when they led worship at my local church, and they were fantastic. They really conveyed such a wonderful heart for God and we saw many teenagers and young adults wanting to learn more about becoming followers of Christ at the end of the night.

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A Bit of a Laugh

December 16, 2008

Here’s some links to a few Christian websites that poke a bit of fun at Church culture. For the jaded, world weary Christian… ! 🙂 And for those of us who are uncomfortable with “This car will be empty in case of rapture” bumper stickers and “Guardian Angel” statues…

Parody News at LarkNews.Com

“Man discovered to have two church families”

http://larknews.com/november_2008/secondary.php?page=1

“Man tired of being used in sermon illustrations”

http://www.larknews.com/december_2008/secondary.php?page=4

“NASA upset at astronaut’s ‘prayer walks'”

http://www.larknews.com/december_2008/secondary.php?page=2

“My church is embarking on something called ’40 days of purpose.’ Can you explain what this is?”

http://larknews.com/july_2004/secondary.php?page=4

“Pastor laments, ‘My son won’t raise hell.’

http://larknews.com/october1_2003/secondary.php?page=3

Christian Culture at Ship of Fools

“12 Days of Kitschmas”

http://shipoffools.com/kitschmas/2008/index.html

“Gadgets for God”

http://shipoffools.com/gadgets/index.html

“Fruit Tube”

http://shipoffools.com/fruittube/index.html

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Long Day At Church

December 8, 2008

20081201-flokot-visualdiary-june08-3jun7Saturday 7 June 2008 – 8 pm-ish

Late at Church. My husband is rostered-on tonight, which means being here for 2 services. We’ve been here since 4pm. It’s great to see my friends but I admit I’m very tired! The sermon topic tonight is envy – I’m feeling very convicted! We’re hanging out in the Church cafe.

*Me, trying to not sleep.

*Daughter, colouring a horse book.

*Son, playing a mobile phone game.

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Articles: environment…

November 28, 2008

Environment, as in, that world in which we live…

Read this inspirational / devotional article at: http://www.davidmccracken.org/Inspiration-Live-in-Environment.php. (Accessed 12 November 2008).

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Apologetics Links: Australian geology

November 25, 2008

http://biblicalgeology.net/Geological-Histories/Wollomombi-Falls-Australia.html

(Accessed 12 November 2008.)

Excerpt from the article:

How landscapes reveal Noah’s Flood

Visualizing the receding floodwaters

by Tas Walker

The Bible tells us that the waters of Noah’s Flood rose and covered the entire globe, destroying every air-breathing land-dwelling animal on earth (Genesis 7:17–24). After that they began to recede (Genesis 8:1–3).

The process of receding water is mentioned repeatedly: ‘the waters receded’ (Genesis 8:1); ‘the water receded steadily from the earth’ (8:3); ‘the waters continued to recede until the tenth month and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible’.

Read full article at: http://biblicalgeology.net/Geological-Histories/Wollomombi-Falls-Australia.html

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