Friday, July 29, 2016

Why Australia Needs Pauline Hanson!

Love her or hate her, Pauline Hanson is in the political spotlight again after being voted back into the Senate at the last Australian Federal election!  Personally, I don't agree with most of Pauline's views and I am often offended by her public comments.  You only need to read my blog posts on asylum seekers, poverty & justice, Christian values, and interfaith dialogue to get a sense of my political views.

But far from writing her off as an "irrelevance" as did former Prime Minister John Howard or dismissing her as "not a welcome presence in the Australian political scene" like current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Pauline Hanson represents an important voice that needs to be heard.

No, I haven't gone mad!  Nor do I support "politics of fear and hate" (as categorised by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten).  So please stay with me as I explain why I think Australia needs Pauline Hanson...

There has been a seismic shift in social dialogue about critical issues facing Australian society with a strong left of centre voice primarily represented by mainstream media. Tolerance, inclusion and compassion are today's socially acceptable values with any views interpreted as violating these values condemned and shut out of the conversation. Recently, a number of celebrities have been publicly criticised and censored for expressing such points of view.  On the surface this appears to be a positive shift in societal attitude, but below the surface another type of intolerance is emerging that violates the same space that is being defended.  When opposing views are labelled or stifled, robust conversation descends into one-sided commentary that pushes frustrated views underground.  If these views are not allowed to be expressed in respectful public dialogue, no matter how distasteful they may be, they will manifest themselves in behaviours that may have far greater social consequences than offending someone. 

People need to be heard.  Leadership consultant Patrick Lencioni says, "people don't so much have an innate need to have their own way as to have their way considered." Someone like Pauline Hanson has been granted a platform by 587,250 frustrated Australians to have their voices considered.  We may disagree with some of these voices but we need to listen to them.  To dismiss them as 'stupid' or 'bigoted' without considering the concerns underlying their view of reality only serves to widen already deep divisions among Australians.  During the 2013 election, former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson is quoted as saying, "The greater the potpourri of ideas we've got in a pluralist society the better the chance we have of getting good policy out of it."  We will never resolve the serious issues facing our country while we continue to suppress complex views and demonise the people who attempt to bring them to the table for open discussion.

I may not like or agree with Pauline Hanson but Australia needs people like her who have the courage to represent unpopular views that are rumbling under the surface.  My fear is that unless the tone and manner of public debate changes soon, these rumblings will erupt into serious social unrest.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Froome Factor

Every year I spend 21 sleep deprived nights watching the greatest bicycle race on the world pro cycling tour and every year I am left inspired by the extraordinary efforts of elite athletes who push themselves to the limit to achieve their goals. The winner of this year's Tour de France is one such athlete.  

British cyclist Chris Froome from Team Sky demonstrated what it takes to be a champion and three time winner of the TDF.  Despite my own team and country loyalties, it is hard not to be impressed and inspired by the way Froome approached and executed his race.  His teamwork, toughness, tenacity and tactics is what earned him the victor's podium in Paris after three weeks of spectacular racing and the admiration of cycling fans all over the world...


TEAMWORK


Froome is the leader of a strong team that is well resourced, committed to a common goal, and who ride as a single unit to support their leader.





TOUGHNESS


Froome got back up after every crash and pushed on through the pain demonstrating unshakeable physical and mental strength.


TENACITY


Froome abandoned his broken bike after interference from the crowd, running up the hill with sheer determination to hold onto his overall lead.

TACTICS


Froome surprised everyone by his risk taking tactics to attack the peloton on the descent after a tough climb, resulting in him winning the yellow jersey.



Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Who Am I?

While talking to the Lord this morning He reminded me of some important truths about my personal holiness. Far too often I fixate on 'who I am NOT' and lose sight of 'who I AM' in Christ. When I focus on what I am lacking (that is, my sinfulness), I am unable to see what I have (that is, God's righteousness). The former has "[my] mind set on what the flesh desires" (Romans 8:5) whereas the latter "fixes [my] eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith" (Hebrews 12:2). This is not a denial of reality but a view of reality through different lenses. Jesus restored the image of God within fallen humanity through a vision of His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. The present reality is being transformed by the presence and power of Holy Spirit through whom "inwardly we are being renewed day by day" (2 Corinthians 4:16). Therefore, we should "fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Joseph Prince nailed it when he wrote, "It is time to awake to righteousness and sin not. Believe that you are righteous and you will start living like a righteous man or woman of God" (Joseph Prince, 'Destined To Reign').

God's righteousness in me has nothing to do with who I am or what I have done but everything to do with who Christ is and what He has done. Right belief always leads to right behaviour! In this case, right belief is much more than an intellectual understanding of a new reality but an integrated application of this inherited new reality in Christ.

“Righteousness represents the state of God’s character – his goodness, his purity, his character.    We inherit God’s righteousness when we have faith and believe in him.    Faith and belief in the spirit of God’s grace is what constitutes our righteousness."  (Mae Elise Cannon, 'Social Justice Handbook')

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

How To Have A Christian Voice

There are no two subjects more likely to evoke controversy in social dialogue than religion and politics.  Put the two together and you have a melting pot of diverse values provoking divisive ideologies.  Express these ideas in an election campaign and everybody loses their minds!

As a Christian minister, blogger and social media junkie, I take a keen interest in the social commentary involving Christian values and how this is expressed in the current political climate. What interests me more are the polarised views from liberal and conservative Christians who seek to represent a biblical worldview.  On issues of morality and social justice the "Christian" voice is far from united and can leave you wondering whether we are reading the same Bible?!  Added to this disunity, is the lack of respect for each other that sadly all too often manifests itself in a less than godly manner!  I shudder to think of the implications to our Christian witness in a world that needs little reason to reject Christianity, let alone the impact upon our influence in the political arena.

Does this mean Christians should keep out of politics? Not at all!  To suggest that religion and politics are mutually exclusive is naive and misinformed.  Whether or not one professes a religious association, we all hold a set of beliefs that inform the way in which we engage in society.  In anthropological terms we call this a 'worldview'.  It is nonsensical to suggest a worldview has no place in the world where it is derived.  From a biblical point of view, God raised up prophets to speak to leaders of nations, took on flesh in the person of Jesus Christ to establish a new kingdom order and commissioned the church to share and integrate the values of His kingdom.  There is a clear biblical mandate for Christians to have a voice in society, but who or what informs that voice?  And just as importantly, how should that voice be expressed?  

The simplistic answer to the 'who' is Jesus Christ, the 'what' being the Bible, and the 'how' with love.  Ironically, the majority of liberal and conservative Christians alike would agree, yet the end message still remains worlds apart from each other.  As a Christian who endeavours to maintain a posture of grace and truth, I find this immensely frustrating, especially when Scripture is distorted to validate a personal, political or popular opinion. How then do we have an effective public voice?

Far from attempting to offer an authoritative or comprehensive answer to such a complex question, I think the following principles would go a long way towards reframing and reforming a Christian voice in society:



  • Foundation of Scripture:  Accept the full counsel of Scripture not just conveniently selected passages to support an idea that conforms to your own image of God.
  • Lordship of Jesus Christ:  Submit to God's pattern and design for humankind, as revealed through the character, teaching and ministry of Jesus.
  • Values of the Kingdom:  Uphold counter-cultural biblical values in a manner that fosters respectful relationships with those who have an alternative worldview.
  • Posture of Grace & Truth:  Pursue an incarnational posture of humility and holiness where grace and truth recalibrates the centre of Christian faith.



The links attached to each of the above principles provides further insight to how we can restore the integrity of our Christian voice (please take the time to read my expanded thoughts on each of these principles).  

Furthermore, Jesus earnestly prayed, "that they may be one as we are one...so that they may be brought to complete unity" (John 17:22-23).  Holy Spirit came upon the disciples when "they were all with one accord" (Acts 2:1).  Paul exhorted the church to "equip God's people...so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God" (Ephesians 4:12-13) and speaks against divisions among leaders in the church, "I appeal to you...that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought" (1 Corinthians 1:10) - If ever there is a time for a unified Christian voice, it is now!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Election Reflection

On Saturday, 2nd July Australians are going to the polls to vote in our federal election. Throughout the weeks leading up to this election we have been subjected to aggressive political campaigns by both major parties and relentless lobbying by many of the minor parties, each vying for our vote. Promises and counter promises, scare campaigns, character attacks and questions about leadership competence are tactics that have been employed by all sides of politics; but to what effect?

This election has been coined as the most significant in a generation with contentious issues like border protection, safe schools and same sex marriage poised to challenge the social landscape in our country.  That's not forgetting critical issues like education, economics and health care!

As a conscientious Australian over the age of 18 I join with approximately 16.5 million other eligible voters to decide which party is best suited to lead our nation for the next four years.  The question of who should get my vote is complicated and has provoked a lot of considered thought, because I want my vote to count.  This is the same sentiment I observe from many others on social media.  However, there are those who don't see the point or don't know what to do given the options.  While I have never sought to influence 'who' anybody should vote for, I offer 'how' I will be voting as a possible framework for those who are struggling to figure out how to use their vote.  

  • Do I trust either major party to lead with an absolute majority?
  • Which minor party aligns closest with my worldview and values?
  • Whose preferences will provide the best balance of power in parliament according to my worldview?
  • Whose influence will keep the government accountable to the values I want represented in parliament?

From my perspective, if there is dissatisfaction with both major parties, then the minor parties are not a wasted vote.  At this stage in our history none of them will hold power, but they can exert quite a lot of influence in the way our country is governed.  Minor parties and independents who win a seat in parliament contribute to the total number of seats required to pass any legislation presented by the government.  Although neither major party want to govern in this way, maybe it is necessary until we have a government who will actually lead and not just play politics.  

Which ever way you choose to vote, please don't allow disillusionment to discourage you from believing that you really can make a difference.  Make your vote count!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

LifeLines #7

Feeling depressed, anxious or stressed?  

LifeLines offers biblical wisdom as a source of HOPE for today and tomorrow.

 

 

Do not worry about your life...But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.   Matthew 6:25,33


To say that we live in uncertain times would be an understatement!   Whether it's an election campaign that has huge national consequences, economic instability that leaves your family feeling vulnerable, or serious illness that challenges your own mortality; there seems to be plenty to be worried about.  While acknowledging this reality, Pastor Dan Lian made an insightful observation about Jesus words:  "Worry, stress or anxiety is not fundamentally a fear issue but a focus issue."  When we focus on all that is wrong in the world or in our lives, it can consume or cripple us.  But when we "seek first (God's) kingdom" our focus shifts from what we cannot control onto the One who is ultimately in control. Shifting our focus onto God's kingdom provides us with a vision of a different reality and gives us confidence to pursue it in the here and now.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

An Open Letter To Officer Kids...

Dear Officer Kids (OK's),

During and after the Red Shield Appeal a lot of people will be thanked for volunteering their time to collect for The Salvation Army.  While we appreciate and value the contribution of Corps and Community members, I want you to know how much we appreciate and value YOU!

I am a Corps Officer and have two children, now 16 years old, who have helped us with the Red Shield Appeal for as long as they were able to walk.  While they have mostly done this willingly, there have been times that it has been out of a sense of obligation because mum and dad are Officers.  Not only have they contributed long hours after school and on weekends but they have had to put up with mum and dad being absent for long hours.  The word 'volunteer' for Officer Kids often feels more like being 'conscripted' (ask mum and dad what that means).


I see your photos on Facebook out collecting with mum and dad and with other teams.  I see how many days you are at shopping centres, how many kilometres you walk (or are pushed in a pram), and how many hours you spend on intersections.  

I see how tired you look at the end of the Red Shield Appeal weekend with the knowledge you have to do it all again the following week.  

I want you to know that you are the real heroes of the Red Shield Appeal!  



Because of your patience, your parents are able to organise and coordinate the whole Red Shield Appeal.

Because of your presence, your parents are able to give the hours they do throughout the entire Red Shield Appeal.

Because of your participation, your parents are able to collect the amount of money needed by the Red Shield Appeal.



While everyone else is being rightfully thanked for their efforts, I want to personally thank YOU!  On behalf of Salvation Army Officers everywhere who have AWESOME kids just like you, I want you to know we couldn't do it without YOU!  To Officer Kids everywhere...THANK YOU!!

With love and appreciation,

A grateful Dad and Corps Officer



Thursday, May 19, 2016

Legacy of Marney's Ministry

As we celebrated the life and ministry of Major Marney Turner today we heard a number of inspiring tributes for a woman who loved the Lord she served, lived the message she preached and left a legacy in the lives she touched.  Like everybody who gathered to honour this mighty warrior of Christ, my journey of faith and growth as a leader has been significantly shaped by Marney's ministry and messages over many years.

In 1990 Len and Marney Turner were appointed as Corps Officers (Ministers) to Glenroy Corps, which was my home church in The Salvation Army.  Their appointment came at a transition in my life when I was repositioning myself to pursue God's calling to become a Salvation Army Officer. This season was a catalyst for an extraordinary time of learning and spiritual growth for me as I read widely and listened intently in preparation for a lifetime of ministry ahead.  One of my learning styles is to take copious notes to solidify new insights in my mind and multiply their impact to others.  True to my personality type I've kept every one of my notebooks, including those that contain my notes taken from the sermons Len and Marney preached at Glenroy!  

So, to extend her legacy even further, here are some hightlights from Marney's sermons in 1991 that demonstrate the consistency of her message and ministry as 'God's Soldier', faithfully preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ...

"Worship is more than a routine meeting.  Worship is a relationship of love." (13/1/1991)

"Christianity and racial prejudice are a complete contradiction." (20/1/1991)

"Neglect your prayer life and you will go stale." (27/1/1991)

"When we criticise our brother and sister in the Lord we criticise Jesus." (10/2/1991)

"The longer we are Christians the more tempted we are to take God's grace for granted!" (24/2/1991)

"Jesus brought comfort for the disturbed and disturbed the comfortable." (3/3/1991)

"Many Christians have experienced salvation but are still bound in 'grave clothes' - they elect to leave them on."  (14/4/1991)

"Don't lay down your cross and pick up something else." (28/4/1991)

"Sometimes we need to be wounded to be able to bear better fruit." (12/5/1991)

"Apart from Jesus, I have nothing!" (4/8/1991)

"People need to see a resoluteness in us.  We can't compromise under any circumstances."  (11/8/1991)

"Stop playing church and play Christianity (Jesus)!!" (18/8/1991)

"Keep your first love, keep within whispering distance of Jesus." (18/8/1991)

"God gives me everything I need to finish the race." (25/8/1991)

"Don't let the devil rob you of the joy of Jesus - stand up to him in Jesus name!" (1/9/1991)

"We must fight for souls.  We are a SALVATION Army.  The world must hear the gospel!" (29/9/1991)

"Be a soul-active Corps, not a re-active Corps." (29/9/1991)

"There is power in the cleansing blood of Jesus to be an overcomer." (6/10/1991)

"If you are going to bring glory to God through your testimony then abstain from all appearances of evil."   (13/10/1991)

"If you are rejected because of your commitment, then PRAISE GOD!" (27/10/1991)

"Earthly relationships will one day be no more, but a relationship with Jesus is eternal." (24/11/1991)

"It is our birthright to be free from the accusations from Satan." (8/12/1991)

"Christmas goes beyond the baby - remember the cross." (15/12/1991)

"How long are we prepared to wait and remain faithful to God?" (22/12/1991)


Thursday, May 5, 2016

LifeLines #6

Feeling depressed, anxious or stressed?  

LifeLines offers biblical wisdom as a source of HOPE for today and tomorrow.

 

 

Jesus took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.  "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them. "Stay here and keep watch." Going a little farther, He fell to the ground and prayed... Mark 14:33-34


Facing the darkest hours of His life, Jesus experienced some of the most painful human emotions common to anybody who is familiar with the 'dark night of the soul'.  In His distress, Jesus took some of His closest friends with Him for support rather than journeying alone.  In His sorrow, Jesus cried out to His Father in heaven for strength rather than relying on His own resources.  Through the presence of people and the power of prayer Jesus found solace despite the darkness that surrounded Him.  Jesus was indeed "hard pressed on every side, but He was not crushed; He was perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed" (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).  Like Jesus, in your 'distress and trouble' you do not have to journey alone!  Surround yourself with trusted friends and seek God in prayer.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Don't Be A Fool!

On this April Fools Day social media has been saturated by prankster posts that have claimed everything from the CFA (Country Fire Authority) issuing a statewide ban on all BBQ's during summer, to the release of broccoli flavoured Lindt Lindor balls, to the discovery of the earliest Q documents containing sayings of Jesus that are older than the gospels!  While these frivolous posts were meant to be a bit of fun, the speed in which they spread and the nature of the comments they evoked by people who missed the joke only serves to demonstrate that foolishness is not just reserved for the 1st of April.

It staggers me just how easily people are taken in by anything posted on the internet that feeds their prejudices or points of view, without checking its source or accuracy.  It equally amazes me how quickly people share old news as though it was new information without checking the date.  Even more concerning than my disbelief at how indiscriminate people can be is their obsession with passing on gossip, slander and unsubstantiated rumours.  The saying "don't let the truth get in the way of a good story" seems to be the prevailing ethos of social media.  

It grieves me to say this disregard for truth is even more prevalent than the realm of social media!  In a world where gossip is rampant in the church, slander dominates politics and rumours plague celebrities we desperately need to rethink the value of truthful talk.  Regardless of your faith convictions there is some biblical wisdom that would serve us well in this space:  "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think [or speak] about such things" (Philippians 4:8).

Don't be a fool!  Let us try being a little more discerning about what we read and a little more responsible about what we share on social media.