Thursday, December 25, 2008

2008 is Over

So what of 2008. Here are some thoughts.

1. Person of the year: Like everyone I have read, I go for Barrack Obama! He was the focus of the year. His defeat of Hillary Clinton and then of John McCain to lead the greatest nation on earth and in a sense have power over us all, was astonishing. His charisma is phenomenal, his speaking inspired, his presence powerful. I hope he can live up to the hype, one suspects, no one can.

2. Disappointment of the year: Sarah Palin to me is this person. She started with such high hopes, but she was clearly the wrong person for the wrong time. She seems a neat lady, a full-on Christian, but that is not enough in politics. One has to have a certain gravitas and wisdom to go with the passion and compassion; she lacked a little of both to me. She may come back more mature and be a political player in the future however.

3. Kiwi Person of the Year: John Key. He is no Obama, but he took the political scene here by storm. He won well and has shown great character and leadership thus far. It was time for a change. Mind you, he has an immense challenge in the current economic situation.

4. Sportsperson of the Year: I am not going to choose between these people, we don't need to. The Kiwi League team beat expectations with that astonishing win. Fantastic. The Ever-Swindell twins were brilliant, what a victory! Astonishing! The All Blacks were senstational in the main. Yet their redemption requires a world cup, and then they will be recognised. Mahe Drysdale was utterly gutsy, true character and grit. Scott Dixon was brilliant in winning the Inde and the whole series. What a performance from Nick Willis, a bronze in the 1500 in today's world is possibly the most amazing of all. Then there is Esther Keown, winner of the World Schools Cross Country Title...my favourite performance, but I am biased. What a great year for these people.

5. Low Point of the Year: For me it was May with Cyclone Nagis in Burma 2 May 2008 with 146,000 killed. What a horrible experience, may God bless all those still deeply affected. The earthquake in China fell on May 12, the 19th worst of all time, 69,000 dead and 4.8million homeless! I pray that God will reach out again and again to bring his mercy and help. There was the Mumbai terror attacks, the election and problems in Zimbabwe, the South Ossetia War, the Sanlu poison milk controversy, the continued persecution of Christians in India and elsewhere, the global economic meltdown, the recent Gaza Strip conflict. The world is still racked in pain, crying out with groans as in labour. Actually, I just read a book with different views of the Millenium, the post-millenial view which sees the world progressively getting better and better and more Christianised seems a long way off!!!!!!

6. Personal Highlights: For me it was great to get my first book published, 'Congregational Evangelism in Philippians' (see below for the cover).





















I also have news that I can fund my second book, a book called 'What's God up to on Planet Earth', a fresh look at the gospel for unbelievers and new Christians. My wife Emma was a highlight as always. I am blessed to be married to a glorious woman. She is still as beautiful as ever, is doing a fantastic job as rev of Glenfield Pres, and is a great wife and Mum. Then there are my brilliant kids, all fantastic athletes and top scholars; all following Jesus and serving in the Church. So its, hats off to Jesus! I have so many weaknesses but they love me as I am, unconditionally... thanks to you all.

Laidlaw College has sort of been a highlight. Working with students is precious gift, honour and privilege; I love them all. The changes are hard to keep pace with and often we simply have to trust that they are the right thing to do because guys like me don't really know the full story. But the faculty and general staff are, without exception, amazing brilliant people. I honour all of the staff of Laidlaw. I will miss Merv Coates, David Mulholand and Bill Osborne massively as they move on; although one or two of them are still teaching. But we have some great new faculty this year and the College is poised to really impact this world even more.

So, goodbye 2008, roll on 2009... what will happen? Mmmmm.

Christmas 2008

It is truly stunning that God became flesh.

Who would have thought, the one who set the universe in motion, shaped it, selected planet earth in the milky way, filled it with glorious flora and fauna, placed his image bearers on it, granted them dominion, worked for their salvation despite their failings, would become flesh? Not just, a body (soma), but sarx, one with the creation.

He, the Creator of all things, became a part of his creation, to save it. He did not despise matter or the human body. He entwined himself completely with humanity, his DNA forged into Mary's ovum, and became a zygote, a foetus, an embryo and then the child Jesus.

And he did not enter the world as one might expect as a king, a man of power and glory, but as a powerless child of controversial circumstances in a humble Jewish home. What a story!

And who was it that recognised him? Not Caesar, or Herod. The Angels of course did, as they heralded his entry into his world. It was the humble shepherds, ironically for he would become the shepherd king. Anna, an elderly widow; and Simeon, an old man; at the temple. No Pharisees, Scribes or Sadducees were there. Yet there were also those from the east, magi, wise men, perhaps rulers, who came to bow down and lavish him with gifts. They were a foretaste of kings and the wise who would fall at his feet for the next 2000 years. What a story! It is glorious, breathtaking and inspiring.

And who would have imagined that this boy would grow in obscurity, burst onto the scene, not with political force and power, but as a healing preacher. He would touch the outcast, befriend the wicked, hang with unlovable. He wasn't interested in usurping Herod or Caesar, he was interested in serving. Who would have thought that he would be crucified, yet still be the king of the universe? Who would have thought he would rise from the dead? Who would have thought that he would divide history and become the centre of all thought. Who would have thought? What a story?

Who would have thought that a white guy, a decendent of Gaelics, English and Germans, a sixth generation Kiwi Europen, would believe in him? What is it that could cause a lost soul, drunken bum, sports-obsessed, fame-pursuing twit to turn to this Jewish carpenter of the small town of Nazareth, absolutely confident that in doing so, he would live forever with the God of the universe! Such things are beyond me. Happy Christmas everyone, and follow the incarnate King.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Black Caps

In light of the absence of anything decent to contribute to the world, I will make a few comments on the Black Caps that I need to get off my chest.

I really don't get the selection of the Black Caps for the first test against the Windies beginning in Dunedin tomorrow. Here are some questions. 1) Why drop an opener who has just scored 83 against Australia in a test in Australia? That is a disgrace to me. Sure, Redmond has not done that well. But he has shown good promise in England despite not performing in the test. He appeared to come of age in that innings. So why drop him? Of course, it may be because his name is Redmond, remember Rodney? 2) Why drop NZ's best opening quick for the last 10 years, Chris Martin? I don't get this. Over 140 test wickets, bowled well in Australia, if not quite at full tilt yet. Surely, a couple of tests on NZ green wickets against the hapless Windies are just what he needed to go past 150 test wickets. Wierd! 3) Why drop NZ's exciting new opening bowling talent, Tim Southee. He performed brilliantly in the first innings in Brisbane. Yet, they dropped him! Surely, nothing would have been better than letting him loose in NZ conditions against the Windies who have not played test cricket for 6 months and who never do that well in our conditions! Bizarre! 4) Why pick James Franklin? Sure, he is a good bowler fully fit. He is also a good batsman. But he will bat at 8-10, and has not shown his ability with the ball. Surely, Southee and Martin would be a better bet! I don't get it. I do like the move of Ryder to #5 and to Flynn to #3.

Redmond, Southee and Martin are hard done by. The team should be the same as that which played Australia in Adelaide with the addition of Oram i.e. Redmond, Howe, Flynn, Taylor, Ryder, Oram, McCullem, Vetorri, Southee, O'Brien, Martin. If any failed they could make changes for the next test or series. These selectors need their heads read. No doubt Redmond will join the list of batsmen destroyed by the in-out policy of the NZ selectors in recent years. Remember Sinclair, Bell, Vincent, McMillen, Astle etc. Batting requires time and opportunity.

I would still think Sinclair and Bell have claims to be selected.

Having blathered on for a while, I do think we will knock over the Windies. I can't see them competing in our conditions. If they do, it is a sad day for NZ cricket and we are going from bad to worse.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tribute to Stuart Lange

For anyone who is interested, I have attached my tribute to Rev Stuart Lange here. He is a legend! It was fun to roast him....

A Tribute to Stuart Lange, No Longer Vice Principal Community of Laidlaw… But still church history lecturer… so not a good bye, but my way of Saying Thanks to you for your years as VP Community…

Stuart Lange, not Langey; or Longey; or not langgggg.. but Lange! Or, as I like to put it, S.lang… Slang… for good reason.
Stuart Lange, history prof, a man who truly embodies his subject; the quintessential historical prof…
Slightly eccentric, crooked smile, hooked and bent nose… you know he has a crook elbow too, took the dog for a walk, hit the chain, smashed the elbow… Of course the dog was unharmed…
No Surprise, a lover of animals, each year looking after the animals at the Massey Christmas drive through, donkeys, lamas… etc…
Then there is his Einsteinlich hair… kind of a wild man of Southland look… in fact… Stuart Lange
A face a cartoonist would die for!
The nemesis of the liberal wing of the Presbyterian Church… A man who Affirms the faith, in fact, the head of Prez Affirm, head of the Prezie evangelicals, a Luther-type reformer… did you not know? … it was he who led the charge for the Word… someone must write a biography of this man… Stuart Lange… but, long odds on ever becoming moderator
Stuart Lange… A Forrest Gump like runner, once bounding 8 hours over the Keppler Track.
Sources tell me, he ran like a gazelle for the first 2 hours, but the last two were hell.
He was heard to say, man is not made to run that long! Ran with 3 ministers and an undertaker! In safe hands… Stuart Lange
A Shepherd to his flock, here and in his churches, from Tuatapere to Massey, from BCNZ to Laidlaw.
Lover of sheep and people, a farmer at heart, a midwife to lambs and people like, truly obedient to his Lord… Feed my sheep, feed my lambs!
He lost one you know! Last week… but he has recovered.
Evangelist… once learnt to shear sheep to win the lost, learnt Samoan to win the lost… loves to win the lost… A lost sheep kind of man, a kind of father to the prodigals.
Speaking of sons… Father of four, strapping lads, most getting hitched as we speak, pillars of the church… if one can judge a man by his kids… good on you Stu!
A husband of the great Christine, her support through unenviable struggles, but faith won out... good on ya mate.
Brilliant mind, theological extraordinaire, soon to be Doctor, about beeping time!... So, the Rev Dr…
Stuart Lange.
Vice principal, aptly entitled… principal of vice, or should I say, anti-vice… like Miami Vice, only Massey Vice!
Trouble shooter where students went awol of OTT or lost the plot… like doctors who were no doctors… or out of control Calvinists… lots of them!
But always embodying humour, grace and truth…
Stuart Lange
Who rolls his R’s, who plays mean blues piano, who on occasion (so I have been told by reliable sources) wears women’s blouses to church to preach and lead… and that in the middle of the great dispute that racked the church!...
A white one it was, frilly, with white cloth buttons, with shoulder pads! Mmmm, now there’s a sight, Stu in his wife’s blouse with shoulder pads…
You see his mum got Christine’s blouses mixed up when she did the ironing!
Christine joined him at the door, of course she never warned him, not til he was shaking hands…
I am told, that at the door, he was offered the full range of women’s accessories… red stilettos, fish net stockings…
Now you’re talking, that would be a sight, with those hairy legs in fishnets…. Of is it fish legs in hairy stockings… Stuart Lange…
What else does he get up to in his spare time?
Tramper, man of the south, a real bloke’s bloke, but with that soft touch when required.
You know he loved his pijerro… full of hay and fragrance
A Great teacher… I even had him when he started here… took ribbing well… Stuart Lange …
You know he hates clerical clothes does this Stuart Lange… yet one class dressed up in full regalia one year, mitres, dog collars, the lot… you won’t see him in clerical robes, just his wife’s clothes
Stuart Lange
Then there was the class that set up completely in the courtyard… unfazed was Stuart Lange, so he took the whole lecture out there… college was fun back then!
Did you know… he keeps a folder of funny things students say in assignments and exams… there are lots of those… hey, you could be in there… watch what you say!
Like the class who found out his birthday… every answer in the exam worked that birthday into their answers… he likes a good joke, he can take it, cause he is a good joker… is Stuart Lange
Leader of community, full of wit, off-hand humour, turns of phrase, clean but edgy, self-deprecating, razor sharp mind, reminds me of the flight of the Concordes, but with history, or more likely, John Cleese from Fawlty Towers… Basil Lange!
Or better… Stuart Lange.
We will miss you as leader of community, you did well, you were fun, you had wisdom (no surprise for one so historical), you led well, you cared, you knew when to laugh, when to cry, your encourage, your scolded when you had to, you will be a hard act to follow … for you are a good fellow…
Stuart Lange, pastor, friend, mentor and leader…
Thanks and Shalom

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Problem of a Christian Party

How would it be possible for a Christian party to get traction in NZ now? I really have my doubts that it could even if there were the will.

It would require all the Christians to work together, which seems impossible. Look at the current situation with 4 parties, 3 of whom polled beneath Legalise Cannabis and the Bill and Ben party!

Even then, it would require getting 5% of NZer's to agree to vote for them and/or get an electorate seat or two. Getting 5% seems an aweful long way off when the combined vote was 2.8%!

Peter Dunne may get another crack in the future, but he was close to losing this time. Can he pull off another one? Plus, he can't go on forever.

The smaller parties have built themselves, in the main, off disaffected mainline party MP's (Anderton, Dunne, Peters) who have pulled the plug on the parties and gone alone. Are there others who could come out of the mainstream to work with Dunne and the other Christians? They would have to be high profile, safe seat people. Do they exist? Perhaps they do.

Alternatively we go the way of the Greens and avoid individuals and find a set of core policies which NZers care greatly about and go for it. But are NZers moved by such family and social ethics as much as they are on the huge global ecological issues.

Such a party would have to come together with a coherant set of policies. Christians tend to be right wing in their politics because of a concern for family and personal ethics. Yet, Christ I think while not opposing wealth creation, would align very much with the left's view of wealth distribution to care for the poor and needy (generally speaking... a much more nuanced discussion needed here!)

A true Christian party would have to combine Christian family, personal and social ethics. I suspect that is very difficult in today's fragmented church environment ranging from Christian socialism through to a prosperity doctrine. There are such different views of the relationship of church and state where some want separation and others want engagement.

Why not abandon the idea of a 'Christian party' and work within the mainstream parties. Let's resolve over the next 100 years to choose the party closest to our values (always prepared to compromise), join, and work for constructive change.

Election 2008: Is it Fair?

Another thought on the election has come to me.

Ask yourself, is this electoral system fair when a party gets 4.21% of the vote and gets no members of parliament while parties with less votes gets members.

Two parties with less than 1% of the vote now have members of parliament i.e. (0.89 [United Future]; 0.93 [Anderton]). Maori and Act have five members of parliament (2.24 [Maori]; 3.72 ]Act]). Yet neither did as well as NZ First but NZ First is not in parliament at all.

It seems to me that the system is flawed. Sure, those that got one, Rodney Hide and the Maori's won electoral seats, and one can argue that as a result they deserve their places. But I think there is a problem here. NZ First deserve on a proportional representation basis to have more in parliament than all of these parties.

Is the system fair? Then again, life's tough in politics.

Election 2008: How Close Was It!

The election was a closer run thing than people think. I got onto the electorate calculator and did some sums.

The current arrangement on the basis of election night is as follows:

The right included National 59; Act 5; United Future 1. All up, 65.
The left included Labour 43; Green 8; Maori 5; Anderton 1. All up, 57.

Now that looks nice and clearcut.

But think about this. If NZ First party had got 5% of the vote, which is only .79% more than they polled, and National had goe 44.66 instead of the 45.45 they did get, it would look like this (using the Election calculator (http://www.elections.org.nz/calculator/):

The right including National 55; Acts 5; United Future 1. All up, 61.
The left including Labour 41; Green 8; NZ First 6; Anderton 1; Maori 5. All up 62!

According to this analysis, this would have given Labour the chance of leading the nation with the other 4 leftist parties.

Alternatively Maori would have supported the right which would have given the right 66 and the left 57. Indeed, the Maori party would have dictated the government, and it would have taken hui up and down the country to sort it.

Interestingly, the government would be a '4-headed monster' if the right governed or a '5-headed monster' if the left governed.

It also shows that it can be argued that the vote for or against NZ First was the most important factor in the election as it turned out. For those who adhere to an anti-Peters conspiracy, it worked! If there was a plot among some on the right to destroy his chances in the election, it stopped him being king-maker; or as he had promised, queen-maker.

So, heck, it was far closer than people think!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Clark, Peter, Greens

I have to pay tribute to Helen Clark. She is despised by many Christians for her morality and the social engineering of the last 9 years. And there is much to concern us with the liberalisation of marriage, sexuality, prostitution and other laws. I am deeply concerned at the shifts in NZ culture over the last years as we move away from the Judeo-Christian ethic. However, she is not alone in holding these values. Both national and labour have been involved in the liberalisation of these things and earlier issues such as abortion, the greatest social issue of our day.

I think the other side of Helen Clark that we have to acknowledge is her greatness as a leader. She has led through a period of MMP and held together government against great odds. She knew where she was going and what she wanted to do and she carried out. She worked with others and kept governments together with the art of strong leadership with compromise and team leading. She was a strong leader who was prepared to make tough decisions. She lost that ability a little this election, as she allowed the party to play it dirty and was prepared to compromise too far to retain the possibility of NZ First. She was never deposed and gathered around her a loyal and, in the main, a very competent team. While many do not like Cullen, he has done a great job and together they have been resilient and able to take NZ through the last 9 years. She has had stability in her team, a great asset; no doubt due to her shrewd management. She has worked within her limitations. She is not charismatic, but is competent. She is measured. She keeps her cool. She is not prone to quick decisions, knowing the art of buying time under pressure. She finished well! She did the right thing last night, fought to the end, and then resigned at exactly the right time (watch and learn Graham Henry!). Without doubt, she has been the best Prime Minister in terms of her leadership that I have seen. Lange lost his way. Muldoon messed up. Rowling and Marshall lacked the dynamism and strength. Clark has given us a 9 year lesson in leadership. I pay tribute to her, despite being very very unhappy with where she has led us.

On the other hand, there is the story of Winston Peters. To me, his story is not as great. Sure, he has hung in for 30 odd years in politics, no mean feat. He has been a very influential person and has led parties, been finance minister and more. He is astute and charismatic. The problem is that he blew it. He lacked the stability of character and the ability to work with others and in a media environment that is needed in the white hot world of politics. If he had hung in, kept his cool, worked within the system and holding together, he would have been the first Maori PM of NZ (not before time may I say). The Obama story could have been ours 20 or so years earlier. When Shipley was leader and PM for a short time, Peters could have been the man. However, he could not handle the pressure, and broke away. He, like Jim Anderton, Peter Dunn, Philip Field and others, have created new parties which have done ok, but have failed to really gain traction; they will all fade away. Peters has finished poorly. He made a goose of himself over the last year and was exposed if not for his dishonesty, for his questionable ethics at least. He could have been king, not king maker. He had a million times the charisma of Clark, but he lacked the wisdom and character required to lead NZ.

Then there are the Greens. The Greens really annoy me. They are labelled 'Green' but they are corrupted. They are more interested in social engineering than really addressing ecological issues. They are aligned with the left far too much. There are NZers who have a conservative view of morality, who are left leaning economically and politically, but who are not interested in the extremist views of legalising marijuana, demolishing family and family values. They are utterly liberal and have an even worse voting record than Labour in regards to family values. they are unequivically proabortion and proeuthanasia. I say to the Greens, get off the social engineering, move to the centre, and become what you say you are, Green. There are a huge number of Christians who agree with their concern for the environment and the poor.

This exposes a huge gap in NZ politics, a party with the full range of Christian ethical concerns. That is, a passion for family that we see with Family First; along with a concern for wealth distribution among the poor and needy like the left (Progressive, Alliance, Labour movement etc). There is nothing there. All the Christian parties are right wing; all the left wing parties are totally unchristian in their morality. They might be good in terms of social justice.

The Greens should now be able to work with National, but it is out of the question because the party has been taken over by socially liberal anti-Judeo-Christian family and individual ethics. They should be now working alongside national but because of their imbalance they are not. Perhaps it is time for Christians with these ideals to join the Greens en-mass, pick up the ecological concern, the social justice concern and add to it a Christian ethic. They of all people should be opposing abortion, fighting for the most defenseless of all people/humans, the unborn child.

Enough! Got to go to church.

Shalom

The Futility of the 'Christian Parties'

So the results are in for the 2008 election. As it was looking throughout the campaign, National are in control of the country and the reign of Helen is over after 9 years. Well done John Key. He has a tough job, the economy is not in a good state and so, leading this nation, blown hither and thither on the winds of the world powers will be a challenge. Here's hoping that they can manage the economy well through this time and that they can build a stronger NZ.

What really interested me was the performance of the 'Christian' parties.

Here is a little table comparing their election night performances (these are not final, but the scene will not change that much):


National Party 951,145 45.45
Labour Party 706,666 33.77
Green Party 134,622 6.43
ACT New Zealand 77,843 3.72
Mäori Party 46,894 2.24
Jim Anderton's Progressive 19,536 0.93
United Future 18,629 0.89
New Zealand First Party 88,072 4.21
Kiwi Party 11,659 0.56
The Bill and Ben Party 10,738 0.51
Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party 7,589 0.36
New Zealand Pacific Party 6,991 0.33
Family Party 6,973 0.33
Alliance 1,721 0.08
Democrats for Social Credit 1,112 0.05
Libertarianz 1,070 0.05
Workers Party 824 0.04
RAM - Residents Action Movement 405 0.02
The Republic of New Zealand Party 298 0.01

It is disputable that United Future should be listed as a 'Christian' party but even they were fortunate to get one seat, with Peter Dunne only just holding onto his seat. However, I will include this in the discussion.

If we add up the 'Christian' parties including United Future, we have this result:
Overall 'Christian Party' 44252 2.10
With Peter Dunne in Parliament, such a result would get 3 members into parliament total. Now 3 might be seen as a good result for the supporters of these parties. They could hold the balance of power and work in a government, their voice being effective in influencing the political situation.
If we look at these results, the 'Bill and Ben' party and worse, the Legalise Cannabis party, did better than two of these parties. I do not want to disparage the integrity, hard work and genuine Christian commitment and desire to change NZ toward Christian morality; however, sure this is an appalling result. Come on! That means that more people want to see people smoke the weed than see NZ with good family values. I would have thought such a result would make these Christians want to rethink their political strategy. I have said as much earlier in this blog, and I remain convinced I am correct.

One of those parties is related to Destiny Church. About 5 or so years ago it was prophesied that this church/party would take over NZ in 5 years. This was their moment. They have failed to do so. This was a false prophecy I should imagine? It is time for them to realise the reality of their situation.

Surely, it is time to realise that, while MMP does enable Christians to cluster and fight elections in this way, it is not working with the fragmentation and marginalisation of the Christian vote. The vast majority of the votes cast by these 'Christian' parties, while perhaps a blessing to God, were an absolute political waste, they achieved nothing politically. Those cast for Peter Dunne were effective, getting him into Parliament. Those cast for the remainder of these 4 parties are now consigned to the bin of political history. They did not affect the election result, except to make it easier for the main parties to continue to dominate. The main parties results were not leavened by the Christian vote from these. Every vote for these parties aside from those for Peter Dunne was effectively a wasted vote.

Christians need to get educated about how the system works. Unless your party has a great chance of an electorate seat, or can get 5%, in the current system, you achieve nothing politically.

As such, I think it is time for us Christians to think about how we work in the political system. We need to change our approach. The current approach marginalises and renders impotent the Christian voice. The Christians are nicely confined away from the major political processes and then their votes are wasted.

There seem to me to be two better approaches.
1. Work within the main political parties: Christians get more and more involved with the good old Christian principle of servanthood in the major parties and work to see good candidates elected, and for the Christian principles to leaven their policies. This is the approach I would strongly favour. We need to work in the long-term, do the hard yards, learn the lessons of the political process, and seek to change the world from the inside out.
2. Work together as one Christian 'pan-party'. At least in this way Christians might be able to get their voice into the coalition government speaking for family and Christian values. I think there is value in this approach. However, this to me further marginalises and isolates the Christian vote.

The failure of 'Christian' parties to work together is for a major turn off. The well publicised splits reinforce the disunity of Christians in this nation.

My hope is that this result will lead to a change of strategy among Christians. We are called to transform from within and in unity. Let us do so.




Tuesday, October 28, 2008

NZ News

What is it with the NZ television news?

I was watching El Jazeera news the other day on Triangle, just having a coffee and flicked on the box, you know how it is. The news was out that in Pakistan 1500 people had been killed in a raid on a town. 1500! That is half the number killed in the Twin Towers attack in 2001 and that dominated TV for a month or so, not to mention how it has dominated the world since as the US have sought to stop terrorism. Here we have the deaths of 1500 people and I have seen no mention on NZ TV. If it has been mentioned, and it may have because I haven't watched all the news of late, it was brief. I would have thought that this would have warranted leading the news??

You can check it out yourself if you want: http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2008/10/2008102663817338879.html.

I am increasingly of the view that we need to be independent ferrets for the news of the world and not trust rather than relying on the NZ news bulletins. We as a nation are very isolated and self-absorbed. Fair enough to a degree, but we need to be people who know what is going on in the world too. I was disappointed.

I was also interested to watch in the sports news last night that the brilliant Silver Ferns victory over Australia ran fourth after news of the 5 All Blacks who have resigned, that the cricket in Bangladesh was rained out, that the Kiwi's were thrashed in league. Worse, two brilliant international triathlon results were tagged onto the news later on, the wins by Warrender and Gemmell. There is a sexism and a narrow perspective on sport in our TV sports; almost all women's sport is marginalised with the sports news almost exclusively male. There is an obsession with rugby which does not accord with its dwindling popularity as compared to yesteryear. League is over-rated. Cricket is even more over-rated, does a washed out cricket test really warrant running ahead of a great netball win?

The media need to wake up to the fact that half the population are women and that there is more to sport than rugby, cricket, and league. Mind you, I love all three!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Judgementalism of the Church

There is another thing that is bugging me which I must get off my chest.

I recently read a blog in which a number of people engaged in some rather harsh criticism of Laidlaw College, its direction, its past and its decision making.

I have to say that I was not surprised but deeply saddened by much of what I read (not all). What I read there stands in continuity with something that is to me, an outstanding feature of contemporary western Christianity. That is, people of God who assume the right and authority (on what basis I am not sure) who stand in judgement over churches, Christian organisations and other Christian workers. I hear it continually of the church. Pentecostals abuse the mainstream church. Christian theologians slam contemporary worship, the emerging church, tradition etc. Micro-church advocates slam the mega church and churches devoted to growth.

I am appalled by the continuous criticism given out by critics, theologians, pastors, lay people etc of others. I wonder, what gives anyone the right and authority to stand in judgement over each other? Where there is such judgement, doesn't the heart of the Gospel call us to do so with great love; for we know in part, we prophesy in part, but the greatest of these is love!

I spend one semester every year teaching from the book of 1 Corinthians. As I read 1 Corinthians I read about a group of immature Christians who have been converted 3-5 years previously, and who have failed to fully understand the implications of the cross. They are proud and arrogant, divided and factional, judgemental, angry, negative, immoral and destructive in the way in which they are relating to Paul and each other. They are prepared to see others fall from faith in pursuit of their way of thinking.

Paul spends the first four chapters challenging their lack of humility on the basis that they do not fully understand what it means to be 'in Christ'. They have failed to realise that a cruciform life in not merely reliance on the cross for salvation, but a way of life. It is a way of life that involves servanthood on behalf of others, love, loving action from the motive of love for the good of others. He refuses to be judged by them, not even judging himself, but trusting that Christ will do the judging. At this time, his life will be laid bare and he will be saved and receive whatever reward he deserves. He honours other Christians and Christian workers; even those like Apollos that the immature Corinthians are favouring over him.

I think the contemporary Christian scene in NZ needs to take up the cruciform life. Instead of dishonouring each other with our judgementalism, we should work constructively with love, encouragement, strengthening and comfort and build each other up! It is amazing how the impossible becomes possible when bridges of love are built. We continually reinforce the walls between us with our harsh criticism, instead of breaking them down with love. We speak at each other, past each other, and little changes. We forget that it is by our fruit that we are to be perceived and judged. Didn't Jesus say, many would stand before him and say they have done awesome things in his name, yet they will be rejected because 'they never knew him'. The context speaks of fruit!

I really don't get the criticism of BCNZ. I was a student there in the early 1990's and I had the most brilliant education. It was not dualistic; contrary to that criticism. Some of the lecturers had a different eschatology to the amillenial perspectives which are really becoming popular, but they were awesome men and women of God, academics of calibre, who deserve to be honoured in Christ. Some didn't have doctorates, but a doctorate does not make a great teacher, mark my words. More theological damage has been done in the last 250 years by people with doctorates than by those without them! They were people who put people first; always available, always praying, alway reading the Word, always loving. Perhaps they did not have time to be the most academically qualified and published people because they had their priorities right; love first, all else second.

I now have a doctorate in theology, am developing a publishing record and seeking to live out that legacy for Christ. This is to a huge degree due to these men and women. How any one can say Merv Coates, David Crawley, Shiela Pritchard, Bill Osborne, Ian Kemp, David Stewart, John Hitchen, Bob Glenn, Max Liddle, Tony Plews, Barry Tetley, Stuart Lange, John Roxborough and Chris Marshall are anything but jewels in the crown of the work of God in this nation? I will never understand anything less than honour for them. Chris Marshall inspired me, I love him, he is a legend. He was no dualist; through the rubric of the Kingdom trying to heal me of my dualism! He taught me what it means to be a man of God in a place like BCNZ/Laidlaw.

Since my day, others such as Brian Hathaway, Hudson Deane, Gordon Stewart, Nicola HG, David Mulholland, Phil Church, Jacqui Lloyd, Tim Meadowcroft and others have come and (some) gone and they are wonderful people I honour in the Lord. Now there is a new bunch, Meredith Wheeler, Rod Thompson, Martin Sutherland. These people are pastors, theologians; men and women of God who I am privileged to be named alongside!

Going further back I will never ever forget hearing J. Sanders speak at College in his 90's. What a legend. If I am half the man now that he was at 90, I will be a man who can stand before my Lord with honour. Not to mention others like Robert Laidlaw and the Kemps!

I for one do not stand in judgement over the church, other Christians, this college and other colleges (whether it be Life Leadership, Southern Cross or Carey etc). This does not mean that I will not think, critique and challenge. But I will seek to do so with love, grace, gentleness, encouragement; seeing the good in what is done and working constructively for transformation. These are our brothers and sisters and we are a team!

One lecturer in particular came under severe scrutiny or at least his appointment was scrutinised; his name is Rev Dr Rod Thompson. I want to say to anyone who stumbles on this blog...he is a wonderful man. He embodies 1 Cor 13 and the spirit that Paul appeals for. He is a great thinker. He is a great husband and father. He is always warm and encouraging. He is an inspiring leader. He is influencing many to think think think; but to do so in love. He is not judgemental. He is engaging. So he doesn't have a doctorate in those things that some value. So! His strengths are enormous and I consider it a huge honour to work with him and under him as the head of theology. He releases us to be 'us', he challenges, he inspires. Through Compass, he has been hugely influential in changing the dualistic mind-sets of a generation of Kiwi Christians.

I urge us all to spend a long time reading 1 Corinthians and consider how the letter flows to 1 Cor 13, Paul's antedote to the syncretism of the Corinthians; and I believe, the challenge we need to hear (we need to read 1 Cor 15 on resurrection as well!).

It is great to think, challenge and critique; but the way in which we do so is what counts. Though I am the world's greatest pastor, philosophical theologian, NT scholar (hehehe, there's a joke), genius, sportsman or whatever our claim may be ... whatever my glorious list of credentials and ideas on the way the world should be... without love I am nothing, achieve nothing and gain nothing. We are called to work with what we have got for the Kingdom and seek humility.

Have a read of Phil 1:27-2:16 again and again and again noting the call for love to make Paul's joy complete as well! Consider Christ, who went to the cross in service and love. Consider his words that it is by love that we are seen to be his disciples! Let us learn what it means to love.

One more thing. We are in a perilous state and time in this nation. The church is under extreme challenge at all points. We MUST come together in love, honour each other, work together, gently correct each other, seek to do better knowing that our best is always enough for the Lord, and work to see God's reign extended. The key is the Spirit, it is love, it is the fruit of the Spirit.

I believe we need a new reformation; not of structures, but of love. 'Maranatha!' Lord, come, bring your grace to us, fill us with it, cause us to take up our towels and wash each other's feet; cause us to be one as you are one in your triuneness! Come, fill us Spirit of God with love!'

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Who Needs Dan?

As to my earlier blog bemoaning Dan Carter not playing. I heard a rep from the NZRFU on Scoreboard ZB yesterday stating it was Dan and the Canterbury union's choice, not the NZRFU. That being said, I withdraw that earlier comment criticising them. As it was, Canterbury did not need him, slogging out a good win, just.

Nice to see Hosea Gear in the AB's, he deserved it.

That being said, he should have played. Go the Kiwis! Go the Silver Ferns! Go the Phoenix!

United and National

Interesting! According to the Herald Peter Dunne has gone into 'bed' with national (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz-election-2008/news/article.cfm?c_id=1501799&objectid=10539486). This means a vote for UnitedFuture is a vote for the right. It is great that Dunne has clarified which direction he will go in. This makes UnitedFuture a viable option for those who are uncomfortable with Labour and with national but with right leaning preferences. On the other hand, it helps those who want to support the left and Labour to make sure that they don't vote for UnitedFuture. My suspicion is that a number of Christians will go this way, liking the morality of UnitedFuture. The only danger here is the question of whether UnitedFuture get the numbers or an electorate seat to get anyone in. If not, the vote is lost in the wilderness. However, the election is certainly becoming clearer in terms of what the implications of a vote are.

So,
To add to my earlier blog:
A vote for UnitedFuture is a vote for National and vice versa (if they get in).
A vote for National is a vote for Act if they crack the 5%.
A vote for Labour is a vote for Greens (not just the other way around)

Someone read my earlier blog and thought it sounded right wing. Well, that is where the problem lies. In terms of the ethics if marriage and family, for me it is a no-brainer, the right is better. In terms of social concern, globalisation, ecology etc, it is equally a no-brainer, the left is better. Where economics is concerned I am not so sure. It could be we need wealth generation at the moment as we face the recession; if so, we need the right. However, it could be that we need a government that will distribute the wealth to the poor of whom there could be a number as we face this recession; if so, the left may be better. That was the point of the blog. It is a tough call; I am still thinking, thinking, thinking...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dan Carter and NPC Final

So why is Dan Carter not playing in the final of the NPC tonight?

The way that NZ rugby players are wrapped in cotton wool is weird. It is a privilege to play rugby professionally and they should play! Get him out there.

The NZ rugby union shows its lack of understanding of the professional sports world. Older professional leagues like the Premier League, NRL, AFL etc do not do this. Their people play for their pay. The NRL is a long season with more physical toll than rugby, of that I am sure. Yet, week in week out they front. The Heineken cup and other British rugby leagues are tough and their players play. The last world cup saw England and France make the semi's and England the final with supposedly weaker teams with players who played. NZ lost the last world cup because their players did not play.

The sponsors need him to play. The fans need him to play. The TV magnates who support the ediface need him to play. He should play. He should, 'go to work, the work for which he is paid.' He can rest at the end of the season. NZ rugby doesn't realise this, but its players should play and rest when injured. They don't need to rest, except at season's end. They don't need to rotate, they will get dizzy! Rugby is such a high attrition game that the opportunities come when there are injuries. When they are hurt, they rest and recover. Then they play.

I might not go to work on Tuesday and front my students because I need a rest. I might just rotate for the day. I am tired. I need a rest. I will only turn up to lectures every second week, then I will stay fresh, ready for the big lecture. Yeah, that sounds nice. Ah, I will also go for 6 months to another institution and lecture for a few million bucks. But I better have a rest to be ready for that. This is rubbish.

Election Dilemma

Mmmmm. Who to vote for? It seems an easy election for Christians to vote in doesn't it. We have had labour for 9 years and they have continued to dismantle NZ's Judeo-Christian ethical basis... well, what might be called Judeo-Christian??? Anyway, they have had a social policy that has reframed marriage allowing same-sex unions (not marriage directly, but in guise); they have gone against the desires of most NZer's to smack; they have allowed prostitution to be legal etc etc. So, it is time for a change. Simple really, vote to get them out if you believe in God's Word.

Well, I wish it was that simple. To me, while these things are biggies and concern me to differing degrees, there is the matter of economics. Jesus had more to say about money than any ethical issue, social or otherwise. I won't go over the data, you can read it... start with Luke's Gospel and pop into Matt 5-6; 25. Then there is James epistle, 1 Jn 3:16-17, Acts 2-4 and other passages which reiterate all this. It seems to me that economics are more important than social issues. God does not want to see the rich get richer and the poor poorer. He is deeply offended by the oppression of the poor by the rich and the western world stands condemned before him... me included (by the way pray for me, Mammon calls me... I will pray for you too).

By the way, the other complication here, is that a vote for National is not really a vote for better social/moral policy. Have a look at their voting records, they are not much better than Labour sadly! but, they are better. You could of course vote for United and Dunne, but if he does not get in, and it looks like this one will be close. By the way again... I don't see the point of voting for any party that won't get someone in and which is polling way below the 5% threshold... and all the Christian parties are in this place!

So which party is best for ensuring that the poor in NZ are not oppressed by the rich? Which party will care for the needy in a time when we are in recession? Which party will have a global concern for the poor? What about fair trade issues? What about ensuring the right distribution of wealth through society?

So, here it gets interesting. National will free up the economy and stimulate business growth. They will coalesce (can't spell that word???) with Act who have brought back Roger Douglas (never heard a 'bring back Roger campaign'... bring back Buck!). Anywhat, this means things will move toward privatisation and stimulating the economy with incentives for businesses, the wealthy, means of attracting foreign investment etc. All this will serve to increase the already widening gap between rich and poor in NZ. And we are already a world leader here (woo hoo... we are world leaders in something other than teen suicide and rugby... oh, we aren't world leaders in this but we are at cricket... not!).

But Labour are not exactly brilliant in this area either, they have caused the increase of this margin over their term. However, some of their partners are more in tune with this economic stuff like Progressive and the Greens (who are even more committed to dismantling the Judeo- Christian ethic by the way). Similarly, in NZ we have to admit there is a huge problem among Maori's in terms of education and crime. I love listening to Willie Jackson and John Tamihere on Radio Live and they are right about one thing, we have to see this problem resolved, and Maori have to be empowered to do this (b.t.w. We as Christians must be committed to honouring the Treaty which was made in the sight of God). Similarly, one of the key parties, NZ First (don't write them off), have a Maori leader and although he has been given a lot of stick, he is no fool and could be there.

So, for me it is not a simple election at all. Morally, it is clear, get rid of Labour. Socially, keep them? If we need to generate wealth for a few years, National/Act. If we want to see wealth distributed, left.

What is clear is that this election will be a blast and close, the left block vs the right... so

  • If you want to get rid of labour, vote National and maybe Act
  • If you want to end the social engineering (J-C ethic), vote National and maybe United if it looks like Dunne will win... but I am not sure this will change much
  • If you are concerned for economic growth vote National or Act
  • If you are concerned for social justice vote left like Labour, Green, Progressive, Maori... depending on your leanings
  • If you think we need a new leader vote for Key, its her or him
  • If you think we need to keep the status quo as the world faces troubles, vote Labour

Remember that:

  • A vote for Act is a vote for National
  • A vote for Greens is a vote for Labour
  • A vote for NZ First is a vote for Labour
  • A vote for Maori is probably a vote for Labour... maybe not
  • A vote for Progressive is a vote for Labour
  • A vote for United may be a vote for Labour, but could equally be a vote for National
  • A vote for the Christian parties aside from United is probably a vote wasted in the sense that it will not count
  • A vote for Act gets Roger Douglas back closer to the economic power base of NZ... bring back Buck!
Shalom
DMK

Where have you been?

An interview:
I. Viewer: Hi DrMarkK, I see your last blog entry was Aug 19. So where have you been?

DrMarkK: Good question. I have been snowed under and work and have been in a rut, lost interest in blogging to be honest, too much on, loss of interest in life etc... it happens.

I. Viewer: Are you back bigger and better then?

DrMarkK: Bigger for sure. I have put on weight. You see, I like the red wine, and can't help eating a bowl of ice cream every evening watching reality TV shows like Survivor, Top Chef etc. I am a compulsive ice cream and reality show nut.

I. Viewer: As one who has followed your lack of progress over the years, I wonder why a bottom-class academic is watching such pivel on TV? (Is that how you spell Pivel?) Surely, you should be reading, studying, thinking, praying and if you watch TV, watch doco's and high quality TV like Coronation Street?

DrMarkK: Well I do watch the latter; it is not high class, but Emma likes it and I am married to her (and happily). Well, I do some reading... kids books, I like the picture ones especially.

I.Viewer: I see that things are only going to get deeper and better on this blog.

DrMarkK: I hope not. I am shallow. I am slightly deeper than the 1/2 inch depth of most Christianity but find myself struggling to hold my breath long enough to get down much deeper. Still, I will do my best. Anywho... interesting word? What about, anyhow? anywhen? They are good too. Let's start using them. By the way Ian, you are a pathetic interviewer, there is nothing of substance here... I am out of here... got to see Winston.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Nick Willis is Legende!

Nick Willis rocks my world. Fantastic performance. 3rd in an Olympic middle distance event for a white boy from Lower Hutt in today's athletic scene with the dominance of the east Africans in the sport is an astonishing effort. He ran a cool race, trusted himself, waited and came through. He lost the first two and couldn't challenge them for gold, but hey, that can come in London!

Rightly he gives God the glory. God is into running cause he made us to run. He made us to fly and Nick can fly. God sure smiles when Nick runs because Nick does it for him. He is no atheist or agnostic who blindly ignores that there must be a God behind this amazing world, the wonders of humanity made in his image and of course Jesus! So he is onto it. He deserves it. Fantastic.

I know Nick personally. He is an utter inspiration to my kids who all run and are pretty good. One or all of them hope to be running at London or beyond with him in the future.

Steve his brother deserves a mention. Awesome job coaching him, taking a year off, legend.

Not to forget Bevan Docherty and the greatest of them all perhaps, Valerie Vili. She is sensational. She didn't just win, she dominated. That is amazing, beating off the east Europeans comfortably.

It is all good for NZ athletics, Sparc should give it more money! Woohoo!

Go Kiwi. Go God. Go Jesus.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Mahe, the Twins!

Woohoo. What a performance from the Evers-Swindells! They are leg's. Mahe too. What a performance. Magnificent effort. In the traditions of Ron Elvidge and Bert Sutcliffe, fantastic. They make us proud to be Kiwi! Too much to hope for that Rob would do it. Oh well, you can't have it all. Fantastic Kiwis. Hats off to Georgina and Caroline ES... THE BEST!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Religion and Politics

I see there is a poll running in the NZ Herald which asks readers to vote on whether churches or other religious organisations have a legitimate part to play in elections. As I write the poll is running 74% against this.

My initial reaction is to say, get lost! Who says that religious groups don't have a part to play? The principle of democracy is that anyone in the nation can have a part to play. Any group or organisation can participate in the political system. Whether we like it or not, politics is open to all the people and we should, like all people, be in!

It shows that NZ is beset with a dualistic mindset. Religion and politics must be separated! This is a hoax of course. Authentic faith affects all of life and is not just a private vertical spiritual matter. True faith is about all of life and so true Christians will be deeply involved with involvement in the politcal sphere to see it reflecting the glory of God.

This is a stunning result really and shows that we have to work from the inside out to change this nation with its false understandings.

For us Christians, the question is not whether we should be involved in the political process, but how. What is the best way to get involved? How should we act within the political system? What principles and values do we uphold and what policies should flow from these?

I can't blame NZers for voting like this when one considers the confused manner in which NZ Christians have worked in the political system. Christian parties have been beset with inconsistencies, division, naivety and have presented a poor witness to this nation in recent times. They have been narrow in their focus worried about moral issues and not giving a serious view of economics and all of life.

We Christians rather need to enter the political system with great integrity and intelligence. We need to have an understanding of the political system and have holistic policies for all of life. We need to work from the inside out rather than with a separatist 'Christian party' approach. We need to realise that to work for God's ideals in his world we will have to be clever and while not compromising the gospel or principles, working progressively to see the world changed. This means winning some battles and losing some; it means moving towards goals with part victories sometimes despite our concerns as such. It means working with others outside the faith who have similar ideals to see this nation transformed.

We need to raise up a generation of Christian politicians who show the world that Christianity and politics should not be separated and that it is good for this nation if they are intertwined. However, if this is to happen there is going to have to be a change in the way we go about it!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Cosmission 2

The logic of cosmission starts at creation. God, Father, Son and Spirit, created the world (Gen 1:1-2; Jn 1:1-2; Col 1:16; Heb 1:1-3). He formed it and filled it with glorious vegetation and animal life. The process is disputed by 6-day literalists, old-earth creationists and theistic evolutionists and is not the point of this blog, but all authentic Christians agree: God created the heavens and the earth. He placed humanity in this world, male and female, in his image (Gen 1:27). This means, capable of relationship, creative, emotive, volitional and alive. The male and females are to become one, marrying and propogating the human race filling the earth, forming families of love and truth. Humanity was given 'ownership' in the sense of 'stewardship' for this world, the task of governing it and caring for it (Gen 1:28; 2:7).


This creation mandate lies at the heart of cosmission. The 'big picture' of humanity is utilising the wonderful gifts of God in creation and building the world of human society. It means exploring creation, reflecting its artistry and utilising the elements of creation to form a world. It means building community based on the agape of the Trinity, spreading out through the world, filling it with people and living in love. It is not a whimpish soft type of humanity that is in mind however, but a blend of nurture and courageous joyous exploration.

It is thus a tremendously exciting vision of God's image bearers graciously accepting his grace-offered gift of this world and their role as stewards, and building it. Ideally, they would do so within the boundaries he gives. Jumping ahead then, cosmission is seeking to live out the creation mandate of God to care for his world on his behalf, exploring it, utilising its resources, building with all that he has given us with beauty and love a glorious world.

I don't know about you, but I find this extraordinarily exciting. Cosmission!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Reflections on a Trip To England

I am recently back from a trip to England and Wales for a conference. It was my first trip to Europe or GB and it was sensational. This is kind of a few comments and questions on the place and my experiences.

So...
1. How is it that you can be out in the England sun for 6 hours in the height of their summer and not get sunburnt. Quite seriously in NZ, you can do 30 mins in the sun and get burnt worse than I did in 6 hours. I saw one sunhat in 3 days of walking through the streets of London! What is that about?
2. English people ride bikes all over the place. I saw this in Cambridge in particular. But few wear helmets! In NZ we have to wear them and you are kind of frowned upon if you don't wear one.
3. Speed! Rush! I was stunned at the pace of life in England that seemed to increase nearer London in particular. I drove from west Wales to Cambridge via the M4, M25 and M11. I drove about 65-70mph (app. 110-120km) and had to stick to the inside lane watching people fly past me at pace. So I drove with the trucks and oldies! And in the streets of towns, speed. What a rush they are all in. We have sped up over the years, but are slow in comparison, I like it!
4. Expensive! Everything is sooooo expensive. Gas was 1 pound 20 which converts to about $3.50 NZ. We moan at a cost just over $2, yet it is not expensive relatively. More than that, everything is relatively priced which makes the exchange worse. So, a filled roll was about 3 pounds! That is in reality about $8-9 Kiwi. I reckon a pound was in effect worth about $5 NZ in many instances. It seemed that I only had to walk past a shop and my wallet was drained! It is soooo expensive.
5. The Tube! Oh yeah! The underground is sensational. It reinforced to me that we have to develop some form of train system in Auckland, whether over land, underground. It was fantastic to be able to jump on a train, leap off another one, and get out right where I wanted to go! Bring in on Auckland!
6. Tolls. I noticed this in Australia recently. They have tolls on the Sydney Harbour Bridge for example. In England, there were toll stations as well. It is time NZ got back to them as we had them when the Auckland Harbour Bridge was built. We need to bite the bullet and find ways to get money to develop our transport system and eco-friendly transport options.
7. Amazing places. The places I went to were fantastic. Cambridge! Ahhhh! What a cool place! The buildings were amazing. Our oldest buildings appear young beside these. Cardiff Castle is amazing, a family home used 6 weeks a year but so creative. London was full of utterly sensational places like Big Ben, Trafalgar Sq, Westminster, The Eye, Hyde Park, Museums and more.

That's enough for now. Got to go... think more.

Cosmission

I have been thinking of a word to describe mission as I now understand it. The word I would like to coin in 'cosmission'. I am not sure if it is a new word? Anyhow, it comes from 'cosmos' (Gk: kosmos) suggesting all of creation, the world; and 'mission' from 'missio' with the notion of 'being sent'. Thus, sent to the whole world lies at the heart of this new word cosmission.

I like it, because I think it grasps the notion of God's mission. I am increasingly persuaded that God's mission is to the whole planet and not just the saving of people from eternal destruction to eternal life. Certainly it is the latter and I am passionate about evangelism and conversion. This is the heart of the mission for me.

But cosmission grasps the notion of God's big mission, to restore his world, to see human relationships and society based on his character and love, community as we see in the Trinity and heavenly community. Cosmission means restoration of all the world; the redemption of creation, of all cultures, of all societies, of all institutions, of all realms of life including science, art, education, sport, governments and more.

Cosmission is the restoration of all of humanity, all of God's world. What do you think of the word?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

No Criticism says Henry

I heard Graham Henry claim on TV3 last night that he has not heard any criticism in Christchurch. Well I am sure he doesn't read this, but here is some;

Dear Graham,
Until last year I was your greatest fan. I believed you to be one of the truly great coaches of all time and modern era. I forgave your Lions loss as I think you were on a hiding to nothing.

However, you lost the plot last year!

I criticise your coaching for these reasons:
1. You should not have taken the AB's out of the Super 14 in 2007.
2. You should have retained the same combination through 2008 apart from one or two of the weaker opponents to enforce combinations and match hardness.
3. You should have organised some pre-World Cup matches in Europe against the big guns in preparation.
4. You should have played the A team throughout the World Cup.
5. You should have picked Mauger, Jack, Howlett in the 22 for the quarter final.
6. You should have resigned on return from the World Cup.
7. You should not continue your futile rotation.

So, Graham, there is some criticism. You should resign from the AB coaching job now and let Steve Hanson take over.

Are you listening?

Why Rotation is Wrong

The latest AB selection illustrates why the AB's struggle when the heat is on. The switch of Smith and Kahui, the addition of Thompson for Kaino and the addition of Wolf are all mistakes to me. Here we had the opportunity to cement a combination. Nonu and Smith have been in and out over the years and the chance was there to have a third match in a row to continue to develop confidence and combinations. Yet, Henry makes the change again. I think this is wrong. They should have stuck to the A team. Why:
1. It disrupts combinations at a time when these people are all growing in confidence and getting into the rhythm of playing.
2. There is no need for rotation. Injuries are certain to come to players and rotation will come around naturally and there is no need to do this.
3. The interchange rules mean that players can be rotated during games when games are won while retaining combinations.
4. Rotation means that people get caps too easily. This cheapens the AB jersey and enhances the public's disatisfaction and disinterest in test rugby which is now 'friendlies' between the real games which come around every four years. AB jersey's should be the hardest things to get in the world.
5. The Super 14 is a good enough competition to discern whether a person is good enough for test rugby. Test jersey's should be so hard to get, that when they are won, the person will die for the jersey. They are too easy!
6. The giving out of the jersey to people on a rotation basis bumps up their value on the world market and adds to the player drain. A player who realises that they are only ever going to be a fringe player can take the money and run, their one or two caps meaning their asking value is increased. Henry is helping drive players values up and thus increasing the drain.
7. Form comes and goes and if we drop players on the basis of form and not the whim of a rotation system, players will fight harder for their places. Nothing is more certain than losses will come and these players will need replacing.

All in all, Henry is making errors. These changes are unnecessary and I am not going to back off saying so.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Things worth dying for 6: The Spirit has come and lives within us

Christians agree that the Spirit is the third person of the trinity and that the Spirit indwells believers. However, they differ on their view of the Spirit. The common ground is that the one God is expressed in three eternal persons including the Spirit. They believe that the Spirit was active in creation, and that the Spirit is involved in the animation of all natural life, sustaining creation and providence. They believe that the Spirit is at work in conversion, convicting of sin (Jn 16:8-11). They differ on the role of the Spirit in conversion. Some believe that the Spirit causes a person to be saved through irresistable grace. Some believe that this is God's sovereign choice alone and human response is not a factor in conversion. Some believe the Spirit works in the sense of 'prevenient grace' causing all to have the opportunity to be saved. However, human freedom or volition means that some resist the Spirit and salvation and are not reconciled to God.


Some believe the Spirit is received at conversion and that is it. Some believe that the Spirit is received at conversion but there is a subsequent second experience evidenced by the speaking of tongues. Without the speaking of tongues, there is no evidence of the Spirit. Some go as far as saying that without speaking in tongues, one is not a Christian and does not have the Spirit. Some believe in receiving the Spirit at conversion and that the Spirit will indwell the believer and walk in relationship with them. Consequently, believers will have ongoing experiences of the Spirt in many and different ways.


Another issue Christians have divided over is the filioque clause which states that God and Jesus send the Spirit, rather than just God himself. This split the Catholic and Eastern churches at the end of the first millenium.


Another debated area is the nature of inspiration and illumination of Scripture. Some believe the Spirit dictated the Scriptures to the writers and the very words are inspired revelation. Others believe in a less direct process, whereby the Spirit overshadowed the human authors in more general sense as they communicated within their world. Some believe that the Spirit connects with the words of the bible as read and preached and it is at this point that the word becomes dynamically the Word of God.

So how do we work this through?


For me, what is worth dying for is that the Spirit is a part of the Godhead, the essence of God himself in his creation. Similarly, that we receive the Spirit at conversion is worth standing for. This is clear in Paul's writings where he speaks of the Spirit being received at conversion, the Spirit a gift of God sealing us for salvation i.e. God's presence in us. In other words, eternal relationship has begun and will go on eternally. Check out 2 Cor 1:21, 22; Eph 1:13-14; 1 Cor 12:13. Essential to Christian belief too is that in some way the Scriptures are God-spirited, inspired and so authoritative and reliable.


So what is going on in Acts when there are seemingly second blessing experiences? Read carefully what happened at Pentecost (Acts 2); in Samaria (Acts 8); in Paul's conversion (Acts 9); in Cornelius' conversion (Acts 10); in Ephesus (Acts 19). The order varies in each, in some they speak in tongues; in others they praise God; prophesy; see a healing; go out into mission etc. In other words, the situation varies. Hence there is not complete pattern.


I think what is clear is that when we come to believe, God enters our being by his Holy Spirit and is with us in relationship. He transforms our being giving us the fruit of the Spirit. He empowers us for mission. He gives us gifts to share, new abilities. He makes our 'natural' gifts 'supernatural' enhancing them for his use. He gives us a passion for his Word, for prayer, for love for others. When we read the written word of God, the Spirit speaks through it and makes God known to us.


To me it is clear that as this is a relationship, there will be subsequent experiences of this God who is powerfully living within us. He will give us fresh experiences of his presence, new gifts as he sees fit, make changes to our character, guide us in our life and mission.

The argument over who sends the Spirit, the Father alone, or the Father and the Son in some sense, to me is crazy. There are texts pointing both ways and the debate is Christians at their most pedantic.

So what is worth dying for? Not that all Christians must speak in tongues, that is for sure. The Scriptures indicate that not all will (cf. 1 Cor 12:28-29). Not that we all should have the same experiences. Not that the inspiration of Scriptures have to be defined in a particular way; better to stick with what is affirmed, the Scriptures are God-breathed and the sword of the Spirit, whereby God reveals himself through them as they are read and heard. Not that the Spirit was sent by the Father and not the Son, this is getting way too deep. Not that we need a second experience to receive the Spirit; it is clear from Paul's writings that we receive the Spirit at conversion as a seal guaranteeing our experience of eternal life (some would say if we remain in that relationship; others would say, period!). Not that the work of the Spirit ended in some way at the close of the apostolic period so that the gifts we see in the NT are only for that time (this has no support in the NT except a misreading of 1 Cor 13:8-13 as a distinction between the age of the apostles and church and not this age and the age to come).

It is interesting to note in the Scriptures that speaking in tongues is not the mark of the Spirit for Paul. For him, love is the supreme evidence and way (1 Cor 13). For him, the ability to confess Jesus as Lord is indicative that a person has received the Spirit; similarly, a Spirit-filled person will not curse Christ in anyway (1 Cor 12:3). For Paul, the Spirit testifies inwardly if we have received him into our life; that is, how do we know we have the Spirit? We know, because we know! For Luke the mark of the Spirit is mission; the Spirit empowering the person for witness (Acts 1:8). Certainly the mark of the Spirit is not any one gift whether it be miracles (cf. Mat 7:21-23), tongues or whatever.

I should add the reason for this last comment. In 1 Cor 12:29-30 Paul asks a set of rhetorical question beginning with the Greek mē. This construction expects the answer 'no'. So Paul is really saying this: 'Not all are apostles are they? Not all are prophets are they? Not all are teacher are they? Not all are workers of miracles are they? Not all have the gifts of healing do they? Not all speak in tongues do they? Not all interpret do they?' It is plain as day here that Paul did not think all had the gift anymore than all were apostles or prophets! Why people persist with the view that all should speak in tongues is beyond me. Paul did want everyone to speak in tongues, but that is not saying that they would or could!

Anyway, despite this, it is time for Christians to stop allowing the disputed matters around the Spirit divide us. Let's discuss and debate them for sure. But lets stand on the big things:

1. The Spirit is the third person of the trinity that makes up the triune God living in eternal relationship with God the Father and Jesus.

2. The Spirit is involved in creation and the world.

3. The Spirit is at work in conversion convicting and in other unspecified was drawing people to faith and enabling their response.

4. The Spirit indwells the believer at the moment of conversion and faith; the believer is the temple of the Spirit (1 Cor 6:19).

5. The Spirit gives various and different gifts as the Spirit determines to believers (Rom 12; 1 Cor 12; 1 Cor 13; Eph 4).

6. The Spirit indwells, animates, leads and unifies the church as the temple of the Spirit (1 Cor 3:16).

7. The Spirit works inward transformation in the believer granting fruit, supremely love (Gal 5:22-24).

8. The Spirit can be grieved and quenched through our sin and resistance (Eph 4:30).

9. The Spirit inspires people for mission (Acts 1:8).

10. The Spirit inspires the Scriptures (2 Tim 3:16) and empowers proclamation and makes it effective (Eph 6:17).

11. The Spirit is free and cannot be contained in our systems and perspectives except that we can completely trust the Spirit to move in love and goodness and in accordance with God's purposes (cf. Jn 3:8).

Now that's a Spirit worth dying for!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

I don't care

Rattue's column in the herald is right on the button (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/topic/story.cfm?c_id=476&objectid=10513842). He has put into words what I feel. I was asked by my father-in-law who I thought would win in the Irish-NZ test this weekend and I said I don't care. This stunned me. Why? Because it is the first time in my 46 year life that I don't care who wins. Why don't I care? I don't care because I realise that this tests means diddly squat. Why? Because it is not a world cup game and the only chance of redemption for this All Black team and Graham Henry and his cronnies is the world cup.

It goes like this. Rugby have chosen to make the world cup the only thing that matters. NZ has played into this totally. Everything for four years will now go to finding a team that can be unbeaten over 4 weeks in 2011. By this rugby structure, what was the pearl of the game, international rugby, is now merely a time to build for this. This means that it is inevitable that through this time experimentation, reconditioning, rotation, team changing, positional transitions etc, will be the order of the day. It means that players who have 2 years left in their careers like Jerry Collins are no longer of any use. This means we continually have a young team.

It means that other nations send B, C teams down here with rebuilding in mind. It all adds up to, it doesn't matter who wins. Throw into this that NZ retained the worst coach in its history, Graham Henry, that it is impossible to be interested. Why do I say he is the worst coach in history? Because, now ALL that matters is the world cup. We lost in the quarters. Not only did we lose, but we lost effectively because he took the best team in the world by a country mile and screwed them with failed preparation and selection.

So why care? I am not one who is deserting the All Blacks and supporting the Aussies, Irish and English; but I am not interested.

There are those out there saying this is a really important game for redemption. IT IS NOT. It matters not. You see, we could win the next 50 tests leading into the world cup, all by 40 points +, and it would mean nothing. Because, if we don't win in Auckland in 2011, it will be of absolutely no meaning.

It is like the Black Caps last week (see blog below). They had a good first innings, bowled out the English and were 80 for 2 only to capitulate in disgrace and get beaten. All that went before means nothing, except for the individuals that did OK. Who cares about the Bledisloe? Who cares about the Tri-Nations? There is nothing new in them. They go on year after year.

What really needs to happen is a restructuring of rugby away from a world cup. The combination of the World Cup and the European club dominance of rugby politics and huge wealth in the north is rendering rugby outside of world cups of no value. We may as well do what soccer does, and call them, 'friendlies'. Who cares if Australia become dominant over the next four years, which I believe they will. Who cares if we lose or win?

More than all this, who cares when most of our best players are now in Europe. A team with Haymen, Oliver, Jack, Collins, Flavell, Marshall, Kelleher, Spencer, Evans, McAlistar, Mauger, King, Howlett and more unavailable for the AB's is tragic. So, I don't care who wins because it means nothing. It is a rugby friendly. What I do care about, is that Henry should not be coaching the All Blacks and I cannot support him and his team. I care that the best coach in the world is coaching the Aussies and one of the best others is coaching Wales. I care that the arrogance of NZ rugby is astonishing. When will they get it. We don't care. If we still do, we want Henry gone... get on with it! Fall on your sword Graham! But then again, Robbie has gone, so who cares.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Disgrace

The Black Caps loss to England this morning is the worst performance I have ever seen from a NZ team. They got themselves through a brilliant Ross Taylor innings with help from Mills and How into a great position. Vettori bowled beautifully to knock England over. A team with a lead of 170 or so should never be lose on a turning track. To capitulate as they did in the second innings was a disgrace. It was a stunning performance. The performances of Taylor, Oram and McCullum is not appropriate for that level. Taylor can be forgiven. The others needed to bat with some test sense. They only needed to bat sensibly as they did in the first innings and they would have batted England out of the game.

Having said that, they should have been able to bowl England out on that track. I am a great fan of Vettori but he failed. Mills, Oram, O'Brien and Martin should have locked up one end and Dan should have bowled England out on a turning pitch with variable bounce. It is a long time since he bowled a team out to win a test and this was his chance.

So all in all, they failed and they failed badly. Looking back, the recent test series in NZ was lost in a similar way as we turned around excellent positions and capitulated. It is a total disgrace!

All in all, it was the greatest embarressment in recent years. England are not a great side, but we are worse. There needs to be a serious culture change in this team!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

South African Rugby Common Sense

I hear today that the South Africans have decided that they will pick players from the European rugby competition. I think this is a huge decision. I think it is bold and common sense in a professional world. I think we need to join them in this, but not quite yet. What we need to do down here in NZ is get the Super competition and test program sorted and then we will be in a position to open the door. We need to have a Super program that runs from Feb until June, double round. This is the professional program. We need to open it up to private backing to increase the wealth in the program. We need to set in place very good regulations so that the AB's can have the players they want for their program. We need to let players play anywhere in the world and be available for the World Cup. It will weaken NZ rugby to an extent but who cares. The tests between world cups mean nothing, the last world cup proves it. We need to go the way of soccer. Our best players will get better playing in Europe, and when they come together they will be brilliant. We are at the turning point where the best All Blacks put together in Europe will soon be better than the best here. At that point we HAVE to allow it. Let the game go professional. Get our own program sorted so there is good money here and good opportunities. Not all our players will go anyway, they have a limit on money over there and will block them when their rugby starts to have too many overseas players. So... get things sorted here, then let it go.

Survivor Micronesia

Interesting program Survivor. I admit I love it. I love it because I imagine myself playing it and would love the challenge. I love it because of the psychology of the program. This one was unique in many ways with the girls banding together to get rid of the guys one by one and then battle it out. They were helped by two competitors being knocked out through injury including crowd favourite James. Two competitors were utterly blind-sided and sent home with immunity idols in their bags unplayed. Mad! Then Erik handed over immunity to one of the girls to show his commitment to her; only for the girls to vote him out. He was both naive and mad!

The final showdown came down to the Parv and Amanda. I would have liked Amanda to win but she blew it in the final speeches failing to impress with her speeches. On the other hand Parvati demonstrated that she had played the better the game and deserved to win.

The Fans vs Favourite format was inspired. The Fans were never going to win though as most of the fans were awe-struck by their heroes and by the time they got organised the fans had the game sown up.

I love the show... all except the whole $1m thing! It is a bit of a worry someone winning $1m for a TV show.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Porn? Ok or not?

Christians and porn: OK or not OK?
Copyright: DrMarkK
The purpose of this brief discussion is to enquire as to whether there is a problem with a Christian (usually a male), or anybody for that matter, engaging with porn; whether it be through movies, internet, magazine or other source.

Some would argue that it is not a problem as it is just another form of entertainment, does not involve actual adulterous relationships and is about visual experience and fantasy.

I would argue strongly that this libertine approach is flawed at a number of points and that if we understand God, Christ, humanity and biblical revelation accurately, we would take the position that porn and engaging in porn is dehumanizing and a sin against self, others and God.

1. Porn and adultery
Jesus in Mt 5 says this of adultery:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. “

Jesus here is critiquing the commonly held view of adultery as active engagement in sexual relationships that violate the marriage relationship. Rather than just active physical engagement, he is telling his hearers that adultery begins in the heart and to even look with sexual desire on another is a violation of the spirit of the command. So adultery begins in the heart and what is done physically is just an outworking of the problem. He warns that this is sin and people of the Kingdom should renounce even the attitude of adultery. The natural reading of the text is that to fail to do so is to face eternal judgement.

While technically adultery can be distinguished from fornication (pre-marital sex), homosexuality and other sexual sins; I would argue here that Jesus’ words apply to all manner of sexual immorality. In Mk 7:19-21 Jesus states that all sexual immorality is evil and this command on adultery is essential to all sexual sin. If then we apply this teaching to porn, it is apparent that when a person engages in watching porn, fantasizing and being sexually aroused through it, they are committing adultery. They are looking with lust at another or others and are sexually aroused through the associated fantasies. It is thus incongruous with being Christian and so, Christians should renounce all interest in pornography and not do it. It is adultery. If the person engaged in doing this is married, they are violating their marriage vows. It is no less in Jesus’ eyes than sleeping with another person.

2. Porn and Relationship with Christ
In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Paul warns the sexually immoral that they anyone who is sexually immoral (porneia) will not enter the Kingdom of God. Also mentioned in this passage are homosexual relationship whether active or passive and adultery, in the technical sense of marriage violation. This text teaches that those who continue to engage in sexual encounters and are unrepentant will be in danger of eternal separation from God.

As the chapter unfolds Paul addresses the matter of sexual relationships with prostitutes. Paul expressly states that to engage in sexual immorality is a violation of one’s own body. It is also a desecration of the purity and sanctity of the relationship one has with Christ. He says, ‘should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!’ This is because in doing so, one becomes ‘one flesh’ in Genesis marital terms with the person (cf. Gen 2:24). The person engaging in sex with the prostitute becomes one with her! Paul’s response in v17 is unambiguous: ’flee sexual immorality.’ He goes on to say that body is the temple of the Spirit and as such when we engage in such illicit sexual relationships we grieve and violate the Spirit. Rather, we should glorify God with our bodies.

Applied to pornography and knowing that adultery comes from the heart, watching porn is a violation one’s own body. It is a violation of Christ and the intimate relationship one has with him. It grieves him and dishonours him. It violates the relationship one has with the indwelling Spirit. As such, it is a crime against the triune God. Christians should be like Joseph when faced with any sexual sin, they should flee it! If they cannot stop the compulsion, they need prayer and counselling to overcome in Christ this problem. They must bar themselves from access to internet site through adequate software and make themselves accountable to others. Where a marriage is concerned, it is a violation of the marriage covenant as one seeks oneness with another, even if just an image.

3. Porn and the Image of God
Lurking beneath all this is the idea of people as being made in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27) and being children of God. When one looks at another person lustfully they violate the other person’s humanity, objectifying them and dehumanizing them. Rather than honour them as image bearers, sisters or brothers and creations of God, they become an object of lust and self-gratification. This violates their integrity as precious image bearers who we are to love and honour in purity.

Behind every porn image is a real person who is being exploited and violated by the huge porn industry to make money for someone. Somewhere a woman, man of more was in a room before cameras engaging in sexual activities for money and to please viewers. They are real people having real experiences, however faked to stimulate the viewer. It is thus a violation of God’s image and so of God himself. It is dehumanizing and a disgrace to God.

4. Porn and the sex industry
Porn is a huge industry. By far the dominant use of the internet is through internet porn. The porn industry exploits attractive young men and women, abusing their humanity, for the purposes of stimulating the sinful desires of fallen humanity and material gain. When we use porn we are supporting an oppressive satanic structure that exploits people sexually and materially, Not only are we engaging in dehumanizing others, objectifying them; but we are supporters of an oppressive satanic regime. The porn industry relies on those who will watch their products. We must reject involvement in this satanic and oppressive regime.

5. Porn and Lust
Sexual desire is a wonderful gift from God as is sex. The scriptures clearly tell us that sexual relationships are a gift from God to be enjoyed within heterosexual, faithful, loving marriage relationships. Sexuality is a wonderful means of expressing intimacy, celebrating oneness and procreation. The Scriptures also tell us that the Fall has seen a distortion of all of human existence, warped and marred by sin. Human desire is part of this; all of us are sexually fallen. This is often expressed in sexual desire, the distortion and corruption of what is beautiful; whereby natural positive and God-given sexual desire becomes distorted. People express their sexuality falsely outside of the marriage relationship in all sorts of ways. Porn is one example. Purveyors of porn seek self-gratification through the thrill of satisfying their personal lusts through objectification and fantasy. It distorts what it means to be human. It is a selling out to personal gratification at the expense of others. It is sin.

6. Porn and Male Sexuality
Men are particularly vulnerable to porn. Men are usually quickly aroused through image and fantasy. Porn is a particular problem for men. Christian men are no less vulnerable to this than any other human. On the other hand the power of God is available to men through the Spirit who can help a person overcome through the spiritual fruit of self-control. Men must learn the skill of refusing to be drawn by image to fantasy, from desire to sin. Men must learn to refuse to go there. Porn is seductive and it is easy to justify it on the basis that it is not hurting anyone, is merely image and not active engagement. We must resist such false self-justification and be utterly dedicated to refuse to engage in any situation which will excite us sexually except with our marriage partners. Those who are single need to find positive means of expressing themselves physically through exercise and renunciation of sexual objectification through media and through dehumanizing those they encounter on the road of life.

7. Porn and Marriage
When a married person engages in sexual gratification using porn it is adultery. It is a violation of the marital vows whereby one gives oneself wholly and exclusively to their spouse. To fantasize over another human body whether in real terms or as a visual image is a violation not only of oneself and the other person, but one’s spouse. It is a betrayal of one’s loved one. One can argue that it is less than the act of sexual activity with a real person, but it fails to account for the fact that it is a physical experience involving a real person who has been filmed for this very purpose. It is porneia in Matthew 19 terms and a breaking of the marriage covenant. When we gave ourselves over to our spouse at the marriage ceremony we in effect resolved to have eyes for no-one except our spouse. Any straying whether in the direction of an image or whatever violates the sanctity of the marriage bed. When our sexual desire is directed to a married person, we not only violate the object of our relationship, but we violate that person’s spouse, sinning against them as we covet their wife/husband. There is so much at stake when we sin sexually!

8. Porn and Satan
When one allows a desire that is contrary to God’s will, one opens oneself up to the potential of demonic oppression. This is possible with any sin whether it be material greed, anger or sexual lust. Satan feeds on these opportunities and will seek to take the opening and bring us to a point of addiction. Hence, we need to address this issue quickly and decisively and not allow Satan a foothold into our lives. There is great danger in flirting with this area. It is not unsurprising when a person moves from porn to sexual engagement with others. This is particularly so with sins that is a distortion of natural parts of being human. Eating disorders have the same potential, gluttony leading to the problem of food addictions and other disorders through a blend of sin and Satanic oppression.

9. Porn and Grace
Having said all this, porn is not the unforgivable sin. All of humanity is sexually fallen and many men in particular, struggle with image and sexual objectification. In this age, we are literally bombarded with image. Sexually explicit material is found on free-to-air TV, in music videos and the movie industry. Provocative images are everywhere. Hence, it is almost inevitable that many men particularly with vulnerability in this area, will struggle with sexual desire and stray in this area.

Hence, we need an atmosphere of grace and means by which people can share their experience, be accountable to each other, find forgiveness, experience grace and grow from their failures. We need to allow people space for repentance and confession in this area and to make progress. When one or other in a marriage finds their partner falling in this way; while great hurt will be experienced, the church needs to be prepared to help, guide a person to recovery. Great self-control is required for those with a weakness in this area and safeguards need to be put in place. Care needs to be taken in watching TV, movies; protection needs to be set in place on computers. People need mutual accountability. Men’s ministry fellowships can be great contexts whereby such issues are brought to the surface, prayed through, counselled and support given.

Conclusion
It seems to me that there is absolutely no doubt that authentic Christianity should reject pornography and viewing it. We need to be men and women of self-control in the area of sexuality. We need to recognize the sanctity of sexual purity and be devoted to it. Where we have a weakness in this area we need support, accountability, grace and self-control. As the church we need to proclaim a gospel of sexual purity while preaching grace, forgiveness and restoration. We need counselling and support to be available in these areas. Those who are single have unique challenges and need support and encouragement in single-celibacy. Those who are married have to be utterly dedicated to no sexual relationships of any sort (including porn), outside of their marriage vow. We need to recognize that to engage in pornography is a sin against oneself, against the object of our desire, against our Lord, against the Spirit who lives within us.

So, if you have fallen prey to porn of any sort, do what Paul says and ‘flee immorality.’ Confess to God your problem. Share it with someone you trust to get counsel. And tell your spouse, get it sorted before it becomes more than a mere image problem and your sexuality is distorted. One of the other problems of sexual sin is that it damages us and leaves us broken sexually and often our marriage sexual relationship suffers. You will need healing which will involve prayer and counsel. You may need prayer for demonic oppression and the infilling of the Spirit to replenish you spiritually. Remember that God is the great healer and restorer and there is nothing he cannot deal with.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Things Worth Dying for 5: Jesus death and resurrection is our salvation

The heart of Christianity is the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is through the death and resurrection that we are saved. In some mysterious way that transcends our ability to explain, this death of a man saves those who will believe in Jesus.

There are many ways of understanding this. It is a reconciliation of God and humanity. It is the justification of humanity, in which those who believe in Jesus are declared righteous before God, not on the basis of their merit or goodness in any way, but because Jesus has taken their punishment and their separation from God on their behalf. It is a propitiation in which the wrath of God is averted. It is an expiation in which those who believe are cleansed of sin. He is our representative, standing in the place of humanity as God the man and we are saved "in Christ". He is our substitute, dying on the cross in our place, taking our punishment. It is our adoption, in which we are adopted as the children of God. It is our regeneration or rebirth in which we die in Christ and are raised to new life in him, born again from heaven above to live with God forever. It is our sanctification in which we are declare pure despite being impure, and so called to live our of this purity a life of sanctification. It is our recreation, where we are inwardly born anew as a new creation, created in Christ to do good works. It is the conquest of God over evil, over sin, over law which reveals sin and over death. It is our resurrection, Jesus' resurrection from the dead the first fruits of the glorious harvest of the resurrection of the faithful to everlasting life. It is our entry into the Kingdom, the realm of the King. It is the moment of our incorporation into the community of God, the church visible and invisible, the people of God from creation to the present, his body, the temple of the Spirit. It is life, the overcoming of death. It is the fusion of heaven and earth, the restoration of God's ideals, Eden restored. It is atonement, the coming together of God and humanity, the covering of sin. It is our example, Jesus' sacrifice, suffering and death, our example of supreme living and love. We are to emulate this servanthood, laying down our life for the mission of God to see every person come to know his love and be reconciled to him; and to see his world become what he dreams it could be. I could go on and on!

Over history theologians have grappled with this issue, what does the cross mean, what is it's core. Some go for penal-substitution; some for reconciliation; some for representation; some propitiation; some justification... It is fair enough to grapple with this and to work through the meaning of the cross. It is good to look at it from every perspective, for it is like a diamond that has many faces and it is truly beautiful. But let's not fall into conflict about it; where people genuinely acknowledge that this is the only means of salvation for all humanity, they acknowledge Christ as saviour through the cross and resurrection, they are saved.

For me, this is worth dying for!