‘Spirituality’ is a term of great confusion today. Both inside and outside Christianity, people use the word in ways quite different to the Bible. This not only confuses Christians in what to expect from the Spirit of God but also confuses non-Christians about the work of God’s Spirit and the teaching of Christianity. For when Christians, in our confusion, misrepresent God’s word it is no surprise that non-Christians do not understand our message.
Non-Christians today commonly describe themselves as being ‘very spiritual’ while having nothing to do with organized religion or Christianity. This spirituality is a way of saying they are not materialistic atheists but it rarely has any theological content other than a vague mysticism. If it has any intellectual content it tends towards an anti-rational experientialism—feelings, experiences, awareness, asceticism, ascetics, pantheism, meditation and miracles. It also tends towards tolerance inclusiveness of all religious experiences and intolerance towards any theological propositions or exclusive claim to truth. It is naturally quite hostile to Biblical Christianity with its clear expression of theological truth claims about the uniqueness of Jesus and his way of salvation. (more…)
A simple test of a good teacher is to ask what they teach. If their answer is Maths, English, Science, History or Geography, they probably don’t understand their role. If they say students, pupils, young people, or adults, there is a possibility that they know their trade. Of course, such a simple test is simplistic; word games are not reality. The answers would be different if the question was who they teach. Yet there is a truth in this little test; teaching is a relational activity.
Certainly teaching involves subject material; there is content to be conveyed. But the aim of the exercise involves conveying information from one person to another. The best teachers do more than convey information; they whet the appetite for learning, they develop the student’s capacity to understand, analyse, explore and discover other information. The well-taught student is not limited to the information their teacher has imparted to them. Good education is not really a curriculum matter but a teaching skill that relies heavily on the relationship the teacher can develop with the student. (more…)
We are a society that wants more. More money, more gadgets, more food, more fun. But strangely, wanting more often leaves us feeling dissatisfied. We finally get the thing we longed for, and yet all too soon it is broken, or the batteries have run down or it isn’t as good as we hoped. (more…)
The Reformation is becoming history.
If “history is written by winners”, secularists are writing our history and materialistic governments, are setting the curriculum. Because such governments are concerned with national peace, harmony and unity, not even the multiculturalists will be able to save the Reformation from the dust and ashes of negligence and ignorance. (more…)
When my father-in-law fell on an escalator in a shopping mall, he was proud of his ability to catch his carton of eggs. “Not one of them broke”, he told me from his hospital bed. A true son of the Depression, breaking eggs was more significant than a damaged back. But as he stayed in hospital, two competing attitudes were expressed by staff and visitors. The older generation all said something along the line “You silly old goat, George, why didn’t you use the lift?” or “Why did you take the trolley onto the escalator?” The younger generation said “You should sue Westfield. They’ve got plenty of money.” and “They’ll settle out of court. They don’t want the bad publicity.” It was a stark cultural and generational difference. George, being an old man, simply laughed at his folly and was proud of catching the eggs.
Today in church life I also hear (and feel within myself) a similar clash of cultures. I’ll call them “family”, “government” and “business”. (more…)
It was in the early 1970’s and I wore my clerical collar as I approached her front door. The next-door neighbour had asked me to visit. I did not know the widow but the neighbour told me “She is dying and wanting to talk about it, but is afraid to ask for help”. (more…)
Who are your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you? Most of us have many. In our childhood we may have been privileged to have parents who taught us God’s word, or there were Sunday school teachers or youth fellowship leaders at our church, or ISCF/Crusader teachers at school. For many it has been the pastor of our church, or the Bible study leader. During the lifetime of a Christian we usually have a range of leaders, who teach us God’s word.
There are some people whose leadership stretches well beyond personal ministry to affect whole communities with their teaching of God’s word. They speak at conventions, write books and articles, and travel to speak at evangelistic gatherings and church conferences. They become well known to the community as a whole, as they influence the culture of church life. And as we consider the outcome of the lives of those who lead us personally, we also remember and consider the lives of these more public leaders. (more…)
Back in 1981, Christian hearts thrilled to see a mainstream popular film treat Christian conscience positively. The film was Chariots of Fire and the Christian conscience was that of Eric Liddell, the man who refused to run in the Olympics on a Sunday. It was just so different to see a man of genuine faith presented in a film as a hero instead of a moral failure or a narrow-minded hypocrite.
Yet there was something odd about the insistence on the Lord’s Day Observance. If we were going to stand for principle somewhere should it really be about not running on a Sunday? It was not like having sport organized for every Sunday in opposition to Church as we have it today. It was the once every four years Olympics drawing people from all over the world to Paris in 1924 for a short period of competition. Is it really forbidden in Scripture to run on a Sunday in such a circumstance? (more…)
Prayer always brings glory to God, as we express our confidence in his willingness and ability to help us as well as his interest in the details of our life. To think the creator and sovereign ruler of the universe would pay attention to our requests—about the trivialities of our lives—is humbling and exciting. That we can call the Almighty, “Father” is wonderful beyond description.
This week the Anglican diocese of Sydney comes to electing a new Archbishop. Synod will be meeting for a few nights to try to come to agreement about who it should be. It is not the most important decision we ever make, but it is a decision we have to make, and it does affect many aspects of church life.
So this week is an important time for prayer. We want God to bless our decision, and that overriding our desires, he will appoint the man he thinks best suits his plans for the diocese. (more…)
Organizational unity instead of gospel unity is death. The failure of Christian ministries, be they church or para-church, commences when they lose their direction and become organizations that demand organizational unity over theological unity in the service of the gospel.
We look at the great churches of the past and lament their decline in congregations or worse in gospel ministry, theological faithfulness or moral integrity. However, the same can be said for many para-church ministries set up in previous generations by Christians that today are hardly recognizable as Christian at all. Some even go out of their way to hide their Christian foundations. (more…)
As I write this article I am preparing to give what will most likely be my last Mid Year Conference Talk. It is a sad moment for me.
This has been a week of retirements. On Thursday my brother Peter officially retired as the Archbishop of Sydney. With him the Chancellor of the Diocese Acting Judge Peter Johns has also retired. There comes in life a time for the changing of the guard, of letting go of our responsibilities that others may take up their opportunities to serve, bringing fresh energy and fresh ideas to the tasks.
This is more than people retiring because they are getting too old to do the job. This is the intentional outcome of the training up of the next generation to take over. Christianity will be here till the Lord Jesus returns and so every generation must raise up the next generation to take responsibility and leadership. The church without a youth group will have no family ministry in the next generation, and no old people in the one after that. It is critically important to always invest in the next generation (Ps 78:5-7). (more…)
Should Australians be upset that one of the new ministers in the Federal Cabinet swore his oath on a Qur’an?
This week as the Governor General swore in the new cabinet, Mr Ed Husic, chose to swear on the Qur’an rather than the Bible or make an affirmation. A ‘non-practising’ Muslim from Bosnia, Mr Husic was sworn in as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and Parliamentary Secretary for Broadband.
Swearing is a strange symbolism, by which we persuade and reassure people of our integrity in making promises. Christians should not need to swear for we should be people of our word. As Jesus said in response to pharisaic hypocrisy, “Let what you say be simply “Yes” or “No”; anything more than this comes from evil (Matt 5:37, cf. Jas 5:12). (more…)
I was driving to the dentist enjoying a fun discussion on the radio about “squirmy words” when the awful subject of abortion came up.
Squirmy words are the words that make us squirm, and listeners were invited to contribute their favourite, or in this case least favourite, squirmy words. The list was quite fun to consider. Some words like ‘moist’ were apparently on everybody’s list; others like ‘snack’ were harder to relate to. It was a matter of intuition and feeling; of the emotive effects of words, and of their connotations and even their sounds. Most people couldn’t explain why they squirmed when they heard a particular word like ‘mummy’ or ‘yummy’. Some could be analyzed, such as those that related to different parts of human anatomy, or had particular historical associations for the individual, or were adult words applied to children or children’s words applied to adults. There was much hilarity in the discussion; the presenter laughing, even giggling, at the human foibles that words can elicit. Then somebody rang in to suggest ‘abortion’ as their squirmy word. (more…)
Even in a fallen world there is great joy in living. God has created a wonderful world in which his pleasures seem prodigal in their distribution. At every turn there are more things to enjoy. While sin mars and distorts our joys, it does not seem to overcome them.
Amongst the pleasures of this world are eating and drinking. For God has created all foods “to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim 4:3-4). While endless TV cooking shows exhibit our sinful preoccupation with what we eat and what we drink (Matt 6:25ff.), there is nothing wrong with finding joy in preparing food nor pleasure in eating it. Indeed, food generously and thoughtfully prepared for others’ enjoyment can be one of the great ways of expressing our loving service. (more…)
There was no eulogy at Margaret Thatcher’s funeral.
Some would say there was no good word to be spoken about her, but that was not the reason. Rather it was the funeral of a woman, not the celebration of her life. And a funeral is not a celebration. (more…)