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About AG

an Aussie bloke with a concern for truth, an inquisitive mind and a sense of humor.

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,200 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

 
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Posted by on 31/12/2014 in General

 

Fair and unfair questions about the connection between religion and abuse

The Sydney siege has given rise to a lot of discussion in Australia about the role of the gunman’s religious beliefs in either inspiring or contributing to his actions which culminated in taking arming himself and taking hostages in the Lindt Cafe in Sydney this week. Precedents have been cited of others with allegedly similar professed beliefs committing heinous crimes throughout the world.

The overly simplified argument is that Islam was founded amidst violence and that many adherents believe they are justified and encouraged to pursue violence against those who disagree, reject or convert away from Islam. True enough, there are examples of this. Perhaps most notable are the recent actions of the Islam State cult and the Taliban or Al Qaeda. In other instances there are national governments lead by an Islamic ethos that display strong prejudice and discrimination against non-Islamic minorities in their countries.

Yet, making an inference, whether implied or explicit, that all adherents of Islam are on the same trajectory for the same reason as those that motivate the Taliban or the Lindt Cafe gunman is poor logic and hypocritical.

Questions ought to be asked about the contributing factors inspiring a decision to take hostages and murder two of them. What role, if any, did a perception or interpretation of religion play in that decision? But to assume that all other adherents of that religion, regardless of degree of traditional orthodoxy or intercultural expression, are no different to the gunman or the Taliban, creates some dangerous precedents.

Asking questions in general or debating the merits of an ideology or religion ought to be welcome in the public square. Such discussion ought to be able to take place without degenerating into ad hominem attacks and insults. These only serve to create animosity, fear, hatred and do nothing for the interests of truth and justice.

If, when considering Islam, you make a leap from one gunman or one criminal association or even the habitual practice of a particular government to extend to each individual without exception, then why don’t you do the same with other ideologies and intercultural religious expressions?

For instance, to cite the example made by Prime Minister Tony Abbott yesterday, when the IRA terrorists were bombing the UK and killing innocents, is every Roman Catholic a murderer?
Likewise, when an Atheist regime in North Korea oppresses an entire nation, is every non-theist an egomaniacal abusive dictator bent on destroying the world?
Or, when a Christian minister or Catholic priest abuses a child, is every Christian a pervert and a paedophile?

You can no more argue that Islam always attracts or inspires violence than you can that Christianity always attracts or inspires crimes against children. It goes beyond the absurd and becomes a deviance of it’s own.

Let’s ask the difficult questions, and lets make sure that all ideas and actions are held up to scrutiny. But let’s do it in fair play. I for one, am more than happy for my beliefs and practices to undergo the same. I’m confident you can do it and disagree passionately with my religious conclusions, regardless of how well I might make an argument, and still not malign me at the end. (If you do, well it’s no loss to me that you’re an incorrigible hard case.) Neither do you have to endorse or agree with me to ask those questions and seek understanding and clarification.

However, if, in the course of your examination you find some gross inconsistency in my character, I’m confident that you’ll attribute that to my personal flaws without condemning 2000 years of Christianity or every other professing Christian of being guilty of the same for the same reasons regardless of their background and context.

I hope my Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist and all other friends are equal to the task also. There’s no need for us to reach a consensus to have the discussion or to reap the benefits of civilised society.

 
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Posted by on 18/12/2014 in Culture, leadership

 

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After the Sydney siege, please be a messenger of peace

In the wake of the Sydney siege in Martin Place and continuing to be prayerfully sensitive about how to respond and move forward, I have noticed some comments by “christians” protesting the presence of Muslims and refugees in our community. These comments, often, come from a reaction of fear and confusion. But some are nothing more than racist rants and are not in any way representative of Jesus Christ, Christianity or the grace and compassion that ought to characterise Christian people. This is not an occasion to slander refugees or target Muslims in our society as though they are all terrorists. Such behaviour is beyond ridiculous and infantile. Please stop it.

In the first few hours of the siege yesterday I was concerned about the association of the gunman with Islam and why Islamic leaders had not been given an opportunity to decry his actions as outrageous evil. However, they did do exactly that later in the day. Why it didn’t happen earlier, I cannot say. However, were I in their place I would have been extremely tenuous about how to respond in a sensitive and compassionate way. No reasonable person of any faith or ideology could support or condone what was happening.

I am appalled by the tragedy. I am so sorry for the hostages and their families particularly those who were killed. I say that as an Australian man and yes, also as a Christian. However disgusted and angry I may be that this occurred in my home city, I cannot respond to terror, horror and inhumanity with words, threats or actions of violence and abuse. Peace engenders peace. If I want to pursue and develop peace in my community among my neighbours there is no place for vile hatred that perpetuates racism and discrimination. That means extending peace, friendship and hospitality to all regardless of their religion, irreligion or come what may.

The gospel of Jesus is a message of peace. We celebrate that great message every Christmas when we rehearse the announcement of the angels at his birth:

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14 NIV

Peace comes to all recipients of God’s good will or favour. The followers of Jesus are ambassadors of peace; not strife, not hatred, not bigotry, not disdain, not animosity; but peace.

You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. Acts 10:36

That offer of peace extends to everyone, believer, unbeliever, anywhere in-between.

He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. Ephesians 2:17

We are to model peace and offer peace to all, without exception.

“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Luke 10:5-6

To offer peace does not mean you agree with or endorse the views, opinions, or beliefs of the other person. An offer of peace does not mean that you agree with their religions, philosophies or ideals, or that you accept their position as equal alternatives to Jesus as the only way to the Father.

It does mean that you will seek to serve, love and support any and all: Christian, Non-christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, or otherwise.

You can do that and repudiate the evils perpetuated in the name of various ideologies and religions. You can do that and be friendly and hospitable to Muslim neighbours and repudiate stupid racist jokes, name calling and other abuse or mistreatment (particularly of Muslim women wearing head coverings). You can do that and welcome and support refugees without maligning or misjudging their motives on account of one who happened to have an evil agenda.

To that end, I join with many others throughout Sydney who have offered to ride with or stand with Muslim friends, neighbours and coworkers and oppose any mistreatment or hatred. Some of you may not be comfortable entering a Christian Church building, but I extend an invitation to you to join us this Sunday for a Christmas lunch in Marsfield.

I’ll ride with you.

I’ll pray with (and for) you.

I’ll welcome you.

In the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Photo on 16-12-2014 at 10.10 am #2

 
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Posted by on 16/12/2014 in Culture, Gospel, Jesus, ministry, Prayer

 

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Sydney Siege Prayer Advice

This is my letter to the Church community where I am the Pastor.

By now most will be aware of the situation, still under development while writing this, of an armed siege in a Lindt Cafe in Martin Place in the city.

In the days ahead the details of the situation will be clearer. For now though there is far too much speculation and unfortunate sensationalism happening in the media. Please follow the advice and example of the Police, Premier and Prime Minister and avoid such unhelpful speculation.

What we do know is that there are people being held hostage in the café; there are people in the building above the café that are unable to leave because of the hostage situation; there are people in Martin Place that are probably not able to safely leave their offices; there are people working in the city that may have a lot of difficulty getting home this evening; families of those affected as well as our police and authorities and their families will be under a lot of stress and pressure until the situation is resolved.

So I encourage you to pray for God’s will to be done;
that a safe and peaceful resolution can be achieved;
for spiritual and emotional protection and healing for the hostages, their families and the authorities involved;
for the counsellors that will need to sensitively assist them in the following days ahead;
for the city churches that are opening to welcome seekers and distressed city workers;
for the perpetrator or perpetrators involved to be brought to merciful justice and given repentance and restoration;
for members of our community who are confused by the terror of this crime and unable to process how they should respond;
for yourself and your family, that you might trust in God’s promise of true peace for those who know Jesus and that you are able to live in that peace now especially and share with others your hope in God through Christ.

The Anglican Prayer Book has a helpful example prayer that you could use (as suggested this morning by Rev. Dr. John Dickson), if you feel you would like to pray, but are unable to find the words. (NB: I’ve modified the old English phrases)

We beg you to hear us, good Lord. That it may please you to preserve all that travel by land or by water, all women labouring of child, all sick persons, and young children; and to show you pity upon all prisoners and captives. We beg you to hear us, good Lord. That it may please you to defend, and provide for, the father-less children, and widows, and all that are desolate and oppressed, We beg you to hear us, good Lord. That it may please you to have mercy upon all men, We beg you to hear us, good Lord. That it may please you to forgive our enemies, persecutors, and slanderers, and to turn their hearts, We beg you to hear us, good Lord.

May God’s peace in Christ be with you.

 
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Posted by on 15/12/2014 in Prayer

 

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Take a punt on Jesus

If you’re in Australia, chances are you will, along with the majority of the nation, “Stop” at around 3:00pm AEDST to watch the Melbourne Cup horse race. Whether you care for horse racing or not, you’ll probably watch it. Most of us will not be able to avoid it. Workers are given time off to gather in front of the television, students, if still in school, pause to do the same. In some parts of the country the entire day is a public holiday. You might even detest the idea and not give a toss ;) about the race. But I bet ;) you know it is on.

It is in many respects as much a public institution as some of the national religious and public holidays. Throughout workplaces and schools, sweeps are run, where, usually, by way of random allocation, entrants are given a horse for a small fee of maybe $2-$5. If your employer is particularly fortunate with their winnings, it is not unusual to be given the rest of the day off, to celebrate!

By the time you have read this you have probably already decided to enter one of those sweeps or even had a little flutter. Based on some reports the takings from punters in recent years has increased alarmingly. 2009 the Sydney Morning Herald estimated takings exceeded $143 million in Victoria and New South Wales. The 2011 estimates were $280 million plus another $100 million on the track. 2013 expectations were thought to exceed $800 million. These increases are occurring the same time our national household debt levels have grown to 180% of annual income. So, while the nation parties on, families are destroyed.

The premise of gambling is trying to get something large for a disproportionately small price. The idea is that you make a bet, and not have to work to earn the same amount. What might take several days, weeks or months to otherwise earn or cultivate, can be gained in a matter of seconds, simply by placing a well-timed bet on the right horse (in the case of the Melbourne Cup). It doesn’t take much to argue yourself from there into the place that by increasing the bet, you could increase your winnings, and if you win enough, you might never have to work again. Obviously, not everyone is consumed with, or tempted by, an addiction to gambling. But for those that are, even a sweepstake entry can prove to be a deadly distraction. So, in wisdom, we must be careful how we represent and take part in the good fun of our nation’s (arguably) favourite past-time.

Speaking to Christians for a moment, if, by entering a sweep, you communicate that your sustenance and hope for provision is elsewhere than in what God has provided, you may find it difficult to convincingly discuss your faith in Jesus and why he is exclusively enough for spiritual salvation. What would you truly prefer? That God dealt with you randomly by way of spinning a wheel, drawing lots, or let the roll of a dice determine our eternal fate or via his deliberate intention to set his love upon us and show his grace to us via Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection?

Gambling is emotionally charged controversy that provokes passionate advocates both for abolition and enjoyment in moderation. I hope you consider carefully how you will “profit” from your little flutter compared to finding your passion in Christ. How about you take the money you were going to put into the office sweep or on the race via a betting agency and give it a charity organisation that provides debt relief for struggling families. Invest in your community and not try to rob from it.

Don’t throw away your money. More than a horse race is at stake. Pray to God with the Psalmist:

Sustain me according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed. Psalm 119:116 NIV

If you’re struggling with gambling addiction or need help with debt counselling consider contacting some of the below organisations.

Gambling Help http://gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au or phone 1800 858 858
You can also talk with Hope Street Inner City Counselling call  02 9332 3506 you don’t need a referral, just call.

Gamblers Anonymous http://www.gansw.org.au/  or phone: 02 9726 6625

Salvation Army – Moneycare (Parramatta) phone 02 9633 5011

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Posted by on 04/11/2014 in counselling, Family, services

 

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Multiplying Gospel Workers with MTS and KCC Oxygen

imageThe Ministry Training Strategy (MTS) group is a platinum sponsor of the Oxygen14 Conference.

During Wednesday lunch MTS launched their vision for preparing and training 500 ministry apprentices in 2016. This is double the number of apprentices trained in 2013. In order to reach this goal, training partners are needed.

Who can be a training partner? Typically it’s someone already in vocational ministry. So ministers, pastors, youth workers, those in children’s ministry etc. It is also Christian workers in University campus based roles and a variety of other Christian networks and organisations. If you’re in ministry now, in almost any context, you were trained, so God can use you to train someone else. Why not consider taking on an apprentice for 2015 or 2016?

The reason most will stall at this point is the prohibitive cost of paying for an apprentice and fulfilling legal compliance. The good news is that recent changes in the structure of the MTS program mean that Churches and ministry organisations only to raise $4,000 per year to fund and train an apprentice. A variety of support has been made available including compliance, curriculum, payroll, and recruiting conferences greatly reducing the cost and overhead burden faced when taking on a trainee or apprentice.

Is your Church or ministry ready to invest in the multiplication of gospel workers in Australia? Why not check out MTS?

 
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Posted by on 06/08/2014 in Gospel, leadership, ministry

 

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Learn more about Morling at Oxygen14

Morling College is one of the sponsors at Oxygen14. Morling has the distinction of being the largest provider of Theological Distance Education in Australia. In addition there are a variety of full time and part time on campus study options. Whether you just want to dip your toe in the water with a short certificate or diploma, prepare for vocational Christian service or enter academia, Morling can help equip you.

If you’re at Oxygen14 this week, stop by the Morling College booth for some more information on the next steps to take towards improving your impact on the world.

 
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Posted by on 05/08/2014 in General

 
 
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