Thursday, 10 December 2015

The Christmas Spirit

As Christmas approaches, I found a superb chapter about Christmas in the book Knowing God by J. I. Packer. He talks of the wonder of God incarnate and the Christmas Spirit. This is a short excerpt, but if you want more of it, I highly recommend the whole book!
The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity - hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory - because at the Father's will Jesus Christ became poor, and was born in a stable so that thirty years later he might hang on a cross. It is the most wonderful message that the world has heard, or will hear.
We talk glibly of the 'Christmas spirit', rarely meaning more by this than sentimental jollity on a family basis. But what we have said makes it clear that the phrase should in fact carry a tremendous weight of meaning. It ought to mean the reproducing in human lives of the temper of him who for our sakes became poor at the first Christmas And the Christmas spirit itself ought to be the mark of every Christian all the year round.
It is our shame and disgrace today that so many Christians - I will be more specific: so many of the soundest and most orthodox Christians - go through this world in the spirit of the priest and the Levite in our Lord's parable, seeing human needs all around them, but (after a pious wish, perhaps a prayer, that God might meet those needs) averting their eyes, and passing by on the other side. That is not the Christmas spirit. Nor is it the spirit of those Christians - Alas, they are many - whose ambition in life seems limited to building a nice middle-class Christian home, and making nice middle-class Christian friends, and bringing up their children in nice middle-class Christian ways, and who leave the sub-middle-class sections of the community, Christian and non-Christian to get on by themselves.
The Christmas spirit does not shine out in the Christian snob. For the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor - spending, and being spent - to enrich their fellow humans, giving time, trouble, care and concern, to do good to others - and not just their own friends - in whatever way there seems need.
There are not as many who show this spirit as there should be. If God in mercy revives us, one of the things he will do will be to work more of this spirit in our hearts and lives. If we desire spiritual quickening for ourselves inddividually, one step we should take is to seek to cultivate this spirit. 'You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.' (2 Cor. 8:9). 'Your attitide should be the same as that of Christ Jesus' (Phil. 2:5). 'I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart' (Ps. 119:32, KJV).

Monday, 30 November 2015

A unique response to the Paris Attacks

After the shocking terrorist attacks in Paris, the story ran for days on the news and many politicians and religious leaders rushed to condemn the violence of ISIS terrorists.
One response which stood out to me was an article by Lyle Shelton, the managing director of ACL. It gives a fresh perspective and really makes you think, so please take a moment to read it here!

If you want to learn more about Asia Bibi (mentioned in the article) and other persecuted Christians, you can subscribe to Open Doors.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Renew Retreat

Contrary to all appearances, no, I haven't given up blogging already. Life has just been a bit busy and I'm working on some posts. Here's a shared resource for you!

In January, my sister and I attended a three-day girls' camp on a friend's recommendation. We weren't quite sure what to expect, but the Renew Retreat was excellent! There were games, singing, questions, humour, discussion time and engaging teaching sessions. The speakers chose great topics for their audience of girls from high school to 25: in a way they went back to the basics of Christianity and how we apply them. Everything they taught was scripture-based and seemed perfectly designed for us.
I highly recommend it and you can register here!

Here are the dates of the different camps:
Melbourne - January 2-4
Hobart - January 7-9
Brisbane - January 11-13
Sydney - January 16-18
Perth - April 18-20
Darwin - June 27-29
Singapore - November 29-December 1
Jakarta, Indonesia - December 4-6
Philippines - November 13-15; 17-18; 20-22

They offer a discount if you register before November!

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

More than music

This year as my family has travelled, we've visited several different churches and denominations. At one church, a significant portion of the service was comprised of "worship time," which was singing. We sang some repetitive songs while much of the congregation waved flags, danced across the stage and tearfully waved their arms. It all made me feel a bit uncomfortable because it was so different to what I'm used to, and frankly, some of it seemed like a choreographed show for our entertainment.
As I watched, I began to wonder, "Am I missing something? What is worship, really? What does the Bible actually say? Surely it's not just singing songs, because I really don't feel worshipful right now!"
I got my answer from Romans 12:1. It says, "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship."
I didn't need to look any further. Worship is not the warm emotion of singing on Sunday morning. It's not telling God how great he is when we pray. Worship is the act of presenting my body, my actions, my life, as a sacrifice to God, every moment, whether you feel like it or not.
Steven Curtis Chapman's song, "Moment Made for Worshiping", sums it up very well.

6:30 Monday morning
I'm here hiding in my bed
A song plays on my alarm clock
As I cover up my head
But somewhere in the distance
I remember yesterday
Singing "Hallelujah"
Full of wonder, awe and grace
But now I'm just wondering
Why I don't feel anything
At all

This is a moment made for worshiping
Cause this is a moment I'm alive
And this is a moment I was made to sing
A song of living sacrifice
For every moment that I live and breathe
This is a moment made for worshiping

And as we've visited more churches, there has been a wide variety of music: upbeat choruses, hymns, and everything in between. I have personal preferences, as does every individual. Even within my family, we all have tendencies towards different songs and styles. But when I learned that worship is not music on a Sunday morning, I made another discovery: If music isn't our worship, it doesn't matter anymore whether it's your kind of music or a style that you find more difficult to relate to. The main thing is that we worship by presenting ourselves as living sacrifices, all the time.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Take Action!

On our travels, my family has seen various Haulocost and World War II memorials, but by far the biggest was the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum in Jerusalem. Here's what I wrote when we visited:

                ...At the end we went through the children's memorial. Mirrors reflected a single candle into the darkness and names and ages of the kids were read incessantly. I thought of the postcard I'd read less than an hour ago. A mother had written it, consumed by love and anxiety for her toddler son. He was murdered at Auschwitz. It's essential for us to remember the holocaust and recoil in horror, but this is a useless exercise if we forget to use our horror. What happened was deplorable, but there is nothing we can do to change the past. Nothing! What we can change, however, is the future. I felt angry as I walked through, reading the signs and watching the videos of suffering. I saw children starving in the ghettos, and I thought of the families in Eastern Ukraine with no bread to feed their children. The racial genocide was shocking, but the Jews weren't the first or the last to be targeted in this way. [ISIS] is exterminating Christians, Hazaras, Yadizis and Shiite Muslims in Iraq and Syria. When [my mum] told me how [the Nazis] killed the young babies, though, I was appalled. They held the infant's ankles and swung them against a wall, bashing their heads. I was upset and mad. What about the babies whose brains are sucked out before they see the light of day [abortion]? What about them? What will we do to stop modern starvation, genocide and murder? We have more holocausts on our hands, and we have the power to halt them this time! What will we do?

The question is "What will we do?" When I wrote this, I had some ideas, but I wasn't one hundred percent sure, so I've done a little brainstorm of three ways for anyone to take action.
  1. Pray! We can all pray for those suffering in these situations and others, for the victims and the perpetrators. If you want to pray for persecuted Christians, keep up with neglected headlines on Open Doors. If you want to pray for anyone suffering, just read or watch the news.
  2.  Spread the word! Talk to people about these things, share it on social media or post it on your blog.
  3. Donate time or money! To give food, clothing, housing, medical care and food to Ukrainians living on the front lines, donate here. If you're in Australia, you can sign this petition asking for the refugee intake to be raised. If you're elsewhere, you could search on Change.org for a petition in your country. With regards to abortion, try searching change.org for relevant petitions in your state or country, and look up a local organization that needs donations of time, resources or money.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Glorious Joy

1 Peter 1:8-9 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

When I read this verse a few months ago, I thought, "Wow, inexpressible and glorious joy." Then I read verse nine. "the salvation of our souls?" I usually tend to think of salvation as eternal life in heaven, which we obviously don't get until we die. In this verse, "the salvation of your souls" is referring to our souls' deliverance from the power of sin. Think on this truth for a moment. Through Jesus, we have victory over sin! We don't have to give in to temptation! That's something worth rejoicing over!

Sunday, 12 July 2015

More on Marriage and the Australian Christian Lobby

The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) is presenting another chance to stand up for the children who could potentially lose their mother or father if the new same-sex marriage bill is passed. There is a petition to sign, and if you haven't yet, please consider emailing your MP.

Some people said that any country which legalized so-called "marriage equality" would have to discuss polygamy too. It's true. After American judges ignored the wishes of the 31 states that voted against redefining marriage, people have begun asking for their polygamous relationships to be recognized. (See this excellent ACL article for more information and a good perspective on the U.S.A.'s legalization.)

If you are Australian and a Christian, I highly recommend visiting ACL's website and signing up for their emails. They cover topics such as marriage, abortion, euthanasia, freedom of religion, outdoor advertising, persecuted Christians, the budget, refugees, education, domestic violence, prostitution, drugs, alcohol, gambling, homelessness, human rights and overseas aid, all from a practical Christian perspective. They present information and updates on these topics, as well as simple ways you can stand up for what you believe. Even if you are not Australian or a Christian, ACL has a different perspective on these issues.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Fundamentalism


Last year for my history curriculum, I had to write an article on Fundamentalism vs. the World Council of Churches. I strongly believe what I wrote then just as much as, if not more than, I do now. I thought what I discovered was interesting and worth sharing, so here it is.


In the early 1900s, as secular beliefs became more widely accepted in Christian circles, the Christian Fundamentalists emerged. They maintained that the Bible was inerrable: correct and literal in all areas. This leads them to protest issues such as legalized abortion, evolution taught exclusively in schools, homosexuality, feminism, Communism and secular humanism. Just before WWII, a group of churches attempted to form a unified body of churches, but their progress was hindered and delayed by the war. It wasn’t until 1948 that the World Council of Churches was officially founded in Amsterdam. Their aim was for the world to see a unified Christian body of churches that are socially acceptable. However, the firm, assertive fundamentalists saw this as opposition to true Christianity. The World Council of Churches compromised on many issues in order to be seen as tolerant, relevant and contemporary. The Fundamentalists are outraged that The World Council of Churches accepts denominations which deny fundamental Biblical principles such as the trinity, the sincerity of faith, baptism as a symbol only, justification by faith, and capitalism. Since the World Council of Churches has modified their Christianity to be socially tolerable, Fundamentalists who hold firm to their Biblical beliefs cannot accept their Christianity as anything but watered down to be inoffensive like the Christianity of the church of Sardis in Revelation which Jesus rebuked and referred to as dead.

Friday, 19 June 2015

The Definition of Marriage

At the beginning of June, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten introduced a new bill (law) to parliament. All he wants to do is change a few words in the definition of marriage, but these little words will completely redefine marriage and ultimately family. He proposes to change the words ‘man and woman’ and ‘husband and wife’ and replace them with simply ‘two people’. This legalizes the marriage of two men or two women. Parliament will debate these changes in the coming weeks and months, then vote on it.

In Genesis 19, God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with burning sulphur. Do you know what one of their primary faults was? Homosexuality. In Romans 1:18-32, Paul writes of God’s wrath against the “unnatural relations” of those who reject God.

It is obvious that God hates it, but few people in our society care what God thinks, so we have to use different arguments to convince them.

Most significantly, we have to consider the innocent children who will be caught up in this. It is a proven fact that children flourish best when living with a married mum and dad. John Howard called traditional families (one man and one woman married to each other) “the greatest social welfare system the world has ever devised.” In fact, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child declares that every child deserves to "as far as possible... know and be cared for by his or her parents." God didn’t design two men or two women to create children, so they have to use other options like surrogacy if they want children. Inevitably, these children will be separated from either biological mother or father.

If you need proof that missing a mum or a dad is harmful and hurtful, it’s not hard to find children raised by same-gender parents who are now telling the world that the child filled the need for their “parents” to have children, rather than their two mums or two dads filling the child's needs for one mum and one dad. (See here and here for just a few examples.)

Further, other countries where same-gender marriage is legal clearly show that it limits freedom of speech and religion for those who oppose it. A florist, bakers, and a couple providing wedding facilities are just a few of those who have been severely penalized for their convictions. The same things will happen in Australia unless we take action.

Advocates are calling for this new bill to bring in marriage equality, but two men or two women will only ever make a marriage in name alone, since marriage in its essence is, and always will be, the union of one man and one woman.

Here’s where we can help: The Australian Christian Lobby is asking anyone who cares to send a brief email to their MP reminding them why we oppose changing the definition of marriage. The process is very simple and easy, so please, please take a moment to preserve this fundamental part of society.

This article is another very clear and succinct resource!

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Plain Salty CHIPS



Last year, I began writing articles for the opinion section of the news, but of course nothing was published because I don’t have any qualifications to be writing for them. I don’t have a doctorate, I’m not a specialist in any given field, I’m not a journalist and I’m only sixteen. But I still wanted to share my ideas with other people, so I eventually decided that a blog would be the best format.
Like everyone, I’m imperfect and learning many lessons, but I want to share with you the little observations I’ve made and the things I’ve discovered along the way because I’ve found these learning opportunities exciting.
We all like chips, and this blog is food for thought; refreshments for the brain. I hope that someone will enjoy the little snacks I post.
These chips aren’t fancy. There’s no crinkle-cut or barbecue chicken, just plain salt.
Salt is in almost everything we eat. It adds flavour, preserves the meal and spreads. I want my posts to flavour people’s worldviews, to help preserve souls and Christian values, and to spread.

My plan for this blog is to present a “salty” perspective on:
  • Christ. He is the more important than any other thing or person in my life, so every post will be related to Him or because of Him.
  • Humankind. We talk of different races, but despite variations in colour and culture, we are all part of the human race. Christ loved humans so much that he died for us and He continues to love us by giving the gift of a relationship with Him. I want to care for people the way he does. 
  • Information. If we don’t know something, we don’t care about it. I want everyone to know so they can care.
  • Politics. I know this might sound irrelevant, complicated and perhaps boring, but politics don’t have to be that way. I hope to give some simple insights into the way our country is run because that affects every aspect of life. 
  •  Shared resources. Whether it be a book, website, petition or just an observation of my own, I want to share the opportunities waiting out there for us to take action or be encouraged.