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relative truth and tolerance: doing the very thing you claim others can’t

“We can all have the truth. All religions are right.”

“You can’t claim to have the truth. You can’t claim that your religion is right, that your religion has the truth.”

“There is no such thing as absolute truth. Truth is relative.”

Ever heard these claims before? Ever made them?

It’s a common thought, a common opinion, expressed by many people, and I was reminded of this recently as a read comments made on an article, where one commentor made this very claim. It’s often called tolerance.

People claim that they are tolerant of other people’s views, particularly in relation to religion, by saying, “You can believe what ever is right for you and I won’t say you’re wrong. Truth is relative.”

People who claim there is no absolute truth, say they are tolerant, while anyone who claims to have abosolute truth (again particularly surrounding religious views) are said to be extremely narrow minded and intolerant.

Sure, saying, “there is no absolute truth,” sounds very tolerant of other people’s views. But is it as open minded as it first seems? Read the rest of this entry


bitterness, anger, forgiveness: reflections in ephesians 4 (part 3)

Forgiveness by Eyob B Kassa

This is the final part of a three part series reflecting on Ephesians 4:31-32. You can see the other parts on anger & bitterness here and on forgiveness here.

This part is going to focus on how we can “put off” bitterness and “put on” forgiveness. What drives us to forgive in this extravgant manner? How can we forgive this way without burning ourselves out?

Let’s remind ourselves of the passage in Ephesians 4 one more time:

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

The way we can forgive like this without burning out is found in the last part of v32. Paul instructs his readers to forgive, not out of obligation, not purely so to obey a command, not out of guilt or in order to be pious. Paul says, forgive because in Christ you have been forgiven.

Unless we see that we are just as broken, just as evil, just as in need of forgiveness as the persons who sin against us, we will not be able to forgive. Read the rest of this entry

Grand Designs

I recently fabricated the frame for a canopy on our ute. It is designed so we can fit more stuff in the ute and keep it locked and secure since we now have a whole lot more stuff needing to be transported when we go away with Isabel (prams, nappies, cots, extra clothes, nappies, nappies…. did I mention nappies??). The frame has been welded together with wire mesh side, three lift up doors which will be lockable and have ‘gas struts’ for easy access, an aluminium checker plate roof which will double as a roof rack (as soon as that is built) and a lockable dog crate inside (which still needs to be built also). It took a lot of welding, cutting, measuring, drilling and grinding to get this crate exactly right and how I wanted it. It took a lot of skill and know-how to build…

 I guess I should mention at this point that when I said “I recently frabricated” I actually mean “My Brother-in-Law, Brooke, recently fabricated“. The know-how and skill and design, well, it wasn’t really mine at all. If I had welded it, it probably would have fallen apart already. Actually it probably would still be in pieces and never actually have been welded to begin with. It would probably be all out of shape with pieces the wrong size and and well, basically it would have been a disaster!! I look at Brooke as he welds and designs and grinds away and realise just how talented he is with steel and fabrication. He is a brilliant designer and creator!

But no where near as good as THE Designer, THE Creator. Psalm 19:1 says, The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. We think we’re pretty good with our hands… we think we’re pretty good with what we can make, what we can create. But

 Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn it’s place? …Have you ever journeyed to the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? …Have you ever comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? …Have you ever entered the storehouses of the snow, or seen the storehouses of the hail? … Do you send the lightening bolts on their way? (Job 38 selected verses).

Of course we could never control these things, we could never imagine being in authority over these things… but, we have a God who is. We have a God who has done these things, who has created all we see. But the greatest thing about this fantastically All Powerful All Controlling God we read about in Job, is that he cares for us. He even desires to be in a relationship with us… to walk with us. To talk with us. To be in fellowship with us (1 John 1:3). We have a truly Amazing, Powerful and yet Intimate and Personal God.

An Advent Conspiracy

Christmas can still changeTHE WORLD. Every year Australians spend $37,000,000,000 (that’s BILLION in case you can’t be bothered counting the zeros!!) on Christmas…. every year!

But Christmas isn’t about shopping and Christmas trees and presents and turkey… is it? Christmas is about God coming to us. The story of Christ’s birth is a story of promiseHOPE, and a revolutionary LOVE.
Adding to the figures… lack of clean water kills more people everyday than anything else in the world. To solve this global water issue it would take an estimated $15 Billion… less than half of an Aussie Christmas! This Christmas enter the story…

It begins with WORSHIP

At Christmas time we so often find ourseld overwhelmed with shops and presents and food… we act like Christmas trees and gifts represent the true meaning of Christmas. They don’t. Christmas is about WORSHIP not shops. It’s about the Creator of the Universe coming to us in Jesus Christ.

We are then FREE to SPEND LESS
If Christmas is not about presents and shops, but about worship we are free spend less at Christmas time. We don’t have to buy into the advertising about presents, because let’s face it… consumerism does not equal happiness or love or fulfilment. When we see the that Christ is actually about worship and not about consumerism there is a weight lifted from us… we don’t need to be worried about shops and traffic jams and credit card debt…. this doesn’t consume us and we are free to worship fully and spend less.

But we are also able to GIVE MORE

Instead of buying useless gifts, gifts for the sake of a present under the tree, presents that don’t mean anything, presents that just add to the junk we already own… how about giving something meaningful?? Like your time, your energy…. YOURSELF! At Christmas time, God gave the GREATEST gift. Jesus came and gave himself for us… all of himself…. his time, his energy, his… LIFE! At Christmas we can emmulate this by giving gifts of ourselves… make presents instead of buying them (they mean so much more when you spend time on them) and give your PRESENCE… yourself. But, what about that money you didn’t spend on gifts? Couldn’t you give that away too? To people who really need it? At GCC and Cafe Church we’ll be giving money to a Water Fund which will buy wells, sanitation, training and equipment in the developing world with Baptist World Aid Australia and TEAR Australia.

By doing this we can LOVE ALL
Jesus came to love all of humanity… particularly the hurting, the vulnerable, the poor. As you WORSHIP God this Christmas and seek to GIVE more of yourself, why not give to thise who Jesus gave himself to?

See for more info…

UK Riots: A Response

More and more talk has been heard in the media about the ever-increasing gap between the rich and poor, in London and the UK, as a major contributor to the recent London riots. With multi-million pound homes being built in the boroughs of London and more and more shops setting prices to match, some of the lower socio-economic citizens are feeling like they are being pushed out of their own suburb (see ABC News). High prices are set for rent and sale of properties, high prices for food and services, combine with high rates of unemployment (around 10% in some areas) and a government who is cutting funding for social welfare due to the current economic situation and massive debt, result in communities where people have little or no money to buy the ordinary requirements and still want the luxuries. Education is also harder to obtain for people from poorer families, and a dysfunctional or broken family structure only adds to already concerning list of social issues (see Guardian Article). People are unable to afford the designer jeans or big screen TVs and so when the opportunity arose to fight back against the system and take what they want, the opportunity was jumped on by hundreds.

Although those involved sound a bit like victims of an unjust system, it does not in any way excuse or condone the behaviour of the last week. But the situation of an ever-increasing gap between rich and poor is not isolated to the UK. Indeed in some countries around the world the gap is so large that the rich are rich by any measure and the poor are some of the poorest in the world. However, even in developed countries and even in Australia we see similar symptoms of a system which promotes hand-outs which dis-empower the poor and make them reliant on a system which, in the end, will enable them to move out of a cycle of poverty and disadvantage.So what is a response, not only to the situation in London and the UK, but in any area where a similar situation exists?

We must approach this issue as people who have an understanding of the Cross and as people who have been transformed by it. We must see the Cross and how God treated us when we were destitute, poor, broken and dysfunctional. When we were broken, Christ came to make us whole. When we were poor and destitute, Christ became poor so that we might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). Christ came and gave up all he had in heaven, to become a poor man in Galilee, without a home, without money, died a death of criminal and was buried in tomb he didn’t own. Christ took on our sin and gave us his riches of righteousness… all this when we were enemies of God (Romans 5:10). We were totally undeserving of any compassion, grace, forgiveness and mercy. Yet Christ came and gave up all he had for us. When we are transformed by this Gospel, we see the poor in a new light. We know that we ourselves were poor and God was extravagant with his generosity and lavished his grace and mercy and compassion on us. We too must see the poor this way and lavish grace, mercy and compassion on them in extravagant generosity.

Riots may get the issues in the headlines, it may bring to light some injustices of society, but only extravagant generosity, radical mercy and compassion, and a community which seeks justice and loves mercy and walks humbly with God (Micah 6:8) will have any lasting impact. Only people who have been transformed by the Cross will be able to act in a way which seeks the flourishing of others at their own expense and seek to empower the community to act with the same generosity, humility, servanthood, grace, mercy and compassion. A community like this can empower society to release people from disadvantage and poverty because they themselves have been transformed by the Cross and have been liberated from poverty and brokenness in Christ.

I don’t think I have covered all aspects or adressed the whole issue. What are your thoughts?

Designed for Community

Below is a video clip from US pastor Francis Chan as part of his BASIC Series. It’s called BASIC Fellowship.

Facing the Facts

This week (Monday August 1 – Sunday August 7) is National Homeless Person’s Week. Taken from the ‘Homelessness Australia’ website’s factsheet, here are some interesting (and perhaps surprising) stats about homelessness in Australia.

Fact #1: Each day about 1 in every 200 Australians are homeless and without safe, affordable or secure housing. This means, on any given day in Australia, about 105,000 people are homeless.

Fact #2: About 1 in every 154 Australian has sought help from a homeless assistance service

Fact #3: In Australia, 1 out of every 42 Australian children has experienced homelessness

Fact #4: About 25% of homeless people in Australia are under the age of 18

Fact #5: Everyday half of the people who request immediate accommodation from homeless services are turned away. This means, 2 in every 3 children who need support and 80% of families who need support have to be turned away

Fact #6: Domestic violence contributes to or causes about 22% of all homelessness. Half of all women with children who are using homeless services are escaping domestic violence

Homelessness is just one issue our society faces in regards to the poor and destitute. And the Bible has much to say about how the Church is required to be at the forefront of issues concerning social justice and care the poor. In Isaiah, when speaking about what the Lord sees as appropriate worship of him (Isaiah speaks of “fasting”) in Isaiah 58, we find these words:

“Is not this the kind of fasting [or worship] I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.”

For more information on Christians working amongst the homeless see the Hopestreet Urban Compassion website.

Creating a Salty Culture #2 – Enhancing Flavour

On Monday I blogged about where Jesus is teaching his followers about being salt, saying, You are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). But what on earth did Jesus mean? I noted that I think “salt” is an image of two things as it has two functions – a preserver and a flavour enhancer. Jesus is therefore instructing his followers  to be preservers of human culture (see Monday’s blog) and enhancers of human culture.

Aside from preserving food, salt is also a flavour enhancer. It functions in a very similar way to what it does when it is used as a preserver. Salt draws moisture out of the food and it is this moisture that comes into contact with our tongue’s tastebuds enabling us to taste. In addition, salt reduces acidity and bitterness thus enhancing more pleasant flavours of some foods. So, when Jesus speaks of his community (ie the Church) being the salt of the earth it brings with it images of enhancing flavour, or intensifying beauty in culture.

So why does our culture need enhancing? The brokeness of culture means it does not “taste” the way it should. Greed, violence, bitterness, anger, abuse and other things in our world make life harsh, bitter rather than sweet and pleasant. The brokeness in our world, the way the poor, the weak and the marginalised are treated, the way people are rejected and distained, mocked and scorned, the way greed and selfishness pervade much of our culture means it is somewhat less attractive, less pleasant, less beautiful than it could be. It needs enhancing, the true beautiful and sweet flavours must be bought out and the bitter flavours  reduced.

How does the Church enhance our world? By being a counter-culture. Where there is greed, Jesus’community must bring generosity. Where there is violence and hatred, we must bring peace and love. Where there is bitterness and anger we must bring forgiveness, peace and reconciliation. Where there is injustice we must stand up for what is just and right. Where the weak and the poor and the marginalised are taken advantage of, we must speak up, we must act with compassion and generosity and mercy. Why? Because this is how God acted towards us. When we were weak he rescued us. Where we needed salvation, he generously gave us all we required. When we needed mercy and forgiveness, he provided the cross. God acted with compassion, grace, forgiveness, mercy and love far beyond what we deserved. As the Church, we must provide just a glimpse of the God we have encountered to those around us.

When a community of people act this way, this counter-cultural way, the God flavours enhance our culture. For a gracious, merciful, compssionate, just, righteous, generous and forgiving community is one of intense beauty. This type of community is sweet to taste and beautiful to see.

Creating a Salty Culture #1 – Preserving

There is a passage in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount where Jesus speaks about his followers being salt, saying, You are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13). But what on earth did Jesus mean?

I think salt is an image of two things, two images of the way Christ (and hence followers of Christ) impact the culture in which they live. Salt is used in preserving and also as a flavour enhancer and this is what Jesus is getting at. His community, his followers, are to be preservers of human culture and enhancers of human culture.

Firstly, salt was used (and still is used) as a preserver, particularly of meats and in some pickling techniques of fruits and vegetables. Salt draws out moisture and creates an environment which is inhospitable to bacteria. Therefore, when Jesus speaks of his followers as the salt of the earth, he brings with it this image of preserving the earth, not the literal soil and rocks (for salt has no benefit to the soil, it creates salinity) but Jesus is saying that he and his followers preserve human culture.  Christ keeps the culture from decay.

How is culture decaying? In western culture it is perhaps quite easy to see decay. There are things that we know are not right, that our culture is not functioning the way it ought, that our culture is somewhat broken. There is greed and selfishness that pervades our culture. There are people who will do anything, hurt anyone, to get what they want, to get to the top of the ladder. There is wars and violence, domestic violence, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, broken relationships, broken families, hurting children, abused people, neglected communities, racism… dare I go on? It is obvious when you look around that our culture is in decay.

How does the Church preserve culture? Christ’s community of followers (ie the Church) is called to be a “counter-culture”, a culture that does not value what the world values and acts in a way that preserves culture. Christ’s community is to be one of generosity, not greed. Christ’s community is to be one of acceptance and love, not hatred, violence and racism. Christ’s community is to look out for those who are hurting, those who are neglected, those who are marginalised, those who no one else cares for… as Christ did when he walked this earth. When a community of people are “counter-cultural” like this, when they don’t value power or wealth, when they don’t value success or comfort, when they don’t value status and identity, but instead look out for those who are powerless, care for those who have no support, and speak for those who do not have a voice… a community like this is preserving culture. It is getting the culture back to where it should be… where no one feel superior, no one feels inferior, but all are seeking the flourishing of others at their own expense. It is community which seeks to serve others at the detriment of their own wealth, power, comfort, success and status.

The Beautiful Fabric of Community

Have you ever seen some of the woven fabrics that are found around the globe? They are usually beautifully designed and wonderfully woven (often by hand). The colours are magnificent and the designs are so intricate… literally art that you can wear! 

I reckon these fabrics are a great image of Christian community. The fabrics are made up of individual threads which may have some beauty and some strength on their own but it is nothing in comparison to when they are woven together. When the individual threads are woven together, each thread must pass and touch the threads around it. They go in and out and around and through one another in such as way that they produce something with strength far beyond the strength of an individual thread and beauty that is sometimes beyond words.
Like the fabric, Christian community is made up of individual “threads”. These threads may be somewhat beautiful and strong in themselves outside of community, but when lives are passed in and out and around and through each other, when lives touch and are woven together in Christian community they produce something that is not only strong (far stronger than any individual) but immensely beautiful. But the fabric of Christian community has a “thread” which is stronger and more beautiful than any other… Jesus Christ. It is Jesus Christ that weaves us together (he is the designer and the fabric maker) but unlike human fabric weavers, Jesus is able to weave himself into our fabric. He is the creator and also part of the fabric of our community. Individual people may be strong and beautiful, but allow Jesus Christ to weave you into the fabric of Christian community alongside himself and you will be part of the most beautiful community in the world.
Paul describes Christian community, not as a fabric but as a body, in 1 Corinthians 12 saying, the body is not made up of one part but many… in fact God has arranged the parts of the body, everyone of them, just as he wanted them to be. 

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