Monthly Archives: September 2011

Christian Indifference of the Good Kind

 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matt 6:19-20

Normally when we think of being indifferent we conjure up a “couldn’t care less” attitude. St Ignatius, the Counter Reformation Reformer, uses the term in a totally different way. His definition of the word suggests, rather, a sense of detachment. He doesn’t say that the things of this world are unimportant but he suggests that we need to develop an attitude where God’s priorities take precedence over all. So God’s will becomes the key motivation for our lives – not money, nor pleasure – nor even the length of our life.

What St. Ignatius is acknowledging, is that the command of Jesus in the sermon on the mount, is a radical reorientation of our lives. It confronts the attitude of the “tacked on faith” that our lives so often portray. Too often, faith is that insurance policy, that little extra that gives our life a deeper dimension, or faith is that element that stops our lives being as shallow as that of so many people around us. “Indifference”, however, declares that “tacked on faith” is not what God wants for His children. Our Creator wants lives anchored in Him, not in the transient trappings of this world – no matter how alluring and tempting they may be.

Does this mean that Jesus is calling for an ascetic other worldliness? Not at all. Jesus enjoyed a party just as much as the rest of us. (See Tim Chester’s “A Meal with Jesus”).  Our problem is that we often confuse the things of this world with ultimate meaning. Our wealth, fame, house, possessions, or my case, books, is what, so often, gives our life meaning, rather than our relationship with God and our place in His Kingdom. That is why Jesus gives us the warning about our heart and our treasures.  That is why he says it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. We so easily confuse the temporary niceties for eternal realities.

Secretly we think that Jesus’ command and St. Ignatius’ injunction cause us to be hard done by. Somehow we are missing out. But let us reflect more deeply. Does the God who sent His son to die on the cross for us, whose son is right now preparing a place for us, who dwells within us with his Holy Spirit, who pictures a city the streets of which are paved with gold – is this a God who wants to short change us and deprive us? Or is it that He has greater things in mind for His people and it is just our feeble baby like like imagination that clamours for the dross rather than wait expectantly for the gold.

Categories: Camino, christian, Christianity, Devotional, Faith, St. Ignatius | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

The New Conspirators: A Review

The New Conspirators: Creating the future one mustard seed at a time, Tom Sine, IVP 2008.

In 1980 Tom Sine challenged western Christians in the “Mustard Seed Conspiracy” to use their wealth in small seemingly insignificant ways to make a real difference in the world. He heightened that call in 1999 in “Mustard Seed versus Mac World” when he explored the dangers of Globalism and the consumer culture and suggested ways in which, via the mustard seed metaphor, Christians/the church could respond in Biblical ways.

“The New Conspirators” maintains the metaphor and the call. Written before the GFC occurred, it nevertheless says much to challenge us .

He starts off by taking us on a journey, exploring how “new conspirators” are being and doing church, in what Michael Frost would call this “Exilic” age.  Sine explores 4 models: Emerging, Missional, Mosaic and Monastic. I found this section particularly exciting as it revealed ways in which church can be relevant in an age that (in western cultures) is rapidly turning its back on the Christian faith. This section also shows that there is no one answer and that our God given creativity is a key to how we make ourselves relevant.

In the next section Sine asks to what extent globalisation is shaping our culture (and imagination) . This scenario becomes the basis for his call that Christians have been called to create life transforming alternatives – alternatives that take regard for all sections of society – in particular the vulnerable.

He concludes by giving us five imaginative challenges with regard to the world as it is, stewardship, mission, community and entrepreneurship.

This is a challenging book, but unlike many that can be deflating by revealing a disheartening picture that is too immense, Sine’s mustard seed approach, littered with current examples of effective action, is spirit enlivening. If you are challenged by what it means to be a relevant Kingdom worker in this post GFC globalised economy, in which the Kingdom of Christ is being marginalised – take heart and instruction from this book. After all, it only requires a mustard seed.

P.S. This book has handy questions at the end of each chapter that can be used to engender discussion and action.

Categories: Book Review, christian, Christianity, Church, Teaching | Leave a comment

Church Structure and Christian Obedience

Being “between churches” I was ruminating on the positive aspects of institutional church. When a person is a traditional church member there is a lot of security and familiarity within its organisation. Its activities and expectations provide daily guidance and discipline in a very concrete way. The church services, Bible studies, men’s and women’s groups, Sunday school, mission and deaconate  organisations, the giving – all provide a ready made and comfortable ( and comforting) structure in which to live and serve.

Being “between churches” at present means all those usual trappings are absent. My wife and I have to invent them for ourselves. We need to determine our worship (yes, we always sit in the same “pews”). Bible study is easier because that is part of our regular pattern. But tithes, who and where to serve and other church-like activities, we need to determine for ourselves. A home church would have similar questions – or should we call them possibilities?

For us, the positives are that our current situation makes us think deeply about our Christian life,  service and expression as it would be easy to slide into “nothingness” as far as faith and public worship are concerned if we not proactive.

And yes, we are also aware that we need to be part of a living expression of the body of Christ and as neither of us is musical, we miss the singing! However, our journey does give us time to pause and reflect on what “church” should be and look like in the C21st.

Categories: christian, Church, Obedience | Tags: , | Leave a comment

A Verse for Monday Psalm 8:1

LORD, our Lord, 
   how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Categories: christian, Creation, Devotional | Leave a comment

A Poem on Sunday Gen 3:4-5

The world tugs and wrenches at my heart.
Slyly it lures and entices.
Whispers and cajoles.
“You will know the truth.”
“You will not die.”
“You will be like God!”
“Bite, chew, enjoy!”
“Savour the taste.”

The world still tugs, wrenches and lures.
Double minded heart.
Dissembling mind.

The drag and pull relentless,
But life is at hand.
The Calvary comes,
Spirit descends.
Still at war …
… but my side is winning.
Categories: christian, Christianity, Devotional, Faith, Poem | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Do You Love Me?

“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” John 21:15-17

Jesus looks you in the eye and says, “Do you love me?” but then adds, “more than these?”

His warm but firm gaze is on you. You can’t escape his eyes.

Is your response the same as Peter’s? “You know I love you.” Is it true? Is it unshakeable? Will it stand the test of temptation, persecution or, more likely, ridicule?

And what about, ” … more than these?” Are “these”, other people or are they things, self-esteem and prestige that clutter your life? Either way, do you love Jesus more than “these”?

As Peter is being restored to his relationship with Jesus, he is also being prepared for the hard task of Kingdom work … the hard task of being Christ’s hands and feet when Jesus returns to heaven.

Against this backdrop, Jesus looks at you and me with his penetrating eyes and says, “Do you love me more than these?”

Categories: christian, Christianity, Devotional, Faith, Gospel of John, Jesus | Leave a comment

15 Reasons Why Christian Education is Important

  1. Sound Christian Education takes the Bible seriously.
  2. Truth is seen as absolute.
  3. Christian Education believes a Christian worldview can make a positive difference.
  4. It gives students a strong foundation in a world of shifting values and morals.
  5. Christian Education recognizes God’s sovereignty and Christ’s Kingship, and …
  6. therefore God’s claims over all of creation are taken seriously.
  7. No subject or curriculum is outside the orbit of God.
  8. Students are recognised for who they are: sinners in need of God’s grace in Christ.
  9. Also students are given a vision of God’s Kingdom and their place in it.
  10. Good Christian education recognises the unique, God given gifts and talents of the students and
  11. challenges them to achieve their amazing potential.
  12. It assists parents in their God given mandate.
  13. Sound Christian Education treats the student as a whole person whose aim is to grow in Christ-likeness..
  14. A foundation in God and His world prepares the student for tomorrow.
  15. Healthy Christian Education develops critical thinking by having the courage to explore other world views from the perspective of its own worldview.

What reasons can you add?

As this post proves to be regularly accessed I have included some other sites:

Australia

http://www.cen.edu.au/   Christian Education National

http://csa.edu.au/  Christian Schools Australia

A wonderfully informative website:

http://www.whychristianschools.com.au/wcs/index.html

 

USA/Canada

http://www.csionline.org/  Christian Schools Internation

http://aacs.org/ American Association of Christian Schools

UK

http://www.christianschoolstrust.co.uk/find_a_school  Christian Schools Trust UK

Categories: christian, Education, Faith, Family, Future, Jesus, Teaching | Tags: , , , , , | 21 Comments

Known Only to Him

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?

We fear the unknown. I remember when I purchased my first computer, an Apple 2C, for wordprocessing in 1984. One ministerial colleague told me that the Holy Spirit only worked through a pen. Socrates, I believe, feared writing, as he saw it as a threat to learning and memory.

Today we have much more to fear. The future races upon us daily with an amazing rapidity. Pundits tell us that many of the jobs our young people will have in the future,  haven’t been invented yet.

Matt 6:25 ff. reminds us where our trust should lie – whatever happens in the future. Or in the words of the hymn, “Known Only to Him” written by Stuart Hamblen and sung by Elvis, we hear the line:

I know not what the future holds
But I know who holds the future

This is the core of Matt 6:25ff. The Christian knows that the future is in God’s hands and not that of the scientist, politician or media star. There is no excuse for passivity or complacency here. We still need to be Kingdom workers. There is however, every reason for joy and comfort, knowing who holds the future.

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Being Content in a World War 2 Work Gang

… for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4: 11b -13

Could I be content in a work gang? Above, is  a picture of my dad as a 23 year old in a World War 2 work gang in Germany. During WW2 he was conscripted by the Germans to work for the Reich. Some of the best years of his life were handed over to a foreign power. As a baby boomer I have often wondered how I would have reacted.

In the words of Paul, would I have been content in any and every situation? I don’t think so. Even now, I feel angry on my father’s behalf, for those stolen years.

To be content in any circumstance means we need to re-prioritise  our lives away from our wants to the conviction that our relationship with God and our place and purpose in His Kingdom is where our true identity lies.

Easier said than done. That is true for me but I don’t believe I am the only one.

How do we refocus our lives? In the wonderful film “Life is Beautiful”, the dad, Guido, deflects his son Joshua’s attention away from the horrors of the concentration camp by suggesting they were involved in a game which had a real tank as the main prize. Guido constructed an alternative meaning to the reality they faced. This new meaning provided hope and possibility.

Paul reminds us that in Christ, the Christian is already part of an eternal alternative reality. The Christian’s task is be a willing participant in bringing that new reality about. So the current world, although not unimportant, is not where the Christian finds his or her identity.

Paul prompts us to acknowledge that God knows our needs and for provides them, and much more as well. To be content means not to find ultimate meaning in, and be obsessed with, what the world offers or fails to offer.

But as I said, that journey is a daily challenge … for me at least.

Categories: christian, Christianity, Devotional, Faith, my dad | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

God’s Audit

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1&2

There is a natural, or we may call it, human leaning towards complacency. We take people and things for granted. For Christians, sadly, this even includes their relationship with God.

In my own life I find that God confronts that smug self absorption  with the passage above.  For me it is an auditor’s check-list; a reminder of a higher purpose and direction. It is a means to refocus my life.

The check-list is simple, but the challenge profound:

The Challenge: Am I striving to be a living sacrifice? In other words, am I living a life of gratitude to the glory of God, or is it focused on my own wants?

The Warning: Where is my life being shaped by the values and attitudes of the world – those insidious ideas we take on without realising their implications?

The Command: To be transformed. Are my heart and mind open to the restorative and life changing work of the Holy Spirit?

The Reason and Result: Paul reminds me that when the person of faith, lives before God with an openness to His divine hand, then we will be integrated/enveloped by God’s perfect will for His Kingdom and our place in it.

Is this easy? Not in any way as we are often fighting our own perverse wills. Is it important? Certainly! It is about being who God calls you and me to be.

Categories: christian, Christianity, Devotional, Faith, Romans | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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