Sunday, 27 June 2010

Biblical sexuality in a pleasure-crazed world

This is my final post (for now!) on Biblical sexuality. In previous posts, we've discussed the need for a Biblical, Evangelical sexuality, how it'll be good for everyone and useful for evangelism.

When we're discussing Biblical sexuality with people - Christian or not - we'll probably need to do a lot of background work to unwind the presuppositions they approach sexuality with. These presuppositions come through uncritically absorbing the messages of our atheistic, materialistic, hedonistic, permissive, economic-utilitarian society.

Most people uncritically assume that if they feel a desire for something, they should seek to fill that desire, and that ‘repressing’ that desire is dangerous. The way to fill that desire is through the market: we ‘demand’ goods and services, and other people ‘supply’ things to fill those demands. For the right price, you can satisfy any desire. The market has no inbuilt morality; it is simply a meeting place for buyers and sellers. So we are caught in the infinite drive to increase material wealth, because the more money we have, the more we can satisfy our desires, and the ‘happier’ we will be. The unexamined anthropological presupposition at the core of this behaviour is that we are nothing but pleasure-seeking bundles of flesh and blood and neurons, whose highest purpose in life is to maximise pleasure and minimise pain, until we self-pleasure ourselves so much that our pleasure receptors stop working – which we call death.

Of course, that unexamined core presumption is wrong. We are not merely physical beings. Humans have been made in God’s image. There is an irreducible theological, God-ward aspect of our being, which we ignore at our peril. This is why Biblical sexuality is deeply healthy: it puts us back in touch with God, through his word; and through being in touch with God, it puts us back in touch with our very selves, including our sexual selves.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Biblical sexuality is a contact-point for the gospel

This continues from my previous posts on the need for a Biblical, Evangelical sexual anthropology and ethic, and how Biblical sexuality is good for everyone.

This leads to a third point. Human sexuality is a point of contact for the gospel. The goodness of Biblical, Christian sexuality provides evidence towards the plausibility of the Bible and Christianity generally. If the Christian, Biblical God puts people deeply in touch with themselves as sexual beings, that God might have something to say about the rest of life as well – even, conceivably, eternal life.

This is especially the case in post-modern culture. The post-modern mind is not persuaded by rational arguments, but by life in community which ‘works’ – which is obviously, palpably brings happiness and satisfaction. As Christians live a healthy, realistic lifestyle, especially with regards our sexuality, we will function as an advertisement for the truthfulness and reality of the God we worship.

This will have two effects. It will judge the world, for it will show up worldly sexuality as being deceptive and destructive. Some people will therefore get defensive, reject us, and desperately seek for ways to vilify us – a reaction which is deeply unreasonable, but then so is sin. But some people, by the grace of God, will, through our behaviour, be attracted to the God we worship. Christians living according to a Biblically-formed sexuality will both judge the world and attract them to Christ.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Biblical sexuality is good for everyone

This continues from my previous post about the need for a Biblical, Evangelical sexual anthropology and ethic.

This Biblical sexual anthropology and ethic will not be merely for the church, but for the world. The Biblical God claims to be the creator God of all people. Therefore, his way of living is healthy and applicable for all people everywhere, not just for the community of believers.

An evangelical, Biblical sexual anthropology and ethic is the Church’s gift to the world. We can show people how to live the ‘good life’ – a life deeply in touch with God’s design and purposes for this world, including his purposes for sexuality. And we show this to hurting, needy people, who sense the need to be sexually whole beings – and rightly so, for thus we were created by God – but who, through our rejection of God, have broken ourselves, even in the depths of our sexuality, and who now wilfully and foolishly live in sexually self-destructive patterns of behaviour. A Biblical sexual anthropology and ethic can help us love our neighbour.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

The need for a Biblical, Evangelical sexual anthropology & ethic

Orright - enough messing around & hilarity - time to get back to some serious theologising. Series of posts on sexuality coming up.

Sexual identity and behaviour lie at the core of self-identity and self-worth. When a baby is born, the first question we ask is “is it a boy or a girl?” Issues of masculinity, femininity, love and romance pervade all aspects of life: young boys run around with plastic machine guns while the girls have a tea party; teenage years bring an outburst of sexual self-awareness and activity; and sexual relationships, whether stable or casual, have a huge impact on people’s physical and mental health.

Our sexuality is, therefore, visibly at the core of our human identity. For the Christian Church, this means at least three things. This post will explore the need for a Biblical, Evangelical sexual anthropology and ethic. The next two points will explore how that anthropology & ethic helps us love all people, and points to the gospel.

First, it is imperative to develop a Biblical, gospel-focused, Christ-centred understanding of ourselves as sexual beings, and of how we should conduct our sexuality. To use theological language: we must develop a Biblical, Evangelical sexual anthropology (who we are) and ethic (how we should behave).

As Christians, we know the creator God of the universe, who made all things good, and who has affirmed the basic goodness of this creation by incarnating himself in the person of his Son, and who has given us his Spirit that we may walk in his ways. We have the Bible, which is God’s revealed will (his “law”), contains the whole counsel of God, and is useful for training in righteousness. Of all the people in the world, then, we Christians should have a healthy and realistic understanding of ourselves, and healthy, realistic ways of behaving – including sexual self-understanding and behaviour.

This healthy realism comes from the fact that we are in touch with God, the foundation of all reality, who made our bodies and this world that we live in. It also comes from a right understanding of our relationship with him – created by him; fallen from him, therefore subject to all manner of bodily and relational dysfunctions; redeemed in Christ, therefore able, truly if imperfectly, to enjoy created goodness in the manner intended by the creator; and looking forward to a glorious future which will both fulfil and transcend the pleasures of this creation. Ignorance and inability in such a core area of human life denies the God we worship, the gospel we preach, and the Bible we obey.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

More reasons...

Click here for a whole lot of other reasons Parramatta is an interesting place to live...

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Parramatta sure in an interesting place

I was walking down Church St Mall a coupla days back, and there were young Indian men, with bindis (Tamil: pottu) on their foreheads, handing out invitations to the Festival of Chariots. A few meters away was an old gentleman speaking into a portable public address system. The sign at his feet asked ‘Does Jesus Save?’, but his portable PA was so bad that I couldn’t understand a word he was saying – his voice was muffled – so I don’t know if he was arguing for or against. When I walked back a few hours later, the Falun Gong adherents were practicing their exercises – right in front of St John’s Anglican Cathedral, which is a thoroughly Evangelical, Bible-based, Christ-proclaiming church.

Yep, Parramatta sure is an interesting place.


Monday, 21 June 2010

Down & lost

This follows on from The Race.

*****

Nate opened his eyes and blinked. A cloudless blue sky stretched above him. The sun beat down on him, but it was totally devoid of warmth – he was freezing cold. His head was throbbing with a steady rhythm, as if it were caught in a vice that had been set to periodically tighten and loosen like an ancient instrument of torture.

He tried to sit up, but only managed to gasp as pain lanced through his chest, radiating from just under his right armpit. He settled back again with a low moan. He ran his tongue across the roof of his dry mouth. He didn’t taste any blood. It wasn’t a torn lung, then. Must be a cracked rib.

Nate flexed his fingers, feeling something dry and powdery and cold crumble under them. he gingerly raised his right arm from the elbow, and turned his head so he could look at it. He managed both actions without adding to his pain. That’s a relief – no other broken bones or vertebrae, at least.
He was holding a lump of snow – dry, powdery, freezing cold snow. He was lying on a snowfield.

“Well, well, looks like Sleeping Beauty’s awake.” The sky above Nate was cut off by a familiar, square-jawed, crooked-nosed face. Shane glanced disapprovingly at the lump of snow in Nate’s hand. “I hate to tell you, mate – this ain’t quite the moment for a snowman, y’know.”

Shane wrapped his arm around Nate’s shoulders and lifted him into a sitting position. Nate winced as his rub burned. “Anything broken?” Shane queried. “Rib,” Nate gasped. The frigid air burned Nate’s throat, making speech difficult.

“Yeah, well, it could’ve been a lot worse,” Shane grunted. “You passed out when we blew out of the Sukhoi. You were drifting out of control. All I could do was keep you in sight. If you’d landed on one of them boulders you would’ve broken a lot more than a rib.”

The two of them were on a wide, sloping snowfield, periodically broken by rocky outcroppings which shouldered through the snow. They were facing downhill, and Nate could see the snowfield peter out onto a rocky plain dissected by little streams which emerged from under the snowfield itself. The rocky plain disappeared over a ridge. Beyond the ridge rose range after range of steep-sided, snow-capped mountains, fading into the distance.

“Where are we?” Nate wheezed.

Karakoram Mountains,” Shane replied. He was standing in front of Nate, hands on his hips, looking at the faraway mountains. “China’s about twenty clicks north-west, that way” – he poked his thumb over his shoulder, uphill – “Pakistan ‘bout the same distance north-east, that way” – he hooked his thumb to his right – “and India about fifty clicks south” – he nodded straight ahead.

Nate frowned. “So who owns this area?”

Shane’s shoulders rose in a shrug. “The local warlord.”

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Good article on caring for people suffering from depression

Just came across an excellent article on ministry to people with mood disorders. Christian and Depressed: What Churches Can Do to Help Persons with Mood Disorders, by Therese J. Borchard.

Have a look at Therese's blog on Beliefnet, Beyond Blue.

Then there's Leigh Hatcher's book & website on chronic fatigue sydrome (CFS), I'm not crazy, I'm just a little unwell.

Quattro

This is what I came up with for the writing exercise at last weekend's New Writer's Group. Remember: five items, fifteen minutes.

*****

The lottery ticket burned his hand. His vision blurred as tears filled his eyes. Blinking them away, he stared at the ticket again. No, he wasn't imagining it. Three in a row. He'd just won two hundred thousand dollars.

He glanced at the gold watch on his hand. He had ten minutes to get to the lottery office before it closed for the day. He spat out the chewing gum in from his mouth, not caring as it stuck on the painting his teenage daughter had done and proudly hung on the wall. He leaped from the chair he was sitting in, and raced for the door. The folds of his coat flapped around him as he dashed down the corridor, upsetting the candelabra on the side table. He didn't wait around long enough to smell the smoke as the carpet caught fire.

He puffed down the street, shedding his clothing as he went. First he pulled off the colourful beanie his wife had given him for his birthday. It went into the gutter without a thought. Then the bulky overcoat. Finally the jacket, which he flung at the side of the road.

The office lady was just locking up when he got to her. He was gasping and panting so hard he couldn't speak. He just held out the lottery ticket to her, his tongue hanging out of his mouth, sweat streaming down his face.

The lady looked at the ticket, and smiled. "I'm sorry, sir - you should have read our instructions more carefully. You need four of the same, not three. That's why we call it the Quattro. Better luck next time."

She turned on her heel and walked briskly away. She didn't see his face turn white as he clutched at his chest and tumbled into the gutter.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

The Secret

This is my mum's script from the writing exercise at last weekend's New Writer's Group - as mentioned in my previous post. Remember: five items, fifteen minutes.

*****

"Damn it you selfish, arrogant bastard, how dare you keep it from me?" Sue stood in front of him, her slender figure in the tight blue jumper and jeans trembling. Her rainbow coloured beanie was pulled low over her forehead, the bells on it jangling as she shook her head.

"Keep what?" he stammered. Damn, how did she find out?

"This!" she screamed, flinging the gold watch on the table. "It’s hers. Don’t try to deny it. I’ve seen it on her. I’m leaving. For good this time – don’t even dream of getting me back. Goodbye."

He sat watching the candles burn down, flicker and die. He slipped his hand in his pocket and pulled out the lottery ticket. Three matching symbols; a million dollars. And he didn’t have to share it with his wife!

Friday, 18 June 2010

Flash fiction

As you can tell from some of my posts, I'm trying my hand at creative writing.

I sometimes attend the New Writer's Group gatherings at Mars Hill Cafe, Parramatta. Last weekend we did a writing exercise where we were given four objects, randomly selected from around the room, and fifteen minutes to write something based on them. The four objects were: a packet of Extra chewing gum; a candelabra; a gold watch; a multi-coloured beanie; and a lottery ticket.

After just fifteen minutes, people came up with some terrific stories and poems. It was interesting how, when writing under pressure, each writer's natural style came to the fore. One person did an absolutely hilarious piece about getting chewing gum stuck on the bottom of his shoe. Another lady wrote a romantic poem where each item stood for some aspect of the lover. I wish I collected their scripts. They were all fantastic.

The two scripts I could collect were my own, and my mum's. Mum's a fully paid-up member of the New Writer's Group (*impressed*). I'll post them over the next couple of days. Remember: five items, fifteen minutes. Amazing what you can achieve under pressure.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Week of evangelism

We're in the middle of a week of evangelism at St Mary's Presbyterian Church. We're going through the book of Romans, and this Sunday we'll be getting to the famous Romans 3:21-26. With that in mind, and noting that last Monday was a public holiday, we decided to make this week a special week of evangelism.

On Monday we had a church social, to which we invited non-churched family & friends. We had a lot of visitors - at least fifteen - which is pretty good for a church of forty regulars. Everyone had a great time. I particularly enjoyed meeting family members & friends whom I'd heard of but not met before. Please pray that the visitors will come to church, hear the gospel, and be saved.

Bible studies this week put on a special evangelistic meeting. I would have attended - except I've come down with a cold! I'm sitting at my computer typing this while sneezing & wiping my nose (toooo much info...). Strange, hey. Why this week???

Anyway, please pray for church this Sunday. It'll be a special evangelistic meeting, I'll speak on Romans 3:21-26, we'll be inviting people to make a response. Let's see what the Lord does.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

ZineWest 2010

A shout out to all aspiring writers who live or work in Western Sydney: consider putting something in for ZineWest 2010. Sponsored by New Writer's Group.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Dealing with stress

This Tues I visited Sydney Missionary Bible College (SMBC) to talk about SweatCon. While I was there I went to a seminar on dealing with stress on the mission field. The principles are, I think, equally applicable to ministry generally – or the ordinary struggles of trying to live a normal Christian life.

Here's what we brainstormed together. When stressed:
  1. Remember the gospel & its missionary motivation – why are we there on mission (in ministry / living as a Christian) in the first place?
  2. Memorise the promises of scripture & remember God’s faithfulness to his promises.
  3. Read the Psalms.
  4. If you’re stressed about conflict – don’t let the sun go down while you’re still angry (Eph 4:26).
  5. Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God”.
  6. Count your blessings & be thankful – like it says in the middle of Php 4:6.
  7. Remember God’s sovereignty; Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”.
  8. The Sabbath was made for man. Use it – have a break.
  9. Remember that the crucified Christ suffered more than we ever will. Even so, he’s not aloof from our sufferings, but sympathises with them (Acts 9:4).
  10. Remember that the risen Christ is above all earthly powers & bigger than any problem this world can throw at us.
  11. Think of out future hope of glory.
  12. Sing Martin Luther’s A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.