Sunday, May 08, 2011

things I have been thinking about

Things I have been thinking about, or would like to think about more, which I intend to write about at some point in the future:

Where was God in the earthquake, and how should Christians talk about natural disasters?

How big is God, and how should this impact the way I see things and do things?

Which Jesus is the true Jesus? (Before you get worried I am about to become heretical, I am referring to which interpretation of Jesus is correct.)

What does God want me to do with my life? (Not completely sure I will be able to answer this one.)

Is the collateral damage from some forms of evangelism a price worth paying?

How should I pray, and what should I pray for?

How should I view death?

Does it really matter if the first few chapters of Genesis are taken literally or not? And, is evolution actually relevant to philosophical questions about the origins of the universe?

How do we know that the New Testament contains the right books?

Exactly where do we draw the line between the Church as the body of Christ, and the institution or institutions of Christendom? Is it copping out to blame past horrors on the institution rather than the faith?

Ignoring the negative connotations of the label, and ignoring the assumptions surrounding it, what exactly is an "evangelical"? And what exactly is a "liberal"? And which churches have the best view of Christianity and the best interpretation of "what Jesus wanted"?

Phew. I have quite some thinking to do.

Monday, April 18, 2011


I've been hesitating to write on here for a while, because I've been unsure how to tell what has been going on in my life. Basically, I had a kind of Experience, and these kinds of things are always difficult to translate without sounding lesser. I think I'm just going to describe it simply.

A few months ago - the Sunday before the earthquake, I think, actually - I was in church one evening, feeling fine, nothing out of the ordinary. We started singing How Great is our God and suddenly, about halfway through the song, I just felt completely overwhelmed. Overwhelmed, because I felt like I had suddenly had this glimpse backwards through the last ten years or so of my life, and it was a glimpse that showed how good God has been to me. How he has been there for me in all my troubles, how he has provided for me and comforted me. I had to stop singing because I was about to burst into tears.

It's hard to explain... it's like a lot of things suddenly came together for me. I haven't been particularly dwelling on why God let certain things happen, like the death of my mother, but I guess I had been ignoring this issue so I didn't have to think about it. No sudden clarity there, but what I do see now is that if things like that hadn't happened, and if I hadn't had a few difficult years here and there, I just would never have seen how good God is, and how good he can be, and how he looks after me in trouble. I guess it's learning to rely on him, to trust him.

So this has been a pretty big thing for me. And I hope I've managed to translate it to a tiny extent.

Monday, February 28, 2011

running through my mind

Here are some verses and songs that are running through my mind constantly as I face an uncertain future and the effects of the Christchurch earthquake. I can't pretend that I'm not scared, weak, helpless and doubting - but I am comforted by these verses and reminded of a God who made an amazing, powerful and beautiful world and yet cares about ME. We have all been humbled, and yet God lifts me up in a time of distress and reminds me of his overwhelming love and care for us in the midst of crisis.

Psalm 46
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the LORD has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”

The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Romans 8:18-39
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Matthew 11:28-29 (KJV)
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

therefore we will not fear

See my other blog for what is going on currently in Christchurch, New Zealand.

I don't have much to say at present, but here are the words of Sydney's Archbishop Peter Jensen (source):

Anglican Church Diocese of Sydney
Christchurch Prayer Service Thursday 24th February, 2011
St Andrew’s Cathedral
Remarks by Archbishop Dr Peter Jensen

The Bible says, ‘God is our refuge and strength a very present help in time of trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea.’ God’s word also says that we should pray for all people, for all are in the image of the one God who made us all and cares for us all.

As we are meeting here, tremendous efforts are going on in Christchurch to find the lost, to heal the injured, to bring order out of chaos. We long to help; all our compassion is engaged because of our common humanity, but especially because these are our beloved New Zealanders.

To be so far away seems as though we are helpless. But there are gifts we can send, gifts such as people and money. And one of the most practical things we can do is to pray. The God who is our Father and who looks on us is also their Father and looks on them. Even now he is sustaining and blessing all our human efforts to find and to comfort and to restore. He will hear our prayer.

What should we pray for? At one level this is obvious. We should pray for those who grieve the loss of friends and family, we should pray that the rescuers will find any who are alive but trapped; we should pray that the rescuers will be preserved from harm; we should pray that there will be no more earthquakes; we should pray for those in the frontline of care and communication and leadership; we should pray for friends and family; we should pray that essential services will be restored and disease will not break out. For these and a dozen other things we should be asking our loving Father-God to provide.

But there are more than those immediate needs. Christchurch is a great, proud and beautiful city. Its citizens are living in fear, grief and uncertainty. They need immediate help. They also need the help which strengthens and renews the spirit. They will need it in order to go on, to comfort their children, to work together. They will need what the Bible calls faith, hope and love.

Faith that despite this catastrophe God is at work in their lives, God is the rock that will not move and God can be trusted even when the ground shifts and moves;

Hope that with God at work there is a future, that this crisis will come to an end, that God can and will redeem the most impossible situations and that it is a good thing to lift up their eyes to that future and so walk forward;

Love that will heal the broken hearted and the frightened children, love that will reach out to homeless and afflicted and love that will share meagre resources and their very selves with the stranger.

To have faith, and hope and love is vital. But these are matters that we cannot demand they are the gifts of the spirit and especially the gift which God gives us through his Son Jesus Christ. As we pray, therefore, we ask for all the immediate and necessary things which people need; but we must also ask for the things of the spirit which they will also need and which will be part of giving them the courage to go on, saying ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.’

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

merry Christmas!

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:2-6

Saturday, November 13, 2010

growing up polite

I did quite a lot of childcare last weekend (if you need a recap, I have two nieces aged 2 and 4). So much childcare, in fact, that I stayed over at my sister's place for the weekend. On Saturday, it rained cats and dogs and so we had to play inside most of the day. By the time their parents got home, the girls were a bit crazy, and Niece-Aged-4 had a few meltdowns in which she was liable to lash out physically at her sister or her parents. After one such meltdown in which she hit her father, she was sent to her room, and a few minutes later she came out to apologise tearfully to Daddy. 'I'm sorry Daddy! I don't want to hit anyone ever again, never!'

Now, I have no doubt that Niece-Aged-4 really, genuinely felt that, but I suspect that she may, at some point in the short-term future, lash out again. The more time I spend with my nieces, the more I love them and appreciate their unique personalities and all their good points, but I also see the seemingly endless battle their parents face with their tempestuous spirits. Trying not to break their spirits, but to teach them. Teach them how to use their manners, how to treat other people with kindness and respect, and how generally to be a member of society. And the funny thing is that the girls themselves want to be kind. They just can't always control themselves.

And neither can I! I've turned out extremely well-behaved. I am hardly ever rude to people, I don't hit or kick people when they won't share their toys with me, and I tend to come across as a polite, fairly likeable person, even if I am a little too shy sometimes. In secret, though, I'm still the same tempestuous child, slowly gaining a little more self-control over myself, but never enough. I often think to myself "I don't want to [sin] ever again, never!" But it doesn't seem to be enough. I do it anyway.

Romans 7:14-25
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

flexibility and tolerance

Romans 14
Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. 4Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

5One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. 8If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

9For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. 10You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. 11It is written:
" 'As surely as I live,' says the Lord,
'every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will confess to God.' " 12So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

13Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way. 14As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. 15If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. 16Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. 17For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.

19Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.

22So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

I've been thinking about why Paul is important, recently. I was talking to another Christian recently who doesn't like Paul, thinks he was judgmental and didn't deal well with other people and that perhaps a lot of his teachings aren't necessary.

I was surprised because I really like Paul, as a 'character'. He comes across so vividly despite the fact that the books he wrote are almost two thousand years old. I recognise that he may have been a 'difficult' person to be around, in some ways, but I think that is absolutely necessary. The Church needs to hold itself to incredibly high standards and one of his most important roles was to keep the earliest churches solid; straight and true; out of the grip of false teachings and rejecting corruption.

On the other hand, I think he was incredibly necessary for the early Church in his approach to tolerance. Bearing with each other. I think Jesus created the Church and gave its most important instructions, like this: 'By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.' I think Paul showed the people he wrote to what this love might look like. What this love was not. I think Paul helped to address the inevitable misunderstandings of Jesus' teachings that arose throughout a Church that still did not have a written gospel. I hesitate to say that he made Jesus' teachings practical, but I sort of mean that, without saying that Jesus' teaching wasn't practical!!

And I think the fourteenth chapter of Romans is a masterpiece of Paul's (and, of course, the Holy Spirit's). Somehow, it asks so much of each member of the church - put others first, don't put any stumbling block in their way, OR judge them for doing a 'disputable' thing that you may think would be wrong. To love one another and always to work for peace amongst the believers. But it also gives a remarkable freedom to each Christian, to judge from your own conscience what is best, to use the wits God gives you. I LOVE it. If I were dictator of the world, I would insist that every church building had this passage inscribed indelibly on their wall.

However, I think the passage makes it clear that even disputable matters do matter (no pun intended). I think it is implied very carefully as well that this teaching applies to disputable matters. So, this passage doesn't make all the doctrines of the Church a matter of personal choice.