The Voice

Written by Anthony Douglas on Friday, 01 June 2012.

Man-with-MegaphoneOver in Pop-Culture Land, the success story of the moment is a reality TV show that is ostensibly about finding and developing talented singers. Its distinctive element, the thing that set it apart from the pack and likely has attracted the audience, is that the coaches/judges/celebrities face the audience rather than the performer: they can only hear their voice.
A fair comment on the superficiality of most talent shows? Certainly. More likely to see people assessed on their singing capabilities? We can hope so. Closely tied with the real world? Perhaps not so much.
But not for the reasons you might think.
In the public sphere, everyone has a voice. That’s the distinctive element of a democracy - or, at least, it’s meant to be. Unfortunately, Christians are in the process of losing that right to speak and be heard fairly. Just this week the NSW Parliament debated a motion supporting same-sex marriage. The religious affliliations of the Christian MPs who spoke during the debate were reported, but not those of the other speakers. The message: you can discount what the Christians say, because that’s just their religion talking.
It’s not the level playing field that opinions should be shared in. And it’s as much our fault as anyone else’s; too often we allow ourselves to be silenced. God might be the why, what and how we speak, but truth stands on its own merits.
Let’s make sure we’re all singing.

A Theology of Lego

Written by Anthony Douglas on Thursday, 24 May 2012.

A what?! I know what you’re thinking. What does Lego have to do with theology? How can something so mundane be caught up in the grand purposes and character of God?
It’s all here in Genesis 4, really. Right at the beginning of the human race, we meet a character called Jubal, and are told only that he was a musician. He’s never mentioned again. Jubal would not have worked his harp, he would have played it. Music doesn’t grow crops or raise herds. It doesn’t provide shelter or clothing (...well, it didn’t then, anyway). Music is about play: enjoying the goodness of God’s creation, for no other reason than the pleasure it brings.
LegoLego, of course, is a toy. It’s for playing with; it allows a child (or their parents!) to create something for fun. In playing with some Lego bricks, we are in part living out the image of God in us - for the opening chapter of the Bible shows God at play, creating, shaping, enjoying the world he has made.
But Lego can be serious: you can build models of famous buildings, or people, or events. So too can our building be more permanent, and less for enjoyment. Jubal had a brother called Tubal-Cain who kept busy inventing tools...a scientist, I suppose we’d call him.
But more worrying is the first builder: Cain. He reminds us that our work and our play can be good, or godless. ‘Each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any other foundation than the one already laid, whic is Jesus Christ.’ (1 Cor. 3:10-11)

Don't Just Stand There

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 20 May 2012.

As the saying goes, do something! It’s fairly instinctive, isn’t it? We humans are actors: beings built for doings. What’s more, as believers, we are willing doers. Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that God has planned out a lifetime of things we can do to please him and bring him glory. And we know that his Word is living and active, and his Spirit in us will turn our ears to that Word and instruct us in the path we must go.

So I was just a little bit challenged this week when a friend in ministry posed a question: ‘Application’ is what you have in a sermon when you believe that you can be saved by what you do - discuss.

They had a point. If every sermon resulted in a church being told to do something, pretty soon those doings would become a necessary part of really being a member of that church. Give it a bit more time, and you wouldn’t be a real Christian if you didn’t have the runs on the board to back it up.

Crowd ControlledFortunately, ‘application’ is more like what a trained winetaster will do - we savour the word, look at it in the light, smell its flavour, sip it, taste it, drink it down. Mere doing would be crude gorging on the riches of what God has given us.
And it could never work anyway. We’re a roomful of statues when it comes to our ability to dig our way out of the trouble our sin has brought upon us. Thanks be to God for giving us hearts of flesh in place of stone!

A Real Mother's Day

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 13 May 2012.

It is of course Mothers Day, the day set aside for us to think of our mothers, and thank our mothers. When mums have done well, we can be grateful to God and glad of how we’ve been cared for. And it’s nice to be prompted to offer a mum the praise she deserves: mothering is hard work and deserves recognition.

But in our haste to lionise the family lioness, do we risk sometimes going too far? Do we paint a picture of our mother that is too airbrushed, too glowing - as if to say, unless you reach this unreal standard, you aren’t doing it right? Worse, do we so exclude those who already struggle with the grief of infertility, or of children lost too young, that we pour salt onto their already raw wounds?

hannahIt is worth reminding ourselves that the Bible’s take on motherhood is unstintingly honest. For every Proverbs 31 wife there’s a scheming Rachel or unfaithful Gomer. The one who sets the benchmark, I’d argue, is not Mary, but Hannah (who Mary echoes in many many ways). Hannah is stricken, desperate, distraught, faithful, patient. She is in so many ways admirable...but she sees it differently. She calls herself simply the Lord’s servant; her glory is not in her ability, or her godliness - it is God who has raised her up. She is poor and needy; God is the one who can aid her.

Being a mother is hard. It means failing, over and over ... and getting up again, trusting in God to work through you and in spite of you. Today, let us honour those mothers who live and love in faith, for exactly that. Not for being Supermum, but for being simply a mum who rejoices in God.

The Well Worn Path

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 06 May 2012.

There are some parts of God’s Word that we tend to read more than others; we know John better than Judges, Mark better than Micah. This of course means that we are depriving ourselves of good things, but it isn’t always obvious how that is so.

Missing out on or even just tending away from Scripture is one thing, and we tend to be aware of it. It’s something we can address, if we put our minds to it. And it’s something that we try to keep an eye on at church, balancing our diet as far as what portions of the Bible are read and preached on over the years.

a-well-worn-foot-path-through-green-woodsThe greater danger is the one that lies hidden: our familiarity with those passages and books we know well. I’m not suggesting that it’s bad to know and love God’s Word! And yet, if we do not guard ourselves, we can fall prey to an arrogance that presumes that we’ve grasped a passage in all its fullness. Indeed, we can so love a chapter for the many great treasures that God has revealed in it that we may value it only for what we’ve found there, and beyond them it has no other use.

When we tread the well worn path through the Scriptures, we must do so in humility and confidence: honoured that we are again permitted to look into God’s heart, and eager to see what ‘new treasures as well as old’ we will find in his storeroom (Matt. 13:52). Think you know Genesis? It may be time to think again!


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