Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What gives us stability in unstable times?

I'm being prompted at the moment to think about the source of stability in my life. I'm looking down the barrel of unemployment as of Monday, and well it's giving me the willies. Not that I haven't been unemployed before. I have been through the redundancy mill twice. But there is something about the not knowing whether I will be unemployed for a week or for months that is very difficult to get my head around. There are so many implications if I don't find work quickly. And part of the difficulty is that I am only looking for part-time contract work in IT, which isn't common. I have been very blessed to have had that kind of role for the last two years, which has enabled me to study part-time at Bible College.

But in amongst my angst I've been thinking about what can be relied on when life is uncertain. I read a verse the other day that has stuck in my head since. "...we know and rely on the love God has for us..." 1 Jn 4:16. The context of the verse is in dealing with our eternal salvation and that our salvation is reliant on the love God has for us, but it is giving me some peace in amongst my angst. Whatever happens I know and can rely on the love God has for me. Not to mention Romans 8:28 :-).

God bless,

Friday, April 18, 2008

If this is art, then call me uncultured

I read today about a college student in the US who has been artificially inseminating herself, and then taking abortifacients in order to suffer miscarriage. She has been using video footage of herself having the miscarriages and the bloody remains of her murdered children, as ART.

If you think I am joking you can read all about it at http://yaledailynews.com/articles/view/24513

This behaviour is entirely evil and abhorent. My response? Disbelief and heartbreak...

Come Lord Jesus. We so desperately need you. Our world is a mess. We are such depraved sinners. Lord, we need you. Please come and bring justice, peace and love. Please bring an end to all the suffering and the evil. Please come soon! Lord please have mercy on this girl. Please save her, and bring her into your Kingdom. I don't ask this because she deserves your love and grace, but because like the rest of us, she is a sinner deeply and profoundly in need of a Saviour. Only you can save us, Lord Jesus, please work in her what is pleasing to you.

In Jesus' name. Amen.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Facing suffering and grief during divorce

There's an interesting post on the Stuff Christian's Like blog today about "Painfully named divorce ministries". I was going to post a comment there, but I got too long-winded so here tis:

I think calling divorce ministries something honest about where people are actually at is providing a service. Our society is so blaise about divorce and so ignorant about how to deal with suffering. We are taught to run from it, ignore it, put on a happy face and repeatedly say "I'm fine, I'm fine, I'm fine" until we believe it. So sugarcoating divorce recovery with a nice title isn't really going to heal/help anyone if they are in the denial/avoidance mindset. I would argue naming ministries something like "Divorce Sucks" or "ARRGGGHH! Jesus please rapture me now!!" would be most appropriate.

My experience is you need to embrace the grief to move through it. It can seem like an endless ocean and you feel that there cannot possibly ever be an end to it. You feel that if you step into those deep waters of grief that you will be dragged along in a current forever, and that's if you don't drown. You can't see how you will ever be 'ok' ever again. Your heart feels like an onion, where the layers have been peeled away betrayal by betrayal. And you can't be sure what hurts the most, the other person betraying you, or your own failure and complicity in the failure of the marriage, or the complete sense of hopelessness you have because you don't have complete control over the circumstances and so cannot "fix it", and you don't understand why God isn't doing "more" when He so clearly states in Malachi 2:16 that "I hate divorce".

The only way to deal with it, so that you don't keep carrying it for the rest of your life, is to honestly face it. To dive right into the grief, to embrace it and face it honesty. You let Christ be the lifesaver that dives in with you and pulls you across to the other shore, remembering that "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering..." (Is. 53:3) and so He deeply, deeply identifies with our pain. More than that, He "...carried our sorrows... he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." (Is. 53:4-5) So we can leave all of it beneath the cross. All of our sense of failure. All of our anger and hurt towards our former spouse. ALL OF IT. This healing doesn't come if you aren't honest about it all, because if you aren't honest about it all then you cannot leave it all under the cross.

Some of the comments on the the Stuff Christian's Like post belittled people expressing their pain during divorce. This seems to me to indicate an underlying fear that the people don't really know what to do when others are really suffering in this way, they don't know how to respond, and they really really do not want to have to deal with it. They do not want their nice little world invaded by genuine hurt and suffering. This is in stark contrast to Jesus' attitude as portrayed in Luke 4 where He quotes Isaiah 61:1-2, declaring His "mission statement". This mission statement included two key phrases, "to bind up the brokenhearted" and "to comfort all who mourn". This was part of Jesus' mission, it should also be part of each Christian's mission. Divorcees are brokenhearted and mourning, and they need the love of Christ, and they need the support of the Church.

God bless,

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Stuff Bec Likes...

It's pretty rare that I find something on the internet that is worth going back to again and again, that consistently produces edifying, amusing and/or engaging material.

I thought I was onto a winner with the podcast from Mars Hill, such rich teaching. (Although they need to rethink their stance on women in ministry, and their understanding of the subordination of women -- they really fail to understand the scriptures in historical context on this issue. Otherwise I really love their teaching as it is so Christocentric and also deals with the real issues that people face.)

Another goodie is the "I appreciate Christian pickup lines" group on Facebook. If you haven't joined it, it is quite simply THE BEST group on Facebook. Some highlights...
  • "If you were a leper I'd still hold your hand, even if it wasn't attached"
  • "You are a Galatians 5 fruit salad"
  • "How many times do I have to walk around you to make you fall for me?"
  • "I have familiarised myself with all 5 love languages, in fact, I invented 4 of them."
  • "Hi, I'm Calvin. You were meant to choose me."

But in the past few weeks the top spot has been taken out by the "Stuff Christians Like" blog. It is priceless, a real gift to the body of Christ. It's a bit prophetic in nature I think, in that it draws attention to some things that we do/think that are a bit silly. Helps us to take ourselves a bit less seriously. At the end of a hard day, it really puts a smile on my face.

God bless,

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Giving God the credit for small things

I read a quote from somebody a while ago who's name I don't remember that went something along the lines of 'Sainthood consists in ascribing to God even the smallest of things'.

Well I've had one of those weird 'smallest of things' things this week.

About nine months ago at last year's Hillsong conference in Sydney I lost my mobile phone. It was only about three months old at this point and not only was it quite new it was a iMate JASJAM. Not cheap. Not only not cheap but it was very firmly installed in my pantheon of household gods. :-( I really loved it. Partly because I'm a geek and love gadgets, but also because I had eSword installed on it and could look stuff up in the Greek on a whim. It was nerdy-geek-biblical-scholar heaven.

Quite apart from the fact that I really loved that phone much much more than I should have it was incredibly frustrating to lose it on the second day of the five day conference amongst 30000 other Christians, and try to be able to find various people in amongst that crowd without a phone was, well, difficult and annoying.

Needless to say I haunted the lost and found stand. But to no avail. It was not handed in. So after returning to Melbourne on the Saturday, I went down my local Tel$tra store and forked out for a new (cheap) phone.

On Tuesday night this week my lovely boyfriend received a call while we were out for Mexican from a lady in Sydney who had found my phone. NINE months later!! She mailed it out to me and it arrived today with a note explaining what had happened.

A month after Hillsong a Jehovah's Witness conference was held at the Acer arena and it was found and handed in. So this is 4 weeks after it was lost! And by a JEHOVAH'S WITNESS. I tell you what, next time they come to the door I think I will be a bit nicer rather than just whacking them with the bible! ;-)

Acer Arena's policy is to hold onto things for a period of time before throwing them out. So a lady there went to all the trouble of finding someone else with the same phone so she could borrow their charger to charge it up to find out who it belonged to. She found James' number and called.

I'm blown away. First of all, that God would return to me what was previously an idol in my life. Secondly, that He would move the heart of a JW to hand it in. Thirdly, that the lovely Maria went to all that trouble to find a charger so it wouldn't get thrown out, so she could return it to me.

In and of itself, it's a bit of a small thing. But I'm just amazed that God and the JW and Maria would go to all that trouble for me. And it's come at a time that it's really encouraging, and a reminder that God does love me, and isn't ignoring my struggles and difficulties at the moment. Its a little thing, but it makes me feel loved that He'd care about a little thing like that.

God bless,

Friday, April 11, 2008

Oedipal Athiests

There is a fascinating post on the Age's Religious Write blog today:

Well worth a read.

God bless,

Monday, April 7, 2008

Sin cost-benefit analysis

In business whenever a new project is conceived it goes through cost-benefit analysis to determine whether it will produce benefits that are suitable for the cost involved. If there is not going to be more benefit gained than cost outlaid it typically doesn't go ahead.

I was thinking today about sin in the light of cost-benefit analysis. I think one of the things we do when we decide to sin is we ignore the 'cost' side of the situation. We only tend to see the 'benefit' that it will bring us in the immediate, and ignore the costs associated. We particularly tend to ignore the costs to other people for our sin. Costs we later have to deal with ourselves are FAR more motivating towards good behaviour.

One example would be the twerp who stole the badge off the back of my car yesterday in the church car-park. It's a hunk of plastic with some silver paint on it. Albeit it's a french hunk of plastic with silver paint, but nonetheless, still it's not a particularly practical item. So I would really question the value of having stolen it. I mean WHAT are they going to do with it?? (I can tell you what I'd like to do with it... fasten the thing to their foreheads with superglue given that they love it so much... grr mumble mumble) So benefit = negligible. However the cost to me is (a) a whole bucket load of annoyance, (b) $50 to replace it from my local friendly (read extortionate) Citroen dealer, (c) potentially have the car off the road for a few hours while it's fitted as the half broken bits and old glue will need to be cleaned up before the new one can be fitted. So cost to me is greater than the amount of benefit they could hope to get out of it. Stealing the whole car would have made MUCH MORE SENSE.

So maybe when we are tempted, we should do a bit of a cost-benefit analysis. And not just the cost to us, but the cost to others too. Is it really worth satisfying our desires when the costs are so high???

God bless,

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Thoughts from Bloesch - Hope

“A truly just society is dependent not on experiments in social engineering, not on the cultivation of a global consciousness, not on an amalgamation of the world religions, but on a universal acknowledgement of the reality of the holy and living God of the Scriptures and acceptance of the message that he has acted decisively and irrevocably for the salvation of the human race through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The hope of humanity rests on the kingdom of God, which is now at work in our midst, and on its consummation through the coming of Jesus Christ in power and glory when his universal lordship will be revealed for all to see and the fruits of his redemption will be assured to all who repent and believe.”
Bloesch, p249.

Thoughts from Bloesch - New Age

“The motto of the New Age is struggle, growth and freedom as opposed to the biblical motto: faith, repentance and service.” Bloesch p244.

Thoughts from Bloesch - Church & Kingdom

“The task of the church is a modest one: to wait and pray and hope for the coming of the kingdom, to witness to and acclaim God’s redeeming and sanctifying work; but the church must never confuse its work with God’s work or its righteousness with divine righteousness. The church can create parables and signs of the kingdom, but it cannot extend or fortify the kingdom through its own power and strategy. Biblical Christians could never say with the philosopher Hegel: ‘The Kingdom of God is coming, and our hands are busy at its delivery.’ God builds his kingdom through his own power and initiative, but he enlists us as coworkers in making the promise of the kingdom known to the world.” p243

Thoughts from Bloesch - Hearing Not Seeing

I've found a number of interesting thoughts in my reading for Christology (from Bloesch's Jesus Christ: Saviour & Lord) this week. So I'm going to post a few quotes.

“Evangelical Christianity is focused on hearing, not seeing. The kingdom of God is not a visible reality but an invisible one that makes its way in the world through the proclamation of the gospel (cf. Lk 17:20-21). The new theologies speak of imaging God in order to make him real for human experience. Evangelical theology reaffirms the commandment against graven images (Ex 20:4; Deut 5:8) and extends this to a prohibition against mental images of God as well. Because the true God is incomprehensible and invisible, because he infinitely transcends all sight and understanding, he cannot be made known until he makes himself known. And God has made himself known fully and decisively in this one person, Jesus Christ. All other revelations and illuminations are simply clarifications and reaffirmations of this one incomparable revelation in human history. We make contact with Christ only through hearing the gospel about Christ, which we encounter in the Bible and also in the proclamation and ministrations of the church (cf. Rom 10:14-17; 1 Cor 1:21). Luther observed, ‘In order to see God we must learn to put our eyes into our ears.’ This indeed is the biblical way, and all other ways lead to obfuscation and deception.” p237-8

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

On praying outloud

I found an interesting post on another blog about praying outloud and about prayer being a verbal thingy. It is a good read!

I've been trying out contemplative prayer a bit recently, and frankly it feels weird, so this post was really interesting. I've also been reflecting recently on my Christology. I've realised that I find it easier to "connect with God" (by which I mean have some nice spiritual feelings whilst praying / singing etc) when I have my eyes closed, because I have a sense of concentrating on Jesus more when I do that. But in considering the truly man, truly God nature of Christ recently I think I have been concentrating on Him in His divine, "spirit" form, and forgetting that Jesus is still a man, albeit a resurrected man.

I've been feeling challenged in worship particularly to keep my eyes open and to recognise that God is as much present when I have my eyes open as when they are closed. That might sound weird, but I think I've been seperating the spiritual and the material a bit much, because closing my eyes to block out sensory material information whilst worshipping is to say that the material world is not spiritual! Dang that Greek/gnostic philosophy/heresy creeping into my thinking!! It's almost by closing my eyes I'm creating a 'more spiritual world' under my eyelids where I can retreat from the 'real world' to.

This idea of praying outloud that is suggested in the other post I'm finding interesting as another layer on my spiritual/material question. If I pray silently, it seems more 'spiritual' whereas to pray outloud perhaps more material. But what I'm thinking is if I pray outloud it is acknowledging that the material is spiritual, and it is also a recognition of Christ's humanity. If He was ONLY human I would talk to Him outloud, so why because He is also divine do I retreat into silent prayer unless I'm in a public setting?

God bless,