Beginning of an Era

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 04 November 2018.

GloversToday is the final Sunday for Andrew and Liz Glover at St George’s in Gerringong, after almost twenty-one years of dedicated, self-giving service to the parish. Andrew was also the senior minister for St Peter’s when we were a branch church, overseeing the rebuilding of the church after it was destroyed by fire in his first week, and then encouraging and enabling the growth of our church to become its own parish.

Yesterday I was able to be at their farewell, and to hear what I already knew: that they are well loved, because they have loved well. There were memories shared, and much thanks to God for the last couple of decades.

The wisest thing said, I believe, came from Andrew’s assistant minister, Jon Clare. Having echoed the kind reflections of others, he declared his excitement for their new church. Everything that we’ll miss about Andrew and Liz will be a blessing for ICF - the International Christian Fellowship in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

It’s not just the end of an era for Gerringong, but also the beginning of a new era in Phnom Penh. Once again, the Glovers will be giving of themselves to bring love and joy founded on the gospel into a new community. Just as they did for us, for more than a decade.

Just as Jesus has done, from all eternity.

We have much to be thankful for in the Glovers, but so many times more in our Lord. And we look forward to the beginning of that new era, when he comes in the fullness of his kingdom, and there are no more goodbyes to be said.

Love Hurts

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 27 October 2018.

Broken HeartYou’ve heard the saying. And probably a few different songs as well. It’s an established part of human experience, that while love is sweet, there are times when it brings us pain. We love because it’s worth it, but it can hurt us too.

So yes, love hurts. Interesting, though, that simple sentence. It leaves something unsaid - who or what does love hurt? And of course we know that to be a trivially simple answer; it’s us that love hurts. Or as I’m more concerned about, love hurts me. You might be hurt as well, but that’s your problem.

Except...the Bible says something different. Proverbs 27:5-6 tells us ‘Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.’ The last phrase matches with our usual expectation that love can hurt us. But what comes before is worth hearing.

If we genuinely love someone, then there may be times when we hurt them, for their good. Every parent knows this; children benefit from appropriate discipline. But even in non-hierarchical relationships, love will hurt from time to time.
It’s not easy, rebuking a friend. Keeping quiet is so much simpler. The wisdom that Proverbs offers is logical though, for who better to trust to administer what’s needed than someone who cares for you and wants to build you up, rather than an enemy who hopes to bring you down?

We know it’s true from Proverbs, and we know it’s true because it’s what Jesus did. He taught us about our sin, and our need for a saviour. And when Judas kissed him, he went to take our wounds, showing his love for the world to the world.

All the World's a Stage...

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 13 October 2018.

Stage...and all the men and women merely players. Or so said Shakespeare in As You Like It, though he missed the opportunity to throw in another pun by referring to the seven ages of life as stages themselves. He was, however, recognising not just that we play roles in how we relate to one another, but that these roles inevitably change over time.

Sadly, he is too often right. Generation after generation, men and women appear content to simply walk through the different phases of their lives, with little thought given to whether there is a better path. The script is written, and we follow it slavishly.

But pause for a moment: how would things be different if we acknowledged that this world, this existence, is just that: a stage? And with the implication that it will pass through this stage into another?

The wise golfer doesn’t wear herself out over the first nine holes and keep nothing in reserve. The canny marathon runner doesn’t hit full pace until the finish line is in sight. The prudent investor bears in mind the return over the long term. If this world is a stage, it makes sense to live life in such a way that you’re set up for the world to come.

‘All the world’s a stage,’ said Jaques - and as a cynic, he went no further with his thought. He had the insight, but not the mettle to work past it. We all tread the boards of this world - and few of us are ever fully content with our role. Why not play this part as an audition for your next?

We Too

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 06 October 2018.

Twelve months ago, the New York press ran a story about the movie producer Harvey Weinstein, detailing his history of sexually abusing women in the entertainment industry. It started an avalanche, as day by day, men and women put up their hands and said ‘this happened to me too’. What’s become known as the #metoo movement has seen the shaming of both men and women, working in the arts, in politics, and in the media, from the US, from the UK, from Australia...and the list goes on. Just this week, the man who caused the cancellation of the Nobel Prize for Literature this year was jailed for rape.

It’s been a year for turning the tables. The powerful have been brought low, and the victims have at last been heard and believed. And it’s been a scandalous indictment of Western culture in particular, that for so long has looked the other way while so many have acted unconscionably.

MetooA good thing? Of course. And with human beings involved, we’ve made it evil as well. There has been an unseemly delight in condemning the guilty, and millions have proudly taken the side of the oppressed, partaking in the self-righteousness of the day. In fact, to not robe oneself in the shining armour of the white knight is seen as morally bankrupt; it is now considered immoral to refuse self-righteousness.

The lesson we should draw from the exposure of the sin of some is that this is what’s called a zero-sum game. For every #metoo victim, there is a #metoo victimiser. As sin abounds, so do the number of sinners. What should we make of this? As Jesus said, let him who is without sin cast the first stone. We are all guilty; what we need is his grace, not our smug sanctimony.

The Humble Truth

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 29 September 2018.

You may know a little about the state of Christianity in China. There are essentially two types of churches: those authorised by the state, and those that are not. State-authorised churches are required to promote a highly nationalistic version of Christianity, and the majority of Christians have found it impossible to do so if they are to remain faithful to the gospel. The result is a massive ‘underground’ church.

Staying mum on politics used to be sufficient to fly beneath the radar, but now if churches don’t push the Party line, they are facing all sorts of persecution. The government has required some to install CCTV cameras inside their church, so that services can be monitored remotely. In many cases, their building is simply demolished.

Tragically, the Pope recently cut a deal with the government that legitimised state intervention in Catholic churches, effectively abandoning millions of Chinese Catholics who continue to resist Caesar’s corruption of their faith. And Protestant believers have no real political allies to put external pressure on China either.

JinJin Mingri pastors one of the largest churches in the country. The government recently presented him with a bill for a quarter of a million dollars - the cost they incurred in destroying the church building. He sums it up this way: “Of course we’re scared, we’re in China - but we have Jesus.”

Pray for our millions of brothers and sisters, that they will remember this humble truth, and stand with our Saviour, as he stands firm by them.

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