Michael Slater blames Steve Waugh and Adam Gilchrist for dropping him

Cricinfo has a rather disturbing news item about Michael Slater's upcoming autobiography. Apparently in the book he blames Waugh and Gilchrist for being dropped from the Australian side.

If the cricinfo article is correct (and I hope it isn't), it appears as though Waugh originally attacked Slater for being "disorganized" and "more interested in commentary (work)". Once he was dropped, Slater asserts that the real reason was based upon his marriage breakdown and subsequent divorce.

That's right - Slater was dropped because he and his wife broke up.

My memory of the incident is rather clear. Slater started the 2001 Ashes series with a wonderful 77 off 82 balls at Edgbaston. After that, the runs dried up. After 4 Tests he had scored 170 runs at 24.28 - that's 170 runs more than what I would have scored, but not enough to justify his place in the Team. Justin Langer replaced him and the rest is history.

Marriage problems led him to be dropped? On that basis alone Shane Warne should have been dumped at least 10 years ago. The reason why he was dropped was pure and simple - he was not scoring enough runs.

I will always remember Michael Slater as an exciting batsman whose personal life was a struggle. I'm hoping that someone has misread his new book in making this report. If what I have described is part of his book, then there will be tears....

From the One Salient Sporting Life Department

That Newcastle Church - another report

Early this month I posted a critique of a church I visited in Newcastle in April 2004. I forgot to mention that I had actually written two reports - one each for the two sundays I visited. The report I posted was actually the second report, while the following is the first one. It's a bit more positive and should give a better understanding of the conflicting feelings I have towards contemporary Pentecostal and Charismatic churches.

Initial impressions

I turned up to the service late, fearing there to be way too much singing for me to bear before I actually heard any teaching. Initially I felt that this was a wise move, although in hindsight it would have been better to read the lyrics of the songs they sang and heard any praying.

The building is quite new and is in the process of being renovated to add an upper story at the back of the building - although I only noticed this when looking. The building is superbly soundproofed and probably needs to be because of its location in a residential area - I'm certain their neighbours would complain of any undue noise. As it was, I only heard a very dull sound of drums when I arrived in the carpark.

The congregation numbered about 200 to 250 - large for Newcastle but about the same size as I experienced at St Paul's Carlingford during the 1990s. Given this experience I was a bit surprised that the congregation appeared so "small". During the praise time people were raising hands and doing the whole Charismatic thing, but it was not done en masse and many stood with their hands by their sides or in their pockets. Some were even sitting down during singing.

The congregation was young - by this I mean between 18-25 years old. There may have been younger people but I didn't see them. There was a spattering of older people in the congregation and there was nothing too "youthy" about the service to put these people off. It was informal - to a point - but it was not aimed too hard at young adults, which was good.

The Preacher - DJ

Within 5 minutes of me entering the music stopped and DJ got up to preach. I wasn't too pleased with DJ putting on a "spiritual voice" as the music wound down and the congregation were swaying with their eyes closed - I think this practice is manipulative and not what God wants in his church. To be fair, though, it was not kept going for too long.

DJ is an American aged somewhere in his forties. Despite this it appears he has the respect of the mainly young congregation. He pronounces Isaiah wrongly, but all Americans do this. He was neither too American nor too "try-hard" in being an Aussie. What we saw is what we got, and that was good.

The first thing which occured was a seemingly spontaneous activity. In front of the stage there is a baptismal area, which was called "the pond". DJ asked the congregation if they'd give $5.00 for a member of the congregation - SQ - to jump in the pond fully clothed, with the proceeds going to "Camp Revolution", an upcoming youth camp that many of the congregation were going to. Hands were raised and 62 people offered $5.00 for SQ to jump in the pond which she naturally did. It appears that this event was pre-arranged since DJ mentioned that she had talked about it with him earlier. SQ was also a Church leader since DJ mentioned that she had to lock up the church when everyone had gone, which was problematic since she now had very damp clothes. I wasn't too sure if this was just some cheap extra-revenue raising event or just a bit of fun. I could see such an event happening during church service for younger people and being appropriate. I'll have to give them the benefit of the doubt on this one.

Speaking of money, because I turned up to the service late I wasn't there for any collection - if any happened at all. Money and giving were not touched on at all during the evening as far as I can see - except the SQ wetting experience.

A quick note about the stage. All the musicians occupied the stage (Female drummer, two guitarists, bass player, keyboardist and a male vocalist who couldn't be heard at all - one of the guitarists was the "worship leader"). When DJ came to preach he took a music stand and then began to preach from the floor level rather than the stage. I don't know why this was the case. Maybe it was a communication technique designed to symbolize the preacher being equal to the congregation. Maybe it was designed to symbolize the preaching of God's word as being subservient to and less important than the music worship. Maybe DJ has a sore neck and hates looking down for long periods. It seemed strange - I'd like to know the reason.

Before he began teaching, DJ spoke about how important it is that Easter not become a "Tradition" in the church. This was something people in the congregation seemed to like. He then went on to say that Jesus being God and that he rose from the grave were not "Traditions" either. Obviously he was referring to man-made traditions as opposed to the historical Christian faith that is sometimes expressed in the word "tradition".

DJ started off by talking about the series on Colossians he had been preaching through. It was nice to know that he was preaching through Bible passages, but I would like to have heard his content in order for me to be really happy about this. Before his Sermon began, he opened up the floor for anyone who had questions about the Christian faith that had arisen as a result of the Colossians series.

It was stroke of pure luck and the infinite sovereignty of God that DJ spent most of his time clarifying the Bible's teaching on the Trinity. During this question and answer time he was assertive and informative, but not manipulative nor controlling. He has obviously done some theological training because this came through in his answers to the questions.

The first question concerned whether or not the Trinity was a biblical teaching. He summarized the Bible's teaching well and quoted verses that supported this. They were not verses picked from the air or taken out of context. This comforted me because DJ had obviously seen these verses as important for Christian Doctrine.

There was one answer that concerned me. Someone asked about whether the Trinity had some form of hierarchy, and if so did that mean that there was some inequality in the Godhead? DJ answered this by saying that there is no hierarchy in the Trinity and no inequality in the Trinity. This pricked up my ears because this issue had been raised in the latest Briefing where Robert Doyle asserted quite strongly that the economic Trinity was a reflection of the true Trinity - that of the Son being eternally submissive to the Father and the Spirit being eternally submissive to the Father and the Son, and yet this not impinging upon their equality within the Godhead, and not just the case when it comes to salvation. The idea that Christ is now sitting at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 1.3) seems to indicate a permanent hierarchy as being a Biblical situation. DJ's expression of Trinitarian belief does not reflect this eternal nature of the Trinity, saying that there is no hierarchy in the Trinity. This is not to say that DJ is guilty of Arianism (which denied that Jesus was God because he was subject to the rule of the Father and therefore not equal with God) but it does suggest the possibility of Modalism - whereby the one God is represented in three different ways. This can be intimated as such when he answered a question about God the Father rejecting God the Son on the cross. He essentially stated that God could not look upon himself, then went on to say how confusing the doctrine of the Trinity was to our puny minds.

If DJ does, indeed, hold to Biblically-based Trinitarian views, then this was not fully expressed in the Q & A session. He did not talk about the distinction between the three persons of the Godhead because he spent most of his time disussing their unity and equality. It may be that DJ is a closet Modalist, but nothing he said tonight can point to this in any definite way. Until that time, I will have to give him the benefit of the doubt, although doubt still remains.

DJ answered two questions about Hell. What came through was his conviction that all those who have Jesus as their saviour are saved while those who do not have Jesus as saviour are headed to Hell. During this question time he was also asked a question about "Soul Sleep" in which he gave a thoroughly Biblical response (we go to be with Christ and experience time - not those words exactly but he explained as such) . He spoke of the general Resurrection in a way that stated that we would not receive our Resurrection bodies even when Jesus returned, but only when Satan was finally defeated. This was strong evidence of a premillennial eschatology.

He also answered a question about how we can know we are growing as Christians. I was too busy trying to grapple with his comments on the Trinity to take too much notice, but I did hear him say that it is sometimes others that notice our growth rather than ourselves. As I began to put aside questions of the Trinity I was comforted by his statements that he himself found it a difficult process and that he and Jesus had a lot of work to do. This was a comforting thing to say because it meant that he not only identified with his audience in terms of sinfulness, but he also strongly implied that the Christian life was one in which sin was always being fought against, which means that any teaching about sinless perfectionism as a result of the work of the Spirit was not present in his belief.

DJ also pointed out that Christians in heaven have some sort of difference in reward based upon their lives here on earth. This is an unpopular teaching but I think has a great deal of Biblical backing, and so I was pleased to hear it. The congregation seemed to accept it without any problems.

The result of these questions, in my mind, indicated that DJ has a higher-than-average knowledge of the scriptures and, Trinitarian and eschatalogical views notwithstanding, has a well thought out theology that can possibly be described as semi-evangelical. He is certainly no Scripture ignorant preacher who takes verses out of context.

He then launched into a sermon based on Galatians 2.20 - I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself up for me. (ESV. Not the translation he used)

He used this verse because he was concerned that we need to apply the teaching of Colossians (whatever it was) to our lives. He spoke of how important it was that we live godly lives, and that people see Jesus in us. This is important because when we live lives contrary to our faith then people are presented with a false Jesus. He then went on to discuss his high-school life in the USA where he was a teenager during the late 60s and early 70s. His parents seem to be very conservative Christians, and pretty much forced him to have a conservative hairstyle to those long haired hippies. But he was determined to go his own way and he would change his clothes and hair when he went to school. But his behaviour was such that members of his own church who he went to school with asked him not to tell people that he went to their church - so disturbed were they at his behaviour.

At this point I was in agreement with a lot of what DJ said. Now comes the concerning part. He spoke of the USA as a nation that was born out of revolution - that people died and all sorts of horrible things happened, but that was the basis of the country's existence. He then applied that to the Christian life - that the only way to change is to have continual life-changing revolutions in our lives. This means a daily revolution. He then spoke of the youth camp coming up - Camp Revolution - and then used this as an example of how important it is to prepare for this as God will revolutionize people's lives.

The idea of a second baptism in the Holy Spirit was, I think, not in view here. (In fact, for a church that has a great deal of Pentecostal influences, the Holy Spirit was not mentioned much at all!). It does, however, seem to point to a faith that can only grow and change by some form of continual re-commitment, some sort of subjective life-changing experience that has to happen often if the Christian is to grow. And this is not something that happens to just some people, it is a revolution that should be experienced by all people who call themselves Christians.

Now while I believe that God uses tense situations in a person's life to revitalize their faith, the idea that this should be expected, encouraged and experienced regularly by Christians is something that is foreign to me. I believe that God can also work slowly, and that a person's Christian life can change over a long period of time, and that "revolutions" don't necessarily need to happen often in order for people to become more Christ-like. I cannot, at this present moment, think of any Biblical support for this idea. It was a very strong emphasis in the sermon, and yet it is not present in the passage from Galatians that he preached from.

The only theory I can think of is that DJ has mistaken conversion for sanctification - that the process of conversion (often made with subjective feelings and a sense of revolution) should actually continue in the life of the Christian. That somehow the "feeling" of joy and the desire to serve God that is fresh in the experience of the new convert can only be maintained if we all continue having these fresh experiences. In this sense, we are not baptised with the Holy Spirit twice, but over and over again each time we have our own personal revolution. (Note: DJ said nothing of the Baptism of the Spirit - what I have just said is my own take on what was being taught).

DJ then went on to emphasize the idea that our godliness depends upon our choice to do it. "I choose to put off the bad things of my life. And I choose to put on the good things. The only way that Jesus can work in me is if I choose to let him" (Note: not an accurate quote). This sort of teaching strongly implies that DJ, and the church as a whole, is Arminian. While Arminian theology is not a massively huge problem by itself, this specific teaching does pose the great risk that our trust is in ourselves and our work rather than in Christ and in what Christ has done. It was at this point that I realised what was missing in the sermon - any mention of Christ and Christ's work on the cross.

DJ did not at any point explain the message of the gospel - the message of Christ crucified and risen again. He did not explain what Jesus did on the cross when he died. He did not talk about the substitutionary atonement. He did not speak about the Resurrection in the context of the forgiveness that we have gained through God's grace. To be fair, he did speak of those who trusted Jesus as their saviour having the hope of heaven while those who do not as heading to hell. He did speak quickly about how Christ takes away our sins and means God will judge us to be innocent when we face him (both this and the former statement were present in the initial question time). The final song did mention that Jesus died on the cross "for our shame". But, to be totally honest, the message of the Cross was not explicit in the sermon. Instead the focus was upon being godly, based upon what we had to do, upon the revolutionary experiences we had to undergo in order to live a life that pleased God.

I am of the firm belief that the message of the Bible is about God acting to save his people through his Son, Jesus Christ. Therefore any sermon that is based upon a verse or passage of the Bible should have this as its prime importance. I'm not saying that we ignore what the Bible specifically says in one verse and simply impose the message of the cross everytime we preach - but I am saying that any faithful Biblical expositor should bring out the direct message of the text being explained, and how that teaching fits in with the message of the gospel as a whole. If this is not done - if the text is explained without the gospel - then something is seriously wrong in the message being preached, and, to be brutally honest, the preacher himself.

By not preaching the gospel from the verse, DJ not only prevented God's power of salvation to work properly through the verse, but added to it the burden of works - of focusing upon what we have to do in order to be godly, rather than upon what God has done for us in Christ. This sort of teaching is not especially Arminian, but is common among Pentecostalism - that we somehow need a bit more of God every day in order to live the godly life. Reformed Evangelicals know that we don't need more of God - he is omnipresent so we have as much of him as He wants us to have. We don't have to focus upon our works, we focus upon the work of Christ as the basis by which our good works emanate from. We don't focus upon our own subjective experience of revolutionary faith, we focus upon the objective work of God in bring Christ to earth as the propitiation for our sins. We don't focus upon what God can't do unless we let him, we focus upon what God does despite our sin.

It is this part of DJ's teaching that has serious flaws and makes me believe that all is not well at BCC. The preaching of the gospel is so important to the life of the church and tonight that gospel was not preached. I believe that when the gospel is ignored or changed in a church, then Satan is at work. It is this area that gives me most concern.

Strongly implied in what DJ said throughout the night was the idea that when we truly hold onto our faith - when we keep going through these revolutions - then God will bless us. However, the context of this form of blessing is to be found in our lives now, and there appears to be strong evidence that such blessings will result in happiness. When DJ preached, he spoke of how "We are shining examples of what our lives are like" and that "If you want to live a full and happy life, we need to look at ourselves". The implication of this teaching is that godliness leads to happiness and some form of self-actualization whereby we lead the lives that God meant us to lead through our continual love and obedience. This, and the fact that the BCC website contains links to a number of Christian organisations that promote health, wealth and prosperity, is evidence that, not only has the church begun to ignore the importance of the gospel, they have also added to it in the form of prosperity.

So if I summarise the teaching together, it is this. We are responsible for our godliness. We have to let Jesus work in our lives, and we have to go through some form of continual revolution for this to happen. The result of this godly living is happiness and, strongly implied, self-actualization and prosperity. To be fair, DJ did not explicitly say this - he did not say that God wants you to be happy, healthy and rich - but this idea could be extrapolated through the basic parts of his teaching. Also present was the idea of changing the world - that we can change the world if this sort of thing goes on.

When DJ finished his sermon he prayed. During this prayer he called upon anyone present who needed to make some form of commitment to put their hands up. I can't remember his exact words, but I am absolutely certain that he was speaking here about Christians who needed to do it rather than anyone who was an unbeliever who wanted to become a Christian. All I can remember is that he mentioned something about Christians coming forward. Now why should they come forward? "To gain a full and abundant life" said DJ. So here was a guy asking Christians to come forward so that they can be prayed over and counselled in order to gain a full and adundant life. Now I do have problems with this as well. It seems to imply that there are two sorts of Christians - the awful, yucky ones and those who want to live a full and abundant life. And how should this happen? By coming down the front and being prayed for. In the past, altar calls were made so that unbelievers could respond, but now it appears that altar calls are necessary for Christians to participate in as well. By the way, DJ did not generalise his call - he didn't say "If you're not a Christian and want to become one; or if you're a believer who needs prayer and someone to talk to; then come down now as we sing our final song". No. The call was for Christians, and the call was for them to come and be prayed over so that they may gain a full and abundant life. Now as far as I can remember, the Bible does not speak of such things - we have every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1.3). All Christians have the Holy Spirit, and all Christians have been blessed by God. We don't need anything else. Anything else is an addition to the gospel. Anything else that is promised is not what God is promising. Someone who says that God is promising such things is misrepresenting God.

The musicians then got up and played. Two people were prayed over. I was half expecting slayings since someone - wet SQ in a towel - stood behind one of them. Fortunately she was there only because one of those people who came forward was a young woman and after DJ stopped praying over her (he just prayed and did nothing else) SQ took her away to talk to her. No one was behind the guy - I guess DJ would speak to him after. What this implies is that women who need guidance and help and prayer and ministered to by women in the congregation, while men minister to men. This seems a very good idea, and the church should be commended if this is their policy.

The musicians ended the final song abruptly, the worship leader saying "have a good weekend" to everyone. They even finished before DJ had finished praying over the guy who had come up. I would have expected a more-drawn out musical ending with all sorts of emotional stuff going on. The fact that it ended abruptly was actually good from my point of view because it indicated that it was a church that was not fully focused upon excellence in musical worship. Either that or they had a bad night.

A comment about DJ's preaching style. I have heard Brian Houston from Hillsong both live and on TV. Houston tends to shout a lot and make all sorts of nonsensical pronouncements - which really grinds on me. DJ, however, was not that sort of preacher. He did not come across as "God's anointed leader" and that all who fail to follow him do so at their peril. He has an easy and friendly speaking style. He is not manipulative (save for that moment before his sermon began) and he comes across as honest and genuine. His willingness to answer questions for 15 minutes indicates his desire to teach via dialogue and explanation of the faith rather than things like indoctrination. He was assertive, but he was not imposing his power or will in any explicit way.

One more comment about songs. The church sang Christian songs that I had not heard before - but I am not surprised by that. All the songs seem to have the "Jesus is my boyfriend" feel to them, talking about how much we love "you", how much "you" mean to us, how loving "you" is the most important thing in our lives, about how "you" love us so much. No actual mention of Jesus or God as being "you", although the idea that "you came to die for our shame" couldn't really mean anything else.


After my initial examination of the November 2003 healing sermon found on their website (which was terrible and theologically dodgy), I found a church that was not as bad as I had feared, but has taken on board unbiblical teachings too easily for me to be comfortable with. I have no problem in believing that the majority of the congregation are fellow Christians and will share heaven with me. I also have no problem in believing that DJ will be in heaven with me. Additionally, I also have no problem in believing that God works at BCC, and that he works through DJ's preaching.

But as I said to someone bluntly recently, "God also worked through the Holocaust". The fact that God chooses to work in a church does not necessarily mean that God fully endorses that church. All churches are imperfect and full of hidden sins, but I do believe that there has to be a point where we say "No, this is not acceptable". BCC is an example of this.

Based upon the sermon I heard tonight from DJ, and the sermon available from their website, I still cannot, in good conscience, recommend the church as one in which Christians should go to. The reason is threefold: The lack of clear gospel in both sermons and song lyrics; the unbiblical teaching that focuses upon the need for continual recommitments and subjective "revolutions" in the Christian life in order to grow as a Christian; and the unbiblical teaching that all those who lead godly lives will receive, in this life, prosperity, happiness and self-actualization.

Fortunately, the church does not, I believe, have a preacher who is unwilling to use his mind. DJ's explanation of the Trinity to the congregation was generally good and showed his Biblical knowledge. In this area, at least, the church is reasonably orthodox. The focus upon addressing passages of the Bible in sermons is a far better situation than preaching topical or thematic sermons, although after tonight's effort I question whether DJ actually does preach from the text as it stands. Nevertheless the Bible is read and given some form of explanation. Some explanations will undoubtedly be thoroughly Biblical, so we can expect that God will work when this is done.

I believe that BCC is at a crossroads. It will either get better or it will get worse - it has the potential to do both. Unfortunately I believe it is leaning for too much towards a "worse" position than a "better" position - as I understand it the church was reasonably orthodox 5-10 years ago. If I was to put this church into a "box", I would classify it as "Semi-Pentecostal". The lack of emphasis upon the Holy Spirit, the absence of tongue-speaking and slayings in the spirit, the importance of preaching and understanding theology, all point to a church that appears to have embraced a relatively conservative form of Pentecostalism. The lack of gospel emphasis and the presence of incorrect teaching, however, precludes the church from being described as evangelical.

It is my prayer that God teaches those in the BCC leadership to understand His truth. I pray that any teachings that misrepresent God will be taken away. I pray that the subtle workings of Satan in the church will be destroyed, and that the church turns away from false teaching and embraces the true word of God. It will take a miracle for this to happen, but God has done this sort of thing before.

From the Theosalient Department

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/
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Letter to the SMH

To: Letters to the Herald (letters@smh.com.au)
Subject: Film "Stealth" panned by critics

The fact that a Hollywood "bomb" was filmed in Sydney (Aussie made movie Stealth panned in US July 31, 2005 - 1:34PM) should surpise no-one. After all, the last two "Star Wars" films were filmed there.

Neil Cameron
Waratah, NSW, 2298


1 John 1:1-4


I have to admit that I get a bit fed up with hearing people say that “things were so much better in the good old days”.
In fact, you could probably say that every generation is full of people who say that the new generation is somehow worse than theirs.

I’m not saying that things are good.
Of course the world we live in is full of terrible people and crime and corruption and murder and sin.
But it has always been like that.
When we look at the church today, we can also feel bad.
We have so called Christian leaders who have so compromised their belief that they are no different to the world around them.
Every so often we have some “new” Christian teaching that becomes fashionable,
and then fades away like some forgotten fad.

So it is of great comfort that we begin our study of 1 John.
Why comfort? Because John is dealing with a crisis in the church.
Yes, that’s right. About 1900 years ago, the apostle John, who was one of the last surviving apostles of the Christian church, was faced with a church that was going off the rails.
A new teaching had spread throughout the churches throughout the world at that time, a new teaching that radically changed the understanding of who Jesus was and what he had done.
Those who were influenced by this new teaching then sent preachers and teachers to nearby churches to spread their message.
The apostle John heard about this teaching, and concluded that it was so serious that those who believed it had actually abandoned the truth.

What we’re going to be looking at today and throughout the rest of this year are the three books that John wrote in reaction against this new teaching.
1, 2 and 3 John were written during a time of turmoil within the church
- a time when people were not sure what to believe anymore,
and a time when clear guidance was needed from those who were committed to the truth of the gospel.

Not much has changed in the last 1900 years has it?
Go into all the churches in Australia and ask the question “Who is Jesus?” and you will get many different answers.
Some churches will say that he was a great teacher.
Some churches will say that he is just a man who died for no reason whatsoever.
Some churches will say that he is the Son of God, who died and rose again.
Some churches will question whether it is necessary at all to have any understanding of who Jesus is.
It is pretty clear that there are churches that proclaim God’s truth, and there are churches that do not.
And those churches that don’t really aren’t churches at all.
And really, to fully understand God’s truth you need to understand who Jesus is.
If your understanding of Jesus is different to who he really is, then you don’t understand God’s truth.
At the heart of all heresy is a misunderstanding of who Jesus is and what he has done for us.

1 John was a circular letter.
John did not write it to any particular church, but to a group of churches.
2 John and 3 John were written to specific people, but were written around the same time as 1 John.
It’ll take us a bit of time to examine all three books
- I hope to finish sometime before Christmas
- but I think it is good to spend time going through the verses so we can understand what John is saying,
and understand what God is saying to us today.
The apostle John, like the apostle Paul, wrote some very detailed words.
So we need to understand in detail what he is saying to us today.

1. Knowing the Life (1.1)

The first point I want to make is titled “Knowing the life”,
and examines the first verse of this book.
Let me read it out

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched - this we proclaim concerning the Word of Life.

There are three things here that John tells us about Jesus.
And these three things tell us who Jesus is and what he has done for us.
Firstly, Jesus is God - he is from the beginnning.
Secondly, Jesus is human - he had a physical body that could be seen, felt and touched.
Thirdly, He is the Word of life - Jesus, both God and man, is God’s word that brings us life.

As I have already said every heresy, every distortion of the truth of Christianity starts with a misunderstanding of who Jesus is and what he did.
Even in the first century the Christian church struggled with this.
John tells us clearly though, that Jesus existed “from the beginning”.
This means that Jesus, essentially, was God.
A verse like this shows that at the beginning of the world, Jesus existed.
More than that, even before creation, Jesus existed.
This has to mean that Jesus is God.
The writer to the Hebrews states that God created the universe through Jesus.
In Genesis, God says “Let us make man in our image” - us.

Then John goes on to talk about Jesus being human.
He says that they heard him, they have seen him with their eyes, they have looked at him and their hands touched him.
Let me quickly outline this again:
They heard him, they saw him, they looked at him and they touched him.
John is basically saying that Jesus was a human being.
He wasn’t some sort of ghostly apparition or spirit being.
He was physically there.
Just like any normal person, Jesus was physical.
He had a body, just like you and me.
He had a mouth that he spoke from and people heard him.
If someone reached out his hand he would touch Jesus’ flesh.
Who was Jesus?
Jesus was human - a man who walked the earth.

Then John says that he is the “Word of Life”.
What this does is explain more about what Jesus has done.
There is no chance coincidence that the beginning of John’s Gospel starts with the phrase
“In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God”.
Jesus is the word.
Now what does this mean?
If I say to you that Neil is the preacher, you’ll understand.
So what does it mean to say that Jesus is the word?

Well obviously we need to understand exactly what “the word” is.
The Bible is the word of God, Jesus is the word of God.
This doesn’t mean that Jesus is the Bible, but it does say a lot about God and his word.
When God speaks, obviously we have to listen to his word, but his words are not just ink written on paper.
God’s word is a person - and that person is Jesus.
So if we are to understand God’s word, we have to understand Jesus.

But Jesus is “the word of life”.
In other words, Jesus as the word of God brings life.
In Genesis, God said “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds”.
God says something, and something comes to life.
Jesus as the word of life brings life to those who hear him.

Almost a year ago my wife, Anna, went into the bathroom one day.
I was sitting in the lounge room and she said “Neil, you better come and look at this”.
She showed me a urine test which suggested she was pregnant.
We then went to the doctor and she confirmed it for us too.
Now we are being woken up every night by a screaming bundle of joy.

The urine test and the doctor spoke to us.
They said - you have a life growing inside.
But the urine test didn’t create this life, nor did the doctor.
All they did was speak to us about what was already there.

Jesus is not like this.
Jesus does not confirm life - he gives life.
Jesus is the word that brings life.

Why does John start the book this way?
As I’ve said - a misunderstanding of who Jesus is and what he has done is the root of all heresy.
Notice how John spent so much time describing the physical aspects of Jesus
- they heard him, saw him, looked at him and touched him.
You see, the false teachers that John was writing against could not believe that Jesus had a physical body.
They saw him as a spiritual being, but not a physical one.
They could not handle the notion that a divine being could stoop so low as to become a physical human.

But Jesus is 100% God and 100% Human.
If Jesus was not human, he could not have been executed on the cross.
If he had not been human, he could not have taken on the sins of the world.
If he had not been human, then we would not have forgiveness and new life.
If Jesus had not been human, he could not have been the word of life.

You see, Jesus brings life
- he gives us new life if we turn to him in faith.
Jesus’ death and resurrection have provided the means by which we can have eternal life.
Why do we need life?
It is because we were dead.
Paul says in Ephesians
“Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in sin”.
Through Jesus the word of life, we who were once spiritually dead are now spiritually alive.

This is why it is so important to believe God’s truth about Jesus.
He had to be human to die for humans,
and he had to be God in order for his death to take away the sins of the world.
Jesus - both man and God - turns us from death to life by the work done upon the cross.

Our problem today is opposite to the early church.
John was attacking a heresy which said that Jesus was God but not man.
These days we are told that Jesus was just a man and not God at all.
Different heresy, same result.
If you do not believe that Jesus was God, you cannot be a Christian because you do not believe God.
And if you don’t believe this, then you are dead in your sins and you need Jesus - both God and man - to turn you from death to life.

2. Proclaiming the Life (1.2)

Knowing the life is important, but then so is proclaiming it.
The second point I want to make today is titled “proclaiming the life”,
and examines verse 2.
Let me read it to you:

The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.

Much of what John says here in verse 2 has its basis in verse 1.
The phrase “we have seen it” is again a referral to Jesus’ physical body.
Jesus, the life, appeared in human flesh - and John and the other Apostles saw him.

But John goes on to say that he testifies to this.
In other words, John is saying that he is an eyewitness.
It is as though he has put on trial for what he believes.
In fact, the word used here for testify is similar to the word “martyr” in the original language.
It does not mean that John is a martyr
- in fact I think he was the only apostle to die of old age.
But it does give us an idea of what the word means.

When John says that he testifies to this, he is saying that he actually spent time with Jesus.
He met Jesus, he spoke to Jesus, he was taught by Jesus.
Remember - John is writing this letter to repair the damage done to churches by false teaching.
In many ways he is on trial here.
And he states quite simply in this trial the facts as he knows them.

But it is more than this.
It is more than just testifying to the truth - it is a proclaiming of it.
This means that it is more than just defending what you believe against some outside influence.
It means a communication of these facts to those who do not know them.

So what we have is a three-fold process.
1) John has seen and known Jesus.
2) He is a witness to who Jesus is and what he has done.
3) He proclaims who Jesus is and what he has done to those who don’t know.

But John here does something a bit strange.
In verse one Jesus is called “The Word of Life”.
Here in verse two, Jesus is called “The Eternal Life”.
This life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life.

What is going on here?

We need to remember that John is being deliberately evasive here.
He doesn’t come right out and say “Jesus”.
Instead, he gives us some seemingly vague pointers.
Why is that?

Let me illustrate this.
Imagine a person walks into this church.
He is the man who runs this country.
The one and only prime minister.
The one elected by the people of Australia to be their leader.
The man who controls the purse strings of government
and our relations with other nations.
Who is this man?
Of course it’s John Howard.
So why didn’t I say John Howard?
Well it’s obvious that I was referring to him
- everyone here knew who I was talking about.
But I wasn’t so much focusing on him as simply a name, but his role within our society.

So when John talks about Jesus, he doesn’t say “Jesus”.
He says “that which was from the beginning”,
he says “The word of Life”, “The eternal life”.
He focuses on his character - who he is and what he has done.

Now don’t think I’m comparing Johnny Howard to Jesus
- it’s chalk and cheese isn’t it?
But what do we learn from the title given to Jesus - “the eternal life”?

It really acts as a way of further describing Jesus as God.
God is eternal - he is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end.
God is the creator and sustainer of the universe we live in, which includes time itself.
And Jesus is the life eternal - he lives eternally.

But of course Jesus gives life to those who have faith in him.
And the life he gives to us is eternal life.
Through faith in Christ, we have been saved and have been granted eternal life.

For John, Jesus was not a confusing person.
John knew who Jesus was and what he came to do.
Who was he?
John knew that Jesus was both God and man.
What did John know about his mission on earth?
He knew that Jesus came to die and rise again
so that everyone who trusts in him will have eternal life.

John saw Jesus.
He experienced Jesus directly.
He spoke to him and considered himself “the disciple that Jesus loved”.

But he more than just met him.
He acted as a witness for him.
He was willing to stand up and say exactly who Jesus was and what he had done.

But he was more than just a witness.
He actively proclaimed the message of Christ.
As a result, people came to faith and the church was begun and nurtured.
Like the other apostles, John spoke the good news, the gospel, to those who lived outside of God’s kingdom.
And as a result of his preaching, people came to faith.
People experienced salvation, they came into relationship with God through the Jesus that John preached.

In many ways, our society today is no different to that 1900 years ago.
The apostles may not be around, but there are multitudes of people who have experienced the salvation that Jesus has given them,
who are willing to testify to Jesus’ character and mission,
and who actively proclaim it.
Even today, 1900 or more years after John wrote this letter, the word of life is still being preached.

But we’re not apostles are we?
We’re not like John.
Some of us might have the gift of evangelism but the rest of us have to cope without it.
But the fact remains that if we are Christians then we have experienced Jesus.
And if we have experienced Jesus then we are witnesses to him.
And if we are witnesses to him, then we have a responsibility to proclaim to others the message of Jesus.

I spent four and half years working in a factory in Sydney many years ago.
I was fortunate, I worked a desk job.
But I tried hard to speak to my work colleagues about Jesus.
I can tell you, it was quite difficult - especially when people made fun of you for doing so.
But I was no Billy Graham.
I didn’t spend every day there speaking about God.
I had a job to do and no Christian could in good conscience ignore this fact.
After I left work there I felt very disappointed in myself.
I had spoken to people about God, but I felt as though I didn’t make the most of the opportunities that I had.

A few years after that I met one of my work colleagues at a Christian convention I was at.
He had become a Christian, largely because of a single conversation I had with him when I was at work.
In this conversation, I encouraged him to read the Bible.
After a while, he got himself a Bible and began to read it.
After a while, he started attending a local Baptist church where he heard the gospel and became a Christian.
I was pretty pleased when I heard his story because it showed me that God could even use me to bring people into the kingdom.

And I can tell you this, if he could use me, he could use any of us.
If you are a follower of Jesus, you don’t have the responsibility of being Billy Graham,
but you do have the responsibility of proclaiming the salvation which you have to those around you.

3. Fellowship with the life (1.3-4)

But there is more to it than just proclaiming the life.
My third point I want to make is titled “Fellowship with the life” and examines verse 3-4.
Let me read them:

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete.

The reason why John is writing this letter and is proclaiming Jesus is so that he may have fellowship with the readers.
Remember that John wrote this letter to counter false teaching within the church at the time -
teaching that denied the humanness of Jesus.
1What he is basically saying is that if you believe who Jesus is and what he has done, then you have fellowship with John and the other apostles.
If you do not believe the truth about Jesus
- in this case, denying that Jesus was human
- then you do not have fellowship with them.
More than that, you also have no fellowship with God the Father or with God the Son.

What is John saying here?
To understand this, we need to understand what Fellowship means.
Back when I was a teenager, I went to a youth meeting at church called “fellowship”.
I spent most of the time playing silly games,
with the occasional talk from the Bible, some praying and then lots of green cordial and biscuits.
Is that what fellowship is?

The first thing we need to know about fellowship is that it is relational
- it involves personal relationships.
John is saying here that we have fellowship with him,
and we also have fellowship with the Father and the Son.
So obviously fellowship here involves a combination of God and interpersonal relationships.

But notice what the basis of this fellowship is.
John says We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son.
What this means is that our fellowship has to be based on the truth about Jesus.
John has already pointed out that Jesus is both man and God, and has come to earth to give us life.
That is the basis of our fellowship.
If at some point that basis changes for a person, then that fellowship is broken.
In John’s case, he was pointing his finger at those who claim that Jesus was not human.
These people, because they do not believe in the true Jesus, do not have fellowship
- either with John, or with God or with the Son.

If you believe that Jesus is God, that he was born of the virgin Mary and became man.
That he suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried for our sins.
That he rose again on the third day.
And that through faith in him and his death and resurrection we have new life.
If you believe these things, then you have fellowship with everyone else who believes this.
Including, strange as it may seem, the apostle John himself.

But our fellowship is more than just with fellow Christians.
Our fellowship is with God and with his Son.
We won’t talk about the Holy Spirit here because John doesn’t mention it,
although I think it’s pretty obvious we have fellowship with him as well.
But if we believe these things and trust in Jesus,
then we have a personal relationship with God and with Jesus.
The opposite is also true.
If we do not believe these things, then we do not have a personal relationship with God or with Jesus.

But fellowship also involves a common goal - a common purpose and mission.
In this case, we are involved in proclaiming the same gospel that John preached.
But our proclamation of Jesus does not come out of a grudging obedience,
but through the joy we experience out of our fellowship with God, with Jesus and with those who share our beliefs.

I teach at a Christian school.
I’m an English teacher.
I teach Year 9-12 students about English Literature and how to appreciate it.
But it is a Christian school, and I’d say most if not all of the teachers there are Christians.
There are Presbyterians, Baptists, Salvos, Pentecostals and even a few Anglicans.
But the fact is that, even though we may disagree with each other over certain important issues, we are united in our understanding of who Jesus is and what he has done.
As a result, even though we attend different churches and have differences in some areas of theology, we have fellowship with one another.

When I was in Sydney, I went to an Anglican Church.
It was, and still is, a Bible-believing, gospel preaching church with a contemporary style of worship.
Very much what Charlestown Presbyterian is at the moment.
When Anna and I turned up at Charlestown, we felt right at home.
For us, the title “Presbyterian” did not seem to make much difference at all.
Why? Because we were united in our understanding of who Christ was and what he came to do.

While I was in Sydney, I was able to see first hand the reaction to the ordination of Bishop Peter Carnley as Primate of the Anglican Church in Australia.
(Please excuse all these Anglican phrases!)
Peter Carnley is an Anglican, just like me when I was in Sydney.
But Peter Carnley has doubts about whether Jesus physically rose from the dead, and he does not believe that Jesus took our sins away when he died on the cross.
Even though I was an Anglican, I was not in fellowship with a fellow Anglican because he denied some of the most important facts about Jesus.
Instead, I am in fellowship with every Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist or Calathumpian who believes that Jesus is God, and came to earth as a man to die and rise again to bring us eternal life.
And I think one of the great things about our age today is that denominations have mattered less and less to people,
allowing Christians to grow in their friendship and fellowship together.

So we have fellowship with each other - a personal relationship based upon Jesus.
And we have fellowship with God and his Son.
And we also share a mission to proclaim the message of Jesus.
With John, we share in the responsibilty to proclaim the message of the Gospel.


Let me conclude.

I started off today by saying that things haven’t really changed much.
Over 1900 years ago, the apostle John wrote this letter to counter false teaching within the church
- teaching that was so seriously wrong that those who taught it and those who believed in it were not actually true followers of Christ.

True followers of Christ do three things.
First of all, they know who Christ is and what he has done.
They know that Jesus is the Son of God who came to earth and gave us new life.
Secondly, true followers in Christ proclaim this life.
They are not content to keeping it to themselves, they actively share it with those who do not know.
And thirdly, they fellowship with one another and with God, and the basis of their fellowship is Christ.

In the last 1900 years, the church has waxed and waned quite often.
There were times when the church is growing, when it was vibrant and when it was making an impact on the world.
These were the times when a clear picture of Jesus is understood and proclaimed.
But there are times times when the church has declined, when it had no impact on the world around it.
Those were the times when the culture and philosophies of the time had confused the church.
And those were the times when the church’s message was confused and unable to present a true picture of Jesus to the world.

In many ways, what we see today is, in the words of that great novelist - “the best of times and the worst of times”.
We see a part of the church that has lost an understanding of Jesus and is in terminal decline.
Yet we also see vibrant growth in many parts of the church where the truth of Jesus has been rediscovered, understood and proclaimed.
And what is that truth?

Jesus Christ is both man and God,
and came to earth bringing us eternal life,
so that we may have fellowship with the Father, the Son,
and with each other.

Let me pray.

Heavenly Father,
We praise you for sending your Son to us. We thank you that in your great love for us, you sent your son to live, die and rise again so that we can have eternal life. We thank you that all of us who share in this belief have fellowship with you, with your son, and with each other. Give us the desire to proclaim Jesus to our family and friends, through both our words and our deeds, and use us in some small way to bring the knowledge of Jesus to those who do not know him.


From the Kerygmatic Department

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs License.
To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.5/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 559 Nathan Abbott Way, Stanford, California 94305, USA.

You are free:
* To copy, distribute, display and perform this work.
* To make commercial use of this work.
Under the following conditions:
* By attribution. You must give the original author credit.
* No derivative works. You may not alter, transform or build upon the work.
* For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work.
Any of these conditions can be waived if you get permission from the author.
Additional copyright information from the author:
* You may remove the "Department name" from the text when copying.
* You may Americanise any minor spelling (eg Humour, Humor).

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright
© 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.


Christian School Principals

What the Principal of a Christian School says

What he/she means

Maybe God is not calling you to be a teacher”

Get your act together or we’ll get rid of you”

God has granted us a new vision for us to serve him better”

We’re changing our procedures”

You are not just doing a job, you are involved in ministry”

Work harder”

We need to realise that our service to God is our top priority”

The school is running out of money and we need to cut your wages”

God gives us the strength and grace to serve him better”

Illness should not require time off”

God has blessed our ministry and we can work with him for his glory”

We’re starting a building program and we need you to give us money”

We are serving Christian parents by ministering to their children”

If a parent complains, God help you”

We are stewards of God’s creation and we need to be wise in our use of it”

We’re cutting back on the use of stationary and photocopier paper”

We want Christian teachers who are enthusiastic self-starters, capable of performing their best for the Lord”

If you have trouble with any of your students, don’t come to me.”

We have a responsibility to follow all the lawful requirements set down for us by the authorities God has placed over us”

Don’t expect us to care if anything happens to you”

God expects us to discipline those who fall short of his standards of conduct”

We can sue you to the fullest extent of the law if we choose”

God wants us to live holy and pure lives and treat each other in a godly and responsible manner”

Don’t even think of flirting with that cute teacher”

We need to remember that we are stewards of God’s time, and that a thousand years to God is like a day”

I consider 60 hours per week to be the absolute minimum you should be working”

We need to remember that Jesus himself said that ‘anyone who loves their family more than me is not worthy of me’ (Matthew 10:37)”

Your family is of secondary importance to your employment here”

God has set in place leaders and those in authority so that all things may be done for his glory”

I am God. You will obey me”

Even God felt that it was necessary that those who are part of his church need discipline and correction”

Don’t even think about questioning my decisions”

We are finding it difficult to discern God’s will at this time”

I don’t know what to do”

We need to pray and trust that God will lead us”

I still don’t know what to do”

God has been gracious to us by giving us these new teachers to work for his glory”

These poor fools have replaced those who couldn’t stand working here any longer”

We must remember that occasionally we all make mistakes, and that patience and respect must be shown”

I was wrong but I’m still God”

I believe that God is calling us all to focus more upon our family lives”

I’ve been committing adultery with my secretary and my wife has found out”

I believe that God is calling me to pastor a church”

I’m a hopeless principal and I now want to go and destroy a church”

I am comforted by the fact that our love for God is more important than any worldly knowledge we might have”

I’m threatened by the fact that the teachers in this school are better qualified than me”

We want to encourage a diversity of Christian opinion with all the staff at the school, while still maintaining our unity in Christ”

We no longer use the Bible at this school”

Sometimes we need to encourage our senior staff to develop their skills in ministry in a different place”

I didn’t like the deputy principal so I forced him to resign”

We must not compromise our beliefs or allow ourselves to be influenced by the world”

If you are a member of a union then I have serious doubts about your salvation”

It is important for staff to grow in their fellowship together and encourage each other in godliness outside the confines of the school”

If you teach at this school you must go to my church”

We are not strict Sabbath-keepers at this school”

We expect you to work Sundays”

We are not a Seventh-day Adventist school either”

We also expect you to work Saturdays”

We have to foster a serving environment to ensure the development of our students in accordance with the curriculum”

You teachers are scum”

Those in senior management occasionally need time to reflect upon their leadership role within the school”

I’m going to Hawaii for two weeks”

We need to be patient with all children who have special needs and not be judgmental of them or their parents”

Stop criticizing my child for behaving badly”

We are trusting that God will look after us this year”

We are choosing not to insure the school this year”

We need to focus on sexual purity, especially between teachers and students, if we are to grow in our love for God”

There is a paedophile in this school and it definitely isn’t me”

We are a witness to the world around us - how we behave is important”

The board of studies is clamping down on our inadequate curriculum”

It is important for us to engage with the world and show them the love of Jesus”

We can’t get enough Christian teachers so we’re employing non-Christians”

Our role is not just to teach, it is also to tell students about God so they may have a personal relationship with him”

We can’t get enough Christian kids to pay the bills so we’re allowing non-Christians in”

We need to understand that ‘All truth is God’s truth’ in the way we approach our school”

We’re changing our understanding of God to fit in with our secular management techniques”

We all have the pleasure of knowing how to serve the Lord with gladness”

We are giving you more work to do”

It is important that we ‘do not give up the habit of meeting together’ so we can mutually encourage one another”

If you don’t turn up to teacher’s chapel meetings you will have hell to pay”

It is beneficial for us to look beyond our own limitations and to embrace those who God has called to work with us”

We’re employing a senior manager who has no idea what it is to be a teacher”

School is a place for everyone to learn - not just the students, but the teachers as well”

We prefer to employ teachers without proper qualifications because they’re cheap”

Our school is a centre of excellence, and we feel that all parents should be able to send their children here knowing that our regular teachers are of a high standard”

We don’t have enough staff to cope with our special needs students so we’re dumping it on normal teachers”

I’m praying that God will help you to be a better teacher”

I’m having second thoughts about your suitability as a teacher here”

God wants us to use money wisely and not spend it on unimportant things”

We’ll still be using demountable classrooms in ten years”

God looks favourably upon those who excel”

Stress is not in my vocabulary”

We need to pull together as a team if we are to grow and develop as a Christian body”

The groundskeeper just left and we can’t afford to get another so you teachers will have to clean things up from now on”

There are some Christians who grow in their relationship with God, but there are many who do not and, unless they change, they will never experience fully the blessings God has promised them”

Teachers who kiss my butt will be rewarded handsomely”

Our school is committed to the values of Christian education and bringing up children in Christ”

Good exam results are the only priority”

From the Department of Attempted Humour

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs License.
To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.5/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 559 Nathan Abbott Way, Stanford, California 94305, USA.

You are free:
* To copy, distribute, display and perform this work.
* To make commercial use of this work.
Under the following conditions:
* By attribution. You must give the original author credit.
* No derivative works. You may not alter, transform or build upon the work.
* For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work.
Any of these conditions can be waived if you get permission from the author.
Additional copyright information from the author:
* You may remove the "Department name" from the text when copying.
* You may Americanise any minor spelling (eg Humour, Humor).

Understanding Suffering

This is a letter I sent to my sister about 5 years ago. It was the culmination of many years of research and thinking about suffering and how it relates to the Christian life. The letter was written on the very day that I had come to a more fuller understanding.

Hi Anne

First things first - don’t panic! I’m just writing you a letter of my thoughts about suffering.

I know this may seem strange - a letter and all - but I felt it would convey my thinking a bit better than a phone call. Besides, we can talk it over after you’ve read this.

I have to say that today I have finally been able to grasp a solution to the problem - I was able to both justify my analysis of the New Testament teaching on suffering and, at the same time, conclude that God uses all suffering to strengthen his people. Yes that’s right! I now admit that all suffering is part of God’s plan to build his church.

My problem started with some basic exegesis of Biblical text. All the New Testament verses that refer to suffering are in the context of persecution - and I mean all of them. When we read the scriptures, we must be careful to understand what the writer was saying to the readers at the time, and then go from there to apply it to our lives. Hebrews 12.7 says “endure hardship as discipline”, but that verse is in context with all of chapter 11 which is a description of saints who were persecuted for their faith. So therefore I conclude that Hebrews 12.7 can only refer to persecution - why else would it refer to other forms of suffering when the writer has spent so much time talking about endurance through persecution? 1 Peter 4.12-19 describes suffering, but is again talking explicitly about persecution. Other NT verses are likewise pointing either implicitly or explicitly at persecution.

The only OT reference is Job. But even that is persecution - Satan was persecuting Job.

So, faced with what the Bible plainly said, I therefore had to ask the question “What is the suffering that Christians undergo that God uses to build them up?” The answer? Persecution. As a result, I therefore had to question my own beliefs, and the beliefs of others, about why we suffer and how God uses it. Since the Bible plainly said that it could only be persecution, I had to begin questioning whether or not it was Biblical to say that God works through general suffering. So, I had a problem - the Bible said one thing, and my experience and the experience of others (like yourself) said another. Being a Bible believing Christian and believing that experience, while valid, is subordinate to scripture, I had to begin questioning whether or not suffering included more than just persecution.

So, after 5 long years of debating this in my head, I finally came to a conclusion this afternoon while talking to a Christian I had never met before at a birthday party for one of Anna’s friends.

The key to understanding all this is Job. Job was persecuted by Satan, but the form the persecution took was physical and mental suffering. Job was persecuted, and this occurred because God let Satan do it, and allowed Satan to kill his sons and daughters and afflict him with a physical ailment.

So, I conlcuded, God allows Satan to persecute one of his people through the means of “general” suffering as it were. Satan did not send anti-Christians (or anti-Jews) to attack and persecute Job, he sent natural disasters to kill his family and physical ailments to attack his body and make him suffer.

Okay, so, I had then discovered one place in the Bible which associated general suffering to the work of Satan. So, I asked myself, could God allow Satan to persecute any more followers of God through the same means? Absolutely.

Then the bombshell hit. Could it then be possible that all forms of suffering is Satanic in origin? Is this sort of belief reasonable? I have concluded that it is.

All forms of suffering occur because we live in a world tainted by sin. We suffer because we live in a fallen world. So all forms of disease, natural disasters, murders and so on are the result of a world tainted by sin. But Satan is behind this because he is the evil that causes this sin to exist and propagate.

So, in this sense, all forms of suffering are Satanic - he sends suffering upon all people, including Christians. But God limits the damage he does - some Christians die from this Satanic attack, others, like Job, do not.

So how does all this fit in with the New Testament teaching on persecution? Well, all suffering Christians undergo is persecution from Satan - whether it be overt (unbelievers killing you for your faith) or covert (contracting cancer, for example). Therefore, whatever your suffering, God uses it to discipline you and make you holy, because you are being persecuted by Satan.

Now we can get all “Spiritual warfare” over this and claim that our sickness is due to Satan and we only need to expel him somehow and we’ll be fine, but there is a big problem with this - God allows Satan to persecute. We suffer because God lets us suffer because it disciplines us. Rather than trying to bind Satan or worry about demonization, we need to realise that God is allowing Satan to do this to us.... just like he did to Job.

Another point to remember is that nowhere does God promise that suffering will be taken away. In other words, if we pray that God heal us he might answer “no!”. Yes God can heal, but he does not promise that we will be healed..... at least not in this lifetime.

Finally, I think one really good application from this whole shebang is that when we see the suffering that goes on in our lives and in the lives of others, we shouldn’t ask “Why is God doing this?”, we should be saying “Satan is doing this”, and accept that God uses it anyway.

The supreme example of this teaching is found in the cross. At the cross we have the embodiment of mankind’s total rejection of God’s rule and Satan’s desire to usurp God, but we also have the embodiment of God’s love and forgiveness for mankind and his total defeat of Satan.

Anyway, I’ll stop preaching now. It has been a good day - after 5 years God has led me to understand! (But I will keep checking on the validity of this belief... just in case!)



From the Theosalient Department

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/
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"Revenge of the Sith" now being shown in 4-D

George Lucas, director and creator of the "Star Wars" series of films, has always been one to dabble with new technology. Not content to allow the new Star Wars film to be shown in 3-D, but now in 4-D.

"4-D films have never hit mainstream cinemas yet" stated Lucas, "but I am hopeful that this will start a popular new trend".

4-D films are substantially different to 3-D films in that the viewers actually reverse time while watching. So although the experience is similar, the final outcome is actually reversed.

At an experimental cinema in Hollywood, a number of volunteers were subjected to the 4-D version of Revenge of the Sith. These volunteers had all seen the previous 5 Star Wars films but had yet to see the new film.

Mark Snow, of Orange County, was dismissive of the film before he went into the cinema. "It's crap" he stated firmly, "The storyline is crap, the acting is crap. Not even the special effects could save it."

But when Snow had viewed the film in 4-D, his attitude changed dramatically. "I wasn't especially pleased with episodes 1 & 2", he said, shrugging, "But I had been reading all these reviews about how dark the film is going to be. I'm hoping that the final product is half-decent."

A similar reaction could be found from Sarah Queralt from San Diego. Before she walked into the cinema to see the film for the first time, she categorically panned the film. "It's disgraceful", she said, eating popcorn as she stood in line to go in. "There is no way in the world that I would consider seeing it twice. George Lucas has turned this fantasy world of his into a second rate Disney production."

But as she walked out, Queralt appeared quite enthusiastic. "I sort of liked Episode 1, and Episode 2 was okay." She said "But the many reviews I have read seem quite positive about Episode 3. I can only hope that it lives up to the expectations of hard-core fans".

Lucas himself was quite interested in how 4-D films could change the face of cinema. Sitting in the specially constructed Hollywood cinema able to show 4-D films, Lucas stated "A day will come when people will be able to come to a cinema like this and watch a 4-D film. But until the technology is available, we can only dream."

From the Department of Attempted Humour"

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs License.
To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.5/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 559 Nathan Abbott Way, Stanford, California 94305, USA.

You are free:
* To copy, distribute, display and perform this work.
* To make commercial use of this work.
Under the following conditions:
* By attribution. You must give the original author credit.
* No derivative works. You may not alter, transform or build upon the work.
* For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work.
Any of these conditions can be waived if you get permission from the author.
Additional copyright information from the author:
* You may remove the "Department name" from the text when copying.
* You may Americanise any minor spelling (eg Humour, Humor).