Can Ye Believe It?

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 02 November 2019.

WestIn an age when fame is at its most monetisable, when social media influence is the key to power, there are few who can compete with the rap artist Kanye West. I say ‘rap artist’, but the reality is that West’s profession of choice is being Kanye West, and he’s monopolised it exceedingly well. As if being a successful star of popular music culture wasn’t enough, Kanye had the good sense to marry into the publicity behemoth known as the Kardashians by wedding Kim, the most famous of them all. Topping all that, Kanye has shown an amazing talent for stirring controversy and keeping his name in the public eye.

And this week, he released his new album, entitled ‘Jesus is King’.

To be clear, this is a man who at one time wanted people to refer to him as Yeezus. He’s always had an apparent interest in religious themes, but this time around, things appear different. West has been explicitly declaring himself a Christian, speaking of being born again. Is this for real?

And, just as significantly, should we care?

Certainly, we rejoice whenever someone professes faith in Christ. But does celebrity make it any different? From a worldly perspective, it sounds like a great opportunity to see Kanye showing a new-found humility. People may catch a whiff of the gospel, and be inspired to learn more. God can surely use the celebrity Christian.

But look around. How many of your brothers and sisters in Christ were led to trust him by A-listers? That’s what I thought too. Rumour has it, God’s strength works at its best through weakness!

It's Not Funny How Good We've Got It

Written by Anthony Douglas on Tuesday, 22 October 2019.

BerthierDuring Synod’s ‘Mission Hour’, we heard an interview with Berthier Lainirina, an Anglican minister from Madagascar. He only has ten churches to look after, which is lucky because he’s also the secretary for his diocese - which only covers the Indian Ocean! He was relating his journey to understanding the gospel: how he’d finally understood grace through reading a book of John Stott’s, and then found other material that had also been helpful, including some by Mark Thompson, the current Principal of Moore Theological College.

“I don’t know if he’s still alive,” Berthier threw in, as he continued - to a roar of laughter from the synod galleries, while Mark Thompson, sitting in the fourth row, looked surprised. It was funny, but it also betrayed something. Tucked away on his island off the coast of Africa, Berthier has found help - but only just. He expects that by default, good teaching will only reach him after the writer is dead. That’s just how long it takes.

Separately, I was speaking with Peter Lin, bishop of the Georges River region, about his flying visit to New Zealand for last weekend’s consecration. He described how he was constantly being greeted by men and women he’d never met, in tears of gratitude simply for his presence, and how it demonstrated that they are not standing alone for the gospel. Peter’s reflection: we don’t know how good we’ve got it.

We have so much to thank our Lord for, and one Sunday is hardly enough for it. Still, it’s a start - and a chance for us to share from our abundance. We’re not dead yet!

Twelve, Not A-Dozin'

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 20 October 2019.

KiwisYesterday saw the consecration of Jay Behan as the inaugural bishop of the Church of Confession Anglicans Aotearoa/New Zealand. It’s a small operation, comprising a dozen churches. In fact, there were more guest bishops there for the service than churches in the diocese.

It was, you might say, a very small beginning.

Archbishop Peter Jensen preached the sermon, and he reminded those gathered that twelve is more than enough; it was a band of twelve that first took the gospel of the risen Jesus to the world, and the impact of that message was incalculable. If twelve can change the world, they can certainly manage to look after New Zealand!

Peter expressed our thanks to our NZ brothers and sisters for the way in which their courage has been so strengthening for us. Next week, as we mark Thanksgiving Sunday, half of our thanksgiving offering will be directed to this new diocese, to aid them in these early days as they get on with their work.

The new bishop, addressing the gathered congregation, knows the task. “There’s much for us to do. This is a world full of darkness and we know the One who is the Light of the World. This world is full of so much despair at the moment, and we know the one who is the hope, the sure and certain hope to eternal life. We’ve got to preach and proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Jay is a godly man, and the Lord has been kind to our neighbours in giving them such a one to lead them. Pray for him, and all those who know and love Jesus in New Zealand. There’s much to do.

In Memoriam

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 05 October 2019.

RomanEugenia Kuyda lost her close friend Roman Mazurenko to a hit and run driver in Moscow four years ago. A programmer, she had been working on software to create ‘chatbots’ - artificial intelligence programs that can provide a limited communication with a user.

Eugenia missed her friend, and realised that she could feed her program every text message Roman had ever sent her. The bot would then share Roman’s turn of phrase, his tone and humour, and provide an echo of his voice. The experiment worked, and brought her some comfort.

Subsequently, as people heard about what she had done, Kuyda converted her program to allow anyone to feed their own data in and create their own bot. In the years since, millions of people have taken up the opportunity.

Interviewed by Forbes magazine, Kuyda said, “We spend so many hours glued to our screens that we forget to talk to each other. People are scared of making phone calls. The new generation will text because you can edit what you say. Lots of people are afraid of vulnerability.”

“Honestly, we’re in the age where it doesn’t matter whether a thing is alive or not.”

Oh, but it does. It does.

“This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labour and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, and especially of those who believe.” (1 Timothy 4:9-10)

There Can Be Only One Winner

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 28 September 2019.

The last week saw our state parliament pass the renamed Abortion Law Reform Act, after what could only be described as significant public interest and legislative attention. Many amendments were proposed; some were won and some were lost. Once the governor provides assent, the law in NSW will have changed.

Different people will have different opinions on who won this particular stoush. Some will claim victory because abortion has been decriminalised - though if they are more careful with their language, they should say that medically authorised abortion has been decriminalised: the backyard operation remains a crime, thankfully. Others will see a victory in the best of the amendments that were made to the bill.

Tearing UpThe truth, though, is that there are no winners here. There will be children who will never take a breath. There will be children who would never have taken a breath anyway. There will be mothers who grieve a terrible decision; there will be mothers who do not. There will be those who would dearly love to be mothers who will mourn doubly for the child they might have raised. And this will still be a world where sometimes, children are conceived and yet not born in the bloom of full health. The majesty and miracle of new life remains stained by the travesty of sin’s effects on creation.

We do not engage with our world in order to win. Such folly represents an absurd confidence in our works and what power we have to change our world. The victor is only, and ever, Jesus; our hope is that we might reflect him in the lives we live in his world. And that’s next week’s sermon...

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