Report From the Front

It’s tough here at Port Macquarie- so many potential activities battling the desire for a quiet week. Margaret’s been taking the morning shift and I take the afternoon shift for naps.

Tuesday night is the big special at Mike’s Seafood in the heart of Port Macquarie. The deal is you buy one serve of fish and chips at the regular price of $9.25 and a second serve costs just $2. You get very generous servings of well cooked battered fish and scrumptious chips.

So we took our fish and chips 50 metres to the Town Green, near the Hastings River. We sat down on the grass ready to be mean to the assembled seagulls which seem to believe that humans are there to feed them. 

Then we were joined by a pelican which seemed determined that we would donate our fish. He landed a few metres away but edged closer and closer, until the tip of his beak was almost in Margaret’s dinner. Until you have confronted a pelican eye to eye over a piece of fish, you have no idea how menacing they can be.

I waved at it to send it away. It backed off a metre then edged closer again.

I was about to stand up to scare it off when a man behind me said, “I can help with that. I wasn’t sure if you wanted it there or not.”

With that he unleashed the secret weapon- a two year old boy! The boy wasted no time in chasing the birds. The seagulls and pelican headed out over the river and towards the boats. The seagulls regrouped later but the intimidating pelican was not seen again.

Tonight’s dinner will be pancakes at the Pancake Palace. This is Margaret’s favourite eatery in the entire universe.

Tomorrow we will be meeting old friend Kerry Medway for lunch at Sea Acres.

Friday night we will be having dinner with Margaret’s cousin Lorraine who lives in Port Macquarie with husband Chris. In fact we can see their flat from our apartment here. 

Between our social engagements, morning trips to the spa and pool, and daily visits to the beach, we are also finding time to go shopping- a tea shop and several charity shops were on the agenda today. I believe Bunnings and Harvey Norman are expecting our attendance also.

It’s hard work, but we are managing to keep up with it.Image

Reflection on Micah 6:1-8

Reflection on Micah 6:1-8

Religion! Religion!
What a burden this is!
Pray now. Face that way.
Cut your hair. Grow a beard.
Kill your child.
Give up this, Fast from that.

“Relax!” says my God.
“You don’t have to impress me.
I’m the one who saved you
Freely, unasked
Before you knew it
All I want is you
Your life reflecting me
Justice, mercy, humility
Let’s walk together.”

Turning The Bible Into An Idol

King James BibleI couldn’t believe what I was reading. It was Google Plus, in a community dedicated to The Bible, and the person was saying something along these lines: “Why should the Hebrew take precedence over the King James Version? God gave us the King James Version in English.” It turned into a long rant, but I was captivated by the opening words.

When pastors talk about the inspiration of Scripture, they mean that the original version written down by the prophets and apostles were directed by the Holy Spirit.

If you actually look at the process by which the book we call the Bible has been handed down to us, the whole process is a great miracle. Very early texts have been preserved for thousands of years, the agreement between the preserved portions is very high considering they were individually hand written.

I also believe that the Holy Spirit guides the thoughts of those making the translations from Hebrew and Greek into English (or the hundreds of other languages spoken round the world) and most importantly, the Holy Spirit uses those words to speak to the reader, convicting us about sin, holiness and the need for salvation.

But, and this is really important, if you want to read the inspired version of Scripture, you must learn Greek and Hebrew, and read it in the original languages.

Translation from one language to another is an art. It is tricky because no single word in any language really covers the full range of meaning of its equivalent in another language. Even within the English language, Australians use words differently to Americans and New Zealanders. Not only that, but words change subtly in meaning over time even during one person’s lifetime.

So yes, the original Hebrew text does take precedence over the King James, or any other translation for that matter, even the NIV.

Having said that, English speakers are blessed in having dozens of translations of the Bible to choose from. Many of them are very good, and strive to be as accurate as possible in rendering the meaning of the texts. If you can’t learn Greek and Hebrew, read a couple of different English versions to get a wider understanding of the text.

But please don’t turn your favourite translation into an idol. The original texts are infallible, translations less so.

Capitalism- Setting Slaves Free.

 

Mining magnate Andrew Forrest announces coal conversion deal to free 2.5m from slavery in Pakistan

 

 

Australian mining magnate Andrew Forrest has announced a plan which he says will free 2.5 million people from slavery in Pakistan.

Mr Forrest has signed a deal with the Pakistani state of Punjab which will give it access to Australian technology which can convert lignite coal into diesel.

In return, he says Pakistan has agreed to bring in laws which will tackle the problem of slavery, or bonded labour.

The Global Slavery Index, compiled by Mr Forrest’s Walk Free foundation, estimates that some 16 million people in Pakistan and India are held in slave-like bondage through debt and forced labour.

Mr Forrest announced the deal in the Swiss resort of Davos, where world leaders are meeting for the World Economic Forum.

“They [Punjab] have literally hundreds of billions of tonnes of equivalent barrel of oil energy in their lignite,” he said.

“That technology we will make available – pro bono, without charge – and linking that informally, but absolutely, to their total commitment to free their people from slavery.”

The concept has won praise from former British prime minister Tony Blair, who described it as a great example of Australian philanthropy.

Mr Forrest says the technology, developed by Curtin University, has the potential to be cost-effective.

“Turning lignite to diesel is proved – so we have no doubt it’s going to happen,” he said.

“The economic cost is the question, and that’s why we’re using Curtin University technology to get that cost as low as possible, so the advantage to the people of Pakistan is as high as possible.”

Mr Forrest has previously invested millions of dollars in Aboriginal employment initatives in Australia and in 2012 founded Walk Free, a philanthropic charity focused on ending slavery worldwide.

He also helped to launch a global slavery index, alongside Mr Blair and former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, which found that 29 million people were living in conditions of modern slavery around the world.

 

From the ABC

Reflection on Matthew 4:12-22

Fishers Of Men1

Scripture

From that time on, Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

Observation

After the temptation in the desert, Jesus moves to Capernaum, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy of the light coming to the land of Zebulun and Naphtlali.

From that time, Jesus begins to preach the Good News of the Kingdom.

Jesus calls Simon Peter and Andrew to come and be fishers of men. James and John are in their boat, and they leave to follow Jesus.

Application

Jesus starts preaching and calling His disciples to follow Him.

The message of the Kingdom is still the same. We need to turn away from our self-absorbed ways, obey God and live in the Kingdom.

The Kingdom of God is here so life annot continue in the same old ways.

Like the four men- Simon, Andrew, James, and John- we have to leave the old life behind even at the cost of losing our business or family.

Jesus is calling us to leave everything behind and follow Him.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you died to save me. Help me to give up my hold on my life to follow you. Amen.

Useless Wind Power

 

Alan Moran on the failure of green power in last week’s heatwave:


AEMO data shows that during heat wave conditions in the five days to 18 January this year, wind actually contributed 3 per cent of electricity supply across the Australian National Electricity Market.  Nobody knows the contribution of roof top solar but it could not conceivably have been more than one per cent.

Overall, wind facilities amount to 3,300 megawatts of capacity, somewhat less than the Loy Yang brown coal power stations in Victoria or Macquarie Generation’s black coal facilities in the Hunter Valley.  Windmills produced at an average of 23 per cent of their capacity during the January heat wave.  This was below their year-long average of about 30 per cent because the hot spell, as is often the case, was characterised by still air…

The below par performance of windmills in high demand periods means they not only require a subsidy but are also less valuable than other plant because their availability is reduced when they are most needed and when the price is highest… Indeed, during the recent heat wave, wind power earned an average of $123 per megawatt hour in Victoria and $182 in South Australia while the average price was respectively $209 and $285 in the two states.

Investments in wind and other subsidised electricity generation, according to the renewable energy lobby group the Clean Energy Council, has been $18.5 billion.  By contrast, the market value of comparable generating capacity in Macquarie Generation coal plants is said to be only $2 billion and a brand new brown coal plant of 3,300 megawatt capacity would cost less than $10 billion.

Wind aficionados claim that such costings do not take into account that wind is free whereas fossil fuel plants have to pay for their energy. But that is also untrue.  Wind plant maintenance is about $12 per megawatt hour which is more than the fuel plus maintenance costs of a Victorian brown coal power station.

 

Evangelism- “go and catch them” or “drag ’em in”?

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Last night I saw an advertisement in our local paper inviting people to attend an Australia Day service. This follows a successful pre-Christmas service where locals were invited to come to that church.

This got me thinking about the way we “do” evangelism.

There are two basic approaches to the process of sharing the Good News with people who do not yet believe.

The first is the “attractional” model. In this approach, exemplified by the example I gave already, a church puts on some kind of event. It might be a special service with an evangelistic speaker, a bigger band than normal, perhaps drama or some kind of gimmick. The plan is to attract people to a central place where we hope that they will hear the message and be saved.

This is the way that the church has long done evangelism in the West. Think Billy Graham and other evangelists.

The problem is that this is resource- hungry and very intensive for the small group of people who take on the responsibility of producing the event.

Of course it assumes that people are waiting to be invited to church, which may be true of some. Increasingly, though, church is seen as an alien, even frightening place for many people. The expectation that some express is that the roof will fall in if they cross the threshold.

Some churches respond to this by raising the ante- offering the possibility of winning a car or a holiday, or paying people to attend.

The second method is called “incarnational”. Rather than inviting people to come to where we are, we go to where the people are, living the gospel in daily life. This is a more dispersed approach that sees evangelism happening in the midst of real life, rather than taking place in a specially designated place at a particular time.

The Indian missiologist D.T. Niles described evangelism as “one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.” In other words it is a conversation on the street of people who are spiritually poor sharing the Good News of what they have found through the grace of God.

Cell groups are a great opportunity for this kind of sharing. We invite neighbours to a meal, a picnic, or perhaps we serve them at a place of need. Out of a relationship, over time, the opportunity to share what we know about Jesus arises.

Near the end of last year, we ran a Family Festival as a Christmas outreach. It was an event, but it was incarnational. We sought out a location that was accessible to people- a park beside the river. We arranged activities, food and music. Each family received a gift bag with various goodies, including a New Testament. There was a good, happy and peaceful atmosphere, and people were free to converse in a relaxed environment. There was no altar call, but the Kingdom of God was present.

The attractional model has the advantage of being centralised and controllable. We can see how many attended and how many responded. It gives people a reason to invite people and to talk about their faith.

The incarnational approach is less tidy, but more like the way Jesus acted. He didn’t call out from heaven “Come on up and I’ll show you how to get saved.” He came down to where we live and showed us what God looks like in the flesh. Then He told us to do the same- show others what God looks like in the flesh.

The Great Commission tells us to GO and make disciples rather than STAY and tell people to come.

Let’s get out and live it.

 

Reflection on 1 Corinthians 1:10-18

kids-clipart

Scripture

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.

Observation

Paul appeals to the church at Corinth to agree with one another, being one in mind, for the sake of Jesus. Instead of being dived into factions loyal to different teachers, they must be united in their faith.

Paul’s role is not to baptise people but to preach the gospel, the message of foolishness to those who are perishing, but the power of God to those being saved.

Application

When christians major on doctrinal differences or give certain preachers celebrity status, division is certain to follow. We all want to be in the right.

We need to put Christ at the centre of our thinking, not pet doctrines or favourite speakers.

It is Christ who saves us not Joyce Meyer or Joel Osteen. It is His sacrifice on the cross that cancels my sin not the atonement theory or my belief about the rapture.

We must seek to honour one another as members of the family for whom Christ died, even if we have different ideas about aspects of what that means.

Prayer

Thank you Lord for the power of the cross through which I am saved. Help me Father to love other members of your kingdom, especially when we disagree. Amen.