The News

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 06 January 2018.

Latest NewsIt’s a new year, and if last year was anything to go by, there’ll be all sorts of new things happening in our world. No doubt you’re hoping to be the cause of some of them yourself - perhaps you’ve made some resolution, or there’s some kind of life change coming, or you’re planning to try some new hobby.

And what a relief! Last year had plenty of things to regret; perhaps 2018 will do better. It’s got a new slate to work with, at any rate. We like new because we see so many problems with old. Old age has its challenges; old ways of doing things are less effective; old cars rust out.

I think that’s why we call it ‘the news’. It could have been the ‘recents’, or the ‘presents’, but as a culture we went with news, because it’s hopeful in tone - something we need when so much of the content is not so promising.

The truth, though, is that we’re waiting for the big news. So far the biggest, the best, has been the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection for us, but there’s a bigger story coming. One day, he’ll return, and all our news will instantly become olds. All will fade into shadows at the glory of that day.

So we as God’s people celebrate each new day, because we know it brings us closer to the New Day. Yet while we wait, there are new things to do, new ways to grow, new works that we can do to love and serve our great God.

Happy New Day!

Old Friends and Bookends

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 30 December 2017.

BookendsWe come to the end of 2017, the year we marked the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Along the way, we met some new friends (of significant antiquity!), and I thought it might be good to remember them once more.

We began with John Calvin, who was a fitting companion as we thought through the nature of freedom, and discovered how what has eluded humanity’s clutches since the Fall was what God had given us at the very beginning, and gives us again in Jesus.

Next was Jan Hus, a forerunner of the Reformation, who never got to see the deep impact of his faith. But neither did the patriarch Abraham...

Martin Luther, who did so much to free the consciences of believers, rounded off our series on Galatians.

Ulrich Zwingli, who died fighting unarmed to protect the gospel faith of his parishioners, thought the struggle was worth it. Isaac and Jacob learned that lesson hard as well!

Thomas Cranmer, who shepherded a recalcitrant kingdom from darkness to understanding, echoed the ministry of the prophet Hosea - because of his love for them, even when it was not returned.

Guido de Bres, always on the run but determined to live out his charge...he and Joseph were both echoes of Jesus, weren’t they?

And finally Theodore Beza, who encouraged the suffering church to stand firm, just as the apostle John did and does in the book of Revelation.

A great cloud of witnesses indeed, to a great God. May we similarly honour God in the year to come!

Oz: The Night Before Christmas...

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 23 December 2017.

StopwatchI’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve overheard it in the supermarket aisles: people complaining about Christmas. Not so much the holiday itself. It’s the busy-ness that really seems to drive us up the wall. Or to the wall.

In some European cultures, Christmas Eve is the highlight. Families eat together, open presents, go off to a late night church service. Christmas Day is almost the anticlimactic recovery day. But can you imagine Australia having to adjust to such a deadline?
How would the presents get wrapped, if we lost our last minute opportunity? Who would get all the food cooked in time? Would the shops still be open for last minute solutions to forgotten gifts? And of course, can’t we just get a few hours’ rest before the madness begins?!

I wonder whether part of the popularity of Silent Night is the way that it almost inevitably invokes the idea of calm and stillness, and draws us into that kind of moment. We find the idea deeply attractive, don’t we? It’s the antidote to our frenetic activity each Christmas - and if we can get it with dim lights, candles, and the right contemplative mood, all the better.

And so we should. Fundamentally, Christmas is about God coming to us, coming with a message for us, and that means we’re meant to be listening.

So tonight, sit still. God may be speaking to you yet.


Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 17 December 2017.

This week, the royal commission handed down its report on the abuse of children, five years after its work began. It makes for harrowing reading, made more dreadful by the realisation that this is the sanitised version: the full report comprises more than twice the number of volumes due to the inclusion of information that would breach the privacy of victims.

The crimes themselves are unspeakable, but the focus of the commission’s work was not them so much as how institutions responded to them. And, far, far too often, the response was also unspeakable, literally. Wilful and criminal behaviour was swept under the carpet, never to be spoken of - and such a failure to protect the vulnerable amounts to a repetition of the original abuse.

In light of this, we must speak. Our society needs to be fully aware of the ways in which we have destroyed lives by our inaction. In particular, we as God’s church must speak, for he calls us to have a special concern for those in need.

LightOne thing we must speak of is this: that institutions are made of men and women. The shocking lack of response that has been uncovered was not just perpetrated by faceless institutions. It comes down to individuals, not just structures. JFK popularised the idea that for evil to triumph, all that is necessary is for good people to do nothing. He was wrong: no one is good, except God alone.

That’s the truth that we can offer the world - that we must be vigilant in the future, because none of us can be trusted to do what is right every time. The light must shine in the darkness... (John 1:5)

The Pits Fall

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 10 December 2017.

Let’s be honest: life is pretty good for us. While there are those who are homeless, or unemployed, or lonely, or socially outcast, on the whole, Australia is a pretty comfortable place to live. Food and shelter are readily available, and the divisions within our society are relatively minor compared to other nations.

PitfallThat means that we are particularly sensitive to suffering. When something goes wrong, it’s shocking. Unexpected. We call it the pits, I suspect, because it’s a big drop that comes out of nowhere.

In situations that are so unsettling, it’s easy for me to start wondering just what God is up to. Surely he should look after one of his people better than this, right? I mean, what kind of omnipotent and gracious deity drops the ball?

So the wise Christian will think these issues through before the day of disaster arrives, and be prepared. We’ll know not to fall into the devil’s trap and start doubting God. We’ll be prepared to trust God and his mercy.

And we’ll think that means we’ve handled our suffering well when it comes...and we’ll be wrong. We’ll have dodged the feint but missed the real danger. Suffering, even when borne with great faith, has the tendency to narrow our focus. We’ll be so concerned with maintaining our relationship with God that we won’t even notice we’ve stopped caring about our brothers and sisters around the world.

God calls us to have a heart for others, even when we are in the midst of suffering ourselves. In fact, I believe we know someone who was the perfect example of precisely that...

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