Christians get moving on election action

We’ve passed the half-way mark of the election campaign and the temperature could be rising just a little.

Waking a bit groggily this morning, the result of working split night shifts so that my already insomniac tendencies are exacerbated, I heard a promo for ABC Radio’s AM in which a determined-sounding woman was telling the reporter she wouldn’t be voting for Julia Gillard because she’s an atheist and she knew ‘hundreds of people’ who had the same view.

You can check out this story at Australian Christian Voter.

As if to keep the ball rolling, the Australian Christian Lobby launched its Australia Votes website today and once again you can get a good rundown  at ACV.

Finally, candidate electorate forums are up and running, check out a list of the ACL ones organised so far.

Or perhaps you would prefer the Make Poverty History/Micah Challenge variety. Learn about them here.

Are you what you do or something more?

I caught a glimpse of a new television commercial, I think for the Commonwealth Bank, featuring a man walking along a dusty road, whispering regrets to himself.

‘If only I would do something instead of just thinking about what I might do’ he says, or something like that.

Sounds like a carefully market-researched sentiment inserted into an emotive scene to echo what most people have thought at one point or another. Or continually.

Then the screen splits and a second, identical man is seen walking purposefully the opposite direction down a paved, tree and building lined road. The first man stops and stares after him.

The words ‘You are what you do’ fade on to the screen, along with the bank logo.

The implicit suggestion is that by associating with this bank, we will move from the ranks of the regretful thinkers to the have-it-all doers.

I don’t think so… If what we do is the sum of who we are, then we immediately dismiss those who can’t measure up – and ultimately that is all of us.

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No surprise that churches asked to house asylum seekers

While trendy inner city secularism ardently tries to remove any trace of Christianity from Australian social fabric, it is no surprise that the government has turned to the church to house asylum seekers due to overcrowding.

With facilities at Christmas Island overflowing, Department of Immigration officials have been quietly calling churches to ask if they have facilities to house up to 100 children and families.

It highlights the uniqueness of the Christian Church: a grassroots organisation with branches in virtually every community in the nation consisting of local people of diverse backgrounds who are motivated by common bonds of love and compassion.

Guided by Christ’s parables such as The Good Samaritan and the sacrificial example of the Cross, Christians have throughout history stood out because of their willingness to offer aid to the poor and homeless and even their enemies.

While using the issue to criticise the government, Opposition Immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, could only speak charitably of the churches:

‘ I have no doubt that Christian churches will respond generously, which is their nature,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald. Read the full story here.

Maybe this is one more reason why trying to force out the teaching of Scripture in schools is wrong. It denies the real place of Christian values in our community. PH

Tobacco tax hits the poor hardest

The increased cost of cigarettes is not just a tax or health issue, it is also one of justice and compassion.

The people hit hardest by the Rudd government’s 25 per cent increase on cigarettes, are the ones least able to afford it and the least able to choose the alternative – giving up.

There is little sympathy for smokers when tobacco is slugged with new taxes, the common cry being, ‘let them give up’.

But if you have grown up with smoking from before birth, had every significant person in your life as a smoker and if you have beaten off various other addictions with only nicotine to beat, that cry is offensive and simplistic. Add to this list social isolation, unemployment, mental illness, poverty and violence, and you might understand better why telling people to ‘just give up’ is not good enough.

I know many people who have, over a long period of time, beaten serious addictions, usually well after these addictions have destroyed their life. In almost every case, smoking is the one thing they cannot overcome.

When you live on a disability pension or minimum wage, are locked into nicotine addiction and with no sensible access to support for quitting, a new tobacco tax may as well be an arbitrary fine levied on you – just for being alive.

That’s why I’m urging support for independent South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon’s call to other Senators to block the Government’s recent tax hike on cigarettes unless more money raised from the tax is put towards helping smokers quit.

While the tax has already been introduced, it must be ratified by the Senate within 12 months. Senator Xenophon would like to see subsidies for nicotine patches, money for counselling services and more spending on health awareness campaigns.

‘My plea to the Government, to the Opposition, to my colleagues on the cross benches, is that just a little more money – in the vicinity of $100 million over the next four years, two per cent of this increase – could go a long way in assisting people to quit smoking for the Government to achieve its targets,’ he said.

So come on Mr Rudd, Mr Abbott, Mr Brown and Mr Fielding – do something for the least in our society to take another step towards a decent life.

If you put these resources in my hands, I’ll make sure those that really need them get the chance to give up and be free of this destructive habit. PH

On getting off drink and closer to God

Walking away from the small community centre, past the sitting smokers, down the path in the warm sunshine, he stops and calls me Pete.

‘Pete, there are a lot of people on the streets who could get up if they wanted to but they don’t want to.’

I nod in agreement, ‘None of us make any changes in our life unless we really want to, so I guess that applies to people on the street too.’

‘I was homeless you know Pete,’ he says. ‘But I got myself up. Drugs are the real problem. Drugs and alcohol. I’ve never used drugs but alcohol was my problem.

‘But after I did 15 years straight of a 20 year sentence, the last thing the parole officer said to me was, “Are you going to give up drinking?” and I said, “Yes.”‘

And I haven’t drunk for 34 years.

‘That’s an inspirational story, you’re a great example,’ I say.

He chuckles, and fixes his ebony eyes on me and I feel privileged that this elderly man who carries a remarkable sense of wisdom and dignity, chooses to tell me his stories, week after week.

‘There was one time when I was drinking that I got picked up on the street by three policemen and put into a police van with three deros. When we pulled up at the station we all got out of the van and the police each took one of the deros into the police station and I walked straight across the road and into the Oxford Hotel,’ he says with a chuckle.

He talks about people in prison who ‘became’ Christians to get out of the big house. ‘I’m not a Christian, never will be, but I wouldn’t do that, just put it on.’

He recalled the advice of his mother. ‘She told me that God keeps way off in the distance and always has his eye on us. He’ll get them…’

Might not be great theology but I can feel the faith in this man, I can feel that he has a closeness to God that is born of respect, honour and honesty. One day I might just get to help him see it. I am encouraged. PH

Living a life of action

To some, living a life of action might suggest bungy jumping and skydiving. But according to dynamic-speaking-duo, Jeremy and Catherine Hallett (Eternity, March 28), it runs much deeper than extreme sports.

The ‘why’ of living a life of action is to glorify God and see his kingdom advance.

The ‘what’ is to move from apathy (going through the motions) to action to kingdom by identifying ourselves as followers of Christ and stepping into a new boldness.

The ‘who’ of a life of action is everyone, or more specifically, everyone who makes themselves available. The ‘when’ is now and forever, in season and out of season – providing we have taken time out to hear what God wants us to do.

The ‘where’ of living a life of action is to start at home – our relationships, family, daily lives – and allow God to grow it from there.

Finally, the ‘how’ will be different for everyone but starts with rejecting fear and embracing the truth that God gives us abundant life.

Hear anything good at church today? Add it as a comment! PH

Go and see The Blind Side

“A project for the projects,” jokes one of Leigh Anne Tuohy’s well-to do friends about her taking a poor, black American teenager into her home.

“Count me in”, she says. But want she doesn’t realise is that it isn’t a project, it’s personal.

When one human heart is moved by God and broken for another human being, projects, politics and political correctness go out the window.

As Shane Claiborne said in the Irresistible Revolution, it’s not that Christians don’t care for the poor, it’s that they don’t know the poor.

What  this true story shows is a wealthy middle American mum stepping out of her charity mentality and putting herself in another person’s world and allowing them into hers.

This will always create miracles, regardless of your politics, and your colour.

At the end, Sandra Bullock playing Leigh Anne Tuohy thanks God for the privilege of being able to share her life with Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron).

Well she might. Afterall, it was God who sent His Son to share his life not only with us, but as one of us, that we might live. PH

Transform Your Faith now available

To the right of this post you can see a ‘badge’ for my self-published book called Transform Your Faith.

It is my first attempt at self-publishing and hopefully not my last foray into the world of publishing!

I have just received the first ‘test’ run of 10 copies. They look pretty good and if you would like one, please let me know asap – they cost $30 which might seem a little high but it includes a $10 donation to aid projects I’m involved in through ChangeMakers. The rest of the cover price covers the cost of printing and delivery.

Actually, you can purchase a copy directly for yourself by clicking on the Transform Your Life badge but if you would like to see one first (which is fair enough) then there’ll be copies on display at Eternity this weekend.

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Into the dark places

As part of Eternity Christian Church’s ChangeMakers conference, Live life Loud, we have heard from two outstanding Christ followers whose actions amplify their words such as they break through fear and complacency to change us.

I listened to Pastor Sharon Wright describe how she is seeking to be God’s person in the NSW town of Condobolin and was deeply moved by the sowing of her life with the love of God. “We are the prophecy,” she said. “God’s love is the reason.”

Captain Paul Moulds of the Oasis Youth Support Network told us we would be made uncomfortable as he took us into hard places in our city. It was sweet sorrow as we heard the horrific stories of broken lives but also felt the grace of God present there.

After laying a platform which is broken humanity, Paul said with knife-like clarity: “The church of God needs to be in the dark places of our city and towns. These are hard places to be, but if we don’t go there, other people will go there with different purposes and intentions. We must be in the dark places.”Read More »

55 Days of Faith and Action

I’m putting together a devotional book based on a daily email I did in 2006 covering every verse of the book of James. This was a pivotal time for our community as we rediscovered God’s love for the lost and the least. Hopefully early copies of the book will be available by early March when we at Eternity run a conference called ChangeMakers.

James in the New Testament is often regarded as a tough book as it gives little in the way of ‘nice’ promises and plenty in the way of straight down the line challenge.

Beneath the surface though is a simple call to reject the cult of celebrity and greed that can ensnare our thinking and live a life of gentle respect for the poor, the rich and one another.

If you are interested in 55 Days of Faith and Action leave a comment or email me.

Here’s a snippet I came across while editing today:Read More »

Action interrupted, truth stumbled

The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it. Chinese proverb.

What have you stopped doing because of a voice, internally or externally, saying  it can’t be done, you can’t do it or you can’t do it well? Avoid these interruptions.

Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most pick themselves up and hurry on as if nothing had happened. Winston Churchill

As opposed to the interruption of doubters, truth is worth taking note of. What truth have you stumbled over, even and embarrassing or inconvenient one, that you have done your best to ignore but keeps tapping on your shoulder. Stumble back to truth, it always set you free.

Incidentally, I came across these quotes while reading Organic Church by Frank Viola. Still trying to decide if this book is interruption or stumbling truth. Probably a bit of both… PH