Sunday, May 08, 2011
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
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
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.
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
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.’