Friday, 26 November 2021

WHAT CAN FILL YOUR HEART, MIND, AND SOUL?

 

This is the story of two 9-year-old boys. They never met each other. In fact, they lived centuries apart. But they both had several things in common with the main thing in common was their love of music. They were both composers and performers. They both lost their parents when they were 9-years-old (one of them to death and the other to divorce) — they both retreated into their music, but they found something profoundly different in their retreats.

These things I remember,as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.
Psalm 42:4

MUSIC AND THE SOUL

(Johann) Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was a German composer. He is now widely regarded as the greatest composer of all time. In 1694, at the age of 9 his parents died within months of each other. Sebastian, being the youngest of eight children, went to live with his eldest brother, Christoph, who was the organist at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Ohrdruf (central Germany). His late father, Ambrosius, was the director of the town’s musicians who had taught Sebastian to play the violin and basic music theory. All of his siblings, cousins, and each of his uncles were professional musicians. During the time that he lived with his brother his grief was somewhat consoled by being surrounded by his extended family and their music. It was Christoph who taught him how to compose music and play the clavichord-organ. He also introduced Sebastian to the compositions of the great German composers. And all the while that Sebastian was learning his craft as a musician he was also studying theology, Greek and Latin, at his local Academy (‘Gymnasium’). This became the other consoling factor for the young Sebastian as his processed his grief for his late parents. His biblical view of the world helped him to find meaning in the midst of the pain he encountered at losing his parents at such a young age. He became acquainted with the God of the Bible who Himself entered into our world of pain and suffering and experienced it. In fact, Sebastian wrote two compositions about it (the St Matthew Passion and the Mass in B minor). 

The music of J.S. Bach pioneered a genre of music, known as Tonal music, that would last for the next four centuries. It was built around the concept of four progressive chords each comprised of four notes. Bach wrote much of his tonal music also as a four-part harmony. This gave his music an orderliness about it that has a certain mathematical beauty to it, and hasn’t gone unnoticed that it also reflects the God who has given the universe exquisite order. Music certainly engaged J.Sebastian Bach’s heart and mind and based on what he wrote and they way his amazing life panned out, it had also filled his soul.

¶ I will sing of steadfast love and justice;
to You, O LORD, I will make music.
Psalm 101:1

Kurt Cobain was a lead singer of the band Nirvana. Some of the music videos have had over a billion views. While the loss of his parents and his pursuit of music was common to him and J.S. Bach, their lives could not have been more different. After Cobain’s parents divorced, Kurt found temporary solace in music. But whereas Bach drew near to God after the loss of his parents, Cobain let his pain trick him into thinking there was no God and therefore that life was meaningless. Cobain’s music was atonal (the opposite of Bach’s tonal music, known as Grunge). His lyrics became increasingly dark and his soul became increasingly empty. Like Bach, Cobain also experienced physical pain and discomfort. But unlike Bach who experienced his discomfort in his 60s, Cobain’s stomach problems began in his 20s. Bach threw himself into his music to rework and even finish some of his compositions. Cobain increasingly despised music. Cobain’s final days saw his wife, Courtney Love, insisting that he check himself into a drug rehabilitation centre for his heroine addiction. What followed marked the final days of Cobain. He left a suicide note expressing his deep inner struggles and expressing his love for Courtney and their daughter, Frances. He was just 27 when he had bought a shot gun and turned it on himself.

Cobain lived his life without God. His music was grungy and disordered which was also how he saw life and the world he lived in. While he had millions of adoring fans, he ended up despising his life and saw life itself as pointless. In one sense it is easy to see why Cobain saw life as pointless because, if there is no God, as Cobain reasoned, then life can only be meaningless. His end was sad, unnecessary and tragic. One of the reasons that it was sad was not just the regrettable loss of a great musical talent, but also sad because Kurt did not have a follower of Christ in his inner circle of relationships who could have shared with him the gospel hope of knowing God in Christ.

And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
John 17:3

Cobain’s music of despair reflected the condition of his soul. Bach’s Overtures reflected his peace with God and his Biblical worldview that helped him to process the pain of his loss, and set his life priorities in order. Bach’s final days were sadly hastened by a quack eye-surgeon who allegedly offered to cure Bach’s blindness with his surgical skills. Bach died shortly after this surgery and due to it. He left behind a wealth of musical compositions (over 1100), a few musical instruments, his wife Magdalena, and ten children. 

Through the way where hope is guiding,
Hark, what peaceful music rings;
Where the flock, in Thee confiding,
Drink of joy from deathless springs.

Theirs is beauty’s fairest pleasure;
Theirs is wisdom’s holiest treasure.
Thou dost ever lead Thine own
In the love of joys unknown

“Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” (Jesus bleibet meine Freude) J.S. Bach

 

WHY GOD HAS DESIGNED HUMANS TO ENGAGE THEIR HEARTS, MINDS, AND SOULS IN MUSIC

God has made humans to engage their hearts, minds, and souls with music. Bach discovered this; but, Cobain did not. It is why music has played a central role in Christianity — in its discipleship of believers, and in its facility to bring God’s people together in worship each Lord’s Day. Musical songs teach biblical truth and theologically educate believers about the God. Sacred music stirs and lifts the soul and not just for the fleeting moment, but in a way that actually nourishes the soul by filling it with a lingering sense of God’s presence. This is why bring, joyful, upbeat Christian worship songs are so important for the discipleship and sustenance of the believer. As a preacher I am deeply appreciative of the complementary role that our musical worship plays in promoting the truth of God’s Word, and I hope you are too. 

But now bring me a musician.” And when the musician played, the hand of the LORD came upon him.
Second Kings 3:15

 

Your pastor,

Andrew

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Friday, 19 November 2021

“IT'S COMPLICATED”

 

It's Complicated

A complex system of roadsSometimes the obvious is little difficult to recognise. That’s why you might not have recognised that over the last few decades we have been transitioning out of our old world into the new world that we are now living in! We will remember the old world as the time when the world was much simpler, less connected, and international travel was restricted to the wealthy. You might recognise our new world by noting that it’s much more complex, much more connected, much more technological, much more instant, and much more travelled. Added to this, the old world was when things took time. When you ‘wrote’ to someone overseas it took weeks for your ‘message’ to be delivered. In this new and complex world you can communicate with someone on the other side of the planet instantly and even do it by live video! Back in the old world, power was centralised – movies used to come out Hollywood, software used to be developed in Silicon Valley, all fashion originate out of Paris, and the world’s financial powerhouses were all based based in Wall Street. In today’s new world, the most watched moving pictures are made by teenagers on their smart-phones, software is now called an app and is made by someone with a laptop sitting at their kitchen table, and a twenty-two-year-old Tasmanian RMIT fashion student now designs clothes that are admired all around the world. This is no longer your grandmother’s world and the portal we are all about to walk through into the new world will also have spiritual implications as well.

Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled
and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”
Matthew 9:17

 

HOW THE NEW WORLD OF COMPLEXITY BEGAN WITH THE MOON

In 1969 when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon it marked the dawn of the coming new world of complexity. The moon landing was an amazingly complex operation. NASA stated that it involved 400,000 people to enable it to happen! But the efforts to get Apollo 11 to the moon and two of the three astronauts on the moon spawned a raft of new technologies including satellite communications which would eventually transform television, radio, telephony, and the development of global positioning satellites (GPS). No longer would the world need undersea communication cables to communicate with each other. Thanks to this satellite technology, news could now be reported from anywhere on the planet to anywhere on the planet. The lunar landing proved that what was once thought of as unimaginable might well be possible if an array of experts in their field cooperated together under clear and visionary competent leadership. In 1969, unprecedented complexity had begun. 

And He said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven
is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
Matthew 13:52

WELCOME TO YOUR NEW WORLD OF COMPLEXITY

The new world is a complex world — and we had better get used to it. It is a world made much smaller by affordable international travel, instantaneous global communication, the accessibility of the information, facts, knowledge, and opinions via the world wide web, electronic and digital financial capabilities. We once lived in a world where events on the other side of the planet had little bearing on events in our neighbourhoods — but not anymore — the world is now our neighbourhood. Perhaps this point has become nowhere more obvious than what started in the “Wet Markets” of Wuhan China. We watched the TV reports of this mysterious virus sweeping through a city in China that most of us had, up until then, never heard of. We discovered that this particular Chinese city, Wuhan, has a population of nearly a third the size of the entire population of Australia! When then saw something remarkable, which social commentator, Pastor Mark Sayers, described as emblematic of the new world we have now nearly fully transitioned into: the building of a one-thousand bed state-of-the-art hospital in just seven days!

The 25,000-square-metre (30,000 sq yd) Huoshenshan Hospital, was built by the Chines in just 7 days

The 25,000-square-metre (30,000 sq yd) Huoshenshan Hospital, was built by the Chinese in just 7 days

Mark Sayers describes these two events (COVID-19 breaking out in Wuhan and the Chinese hospital building projects) as emblematic of the new world that we are now in. He reasoned that the virus outbreak which happened in Wuhan travelled around the world in a matter of days – not years (as it might have done in the ‘old world’). Thus, in this new world we are each connected with people around the world more than we realise! Secondly, China’s response to the health crisis by building these hospitals in a matter of days (rather than the years it used to take in the ‘old world’) involved summoning the best earth-works operators, the best engineers, the best architects, the best medical equipment suppliers, the best medical personnel, to build a hospital from scratch in just 7 to 10 days! In the new world, Sayers argues, things can be done far quicker, more efficiently, and safer, than the way it used to happen in the old world. He even stated that this was especially evident with the development of the mRNA vaccines which he said involved the same principles of the Chinese hospital construction projects (a large team of the world’s best virologists, epidemiologists, and bio-chemists – all working cooperatively around the clock to produce this new world vaccine).

No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it,
the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins.
If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins.
But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”
Mark 2:21-22

 

THE IMPLICATIONS FOR THE CHURCH IN THIS NEW WORLD

These various events are described by Sayers as the indicators that we are now well into the transition from the old world into the new world of complexity. In the old world where life was relatively simple, and all good things took time, it might cause an old world native entering into this strange new world of rapid change, global interconnectedness, and breath-taking technological advancement to be a little overwhelmed. This is certainly the case for many churches who have struggled to navigate through all of the upheaval that this transition has forced upon them. This is why I think that it’s good for Christians to remember these great truths:

(i) God is sovereign. He is LORD of lords and KING of kings (1Tim 6:14-16). None of what is happening has caught God off-guard or taken Him by surprise. In the midst of so much upheaval and change, one thing is certain: God does not change.

(ii) Complexity is not at all difficult for God. God knows the name of every mosquito and every sparrow in the entire world (Luke 12:6). He knows the entire sequence of your genome – in order! (Luke 12:7) While most women can do what no man is capable of doing (do two things at once), God can do 7 trillion things at once and give of these tasks His full attention. We can trust God to manage this manage this complex universe (Luke 1:37). 

(iii) What is ‘complex’ and unknown to us is not to God. God knows how much to entrust to you with and has determined that you are capable of handling the part He assigns to you in what seems like His complicated and complex plan (Phil. 2:13). 

(iv) Churches are going to have to become used to being comfortable with little more complexity than they were comfortable with in the old world. The new world is a digitally connected world where community has taken on a new meaning. While some churches may have been slow to embrace live-streaming of their services or even reluctant to do so, those churches who have — and have worked at doing it well — have frequently found it to be very fruitful and effective in discipling people. In this new world, screens are here to stay (at least for the moment until hologram technology catches up). In this complicated new world the LORD will assign His people to the “lane” that best suits them and our role in this complex world is to stay in our lane (Matt. 16:18). 

(iv) Churches will have to increasingly learn how to connect with each other to pool their effectiveness. I’m one of these rare pastors who actually believes that God has ordained denominations as part of His complex plan for world evangelisation and discipleship. In the new world, one of the keys to success will be the ability to connect. Not only will congregations have to learn how to connect with other congregations, but they will also have to learn how to connect within their own congregations and perhaps utilise new technology to do so (Eph. 4:1-2). 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. 
The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Second Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, fellow followers of the Christ let us not get too nostalgic about the passing of the old world and neither let us become too daunted by all that this new world introduces. In one sense while I am forecasting that our world has become and is increasingly becoming a complicated world, if we keep our eyes on Christ, and do what He calls each of us to do, we can trust that He has this complex world firmly in the grasp of His hand and will ensure that His Father’s plan of redemption will reach its climax at just the appropriate time.

He’s got the whole world in His hands
He’s got the whole wide world in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands
He’s got the whole world in His hands
He’s got the little bitty baby in His hands
He’s got you and me brother in His hands
He’s got you and me sister in His hands
He’s got everybody here in His hands
Songwriter: Love Geoffrey, 1927

Amen!

Your pastor,

Andrew

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Friday, 12 November 2021

WHEN CULTURE BEGINS TO ZIG IT MAY BE TIME FOR CHRISTIANS TO ZAG

WHEN CULTURE BEGINS TO ZIG IT MAY BE TIME FOR CHRISTIANS TO ZAG

LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF DANIEL

¶ But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.  And God gave Daniel favour and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs
Daniel 1:8-9

Daniel’s world had been turned upside down. As a young well-to-do Jewish boy who grew up in a highly regarded family with parents who took their devotion to Yahweh seriously, he too would have expected that all of his training would have led him to follow in his father’s and Grandfather’s footsteps in the service of the King’s royal court. Even as a young man in his early teenage years he would have expected to one day take a wife and pass the baton of his knowledge and privilege to his son too. But then his world began to be shaken. The early stages of the disruption began when he was not yet a teen and a very upset and tearful young man from Anathoth, not too much older than himself, stood on the temple steps and denounced the wickedness of the King of Judah. Daniel would have remembered hearing this teenage prophet call the King and the people of Judah to repentance before the Lord’s wrath came upon them. This virgin prophet warned of the destruction of the temple and the invasion of the world’s most vile people — the Babylonians. The disruptions from this highly emotional priest-prophet continued until he was barred from entering the city, but undaunted, he wrote his prophecies out and his secretary, Baruch, deliver them in his stead. Despite the scorn, mocking, and eventual imprisonment, Daniel witnessed the tenacity of the one who came to be known as “the Weeping Prophet” and some seventy years after Jerusalem was indeed destroyed by Babylonian forces (just as the prophet had foretold), Daniel referred to his copy of the now late prophet’s words and turned them into a prayer.

…I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.
¶ Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking Him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.
Daniel 9:2-3

 

THE DAY DANIEL’S WORLD COLLAPSED

The day the Babylonians invaded Jerusalem was the day Daniel’s expected world collapsed. His dreams of being a royal bureaucrat, a husband, and a father were destroyed that day. Nebuchadnezzar’s first invasive visit to Jerusalem was a humiliating one. He deposed the existing king, appointed and renamed a new king, and then took for himself the cream of the young trainee bureaucrats to enter his service back in Babylon. Daniel, at this stage could have only have feared what his selection would have entailed? Would he ever see his parents again? Would he be rescued by the new King’s military forces and reinstated to his position in the royal Judean court? Would Yahweh, the GOD of Israel, ignore his years of faithful devotion and not answer his prayers for his deliverance from this nightmare?

The day that Daniel was forcibly taken from family, his home-land, was also the last day he would never see his parents or his beloved city with its temple again. Upon arriving in Babylon as a fifteen year-old, things only got worse when he discovered that the price for entering into the King of Babylon’s service was the very essence of his manhood. As a result, he was now to submit to “the chief of the eunuchs” (Dan. 1:8).

 

YET DANIEL

¶ As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar.
Daniel 1:17-18

Daniel’s ability to zag in the midst of a culture that was entirely committed to zigging began as soon as he arrived in Babylon. His zagging involved his commitment to worship God despite his circumstances. It involved him being faithful to God even though he had ample opportunity to do otherwise with little to no immediate consequence. It involved him choosing to ignore his very negative circumstances and to press into God to become a man attuned to God’s voice (he would late become recognised as the Prophet Daniel).

Daniel eventually realised that his dream of perhaps one day being restored to home-land was never going to happen. Rather than wallow in bitterness and disappointment, Daniel zagged by being the best public administrator that he could be. Due to his excellent work ethic the day came when he rose to the position of Prime Minister of Babylon. Along the way though his faithfulness to Yahweh led to the king of Babylon humbling himself and surrendering his own life to the God of Israel. Strange things happen when someone committed to being faithful to God (“zagging”) lives among a culture that is hell-bent on zigging!

¶ Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king answered and said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah. I have heard of you that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you.
Daniel 5:13-14

THE APOSTLE PAUL’S INSTRUCTIONS ON HOW TO ZAG

¶ I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:1-2

The birth of Christianity marked the beginning of a new world. The old world at the time Christ walked the streets of Jerusalem was a world where “might was right”. The new world that Jesus established was a world where humility was now among the highest virtues. It was a world caring for each other was prized. It was a world where generosity toward the less fortunate was honoured. It was a world in which the each believer valued their obedience to the One True God. Living in the new world of Christ required zagging in a world where everyone else was zigging. And I suspect that the world we now live in today also a world where zigging is what is demanded — and in Christ’s new world (which He called His Kingdom) we are still called to live our Romans 12:1-2 and zag.  

Your pastor,

Andrew

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Saturday, 30 October 2021

WHY MEN ARE STRONG AND WOMEN ARE BEAUTIFUL

 [The glory of a man his strength. The glory of a woman is her beauty.]

WHY MEN ARE STRONG AND WOMEN ARE BEAUTIFUL

¶ Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
First Corinthians 16:13

So they sought for a beautiful young woman throughout all the territory of Israel,
and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king.
First Kings 1:3

God has created men with the capacity to be physically stronger than a woman. The design of the average man reveals that his arm and leg bones are designed differently to that of a woman and enabled to support longer, denser, and more muscle mass.

“I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in His ways and keeping his statutes, His commandments, His rules, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn
First Kings 2:2-3

But God desires a man’s physical strength to be harnessed for the good and welfare of others — especially women. A man is not to use his strength for evil purposes such as for the malicious violence toward others. Therefore, while most men are physically stronger than most women, a man’s true strength is displayed when he harnesses that strength for the good of others. This requires self-discipline which is also a measure of man’s strength as evidenced by King David’s charge to his son Solomon as prepared to succeed his father (1Kings 2:2-3). As a man ages he is to learn that true strength is not merely determined by physical capacity but is also exercised by increased wisdom (Prov. 20:29). 

The glory of young men is their strength,
but the splendour of old men is their gray hair.
Proverbs 20:29

 A wise man is full of strength,
and a man of knowledge enhances his might
Proverbs 24:5

THE PERFECT MAN’S BODY

Jesus Christ was the perfect man. He would have been physically strong with a well-toned body. Apart from a couple of donkey rides, Jesus travelled up and down and across Israel on foot. He spent the best part of His first thirty years as a carpenter who probably had to cut the trees from which He would mill the timber He needed to ply His trade as a wood craftsman. Cutting down the necessary trees, cutting them to size, and transporting them to where He would work on them would have been heavy manual labour which would have caused Him to grow stronger physically (Luke 2:52).

I write to you, fathers,
because you know Him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men, because you are strong,
and the word of God abides in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.
First John 2:14

Jesus Christ was the perfect example of harnessed strength. He used His physical strength for the good and welfare of others — particularly when He entered into the intense phase of His passion (the week leading up to the Cross) (Matt. 26:53). Throughout His ministry He complemented His physical strength with courage. I am particularly impressed by the way He stood up to the mob of the scribes and Pharisees as they were humiliating the defenceless woman (John 8:2-11). I am also impressed that after He was beaten and physically abused by the Roman soldiers in which He suffered massive blood loss and would have been in tremendous pain, that He was still somehow able to carry and drag a huge splintery wooden cross, which probably weighed around forty kilos, at least part of the way out of Jerusalem — and was then manly enough to accept the help of another man (Simon of Cyrene) to carry it the rest of the way up to Golgotha. Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of a strong man.

 

THE IDEAL WOMAN’S BODY

God has perfectly designed the female body and made it beautiful. It might be true that a woman is attracted to a strong man (especially one strong enough to make her feel secure), but it is definitely true that a man is attracted to a beautiful woman. And it seems that most women really appreciate a man’s admiration of her beauty. And God has also perfectly designed a woman’s body to nurture. This means that her skeletal structure is designed to support adequate muscle mass to nurture, and there are aspects to her design that make her quite distinct from a man’s body. But there is an insidious evil that seeks to particularly attack a woman and distort her appreciation for how the Creator has made her. This insidiousness is promoted in many of the recent crop of female heroines (super-heroines excepted for the moment) portrayed in Hollywood movies where a one hundred fifty three centre-metre, forty-five kilo, underwear model is seen fighting off a one hundred and ninety three centre-metre, one hundred and thirty kilo ex-Navy Seal by punching him across a room. This kind of nonsense sends a terrible message to a woman about her inadequacy to be equal to a man when it comes to physical strength.

I recently heard one woman talking about this distortion of a woman’s feminine worth by stating that it sends a not so subtle message that a woman is physically defective because she is not a man — that is, a woman is defective in some way because she does not possess the natural physical strength of a man. This alleged defectiveness seems to me to be further perpetuated to young women in particular who hear the evil one’s accusations of their supposed defectiveness in their heads when it falsely tells them:

“Your hair is not the right colour.”

“Your fingernails are not long or bright enough.”

“Your eye lashes are not long or lush or curled enough.”

“Your lips are too thin.”

“Your breasts are not shapely enough.”

“Your waist is not small enough.”

“Your legs are not tanned enough.”

I’m not suggesting that a woman should not present herself well with attractive clothing, hair, or make-up, but I would like to encourage women not to see themselves as defective in some way and therefore in need of unnecessary artificiality. There is already something quite intrinsically beautiful about a woman without any artificiality. True beauty is not entirely about a woman’s appearance. The beauty of a woman’s soul becomes readily evident even when her appearance has been damaged through a physical tragedy such as fire.  

OUR BODIES MATTER

Most of us would like to have a healthy, functional, body. If you do, you are blessed. It’s usually in those moments when we go through sickness, injury, or disease, that we gain an increased appreciation for those times we enjoyed good health that, at the time, we took for granted. Sadly though, not everyone enjoys good health. Some diseases linger. Some injuries don’t recover. And some people are not graced with what most of us consider ordinary. Sometimes these illnesses effect a person’s physical appearance. But even when that happens, we must recognise that our bodies are wonderful gifts from God for which we need to be grateful and to steward with care.

[Christians should not regard themselves as “souls with a body”. Rather, we need to accept that the Bible describes us as body-spirit units.]

If you haven’t read Professor Nancy Pearcey’s book, Love Thy Neighbor, I hope you will. She makes a convincing case that we need to regard our bodies as: (i) God’s good design for each of us; and, (ii) God’s good biological gendering of each of us as either male or female is intrinsic to our identity. She also makes two rather profound points about God’s gift to us of our bodies. Firstly, male and female bodies are different for good reasons and these differences should be celebrated not denigrated. Thus, care needs to taken in understanding what it means to be “a man” and what it means to be “a woman”. Our sexual identity as either male or female is derived from our biology not from artificial stereotypes. These artificial stereotypes may present true manliness as being a tall, well-built, ruggedly handsome, testosterone charged man who hunts, fishes, and slays dragons; and, true femininity as a woman in her twenties with an hour-glass figure, long flowing hair, eye-lashes that could keep her feet dry, make-up that is always photo-ready, an over inflated sexual appetite, a gifted mother of six perfectly behaved children, and a wiz in the kitchen. The reality is that some strong men like to knit and some very beautiful women like to do carpentry! 

 

WHAT TWO ANCIENT MYTHS TEACH US ABOUT BEING A STRONG MAN AND BEING A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN

There is an ancient Christian myth that originate from the second century that tells of a small village outside of Jerusalem in the late first century that was being assailed by a dragon. The dragon would ravage the villagers’ livestock and crops causing great devastation. It refused to stop its assault until it was appeased by a human sacrifice. The villagers were terrified by the dragon. Then one day a brave woman from the village said to herself that this must stop and she would offer herself to the dragon. Armed with nothing but a crucifix in her hand as she held up as she approached the dragon, she bravely entered into the dragon’s mouth. But once in the mouth she then shoved the crucifix in her hand down its gullet. The dragon struggled to breath and soon vomited the woman out of its mouth but was unable to dislodge the fatal crucifix. Once she was spewed out of the dragon’s mouth she grabbed that the now asphyxiating dragon’s tail and dragged it back the village for the men of the village to finally dispatch. This is the myth of Saint Martha (who is featured in John 11).

The second myth comes about a thousand years later and also involves a dragon. One day a knight, Sir George, was passing through a devastated village and enquired of the villagers what had caused such terrible damage. The villages told the knight that it was a dragon and that this dragon could only be appeased by human sacrifice. At this point a young girl stepped forward and told the knight that she had offered to be the sacrifice to the dragon but the men of the village did not allow her to be so. Sir George scolded the men of the village for coming up with an alternative solution to this brave young girl’s offer and then declared that he would go out and meet the dragon. Armed with sword and lance George approached the smug dragon who lunged at him with mouth wide open. With the skill of a battle-hardened warrior George took his lance and drove it up through the inside of the dragon’s mouth. The dragon was now dead and the village was now at peace once again.

These two ancient myths describe a similar problem and a similar solution – except that the myth of St. Martha depicts how a woman’s wiles dealt with the problem and the myth of St. George depicts how a man’s strengths dealt with the problem. 

 

STRENGTH AND BEAUTY LESSONS

     The Bible places an extremely high value on our physical bodies and foretells that even in the resurrection we will live on as immortal physical beings. The Bible reveals that Satan wants us to hate our bodies — and he particularly wants women to hate theirs! The Bible describes how God had given men the capacity for greater physical strength which must be harnessed by wisdom, courage and virtue. The Bible also describes how God has made all women beautiful and that women must learn to harness their beauty with modesty, wisdom, and valour. Ultimately, a man’s strength and a woman’s beauty are both reflections of the aspects of the image of God that men and women share so that world might know that God is all-powerful and all-glorious. Let’s celebrate this!

Your pastor,

Andrew

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