Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Too Busy With Easter

I caught the Saturday night news last week and I wondered why I was so underwhelmed by the supposedly shocking lead news story. Somehow I could not share the newsreader's outrage that a well-known Formula One racing driver was caught and charged for doing burnouts on a suburban street in Melbourne. At first I wondered if I was just being a typical male, unconvinced by a little harmless fun with a powerful car. Or was I being even more blokey, wishing I could have a spin myself in an impressive machine? But no, it was not just me being blokey. It was my conviction that we seem to stress out about what really is not that important, while at the same time we ignore things that really matter.

If we lived in South Korea and one of our naval ships was sunk by an unseen, but probably known enemy, with 46 sailors missing, presumed dead, we might have something to really get concerned about. A hoon spinning wheels may be of some importance, but it’s not the start of a national series of protests ending in a bombing about our country's imminent financial collapse. While we focus our attention on a burnout, we conveniently pass over the two lengthy, protracted, seemingly unwinnable, yet incredibly deadly wars being fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. So often we focus on what really doesn’t matter, while knowingly or unknowingly we forget what really does.

Surely another Easter proves this point. As usual the focus is on chocolate eggs, chilling out on vacation, children’s Easter bonnet parades and crowding at the Easter show. Meanwhile Christ’s death and resurrection are not denied, just simply ignored. In spite of the preaching of a few notable atheists, the vast majority refuse to debate, consider or engage. For most it is far easier to choose distraction over denial. The once despised and rejected Jesus now suffers a final contemporary humiliation, as the crowds are now too busy, too distracted and too well fed to care about His life or message. Jesus' rejection has been superseded by distraction and trivialisation.

The Good News is still good, however wretchedly it is irrelevant for the vast majority

““Therefore ….. be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”” Acts 2: 36

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Where has all the logic gone

There are certain things that just don’t make any sense. Certain things that if you applied the smallest amount of logic you would not do. There are many things we do that just plain defy reason. Here is just a very small list. (I have tried to make this list balanced, but it was actually very difficult to quickly think of as many irrational, silly things done by women as those done by men - sorry guys!)

· Why did Hitler take on a second front in WW2 and invade Russia?

· Why did Hugh Grant trash Liz Hurley for a rather unimpressive prostitute?

· Why did Tiger Woods not only abandon his beautiful wife but have affairs with waitresses and porn stars?

· Why did the Coalition appoint Barnaby Joyce the Shadow Minister for Finance?

· When is Peter Garrett going to release his new song: “How can we sleep while our bats are burning”?

· Why did Sandra Bullock’s husband have an affair with a tattoo model?

· Why do celebrities twitter about their relationship dramas and then complain that the press is invading their privacy?

· Why would Peter Costello leave politics and only a few months later dump on his former colleagues?

· Why would the Australian Prime Minister write a fairly lame kids book about his cat?

· Why would 20 million people watch a YouTube video showing an Aussie girl drawing with a texta on her stomach to demonstrate how to have fake abs?

The bottom line is that we are really not as rational as we make out. Our eyes, our senses, our emotions and sometimes our most basic instincts, that are not really all that reliable, often drive us.

With the help of the high priests of atheism like Richard Dawkins, we convince ourselves that we are rational beings and therefore have no room for an irrational God. Sadly we are far from rational and belief in God makes a lot more sense than many will ever consider.

To believe there is a God who created life, who reveals our rebellious and corrupt condition and who offers us forgiveness, restoration, renewal and sonship, is not only reasonable but wise. To trust in God and His ways at the expense of human certainty is a leap of faith, but faith built on the strength of God, not on the pride of humans. To join the 'great cloud of witnesses' through the ages who have believed in God and doubted humans may be untrendy – but maybe it’s a trend worth breaking!

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” Psalm 20: 7

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Good Rules Make All The Difference

When I was a kid I belonged to a small and obscure tribe: the tribe in Sydney that liked Rugby Union more than Rugby League. In the 70s when League was the all-conquering professional game, Rugby was a small niche sport. I attended a famous Rugby Test in 1973 where, with a crowd of about 2000 people, we wept as Tonga humbled Australia by 30-12. It was a time when it seemed that Rugby League would continue to buy all the best Rugby players and the game would fade into complete obscurity.

In the late 80s through until recently, Rugby was reborn. While League struggled with controversies ranging from scandals, splits and lack of international competition, Rugby emerged as the running international game. With the advent of the World Cup and Super 12, professional Rugby’s high point came when the tables were turned and high profile League players where switching back to Union. In this era I rarely saw a test match live, as you couldn’t get a ticket.

Sadly it seems the tide has now turned again and Rugby is again in terminal decline and League is on the rise. Though the tribalists will claim that one game is better than the other, it would seem to me that the real change between the codes has been in the area of the rules. League's rules in recent years, with the 10 metre rule policed by two referees, the speeding up the game at the play the ball, the 40/20 rule and a few others, have meant the game is fast and rewards those who throw the ball around and take risks. Because the game is so fast the 'big guys' get very tired, which leaves room for the little fast guys, like Jonathan Thurston, Matt Bowen and the like to run riot.

By contrast, Union's rules have somehow ground the game down. Players regularly barge forward one metre crashing into their opponents, while slowly the ball is played back to their supporters who repeat the bash and barge exercise. The rules punish anyone with initiative, as the cardinal sin of modern Rugby is to be isolated in attack – meaning that the ball is constantly passed back to the middle of the field where support is to be found. Consequently the game is slower and slower and the players are larger and larger. It is routine now for wingers to be over 100 kgs and the small fast guys are almost extinct.

Who would have thought that rules could make such a difference? When God gave his 10 rules to Moses, or Jesus taught about his golden rule of loving one another, they did so that we might enjoy this game of life to the full. Rules give the impression of restriction, but in other ways the right rules open life up to all its divine possibilities. Indeed Jesus' conclusion was that following His ways would not only promote life and joy, but true freedom.

Rules matter and divine rules provide a framework where we can live life and life in abundance.

Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.(Proverbs 29: 18)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Unfolding Greek Tragedy

Most of the economic experts around the world are saying that the worst of the Global Financial Crisis is over, the problem is fixed and governments around the world have solved the crisis by borrowing more and spending it to stimulate their economies. However what is starting to emerge is that some nations have borrowed too much and are now having trouble repaying their national loans. Or more to the point, the market is starting to get fearful that they may have trouble repaying loans, which is driving up their interest rates on bonds which in turn is making it even harder for them to repay debt.

Have you noticed the rather bizarre suggestions and reactions of the last couple of weeks in response to the Greek sovereign debt crisis?

1. Some desperate Greek politicians have suggested that Germany (who is much more disciplined with its money) should pay some more reparations to Greece in compensation for the cost of WW2. You can imagine how that suggestion was received in Berlin.

2. In reply, some German leaders suggested that the Greek government could sell off a few Greek Islands and might consider auctioning a few historical treasures that could raise a little cash. This was not well received in Athens or on the beautiful Greek Islands.

3. The French President came out and assured Greece of Europe’s support, saying “The main actors on the European stage have decided to do whatever is needed to make sure Greece is not isolated”. However in the same speech Mr Sarkozy also ruled out immediate financial backing, stressing that his finance minister would draw up a list of possible aid plans. In other words, whatever it takes, short of actually giving Greece our money!

4. In the midst of all this the Greek government itself has embarked on sensible 'austerity measures' to reduce spending and increase taxes. However the Greek populace has been on the streets protesting and at times rioting because their standard of living is, like most westerners, seen as a divine right.

But don’t worry, we are assured, the sovereign debt crisis is just a 'Greek thing' and won’t affect the rest of the world. Except of course that the Greeks owe all sorts of banks from all sorts of places around the world a great deal of money - not to mention the other members of the so-called European group of PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain), whose national balance sheets are awash with red ink. Of course there are also a few concerns in places like Italy, the UK and indeed the USA, but we don’t have to worry about that because the God of money is our shepherd and we shall never want of more credit to fuel our divine right to get richer and richer.

When the false gods of money are exposed as liars, exploiters, deceivers and enslavers, there will be more people on the street. Until the Western World abandons its worship of all things material and learns to live within its means, there is certainly going to be a lot more pain ahead. Worshipping the wrong god can create a hell of a mess.

So Moses went back to the LORD and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold.” Exodus 32: 31

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

When judgement is not a bad thing

In the great financial debacle of recent years, the once powerful General Motors Corporation came within a whisker of bankruptcy. In fact, in the land of free enterprise, the company was essentially saved by being taken over by the American government and then funded by taxpayers. Following the disaster, GM decided it would have to restructure its business and some of the failing brands had to go. Top of the list was the Hummer.

It was announced last year that Hummer was going to be sold to a Chinese company called Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machines Co., Ltd. (Tengzhong). Tengzhong would revitalize the brand and then re launch the Hummer on the Chinese public and in time, on the export world. Now that plan has collapsed because the Chinese government has stepped in and said that it is not in their national interest to buy this brand of cars from the USA. Ironically, in the supposed age of the free market, an American almost nationalized company is unable to unload a product on a Chinese company because their national government will not let them.

Frankly I am delighted the Chinese government has shown such economic, cultural and environmental wisdom. The Hummer is a shocker - a large, ugly, gas-guzzling monument to the industrial, military state. Could there be a worse look than when a bride arrives for her wedding in a vehicle designed essentially for battle and war? I for one am glad the American consumer and now the Chinese government have passed judgement on a model of car which can now be buried with other classic failures such as the Leyland P76.

Sometimes judgement is a mercy. If we never weeded our gardens they would be overrun. If we never pensioned off old sportsmen our elite games would grind to a halt. If companies didn’t go broke then capitalism would lose its competitive edge. If democracy did not allow us to judge our political leaders, then corruption and tyranny would abound.

The fact that God is a judge is hardly a surprise. The idea that God’s tolerance would accept all evil is an assault to our every notion of fairness. The thought that God has no standards suggests that He doesn’t really care. The concept that God embraces evil flies in the face of a God who, by definition, is holy.

Faced with the judgement of God, we are all in trouble. Our only hope is a divine rescue plan funded by God - a rescue that substitutes God’s greatest asset, His Son, Jesus, for our toxic liabilities of sin.

“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” Hebrews 9: 27-28 ___________________________________