6.11.03

trivializing God
I've written before about Jesus junk, holy hardware and its proliferation. There are plenty of sites where we can see horrible examples of this Two separate catalogues arrived in my mail this week with some awful examples. Interchangeable belt buckles with crosses, fish or doves. Candles with texts on the jar. Some very tacky key racks and wall plaques. How about some "Scripture mints" in a tin? Or what about rolls of "Tangy Tarts," sugar free lollies? Someone needs to be made aware that "tangy tarts" could have at least two other meanings in Australia to the one intended. One is certainly not what the manufacturers would have intended. Or "Bibleopoly," a take on Monopoly or of all things, a Left Behind board game which is described as a classic contest between good and evil. Like a large amount of the spiritual warfare material, it promotes a form of dualism. The reality is expressed in Colossians and many other places, that Jesus Christ is total victor over all evil.

I wonder at the motivation behind this. Take for example, the cross. I passed a jewellery store in the shopping centre with a sign advertising "Take home today, twelve months to pay." It was on a display case of crosses. They were glittery and bejewelled. Some were made up of tiny jewelled flowers. A Christian bookshop near me has men's socks with crosses up the leg. If we are not careful, we might find that Disney has acquired the copyright to such things, along with socks with Tweetypie or Sylvester. Crucifixion remains one of the most painful and degrading methods of execution ever devised. And we debase it to put on socks. In effect, we diminish the value of Christ's work on the cross when we allow it to be used like this.

What about those T-shirts with Christian slogans. The type that say "Just Jesus" or other slightly altered advertising slogans. These usually mimic the colours of the original products. I think these run dangerously close to plagiariam. Is stealing someone's efforts an attitude we wish to endorse?

I have heard it said that such products "redeem the culture." I have doubts about the value of some of these items of culture in the first place. I also think that we often are not so much redeeming as conforming to the culture, something we are warned against.

The standard of manufacturing of many of these items also bothers me. Much of it is very poor. Toys fall apart with little use. Pens refuse to work, shirts shrink. We are encouraged to "do all to the glory of God." Shoddy workmanship and inflated prices don't fall into this category. We should be aiming at excellence. I've heard this so many times it is almost a cliché. It is still true. I think that we have fallen victim to the "feel good' syndrome. Buying such articles puts us in the club. We can identify other christians by such merchandise. We receive warm fuzzies when we purchase such goods. It is an easy out. We don't have to put any effort into our walk as it is all done for us.

This brings me to my last thought. We profess to be followers of God. However we reduce God to our own ideas, what can be illustrated on a coffee cup or printed on an eraser or a tin of lollies. We bring God to our own level and we do it by often questionable means. It seems we have lost our sense of awe and reverence. God is no longer numinous, we have misplaced our idea of the "otherness" of God. Perhaps we have not misplaced it. Perhaps we have decided we don't want that sort of God and have discarded it. What use is a god who is little different to us? We have trivialised God and trivialised Christ's work. We should be ashamed.

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5.11.03

prayer needed, please
My sister-in-law has inoperable liver cancer. She is very ill, extremely jaundiced and totally in denial. She is exceptionally stubborn. She feels that her strong mind, which has gained her several post-graduate law degrees, can overcome this or ignore it. This is what caused the problem in the first place. Two years ago, she was able to convince herself to ignore the symptoms and pain until she developed peritonitis because her bowel had burst. By that stage cancer in both bowel and liver were strongly established. She distrusts doctors and is heavily into deep New Age thought.

My nephew, her son is ten years old and very worried about his mother. She tells him she will be better by summer, although it is plain to all who see her that she cannot last much longer. My brother is trying to prepare him, but, as you can imagine, this is very difficult.

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i don't live in Australia any more
Well actually, that isn't true. I do live in Sydney, but is Sydney in Australia? That could easily depend on the whim of the government, or so it seems.

A boat load of refugees reached Melville Island , near Darwin in the north, yesterday, apparently from Turkey. The government rushed through some regulations removing the island and several thousand more small islands from our migration zone. This prevents the refugees applying for protection. I find this disgusting. The regulations are likely to be blocked in the Senate. While the islands have been removed from our migration zone, the government is still sending a naval patrol boat to deal with the boat and its people. A bet each way, or so it seems.

I'm disgusted with this action and ashamed as well.

Later...I see that Darren shares my feelings.

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I came outside today to a just about perfect spring day here. Clear sky, sunshine, slight breeze. I took my breakfast on the deck outside to enjoy the day and my plunger of coffee. Suddenly there was so much noise, I could hardly hear my own thoughts. About a hundred rainbow lorikeets had invaded my big red bottle brush and were squabbling over the flowers. I'm fortunate that although I live close to the city, we still have native birds living in nearby parks and schools. In fact, since the drought, there are more of them than usual, as they have moved in for food.

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"Its hard for me because I connect with God best thru the intellect. My brain seems to link back to my heart and often when I have been fired up intellectually I seem to come alive inside." I found this at Andrew's blog at Backyard Missionaries when I was catching up this morning. I have some idea of what he is talking about, because I too have those "wow" moments as I see something I hadn't seen before, or as I learn something more about God. My years of study were not dry to me as they are to many students at seminary. I found almost all of them fascinating and I thnk my quote in the year book was something like, "In learning so much, I have learnt that there is always more to learn. God is inexhaustible."

One problem. I don't know too many who feel like this. I know a lot of people who think that such thoughts are just crazy. I feel at home in academia and look forward to seminars etc. I suppose this goes to reinforce that God uses an infinite variety in creation. Life would be boring if we were all identical.

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3.11.03

On Saturday, a friend and I attended the wedding of another of our contacts from our InterSchool Christian Fellowship Leadership Conferences, run by Scripture Union. We have been involved in these for many years and often find former delegates at conferences etc. We hadn't met the bride, and had trouble recognising the groom. He certainly scrubbed up well in his wedding finery. Tim has been both a delegate and a team member at conference, and we are more used to seeing him in holey track pants and ugh boots.

The service was at Engadine Church of Christ and we got lost in the back streets.. Fortunately the bride was late and we were able to sneak in. The reception was at Wollongong, although we were unable to go. It is so encouraging to us to see these young people whom we have nurtured, going on in their desire to serve god.

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It's been a busy weekend. The group I attend moved from North Newtown Public School to another location several blocks away. We have leased the middle floor of a three storey block on the corner of Missenden and Parramatta Roads. It's great to have our own premises but is a huge step for us. Numbers have been consistently growing, particularly this year, and the school was getting too small for our weekly gatherings. It's one thing to be able to start new cells for extra members, but we needed space for our combined meetings. It will be great to not have to pack up and unpack our equipment and I am looking forward to being able to leave things in our own kitchen area and be reasonably sure that they will be there next time. So we've been busy scrubbing seats that were stored in a warehouse and unpacking boxes.

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Last night several of the local churches at Newtown had a combined service. This happens several times a year. Last night members of Eternity Christian Church, Newtown Mission, Newtown Baptist Church and St Stephen's Anglican Church all met at St Stephen's. The church was beautiful and I would have liked time to explore more thoroughly and to have been able to look at the historic cemetery. It was built in the 1840s, quite old for Sydney.

Musicians from three of the group combined and there was a great time of singing. Barry Webb, the head of Old Testament studies at Moore Theological College and author of a great commentary on Isaiah preached. Supper was held before the sermon and people mingled well, instead of staying in their own well known groups. Barry attends Newtown Mission.

What I found especially encouraging was that one of the leaders prayed for us in our move to our own premises. He encouraged people to pray for us as they were stopped at the traffic lights outside the building and for God to use us in that area, near the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and in the middle of an enormous number of new apartments, in renovated warehouses and office blocks. He then led us in prayer for our church. Very encouraging.

People enjoyed themselves and we were among the first to leave at almost 10:00pm. Instruments and food had been packed up, but no one wanted to go home.

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