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.

A Grief Observed

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 23 September 2018.

Li Bai, having been banished from the Chinese capital in the 8th century, took up his pen and wrote:LiBai

Homeless, exiled, I climb Sin-Ping tower.
It is late on in the dying year,
The sun is declining in the sky
And the dark river runs gloomy and slow.

A cloud moves across the forests on the mountain;
Wild geese fly off down the river.
Up here I can see for ten thousand miles,
But I do not see the end of my sorrows.

It’s a brilliant work, dwelling on the sadness that he feels and how it pervades all his sense, before making its unexpected turn in the final line and twisting the knife in the reader’s heart. To be forever torn away from your home is a profound devastation.

As Christians, we too are away from our home, but our future is far more hopeful. Starting next week, we’re going to be digging deep into the radical alternative that the gospel provides - and how far from despair it takes us!

All Too Clear

Written by Anthony Douglas on Friday, 07 September 2018.

I’m writing from the Anglican Future Conference in Melbourne, where we’ve gathered to think about how to proclaim Christ with ‘truth and grace in an uncertain future.’ Though it rained as I reached the city, so there’s limits to the uncertainty...

That said, it is true that our society continues to change at an ever-increasing pace, and the foundations that were so solid a decade or two ago are not merely weakened, but in many cases washed away. It’s very easy to feel swamped by the forces that seek to repress the gospel, whether explicitly or just by accident.

Looking UpSo it was encouraging to be pointed to 2 Chronicles 20, where poor Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, receives the news that a massive horde has already invaded his territory and is coming for him. He has no chance at matching them, and he is terrified. He turns to God instinctively, trusting in him completely, and God delivers him in extraordinary circumstances. God was with his people, no matter how many surrounded them.

In the same way, Jesus was afraid on that last night in Gethsemane, but he too looked to God for rescue. Although he was surrounded by his enemies, and deserted by his friends, God did not leave him in the grave, but delivered him from death. God was with his Son.

And so we too can have confidence, no matter how hostile our culture appears. Be clear-sighted about the threats, and clear-sighted about the saviour: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” (2 Chronicles 20:12)

Careful What You Wish For?

Written by Anthony Douglas on Saturday, 01 September 2018.

TonightlyWith this year’s new Prime Minister officially fair game (that is, sworn in and on the job), it didn’t take long before he came under fire for decisions and actions that people weren’t in favour of. The ABC’s comedy show Tonightly ran a sketch that featured a mock Christian worship band.

Their satirical take on Scott Morrison’s faith did its job well. Secularists were delighted to see religious hypocrisy named and ridiculed. Many Christians were up in arms at the insult to them and particularly to Jesus, and it’s a fair point. They chose to misrepresent what Jesus taught and what Christians believe in order to pretend support for the PM.

But the surprising thing is not that the gospel was mocked on national television - that’s pretty much a daily occurrence. No, the surprise was this: the thrust of the satire was to imply that Morrison should have acted in line with his faith in dealing with refugees. The areligious Aunty was commending Jesus’ ethics, and calling for his followers to live by them.

That, I believe, is a Freudian slip. It reveals that the people behind the song really do value Christian ethics, and especially value Christians who are seeking to be authentic. While the world might complain when we believe things that are out of fashion, at the same time they become furious when we aren’t living up to things they do believe in. Reaction to the discoveries of the recent Royal Commission make that abundantly clear.

So here then is another reason for living with integrity and sincerity as a Christian: our non-believing friends really like seeing it. In fact, they even admire Jesus for it. Perhaps we can help them get to know him...

Nothing Doing

Written by Anthony Douglas on Sunday, 26 August 2018.

Slow News DayIt was a pretty quiet week, wasn’t it? Nothing much happening in the world of politics, locally or internationally. The usual professional sport, but no big matches of significance. Dull weather again, no sign of any rain...

Or maybe not.

What’s interesting is that whether it’s a monumentally big week, or a glacially slow one, the newspapers still print the same number of pages, and the TV news still runs fro the same length of time. It’s almost as if the media have a good understanding of our attention spans.

We live in the world of the new, where the most exciting things are what’s happening right now. Our greatest scientific achievements lie just ahead. Watching movies in 3D is passé, again. If it’s not right now, it’s not all that interesting.

That can mean that when it comes to sharing the gospel with people, there’s nothing doing. It’s an old story and belongs in the past, they’ll think. Good news is no news.

This response is utterly juvenile: infants have short attention spans and can be distracted easily by presenting them with something new and shiny. Adults are meant to value things that have stood the test of time: stories of legendary sporting victories, of military genius, of classic family anecdotes.

An incredible victory, the enemy defeated, the greatest story ever told - check, check, check. We’ve got a great story to tell, and if it seems like there’s nothing doing, it’s because Jesus left nothing undone.

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