Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Big Machine

I saw it and was amazed. It was gigantic, like a tunnel digger or bridge builder. A massive structure in itself of grand design. To start, it took a lot of skilful people, engineers, making sure that everything was ready, the fuel tank was full, the pressure gauges were set, all the dials were at the right places. All the operators in position. Many checks and rechecks, like a jumbo before takeoff. Once the machine was started it needed to be fed at one end to produce its result at the other. Not enough raw material and the machine would shut down.
Maybe it was a factory, not a machine. With many employees and a very good product. Sliced bread.
Almost anyone can make their own bread, but sliced bread is very convenient. And a factory that supplies millions of people must be fed well with raw materials. It's mechanised mixers and ovens need people to keep them running. It needs to work around the clock.
Sadly, some of the smaller bakeries are forced to close in the aftermath of such a succesful grand factory like this.

But what is the purpose of the factory? Is it primarily to feed people or to make a profit for its owners? Some would say both.

But what if the owner was already well off, or chose to lead a spartan lifestyle. What if the owner was particularly generous and wanted to provide his product at a minimal price?

But what if it wasn’t a bread factory but rather a biscuit factory. Bread is a staple, but biscuits are a luxury. Again people can make their own biscuits but most prefer the convenience of shop bought biscuits. Apart from anything else they have a great shelf life.

To entice people with that brand of biscuits they need special ingredients, a great product and, of course, advertising. This is also because there are competitors, or maybe this is a new company trying to break into a market already saturated. So they have to present their product in a new and original way. There would be no possibility for a new business getting a foot in the door without being professional in every respect, including public relations, advertising, packaging, health information, and attention to customers.

Would the company warn customers about their product being potentially unhealthy, and that it is best used sparingly? Or would they be tolerant and politely silent with regard to customers over indulging, giving the individual the entire responsibility of self control?

And what of celebrity endorsements? Would this be sought and paid for? Would they be honest, genuine with the product presented realistically? After all this is how industry works. Would they be satisfied to reach a stable turnover, or would they branch out, franchise, become international?

But this is not a machine, this is not a factory, this is not a company. This is a church, a mega church. It is a multimedia machine, a brand, an investment. It's mechanism is vast and complicated, needing and feeding many, many employees, and needing many thousands of attendees and their regular gifts in order to continue operating.

Pray for the big churches.
Their presence alone is a stumbling block for both those in their midst and those looking on from afar.
May their witness be independent of their needs.

But also try some home made bread.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

A Believers Prayer

Father God,

Are there any words that I could say to change my standing in your sight?
For I have sinned, and words alone cannot atone for all I’ve done.

If my prayer were able to undo the things I’ve done, and correct what I have left undone, then surely I would need only my prayer and not your grace.

But I’m compelled by heart and conscience, to confess that I have fallen short of all that was within my power to do of good, and have chosen instead to do wrong.

I truly am a sinner.

Dear Lord, I ask you to forgive me.

Friday, June 15, 2018

God Regrets

Then Samuel left for Ramah, but Saul went up to his home in Gibeah of Saul. Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him. And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel. (1 Samuel 15:35 NIV)

What does it mean to regret?

From a human perspective, this means to think back on an action or decision and judge it as poor, wrong, unwise, wrongly judged. Wishing the decision has been otherwise. Wishing the words had been otherwise. Wishing the action had been otherwise.

Regret implies there are limitations to our knowledge or understanding at a given point in time, or that there are forces at play that are outside our control.
Yet God is sovereign and in control of every situation.

I work as a country doctor, which means I carry a good weight of responsibility.
Not only do I treat many in our community, but I also train younger doctors.

In teaching doctors, I am given the task of helping to mould their abilities and judgements in the hope of benefitting the wider community which they will serve in the future. This is both a privilege, and a serious responsibility.

Teaching doctors invariably involves patients, my patients. I am, of course, responsible to provide good care to my patients, and allowing a younger doctor, or student, to be part of a consultation or procedure involves trust and consent.

At some point, the young doctor must be allowed to perform a procedure themselves, under supervision, in order to truly gain the skills necessary to work unsupervised in the future.

If, as a student, all you ever do is watch, then training is deficient. “Hands on” is a vital step in training.

Personally, my best learning experiences as a student (and scariest) have come from being allowed to take control.

As a supervisor, allowing a student to take control is risky, but necessary.
It means that I deliberately choose to step back and allow actions to play out.

At what point do I as a supervisor, intervene? What if a procedure is going horribly wrong? What of my responsibility to my patient?

The bottom line is, if something does go horribly wrong, the loss or damage comes back onto me.

Yes, I have regretted allowing trainees to perform procedures that they failed at. I hope those events have been big learning experiences for them, they certainly have for me.

At some point, I may have to make a judgement that a particular trainee is really not suitable for a particular type of doctoring, or maybe should not be a doctor at all. Thankfully this is rare.

When God chose Saul, he took a risk. He later regretted this choice. It feels awkward to talk about God in this way. Does God make mistakes? I believe not.
Yet it seems that he is prepared to take a risk on Saul, then stand back, so to speak, and allow things to play out.

Sadly, Saul never seems to learn from his mistakes, and the final outcome is that God chooses a new King. David.

There are two points I wish to make.

Firstly, when things go horribly wrong, they are, ultimately, the teacher’s responsibility. In Sauls case it was Samuel's, but beyond this, it was God’s. And he does take responsibility, sending his very own Son, to bear the sin of the world.

Secondly, God’s risk in choosing Saul, is no different to his risk in choosing Samuel, Eli, and even David, who, in spite of his being full of the Holy Spirit, failed miserably with Uriah the Hittite and his wife. In fact, it is no different in his risk in choosing people like you and I. Love takes risks.

 1 Corinthians 13:7 Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Psalm 7:17

I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High. (Psalm 7:17 NIV)

What is it that the author of Psalm 7 is celebrating in verse 17?

Not God’s mercy, not his grace, not his love or faithfulness, but his righteousness.

What is righteousness?

Surely it includes moral impeccability, being utterly sinless, having unquestionable motives, as well as upholding perfect justice and truth.

Why would anyone thank God for this. Isn’t this exactly what every man is not? And even more, isn’t this what rightfully condemns us as unworthy in God’s sight?

Surely holiness and righteousness are closely linked in the vision of Isaiah, when he cries out; “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

But, amazingly, we are a redeemed people, saved by grace and not only saved but sanctified and justified. In other words, made to be what we could never be, and this includes being made righteous.

But this righteousness is fully a gift, which could only be given by a saviour. A saviour who came from heaven and became one of us, but resisted all temptation, and maintained true and robust righteousness in its fullest sense. This genuine and hard kept righteousness enabled the saviour to rescue us by the offering of his unblemished personhood as a perfect sacrifice and propitiation for sinful humanity. Without righteousness, this was impossible. And this godly righteousness, both motivated, sustained and achieved a righteousness for all who believe.
God’s righteousness is not an icy cold, insurmountable (higher than the himalayas) wall that separates and judges us. It is loving, gracious righteousness that propitiates in order to maintain it’s glorious majesty, yet rescues the unreachable.
It is right to give thanks to God because of his righteousness. It is our righteous God who sent His righteous Son to make righteous those who could never be.
Thanks be to God.

Monday, May 7, 2018

False Teaching

Jude 1:19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

"Natural instincts" is Strongs number 5591.
psuchikos: natural, of the soul or mind
Original Word: ψυχικός, ή, όν
Part of Speech: Adjective
Transliteration: psuchikos
Phonetic Spelling: (psoo-khee-kos')
Short Definition: animal, natural, sensuous
Definition: animal, natural, sensuous.
5591 psyxikós (an adjective, derived from 5590 /psyxḗ, "soul, natural identity") – properly, soulish, i.e. what is natural, as it relates to physical (tangible) life alone (i.e. apart from God's inworking of faith).
5591 /psyxikós ("natural") typically describes the natural ("lower") aspect of humanity, i.e. behavior that is "more of earth (carnality) than heaven." 5591 (psyxikós) then sometimes stands in contrast to 4152 /pneumatikós ("spiritual") – the higher, spiritual aspect of humanity that develops through faith (4102 /pístis).

I am writing this out of a heavy heart. Knowing that in the near future, the Uniting Church General Assembly will meet and vote on the issue of ministers being free to perform a marriage ceremony for non-heterosexual couples.
The context is that Australia has recently voted as a population that same sex marriage should occur in our society, and this has been made into law by our government.
No church has yet taken this government initiative and made it part of their practice, but I am convinced that, at this next meeting, the Uniting Church will likely vote in favour of this change.

It was interesting to see the strong general support our society portrayed toward same sex marriage. People were strongly in favour, and made their views known clearly on social media. But not only individuals; companies, corporations, and even the Australiana College of GPs, was strongly supportive, making a public statement of their support, and implying that those GPs like me, who did not support the change, were somehow unloving, uncaring, judgmental and bigoted. (There were no words to that effect, but I was accused of this when I suggested that the college remain neutral on the issue, in view of some members, such as myself, disagreeing.)

The debate took on a strong moral flavor. Those in favour being the more loving and compassionate, those against being the Pharisees, so to speak.

The Uniting Church is also having their own vote. We (I am a member) will use “science”, and social justice to argue the case for homosexual couples who, until now, have been denied a church wedding.
The science used in support will suggest that homosexuality is a genetic condition, and therefore, God would be unjust to deny such people the happiness that comes from marriage.
And as God in Christ was merciful and loving towards the marginalized, eg prostitutes and tax collectors, so we, as Christians, and witnesses of the love of Christ ought to likewise show love and compassion to homosexual people by allowing full access to a marriage under God.

The paper discussing this makes mention of the Holy Spirit guiding the church into these considerations.

But what if marriage is more than the lifelong support, love and companionship that two people share. What if marriage is also a sign, an image, a physical reminder of who God is and what he is about in all history.

What if, when God created woman out of man, because it was not good for man to be alone, he was already foretelling the birth of the true bride out of the suffering of the true man. Christ and the church, the bride and the Lamb. What if every wedding is in fact a foretelling of the truth of a man leaving his mother and father and being united to his wife, of a Son being sent by the Father, in the power of the Spirit, to give up everything, and become human, in order to save humanity, to make a bride out of the unfaithful, and for the full salvation to be revealed in a great wedding feast at the end of history?

Surely then, as Christians, we would want to preserve the truth and significance of marriage in a fallen world?

Surely then we would encourage chastity as a worshipful gift and sacrifice of the believer, trusting God for the provision of a husband or wife, in God’s time and wisdom, and then the blessing of children?

Do all marry? Do all have children? Clearly the answer is no. Do we exclude people because they are not married? We ought not to. Do we/should we push every person towards marriage? The Apostle Paul accepted his non-married state, and advised believers to stay single if possible, explaining it was better for God’s work. Jesus never married during his earthly ministry, no doubt satisfied to wait for the true marriage that all believers will participate in with Him.

To allow homosexual marriage in the terms described by those presenting the case, would be to deny the great mystery that earthly marriage represents. It would take away the spiritual significance of marriage, and go against the order set up by God himself in creation.

Jesus, in speaking on marriage and divorce said “Whatever God joins, no man should put asunder.” (Matthew 19:6)

But are we now saying “What modern man joins, no evangelical, or even God himself, should put asunder.”???

I am sad that the words of this letter of Jude may well apply here, as the effect of a vote on same sex marriage will divide congregations, is based on natural ideas (ie scientific opinion, not fully proven) and ignores the Spirits teaching in the Word of God, (rightly divided), on the truth and significance of marriage.

My prayer is that this issue be abandoned.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Our King Will Come

Don't be afraid, we are all precious to Him.
Come to the throne, Jesus has made the way in.
Though we may stumble, he helps us go on.
He lifts the fallen, the weak are made strong.

Do not despair, in every trial we face
He is at work, able to fill us with peace.
The dawn is breaking when he will appear
Our great salvation, our bright morning star.   

Our King will come and will call us home
The Bride and Lamb will be one.
There’ll be no more pain,
Every tear wiped away
By our God who reigns evermore.

At his command those that are sleeping will rise,
Woken by love, wonder and joy in their eyes.
In that great moment, the trumpet will sound,
Then we, still living, will rise from the ground.