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Archive for the ‘complacency’ Category

Judge Nicola Mathers had this to say in regards to the ‘Boobs on Bikes’ parade in Auckland.

It is ‘not offensive per se for women to be topless’; her court was not one ‘of morals and it was her job to stick to the law’; and that “It may well be that the parade is tasteless but equally it may be that in a more mature society the vast majority might consider it harmless.”

My comments on each: (more…)

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watch it here (worth all 20 minutes of your time).

Note: The scope of this thing is so huge, please don’t fault it for making sweeping statements – to cover what it does in 20 minutes, it has to make its statements as general as possible.

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Check out this selection of verses from the Bible…

“Though He (God) slay me, yet will I trust Him.” (Job 13:15a)
“I have been afflicted and ready to die from my youth; I suffer Your terrors; I am distraught.” (Psalm 88:15)
“My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tonfue clings to my jaws; You have brought me to the dust of death.” (Psalm 22:15)

(that all of these verses happened to be the 15th in their chapter was not planned!)

God ‘slaying’ Job? Suffering God’s terrors? God bringing David to the ‘dust of death?’ Why the selection of such negative verses?

OK, I admit it. I’ve got an agenda. I’m trying to feature these kinds of passages in the Bible to make a point. What point is that?

I’ve been observing more and more a theme that seems to run right through the entire biblical narrative. I’ve observed that the people of God are marked by the way they embrace and/or accept suffering. Yep. Suffering.

The people of God before Christ suffered under Egyptian control, in the wilderness for 40 years, on the battlefield, during the ongoing and up-and-down cycle of replacement of Judges, as their kingdom was divided, under the oppression of the Babylonians and in the shadow of the Roman Empire (even though they were ‘home’ in Jerusalem). The church also suffered. The apostles and many others suffered beatings, oppression, imprisonment and eventually death for the cause of the advancement of the Gospel. I agree with many others who are convinced that the best thing for both the health and growth of the church is persecution. Indeed, one of the worst things to happen to the church might have been when Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Empire in the 4th century.

I am convinced that the suffering of the people of God is an important characteristic for us to understand and consider in light of our surroundings. Do we embrace suffering like those that have gone before us? Do we (in our comfortable, western, affluent environment) really have the slightest idea what real suffering is?

Guess where the church is growing? Where it is suffering. Guess where the church is arguing about how to do church services, which are the best programmes and what are the right leadership structures? Where it is comfortable. I don’t think that is a coincidence.

In the midst of battle, you don’t need to know the rank, status and position of the person who is watching your back, you just want to know that someone – anyone – is watching your back! As a critically ill patient in a hospital, you don’t care about the color of the wallpaper or the style of the physicians garments, you just want to know that someone will give you the medical attention you desperately need! Tough times certainly have a way of helping us (maybe forcing us?) to have better priorities!

It’s interesting how we pick and choose our favourite Bible verses, and how those verses differ from the verses of those in ‘developing’ countries. As Rich Mullins said, “They underline different parts of their Bibles. We’re all excited about being born again, and they are excited about selling their possessions and giving to the poor.” Maybe instead of assuming we have all the right church-ways, we should ask them about church?

Here’s a startling statistic from Don Fleming’s booklet Catching The Fire, “By 1960 the number of Christians in the non-Western world had reached 32% and by 1970 was about 36%. But throught the seventies and since, the growth has been extraordinary. By 1980 the figure had grown to 50%, by 1990 it was 66% and by 2000 it had reached 75%… Today, possibly 80% of all evangelical believers are in the non-Western world. The sad reality is that most Christians in the West are either unaware of it or have difficulty accepting it.”

Later on, he goes on to discuss how instead of us sending our books, programmes and church-ideas over to them, we should take out our pen and paper and take note of why it’s working over there! “Christians in the West are still buying books, but many of these books have only a tenuous connection with the Bible… What’s more, this dubious material from the West is being pumped into some of the poorer countries, because the Western producers can afford to send it free, knowing that poor people tend to take anything they can get for nothing. The Western church should be learning from the church in the developing world, but instead, it is spreading the West’s disease.”

Coming back to the topic of suffering, Don writes about what he calls our Western exectation of a pain-free life. “We do not know how to deal with suffering – not just illness, but death, war, persecution and poverty – much less how to embrace it in the name of Christ. We know what the Bible teaches about accepting hardship and sharing Christ’s suffering, but in reality most of us secretly feel we have a right to a pain-free life… After the devastating floods of Mozambique in 1999, the response of one local Christian was, ‘We don’t blame God; we trust Him.’ “

I can’t agree more. Our faith seems to only affect what CD’s we buy and which church services we go to. Our comfort and laziness have, as Don suggests, made us “the world’s greatest complainers.”

Where is the Job-like attitude that is reflected in the opening verse, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust Him.”? Why do we read the Bible looking for verses about ME? History is His story, and it’s primarily not about us! We are not commanded to be successful, efficient or organised. We are commanded to be obedient. Certainly we will grow (and be successful as a by-product) as we reach people – and certainly we don’t need to waste resources (time, money and people) – and certainly dis-order and/or chaos is warned against (1 Cor. 14). But it’s easy to see these things outside the proper perspective, and let them become our goals rather than by-products of our goal.

At any rate, my growing conviction is that it is not the growing, obedient and flourishing church in the developing world that needs our critique or advice, but actually it is the assumptions and traditions of our own comfortable, convenience-infused and selfish churches that need to be fiercely challenged. May we have the integrity to take an honest and humble look at ourselves and even more so may we have the courage to make changes where needed. Corporately and Individually.

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In the Christian life, one mistake we can make would be to think that we have no further need to grow. How ridiculous is that? Thankfully, I don’t know many people who think that. However, a much easier mistake to make is to fail to recognise how growth happens or fail to allow growth to happen in my life.

If we don’t understand how growth happens, we are likely to either falsely perceive growth that isn’t really there, or falsely believe that it can’t or won’t happen. Still yet, even if we do understand how growth happens, we are likely to resist the process.

We want growth to happen, sure enough, but we can’t get past the biggest obstacle: our desire for comfort.

Growth requires discomfort. That fact is unavoidable. It’s as true as the reality that water flows downhill.

If we are ever going to grow as Christians, it means that we are going to have to give up level upon level of comfort in our lives. Read this next sentence carefully.

If you want to be more loving, you will HAVE to learn to put up with un-lovable people.

(Might wanna read that one again.)

Truth triumphs over feelings. We can’t rely on feelings. Frankly, I don’t FEEL like loving people that aren’t like I want them to be. But when my mind is renewed with the TRUTH that I am no better than they are, I am enabled to love them, whether I FEEL like it or not.

May we recklessly love one another in a true, self-less, Christlike way.

Grace and Love,
Dale

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Thoughts, Feelings, Actions

Here’s a theologically loaded statement:
Right beliefs (ortho-doxy) create right feelings and lead to right actions (ortho-praxy).

As Christ-ians, our life (and thereby, our life-STYLE as well) is all about Christ. This is true isn’t it? Whatever we think, feel or do ought to be thought, felt or done in regard to Christ. Pretty amazing to think that Christ wants to renew our thinking, give us joy, and (as if that’s not enough) DO great things through us.

Thoughts
It starts with our thinking or our beliefs, doesn’t it? They are of utmost importance. When we actually believe that the God of the universe would not just merely be interested in us, but also would be willing to die for us, that has an effect on us!

Feelings
Once we are thinking straight, and it starts to sink in that Christ paid a debt that we would never have been able to pay, I’m just guessing that our feelings should take perhaps a small positive turn! That is what joy is all about! Would a prisoner that had been freed from a death-sentence show no emotion? Well, whether you realise it or not, or just have forgotten, If you are a Christian, you were a prisoner, and you have been set free from your death sentence!

Actions
This is where it gets interesting. We tend to be terribly distracted when our actions (or someone else’s) are either lacking or not of the right “kind.” If we’re not careful, we can slip into a pattern of thinking that our actions shape and form our beliefs. It’s the other way around. Our REAL thoughts and beliefs are seen in the way we act. It’s a tricky distinction that can easily be missed. Put plainly, you can’t serve your way into having Christian beliefs. You can, however, believe your way into serving in a Christian way. As church-type-people, we often act like the former statement is true. We care less about what people believe or how they feel, and instead just try to find ways to get all of the Christian jobs done! We must not do this.

If you are experiencing a ‘dry spell’ in your Christian life, check your beliefs and feelings. One of the many great things about the Christian life is that we are not simply converted and then put on a shelf, we are grown, tested, tried, bruised, etc. These bumps are to cause us to remember Who we are intended to rely upon. The dry spells aren’t there to get us to try harder, but to help us realise our inability to please God with our flesh, and remember Who our strength is. One of the greatest passages in the Bible about God’s will for living the Christian life is the beginning of the 12th chapter of Romans. Among other things, it says to “be transformed (continually) by the renewing of your mind.”

Thoughts are important.

Blessings,

Dale

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tough going

Alright,

Let me share what I’m learning about how God shapes us.

People approach the Christian life with different mindsets. Some literally think that God’s sole purpose for their existence is that they can be happy, fulfilled, financially independent, popular, etc.

True; the Christian life comes complete with times of happiness and fulfillment. And yes, God will allow many Christians to live quite public and comfortable lives. He even sometimes uses that for His glory. But none of these are His sole purpose. He wants us to KNOW Him.

Our relationship with Him is a relationship that is not just initiated by faith but also grown and/or shaped by faith. And yes, I think the whole idea of faith has been prostituted in the church. Faith is dragged through the mud as some kind of force that you grab a hold of and harness and if you can manipulate it, you can have huge blessings. That idea is a gross mis-interpretation of biblical faith. Perhaps the best synonym I can think of for faith is the word trust. We don’t manipulate God to do something for us, but we trust that even if we don’t get all of our greeds, He will still provide our needs.

So how are we shaped by faith? God allows really frustrating things to happen to us. Yep. If God wants you to be more loving, He doesn’t create the most likely environment for love, but instead will allow the most frustrating person you’ve ever met to cross your path. To build patience, He’ll allow you to switch from lane to lane on the motorway only to find that each lane you force yourself into becomes the slow lane! He’s not
interested in our comfort, but our character!

“Hey church! When you fall into different trials, see the joy in it, and know that God is testing your faith and wants to build patience!” James 1:2-3 (Dale’s loose paraphrase)

In His Grace,

Dale

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