Saturday, February 28, 2009

Age limit on Facebook

I've actually never posted a video before but now seemed to be a good time to start. Julian Smith suggests there should be an age limit on Facebook (#9), which is a bit of a worry! (It's 4:10 mins.)

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Transformng Theology : Training pastors

I received John Cobb’s book, Reclaiming the Church (Westminister John Knox Press, 1997) as part of the Theo-Blogger Consortium.

Of all the issues that John Cobb raises in his book, the one I personally found most relevant and significant was the professionalization of theology (page 22).

Cobb writes about the changes that have occurred during the past fifty years in the United States, and while I am not familiar with the situation in the US, I know that this is a huge problem in Australia. Pastors are trained to be theologians. This leads to numerous problems.

When Jesus called the first apostles they were not academically inclined, they were fishermen and trades people. Likewise those who feel called to pastor should not be disqualified because they are not capable of getting a university degree. Jesus used the apprentice method to teach his disciples on the job skills. He demonstrated compassion, mercy, justice, faith and the disciples learnt from what they experienced. Likewise I believe the church needs to return to this method of training its future leaders.

My husband studied at a theological college where one of his lecturers complained that his essay sounded like a sermon and not like an essay. What a ridiculous complaint! We don’t need pastors that can write essays we need pastors who can preach sermons.

We are encouraging the wrong types of people to go into pastoral ministry. We don’t need people who love intellectual discussions and in depth study of the original language. We need people who can communicate, who care more about people than books, who have experienced real life dramas and not been cloistered away in a university.

The church has been sucked into training people the way the world trains them. By isolating them in universities and rewarding them with academic achievements but not highlighting the truly important qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). We forget that Paul told Timothy, “the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (I Timothy 1:5 NASB). The goal is not to get an A on exam papers but rather to exercise love.

My question for the consortium:
What do you think, would the apprentice model be more effective than the university model for training future leaders?

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Devotional Thought : National Day of Mourning

Australia had a national day of mourning on Sunday for all those who died in the bush fires a fortnight ago. The death toll stands at 210. I wrote this article a while ago and it seemed appropriate at this time.

"Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted." Matthew 5:4

The prerequisite to receiving God's comfort, is that we mourn. It is not wrong to grieve and we need to give ourselves permission to feel the pain of our losses. Yet we don't mourn "like the rest of men, who have no hope" (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Our mourning is different mainly because of our hope in Jesus who has overcome the power of death. But also because Jesus is our High Priest who has shared our humanity and is able to sympathize with us (Hebrews 4:15). At Lazarus graveside Jesus entered into the pain and wept. He showed us that tears and grief are part of the process of coming to terms with our losses.

Even when we experience smaller losses we still need to acknowledge the pain and mourn. The "stiff-upper lip mentality" isn't God's idea. I once heard a worship leader makes this comment, "Let the hurts of a life time flow into His nail scarred hands." Once we have felt the pain we are then free to let it go. Even then it's a process and not an instant pain-killer.

Being a Christian doesn't guarantee us a life without tragedy but being a Christian means we have access to God's resources. He promises us His comfort when we mourn, but if we don't mourn we can't receive God's comfort. God encourages us to come to His "throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Book Review : Jesus the fool

Choosing a controversial title is always a good way to encourage people to buy a book and Michael Frost has certainly done that with his book, Jesus the fool (Albatross Books, 1994). Frost does not use the word fool, in a derogatory sense. He is attempting to show us Jesus through fresh eyes and illustrate from, the point of view of worldly values, that many of Jesus’ actions were foolish. Perhaps the most foolish of all is the way he continues to love mankind despite the numerous times people continue to reject Him.

Thus the main thrust of his book is to look at Jesus’ actions from a different perspective. It is a technique often used in counseling whereby if you can help the counselee sees a particular situation differently to the way they currently see it. Then the way they react will also change.

Our view of Jesus is often colored by our upbringing and by leaders who shaped our early Christian walk. In the introduction Frost talks about particular writers who changed his perception of Jesus. I know myself, watching Bruce Marchiano as he played the role of Jesus in “The Gospel according to Matthew”, forever changed the image of Jesus that I held. Like Frost I realized that Jesus was much more animated and humorous than I had been taught.

I have been led to believe the book has now been republished by UNOH publications and is well worth a read.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

What I've been reading...

I have just read Jesus the fool by Michael Frost and will write a review soon. There is quite a surprising story about how I came by this book. On the Friday, prior to the Saturday my son was married, I was at the church building where the ceremony was to be conducted. This was not the church where my son actually attends because that building was too small. While others were busy decorating the church I was wondering around the foyer. There was a table with some books on it which immediately attracted my attention. They seemed to be old books which I assumed they wanted to clear but there was no sign or donation box. The book, Jesus the fool, caught my eye. I heard Michael Frost speak some years ago and ever since have wanted to read this book. I had been told it was out of print and the publisher wasn’t reprinting because people had been offended by the title. I couldn’t find anyone to ask if I could have the book or make a donation for it. I wasn’t passing up the opportunity so I *stole the book!

*Not really, I left a note with my name and address and later rang the church office—but I didn’t want to spoil a good story with the facts!

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Devotional Thought : Revelation 1:5

“To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.” Revelation 1:5-6

This verse reminds me of the chorus of the hymn, With Harps and With Vials: “Unto him who hath loved us, And washed us from sin, Unto him be the glory forever. Amen.”

The first verse of the hymn comes from Revelation 5:8 “… the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls (vials) full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.’”

God has made us to be a kingdom and priests, which is the thought contained in verse 3 of the hymn, “He makes of the rebel, a priest and a king.” It’s all about what God has done, not only for us, but in us. We are given value and worth in Christ. This is truly amazing, no longer in disgrace because of our sins but chosen, freed and made holy. We can live our lives knowing we are truly loved which gives us great security and confidence.

Peter says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God…” (1 Peter 2:9). We are indeed blessed.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Book Review : Nurture

Relationship issues tend to be more important to women than men and even more so to women like, Lisa Bevere. Lisa has written Nurture (Faith Words, 2008) from a heart felt desire to see women encouraged and built up in their faith, not just so they will feel better about themselves but in order that they will fulfill their God-ordained purpose. Lisa issues a challenge for women to reach out to other women whatever their circumstances.

I particularly enjoyed the middle chapters where Lisa speaks about the value of intuition and how God speaks to us through our intuition sometimes without our being aware of it. Lisa also uses the example of Naomi and Ruth as well as Elizabeth and Mary to bring out the value of being in relationship with other women. There are women who will act as mothers towards us and other women who need us to act as mothers. Lisa does a good job of explaining the difference between mothering and mentoring.

While I’m not as passionate about this topic as Lisa is, I see there is value in her point of view. I like the personal stories she tells which shows how God has spoken into her life. She shares many good insights.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Devotional Thought : Titus 3:14

Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good… Titus 3:14

Seven times in the book of Titus Paul says: “do what is good” (1:8, 2:3, 2:7, 2:14, 3:1, 3:8, 3:14). How do we define what is good?

Rob Bell in his book, Velvet Elvis points out that when the first apostles had to make a monumental decision about how to include Gentiles in their worship services, all they came up with, after much discussion was, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” (Acts 15:28). Surely that would be the time you would want something concrete from God. The church was going through massive changes and all they received was a sense that their definition of appropriate behaviour for Gentiles, “seemed good”.

The apostles were defining “doing good” for the Gentiles by telling them “to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immortality” (15:29). They made this decision based on the judgment, “that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God” (15:19).

Apart from sexual immortality these requirements were actually cultural, which makes you wonder how we do define what is good in our culture? God did not give concrete rules and regulations to the first churches and He will not give them to us. God has given us “the peace of Christ” to rule in our hearts (Colossians 3:15); He has given us His Spirit to lead and guide us; and that is enough. If our hearts have been cleansed and renewed than God is able to guide and direct us. So we too will be able to say about the decisions we make, it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to me.

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Monday, February 09, 2009

The wedding and bush fires

My son was married on Saturday. It was a monumental day—the hottest day in recorded history for Victoria, low humidity and windy. We had been warned about bush fires and they eventuated with more ferocity than anyone anticipated. Currently 131 people are confirmed dead with many more missing; over 700 homes have been destroyed.

Meanwhile my son’s wedding went off very well. The church was very warm and photos were difficult because of the weather but the reception room was air conditioned. The passage my son and his fiancée had chosen for their wedding was Luke 12:13-26. The theme was about building marriage (and life) on a firm foundation and not simply acquiring “an abundance of possessions” (v.15). About 100-150k away and within hours of the wedding hundreds of people lost everything they owned. Life indeed is not about an abundance of possessions.

My other son lives in one of the towns which was hit by the bush fires. The fire came up their street, burnt down many houses including the one next door and then, thankfully, stopped. He and his wife were, of course, at the wedding, had they been home they would have been evacuated. We have other friends in this town as we once lived there ourselves and fortunately they are all fine. We traveled home on Sunday and Monday, mostly with a smoke haze. It has been an eventful time and I’m feeling very tired.

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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Book Review : The road home

In, The road home (Bethany House, 2007), Tommy Tenney & Mark Andrew Olsen have done a great job of retelling the Biblical story of Ruth in a modern setting. In doing this they had to overcome some gaps in the original story as well as create a modern parallel. In the Biblical account we are not given background information about Naomi, Ruth, Orpah or Boaz so the authors have created believable histories for these people, though in my opinion, perhaps slightly inaccurate. (In the biblical account it would appear that Ruth had a family to go back to, but in this retelling she has lost contact with her parents.) However overlooking these small discrepancies, the authors have created a great story full of drama and intrigue.

Ruth and Naomi’s journey to Bethlehem is portrayed as a road trip across America from Moab, Utah to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. A long and dangerous journey for two women with few resources which is, of course, exactly what it was in the original account. It is during the journey that we hear these women exchange confidences and build a strong relationship. Their new life in Pennsylvania is also not without its difficulties but with Boaz on the scene a good outcome is assured!

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Sport and routines and a wedding

Every sports person/sports team I supported last weekend lost! I was hoping Safina would beat Williams and that Federer would beat Nadal neither did. Australia lost the cricket to New Zealand on the last ball after losing to South Africa on Friday. Even in the Super Bowl, which I know nothing about, I was hoping the Arizona Cardinals would win. Only because Ben Graham (the punter) once played for Geelong, the team that I follow in Australian rules football. I guess that is the nature of following sport—you never know who is going to win. At least in the spiritual realm I know who wins!

Life for me is returning to its routines. January is a slow month for me. Since it is school holidays many of the activities I’m involved in go into recess, there is lots of tennis and cricket on the TV and it is hot. Last week we had five days in a row over 40ºC, and on some of those days it got to 43ºC (109ºF)—fortunately the humidity is very low. But now it is February, school has resumed, activities are re-commencing, life returns to the routines. I don’t find this to be a bad thing. It is almost a relief. I guess I’m the sort of person who finds routines comforting.

Though having said that this coming weekend my routines will happily be thrown out the window as my son is getting married on Saturday. So if I’m not around here very much you’ll know why!

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Devotional Thought : Titus 2:11-12

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives... Titus 2:11-12

God's grace teaches us to say, “No”. Generally in the work place if people extend grace or overlook a misdeed they don’t expect it to change people’s behaviour. Commonly it is thought, if you “give people an inch they will take a mile” meaning they will expect to be shown more leniency in the future. Therefore in the world, grace tends to teach people to continue in their wrong behaviour, but God's grace operates differently.

God's grace humbles us in a way that punishments and reprimands never do. Punishments often are an ineffective way of changing behaviour. So many criminals re-offend, it is the same children in trouble at school, parents repeat the same reprimands to their children. However when we are confronted with God’s grace and fully realize that we are recipients of the most undeserved mercy and grace, we are humbled and our hearts are changed.

When David experienced God's grace he wanted to be different, “Create in me, a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). That's the effect grace is suppose to have on us. When we understand the enormity of our sin in the sight of a holy God, we are humbled.

Dan Allender commenting on grace says, “The cost for the recipient of God’s grace is nothing—and no price could be higher for arrogant people to pay.” Receiving God’s grace is humbling. It makes us realize our inadequacy to live a godly life by our own effort. Ultimately it will motivate us to say “no” to those things which displease God.

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