Wednesday, 28 November 2012

3rd century blog by Diognetus discovered

By me! Here he is:

Christianity: Where Every Foreign Country Is Fatherland and Every Fatherland Is Foreign:
From the unknown author of The Epistle to Diognetus, Chapter 5, written perhaps between 117 and 225 AD, capturing the paradoxical nature of Christian identity and practice:
For Christians are not distinguished from the rest of humanity by country, language, or custom.
For nowhere do they live in cities of their own, nor do they speak some unusual dialect, nor do they practice an eccentric way of life.
This teaching of theirs has not been discovered by the thought and reflection of ingenious people, nor do they promote any human doctrine, as some do.
But while they live in both Greek and barbarian cities, as each one’s lot was cast, and follow the local customs in dress and food and other aspects of life, at the same time they demonstrate the remarkable and admittedly unusual character of their own citizenship.
They live in their own countries, but only as nonresidents; they participate in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners.
Every foreign country is their fatherland, and every fatherland is foreign.
They marry like everyone else, and have children, but they do not expose their offspring [to kill them].
They share their food but not their wives.
They are in the flesh, but they do not live according to the flesh.
They live on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven.
They obey the established laws; indeed in their private lives they transcend the laws.
They love everyone, and by everyone they are persecuted.
They are unknown, yet they are condemned; they are put to death, yet they are brought to life.
They are poor, yet they make many rich; they are in need of everything, yet they abound in everything.
They are dishonored, yet they are glorified in their dishonor; they are slandered, yet they are vindicated.
They are cursed, yet they bless; they are insulted, yet they offer respect.
When they do good, they are punished as evildoers; when they are punished, they rejoice as though brought to life.
By the Jews they are assaulted as foreigners, and by the Greeks they are persecuted, yet those who hate them are unable to give a reason for their hostility.

Christmas memory creating

Every single post that Jenny Kemp writes is funny in a Homer Simpson kind of way. Got good stuff in it too.

Christmas memory creating:
This is OK
I'm sure I've written about this before but every year I struggle with the pressure to be an uber mum and have some kind of Christmas craft decorating the house.  Instead I end up with a leaning Christmas tree that the kids have decorated themselves (certainly not going to make the cut for a Myer catalogue), with lights that drove the husband to distraction to untangle.

There's a trend (especially in Christian circles) to create family traditions.  And I'm a total believer.  Good, healthy childhood memories and traditions have been shown to be very significant in developing high levels of security and resilience.

But over time the memories/tradition trend seems to have developed into some kind of Pinterest Christmas competition.  No longer is the knitted nativity scene that Aunty Pip bought for us from the Mother's Union stall in 2003 enough.  It needs to be done by me.  And this is how my family will unite, bond and be functional.

The problem is, this time of the year is a shocker with five school age kids.  End of year events for everything they and us have been involved in over the year fill our nights and days.  All wonderful rich events and important to mark the end of the year, but they don't leave much time to do Christmas craft.  Especially when Christmas craft isn't really your thing.

So I started to reflect on the Christmas traditions that we have developed.  We put up our dodgy plastic tree covered in Christmas craft from playgroup/preschool/Sunday school/ school/childcare over the last 14 years.  We look forward to our presents.  We go to lots of church starting with our mega carols extravaganza that involves our lovely community.  We fight  negotiate turns to open the advent calendar.  I wish I could say that we're doing other kinds of wonderful, spiritually enriching things.  But we're not.  And my kids seem to 'get' Christmas.

When I was a little girl I don't remember having Christmas traditions involving vast amounts of craft and cooking and stress by my mother.  I do remember that we'd have chicken - which was special and frankly a big hassle in India where you had to buy the chicken live.  We had a pot plant that we'd hoist up on a coffee table and decorate with shiny things.  Under the pot plant would be all the yellow postpaks that our gifts had come in from Australia (could never actually open the post packs because half the time the wrapping had been ripped open by customs so there would be no surprise).  We'd pose with the yellow post paks for a photo to send back to prove that we'd received the parcels (in itself a miracle).

I feel like these are lovely memories.  A little unusual perhaps (but hey, when it comes to Christmas, what family DOESN'T have a few wacky things going on?) but in the context of a secure family they're ok.

At the end of the day it still goes back to how you all get on and how special those relationships are.  If you're not crafty just get on with the business of loving your family well.  Those memories count the most.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Evangelicalism Goes to Widecombe Fair (Carl Trueman)

From Carl Trueman. True, man.

Evangelicalism Goes to Widecombe Fair (Carl Trueman): As a small footnote to Jeremy's post, it should also be noted that Trevin Wax's claim regarding the Reformers is rather overstated:

Though the Reformers sought to emphasize the assurance we can have
because of God's grace in election and salvation, their descendants
sometimes undercut the beauty of assurance by stressing the fruit of
sanctification more than the fact of justification.

There is some truth to this but unfortunately, it is a lot more complicated than that.  First, the 'Reformers' were not a monolithic phenomenon so claims about what 'they' thought always need to be read against that background.

Second, even if (for the sake of argument) we allow that Luther and Calvin are typical -- and usually it is these two who are primarily in mind when Christians speak of 'the Reformers' -- the situation is complicated.  Luther's understanding of law and gospel certainly left a place - a large place - for introspection and even despair in the ongoing Christian life.   He was no early advocate of radical sonship theology, despite his being used in this way by some Gospel Coalition writers.   If nothing else, the visitation of the late 1520s, the struggles over the catechisms and the debate with Agricola all point both to the complexity of Luther's development and the ongoing importance of what we might today call 'introspection'.  Yes, for Luther this is the work of the law, not gospel -- but it is crucial to understand that the law remains a vital part of the experience of the Christian.

As for Calvin, a focus on the Institutes (or at least certain passages of the Institutes) might well yield a nicely objective assurance.  A study of the sermons -- the place where classroom theology hits the pew, so to speak -- is rather more variegated. 

Moving beyond Luther and Calvin -- to Zwingli, Tyndale, Hooper etc., the picture gets even more complicated and, in some cases, decidedly introspective -- and that before 1550.

Third, we must remember that the Reformation generated new questions.  The fact is that the Reformers pushed for personal assurance against a background of medieval theology where such was simply not an issue.  Reformation theology generated new pastoral questions, questions it was not in its aboriginal form able to answer; that is why later theologians -- for example, the Puritans -- had to speak in different ways, after years of reflecting upon the pastoral impact of Reformation teaching.  They were striving to answer questions which the very theology of the Reformers has raised for the first time.

Finally, on a personal note (and this is not a shot at Trevin Wax but rather at an apparent current trend): perhaps I live in a very different church world to the rest of American Calvinistic evangelicalism -- that would not surprise me at all -- but in the last few months we have had the Puritans whacked for slavery (and I still cannot name a single Westminster Divine who owned a slave - though I can name a few who, in 1662, lost everything through their stand for the truth) and now for introspection.  Yet is it really the case that uncritical appropriation of the Puritans is the, or even a, pressing problem for the church today? Is legalistic introspection really crippling the church? Are there no other, more threatening problems?  Not weakness on Trinitarianism?  Not books advocating sodomy in marriage? Not the new antinomianism?  Not even new Calvinists who are happy to wear sneakers and buy computers made by slave labour in the Majority World?   The last twelve months seem to have thrown up a few more likely candidates for pressing ecclesiastical problems than John Owen, John Bunyan, and Uncle Tom Goodwin and all.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

The Joy of Sects (Carl Trueman)

Thoughts on women bishops from Carl Trueman.

The Joy of Sects (Carl Trueman): The reaction of the British media to the result in the 'women bishops vote' (I hesitate to call it 'bishopsgate' for fear of offending William Taylor) is as predictable as the vote itself was surprising.  The essence of most of the commentary I have read is: the church has voted for oppression of women and has made itself irrelevant; it will no longer have a voice on major cultural, political and economic issues.   That is a sentiment to send shivers down the spine of all the movers and shakers in the engage-the-culture Evangelidrome.

I have no particular interest in the internal politics of the Anglican Church.   Whether she chooses in the future to consecrate women bishops, to make Justin Bieber Archbishop of Canterbury (Lady Gaga is, thankfully, at least five years away from that job, according to the Synod rule book) or to bless the matrimonial union of divorced goldfish, I doubt I will lose any sleep at night.  The reactions of the media, however, are fascinating and offer great insight not only into how the church is perceived but how the world thinks.   As such, these reactions are surely a salutary warning: if you want to answer the questions the world is asking, you may find you rarely, maybe never, arrive at the gospel. 

One of the key failures of the currently trendy Christian cultural engagement movement is that it takes the questions which the culture is asking too seriously.  We often assume that it is the answers which the world gives which are its means of avoiding the truth.   In actual fact, there is no reason to assume that the very questions it asks are not also part of the cover-up.   'Answer my question about women's rights or saving the whale' might simply be another way of saying, 'I don't want you to tell me that my neglect of my wife and children is an offence to God.'

Christianity is doomed to be a sect because not only do we refuse to give the answers to life's questions in terms the world finds comfortable; we also refuse to allow the world to set the terms of the questions.    The sooner we grasp that, the better it will be for all of us.  Our ministers might then spend more time on theology (perhaps even do a bit of reading 'within the tradition' before finding it helpful to 'read outside the tradition'), more time being different to the leaders in the surrounding culture, and much less time worrying about how the world sees us.  Trust me on this: it sees us as a cranky sect. Now keep calm and carry on.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Chappo talks about his conversion

[From the ACL website]

Chappo talks about his conversion:
John Chapman speaks about how he came to Christ – in this 3 minute video recorded a couple of years ago for a day conference at St Mark’s Pennant Hills. Thanks to Craig Schafer for making it available.

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Friday, 16 November 2012

Death of John Chapman

John Chapman has died at the age of 82. A great evangelist, a great man, a faithful servant of the Lord and an encouragement to so many to preach the word of God with passion and clarity.
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord,4 that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

(1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

A verse from Revelation that reminds me of Chappo:
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of othe hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it."

(Revelation 2:17)

I organized an interview between Kel Richards and John Chapman last year. You can find extracts of that interview here.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Obama 2012: Gordon's culture spot

Every few months I get to do a culture spot for the kids at church, so here's my draft for the talk later this morning.

Feel free to rip it off if you find it useful.

It's based on these letters between a 10 year old girl and President Obama, from here

Hi everybody and welcome to Gordon’s Culture Spot.

Now I’ve got a couple of verses from the Bible that I want you to think about:

Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God (Romans 13:1)

I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority (2 Timothy 1:1-2)

?Anyone worked out what we’re going to talk about?

That’s right the US presidential elections! Who’s going to be the President of the US for the next 4 years?

Now I’ve got a letter that a 10 year old girl wrote to President Barack Obama just at the end of October, it’s going to come up on the screen. Let me read a bit to you

Dear Barack Obama,

It's Sophia Bailey Klugh. Your friend who invited you to dinner. You don't remember okay that's fine. But I just wanted to tell you that I am so glad you agree that two men can love each other because I have two dads and they love each other. But at school kids think that it's gross and weird but it really hurts my heart and feelings. So I come to you because you are my hero. If you were me and you had two dads that loved each other, and kids at school teased you about it, what would you do?

Please respond!

I just wanted to say you really inspire me, and I hope you win on being the president. You would totally make the world a better place.

Your friend Sophia

P.S. Please tell your daughters Hi for me!

President Obama wrote back on November 1, that’s 10 days ago, and here’s his letter coming up on the screen in a moment, let me read a little bit of what he said:

In America, no two families look the same. We celebrate this diversity. And we recognize that whether you have two dads or one mom what matters above all is the love we show one another. You are very fortunate to have two parents who care deeply for you. They are lucky to have such an exceptional daughter in you.

[a bit later he says]

A good rule is to treat others the way you hope they will treat you. Remind your friends at school about this rule if they say something that hurts your feelings.

OK so there are a lot of people in the United States, and Australia as well who would say yay because Mr Obama is president again, and there are some who would say boo.

But because we love Jesus we don’t have to say yay or boo.

We might want to say boo because the Bible tells us that the best thing ever is to have your own mum and dad, and to have both of them looking after you is much better than to have no mum or dad, or just having dad or just having mum, or having 2 dads. So it looks like Mr Obama doesn't believe what the Bible says.

We might want to say yay because how great to have your own letter from the President of the United States of America that you could show the kids at school in news time and say see, we shouldn’t tease each other but love each other

But the best thing of all is to do what the Bible says and pray for the President, and let’s get those verses up again from the beginning, notice the second verse again which says

I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority (2 Timothy 1:1-2)

So why don’t we pray for Barack Obama, and seeing as how we’re Australians let’s pray for Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles and Julia Gillard as well.


Friday, 2 November 2012

Quite useful stuff on productivity from David Allen

Worth carving out some time to implement these 'Getting things Done' principles. Not ahead of daily prayer and Bible reading!

TEDx Talk by David Allen:
David Allen’s recent TEDx Talk has generated quite a buzz.
“The art of stress-free productivity is a martial art.”

Click here to view on YouTube.