Thursday, November 29, 2007

Quote : Definition of Faith

Contrary to popular teachings, the Christian idea is not about faith in a bunch of 'doctrines' dreamt up by early church daddies, but in the closeness of Jesus, in the goodness of people despite our badnesses, in the conviction that despite all the evidence to the contrary, at some point God will sit everyone down and say, "Look, I can explain everything."

Quote from The Church English Dictionary by Martin Wroe, Adrian Reith & Simon Parke (Minstrel, 1991)

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Devotional thought : Philippians 3:15

And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Philippians 3:15

I love the way Paul leaves it up to God to make things clear to those who think differently when so often we feel the need to correct them.

The fact is people do think differently. We grow up in different circumstances, have different experiences and therefore have different perceptions. Sometimes it is just a difference about what is important; sometimes the difference is merely superficial; sometimes it is only a matter of emphasis. These things need not cause conflict if we leave the issue up to God to make things clear as He sees necessary.

Only a few verses later Paul is pleading with Euodia and Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. We are not even told what they disagreed over, it was not important. We will have differences but they need not divide us. Throughout the letters in the New Testament we find many exhortations to love one another and to live in harmony. We can only do this if we put aside our need to be right and not take it upon ourselves to correct others who we perceive as less knowledgeable.

There are other places where Paul does bring correction, rebuke and instruction. There is a time to do this when the truth of the gospel is comprised. Yet too often we are quick to jump in and correct when given time and nurture God Himself will make the issue clear to others.

We need to trust God. We don't need to take upon ourselves the role of policeman over the non essentials of our faith, remembering also that God may need to make things clear to us too.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Tomorrow we vote

I really am breaking new ground. Not so long ago I was writing about football and now politics! What next?

Tomorrow is the federal election in Australia (which will determine amongst other things whether John Howard stays Prime Minister). In Australia voting is compulsory which I think is a good thing. If it wasn't I probably wouldn't vote – it is such a bore! I think the best parliaments are the ones where the governing party has a very small majority. It means that they actually have to listen, even cooperate sometimes with the opposition party as opposed to what they normally do which is denounce them. However it is very hard for me to vote in such a way as to bring this about.

If it wasn't compulsory and I didn't vote I would feel guilty because a lot of women fought very hard so I could vote and I do appreciate their efforts. It is interesting though that feeling guilty would not be enough to make me do what I perceive as the 'right' thing. Guilt, punishment, reprimands do not make us do the 'right' thing. We only 'go and sin no more' (John 8) when we understand we are deeply loved and don't want to cause grief to the One who loves us.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Devotional Thought : Philippians 2:6

Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. Philippians 2:5-6

I'm often surprised by people in society who 'grasped' at the tiniest bit of power, influence or control because it makes them feel important. I'm thinking particular of people who cling to official positions in social groups, like sporting clubs, service organizations etc. purely for the sense of worth it gives them. Sometimes it even happens in churches. Whereas Jesus didn't need to 'grasped' onto anything, not even real power – equality with God – because Jesus didn't need recognition from people to feel significance.

The next verse in Philippians 2 tells us, he "made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant". We see this in John 13 where Jesus washes his disciples' feet. The incident begins this way:

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God so … he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet (John 13:3,5).

It was because Jesus was so secure in the knowledge of who He was, where he had come from and where he was going that He could lay aside His status and serve others from a heart free from manipulation without expecting anything from them – not even appreciation.

Likewise if we want to be like Jesus and serve the way He did we need to be secure in our relationship with God. We need to know we are significant because we are His children. We need to know He values us for who we are not what we do. We need to know we are greatly loved so we can serve from a heart of love free from manipulation.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday's lighter note

I haven't posted one of these for a while however I did find this rather amusing:

When we married, my wife kept her maiden name. Although it is pronounced exactly as it's spelled – Verderosa – it frequently presents a stumbling block to telephone salesmen and other who don't know her.
On one such call, I was addressed as "Mr Verdonga." Sensing my displeasure, the salesman asked, "Did I pronounce your last name correctly?"
"No," I replied.
"How do you pronounce it?" he asked.
"Scott," I told him.
After a moment of silence, he said, "Gee! It's certainly not pronounced like it's spelled, is it?"

- Frank Scott (Readers Digest)

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Devotional thought : Philippians 1:9-10

Currently I'm studying the book of Philippians at the Bible Study Place so you can expect some more devotional thoughts from that book.

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best ... Philippians 1:9-10

This is part of Paul's prayer for the church at Philippi. Paul connects growing in love with knowledge and depth of insight. This leads to an increase in discernment.

In the physical we see as children grow their ability to discern grows. They begin to recognize dogs as distinct from other four legged animals, than as they get older they begin to recognize different breeds. Teenagers, especially boys, begin to appreciate the differences between different makes and models of cars, whereas to a small child they are all just cars. Likewise spiritually as we grow we become more discerning. Romans 12:2 points out that it is as our minds are renewed we become more discerning and are "able to test and approve what God's will is".

Discernment is important when it comes to loving others. Christian love is not blind! Sometimes the most obvious way to help someone may in actual fact not be the most loving. With our children we know that it is not always helpful to rescue them from the consequence of their actions or to give them what they ask for. We know that sometimes you have to be tough to be loving. The same is true with adults that we are trying to help sometimes we have to allow people to feel the pain of their situation before we can help them.

Paul's prayer acknowledges that our love needs to increase in wisdom so that our loving deeds will be beneficial to those on the receiving end and not an enabling to allow them continue in unhelpful ways.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Book Review : Direct Hit part 2

Direct Hit: aiming real leaders at the mission field (Abingdon Press, 2006) is a very hard hitting book as Paul Borden explains how to bring significant change to churches which are not growing and therefore not fulfilling God's purposes. He sees the church as God's primary tool for making individual disciples and for changing entire communities. He uses some surprising analogies to make his point. One is of the dysfunctional church being like an alcoholic. Another is using the battles in the Old Testament as a picture of the sort of struggles that happen when a pastor tries to bring new life to a dying congregation.

Borden explains in some detail (particularly in the appendixes) the process he takes a church through in order to bring it into health. He asks whether the pastor is willing to resign. He asks board members if they want to hold onto their positions and watch their congregation die. He explains these questions are necessary because it has generally been under their watch that the congregation has declined.

While the book's primary audience is pastors it provides startling insights into the difficulties faced by pastors and church leaders who want their churches to grow.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Book Review : Direct Hit part 1

I've been reading, Direct Hit by Paul Borden (Abingdon Press, 2006) and I will be writing a book review in a few days but in the meantime here's a taste of what he's on about:

Despite all the rhetoric, most congregations do not want to pay the cost of change. They usually want the results of change but are unwilling to do what it takes to get the results. The price is too high.

To begin with, nearly everyone in the U.S.A. (and in many other countries) comes to church as a consumer asking the question: "What will you do for me?" The consumer does not ask what he or she can do to help. The consumer expects to have expectations met; if they are not met, a consumer will either go somewhere else or will shop shopping. Consumers who are already in the congregation are not going to change to meet the needs of the consumers yet to come, as long as their needs are being met. Most small congregations are closed small groups. In these groups, social and some spiritual needs are met for those already inside, but there is little or not interest to reach out to those outside the group.

Another reason congregations do not want to pay the cost of change is that most believe God created the Church, and their congregation in particular, for them. … They do not see their congregation as a mission outpost designed to reach lost people; rather, they believe it exists as a place where the converted may be safe from the larger, evil world. Pg. 96-97

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