Archives For December 2014

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“…thank you for the Mercy Tree”

Having fronted the band Flyleaf for around ten years, leaving in 2012, Lacey Sturm (née Mosley) released her book, The Reason, in October this year. As with the devotion and profound gratitude Lacey communicates through her abilities as a songwriter and vocalist. Her testimony resonates.

Outside of glowing Amazon reviews, other appraisals of her book seem difficult to come by.

One quasi-critical review I did locate stated:

‘I salute her for her love for Jesus, her optimism and her bravery to share her past…I appreciate very much her willingness to bare her soul, praising God for his redemption and encouraging others to find peace in Jesus. However, I do feel that Lacey didn’t hold her mother accountable for her behavior by repeatedly saying she did the best she could. Bad choices and neglect should still be recognized as such.’
‘This book was so dreary and oppressive and sad that I just couldn’t finish it.’ (source)

The review is mixed with both reviewers stating that they got the point of her book, and hope it finds those who need to hear its message. However, they found it too difficult to finish. Citing the reasons as being heavy content and their own context. Fair enough.

In recent months, though, no critical review has made me want to read a book more than this has. My wife and I look forward to passing it between each other over Christmas, during the summer break.

‘The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my  beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.’
(1 Corinthians 15:56-58)

Barth Fragments IV


Image credit: Matthew Dowling

Kagawa_Columbia Univertisty Library Union Theological SeminarySomething not often heard about is Japanese opposition to war, both during and before World War Two.

I was introduced to Toyohiko Kagawa, a Christian Pastor, poet and theologian, during my study as an undergrad.

Being born in an era still very sensitive to war crimes committed by the Japanese Imperial Forces during the war, it intrigued me enough to learn a little more about him.

Kagawa’s faith and work reached into pacifism, economics and international affairs. He was born in 1888 and became an orphan before he was four. Kagawa was raised a Buddhist, yet gave his life to Jesus Christ at the age of fifteen.

He lived his theology. Becoming known for the ‘conviction that Christian witness must include social service to meet the material needs of people…His desire to express Christ through social concern was first articulated when he moved into Kobe’s Shinkawa slum in 1909 to live among the poor[i]

In ‘Letters from Kagawa to America’ it clearly shows his belief in the compatibility of the Church with fair economic management:

‘As you know I am much interested in the organization of co-operative societies, because I believe that only through them can the necessary economic foundation of world peace be laid. These co-operatives must be imbued with the ideals of Christian love and service.’[ii]

In 1935, after arriving in San Francisco, he was detained for health reasons. He had contracted trachoma whilst working the slums of Japan. President Franklin Roosevelt was made aware of the issue and requested that ‘appropriate steps be taken to reach a final decision concerning admission of the prominent church leader without delay.’[iii]

Roosevelt, after receiving a letter of thanks for Kagawa’s admission into the United States, responded:

‘My dear Mr. Crane : I write to acknowledge the receipt of your letter dated January 31, 1936, enclosing a copy of a letter addressed to you by Miss Helen F. Topping, in regard to Mr. Toyohiko Kagawa. I am glad to have the information concerning Mr. Kagawa’s activities, contained in Miss Topping’s letter, and appreciate your courtesy in sending it to me.’[iv]

Kagawa went on to speak in both the United States and Canada.

In the summer of 1941 he visited America again on a peace mission with the Japanese Christian Fellowship Deputation.[v] In June of that year, Kagawa met with Stanley Jones, a senior pastor in the American Methodist Church, discussing their ‘concerns about a possible conflict between Japan and the United States.’[vi]

Attempts made towards the Japanese embassy in America, to mediate peace and avert any potential conflict were rejected, Kagawa returned to Japan and later that year lamented:

‘I went to the {Japanese} parliament and urged them to be peaceful and not go to war. I told them that I had just come from America. I said I knew that the American people wanted peace – and so did the Japanese people. But it did not do any good. On December 7th, 1941 I felt like all the lights had gone out. My heart was broken.’ [vii]

After writing over 150 books, experiencing a life of achievements and setbacks, Kagawa died in 1960.

In January, 1963, Karl Barth, sympathetic to Kagawa, wrote:

 ‘What needs to take place today in the interests of peace is in the first place…a spiritual Reformation and thus a conversion of Christians and of the Christian churches themselves-a conversion to the truth of their own message. Among other things…a good deal of better theology is needed! And so…we come to the contribution which…I have to make to peace among the nations.’[viii]

Barth’s words and the efforts of Kagawa are highly relevant to advent. It is here that the angelic proclamation, “Peace on earth, good to will to men[ix]”  is again heard.  They form into a kind of challenge to seek first the things of God. Such words also remind us that although waves may rise, God remains capable of calming them[x].

It is no small feat that in Jesus Christ, God steps up, speaks and in his free choice claims us as his. If we hear this good news and act on it. Even in limitation, as Mary did, perhaps we too can hear in the words “Do not be afraid”, the response: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” [xi]


Sources:

[i] Ericksen, P.A Kagawa, Toyohiko in Elwell.A.W, (Ed.) 2007 Evangelical Dictionary of Theology 2nd Ed. Baker Academic Grand Rapids, pp.648 & 649

[ii] Friends of Jesus Kagawa in Lincoln’s land Sourced 9th December 2014 from: archive.org

[iii] ibid

[iv] ibid

[v] Kagawa, Toyohiko Papers 1929-1968 Sourced 9th December 2014 from: The Burke Library Archives, Columbia University, Union Theological Seminary, N.Y

[vi] Source: http://www.sdh-fact.com/CL02_1/56_S4.pdf

[vii] Toyohiko Kagawa working for peace sourced 9th December 2014 from spotlightenglish.com

[viii] Barth, K. 1963 Letters 1961-1968 cited in Gorringe, T.J. 1999 Against Hegemony Oxford University Press pp.217 & 221

[ix]  Luke 2:14

[x] Psalm 89:9

[xi] Luke 1:30-33

Image: Kagawa – Columbia Univertisty Library, Union Theological Seminary.

Along with the scripture, I’ve had these words written down, resting since August. They look more impressive plastered to a photo of some old puzzle pieces remade into Christmas decorations this week.

When it comes to the Spirit of Christmas, it’s not the “what”, but rather the “who”?

Advent, day 5, Dickens has it:

‘Pausing, we advance towards this Great Birthday. Nearer and closer to our hearts be the Christmas spirit, which is the spirit of active usefulness, perseverance, cheerful discharge of duty, kindness and forbearance!’ [I]

More than what you own


Source:

[i] Dickens, C., Tolstoy, L, & Henry, O. 2011,  What is Christmas as we grow older? in O Christmas Three: O. Henry, Tolstoy, and Dickens (Beloved Christmas Classics) Paraclete Press. Kindle Ed.(p. 95).

One of Australia’s loud minority parties displayed their brilliant political idiocy this December by supporting a campaign called: “No Gender December”.

As a political manoeuvre it’s brilliant.

The ideology behind it, however, overreaches. Intentionally motivated to do so or not, it’s an ontological argument that sabotages the message of Christmas; selling it out to a predatory political agenda by sidelining the pointed Christmas message and exchanging it for easy “cheers” and blurred distinctions.

The issue according to Greens Senator Waters is that:

“We shouldn’t be labelling toys-for-boys and toys-for-girls”[i]
“Starkly separate aisles of pink and blue” might seem harmless, but “setting such strong gender stereotypes at early ages can have long-term impacts, including [on] self-perception and career aspirations.” 
Senator Waters said that “outdated stereotypes” about girls and boys perpetuate gender inequality, “which feeds into very serious problems such as domestic violence and the gender pay gap.”[ii]

Despite claims of misquoting and Murdoch-press propagandizing from Water’s Facebook fans, the message is clear enough: ‘Don’t buy our daughters pretty things, even if they like them, because it reinforces “outdated stereotypes.”

It is an ideological mess that even Waters, when questioned about it, struggles to define.

Having long since abandoned the respect for democracy and exchanged the term political opponents for political enemies, this only serves esoteric elitists who have their egos stroked by promoting anything which may lead to some form of political advantage.

The veil falls ever so quietly.

The fabric of this particular veil is made up of the highest goal of gender neutrality: an androgynous collective resting on the false premise of the divine right of the individual.

This is Hindu spiritualism disguised and repackaged as gender equality. In brief, Hindu belief holds the notion that you can become god once you transcend gender.

As Indian Christian and theologian, Vishal Mangalwadi writes:

”Hindu philosophy (historically) has promoted homosexuality and become foundational to the contemporary interest in ”scared sex” because it teaches that each one of us if god, infinite and complete…Consequently I don’t need a wife because the feminine is already in me (Shakti). It lies dormant, coiled up as a serpent (Kundalini) at the base if the spine in the psychic centre of sex (Muladhara Chakra).
It teaches that I might need sexual help to awaken the feminism within, but that I can transcend finiteness as male (or female) and experience my completeness (divinity) when the feminine within rises, travels up, and merges with the male energy (Shiva) in my crown (chakra)”[iii]

Mangalwadi is not from the West. Therefore his observations are unique.

He sees dangers we do not, or ones some of us do see and yet fail to get an audience for.

The Greens (and I dislike how this environmental term has become so politically charged – as if only an elite few care about the environment) seem to be playing on the issues challenging the major political parties:

Society and politics today is not just about who you know, but who you can impress and satisfy; and for how long.

The world is becoming a machine that communicates through a human face devoid of character, faith and healthy distinctions. An industrial mechanized society empty of any real meaning and purpose.

So why drown out with politics one of the only times that reminds us of our humanity and the beautiful reconciling unity-in-diversity that begins with the Freedom of God’s will to be for us; His gracious decision that works its way out in the lives of men-as-men, women-as-women and man for the woman, woman for the man, both for God.

My boys don’t like pink or things they consider to be ”girly”. {Curiously enough, in her interview, even Waters defaults to the term “girly”  (0:50, source) }

They just don’t like the colour pink. So why should I force them to like it, or force my daughters to settle for gifts that would normally be gifted to their brothers based on their interests at the time?

My young daughter commented once, rather confidently, that she disliked a poster she saw in a store that had happened to catch her eye:

It read: ”It’s a man’s job to manage the remote, a women’s job to clean the house”.

She is not indoctrinated by politics from either side. Yet she was clear on how much she did not like this poster and why.

For me, this is an outworking of her freedom; her life in Christ. Being formed by His Spirit and leading.

We don’t have to be a “progressive” to be for progress.

We don’t need politicians to parent us, run our lives or be our social conscience.

When that happens, my friends, we are no longer free and have signed our vote off to the highest bidder. Choosing something far more sinister than budget cuts, stopping illegal and unsafe migration, or fairly reminding Australians that they have a heritage worth learning, celebrating and lamenting.


 

Source:

[i]  Senator Waters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-JTmKl5GNQ

[ii]  No Gender December: Greens Senator calls for end to gender-based toys ( http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/no-gender-december-greens-senator-calls-for-end-to-genderbased-toys-20141202-11y4ro.html)

[iii] Mangalwadi, V. 2011 ‘The Book that made your world: How the Bible created the soul of Western civilization’ Thomas Nelson Publishers (p.295)

 

Grappling With Joseph

December 2, 2014 — Leave a comment

Joseph’s inner turmoil about Mary and the responsibility that was handed to him. The 2013 finalist in Britain’s, ‘The Nativity Factor’, hits the point of Christmas for a six. Capturing the tension between freedom and responsibility.

Joseph was no saint in how he planned to handle Mary’s pregnancy. Although they are from different times and contexts, there is, as far as Joseph’s response is concerned, a slight connection to that of the prophet Hosea’s response to his wife, Gomer.

More significantly, the other connection is that of God’s initiative in establishing, restoring and reconciling a relationship with His people.

In that day…I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.
(Hosea 2:19)

This presents itself in the accounts of how Joseph responded to Mary’s pregnancy and then the reality of Jesus’ birth. The weighty reality that Joseph will have the care and oversight of a step-son, who is both very God and very man.

 


 

You can check the rest out here: The Nativity Factor

Official site: http://www.nativityfactor.com/