Oh, Noa...

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 08 June 2019.

For many years, the Netherlands have “led the world” in euthanasia. Where most of the world take the term to refer to the voluntary ending of life for those who are terminally ill, the Dutch have expanded its meaning to include the killing of both infants and elderly without consent, as well as assisting in the suicide of even children.

NoaLast weekend, a 17-year-old girl called Noa Pothoven died, having stopped eating and drinking regularly last year, and having ceased completely a few days earlier.

Noa had suffered from a long list of psychological problems that stemmed from being the victim of abuse on a number of different occasions at the hands of different perpetrators. For half a dozen years the stress took its toll on her. It was her wish that she be euthanised, but this was denied her as she had yet to complete all the legal requirements, so instead she essentially took matters into her own hands.

Such a story is of course unspeakably tragic, many times over. But what got me is that she despaired because she was denied the hope she saw in euthanasia. She despaired because she was denied the opportunity to despair permanently.

It is an awful, blasted world that leaves a teenager thinking that hopelessness is her greatest hope, and then cannot deliver even this. May God have mercy and shine light on the nature of true hope, in the Netherlands, and all over this dark, dark world.

Marvellous

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 02 June 2019.

‘When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place...,’ David mused in Psalm 8:3, and he could well have gone on. After all, while there is certainly extraordinary beauty to be seen in the vastness of space, it is just as true that it can be found in the minutest details of the natural world. Whether it’s the cuteness of a young foal or the perfect spiral of a pine cone, the delicate fragrance of a camellia flower or the awesome power of a single wave, this world is an astonishing work of genius.

And yet, in the midst of that, David realises, the pinnacle of creation is the human being. Each of us can and should praise God as we appreciate the wonder of this world and the wisdom of its maker.

churchbldg2And yet, David did not see far enough. For the true pinnacle of God’s new creation is the mystery of Christ, the now revealed intent of God to make us human beings into one church. It is this inconceivable achievement that staggers the powers of this dark age (Ephesians 3:10).

In other words, what we do when we gather together on a Sunday - or through the week, in smaller groups - what we do is the most marvellous thing in the world. Literally: the world marvels at what our little old church does together. We read God’s word, we pray, we sing our praises. There is nothing more important taking place in our world than this.

It’s not to be missed!

What Robert Learned

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 25 May 2019.

Established immediately after the US Civil War, Moorehouse College is a private university in Atlanta that for the last 150 years has been providing tertiary education to African Americans. Notable graduates include Martin Luther King (Snr and Jnr, if you were wondering!).

Last Sunday, the commencement speech was delivered by Robert F. Smith, a billionaire investor in technology companies, who was receiving an honorary doctorate. But you know, those honorary doctorates don’t require you to do any study.

WindfallWell, it turns out Robert has learned something over the years. During his speech, he announced his intention to pay off the student loans of each of the 396 students who were graduating this year. His gift of around $40 million dollars, as you can imagine, generated considerable joy!

But there were strings attached. He challenged them all to use their financial freedom to pass on their good fortune to others, by their choice of careers and how they looked after their communities. His family had benefited from the college over the decades, and now they were investing in the next generation.

Freed from debts that would have taken them decades to pay off, one new graduate declared himself inspired ‘to give back ... to give to people even more than I did before.’

Imagine what it would mean to be freed from a debt we could never ever pay back, the price paid by the one who owns us now twice over!

And In Other News...

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 18 May 2019.

With all the attention given to our federal election, there’s not a lot of space for anything else to catch our eyes. Well, let’s try some old news.

IranForty years ago, an Islamic revolution took control of Iran. The Shah was overthrown, and the Ayatollah Khomeini enacted a theocracy. Sharia law was adopted, and Islam’s dominance was total. To convert to another religion was to face a death sentence.

It was, of course, a disaster for the gospel. Iran had been notoriously hard soil for missionaries, and at the time of the revolution, it was estimated that there were only 500 Christians from Muslim background ethnicities in the whole country. There was no chance now.

Fast forward, though, and something strange happened. By 2005, it was estimated that there were now 40,000 ethnic Iranian Christians - one new believer for every five, each year. An 18% annual growth rate. By 2010, the number was now 175,000 - a 34% annual increase. Today, estimates suggest there may be as many as a million Christians in Iran.

In the face of oppression and opposition, God has done something remarkable in Iran. As Islam has been seen to fail, and Iranian Christians have gone bravely to martyrdom, the gospel has been powerfully effective. For us in the West, used to less than lukewarm responses to our evangelistic labours, it should encourage us. The stories we will read in Acts over the coming months are great.

But they aren’t just stories. They’re His Story, and it’s still being written. He is risen, and his church rising still!

How To Vote

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 11 May 2019.

Vote4You’ve had people telling you this for weeks now. You might even have received a personal telephone call from the Prime Minister. So I figured I would just pile on.

Some will tell you which candidate you should vote for. Some will tell you which candidate you should not vote for. They may wave brightly coloured pieces of paper at you. Fortunately, we don’t allow children to vote, so you can freely ignore anyone who treats you like a child!

Some will give you instructions about how to vote - how many numbers to place on each ballot, and what different choices you have about how you can fill yours in. Well, that’s helpful, but perhaps not enough.

Some will tell you which candidate’s success will make your life better the most. But if that’s not true for other people’s lives as well, it’s not much help - because we’re meant to love our neighbour as ourself.

Some will tell you which issues you should consider as you weigh up your vote. I’ve done that myself. And that can be helpful in raising things you haven’t considered - like how to weigh environmental vs humanitarian factors, or social justice against fairness in taxation policy, or foreign aid compared to refugee conditions. If only there were a clear cut leader on all of these...

So I will tell you something that will help: vote prayerfully, and trust God with the outcome. For he is the only individual who can determine the winner, and thankfully he selects governments for our good. Let’s pray before we vote, and then pray some more once the votes are tallied, for our leaders make such difficult choices every single day, and need God’s aid.

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