Practicality vs Airy Fairy

So much Christian discourse I come across seems to be airy-fairy head-in-the-clouds stuff.
The faith is so often “over-spiritualised” in a way that has nothing to do with everyday living or the here and now. Too often present day realities are trivialised and covered over with a religious veneer that has little if anything in common with liveable experience.

Some of it may sound spiritual, dressed up in biblicalesque language, expressions that seem like they ought to be meaningful, coming from respected people with a reputation for being Godly.

We can feel a little intimidated at times. In awe of them. If only we could attain a fraction of their understanding, their experience, their faith…

But how often do we step back and REALLY consider what we are hearing and/or reading?

The old story about the Emperor’s new clothes comes to mind. Is there really any substance to a lot of what gets passed off as Christian thought and teaching?

Should words actually have meaning that we can grasp? Or should we expect “spiritual” meaning to always be a little beyond our reach?

Why not test what we hear, what we are taught, by its ability to be understood and put into practice?

James gave the instruction to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only.”

How can we expected to be a doer if understanding is beyond our reach, or if understanding doesn’t lead to practical possibilities?

Advertisements

In The Beginning God Created…

Five words to end all arguments about what can be considered right or wrong.

“In the beginning God created”.

What follows those words in the first chapters of Genesis tells us what He created, and thereby stamps His seal of ownership and authority over everything that He created.

Those words give the overall context to the whole of human history (past, present and future).

…by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.

Like it or not, we are ultimately HIS.

Like it or not He created mankind for a purpose of HIS choosing.

Like or not He has the right to deal with any part of HIS creation that fails to fulfil the purpose for which HE made it, in any way HE chooses.

Right and wrong are not determined by society, by culture, or by popular opinion.

The Creator alone determines what is acceptable or not within His creation.

Stranger No More by Annahita Parsan

It wasn’t what I expected.
The flood of Moslem refugees across Europe was constantly in the news two or three years ago, and most books I’ve recently seen about refugees have been about those escaping from Syria.

I thought this would be the same, but instead the story dates back to the late 1970s, early 80s and the Iranian Revolution.

Annahita Parsan’s abusive husband Asghar found himself on the wrong side of the new Islamic government in Iran after the Ayatollah Khomeini deposed the Shah of Iran. Together they escaped Iran via Turkey, where they were imprisoned and brutally treated. Eventually they were freed and allowed to move on to Denmark as refugees.

Despite the potential for a new life, Asghar’s violence against his wife increased in frequency and intensity and there seemed to be no escape for her.

But a seed was sown when visitors to her door gave Annahita a bible in Farsi.

Ever since I had been given the Farsi Bible, I had picked it up and prayed from time to time. The worse Asghar’s attacks had gotten, the more I had prayed. I found that it helped, much like drinking a glass of cool water took away the dryness in my mouth on a hot night.

She started to become aware of ideas about God that were different to what she had “learned in a mosque”.

There it was all about fear and rules and the difficulty of earning a route to paradise. I had never thought of God being interested in helping me, let alone being with me all the time. I liked the idea. It gave me courage.

In time that courage helped her to take steps towards freedom for herself and her children. Freedom from the violence of her husband and towards the freedom of a new life of faith.

Annahita Parsan now works within churches in Sweden, ministering to former Muslim refugees.

The Pastor and the Painter, author interview.

It’s three years since Bali 9 drug traffickers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were executed by firing squad.

Their supporters continue the campaign against Indonesia’s death penalty.

News Limited journalist Cindy Wockner covered their story from the beginning right through to their brutal end.

She promised the pair to write their story so their deaths would not be in vain.

Cindy spoke to Cathy Van Extel about what the two men were really like, how they changed and their fight against the death penalty.

Includes details of the amazing achievements of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran within Kerobakan prison, Bali prior to their brutal death ordered by the Indonesian president Joko Widodo. [pembunuh berantai]

From here: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/bigideas/the-pastor-and-the-painter/9653912

Joko Widodo’s victim count:

(from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment_in_Indonesia#Execution_statistics )

The Pastor and the Painter, by Cindy Wockner

Reading The Pastor and the Painter was a little like reading a book about the Titanic. The tragic conclusion has already been well publicised.

Andrew Chan (the pastor) and Myuran Sukumaran (the painter) were killed by an Indonesian firing squad, upon the order of the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo.

Chan and Sukumaran had been sentenced to death by a Bali court for drug trafficking a decade before the sentence was finally carried out. Pleas for clemency were denied.

Not long before his death, Sukumaran painted a portrait of the man who would demand that the executions be carried out. On the back of the painting of the president, Sukumaran wrote “People Do Change”, stating the fact that everyone apart from the president seemed to recognise – that the two men whose lives were being taken from them were not the same men who committed the crime a decade before. They HAD changed.

The men sentenced were young, irresponsible, angry, unco-operative and undeniably guilty of the crime.
The men being executed 10 years later were repentant, responsible and highly respected by those with authority over them in jail. Unlike many in their position who buried their despair in drug use, Chan and Sukumaran turned their lives around and went to work developing and running training programs and various other activities for other prisoners within the jail.

Chan studied for Christian ministry and started a church within the prison.
Sukumaran developed his artistic skills and was mentored by Australian artist Ben Quilty; sharing what he learned through holding art classes for fellow prisoners. Paintings were sold and proceeds used for various causes, including raising money to pay for life saving surgery for a female prisoner.

While many in the past have had sentences reduced, sadly, for others Indonesian law would remain inflexible.

 

Laws are like spider webs: if a fly or mosquito gets near, it gets trapped, but if a wasp or bee goes near, it breaks it and leaves. The same applies to the law: if a poor man strays he gets caught, while the rich and powerful exempt themselves from the law and walk away.

(Andrew Chan – from The Pastor and the Painter)

The absurdity of executing fully rehabilitated young men, who had not only turned their own lives around but had made significant contributions to the rehabilitation of their fellow prisoners, became even more extreme when the time came for them to be transported to the place where they were to be held prior to facing a firing squad. It was a full-on military exercise with armoured vehicles, armed soldiers and fighter jets escorting them on their journey.

On 27th April, two days before he and Myuran were executed, Andrew Chan married Febyanti Herewila, a local church minister, in a ceremony within the prison.

All up, about 20 people gathered, After Muran led them in prayer, he started singing ‘Bless the Lord’, a song also known as ‘10,000 Reasons’, and one they all knew and loved.

There was still some time for jokes amid the sad pall that hung over the Besi prison visiting area. As Myuran got stuck into some more junk food, someone told him it wasn’t good for him.

He smiled. “There are worse ways to die”.

(From The Pastor and the Painter)

 

On 29th April 2105, at 12.25am, Andrew and Myuran and six others were brutally killed by Indonesian president Joko Widodo. The weapon used: firing squad.

They were strapped by the elbows to wooden crosses and sang until their voices were silenced by the fatal gunshots. The song in the video above is the last they sang.

 

 

The eight people who were executed in Indonesia on 29 April 2015. Top row from left (including two of the Bali Nine): Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, Nigerian Okwuduli Oyatanze and Nigerian Martin Anderson. Bottom row from left: Nigerians Raheem Agbaje Salami, Silvester Obiekwe Nwolise, Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte and Indonesian Zainal Abidin. Two others (not pictured) who were scheduled to be executed were given a temporary reprieve. Photograph: The Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/29/bali-nine-who-are-the-nine-people-being-executed-by-indonesia )