KYCK 2013

10 May

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If you’ve been on Facebook anytime within the last two weeks, chances are you would have seen a member of Ignite posting about the amazing time he or she has had at KYCK 2013. Please allow me to fill you in on what was a great weekend.

KYCK is a conference held each year at Katoomba Christian Convention for high-schoolers.

The theme at KYCK 2013 was “This Is Love”. Two faithful men, Dave Miers (St Faith’s Narrabeen) and Jeremy Dunne (City Light Church Balmain), preached through the book of 1 John.

The memory verse consisted of the following verse set to a popular Taylor Swift song (with the help of some goat-shrieks – ask an Igniter):

Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

1 John 4:10

From God’s word Dave and Jeremy challenged us to know the love of our heavenly Father better and so respond by calling sin for what it really is; by loving God through obedience to him; by knowing our identity as Christians; by changing our desires though tasting God’s goodness daily; by relating to God as our heavenly Father, not our drill-sergeant; by letting the love of God transform our ears and mouths as we listen to and talk to one another; and by being sure of our salvation as we believe in Jesus, obeying him and practically loving his people.

The biggest highlight for me was during the Saturday night session, when hundreds of teenagers flocked out the back of the building, having just become a Christian, or having made a commitment to love others like Jesus has loved them. This included one of our own! Praise God for the work he is doing in Ignite!

Parents, please take the opportunity to read through 1 John again with your teenager, and talk about the ways they want to grow practically in their love for their brothers and sisters at Ignite.

In fact anyone else who bumps into an Igniter can ask what he or she learnt and how he or she is going to live out the love of God in their life!

Troy Munns

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The failure of a Monarchy?

9 May

Don’t worry – this is nothing to do with the Australian debate about a Republic versus a Monarchy. It’s just that I’ve been thinking a lot about the Kings in the Bible lately. In Scripture at Bexley North we have been following the story of Kings Saul and David; in my personal Bible Reading I recently finished reading the book of Judges; and, in church we have just started thinking about Jonah and his place in the history of Israel and it’s Kings.

The Bible is all about a Monarchy!

From the beginning of the Bible it is clear that God is King. He was the one that made the Universe and everything in it. He was the one who chose a people for himself. He was the one who led these people. Isaiah 44:6 sets us straight:

This is what the Lord, the King of Israel and its Redeemer,  the Lord of Hosts, says: I am the first and I am the last.

There is no God but Me.

When Heather and I did a short term mission trip in Ghana in 2001 – the locals knew that God is King – it was even found on the Coca-cola advertising!

Sadly though, sometimes even God’s people need a bit of a reminder of that he is King. Just read through Judges to see a nation who has forgotten their true King. It’s anarchy:

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever he wanted. (Judges 17:6)

The result of individual-self-governance was disaster for Israel and a slap in the face to their God.

Surprisingly though, God wasn’t totally against having a human Monarch for his people. He made provision for a King in Israel from very early on. Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 17:14-20 about the type of King that Israel should choose. To use the catch phrase from my scripture classes: choose a King with a heart after God’s heart. Or, in other words, choose a little ‘k’ king who had the big ‘K’ King as his God.

The period of the Judges in Israel was a sad period of Israel forgetting their God. Eventually, when Israel demanded a King they even forgot the kind of King they should want. They wanted a big strong guy – King Saul – which was another disaster in the making. Though over time God righted that wrong and chose his own King – David – an unlikely youngest child but who had had a heart after God’s heart. The story of these two kings can be found in 1 & 2 Samuel and is one of the great narratives of the Bible.

In David, God’s people were given a new hope. According to 2 Samuel 7, David’s line would be an eternal line. His line would give rise to a king who would rule an eternal golden age for God’s people. So in a sense, from the time of David, the bible is a quest for this ‘eternal King’. Was it David? No. Was it his son Solomon? No. Was it his grandson?

The books of 1 & 2 Kings document the failed quest for this eternal king in Israel. The wheels fell off from the start when Israel split into two after Solomon. If you read the account of the northern Israel and southern Judah, the answer to the question: ‘Is this the eternal King?’ was constantly  ‘No! This King did evil in the eyes of the Lord’. Israel’s monarchy was a disaster – except for my favourite Kings – Hezekiah and Josiah (look them up!).

The Old Testament monarchy was a failure. Would this be the end of God as King? Would this be the end of God having his own people in this world?

Surprisingly, the answer came hundreds of years later on the first Good Friday. As Jesus hung from the cross on Calvary, above his head was the ironic title “King of the Jews”. The soldiers put it their for a laugh. However, it turns out that this Jesus is God’s son and humanly speaking, a descendant of David. God truly is King – and it is never more gloriously shown than when we see that he loves us so much that he would give his only Son to save us and to rule over us justly, forever.

Human Monarchy’s will fail BUT God’s Kingdom, built on Jesus, endures forever!

The Bible is rich in history and as we make our way through Jonah, can I challenge you to do two things? First, read the narrative from Judges to the end of 2 Kings and follow the development of Israel’s Monarchy. Second, if you have never looked into the rich story of God’s salvation across time – come and join our PTC – Introduction to the Bible course in term 2. It’s a great way to deepen your understanding of God’s Word.

 Jason Veitch

There are Good Reasons to Doubt Christianity

8 May

Don’t worry I’m not packing it in on Jesus!  Nonetheless the above statement is true.  You can be a perfectly reasonable person and either be a Christian or not a Christian.  A perfectly reasonable person could conclude that the central claim of Christianity that Jesus is the Messiah Christ who rose from the dead is false, given that the ‘laws of nature’ broadly understood suggest ‘Dead people don’t come back from the dead.’  On the other hand, another perfectly reasonable person could conclude that given God has created this beautiful and amazingly complex world out of nothing, then raising a man from the dead is hardly surprising and is consistent with the sort of thing He’s done many times before.

In other words, becoming a Christian is not a matter of reason, it’s a matter of evidence!

Look at the apostle’s Thomas’ reaction to the news of Jesus’ resurrection in John 20.

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Nothing in Thomas’s view of the world made him think that the report of the resurrection of Jesus was true.   For him It was easier to believe that those who told him the news were sadly misguided or deluded.

Now remember Thomas was not ancient Richard Dawkins: Thomas had witnessed miracles and had heard the teaching of Jesus and had even been prepared to die with him. But still he cannot see. He makes his demand for tangible proof of the risen Jesus because he cannot think of a circumstance in which he might ever have to place his fingers in the wounds of Jesus.  Who would want to do that?

We often think of Thomas as the ultimate empiricist (that is, a person who says: ‘I won’t believe unless I see’) but really he is a thoroughgoing rationalist, because he knows already, or thinks he knows, what he can’t possibly ever see.   By a rationalist I mean that he has a theory of how the world operates that cannot be changed and that determines how he believes things.

Our theories act like great filters for our experience of things – and they are a convenient way for us to deal with all manner of information in a way that we can quickly organise and understand it and deal with it in the world. An example of such a theory would be the Scottish philosopher David Hume’s principle ‘that the laws of nature are never broken’. It is a fine sounding principle.  But if a law of nature – such as dead man rising – were ever to occur, you would be unable to see it, because your theory had already determined beforehand that such things do not occur.  The theory might just screen out a reality.

This is very much how the beliefs of the New Atheists and the other cultured despisers of Christianity of our time work. They tend to fly under the cover of the authority of empirical science, which gains its power from dealing with what is there in front of its face. That’s why it can describe the world so well – it must deal with what is in the test tube, and not with what is only there in theory. But when they dip their toes into philosophical and theological waters, they become for the most part dependent on their theories.  God isn’t part of the theory, so God must go.

But Christianity is not a philosophy or a theory. It is a historical faith – which doesn’t mean that it belongs in a museum, but rather that it begins with what God actually does rather than what human beings feel he ought to do. 

Whenever I talk to someone about Jesus I plead with them to explore with me the historical evidence for Jesus’ claims in the historical record, mainly in the bible but also outside of it.  The evidence for Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is overwhelming (it’s why we are Christians!).  Now of course this raises other questions like: Can we trust the bible?  And again the evidence is there for those with eyes to see.  

In the end it’s true that two perfectly reasonable people could come to different conclusions on Jesus based on their own reason and experiences.  However, I believe the historical evidence only points us in one direction.  That’s a decision we all need to make.  It’s a decision that you can only make if you’ve checked out the evidence.

Luther Symons

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made – Discussion Group

7 May

What sort of contraception, if any, should I use? When does human life begin—at fertilisation or at some point after that? What are the arguments for and against abortion? Is it OK to use genetic screening and other pre-natal tests to check for abnormalities in my unborn baby? Should Christians use IVF and other assisted reproductive technologies? What is the current state of embryonic stem cell research?

These are just some of the many complex and emotion-laden questions we face in the rapidly changing field of reproductive medicine, and most Christians do so with two very significant handicaps:

• We don’t have accurate up-to-date information about the medical and technological issues involved

• We have not thought through a sound, biblical framework for making ethical decisions in this area

Dr Megan Best provides what is lacking in both of these vital areas. Built on extensive historical, biblical and medical research, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made is the comprehensive, accurate, biblically-based ethical handbook that Christians have been waiting for.

After chatting with some of the many Doctors and Nurses at SNAC I’ve decided that running a discussion group whilst reading this book together would be a great idea.

Quite a number of our Doctors and Nurses are keen to come already but I wanted to open up the discussion group to anyone who is interested.  This is an issue that all parents or parents-to-be will want to think through.  The best way to do that is in community.

Our plan is to meet over 4 Monday Nights – 7:45-9:15pm beginning Monday 13 May (and probably about 3 weeks apart) to discuss what we have read and to nut out the issues together.

It would be great if you could let me know if you are keen to read the book with us.  We’ll meet at my place (inquire at church). The book can be purchased at matthiasmedia.com.au.

Your brother

Luther

“Parenting with Scripture: A Topical Guide for Teachable Moments”

6 May

I am constantly on the lookout for new books about Children’s and Youth Ministry. A lot of the books I read promise great things through simple strategies, but have serious theological flaws that mean they fail to promote real Christian growth. Sure, they might make for big children’s ministries and youth groups, but because the gospel is not at the center and people are not being challenged to respond to and be changed by the word of God, those big groups often shrink down considerably when high school finishes. This is particularly reflected in American research that notes a high ‘drop-out’ rate among senior high church attenders once they leave for college. That same research also suggests that teenagers whose parents were regularly and actively involved in discipling them were more likely to continue with church attendance and remain committed to their faith.

 

Put simply, clever programs don’t make Christians. God makes Christians as he works through his word and through people as they bring his word to bear on the lives of others and point them to Jesus. As parents, it is our great joy that we are given the responsibility of bringing the word of God to bear on the lives of our children, raising them to know and love and serve the Lord Jesus. There are a number of passages in the Bible where this truth is borne out, but one of the simplest is Deuteronomy 6:6-7:

 

These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up.

 

This command to Israelite parents about to head into the promised land tells us something simple, but fundamental about what it means to be a parent as one of God’s people living under him: We point our children to God. We talk about him, and his word. Any moment, is a potential moment for us to do that. It’s nothing fancy, but that is how God changes and preserves his people.

 

In her book, Parenting with Scripture: A Topical Guide for Teachable Moments, Kara Durbin captures what passages like Deuteronomy 6 teach us. In her introduction, she relates this story;

 

‘A number of years ago, my sister told me about a time when she caught her five-year-old son lying. She told him he should always be honest, not only because she said so, but more importantly, because God said so. She then quoted a related Scripture to him and explained what it meant in reference to what he had done.’

 

Durbin’s sister pointed her son to God, through his word. She seized the moment before her as a ‘teachable moment’ and not only disciplined him, but discipled him. This is a book that gets the basic theology right. God changes people, through his word, and through people as they bring his word to bear on the lives of others.

 

Another thing this book gets right is its readability and usability. Durbin makes it easy for us as parents to bring the word of God to bear on the lives of our children. The first nine pages of the book explain what a ‘teachable moment’ is and how we can both identify and create opportunities to use them. The next four pages explain how to prepare yourself to get the most out of teachable moments when they arise and what to actually do when they come. The rest of the book is an A-Z topical guide (close to 200 topics are covered), each with a list of relevant verses, suggestions for discussion, activities, action points and parenting tips (it’s actually not all that dissimilar to our own Take Home material). Topics like anger, generosity, patience, obedience, salvation and responsibility are presented simply and thoughtfully.

 

This is a book that every parent should consider reading and having on hand. Not only is the book itself a helpful reference, but if we take on board the principle of using ‘teachable moments’ to point our children to Jesus we are well on the way to being an effective discipler of our children.

 

I have two minor disagreements with Durbin, but they are not enough for me to withhold recommending her very good approach to discipling children. First, it is clear that Durbin has a slightly different understanding of how the Old Testament applies to us today. She applies the Old Testament to us directly, where we would apply the Old Testament to us in light of its fulfillment in Jesus. Second, Durbin’s use of ‘proof texting’ (picking a verse to prove what you are saying) means that she occasionally picks a verse that doesn’t quite mean what she is using it for. One example is her use of Hebrews 6:12 to talk about being lazy. The context of Hebrews 6 makes it clear that the laziness in verse 12 is about being spiritually lazy, while Durbin emphasises physical laziness. It’s not that far off, but not quite right either. For the most part, the passages she has chosen are good, and using one verse to explain something to a child on the fly in a teaching moment is not unreasonable. I would suggest reading each of the passages listed in context to make sure they are on target.

 

All in all, Parenting with Scripture: A Topical Guide for Teachable Moments is well worth reading, and even more worth doing! You can find it online for around $15.

 

Brendan Moar

Reflecting on Youth Ministry Mission to PNG

5 May

Reflecting on Youth Ministry Mission to PNG image

This blog entry is written by Youthworks CEO and PNG Team Member Zac Veron

The first Youthworks & St. George North Anglican Church mission to PNG has ended and it’s time to reflect on what we learned and achieved in the ‘Full Focus’ Children’s Ministry Intensive week.

I am pleased to say the team, which comprised of 13 children’s & youth ministry experts and seasoned practitioners, made a massive impact upon the ministry development of the students at Christian Leaders Training College (CLTC), and hundreds of locals in the nearby villages. The Sydney team worked extremely well together for 11 days and every individual member of the team made a huge contribution in their own unique way.

Many team members felt confronted by the poverty and living conditions we saw across PNG, as well as the needs and ministry opportunities within the church. However, something that has continued to challenge me since returning home is the call of Christ to deny ourselves and to live counter-culturally for the sake of the gospel. Let me explain.

In Sydney, I think we often are tempted to hide our faith rather than take a stand. We aren’t as radical or as intentional as we could be in how we spend our time or our money, or in the conversations we have with people.  We also are rarely confronted with persecution when we make gospel changes in our life.

  A woman in PNG who was only too happy to greet the team

A woman in PNG who was only too happy to greet the team

In PNG, however, overcoming cultural barriers to live for Jesus can have massive and very public consequences. Something as normal (to us) as a husband sharing a bed with his wife, or sitting next to her in church, is historically seen as a sign of male weakness in PNG, and opens him up to scorn and derision. Their answer is often to have a separate bedroom, or even a separate house next door! And so for a man to respond to God’s call on him to follow Christ as a husband who loves, leads and serves his family can often come at the expense of his position and standing within his clan or community. In a strongly collectivist culture where clan is king, this is not a small ask. Being in PNG has challenged me to think: how far am I willing to go against my own culture for the sake of the gospel?

If you have been following our blogs, then you will know how the students responded and performed throughout the training intensive. We found a large and diverse student body that was eager to learn, prepared to change, hungry for instruction, zealous to serve the Lord, and very thankful for our ministry to them. In turn, they taught us humility, and what a willingness to serve the Lord anywhere in the world looks like. They helped widen our perspective on what God in doing in his world.

Needless to say, we were extremely pleased and thankful to God for how the week went. Many students felt compelled to put their new skills to work and instruct others in their churches on how to teach the Bible to children; others spoke of having their eyes opened to the importance of ministering to young people.

In speaking about our visit, Ezekiel Ivihi, the Principal of CLTC, shared his hope that it sparks a new awakening of the vision for specialised youth and children’s ministry, in order to address the great need to disciple the younger generation. He also spoke of his desire for this training to become a major component of their teaching program in future! 

Here’s something that Dr. Graeme Batley, Dean of Undergraduate Studies at CLTC, wrote to me the other day:

 

“Will the impact of the Youthworks ministry stop there? Clearly no! Our students come not only from the towns and many remote areas of Papua New Guinea but from Bouganville, the Solomon Islands and other countries of the South Pacific region. They also come from many different denominations, and so upon graduation will take what they have learned to the places that you and I probably will never visit but of which Heaven will be aware …“I am sure our students will also become better preachers of the Word of God as they transpose these skills to older audiences as well …

“It is therefore our fervent hope that the good work that has begun might continue in partnership with Youthworks, so that many lives, more than we could number, might be impacted by the good news of Jesus to the glory of God for some years to come.”

 

What next? Will we go back? Probably. But ideally, the long-term strategy is to gather financial and practical resources together for two keen CLTC graduates to come to Youthworks College to be trained in Sydney, and then return back to PNG, in order to train thousands of other ministers over the next few decades. Would you join with me in praying for this?

Do I miss the insects that scream like an alarm clock, which sound off twice in 30 seconds, half an hour before sunrise in PNG? No! Am I still taking anti-malaria tablets? Yes. Was it worthwhile? Absolutely. Even though my wife, Sheree’s mother passed away, two days into our trip, she and the entire team were greatly blessed by the Lord as we served him in PNG.

I was very proud of my team. If you are a Sydney Anglican, you can be very proud of them too, since they went to PNG representing you and our Lord. I personally found the trip immensely rewarding, uplifting, and it has energised me to keep championing the importance of training people to minister to children and young people.

Visit fullfocuspng.gofundraise.com.au to read more about the team.

 

[This article first appeared on 24th April 2013 at http://sydneyanglicans.net/blogs/modernministry/reflecting-on-youth-ministry-mission-to-png] 

On mission – Easter in Papua New Guinea

4 May
  • Read On mission - Easter in Papua New Guinea

This blog entry was written by PNG mission team member Brendan Moar.

We’ve now crossed the half-way point of our ‘fully focused’ training intensive to the students at Christian Leader’s Training College in Papua New Guinea. Since the last blog, we have celebrated Easter with the students, and commenced the training in children’s ministry.

Easter in PNG is very different to Australia. It is not a commercial event. We haven’t heard anything of the Easter Bunny and there has been no chocolate (this may or may not have devastated several team members). Rightly, Easter is celebrated as a spiritual event. There is a lot of joy, and a lot of singing – so much that the Sunday Easter service ran for over 3 hours! Zac Veron preached a great sermon and the team performed a number of items, all of which were very well received.

Then in the afternoon, the team ran a children’s event which included songs with actions, games and a comedy skit with a giant gingerbread man as “Breadabbas”, to help teach the important message of Easter.

We began the children’s ministry training with over 100 theological students and wives on Tuesday morning. Since much of the ministry to children in PNG currently consists of preaching – the same sermon as to the adults – our aim is to teach the students how to write and deliver a good children’s talk. This includes thinking through childhood development and culture, as well as finding the one big idea in a Bible passage to build the talk around.

Chris Zabaks as Breadabbas helps teach youth in PNG about Easter
Chris Zabaks as Breadabbas helps teach youth in PNG about Easter

It has run remarkably well so far (praise God!). We weren’t sure coming in whether we would over or under-estimate the students’ abilities. While different groups have struggled with different things, on the whole, students have successfully wrestled with the material so far. One group commented that their students were surprised at our discipline when it came to selecting children’s activities to go with the passage – you couldn’t just pick anything, it has to fit with the big idea!

A particular highlight for me has been some of the conversations I’ve had with older men. These are guys in their 50’s and 60’s who have been Pastors for a long, long time. To see their humility, firstly in that they are here wanting to learn, but also that they are just so struck by the fact that they and other elders in the clan and in the church have not taken children seriously. To see them feeling rebuked in that and so passionately convicted of the truth and the rightness of that… it can only be a good thing for the future of children’s ministry in PNG.

When chatting with them later, they further confessed the desperate need for discipleship. They themselves were mentored and discipled by clan and church elders when they were young, but this has fallen out of practice in PNG society. Young boys are no longer being taught how to be men. And in particular, they aren’t being taught how to be Christian men. All of these pastors were convicted of the deep need to disciple the young people of their churches.

Throughout the week, the team have been taking every opportunity to meet and chat with students, wives of students, and children who come from all over PNG, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. It’s fair to say that we have been learning so much from them about living for Jesus, and have been greatly encouraged by their warm fellowship and joy in the Lord.

Please pray that as the students develop their skills, they will have a firm conviction of the importance of ‘specialised’ ministry to their children and young people. Pray that God will use us to equip them to do this well so that they can train up future generations of young leaders to serve Christ and bless his church in PNG.

[This article first appeared on 05th April 2013 at http://sydneyanglicans.net/news/on-mission-easter-in-papua-new-guinea]