Monthly Archives: October 2012
I love Roman archaeology: Hadrian’s Wall, the Forum, aqueducts, amphitheatres, Roman Roads, baths and the list goes on. Wherever the Romans went they left their mark. You cannot travel around Europe without being aware that eons ago this civilisation was dominant in much of Europe, and in deed, northern Africa and Palestine. Even the builders of Winchester Cathedral became acutely aware of the Romans when they realised their building was sinking because the land was once a river which neat Romans had straightened out.
In two thousand years time, or even 1000, or maybe 500, if Christ hasn’t returned, will people be aware of C21st western Christianity? Will there be vibrant bodies of Christ challenging the ethos of the day and declaring biblical alternatives? Will there be people of passion seeking the spiritual health of the souls of men, women and children? Will there be a zeal for justice and the plight of the voiceless? Will there be worship that gives society a glimpse of heaven in the midst of the daily grind? Will Jesus be known?
Nearly 500 years ago, on October 31st, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses against indulgences on the door of the Castle Church Wittenberg. Many consider this to be the match that lit the Reformation. Other reforming hearts had come before him; Wycliffe, Tyndale, Hus and many others, but the time was right to challenge unbiblical views within the church of the day. The remembrance of this monumental event in history is even being forgotten in the churches this event begot.
It is a scary thought. Except, thank God, the advancement of the gospel is not in our hands. Although we are responsible.
Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Deut 4:9
God’s people on their Journey to the promised land were urged to remember the events that had occurred and laws that had been given up to this point. They were all pointers to God’s amazing grace. Forget them and they will forget God and His message and purpose for them.
Our churches and families have an important and monumental task to teach our children and children’s children about God, His message and purpose for them.
As a teacher of older high school students, one of the relentless realities is that every year I must farewell another cohort as they enter into the “big” world. It is never easy. As it is with your own children, you always want them to be a bit more prepared, a bit more equipped and a bit more worldly wise. But alas, you have to let them go. You can’t hold on forever.
Yet even with those going there are mixed feelings. For those students who have reflected a growing and active faith there is the assurance that whatever happens, these students will know and depend on the relationship they have with God. However, for those who have exhibited, little or no faith, we have to hope that God will reveal Himself through people and circumstances in the times to come. For me, academic success without a faith anchor is ultimately not a real success.
So as each cohort leaves it is a reminder, that my words and actions, demeanour and values must be a constant witness to the qualities that I want my students to possess – spiritual and academic. It is a sobering question to ask: Has my life assisted or hindered my students’ faith as they leave school?
“Behind every great man,” so the joke goes, “stands a surprised mother-in-law.” For George Whitefield and the Wesley brothers, John and Charles, it wasn’t a mother-in-law, but an amazing lady, Selina the Countess of Huntingdon. The countess used her position and wealth to support and encourage the evangelical revival in Britain in the C18th.
In an era when the established Anglican church was largely moribund, other means were found to bring hope to the poor in the mining towns and emerging industrial cities. As one could only preach in an established church and evangelicals were prevented from preaching in them, the wily countess used her privileged position to establish chapels. She was allowed to do this as the aristocracy moved around the country to their various estates. She was permitted to set up six chapels. She obviously couldn’t count as she established 64 evangelical chapels and supported many others in which people such as the Wesleys and Whitefield could bring a message of hope.
Ultimately she was forced to disassociate herself from the established church and throw her lot in with the dissenters. After the expulsion of a number of Methodist students from an Oxford college she set up her own training college in Wales – Trevecka.
The countess also encouraged the spread of the gospel among the slave and Indian populations in the American colonies.
If you read any biography of Whitefield (such as Arnold Dallimore’s excellent two volume edition) or the Wesleys, Selina Countess of Huntingdon emerges as stalwart and incredible supporter of the spread of the gospel. She is evidence of the amazing variation of talents and gifts in the body of Christ. The task the Lord had for her was to enable the light of the C18th revival to burn far brighter.
George Whitefield an Anglican Minister, lived from 1714 to 1770 and preached in Britain and the American colonies. He was a prolific preacher and spoke to thousands and affected
many lives with the Gospel.
Some quotes:Nothing is more generally known than our duties which belong to Christianity; and yet, how amazing is it, nothing is less practiced? If your souls were not immortal, and you in danger of losing them, I would not thus speak unto you; but the love of your souls constrains me to speak: methinks this would constrain me to speak unto you forever. Although believers by nature, are far from God, and children of wrath, even as others, yet it is amazing to think how nigh they are brought to him again by the blood of Jesus Christ. Among the many reasons assignable for the sad decay of true Christianity, perhaps the neglecting to assemble ourselves together, in religious societies, may not be one of the least.
More qu0tes can be found at such sites as “Brainy Quotes”.
This photo was taken in Edam, Netherlands, earlier this year. We stopped here because I have a weakness for cheese. I took this simple photo as it demonstrates how different Holland is to my experience in Australia … and there is a fantastic cheese shop just up the lane with a really friendly shop keeper!
my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
have mercy on me and hear my prayer. Psalm 4:1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs. Psalm 100: 1&2
One of the amazing characteristics of the Psalms is the passion that leaps from the words and phrases. The Psalms are not cold, calculated and remote. They are heartfelt. Filled with joyous, desperate, angry, exhausted, amazed and yearning cries , pleas and exaltations.
To put it differently, the writers have a living and engaged relationship with God. There is nothing distant or clinical. We see similar expressions in slaves yearning for freedom “I wants to go where Moses trod,/O de dying Lamb !/For Moses gone to de promised land,/ O de dying Lamb !) These songs are personal and immediate. During WW2 no one under the boot of the oppressors sang or read Psalm 91 (“Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.”) without the words coming from the very depths of their being. Years later in the safety of a new country, I know from my own family, those words in Psalm 91 still brought up the tremors of dark memories as well as the overwhelming realisation that God had been with the family through those dark times.
The Psalms are a clue to the relationship that God wants with us – a living, ongoing and thirsting connection between Him and the very core of our beings. We also see in the Psalms honesty and vulnerability. Pretence and self-aggrandisement are put aside. The Psalmist is completely open with God with all his feelings.
I fell in love with the Psalms during one of the tougher times of my life and in the process I came to realise how close God was all the time. His comfort, challenge and direction were never far away. The Psalms became, for me, a gateway to worship – a worship that is founded upon an utter and helpless dependence on a living God.
Immerse yourself in the Psalms and be amazed how near God is!
In our staff devotions the other morning one of my colleagues spoke about the “boxes” we place people in. Stereotyping and pre-judging can be an easier, but shallow way, of dealing with people rather than getting to know and relate with them properly.
This made me reflect as a father of six daughters. People often assume that two parents having six children of the same sex must mean they are like peas in a pod. First of all, from an appearance point of view, that is way off the mark and from a personality perspective even more so. Yes, you can see similarities between one and an another but ultimately they are all very different and individual people. You can see parental influences but, once again, they reveal themselves in a variety of wonderful ( and sometimes not so wonderful) combinations.
The oldest is a chemistry researcher at a university with a passion for art. (Shameless plug: her blog on art can be found at – http://netistok.wordpress.com/). Another is a bio-medical engineer who likes history. And still another is a very creative Maths/Science teacher. (No, this is not an oxymoron!) I’ll leave the second three for another, future, post.
Each is unique and individual. If that is true within a family how much more so in our general society. We are unique. Gen 1:27, Psalm 139:14, Mat 6:26 all remind us that God has shaped each one of us into a special person as part of His human mosaic. It is then our responsibility to treat each other in the same way – as special creations of God. The highpoint of that expression is, of course, Jesus Christ. For a person to grow in and know their uniqueness, a relationship with Christ is essential. After all, that is whom the Holy Spirit is growing within us.
Many years ago when I was a minister in a small country town one of our daughters was nominated as a contestant in a Lion’s Club Young Public Speakers’ event. On the big night they had to give a speech and also make impromptu speeches on topics given by the judges. There were quite a few people present on the evening of the finals.
For one of the impromptu topics our daughter was asked the question (something like): If You are the pilot on a plane carrying a doctor, lawyer, survival expert, a pregnant mother and a pastor, and the pilot must stay with the plane, because with one engine it can carry one person back to the airport, but there are only 4 parachutes for the other 5 people, who would have to miss out when they jumped off the plane and why? My daughter, without any hesitation, said,”The pastor.” There was an audible gasp among the people in the room as everyone knew I was a pastor. Some may have wondered if there were family issues that needed resolving in the Stok household.
My daughter added quickly, “The pastor knows where he is going when he dies. His salvation is assured, but I don’t know if the others have that relationship with God. They still have an opportunity to come to the Lord” It was a wonderful witness of the power of the gospel to the people present. But I also remember thinking at the time that there is a challenge for each one of us – me included. We all need to be ready when the Lord calls because we don’t don’t know the day or the hour of our passing.
What ever happened to servant leadership – that amazing leadership modelled by Christ? Where are the leaders that give of themselves altruistically for the good of the people they lead? If we reflect on history, some of the most incredible leaders were those with a humble sense of servanthood. Gandhi, Mandela … you fill in the gaps with people who come to mind.
I see Servant leadership in some church leaders, business and school leaders but it seems a quality that modern politics has squeezed out of its participants. In recent years there has been a scandal in the UK in which more than a few MPs used the system to feather their own nests. Australia has seen its fair share of arrogant and obnoxious behaviour where the good of the people being served has hardly been considered. The current election fervor in the US is anchored in hubris, arrogance and self aggrandisement.
No one event (outside of the cross) highlights the opposite of this attitude more than Jesus washing his disciples feet in John 13. Jesus challenges his disciples, and us, by saying,” I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” This humble act is a metaphor for Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice but also for the attitude he calls us to take. To be Christ like has no room for arrogance, self service, pretension and conceit
The question that I am left with, is, how do we encourage servant leadership in our narcissistic age? The people Jesus left behind, the church – that is the body of Christians (I am not speaking of denominations etc.) – are called to be Christ modellers. The world around us needs to see what it looks like. So where does it start? With us.
PS If there is a servant leader who has inspired you (local, national or international – past or present), I would love to hear about them.