A Spiritual Battle

Alice

Alice: Sometimes I believe in as many as six impossible things before breakfast.
The Mad Hatter: That is an excellent practice.

In Lewis Carroll’s story of Alice in Wonderland, we meet an inquisitive, bold and brave young girl who believes in the impossible. I identify with Alice in so many ways

I love an impossible project!

There’s a lot that puzzles me in life.

I am prepared to fight for what is right. I value friendship.

I tend to take people on face value.

And I hate injustice.

My favourite part in Alice’s story is when she comes face to face with the arch enemy, the Jabberwock, who is the champion of the red Queen. Alice has no idea how she will defeat this formidable foe but then the white Queen hands her the Vorpal sword – the only thing that can defeat the evil Jabberwock. As Alice takes the sword, the Queen tells her that it will know what to do and it will win the battle for her. Once on the battlefield, the dialogue between Alice and her foe is fabulous –

Jabberwocky: So my old foe, we meet on the battlefield once again.
Alice: We’ve never met.
Jabberwocky: Not you, insignificant bearer. My ancient enemy, the Vorpal one.

And so, trusting in the sword in her hand, she steps up to the fight. And after a fierce battle, OFF goes the Jabberwock’s head!

I grew up in a godly, loving home with four amazing sisters who I love very much. My husband and I have been married for over 35 years, we have 3 married children and 10 amazing grandchildren. Add to that the blessing of being Australian. In this wonderful country, I don’t wake in the morning wondering whether there will be a long wait at the well when I go to draw water for the day. I go shopping and eat out without fear. I have access to good doctors and hospitals. Yes, I am blessed indeed.

In the book of Luke in the Bible we read, ‘From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.’ I feel this weight of responsibility that comes with great blessing. But Jesus has promised that His yoke is easy to bear and the burden He gives us is light.

In Matthew 25 we read a story that Jesus told his followers of a master who is going away on a trip. Before leaving, he gives to three of his servants an amount of money according to their ability to use it wisely in his absence. Those who enlarged the original gift were rewarded, but the one who buried the gift was sent away in shame.

Each of us are created with a purpose, with God-given talents to use for His glory and for the good of others. And when I am using those gifts, I feel the wind beneath my wings. It’s not that life is easy. I, like so many others, have experienced deep and intense sorrow. But I am convinced that God’s plans for me are for my good and not for harm. They are where I will find hope and a future.

From a professional background in University and Church management roles, God placed on my heart a deep concern for the families and children in our society who do not know Him. So many are hurting. Badly. Our foster system is failing. One in four of our Qld children are known to child services. In high risk areas this rises to two in every three. Our society is so hyper-sexualised that our children’s mental and physical health and wellbeing is being affected with the rise of eating disorders, depression and appearance anxiety. Their cognitive and emotional development is being affected, they are having sex younger and they do not understand gender roles.

In early 2010 I commenced a campaign to make Outdoor Advertising G Rated. In 2011 I became the Qld State Director for the Australian Christian Lobby. The mantra that I seek to live out is to “Speak the Truth in Love”. We are called to be salt and light and to bless the place where we live (Matthew 5:13-14); to work for its peace and prosperity (Jeremiah 29:7); to free the captives. This is a spiritual battle. Our churches are well placed to care for our children, receiving 80% of government funding which is directed to not-for-profit organisations who are caring for our most vulnerable. I believe there is so much more we can do.

And, like Alice, there is only one weapon that can win the battle.

But our weapon is real. It is our sword – The Word of God (Ephesians 6:17); it is God’s Truth. But we must be prepared to step forward into the fight, and watch as God does the impossible (Matthew 19:26).

God said to Noah, “Come”.

The Noah blockbuster has had a huge response and many commentators. I have put my thoughts down to simply join the conversation. It’s good that there is all of a sudden a peaked interest in the story of Noah. If there is to be any eternal mileage to be found in this movie it will be as God’s children grasp the opportunity to set the record straight about our Creator, God.
Googling around the story of Noah has jumped +1,100%. It appears there are two main phrases being searched. “Noah’s Ark” with the results being varied, but including christianity.about.com within the first ten referrals. And “Noah Prophet” had as its fourth referral the bible passage.
I digress, but it has always bemused me that the story of Noah is found in baby clothes, curtains, cute children’s books and wallpaper. When it really is a horrific tale of death and destruction. Animals are cute and mostly cuddly, right? And this is a story about lots of animals in a floating zoo – what’s there not to love? But this is not a story about animals. And this truth is lost in the blockbuster movie. For the movie character Noah, it was ALL about the animals.
But this misses the point and I believe it misrepresents God. And that is a serious thing to do. In the movie, Noah wasn’t sure what the ultimate aim of the Creator was and so he interpreted the flood as a means to annihilate the human race.
This was never God’s intention. The Ark was a picture of our ultimate salvation in the Lord Jesus. God was very clear with his purpose to Noah. ‘Then the LORD told Noah, “Come—you and all your household—into the ark, because I’ve seen that you alone are righteous in this generation”.’
The Bible tells us clearly that Noah’s family, eight people including his sons and wives, were saved and that they were to have children with this new start.
We misrepresent God to our peril. We who know the true God have a a very real opportunity to open the conversation about Noah and tell the true story of a gracious, kind and merciful God, who offered salvation to Noah in the past, and offers salvation to each one of us now.
Genesis 7:1
1 Peter 3:20

Every freedom has a form

In an opinion piece in the Daily Telegraph this week www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/opinion/standing-up-to-the-politciallycorrect-bully-boys/story-fni0cwl5-1226757595694 author Ross Fitzgerald said that “freedom of speech has never been more threatened in Australia”.
He drew attention to the current Queensland government inquiry into sexualised outdoor advertising: “If you’re trying to get a message out in Queensland via outdoor advertising, don’t say anything even vaguely sexual. As a result of pressure from the Australian Christian Lobby, the Queensland government has ordered an enquiry into whether there is too much sex on advertising billboards. If our democratic system is to survive, the right to speak the unvarnished truth needs to be nurtured, even protected.

He is referring to my campaign to make outdoor advertising G Rated in Queensland and the current inquiry on this topic. Whilst I agree that freedom of speech is an important value in a democratic society, it is not an absolute right. It carries with it responsibility and boundaries. Children deserve to be protected from material in public that is likely to harm or disturb them. Freedom of speech should not override the freedom of the community not to be confronted by sexualised imagery or advertising that demeans others – mostly women.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA), The Australia Institute and even the Advertising Standards Board all agree that sexualised advertising is on the rise. The Australian Medical Association has identified that increasing numbers of children are focusing on an inappropriate sexualised concept of body image and that this impacts on their growth and physical functioning, including a reduced ability to think and learn. The AMA affirms that marketing and advertising contribute to this problem. The Australia Institute research found that this sexualisation contributes to an increased risk of sexualised and attention seeking behaviours at an earlier age. They conclude that “the sexualisation of Australian children in advertising and marketing is increasing and involves a wide range of risks to children”. It is clear that the welfare of children should take precedence over absolute freedom of speech in this context.
And if it’s the unvarnished truth that Ross Fitzgerald is after, then I would think he should join my campaign to remove the photo-shopped images of unrealistic women from our outdoor advertising.

we don’t have to work to the world’s agenda

The men of Issachar understood the times and knew what Israel should do. 1 Chronicles 12:32
What are our times? And what should we be doing?

There is much in this generation that aligns with the description in Philippians 2:15 of “a crooked and perverse generation”. What we once deemed only a short time ago as a society as immoral, we now celebrate. But in this generation, as in all previous generations, God’s children are called to shine as lights. This involves remaining IN the world, but standing out against darkness – that’s the calling and the purpose of light.
James 3:13 tells us to do good works, live humbly, and learn wisdom. And if that was it, living in Australia as a Christian would be a pretty good gig. But God has not called us to be merely spiritual philanthropists.
I believe that God expects us to engage with our culture, whilst remaining uncompromising with the truth.
The Apostle Paul devoted time and attention to studying the culture of the place where God had placed him – he formed a good understanding of the underlying world views which informed and shaped the culture of the Athenians. He engaged with the culture of the day as he spoke to the members of the Areopagus and as he used their pagan poets to explain to them the deep things of God.
But Paul’s message was always focused on the Gospel message:
• The identity of Jesus
• The reality of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus
• The necessity of repentance and faith
…true Christianity starts from the premise that there is a source of truth outside of us that is objectively true…Neither did Paul compromise on truth. Because true Christianity starts from the premise that there is a source of truth outside of us that is objectively true, regardless of how anyone feels about it. And so Paul challenged sin and the rulers of the day. As a result, history tells us he was beheaded by Nero. Because his generation, like ours, was repelled by Paul’s claim of an absolute and exclusive Truth.
…tolerance is not about accepting everyone else’s beliefs, but rather being willing to listen to those beliefs…
Absolute truth is utterly distasteful to our postmodern world which wants to dictate their own truth, often arrived at through a ‘consensus’ with the voices they hear most often in the media. This translates to the followers of Christ who claim to know The Truth often being accused of being intolerant. But tolerance is not about accepting everyone else’s beliefs, but rather being willing to listen to those beliefs. And this is important, because Christ’s followers should be ready and willing to discuss their faith and accompanying beliefs, without compromising on the truth. And that truth is found in the person of Jesus who said, I am the way, the truth and the life.
So how did Jesus engage an oft time hostile culture with the truth? As with Paul, Jesus participated deeply in culture. He joined in feasts and wedding celebrations. He attended funerals. He involved himself in people’s lives – a woman mourning over the death of her son, a woman at a well, a woman lying in the dust after being caught in adultery. He fished. He engaged in culture to the extent that he was accused by his enemies of being a friend of sinners and a party-man! At the same time, Jesus who is truth personified, never compromised on truth for the sake of fitting into culture.
When a rich young ruler addressed Jesus as, “Good teacher”, Jesus clarified that only God was good, knowing that the full truth was vital for his eternal welfare. At that, the young man changed his greeting to “Teacher”, stopping short of acknowledging Jesus as God, making it possible for him to reject the instructions Jesus then shared with him. If you acknowledge someone as God, it’s not easy to ignore what they say!
Shortly after this meeting, Jesus headed to Jerusalem, welcomed by an adoring crowd as he arrived on a borrowed donkey. Once in Jerusalem, it was late in the afternoon and Jesus went into the Temple. After looking around carefully at everything, he left, returning about 3 km to Bethany for the night with the twelve disciples.
…there is no kingdom without the cross…The next morning Jesus went back to Jerusalem, entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers, the chairs of the dove sellers and stopped the Temple being used as a marketplace. Jesus was angry but he was in control. He, the essence of Truth and integrity, stood in stark contrast to the priorities of the temple merchants who were more preoccupied by their commerce than in living out relationships in the way that God prescribed. This was not a rash reaction, but a considered deliberate action which would have dire consequences, not just for him but for all of his followers and for his adoring fans from the previous day. They had been ready and willing to follow him to his kingdom. But Jesus knew what they didn’t – there is no kingdom without the cross.
When the leading priests and teachers of religious law heard what Jesus had done, they began planning how to kill him. The following day, as Jesus was walking through the Temple area, the leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders approached him and demanded to know by what authority he was doing all these things and who had given him the right to. Jesus answered with a question, “I will tell you by what authority I do these things if you answer one question – did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, or was it merely human? Answer me!” The religious leaders talked it over among themselves and ended up pragmatically saying they didn’t know. To which Jesus responded, “Then I won’t tell you by what authority I do these things.””
Wisdom demands that we don’t have to work to the world’s agenda.
Paul and Jesus understood the times. They engaged enthusiastically in their culture. But they did not ever compromise on the truth.
Likewise, we must be faithful to guard the treasure of truth that has been entrusted to us. 2 Timothy 1:14
Taking care to “Speak the truth in love”. Ephesians 4:14-15
If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honourable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. James 3:13

A comment on tolerance from George Pell

Diversity and tolerance are obviously valuable and indispensable features of a free society. As words, they have become part of the mantra of an officially sanctioned view of democracy. However, religious freedom issues tend to highlight just how limited the appetite for genuine diversity and tolerance is in some quarters. For example, it is interesting and significant just how little tolerance there is for diversity if this means (as it should) making room for people whose convictions lead them to oppose abortion or contraception or the promotion of homosexual activity. George Pell