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Letter from Australia 17 – Joy in Serving

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It’s been a surreal week. Have you ever had one of those weeks where life goes on, but you feel as if it is not real – as if somehow things are going on around you, but you are not quite sure if you are there other than as a spectator? The Bushfires and the resultant smoke and haze in Sydney was somehow symbolic of my week! And yet in the midst of all of this the Lord’s work has been going on. 

For me it is essential that when we seek to serve Christ we are able to do so with joy – whatever our circumstances.  I have been reflecting on that this past week.    Perhaps if I share with some of what has been going on, you will get the picture? So in reverse order in terms of ‘joy’ here is what I have been up to this week.

Team Meeting

This is at the bottom of the list – not because it was bad or disappointing, but just because I enjoy these meetings least of all. This one was positive – with good news about funding for Third Space and more clarity about the direction we are going. But I was weary at the end.

Church Leadership –

I was honoured to address the Australian TGC Council. They have some impressive men and one impressive woman!   I loved being with them – but I think I felt too free and perhaps said things I shouldn’t have said. I think the more I try not to step on people’s toes – the more I do so! Thinking out loud and being too open with people is not always good! As I said I loved being with these Christian leaders, but I came away feeling a bit out of my depth. I don’t think I’m in the same league.

 

IMG-7240
It’s not just the big churches we go to!  Pittown Anglican…

Churches –

I met with the leadership at St Thomas’s to discuss men’s ministry. Later in the week Steve and I did a consultation with Pitttown Anglican in Western Sydney, helping them with an outreach event they are doing this Saturday.  It was a joy and encouragement to be with both groups. In all biblical churches there are problems and difficulties – but there are also good people working together as the body of Christ. It’s a privilege and joy to share in that work.

Writing –

I enjoy writing. Which is a good thing, otherwise I couldn’t do it. Sometimes I think the well will run dry – and when it does, I will stop. No point in flogging a dead horse. This week I wrote for Evangelicals Now, Christian Today and a couple of blog articles.   I need to be organized and inspired….I think this week there was more perspiration than inspiration.   I also have an extensive correspondence to deal with. Those seeking Christ, and those wanting pastoral advice come first – which means my administration and finance stuff often gets put on the back burner.  Which then leads to a backlog for me and frustration for others.

Quantum Podcast –

I was going to stop doing this – but there are such a number of regular listeners that I thought it would be wrong to stop. I love what Peter the producer does with it – so providing I have been collecting and collating stories throughout the week, I am usually able to record as live (i.e. a one off) and leave him to link all the bits together. Quantum 69 – The One with Hong Kong; France; Greg Sheridan; the USA; UK Election; Race Self Identification; Prince Andrew; Cold Showers; the Good Place; ACDC

Media

On Monday I met with a media producer and on Thursday Steve MacAlpine and I recorded eight videos for the Third Space website. Meeting with the media producer was a joy because it was one of those meetings where it is clear you are both on the same wavelength. It’s good to dream dreams and imagine what might be.   I also love working with Steve because we spark each other of and he has one of the sharpest minds I know. We were greatly encouraged by the response of the video maker. Hopefully you will see the fruit of our labours soon. Meanwhile here is an earlier recording that went live this week. How Good is the Good Place?

If you havn’t done so please visit our new website – https://thirdspace.org.au/

Screenshot 2019-11-24 21.39.42

Ethics Group –

I loved this. I was invited to this small group which meets in a boardroom in the CBD. They are ‘gatekeepers’ and ‘influencers’ from a wide variety of backgrounds (Christian and non- Christian). At this meeting we listened to a comedian who led us in a discussion about the ethics of comedy. I find these kind of events enormously stimulating…my problem is that once my brain is stimulated, my mouth gets into gear! I need to remember that not everyone learns by, or appreciates, the Socratian method of questioning and thinking out loud! But I think I will be invited back!

People –

I don’t normally write about the people I meet here. That would not be fair

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Sometimes I meet people in lovely places!

because we meet in private and discuss things. This week I have enjoyed meeting with a small but varied number of people – often these meetings centre round food or coffee. I find that no matter who they are – two things are always true – firstly that all people have fascinating stories and secondly that all people need Christ.

Preaching

Perhaps more than anything I enjoy preaching – not because as a friend quipped – I get to speak to a captive audience – but rather because it is through the preaching of the Cross that people come to know Christ. This month I have been doing City Bible Forum’s ‘Bible Shots. There are short lunchtime sermons (20 min followed by 10 min Q and A) held in St Andrews Cathedral (Tuesdays at 1:10) and Scots Presbyterian (Wednesdays at 12:20 and 1:10). The attendances are relatively small – but I just love the interaction with the people and the opportunity to proclaim Christ in the city centre (like Paul in the lecture hall of Tyrannus in Ephesus).

Screenshot 2019-11-24 21.35.32

Children –

As a Shepherd of Christ’s flock I find that I am particularly burdened and drawn to the lambs of the flock. I miss the children in St Peter’s more than anything. I think about and pray for them every week. So today it was a great privilege and tremendous responsibility to be asked to speak to the children at St Thomas’s. I was more nervous about this than I am about preaching! But once I forgot about the adults and the rest of the congregation I loved sharing Christ with the children. 

DavidRTalk

Scientists – Cross Culture….

Finally I spoke at a scientists meeting in the observatory at the University of Western Sydney. From the moment I almost hit a kangaroo driving on campus to the final cup of tea at the end – I loved every part of this. Cross Culture is a group of scientists, and those interested in science, who meet to discuss and think about the relationship between Christianity and science. Some come from a Christian perspective. Others don’t. What gives me joy about these kind of meetings is not the size of the group, or whether the ‘crowds’ applaud you – but the individuals who question and speak to you afterwards. I’m not sure what they thought – but for me this is the sea I am most comfortable swimming in!  Here are some photos from the event….

This was an unusually busy week. I don’t and couldn’t do this every week. But it does illustrate the kind of opportunities that the Lord is granting us here. At first I found it hard not preaching every Sunday – but I am enjoying being part of the congregation and getting to serve in other ways. And I am enjoying the opportunity to share Christ with many others throughout the week.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”  Colossians 3:23-24

I hope and pray that you have had a great Lord’s Day. And that is has equipped you for whatever service he calls you to this week.  May you know joy in serving…

Yours in Christ

David

Letter from Australia 16 – Chinese Presbyterians and a Community Church on the Sunshine Coast

 

 

 

10 comments

  1. Hello Pastor

    Off-topic but I finally bought one of your books (“The Dawkins Letters”) from Koorong in Brisbane today. I have been reading it on the train back up to the Sunshine Coast. Very interesting and enjoyable so far-I am up to Dawkins’ green moustache/multiverse speculative nonsense.

    There is one point on which I am uneasy though… On page 39 (I have the revised edition) you state, “The only atheistic states… in the world have been the most vicious and cruel the world has ever seen.” The issue is that the more I read about Louis XIV’s Catholic France and the scale and intensity of the horrors perpetrated against the Huguenots after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, it seems his totalitarian regime was as bad as Nazi Germany. The only limitation was that of technology: what would Louis have done with radio for propaganda and industralized methods for killing Huguenots who would not recant? Even if we question the sincerity of Louis’ own Catholic faith, this was the Roman Church working hand in glove with the military in a supposedly-devout Catholic State to unleash terror against other Christians on a scale fairly unprecedented at the time. 🙁 🙁 🙁 Any thoughts?

    The other aspect is that it seems likely Hitler was some kind of weird nature deist/social Darwinist rather than an atheist, and people like Hess and Himmler were weirdo occultists, other leading Nazis like Martin Bormann and Alfred Rosenburg were definitely militant atheists

    Other than that, great book and, now I have seen the cover image, I finally understand your “shield” in the cartoon of you on the blog entries!

    Thanks so much for writing it. It is very helpful.

    1. It is good that you raise such a topic and more should be raised and brought out into the open. It is unfortunate that so many Christians conveniently forget the history of their religion – or are simply ignorant of it – and how it arrived at the position it now holds.
      There is so much bloodshed.

      1. Good morning Ark

        You are right that many Christians are ignorant of their history but I think that is true of people in general these days, sadly. There seems to have been a general “dumbing down” of western culture because of distraction like the mass media, consumer culture etc.

        The main thing to note about France in the 1680s is that the Catholics were acting in a manner totally contrary to Christ”s teachings. They had a legacy of doing this in France from the Crusades, the persecution of the Cathars and the Wars of Religion, so it had deep historical roots. (Calvin had urged the Huguenots not to resort to violence in self defence against the Catholics but they did so too eventually leading to the Wars if Religion).

        The Papacy had been more of a worldly, temporal power since the Middle Ages when Popes led armies so it is no surprise he endorsed the killings and persecution.(Protestants considered the office of the Pope to be antichrist).

        Some Catholics in the 1680s did speak out over the ill-treatment of the Huguenots but most were silent, either through fear or acquiescence.

        The situation does remind me of Nazi Germany where a few Christians like Martin Niemöller, Sophie Schöll, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Franz Jagerstätter spoke out against the regime but most were silent.

        I have read many books on the persecution of the Huguenots but the one I am looking at currently, “The Huguenots in France”, is particularly good. It was written by Samuel Smiles (by coincidence, a Scotsman) in 1870 and what he describes is eerily similar to what would happen in Germany in the 1930s, sixty years later.

        Speaking of Nazi Germany, although it was not atheist, it was definitely anti-Christian. My personal take on it is that Nazism was a political personality cult that mixed elements of pantheist nature wirship, Social Darwinism, occultism (ariosophy), rural folk religion, Roman Catholicism (ceremonial pageantry and Jesuitism specifically) and the idolatry of extreme nationalism and veneration of the ” betrayed” fallen German soldiers of WW1 (whom Hitler took it upon himself to personify). Pastor David has studied it more extensively than me so he might have different ideas and mire insight, though.

        Many Nazis came from Roman Catholic homes but they seem to have had unhappy childhoods because of excessively authoritarian and cold parents and so they rejected the religion as a result but still drew on some externals of Catholic culture (authiritarianism and hierarchism and the aforementioned pageantry and theatricalism) when developing Nazism.

        Many Nazis were also people who were slightly too young to fight in WW1 and were bitter that they “missed out” and were jealous of older brothers who had fought.

        Atheists lije Martin Bormann, Rosenberg and others openly considered Nazism an anti-Christian movement. Hess and Himmler were openly occultist.

        One of the very few devout Christians (and Protestants) in the Nazi Party was the Gauleiter of East Prussia, Eric Koch, who, admittedly, was one of the worst of the worst. How on earth he reconciled his supposed Protestant beliefs with his crimes is something he will have to discuss with God come his day of judgement.

        In summary, Nazism was nit majority atheist, IMHO, but nearly all Nazis were deeply hostile to Christianity. By the way, they even tried to re-paganise Christmas:

        https://research.calvin.edu/german-propaganda-archive/weihnacht44.htm

        https://research.calvin.edu/german-propaganda-archive/feier37.htm

        https://www.bytwerk.com/gpa/vorweihnachten1943.htm

        https://research.calvin.edu/german-propaganda-archive/nazichristmasstory.htm

        Finally, Ark, have you read Pastor David’s “Dawkin Letters”? If you have not yet done so, I would recommend you have a look. Even if you end up disagreeing with him, there are interesting discussions in it which an atheist like yourself can engage. It is not excessively polemical or anything like that and it is a quick read (I finished it last night) so worth a look.

        Have great day.

      2. Every Abrahamic religion is steeped in blood, including the Protestant sects, as are many/most others.
        In fact, the central theme of Christianity is centered upon a blood sacrifice.
        Although most Christians I have engaged try to brush this aspect of their religion aside, it tells us all we need to know that the character, Jesus of Nazareth had to be brutally executed and couldn’t simply die of old age. After all he could still have rise from the dead and got his message across, surely?

        As a rule I avoid discussions about Nazism.
        However,it is a given that were there no Abrahamic religions there is a high probability that this vile period in our history would not have occurred.

        I have read parts of David’s “Dawkin Letters”.
        While I most definitely do not agree with certain of Dawkins views, I have no truck with a religious based worldview whatsoever.

        Regards
        Ark

  2. ” From the moment I almost hit a kangaroo driving on campus to the final cup of tea…….”

    Goodness, I didn’t know kangaroos were allowed to drive in Australia! How do they fit in?

  3. Hello Ark,

    I’ll just respond to one part if your message. You state:

    “In fact, the central theme of Christianity is centered upon a blood sacrifice.
    Although most Christians I have engaged try to brush this aspect of their religion aside, it tells us all we need to know that the character, Jesus of Nazareth had to be brutally executed and couldn’t simply die of old age. After all he could still have rise from the dead and got his message across, surely?”

    This is a response from a French Protestant question and answer website I find useful. It doesn’t deal with your hypothetical “died of old age” scenario but it talks about Jesus’ death in general. (It is auto-translated with Google Translate so it is a bit rough to read but you’ll get the gist):

    “Why did Jesus have to be crucified? Why could not God just forgive us without this terrible
    sacrifice of his son? [Eric]
    September 3, 2019
    No comment

    ANSWER: The meaning of Jesus’ death, his reach and his cause have been the subject of much questioning for
    decades. Some only want to see it as a heroic act of the witness of truth and justice, a denunciation
    of the violence of men (Matthew 23,31). Or a victory over the powers of death (Revelation 12,10ss)
    that oppress humans. Or else, a proof of total love of Jesus towards us (John 15,13) or absolute
    obedience / trust towards the Father (see John 14,31, or the attitude of Jesus crucified in the face of
    mockery and challenges it faces). Non-exhaustive list.
    These meanings are very much present in the New Testament, but you have used, Eric, the most
    important term among the interpretations that the Scripture gives of the death of Jesus: “sacrifice.”
    The fact that his blood was shed to erase our faults (idea of substitution), as, symbolically, the blood
    of the animal spread on the altar, erased the defilements (Lev 17,11). Jesus is indeed the faithful
    servant announced by Isaiah: “Sanctification, a pledge of peace for us, was upon him, and in his
    wounds was our healing … The Lord has put down on him the evil of us all” (53.5 and following,
    TOB version). The epistle to the Hebrews in the New Testament shows that the sacrifice of Jesus,
    the perfect victim offered once for all, puts an end to all the sacrifices and all the human attempts to
    self-purify before God, since is God who provides for Himself in Christ (central theme in the
    Apostle Paul, see among others Romans 3,21-25). God is reconciled to us on the cross, and the
    Resurrection of Jesus testifies to it.
    So the death of Jesus “for our sins” has a lot to do with our sin! And forgiveness always has a price.
    This expiatory, criminal sense is difficult, even scandalous to accept. But “without bloodshed, there
    is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9,22). Far from invoking here a cruel, vengeful and bloodthirsty God,
    whose sight would “appease the wrath” (a caricature of which a certain Christian spirituality, alas,
    testifies), the death of Jesus attests what the Law of God reveals to us: the the insurmountable
    weight of our sin, which deprives us of the glory (of the presence) of the living God, and whose
    wages (= consequence) is death. The death of Jesus is our judgment. God says “no” to what we are
    or try to be without him. “Christ paid to free us from the curse of the cross, becoming a curse for us,
    since it is written,” Cursed, whoever hangs on the tree “(Galatians 3,13).

    And the cross therefore calls us to “die to ourselves”, it condemns without appeal all the religious
    bargaining that man tries with God (that is to say, his vain attempts to be fair) so that he live only
    with Grace, with the free gift that God gives us in Jesus Christ (Romans 5,20; 6,14,23).
    In short, to use a fashionable image, it is necessary to preserve, in the “biodiversity” of the
    explanations of the death of Jesus in the Bible, this “threatened species” which is the sacrificial
    sense! Jesus is “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” as John the Baptist said.”

    ***

    Hope you find that interesting/useful. As for the crucifixion rather than death from old age, I have always taken it as showing the extent of humanity’s evil that we are prepared to convict an innocent person for political means/commit deicide.

    It condemns all levels of society: the Jewish religious establishment, the gentile imperialists and their legal system, the cruelty of the soldiers and the common people who support Jesus one week (Palm Sunday) and turn on him the next. Humanity’s tendency to betrayal is also depicted by the actions of Judas and Peter. However Jesus offers a prayer for his persecutors – “Forgive them for they know not what they do” and then offers a path to reconciliation and forgiveness when he rises again. All of the theological richness of that message, highlighting to us our (humanity’s) own collective guilt and Christ’s offer of forgiveness would be lost if he just died in his bed.

    In terms of blood sacrifice in general, the earlier blood sacrifice of lambs, etc, was a “type” acting as a prelude to Christ’s perfect sacrifice. Hence He is the Lamb of God. Also, remember other Caananite religions at that time had child sacrifice to gods like Moloch which the Okd Testament strictly condemns.

    Abraham offers his son, Isaac, to God freely when tested but God declines the offer and provides a ram instead. God then ultimately sacrifices His own Son instead. He does not let Abraham go through with but He goes through with it Himself for our sakes.

    That’s my take on it anyway but I am not a trained theologian.

    BTW – a very sensible idea not to discuss Nazism online. Just to comment though: “However,it is a given that were there no Abrahamic religions there is a high probability that this vile period in our history would not have occurred.”

    I don’t know. The whole history of the world would be so utterly different it is almost impossible to think what such an “alternative timeline” would be like. Populist leaders and megalomaniacs would still be around, as would expansionist imperial powers (just look at Rome). The Germanic tribes would presumably follow Nordic gods and tribal deities (upon whose mythology the Nazis tried to draw) not know for their pacifism, so who knows what would have happened to Europe. We can only speculate.

    Anyway, take care, Ark, and have a great day.

    1. Ark, here we go. I did find an answer to you question on the French site:

      “If Jesus had not died crucified, but simply infarcted, would the biblical message lose its
      meaning? [Jean-François]
      June 11, 2017
      No comment

      ANSWER: With “if” … If humans had not always been, collectively and individually, all separated from God,
      would there have been need for us to be redeemed from it (that is, from sin, which always pulls us
      all down) and restored in fellowship with God (which we are incapable of ourselves)? But it is the
      death of Jesus, rejected by the Jewish Law and its thuriféraires, crucified by the pagans, it is it that
      allows us to be thus justified and saved. The New Testament tells us that “it was necessary” that
      Jesus die thus. It is not believing in fate, but recognizing that, if it had not happened, we would
      always be in our faults, cut off from God and from real life, without hope.
      Obviously, it has nothing to do with an infarction, a car accident or a death of old age! It has
      nothing to do with the torture and executions that happen every day in the world. It’s a life given
      once for all, for me, and a bridge between God and me forever. No other death than that of Jesus on
      a cross that day does such a thing. I do not understand it, but I know that I am benefiting from this.”

      Here are a couple of other questions and answers on related topics:

      “How do Protestants understand crucifixion? Is it a penal substitute atonement or another
      theoretical model like Abelard’s? [Rein]
      May 11, 2019
      No comment

      ANSWER: The vast majority of Protestants, following Martin Luther and John Calvin, understand crucifixion
      in the same way as all Christians: according to the teaching of biblical scripture.

      The death of Jesus is the will of God: “This man [Jesus] was delivered to you in accordance with
      the decision that God had made and the plan he had formed in advance”. (Acts 2:23). And Jesus
      obeyed the Father’s will: “[Jesus] humbled himself by becoming obedient unto death” Phi 2.8.
      Indeed, the meaning of the crucifixion of Jesus is expressed in the Bible with a judicial and
      sacrificial language (the two go hand in hand): “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve
      and give his life in ransom for the multitude. (Mt 20:28), “Jesus was delivered for our sins” (Rom
      4.25), “you have been redeemed at great price” (1 Cor 6: 20), “He suffered our punishment, and we
      are acquitted […] the Lord made him suffer the consequences of our sins at all “(53.5-6)
      In summary, the punishment we deserve for our sins has been taken by Jesus. Thus we are
      reconciled to God (Rom. 5.10). It is out of love for us that the Father gave his son, so the word
      “grace” makes sense! By the cross, God offers us free forgiveness. What a wonderful love! “Love is
      this: it is not we who have loved God, but He who loved us; he sent his Son who offered himself as
      a sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. »(1 John 4.1)
      There is in Protestantism a minority of people who, like Abelard in the twelfth century, do not
      accept this teaching for moral reasons. Even for the disciples of Jesus, the idea was not easy to
      accept, Peter refused the idea that Jesus went to the cross, and Jesus answered him with this
      warning: “Your thoughts are not those of God but those of men “. (Mt 16.23)
      As Paul teaches, the idea of the cross is for many a madness (1 Cor 1.17-25), but for those who
      accept it, the cross is revealed as “wisdom and power of God”.”

      “God could have done without the cross.” What to answer to this type of message? [Pierre-
      Henry]
      March 30, 2018
      No comment

      ANSWER: God chose the cross as an answer to all our so-called wisdoms and all our attempts to think outside
      of His covenant. I would answer for my part soberly by the answers that the Bible itself proposes to
      us:
      He wanted to reconcile everything with himself, both on earth and in heaven, by making peace
      through him, by the blood of his cross. – Colossians 1.20
      [Christ] stripped down the dominions and the authorities, and publicly gave them a show,
      triumphing over them by the cross. – Colossians 2,15
      For there are many who walk as enemies of the cross of
      Christ, I have often spoken to you about
      it, and I still speak of it now crying. – Philippians 3,18

      The preaching of the cross is foolishness to those who perish; but for us who are saved, she is a
      power of God. – 1 Corinthians 1.18
      As far as I am concerned, far from me the thought of glorifying myself with anything but the
      cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified for me, as I am for the world! –
      Galatians 6,14
      Whoever does not take up his cross, and does not follow me, is not worthy of me. – Matthew
      10,38 “

  4. Hi David,

    You mentioned above you were considering stopping your Quantm – The Weeflea Podcasts. I beg you – do no such thing!. These podcasts are brilliant and collate so many interesting and relevant bits from around the world. I am a big fan of your work and always look forward to this podcast. I will be CC’ing God on this post and I am sure he will agree with me (wink, wink).

    In all seriousness though, you do great work and it would be a shame for us all to lose this great resource.

    Regards

    Andrew

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