“But I will show love to the people of Judah. I will free them from
their enemies– not with weapons and armies nor horses and
charioteers, but by my power as the Lord their God.”
The Lord tells Hosea to go and marry a prostitute. This will
illustrate Israel’s unfaithfulness to the Lord.
His wife Gomer bears three children named Jezreel, Lo-ruhana (“Not
loved”), and Lo-ammi (“Not my people”).
God will not show love to Israel, but He will favour Judah. Yet, the
time will come when He unites the two nations under one leader.
While preaching a mixed message to God’s people, Hosea does offer
God’s blessing on the people of Judah. The Lord will free them from
their enemies, but not by military might. Instead, He will set them
free under His own mighty power.
The Lord does not require the weapons and methods of the world to
achieve His purposes. He does use political and military methods at
times, but He does not have to rely on them.
The important thing is that we look to the Lord to rescue us and not
to human strength. Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “the weapons of our
warfare are not the weapons of the flesh.”
When we face spiritual battles, impossible battles, it is the Lord we
trust, not merely our own limited resources.
When we try to make things happen out of our own abilities, then
disaster will follow. When we commit our ways to the Lord, and trust
Him to bring the victory, then we will see miracles happen.
Lord I thank you for your great love. I thank you that when you fight
for me using your strength, then the victory will come. Amen.
Is the so-called “Voice” to Parliament a way to real Aboriginal reconciliation or is it just another good but wasteful idea? Were the people who came up with the idea representative of the general Aboriginal community?
The Uluru Statement of the Heart proposes a ‘Voice’ representing Indigenous Australians be enshrined within the constitution, to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to be formally consulted on legislation and policy affecting their communities.
Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt has suggested such a ‘Voice’ could be legislated rather than embedded within our constitution.
However, before we debate how, and in what form a ‘Voice’ might be implemented, we need to discuss some important aspects.
The first matter of concern, who was representing me when the all big decisions were being made?
Going back to 2017 when the First Nations National Constitutional Convention was held at Uluru, the representatives in attendance were invited by nominees of the Referendum Council; and not elected by Indigenous people.
Much of the media attention has ignored the fact that there were and still are dissenting – and unheard – Indigenous voices throughout the entire process of the development of the Uluru Statement of the Heart.
Secondly, for far too long Aboriginal people have been portrayed as being one homogenous group of people who all think the same; and the Uluru Statement has now further entrenched this idea. The reality is, this could not be further from the truth.
We don’t have one voice and we never have. This has been a construct that undermines us.
The Palawa of Tasmania have real, genuine problems that need to be addressed. At the other end of the country, the Tiwi also have real, genuine problems that need to be addressed. And in the middle there are the Warlpiri, with their own set of real problems. And many other group with their own problems as well.
To try to put them all in the one basket and to treat them as if they are all the same is a grotesque denial of their rights to see themselves as different and distinct linguistic and cultural groups, with their own distinct histories of contact with Europeans and experience of colonisation.
We would not want to send Tiwi and Warlpiri to Tasmania to sort out their problems for them and we wouldn’t expect Palawa to come to the NT to sort out the problems of remote communities. Each of these groups are the only ones who can solve their own problems in their own unique way.
And what of our non-Indigenous loved ones and relatives. A clear majority of those who identify as Indigenous now have children with those who don’t. In the southern cities of Sydney and Melbourne, over 80% of Indigenous people are coupled with non-Indigenous partners and have children. Roughly the same percentage of their children identify as Indigenous.
Do our non-Indigenous loved ones have no say in the future of their own children and grandchildren?
Thirdly, as Indigenous people, we all know that those with powerful positions within our communities tend to have most of the resources and most of the control. Those who have managed to take advantage of the plentiful resources available in the Aboriginal industry have done so without effecting much change for the most vulnerable.
Do we imagine that a ‘Voice’ will empower the marginalised or will it entrench those who already maintain control of the resources that flow into Aboriginal disadvantage? While there are many community controlled organisations working tirelessly to stem disadvantage, we are acutely aware of those embedded within some Aboriginal organisations and institutions, who are there for their own personal and financial gains.
Will yet another bureaucracy such as a legislated ‘Voice’ simply give more power to those who haven’t yet demonstrated that they can solve the critical issues our marginalised Australians are faced with?
Truth telling is as much a responsibility we should put upon ourselves as it is for our entire nation in understanding our combined history. The real question — which did not appear in the Uluru Statement — is ‘what are we going to do for ourselves?’
In practical terms, stripping back bureaucracy to support grassroots decision-making from community to community suggests real empowerment — as opposed to an umbrella ‘Voice’ that we will never truly gain consensus on, because we are not simply one people.
These issues require robust debate so as not to push this process along blindly, and then suffer the consequences later.
A church without God, seems kind of pointless to me. Some people tried it anyway. It turns out you have to have a reason to belong, something bigger than yourself– like Jesus. Vague belief in nothing much at all won’t keep people engaged.
Why Secular Church Started So Well, but Finished So Poorly (and Quickly)
We’ve all heard over the past few years of the move among Nones to start something like church, with all the bells and whistles, talks and coffee, singing and platforms. Something like church but with one small variable – no Jesus.
They began to meet in buildings across all the funky cities in the world and things blossomed quickly. They gathered to hear inspiring talks and sing anthems such as “Livin’ on a Prayer” (no, seriously!), and fill the void that church once filled before things got seriously secular.
Proof if you need it that it’s not really the case that they love Jesus but hate the church, it’s more the other way around!
We’ve all heard how that worked out too. Things declined quite quickly, despite only being a seven year project so far. It’s as if these secular churches compressed the life cycle of an entire church movement, birth through to death, in a petri-dish experiment, even at the time that the Nones are increasing in number.
And now there’s a great article exploring the psychology behind what went wrong in the latest copy of The Atlantic. You can read the whole piece by Faith Hill here.
It’s interesting that of the groups to survive, it’s those that were built around ex-religious people who replaced love for Jesus and the church with distrust/dislike of Jesus and the church, that have survived. In other words, communities need to have a centre, even if it’s a negative one. As it turns out the desire for community itself is not strong enough to hold the community together.
Which kinda reminds us as Christians that community is not the goal of the gospel, but the fruit of the gospel. As Hill states in the article:
If the sudden emergence of secular communities speaks to a desire for human connection and a deeper sense of meaning, their subsequent decline shows the difficulty of making people feel part of something bigger than themselves. One thing has become clear: The yearning for belonging is not enough, in itself, to create a sense of home.
And it’s not that the non-religious are any lazier than the average church attendee. They did their fair share of chair-stacking, event organisation, roster-writing, and goodness knows what else goes in to creating a weekly meeting for the (un)faithful. But at the core, that’s not enough, as Alan Cooperman, the director of religion research at Pew Research Center, observed:
On what basis would you pull them together? Being uninterested in something is about the least effective social glue, the dullest possible mobilizing cry, the weakest affinity principle, that one can imagine.
But here’s what’s really interesting, and it’s a reminder to us as pastors and church leaders lest we forget; the key to church appears to be that it offers something transcendent.
Anthropologist Richard Sosis, who studies the history of religious communes is quoted in the article as saying that without it, transcendence, there is little meaningful reason to meet:
… there has to be a sense of transcendence … Transcendence is what gives the community a higher level of meaning than going to Johnny’s Little League game.
Okay, okay, Johnny’s Little League game may occasionally be more exciting than church can be, no argument there, but what it offers is an immanence that ultimately dissipates the moment one leaves the playing field. As Hill observes:
It might mean that ideals they already espouse—such as helping others, or finding wonder in nature—get elevated to a sacred level. The irony is that to get away from religion, they may need to re-create it.
But we knew that already, didn’t we? Those of us who have read Charles Taylor. We knew that the secular frame needs to have a story bigger than itself in order to sustain itself. And we knew from listening ad infinitum to that David Foster Wallace talk, that there is no such thing as an atheist and that we all worship.
And it takes a lot of hard work, money, time, effort and emotional smoke and mirrors to make the non-transcendent even look vaguely transcendent. It’s a task that would tax the Wizard of Oz. And then once you turn your back the whole thing can easily collapse into immanence again. I mean, whose got the time and energy for that? Not the Nones, if the evidence of their numerical collapse in a few short years is any indication.
Of course there’s more than just transcendence. Or to put it another way, transcendence needs to look like something if a community is going to survive the biggest threat to its existence- its members.
Think about it. Who are the biggest threat to the existence of your church community? The community members themselves. And that’s what we have in common with all communities. And that’s just in the central meeting! We do gatherings with each other the rest of the week with all sorts of diverse people from church. How do we stop that tearing itself apart?
It’s at this point, however, the church of Jesus Christ has a distinct advantage over Jesus-less ekklesia. When communities fall into strive and unforgiveness, how is that resolved? When Christ’s church is unforgiving we read the command “Forgive one another as God in Christ has forgiven you.” How do Christless churches leverage forgiveness. Where, or Who, is their lodestar?
And love? Today love is love is love is love ad infinitum! But how does that stack up with “This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and gave His Son as a propitiation for our sins.”
And never mind inside a church meeting, what about the rest of the week? What would compel us to bear someone else’s burdens better than the reality that in so doing we “fulfil the law of Christ”?
And the list goes on. It turns out that the centre of the community has to be strong enough to keep it together, and healthy enough to keep it a safe place to be. Jesus ticks all those boxes in the most transcendent way possible.
And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, our eschatology and hope draws us, keeps us gathering. Hebrews is instructive here: “Do not neglect meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” It’s not simply that we’re gathering around something that will transcend, it’s that we’re meeting in anticipation of something – of Someone – who will descend! Our hope is not otherworldly transcendence, but a this-worldly descending by King Jesus.
Faith Hill writes in The Atlantic:
Some leaders of Sunday Assembly and Oasis told me they’re trying to make those weekly meetings so interesting, so entertaining, so powerful that people will keep showing up.
To which I might say “Ouch, that sounds scarily familiar.” Perhaps it’s better to offer our people the one thing that differentiates us – the one Person who, as Ephesians tells us, contains all of God’s unsearchable riches – Jesus himself. I don’t think we’re good enough to do interesting, entertaining and powerful in such a way to draw people and make them stick.
The mystery product of God made known! I know that there are many times I don’t want to gather in community with God’s people because the event itself is not particularly interesting, certainly not entertaining and definitely feels on the weaker side of powerful. But because Jesus is there it changes everything and that makes it worth showing up.
Maybe the Secular Church will rise again as the number of Nones increases further. Maybe not. But without Jesus at the centre, it will struggle to last another decade, never mind two millennia.
Here is my commentary on Ephesians 1:3. I am publishing these once or twice a week, but you can read all of the available articles at our web-site.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”
“Blessed” (literally “well said of”) could be thought of being similar to praise. “Praise be to God…” We bless God in praising Him, and He blesses us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.
Praise be to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hallelujah! He has blessed us with every blessing!
We have so much to praise God for. Every day is a blessing, but every day for eternity is like infinite blessing, bigger than we can count,in the presence of God. The blessings are infinite in number and infinite in size and intensity. This life is just the beginning and the blessings we enjoy now are just the shadow of the blessings in eternity.
Paul starts by blessing us with grace and peace but then turns his attention to blessing God.
To praise God, or to bless Him, does not impart anything to Him as such. But it does add to His glory. People from every tribe and nation are praising God, and every one of these people, every single act of praise, is a testimony to God’s love and mercy. Everyone of these is a light that adds to the unspeakably bright light that shines from His throne.
The testimony is a testimony to the world and to the cosmic system that is held in bondage by satan.
Every time we bless God or praise Him, we are saying to satan, “You are wrong! We will not side with you any more, for God has saved us through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
The world watches as we worship and it trembles- either in fear or conviction. So our praise or “blessing” of God is an impartation of glory to the Father. When we do it well, people are moved to join in praise and to repent of their sins.
God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the highest heaven.
We cannot add anything to God, we cannot impart anything to Him through words or actions because He is self-sufficient. He doesn’t need anything from us. We can only impart glory to Him through our blessing of Him.
God has imparted to us every blessing, that is every spiritual blessing. God has already given to us every blessing. Our response to bless Him is a response to what He has first done in us. God initiates the blessing and we respond by blessing Him.
When we think of blessings, our first thought often is of physical blessings. We see evidence of God’s blessing in our everyday life, and we think that we are blessed. This might be a financial blessing, a healing or a family reconciliation.
These things are important, but they are like an iceberg. We see the tip and praise God for the eruption of a spiritual blessing into the physical realm. Like the iceberg, there is so much beneath the surface that we cannot see with our physical senses or appreciate with our cognitive (thinking) abilities.
These are spiritual blessings and they must be apprehended by the spirit- not the flesh or the soul. Our spirit is the part of our nature that was activated, “born again”, when we were saved. It is the faculty that relates directly to the Holy Spirit.
He has given us every spiritual blessing. The thing about the Father that many people never seem to understand is that He is a generous Father. He is not miserly nor mean-spirited. He is the God of abundance. The name El-Shaddai often translated as “God of hosts” can also mean “God 0of breasts”- He has much food to give to those who draw close to Him.
God has held nothing back from His people.
What are the spiritual blessings He has given us?
They can by summarised in one word- Himself. Every spiritual blessing comes from the Father of Lights, James tells us. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit- one God in three “persons”- has poured Himself into us. The self-giving of God manifests as numerous spiritual blessings.
Salvation- we are written into the Book of Life
New birth- our spirit is activated or “born again” so that we can have fellowship with God.
Baptism in the Holy Spirit- a prayer language in which we speak to God spirit to Spirit is given to us
Supernatural grace including the gifts of the Holy Spirit
A new name is given to us, known only to God. This speaks of the intimate relationship in which we call God “Abba, Father”
Sanctification- the process where we shed off our sinful nature and are transformed “from glory to glory” by the Holy Spirit.
Dominion over angels and all created things
And many more
These spiritual blessings are primarily in the heavenlies, although they do some times manifest in the present physical world. We get a glimpse now, but one day we shall see them clearly.
To walk in these blessings we have to direct our attention to the heavenly realm. It is no good being totally focused on the earthly realm because only 1% of the blessing is here.
This is not about becoming “too heavenly minded to be of any earthly use”- which is a mocking, satanic curse designed to discourage believers from being disciples. We focus on heaven to be effective on earth. We want the blessing of the “highest heaven” (epouraniois) so that we can know the will and dominion of the Father and bring it to earth.
Prayer is the process of bringing the issues and situation we see on earth and laying them at the Father’s feet so that His will is done on earth as it is in heaven.
A word about heaven. In Jewish thought there were three heavens. The first heaven consists of the sky and the atmosphere, which is an extension of the earth, and still practically under the domain of satan, the prince of the air. The second heaven is the starry sky, the celestial realm, the physical universe which is beyond the earth but influences it. Then there is the third heaven or the highest heaven which Paul was taken up to (1 Corinthians 12:2). this is the realm of the presence of God.
In this verse, Paul uses ( epouraniois) the upper haven which is the third heaven where God’s presence is central.
Key points from this verse:
We bless God in our praise and worship
He blesses us, He has blessed us already, with every spiritual blessings
Because these blessings are “spiritual blessings” and are in the heavenly places, we need to focus our attention there.
As I have argued in the past, left-wing gender theory can be entirely dismantled and debunked with one simple question: What is a man? All of the talking points, all of the sermonizing, all of the stuff about “transgenderism” and “gender fluidity” and “gender spectrums” — all of it is blown to pieces by a question that my six-year-old could answer. No leftist who espouses gender theory can provide a coherent answer to this question. Few will even attempt it.
It is a classic double-edged sword. If “man” has no objective definition, then it is meaningless for a woman to identify as one. A statement like “transmen are men” is hollow and absurd if the word “man” has no meaning. But if it does have meaning, then we must admit that the meaning of the word stands independent of anyone’s feelings or opinions on the matter. If the word “man” means something, then it is possible for someone to wrongly identify as one. We can, in that case, compare their identity claims against the objective meaning of the term and determine whether their claim is correct or incorrect. Leftists can’t have that, of course, but neither can they have the alternative. If “man” has no definition, their position is destroyed. If it does, their position is destroyed. They lose either way. And they know it, so most will simply avoid the question and continue using words they can’t and won’t define.
But this week, a relatively prominent leftist made the mistake of not avoiding the question. Best of all, this particular leftist is a doctor. Dr. Eugene Gu, a self-described “surgeon-scientist,” made a decidedly unscientific claim on Twitter:
It’s a scientific and medical fact that men can get pregnant and also have abortions. Trans men and non-binary individuals are human beings who deserve to be acknowledged by society. They choose their own identity—not me, not you, not any doctor, and certainly not any politician.
Rather than mock this superstitious nonsense, I asked him the unanswerable (for a leftist) question:
The Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset
over all these details. There is only one thing worth becoming
concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken
away from her.”
Jesus and his disciples are travelling to Jerusalem. They come to the
home of Mary and Martha. Martha is distracted by the dinner she is
preparing while Mary sits at the Lord’s feet listening to His
Martha complains to Jesus about her sister, but He tells her Mary has
chosen the better thing.
Preparing food for thirteen people (plus all the extras) would have
been a big thing then- no take away pizzas were available! In that
culture, as in many places today, it was expected that you would put
on a good meal for visitors, especially for someone as famous as
Martha slaves away, preparing the food and fuming at her sister who
has not lifted a finger to help.
Jesus tells Martha she has missed the point. Food is important, but
not as important as eternal life. Honouring Jesus with food is good,
but not when you are focusing on the failures of others.
The question not asked here is “What motivates you?”
Do I do things because it is expected of me, and people will judge me
if I don’t do things according to their priorities?
Do I love Jesus with my words and actions while harbouring resentment
or pride in my heart?
Jesus looks at our heart to see the true motivations that drive us.
In that sense, we all need to spend more time with Jesus, letting His
words transform out hearts.
Lord Jesus, I confess that many of the things I do “for you” have
mixed motives. Forgive me for those times when I serve you from self
interest. Help me to seek you for who you are and not for what I get
from being seen to serve you. Amen.