Linux caesar-rodney 3.2.61-grsec-modsign #1 SMP Tue Aug 12 09:58:26 UTC 2014 x86_64
Jeremy Crooks – InFocus http://teaminfocus.com.au Mon, 07 Aug 2017 10:02:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.7 12568471 Why the 2016 Census May Be My Last http://teaminfocus.com.au/why-the-2016-census-may-be-my-last/ http://teaminfocus.com.au/why-the-2016-census-may-be-my-last/#comments Fri, 19 Aug 2016 05:53:45 +0000 http://teaminfocus.com.au/?p=17595 censusLike most Australians, I have seen the slow moving train wreck that is the 2016 Australian Census.  As a keen observer of technology, I have been following #CensusFail.  It is not my intention to comment on the technical failings of the data collection debacle.  Instead, I want to look at the bigger picture of how that data – which is likely to be more biased because of #CensusFail – will be used beyond what was publicised.

Philosophically, I have no issue with a census being conducted.   One of my first jobs was as a census collector in 1996.  Through-out thousands of years of history, census’ have been conducted.  As Christian’s when the government requires something – provided it does not go against Scripture – we are to comply.  Besides, the birth of our Saviour in Bethlehem was due to a census, so we don’t have to ‘What Would Jesus Do?’.  We know that Jesus did participate in a census.

There is a social benefit to a census.  It facilitates the allocation of government resources to community benefits, e.g. transport spend, justification for new schools and hospitals, religious considerations such as SRE, etc.  When good governments are in power, this type of information is valuable and used for the greater social benefit.

Leading up to the big night, I did not give the process much thought.  I was going to fill mine in.  The biggest kerfuffle I was aware of were the adverts trying to convince me to mark ‘no-religion/ or to mark ‘religious’.  At a lower level, I had heard the rumbles of Australian senators warning against privacy invasion by the government, but knowing the type of questions being asked, I did not see this as a huge issue.  All of us have given government agencies far more information of other forms – such as the ATO, Centrelink, AEC etc.      And for most of us who are on social media, we have voluntarily provided far more personal information to the world, than what we have to government.

So like millions of other Australians, I worked a full day, commuted home, ate my dinner, and then sat down in front of the computer to fill out my form.  I was able to successfully complete my census online on Tuesday night, probably missing the site’s collapse by mere minutes.   With 6 people in my household, it took all of 30 minutes to complete.  I was fairly impressed with the option to enter age, rather than birthdate, and to opt out of have my information stored for 99 years.  I selected both those options.

However, with the high profile of the collapse of the census, I began to research more about how this information will be handled.  I must say, that the bungling of the online collection, does not instil confidence in the integrity of the ABS or their technology partners.  If they can’t meet their promises of service, how can we believe their promises of data security?  But as yet, at this point it is not a deal breaker.

 

It must be said that the ABS does impose financial penalties on those who refuse complete the census – $180 per day.  However, with the post-mortem of the failed census night now 10 days old and with barely 50% of households having filled it out, I think it is pretty safe to say that this census will be ruled invalid and no penalties will be forthcoming.  The job of collecting the penalties would be too huge and embarrassing for the ABS to contemplate.  I think it is likely that this census will be scrapped and the next major census will be in 5 years time in 2021.

So when 2021 comes around, as a Christian, I must decide whether I will participate. If I will not participate, my justification must be more than just the fear of a financial penalty.  What does come into my thinking is how the government is not being honest with its citizens as to how our personal data is being used.  For the first time ever, the data being provided requires a person’s name and address and is also tagged with a unique identifier to build a comprehensive personal profile beyond the information that was given.   Veteran Australian privacy advocate Roger Clarke warned on his website that data from the census and other ABS surveys would be linked and that “additional data will be expropriated from other sources and added to each person’s record”.

 

So the census is more than just a raw count of statistics.  While the raw data collected may be technically destroyed, the interpreted Orwellian profile will not.  A larger, secret profile gathering information in that you have provided other government agencies, social media sites and correspondence you have written on your web-based emails.  This collective information – in a Minority report way – can be used according to government values not only of today, but the values of future governments.  For example: It might be used to target those whom the government of the day religiously disagree with.   I am not making any predictions of when or how this will be used nefariously, but suggesting we consider how quickly technology and social standards have moved in the last 20 years and then extrapolate how that data may be used in the next 20 years.

At the moment, I don’t have a strong justification on why I should not complete the next census.  The best I have is that I am being asked to enter a social contract with a partner who has not demonstrated competence or good faith.   I also look to the direction of governments around the world and see that they are increasing becoming more hostile to Christians.  I suppose Joseph and Mary and Jesus could have made the same argument against Caesar Augustus 2000 years ago.

The truthful argument of Revelation 13 made well be made, “Anyone who is destined for prison will be taken to prison. Anyone destined to die by the sword will die by the sword. This means that God’s holy people must endure persecution patiently and remain faithful.”  So finding the right balance of standing for my faith verses walking into the lions den is something we should consider with fear and trembling.  I don’t hold fear of persecution as I know the reality of eternal life.  However, I also believe we should be wise.  At this stage, I have strong doubts as to whether I want to continue to participate in a process that seems so fundamentally flawed.  You may be able to convince me otherwise…

 

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Digesting ‘Gay Marriage’ in Australia http://teaminfocus.com.au/gay-marriage/ http://teaminfocus.com.au/gay-marriage/#comments Tue, 14 Jul 2015 23:29:29 +0000 http://teaminfocus.com.au/?p=17468 Gay MarriageThe push for legalising same sex marriage in Australia seems unstoppable.  Our cultural drumbeat says gay marriage in Australia is not a matter of ‘if’, but ‘when’.  ‘Get on the right side of history’, is proclaimed.   If gay marriage is inevitable, then how should Christians react?   Allow me to give you a few thoughts.

1.  Recognising our World:    Let me start out by saying that I oppose efforts to re-define marriage.  I’ve written other articles about what Bible has to say about sexuality and marriage.  This article is not written to justify gay marriage, but rather sadly recognise that probably the majority of Australian hearts have already hardened towards God on this issue.   Allowing gay marriage in this nation may well be part of God’s consequential judgement.

God has a history of eventually giving people what they want.    The Israelites wanted an earthly king.   In 1 Samuel 8, God warned them that a king would tax them and enslave them.  In spite of this the people continued to demand a king and God told Samuel to relent and permitted it.   Just as God predicted, Israelite kings made the lives of the people worse.

Similarly, the Israelites also demanded that Moses permit men to divorce their wives for any reason.   Moses knew that divorce was not God’s plan and that it would have ripple ramifications through the Old Testament community, just as it continues to do today.   Nevertheless, the Scriptures tell us that Moses permitted it as a concession to Israel’s hard hearts.

“Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended” – Matt 19:8

2,500 years after Moses’ legal judgement, Jesus still did not celebrate the lawful permission of divorce.  Instead, Jesus pointed back to creation as the justification for defining marriage as a life long union between one man and one woman – Mark 10:5-9.  And so like Jesus, faithful Christians will continue to follow his teaching on marriage which is one man and and one woman for life.   Just as I am sure that Moses opposed divorce in the Old Testament – even while he lawfully granted it, faithful Christians today will continue to oppose gay marriage – even as they acknowledge society’s acceptance.

But I suspect a divorce is not what poisons a marriage, but rather a divorce is the official pronouncement that a dying marriage is finally dead.     In a similar way, permitting homosexuals to unite in civil marriage is not the start of rebellion, but rather it is a mark of how far people’s hearts are from the Lord.   Because we live in an increasingly secular democracy, we know that at some point the laws of the land will be changed to reflect our pushing God out of our lives.   We can recognise civil same sex unions as a reality, but we cannot celebrate or justify them.

Furthermore, gay marriage may well be a piece of history that we must cross on our way to eternity.  2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 says that the day of the Lord will not come until the world believes lies.   Having entire countries deny what creation and nature says about family, procreation and marriage sounds awfully like mass delusion.    Lest you think that this passage is such a downer for Christians, let me highlight two uplifting points for you.  Firstly, God sends the delusion.   God is in control and is giving the world what it has been demanding.  Firstly, the fact that God predicted this and that it’s happening should only strengthen our confidence in His sovereignty.  God is not surprised or threatened.  Secondly, this falling away precedes the day of the Lord.  The day of the Lord is the most glorious time that we as Christians have been looking for.  It is when we will be united forever with the King of Kings and true justice will reign forever.

2. Pragmatic Politics.   On a practical basis, we are getting to the pointy end where the government is considering debating a bill on gay marriage that could go to the Australian parliament.  I for one am grateful that we have not legislated yet.  Last month America introduced gay marriage across all 50 states, not through legislation, but a judicial proclamation of the Supreme court.   This is the worst possible way for gay marriage to happen, because it leaves many questions open based on where the right to marry starts and stops.  Those questions will remain unresolved until they are challenged and tested in future legal cases.   It is a recipe for civil disagreement and legal battles.  Legislation is a more thoughtful process.

Writing in the Australian, Editor at large, Paul Kelly, unpacks many of the implications of a change to the marriage act.   He summaries some of the potential ripple effects.  What are the employment implications for religious organisations such as colleges, schools and welfare organisations such as adoption agencies?  What are the business implications for those in creative services fields towards participating in a gay marriage ceremony with which they disagree?   What are the rights for religious organisations to rent community facilities for worship events?     What are the rights of individuals to hold their deeply held religious beliefs without being convicted by anti-discrimination laws?  So any change will need to be carefully planned so as to not open up pandora’s box of social consequences.

So we have dodged a bullet in not falling for the false urgency that the media have been pushing.  If we do start looking at the detail of a bill, then we must ensure that we get the nomenclature right.  I believe legislation needs to distinguishes between a civil marriage and a religious marriage.   The laws of Australia are able to cover contractual unions and civil arrangements.   That is the governments jurisdiction and it has a responsibility to look after all its citizens whether they are gay or straight.

However, the government does not have jurisdiction over religion and religious practices.   The laws of Australia should not dictate to people of faith – be they Christian, Jewish, Muslim or otherwise – what their beliefs are allowed to be.   Individuals and religious organisations must continue to be able to operate according to their religious convictions.   Freedom to choose is the hallmark of a pluralistic society.    The freedom to civilly marry must be matched by the freedom to civilly practice worship.   Similarly, if individuals and organisations are free to recognise gay marriage as acceptable to their religion, then conversely individuals and organisations must be free to recognise gay marriage as not acceptable to their religion.   Even though these two positions are mutually exclusive by their very definitions, nearly all religions are also mutually exclusive by their very nature.   For hundreds of years, Australia has operated with people of many faiths, and so we need to ensure that such freedom of religion is allowed to continue in practice.

But we must not assume that religious liberty will automatically be protected in any legislation.  That is why a core part of this bill must articulate specific religious protection.   For that reason I would like the Liberal Party room to engage in the development of the bill so as to ensure that it provides maximum protection for the practice of religion.   Any wording on religious protection should not just provide lip service or permit just ordained clergy from conscientious objection.  Rather it must protect the right of every citizen to practice their religion, schooling, careers and places of worship in a manner that does not violate their religious principles.

What the gay marriage legislation and religious protection won’t ensure is polite conversation.   Anyone who has read online comments knows that we don’t have that at the moment.   Hurtful comments and statements have been made by people on both sides of the marriage debate.  Enacted legislation won’t change that.

Once the gay marriage bill with religious protection goes to parliament with a conscience vote, there are two possible outcomes.   The Bill may be defeated.  If that is the case, then this will be the second time in three years that a bill to legislate gay marriage in Australia has failed.   If the bill passes both the lower and upper house, then we have gay civil marriage in Australia with enshrined religious protections.    That is not to say that those religious protections won’t be challenged or changed in the future, but it is far better to have a bill with those protections in there, than one that does not.

Conclusion and Encouragement

So with all that being said, we live in rapidly changing times.   None of us know the future, but we know the One who controls the future, because He is already there. So let’s not cease praying.  If you are concerned, seek comfort in the Creator.  Personally, we still have the right to model God ordained marriages in our own lives.   One day, the ultimate marriage of Christ to His Church will occur.   That will be the marriage to end of marriages and it will usher in the ultimate time of heavenly, wedded bliss.   Live in that reality and that will put in perspective current earthly events.

Blessings,

JC

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Jumping the Shark with the Duggars http://teaminfocus.com.au/jumping-the-shark-with-the-duggars/ http://teaminfocus.com.au/jumping-the-shark-with-the-duggars/#comments Thu, 04 Jun 2015 23:37:37 +0000 http://teaminfocus.com.au/?p=17419 Duggar FamilyIt is the story that just will not go away.   The story of Josh Duggars teenage actions keeps spinning off more and more new stories.   Much like they kept on having more children, it has us asking, ‘When will it all stop’?

Maybe we are fascinated with them because of their TV series or maybe their standards resonate with some aspects of our upbringing.  But there is no denying that the legend of the Duggars keeps growing.

Now the story of the Duggars is hitting mainstream media in Australia.   As is usually the case with the media – which is increasingly becoming tabloid quality –  stories are crafted for ‘click-bait’ reasons.   Yet, we often fall for the bait, by sharing a story, collecting comments and passing judgement, all in a matter of hours.  The online world tends to operate as judge, jury and executioner all before any due process has been followed.

So, when it comes to the Duggars, sane reaction is increasing becoming hard to find.   Most reaction falls into one of two extremes.

1. On the one hand there are those who will blindly defend them and their actions because they believe they could not have possibly done something wrong.  People who hold this view often fear that if the Duggars’ fall from grace, then their ‘sacred cows (standards or theology) are at risk.   This reaction has not found much airtime online, but is more likely to be found in personal conversation in a church environment.  To be honest some of the media’s spin has fanned these fears such as trying to link everyone who is pro-life to the Duggars.

2. At the other end of the spectrum, there are those who assume the worst about them – to the point of even saying that the victims own testimony is fake or a lie.  Sadly, it is this second reaction that is common online due to its viral nature.   Introduced as concern for standing up for the victims, some of it has now morphed into slandering everyone and anyone remotely related to them or who shared a common belief or standard.  I have come to expect this reaction from the world, but sadly, I am also seeing this reaction on ‘Christian’s profiles and blogs’.

As Christians we are called to a higher standard than the world and we must consider if this standard has been met.    Once we start labelling everyone who hold stricter standards than us as ‘abusive’, then we really have jumped the shark.  I’ve no doubt that everyone has a different experience and many people have suffered abuse within their family environments.  But we don’t do our own experience justice by casting aspersions on to other families whom we personally do not know.

By all means, let’s stand up for abused victims.  But let’s not re-abuse the victims by portraying online as them as liars.   Satan loves to feed on Christians via false accusations.   Contributing to an online lynch mob is not justice.   I grew up in a world when their was the presumption of innocence while due diligence was conducted.   Why has that gone out the window?   Researching the facts is not an old fashioned principle, it is a Biblical principle.

Proverbs 18:13 “Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” (NLT)

Two of the Duggar girls will speak on Friday (Saturday our time).   Let’s hear them before we judge the situation.  Let’s live like Christians online and let’s lift our game.

Blessings

– JC

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God’s Heart for Community http://teaminfocus.com.au/gods-heart-for-community/ http://teaminfocus.com.au/gods-heart-for-community/#respond Mon, 20 Apr 2015 01:12:10 +0000 http://teaminfocus.com.au/?p=17371 heartforcommunityFrom the very beginning of time, God purposefully designed and destined us for interrelationships.     In Genesis 1:26, we have the first glimpse of God (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) determining to create mankind when he said ‘Let us make man in our own own image’  And God did not just create man to display his power, he created Adam to have a direct relationship with him.

 

As primary as our individual relationship with God is, God also created us for other relationships.   Still in creation, God said that it is not good for man to be alone.   In Genesis 2:18, God said that It is not good for man to be alone.   I will make a helper suitable to him.   For man he created a female helpmeet.   He then instructed Adam and Eve to reproduce and form new family units.   God defined and established marriage and the family for the purposes of community – to address loneliness and fulfill His purposes for the earth.

 

It is not just the genetic family unit that God designed for community.   In Genesis 15, God made a covenant with Abraham and birthed the nation of Israel.   The majority of the Old Testament is a record of God dealing with the community of his chosen people, the nation of Israel.   While God continues to relate to people individually, it is fascinating to observe how God interacts with people groups through blessing and cursings, laws and instructions.

 

As we move on to the New Testament, we see that God establishes a new community of people – his church – the bride of Christ. Again, this new community does not replace our direct relationship with God, our spouse, or our family. Neither does it replace God’s promises to Israel. But this new community of God’s people is the largest and most diverse community yet.   The church – which includes the fellowship that we are a part of today – is more than just one people group or nation. The church is made up of Jews and Gentiles, black and white, male and female, adults and children. It is not defined by a building or location.   In fact God says that where-ever 2 or 3 meet together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.   So in a very real way – church is more than 1 hour on a Sunday.   It is all of our interactions with those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ as their Redeemer.

 

As so throughout the New Testament, God documents his plans and purposes for the church.   The very definition of church is ‘an assembly of called out people’. We are to be called out from the world in terms of our priorities and the way that we live – in holiness and dedication to God.   We are to be a community of peculiar people. There should be an observable difference in the actions of a Christian compared to a non-Christian. Being a called out people means that we have a new worldview. We now understand right and wrong from God’s perspective, not the world’s perspective.   And so being called out does not translate into moving to a monastery or remote mountain.   As we learned last week, we are also given the Great Commission to share the gospel, make disciples and teach other Christians to observe all the things that God commands.

 

You may have heard of the term – to be in the world but not of the world.   That aptly describes how we as a church community should live.   Yet the church is not designed to live on earth forever.   As the bride of Christ, we are waiting for our groom – Jesus Christ to return for us – and take us to heaven for the ‘marriage supper of the Lamb’.   Heaven is our destination and as we meditate on that it will positively impact how we live life as pilgrims on this earth.

 

But we live in interesting times.   For the past 500 years, the western world has experienced a lot of freedom to see the church grow. But the western world in now increasingly post-Christian and public support for Christian values is falling away quickly.   In other parts of the world, the church is experiencing even worse persecution. The daily evidence of this antagonism should not cause us to lose faith or despair. In fact, our faith should be strengthened because God predicted such a falling away. In His sovereignty, none of this is a surprise to God.   God told us that there would be increasing apostasy – before He returns.  2 Thess 2:3   The fact that we worship a Sovereign God who is preparing real and physical home for us in heaven is meant to strengthen and encourage us through difficult times.

 

Hebrew 10:25 exhorts us to ‘Not give up on the habit of meeting together, but in contrast, it says that we should meet together more frequently with believers for the purpose of encouragement as we see the Day of the Lord approaching.

 

The Day of the Lord is the return of Jesus Christ – His second coming.   His return appears to be closer than it ever has been. Our response is to not only watch for it personally, but corporately as a church, we need to be meeting with each other more and more regularly for encouragement in the lead up to His return.   It is that communion that will help us stand strong, faithful, and firm in the world.

 

And so as we are meeting together today, let me finish by encouraging you with the reality of our church destination. I sometimes think we can lose sight of the concrete nature of God and heaven.   The busyness of this world and lure of possessions can distract us.   But heaven is real.   It is a physical place. It exists just as much as you and I are here today.   Just as the first creation was real, so will the new creation be real.  It will be our eternal community. When I walk out on freshly cut grass and smell the smell, and feel it between my toes, I like to remind myself that heaven will be that real too.   And our Redeemer is real too.   Jesus is not just a historical figure, He is still King of the Universe and is in the final stages of preparing for the reception of his bride – us – the church.

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Freedom of Speech, Censorship, and the Gospel http://teaminfocus.com.au/freedom-of-speech-censorship-and-the-gospel/ http://teaminfocus.com.au/freedom-of-speech-censorship-and-the-gospel/#comments Sun, 08 Feb 2015 07:02:21 +0000 http://teaminfocus.com.au/?p=12684 Note: I first started writing this post over 2 years ago, but never published it.  Since the advent of the Charlie Hebdo massacre and subsequent hot debates about cartoon depictions, religious expression, and equating Christian and Muslim extremism, I have decided to finish and post it. 

offensive symbolsPrinciples of Free Speech

One of the great ‘principles’ of the Free World is ‘Freedom of Speech’.    I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it’ is a famous quote often attributed to the secular French Voltaire.  The idea is that freedom of speech (or religious liberty) is not about everyone believing the same things, but rather about everyone respecting each other’s individual right towards choosing their beliefs.  

After the Paris massacres, the application of Voltaire’s quote and the topic of censorship is increasingly questioned in secular France.  Most mainstream media organisations chose not to reprint the Mohammed cartoons.   I am not sure why Islamists react so violently to depictions of their prophet.  Maybe it has something to do with how insecure they are.  The Bible has similar prohibitions of depicting graven images of its God, but Bible believers are not rampaging through the streets over cartoons.   However, en masse, the combined Muslim threat is ushering in new waves of self-censorship.  For example, Facebook is proactively removing posts and pages in Turkey that depict Mohammed, so as to prevent their entire site from being shut down.   So, it seems the application of Voltaire’s principle has now found some limits. 

Over in the USA, when the freedom of speech principle is applied to religion, the first amendment of the US Constitution says

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”

Within America the principle of Freedom of Speech use to be nearly universally accepted.   As America became a leader in sending Christian missionaries around the globe, the idea of freedom of speech seemed go alongside the gospel proclamation. Yet as America moves away from Christ’s teaching, so is it increasingly questioning the ‘Free Speech’.

Typically, the question goes, ‘Does Free Speech include the ‘Right to offend’?”  The phrase ‘right to offend’ is a loaded one, because ‘offence’ is determined by the hearer, not the messenger.   Putting aside, that I fully acknowledge that some messengers can be obnoxious in the way they communicate (Christians, Jews, Muslims, Athiests or otherwise), the key point is that ‘being offended’ is a response to communication, not the communication itself.   As such, accusing someone of offending, becomes are solid foundation for launching a successful ‘Shoot the Messenger’ counter-attack.   Increasingly the ‘fear of being labeled offensive’ has implications for Christians who want to remain faithful in proclaiming the gospel.  Let’s explore:

 

Why would the Gospel Offend?

When understanding that the gospel means good news, it may seem odd that anyone would take offence at that.   I mean, ‘Who doesn’t like receiving ‘Good News’.’   However, the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is a specific message in two parts.  The first part is that we are all sinners – by birth and in deed.  The second part is that Jesus died to provide redemption to all.  This second part is Good News as it solves the problem we have in the first part.  While the reality is we can’t separate the gospels into parts, by en large most Evangelicals try to spend more time on the solution (Jesus) than the problem (our sin).  Yet, the true gospel is predicated on each of us agreeing with God about our sin – our personal specific sin.  In theological terms, we know this agreement as ‘repentance’ – or changing our mind about our sin to match what God says about our sin.  See Matthew 3:2, Mark 1:15,  Luke 13:3, Mark 6:12, Acts 2:38 and Act 17:30 for we can’t have the gospel without repentance.

So if the Christian is to faithfully proclaim the gospel (and not a truncated, false gospel), then it is necessary to preach repentance.  And here is lies the rub.  The first part of the gospel will not be well received.   Repentance is a dirty word in today’s climate.  Let us not forget, Jesus was offensive:

  • “He [Jesus] is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them. – 1 Peter 2:8
  • “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense”  Romans 9:33

Jesus became so intolerable, that he was killed for proclaiming the gospel.  He told us as his disciples that we would suffer similar persecution.   The biographies of all of his 1st generation disciples bear that out.   We as 2nd+ generation disciples should also expect to suffer for faithfully standing for the gospel.   Those of us who have lived in the relatively peaceful West in the last 200 years have lived in a time of history that is an aberration, rather than the norm.   We need to prepare to re-oriente our expectations towards persecution.  Jesus set our expectations when he said, “You will be hated because of My name” Matthew 10:22.

As you read this, Christians in the Middle East are experiencing physical persecution, and the same persecution could come our way within a few years.   I wish I could right a post that would say that the world would love you and welcome Christians with open arms, but our Lord told us in John 15:18, that the world hated Him and by extension they will hate us.

So how do we respond to these sobering prophecies?  We do have a choice and there is a right answer.

 

What choices to Christians have? 

1. We self-censor our speech, posts and gospel proclamation.   The implications for that are huge, both for us and the world who needs Jesus.

2. We faithfully proclaim and stand for the true gospel.  Our immediate comfort and well-being may be in jeopardy, but the eternal rewards will forever dwarf any persecution.

 The years ahead do not appear to be easy for followers of Jesus.  But the fact that our Lord has faithfully predicted this should give us comfort that he knows and controls the future.   Let us remind and encourage one another of the physical, literal and imminent reality of heaven and Jesus.   That will help us endure the tough times.   Let us pray that Jesus will strength us and our fellow believers who are enduring hate and persecution.   And finally, let us grow more deeply in love with Jesus so that when we are confronted with a choice about affirming or denying Jesus, that it really is no choice for us at all.

– Blessings

JC

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Only 1 in 10 Christian rock bands believe in God http://teaminfocus.com.au/only-1-in-10-christian-rock-bands-believe-in-god/ http://teaminfocus.com.au/only-1-in-10-christian-rock-bands-believe-in-god/#respond Sat, 21 Jun 2014 21:44:10 +0000 http://teaminfocus.com.au/?p=16587 lambiss   Many Christian rockers are atheists who are faking their faith in God to sell records in the lucrative Christian market.

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Activist vs. Pacifist http://teaminfocus.com.au/activist-vs-pacifist/ http://teaminfocus.com.au/activist-vs-pacifist/#comments Mon, 02 Jun 2014 06:45:27 +0000 http://teaminfocus.com.au/?p=15864 “For we battle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and power, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” – Ephesians

pacifist_141090660Working out our salvation with fear and trembling means that each of us needs to earnestly seek God as to what it means for us to be His follower in the location, and time frame and circumstances that he has placed us.   Just as no two snowflakes are alike, so no two Christians are alike.   God has created each of us with unique gifts, strengths, personalities.  In His sovereignty, He has placed us into selected family and country situations.   Each of us was born for such a time as He believes is most fitting.   Therefore, it is not possible for each of us to know categorically how another Christian should strategically respond to the battle we fight against our common enemy – the devil and his demons.

A key question for me is how do we battle?

  • Some Christians are built as warriors who  designed to stand in confronting combat with ideas
  • Some Christians are built as medics who nurse the injured back to health
  • Some Christians are guerrilla fighters who strategically engage when the time is right.
  • Some Christians are built for the foundational support of prayer and distribution.

The common thread is that we are all engage in the war for the hearts and minds of the souls of this world.

To often we take pot-shots (friendly fire) at our own team, without respecting that we are on the same side and fighting a common enemy.   Taking a lesson from when Gideon defeated the Midianites because they turned on each other, it would be a shame if we let the devil gain ground because we took down our own.

So, in this spiritual war, we are all called to be activists, but the roles we perform will all be slightly different.

Blessings

-JC

 

Truth is not determined by which ‘worldview’ wins or loses.  However that is defined.

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Don’t Be Evil http://teaminfocus.com.au/dont-be-evil/ http://teaminfocus.com.au/dont-be-evil/#respond Fri, 30 May 2014 06:00:47 +0000 http://teaminfocus.com.au/?p=16482 google-dr-evilRecent revelations by Edward Snowden have revealed the extent to which governments (through the NSA) are using the internet to spy on us.   The transactions we conduct and posts we make are collected to profile our thoughts and actions.

While I am at it, let me give a big ‘shout out’ to Tony Abbott and Barak Obama as they read this blog.  :)  I want you to both know that Jesus loves you and died for your sins.

At one level, the argument is made, ‘If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear’.  and ‘As Christians we should be an open book’.

On the other side of the spectrum is the discernment argument which notes that, ‘Innocent information today can be used to frame us tomorrow’.  and  ‘Big data and big government eerily sounds like Revelation 12‘.

Without trying to be a Luddite, technology simply puts the desires of our hearts on steroids.  Companies will use Big Data to make more sales, and grow their profits (greed).   Government will use big data to engineer social policy (control).  Individuals will use Big Data for all sorts of motives.  As we move further down the path into a post-modern, post-Christian world, it follows that collective desires of society will progress towards evil rather than good.  As followers of Christ, each of us needs to work out to what degree we will use technology.  Some of us will take a ‘whatever’ attitude and trust all things to God.  Others will withdraw more as their consciences are incompatible with an increasingly hostile tech society.

The overall direction of society is outside of our sphere of control (excluding divine intervention through prayer).  however, each of us can decide the degree to which we will interact with society through technology.  Using technology is not intrinsically evil or good, but the effect of technology engagement of us and those we interact with could be.   Short of ‘taking the mark of the beast’ (which btw is a spiritual allegiance as much as a technology function), we should accept that Christians will vary in how they adopt new technologies.

My suggestion is that we prayfully consider the benefit of tech habits and interactions, being mindful that our hearts are evil.   I am also reminded that heaven is a literal place, not a virtual place.  So I personally will place an emphasis on building face to face relationships, in preparation for  eternity beyond the cyber-world.

Blessings

– JC

 

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The BIG Picture http://teaminfocus.com.au/the-big-picture/ http://teaminfocus.com.au/the-big-picture/#respond Sun, 18 May 2014 05:40:43 +0000 http://teaminfocus.com.au/?p=16478 Tell_Kashish_9In 2008, I had the great privilege to travel to Israel.   Obviously as a Christian, a trip to the Holy Land was significant to me because of the chance to visit locations I have read about in the Bible.  However, one unexpected impact that hit me was number of generations that have lived in the Middle East.

Having grown up in Australia where civilisation in urban cities is only 200 years old, I had not been exposed to the extent of history, life and death, that exist in the Middle East.   When I arrived in Israel, I saw dozens of mountains called ‘Tel(l)s’ rising above the plains.   Tels are a type of archaeological mound created by human occupation and abandonment of a geographical site over many centuries. A classic tell looks like a low, truncated cone with a flat top and sloping sides  Wikipedia Definition

Many tels were the result of a city being built and destroyed 25 times over dozens of generations.  Looking at these tells I was impacted by each one as they represented life and death of hundreds of thousands of people down through the ages.  I often think about how Jesus shed His blood for everyone in the world.  On the surface, I think of the 7 billion people who reside on the earth at the moment.  However, Jesus died for everyone in all times.   Seeing a visual marker of these cities over time allowed me to view Jesus love for the world in a new and greater dimension.

The world Jesus loved and died for is far bigger that we often imagine.   Consequently God’s love and power is often far bigger than we often imagine.   So when we get overwhelmed by our daily pressures, current events or just the mundane duties of life, step back and look at the Bigger Picture.   It will lift you up and bring you into a greater awe and wonder of our God and Saviour.

Blessings

– JC

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When Not to Blog http://teaminfocus.com.au/when-not-to-blog/ http://teaminfocus.com.au/when-not-to-blog/#comments Sat, 03 May 2014 03:50:57 +0000 http://teaminfocus.com.au/?p=16469 blogsIt may be ironic that I am using a blog to write this, but the rise of the blogger has felled some big giants recently.

  • – In April, liberal blogger outrage forced the resignation of the CEO of Mozilla for a private political donation he made.
  • – In March, a disgruntled alumni of PCC made as yet un-substatiated claims of sexual abuse cover-up.  The claims went viral
  • – Last year, Mark Driscoll caused outrage with a twitter / gate crash stunt at the Strange Fire conference.  He has now gone on a social media fast

It is not my intention to comment on the specifics of above cases, (there is enough of that on the net already).   My intention is to ask us to think when is it appropriate to publish online?    With micro-blogging from mobiles being the most common form of publication, it is to be expected that we publish before we think.

However, for the Christian, this should not be.  Proverbs instructs us that we should be slow to speak and slow to anger. I am not saying there is not a time for speaking publicly through online means, but those times should be used wisely.   It’s a bit like drinking alcohol.  When it is used without control, it is dangerous to both the consumer and those in their vicinity.

As a society, we seem drunk on trending controversy and social media power.  As individuals we can get our 15 minutes of fame within 15 minutes if we create a spark with a blog, post or tweet.

But what is our motive in publishing?   It is to cause shame or bring us fame?

We should ask ourselves are series of questions before we publish?   Who are we trying to reach when we publish?  Is an open and public forum the best way to communicate this topic to my desired audience?   If I name people in my post, will I be ashamed when and if I meet then face to face?

Like all our communication, blogging for the glory of God is a skill.   I dare say it is a skill that is not widely possessed.  I would like to encourage all of us to deliberately think about how and when and what we post?

Blessings

-JC

 

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