Australia

19 08 2012

Australia!

It is most interesting, even strange, to see your own nation listed objectively, among the nations of the world in terms of both:

(1) Answers to prayer and (2) Challenges For Prayer.

I have already cited the details of Australians and their beliefs from the 2011 census:

Religious Affiliation
  • Christian   61%       (13.15 million)
  • Buddhist    2.5%    (  0.52  million)
  • Islam         2.2%     (  0.47  million)
  • Hinduism   1.3%     (  0.27  million)
  • Judaism    0.5%     (  0.09  million)
  • Other        0.8%     (  0.16  million)

See: https://nwcc.wordpress.com/australians/

The nation is in many ways, envied by so many nations of the world, in terms of space, living conditions, wealth, health and freedom for the gospel to be proclaimed and engaged in at a public level. This is not to say, however, that there is not a daily battle in influencing or wanting to enlarge, the minds and hearts of the Australian public towards the things of Christ. There is a battle.

* One of the figures I like to quote in terms of need for prayer and renewal, is the fact that there are about 10,000 Christian Pastors or Minister-leaders, or Priests/elders, across this nation of 22 million people.  There are another former 10,000 Christian Pastors or leaders, etc. who have been sidelined due to sheer weariness, difficulty, rejection, physical or mental illness, disaffection, loss of faith, boredom or in some case, even unbelief. These people are sort-of casualties of ‘church systems’, or of human church-institutional life generally. Lord of the Church, we pray for a renewal of ‘participation in ministry’, for many of these leaders.

Now we shall turn to the objective list of needs, as cited by Operation World.

1. Australia is undergoing many changes:

(a) Increasing pluralism and aggressive secularisation: (See for example: http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2012/05/07/it-is-wrong-to-judge/

(b) Sustained immigration has created a multi-cultural country, where fast growing religious and ethnic minorities cause considerable tensions in communities that have taken for granted, and now want to retain Christian and/or Anglo-Saxon heritage.

(c) Australia’s role as a regional peacekeeper and stable democracy is a blessing to many countries, such as Timor, Bougainville, Solomon Islands, and others. However attitudes towards refugees and asylum seekers are strained because of the constant inflow of people.

(d) The precarious ecology is overexploited – in urdan settings as much as in rural ones. Water availability, land-usage, drought, the pressure from mining companies all add to the yearly stress of the nation. Native koalas, and Tasmanian devils, are examples of the local species under threat. Ferral animals abound in outback Australia, doing incredible damage. We pray for wisdom in conservation and stewardship. See also my article Big Concerns.

2. The Church in Australia faces a mighty challenge – “to remain relevant”. [Personally, I would not put it this way. Church will ever be relevant to the nation, as the guardian and voice of the gospel]. While some 61% identify as Christian, only 10% of the nation regularly attend church. Increasingly there are negative attitudes towards the churches. There is an individualised ideology, which works against Christian community! We pray for reformation and revival of the Christian community within society.

3. Evangelicals are a dynamic and diverse entity. The Sydney Anglican diocese is an example of conservative, biblical strength, as is a growing minority in the Melbourne diocese. The greatest growth has been in the Pentecostal/charismatic church groups. Put together, they would constitute about the Third Largest group behind (1) Roman Catholic and (2) Anglican. The other large church, The Uniting Church in Australia since 1977 [formerly Methodists, Presbyterian and Congregational], has been deeply affected by political power-wielding of many with ‘liberal’ theology.

(a) Mainline churches are in varying degrees of polarisation

(b) Christian Holistic ministry – to the homeless, drug addicts, poor and the disabled – is an area of great opportunity.

(c) The Ideological debate with secular materialists: many hot topics such as human origin, human sexuality and the existence of God, are under public scrutiny, attack and debate.

4. The Missions Vision Within Australian churches is mixed: a small minority of churches maintain a once large work as a missionary sending nation. We pray for a renewal of perspective in regard to going, sending and giving to other nations. 

5. Less Reached Peoples Are found in increasing numbers and diversityPray for outreach to continue to:

(a) People in working-class urban areas

(b) Muslims

(c) Chinese

(d) Vietnamese

(e) Diverse people from the Balkans and Eastern Europe

(f) Jews – number over 100,000

(g) Southern Europeans

6. The 550,000 Indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

(a) Most Aborigines are Christian

(b) Pray for the Aboriginal Evangelical Fellowship

(c) Pray for the nearly 500 missionaries in 26 denominational agencies

(d) Bible Translation is in Progress

7. Student Ministry needs greater attention. 600,000 students in 40 universities are served by small student groups on each campus.

8. Young People and Children: A drastic drop in Sunday school attendances, and weekend sport on Sunday, has proven a challenge to Schools Ministry  Groups to reach the children and give them opportunity to hear the gospel. Government, secular opposition, the considerations of other religions, and an often unhelpful, even hostile mainstream media continue to make this aspect of ministry somewhat difficult.

9. Pray For the Christian Media

Radio, Literature, Visual Media, The Internet, (including Facebook) all provide good opportunities to the Word of Christ to go forth in a deeply beneficial way, to the nation.

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Operation World—A Prayer Guide to Every Nation

4 08 2012

I have been genuinely amazed at the content of a book called, ‘Operation World’. It gives an extraordinary insight into the health or otherwise of Christian churches with the nations of the world.  It tells very informative facts, accurate details, problems, and needs of the countries of the world.

Great reading. Inspiring.

It is often a great experience for people to visit other countries and cultures. I like doing this. It is an even more wonderful thing to share the gospel with other people—especially people who are so different in language and culture and background and circumstances. But to find that the same Risen Ascended Jesus—once of Nazareth, and now Living evermore—is speaking and ministering to another person’s heart and life and community, is a thing of strange delight and joy.

It is the mystery of the profound work of the Holy Spirit, in the depths of another person, that we are enabled, in some small, but significant way, to share in, as those who’s own lives, bear witness to Jesus the conqueror of death and sin, and hell, for the human race.

It would be good to reflect upon other countries, for a while, and to pray for the Christians living there, who are seeking to bring hope to the people of their country. Why not sample and then buy, this excellent book:

http://www.operationworld.org/

God has come to the world, in Jesus Christ, and his hope is designed to reach every tribe and nation.





Europe’s Past Is Today’s Hope

6 10 2009

Europe continues to be a difficult place for the gospel to take fresh root, and to make real headway. Only today, I received a request for support for a missionary couple, as they endeavour to take the Word of truth into … Italy. Ha – just think… the Apostle Paul wrote his great letter of truth, concerning the world, and life, and the future, to … the church in Rome. We should read Paul’s Letter to the Romans often!

What a strange thing human history can seem to be. One of the most unusual days, and perhaps disappointing in terms of unwise use of power, was when Charlemagne, was crowned by the Pope, as leader of the ‘Holy Roman Empire’, on Christmas Day, 800 AD. In a short Church History lesson (2009), I wrote the following:

Charlemagne crowned by Leo III

On Christmas Day, 800 AD, in Rome, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne as emperor. This signified a shift in power structure, for the church in Rome, in relation to the all of the Kings of Europe.  In theory, church and state were now in harmonious interplay. How did a Pope ever come to crown a world ruler? Can you have a Holy Roman Empire?

Fast forward. Another Gregory, Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085), instituted reforms, which ultimately led to the papacy emerging in the 12th and 13th centuries, as the most powerful office in Europe.

Fast Forward: By 1409, there was one Italian Pope, Urban, in Rome, another French one, Clement from Avignon,. But neither stood down, as of necessity, a third Pope, Alexander V, was elected. Three Popes. And one was preaching a crusade against another and selling indulgences to pay for it.

In World History, many Christian leaders, (if not all to some extent) have really failed in their specific calling to continue to announce the good news of the gospel to the world. Some have become too theologically clever, and too politically careful, or manipulative, to be able to really bear witness to Jesus Christ as the Saviour of the world, through his death and resurrection. Nevertheless, Jesus ever remains Lord of all current affairs, of life itself, of death, and of creation, with its future in his hands! This is an amazing claim.

I was heartened, therefore to read this article in Christianity Today, concerning the current Pope, and his recent words. It is good to be a person, who, in spite of many obstacles, and when often being misunderstood, does not give up in one’s calling to proclaim the good news for the human race. check out this article:

Europe’s Past Is Today’s Hope | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

I hope you are not giving up, on your calling, or compromising it, wherever that may be!





Timothy I, Dialogue with the Caliph al-Mahdi

23 09 2009

Timothy I, Dialogue with the Caliph al-Mahdi at Roger Pearse.

Philip Jenkins, in ‘The Lost History of Christianity’ tells how Timothy had a most interesting conversation, proclaiming Christ amidst his Muslim political culture:  This excerpt shows some of it. Timothy is speaking … :

And I replied to his Majesty: “O our victorious King, in this world we are all of us as in a dark house in the middle of the night. If at night and in a dark house a precious pearl happens to fall in the midst of people, and all become aware of its existence, every one would strive to pick up the pearl, which will not fall to the lot of all but to the lot of one only, while one will get hold of the pearl itself, another one of a piece of glass, a third one of a stone or of a bit of earth, but every one will be happy and proud that he is the real possessor of the pearl. When, however, night and darkness disappear, and light and day arise, then every one of those men who had believed that they had the pearl, would extend and stretch his hand towards the light, which alone can show what every one has in hand. He who possesses the pearl will rejoice and be happy and pleased with it, while those who had in hand pieces of glass and bits of stone only will weep and be sad, and will sigh and shed tears.

“In this same way we children of men are in this perishable world as in darkness. The pearl of the true faith fell in the midst of all of us, and it is undoubtedly in the hand of one of us, while all of us believe that we possess the precious object. In the world to come, however, the darkness of mortality passes, and the fog of ignorance dissolves, since it is the true and the real light to which the fog of ignorance is  absolutely foreign. In it the possessors of the pearl will rejoice, be happy and pleased, and the possessors of mere pieces of stone will weep, sigh, and shed tears, as we said above.”

And our victorious King said: “The possessors of the pearl are not known in this world, O Catholicos.”—And I answered: “They are partially known, O our victorious King.”—And our victorious and very wise King said: “What do you mean by partially known, and by what are they known as such?”—And I answered: “By good works, O our victorious King, and pious deeds, and by the wonders and miracles that God performs through those who possess the true faith. As the lustre of a pearl is somewhat visible even in the darkness of the night, so also the rays of the true faith shine to some extent even in the darkness and the fog of the present world. God indeed has not left the pure pearl of the faith completely without testimony and evidence, first in the prophets and then in the Gospel. He first confirmed the true faith in Him through Moses, once by means of the prodigies and miracles that He wrought in Egypt, and another time when He divided the waters of the Red Sea into two and allowed the Israelites to cross it safely, but drowned the Egyptians in its depths. He also split and divided the Jordan into two through Joshua, son of Nun, and allowed the Israelites to cross it without any harm to themselves, and tied the sun and the moon to their own places until the Jewish people were well avenged upon their enemies. He acted in the same way through the prophets who rose in different generations, viz.: through David, Elijah, and Elisha.

“Afterwards He confirmed the faith through Christ our Lord by the miracles and prodigies which He wrought for the help of the children of men. In this way the Disciples performed miracles greater even than those wrought by Christ. These signs, miracles, and prodigies wrought in the name of Jesus Christ are the bright rays and the shining lustre of the precious pearl of the faith, and it is by the brightness of such rays that the possessors of this pearl which is so full of lustre and so precious that it outweighs all the world in the balance, are known.”

And our victorious King said: “We have hope in God that we are the possessors of this pearl, and that we hold it in our hands.”— And I replied: “Amen, O King. But may God grant us that we too may share it with you, and rejoice in the shining and beaming  lustre of the pearl! God has placed the pearl of His faith before all of us like the shining rays of the sun, and every one who wishes can enjoy the light of the sun.”

See:

http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/timothy_i_apology_01_text.htm

This also leads one to ponder the whole book, by Jenkins:

The Lost History of Christianity – P. Jenkins

Cheers!





Rose Coloured Glasses

1 02 2009

Looking at the world through rose-coloured glasses. It’s something we all do. From time to time, each of us view the human scene, the cosmic scene, daily life, as if all things were basically going well.

It has been said, that “an optimist, has a misty optic”.  They are not truly viewing the evil, the harm, the damage, the terror, the horror, the unfairness, the inequality and deprivation, and acts of depravity, being wrought, in our midst, on a daily, yearly basis. 

January 29 2009. “A father allegedly threw his four-year-old daughter off a bridge in front of the girl’s two young brothers and scores of motorists during rush hour in Melbourne today. Witnesses said Arthur Phillip Freeman, 35, suddenly stopped his family car – which also had his two young sons inside – and, with young Darcey Iris in his arms, walked to the side of the West Gate Bridge, just after 9am. He then allegedly dropped his young daughter over the railing and into the water, 190ft (58m) below.” (Times Online). 

The girl died. The Father was arrested. The Premier made a statement. And the community was, and continues to be shocked and horrified. 

We respond by vowing to make the bridge safer. We recognise for a few moments, that we do have a community mental health problem. Perhaps, if we were to be more honest in our assessment, we might together confess, that we really do have a community mental-health epidemic. A nightmare. 

Can we ever compute the effects of the evil, and hatred, and anger in one human heart? What about the anger simmering in one home, one suburb, one city, one nation, one global community? 

Now, it is not good to be a pessimist. It is not good to be bitter, and always critical of life and people. However, let us admit that our society, our nation, our human race (although capable of mighty and noble things) has a problem that needs deep treatment. 

When the Apostle Paul says, ‘For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified’, he is really saying that he views life no longer through ‘coloured glasses’ of any shade, but through the events of the cross of Christ.

Is that our viewing lense?

Is that your viewing lense?  

Yes…. is it my viewing lense?

We all need to face life squarely.

That will mean, being faced by the love of God in Christ Jesus. Christ crucified is God’s judgment and ‘no’ to evil humanity. It is also his redemptive love for the world. Only the Spirit of God can bring this to us, down in our hearts – and in our community life.

This will mean being faced with our own hearts, and our own need of the Saviour. Our world surely needs more than deep repair of the human heart. It needs the cross of Christ Jesus. We need Jesus, to take up our evil into his cross. We need Jesus to know our sins forgiven. We need Jesus to heal our hearts of all this deep damage. We need Jesus, to have one to trust in all of life. We need the mercy, which is given in Jesus. 

Lord have mercy! Christ have mercy!

May our community return to the sanity, of faith in Christ who deals with all evil, and heals al hearts, that come to him in faith. He is Risen. He was crucified for all.

O Lord, we lay down our false, rose–coloured glasses.

The community needs profound repair. Lord have mercy!





Australians… and beliefs

21 01 2009

What do Australians believe?

Did you know that in the 2001 Census, Australians identified in the following ways – when it came to belief or religion, or spirituality?

Christian       69%

No Religion  16%

No Reply        10%          

                                            NOTE:   TOTAL thus far… 95%

Then… of the remaining 5% it went like this:

Buddhist                                         1.94%

Muslim                                            1.53%

Hindu                                              0.52%

Jew                                                    0.46%

Aboriginal & TSI/Traditional    0.3%

           (… then there are the smaller home grown varieties of New Age, and so on).  

It is a big surprise to many people, that only 5% of Australians are in the ‘Other Religions’ category.

Point: Christian faith teaches that we should honor all people, of all creeds. It also teaches that the resurrection of Jesus is Public Truth. (Leslie Newbigin) 

 Q. Is it appropriate that we, all therefore, walk on tenterhooks in these matters?  

Thought for the Day: Could these figures be a major contributing factor as to why Australia is a generally fine place to live?








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