Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Being anxious and distressed because of our friends

We're working through Philippians in Bible study at the moment, and last night came to 2:12-29. As expected we spent a lot of time working through 2:12-18, thinking about how we might shine as lights in the world etc - good stuff.

Then we got on to v19-29, where we hear about Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus, the relationship they have with each other and the way they struggle and content for the truth of the gospel. We talked about being fellow workers and struggling for the gospel in our lives and contexts, but then spent some time talking about v26-28, especially the anxiousness and distress that the Philippians are having because they have heard of Epaphroditus' illness.

It got us wondering, would we describe what we feel for our friends when we hear of their illness or bad news as 'anxiousness' or 'distress'. Probably not - was the answer we came up with. We might feel sorrow, sympathy, compassion or worry - but probably not anxiousness or distress.

Of course we do feel these things when its our wife or our kids or our parents who are suffering, but not our mates at church.

So what does that tell us? Well, presumably the depth of the 'anguish' we feel when we hear of a calamity falling upon someone we know is directly proportional to the depth of our relationship with them. The closer we are, the more we feel it. An extreme example is if our child is sick we get worried, even anxious. If a child in Africa is sick - there is not effect on us whatsoever.

But for the Philippians, for Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus - news of illness brought distress, sorrow and anxiety. Why? Because their relationship was one of Father and Son in the faith, because they were fellow workers and fellow soldiers in the gospel.

I wonder if this is a challenge to us? Perhaps the fact that we feel concern and sympathy rather than distress and anguish for our fellow workers is a sign that we need to deepen the relationships we have together? Perhaps part of that deepening of relationship comes in the mutual contending for the gospel, rather than just chatting over morning tea and having meals together? Should we be deepening our relationships with one another not just socially, but 'gospelly'?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Two encouragements to bear fruit

I heard two great sermons yesterday - one 'live' and one on the radio. Each one had a point that really struck me as we live in the world that we do.

Sermon 1 - a 'state of the union' type address at one of our link churches.
There were lots of good points made by Phil, but the one that really struck me was that "a little religion is good for you in this world, but in the world to come it is useless". 

We were looking at Matthew 10:34-39 and we were being encouraged to think that in Jesus' mind there weren't 'full on' Christians - just Christians. To have a little bit of religion, get a few of the moral bits or learn a few religious platitudes is actually in the long run useless.

He suggested that as Christians we can be tempted to become a bit 'flabby around the middle' rather than the lean mean Christians that Jesus wants us to be. Instead of being radical followers of Jesus, we can make Jesus 'a priority'. As we face more pressures at work and on the wallet etc, this was a great reminder to keep bearing fruit.

Sermon 2 - on the parable of the prodigal son.
Simon encouraged us to think about the older son, the one who works diligently and home and gets really angry when the foolish younger son comes home and gets a big party. So often we can kind of sympathise with the older son - actually it does seem a bit rough that he gets to work all day and receive nothing, but then his idiot little brother comes home and gets the full royal treatment.

Simon's word to us as we think about that - repent of that thinking! The older son is ungrateful, he doesn't understand the love of his father, he doesn't understand the joy of being in a secure, accepting and loving relationship, and he doesn't understand the magnitude of the lost one being found!

Again - a great encouragement to know the relationship we have with God, praise him for that, and praise him when other people come to be part of that relationship too.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A change in society on some of the issues of life.

I'm wondering if there has been a change in our society? I think I noticed this in the recent American election campaign, but a few national issues and a couple of conversations that I've had the past few weeks have confirmed my suspicions.

My suspicion is that being what the Americans would call 'pro-life', is now seen as a radical, right wing, fundamentalist position, whereas in the past I think it would have been seen as a mainline view. Sure, the view may be disagreed with, but it would be an acceptable view to hold.

Take for example the recent debate in Victoria leading the legislative change that now allows late term abortions. In all the press coverage surrounding that debate, the 'pro-life' view was presented as being out of touch, last century, conservative, disempowering of women etc. 'Of course this change should go ahead' was the general view. To disagree, to argue for the preservation and value of life was to be a radical fringe thinker.

That in the legislative realm, what about personally. I was talking to an old friend in the pool today (while we watched our kids splash around) and he said that he had found himself keeping silent in a couple of 'water cooler' conversations about abortion recently, because he didn't want his workmates to think of him as a fundamental 'evangelical right' American-type nutter. Now this guy is articulate and carefully thought out. He's the sort of guy who would, and does, speak out regularly on issues of Christian living around the water cooler. And yet here he felt himself staying silent. Have we seen the tide turn on a major social issue so much that we feel the need to keep silent?

With all that in mind - I reckon what the current Moore College students is a great idea. Because they are all poor and the government wants poor people to have more money and spend it to stimulate the Australian economy, in December they are giving poor people with kids $1,000 per child. The Moore College crew have decided that to support families, and particularly to support mothers who are feeling the pressure to abort their babies but don't really want to - they're going to give half of that money to Anglicare and other organisations that care for these women. Good on you!

Have a look here for more details.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Melbourne Cup - just say no!

Tomorrow is that iconic event in Australian sporting history, 'the race that stops a nation', the Melbourne Cup.

It seems that while it may stops us thinking. In 2007 in the order of $150million was wagered on the race, most of which of course went to the government and the bookies. Frankly - betting on anything is a dud investment, betting on the Melbourne Cup is a real dud - with 24 horses in the race the odds are stacked against you.

Apart from the obvious problem of probability and the well documented social evils associated with gambling, the main problem with the Melbourne Cup is that it hooks into our senses of greed and materialism. Normal, rational- and often godly people suddenly become greedy for the win, desirous of the latest fashion and spend vast amounts of money on over-rated food. (Am I sounding grumpy??)

Can I make a suggestion? As people who are aiming to live godly, content lives, lets say 'No' to the Melbourne Cup. Lets not let it stop us. When the office sweep comes around say a polite 'no thanks'. Perhaps if refusal will make too much of a scene - thats a good thing. Or maybe, buy the ticket, but give the same amount of money to the Christian ministry of your choice - along with any winnings that may come your way.