The complexity of command, conscience and covenant: new year reflection

The Christian life is a complex interplay of command, conscience and covenant – and none of these words are particularly popular or well understood in our culture or, perhaps, by many in the church.

traffic, conscience, right, wrong, covenant, maturity, choice, freedomFrom time to time debates rage in one corner of Christendom or another as to what Christians should or shouldn’t do and rarely is a mature understanding of these coexistent realities displayed.

Simplistically we could draw understanding from the humble traffic light. Red and green are commands and amber is more or less a matter of personal decision or conscience. Red does not ask you if you feel you should stop, it tells you that you must. Amber however allows you some measure of consideration. And green, like red, is a command to go and if you are in doubt about that you have not experienced missing a green light in Sydney traffic.

The context for the command and conscience of the traffic light is the covenant we all have with each other that we will obey the traffic rules, including traffic lights, and likewise drive safely and responsibly. When we as a community balance command, conscience and covenant well, there is relative safety and amenity on our roads. When these three are out of shape – frustration, damage and even death can result.

Read More »

Advertisements

Difference between ‘feeling’ and ‘being’ anxious unlocks an answer

“…for nothing be anxious.” *

I think there is a difference between feeling anxious and being anxious.

Photo by Jesse Therrien

Anxiety is a normal, perhaps even healthy, feeling when faced with the unknown, the unsafe or the unwanted. Usually this feeling of anxiety resolves when you pass through the situation and relief follows or, if your anxiety was justified, more concrete thoughts, actions and responses are required.

Sometimes it is the psycho-emotional effects of feelings of anxiety that help guide you through challenging situations – heightened vigilance, physical alertness (adrenalin), cautious progress.

But what if it is not so much that you ‘feel’ anxious, but that you are ‘being’ anxious; that you find yourself continuing in anxiety with or without an initial trigger.

Many of us in life can find ourselves weighed down with all the mental and physical responses of anxiety for hours, days or months. We are being anxious and we have forgetten how not to be anxious.

At such times, phrases such as the Biblical epigram for this post, “for nothing be anxious”, can seem infuriating and mindless to the person who would rather do anything but be anxious.

When our friends or spouses or colleagues tell us to ‘get over it’ when that is the one thing we can’t seem to do, we feel even more anxious. That is presuming anyone but ourselves even knows. In most cases, these predicaments are carried with silence, a supreme act of the will considering the turmoil inside.

So when the Bible says ‘for nothing be anxious’ do we have yet another voice condemning and consigning the anxious person to deeper isolation?Read More »

Model’s faith no secret as she leaves lingerie behind…

“I am still modeling but only with brands that respect my decision not to wear lingerie,” tweeted former Victoria’s Secret model Kylie Bisutti, aged 21.

The Californian Christian won Victoria’s Secret Model Search  ahead of 10,000 other girls in 2009 but has quit the company because of her Christian values.

“Victoria’s Secret was my absolutely biggest goal in life, and it was all I ever wanted career-wise,” she told FOX411.

“I actually loved it while I was there, it was so much fun and I had a blast. But the more I was modelling lingerie – and lingerie isn’t clothing – I just started becoming more uncomfortable with it because of my faith. I’m Christian, and reading the Bible more, I was becoming more convicted about it.”

Her comment that “her body should only be for my husband” was widely reported, and ridiculed, but for Kylie “it’s a sacred thing”.

“I didn’t really want to be that kind of role model for younger girls because I had a lot of younger Christian girls that were looking up to me and then thinking that it was okay for them to walk around and show their bodies in lingerie to guys.”

She has a number of career opportunities ahead including an appearance with Jennifer Lopez and will continue to model for companies that respect her decision not to model lingerie.

“It is a very hard industry to be in without falling into things you don’t want to do,” she said.

Husband Mike had apparently prayed that Kylie might come to this decision but allowed her to reach it in her own time.

In a world where people do anything to achieve success, particularly if it involves celebrity, it is encouraging to see someone allow their conscience to guide their decisions and trust God with the outcome.

Follow Kylie on Twitter at @vskylie

The Australian promotes John 3:16

20110701-082028.jpgIt’s a rainy night on cold Norton St, but still plenty of diners and movie-goers are about. As I lift the edge of my umbrella to avoid colliding with two boys, one sliding on a wheel in his shoe, my vision slides across a poster and my brain computes iconic numbers and punctuation mark.

The advertisement on the back of a public phone pictures a Bible open to John’s third chapter.

The Australian is canvassing the issue of marriage but I wonder how many will recognise God’s shout-out to humanity contained in that ancient verse near the top of the pictured page.

‘For God so loved… gave his only… whoever believes… everlasting…’

If we don’t start there we’ll never understand anything else God has to say, about marriage or anything else.

Forget billboards, Islamic leader calls for Bible ban

At a time when Christians and Muslims are conducting (mainly) respectful debates about large billboards with Islamic messages in Sydney, there has been a call in Pakistan for the Bible to be banned because it is blasphemous for Muslims.

The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party’s leader, Maulana Abdul Rauf Farooqi, at a press conference on May 30 in Lahore, informally petitioned the Supreme Court, complaining that the Bible includes stories about some of the biblical prophets that include “a variety of moral crimes, which undermine the sanctity of the holy figures.”

Pakistiani Christians, estimated at 3 million, fear the call for a Bible ban is a sign of a trend of deepening persecution against them.

Now might be a good time for people of Islamic faith enjoying democratic rights and freedom of religion in Australia to raise their voices against this call.

Read the fully story in Christian Telegraph

 Related articles

Most democratic book in the world turns 400

“The King James Version is a Magna Carta for the poor and oppressed: the most democratic book in the world”, said Theodore Roosevelt on the KJV’s 300th anniversary in 1911.

Claimed by some to be the only version which should be read (sorry all you non-English speakers); by others to be outdated and outmoded (too many maidservants and thous); and yet enjoyed by many for its beautiful glimpse into Shakespearean English – the King James Bible is this year turning 400 years old.

This landmark is being celebrated in Australia by a Bible Society exhibition, The Book that Changed the World, that is touring the south east of Australia. It is in Canberra now but very soon will be around the corner in Annandale.

Read the full report at Australian Christian News.

What is your favourite King James Bible quote?

Balancing freedoms as Bibles and bodies are burned

The threatened burning of the Qur’an by a Florida pastor created international headlines and now a Brisbane atheist has used pages of the Bible and the Qur’an to roll fake joints and smoke them. 

And while journalists waste time over these peculiarly western debates, we hear nothing about the very real plight of millions of Christians, many in Muslim countries, where such freedoms are not enjoyed. 

For example a young Laotian woman had her Bible burned (pictured) by villagers who believed it was causing her mother’s illness. 

‘My villagers still hate me and mock me, like they mocked Jesus on the cross. It is the world’s right to hate us or to love us. But for me, I will follow Jesus.’ 

 Many people like this young woman are assisted by Voice of the Martyrs. You might wonder why we need such an organisation in the 21st century but there are more Christian martyrs today than ever before. 

VOM says, ‘In restricted nations around the world, Bibles are burned, shredded or confiscated every day. Those opposed to the gospel can destroy Bibles, but they cannot destroy the faith of those like ****’. 

To read many other heart wrenching stories of the persecution of Christians – the burning of their Bibles, churches and bodies – visit Voice of the Martyrs

We do enjoy remarkable freedoms in the west, rarely known on our planet or throughout history, very much brought about by a Christian world view that says every life is sacred and deserves dignity, freedom, opportunity and life. 

This should be extended to people of all faiths and Koran burning or Bible ‘smoking’ are ridiculous parades of ego. 

But there is something that would help balance the debate. Whenever we stand and affirm that Muslims, for example, should receive the same freedoms in Australia or America as anyone else, it would be inspiring to hear those voices, especially Muslims, speak up and say they would like to see the same freedoms for those persecuted for their faith in Muslim or other restricted countries.

Relentless, restless reading confessions

People with blogs often tell other people, with or without blogs, about what they are reading. This may be to come across as a clever, readerish type or out of a genuine attempt to stimulate reading and discussion.

In my case I’m going to tell you what I’ve been reading because the litter of books next to my bed could be ignored no longer. I suddenly noticed it one day and thought, mmmm.

Anyway, here’s what I’m reading and feel free to use the comment facility with this post to inflict on me what you are reading. No, seriously, I’m generally interested! By the way, this reading does not include the portions of novels I am required to read for the publishing and editing courses I am doing which so far has included Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, James Bradley’s The Resurrectionist and Brett Easton Ellis’ Lunar Park (and that’s just the first week…). And then there is the constant noting of books other people are recommending in my lectures so that I now have a list of about 37 books that simply must be read…

But back to the leaf-litter around my bed:

Read More »

Jesus making news for his leadership example

What would Jesus do? doesn’t always appear to be the question at the top of the list for politicians but businessman Lindsay Fox says it should be when it comes to leadership.

He’s advised Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to take a leaf out of Jesus Christ’s unwritten book of leadership and delegate some authority to his disciples.

Speaking on ABC Television today, the trucking boss, one of Australia’s most respected and richest business leaders, said Mr Rudd needed a lesson in delegating.

‘You have to delegate some authority [to ministers],’ Mr Fox said.

‘In the case of Jesus Christ, he had 12 disciples and those disciples carried his message long after he was gone.’

Not enough was being heard from Mr Rudd’s ‘disciples’, as his standing with voters tumbles in opinion polls.

‘You can’t run a government unless you’re a total democratic dictator and there’s only been a few of them in the world in the last 50 years,’ Mr Fox said.

While Mr Fox is correct in saying Jesus did not write down any of his leadership principles – making his success all the more impressive – his followers did record his words and actions.

They can be found in four eyewitness accounts, named after their authors, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. If you are an inspiring leader, read them for yourself by clicking on the links or leave a comment asking for written copies, and I’ll get them to you. PH

Two ways to support City to Surf fund-raising

As the rain keeps falling I’m trying to work out how I’m going to keep my training schedule up tonight… with an umbrella no doubt!

Anyway, the good news is that I’m registered for the City to Surf and have set-up not one, but two fundraising pages!

Firstly I’ve signed up with the Bible Society to help put much-needed Bibles into Scripture classes in public schools across the state. If you’d like to support this cause, visit the Towards The Goal fund-raising page .

Then City to Surf automatically give you the chance to support a charity so I chose World Vision, a great Christian aid organisation, and you can support this cause by visiting my Everyday Hero fund-raising page.

And if you’d like to get involved, why not sign up for the City to Surf  and raise funds yourself. You could join our team – the Curly Toes and be added to our team fund-raising page, the Curly Toes Runners. We are starting as far back as you can – Orange I believe.

Many thanks in advance if you can help with sponsorship! PH

Running with Jesus to provide Bibles for schools

While the battle lines have been drawn over Special Religious Education in NSW public schools, the Bible Society has uncovered a desperate need for Bibles in SRE classes across the state.

Earlier this year the Bible Society sent out a notice to public school scripture teachers in NSW and ACT, inviting requests for Bibles. Anticipating a need for about 10,000 Bibles, the society was instead inundated with requests for 70,000!

‘The few Bibles I have are old, torn and falling apart,’ says Rebecca Mawhinney who teaches scripture at a school with 1,000 students at Beverley Hills.

‘I bring my daughter’s Bible to my class and leave it with them – 23 children have to share it to have a look,’ says Rev Karen Jansson from Stockton.

In response to this need, the Bible Society has joined up with the Jesus All About Life campaign and under the ‘Big Rescue’ banner will field runners in this year’s City to Surf on August 8 to raise sponsorship dollars so they can meet the call for Bibles in schools.

Christians and interested people are urged sign up as City to Surf runners and then visit the fund-raising website Towards the Goal and register individually or as a team. Last year 1200 runners raised $30,000 for the Bible Society and this year they are hoping for 2000 runners to raise at least $60,000.

I am personally considering signing up for the City to Surf so I can help raise funds for Bibles. As it has been some time since I’ve done any running, I need to work out whether this is even humanly possible! Encouragement and promises of sponsorship might just push me over the line… PH

Just enough bread

I nearly forgot… Also in the Utterance side-bar, strategically placed at the top, is a Bible verse for the day automatically updated by BibleGateway . The verse appearing right now as a I write – 2.29pm, March 24, 2010, is James 1:12. Here’s my comment on this verse (also verse 11) appearing in my devotional book, Transform Your Faith:

‘James continues to assault the false sense of security we draw from material things. He focuses on that human tendency to try and give our lives meaning by accumulating money, possessions, power, position, fame, and accomplishments. These things aren’t necessarily wrong in themselves, but if we use them as a substitute for God then we are in serious danger. We are reminded that “people will fade away with all their achievements” just like the grass dries up and the flowers wither and fade. Secretly we all know this, even if we do tend to buy into this materialistic approach to life. Something deep inside yearns for eternal things. The good news is that God offers a “crown of [eternal] life” to those who love him and stay faithful to him, regardless of the opposition we may face. This is an offer that does not depend on our works because in the long run, nothing we can do will earn us a spot in heaven. Instead we are encouraged to enter into a relationship with God through Jesus – a relationship built on life-long love. Rich or poor, we can look forward to our earthly lives being crowned with eternal life if we make loving God our first priority…