Friday, 25 June 2010

My Dream For Our Society

What kind of society do we want? Can I share with you the type of society I imagine and dream of? It's a society where everyone has good opportunities. The kind of opportunities where people can dream, set goals, plan for the future, raise a family in a safe atmosphere, and earn the right to see these hopes fulfilled. For this to happen we will have to -

  1. Help people broaden their education (not necessarily through formal schooling) so that they learn how to learn and how to think
  2. Ensure that everyone has access to clean water and a nutritious diet.
  3.  Give everyone the privilege of choosing how their society is governed and by whom.
  4. Have regulations ensuring equal prosperity opportunities for all, which also prohibit criminal conduct.
  5. Honour, protect and support the most vulnerable within our society (children, women, the elderly, the handicapped).
To achieve this kind of society requires a balance between individual freedom and an individual's responsibility to their community. It will also require a deep commitment to common values like-
  • Freedom of religion - people are free to express their beliefs in worship in a morally lawful manner.
  • Fairness in the market-place - adequate regulation to ensure that businesses have the right to negotiate with the employees about remuneration from a regulated minimum and for employees to have the protection of regulation against unfair work practices.
  • Respect for people's well-being and property - rather than tolerating theft disguised as entertainment, or rewarding those who violate this respect. Those who steal should be required to repay their victims what they stole plus 20%. 
  • Legislation is not just Law, legislation is education - laws not only define penalties for their breaching, they also serve as a statement of what is right and what is wrong. Therefore, despite whether people respect certain legislation or not, certain legislation should not be converted to regulation because it doesn't have universal support (for example, laws against murder will never be fully respected by everyone and this should not lead legislators to regulate murder instead!).  
  • Protection for the vulnerable - on a national scale (with a well resourced Defence Force), on a State level (with a well resourced Judicial System), and on a community level (with a well resourced Police Department). 
  • Equitable Taxation System - rather than a Taxation System that is a dis-incentive on enterprise, hard-work, or a fair reward, we should value a taxation system which allows our society members to share collective responsibility in an equitable fashion.
  • Family as the basic unit of society - marriage provides the safest and most secure emotional setting in which to raise some of the most vulnerable within our society: children. A strong society needs to relearn how to exercise healthy shame. There are some communities which do this really well so that 'shameful' behaviour is clearly looked down upon and discouraged without the need for governments to intervene with legislation. Societies should prize strong healthy families and discourage those things which undermine them. When families are intact and strong, a society is strengthened (I have written more about this in my book- What Is Family? And Why It Matters!) This is why pornography is so unhelpful for fostering healthy marriages and families. It is also why a caring society recognises that prostitution undermines the value of women and destroys trust within a marriage even before a person is married and even years after it occurred.  
  • The importance of classical education - society should prize learning and not be edu-chrono-phobic when it comes to learning from the great books or teachers of the past.
Can you imagine a society where the most vulnerable are honoured and respected rather than abused or neglected? 
Can you imagine a society where enterprise and productivity is rewarded both by society and government without being penalized? 
Can you imagine a society where the market-place, the judicial and legislative systems are free from corruption to administer justice equitably to all?
Can you imagine a society where people seek to understand before being understood so that conflict between ideologies are converted to dialogues?
Can you imagine a society where there is collective care not just individual rights?

The best strategy for achieving this kind of moral, just, equitable, productive, caring society, is found in the teaching of Christ and His Gospel. Historically, when societies have used this as a model they have valued the things we all intuitively prize. To be sure, there are some glaring examples where this has not been done even though those in power claimed otherwise. Upon closer examination though it can be readily shown that the worst examples of "Christian" influence upon a society were actually pseudo-Christian instead.  
Imagine that.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Should We Be Surprised?

The State Attorney General, Lara Giddings, used her Budget Reply Speech to announce that she is going to help Mr Nick McKim (the State Leader of the Greens Political Party) with a Private Member's Bill to legalise Euthanasia. What is so staggering about this is that we have just gone through the process of a Parliamentary Enquiry into Voluntary Euthanasia.

This Parliamentary Committee had received overwhelming evidence that Voluntary Euthanasia would be socially destructive. Faced with very clear findings, the Committee presented a Report to Parliament which demonstrated that in the few overseas jurisdictions where Voluntary Euthanasia had been legalised it had led to utilitarian tragedy. The Report also identified the deep concerns that medical practitioners had for the potential abuse of their patients. The Parliament stood to reject Mr McKim's "Dying With Dignity Bill" as a result. 

I was present during the hearings and heard firsthand the submissions given by doctors and palliative care workers. I was also engaged with supporters of Mr McKim's Bill prior to the hearings. What was disturbing during this engagement and even the hearings themselves, was the dire ignorance regarding palliative care. In fact, the one Greens member of the Committee seemed perplexed when doctors described how they cared for those suffering 'intolerable' pain.

Firstly, these professional carers challenged the fundamental claim behind the proposed Bill - that there were people in intolerable pain. Several doctors working in palliative-care emphatically stated they had never encountered any patient in intolerable pain. Secondly, they described how they treat with great dignity those in incredible pain who are dying. Hearing that the dosage of morphine increased as the pain increased, the Greens politician queried whether this actually hastened the patient's death. The doctor responding to her constrained his annoyance at the veiled allegation by making two points-

  1. Morphine was not given with the intention of ending the patient's life, but with the motive of relieving their pain. 
  2. The overall effect upon a patient in such a condition in hastening their death was negligible (minutes, perhaps hours).

But Ms. O'Connor, the Greens member, put it to the doctor that this kind of treatment was what the Bill was trying to legalise. It was at this point that many of us attending the hearings realised that the Proponents of this Bill did not understand what Palliative Care was.

In fact, I had received emails from supporters of the Bill arguing that Voluntary Euthanasia legislation would allow doctors to do just what this Palliative Care doctor had reported as the general procedure for caring for the dying who were in incredible pain! In other words, what most supporters of this Bill thought the Bill would allow, was actually legal - NOW.

It appeared that most supporters of the Greens' radical Bill did not appreciate how the legislation could be used to end the life of anyone (not just the deceased, the infirmed, the injured, or the deformed). This is what happened in the Northern Territory when they had similar legislation. This is why the Bill there was withdrawn soon after it became obvious how it was being used.

I applaud what I hope is Mr McKim's motive for such legislation: compassion for the suffering and dying. But there is a general myth in the public arena that the current legislative regime means that dying people are kept alive against their will. This general myth is not true. It is also a myth that it is illegal for doctors to treat dying patients in a way that indirectly hastens their inevitable death. I would appeal to Mr McKim and Miss Giddings to not proceed with this radical, dangerous, legislative agenda.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Is the New Jerusalem Here Yet?

The dividing line between Classical Preterists and Full Preterists is how the Biblical references to the New Jerusalem are understood. Full Preterists, who argue that all of the Book of Revelation is fulfilled, contend that the New Jerusalem has already (spiritually) come 'down'. Classical Preterists, who argue that only Revelation chapters 1-19 are fulfilled, on the other hand contend that the expression New or Heavenly Jerusalem while indeed alludes to the New Covenant, will one day have its full expression after the Second Resurrection.
Full Preterists approach the Book of Revelation as if it is all fulfilled. Naturally then, the reference to the New Jerusalem coming down out of Heaven described in Revelation 21 is considered fulfilled. A supporting reference for this Full Preterist approach is allegedly found in Hebrews 12:22-.
Hebrews 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering,
The writer to the Hebrews seems to be referring to the same New Jerusalem in Revelation 21. In this Hebrews reference, the writer is clearly stating this as a present (therefore, a past) event. This would then seem to be cased closed for the Full Preterist. But there are some serious problems with this interpretation. . . [read article]

Friday, 18 June 2010

Perfect Peace

At Ayres Rock (Uluru), Northern Territory AustraliaIn the midst of national turmoil, the prophet Isaiah gave an amazing promise that perfect peace was available to those who followed a very simple strategy. Today, the "Peace Industry" is booming. There are therapists, counsellors, psychologists, psychiatrists, life-coaches, and even online relationship directors who all attempt to help people find lasting peace. People spend billions trying to find peace for their soul in toys, holidays, eXtreme sports, computer games, and illicit contraban. Added to this, we have much of the world in turmoil (I even read one commentator describe the Arab World as "The Muddled East". Yet the amazing promise announced by the Prophet Isaiah over 2,500 years ago was that God was offering 'perfect peace' to those who did two very simple things.
Sorry to everyone wanting to visit Ayres Rock, Kim ate it."Perfect peace". There have many times even this year when I have applied the Prophet's promise of peace. I have discovered that these time-tested sacred words are still effective. With perfect peace a person can navigate change. With perfect peace a person can triumph through tragedy. With perfect peace a person is able to view life's jolts as God-ordained refinements to His perfect plan for them.
The next time life throws a curve-ball, consider the Prophet's promise of perfect peace found in Isaiah 26:3. More urgently, when life becomes comfortable and then suddenly flows more rapidly without your permission, stop everything and run after your Bible and as fast as can open to Isaiah 26:3 and apply it immediately.
Dear God, whatever You ordain for my, and despite how I react,
please fill me with the wisdom to apply the Prophet's promise of perfect peace
described in Isaiah 26:3.
Lord, don't let me fret. Please be the Object of my obsession. I need Your perfect peace more than ever.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Led By The Spirit

I remember shortly after I was converted to Christianity that I was amazed to read the teaching of Christ in the Gospel of John about the Holy Spirit. Jesus spoke of the Spirit leading, guiding, filling and teaching His followers. My amazement grew as I read the account of the Church's birth and growth in The Acts of The Apostles (which some scholars refer to as The Acts of the Holy Spirit). Jesus made the staggering claim that His followers would be better off without His physical presence because they could then experience the gift of the Holy Spirit. Wow!

After I discovered this, I began praying and seeking what Jesus offered. I had had a born-again experience, but what I read Jesus teaching seemed to be supplementary to this. It wasn't long before I did indeed experience a new dimension of the Holy Spirit's presence in my life. I knew that when I committed my life to Christ and received God's gift of saving faith that this was made available to me by the Holy Spirit. Salvation is only possible when the Holy Spirit enters a person's heart. But there is a life in the Spirit that is punctuated by a spiritual upgrade where we begin by humbly openning ourselves up to a fresh experience with God's Spirit. I believe this is revealed in the Feasts of Israel mentioned in Leviticus 23. 

After the Feast of Passover (which foreshadowed our salvation due to the death of Christ) came the Feast of Pentecost (which was the namesake of the history making event recorded in Acts 2). You'll notice that each of the Feasts ("festivals") dramatically forecasted the progression from the Old Covenant to the fullness of the New Covenant in sequential order.

After my experience of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, I found that the Bible came alive. As a teenager I would read between 10 and 20 chapters of the Bible a day. My hunger for God's Word increased dramatically. I began to devouring teaching tapes from the world's best preachers. I read books and books and books. And I found a growing desire to pray - to talk with God. I began praying spontaneously. I prayed for seemingly trivial things. I read the biography of Dawson Trotman (the founder of the Navigators, a disciple-making organisation set up to help Billy Graham to follow-up new Christians). There was one comment in this book that changed my life. The book described the short life of Dawson up until his conversion to Christ and through to the period of him setting up Navigators and ending abruptly when he died 'prematurely' saving a drowning person. The book contained a record of Dawson Trotman's deepest regret just before he died. "I didn't pray for enough! I didn't pray for enough!" he lamented.

Dawson Trotman had prayed for many things. Many of these outlandish prayers were either witnessed or journaled. He would get a large map and lay his hands over nations and pray for them. He would pray for God to change that nation and then made himself available for God to use him in answer to these prayers. Before he died, Dawson had experienced amazing answers to his 20 year old prayers. So amazing were these answers that he began to realise that if he had only asked for more in prayer, God probably would have answered those prayers as well! Just before he died he marvelled that prayers he had been praying for 20 to 30 years had eventually been divinely granted. Thus, his deep regret that he hadn't prayer for enough.
After I read this, I began to pray for more. I discovered that there are some prayers that God will always answer-
Dear God, change my life however You want...
Lord Jesus, have Your way in my life...
Oh God, help me to live for You...
Lord, speak to me and help me to yield to You...
Holy God, bring people into my life who will help me to grow into Christ's image...
Oh God, speak through me and don't even let me know You're doing it...
After I learned to pray in this fashion, I began to sense more clearly the Spirit's leading. I continue to learn what it means to be led by the Spirit. In recent times I have experienced answers to these prayers that has increased my realisation of being led by the Spirit. The other week I was in Los Angeles and was driving to meet some seriously smart Christian scholars at Reasons To Believe. On the way there I was praying for God's guidance. I began to feel that I needed to film an interview with these guys. Then I felt that I needed to do this creatively. Then I weird idea popped into my head. I got there and shared the idea with these guys and they ran with it. After I had completed the filming, one of the admin staff made the comment that this was amazing timing because the one I had particularly honoured was not usually the focus of their ministry and that it was his birthday next week. When I completed the project I sent it to him as a birthday present. He was rapt!

Just this week I felt to ring my brother just before we left for our holidays. I spoke with him at length and encouraged him that God was working in his life. The next day, after we had started our vacation, he sent me a text saying that he had just been sacked. I was able to remind him again that God was working in his life. That same day I felt to pray urgently for someone in our church about 5AM. I did so. Then about an hour after that I received a text from this person asking for prayer.
The more I read God's Word, the more I want to fuel being led by His Spirit and to discover more about what it means to be led by Spirit. Are you reading His Word every day? Are you being led by His Spirit? Do you take all your concerns to Him in prayer- even the trivial ones?
People led by the Holy Spirit...
1. Learn the language of the Spirit through reading the Bible
2. Pray for God to have His way in their lives
3. Are prepared to act on godly promptings.
4. Bring to God even their trivial requests, heart-aches, or thanksgivings.
5. Regard guilt not as condemnation but as the gift of conviction and a message from the Holy Spirit.
Romans 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
When I read First Corinthians 12 and 14, I read of an early Church that was led by the Spirit. When I read the Book of Acts, I read of apostolic leaders who were led by the Spirit. I want our church to be led by the Spirit. I hope that we each deepen our knowledge of the Scriptures and thus learn the language of the Spirit. I hope that we increasingly open ourselves to the Spirit and exercise the gifts of the Spirit- but most importantly, that we will bear the fruit of the Spirit as we are led by the Spirit. This will be test of the claim that we are genuinely Spirit-led.
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Father, help us to be led by Your Spirit. Prompt us to pray. Cause people to come into lives who will stretch us, challenge us, correct us and encourage us. Increase our hunger for Your Word. Help us to hear You and please You. In Jesus' Name,