Friday, 28 December 2018

WHY AQUAMAN DIDN'T WORK

WHY AQUAMAN DIDN'T WORK

I'm a superhero fan. Several times I have loved a superhero movie even though critics have not. For example, I thought, Superman Returns was one of the best Superman movies ever made (despite Jor-El returning from his few years of absence in search of his home planet Krypton quite a bit younger than when he left). I even found something to like in the Batman Versus Superman movie! Which is why I could ignore the many critics who had slammed the latest Aquaman movie.

Most of the superhero characters of DC and Marvel were developed by Jewish creators who infused an almost messianic identity into their superheroes. Aquaman was originally illustrated by Paul Norris and written by Mortimer Weisinger (who was also an editor of the Superman series). Aquaman first appeared in 1941 and was then re-invented to be the king of the lost city of Atlantis in the 1990s (not by Weisinger though). The 2018 movie is built on this storyline. But it has some problems.


SUPERHEROES ARE MEANT TO BE SUPER

The Graeco-Roman gods were fornicating, uncaring, distant, and unreliable. The best superheroes were not. The pre-eminent superhero, Superman, possessed many Christ-like attributes including moral virtue. Their mission was simple: uphold justice and protect the innocent



Perhaps it's not surprising that in this post-modern world of moral-relativism, the superhero story writers now have our superheroes behaving more like 'bad boys' than exemplars of virtue. If there's any doubt about this, then consider the latest instalment: Aquaman. He's a swearing, hard-drinking, life-taking, super-powered descendent of Neptune. While all this might seem odd, there's more. 

As I watched Aquaman I couldn't help but think of the Inkling, the famous pub-based drinking writers' group which included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Lewis created the world of Narnia. Tolkien created the world of Middle Earth. Their stories have become classics. This Aquaman story will never be a classic. The worlds of Lewis and Tolkien were mythological worlds where the rules were clear and virtuous. The rules within the Aquaman story are not clear or are the characters virtuous. The struggles within these worlds is not primarily one of power but of good versus evil. The struggle within Aquaman is for power, not about good overcoming evil. The characters within these worlds are relatable. Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy enter the world of Narnia and with them so do every other 8, 10, 12, and 14 year old boy and girl. When Frodo is selected to carry the Ring to its destruction, it's not just Bilbo Baggins who befriends him for the journey, we all do. Even though they are hobbits, we relate to them. But in the Aquaman story, there's not much we can relate to. In the mythological worlds of Lewis and Tolkien, there is certain logical consistency. In Aquaman, these underwater breathing people (UBP) need underwater space-ships and harnessed sea-creatures to travel - although they can travel quite effortlessly without them. These UBPs can also breathe air when out of the sea. Yet, when their water-filled face-masks are broken when on the surface, they can't breathe. This inconsistency was confusing. In essence, the thing that makes Lewis's and Tolkien's mythological worlds work, is that they conform to the grand metanarrative, the ultimate story of reality.

Ordinarily at this point in my criticisms, Aquaman purists would protest that I have failed to grasp the finer points of the mythology. But since this version of the myth was only created around 2016 it hasn't really had time to garner such purists. But if there were to be such criticism, I would take issue with such a mythology that lacks a virtuous hero, does not offer hope against evil, is not coherent, and does not conform to the grans metanarrative. 

What do you think? Leave your comments below.
  

LET US BE REMINDED


LET US BE REMINDED
superhero-fan“Do this in remembrance of me.”
Luke 22:19b

At our end of year staff luncheon, Donna Hill asked each of us what ‘super hero power’ we would like to have if we could?  Men nearly always reply, “Fly”, while women usually give a variety of far more practical answers. Upon reflection, I considered whether I should have answered differently (I didn’t answer “to be able fly unaided”, as most men would).
Mike-Ross-played-Patrick-J-AdamsConsidering my various weaknesses, I now think that I would reply, “A super memory!” I think we would all benefit from having better memories. In the TV series, “Suits”, Mike Ross is a young man with the gift of a photographic memory. Despite not having a law degree, he passes the Bar to become a lawyer because his photographic memory allows him to speed read all of the legal text books required for a law degree and of course his ability to recall what he has just read comes in handy as well. While there may be some people who possess this kind of talent in real life, it is not true for most of us. Which is why being reminded is built into how God commands us to worship

 ¶ Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel,
Second Timothy 2:8

WORSHIP INVOLVES REMEMBERING

remember-sticky-notePaul, writing to the Ephesians, via Timothy, tells them: (i) Remember Jesus Christ; (ii) Remember that He rose from the dead; (iii) Remember He is the fulfilment of all that was promised to the Jews in the Old Testament; (iv) Remember what you have already heard preached to you. Remembering is most difficult when it is done in isolation from others. I did two years of Bible Greek. It involved sitting 10 exams which in turn resulted in having to translate into English some randomly selected parts of the New Testament and explain the technical backgrounds to several randomly selected Greek words within that passage. I did this study by distance learning as a solo student. The course instructor strongly recommended that no student attempt to study Biblical Greek this way because it is so difficult to do so without the benefit of other students also learning the material with you. Having done (and passed) this course of study, I have to agree with my old instructor. Remembering is best done with others
As you read through the Old Testament, note how often God calls His people to remember together. He decreed seven feasts for them keep each year as a community reminder (Lev. 23). He imbedded into the Ten Commandments a command that specifically begins with the word, “Remember” (Exo. 20:8). They were to wear certain things on their clothing designed to help them to continually be reminded about God’s commandments (Num. 15:39). They were to remember what God had done for them and continually remind their children (Deut. 5:15).
Screwtape_Letters_CoverWorship begins by remembering. Worship is informed by being reminded. This is the pastor’s main responsibility in preaching, to remind. It is also why it is imperative that we gather together (at least) each Sunday as God has ordained  (1Cor. 16:2Heb. 10:25) to remind and be reminded – because we each forget the truth so quickly. C.S. Lewis described the Enemy’s strategy against the believer to be focussed on isolation. In his book, Screwtape Letters, an experienced demon tells a inexperienced demon that they way to keep people from their Enemy (God) could be achieved by isolation. If you can, the older Demon says, keep your target from reading the Enemy’s book (the Bible) and evening talking to Him (prayer), but above all, keep them from the gathering and fellowship of those who belong to the Enemy! Get them distracted! Have them lessen their priority to always gather with the Enemy’s people. Offer them sport, entertainment, sleep – do whatever it takes to keep the subject away from the Enemy’s people (the church). In the Screwtape Letters, the younger demon fails and Hell loses yet another soul to torment for eternity – because the sweetness and attraction of the worshipping church community prevails.  

¶ All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before you.
Psalm 22:27
While the Psalmist looked forward to all the world remembering who God is and what He has done, I think we should begin with his second part of Psalm 22:27 (a slightly more modest ambition) and look forward to those we regularly interact with – our family, our neighbours, our friends, our work colleagues – each remembering the LORD and coming together into His house and worshipping Him. And since the author of Psalm 22 has so accurately and precisely seen the first part of this Messianic Psalm fulfilled, I think he probably has a good chance of seeing his second part fulfilled as well – especially if we remember to each gather together this Sunday to worship the Lord as he prophesied. Let’s remember that God wants to see the Tamar Valley turn to Him!

Your pastor,
Andrew.

Friday, 21 December 2018

THE SIMPLE A.F.L. SOLUTION TO SOCIETY’S WOES

THE SIMPLE A.F.L. SOLUTION TO SOCIETY’S WOES
Louis_Pasteur-by-Paul_Nadar
Dr. Louis Pasteur, Pioneer Biochemist
By the late nineteenth century, the rate of women dying during child-birth had reached epidemic proportions. Louis Pasteur proposed a simple solution and wrote it up as a scientific paper for medical doctors to consider and at least trial. But unfortunately, for the tens of thousands of women who died, they didn’t! Their main reason for rejecting it was that it was “too simple”! But by the early twentieth century the rate of women dying during child-birth had reached alarming heights. In desperation, someone read Pasteur’s paper and thought that it was at least worth a try. And it immediately and dramatically reduced the rate of birthing mother morbidity! Pasteur’s solution? Doctors and nurses need to wash their hands before they delivering a baby! Sometimes complex problems really do have simple solutions.
A photo of a sickly mother and baby taken in the 1890s. Both Mrs Gilmer and her baby died a few days after this photo was taken.
A photo of a sickly mother and baby taken in the 1890s. Both Mrs Gilmer and her baby died a few days after this photo was taken.
But oh, that God would speak and open His lips to you,
and that He would tell you the secrets of wisdom!
For He is manifold in understanding.
Job 11:5-6a
Our society is also faced with seemingly complex problems. We have an alarmingly high rate of suicide, a growing alcohol/substance/drug abuse problem, a disgracefully high rate of domestic abuse, the highest rates of internet pornography ever, a disgracefully high rate of sexual abuse of women (note the recent #metoo movement) and children (note the recent Royal Commission in Australia), appallingly deteriorating mental health, and a rise in family breakdown and marital divorce. To make matters worse, many of those institutions which used to prevent or alleviate these problems are themselves in decline, struggling for resources, or closing. These include – various clubs, charities, and sadly, churches.
Louise_Pasteur¶ “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you.
Leviticus 25:35

Fortunately though, this is not our situation – which means that we are still equipped to help our society prevent or alleviate some of these ills it battles with. And while our society’s problems may seem too complex and too big to overcome, I hope to show you that the simple A.F.L. solution is precisely what our society needs (and is looking for) and it is the church which is actually best positioned to deliver it.

COMPLEX PROBLEMS ARE OFTEN SOLVED WITH SIMPLE SOLUTIONS 

foot-bridge-over-riverThe story goes that a town was having a continual problem with people being swept downstream its main river. At first it was just kind-hearted passers-by on their bush-walks who dived in to help the screaming person battling to avoid drowning. But there were so many of them, that the Council voted to employ a life guard and station them at the riverside. But soon he too was unable to keep up with the demand of saving drowning people being swept away to their deaths by the river. The Council voted to fund the building of a permanent ambulance station near the life-guard’s station to make things more efficient in getting the drowning victim to the hospital as quick as possible. But even more people had to be rescued. The Council decided to fund the building of a hospital next to the ambulance station to further improve efficiencies. They then hired a General Manager and an administrator to help run the precinct. Pretty soon though there were government funding cut-backs, so it was decided to make the life-guard’s position redundant so that the other positions could remain being funded. As the now retrenched life-guard gathered their things and headed up the river, they took a leisurely walk over the foot-bridge and noticed a $5 plank of wood was missing which is why all these tourists were falling into the river. After obtaining a replacement plank and installing it in the bridge, a government report later identified that the only cause they had been able to find for so many near-drowning victims was  the direct link to employing a life-guard since when his position became redundant the drowning incidents suddenly stopped! This is not meant to be a parable about how government works, rather, it is meant to highlight that by sometimes going “upstream” from a problem it is possible to find a very simple solution!
Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
Second Timothy 2:7

THE SIMPLE A.F.L. SOLUTION


I think we, our church, has something that we regularly enjoy and a vexed world desperately wants – and needs! I think the fact that we treat it all too casually at times, means that we don’t treasure it enough, or realise how much we should share it. In fact, we are sometimes so cavalier with these treasures that we leave them lying around gathering dust. Let me explain.
Everything we do as followers of Christ flows out of who Jesus is. 
¶ Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel,
Second Timothy 2:8
Jesus-touches-leperAs we consider who Jesus is and His attributes of kindness, mercy, justice, intolerance of evil, deep spirituality, thankfulness, concern for the marginalised, compassion for the weak, and mercy for the broken, we too begin to develop these traits. I think we could classify nearly all of Christ’s attributes under these three headings: acceptanceforgiveness, and, love. I would conclude by highlighting what should be immediately obvious about these three groupings – that it is precisely the lack of these three qualities infiltrating the lives of every broken person in our society which is at the root of all society’s woes, despite society thinking they already enjoy them.  
By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13:35

HOW A.F.L. MEETS EVERY PERSON’S MOST BASIC NEEDS

Jesus-offers-forgiveness-and-a-second-chanceWithout genuine acceptance, people feel alone, misunderstood, rejected, and prone to social anxiety. Jesus accepted people – especially the outcast and marginalised. He demonstrated acceptance of people who had only every really experienced rejection for most of their lives. He went to the hiding demoniacs (Matt. 8:28). He waited in the heat of the day for the scorned woman – and talked freely with her (Jn 4). He honoured the prostitute who washed His feet with her tears and dried them with her hair (Luke 7). He touched the lepers who hadn’t been touched for so long (Lk. 7:22). Christ’s acceptance involved the giving of time, dialogue, and appropriate touch. The world offers fake acceptance when it confuses acceptance with endorsement. Christ’s acceptance of the woman caught in the act of adultery, did not involve accepting her as an adulteress but as a woman created in the image of God. Acceptance by Christ never involved Him tolerating a person’s sin.
Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
John 8:10-11
We, the accepted by Christ are called and enabled by the Holy Spirit to be agents of God’s acceptance of those who feel lonely, ugly, awkward, unwanted, or unworthy.
Forgiving is confused by the world for acquitting. To be acquitted is to be found innocent. Christ does not find any of us innocent! This is why we each need His mercy which enables us to be pardoned. Without genuine forgiveness a person often just throws themself deeper into sin in the hope that it won’t hurt anymore. The final instalment of the Godfather movie Trilogy powerfully illustrates how futile this can be. The murderer is wracked with guilt so murders again and again and again all the while hoping that he won’t feel guilt anymore to no avail. 
We, the forgiven by Christ are called and enabled by the Holy Spirit to be agents of God’s forgiveness toward those who feel guilty, ashamed, unclean, or unworthy.
Love is a verb (a doing word) which produces a feeling. The world swaps these around and comes up empty every time. Consider First Corinthians 13:4-6. Count how many actions flow out of the decision to love are in that passage. The world confuses lust, infatuation, or desire for love, and then wonders why they “fall” in and out of it so often! Christ’s kind of love involves commitment and a cost. It is other-focussed. It is grounded in rightness, goodness, and truth, rather than mere attraction, lust, or desire. Christ’s cross is the ultimate example of love and we who have experienced Christ’s love cannot but help to have our hearts transformed and lives realigned to care for others in committed way that will cost us.
We, the loved by Christ are called and enabled by the Holy Spirit to be agents of God’s love toward those who feel empty, lost, unneeded, or unworthy.
Ordinarily I would close these weekly pastoral epistles by urging us to reflect each of these traits this Sunday. But there’s no time to waste. We need to commence right now – and keep doing them each Sunday for as long as there is breath in our lungs! The solution to society’s biggest, most complex ills, are as simple as A. F. L. – Acceptance | Forgiveness | Love.
Your servant in Christ,
Pastor Andrew

Friday, 14 December 2018

THE REAL GOOD DOCTOR

THE REAL GOOD DOCTOR
UMURAGE: Dr Denis Mukwege
UMURAGE: Dr Denis Mukwege
Denis Mukwege was born in 1955 in a modest-sized town, Bukavu, in east ‘Congo. Little could anyone have imagined that this son of a Pentecostal pastor would grow up to be considered the most influential African of the 20th century, and one of the most influential 100 people in human history. His list of achievements, honours, and international awards, literally fills a two sheets of paper. His life is characterised by constant goodness. He is the epitome of a good man. It all began when as a young boy he accompanied his father as they visited the sick, ill, and injured people of their town where his father would pray for their healing. Young Denis was struck by the dire lack of physical resources to help these poor people, especially at the Lemera Hospital. It was then that he committed his life to God to be a doctor of goodness.
Christmas-2-Its-Good-07
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
Romans 12:17
Denis developed a love for biochemistry in high school which he graduated from in 1974. Despite his desire to go to university to study medicine, the State only gave him the choice of studying engineering at the University of Kinshasa. He endured two years there until 1976, before the Swedish Pentecostal Mission funded him to attend medical school in Burundi. Six years later, 1982, he graduated and returned to Bukava to work in the Lemera Hospital as a paediatrician. But it was the plight of the mothers of the children that touched his heart. Many of them died during childbirth. More died after childbirth. Many were permanently damaged from childbirth. He wanted to help and sought to be trained as a gynaecologist (and obstetrics). He was awarded a post-graduate scholarship to study and train at University of Angers in France. During his studies in France he co-founded a charity – Association Esther Solidarit√© France/Kivu to help his hometown. Despite tempting offers of employment in France, he returned in 1989 to continue work at Lemera Hospital, in South Kivu, where he started a brand new gynaecological wing and later became the hospital’s director.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Romans 12:18
Everything changed though in 1996 when the Congo war erupted engulfing neighbouring Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. The Lemera Hospital was attacked by rebels who murdered all of its patients – including pregnant women and other patients too ill to flee – and most of the medical staff. Medical supplies were looted, the buildings – medical wings and housing – burned down. Dr Denis Mukwege, who was amongst the few who miraculously survived the attack. He and his family fled the country and for refuge in Kenya.
Christmas-2-Its-Good-09The now 41 year old doctor with a strong commitment to Christ, now safe in Kenya, could not abandon his country, or his people. He sought support to go back to his country to care for the hundreds of victims of this war which would require building a new hospital. His national church movement and the Swedish Pentecostal Mission once again helped and a hospital was built in Bukavu, instead of Lemera, and called the Panzi Hospital (after the name of the district) in 1999. The Congolese war would continue for another 22 years!
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Romans 12:19
Not longer after the opening of the hospital, Dr Mukwege was called upon to treat a woman who had been gang raped! This type of case was something Dr Mukwege had never seen before – especially on a girl so young. After that operation to save her life in September 1999, the hospital started receiving an increasing number of female victims of war crimes. He estimated that he and his team operated on 45 women just in the first three months.
“I had the impression that this was an enormous number, because I’d been in the region for a few years, and I’d never seen this before. It wasn’t until 2000 that I understood that this was normal, and I began to call on the international community.”
-Dr. Denis Mukwege

Over the next 20 years, the Panzi Hospital would treat more than 85 000 patients, most of whom were victims of sexual crimes.

He decided to specialise in the care of women victims of sexual violence. The hospital expanded its mission to provide legal and psycho-social services to their patients. While many consider rampant evil to be an argument against the existence of God, people like Dr. Mukwege demonstrate God’s heart for the victims of such evil by being His representatives in the thick of it.
¶ Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
Romans 12:9

In 2011, the UN estimated that roughly 48 women are victim of sexual assault every hour in the Congo.

Dr Mukwege began speaking out on behalf of the abused women he met daily – trying to bring to the international community the hideous evils being committed as a result of this war against women and children.
Mukwege-patient1
He became known as ‘the man who repairs women’. He was soon invited to speak before the UN General Assembly first in 2006 and the second time six years later in 2012. He paid tribute to the courage of the half a million women who had been raped in Congo over the past 16 years and went on to denounce the international community, including his own government, for not putting an end to this evil.

“I would have liked to also say, ‘I have the honour of being part of the international community that you represent here,’ but I cannot say that. How can I say this to you – representatives of the international community – when the international community has shown fear and a lack of courage during these 16 years in the Democratic Republic of the Congo?”
-Dr. Denis Mukwege

In October 2012, Denis and his wife and children survived an assassination attempt at their home in Bukavu. He took his family to safety in Europe and returned to his hospital a few months later in January 2013 – more determined than ever. Traditionally, Christians have run into the fray – not away from it!
To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Romans 12:20
The Congo war is said to be the longest humanitarian crisis in history and the deadliest conflict worldwide since World War II with more than 6 million deaths and countless victims of sexual crimes, including children. In his autobiography, ‘Plea for Life’ (‘Plaidoyer pour la vie’), released in 2016, he explained how distressing it is for him to have the war continue on so long as he was now operating the daughters of some of his earlier patients!
Christmas-2-Its-Good-11In 2008, he received the United Nations Human Rights Prize, the Daily Trust African of the Year Award, and the Olof Palme Prize of Sweden. In 2011, he received the Clinton Global Citizen Award for Leadership in Civil Society, an award created by the former US President Bill Clinton to recognize extraordinary individuals who have demonstrated visionary leadership in solving pressing global challenges. In 2013, he was awarded the Right Livelihood Award and in 2014, the prestigious European Union Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, which honours individuals and groups of people who have dedicated their lives to the defence of human rights and freedom of thought. His honorary degrees include, an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the University of Winnipeg in 2014, in recognition of his role as an international voice for victims of sexual violence and his dedication to improving the lives and status of women; an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Harvard University in 2015; and an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Medicine from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland in 2017. In 2016, he won the Seoul Peace Prize; his name was included on the list of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the world; and in 2018 was the co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. He really is the real-life good doctor! But more importantly, he continues a very long Christian tradition of running into the evil not hiding from it. 
Christmas-2-Its-Good-14
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:21
While we see evil growing all around us, it is my prayer that God will raise up young men and women who will enter in politics, academia, the arts, journalism, and business, to make a difference for Christ. Rather than seeking to have a  life ease and bliss, I pray that these young people will fearlessly, courageously, wisely, and winsomely, learn how to live like Daniel in Babylon – and sometimes even in the occasional lions’ den!
Your pastor,
Andrew

Friday, 7 December 2018

NOT YOUR AVERAGE FOOL


Not-Your-Average-Fool-header

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

-Jim Elliot, martyred missionary to Ecuador

John_Allen_Chau-missionary1

Not many 26 year old young men are unanimously decried globally by the world’s media as a – ‘fool hardy adventurer’ ‘an arrogant evangelical’ ‘a tyrannical colonialist’ ‘an international law-breaker’ within hours of their death. But John Allen Chau was after he was tragically murdered by a Sentinelese islander on November 17th 2018.

John Allen Chau - missionary and martyr
¶ “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!
Luke 6:22
In this increasingly hostile-toward-Christianity-world it’s understandable that the unregenerate do not appreciate why a young man, who from the age of about 12 (when he first heard about the unreached Sentinel Islander people) wanted to be a missionary to the Sentinel Island which is in the Bay of Bengal off the coast of India. But when those who should know better, those who profess faith in the God of the Bible, and trust Jesus of Nazareth as the Lord and Saviour, also denounce such missionary endeavours, the disappointment is overwhelming!
And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Matthew 4:19
The follower of Christ who does nothing about the eternal plight of the lost can not truly claim to be following Christ! Christ’s “mission” was to “seek (out) and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). If anyone follows after Christ they are walking in the footsteps of a missionary Saviour! The original disciples of Christ each heard the beckoning resurrected Christ summon them to go as missionaries (Matt. 28:19-20). Each of them paid a high price to follow Christ. Thomas went to India, and died a cruel martyr’s death. Andrew preached in Turkey, Russia, and Greece where he was eventually crucified. Philip preached in Egypt and was executed by the Roman Proconsul there. Matthew preached in Ethiopia where was eventually stabbed to death. James, the son of Alpheus, was stoned to death. Peter was crucified upside down. Paul was beheaded. While John Allen Chau has attracted global media attention as if he is something unusual, the fact is that more Christians are being martyred today than at any other time in history!

“During this century, we have documented cases in excess of 26 million martyrs. From AD 33 to 1900, we have documented 14 million martyrs.”
Justin D. Long

John_Allen_Chau-missionary7
¶ Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.
First Corinthians 3:18
The apostle Paul reflected to the Corinthians that world considered Christians for being ‘fools’. You might think the Corinthian non-believers considered these Christians to be ‘fools’ because of what they believed about Jesus. But designation of them of ‘fools’ probably had more to do with their moral standards than their beliefs. After all, Greeks believed in gods (without any evidence or proof). They worshiped their kings and their emperors as ‘gods’. They believed in an after-life. Therefore, accepting what Christians believed was not so much of a stretch for them. But the Corinthians were famous for engaging in unbounded promiscuous sexuality. Even still, the power of the gospel set many of them free from their false and unsatisfying identities by transforming them into followers of Christ (note the “And such were some of you” in Paul’s statement about this to them) –
¶ Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
First Corinthians 6:9-11
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The New Testament teaches us that when we try to please the world by compromising what Christ expects of us, we then become true fools.
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
James 4:4
Some of the criticisms which John Chau received were completely misinformed and flat-out wrong. Someone who knew him, Matt Staver, has written a piece for Charisma Magazine called, The Truth About John Allen Chau. He counters much of this mis-information peddled by the mainstream media about Mr. Chau. It turns out that John Allen Chau was relatively highly trained as a missionary in linguistics, survival skills, social interaction, and emergency medicine. Far from being illegally on this island, he had every right to be there under current Indian law. But the way the world has responded to this episode is very revealing for where we are now at as a Western culture.
John_Allen_Chau-missionary3

“TOTO, I DON’T THINK WE’RE IN KANSAS ANYMORE!”

One of the points that missiologist Justin Long makes about the number of martyrs today is about the number of Christians alive today. While more Christians have been martyred in the last century than the previous twenty centuries combined, he reminds readers that this also has to do with sheer number of Christians alive today as well. Christianity is growing exponentially in many parts of the world. There are more muslims converting to Christianity  today than at any other time as well. In some parts of the world, the conversion rate of people becoming Christians is out-performing the birth-rate! Even in Australia, where many Christians have considered the average Aussies too hard for Christianity to ever grip them, we are seeing churches of extraordinary sizes growing around our nation. Most people know of Hillsong and its Sydney congregation of 30,000 members, but there are other significant churches in each major city of Australia such as the 20,000 member Planet Shakers church in Melbourne, the 12,000 member Crossroads church in Burwood, Margaret Court’s church of thousands in Perth, and of course our own in Legana, Tasmania. But despite this, as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz said to her pet dog, “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore!” No Dorothy, I think we’re in Babylon!

TAKING ADVANTAGE OF WHAT WE STILL HAVE 

John_Allen_Chau-missionary
¶ “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Matthew 5:11
We currently have some extraordinary privileges as Christians. We can openly share our faith in Christ as the Saviour without fear of criminal charges. This is not the case in many parts of the world! We can publicly hold gathering whereby we invite people to hear and receive the Saviour and His message. This is not the case in many parts of the world! We currently enjoy tax-exempt status as a church which enables us to be able function on a shoe-string budget. We have access to Christian media outlets with whom we can broadcast our messages to tens of thousands of listeners across northern Tasmania and potentially hundreds of thousands around the world via Soundcloud
I believe God has ordained all of this at this precise time, and brought you and I together also at this precise time, for such a time as this! Rather than seeing John Allen Chau as a reckless fool, we should honour him as a martyr who sincerely cared about seeing people from every tribe, nation, and tongue brought to Christ. And so should we!! In fact, over these next two weeks we have some enormous advantages which can improve our chances of seeing someone we invite accept our invitation to come to a church event (Children’s Christmas Play – this Sunday, Carols By Candle Light – next Friday, our Carols Sunday on December 16th, and our 9AM Christmas Day Service). In addition to this there is BBQ/hospitality outreach that we can each engage freely in (either as a host or guest). Let’s take advantage of the freedoms and privileges that we all currently have and not give God any reason to decide we now longer deserve them!  
¶ After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Revelation 7:9-10
Your pastor,
Andrew.
John Allen Chau chatting someone he met on a hikeR.I.P. John Allen Chau