Census data says Australian "Christianity" is down to 44% - the first time below half the population. No newslflash to those of us who know the percentage of regularly practising Christians is more like 10%, salt sprinkled in the world. But this decline was headline news in May, with broadcasters assuming that this trajectory will continue into the future. But that ain't necessarily so. As Andrew Turner writes:
The Holy Spirit.
"Jesus lived and ministered while on this earth filled with, led by, empowered by, anointed by, and sent by the Holy Spirit... "The Holy Spirit is the secret to living the Christian life... "Jesus finished the work the Father gave Him to do while depending upon the very same Spirit that now lives in me and you."
- Do read this Biblical foundation article, Where the Spirit of the Lord is, by Doug Holliday. Now. Read it? Good...
So when we tune in to the Holy Spirit, like Jesus did, like his followers did, in a dynamic relationship, life becomes much more interesting, more alive. In fact all of life is relational - the only question is, are we participating in that relationship well or poorly.
The problem for me is that, as a logical/rational Bible student/teacher, I can lean toward the rational so much that I forget about the relational reality by which I'm meant to be led. It's like studying about a loved one so much that I ignore them!
When I do that with Jesus, life gets colder, harder, and I get more anxious. I focus on my causes-and-effects. Which puts a lot of pressure on my puny self, because in reality I can never know enough to successfully plan my own path. No wonder I begin to fret: "I don't want to get this wrong, I have to nut it out"... My cause-effect is simply too ignorant compared to God's oversight.
Like natural selection which has a role but simply isn't powerful enough to create new kinds, cause-effect has a role, but simply isn't powerful enough to direct our paths. Only God does that. "The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps." (Prov 16:9) Let's not kick against the goads of reality.
And worse than just me being too puny for cause-effect, my own rationality can make me blind to, and ungrateful for, God's many graces in my life. Jesus works in my life, in fact he enables me to participate in the life and work of God! ...and yet I steal his glory by crediting myself for what happens?
And even worse, leaning on my rationality is me trying to put myself in control - in the place of God! Trusting myself, the original sin - Yikes!
But here's the better way. Relationship is how life really works: Let the LORD direct my steps. Listen to Jesus and do what he says. Let the relational put the rational back in its place. Tune in to His promptings - "do this, trust me."
Recognise and respond to the glow of his active, manifested presence. Look for him in all encounters. Seek first God's Kingdom, and everything else will follow (Mt6:33).
[How? Read. & Pray. Get the Biblical worldview into your head. & Start each day listening, tuning in to the still Voice for what he might want you to do today.]
Suddenly life becomes more inspired. Enchanted with real spirituality. Less my job to figure out, and more my job to seek & trust him on this adventure, and see what he does next.
I work in a rational job, but I need to abide in this relational life, in the Spirit of Christ. It's better for me to teach and lead in this relational way because it is more true to real life.
And so I must keep laying the foundation of Christ at the centre of all of my life & work. For it is Jesus who makes it possible for me to participate in the life of The Father.
He did this through the cross and resurrection, and through the Spirit.
I get to live relationally participating in his life:
How deep are God's riches, and wisdom, and knowledge! How unfathomable are his decisions and unexplainable are his ways! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become his adviser?... For all things are from him, by him, and for him. Glory belongs to him forever! Amen. (Rom11:34-36)
Here's a good summary about why Easter matters so much. It only takes 5-10 minutes to read.
During 2021 we did have family camp, on the theme of Hearing God. We built in family times to train, including times of solitude and silent listening for the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit. We were all met.
And about 40 people got to know each other better around the attractions of Busso.
During the year we were able to continue meeting with youth on Fridays, the Art club, various small groups, and continued our regular meeting together at the community hall. Gathering around the Gospel of John has been spiritually eye-opening - every chapter has more to say about how we should see spiritually. This isn't easy when our cultural default is materialism. We also found each section to have very specific implications, as if we had rigged the section to fit the circumstances, but the 12 month schedule had been planned mid year. God just knows what he's doing. It's our job to listen and do.
A core team of young adults joined OAC in delivering on the Worldview Australia camp in January. Another big success, and as we tune in it seems the Lord wants to duplicate the ministry with many young people interested in stepping in to various directing roles to enable another camp to begin elsewhere midyear. So we're working on that now.
Sooner rather than later, shift the conversation from world-views to foundation level. That's where I want the convo to go anyway!
(Note: Ken defines world-views as based on foundations, whereas I define worldviews as including foundations, but he’s probably more correct. Anyway this foundational distinction is very helpful.)
If people are attacking you for your world-views (about say, abortion, gender, love), it only means they think you are inconsistent with THEIR foundation. But shift the conversation to foundations to help them see that you are very consistent with YOUR Biblical foundation, and they should be able to give you some credit for that.
And then let them ask, well WHOSE foundation is the right one, God’s word or man’s word...
The word of God really shines as an objectively reliable foundation. We have objective evidence of its historical reliability and its divine revelation. See apologetics for how we know the Bible is reliable (Core Stuff).
Compare that with how we know if naturalism is reliable…
.Naturalism refuses to acknowledge any supernatural phenomena, they only admit half the data.
.Don’t believe the hype about ‘science is self-correcting’ because it’s often biased by peer pressure, and financial pressure to conform, wherever scientists are wedded to their own unquestioned interpretation (evolution.)
.Note the crucial difference between observational science (which is simply recorded data), and historical ‘science’ which depends on interpretations of measured data. The Biblical interpretations work just as well with observations as any other interpretation, in fact better - eg it explains Design better, genetic entropy better, biology, geology, anthropology, cosmology, historical archaeology & manuscript evidences... better.
Anyway, if your protagonists don’t see that the foundations are different, they’ll not see why our world-views disagree with them, and that's why they might think we're just illogical, and ascribe some motive to us, like we must be hateful / primitive / conspiracy theorists.
But in fact we’re none of those things, our world-views logically come from a different (better, more solid/good/life-giving, but different) foundation, and one worthy of their consideration too. If they DO see that, they should be able to give us a little credit. If they DON'T, well that would be illogical of them.
This is a brilliant read: chapter 1 of the Creation Answers Book.
What do we mean by God, how do we know he exists, what difference does he make.
So many answers, and so concise: https://creation.com/god-existence-cab-1
Our friend, Tas Walker, answers some fair questions about Easter here.
On the origin of the English word Easter, he says:
it came from the Germanic Ost, for east, and rising.
"it’s most doubtful that any Eostre was ever worshipped, because the only evidence is from Bede. And he never mentioned any animal associated with her. A non-existent association with a non-existent goddess is hardly good grounds for seeing paganism in the Easter bunny!"
On the question of three days and nights, he says:
the term "third day" was interchangeable with "3 days & nights" back in the culture of the day.
"So while X days and X nights can mean what it means in English, this was only a subset of its semantic range in Jewish idiom...
"Note that even His enemies understood that ‘after three days’ meant that they only had to secure the tomb ‘until the third day’. If three full 24-hour periods were meant, then they would want to secure the tomb until the fourth day to make sure. So for Jews, the phrases ‘on the third day’, ‘after the third day’, ‘until the third day’ and ‘three days and three nights’ were synonymous."
Enjoy the details.
Follow the events of Easter with in real time with notifications on your device.
From the raising of Lazarus the week before, through Palm Sunday, the Passover meal, the Biblical Stations of the Cross, Resurrection Sunday and the appearances of Jesus.
I made this GoogleCalendar* which you can add to your calendar if you use google calendars. You can add it with this link.
-Remember to allow that calendar to notify you.
-I use a different calendar app than my usual one, so I can see all the events coming up without clogging my daily system.
-It uses traditional timings of events for ease of use with the holidays here in WA.
-Unfortunately it may be locked on the WA timezone*
Try it - see what happens to Jesus, and see what happens to you.
* (In the past I had an App made which adjusted for your own timezone, but the developer ceased. So until a new developer is found, this calendar is the best I could do.)
PS. Just found out about easternow a sparse but good option, available on Appstore & Googleplay.
Question: Where can we see evidence of Jesus today? Are there any facts?
Answer: Yes, facts past and present, much more than many realise...
HISTORICAL FACTS still apply for today.
If facts are true, it doesn’t matter when they were discovered.
Historians exist to get to past facts, like the existence of Jesus.
The facts on the Onepager are not arguments from gaps we don’t have, but from facts we DO have.
And those facts together point to Jesus’ presence not only in the past but today as well. They support the present realities of: a Creator, and of sin, the Bible’s reliability and revelation, Jesus's life, death, resurrection, ascension, & Spiritual presence, including in our present day. These facts provide a reasonable foundation for the Christian worldview for today’s world.
Moreover these facts still apply to YOU today: your existence is evidence of God, your life, every breath you take, are facts. Your Bible reliably explains your sin, the struggle & grace in your life, and it establishes facts about your saviour. Such facts from the past remain relevant to what’s true in the present in your life.
NEW FACTS keep arising today.
-Archaeological finds which increasingly confirm the places and events of the Bible.
-Mendel’s Accountant, shows the deleterious effects of mutations over time, disproving evolution as a source of complexity.
-Problems with uniformitarian long-age calculations, support the cataclysmic events in the Biblical worldview.
Modern CONSEQUENCES continue to prove Biblical facts.
-Consequences of Godly morals, vs self-centred ones.
-Consequences of civilisations operating "under God” according to the Bible, vs "under self"
-Consequences of a Biblical worldview are consistently better for individuals, families, politics, war, science, economics, psychology, ethics - and the consequences are often life & death. This suggests that the Jesus worldview is best aligned with reality. (ie. true.)
Modern EXPERIENCES of the living Jesus continue to occur.
Just because they are subjective to each individual doesn’t mean they aren’t also objectively real. Rather, their ongoing occurrence invites deeper investigation. Upon investigation we find:
-Details, nuance, and life-directing impacts.
-Agreement with the descriptions & character of the Biblical Jesus.
-They occur across cultures and ethnicities - they don’t arise merely out of culture but also despite culture.
-Experiences consistently include answers to prayer, awareness of spiritual presence, spiritual inspiration & guidance, deliverance from bondages, and healings - physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, and relational.
-They are widespread, with billions reporting similar encounters, and ongoing relationships, with the life-giving Spirit of Jesus.
-An open offer to all people to experience this Jesus too. These experiences can be qualitatively compared with others, and to the Bible. So the claim is that Jesus is an objective reality you can meet for yourself.
Why doesn't EVERYONE accept these facts?
Hesitations may include:
-Traumas that have left people emotionally wounded, resulting in a mindset of basic distrust, fear, bitterness, rejection, or the like. Understandably this makes them reluctant to entrust themselves to God. Emotional healing is needed.
-Ignorance of the facts, and/or their conclusions. Education can help.
-Self-centredness: devotion to their own self-driven lifestyle & the control to which they have become addicted/accustomed. Facing one’s own wilfulness is very hard.
-Self-delusion is surprisingly easy. Even truths are often misused for false conclusions - for example, “God has never shown himself to me.” True in the sense that God hasn’t made a display to force a concession out of that person, this truth can be misused for the false conclusion that the creator therefore does not exist. Yet it remains very possible that the creator exists unseen, and even for good reasons. There are many such misuses of truth statements which we must learn to recognise as self-delusion.
-Peer pressure, pride coupled with fear of rejection, can make a person deny truths they would rationally accept in less emotionally threatening circumstances. (See Peter’s denials.) A healthy sense of identity will help.
-Fear of exploring the facts lest discovering Jesus is alive means a significant change to their worldview and lifestyle. Courage to learn is needed, to find and face the truth.
-Fear of the risk that they might miss out on an experience of Jesus, so it’s safer not to take the risk. Courage to trust is needed, enough to really pray.
Why doesn’t God just "poke his head out of heaven" and "definitively PROVE" himself to us all?
"Is He toying with us, playing some kind of cosmic game of hide & seek? Offering himself, then hiding from us?" Well, that’s one (perhaps bitter-&-twisted) way to look at it. But here are some other ways to look at it:
1. How much MORE evidence do we really need?
Truthfully we already have more than enough evidence: the existence of all physical things, design, life, complexity, universal altruism, conscience, free-agency, reason, relationship, religion, archaeology, history of the highest order, reliable records of his personal presence and action, spiritual experiences to today, all matching the Bible. Plus the offer of your own personal relationship with his Spirit. Outside of those things… what else is there!
2. Would some plain, spiritual, revelation REALLY make us believe?
-If it happened to someone else, couldn’t I still merely discount it as “just another subjective experience”?
-If it happened to me, couldn’t I just rationalise it away as, “just some psychotic episode"?
-If it happened to a lot of us at the same time… as happened with Jesus’s miracles before his death, with his resurrection appearances, and with his Spirit's manifestations from Pentecost onwards... all those eyewitnesses were still ignored by many.
As Jesus said in one of his stories, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’
3. The free agency of each person’s heart plays a key role, their disposition, whether they WANT to face up to Jesus.
- If they DO want to meet and serve Jesus, there are more than enough facts to go on, they aren’t hidden, they can find them, and they can pray.
- If they DON'T want to meet Jesus, then humans are very capable of ignoring or rationalising away from God. If that is what they want, then the creator allows them room to do that. For the Supreme Being of the Universe to allow this seems remarkably gentle and humble.
TURNING AWAY also has consequences to consider
God’s ultimate plan is to gather the people who will come to him, to be with him forever. But those who pull away will not be in that gathering.
That’s why Romans 1 says, "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.”
We have observed all of this happening in our time too. And it simply constitutes further evidence for the truth of God’s word.
Meet Jesus EVERYWHERE
What do I do if I want to meet Jesus? Once I've paid attention to these many facts, how do I start a real relationship with Jesus?
Simply tell the ever-present spirit of Jesus that you want to do things his way from now on, and ask him to show you what that is.
LOOK & Listen for his answers.
Some places to look are obvious: read the Bible, and ask other Christians about what is already very clear, that he is likely to do with you.
Some listening takes practice. Our modern world is crammed with voices & signals throwing so much information at us, that we now actually have to learn to unplug, declutter, be still and quiet, in order to sense God’s gentle presence and promptings. Then we can begin to learn to put off and put on: put off bad identities, habits of thinking, behaviour, addictions, and put on Christ-filled identities, habits of thinking & conduct.
DO what he says.
Follow his higher purposes for our lives. Try it and see how you deepen and grow. Core practices include time with him, time with other believers, and time with other people as salt and light in the world. The aim is not legalistic obedience, but closer togetherness. You can learn to meet with Jesus everywhere you go, in everything you do. When it's his will, you will encounter his pleasure and joy in it. When it’s not his will, you will find he challenges you there, to put off that thing and put on something better.
Colossians 1 says, "For in him ALL THINGS were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
When we learn to meet with Jesus at all times, in all places, literally in all things, then the evidence for Jesus becomes clear in the air we breathe, our very life. The factual truths outside of us merely confirm the living Truth inside of us. It turns out that evidence for Jesus is actually... in all things.
And all these facts become clearer for those with eyes looking to see them.
So it turns out that the first step to RECOGNISE him is actually in your heart, your basic motivation. Or as Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
Why are we afraid to witness? Fear of rejection.
Why are we afraid of rejection? Pride, fallen human nature, pecking order.
But we have been ultimately accepted by The One Who really matters!
Let that change us inside-out. See more here from Ray Comfort.
It's now 12 months into the pandemic, and we've been fairly protected here in Western Australia. With the first lockdown, Cheers transitioned fairly well into Cell Church mode, using digital tech to relieve the isolated, and our usual small group discussion format to keep Biblically centred.
- the young adults settled into 4 groups
- our teens re-gathered quickly
- Church 247 met on alternate weeks in Home Groups, and gathered in the Community Hall as able.
Adults were less confident to lead Home Groups than I'd hoped. It's not so difficult to run a small group, especially when compared with meetings and other responsibilities they conduct at work, and they have all they need in terms of knowledge, skills and tools, yet most still seem bluffed by leading a small group around the Bible. Not sure what to do about that, but press on. However it does show the importance of training young people who seem to be more likely to learn and do the stuff.
During the year some of our young adults married and moved to the country, taking their training with them and we're cheering for them, confident that they will find ways to bless and benefit their new part of the world with the Gospel. Others have done this in the past, and more are set to do so in the next year or so. We pray this outflow will result in multiplied mission.
True North - Christian
From hiking to ethics, politics, spirituality, psychology, relationships, in all areas of life in which decisions about reality are important, we really need a true reference point. We need the compass needle to point north so we can align ourselves with reality as it is, and not get lost. A reliable reference point.
For societies to function well together, a primary reference point needs to be agreed so we can all avoid conflict as much as possible. When I visit Indonesia, I know the local reference point is largely Islam, so I know how to get along. Even if I don't agree with Islam personally, I can accomodate wherever possible in good conscience. At Australian Federation we chose a generally agreed reference point in Judaeo-Christianity, the Bible, "under Almighty God." The consensus was that we all go along with this same reference point as a society. Besides, part of that Christianity was that "secular" meant non-sectarian, open to all, regardless of creed. So Christianity provided a good reference point for public ethical decisions and the moral conduct of society.
Spinning Compass - Agnostic
But from mid twentieth century, Australia's general population became less certain of Christianity, and even the idea of objective truth. With growing multiculturalism, the magnets of other ideologies made the public discourse agnostic: "we don't know what our public reference point should be." But instead of really thinking this through, broadcast technology rushed through the shallow, political-correct (ie. wrong in the real world) idea of "each to his own, you do you, I'll do me." Public media and politics mostly ignored the matter of truth, ultimate reality, and an agreed reference point.
This sounded democratic: "let's leave it as a private matter and not have a public reference point as such." And no doubt most Aussies still think that's what we have today... but not so!
Self-Aligned Compass - Naturalism
Most of us didn't even see it happen and assume we're back at Agnostic. But to the degree that religious / spiritual worldviews are excluded from the public square, one worldview remains as the default reference point. Naturalism asserts there is only the natural, physical world, no super-natural, no other dimensions, no God to answer to, no higher power, so do anything you want - just keep religion private. "Secular" has come to mean, "no religious views." In practice this Naturalism is Australia's public reference point, now unofficially determining all our national, ethical, political decisions. Marriage, gender, religious education, terminating babies, the old and infirm, public narratives about science, climate, races, power/victim status, are all decided squarely on the reduced basis of Naturalism.
We were not asked if we wanted to shift our public reference point, let alone shift it to Naturalism. It just happened by excluding the other options. If we had been asked, "Do you want Naturalism as our new public reference point?" we would have certainly voted against it. Why?
1) Partly because more of us do experience spiritual realities than do not. "Under God" is a real consideration for most of us.
2) Also because with a little thought it soon becomes obvious that Naturalism is a really bad reference point because it inevitably leads to the Law of the Jungle, with everyone pulling for their own interests, with the most ruthless grabbing power to eliminate the competition. That's been the result in all socialist / communist governments, which are always based on, yep, Naturalism. We know where that road leads, and we don't want to go there.
The question now is, will we become publicly wise enough to thoughtfully choose our reference point before we descend into naturalist chaos?
Can we choose a better reference point? Which reference point would you choose and why?
- Which worldview actually produces freedom of conscience? (Not merely allows it for the time being.)
- Which has a proven record of producing moral societies, with humility and civic service?
- Which encourages separation of powers, and the idea that all of us are accountable under the Creator? (Check Magna Carter.)
Even honest atheists admit that Christianity has yielded the best moral code for societies, and the safest freedoms for others to disagree. A Christian public reference point best serves everyone, including agnostics and naturalists. Agnostic Jordan Peterson knows this: as a psychologist helping people to align their lives with reality, he says, “I live as though God exists, and I’m terrified that he might.” That’ll work for Australia too.
(PS. After returning to the climate of freedom that Christianity brings, maybe we can also remedy that agnosticism about evidences for the Creator. That’s another story.)
2) Noel had a way of dignifying normal life. We college boarders saw each others’ bad hair days, and once Noel asked my friend for a razor to shave because he’d left his at home. He was not embarrassed because he was genuinely humble. He knew that his little moments were just as significant as his global work. His gracious attitude was the same in all circumstances, everything was a gift from Christ. From the podium to the kitchen he was Christ's grateful servant. This inspired the community with integrity from top to bottom. Lk16:10 faithful in little things
3) Noel kept Christ at the centre of the community. Without this, communities inevitably drift. But Noel’s communities stayed true. He would often remind us that the college was to teach us to “think theologically,” because through Scripture we get to know Christ. Noel knew both intimately, which is why often you could tell he was led by the Spirit to say just the right thing, to have that gracious humility, to love that enlivening way. If everyone bathed in the Word and the Spirit like that, counselling services would become redundant. Eph5:26 washed with the word
Each house at this school has a theme, Courage, Character, Compassion, and that of Vose house is Community. This might surprise if you only knew Dr GN Vose from his Wiki page, looking at all his academic achievements and the Theological College he started. But that College was a Vose-like - no, Christ-like - community. It pulled people together. And I’ll warrant that same enthusiastic community was a hallmark of Noel's presidency of the Australian Baptist Union, and then of the Baptist World Alliance: he pulled people together. Noel regenerated discussions between Baptists and Mennonites in a way that hadn't happened since 1630! He planted a new church at 70! Community was his legacy. Back then we used to tease him about being "The Pope of the Baptists.” But he kind of was - in the best sense of “papa,” building up all of us who came to orbit around his truly Christian community.
Don't Squander Your Chance
For many this forced layoff is a chance to reset our priorities and activities. The decks have been cleared for us. So what shall we do with this time? First thought: have a rest! Yessss!!! Watch some movies, read some books, sleep longer…. Maybe get some jobs done, clean up, sort out… But after you’ve caught up, then what?
Well, what do you consider most important after all?
Now is a great chance to start doing what you really deep down want to do.
How about these top five practices for life:
5) Be generous with toilet rolls. If we don't share when we have, who can we ask when we need?
4) Spend quality time with the people in your household. Don't be isolated in your screens, make time to reconnect. Have dinner around the table; ask "what do you thank God for today?"; play a board game; do some craft; a jigsaw… google family fun ideas.
3) Reconnect with extended family and friends via calls or videolink.
2) Re-introduce yourself to God. Actually pray. Get to know him better. Day by day. (We can help with Core Stuff, and the Bookmark of HPOWER).
1) Meet for prayer, care and sharing around the Bible, in groups of 3-6, via videolinks if necessary, to actively grow in the Spirit, and share the love with others. (Cheers can help with this, and get you BOPping!)
This virus, now, is an opportunity for humanity to turn back to God. Let’s take it.
As Ferris Beuler famously said, Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.