Saturday, 21 February 2009

Public sex at Macquarie Anglican churches!

Macquarie Anglican Churches ("MAC") have decided to be public about sex. During March, they're hosting MAC Whoopee: four talks on God and sex.
  • Session 1: The Chemical Conspiracy of Love and Desire - how God wired us for a good time.
  • Session 2: Making Whoopee - how to have healthy, heavenly sex, the way God intended us to.
  • Session 3: Whoopee and the Wiggles: Talking about sex to the kids.
  • Session 4: Aging disgracefully: good sex for those who are - uh - more mature than the rest of us.
And the speaker of course will be none other than Dr Pat - better known to me as "Mum". MAC is using this to open their Connect 09 program.

Friday, 20 February 2009

I WANT THIS NUMBERPLATE!

I WANT THIS NUMBERPLATE!


Forget the car – I just want the numberplate!

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Is the earth telling us something?

One of Australia's worst natural disasters ever
The Victorian bushfires are one of Australia’s worst ever natural disasters. They were so fierce, scientists estimate they expelled up to 80,000 kilowatts per meter of heat just on the first day they burned. This is the same energy as 500 atomic bombs of the kind that landed on Hiroshima. The official death toll so far is 181. But it’s expected to reach 300, as investigators get to properly search places that are off-limits at the moment because it’s still too dangerous to go in.
Is the earth telling us something?
Maybe we need better management. There’s a system where bushfire alerts can be sent to mobile phones. It was available in 2005. But it wasn’t implemented because government agencies have been arguing about who should pay for it. Oops. And maybe we need bigger buffers between built-up areas and the bush.
Is that what the earth’s trying to tell us? We need to manage it better?
Maybe this is Mother Earth’s way of punishing us for global warming. Why should we think we’re the most important creatures on the planet? Why should we think we can manage the planet for our benefit? Maybe we need to admit that the earth’s really in control of us. Maybe we should treat her with more respect.
Is that what the earth’s trying to tell us?

The earth itself knows something's wrong
Romans 8:19-22 says:

19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

The earth itself knows that something’s wrong with this whole created order.
Something so deep, that it can only be solved by a new created order. This is what it means for the creation to be “frustrated” (verse 20). It doesn’t achieve its goal, it falls short. It knows it needs something better—it’s reaching for that something better—nearly, nearly—but no! It’s always missing.
Hmmm. That reminds me of another important verse in Romans. Romans 3:23: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. The world’s fallen-ness reflects our personal fallen-ness; our individual corruption is a microcosm of the world’s corruption. Isn’t that interesting?
This cosmic fallen-ness, this palpable universal imperfection, is no accident: it’s God’s work. Genesis ch 3 has the story of humans disobeying God. But it wasn’t just humans who suffered the consequences: the whole world was put under a curse. At first, the land produced vegetation, and sustained life. Now it produces thorns and thistles, and brings death (Gen 3:17-19). This wasn’t an accident: it was God’s judgment, in response to Adam & Eve turning their back on him.
But it wasn’t mere vindictiveness, either. God didn’t just say “that’s it – you’re all damned – SUFFER!” and stomp off like some bad-tempered child. He judged the world, in order to redeem it. That’s how the word “hope” (Gk: elpis) operates at the end of verse 20. It doesn’t mean uncertainty, quite the opposite: it means a sure expectation, a confident anticipation. We could paraphrase verses 20-21 as “God put the world under a curse of pain and sorrow, with the purpose of freeing it from this curse, and giving the world a share in the blessings enjoyed by glorified, perfected Christians.”
And that’s another interesting thing about this passage. Usually, we’d think that Christians share in the blessings of the new creation – that is, that a new created order is the environment through which God blesses his people. Bible passages that take that view include 1 Corinthians 15:35-56; 1 Peter 1:4; 2 Peter 3:13; and of course Revelation 21:1-4. But here, it’s the other way around: the world wants to share in the blessings that Christians enjoy.
And Christians have that future hope because of Jesus’ past historical work. Because of Jesus’ historical death and resurrection, we can be confident that the consequences of our rebellion against God have been dealt with. If we trust Jesus, we have relationship with God; we have the Holy Spirit living in us (Rom 5:1-5). We can eagerly wait for that relationship to be perfected, when we see God face-to-face.
This is the same thing that the earth is saying, in bushfires and storms and floods. It’s crying out: “come back, Jesus, come back! Perfect your people! That way I can be perfected as well!” It’s the earth’s version of Revelation 22:17: The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!”

Responding to disasters
So what does this mean for us?
First, it vindicates the grief of those who have suffered in the fires. To everyone who cries out “this is not right! Things shouldn’t be like this!” the earth itself responds “yes, I agree. I’m waiting to be redeemed, too”.
Secondly, it gives us a basis to talk about the consequences of sin. Not the usual nonsense of people suffering for their own sin. Exactly the opposite: the cosmic consequences of our historical sin in Adam. Adam, as our representative, rejected God – we all reject God – we all indiscriminately suffer God’s punishment upon Adam: the sufferings of this fallen world.
Finally, we have a message of hope for those who have suffered. We can tell them of a place where there’s no more no more death or mourning or crying or pain, where the old order of things has passed away (Revelation 21:4). For those who have lost their houses and all their belongings, we can say “Jesus knows how you feel. He didn’t have any place to lay his head either (Luke 9:58). But he went to prepare a room in father’s house for you (John 14:2).” And to those who may not have been directly involved, but are just frightened – for the world is a scary, dangerous, deadly place – we can tell them about a new heavens and a new earth, where the lion will lie down with the lamb (Isaiah 11:6; 65:25).
The earth is telling us something: it is telling us the gospel. We are helplessly captured in a world gone wrong. This wrong-ness is no accident: it is the personal, judicial act of a holy God, in response to the equally personal act of his creatures thumbing their noses at him. But this wrong-ness has an end, a goal: sharing in the perfected freedom that God will grant to those who trust in Jesus.
Listen! Can you hear what the earth is telling us?

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Victorian bushfires

Some of my international friends have asked me about the Victorian bushfires. Here's some news.
* * * * *
On Saturday 7 Feb, a series of bushfires began burning all over the state of Victoria. They were incredibly savage for two reasons: a heat-wave had hit the area the previous week, making the whole area tinder dry; and a change moved through with wind gusts reaching hurricane force levels up to 120km/h. The fires were so fierce, scientists estimate they expelled up to 80,000 kilowatts per meter of heat on that Saturday alone. This equals about 500 of the atomic bombs which landed on Hiroshima.
The official death toll so far is 181. But it’s expected to reach 300, as investigators get to properly search places that are off-limits at the moment because it’s still too dangerous to go in. In Marysville, eight are confirmed dead, but it’s expected to reach 100—one fifth of the town’s population. At least 35 people died in the Kinglake fire.
At least one of the fires may have been deliberately lit. Police have a man in custody, accused of starting the Churchill fire, in south Gippsland, which wiped out almost 36,000ha and killed up to 21 people.
The Red Cross has instituted a national appeal to help bushfire victims. It has hit $100 million so far. Support has come from as far afield as Dutch music maestro Andre Rieu; the Queen and Prince Charles; cricket star Shane Warne; and golfing celebrity Greg Norman. The Indonesian government has offered a donation of $US1 million ($A1.52 million), and Papua New Guinea $A2 million.
Sadly, there have also been reports of looting and false collection of donations.
For up-to-date info, see the Melbourne Herald Sun.
* * * * *
As for me - I'm safe in Sydney, about 800km from the action. But thanks for your concern :)

Friday, 6 February 2009

Christian F words

I got this idea from Bible study last week. I’m trying to come up with a series based on Biblical or theological words that start with F. Here's what I got so far - can anyone suggest some more?
  • Faith;
  • Forgiveness;
  • Fellowship;
  • Father;
  • Family;
  • Freedom;
  • Fundamentalism (the real F word!)
  • Foundationalism? (Okay, only a philosopher or theologian would understand the significance of that one...)
  • Fruitfulness / Fruit of the Spirit;
  • Fear of God;
  • Food, Feast (eschatological banquet; Lord’s Supper).

Thursday, 5 February 2009

The madness of madness

Were there no sin, there would be no war. Were there no world sin, there would be no world war. War makes at least one contribution to human salvation—it is sin’s apocalypse. It reveals the greatness and the awfulness of evil, and corrects that light and easy conception of it which had come to mark culture and belittle redemption. This war’s revelation of human wickedness may perhaps do something to relieve us of a comely and aesthetic type of religion which is rounded, not on a salvation, but on the divine excellence of that glorious creature man, and on the facilities for his evolution. It may recall us to the estimate of him presented by the very existence of Christianity as a religion, which declares his one need to be redemption.
P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, Adelaide: New Creation Publications, 1988 [London, Independent Press, 1917], page 19.


The demonic is absolutely essential in understanding Jesus’ interpretation of the picture of sin and of humanity’s need for the Kingdom of God. People are in bondage to a personal power stronger than themselves. At the very heart of our Lord’s mission is the need of rescuing people from bondage to the satanic kingdom and of bringing them into the sphere of God’s Kingdom. Anything less than this involves an essential reinterpretation of some of the basic facts of the gospel.
G. E. Ladd, New Testament Theology, Revised Edition, Eerdmans 1993, page 50.

As we look at history, what we see is often not merely the impersonal and unmeaning but the irrational and the mad. The face that looks through at us is akin often to the insane. Certainly as Jesus looked at people, He saw them not always as rational moral units or self-contained autonomous spirits; He saw their souls as a battle-ground, an arena or theatre of tragic conflict between the opposed cosmic powers of the Holy Spirit of God and Satan.
W. Manson, “Principalities and Powers”, in Jesus and the Christian (1967), quoted in G. E. Ladd, New Testament Theology, Revised Edition, Eerdmans 1993, page 50. Emphasis in original.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Truth

Truth (noun):
  • The state or quality of being loyal to someone or something - faithfulness, fidelity;
  • Conformity to fact or reality - correctness, accuracy;
  • That which is real, in a deeper sense; spiritual or ‘genuine’ reality;
  • Something acknowledged to be true; an axiom, or generally accepted statement.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission ("TRC") was set up in South Africa to assist the country's transition from apartheid to a full, free democracy. Both victims of apartheid, and perpetrators of atrocities from both sides, could give testimony. Perpetrators of violence could also request amnesty from prosecution. The aim of the Commission was to create an environment where people felt safe to admit what they had actually done. Hopefully, by doing so, the whole country could own up to its past, come together, and move forward. Among those granted amnesty were the perpetrators of the St James' Church Massacre.
Prime Minister Rudd's Apology to the stolen generation, while not of the same nation-defining magnitude as the TRC, is another attempt to tell the truth: to confess reality, admit to what really happened.
The gospel of Christ crucified both commands us to be truthful, and gives us the environment wherein we can be truthful. The deepest reality of the whole universe is that Jesus is Lord; we are not. But that truth immediately leads to another: we have not been faithful ("true") Jesus as Lord, but have treated ourselves as lord. We have rejected the one who is the way, the truth and the life, and are living a lie, a fantasy, out of step with reality. No wonder we live lives characterised by lies, death, and absence of God.
But in Christ, God himself has taken that death, that God-forsaken-ness, into himself. So we can confess the truth of our lies, without fear of the consequences of those lies. And we can also live lives of radical truthfulness, confessing our sins to one another, and forgiving each other as God forgave us. If the politicians - usually (unfairly?) caricatured as habitual liars - can seek the truth in the TRC and the Apology, how much more should we, who have the truth incarnate!
Let's tell the truth - individually, and as churches. Let's admit that Jesus is Lord; we are not; and admit to the pain we cause God, and each other, when we live the lie.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Lying

Oh what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive;
But when you've practiced quite a bit,
You really get quite good at it.
Nicholas Elliott, retired agent of the Secret Intelligence Service - better known as MI6. He blew Kim Philby as being a Soviet spy, causing Philby to escape to the USSR. Elliott worked under Philby in MI6, and initially defended Philby when he was under suspicion of being a Soviet double agent. Elliott's affection for Philby was matched only by his disgust when he learned the truth about his friend and mentor.

Novel references to Australia #3

Tiger Tanaka, head of the Japanese Secret Service, and, according to Dikko Henderson, a ‘bludger’, reflects on Japanese military strategy in WW2:

‘My dear Commander [Bond]. You were lucky that we struck at Pearl Harbour rather than at Australia. Can you doubt that we would have occupied that country and New Zealand if we had done otherwise? These are big and important land spaces, insufficiently developed. You could not have defended them. […] Personally, I have never understood the strategy behind Pearl Harbour. Did we wish to conquer America? The supply lines were too long. But Australia and New Zealand were ripe for the plucking.’

Ian Fleming, You Only Live Twice (Penguin, 1964): 47.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Novel references to Australia #2

Richard “Dikko” Henderson, Australian diplomat in Japan, loses his temper when he discovers he’s been wire-tapped by the Japanese secret service:

The huge right fist crashed into the left palm with the noise of a .45 pistol shot. The great square face of the Australian turned almost purple and the veins stood out on the grizzled temples. With controlled violence, but almost under his breath, he intoned savagely:

I bludge,
Thou bludgest,
He bludges,
We bludge,
You bludge,
They all bludge.

[…]

‘This is the great Australian insult. You can use it anyways.’ He raised his voice. ‘But in general it means a worthless pervert, ponce, scoundrel, liar, traitor and rogue—with no redeeming feature. And I hope your stewed seaweed sticks in your gullet at breakfast tomorrow when you know what I think of you.’


Ian Fleming, You Only Live Twice (Penguin, 1964): 32-33.