Archives For May 2013

Significant provision

May 31, 2013 — 1 Comment

Watchman Nee explains that the Spirit, ‘is like a light; it will flood and illuminate the interior’ (Nee 1990:326).

Karl Barth supports this stating:

‘there is no more intimate friend of sound human understanding than the Holy Spirit’
                                                                                                                                 (C.D. IV.4:28).

Barth also writes that:

‘What God does in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit is exclusively His action…Let us be grateful that there is a necessary and firm connection between God’s action and ours, between ours and His!  Let us be grateful that we are liberated and summoned by the divine change to make the corresponding and ensuing human decision!

Let us do this in the gratitude of obedience, nothat we have to effect the divine change along with God, that in, with and under our work- the work of our faith, love and hope, the work of our service – we have to do the work of God Himself! Our human work has to acknowledge the work of God, to bear witness to it, to confess it, to respond to it, to honour, praise and magnify it’ (C.D.IV.4 1961:72)

Without the conviction of the Spirit I could not acknowledge my need for a saviour or my brokenness.

Holy Spirit 35

Holy Spirit 35 (Photo credit: Waiting For The Word)

Nee writes, ‘the basic condition of a sinner’s salvation is not belief or repentance, but just honesty of heart towards God’ (Nee 1990:327). This is because the basis of a sinner’s salvation is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.

The work of conviction initiated by the Holy Spirit frees us to be honest with God. Conviction can be found in the loud, quiet,  subtle or repetitive.

God’s provision through the Spirit has had a significant impact on my journey of faith in Jesus Christ.

I agree with Nee.

He rightly affirms that the ‘Holy Spirit has been poured out on all flesh, to bring to pass in us the conviction of sin, repentance, and faith’ (Nee 1990:324).

Without the work of the Holy Spirit, we would not be open to the counsel, or the comfort God. The Spirit intercedes on our behalf.There is hope here. What God has done is provide significant provision. It is enough.

‘Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words’
                                                                                                                        (Paul, Rm.8:26, ESV)

The Holy Spirit empowers me to bring my brokenness before the cross.

There the depth of gracious conviction permits me to bring my whole forgiven self to worship, rather than a vain, artificial image of who I think I am.

Sources:

Barth, K. 1961 Church Dogmatics.IV.4 1961 Hendrickson Publishers
Nee, W. 1990 Evangelism in Foster, R. 1990 Devotional Classics

Ever have one of those days when you sit down, sigh, look at your computer’s keyboard and ask yourself:

…….What’s the point?

I think I had one of those days today.

Nothing, and I mean nothing seemed to go right. It first started with an i-link cable, a cam recorder, and an outdated program which just seemed to suck the time away from an already packed to-do-list.

First world problems right?…

Right.

Even with this knowledge, which does help put things into perspective. I am still juggling things.

Alas for us ‘recovering perfectionists’ (Brene Brown, 2010).

We tend to weigh ourselves down with unrealistic expectations. Even though most people, besides the recovering perfectionist that is, truly expects the same kinds of results.

So my day becomes a learning experience.

Yet again I am reminded of my perfectionism or rather my imperfection. The people pleasing. The obsessive compulsive need to quadruple check every “i”, cross every “t”, and make sure that the colour of my power-point matches the tone of my topic.

Instead of “expecting” perfect as the ideal standard; I am reminded that we should aim for excellence. The framework of our understanding should be the view that excellence is the result of having given our best.

Something I know that Father, Son and Holy Spirit  will graciously use despite the ‘imperfect offerings’ (Cohen).

This is in direct contrast with the world’s standards of excellence! The Biblical understanding is  that God works through our imperfections. For example: excellence in prayer is not based on our performance it is based on the intercession of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:26).

Paul substantiates this stating that ‘God’s power is made perfect in our weakness’ (2 Cor. 12:9 my paraphrase).

Christians cannot rely on ideological standards that equate excellence with professionalism. There must be more to what we do than polished appearances and pristine performances. Otherwise our work which expresses itself as an offering of worship becomes an overproduced product. Something that spews forth from an apostate market-driven ‘ecclesiastical machine’ (Tozer, ‘Whatever happened to worship‘, p.11).

The good news is that:

God loves our authenticity.

The biblical narrative teaches us that excellence is found in authenticity.  This is because human authenticity comes from the God who alone is perfection par excellence.

Close to the time of my birthday a few years back, our youngest daughter handed me a picture she had made. She had worked hard on this for an hour or so, all the while making sure she kept it hidden from me.

Card from my daughter

I cannot help but love this because I know it comes from her heart.  This expression of authenticity is not artistically precise and will not win any major art awards, but it did win my heart. BIG TIME!!!

I like to think that this is what Father God feels about our worship. When Christians  give God their best, they give him an authentic expression of love and appreciation.

Related reading:

Perfection is overrated – delightfuloak.wordpress.com
Recovering perfectionist – triciaoaks1.wordpress.com
Brown, B. 2010 The Gifts of Imperfection

Never Again

May 29, 2013 — 2 Comments

Never AgainIn 1994, my senior high history class walked through the halls of Sydney’s Holocaust museum. I cannot remember the temperature that day,  although I do remember it being cold.

At the entrance to the museum we were greeted by two elderly gentlemen. Both of whom warmly welcomed us, then introduced us to our tour guide.

Afterwards we were slowly escorted throughout the building.

Our guide would stop and allow us time to reflect on the photos, prison-camp clothing and other items of historical significance.

Upon arriving at the final room of the tour, our Jewish guide stopped and cautioned us about it’s contents:

“this room is full of disturbing images; you do not have to go in if you don’t want too“.

Not deterred by his caution, most of us went in. Those who didn’t, stayed outside. The rest all silently moved around the room, looking at the photographic record on each of the four walls.

Each wall was neatly covered in black and white photos. They were grim, blunt documentary evidence of the brutality of this time and the unruly isms that misguided it.

I am thankful for my teachers and these Jewish men. They took a risk and engaged with young Christians in a deeply vulnerable way.

The two words ‘never again’ hit hard that day. Nineteen years on and the affect still lingers. The words are still an eerie reminder of what ‘never forget’, enshrined on a plaque in Auschwitz, means.

‘Never again’ is a motto of resilience. It is a necessary imperative that calls us to heed the warnings of the past.

Today, the historicity of the Jewish holocaust is questioned. If anything this shows that the veil of deceit, which allowed this atrocity, is still present in certain parts of the global community.

As Gene Veith stated:

‘fascism may have been defeated militarily in 1945, it wasn’t academically’.[i]

Evidence of this is seen in how fascism wears the mask of political correctness and hides behind Marxism (Veith). Further evidence of this is seen in how fascism has hijacked cultural sensitivity in order to deny the Judeo-Christian God of the bible, and defend an ideology that, under the guise of reason, becomes solely about subversion, segregation, isolation, power and control.

It should ‘never be forgotten’ that God summons Christians to challenge

‘the ideas that led to Auschwitz with special scrutiny. This is especially true when those ideas, often adopted uncritically, are still in vogue’ [ii]

These ideas still exist. They are found in modernist interpretations of Frederic Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud and Charles Darwin. All of whom  had a direct influence on fascism and Nazism (Veith 1993 & Smith 2007).

Anti-Nazi theologian Karl Barth taught that ‘Christianity is the protest against all the high places which human beings build for themselves’ [iii]. Because true human identity and freedom is grounded in the God who became flesh, we must not turn to any ideology to define our identity.

It is important to remember that the subordination of the Church to the State in Germany at this time was understood as progressive and enlightened.

Christians cannot fail to see and then act responsibly in order to insure that this never happens again.

Theologian Thomas Torrance once wrote that:

‘I had been in Palestine, as it was then called, in 1936 when the Grand Mufti came back to Jerusalem from visiting Hitler and spread the terrible poison of anti-Semitism all over the Middle East…in his visit to Israel in 1977 Torrance states I was altogether overwhelmed by the massive evidence vividly placarded before my eyes of the slaughter of six million Jews’ [iv]

The event which Torrance describes presents us with an imperative. The church can never forget whose they are, or become politically ignorant about who they stand in agreement with.

Torrance reminds us of the historical parallels which exist in the present and should not be ignored.

For the saying “never again” to become a reality, we must not forget why it was said in the first place.

(Video content warning: some graphic images)


 

Sources:

[i] Veith Jnr, G.E. 1993 modern fascism: the threat to the Judeo-Christian worldview Kindle for P.C. Ed.

[ii] ibid, 1993

[iii] Gorringe. T. 1999, Against Hegemony (p.64); Barth, K. CD IV/II:524

[iv] Torrance, T.F. 1994 Preaching Christ today: the Gospel and scientific thinking Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing Co. Grand Rapids, MI, USA

 

May it be so

May 27, 2013 — 2 Comments

Here is a poem and song that has held my attention for some years now.

I am not sure why these particular words effect me the way they do. I can only say that it’s probably because I understand, to some degree, the deep well from which these words are drawn.

For me brokenness and worship are intertwined.  These places of brokenness bring us to the cross and push us towards resurrection. This is because ‘we do not raise ourselves; we are raised’ (Peterson 2005:231).

In recognizing that we are undone (Isaiah 6:5), the pride within us can no longer be an enemy to the gracious Yes of God, in Christ (Jn.15) that stands for us (Karl Barth/St. Francis of Assisi/ Lk.10:25).

May it be so.

‘You’ve never walked in that man’s shoes or saw things through his eyes
Or stood and watched with helpless hands while the heart inside you dies
Some were poor some were kings and some were masters of the arts
But in their shame they’re all the same these men with broken hearts
So help your brother along the road no matter where he starts
For the same God that made you, made them too, these men with broken hearts’
   (Hank Williams Sr.)

                                                                                             

Video: Elvis Presley, Lost ”that the way it is” (August, 1970 – Midnight show. Lyrics and song, Joe South

Poem: Hank Williams ‘Men with broken hearts’

My wife and I are homeschoolers and we both deeply value learning.

Most homeschoolers would agree that ‘to be a teacher is truly to be the learner’ (Kierkegaard 1995:461). A part of this involves appreciating how important it is to have a teachable attitude and flexible approach towards education.

This is to say that we study with, as much as we provide teaching for our Children. Learning from one another drives education and we all thrive because of it.

We have quickly learnt that there is no room for academic arrogance in a homeschooled environment. This is because we are always working towards being ‘empathetic, a good listener and solidly present’ (Gerkin 1997:157).

From my observation, the way we engage in this environment is properly informed by a pastoral theology which understands that ‘models of care must be adapted to our changing situation’ (ibid 1997:37).

I have been embedded in the academic world for four and a half years. Throughout that time I found it extremely rare to witness the same kind of academic arrogance that I have seen on display, via some of the social media platforms I utilise. The closest I got to this in my journey through the academic maze was witnessing what happens when an ideology guides the theology of academics.

One example of this was Donald Miller’s consistent posts on twitter this week, which concerned some poorly timed tweets from John Piper. Sadly, Piper’s tweets coincided with the tragedy in Oklahoma. I appreciate both men as Christians and view them as solid contributors to their respective fields within the church (Piper’s tweets have since been deleted).

They just went too far.

The problem is that we are all tempted to impose, by varying degrees, a sense of superiority over others, especially when we disagree.

If Sir Francis Bacon was right and ‘knowledge is power’, then in a world that has wrongly rejected all absolutes, knowledge becomes KING, power becomes EVERYTHING.

The chief concern here is that bulldozing others with our knowledge represents our own insecurities. Worst still, it asserts a false moral superiority because it places us in opposition to grace and places us above the law.

Our reactions reflect how we feel about our ability to decode what has been communicated to us.

Sure, there are plenty of people who will agree, disagree and be totally indifferent to what you have to say. Fine, I get that.

For me the issue of academic arrogance is very real. It’s a potential compromise for Christians who use social media for mission, proclamation and outreach. The scripture that comes to mind here is Mt.10:16 (you know, the part where Jesus talks about sheep, wolves, serpents, wisdom, doves and innocence).

My point is this: it is necessary for Christians to keep practicing discernment. Knowing when to engage and when to disengage, when to assert ourselves and when to back off.

This means learning when to disagree openly and when to let some comments simply just fall away without incident. When we process this theologically we find a comfortable starting point with Paul’s plea to ‘speak the truth in love, like Christ’ (Eph.4:11-15).

My encouragement to you today is this: if like me, you inadvertently struggle in this area, make sure you return to your post.

Change it, delete it or mould it into something else. Don’t let the sense of inferiority that has guided the reactions of others cause you to give up.

Excellence is about giving the best we have to offer.

If that ‘imperfect offering’ (Cohen) reflects your best, LET IT SHINE. If it represents your 2nd best pull it and revise it. Do so, not because someone didn’t like it. Do it because you acknowledge that you can do better, knowing that in some ‘circumstances where we show hospitality to strangers, we may be entertaining angels without realizing it’ (Heb.13:2, ESV/NLT/MESSAGE)

Act on the truth which a lot of homeschoolers already own, that is ‘to be a teacher is truly to be the learner’ (Kierkegaard 1995:461).

When we do this the church proclaims humility through vulnerability, because we are open to correction and retraction. This shows the world that we are real, and that we are not part of an ‘elite spiritual aristocracy…that claims ‘special gnosis (knowledge)’ (Peterson 2005:61).

Our actions will show the world through word and deed, that we are part of a ‘suffering and sacramental community, on an imminent-incomplete journey towards the completeness promised to us in the event of the resurrected Christ’ (Barth, 2008:29).

This promotes authentic church, where Father, Son and Spirit through the voice of the μαρτύριον (the marturion/matyrs – witnesses) invites the broken, rejected and downtrodden into becoming genuine ‘dialogue partners’ (McGrath, 1992:128) with Him.

Sources:

Barth, K 2008 Prayers: Karl Barth Westminster John Knox Press London
Gerkin,C. 1997 Introduction to Pastoral Care Abingdon Press Nashville
Hong, H & Hong, E. 1995 The Essential Kierkegaard Princeton University Press
McGrath, A. 1992 Bridge building InterVarsity Press
Peterson, E. 2005 Christ plays in ten thousand places Hodder & Stoughton, London

Song: Entertaining Angels
Artist: Newsboys
Album: Step Up To The Microphone (1998)
Avaliable @ itunes and Amazon

academia_20130525142719532

Via Sonya, who encouraged me with this quote the other day.

Facile Friday

May 24, 2013 — Leave a comment

For those new to GVL: firstly, hello and thank you for stopping by. Secondly, the general idea with this post is to present a summary of the things that I stopped to wonder at this week. WHAT a sad and disturbing week it has been for the Global community. May the Facile be your antidote to the chaos…so please read on.

Image credit: RL2013

Image credit: RL2013 ‘Autumn’

1. I stumbled upon this resourceful website: Grammar Girl. I am not really sure why I even landed here and hung around for so long. I do remember discovering it on a search for some clarification over a grammatical question. I then found her post on the Top Ten Grammar myths. (subject? verb? object?  – hmm.., pretty sure I got that sentence right…thank you Gramma Girl!! :P)

2. Matthew Gray is Church History lecturer at Tabor Adelaide. He recently contributed a post to wonderingfair.com. Matt puts the TV series Vikings through an interesting historical critique. In sum he suggests that the History channel has wrongly, read history backwards. This is evident in the shows appeal to the growing contempt for Christianity within Western society. Matt’s piece is a significant example of how theology can critique ideology and culture without ridiculing it. (I highly recommend this article)

3. One thing I struggle to understand is how excited some of my friends are about Richard Dawkins. I have some sympathy for the guy, since he appears to have had some bad dealings with the church in the past. However, this negative experience seems to have skewered his theodicy and permeates his overall contribution to theological discussions. Which brings me to this brilliant assessment, written by a Jewish Rabbi. I am yet to read a critique of Dawkins (the-psuedo-theologian), with the same depth of perception that Rabbi David Wolpe achieves. As a side note: if you are not sure who Richard Dawkins is, there is this one hour debate between Dawkins and a leading Australian Catholic figure, Cardinal George Pell,  .  Pell critiques Dawkins’ position. This is a tame introduction to what some people have termed, militant atheism.

4. As is fairly clear for those who visit GVL, or are connected with me on Twitter and/or Facebook, I lean towards being a connoisseur of music. So during some research for a project that I am slowly working on, I stumbled upon an article written by Doug Van Peltabout  (HM magazine/Relevant) about David Crowder. Being a fairly consistent fan of DC*B and their liturgical manifesto, I thought I’d pass it on. Read more…

5. John Piper caught some criticism this week for an unfortunate “tweet” that coincided with the  catastrophic Tornado that ran through Oklahoma . In my opinion the guy needs to be disciplined for it from within his church community. The backlash towards Piper on social media is understandable, however it overlooks three things a) Piper is not God b) Piper makes mistakes c) the privilege of using social media comes with responsibility. To right off his entire theology because of a mistake or mistakes is, well, a mistake. Our response to Piper, needs as much restraint as Piper’s should have had. This leads me to my next point. I encountered an article of relevance this week which talked about introverted Pastors. It is finely written and I thought that it helped frame a topic that is often misunderstood, if not ignored, by the church.

6. Some time back I came across a blog called The Unappreciated Pastor. He recently wrote an anecdotal piece on fishing and being fishers of people. I like a lot of what U.P reflects on. This particular post is on not giving up, despite the stumbles, bumps and battles those in ministry experience. This post has GRAVITAS! (presence) and LUMEN! (light). For example:

“There are times I am embarrassed. There are times I am beat up and overwhelmed with the storms of life. There are times I do dumb things and make a fool of myself. There are times the cold winds of loneliness blow against me. But I keep going. I keep running this race. Because quiet honestly, I love fishing. I love bringing Christ glory by sharing the gospel with a lost world. To a lot of folks it doesn’t make sense. But to me it makes perfect sense” (U.P)…read more….related reading “Never Give Up” (Walt Bright)

7. I aligned with Christ, sobering up between Christmas and New Years in 1996. Skillet were part of the many bands that upheld me during that time. I had heard this song sometime back and recently stumbled onto it again, after a leisurely stroll through Youtube. The guitars are loaded! It is amazing how the lyrics in a song can maintain their relevance: