Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Please pray for India

Please uphold India in your prayers as the terror attacks continue across the country. We will be there in 10 days time for Christmas/New Year and pray that we may be able to help in some small way.

I keep coming back to 2 Corinthians 5 as we lead into Christmas and these attacks further my understanding of the verses:

17Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
18Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation,
19namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
21He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

God wanted to restore his relationship with us so much that he dreamt up a way to do it through sending Jesus. Then he gave us the privilege of carrying his dream to the nations.

There’s only one God over many
There’s only one King, Lord of all
Your mercy and your grace
We cry out for this land,…. we stand
And declare that you are God

The time has come for India
To rise and shine before all men
One nation bowing down
And worshiping the King
A chosen generation
Who call upon your name
Calling holy, holy, holy, holy
Holy, holy is the Lord

Waqt aa gayaa hai bharat ka
Uthne ka, badne ka, kuch kar dikhaane ka
Saara Hindustan,
Hai ek aasmaan
Waada hai nayi peedi kaa,
Eeshwar ke naam
Saare milke, bolo, bolo, eeshwar se
Sabse pavitra uska naam.
(copyright 2005 Akshay Verma & James Byles)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

It's the end of the world as we know it ...

So the world is going into meltdown ... again.  Looking at many of the current headlines many commentators swing wildly from pessimism to outright gloom and doom (yes I know both are negative).  We're told the worlds financial systems are in meltdown, the wealth that many have been squirreling away for years is evaporating and free market capitalism is failing (which is why it needs propping up ... ???)

In Isaiah 6 we find the story of how the props, the hopes, the dreams of one man and his nation were knocked out from under them.  It begins with the words, "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple." (NIV)  King Uzziah (sometimes referred to as Azariah) became king aged 16 (2 Kings 15:1-6).  He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and his fame spread throughout the world as he became very powerful (2 Chr 26:8). 

His reign marked the height of Judah’s power. He fought successfully against other nations and exacted tribute from the Ammonites. Judah expanded westward with settlements in Philistia.  During the period of Uzziah’s reign, the nation prospered, and desert areas were reclaimed by water conservation. Jerusalem’s walls were reconstructed, towers were added, and engines of war were mounted at strategic points. A large army was also maintained. (ref: Britannica Online based on 2 Chr 26)

But then he died!

And all the hopes and dreams of Judah were knocked out from under them.  The nation was in despair.  Isaiah's hopes that under Uzziah's leadership the children of God would turn from their corrupt practices had come crashing down around him. In his despair he cried out to God "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord."  It took the collapse of the man-conceived notions of power and prosperity to turn Isaiah's focus back to God.

But this was no "same old same old" revelation.

Isaiah "saw the Lord seated on a throne" - the symbol of rulership and authority.  Isaiah had to realise that God was the king over all kings.  It was God's authority that would prevail and could be trusted.

"high and exalted" - God was over all.  God's authority was not on a par with mans authority.  His authority was above anything man could ever conceive of.  Not only above and beyond but also of greater good and wisdom - it was exalted!

"the train of his robe filled the temple" - there was no room for anything except the presence of God.  Isaiah needed to see that in his life there was no room for reliance on anybody or anything but God.

What about you today?  Where is your reliance?  Have you been caught up in the philosophies and ideologies of man?  Paul wrote, "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ." (Col 2:8)  In this time of panic and meltdown are you able to see God?  Is it forcing you to reassess your values? 

The truth is that Jesus said, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."  (Matt 6:33) Then he went on to explain the kingdom of God: "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it." (Matt 13:44,45) 

What do you hold in your hand that stops you from taking hold of that treasure, that pearl, that promise of God?  Are you willing to give up all your dependancies?  All your philosophies?  All your financial guarentees?  Can you let go and seek first God's kingdom, his ways, his promises, his truth and allow him to be the one who fills the temple of your heart??

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Monday, August 04, 2008

Abortion in India - the debate has begun

Finally after years of passive acceptance of abortion being normal, the media is fueling a debate on abortions role in society. Historically Indian society has favoured the birth of boy's over girls. With the widespread use of ultrasound for sex determination (despite being illegal) this has led to a massive imbalance in the male:female ratio in many parts of India. The above linked IBN article begins:

"The Bombay High Court on Monday rejected Niketa and Harish Mehta’s plea to abort their 24-week-old foetus, which the doctors say may have a congenital heart defect. The Court ruled that a predicted disability is no ground for abortion.

The Mehtas argued that they believe they won’t be able to afford to care for the baby or endure the trauma, and, therefore, they should be allowed to terminate the life of their unborn baby.

But is abortion a matter of parental choice?"

A number of questions arise from these observations for Indian society to grapple with:
  • Is abortion a matter of parental or even personal choice?
  • Indian law prohibits abortions post 20 week foetal growth. How old is too old to abort a foetus?
  • Is disability, whether predicted or confirmed, a ground for abortion?
My personal answers:
  • No - ultimately our personal choice must come under the law of God. I am yet to find a Biblical reference condoning the killing of another human for personal gain - whether financial, pleasure, selfish or otherwise. The vast majority of abortions in India are carried out with only selfish motives. Our actions as Christians are intended to give God glory. Aborting a foetus gives God no more glory than the terrorists who planted bombs in Bangalore, Ahmedabad & Surat this past week.
  • Day 1 - There can be no time limit on when it is acceptable to abort a foetus. If God considers a child worthy enough to be born then who are we to legislate that it is not?
  • No - I have a child who at 12 weeks of gestation was predicted to have a genetic abnormality. The doctor at the time insisted we have an amniocentsis to confirm the prediction. His comment, "If we know for sure the child has Down Syndrome then we will not make so much effort if there are complications at the birth." We changed doctors. As I said before - if a child makes it to full term and is born then obviously God reckons they are good to have a go at life. Some make it a few days, some a few months and some years. My son is an extraordinary blessing both to us and to all who meet him. He has a love of God and a freedom of worship that is rarely seen in "normal" people.

Debates like the only beginning in India can be couched in terms of personal justification or Godly conviction. Christians in India - stand up and be heard!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Humility and Diplomacy

The third of my ponderings is regarding Humility and Diplomacy.  I believe many in the Christian community confuse the two terms and rather than stand up for what is right and say it straight, they try to make themselves appear humble by being diplomatic.  I believe this misrepresenting of the term humility has contributed to a wishy washy form of Christianity which fails to confront when it is necessary.

In the Bible a number of words are used for humble and humility (eg. Strongs 6031,3665,6038,7807,6041,5013,5011,5012) The general flavour being along the of:
  • to depress literally or figuratively or be depressed, in mind or circumstances
  • to bend the knee; hence, to humiliate, vanquish:--bring down, into subjection, under, downcast, condescension, abase, cast down
  • human and subjective (modesty), or divine and objective (clemency):--gentleness, humility, meekness
Interestingly a modern definition of the word humble is: having or showing a modest or low estimate of one's own importance.  A far softer definition than the bible uses.

The word diplomacy or it's Greek root 'diploma' does not actually appear in scripture although there are various instances of diplomacy through treaties and becoming "all things to all men."  Because the confusion lies with our modern understanding of diplomacy I will use a dictionary definition: The art of dealing with people in a sensitive and effective way.

Let us also note that the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 does not include humility.  Neither does Jesus mention 'the humble' in what we call the Beatitudes in Matthew 5.  James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 refer back to Proverbs 3:3 which says, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."  In fact when we consider the use of the word humble in the Bible it is usually used in regards to mans relationship with God and not with each other. 

And yet we have become so self obsessed that even humility is taken to be in regards to each other.  In Philippians 2:3 when it says, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves." (NASB) it is saying that in your humility towards GOD consider others better than yourself.  We need to reread the scriptures with this premise in mind: BEING HUMBLE IS ALL ABOUT MY RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.
  • Luke 18:14 "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
  • Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
  • 2 Corinthians 12:21I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged.
  • Philippians 2:8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!
So becoming humble is recognising and acknowledging our position in relation to God.  It's not about us!  So why are we obsessed with being politically correct ie diplomatic?  If we acknowledge our position in relation to God we are also recognising his relationship both to us and the universe.  This should be the standard of our convicitons and not our relationship with each other.

Don't try to make yourself appear humble by being diplomatic - sometimes you just have to say it how it is.
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Tuesday, June 03, 2008


Continuing my considerations in the aftermath of a moral failure of a pastor friend let me look at the second in my list: SIN.

As I spent time on the phone with my friend God kept bring scriptures to my mind:

1 Samual 16:4 "... The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

Romans 3:23 " for
all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,"

In this God clearly spoke to me with a vision of black and white.  You're eyes are either on God or they are not.  I shared with my friend that when I was living in India, and beginning to see my ministry to Muslim students take off, I had a motorcycle accident that left me unable to walk for 10 months.  During that time of recovery I spent many hours with God - reading his word, praying, writing worship songs.  I am not saying God caused me to have the accident so I would be forced to spend time with him.  However the accident did come at a time when my eyes were off the Lord.  My focus was on the ministry and not on my God.  You could say my ministry had become my God.  It is a danger we all face throughout our lives - other things, even the Lord's work - becoming the focus rather than the Lord himself.  This is sin.

My friend had a moral failure because he took his eyes off the Lord and became preoccupied with the church.  Repentant, he is now spending great time with God.

The black and white is simply that:  Your eyes are either on God or they're not.  For God sin is sin.  Whether your sin is a moral failure or cutting  corners as you work God just sees it as sin.  "Man looks at the outward appearance"  and says this sin is worse/greater/more henious than that.  But "the LORD looks at the heart"  and what is the truth of our hearts?  "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

The question is never whether one sin worse than another, rather the question we need to ask ourselves is, "Am I repentant sinner?"  The promise is clear: " For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom 6:23)  Why through Christ Jesus?  Because "everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name" (Acts 10:43)

Don't fall into the trap of looking at the outward appearance.  Sin is sin.  Given the right circumstances and situation I am just as likely to sin as the next person.
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Church Governance

As I process a sad situation with a pastor friend of mine who has had a breech of pastoral standards (moral failure) I'm left considering four issues:
  1. models of church governance
  2. sin
  3. Christian confusion between humility and diplomacy
  4. The boundaries of Spiritual Family
This entry is a brief look at my perceptions concerning the first issue.

First point to note is that my friend was pastoring a church in a Baptist Union.  Their model of church governance is congregational.  Therefore concerning congregational life Baptists hold that:
  1. The will of Christ for each church is to be found as the Holy Spirit brings direction and conviction to that congregation gathered to seek his will in the light of the Scriptures. On this basis the members’ meeting is the final authority under Christ for a congregation. Finding Christ’s will through the members’ meeting involves mutual counsel through the exercise of the members’ gifts and learning from the experience of other congregations.  
  2. Christ gives leaders to his Church. It is the duty of the local church through the members’ meeting to recognise and affirm Christ’s call to such leaders, and to set them aside to serve, thereby charging them with the responsibility to lead and delegating prescribed authority to lead. Mutual accountability is to operate between leaders and church.  
  3. While not in any way diminishing the autonomy of the local church, it is appropriate for Baptist churches to cooperate in a Union of Churches in which it is essential for all member churches to practise mutual care, support, and accountability.
In his paper entitles, "Why I am a Baptist" Rod Benson, Senior Pastor of Blakehurst Baptist Church, acknowledges that, "if one stresses congregational government as a Baptist distinctive, one must also acknowledge that it has no overt scriptural basis." (emphasis mine)  So using scripture as our basis for modeling our church governance (as Christians it would make sense yes?) let's turn to the new testament and search for the passages where people are appointed into positions of leadership.  I have categorised these in two ways: "who is appointed?" & "who appoints whom?"


Five groups are identified as being appointed in scripture: Deacons, Elders, Apostles, Representatives & Judges.
Acts 6:2,4

Acts 14:23
Titus 1:5

1 Corinthians 12:28
Ephesians 4:11
  • The first apostles were appointed by Jesus: Mark 3:14
  • The next was Matthias proposed as one of 2 candidates by the gathered believers but chosen by casting lots then appointed by the apostles Acts 1:23-26
  • Additionally Paul (Rom11:13), Barnabas (Acts 14:14), and James (Gal 1:19 - Jesus' brother not the James appointed by Jesus) were referred to as apostles.  (Andronicus and Junia are referred to in Romans 16:7 as being "eminent among the apostles" which can legitimately be interpreted as them being apostles)

(When the congregation were in doubt over theology they appointed representatives to appeal to the apostles and elders:)
Acts 15:2

(When the congregation had petty disputes Paul instructed them to appoint a fellow believer (no matter how young in the faith) to judge between them:)
1 Corinthians 6:4,5

God ultimately appoints every leader and gives gifts to all. However specifically scripture relates that he appoints certain people & that he delegates responsibility to appoint to others.
God appoints:

Apostles appoint:
  • elders, Acts 14:23, Titus 1:5
  • deacons, Acts 6:3 (NB.  The Greek of this verse uses the words 'seek out' and 'appoint' reading thus: 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business;)

The body of believers chooses (NB. still don't appoint - that is still the role of the apostles):
  • deacons, Acts 6:3  (from Matthew Henry's Commentary: They therefore desire that seven men might be chosen, well qualified for the purpose, whose business it should be to serve tables, diakonein trapezais--to be deacons to the tables, ... The persons must be duly qualified. The people are to choose, and the apostles to ordain; but the people have no authority to choose, nor the apostles to ordain, men utterly unfit for the office)
--- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---
NB: The new testament makes a clear distinction between overseers, elder and deacons:
1985 episkopos ep-is'-kop-os from 1909 and 4649 (in the sense of 1983); a superintendent, i.e. Christian officer in genitive case charge of a (or the) church (literally or figuratively):--bishop, overseer. see GREEK for 1909 see GREEK for 4649 see GREEK for 1983

4245 presbuteros pres-boo'-ter-os comparative of presbus (elderly); older; as noun, a senior; specially, an Israelite Sanhedrist (also figuratively, member of the celestial council) or Christian "presbyter":-- elder(-est), old.

1249 diakonos dee-ak'-on-os probably from an obsolete diako (to run on errands; compare 1377); an attendant, i.e. (genitive case) a waiter (at table or in other menial duties); specially, a Christian teacher and pastor (technically, a deacon or deaconess):--deacon, minister, servant. see GREEK for 1377
--- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

It would appear to my reading and limited understanding that the concept of congregational governance is not scriptural.  Of course if we want to throw out that parts of the bible that refer to positions of governmental oversight that we don't like or have never been taught about (eg. apostles, prophets, etc) then we remove the God delegated responsibility they had in appointing church leaders. 

The concept of the congregation appointing or electing elders, pastors or even deacons would appear to my mind to be an erroneous reading of scripture.  Whilst the body of believers has the right to choose men to be put forth as candidates to become deacons they are still appointed by apostles who can over-ride the congregational choice if they feel the person is unfit for the position.

As I see it whilst the local congregation has it's eyes on the local situation and must deal with local issues, the apostles and council of elders (presbytery) watch over the greater body and must see the big picture.  Appointment must be on the basis of appointing people with the right giftings into the the right congregation at the right time until such time as their giftings are no longer needed and someone with more appropriate giftings for the current situation should be appointed to take the church through the next period.  The apostles and council of elders because of their oversight, their big picture analysis, are uniquely in a position to make these judgements and thus appointments.  This is therefore impossible for independent local congregations and, in the case of the Baptist Union where you have mostly autonomous local congregations.
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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

An Australian Miss

* almost 10 years of marriage
* 3 children born in 3 countries in the space of 3 years
* 2 passports
* 14 houses in 8 cities in 5 countries
* countless months living on other peoples grace in their houses
* reams of bureaucratic paperwork

Usha finally became an Australian citizen at 3pm on 12th March, 2008. As is typical of Usha she was extremely nervous! However as an indication of how loved she is she set a record for the number of friends who turned up (with children) to witness her big event.

Photo's can be seen here.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Malaysian politics and the fear of democracy

It is interesting to me to read the response of economists to the recently concluded Malaysian election.  For the first time in it's post independence history the ruling party no longer has the 2/3 majority it needs to be able to unilaterally alter the constitution.  Proponents of democracy have lauded this development as a huge step forward in Malaysia's development towards a fully functioning member of the democratic communities of the free world.  However this headline (Malaysia's polls shock rattles investors--economists) takes an interesting turn on the euphoria.  The article begins:

Weekend elections that have reshaped Malaysia's political landscape will reverberate in the stock market and could dampen investor confidence, economists said Sunday.

How interesting!  A greater degree of democracy could shock the stock market and dampen investor confidence.  Quoting Chua Hak Bin, a Singapore-based economist with Citigroup the article goes on to question "whether the development projects under the previous state governments will continue."  One would presume on the evidence of countries such as the USA and Australia that a strong opposition, especially one which controls a number of states, is the bedrock of a strong democracy.  Incoming leadership desperate to our perform the previous authorities.

However the article goes on to outline their reasons for concern:
  • investors may be concerned that the results could trigger political and racial instability
  • With the Chinese and Indians voting for the opposition, you raise the question if Malaysia's fundamentals are intact and whether there will be racial violence
  • It is due to concerns of political uncertainties and whether there will be unrest.
Is it possible that economists have managed to perceive, al beit via a tangential route, the problems that besiege the heart of democracy?  Democracy attempts to make all men equal, to reconcile the racial differences.  However history bears out that no treaty has ever produced a lasting peace.  The imposition of democracy onto artificial nations has seen disastrous consequences over the centuries.  From the Hellenization programs of the Greeks to the formation of India, Rawanda & Russia.  All have failed to bring lasting peace, a reconciliation, to ethnic divisions.  In watching a recent movie about the partition of India a statement was made, "The war is never over."  It is a phrase that resonants with the failure of democracy.

Googling this phrase brings some interesting results.  Here is a sample:
  • Commenting on the war in Iraq - When you occupy Muslim lands, the “war” is never over until the occupation is over.
  • From the Hindu (Indian Newspaper) - The war is never over when the battle is done. The scars run deep.  (read the whole article it is worth the read)
  • Author Loung Ung, a Cambodian survivor of the Khmer Rouge, on why she wrote the book "Lucky Child" - I want to let the world know that long after the guns have fallen silent, for survivors the war is never over.
Democracy itself can never and will never bring lasting peace.  It is a fallacy born out of human invention.
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