The Flogging Parson

Facebook reminded me today that I posted a newsletter 3 years ago with some of the history of Christianity in Australia.  3 years ago today, Ryan and I were dating but waiting to see what God would do.  So I just kept moving towards Australia, trusting that this was part of God’s road for us.  Now I want those of you who didn’t get the opportunity then or maybe forgot this information to hear a little about who the flogging parson is and what he has to do with the history of Christianity in Australian.  The original newsletter can still be found here under the About tab on our website but here is a slightly updated version that you hopefully find insightful and interesting:

Let’s compare and contrast Christianity in the US and in Australia. America is often referred to as a Christian nation. We were founded on Christian principles and you can find statistics stating that 75% of Americans identify themselves as Christians. But identifying yourself as a Christian and being a follower of Christ are two very different things.

Australia on the other hand was founded as a penal colony. A good amount of its people brought over as convicts were protestant and catholic. This remnant of history is still a part of the fabric of Australia today. There were missionaries and clergy on the transportation ships as well. And just to be clear, as far as I can tell, the missionaries and clergy were not convicts themselves.Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 9.27.09 PM.pngIn this collection of clergy one name stands out, Samuel Marsden. He was an English Anglican well known for his pioneering literacy and community development work among the Maori who had come as sailors and visitors to New South Wales. Sounds like a great guy, right? Except, he is more famously hailed as “The Flogging Parson”. His hatred of the Irish Catholics led to his most severe punishments in which those receiving the lashes were flogged so brutally that their “haunches turned to jelly”. He was of course not the only one who ordered beatings as a form of punishment for the early colony, so to have his savageness so clearly recorded in history shows you just how harsh he was. If you were a Maori, you might have loved this man but there was no grace if you happened to be Irish Catholic.

Today, there are statistics that would lead us to believe that Australia became a Christian nation on the heels of the early protestant and catholic convicts. However, the reality is quite different. Christianity is received with skepticism and often outright hostility. More recent statistics for Australia say that only about 7% of its people would claim to be churchgoing Christians.Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 9.27.21 PMNevertheless, God’s fingerprints are evident and certain places in the city have visible reminders of Christianity. For example, this sculpture of Jesus with the scripture Luke 23:44-46. Even so, there is still a compelling need for the light of the gospel to be proclaimed.

 

Advertisements

Book Review: The Blood of Lambs

A couple months ago, I received an email addressing a subject that is a common topic today in conversation as well as on social media.  The email got me thinking and I started to read more on the subject as well as to pray more.  The email’s realistic yet compassionate message was inspiring.

In sharing this my goal is not to stir up anger, unhealthy debate, or inspire fear.  Instead my hope is to encourage people to become informed in a way that will lead to conversations and actions that will help to change our world one person at a time.  And especially to anyone who calls themselves a Christian, my hope is that you would pray more, live like Jesus Christ and show the love and light of the triune God to everyone no matter what their background, religion or race.

November 16, 2015

Syrian Refugees: Bring Them On

Recently President Obama proposed bringing 10,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S. This is only a tiny portion of the hundreds of thousands that have fled to Europe, which in turn is a small portion of the millions that have fled just over the borders to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. But after the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, many American leaders do not want to bring in any. And a few days ago Donald Trump said he wanted to exclude any Muslim from entering the U.S. until we “figure out what is happening.”

The fear is understandable. Obama promised that the refugees would be “rigorously vetted.” But this is likely to be the same kind of vetting that let Tashfeen Malik (the woman terrorist in San Bernardino) enter the U.S. two years ago on a K-1 (fiancee) visa. Since she came from Pakistan, which is known to harbor extremists, she was even subject to more vetting than others. We now know that she was already “radicalized” by then, and this was not picked up by the supposedly rigorous vetting.

So is Donald Trump right? From the American national security point of view, maybe he is. But from the Christian point of view, he is wrong.

Trump and many other politicians talk about keeping us “safe.” But Jesus never promised that we would be physically safe. In fact, He said “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles” (Matthew 10:16-18). Being flogged is not “safe.” In the time of Jesus, being delivered over to courts, governors and kings often meant death. Of the eleven disciples who remained after Judas, ten were martyred. See 2 Corinthians 11:24-27 for all the unsafe things that the Apostle Paul endured. Only John died a natural death.

As an example of a “worst case scenario,” back in 1981, an Islamic terrorist came to America from Lebanon on a legal visa. His purpose was to develop jihad cells and attack us from within, but God had other plans. He was in a severe car accident, and a Christian doctor took care of him, not knowing who he was – only a foreign man who needed help. After some time in a hospital, the doctor took him into his own home for months of recuperation. This completely exploded the terrorist’s idea of Christianity. When he left the doctor’s home, he could only fall on his knees and pray to God, who revealed Himself to this now ex-terrorist. The doctor practiced radical Christian hospitality and was used by God to bring this very unsafe man into the Kingdom.

So yes, we should be “wise as serpents” and examine the refugees as well as possible, knowing that like in the case of Tashfeen Malik, we will miss some. But for the sake of “bear(ing) witness before…the Gentiles,” I say “Bring them on.” It is very difficult for them to hear the Gospel in Syria and Iraq, but here they can. Our bodies may not be perfectly safe, but our souls are perfectly safe in Christ.

Alexander PierceBloodofLambCoverThe “worst case scenario” described in the above email comes from a book called The Blood of Lambs: A Former Terrorist’s Memoir of Death and Redemption by Kamal Saleem.  This book, written by Kamal, does tell his amazing story of conversion.  However, the book primarily focuses on describing Kamal’s formative years, how Islam shaped his world view and his journey that eventually brought him to the US.  

I was shocked and disturbed by a lot of what was described in somewhat graphic detail.  But it is those details that give the reader the whole picture of the ideology and culture that shaped Kamal and that continues to shape others.

However, one of the most impactful parts of the book for me was the descriptions of how Kamal first felt meeting Christians who lived out their faith.  The light Kamal describes is something that I would hope could be found in any Christian home.  However, it’s also convicting because so often Christians do not live their faith in such a transparent, deliberate way.

This book is worth reading, whether you are a Christian or not, it will be an interesting and informative read.  And once you read The Blood of Lambs, you might be interested in digging a bit deeper, continuing to learn about Islam and how practically to engage Muslims while showing Christ’s love.  For that I would recommend another recent read called Facing Islam, Engaging Muslims written by Alexander Pierce.

Enjoy reading and learning.  May your conversations be inspired and informed.

 

On Distance and Grieving

This week I received the news that two wonderful men of God passed away.  One more recently than the other but I heard news of both less than 24 hours apart.  These men had different spheres of influence, however they are both dearly loved and will be sorely missed.

Earlier this year Ryan’s beloved Grandmother died.  She was a strong woman of God and a prayer warrior.  Although Ryan did return to Wisconsin for her funeral, most of the grieving process was still at a distance.

whereisyoursting

Grief takes on many forms and everyone feels their grief differently.  For me, being able to grieve with people, to share in the raw emotion and to exhaust the tears is freeing and allows me to get to those deeper places more quickly.  However, when I grieve at a distance those layers peel back more slowly in moments of memory and valleys of sadness.

Grief is also different when you know that person is a believer in Jesus Christ and that for them death is a glorious reunion with Christ.  It doesn’t remove the sadness, it doesn’t remove the pain but it is a reminder of the truth of the gospel and what as a Christian we should be striving for, storing up our treasures where it actually matters.

For many reasons, the song Christ is Risen by Matt Maher has been playing in my mind these past few days.  As Christians we know who the victor is, we can celebrate Christ’s victory over death and what that means for us eternally.  For us here on earth- “Blessed are those who mourn.”  But for those in Christ who die- “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants.”  The heavens rejoiced as they welcomed home these saints.

Christ is Risen- Matt Maher

Let no one caught in sin remain
Inside the lie of inward shame
But fix our eyes upon the cross
And run to Him who showed great love
And bled for us
Freely You’ve bled for us

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave
Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with Him again
Come awake, come awake
Come and rise up from the grave

Beneath the weight of all our sin
You bowed to none but heaven’s will
No scheme of hell, no scoffer’s crown
No burden great can hold You down
In strength You reign
Forever let Your church proclaim

O death, where is your sting?
O hell, where is your victory?
O church, come stand in the light
The glory of God has defeated the night

O death, where is your sting?
O hell, where is your victory?
O church, come stand in the light
Our God is not dead
He’s alive! He’s alive!

The History of Religion- Books and Beliefs (Part Two)

In May I posted Part One of The History of Religion- Books and Beliefs so now here is Part Two.  Originally I had intended it to be just one entry but as History of Religion- Books and Beliefs (Part One) got longer, I realized that it would be best to split up the reviews by books.  I read these two books Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms and Eternity in their Hearts almost simultaneously.  And I think they are more interesting when viewed together but they can also stand on their own.

EternityintheirHearts

I borrowed this book from a friend after our conversation about culture and the gospel.  I had read one of Don Richardson’s books before but Eternity in their Hearts gives a broader look across many different cultures.  Even before I read this book, as a Christian I believe that God has woven himself into the fabric of this world.  “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.” Ephesians 1:4 NLT  “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20 NIV  I believe the Bible is true.  I believe the Christian faith is reasoned and reasonable and can stand up to scrutiny.

So with this in mind, I was not surprised as I read through Eternity in their Hearts and heard the stories of past and current cultures that have evidence of the one true God and the Christian gospel in their culture despite never having been previously expressed to the Bible or Christian proselytizing.

In the Part One post I had a couple quotes where people claimed that their religion was the oldest or their scripture was the most accurate.  It was these quotes and others similar that hung in my mind as I considered the information in Eternity in their Hearts.  It made my mind work as I considered truth and what truth actually means.  This of course is a bigger question and discussion but this short Youtube video Truth Refocused does a great job of presenting why truth can’t really be relative and to each his own.

I can’t do justice to this book by summarizing the stories, if you’re interested, you will have to read them on your own.  But I can tell you that stories of cultures that cross continents Greek in Europe, Inca in America, Mbaka in Africa and the Chinese in Asia are thought provoking.  And that’s just Chapter 1 which tells about cultures and people who have knowledge about a “Vague God”.  These cultures all have a name for or a belief in a supreme God that has been passed down often with stories that parallel Biblical stories with amazing accuracy.  “The Chinese call him Shang Ti- the Lord in Heaven….In Korea he is known as Hananim- The Great One…Belief in Shang Ti/Hananim predates confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism by an unknown number of centuries.”

Chapter 2 continues to dig deeper and focuses on an area in and around Burma where multiple people groups had hymns were waiting for the “Lost Book”.  All of these groups were waiting for a sacred book and some even had detailed hymns and Biblical stories that were also passed down and continued to whet the people’s appetite for more knowledge that they believed would be found in the “Lost Book”.  “Karen prophets actually taught their people hymns passed down from generation to generation by verbal communication alone…Karen hymns to Y’wa reveal how astonishingly clear the concept of the one true God can be in a folk religion!”

I could continue because this book keeps going through Papua New Guinea and many other places.  It explores many people who had glimpses and even more of the gospel before ever having the Bible or hearing the Gospel, causing them either to look expectantly towards a time when they would hear the truth more fully or in some cases this knowledge just proved to be a platform for understanding the gospel in their culture and context.  It is definitely worth reading but I have a couple warnings. You will need to ignore the heavy use of the exclamation point (which I get because it’s an exciting topic but not enough to merit all the exclamation points used).  Also when the author moved away from his story telling strength, his theories and arguments, while still compelling, can get dense and difficult to wade through.

But despite those warnings, Eternity in their Hearts is an interesting and thought provoking read.  If you like history, religion and culture, this book combines them all.

Konai Bible Dedication

One more New Testament is complete.  One more language group has the word of God in their hands.  One more Bible is definitely worth celebrating.

I once landed at the airstrip that serves this language group on my way back to Ukarumpa from the village.  I don’t remember exactly what the couple Soren and Britten Arsjo had requested but it was a small package and it was important.  They payed for the plane to go out of its way into Western Province and my co-worker and I were along for the ride.  The hot, dense air from this lower area hit us as the doors of the small plane opened.  We stepped outside for a few minutes while they opened the package and confirmed it’s contents.  Then we flew away and left them to continue their work.

Konai New Testaments

Over Easter weekend, the fruit of that work was finally seen in hand.  The Konai dedicated their New Testament.  This picture is thanks to Brian Frey who attended the dedication.  You can read more about it as well as see more pictures and video on their blog: Following the Freys.  Two things stuck out from reading about this dedication.

One: The Konai have a similar Christian story to the Onobasulu.  Both were evangelized, not by westerners or other foreigners but instead by another PNG tribe.  I love that when the gospel took hold of hearts in PNG, the people didn’t just keep it for themselves but spread the good news to other neighboring people groups.

Two: This is Soren and Britten’s SECOND New Testament translation.  One is already a lifetime of work.  If you’re interested in more of the story of how they came to translate a second New Testament check out the Frey’s blog.

There is still a lot of work Bible translation work to be done in PNG but let’s celebrate another huge milestone.  The Konai have the word of God in their language!

He is Risen!

thecross

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words.  Luke 24:1-8

Let us celebrate the truth of Christ’s resurrection from the dead.  He is risen, indeed!

*Thanks to Phil King for this great picture of the flower covered cross from Ukarumpa’s morning service this year.

The Bread and Wine

IMG_20150402_191240Communion was first taken as a part of a meal.  This was a meal shared among friends, the bread was broken and the wine was poured.  These are simple actions that would have meant nothing except that the next day the man who broke the bread and poured the wine would be crucified and die on a cross.  His actions fulfilled prophecy and took away the sin of the world.  He was the true Passover lamb.  Today is Good Friday and it is only good because we know how the story ends….stay tuned.