Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Great Political Nothing


Australian eyes have been on federal politics of late, as we consider the votes we have made, the local candidates we have made MPs and the influence this may or may not have on our country. So what have we created? What has our democratic right given us? Well, following all the party politics, scare mongering and unenthusiastic political debates, we have ended up with a hung parliament. What a great democratic process; that spends millions of dollars to encourage and resource the average Australian to 'make their vote count', and yet cannot decide who should lead our country.

What's with the statement that says we need to give independents time to consider what political party they will align with? What's with that? I mean, they knew a federal election was coming and they should already have clearly thought about their stance on particular policies and whether they would lean towards Labor or Liberal. While Australia waits in limbo for a minority Australian Government to be formed, the independents and Greens candidate Adam Brandt are sipping coffees, and enjoying the new 'power' they have in federal politics. Get on with it, I say, and finish your 'talks' and show Australia who will be our next Prime Minister.

Is this a sign of how long the decisions will take under a minority Government? Everytime a particular policy is put forward, the independents will think, sip coffee, think again, have another sip, and one day make a decision on where they stand. What have we done Australia? We've created a slow, apathetic decision making Government, that will now have to weight all their policies against the political agendas of 4 or 5 politicians.       

What caused this? Was it the fact that many Australians remained undecided on who they really wanted to vote for? How many people said, 'Ahh, its really about voting in the best of the worst'? Or was it Mark Latham's pathetic cry to the public to make a donkey vote, which created the record 6% informal vote at this years election? How many simply voted Greens or Independents just because they couldn't decide whether it was Labor or Liberal's right to govern. Whatever the case may be, we are left hanging to dry, wondering if anyone will get the clothes off the line, and put the clothes back in the drawer and move on. Not for now. We're left hanging and left questioning the democratic process, and whether our vote actually made a difference. This is the Great Political Nothing.

God help us.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Introduction to the Book of Romans - Pete's Bible Commentary

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Introduction to the Book of Romans - Pete's Bible Commentary

Romans is a difficult book of the Bible to grasp. No doubt it leaves us, at times, confused and wondering what in the world Paul is getting out. Before you delve into Romans, have a read of this introduction I put together:

Without dispute, Romans was written by the Apostle Paul; even though there is conjecture on authorship related to other books, such as Ephesians. Also, without much dispute is the fact that Paul wrote Romans while in Corinth. The date of the book of Romans is most likely written around 55-57AD, and to put in context, Jesus died around 33AD, and the Gospel of Matthew was authored sometime after 70AD. Paul calls himself a ‘Hebrew of the Hebrews’ (Phil 3:5), and we know from the verses in Philippians 3, that he also calls himself a Pharisee and says that he is from the Tribe of Benjamin. Paul was also highly competent in Greek and was probably given an extensive Greek education in Tarsus (Dunn, 1988: xl). So Paul was a Jew through and through, and so what a conversion/calling he must have had on the road to Damascus to now be preaching a gospel that says, ‘to Jews first, and the Gentiles...’! What? The Gentiles? Paul’s whole foundation of theology had changed when he met the risen Christ on that road one day.

What is the purpose of the book of Romans?

The traditional view about the purpose of Romans, has been that, ‘the apostle’s chief emphasis in Romans is on God’s justification of sinners by grace, in Christ, through faith’ (Stott, 1994: 24). John Stott says that there is no doubt the book of Romans makes this point, but the bigger purpose of Romans is about: ‘God’s plan for the world and about how Paul’s mission to the Gentiles fits into that plan’ (: 25). Chapters 1-8 is almost like a preface to chapters 9-11, wherein which Paul touches on church and synagogue, and Israel and the Jewish people.

What do you think Paul is saying to the Church today, through his writings in Romans?

One day as John Wesley was reading Martin Luther’s Preface to the book of Romans, he read these words:

About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death (cited in Stott, 1994: 22).

Lord, take away our sins, and continue to shape us into the people you want us to be. Cut off the sinful nature in our lives, and the impact that sin and death has upon us. Make us new creatures, who are becoming more and more like Christ everyday. Thanks Jesus. Amen.

• Dunn, James, D. G. (1988). Word Biblical Commentary. Romans 1-8.

• Stott, John. (1994). Bible Speaks Today. Romans.

Introduction to the Book of Romans is part of Pete's Bible Commentary, written by PeteBrookshaw.

See also: Understanding the Book of Romans

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What is Karma? Do Christians believe in Karma?


What is Karma?
Karma derives itself from Buddhism, back in 1827, and is related to the notion that, 'what goes around comes around'. Dictionary.com defines karma as an action that is, 'seen as bringing upon oneself inevitable results, good or bad, either in this life or in a reincarnation'. Often we view karma and unintentionally define it as, 'What you bring to a situation, whether good or bad, will be brought back to you in a round about way'.

Do Christians believe in Karma?
The definition of karma, according to the above statement refers to bringing upon oneself results either in this life or in a reincarnation. Christians can flatly deny the latter part of that statement, as Christianity does not hold to a view of reincarnation, in the sense of coming back to life as a different being, or someone of a different substance or even an animal. From my point of view, karma in the sense of attempting to change circumstances in the now, that will inturn affect some sort of reincarnation in the future, is not biblical and not a sound philosophical argument.
Lets consider karma then from the former part of the statement, in relation to bringing upon oneself particular outcomes, whether good or bad, in this life... Can we justify that Christians believe in karma? The Christian Calvinist would argue that we do not have the free will to bring about particular inevitable results, that rather, it is the Sovereignty of God that predetermines the circumstances we find ourselves in. If we consider not only the Reformed Tradition viewpoint and think about other Protestant theological beliefs, there are questions worth asking, like:
  • Is it karma, if we give financially to people around us, and then God blesses us back with finances?
  • Is it karma, if we sin, and then there is judgment based on that sinful act?
  • Is it karma, if we treat our brother well, and then people treat us back in a kind way?
The big difference between the buddhist teaching of karma and Christianity, is that Christians believe that Almighty God (Yahweh), is the one who allows there to be reward for goodness, or punishment for wickedness; and God is the one that blesses humanity with the cognitive ability for us to love our neighbours and treat others with respect and dignity. It is not some altered state of reality conjured up by merely doing some sort of internal meditation, but rather the fact that life has a Creator, who is involved in creation, and through Jesus, people can choose to turn away from their own lives, put their trust in Jesus and follow him and then journey with Jesus to see where life goes to! 

Your thoughts?

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Christians should Pray THIS Prayer

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Thanks Major Steven Court for this powerful prayer from A W Tozer (originally sited at his site: http://www.armybarmyblog.blogspot.com/ )

"Lord Jesus, I come to you for spiritual preparation. Lay your hand upon me. Anoint me with the oil of the New Testament prophet. Forbid that I should become a religious scribe and thus lose my prophetic calling. Save me from the curse that lies dark across the face of clergy, the curse of compromise, the imitation, of professionalism. Save me from the error of judging a church by its size, its popularity or the amount of its yearly offering. Help me to remember that I am a prophet – not a promoter, not a religious manager, but a prophet. Let me never become a slave to crowds. Heal my soul of carnal ambitions and deliver me from the itch for publicity. Save me from bondage to things. Let me not waste my days puttering around the house. Lay your terror upon me, O God, and drive me to the place of prayer where I may wrestle with principalities and powers and the rulers of the darkness of this world. Deliver me from overeating and late sleeping. Teach me self-discipline that I may be a good soldier of Jesus Christ."

A W Tozer

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Understanding the Book of Romans

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Climbing gigantic mountains, absailing steep cliff faces and surviving a ship wreck are the kind of daunting pictures we get when we attempt to understand the Book of Romans. This is the Apostle Paul's final letter that he wrote to the churches. This particular letter - you guessed it - was written to the church at Rome. This final letter, written in Paul's latter days, is like a composium of theological thought, that baffles most readers. So can we understand the Book of Romans?

Now, let me qualify. I don't intend at this point to offer great theological insight from what I have learnt from the book of Romans. I am very young into the journey of understanding much of Paul's writings. Though, here are some words from James Dunn from the Word Biblical Commentary in relation to the Book of Romans:
In the Book of Romans, "...we see the emergence of Christianity from Judaism actually taking place; we see Paul the Pharisee, Paul the apostle, caught in the tension between his Jewishness and the impact of the risen Christ, between his inability to escape from the Jewish conviction of God's special choice of and revelation to Israel and the impact of a gospel that came to him independently of his Jewishness and despite his Pharisaic zeal for the law. We see Paul the Jew wrestling with the implications of his own and his converts' experience of grace and Paul the Christian wrestling with the implications of his Jewish heritage..." (WBC, Romans 9-16: xvi).

Without delving into the special place that the Israelite people have before God, we can note the passion that Paul expresses about the good news of Jesus reaching everyone (Israelites and Gentiles). Paul writes in Romans:

Rom 10:12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.
Rom 10:13 For, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."
Rom 10:14 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?
Rom 10:15 And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" 

Here Paul speaks of people 'going' with the message of the good news of Jesus. Paul also speaks of law and grace. He speaks of Adam sinning and so all have sinned (Romans 5). He highlights some great characteristics of a spirit filled life (Romans 12). He gives some encouraging words to people within the church at Rome (Romans 16).

In the days ahead, try and understand the Book of Romans. What is Paul saying in this letter?

Go deeper in Christ today!

If you have any questions on faith - please ask above in the chat box!

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