Friday, May 23, 2008

Patience and Boredom

I think my biggest problem with patience is boredom. If there is something that I am looking forward to and am emotionally engaged with, or I see that life could be better once something happens, then the biggest sense of boredom with where I am now sets in.

Someone I love often says, "It's something to look forward to". Which would have to be the complete antithesis of how I view life. I don't know, to say "it's something to look forward to" seems to suggest that there won't be anything after that to look forward to... But apart from Jesus returning, and Him wiping every tear from our eyes, there will ALWAYS be something else to look forward to.

Which leads me to my eschatological point. I think all of life is lived in this patience/boredom tension. What theologians call the "here but not yet" of the Kingdom. I think the Christian life is bound up in the "Jesus is coming back yay! BUT WHY NOT NOW???" tension.

See now impatience sounds kinda holy! I'm not impatient, I just want Jesus to come back soon!! ;-)

God bless,

Thursday, May 15, 2008

God of the Second-hand

I have recently been looking into how to sell some stuff of mine that I don't need anymore. This isn't really something I've done before, as I think I've really absorbed the 'throw it away, buy a new one' ethic of our society, which is just materialism gone nuts, and is most certainly a product of the advertising industry. After all, it is more profitable for the various companies if you buy things new, than if you buy second hand.

I've decided this is really rather sad, because the items that I am wanting to sell are not without value. There is an iMate which has hardly been used, and some jewellery, which to replace would cost $1800. However, when I got a quote from a jeweller they advised me that they only pay 10% of market value.

Anyways, this has all lead me to think about how God is really the God of the second-hand. As Christians we come to Him second-hand. The world's owned us for a while, banged us up good and proper, we're worse for wear, and in severe need of a clean up. And yet God looks at us, and instead of saying, "meh, I think I'll just toss it and buy a new one" He has paid the ultimate price for us, through Christ. Not only has He made that investment in us, He is not content to just own us in the state that we come to Him, but He fixes us up and makes us all pretty (by which of course I mean He conforms us to Christ's image).

Another example of getting outside this throw away culture in my life, was that I recently had some repairs done on a blue topaz ring I own. I bought it after reading Liza Bevere's book "Fight Like a Girl". In there she uses blue topaz as an illustration for the refining process that we go through in adversity. Apparently when topaz is dug up out of the ground it is a murky brown colour, its only when it is thrown in the fire that it turns blue and pretty. When I read that it was about a month before my divorce went through and I really really needed to know that God was using that situation in my life to bring about something good. I think I would have died of the pain otherwise. I've worn it ever since as a reminder and a testimony of God's faithfulness.

About six weeks ago one of the claws on it broke off. Now in the past that probably would have been the end of it. It would have gone in the drawer, never to be seen again. But this time, because someone I knew had previously recommended a jeweller who was good at repairs and alterations I thought why not have a crack at this restoration bizo.

I got the ring back yesterday. The repair was about $12. And as well as fixing the broken claw, the jeweller had polished the ring up so much that it looks better than when I first bought it. Life has been / is quite tough at the moment. Lots of good things happening, but unemployment is causing a certain level of stress. Given that historically this ring has symbolised for me God refining me, having it broken and then fixed, and coming out looking better than it started, I found a reassuring reminder of God's faithfulness.

This has been a bit rambling. I guess I really have two points. We have a throw away culture, we even throw away people. God isn't like that. He buys second-hand, and then He is in the continual business of restoration. Not just once, but He maintains His investment and continues to restore us as we get a little bit broken again.

God bless,

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Why is practicality optional for women's clothing???


I study in Ringwood, where it is jolly freezing. It's like Ringwood has its own weather system, at least 10 degrees colder than the rest of Melbourne. The heating at college is inadequate (and I'm being nice by not picking a stronger adjective there), so much so I end up wearing my winter coat and scarf inside the classroom to keep warm. The place is so cold that we are gaining our own penguin colony. Well, maybe not quite, but you get the idea.

I have made suggestions to the SRC that this should now be top of the priority list since they have sorted out the abysmal coffee situation in the last few weeks by installing a Lavazza coffee machine (Mmmm!). But I'm resigned to the fact that this will probably only happen when I graduate in 2012.

But bearing in mind how chilly it's going to get, and is already getting, I set off yesterday to buy some warm clothing so that I do not come down with hypothermia mid-Christology lecture. Now my wonderful boyfriend has these really warm Bonds hoodies, and knowing that Bonds makes hoodies for chicks as well, I thought awesome, that'll do the trick.

So I set off to Kmart to check 'em out, only to discover that the men's ones have nice polar fleece lining (thus their warmth) but the ladies ones DON'T!!

This to me is beyond illogical. Firstly, blokes have a larger muscle mass than women which means that doing absolutely NOTHING they burn more calories, thus producing more body heat. So they start out with a biological advantage. Secondly, then you add the Bonds polar fleeced hoodie and they are all set. Compared to us ladies who start out with the disadvantage of producing less body heat and THEN add a thin and flimsy Bonds ladies' hoodie that does NOTHING to keep us warm.

Oh, but that's alright, because they had a women's "Vintage Style" hoodie which was a bit longer. Vintage style my left foot!!

What I want to know is this, why is practicality optional in women's clothing??????

Ah yes, because of fashion, because we want to look "good". Personally, I don't think I look particularly "good" rolling on the floor in the foetal position trying to warm up my torso so that blood returns to my extremities so that I regain feeling in my hands and feet, even if I am wearing the latest must-have.

I think it's all a ploy. The reason we are taught that we would want to look "good" is so that men will be attracted to us. But then when they get their hands on us, they just want the clothes off anyway. So here's my conspiracy theory, it's all part of a ploy to get us to the point that we think, "hey these clothes are so impractical, we may as well forget wearing them all together, afterall we'll be just as warm in the nude." Grrrrr... It's all an attempt to get to a place where practicality isn't optional for women's clothing, but that women's clothing IS optional!!!!

Which is all cos of the fashion industry being in bed with the porn industry that has turned women into sexual objects. Men be warned, this whole "metro-sexual" thingy that seems to be happening will result in the same thing for you. Say goodbye to clothes that are practical, that actually cover the things that should be covered, and keep warm/cool the bits that need it. You'll be wearing lace knickers before you know it!

Ah for the days when men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri!

God bless,


Friday, May 9, 2008

The Glory of God

Next week I have to present a five minute topical sermon in my Public Communications class at college. So I thought I’d practise my content on you first! I will be speaking about “The Glory of God”, and yes I know what you are thinking, that’s a big topic to chew off in five minutes. But ya know, never let it be said that I’m shy of a challenge!!

We use the term “glory of God” a lot in Christian circles. It’s a bit of a holy catch-all that we throw around when we need to feel spiritual. We talk about doing things “for the Glory of God” and if we are of the Pentecostal persuasion then we may talk about “the gllllorrry in the saaanncctuaaary”! Even in the bible the term sometimes seems to be used a bit lightly. For example when Jude is signing off his letter, he includes the following comment, “…to the only God our Saviour be GLORY, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord… Amen” (1:25) which in context just seems to be a holy way of saying “Bye, catch ya later”.

So yes, it’s a bit of an abstract and esoteric term. And we do tend to use it quite lightly. Interestingly, however, in Hebrew the word for glory (kabowd) actually means “HEAVINESS of honour, splendour, dignity” so this is perhaps something we should not take lightly!! I want to take a quick Trinitarian look at the glory of God and then look at how it is relevant to the way we live our lives.

#1 – The Glory of the Father
One of the first revelations of God’s glory recorded in the bible was to Moses in Exodus 33:18-20; 34:5-7:

Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

It is interesting that when Moses requests that God would show him His glory, that what Moses gets in response is primarily a revelation of God’s character. God reveals Himself as merciful, kind, slow to anger, loving, faithful, forgiving and just.

This pattern of a display of God's glory being coupled with a revelation of His character is repeated throughout the bible. For example, in 2 Chron 7 at the dedication of the Temple, the glory manifested, and there was a statement of God's character in the praises of the people, that He is "good and his love endures forever". Similarly, when Isaiah sees the Lord in Isaiah 6, the statement of God's character is in the praises of the angels, who sang, "Holy, holy, holy".

So I think we can say that, the Glory of God is the Revelation of His character.

#2 - Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God's glory
Jesus is of course the ultimate revelation of God's glory. In Jn 1:14 it says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” And in this verse we see again the coupling of the glory of God with His character -- in this case being full of grace and truth.

Hebrews 1:3 further expands this idea when it says that Christ is, “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being”. In this we see that Christ is the pinnacle of God's glory, and that that is by exactly representing God's being, His person, His character. And so in Jesus we see a life that is truly glorifying to God, through being a REVELATION OF GOD'S BEING (CHARACTER).

#3 – Our partnership with the Spirit for God’s Glory
As I promised, this is a bit of a trinitarian look at God's glory, and so having discussed the glory of God in light of the Father and the Son, let's look at the Holy Spirit. In 2 Cor 3 there is an extended section on the glory of the ministry of the Spirit, over that of the Law (verses 7-9; 18):

Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

And so we see that the ministry of the Spirit is glorious because He is transforming us into His image, that is so that God's character (in this case His righteousness) is REVEALED IN US. So that is to say that we are a revelation of God's glory to the degree that we reveal God's character -- and this is done in partnership with and dependence on the Spirit.

So the question is how are we transformed so that we reveal God's character, and bring Him glory? This is picked up in 2 Cor 3:18, it is by contemplating (or in some translations beholding) the glory of the Lord -- through this we are transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory.

So that's pretty cool huh? So now when we talk about doing things "for the Glory of God" we have a firm frame of reference for what we are talking about. What we mean is that we are doing that thing in a way that reveals God's character. I personally think that's pretty exciting. First of all because it's so simple! But also because it seems so worthwhile, what could be more meaningful than glorifying God by being a means by which He reveals His character? How much more pleasant a way to be transformed so that we can do this, than by beholding His glory, His character? And then how gracious is He that He not only calls us to glorify Him, but through His Spirit actually enables us to do it??

So I want to leave you with a few questions:
  • What have you learnt about God's character by beholding His glory?
  • How can you bring God glory by reflecting those characteristics of His?
  • What are some situations where you specifically want to bring glory to God?
  • Who are some people to whom you want to show the glory of God?
  • What are some areas in your life that do not display the glory of God?
  • How can you, by working with the Holy Spirit, display God's character in these situations, to those people, in those areas of your life?

God bless,

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Purity, Celibacy, Chastity

Interestingly, I've noticed that the times I get the most hits on my blog is when I discuss adultery. I mentioned this to my Dad the other day, and he was like, "You are probably getting the porno traffic"... Hmmm... Somehow I think this discussion of purity, celibacy and chastity isn't going to register so high on the types of words people search for on google... ;-)

I read this earlier today and have been thinking about David's question about what purity is... I think in Christian circles the word 'purity' has become a synonym for 'celibacy'. The majority of its usage seems to be in discussing with particularly teenagers why they should save themselves for marriage. And in all honesty this discussion is probably surrounded with a fair amount of panic for those on the receiving end, it's the "ahh, man... that's like so harsh! what if I never marry, will I like die a VIRGIN". And that's even if it's not said.

However, I think maybe 'chastity' (monogamous sexual expression with our spouse (i.e. person of the opposite gender to whom we are married)) is a better synonym for purity. I think it's a lot more useful as a definition because it applies to unmarried and married people.

For unmarried people doesn't have the total "you can NEVER have sex, you will most probably die a virgin" connotations that celibacy has. It has lovely promise of future godly possibilities ala Song of Songs (why does nobody preach on SoS??? It'd kill the theology of anyone who reckons God made sex just for procreation or that God thinks sex is dirty etc).

For married people it's a reminder that marriage isn't a get-out-of-jail-free-card for lust. On the Stuff Christians Like blog I remember Jon mentioning with disgust the idea in the book "Every man's battle" that men should use their wives like methadone. His comment being, "if we're supposed to love our wives like Christ loved the church, did Christ ever get a 'fix' off the church?"

In defining chasity earlier, I used the term 'sexual expression' for want of a better phrase, to cover a multitude of thoughts/behaviours. (Much as the NT uses the greek 'porneia' to cover a multitude of sexual sins!) According to the sermon on the mount, the kind of faithfulness in regard to our sexuality that God calls us to in marriage, is that we do not even have lustful thoughts about people to whom we aren't married. So purity--chastity therefore, is total sexual faithfulness to our spouse; thought, word & deed.

WIthin the confines of marriage, have fun with each other, read Song of Songs in The Message if you need some hints... Yup it really does say that IN THE BIBLE...

God bless,

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Child Sacrifice

I was reading Psalm 106 this morning. It's a record of God's faithfulness to Israel inspite of their unfaithfulness to Him. There are a couple of verses (37-38) that caught my attention in the middle:
They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons. They shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was desecrated by their blood.

Child sacrifice is really a low-light of the Old Testament. The nations surrounding Israel and Judah practised it (see for example 2 Kings 3:27 where the King of Moab sacrificed his son), and many of the corrupt Kings of Israel and Judah also practised child sacrifice to various idols (see for example Ahaz in 2 Kings 16 and Manasseh in 2 Kings 21).

I think it is really easy for us to shake our heads and wonder how could they do this to their own children. I think it is really easy for us to think that we are better than they were, that we are a more civilised people and that we would never ever do anything like this.

But I think we have to stop and look at some of our modern practises and look at whether we too practise child sacrifice. The gods we sacrifice to may not have interesting Canaanite names like Baal or Asherah, but I think we do still have gods that we sacrifice our children to. They are called "convenience" or "a woman's right to choose", "no consequence casual sex" etc etc.

Abortion is the most obvious modern day example of child sacrifice within particularly the western world. We have made up excuses for why it's ok, but an unborn child is still just that-- an unborn child. In the first 10-12 weeks after conception, while they still weigh between 4 and 14 grams:
  • The child's eyes have developed their colour
  • Nearly all their organs have formed and are functioning
  • Their fingers and toes have developed
  • Their hair and nails have started to grow
  • Their genitals are distinctively male/female
  • The muscles in their intestinal walls have started to practise the contractions that will allow them to digest food
  • Their vocal chords have begun to form
  • Their liver starts to function
  • The pancreas starts to produce insulin

There is some non-disturbing photos here and some rather disturbing ones here of murdered (aborted) children. Both show how early you can see that they really are human, they are not just "fetuses" or "lumps of tissue".

Abortion is modern day western child sacrifice. But I don't think it stops there. Forms of contraception that are potentially abortive also amount to child sacrifice. Barrier methods that prevent conception are ok, but those that act also in the event of conception to stop the child from implanting in the uterine wall amount to the same as abortion. This means the pill. The normal everyday pill as well as the so-called morning after pill. The normal pill works in two stages, it firstly tries to prevent conception by preventing ovulation. If this fails it uses a secondary method to prevent pregnancy -- and this is where the issue is. The secondary method is to thicken the mucus of the uterine wall so that the child cannot implant. This means that if a child is conceived they die. The morning after pill uses only the second method to prevent pregnancy.

In all of this, I do not mean to point fingers. I have in the past used the pill not knowing, or perhaps not wanting to know, the truth about it. My purpose in discussing this is just to draw attention to behaviours where we might hold one view when it's someone else doing it (i.e. condemning those in the bible who practised child sacrifice) and yet permit the same behaviour under another name, with some more modern reasons (excuses) behind it. I also want to draw attention to the fact that there are also parallels in the motivation. Whenever we do something outside of the will of God, that we think will make our lives better in some way, we are committing idolatry. We are saying that whatever it is that we are doing, will better serve our needs than God. We are placing (in this case) convenience, so-called women's "right to choose", "no consequence casual sex" in the place of Jesus, and sacrificing our children to those gods. When the Israelites practised child sacrifice it was to placate Baal or Asherah, we still sacrifice our children to idols-- the idols just have different names.

Let's return to Psalm 106. In all of this, despite our rebellion and sinfulness, God is still faithful. God still loves us, and there is forgiveness for those who repent. Jesus' death on the cross even deals with this sin of child sacrifice. There is real and total forgiveness, the bible says in Psalm 103:12, "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." This is not about condemnation, this is about renewing our minds, and seeing this from God's perspective. It's only when we do that that we have a chance to change our behaviour and our choices. Truth can be hard, and frankly I had a bit of an argument with God about writing this post because it is heavy and rather uncomfortable. But in Jesus truth comes hand-in-hand with GRACE.

God bless,