Issue 109 – August/October 2017
Our quarterly newsletter edited by Venessa Crane.
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“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46)
We live in anxious, tense and testing times. Global political tensions, terrorism and wars, domestic social and political upheavals, and economic uncertainties challenge our faith and resolve. But as they say, “When the going gets tough ……” But is it really a matter of the survival of the toughest and the fittest? What about the frail and vulnerable? Which, at some stage in our lives, will include each one of us! No, there has to be a better way!
I much prefer the Psalmist’s attitude: When the going gets tough, …. the tough and the frail, the strong and the weak … trust in God who is bigger than any of the trials we face. The God who is our refuge, our strength, our help, here and now! (Keep reading Psalm 46 and see how amazingly relevant it is to 2017!) Over these next three months we will continue to explore, and be encouraged by, the foundations of our faith as we trust God in anxious times.
We will conclude our series in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians about Being the Church – being the people whom God has graciously brought into relationship with Himself & with each other, that we may help and encourage each other to trust in this great God. In October we will be reminded of the certainties of God’s truth, and the security of our faith in God, through the witness of the Reformation in this 500th Anniversary year (1517 – 2017).
As we journey in these uncertain times, may we firmly grasp again the confidence of the Palmist: “Therefore we will not fear, though the earth gives way …though the mountains tremble … the nations rage, the kingdoms totter …The Lord of Hosts is with us ..”
Rev. Ian Weeks
Is Truth like Ice-cream, Apples or a Decrepit Bridge?
Telling the gospel to family, friends and strangers can be difficult at the best of times, but we do so in a culture where it is popular to label people who claim they have the truth as arrogant and bigoted. Thinking about evangelism in this social climate makes me think about the nature of truth, and whether talking about God is like Ice-cream, apples or a decrepit bridge.
Ice-cream: A delicious array of flavours all lined up behind a glass window, causing young and old alike to salivate profusely. But which flavour is best? Vanilla macadamia, rich chocolate fudge, fluorescent blue bubblegum, sweet and sticky English toffee, everybody has their own truth about the best ice-cream flavour, and it’s ok if your view differs from mine.
Is the truth about God like ice-cream, where a variety of religions and philosophies are lined up and everyone picks the one they like best, and everyone’s choice is equally valid? Some people think so. They believe that all practices lead to God, just like there are many ways to get up a mountain. Differences are explained by thinking of God as an elephant, and people of different religions and philosophies each have access to a different part of the elephant. Everyone has an equally valid ‘truth’ about God, even if they differ from each other.
Prima facie, this view has appeal. It seems to fit when thinking about Eastern and New age religions that have mystical experience at their core, your experience is as valid as mine; or even some philosophies that deal in the realm of ideas, those are your thoughts, these are mine. However, for other religions, it doesn’t work. For example, some religions include beliefs about alleged historical events. Take Jesus’ death and resurrection for example. Non- Christian Jews believe that Jesus died but wasn’t raised from the dead, Muslims believe he didn’t die, but ascended to heaven, and Christians believe that he both died and was raised from the dead. What’s more, writings from so many historical sources from the first century concerning this matter have survived, so we can test the validity of each of these beliefs. It is impossible that all three are right because they contradict each other, and the contradiction is based around an historical event that either did or didn’t happen, but not both. Either one religion is true at this point, and the other two are false, or, for example, if Jesus never lived, they are all false, but they cannot all be true.
What about apples: I’ve seen red apples, green apples and yellow apples, but I’ve never seen a real apple grow purple on a tree. If I came across someone who tells me that apples are purple, I’d be inclined to disagree with him. If we were walking past a fruit shop, I’d show him the red, green and yellow apples, and the absence of purple ones. I may ask to see a purple apple that wasn’t once an ordinary red green or yellow apple. At the end of the day though, I’d be happy to agree to disagree. Even though I’d think he is wrong, I’d reason that there’s no real harm in his thinking that apples are purple.
Is the truth about God like apples, where some people might be right, and some wrong, but it doesn’t matter either way? If this were the case, there wouldn’t be much cause for concern. Belief systems that include reincarnation, for example, might not be concerned about others not having the quickest path to Nirvana or Brahman. It might take them a little longer, but they’ll get there in their own way. Differences are not worth arguing over.
Religions where coming to God is based on some easily achievable merit, might also share this view. For example, if we just have to tip the balance of good and bad deeds so that there’s more good than bad, (and if we don’t look too deeply at thoughts and motives, and our standard for good isn’t too high), most people we know are probably doing ok. There’s no need to argue over minutia; far better to just live and let live. But if the Bible is true, the stakes are exponentially bigger.
Or how about the broken bridge? If I know someone plans to ride a motorbike full pelt over a bridge, and I also know that the middle of the bridge has crumbled leaving a gaping expanse over the abyss below, wouldn’t I feel obliged for her sake to tell her of the hole, and suggest she should take another route? Even if there was a risk my efforts would be unappreciated. Suppose I don’t warn her, and somehow she survives, covered head to foot with plaster, or we pass each other in the afterlife, won’t she be indignant, and rightly so, that I knew she was in danger, and didn’t tell her? Is this what the truth of God is like? Are there some religions or ideologies that end in death, and others in life, so disagreements matter?
Jesus makes an extraordinary claim. He claims to be the way, the truth and the life. He claims that no one can come to God except by having their sins forgiven through his death on the cross. He claims that believing in him is the only truth, and all other religions and philosophies lead to death. If this is true, and the Bible’s teachings can be shown to be reliable, then we will want to warn those we care about.
Arrogant and bigoted! It’s one doozie of an insult. It’s the person or group who cannot accept that people are different, with different ideas and preferences. Bigots want to force everyone else to live like they do, think what they think and believe what they believe. Nobody wants to be judged by these people, it’s un-politically correct, it’s un-Australian, and it’s all round bad, bad, bad. Worse still, nobody wants to be one.
The Bible instructs us to be humble, how should we respond to this name calling? The temptation is there isn’t it, to stop talking, to allow others to censor what can and can’t be said in public, and hope they see us as humble. But we aren’t looking to please others, we look to please God, and in the Bible, humility is living God’s way for the sake of others. We are being humble when we take God at his word, and we are being humble when we care about the welfare of others. So what should we do? We should keep praying for opportunities to tell people about God, keep telling them, and keep praying that they will hear and believe. But even if they insult us and say all kinds of things against us, even though it hurts, we can rejoice, because that’s how they treated the prophets of old. Like the apostles when they were flogged for preaching that Jesus rose from the dead, we can rejoice that we were counted worthy to suffer for the gospel- and then we can go on and tell the next person.
Prayer for Prayer
- Our Father help us to know how to pray:
malaised in praise,
confused in confession
selfish supplication, intermittent intercession,
our minds wander, hearts waiver and wills stray.
- All knowing and wise God, make us wise
furnished for your good deeds
and Christ’s heart that bleeds, pleads
your will be done, with open hands and open eyes.
- Sustain us Lord Jesus, as we hear with pain
others usurping your holy name,
sapping our faith as they so glibly declaim
your lack of love for them, the disdain,
When they so nonchalantly dismiss
Their creator, saviour, judge
And every act of grace, begrudge,
While truth, hope and love, they pursue and miss.
- Repentant, Lord, we seek your grace
prostrate before your mercy seat.
With undeserved forgiveness meet
your servants with a longing face.
Unplaster our lips that your praise may wring
from voices still choked with inanities,
silence our follies and undo our vanities,
that of you, precious you, we might sing and sing.`
AN UNPLANNED SUNDAY MORNING
Sunday mornings in the Keiller household are very predictable except for one memorable Sunday in January 2016.
The routine is to get up as late as possible, shower, breakfast and off to church. This particular Sunday we were minding our son and daughter-in-law’s cat, a healthy, (at least until then), aristocratic 9 year-old Russian Blue. Amber had named him Bo Bo, but Andrew had immediately dubbed him Rambo, which we all felt was more fitting.
That morning I went down to the laundry to let Rambo out only to find him stretched out on his bed on the washing machine, stiff as a board. Stunned, I called David and we stood there staring at poor Rambo in utter disbelief.
As we headed off to pick up Venessa Crane that morning, we decided to leave Rambo where he was and deal with him after church. We collected Venessa and arrived at church slightly shell shocked as we were quite fond of Rambo and minded him whenever Andrew and Amber were away. I even took him out in the garden for walks on a lead so he could not escape.
I was pushing Venessa’s wheelchair down the steps to David and managed to let go before David grasped it, hitting him on the leg with the chair. As David takes immune- suppressant drugs since his kidney transplant, his skin is fragile, and small bumps tend to result in wounds, copious quantities of blood and sometimes stitches. Today was no different!
Ian Weeks was on holidays and Ross Swadling had by this time started the service. I quickly wheeled in a distressed Venessa, (who wrongly blamed herself for this fiasco) parked her next to Mike our eldest son and hurried out to David who was bleeding profusely.
Ross must have wondered what was going on. Still blaming herself, Venessa became more distressed and headed out to the foyer with Mike and Tova Swadling in hot pursuit. Ross continued valiantly with the Service.
I drove David to the clinic where he was patched up and we headed home to deal with Rambo.
Mike phoned to see how David went and was horrified to hear he was in the yard digging Rambo’s grave with stitches in his leg and so hurried around to assist. When he arrived Rambo was interred in the back lawn, and to this day there is a bright green patch marking his final resting place. We headed inside for a well-deserved lunch and a much quieter afternoon.
According to Dr Google, sudden death in healthy cats is usually caused by cardiomyopathy and is not rare.
The following Sunday Venessa presented David with a large box of band aides! However, insisting he open it, he discovered a delicious block of chocolate!
(Never a dull moment with the Keillers! – Ed)
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