Saturday, June 6, 2009

Culture Unplugged Video

I've been pretty slack at posting here. But this video deserves wide distribution. It requires no editorial from me.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

My music

When I published this post, I was looking for a way to include the music for "Home Free" so you could hear what a great song it is. Now you can. Maybe not the whole song, but at least you get a taste or maybe I should call it a tease.
I have now added links to some of my favourite music and you can click on the appropriate tune on the RH side to hear it for yourself. Enjoy!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Emotional fallout

The emotional fall out from the natural disasters that have befallen Australians in the past few weeks have been as variable as the disasters themselves.
With the arrest of an arsonist responsible for one of the fatal fires, anger and hatred seem to be the over riding emotions. That is human nature. People in grief experience anger as well as depression, denial, shock, bargaining and even physical symptoms.
For those who have suffered loss these things are normal and will eventually fade.
I have a problem with the fact that so many who have not suffered personally, and particularly the media, get on the band wagon and incite more anger and more hatred.
  • They don't have the excuse of personal loss to justify their emotive outbursts.
  • It's really a bit selfish too, because it distracts attention from those who need it - the real victims.
  • Instead, those shouting the loudest with the most hateful invective become the focus of attention.
  • And it's counter productive because it gives the perpetrators more fame and attention, even if it is in a negative way.
  • It doesn't help the victims move on either, but keeps pulling them back to the anger stage of their grief.

Doesn't our human dignity mean that, no matter what is done to us, we are not beasts? We don't repay in kind, because that would cause all humanity to degenerate to the lowest level.

We don't treat criminals with sadistic torture (even if we think they deserve it), because to do so lowers us to their level or worse. We are made in God's image, even though a bit tarnished. To act with violence and hatred would be a disgrace to that image, wouldn't it? It would also be to take authority away from God. Vengeance is his prerogative alone. I prefer it that way because only he knows the whole story. Only he is entirely just.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Natural disaster

Fire storms explanation here

Floods explanation here

Droughts explanation here

Crocodiles explanation here

Disease explanation here

This is all happening here in one country, Australia, and only on the east coast. If we look further, there are ice storms and blizzards in the USA, earthquakes in China and Japan, volcanoes in the Philippines, famine in Ethiopia and wars all over the place.

I can't answer why God has not answered the prayers of many in relation to these tragedies and yet he does answer prayer. Why some and not others? I don't know. All I know is that (according to the Bible) :

God does not cause or allow needless suffering;

Satan is the prince of this world;

this world is not our home;

our earthly life is only temporary and we will all die one day and (unless we opt for suicide)

we do not choose the manner of our death.

Suffering in this life is not proof that there is no God

Turn the clock back 2000 years and some of Jesus larger group of disciples (not the 12) left him when the going got tough. Jesus and Peter are talking about the loss of faith of these disciples:

From this time on, many of his disciples turned back. They no longer followed him. "You don't want to leave also, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, who can we go to? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." Then Jesus replied, "Didn't I choose you, the 12 disciples?
John 6:69-70
That's it then. Who else can we go to?
A man made statue, an astrologer, a shaman, a dead ancestor, a dead prophet,
a living God who promises better things ahead,
who has overcome death,
who never breaks a promise
and who has shown us that he knows suffering 1st hand and
through his suffering and death has shown us how much he loves us?
I've made my choice.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Wayne Watson says it so well

While I've been on the subject of death and heaven I can't leave it without one more post. My favourite song on the subject is by Wayne Watson.

His song, Home Free, has probably been the most successful of his career. I've used it when I've taken memorial services inside prison. Recently I used it for the background to a power point slide show (Experience Jesus in the the good times, the bad times and beyond the GPS) at a women's camp. I always get asked - Who sings it? Where can I buy it? What is the title of the CD?

At memorial services there was never a dry eye left after I'd played it. The tune is great too. Go and buy it or just listen to it at your Christian bookstore. He has recorded it on a couple of his Cd's. You won't regret it.
Here it is.

I'm trying hard not to think you unkind
But Heavenly Father
If you know my heart
Surely you can read my mind
Good people underneath the sea of grief
Some get up and walk away
Some will find ultimate relief

Home Free, eventually
At the ultimate healing we will be Home Free
Home Free, oh I've got a feeling
At the ultimate healing
We will be Home Free
Out in the corridors we pray for life
A mother for her baby, A husband for his wife
Sometimes the good die young
It's sad but true
And while we pray for one more heartbeat
The real comfort is with you
You know pain has little mercy
And suffering's no respecter of age, of race or position
I know every prayer gets answered
But the hardest one to pray is slow to come
Oh Lord, not mine, but Your will be done
Let it be...
Home Free, eventually
At the ultimate healing we will be Home Free
Home Free, oh I've got a feeling
At the ultimate healing
We will be Home Free
Home Free, eventually
At the ultimate healing gonna be Home Free
Home Free, oh it's more than a feeling
At the ultimate healing
Gonna be Home Free

Monday, February 2, 2009

More about heaven

This poem was in a sympathy card that a friend of mine received a few months ago. I thought it was great and since I have a wall with a rose bush growing up it and a decorative 'crevice' in it I'm hoping to someday get a photo to accompany the poem.
Near a shady wall a rose once grew,
Budded and blossomed in God's free light,
Watered and fed by morning dew,
Shedding its sweetness day and night.
As it grew and blossomed fair and tall,
Slowly rising to loftier height,
It came to a crevice in the wall,
Through which there shone a beam of light.
Onward it crept with added strength,
With never a thought of fear or pride,
It followed the light through the crevice's length,
And unfolded itself on the other side.
The light, the dew, the broadening view
Were found the same as they were before;
And it lost itself in beauties new,
Breathing its fragrance more and more.
Shall claim of death cause us to grieve,
And make our courage faint or fail?
Nay! Let us faith and hope receive:
The rose still grows beyond the wall.
Scattering fragrance far and wide,
Just as it did in days of yore,
Just as it did on the other side,
Just as it will for evermore.
by A. L. Frink
At another funeral I went to last year. The deceased lady's sister invited all of the great grandchildren to come forward. She gave them each a pretty seashell to keep. She then explained how like that seashell their Granny's body was. The living, thinking, loving part of her was gone, now with the Lord. The coffin only contained the empty shell.
She even invited them to ask questions, which they did. Brave lady. You can imagine the questions. They were very candid, but the children had a real need for answers (even to questions that seemed a bit macabre to us).
It was a great send off for that much-loved great grandma.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


A little girl by the name of Tuesday Fiona Whitt lost her battle with cancer a couple of days ago. I have been following her family’s blog for a while and was amazed that they continued to update their blog throughout the whole nightmare.

Their faith and courage is as evident right the way through, as much as their pain and fear for their little one.

It prompted me to think about heaven again and to do some research. I do this every now and then because there are so many wrong ideas about what heaven is like and who gets to be there. I need to dig into my Bible and remind myself why I believe what I do believe.

(All direct Bible quotes are in italics)

· Firstly for Tuesday and all little children there is this - your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.
· He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
· He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces
· you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
· God himself will be with them
· In my (i.e. Jesus) Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
· God . . . has prepared a city for them.
· There is wow factor: You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly
· Jesus called it “paradise
· There will be nothing to fear in heaven. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.
· Children will not even fear the dark for there will be no darkness. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.
· No disease or famine or war. No longer will there be any curse
· On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there
· into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you,
· they will be like the angels in heaven
· we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.
· In this you greatly rejoice though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
· Heaven is better than anything we can even imagine. Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
· And so we will be with the Lord forever.

The Bible has even more than this to say about heaven, but it's a start.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Christ centred or cross centred

Really, it shouldn't matter, should it - whether we say our organisation or church is Christ centred or cross centred? As far as our behaviour and attitude are concerned it shouldn't make any difference at all. But it does. At least in my experience, it does.

I've belonged to a number of Christian and para-church organisations and I've realised that Christians have some very variable ideas about Christ. Not who he is as such. I think we can all agree that he was born about 2000 years ago in Bethlehem. He lived for about 33 years and was crucified. From then on we start to draw apart. Most (I hope most) would agree that he arose from the grave physically and for almost 6 weeks he walked and talked and appeared to people in his physical body - Thomas could place his finger in the nail hole on Jesus' hand. The thing that really muddies the water is when we think about who he is to me and to you.

One of the Christian organisations I was a part of had endless problems in their leadership. People lied to each other and for each other. Some were exceedingly manipulative and conniving. One was a secret alcoholic who kept his wine in a 2 litre lemonade bottle. Control junkies rose to the top and used fair means and foul to maintain their lead. Character assassination was the order of the day. People were ruthless and merciless to each other. You get the picture. Here's the thing though- it was a "Christ centred" organisation. It said so on their publicity material, their web page, their stationery - everything. It was their mantra.

I often wondered what was really wrong, what was at the heart of this Christian organisation that allowed so many people to become indifferent to Biblical values. It began to dawn on me that they were so certain of their rights as God's children and so assured of his forgiveness, no matter what, that they thought it didn't matter how they behaved. Like spoilt children who know that their parents are going to feed them and clothe them and care for them in spite of their worst misbehaviour they depended on God's promised forgiveness. God's hands were legally tied (in their reckoning). Salvation is assured.

They needed to get back to the cross and remember that as well as a symbol of our forgiveness in Christ, it is also a symbol of how much God hates sin and of what that cost him. Dealing with our sin was no walk in the park for Christ. When we leave the cross out of our thinking, we often fall into what some call "cheap grace" or "easy-believe-ism". Is that what Christ died for I wonder? That we would be so confident of our forgiveness and salvation that it would not matter how we lived. That we could lie, cheat, bully, neglect, indulge ourselves, etc. etc. Not in my Bible. The cross reminds us of our inability to save ourselves, our desperate need of his grace and forgiveness, of the horrible cost of sin and the limitless love of God. It humbles me to know that my sin nailed him there and caused his pain and death. It is not something to take for granted and exploit. It is something that brings us all down to the same level - sinners saved by grace alone.

Because of the cross, Jesus is not just another historical figure. He is my friend, but not just my friend. He is my brother, but not just my brother. He is my teacher, but not just my teacher. He is my saviour who was whipped and insulted and nailed to a cross for me. That has to affect how I live.

We have to be cross centred.

Singing in tongues

The first and for a long time, the only women's camp that I attended left me very mixed emotions. Concert night was a scream. Many groups had put a lot of thought and preparation into their acts and by the end of the night our laughing muscles were aching from overuse and tears were streaming down our faces from so much laughter.

What of Bible studies and devotions? Well to be honest, I can't remember anything of significance at all. Maybe that is an indictment of me, but in my defence I have to say that it was a long time ago.

Sticking in my mind is the early morning prayer meeting. I'm not a morning person, but I thought that since I was attending as a chaplain, it would be best to set an example and not be found wanting. Big mistake!

It was a beautiful mild morning. The magpies were singing in the distance and the doves were calling their gentle "doodle doo, doodle doo" from every tree nearby. The air had that gentle, caressing feel about it. An ideal setting to let your mind dwell on the creator and to let go of distracting emotions and thoughts. That is what I was thinking and at first it went according to plan.

Someone started the morning with a short explanation and led us with a short prayer. Other women followed naturally with their own short prayers and it was flowing as it should. Someone near me began to pray in tongues. Someone else followed suit, but sang her prayer in tongues. This seemed to be a cue for others who did this sort of thing to also sing their prayers in tongues and one by one at first, then several at a time and finally, it seemed, most of the group were singing in tongues.

I'm told that this can be very delightful and pleasing to the ear. It wasn't. It was a cacophony. Each new tongue singer seemed to want to be heard above the last and so the volume got louder and louder in a great discordant crescendo. I couldn't think straight with the noise of their "singing" clashing and clanging in my ears. Prayer was no longer a possibility for me in the midst of this clamour, apart from pleading with God to give them all a mild dose of laryngitis. I felt that the morning had been hijacked by the Pentecostals.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-Pentecostal. But I do find that many Pentecostals don't realise how much their exercise of their religious freedom often intrudes on and overrides the religious freedom of those who have a more conservative faith and less demonstrative way of expressing our faith. At the prayer meeting, it seemed obvious to me that the goal of many of the pray-ers was to be the longest and loudest, as though God was a deaf old man. As though he could not hear even the prayers of a normal speaking voice, let alone the unspoken prayers of our hearts.

Theologically speaking, St Paul had quite a lot to say about this when he wrote to the Corinthians about orderly worship. He did say that one must speak at a time and that what is spoken in tongues should be interpreted. After reading 1 Corinthians, chapters 12-14, maybe we should ask ourselves:
  • Spiritual gifts, such as tongues, are for the building up of the Church. In what way is my spiritual gift building up the Church, if at all?
  • Am I using my gift to serve others or myself?
  • Are more than 2 or 3 speaking at a single meeting? Paul specified this for a reason.
  • Am I contributing to the orderly nature worship?
  • Am I being loving to those around me now, and in my relationships with others (and God) at other times? If not I'm just a "clanging cymbal" (Paul's words not mine).
  • What would a "stranger" to our meeting learn about God from this?

This was just a spur of the moment idea because it was on my mind when I woke up this morning. I may have left out some important questions. You can let me know.