Djibouti

16 10 2017

Capital: Djibouti   … (imagine that!)

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Population: 1 million. About 61% are Somali people, also Afar (28%), Arab (8%).

Official Language: French and Arabic.

A hot dry enclave between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia, with possibly the hottest average temperatures of any county on earth.

Religion: Muslim 97% (and the State religion). Religious freedom for foreigners.

Prayer:  Living Lord, ascended Jesus, who loves this nation of people, may your Word be preached here with power.  In this strange nation, so calm and stable, yet with huge problems of unemployment and famine, may the miracle of coming to know Jesus Christ as the Saviour and hope of the world, occur among significant people, that the joy of the true God’s plan and purpose, as Father and Redeemer may be revealed for many people. Come Holy Spirit and bring a quenching of human thirst, in a dry and weary land. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 





Bosnia

23 01 2013

Bosnia and Herzegovina, is a mountainous Balkan state situated amidst the nations of Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia.

Capital: Sarajevo. Population: 3,750,000. Language: Bosnian

The shameful war in the early 1990’s shattered this beautiful country, and devastated the once effective agrarian infrastructure.

Politics: It is helpful to hear the story: “Bosnia separated from Serbia in AD 960 and, during the 500-year Turkish occupation, many Bosnians became Muslim.  WW2 saw hundreds of thousands of Serbs exterminated by Croat and Bosniak Nazi collaborators. The breakup of Yugoslavia led to a Croat-Muslim alliance in support of independence in March 1992, which was swiftly and militarily contested by the Serb minority.  The three-sided war among Serbians, Croatians and Bosnians caused immense damage, loss of life, displacement of millions and wartime atrocities (most notably by Serbs upon Bosniaks). The war ended in 1995 with no winner and the nation partitioned between the Serb Republic and the Croat-Muslim Federation.  Real power lies with NATO and international agencies, trying to orchestrate a transition to a feasible post-war arrangement.” (Operation World)

And one more point: “Ethno-nationalistic religious confessions replaced communism as the prevailing ideology”.

Communist Background: April 7, 1963, the new Yugoslav constitution proclaimed Tito to be the president “for life” of the newly named Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Tito’s dictatorial leadership swiftly suppressed opponents.Image

Points for Prayer:

1. VIOLENCE: Forgiveness alone, can address the deep-seated anger over so much violence. Justice must flow, with reconciliation, for war-crimes so horrendous they are difficult to comprehend.

2. POVERTY: Economic transformation needed to address poverty, which is endemic.

3. ENTRENCHED RELIGION: Freedom in Christ is the only hope of liberating entrenched ‘religious communities’. 

4. GOOD NEWS: Creative means for sharing: The Alpha Course has helped to share Christ’s love. New means are needed continually. Broadcasts, Jesus film, etc.

5. Expatriate Christian input: is needed for believers in Bosnia, in order to bring the good news to their nation.  Pray for effective networking for the gospel’s sake.

6. The unreached are many.

(1) Bosniak Muslims.

(2) Orthodox Serbs: Islamic Rule for 500 years has made them bitter, and angry.

(3) The largely Muslim Romani (Gypsy) and the wholly Muslim Turks.

(4) The students. Note: “Among 30,000 tertiary students (the majority in Sarajevo), there are fewer than 40 believers.  Young people are very pessimistic – “more than 60% want to leave the country”. Pray that youth and ‘brains’ will come to know Christ, and remain in the nations to serve, with hope, for the future.





Bahrain

15 09 2012

So you’ve heard the name, but not sure of where it is actually located…or much else?

Bahrain is situated in the Arabian Gulf between the Qatar Peninsula and Saudi Arabia.

It is a group of one larger and 32 smaller barren islands, and is linked to the Saudi Arabia Peninsula by a causeway. The King Fahad Causeway was opened in November 1986, and has since been used by millions of passengers and vehicles.

Wow!

The make-up of the population is most interesting: Arab 50%, Iranian 15%, Bahraini Farsi 10%, South Asian 15% (Indian, Malayi, Tamil, Telugu, Pakastani), East Asian 7% (Chinese, Korean, Filipino), European 1.5%, Other 1.5%.

What about faith? Muslim 83% and 9.8% Christian, Hindu 6%. Proselytizing Muslims is illegal. Expatriate Christians are very free to worship together in churches; practitioners of other faiths are free to do the same. With limited compounds though, dozens of congregations mus share the same building.

“Bahrain enjoys greater freedom than almost all Gulf countries and therefore is spiritually strategic. With greater freedoms, the accompanying vices are becoming problems. Many Saudis and Kuwaitis visit here to enjoy the more relaxed environment. Pray for them to meet Christians and encounter the gospel. Pray for the king as he leads the nation forward”  (Operation World, p. 130).

Christian Ministry: For over a century the American Mission Hospital has been well known and highly regarded. Pray that this may continue and that there may be fruit from the tactful witness of believers.

Local Believers: Praise God fo them, and pray that their testimony to fellow Arabs will flourish.

Among the large expatriate community: pray for courage and wisdom to share their knowledge of the Risen Jesus, and his Lordship over death, hell sin and evil, for all humanity—the New Humanity in him! Education there opens many opportunities. Pray for the teachers, and their testimony to the Living Christ.

The labour force is 59% foreign, drawn from more than 50 nations. Wow! They are however, often treated poorly, and there are great expectations from their family at home in poor circumstances.  Pray that within these groups, many will be drawn into contact with Jesus Christ.

Media ministries: High speed internet gives access to Christians across the globe, through chat, and all kinds of Christian resources.  Christian literature is available in Manama. The Bible Society works to make Scripture available in Arabic, and other languages. Christian TV and radio is accessible via satellite broadcast; so inquiry about Jesus can be made anonymously. What a fascinating place.

May the Living, Risen, Ascended Jesus, Lord of all, Son of Man, Son of God, friend of sinners, and crucified Saviour of the World, speak and minister to many hearts in Bahrain, of the hope, grace, mercy, peace and joy, that lies in knowing him.  Come Spirit of God, the Holy One. Come, Spirit of Jesus the Son, Spirit of the Father, and speak to the spirits of those who live and work in Bahrain.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CM9bpL6VkxU





Austria

5 09 2012

Austria: 82% Christian, but quite a bit of very nominal Catholicism. A good sprinkling of Lutherans as we might expect, among this nation, where 91% of the 8.3 million, are Germanic people. Austria is a landlocked country, with The Alps in the south and west, and the flat plains of the River Danube to the east. Famous for ‘The Sound of Music’, a popular American musical picture, winning 5 Academy Awards… ‘Do-Re-Mi: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIjobdArtiA

A mixed prosperous economy, of agriculture, commerce and tourism—with culture, music, art and beautiful scenery in abundance. All this serves as a thin glaze, over a deeper human despair. Rates of suicide are high, as is abortion and alcoholism. The evangelical and charismatic churches, though quite small numerically, are working, praying and seeking to be a fresh influence in the life of Austrian people. Pastors are in great need, as are more full-time workers in missionary work. ‘Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out more workers into the field’ (Matthew 9:38).

In particular there are many unreached pockets of people, such as six ethnic groups from the Balkans, as well as Muslim Turks, Afghans, Kurds and Pakistanis.

Witness among the student population is a fruitful area of work. Vienna the capital (1.7million) host thousands of international students. All 7 universities have active ministries among them. There are growing prayer ministries among teenagers, and SU and CEF are focussing on school age children. Lots to do, but hopeful signs. May the Living Lord Jesus, bless the people of Austria with a good hearing of the Word of Life!

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Aruba

14 08 2012

Aruba is an island, 33km long and situated 28km north of Venzuela, in the Caribbean Sea. The Capital is Oranjestad. About 107, 500 people live there, and the official language is Dutch (however there are several English speaking churches on the island).

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  • Since 1986 Aruba has been a self-governing part of the Kingdom of Netherlands.
  • Some 74% of the people identify as Catholic, and Christianity comes in at an overall 93%.
  • As expected the island is heavily dependent upon tourism.
  • Problems for the island include illegitimate births (50% of them all), teen drug addiction and the need for unity among believers, especially when the slick, white-shoe brigade type of church and theology arrives to set up shop.
  • The gospel is proclaimed there, through three Christian radio stations.

Together with the local Christians, we pray that newcomers to the island from Asia, Latin American and other parts of the Caribbean, may hear and respond to the good news of eternal life, through Jesus Christ. We also pray for the grace of God and the redemptive power of the Holy Spirit to come anew to the children, teenagers, young mums and dads – as well as the tourists, as they enjoy the Father’s joyful and beautiful creation. If anyone is in Christ: new creation. The old things have passed away, the new have come. All this is from God who was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself.





Stories That Tell: The War Stories

25 04 2012


“Thou shalt not kill”
(Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17)

 In mixing with members of SAPOL in recent years, I came across a saying, which is a bit of a take-off of the old diggers in Australia. They say something like ‘we were all standing around telling war-ies’. This term war-ies is short for ‘war stories’, and is a slang term synonymous with ‘tall tales’, bragging, or embellishing old exploits.

Geoffrey Bingham’s War Stories are not really that sort of thing. While some of them may truly recount and even embellish certain funny or even strange historical incidents, the stories are written not merely for entertainment, but in order to convey something of the truth of life, during war times, as a person of faith has seen, understood and experienced it. Most of the war stories, like the other types are undoubtedly written in the hope of helping to lead a person to ponder life more deeply, and in particular, to consider God and all his works in creation and redemption.  Christ has come to meet us amidst all of life, including painful, poignant, tragic, sad, miraculous and even, or especially in the humorous days of war.

THE PACIFIST POSITION—A BRIEF WORD

There are many Christians who regard pacifism as the only authentic response to war. One Internet blogger recently wrote: “Participation in the military… is a violation of one’s commitment to Jesus Christ”.[1] Familiarity with Geoffrey’ Bingham’s writings, and his own decision—as a pacifist—to join the armed forces during WW2, have helped me to think through this issue in a helpful way. The following extract is taken from Geoff’s theological teaching, and a subtitle: ‘The Christian and War’[2]

A “just” war might be said to be one, which, resists oppression and defends righteousness and freedom. Whilst killing in war is evil it is pleaded that the evil of tyranny, especially that which results from such forces as Nazism are worse evils and a choice between two is necessary. A realistic recognition of man as he is will determine a person’s view, e.g. whether a view of depravity is taken, or a humanistic view of man’s innate potential of good. The problem that complicates the decision about “just” or “unjust” wars is that it is rarely, if ever, that the evil is on one side. So many elements complicate the matter entirely. Such elements could be aggrandisement by one country against another, armaments interests, sub-Christian views of retaliation (for wrongs done or imagined), racial hatred, and personal lust for power by leaders or nations.

(f) The Pacifist Position

There are Christians who are pacifists. The question of whether Christianity is pacifist is a wider question. Some reconciliation of the use of war in the Old Testament and the forecast of war to the end-time in the Scriptures has to be worked out by one who would be a pacifist or a non-pacifist. The whole question of righteousness, as of love, must be sorted out, with an understanding of penal elements within the context of nations and international relationships. Realistic views of man’s sin and depravity must be taken and then decisions made. In this regard it is to be considered whether pacifism springs from a Christian or a humanistic source, and if from the latter whether it is, nevertheless consistent with general Christian teaching where the Bible does not give a specific direction. A further consideration is that wars spring Out of the evil of man and simply to accept them as a necessary evil in passive fatalism is a contradiction of the moral powers the believer possesses and may even become moral (immoral?) acquiescence. The pacifist believes in non-resistance, non violence, non-killing. He claims that man being evil does not excuse wars. Positive pacifism alerts others to war’s evil and seeks to outmode war. Retaliation is sub-Christian as also selfish aggrandisement and all national and racial hatreds. Whilst wars may be predicted as continuing this is no reason for acquiescence in any. Christ took the way of non-resistance and accomplished his goal. Because pacifism has not worked, nor may not work is no reason why it should not be espoused and followed. Evils such as slavery have been diminished by teaching. If all refused to fight wars would cease and governments would wish to gain the support of their people by not fighting. It is not a utilitarian question but a (totally) moral one.

(g) Pacifist or Not Pacifist?

Each person must abide by his own convictions whilst he is sure they are right. He does not go against his own conscience for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. He is responsible, however, to make sure – as far as possible – that his convictions are correct. That honest believers see two views in the Bible is patently clear, i.e. war is right (in some circumstances) and war is wrong (in all circumstances). These conclusions ought to be reached only when the total Biblical portrayal is considered. No conclusion is valid which omits the fact of man’s depravity, of constituted authorities and of the working of penal elements of God’s wrath in history. The question may not seem, finally, to be an “either-or” but a concession that whilst war and killing are evil of themselves it may be simplistic to work from this basis alone. The whole matter of morality and judgement is also involved.

In war, or even if a crazed violent attacker is shooting people in any society, Christians must face the moral question of ‘what shall I do in order to truly love my neighbour?’ How do I lay down my life in love, to care for or protect others?  To my shock, Mennonite Christians often view police as merely agents of State violence.[3] 

THE FIRST WAR STORIES

Geoffrey Bingham’s first book of short stories was entitled ‘To Command the Cats’. It was published by Angus and Robertson in 1980; however many of the stories had been previously published in the Bulletin, a weekly Australian Magazine, in production from 1880 to January 2008. Geoff writes:

On return to Australia a story written in the POW camp—‘Laughing Gunner’—was snapped up by the Bulletin as soon as I submitted it. That was why I chose it s the title story to this book. Thirty-three more stories were accepted y the same journal within a few years, and I was dubbed as their most prolific writer. I owe most in my writing career to the poet and short-story writer Douglas Stewart, who was literary Editor of the Bulletin for twenty-four years’[4]

A SHORT PRÉCIS OF SOME WAR STORIES—AND SOME QUOTES

It Sometimes Happens But Not Often

A professor – a Dutchman – held captive as a P.O.W. loses hope, and intends to die.  But his dear friend, an army Chaplain prays constantly at his bedside.  Then a miracle occurs. A hen arrives and lays an egg on the bed – most suitable for making eggnog –, which the Dutchman loves. Hope returns – a mystery – and miracle of mercy takes place before their eyes, and in their hearts and lives. Geoffrey heard about this event:

The Dutchman had watched it from beginning to end. He had lain still, afraid lest the hen be scared away. When it had gone, his nerveless hands had fumbled towards the warm, smooth fruit of the fowl.

‘Oh, no!’ exclaimed the chaplain. ‘Don’t touch it. It’s too precious.’

Nevertheless he did let the skinny Dutchman feel it with his long, spatulated fingers, and then he took it.

‘Wait for the eggnog,’ he cautioned cheerily, and went away to beat the ingredients together, to grind the precious shell into lime-powder, and to make the drink complete and nourishing.

The Dutchman was sitting up, this being the first time in many weeks. An orderly had arranged a couple of pillows for him, borrowing them from empty beds.

‘Praise be!’ the academic was saying. ‘Praise be!’

‘Praise be!’ agreed the chaplain. ‘Now drink this up.’

The professor needed no urging. His hands trembled as he held the rusty cup, but he insisted on holding it himself. He kept sipping and sucking and sighing, and then heaving away with asthmatic joy.

‘Gott is goot!’ he said eagerly.

‘He is good!’ agreed the chaplain.

He watched the last precious drops disappear into the pink mouth of the patient.

The Dutchman was rubbing his hands together soulfully, glee­fully.

‘A hen, eh?’ he said. ‘Just a little hen, eh?’

He chuckled to himself, and then shook his hand feebly towards heaven.

‘What a humour, eh?’ he asked. ‘The goot Gott He sends the little bird to lay eggs all over the old professor so that the old professor must not die.’

‘That’s right,’ said the chaplain, scarcely knowing what to say.

He added, ‘The good God needs the old professor, eh? He doesn’t want to lose all that training, all that wisdom, all that knowledge.’

The Dutchman stared at him. ‘You t’ink that, hey?’ he asked. He looked admiringly at his old chaplain friend, shook his head and went off into his asthmatic gurgle.

‘Oh, the Gott, He is goot,’ he said. He kept chuckling. ‘He is very goot.’

Then he remembered the hen, and his gurgling became deep, even more asthmatic. After a time he was gasping, and the tears were coursing out of his fine old eyes, and on to the silver-grey thatch on his torso.

‘Oh, so goot,’ he was saying in helpless joy. ‘Oh yes, and oh, so lovink.’

When the chaplain slipped away because he could not hold back the tide of his own tears, he heard the Dutchman repeating to himself, like some endless refrain: ‘Oh, so lovink. So lovink.’[5]

Laughing Gunner

The story of a soldier – an unusual man – who held a strange obsession for machine-guns.  Nicknamed Tiger, he was not at all interested in the duties of a regular foot soldier, with gun and bayonet. However, he was very eager to operate the machine-gun. He was passionately involved in the fighting prior to the fall of Singapore, during World War Two. He revelled in his task, taking his stand with the machine-gun, as the Japanese invaders made their relentless approach.

The Life and Death of Puggi Mahomet – (This is not a précis, but is a small direct extract)

“How many times, down through the years, I have thought about that event, and Chikka has also! As I said before, Sproggie, Blower and Chips got theirs in action. Joe and Don R had to live with the thing for all the years they worked on their sheep sta­tions, but they never wrote to us, or rang us about the matter. Every Anzac Day we would not mention the subject, be­cause there was no way of settling the matter. We would just sit to­gether in the Botanical Gardens in silence, thinking about it.

The seven of us agreed that Puggi was a slippery cuss, and would worm his way out of any trial. What was worse, he knew the whole signal system now, and if the Japs came we were done for, with that sort of communication.

The six men said to me, ‘Danny, we make this decision to­gether—the seven of us—but only you can veto it.’

In a way, the decision was left to me, and I knew we had to do something. We were not at war with Japan, but give us a few days and we would be. Of that we were all sure. To let this man go free meant disaster.

‘The court decides against you, Puggi Mahomet,’ I said, but even then I felt a bit sick.

It was then Puggi rushed us. He was an expert in karate, and had Chips and Sproggie toppled in a second. He grabbed Sproggie’s rifle to keep us at bay. This decided the other men, and in a flash Blower’s bayonet went through the old ‘point, withdraw’ exercise. Puggi fired his .303, but the bullet went into the air. Joe and Don R rushed him with their bayonets, and we were all sick in the moment that we had done it. Whilst he writhed, I fired a shot and that finished him.”[6]

The Rim

An autobiographical account of a World War 2 gun-battle: a charge near Singapore.  Australians with rifles, against a Japanese machine gunner, other soldiers and snipers; one of the many Australian men charging is badly wounded by a bullet to the leg, and as his blood flows out onto the ground. New thoughts of life and death and survival and recovery come to the man as he lays still on the ground, until help comes; profound questions of duty, heroics and folly – are raised.

The Skylark of Takafau           

The freedom of a little bird, singing in a cage, in Osaka, signals something profound to Prisoners of War, during World War 2. A story of imprisonment, hope and freedom.

Three Rice Cakes

A crisis of faith occurs in the life of a Prisoner of War. Should he continue to take the smallest rice cake, and suffer personal deprivation and hunger – out of love for others – or should he abandon this principle, and select the largest rice cake for himself? Amidst an inner personal battle of immense importance, the prisoner reasons to himself that if there is no such thing as true law, and judgment then ultimately nothing matters. If nothing matters, then self-preservation at the expense of others is nevertheless the only truly logical course of action for him to pursue. An unseen miracle occurs – and a hidden resolve is strengthened – which has ramifications for the remainder of this man’s life. Autobiographical. (Also published in the booklet of the same name). [7]

The Power Within

Upon what strength does a person draw, in order to maintain the integrity needed for a moral life? This story from WWII is of a man who can behave well, and talk well, and even tell extremely funny yarns, yet can be a person who is driven, solely, by his own self-sufficiency. It illustrates how a person can behave with high morality, and do so entirely from one’s own resources. However, the great deceit is that a person, can—of themselves—be virtually faultless and blameless in thought, speech and action.  Such deception, of oneself, is a failure to face the reality of the human race as we find it, and share in it; if not faced, this way of being can end, sadly, in self-justification and ultimately, self-destruction. Faith draws upon true power. (Also published in The Raymond Connection and other stories, and in At the End of His Tether).

From Singapore to Sydney           

An autobiographical account of the release of prisoners from the Changi P.O.W. Camp on Singapore Island (in 1945) – the story – a true one – includes some interesting personal impressions as it traces the journey, beginning with the boarding of the transport ship – Oranji – and the subsequent return to Australia.  The whole account is very moving indeed, and the service of love and kindness rendered by the Australian women in the Red Cross imparts a beautiful insight into the mystery and communion of the human race, as a male-female entity.  One feels like applauding, as Geoff Bingham captures with words, the scene of the welcome in Darwin. One is drawn to contemplate the glory of Australia as a unique and grand nation.


[2] Geoffrey C. Bingham, ‘Christian Ethics and Their Practice’, Living Faith Studies, Series 3, No. 30, N.C.P.I., 1978, p. 218

[3] Andy Alexis-Baker, ‘The Gospel or a Glock? Mennonites and the Police’, in The Conrad Grebel Review, Volume 25, Number 2, Spring 2007, p. 23-49 (Note: “Glock” is the name of a company that manufactures handguns popular with police departments for decades). Alexis-Baker says: “Because of the idolatrous character of the police, because police represent a threat to church order, and in the spirit of the early Christians and Anabaptists, Mennonites should ban police occupations for all current and potential members, and do so with the historical recognition that the police have served as the bridge for wider acceptance of warfare, idolatrous collaboration with the state, and further breakdown of community discipline and life” (Baker, p. 40).

[4] Geoffrey C. Bingham, ‘Preface’ in Laughing Gunner and Selected War Stories, Troubadour Press Inc. Blackwood, 1992, p. xiii; This book as been very well received in Australia, winning the 1993 Christian Book of the Year award, from the Australia Christian Literature Society. It is a great gift suitable passing on to others, especially around Anzac Day, each year. Further to this, a most comprehensive summary of Geoffrey’s war years is included in the highly recommended book by Geoffrey Bingham, Love is the Spur, Eyrie Books, North Paramatta, 2004.

[5] Geoffrey C. Bingham, ‘It Sometimes Happens, But Not Often’ in Laughing Gunner, p. 154-155

[6] Quote taken from G. C. Bingham, Laughing Gunner, p. 21-22

[7] This story appears in numerous books including G. C. Bingham, Angel Wings, p. 77-85.





The Resurrection of Jesus—Our Own Experience!

7 04 2012

When speaking of the resurrection, we Christians often try to muster some quality, written, historical evidence, to advance ‘The Case For Christ‘. This is sometimes called ‘Apologetics’.

We also point to the radical change of heart and hope and new boldness, shown forth by the once fearful, and denying disciples.

We point to the details of the many ancient prophecies, (David, Moses, Isaiah and others), that are seemingly, arguably fulfilled by Jesus life, death and resurrection.

We point to the baptising preaching activity of John the baptist, before he was murdered, and his pointing to Jesus. We point to the witness of Stephen before he was murdered. We point to the many people in history—who would rather die than deny Jesus—before they were murdered.

We point to the unusual conversion of a famous Pharisee, Paul (Saul), who was so hostile to the message about Jesus, before he so suddenly became a Christian. We point to the large number of people who actually touched, heard, saw and witnessed the Risen Jesus alive after his crucifixion. There were at least 10 occasions, recorded in the Bible.

We point to the historical reliability of the New Testament itself.

We point to the stunning record that over 500 people saw Jesus alive, after his death, at one time in Galilee.

Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died (1Corinthians 15:6).

In the laws of evidence, whenever a witness to an event is called before a court, and swears to tell ‘the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth‘, then the court is bound to listen carefully to what the witness has seen and heard, and to take it on face value. And believe the good will of the witness, until other contrary factors may show that the face value of the story lacks credibility.
This is still what all people are bound to do when they see and hear the written evidence of so many accurate and valuable texts from the writers in the early church, as found in the Bible.
However, there is one under-estimated testimony or witness to Jesus Living Presence which it is very important to highlight. And that is, our own story! Our own experience. And that is not merely our experiences! But the very experience of faith itself, which we know!
People are prone to dismiss our ‘experience’ as somehow deluded. Or they see our coming to be a Christian, as a weak moment in our lives, when we needed outside help. Or as some feigned experience, of a Person, that is not really there. However, the fact is that Christians are not primary telling of the things ‘they do’, to try to honour God. Rather we are speaking of the ongoing experience that we have, of the Risen Christ Jesus guiding our lives, and effecting them in highly significance ways. However, in saying that, what we realise, is that the Christ we know by faith is far greater than our experiences of Him, however good and fine – or not – they may be. Faith receives the creative impact of Jesus Christ.
As P. T. Forsyth says: “We know him by faith to be much more than he has ever been to our experience”.
“I know him, and the Church knows Him, as a person of infinite power to create fresh experience of Himself, which is experience of God. My contact with Him by faith is continually deepening my experience of him. And, as my experience deepens, it brings home a Christ objective in history, and creative of the experience, and of the life, and the deeds of a whole vast Church, meant, and moving, to subdue mankind not to itself, but to the faith of the Gospel.” (from The Person and Place of Jesus Christ, P. T. Forsyth, Independent Press, London, 1909, p. 203)
He goes on to say:
“My experienced salvation is not a passing impression but a life of faith. It is not a subjective frame but an objective relation, and even transaction. The peace of God is not a glassy calm but mighty confidence. My experience here is the consciousness not of an impression on me, but of an act in me, and by me.” (p. 204)
What Christ has done for me has become possible only by what He did more powerfully for others whose faith and experience have been deeper and richer than mine, but who reflect my experience all the same, even while they diversify and enlarge it mightily. Standing over my experience is the experience of the whole evangelical succession. And standing over that is the historic fact of Christ’s own person, and His consciousness of himself (“All things are delivered to me of the Father”) as Lord of the world, Lord of nature in miracle, of the soul in redemption, and of the future in judgment.” (p. 204-205)
“Faith is the grand venture in which we commit our whole soul and future to the confidence that Christ is not an illusion but the reality of God. “
So, as we celebrate Easter, we do so with others. Many others. Centuries of others, for whom the reality of faith is greater than the other things in life that they have been fairly certain about. Praise God, for faith’s certainty. And for the reality we know, and our small experience of such a greatness and such a mighty message, and wonderful Lord.Image




Great hope for the Future

16 03 2012

The Future is full of hope, because the future—as with the present now—is in the gracious hands of the Risen Jesus Christ.  Christians are those who have by faith, met the Risen Jesus, who died, and rose again as a Man, victorious over death—in this world.  Jesus has in turn shown us—in his life, and particularly at the cross of his crucifixion—the gracious, loving God and Father of us all.

Christians want everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things (See The Holy Bible: Ephesians 3:9). His plan is to reconcile all things, people and nations, through the loving life and death and resurrection of Jesus. This Jesus, and his identity, and his work, is the MYSTERY of the world!

God has made this whole universe—galaxies beyond our dreaming, and this earth which is our amazing, beautiful, delightful—yet, often painful—home.  He has made everything—animals, plants, ocean and mountains, and humanity—with a plan to glorify it (bless and magnify it), through Jesus. God has made every nation on the earth to be included in that amazing plan. He has called one particular nation, Israel to be the nation through which his plan to deal with sin through atonement (propitiation), would be revealed.  It was through Israel, that Jesus was born. He came to destroy the works of the devil, which he has done. He is revealing that victory through his Resurrection power, by the power of his own Spirit—the Holy Spirit—which he has poured out upon the world—so that human beings may see what is hidden, hear what God is saying to us, have faith in this gracious God, and anticipate the great future, while living in the creation with hope.

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of One—God’s Son—who has loved deeply and fully, and has suffered deeply and fully in that love, in order to do the Father’s good will, and ‘bear our sins in his body on the Tree (the Cross)’. In Jesus name God declares to us: Your sins are all forgiven. God now in peace, and live trusting God. Go in peace justified through Jesus Christ alone. Trust in his merit. Be filled with God’s love. Serve and honour all people. Thrill others with this good news! Warn people not to miss this hope for their lives. It is folly not to receive such assurance freely from the kind and Living God.

Easter includes remembering Jesus death, which happened under the Roman rule (Pontius Pilate), and with consent and desire of many Jewish leaders.  Jesus was a confrontation in his true living, his hopeful message! Easter is also the celebration of the work of God on Good Friday in dealing with our sin, through Jesus death. It is also the celebration of that quiet, very still Holy Saturday, poised (as we often are)—as God the Son lay dead in the tomb. Hope crushed.  Or so it certainly seemed. Yes he died. But, he died our death, to defeat death.

Easter is also the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus on Sunday morning and of his appearing to women, then men, then over 500 people at one time. It is the celebration of all the implications, the outworking in history, of that victory over death on behalf of the human race.

Come, he is near. Come to Jesus, believing, receiving his Spirit. Come with new hopes.

If you can read the Bible with faith, then, more and more of the truth and wonder of this hope will break open to you, as the Spirit of God “shows” you great things. Suffering can then been seen and endured—in the creation, and personally, because it is over laden with hope, hope, hope! If you have no Bible, still seek the Living Lord.

Thank you Living Father, crucified and Living Lord Jesus, dear Spirit of God, for all your goodness, and gracious power, on our behalf. Let us respond and believe. Let us not live any longer without this hope flowing through our lives—no matter how ill we are, how sad or lonely, how bad or bruised, guilty or ashamed.

Your forgiving grace now equips us to live within the creation, serving it, serving others, serving God with full purpose. It means seeing grass, lions, sky and sea in a new way, and seeing it all with a future so rich and amazing, as is promised by God!

Trevor Faggotter





Compost Heap

5 12 2009

I have always marveled at the workings of a garden compost heap. Years ago, on the farm, (following mum’s suggestion I reckon) my dad built 2 large wooden compost boxes, and proceeded to fill the first one with all sorts of garden waste.  Once that one was filled, it was left to rot, while the second heap took over the receptive role. (the sides were made of boards, as the heap got higher the new side boards were added).

The new family directives for disposing of the kitchen scraps became ‘put it in the compost heap’.  It took a while to get the hang of this new idea. It was before these days of green, green, green—the new ‘higher righteousness’ of the human race. Family members soon became well-drilled, and alert to compost heap, and were amused at the whole thing – as the legal beagles kept an eye out for erring family members.

Prior to that, we just put it all in the kitchen rubbish bin, and – on a large dairy farm, there was always a back paddock dump, where most things ended up.  It was always good to make a back paddock trip to the dump —with the cut open topped 44 gallon drums tied tot the carry-all, and all the kids aboard the Massey Ferguson 135 tractor [with multi-power shift], and the dog running beside.

In those days, the 60’s, the 70’s and the 80’s, there was also a local community dump, on the outskirts of the country township – free to use, of course, for depositing and for withdrawals. (Ah, lament, lament, all that has changed now – gee we had some fun fossicking through the old Myponga rubbish dump … some of the locals would bring in a trailer load of junk, and then take almost as much “new stuff” home with them!  One man’s trash is another man’s treasure).  There were spare-parts for old cars, wheels for buggies, and … you name it! But, I digress.

The thing that has always fascinated me with compost heaps, is that they are for the most part, quite static. That is, the contents, just sit there, still. Time passes, and you … hey presto, you soon have some beautiful garden additive. For little ongoing work, this miracle takes place. To look at the compost heap, it is dark, and still. It smells a bit now and then, and gradually builds to a large pile. Compared to sky, and sea, trees, bushes and grass, and animals—cows, dogs and so on—it is not much to look at. To sight, it is … rather dull.

However, the humble compost heap is one of the most dynamic and life-renewing places on earth! Pardon the pun. It is earthy, rich, and full of little creatures—mostly unseen. This little unseen world of bugs and beetles, earthworms, mite, centipedes, springtails, spiders, slugs, sow bugs, ants, flies, nematodes, flatworms, rotifers macro-organisms and micro-organisms is working away, night and day.  Rightly understood, the eating, and breaking down of organic material is one of the creation’s mighty wonders. so much is happening in a compost heap. The larger little creatures chew, tear, grind and suck material into small bits. Especially important are the tiny, tine, tiny aerobic bacteria—for they can eat almost anything.

To sight—for many people—the compost heap does not look much. But the eyes of understanding realise that it is a great matter. The hidden workings are amazing.

The eyes of understanding, for the human race, include the sight of Christ Jesus risen, and at work in his people, and in the world. The eyes of faith-understanding realise that the hidden working of the kingdom of God, is the most important, significant matter in human history.

To some, the church looks like a little like a compost heap—dull, rather static, and not especially thrilling to consider.  Things one can see (i.e our idols), seem far more interesting. However within the dynamics of people at prayer, and in relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, co-creator, and ruler of creation, much is happening.

Even when a person has cancer, and is wasting away, outwardly, much is happening in that person’s depths! And in those who are friends and family. For God, is at work, thought many may not see or consider this is going on, night and day. (My Father is always working – said Jesus).

This is what Paul, the Apsotle wrote, of a person’s life given up to death, in serving the Father, Son and Spirit.

“So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

In the same letter, he says:  “for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).





a prayer for me, and for you…

2 06 2009

Dear Father, 

It seems a long time since we have had a proper talk. As Jesus has taught us to pray, so it is good to say, Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name—your name! 

It is good to be able to pray to you. Thanks for short simple prayers. Thanks for little silent groans that you hear and answer. Thank you too, for the sanity that a longer, more framed, and almost formal prayer, brings to one’s mind.  (No wonder people—Anglicans—have for years, loved their book of common prayer). And then the Psalms are so good to read too. 

But it is time just for a slightly theological, prayer-full of the Spirit, rejoicing:

Thank you for sending your dear Son into the world, to become one with us – your beloved, yet sinful humanity.

Thank you Jesus for bearing our sins, in your body on the Tree, once, for all, to redeem this lost world of cities, towns, homes, lonely ones, and powerful nations.

Thank you for sending the Holy Spirit to us, to open our minds and hearts to know you, and love you, and to bring us insight and understanding of the gospel, and its centrality for all creation, for all of eternity.

Help my family and friends, Lord. Comfort, encourage, heal, humble, strengthen, quieten, forgive them, reconcile, and cheer them—all those good things!

Help me to encourage them. Help my life to be a small blessing to lots of people here and there.

(Even if it is simply talking kindly, and thankfully and thoughtfully, while appreciating the service and work, of the lady in the chicken shop, hot, tired, frustrated with things, greasy, and just serving one person after another—all of them hungry and in a hurry—and her in need of a cheerful moment. Bless your servants Lord, that this world may rejoice in hope now, and one day in full voice!). 

And now unto you O Lord, who by the power at work within us (the resurrection power) is able to do far more abundantly than all we can ask or think, to you be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.





Does Faith Prolong Suffering for Cancer Patients?

20 05 2009

Does Faith Prolong Suffering for Cancer Patients? | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

This article may be of encouragement to some sufferers. Jesus said we should pray always, and not lose heart. The Bible teaches that the prayer of a righteous person is effective. (By the way, a person of faith is a person who has faith in Jesus Christ’s righteousness!) Cancer cells, are basically cells that refuse to come under authority!  Many are the stories of such battles, with cancer, where prayer and faith, and healing in unusual measure have played a lovely role in a person’s life.





Faith

20 05 2009

“The faith we keep means more for our soul than the views we win”. 

(P. T. Forsyth, p. 154, in “The Justification of God“)





The Future of Creation

16 01 2009

I received an email, from the “Citizen’s Electoral Council” this week. The article which they drew my attention to, begins, thus:

“Is Nature Warning Us of a New Ice Age?, by Laurence Hecht Editor-in-chief, 21st Century Science & Technology. January 14, 2009 (LPAC)–Global warming fears aside, all students of climate science know that the Earth is presently in an Ice Age and has been for approximately the past 2 to 2.5 million years. “

The articles continues with some interesting information.  

Too hot, too cold… or just right? Who knows?  

Granted, the question sounds like one from ‘Goldilocks and the 3 Bears’?

They say that news of impending doom, sells well to the human race. (eg. ‘Henny Penny, saying The sky is falling, and the great poem … ‘We’ll all be rooned, said Hanrahan’). But what of news of the certain goal of creation?  We need to reaffirm, what Scripture teaches us: The Future of Creation is firmly in God, the Father’s gracious hands. The Apostle Peter, in the light of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, could urge his fellow hearers, and those with a fresh, new trust in God—who were suffering for it— to entrust themselves to a faithful creator.

1Peter 4:19, says: Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will do right and entrust their souls to a faithful Creator.

It needs to be repeated, often. What God is about is the redemption of the creation, this one!  His plan is a good one.

As my friend Geoffrey Bingham has put it so beautifully, ‘Creation is Primary’. And ‘If creation fails, then God fails’, in which case He does not prove to be a faithful Creator. (See page 73 of his book “Creation and the Liberating Glory”). Indeed, download it for free. Creation and the Liberating Glory

No, creation will not fail. It is not planned to be ending, either in ‘a bang, or a whimper’, but rather, it is gaining momentum towards it’s great goal—a redeemed home, for all who long to be part of it.  It is wonderful to know the perfect love of Christ, risen and ruling, which casts out fear. It is excellent to know the Father, who is forming a home suitable for an eternal family.

Yes folks…. The Future of Creation is secure in Jesus Christ. Did you know that? It is a faith insight. It is a matter of genuine revelation, made known to faith. Have faith. Cheers!





Faith Amidst Catastrophe

14 10 2008

FAITH AMIDST CATASTROPHE

 

Study 5

Trevor Faggotter

 

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. (Jesus in Matt. 7:24-25)

 

‘…when historic progress seems to end around us in a social collapse and a moral anarchy… if the moral soul is anchored on the Gospel of the Cross and Kingdom of God in a historic crisis really greater than any war, it cannot be swept away by any currents or storms in history.’ (P. T. Forsyth)

                       

INTRODUCTION

 

As we pursue our studies in The Justification of God, by P.T. Forsyth, it may be valuable to recall again what is at the core of our studies, namely theodicy. Theodicy has been called ‘Thee-ODD-I-see’. We do see much that seems ODD, particularly in terms of suffering and catastrophe.  In many of the occurrences in our daily lives, things occur which can, and often do cause us to question, or at the very least, re-evaluate what we understand by the mercies and goodness of God.

 

Job had to work things right through, from his worship life as a praying, righteous man, to the onslaught of inexplicable evil, permitted by God to take place, through to the week long silence of his friends as they sat with him, while he suffered greatly; on to the inadequate words of his comfortless theological counsellors; and his own genuine protest; and his trust still – though he slay me, yet will I trust in him; yet finally God, the wonderful counsellor revealed himself as creator, and then acted as redeemer, blessing once again the suffering Job. Job repented. He changed his mind and his disposition.

 

It was Epicurus (341-270 BC) who formulated the classic theodicy dilemma, which David Hume (1711-76) has subsequently expressed in the following way:

 

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?

 

It is the incarnation of God in Christ, however, in the very midst of human history, which ultimately shatters this philosophical formulation, rendering it untenable. For God, the Father, and Jesus the Son of God, reveal themselves, together with the Spirit, to be the God who suffers to the full – to the uttermost in abandonment and forsakenness.

 

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

 

At the same time, this is the God who is the only righteous enemy of all evil – human, demonic and satanic. This God comes in human flesh, to conquer evil, by holy love.

 

The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil (1John 3:8b).

 

We may give assent to such a biblical statement, and be glad of it, yet still find ourselves at a loss to respond to suffering and evil, when it arises in new, surprising and terrifying forms. Human suffering is so very unpleasant – in particular our own, or that of those near to us. Global suffering is so often tragic beyond comprehension (if we are not sedated and numbed by the sheer frequency of news updates, and the crass lack of reverence for life, often evident in TV programming).  Global tragedy can confront us to Be Still and Know That I am God, and re-evaluate our own lives – when, in particular, faith is present.

 

C.S. LEWIS AND PAIN

 

In the film Shadowlands – the famous C.S. Lewis is giving a university lecture in which he addresses the great issues of life.  In the movie (from my memory), he asks his students this question: ‘…and why does God allow us to suffer?’ There is a thoughtful pause, as the camera pans the lecture hall of students who are eagerly looking on.  They brace themselves for the wisdom they have been seeking of late.  Lewis proceeds confidently – providing the small beginnings of a profound answer to this age-old question.  He has a note of certainty in his voice: ‘God lets us suffer because he wants us to grow up!’

 

Lewis is also well known for his comments regarding pain:

 

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

 

Pain is the flag of truth, planted in a rebel fortress.

 

Fast forward to a later segment in C.S. Lewis’s life. His young wife Joy has died, and Lewis is writing his thoughts, and expressing his emotions. He is engulfed in grief, deep grief.  He acknowledges the hope of the gospel.  But he is negating one significant aspect. To paraphrase (again from memory), he says something like: Speak to me of the sovereign God, and I will listen. But speak to me of the God of comfort, and I cannot agree. I feel no comfort. No consolation. Only numbness. But no comfort!

 

Many will identify with Lewis at this point. It is not so easy just to grow up when it is our turn to suffer, intensely. Lewis reveals his emotions and thoughts. He illustrates the daily human struggle of coming to terms with life as it really is. On occasions, the pain – Christian or not – is very acute. We can ponder the reasons for suffering. We can even set them forth in a lecture, given from a biblical perspective. We can talk about them.  It is another thing however, to be on the receiving end of incidents, for which, discussion seems entirely inappropriate. Words fail us. Doctrines fail us. We need the breast of the Living Jesus on which to lay our head (John 13:23).

 

Suffering and sadness at the death of a loved one under not uncommon circumstances, like cancer, can be very tiring, tearing and most difficult. However, when blatant human evil is in our face as the immediate cause of our pain, and when sinister powers seem to dominate and destroy human life, in murder, massacre and mayhem, then we are likely to ask, or to be faced with the most difficult and most probing of human questions.

 

FYODOR DOSTOYEVSKY ON THEODICY

 

The Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky in his famous book The Brothers Karamazov has a fictional character named Ivan Karamazov, who says of God and creation: 

 

‘I accept God plainly and simply …I accept his divine wisdom and his purpose…  I believe in the underlying order and meaning of life.  I believe in the eternal harmony into which we are all supposed to merge one day’. However, almost immediately he tells his brother Alyosha: ‘I refuse to accept this world of God’s… Please understand, it is not God that I do not accept, but the world he has created. I do not accept God’s world and I refuse to accept it.  Ivan then proceeds to explain why he cannot bring himself to accept this world of God’s.  He mentions a number of cases of extreme and gratuitous cruelty, in particular the report of an army general who fed an eight year-old boy to his hounds because the child had slightly injured his favourite dog with a stone. Ivan says:

Listen: if all have to suffer so as to buy eternal harmony by their suffering, what have children to do with it – tell me please?  It is entirely incomprehensible why they should have to buy harmony by their sufferings. Why should they, too, be used as dung for someone else’s future harmony?

    Ivan then concludes:

I don’t want harmony … too high a price has been placed on harmony.   We cannot afford to pay so much for admission.  And therefore I hasten to return my ticket of admission… It’s not God that I do not accept, Alyosha. I merely most respectfully return him the ticket.

 

Ivan is not an atheist, but he finds it morally repugnant that God should (seem to) expect such a terrible price to be paid for the final bliss and harmony that he will bestow on humankind at the end of time.   Some suggest that too much freedom was given to Adam.

 

How are we to respond to this type of reasoning? Perhaps, with silence, prayer and trust in God? Is it true love to speak of Christ, in the face of tragic and terrible deeds? Is it usually best left for another day?  What then do we say or do on another day?  Have we merely theories of the cross to share, and mere words to offer, for the loss of a loved one? Or is there a time and a season for speaking even into the most difficult of objections, of God’s goodness? Is this all profoundly a matter of ‘soul making’, fitting us for glory? Do we not have a Person, to offer, a Redeemer, Jesus, the friend, glorified flesh and blood, who has been there in the deepest of suffering, made to be sin, in order to redeem?

 

What indeed has God given us in Jesus Christ?

What He has not given us is a scheme of rational optimism, or a visible process of good, dawning and spreading to its perfect day. He has given us no programme of happy things.

 

What then?  It is said that we have nothing but the promises of God. But these are all:

For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future – all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God (1 Corinthians 3:21b—23). 

 

Forsyth always draws us back to God’s one moral Act of holiness, destroying sin’s guilt:

 

No reason of man can justify God for His treatment of His Son; but whatever does justify it justifies God’s whole providence with the universe, and solves its problem.  He so spared not His Son as with Him to give us all things. The true theology of the Cross and its atonement is the solution of the world. There is no other. It is that or none.

 

Our faith rose from ‘the sharpest crisis, the greatest war, the deadliest death, and the deepest grave the world ever knew – in Christ’s Cross’.

 

“The chief cause of our being unhinged by catastrophe is twofold”.

 

First, that we have drawn our faith from the order of the world instead of its crisis, from the integrity of the moral order rather than from the tragedy of its recovery in the Cross.

 

And, even if we start there, the second error is that we have been more engrossed with the ill we are saved from than with Him who saves us, and the Kingdom for which we are saved.  We are more taken up with the wrongs so many men have to bear than with the wrong God has to bear from us all – God who yet atones and redeems in giving us a Kingdom which is always His in reality and ours in reversion.

 

It is not as if God first redeemed, and, having thus prepared the ground, brought in the Kingdom; but He redeemed us by bringing in the Kingdom, and setting it up in eternal righteousness and Eternal Life. The Cross of Christ is not the preliminary of the Kingdom; it is the Kingdom breaking in.  It is not the clearing site for the heavenly city; it is the city itself descending out of heaven from God.


P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, NCPI, 1988, p. 85

Job 42:1-6

Kenneth Surin, Theology and the Problem of Evil, Basil Blackwell, 1986, Oxford, p. 2

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, Fontana, 1957, p. 81.

C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed, Seabury Press, 1961

Job 2:13 ‘They sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great’.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, (1880) 2003, Penguin Books

Quoted by Kenneth Surin, Theology and the Problem of Evil, Basil Blackwell, 1986, Oxford, p. 96-97

Forsyth, p. 79

Forsyth, p. 122

Forsyth, p. 57

, p. 76-77 








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