Jeremiah 9:23-24

This is what the Lord says:
“Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom
Or the strong man boast of his strength
Or the rich man boast of his riches,
but let him who boasts boast about this:
That he understands and knows me…”

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kec 2011

a good heart is hard to find: committment in the age of disposable love

kec 2011 has come and gone….
This year I had the privilege of leading the senior high program (year 11&12). It was a great challenge for me and I got a lot out of it. We had a really great leadership team that were eager to serve.

First of all, I was really encouraged by the guys I had in the group that I lead. They were really open and willing to share things that they struggled with and things they’d like prayer for. So hopefully, I’ll be able to stay in touch with them and see how they’re all going.

Being a senior high leader this year meant that I had to really critically think about what was said in the talks so that we could have productive discussions. This really taught me how to unpack and apply what I hear in talks.

Something that really hit me from the talks was that the lifestyle resolutions of Christianity are wrapped up in the gospel and are not just about moralising. 

On hearing the gospel message and accepting it, we should resolve to always rejoice in the Lord, a joy that emerges from knowing Jesus and it is this that makes us stand strong. To be known for selflessness and gentleness, and o be anxious about nothing and prayerful about everything. To resolve to think holy thoughts and to learn the secret to contentment no matter the circumstance.

Don then looked at the Christian marriage and how it was engineered to best work as a reflection of Christs relationship with th church.

On the final day I asked the guys in my groups to share something that they learned and really wanted to work at so that I could pray for them. Here are some of the things they said:

  • To believe the claim and have the confidence to speak about it.
  • To take up my cross daily and live the Christian life every day.
  • To pray instead of being anxious and to remember the enormity of Christs sacrifice for me.
  • To rely fully on God
  • To react to Christs sacrifice for me with self-sacrifice for him
  • To remember that God always knows and is in control and to trust in him.
  • To rejoice in the Lord always because no matter what he is working for my good.
  • To learn to link contentment with the trustworthy God of the Bible and not with the circumstance and to grow as I study the Bible.

So those are some things that I have really been encouraged by in the past few days. And I am really grateful that I could have a glimpse of these guys lives and to help them think about what they really believe and how they can live life to glorify God.

Holiness in a World Where Anything Goes

Holiness: non-conformity

Today I’ll be heading off to Easter Convention which is like a big family camp that happens every year and they get all these great speakers in from every where to come and speak. This year I’ve been asked to help lead the yr 11 and 12 group, so its gonna be an exciting few days for me. When I get back I’ll let you all know how it went down.

This year the theme is….’Committment in the age of disposable love’. Don Carson, who is pretty well known in Christian circles, written like a million books. Then there’s Dale Davis, who is a Professor of the OT somewhere in America, and finally Simon Flinders, from right here in Australia, who is the Chaplain to the Australian Cricket team. So I’m really excited and thought I’d let you know what’s coming up. If you could pray that hearts would be changed and that the leaders would have energy and enthusiasm to serve these next few days.

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.
The acts of sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissentions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law. This who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying other.”
 Galatians 5:16-26

Young people grow up these days with little understanding of what is right or wrong. Let me justify myself with some statistics…

Australia was reported to have the sixth largest rate of teenage pregnancy among developed nations in 2003.  5% of Australian babies were reported to be born to teenage girls, while legally induced abortions were the second highest reason for girls between the ages of 12 and 20 to get admitted to hospitals.

Crime statistics present that roughly one-third of all victims of violent crime are teenagers, between the ages of 12 and 19. Need I say more?

I hope that you can agree that this has developed from the ‘relativism’ I talked about in the last post. It has led to little fundamental agreement over what is right and what is wrong. As Satre once said:

“God does not exist and we have to face all the consequences of this. It is extremely embarrassing that God does not exist for there disapears with him all possibility of finding values in an intelligible heaven. We find no values or commands to turn to”

Can we decide between right and wrong?

People who don’t believe in a moral authority follow how they feel when they make a decision. This feels right or it feels wrong. You know, the cliche ‘go with your gut feeling’.
But to be honest, feelings aren’t that reliable and change from culture to culture and person to person. Look at Adolf Hitler, he felt it was right to kill off all the Jews.

This world screams, ‘We are released from the shackles of religion and Victorian morality, we are free to believe what we like and behave how we want.’ It sure sounds attractive, doesn’t it? But are its consequences as desirable?

“for it is written:” Be holy, because I am holy.””
1 Peter 1:16

‘There is no truth except my truth and no morality except my morality.’
To be holy means to be set apart, to be different in a way that reflects God’s moral perfection in ones life. This is one of the hardest things for a Christian cos as humans we’re naturally conformist. We prefer to ‘go with the flow’, ‘follow the crowd’.

1. We Must Recognise Our Sin.

The purpose of moral law is to make us aware of our sin. In a previous post called ‘No one is Righteous, not even one’ I expand on this a little more if you’re interested. Following and perfecting this law isn’t what saves you, you can’t perfect yourself. Salvation comes through Christ alone in faith alone.
The passage above suggests that the church that Paul was writing to were becoming complacent about this. They had thought, ‘well, if we’re saved, and Jesus has got all our sins covered, past, present and future, then we can just sin all we want, he’s got it all covered.’ Paul corrects this and says that it does matter how we live.

Rotten to the Core
No matter how morally sound we present oursleves everyone is sinful and corrupt within. The recognition of sin is the first step to living differently.

A Grusome List

“The acts of sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissentions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
v19-21

Look at this list, by nature we are competitively selfish – sexual immorality, fractured relationships, pride. However, God doesn’t ‘grade’ sin, there is none more severe than any other.  And becoming a Christian doesn’t mean you are magically immune to sin

2. We depend on God’s Spirit

‘Holiness is not a self-help programme’ – Vaughan Roberts
We can’t make ourselves holy all on our own, if you want to become more like Christ, he is your call of help.

The Fruit of the Spirit
The Holy Spirit is what opens up a new lifestyle. ‘A vine does not produce fruit by an act of parliament. They are the fruits of the vine’s own life.’ It is the spirit that will make real changes within a person, not following the law like they are the keys to Salvation.

3. We Must Work Hard

So like I said before, being saved isn’t the cue to go on taking it for granted.
” So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the deasires of the sinful nature.”v16
Making the decision to live by the spirit isn’t easy, but its rewarding.
“For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.”v17
Living as a Christian is a battel between two natures, the spirit and our sinful nature. Every decision, action and thought is a moral choice as to which side you’re gonna go.
Keeping in step with the spirit means to consciously operate alongside it, the choice is all yours.

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”
v24-25

We need to live lives that reflect our decision to follow Christ. The Spirit works as we work. You can’t just sit back and wait for God to do it all, He works alongside us, giving us the strength to fight but we must supply the will.

The choice is yours, we can’t change on our own, follow the sinful nature or the Spirit.

Dom, the most adorable neighbor ever.

Montana and Dom

I have been lucky to live in a great neighborhood with some adorable nrighbors. Sadly, we got a knock on the door on Friday morning from one of them to let us know that lovely old Dom had passed away. I thought I’d make him a tribute post.

 
Dom was this lovely Christian Sicilisan man who lived next door, loved his Italian opera and my flute playing, may I humbly add. And he always got my name confused, it was either Suzie or Susan but I didn’t bother to correct him. I thought this was appropriate for this blog because one of my most distinct memories of him was actually at another neighbors funerals. Dom had been best buddies with Buzz who lives down the street. They’d been friends for 40 years.
 
One of the sadest things for Dom was that Buzz wasn’t a Christian and this would be the last he ever saw of him. The funeral was completely devoid of any sort of Christian joy. One of the sadest I’ve been to. At the end they had a time where people could get up and say something and Dom got up and with bold confidence he said, “There is no life without Jesus, without him, there is nothing.” And that was it, he sat down.
 
Dom was just one of those guys, that lived what he preached, stood up for what he believed in and really loved his neighbors. I have been blessed to have known him and his grandkids who we often played with. I was talking to Montana (who is in the picture above) just today and she said he often talked ofour family and how much he loved us. It is such a blessing that we could hear that from her.
 
So Goodbye Dom and we’ll see you in the next world.
 

Certainty in a World in Which Everything is Relative

This post kind of is an extension onto “Is there anything out there?” that I posted a few weeks ago. I got a little excited about it and posted a little spoiler earlier. So here’s some more on the subject if you’re interested.

So to sum up what the previous post said, it was something along the lines of…Christianity is the only religion whose information comes from outside this world. Therefore, it is the truth about God because it came from God not man.

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one come to the Father except through me.”
John 14:6

‘The man from the outside”

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God , and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.”
John 1:1-2

Jesus was with God from the beginning but then he entered our history. He wasn’t just a creation that was made to fix sin because Gods plan went in a direction he never expected. Jesus was there from the beginning.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
John 1:14

This is still sort of a recap on the previous post. So basically, Christianity isn’t just a pile of guess-work. The Bible is how God reveals himself to man. ‘Now, at last, it is possible to know the truth about God. It is not discovered by the power of human reason or mystical experience, but through revelation.’ (Vaughan Roberts – Distinctives)

“No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.”
John 1:18

You might be thinking, hold on, Christianity isn’t the only religion that claims to be founded on revelations from God, how can you claim that Christianity’s revelations are the truth over other religions revelations?

Well, I can confidently say that Christianity is based on real history.

‘Your word is Truth’
Despite Jesus no longer being on Earth we still have access to the truth. The Old testament is seen as the truth. Jesus often quoted it and equated it to the words of God.
The Bible is a book written by humans, around 40 different authors all with different styles, personalities, occupations and historical contexts. Gods spirit spoke through them creating a written record.

How do you know it’s accurate?

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you will know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”
 John 14:17

This is a verse from the gospel of John where Jesus is explaining that he is going to leave them. They have a little freak out and don’t really understand and they keep asking him, ‘Where are you going?’ and ‘How can I follow you there?’ Here Jesus is promising to give them the Spirit of truth (The Holy Spirit).

“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you.”
John 14:26.

So, Jesus left them with the Holy Spirit. What does the Holy Spirit do? In the verse above, the Holy Spirit was at work in the people who wrote the Bible, ensuring that what they wrote was accurate. Basically he’s saying, it’ll help you remember what’s gone down so that you can write it right and pass it along to other people.
 
“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”
John 16:12-13

The Bible is revelation from God, the Spirit works in the authors of the Bible to make it true and accurate. But it then causes a conflict with a world of relativism. It becomes a claim of absolute truth in a world that doesn’t believe in absolute truth.

‘Our knowledge of truth does not depend on our imagination within the enclosed world of time and space, but rather on the revelation of the one who is from the outside – God himself.”
Vaughan Roberts – Distinctives

1. Know the Truth
So if the Bible is this revelation from God, accurate and true. The first step to take is to begin to learn it and know it.

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.”
1 Peter 2:2

Peter writes in one of his letters that the word of God is what sustains and grows Christians. Being a revelation from God it is the thing that nourishes a relationship with God.
However, the world has shifted to value emotion over thinking. People now expect and seek this ‘direct experiential encounter with God’ and often they find it difficult to see how our minds fit into that emotional encounter.
That isn’t what leads to spiritual health, it is the truth of God that brings spiritual health. Therefore, knowing the truth must have priority over experience.’Only those who have responded in faith to the gospel of Christ have a true knowledge of God.’ pg 80
Basically, regular reading of the Bible and valuable teaching from the Bible are essential for growing in Christ. So you can imagine how important it is. David in one of his many songs wrote…

“Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long!”
Psalm 119:97

2. Live the Truth
Just knowing the truth isn’t enough. Often people call Christians hypocrites because they don’t live what they believe. It is not the Bible that is at fault, but the people here. Christians are all sinful and imperfect but that doesn’t mean we can’t do our best to live the truth.

“Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves, do what it says.”
James 1:22

Be careful that you don’t let learning from the Bible become a mere intellectual excercise, the purpose of believing it is to do it. Pray, ask God to help you put these things into practise. It’s not something you can just magically achieve over night. It’s also not something that God expects us to be able to do easily, so ask him to help you out.
To be honest, starting this blog has really challenged me in this area. It’s so easy to put minimal energy into acting on what you learn, particularly when people only have a vague idea of what Christians believe. So starting this blog and telling other people about what I believe and brought me to work harder at living what I learn.

3. Contend for the Truth
On the same note, this blog is also an effort of mine to contend for the truth. To clear up the stereotypes and falsity that has been placed on Christianity. 

“Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.”
Jude 3

Relativism reigns in this world. Christians are persecuted for their claim to have the only and absolute truth. Vaughan Roberts in his book ‘distinctives’ quoted from his local newspaper:

“The idea that any mere human…could have any conception of what God is thinking is surely laughable and arrogant in the extreme…There is no-one…who is so perfect in themselves that they have the right to go around criticizing the behavior of other people…A bit of compassion and tolerance is more appealing than a load of bile and bigotry.”

No one wants to receive that response and so often Christians shy away but that’s not something we can afford to do.
Be careful and critical of the teaching in your church, make sure that the truth is being preached and isn’t modified to accommodate for the worlds love of relativism. Gods word doesn’t need to be sugar-coated to attract attention, it needs to be revolutionary and strikingly different and its capable of being that on its own.

4. Proclaim the Truth
As I said in an earlier post, if you knew the cure for cancer you’d tell everyone, wouldn’t you? You’d be proud and eager to share it. Well, God has provided an escape from hell, a way out of the punishment that we all deserve. Is that not something to eagerly tell others as well?

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matt 28:19-20

Don’t just resist this movement of relativism, proclaim the absolute truth. We are called to be counter-cultural. The world is happy for us to believe what we want, it’s when we start sharing it that it becomes a problem. Often this is what limits our evangelistic goals to ‘people more like us’. We avoid those of other religions because we expect this reaction of being accused of stealing people away from their religions.
We have received the truth and it is our privilege to pass it on. Evangelism is underpinned by relationships. Jesus didn’t only preach it, he lived it.

Purity in a World Obsessed by Sex

Hello again and sorry that it has been so long since my last post! A few people have been asking questions about Sex and God and so here is the long awaited post that’s part of the Distinctives series I’ve been writing. Sorry that it’s a little unformatted, there’s little you can do in an app but here it is C:

Often the Christian views and ‘rules’ about sex are known as restrictive and intolerant. I hope that as I layout what the Bible says about this topic you’ll understand why it works like this and if you’re a Christian, to deal with the frustrations and temptations.

The Worlds View
1. ‘If it feels good, do it’- sex is viewed as a natural instinct, if you’re feeling in the mood then why suppress natural urges? It’s seen as fun and liberating but it can end in emotional disaster.
2. ‘Just a bodily function’ – One of the ministers at our church used these lyrics to sum up this point: ‘you and me ain’t nothing but mammals, so let’s do it like the do it on the discovery channel’. I’ve forgotten who it’s from but I’m sure you’ve heard it.
3. And finally, the worlds view is completel selfish. It’s all about satisfying your desires with no thought for the other person. While we’re quoting songs take a look at these Katy Perry lyrics from ‘I Kissed a Girl’: ‘I don’t even know your name, it doesn’t matter, you’re my experimental game, it’s just human nature.’

So let me some it up, the world defines sex as: selfish, a natural instict, and demeans it to merely a bodily function.

Gods View
1. For some strange reason this stereotype has been placed on Christianity as shy of sex or even that we think it’s sinful or something.
God made sex and he made us to be sexual beings. If you’ve ever read Song of Songs in the OT I hope you noticed that it’s a complete book dedicated to the celebration of sex and relationship!
2. Sex is a means of procreation.
Gods first command to humanity was not love each other or obey me or anything like that… It was have sex and fill the earth.
“Be fruitful and increase in number.’ Genesis 1:28
Here is something I didn’t mention before but seems appropriate now. If you read womens magazines it is so often that they talk about sex but when is the fact that it leads to children ever mentioned? The world has painted such a selfish view of sex that having children (the almost unavoidable result of sex) is virtually completely divorced from it.
3. Sex is for strengthening love and committment.
When God created Adam he was alone so He created Eve for relationship, love and committment.
” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be unitedto his wife, and they will become one flesh.”
Genesis 2:24
Clearly more than animalistic mating, it’s a bringing together of souls, spirit and emotions. Let me put it this way, sex works like a special kind of glue that holds relationships together. So you can see why sleeping with multiple people doesn’t work, you glue yourself to someone and then tear yourself off, glue yourself to someone else and then tear yourself off again etc etc. The glue stops working after awhile and sex stops working. This is why porn and masturbation don’t work.
4. Porn
Porn depersonalises sex, divorcing it fro
relationship. It’s essentially looking at someone elses body and lusting over it. You don’t even know them! There’s clearly no relationship there. Believe or not but this demoralizes and depresses sexual urges. Porn doesn’t educate you so that you can better please your partner, it just desensitises you to sex and takes the pleasure out of it.
5. Masturbation.
This is somewhat similar, you’re essentially having a relationship with yourself when you masturbate and that’s a little weird. Sex is between 2 people not 1.
6. God the ultimate Sexpert.
God made sex so he knows how to best use it i.e in heterosexual marriage.
Marriage is exclusively between one man and one woman. It’s lifelong, the Bible only permits divorce in certain situations it’s not something that is just thrown around like a ‘Get out of jail free’ card.
‘what God has joined together let no man separate. ‘
This is why there is such an emphasis on choosing the right person to marry, based on who they are rather than the superficial elements the world emphasises.
‘Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.’ Proverbs 31:30