Welcome to Culture Connections
This ACC web section is devoted to reflections and opinion pieces on culture in contemporary society, especially about Australia and Australian churches. The three main areas will be Contemporary Issues; Film; Books and Publications.
Peter Bentley provides regular articles for the primary benefit of the ACC Community, but if you would like to reproduce the articles in your own church or community publication (especially in an edited form), please contact Peter at the ACC office for further information.
If you have ideas for articles please contact Peter to discuss these ideas and contributions.
The photo is the main permanent memorial to Arthur Stace and his writing of the word Eternity. It is located in the St Andrew's Cathedral Town Hall Arcade (now inside Cascade Coffee Shop, near Town Hall Station).
ACC member congregations can reproduce ACC resource material in this section for their own church newsletter, provided proper acknowledgement is provided to the author. For Peter Sellick please acknowledge: Peter Sellick from On Line Opinion Column.
Soldiers of the Cross
At the start of the twentieth century the Christian religion dominated the religious statistics in the census returns. In 1901, about 97% of the population identified with a Christian denomination or Christian cause. The new century ushered in a new parliament and a new identity and saw the consolidation/and or coming together of the established denominations and traditions and the continued development of newer religious bodies. One of the newer groups was the Salvation Army and while Australia had a Christian heritage and high nominal Christian identification, the Salvation Army viewed the country as a mission field and they embarked on new ways of reaching people with the Gospel.
Salvation Army work started in Australia in 1880, fifteen years after the movement had begun in England under the leadership of William and Catherine Booth.
Since it was a new mission focussed organisation it was perhaps, more open to experimenting with new forms of technology. Before film, the Army used the medium of magic lanterns, which projected images on glass slides, including optical special effects. These productions were often used with music and lectures or sermons to provide a sense of cohesion and illustrate the message that was presented. The Salvation Army viewed these new technologies as a gift from God, and the step from magic lanterns to film was a natural one for the Salvation Army.
The leading person behind the Army's venture into film production was Major Joseph Perry, an Englishman, who came to Australia from New Zealand in 1885. Perry was an early user of photography and magic lanterns and was a logical choice to take charge of the Limelight Department in 1892. The Limelight name came from the light source in the projectors - gas-heated lime blocks. Perry was encouraged in his cinematography work by the new Australasian Commandant Herbert Booth.
At first the Department projected films made by other organisations, but Booth and Perry saw a need to expand the range of subjects and show the work of the Salvation Army, and consequently the Department moved into its own production work.
Their early success of short scenery-based films soon prompted plans for a large-scale epic production that would establish the Army's reputation and focus people's attention not only on individual salvation, but the work they believed that Christians needed to do to save the world. This epic, written and presented by Herbert Booth was Soldiers of the Cross, premiering at Melbourne Town Hall on 13 September 1900.
Soldiers of the Cross is sometimes referred to as the first Australian feature film, though it was more an early form of PowerPoint, being a dramatic lecture, combining stills and illustrations, film, music and commentary. The production concentrated on the heroic stories of Christian martyrdom, including the deaths of Stephen and Peter, and countless other Christians who would rather face an earthly death than recant their faith or worship a false God. One purpose of the film was as a recruitment tool for the Salvation Army. I wonder how a new film version of Soldiers of the Cross would fare in Australia today?
Peter Bentley is the National Director of the ACC
Erring on the side of Better? CPX Documentary 2018
For the Love of God: How the Church is Better and Worse than you Ever Imagined is the new film from the Centre for Public Christianity (CPX). The documentary has been several years in the making and involved considerable travel by members of the CPX team, including Dr John Dickson, Justine Toh and Simon Smart and many interviews with leading scholars and figures throughout the western world. The director Allan Dowthwaite would be known to many Christian viewers in Australia through his work on earlier series with John Dickson, The Christ Files and The Life Of Jesus.
The ‘main’ For the Love of God film is a 90 minute ‘cinema cut’ and released for viewing in selected areas through the FanForce arrangement from May, and then there will be extended material available in a series of episodes on-line. For more information click
For the Love of God is a cerebrally stimulating film, and clearly aimed at a thinking section of society (not just people attending church) and can be seen as a modern form of apologetic. It is quite accessible overall as the presenters are engaging and clear and the questions answered by the range of expert commentators are well-thought out and helpful. The style is non-linear, and ranges over history, ending in Australia.
Areas of consideration include the crusades (I don’t think I have to say which category this fits into): Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Confessing Church (and the worse - the German church in general), Father Damien of Molokai, Christians caring in Roman times (how different they were to the culture of the day especially in the care of new-born babies), ‘the troubles’ in Northern Ireland, the treatment of women, including perceptions of witchcraft, and the Myall Creek Massacre in NSW and the treatment and perception of Aboriginal people. There is challenging and sobering material to reflect on, and a film that will stimulate many conversations about God and faith, helping us to reflect again on the centre of our faith Jesus Christ, who we are called to truly follow, rather than our own agendas.
The website has a quote from Nick Spencer that I think sums up the whole idea of the project (Nick Spencer is a Christian writer and commentator based in England with Theos. His recent book is worth reading: The Evolution of the West: How Christianity Has Shaped Our Values)
“It hasn’t always been used on the side of the political or cultural angels - but to think you can understand our idea of right, democracy, human dignity, the scientific revolution, even the welfare state without understanding Christianity … you’re making a big mistake.” Nick Spencer
Review by Peter Bentley, National Director for the ACC
Paul - Apostle of Christ
Paul, Apostle of Christ (M, 2018)
My twitter summary of this would be ‘Biblical epic without the spectacle’. This time Jim Caviezel (Jesus in The Passion of the Christ) plays Luke, and the context is the writing of the story of the acts of the apostles, so the film is literally peppered with biblical lines and references. The film is not the long-expected sequel to The Passion of the Christ, but part of a new series and is directed by Andrew Hyatt. There was a limited cinema release in Australia.
English actor James Faulker does an excellent job as the Apostle Paul. Paul is mainly seen in prison during this period, though the wider context is the increasing persecution of the people following Christ. There are several other well-known English actors in supporting roles, playing early (biblically referenced) Christians within this wider context. Yes, there are some Hollywood scenes, including the interaction with the gaoler, but the film is faithful to the Christian context. Overall, the film is certainly worth seeing and will be available later in the year on DVD or to download/stream.
National Director of the Assembly of Confessing Congregations
The Sweetest Country?
Sweet Country (2017, MA - for language, violence and adult themes)
I reviewed Warwick Thornton’s first film Samson and Delilah in June 2009. Sweet Country is his second film as Director and was released in January this year. Warwick is an indigenous man from Alice Springs.
Sweet Country is a rough film (particularly in the language aimed at Aboriginal people), though it is also a film of surprising beauty. Among the violence and also vile treatment of the Aboriginal people, there are scenes deliberately and slowly arranged that are reminiscent of Albert Namatjira paintings - the natural beauty of the country is breathtaking. Warwick Thornton has also used ideas from the traditional western to convey this beauty and the story. John Ford films set in Monument Valley come to mind in this Australian western.
The story is set in 1929 and follows the shooting of Harry March, a white settler by an Aboriginal farmhand Sam Kelly (played by Hamilton Morris), who then goes on the run with his wife Lizzie (Natassia Gorey-Furber). A small posse is formed to bring Sam back for a trial, but Sam eventually gives himself up to help his pregnant wife and the trial ensues.
The ‘sweet country’ that Bryan Brown’s character Sergeant Fletcher talks about, is the sweet land that he believes is just right for raising cattle and living a good life, but there is also an irony to the title as the characters question whether it can ever be really a sweet experience for any of them.
I want to quote a section of my review of Samson and Delilah as it is evident that Sweet Country has central Christian content as well.
“It would appear from this film that Warwick Thornton is also considering how the contemporary Aboriginal experience cannot be understood without reference to Christianity. The cross is a central symbol, from the simple cross in the tin shed chapel in the Aboriginal community to which Delilah takes her Nana to worship in silence, to the placing of a cross in the family home at the end of the film, where Delilah reclaims her place in her country. While no answers are given, the elements of Christian symbolism and consideration of Aboriginal art and dreaming must be related to the influential experience that Warwick Thornton had at Salvado College at the Catholic Monastery in New Norcia (in WA). His mother sent him there as a 13 year old, seemingly to have him straightened out, and he learnt to appreciate the regulated and yet simple lifestyle.”
The Christian faith is quite central again, with Sam Neil’s character Fred Smith a gentle Christian man who sees the Aboriginal workers on his farm differently from his neighbours. “We're all equal here. We're all equal in the eyes of the Lord.” There is a moving scene as they all join hands to give thanks for their food. In another scene, as part of the posse to track Sam (to make sure he comes back alive), one of the men bemoans that they don’t even sing around the campfire. Fred then starts singing ‘Jesus loves me this I know for the bible tells me so’, much to the amusement of the other men.
The town itself has no church, but that will change as one of the future images shows that what is raised up is not what the viewer is led to expect, but a church.
The clearest religious context is near the end, and while I do not want to give too much away, it is the positioning of the rainbow while hope is questioned that provides the answer. There will always be love and hope if people truly follow God.
The second part of the film concerns the trial. Matt Day is Judge Taylor and in this town, the courtroom is the travelling cinema. The travelling cinema man had been screening The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906), a choice that is not incidental to the director’s theme. It was intriguing though to see people in the same deck chairs, but now as the courtroom ‘audience’, perhaps a nod to contemporary reality TV shows?
There is undeniably a focus and comment on the rule of law (from our British heritage) during the trial, and I leave it to the viewer to ponder this aspect.
Thornton closes out his second film with a song, this time a Johnny Cash version of Peace in the Valley; yes an irony, though it links well with the final scene that raises the continuing question about the relationship of the people of the land with the contemporary time they are in.
Peter Bentley is the National Director for the ACC
Bird and Bees: Having the ‘talk’ today.
Having 'the Talk' Today
Birds and the Bees by the Book
reviewed by Lisa Yew
"Where did I come from?" It's the question that makes parents and carers to squirm, but these days it seems so much more complicated. Questions that children may or may not be asking out loud still need clear answers. Is it ok to look like me? Why do two men want to marry each other? Am I really a girl? Why do those pictures make me feel so good? How do we teach our children to think biblically about sex and sexuality in our current world? And how do we do it without needing an industrial plunger to remove our foot from our mouth?
Patricia Weerakoon's picture book set Birds and Bees by the Book, illustrated by Lisa Flanagan is a great tool for introducing these and other issues around sex. Consisting of six books, the set looks at different kinds of families, the body, the brain, gender, sex and pornography in an age-appropriate, biblical, and straightforward way.
Each book is underpinned with a relevant truth from the Bible. They look at how the first family was made, that God wonderfully made our bodies and brains, and sex as a part of a marriage relationship. This focus teaches children to approach sexuality as a positive thing created by God.
The books explore the good aspects, and the potential pitfalls of each topic. From recognising that many families differ from nuclear families, to avoiding images that are unhealthy for your brain, to valuing bodies that don't conform to media images, to rejecting inappropriate touch, these books are filled with good safeguards that are relevant for today.
It sensitively broaches current issues around sexuality. In previous generations, people didn't talk about transgender or homosexuality, especially not to children, and there was little chance of viewing pornography. Today, this is not so. Birds and Bees by the Book appropriately defines what these are, but importantly also what they are not. Gender is not about stereotypical behaviours, and the friendship love you feel doesn't define your sexual orientation. Thus, confusion around what to think and how to behave in light of todays issues is minimised.
Godly attitudes and behaviours are encouraged, especially that of loving different kinds of people. There is a strong warning not to bully, and to report any bullying of anyone. Instead, children are encouraged to be kind to boys who look or behave like girls and vice versa, or to people with different sexual orientations. Just as Jesus loved all kinds of people, the books encourage children to follow his example.
Children everywhere can benefit from this excellent resource. The style of the writing is concise and factual and concepts are introduced simply and clearly. The pictures show children and families from a range of ethnic backgrounds in action and having fun. Rather than being clinical, the pictures support the writing in the style of picture story books. These books are invaluable for seven to ten-year olds, as a fantastic starting point for that awkward conversation parents dread.
Parents and carers need no longer fear talking about the birds and the bees. Even though the topic has become more complicated in recent years, we can springboard from the Birds and Bees by the Book set and begin the conversation with our children. We can flesh out the issues with our own anecdotes and examples, and be a clear light that helps children navigate through our hyper-sexualised culture. So, there are no more excuses to put off having 'the talk,' Birds and Bees by the Book equips you to have the talk today.
Lisa Yew is married to Manfred Yew, the Assistant Pastor at Belrose Uniting Church, NSW and mother of four young daughters.
Note: The accompanying web site has support information: http://birdsandbeesbooks.com/
Battle of the Sexes - updated for the 21st century
Battle of the Sexes (2017, PG)
I thought it would be helpful to provide a comment on this film, though I caution potential viewers as there is active portrayal of (same) sex practice. It is a sign of the times that this film received a PG rating. For those who are unfamiliar, it is mainly a dramatic re-telling of the off-court competition between tennis champions Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs (a No. 1 player in the 1940s) and then their actual match. I was interested in this film because of the Margaret Court connection. Australian actress Jessica McNamee plays Margaret Court. The most intriguing aspect is the secondary story that involves Margaret Court, as she played the first ‘battle of the sexes’, the match in May 1973 that Bobby Riggs won 6-2, 6-1. Margaret continues as a character, but is primarily a foil for Billie Jean King.
Riggs continually taunted Billie Jean King with the idea of a major telecast deal, and a match was eventually arranged and held in September 1973. It was telecast with an estimated audience of 90 million, a very large number for the day. Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs and Emma Stone as Billie Jean are simply amazing in their roles.
The film is certainly well made and a fascinating biopic of the 1970s and male and female dynamics and relationships, but the obvious, though not unexpected aspect is that it is also a promotional film for same-sex relationships, and thus a revisionist interpretation that essentially mocks people in the era for being so narrow-minded. This is nowhere more evident in that the actual role Margaret Court is assigned in the film is that of ‘lesbian spotter’, and her prime target depicted is Billie Jean King. Battle of the Sexes is certainly a topical film given that Billie Jean King weighed in on the Margaret Court controversy over Margaret’s comments on same-sex marriage this year.
Peter Bentley is the ACC’s National Director
A New Era of Viewing
Many Australians have now embraced the new viewing era with comprehension. Gone are the days when most of Australia tuned in at a certain time to watch a certain program and then would discuss, critique or bemoan the program the next day.
Now with all TV stations offering catch-up service (streaming), even the 6 pm or 7 pm nightly news is on the way to becoming a rare event for any family or couple to watch together.
Paid streaming services like Netflix, Stan and Foxtel Now, allow immediate access to a wide variety of material, and increasingly are making their name with their own TV shows.
Netflix is one of the most widely used. It is likely that at least one member of your family has Netflix and now can binge-watch TV series after TV series, let alone movie after movie. One of the intriguing aspects is that like Foxtel, these new services provide a range of films – a type of broadcast smorgasbord, with offerings for everyone. I have listed below some of the Biblical and Christian films, and films with a Christian theme available on Netflix. The US service has many more films on offer, but at least the Australian service has made a start.
Kings’ Faith (M): a teenager leaves a gang and is cared for by Christian parents who face some difficult personal choices.
A Matter of Faith: A contemporary evolution v creation debate on a university campus.
David and Goliath: A slightly awkward telling of the traditional story.
The Ark: the building of the ark is told by BBC1.
Born to Win: the title belies the focus as a teacher’s faith is challenged in a school for special needs.
The Blind Side: A Christian family support a young African-American in his football career.
The Preacher’s Son (M): an illuminating adult look at a fictional African-American local church dynasty and their failings and past (and present) sins. An eye-opener into the combining of politics in American society and the church. The wife of the Minister has the title ‘First Lady’ in the church.
The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler: the story of a Polish social worker who saved Jewish children during WWII.
Soul Surfer: The story of Bethany Hamilton who lost her left arm in a shark attack.
Christian TV – in a new way
Many readers would be aware of the dedicated Christian TV channel, the Australian Christian Channel (Yes, another ACC). As noted above, many people now use a form of pay TV – Fetch is a common one and ACC TV is available on Fetch or Foxtel.
However, the Australian Christian Channel is now more than just a channel, as its website provides live TV and on demand/catch-up. You can also download the ACCTV App and watch when you want to on your tablet or phone, or Apple TV. For more information see: https://acc.tv/
Moving from DVD base to Digital
Heritage Films (marketing through Movies Change People) continues to provide a theatrical release arrangement for churches and groups, and a DVD based service, and has now developed digital on-demand and streaming to meet the needs of a new era. See their website: https://www.movieschangepeople.com/
During so much change in broadcasting, it is good to see Christian organisations again at the forefront of technology; just like they were at the start of the film industry in the early 20th century.
Civility no Match for Nihilism
Despite the fact that, according to the 2016 Census, only 1% of households are headed by same-sex couples, debate on 'Marriage Equality' continues to rage.
As Uniting Church bodies prepare to debate the issue at the Assembly in July 2018, they would benefit from close study of a recent book, Two Views on Homosexuality, the Bible and the Church (2016). Published by an evangelical Christian publisher in the USA, it features contributions by Drs Bill Loader (Uniting Church minister) and Megan DeFranza, who support the 'affirming' view 'that consensual, monogamous, same-sex relations can be blessed by God and fully included in the life of the church,' and Drs Wesley Hill and Stephen Holmes, who support the 'traditional' view 'that all forms of same-sex sexual behaviour are prohibited by Scripture and Christian theology' (p15).
Unlike much current debate, their scholarly convictions and disagreements are firmly and respectfully argued in a spirit of deep pastoral concern and without recourse to demeaning slogans.
Loader, Hill and Holmes basically agree that Scripture opposes all forms of same-sex sexual intimacy, in contrast to DeFranza who argues that it mainly refers to exploitative relationships. However, where Hill and Holmes claim that prohibitions apply to behaviour resulting from a prior disposition, Loader locates them in 'sexual orientation' itself.
As a celibate man with same-sex orientation, Hill rejects this distinction on the ground that predisposition does not necessitate practice. Indeed, his experience of same-sex attraction, commitment to celibate ministry, and support of marriage between a man and a woman is at odds with the popular view that, as a matter of justice and compassion, people with a same-sex sexual orientation must not be denied the right to find sexual intimacy in 'marriage’. His testimony should cause the church to think before making decisions which falsely assume that same-sex orientation and practice are fixed and invariably directed towards sexual union and/or same-sex 'marriage.'
The book does not explore the complex biological, psychological, personal and social causes of same-sex attraction. The contributors agree that 'sexual orientation' is a strong physiological drive that provides a deep sense of personal identity. They differ about whether same-sex (and other-sex) attracted people are right to express themselves in consensual relationships, including marriage, which involve sexual union. DeFranza and Loader regard the imposition of restraint as a denial of human rights; Hill and Holmes regard restraint as a tough virtue.
Central to the debate is how Scripture is used. The 'affirming' writers interpret texts on sex and marriage in the light of Jesus' command to love thy neighbour, to show compassion, and to act justly. This position enables them to modify what is said in Genesis 1-2, Matthew 19:3-12; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 7:1ff; 11:1ff; Ephesians 5:21-33 etc. in order to correspond more closely to contemporary views about equality, companionship, sexual diversity, and divorce. By separating love from law, however, they misrepresent 'traditionalists' as being tacit accomplices of the legalists who opposed Jesus and Paul (p66).
Strangely, neither side focuses on the Biblical-theological significance of the body, an approach that would have opened up fruitful discussion about the ethical implications of docetic and Gnostic understandings of sexuality, both ancient and modern.
St. Augustine: 'On the Goods of Marriage'
With the help of Augustine's seminal work, the Christological and present significance of marriage is discussed at length. According to him, the three goods of marriage are: Procreation, Fidelity and Sacrament. That is to say, 'Marriage is a bond of male and female, ordered to procreation, sealed in faithful union, and signifying Christ's love for the church. (p131).
The different emphases in the Old and New Testaments on procreation are acknowledged by all. But the implications are debated, particularly in relation to the marriage of infertile or elderly couples. Loader and DeFranza argue that this position creates space for same-sex couples who cannot bear children. Holmes and Hill argue that such marriages still model the only form of complementarity that is open to procreation.
All agree that fidelity and companionship are vital aspects of marriage and deep same-sex friendships. But they strongly disagree about whether genital intimacy is appropriate to same-sex relationships and, thus, to same-sex unions in marriage.
There is also basic agreement about the place of marriage as a sacramental sign of God's love for Israel and the church. What is at issue, and is a major point of contention among Christians, is whether the Biblical metaphor of husband-wife / male-female can be used exclusively of marriage in a post-patriarchal, egalitarian Western society. Might not the otherness that exists between same-sex couples also serve as a metaphor for the Otherness of God who unites Godself to the church?
The issue here is what counts as gender complementarity. In this context, Ephesians 5:21-33 is pivotal. Fearing that this is another attempt to smuggle in male superiority, DeFranza argues that all of us, in different ways, exhibit 'male' and 'female' attributes. Therefore, because the marriage metaphor that runs throughout Scripture expresses a past cultural form which no longer applies, it must be replaced by a more egalitarian form of otherness. Implicitly, for her and Loader, the otherness of male and female bodies and their function in procreation, become 'a', not 'the' defining, metaphor of God's union with us. When applied to sexual relations within marriage, the psychological, affective and companionable aspects of otherness are held to be paramount.
Although the mystery of male-female otherness isn’t easy to characterise, attention should have been paid to the incompatibility between the Judeo-Christian concept of persons, as male-and-female, and the androgynous concept which is individualistic.
None of the contributors considers the possibility that, rather than promote equality between the genders, 'same-sex marriage' devalues both genders. Widely regarded as necessary for the public good in business, politics, education etc., it is ironic, if not hypocritical, to argue that gender complementarity is not necessary in this most basic social unit.
A major strength of the book is its pastoral concern for same-sex attracted Christians. Contributors agree that the starting point for discussing sexuality is to acknowledge that the church is a community of sinners whose desires are less than perfect and who seek to be loving, compassionate and just.
But they disagree about what this view means for accepting monogamous same-sex sexual relationships as marriages. Loader and DeFranza believe that love and justice demand their acceptance; Holmes and Hill believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, but that space must be made for recognition of spiritual, non-sexualised friendships.
What is not acknowledged by any of the writers is that unwanted same-sex attraction may, with great difficulty, patience and pastoral sensitivity, be reoriented towards other-sex relationships. The effect of this omission, which is typical of mainstream discussion, is to erase from public memory the experience of large numbers of same-sex attracted people.
Nothing on Nihilism
The major defect of the volume is also its strength - Pastoral Civility. Ecclesial politeness hides the fact that the cause of a small group is so prominent in the public mind due to the persistence, misrepresentation, aggression, and media savvy of its most vocal advocates.
The contributors do not confront the nihilistic alternative to the Christian doctrine of humanity that underpins demands for change. While Holmes and Hill see the need to uphold the ‘tradition’, they are silent about the dire social and ecclesial consequences of failing to do so. On the other hand, DeFranza and Loader, while disagreeing with each other on the status of Biblical norms, undermine the tradition by 'affirming' forms of love, equality and human rights that are at odds with the goodness and splendour of marriage attested throughout Scripture.
Unfortunately, all authors fail to discuss the ramifications of changes to marriage law. If, in order to satisfy the desires of no more than 1% of households, marriage is to be defined by the State as the life-long consensual union of two persons regardless of sex, the church will be discouraged from teaching that humanity's God-given glory is uniquely embodied in our male-female complementarity, and forbidden from shaping her educational, hospital and welfare agencies accordingly.
Rev. Dr Max Champion is the Convenor of the ACC Theology and Ecumenical Relationships Commission.
This review is published in the September 2017 edition of ACCatalyst in Max's Column Pseudo Maximus.
Tired and Trying Christians
Facing today’s Pressures
Amid the positive happenings and stories of our time about the church becoming more technology-savvy and contemporary, the Christian Research Association reports on church attendance projections. These projections show that from 2006 to 2026 all Christian denominations, with the exception of a few, will decline in numbers. Dr Hughes has said that over the past two decades churches have struggled to accommodate changes in society by trying to provide diverse forms of worship. Many Christian ministers and lay-people today are trying to faithfully serve in stressful situations.
As institutions decline or diversify, as finances and resources are reduced, as complexity and regulation increases, the structures and patterns that supported ministry in the past increasingly become liabilities that drain energy and stifle initiative. As a result those involved with the ministry of the church can become very tired, weary, depressed, even frantic, sweating it out every Sunday to keep “the show on the road.”
Some time ago Major Ian Thomas pointed out that as the church has learned to appropriate the death of Christ as redeemer, so it needs to appropriate the life of the risen Christ that empowers action.
Major Thomas recalled his own experience of being worn out, tired and discouraged. “When I decided to quit I thought God would be disappointed---in fact I found out He was overjoyed.” For Thomas it was a matter of rediscovering that God moves into our bankruptcy to make perfect His strength in our weakness. The rediscovery changed his life and ministry and he points out that it is not until we have jettisoned the last vestige of self-confidence, the sinfulness of what we are, our own inherent destitution, that we see the significance of Christ’s resurrection.
Encountering a Living Christ.
Instead of Easter Sunday being an academic exercise when we acknowledge the redemptive significance of the cross that pronounces our requital, (eg what Jesus did) we need to appropriate Jesus is now, that He is alive. “While what Jesus did because of what we have done is important, we need to see that what He is, is to take that place of what we are. That is the Gospel designed to restore us to our own humanity.”
“God cannot give us more than He has given us. When Christ comes to live in us, when we are restored to God by acknowledging Jesus death was for us and the Holy Spirit comes to indwell your human personality with the resurrection life of Jesus Christ, God gives us all He can afford. In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. When God gives us Christ, He gives you and me, with Him, embraced by Him, all things. There is not one single person who is converted who does not have dwelling within their humanity all the illimitable resources of deity but the tragedy is that we can sit on it and never know it is there.”
The Big Picture.
Paul writes in Ephesians 2.10, “For we are what Christ has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” “Jesus did not come to do his best for God, to do his best to redeem humanity some how. Every step he took, he took triumphantly, every word he spoke, thing he did, every decision he made was a Divine fulfilment of a plan agreed as between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in eternal ages of the past. It was simply that the Father—had the yielded humanity of Jesus in which to tell the story until he could cry triumphantly, “It is Finished,” and then the Father raised him from the dead and exalted him to his the right hand. That same Lord Jesus had his own programme to fulfil through you and me and all he is waiting for is for our humanity to be yielded to him today as his humanity was yielded to his Father. The moment we become available to Jesus Christ, to be who he is in action, we are caught up into that predetermined purpose for which we were first created, we have now been redeemed and we prove what is that good, perfect acceptable will of God.”(Rom12.2)
Living the Adventure Now
Thomas jolts us into rediscovering that we need to let the baggage go, it is not a matter of propping up the past, meeting the expectations of others or trying to prove ourselves.
We share a vital relationship with a risen Lord that allows Him to indwell our personalities and from there allows Him to express Himself in terms of our daily behaviour. The Lord Jesus who died for us also rose for us, rose to share his life with us. Every day can become a huge adventure of stepping out into his timeless plan. We may well say, “Lord we don’t know who you are going to talk to today, what we are going to bump into but it’s going to be our privilege to yield my humanity so you can be in me, where you please, doing what you want, how you want to do it and any time you like.”
“Jesus died that that we might be caught up into this adventure of proving daily that good and acceptable, perfect will of God. God himself working in us that which is well pleasing in his sight, being himself the very dynamic of all his demands, the cause of his own effects, the source of his own activity and the origin in us of his own image in action.”
That is the Christian life lived in the awareness of his risen presence now.
Adapted by Rev E. A. (Ted) Curnow Sourced from an address by Major W. Ian Thomas.
The Christian life fleshed out in the personal experience
of Bonney Haine, a forgiven person.
Discovering daily who God really is.
Discovering daily God’s love for me,
such mercy, forgiveness, amazingly free.
Discovering daily He does answer prayer.
Discovering daily what grace really means,
unmerited favour beyond all my dreams.
Discovering daily God speaking to me,
(He speaks through the Bible)
Once blind now I can see.
Discovering daily every day that I live,
that all that I need He freely will give.
Discovering daily Christ working through me,
accomplishing daily what never could be.
Discovering daily I can’t but He can,
thanking Him daily for my place in His plan.
Discovering daily how real life can be,
when living in Christ and He’s living in me.
Discovering daily a song in my heart with,
anticipation for each day to start.
Delighting and basking in love so divine,
secure in the knowledge,
that I’m His and He’s mine.
Besides mere contentment, excitement I see,
A daily adventure,
Christ alive and living in me.