Thursday, August 31, 2006
Purchasing, otherwise known as Shopping
They were explaining our itinerary for the day to us and they said "there will be some time for purchasing in the afternoon." We didn't know what the heck they were talking about.
Come the afternoon, as we were wandering through the shops of downtown Trivandrum, it occured to us that 'purchasing' was what we would call 'shopping'.
Well this last week has been an epic week for me in a purchasing sense.
For my birthday next week, it was decided that I could purchase a new hiking pack as my old one is over 10 years old and has been to 9 different countries. Now although that sounds pretty impressive, the pack itself was a fairly cheap pack that was never particularly comfortable.
So with the permission of the purchasing officer, I set off to explore the world of hiking packs.
I have a fairly good knowledge of hiking packs, they have always interested me and I have long dreamed of buying a new one.
After much internet research, last Sunday I drove around to 5 camping shops, to peruse their wares.
I came home a bit disenfranchised.
What I wanted was a cheap, good quality pack, that had all the features that I wanted.
What I found was that it was impossible to put those three things together in one package.
Cheap packs are made from cheap materials and have cheap uncomfortable harnesses.
Good quality packs are expensive.
So I had to make a decision.
I ultimately chose to adjust my requirements, to get a more basic pack.
But I chose to go with quality over cheapness.
I decided that in this instance, it was better to spend more money on a product that would last for another 10 years rather than a cheap alternative that wouldn't.
I also decided to buy Australian (and Melbourne) made, One Planet
being the only Australian made hiking packs.
When I am shopping or purchasing, my buying decision is shaped by the cost/quality debate. That is first and foremost in my mind.
The question is, what reference points do we have when we are purchasing?
What informs your purchasing?
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
The Rise of Neo-Fundamentalism
Sorry I haven't had a chance to post in a little while.
I found a very interesting discussion going on Scot McKnight's 'Jesus Creed' blog.
It is about the rise of what he terms, Neo-Fundamentalism within the church.
His first article looks at the rise of Neo-Fundamentalism and what he sees as the eventual results of it for the church and for the individuals involved.
His second article looks at what he sees as the driving forces of Neo-Fundamentalism.
Here is what he sees, check out his blog for the full breakdown:
Here’s my thesis: the core driving force of Neo-Fundamentalism (like the old) is a remnant mentality. That is, it believes the following:
1. That it alone remains true to the fullness of the gospel and the
2. That the Church worldwide is hanging on a precipice and will
soon, if it doesn’t wake up, fall from the faith.
3. That the solution to this nearly-apocalyptic church situation is to
tighten up theological stands and clarify what is most central
and most important for the Church today.
4. That the major problems are theological drift, church laxity, and
evangelical compromise with either modernity and/or
5. That it is “Neo” because it arises within Evangelicalism today and
will either break from it or seek its widespread reform — and
therefore its particular characteristics are determined by
contemporary Evangelicalism. E.g., it isn’t really concerned
about dancing and movies and “mixed bathing.”
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Miracles, part 2
So much for my busy posting schedule.
For my class yesterday I was reading chapter 5 of Thomas Rausch's book, Who is Jesus? and came across a quote that I thought was a helpful addition to my previous post on the topic of Miracles.
Chapter 5 explores "The Preaching and Ministry of Jesus." It looks at the three strands of Jesus' teaching, his sayings, his parables, and the image of the kingdom of God.
He begins by looking at the sayings of Jesus.
Many New Testament scholars would postulate that not all of the sayings attributed to Jesus were actually unique to Jesus. Some would have been popular proverbs at the time that either Jesus himself used, or were later attributed to Jesus.
Bultmann (a famous biblical scholar) would list 15 statements that he would conclude are pretty reliable as to the characteristic of Jesus' preaching.
Mark 3:24-26, Mark 3:27, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:62, Mark 10:23b, Mark 10:25, Luke 9:60a, Matt 7:13, Mark 10:31, Mark 7:15, Mark 10:15, Luke 14:11, Luke 16:15.
The themes picked up in these 15 statements are: the centrality of the kingdom of God, a final reversal of status, struggle or conflict, the danger of wealth and the call for a radical change of heart. (p79)
Some of these are themes we have been exploring in our Bible study group, a final reversal, struggle or conflict, the danger of wealth and the call for a radical change of heart.
We haven't really talk directly about the centrality of the kingdom of God.
Rausch's exploration of the Kingdom of God, and the role of Miracles within it, is quite helpful.
Rausch says Jesus' "healings show that with the arrival of the reign of God the power of evil over human beings was being broken; God's salvific power was becoming effective in the bodies and spirits of the people to whom he ministered." (p 86)
Tied to this is Jesus' proclamation of the forgiveness of people's sins (btw, that was before he died on the cross, for all you keeping score at home.) By which Rauch states that Jesus was saying, "The blessings of salvation were available now for those who trusted in him and the kingdom he proclaimed." (p 87)
Rausch then moves on to make a couple of cautionary points on understanding Jesus' miracles and this is where I found his chapter relevant to our previous discussion.
He suggests we need to avoid two extremes when interpreting Jesus' miracles.
"One would be the 'supernaturalist' or precritical approach that sees miracles as displays of divine power suspending or contravening the laws of nature ... There are two problems with this approach. First, in defining miracles as divine interventions from 'outside', it assumes a God who does not honor the causality of the created order. Such a God would be arbitrary and could equally be held accountable for natural disasters ... Secondly, a divine intervention that overpowered the causality of the created order would compel belief. This would violate the principle that God never violates our human freedom, for in such cases, belief would not be a free response to grace." (p 92)
The other extreme is seeing "Jesus' miracles from the perspective of their original biblical meaning." (p 92) The gospels do not use the Greek word for miraculous to explain Jesus' miracles, the Synoptics use 'acts of power' and John calls them 'signs'. So "in a prescientific age, the unexpected is always seen as an act of God." (p 92) He sees this viewpoint as reductive and unhelpful.
He finds Kasper's suggestion helpful, "moving to a higher viewpoint, which raises the question of meaning, not of particular events but of reality as a whole." (p 93)
He rejects the view of a puppet God as well as the view of God as the architect who leaves creation alone.
"Instead he proposes the biblical view, a living God in history 'who in constantly original ways offers his love to human beings in and through the events of the world.'"
I think his final sentences in this discussion are perhaps the most helpful.
"In recognising a God who acts in and through creation, it also safeguards the role of human freedom, since a miracle can only be recognised in faith and never forces it. Others may not recognise the miracle at all."(p 93)
Sorry for the long repost of his article, but do you think his discussion is helpful?
Monday, August 21, 2006
Old Media v New Media
Yesterday I was catching up on some West Wing Episodes.
One in particular got me thinking.
C.J. (the press secretary) came across a story where the law had changed to allow media corporations to control a larger percentage of the media market. She was concerned, but no-one else seemed to be.
It is actually a very pertinent topic for Australians at the moment.
The Federal Communications minister, Senator Helen Coonan, wants to deregulate the Australian media market.
Basically what this means is that the same company could own a television station, a newspaper and a radio station all in the same market, i.e.. Melbourne.
I am always interested in talking to people about what is happening in the world. I think that I can categorise the people I talk to into four broad categories:
1) Those who don't follow any news and don't know what is going on.
2) Those who see one news item and then think they are an expert and have an expert opinion.
3) Those who explore the news but can still only articulate the view/argument that they agree with.
4) Those who are able to articulate more than one point of view and therefore have come to a decision based on 'all' the facts.
There are very few people who fit into the fourth category and I would definitely not claim to fit there all the time.
The problem with deregulation is that biased media outlets (FOX anyone?) would be influencing the decision of the first 3 groups of people.
The 'New media' in the title is the rise of new ways of getting news and information out to people.
The rise of the internet and especially blogging is the greatest example of 'New media'.
Check out The Onion, considered one of the best 'New Media' sites.
While New Media has many advantages over the 'Old Media' of print and television media, it also has challenges.
Anyone can post material on a blog and it isn't always accurate.
I talk to so many people who spout views that are so obviously based on one sided coverage of an event.
There are so many issues where this is self evident, not least the History Wars currently such an interesting topic for our Prime Minister.
I have been attempting lately to widen the sources I use to get information. I use RSS to get news sent to me, rather than having to go looking for it. The only problem is that I when I check my computer in the morning, I have accumulated 100 news stories overnight.
Many great Christians over the past 300 years have been attributed with the saying, "Hold your Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other".
Now more than ever, we need people who are prepared to understand the complexities of issues and speak prophetically.
The other story running concurrently in the episode was around the issue of Free Trade and how Josh had to struggle with how it would create millions of new jobs for the nation in the future, but the 2 people who were sitting in his office and 17,000 like them were going to lose there jobs today.
At the start of the episode Josh is trying to tell the president that when he talks about the Free Trade agreement on TV he needs to make it as simple as "Free Trade creates higher paying jobs"
It is a classic moment at the end when the President, with his Nobel Prize for Economics turns to Josh and says "The issue isn't as simple as a throw away line."
Friday, August 18, 2006
A picture says a thousand words
Sometimes a thousand words just aren't enough.
Sometimes no words will ever do.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Miracles v Science
I have just finished watching last night's episode of House.
The episode (for all those who didn't watch it, or don't have the same schedule as Channel 10 in Melbourne) was about a 15 year old 'faith healer'.
The Christian boy healed people, but found himself in Hospital with a mystery condition.
So House tries to 'outsmart' God, by proving that the boy has an illness to be fixed by medicine, not God.
Along the way the boy 'heals' a dying cancer patient (who just happens to be sleeping with her doctor, House's best friend).
In the end, House proves that the boy 'hears from God' because of benign tumours in his brain and he 'healed' he girl because he infected her with herpes.
It got me to thinking about the relationship between miracles and science.
I have two friends (well actually I have more than that, but) who were both cured of cancer.
One was miraculously healed, and told me that the cancer ultimately oozed out of his chest onto his bed.
The other was healed after a long journey of painful therapy, yet he still attributes his healing as a miracle of God.
It got me thinking about how we understand miracles and God at work in the world.
Some, like House, are quick to discount a God at work in the world because science can explain it all.
Some, like the boy and his father in the beginning, are quick to discount science because it conflicts with their understanding of God.
What do you think?
5 reasons to have a List on your blog
So here is my entry:
5 reasons to have a List on your blog:
5) You get to enter cool group writing projects and have people visit your blog.
4) People love to read lists on blogs, just researching the group writing project lead me to read 15 blogs that I wouldn't have otherwise read.
3) More traffic to my site means people will click on my ads, therefore making me a little bit more money. Hint, Hint.
1) You get to sound like an expert on your favourite topic, at least for the time it takes people to read your list.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Over the weekend we had a Spiritual Gifting weekend.
It was a great weekend, a time for people to explore how God has gifted them and think about how they fit into the ministry of our church.
Over the weekend an issue come to my mind, and has been bugging me ever since.
Why is it that we Christians always try and create a two-tiered system for following Jesus.
Why are the following 'Spiritual Gifts':
Giving, Service, Evangelist, Hospitality, Faith, Voluntary Poverty and Intercession?
To create people who are 'gifted' in these areas absolves those not 'gifted' in these areas from practicing these things.
"It is ok, I am not gifted with Service, so it is ok to leave everyone else to wash the dishes after tea, while I sit around and talk."
"It is ok, I am not gifted as an Evangelist, so I don't have to share the Gospel with those around me"
"It is ok, I am not gifted with Voluntary Poverty, so Jesus isn't calling me to sell everything I have, give it to the poor and follow him."
Didn't Jesus tells us that to follow after him is to serve those around us, while he was washing the disciples' feet?
Aren't we as Christians called to share what God has done in our lives (assuming he really has done something in our life) with those around us?
Didn't Jesus call the rich young man to sell everything to follow him, then turn around to the disciples (who had already given up their material possessions to follow him) and tell them how hard it was for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven?
Didn't Jesus talk about Hell twice in all four gospels, but talk about money hundreds of times?
How hard is it to be comfortable following Jesus?
I'm ok with Jesus because I have given my life to him.
I'm ok with Jesus because I tithe 10 percent of my income.
I'm ok with Jesus because I work in full time ministry.
I'm ok with Jesus because I help in the Sunday School.
I'm ok with Jesus because I am serving as a missionary overseas.
How do we know when enough is enough?
How do we know when we are truly following?
How do we know when we are giving 'all of ourselves'?
On Sunday morning we sang of surrendering all to Jesus.
I wonder how many people were interpreting the word 'all' in the same way that I was.
My prayer then, as it is now, is that I will always continue to be challenged as I sing those words, never feeling that 'I'm ok because ...'
Friday, August 11, 2006
Internet: Mission and Ministry part 4
Whitley College's monthly Rev Up, was last month on the theme "Internet: Mission and Ministry"
Seeing as I went along and got inspired, I thought I might share some of the inspiration with the rest of you.
Darren Rowse, the leader of the Rev Up, spoke of the three elements of Christian discipleship.
The three strands are all required if our discipleship is to be genuine.
The last two posts have focussed on Internet based resources to assist with our:
Inner Journey (personal spirituality)
Outer Journey (engaging our discipleship with the world around us).
Today I want to share a couple of resources for the third sphere,
the Together Journey.
This morning I was talking to a friend of mine about community. This friend lives in a house with a bunch of other Christians and is committed to engaging with the community that he lives in.
We had this conversation after I had the opportunity to go with him to visit some of the most marganilised people in his community. People with Mental Health issues, housing issues, money issues.
People who, after we get over the outward appearance are no different to anyone else.
He said to me, (I will use quotation marks to show it is his voice, but it will not be verbatim what he said) "I struggle with the idea of community on the internet. We only get to see the good side of people. We don't have to deal with their annoying habits, or their bad smells. We don't have to work out our issues with them."
As I was on the train coming home from visiting my friend, I was reflecting on what he said.
I was reflecting on whether the same could be said of the 'community' we offer in our churches.
I know even within just the youth I work with, we stuggle to build real Christian community.
Youth Group night, we have the boys on one side, and then a couple of groups of girls around the room.
Same as on Sunday morning, when I am happy to talk to some people at church, but I will sometimes also try to avoid others who I don't want to talk to.
So with that reflection in mind, I share these websites that might help in some way your own Outer Journey.
Gush is Youth Alive's internet forum for discussing all sorts of issues.
Ship of Fools is a great site, a must see. I have heard it is one of the most loved and the most hated Christian websites. It is a light hearted look at the Church, the Ship of Fools.
This is theReJesus forums.
As usual any comments or thoughts would be appreciated.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Internet: Mission and Ministry part 3
I have been too busy enjoying my week off.
As I shared earlier, we looked at three aspects of Christian life:
Today I am going to share some Outer Journey sites.
The Outer Journey is focussed on those things we have heaps of names for in the Christian world.
Mission, Evangelism, Sharing the Gospel.
Some people are scared about this part of the Christian life, thinking all sorts of things.
While I don't want to get into a huge discussion about our Outer Journey at this time,
I just want to share one thought.
Our Outer Journey should not be so much about what we DO as it should be about who WE ARE.
Digitracts is, as the name suggests, a site with a bunch of digital tracts that you can send to people. Please use with caution.
Story Spot is a place where people tell their story.
Kids Ranch has games and encouragement for 'Kids of All ages"
Jesus.com.au endeavours to build discussion between followers of Jesus and followers of other religions. Looks good, but I haven't had a really good explore yet.
The Goal. Just had to post something about football.
Micah Challenge. The outer journey isn't just about telling people the good news, it is also about showing it to them.
Echo deep is a blog worth looking at.
The Mission Equip Blog is a place where "Missionaries" are able to post their stories and prayer requests.
Once again, check out these sites and let me know which ones you find useful.
Also are there any other sites you have come across that you think people should check out.
Look out for part 4 tomorrow.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Raunchy music linked to teen sex
Hopefull part three is coming later today.
Monday, August 07, 2006
Internet: Mission and Ministry part 2
We talked about the three important facets of Christian life.
Today I will look at the Inner Journey.
The Inner Journey is about our individual spiritual walk.
It is important as disciples to spend time in prayer, reflection, meditiation and reading.
The following sites are all useful resources to assist with the Inner Journey.
For a while I was using the Sacred Space devotionals each day.
They are a simple reflection to use each day, with thoughts, prayers and a scripture reading.
Sacred Gateway is a nice site that uses moving images and words to lead you through a daily prayer. It has good visual appeal.
ReJesus has some very helpful resources, particularly theirPrayer Labyrinth.
Their Daily Prayer is also great. It doesn't just lead you in prayer it also gives you a practical exercise for what you have been thinking about.
If your really interested theSermon index is just what the name suggests.
And lastly in the Inner Journey is the ever practical Bible Gateway which is a great resource for all Christians. Check it out.
Well I hope some of these sites are helpful.
Check them out, comment on what you like or didn't like.
Comment if you have any other sites you use to assist your inner journey.
Part 3 to come tomorrow.
Friday, August 04, 2006
Internet: Mission and Ministry part 1
The Rev Up is for people in ministry to catch up with the latest trends in ministry, take time out to meet with other people in ministry and get some refreshing, amongst a bunch of other things.
Wednesday's Rev Up was a discussion on Internet: Mission and Ministry lead by Darren Rowse
Over a couple of posts I am going to share some of the inspiration and thoughts I received as well as some of the resources that Darren suggested.
I was really inspired in my blogging. Those who read my previous post will know I have been thinking about this recently.
Watch this space as in the future I am thinking about starting some new blogs, to spread out my thoughts and explore some different areas.
But now to the first set of resources,
Thinking about Online Ministry:
(Please note that Darren compiled a list of resources for the Rev Up, I have just selected a few of them to highlight here)
This article appears on the godbit blog and is a great reminder about the language, be it Christian or techno jargon, that we use with people.
I just like the domain name, ifjesushadawebsite.net
This Article is about Christian Blogging.
This article is all about creating a Church website.
Stay tuned for another few posts about the Rev Up and some resources from it.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
If you click on the ads, I make like 7 cents.
Clicking on the ads makes me money. Please do it. I might be able to buy myself a postage stamp by the end of the week.
If you see an ad for anything inappropriate please let me know.
Voting for Jesus
I had bought the essay, but not yet read it.
His post encouraged me to pick it up and so far I have finished the first chapter.
Lohrey begins by talking to three teenage girls who attend Hillsong's Youth program. Their responses to her questions are what I would consider to be fairly average for young people from that denominational background.
At the end of the chapter she speaks to Philip Almond, professor of Comparative Religion at the University of Queensland. He describes "the three arms of religious belief as reason, the Word and religious feeling." (p10)
This got me to thinking about myself, the young people I know and the wider youth church community.
Evangelical churches, of which the Salvation Army is one, would place primacy on the Word as the main arm of religious belief.
Pentecostal churches (of which Hillsong is one) would usually claim the Word as the important arm of religious belief, however in practice (and sometimes stated) religious feeling is held most important.
Musical worship is a classic example of this. The aim of a good worship leader is to create an atmosphere that will produce the desired feeling in the congregation.
Another gripe I have (not just with Pentecostal churches) is the lack of Biblical preaching (see my previous posts on this).
Finally I wonder, how much does Reason have to do with the religious belief of young people in Australia today?
In our Bible study, we have been encouraging the young people to read the Bible (Word) and use Reason to understand what it means.
I think I have been most encouraged by the young person who has found this process the most challenging because I can see this person using their Reason.
The struggle to match Reason and what the Bible says is a constant struggle for disciples who are serious about both.
The reliance on religious feeling amongst young people today is the main reason that they 'loose their faith' as they mature.
A faith built soley on religious feeling is going to be lost when the feeling is lost.
A faith that encorporates Reason, the Word and religious feeling will Reason that 'loosing the feeling' is part of the faith journey. It will turn to the Word and see that we can be encouraged that others too 'lost the feeling' but perservered (Job and David just to name two).
What do you think?
Are we (the Salvation Army) the church of the poor?
Raises some really good questions.