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Archive for July, 2008

I thought I’d stray away from the big issues in politics, theology and the like for just a moment with an unexpected change of pace. The following is an abstract poem I wrote (about 10 mins ago). I’m no connoisseur of fine poetry, but I find it is a great way to express emotion in a rather secluded way, as readers have to work through the words to discover the meaning carefully hidden underneath:

I roam the plains by night,

Stealthy, silent, watchful

As the leopard stalks its pray

Yet no prize kill under steely jaw

I walk empty handed

 

Ah, the blanket of night

Casts me in shielding darkness

Thickly envelopes my soul

A soul so tortured,

so plagued with deeds most foul

that he dare not show his face

 

And now living under new moon’s sky

Hounded; a slave to the night

Accursed; living for my own

Grotesque being, spurning that

Which dwells beyond the sallow sands

Under the starless sky

 

Aghast! A light that shines so piercing,

Penetrating my darkest soul,

Exposing senseless lies

What warmth, what healing light

Doth bring

Wounds closing; eyes seeing;

Soul melting like snow in

First green

 

A wretched being girt by dazzling bright

As ancient He with clothes of gold

Carries me with wounded hands

To greenest pastures

Beyond the starless sky

 

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Ah, those crazy charismatics.

I say that with endearment and fondness – many of my friends hail from the hand-raising, loudly-exclaiming, music-making regions of Christiandom, most of whom (as far as I can see) are mature, passionate followers of the Lord Jesus with a zeal that puts many stiff-collared evangelicals to shame.

However, there is a side to this somewhat savvy version of Christianity that makes me uneasy. I was listening to LiveFM a few months back, and ‘Enjoying Everyday Life’ with Joyce Meyer came on. Fiddling for my volume nob whilst trying to steer my car, I listened as she rallied the crowd, reciting various Bible verses in her heavily-accented twang then following them up with a ‘Can I get an ‘amen’!’, to which the crowd responded with raucous cheer and applause. It all seemed to be going quite well, until she came out with a real doozy that stopped me quickly in my tracks.

‘Christ died so you could have a better life!’

Um, no he didn’t.

‘Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God’ (1 Pet 3:18). Christ, out of sheer mercy, died for wretched, sinful, hell-bound humans to reconcile us to God. No mention here of Christ’s death somehow making our earthly lives more cushy.

But what does the rest of the Bible say about the Christian life?

According to Jesus, far from being a comfortable, prosperous life now, ‘Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me.’ (Mark 13:12-13).

We Christians are citizens of a future world, impregnated with the very presence of God through the Holy Spirit, passing through a world that is actively rebelling against Him. It stands to reason then that we, as ambassadors of a God that the world rejects, should expect to face many trials and persecutions in this life. Indeed, 1 Pet 4:12-13 says, ‘dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.’ [emphasis added]

Friends, the Christian who expects comfort, prosperity and ease from his Earthly life is destined for utter disappointment. The gospel is not merely something we ‘add’ to our lives to enhance our sense of fulfillment, a ‘self-help’ strategy that we call on when the going gets tough to make this life just that little bit easier. Such a way of thinking about the gospel is blatantly irreverent and me-centred and represents a grave misunderstanding of the nature of human sin. Without the gospel we are in utter freefall, doomed by our own unrelenting sinfulness to plummet towards death and Judgement. And, it is perfectly right and just for God, in his sheer holiness, to condemn us to such a bleak and hopeless eternity. But because of His tender mercy, he chose to bear the cross for us so that we may be reconciled to him and share in his glory.

So then we are called to rejoice! (‘Can I get an ‘Amen’!’). But the part that doesn’t fit quite so nicely into the emotionally-charged charismatic sermon is this: We are to rejoice not only in blessing but in trial. ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.’ (James 1:2-3). Trial is never an easy alternative to comfort. But as Christians, we are called not only to endure such times, but to genuinely and wholeheartedly rejoice when we partake in the sufferings of Christ.

‘You will face temptations and trials! The world will scorn and reject you! You may well live a destitute life of many sorrows, facing persecution at every turn…Can I get an ‘Amen’!!’

Hmmm…doesn’t have the same ring to it. But unless we understand this, we will never understand the nature and purpose of suffering. The Lord is gracious and will enable us to endure if we trust in Him – but we must sail on and be prepared to weather life’s storms before we can set foot on the promised land beyond.

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Just thought I’d publish my response to an essay Keagan posted about Zimbabwe on his blog:

http://blog.chiscorp.com/category/personal/politics/

I recommend you read it, and continue to pray earnestly for this troubled country, that God would uphold His saints there, deliver the people from poverty and violence and bring Mugabe and his despicable Zanu-PF party to justice.

Some very complex, difficult issues there. As a Christian, I can relate to such problems on a spiritual level, knowing that God is sovereign, ultimately just and will soon silence such evil, punishing the guilty forever. However as an Aussie who has grown up in safety, security and relative affluence, I cannot even comprehend what it must be like to feel unsafe and persecuted in your homeland, and to have to make a completely new start in a country like Australia, only to be continually reminded of the turmoil in your country on the evening news. Particularly frustrating must be the fact that Rhodesia was once one of the most prosperous, affluent African nations and in 30 years has descended into genocide, poverty, starvation and utter chaos, all because its leader and his party (originally instated by the west, ironically) has become mad with power, transforming a former democracy into one of the most despicable autocratic regimes in the modern era.

I, like many other Christians, continue to pray earnestly for Zimbabwe, for the welfare of the people (particularly the persecuted church) there, and that a democratic government would be installed and that these inhuman perpetrators of evil would be brought to justice.

I still don’t know where I stand on the issue of sentencing Mugabe and Zanu-PF to death. Its true, life sentences would fail to adequately pay for the crimes they have committed, but only the Lord is worthy to carry out death and final judgement. 

I think military intervention is the only option left. Economic sanctions is a pathetic attempt on behalf of the indifferent west to respond to political pressure to act. The UN needs to rise above its current status as a mere good-intentioned, tepid body of the affluent west and use its available resources to apply real military force, to detain Mugabe and Zanu-PF officials (and subject them to a Nuremberg-style trial), establish a democratic, elected government (most likely under Morgan Tsvangirai) and establish some semblance of economic stability (using the resources of the UN and associated humanitarian organisations). Once a stable government is established, Zimbabwe can focus on rebuilding its fledgling economy, attending to its crumbling infrastructure and re-establishing a sustainable agricultural sector that will propel the country towards economic self-determination. This is no longer an issue of race – but an issue of economic sustainability and political stability – and whether that involves a white or black farmer or MP is completely irrelevant. If a white man with agricultural experience establishes a successful farm and contributes to the rebuilding of the Zimbabwean economy then let him continue to farm. Let’s end this racial nonsense that has lead to the demise of so many fomerly prosperous African nations. The so called ‘war veterans’ have failed. It’s time to usher in a new era of accountability and diplomacy.

But until this happens, I will continue to pray.

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