Calm and Storm

I managed 14+ km today… alas it was on the stationary bike, not treadmill. Mr G was still affecting the big toe so this morning I hopped on the bike instead. Plus I continue to feel flat and just listless. There’s a sinking feeling that somehow I have to pull myself up and deal with all of this, by myself.

Such is being a Christian. On the one hand you know God’s there and He’ll help you and whatever happens, will only happen with His sign off. So you try and pull together and go through whatever. On the other hand, I cant help but wish, quite often, than somehow there’d be some special dispensation of sorts and He’ll give me that special lift, out of nowhere.

I am reminded of past experiences where I appear to be going through a little storm, only to have Jesus sleeping in a corner on the boat. He appears to be sending a message of sorts – that I should trust him to get up and calm the storm and prevent any real harm or danger to befall me or anyone in that boat, instead of complaining that he doesn’t appear to take any action even as we face the storms.

To be fair, it isn’t quite a “stormy weather” situation for me. I just need a fillip and my take is I need to get out of my present role to have any chance of that happening and yet I need the security of my present situation, somehow. I don’t know. Maybe I am just making something out of nothing.


Time’s Up With Church Board

After a false start, I decided yesterday, to leave the church board. It has been 4 years now. The last time I tried to leave was over 2 years ago but it was in the context of leaving the church then.

Back in 2009 I thought the church was all over the shop in its teachings and these were dished out not just over the pulpit but also during bible studies and even a funeral service. After that service in question, some leaders were standing around where the casket had stood and conducted what was called a cleansing ceremony. Other than being spooky it was also very worrying to say the least. I was starting to think there may be cloaks and candles to be pulled out next. The leader who was leading the ceremony had also started preaching funny stuff – statements like some songs were anointed and would therefore last but others weren’t (so maybe Rod Stewart and Queen were anointed) and that houses with spiders and insects meant the occupants had issues with their lives – they were “unclean”.

When leaders also allowed circus like The Elijah Challenge to excite its congregation I decide I had enough and decided to leave.

As it turned out, events unraveled and before I could formally inform the Board, other leaders were creating little tsunamis and things got hostile and the whole thing started to break down. I could not leave when it was in that state so we hung around. One positive thing out of that episode was I decided I needed to have formal training in a bible school – I’m still at BCV (MST) now.

Things have stabilised much better now and I think we have a normal healthy church with sound teaching and well intentioned leaders.

I am however, tired of being the one to raise issues. I have always envisaged a church board to be one which identifies issues, discusses them through on an open, robust and unreserved manner, so that everyone has a clear understanding and rationale for where the church is, where it wants to head, and what it needs to do. When for the most part people appear uninterested, non-engaging and greet matters raised with muted responses (at best) I am less inclined to raise issues. If that is to be the case, I might as well not be in the board.

I no longer want to be the one which raises issues, the one to ask uncomfortable questions and the one who sends long emails which people either don’t read, think they’re a nuisance or don’t respond to. They may react to these months later, without addressing the context and points raised (because they were raised long ago). Most importantly, I don’t want to be unhappy at home because of these issues.

Course of Your Life, a fantastic Alpha Course alternative

The Alpha Course is sometimes said to be helpful not just to someone new to Christianity, but also to one who has been a Christian but hasn’t quite gone through the basics of what Christianity entails.

Several months ago, before my local church started another series of Alpha Course, I picked up a copy of an Alpha course publication which has the contents of the course. I thought I needed to be familiar with the contents. It appears to have the basic points but somehow shies away from a narrative of why man needs God and will be condemned (according to the Bible, not me or the church) unless he believes and accepts what Jesus has done on the cross. In this sense, the Alpha Course appears to be a useful introductory material for someone who is searching, but probably short in terms of completing the message. Some form of follow through is essential and this is from the perspective of someone new to Christianity.

For someone who is already a Christian, why does this introductory level material appeal and what learning does this person derive from this course? It would seem the whole event – the meals, camaraderie, spending a weekend away, the open forum for people to speak their minds – is the appeal, not the content proper. In other words, a Christian who finds Alpha beneficial lacked fellowship, more than teaching. It wasnt teaching that attracted, most probably, but the forum for fellowship and interaction generally.

I’m not sure therefore if Alpha should be the vehicle to bring the church together in that sense.

From this perspective, a more substantial and therefore beneficial tool appears to be the “Course of Your Life“, written by Tony Payne of Matthias Media.

Yes, I am very partial to content produced by this mob and I have relied heavily on CD‘s and books from them for my learning, in particular those by Phillip Jensen.

All this should however, be secondary to the consideration of the content and logic of this course. Course of Your Life appears to have all the basic substantive stuff in a narrative which completes the core message of the gospel of God’s plan for salvation – something Alpha Course skirted around at best. It appears also to have the rigours of basic biblical exegesis and a logic to the content organisation and flow which extracts core points to plot what God’s plans for HIs creation (and us) entails. It appears a lot less lazy, and cuts through the soft core approach of alternatives like Alpha. It appears to be well written in an attractive manner, without sacrificing any elements of the message of the bible.

Also, I like the fact that for the equivalent of the weekend away for Alpha, it suggests ways which pre-empts the need to get away on a Sunday. It doesn’t take a believer out of the fellowship of other believers by taking them away in order to find God (or more accurately, the Holy Spirit). It encourages believers to spend time with God’s family, not take them out of such fellowship and time.

In this regard, I have come to view programs and courses which take participants away on a Sunday, with dismay and disappointment. In particular, course, seminars, conferences and programs which take leaders away from their congregations on Sundays. Somehow organisers who think it is acceptable for ministers and leaders to be away from their wards on the ground of personal learning and development, dont rank highly in my esteem. COYL recommends a Fri/Sat get away or even 2 consecutive Saturdays – not a Sunday get away. This ranks highly for me. It shows the writers value the time spent on Sundays between Christians and only exceptional circumstances should take this blessing away.

I am certainly going to look at COYL a lot closer, and see if a group may be interested. At the moment, kudos to Tony Payne and Matthias Media for coming up with another useful tool to make disciples.

Who Do You Think You Are? Basis for Identity and Values

Looking at recent events in the UK and hearing how varying segments within the church needs to be addressed differently, I thought the following article useful in providing some clues in a search for the way forward in an increasingly pluralistic society.
The global church needs to ground youth in their true, deepest identity.
A Christianity Today editorial | posted 2/23/2009 10:27AM

About a year ago, Kenya exploded in post-election riots that resulted in a thousand deaths. Many of the killers were unemployed young people who were “hanging out and feeling people were looking down on them,” says Muhia Karianjahi, the Nairobi-based director of Tanari International, an international youth outreach ministry.

This basic storyline repeats itself around the world, and is arguably to blame for much ethnic violence in other 2008 hotspots such as Jos, Nigeria, and eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

One sobering reality in these conflicts is that they are happening in very Christianized regions. Kenya is, like the U.S., about 80 percent Christian. The DRC is 95 percent Christian.

“There are churches all over the place, and Bible schools, and everything else; and planted right on top is this horrific conflict,” says Wheaton College professor Paul Robinson, who grew up in eastern DRC. “Christianity doesn’t make a difference—that’s not your primary loyalty. Christian leaders need to ask: Isn’t there a higher, deeper loyalty?”

For many young people raised in the worldwide church, the answer is no. Ethnicity is their default identity. Karianjahi says Kenya’s “kids are frustrated that life is not working out.” When their options fail, so does their allegiance to Christian principles. A similar dynamic seems to be at work in the U.S. Recent Barna Group research found that a majority of American youth raised in the church have left it by age 29. The issue for American Christians is less about rioting youth and more about a rising generation whose commitment to Christ may not stand when shaken. And it doesn’t take much to shake it before they abandon Christ for lesser loyalties.

While we know that not all who are in the pews are in Christ, we should be concerned enough to take a second look at how we go about making disciples within the church.

Throughout Christian history, this task has been known as catechesis, the Greek term for systematic religious instruction. David Kinnaman, president and strategic leader of the Barna Group, says, “Leaders are realizing that it’s not just that we need more catechism for youth but a different kind.” He says more personalized, intergenerational teaching for youth is in order, to avoid giving them the impression that theology is unrelated to life outside the church.

Many young adults have gotten past questions of morality and now need answers from the church about Christian identity, how to follow their calling no matter the challenge, and how to have a positive impact on the world. The church has answers to these questions, but teaching them to the next generation is not easy. Karianjahi has wracked his brains over this issue, and has developed a ministry to begin addressing it. Tanari International uses church-based rites of passage, based on tribal rituals, to help young people journey into the fullness of Christian faith.

At Kenya’s Moi University, Emily Choge, an ethics professor and a John Stott Ministries Scholar, is doing something similar. “Instead of teaching the traditional African values or the values that separated one community from another, [we] are now using that time to instill Christian values,” she says. They use ceremonies to tell youth what they are to become (in this case, full members of the church), set out expectations, and give them the community’s affirmation.

While personalized teaching and rites of passage can help many young adults, it will take more than a program to develop a commitment to Christ. The church needs to reaffirm regularly in its teaching, preaching, and example that loyalty to God and identity in Christ leave all other allegiances in the dust.

Oh Stop It, Cindy Jacobs

If someone says “hands up if you think ‘I have a word from the Lord‘ can sometimes make Christians look like a big turnoff” my hands would probably go right up. Well Cindy Jacobs is at it again.

Instead of coming from the flavour and angle of American-styled right wing politics, the likes of Cindy Jacobs could do a lot better by asking Christians to just live properly and do the right things. The Kingdom of God isnt just about anti-abortion anti-euthanasia, anti gay marriage and other agenda normally associated with conservative politics. I would probably be the last to suggest what it should be about instead. All I know is the brand of religion promoted by Cindy Jacobs, Danny Nalliah and many others of the same ilk isn’t necessarily all that the Cross and the Kingdom message is about.

In the old days, the likes of Cindy Jacobs get stoned (not medicinally) for getting it wrong. Even if it is just once. Or maybe she is perpetually stoned which is why she keeps spouting this kind of stuff.

Enough of this prophetic gaffe. Get on with living normal just lives.

Words of Weezdom from a little monarch

The Sultan of Selangor in Malaysia is perhaps thinking his little throne is getting too small and since he is perhaps too old to be gallivanting around the world in a taxpayer funded yacht or crashing through some inter-continental motor race in (probably also taxpayer funded) vintage car (or perhaps the Malaysian government is too broke to fund such royal excesses), Sharafuddin Idris Shah now wants to try being a lawyer.

His statement on the Selangor state religious department raid on a church function (“JAIS-DUMC raid”), probably illustrates or magnifies the state of confusion in Malaysia in matters of admnistration of law.

The Sultan is a constitutional monarch of a state in the Malaysian federation. Since the Sultan did not have much education, someone should whisper to him what that means. I’m pretty sure he isn’t a trained lawyer. In fact I’m pretty sure he didn’t even have any tertiary education. And since he probably never had a real job as well, someone really should make it as simple as possible but make sure he understand not just  what the role of a constitutional monarch is, but also how the legal system works.

I guess the Chinese Bishop of the Catholic church in Malaysia (Bishop Paul Tan Chee Ing) has probably come as close to calling the Sultan an untrained and therefore likely misguided person in this matter, as the religious and racial bigotry in Malaysia would allow. Bishop Paul Tan spoke clearly, intelligently and bravely. That is no guarantee he would be heeded. Not so long ago he would have been taken in to be a guest of the government in Kamunting.

I have stopped following the news in Malaysia for a while now, and I guess I am reminded now why that is so.  With people like the Sultan of Selangor issuing statements like that, Malaysian news remains best unread.

Excerpts from Malaysiakini today:

DUMC-Jais: Bishop troubled by sultan’s statement
Terence Netto
6:45PM Oct 10

Catholic Bishop Paul Tan Chee Ing described the statement from the Sultan of Selangor on the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department (Jais) report on alleged proselytisation of Muslims by Christians at the Damansara Utama Methodist Centre last August as “dipped in the ambiguity that would make wanton accusations against Christians no more difficult in the future than it is now.”

bishop paul tan“Begging the Tuanku’s pardon, how is it possible to assert that there were attempts to deviate the faith of Muslim attendees at the dinner function at the DUMC but there is, then, not sufficient evidence to prefer charges,” queried the titular head of Catholics in the Malacca-Johor diocese, in an immediate response to a statement on the matter issued today by the sultan.

“If there is not enough evidence, there ought to be no imputation of wrongdoing – it’s as simple as that!” exclaimed Tan (left), who is concurrently president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia.

“As it stands now, the sultan’s statement paints the Christian organisers of the dinner function as having been given a discharge not amounting to acquittal from accusations that they proselytised to Muslims,” he asserted.

“I would have much preferred no statement at all to one that is neither here nor there,” offered the Jesuit-trained prelate.

“Christians have waited patiently for exoneration from false accusations by people whose intent is to grandstand on behalf of their losing causes,” said the bishop.

“It’s a good thing the general election is imminent, because there seems to be no let-up in this ugly campaign of innuendo and insinuation against Christians, so that the ballot box becomes our only recourse from persecution by vile slander,” he concluded.

Was Anders Breivik a Christian?

Was Anders Breivik a Christian as some news reports have suggested? Does his self declared act of war in the name of Christianity hold any water?

I agree wholly with what Tim Dalrymple has said in this matter here in the Patheos website. Have a read if you can find 10 minutes to spare


Potter, Camp and School again

Kiddo returned from her trip to renaissance nests late Tuesday night and on Wednesday night, we bade farewell to Mr Potter et al. See this article by Tim Dalrymple for a fun take on whether Christians should have anything to do with these tales of life, courage and overcoming.

On Friday night some of us from cell went for dinner at Malaysian Inn in Doncaster and early Saturday morning we took off for Phillip Island for the church camp.

We had Luis Cabral from the Asian Christian Fellowship at Rowville speak on Friday night and Saturday, and Tham Fuan our local pastor finished off the camp on Sunday morning – all in a great camp with plenty of time to chat with and know more people.

School’s back to work today, including MST for me. Hopefully it is less hectic and more enjoyable this semester.



More on Stott

I was just reminding myself of something I read on the views of John Stott on gifts, as reflected in his interview with the publication Christianity Today

On Gifts:

The most important gift today, measured by Paul’s principle that we should excel in those that build up the church, is teaching. Nothing builds up the church like the truth, and we desperately need more Christian teachers all over the world. I often say to my charismatic friends, “If only you would concentrate on praying that God would give teachers to the church who could lead all these new converts into maturity in Christ, it would be more profitable.

Objectivity and clarity of thoughts and expression is always important.

Don’t like the menu? Next church please

United now has just a 3-point margin with the next home game against Chelsea, second on the table with plenty of steam and luck. There are just 3 games left to play. It’s good to be in a dog fight of this nature at this time of the year.

“This time of the year” – it’s May already. A third of the year is gone. LifeGate, the new church, has started to settle into some rhythm. The merger was first broached officially at board level, maybe October/November 2009. In September 2010, members of both ICC and Oakley Cornerstone voted for the merger. We have been working since to work at the joints and put things together, always mindful that we are simply laying the groundwork to be prepared for whatever God wants to use this church for. We know it is to fulfil the Great Commission and to bring glory to His name. But exactly what the strategies and activities are towards that end – we’re still working on those, putting together the numerous pieces.

I’m still on the church Board. It is only a temporary Board. Its tenure is for no longer than 1 year. I hadn’t wanted a role in this capacity. I was going to do my studies quietly and be an ordinary but active church member. It was incumbent on me however, not to make things harder than they already must be for the pastor and his new team. People of similar maturity and seniority were turning down roles or at least indicating their desire to “step down”, such has been the bristling effect of the last days of ICC leadership. I could not say no without feeling I will be but adding to the challenges already facing pastor, perhaps thus aiding the enemy. So I said yes, thinking I can become that ordinary member after the tenure of the current board.

But being in the Board entails hard work and shouldering responsibilities. The work of spending time with people, thinking through and communicating issues, praying and seeking the Lord for direction, reading the Scriptures to be certain the church is not departing from its teachings, identifying concerns and needs of members and doing whatever possible to address them, attending long late meetings – all these are hard work.

The hardest challenge is recognising that no matter how hard one works and no matter how well intentioned the leaders may be, the church cannot meet every single need of every single member. But the comfort is in knowing that the church doesn’t have to. All it has been asked to do is to build each other up and it can do no more than lay the path for members to seek the Lord themselves. Each must discover how he or she is to serve, and all the leaders want is for members to show a commitment towards the church.

In the context of Australia, I am discovering the truth of the consumer approach to church meaning Christians who look to church as outlets peddling services. If a church offers something I can consume then I’d be there. The catchphrase is “for a season” – ie at a particular phase of my life, this church meets my needs, so I attend this church. This church provides goods and services suited to my needs for now, so I am there. I attend its services, contribute my time and least mentioned but often pertinent, my money also goes to this church. It is a consumer approach – as long as the products and services are those which suit me, it has my custom. The phrase “for a season” is often used by Christians who want to adopt the consumer approach and move on – albeit temporarily – to the “next outlet”. I accept some Christians uproot for more fundamental doctrinal or similar reasons but I believe moves for these reasons are far outnumbered by moves motivated by a consumer mentality.

To be fair a consumer approach to church attendance is not entirely wrong. After all, the church is there to meet the needs of its members – to help build each other up. The ugliness lies instead, in the lie which is based on this half application of the truth of building each other up. Building each other up is what the church is there for, but church attendance is not based on just it meeting my needs. It is also based on me building up the church so that it can meet the needs of others. In that sense it is more a co-operative than a consumer model.

I believe commitment is what makes it more a co-operative styled model as opposed to a consumer approach. A consumer approach means I am there to “consume” what the church has to offer. If the menu for the day is not what I am looking for I move on to the next outlet – “for a season” – which offers that which I need or want. This model cannot be an ongoing, sustainable one for church life because the building up entails a mutual edification which must work both ways. A relationship is a two-way traffic. The two-way traffic involves both giving and receiving by every member. Everyone gives. Everyone receives. The timing may vary – ie I may be a contributor today, this week, month or year but I may then be a recipient in the next cycle or at some point in my church life. Or, at any one time, I give more than I receive, or vice versa. It cannot be a case where I am looking only to contribute or receive and if I can’t do either I move to the next church and so on. That is a model which is contrary to the very essence of church.

Hopefully more on this at a later entry. For now, it is time to ruminate United’s chances. For this season – 🙂 – I had sought at the start, only to give my support as a life-long supporter, with no expectation of anything in return. It has already given me much more than I had expected. I didn’t like the team make up – the menu – but I stayed, as I have for so many years, and will continue to even long after Sir Alex decides to call it a day.


Sent from my iPhinity (and beyond)