Feb 23, 2010

101 in March - The Bible

As we move into March, our teaching theme is going to centre around The Bible.
With this in mind I wanted to let you know about a great resource that is being provided by YouVersion. They offer the Bible on-line in over 20 translations, the chance to create community and even set up groups for your life group, they have over 20 Bible reading plans with a facility for accountability.

They can explain it alot better than I can, so check them out HERE.

Can I really challenge you this month to make a commitment to reading the Bible daily. 
It saddens me to read the stats that only 9% of born again adults hold a Biblical world view or that only 30% of Christ centered Christians read their Bible daily.

John 1:1, 14 reveal to us that the words of the Bible... are Jesus Himself. Its mysterous. 
But reading the Bible is life giving and beautiful.
So why not commit to daily reading the Bible daily this month. Use one of the YouVersion Bible reading plans or come up with your own...
Who knows, after this month you could have just formed one of the most important and life changing habits of your life!

I'll leave you with some quotes about the Bible:

Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ. —Jerome, A.D. 340-420
To get the full flavor of an herb, it must be pressed between the fingers, so it is the same with the Scriptures; the more familiar they become, the more they reveal their hidden treasures and yield their indescribable riches.
— John Chrysostom, A.D. 347-407   

THIS BOOK contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveller's map, the pilgrim's staff, the pilot's compass, the soldier's sword and the Christian's charter. Here paradise is restored, heaven opened and the gates of hell disclosed. Christ is its grand object, our good is its design and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. It is given you in life, will be opened in the judgement, and will be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labour, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents.

Born in the East and clothed in Oriental form and imagery, the Bible walks the ways of all the world with familiar feet, and enters land after land to find its own everywhere. It has learned to speak in hundreds of languages to the heart of man. It comes into the palace to tell the monarch that he is a servant of the Most High, and into the cottage to assure the peasant that he is a son of God. Children listen to its stories with wonder and delight, and wise men ponder them as parables of life. It has a word of peace for the time of peril, a word of comfort for the time of calamity, a word of light for the hour of darkness. Its oracles are repeated in the assembly of the people, and its counsels whispered in the ear of the lonely. The wicked and the proud tremble at its warnings, but to the wounded and the penitent it has a mother's voice. The wilderness and the solitary place have been made glad by it, and the fire on the hearth has lit the reading of its well-worn pages. It has woven itself into our dearest dreams; so that love, friendship, sympathy and devotion, memory and hope put on the beautiful garments of its treasured speech, breathing of frankincense and myrrh.
— Henry van Dyke   

"I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man. All the good from The Savior of the world is communicated to us through this Book."
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), 16th U.S. President

"I have known ninety-five of the world's great men in my time, and of these, eighty-seven were followers of the Bible. The Bible is stamped with a Specialty of Origin, and an immeasurable distance separates it from all competitors."
William Gladstone (1809-1898), British statesman, served as Prime Minister four times.

"The Bible is no mere book, but a Living Creature, with a power that conquers all that oppose it."
Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821), Emperor of the French

"All human discoveries seem to be made only for the purpose of confirming more and more the Truths contained in the Sacred Scriptures."
Sir William Herschel (1738-1822), English astronomer, he made numerous discoveries about the laws of the heavens.

Godspeed & Kaizen

Feb 16, 2010

At The Box Office - AVATAR

Disabled ex-Marine Jake Sully is recruited to aid a mining expedition on the distant jungle moon of Pandora when his twn brother is killed, as only his DNA will allow him to utilise the alien body (known as an Avatar) that allows human beings to breathe the poisonous air. He is ordered to infiltrate the Na’vi and to provide information for his superiors. However, along the way, he falls in love with a Na’vi girl, with the Na’vi people and with their culture, and so difficulties follow, resulting in a climactic confrontation between the Na’vi and the heavily armed mercenary Earth forces…

Unlike Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, which is a loud and overblown special effects extravanganza with a nonsensical plot and virtually no substance (I hated it) there is more depth here. True, the tale is a simple one; this is Pocahontas meets District 9, Dances with Wolves at the edge of the universe – but simple stories well told win us over time and time again.

I can understand how this concept of an avatar fascinates people today. In Hindu mythology, a god would descend to earth from heaven in physical form, an ‘avatar’ (from the Sanskrit avatāra ‘a passing down’). In present day usage, a computer user would create a graphic image as an alter ego, a representation of him or herself or alter ego (which is usually far cuter than it’s actual user). Whether in computer games or internet forums, it allows people to ‘be’ someone else – the essence of fantasy. This ability to fabricate our human identities is a powerful draw – from kids who are unhappy at home but long to be special like Harry Potter, to the intimacy sought in chat-rooms, the ability to ‘be someone else’ is a craving of so many today. Jake Sully can leave behind his human body with its ineffective legs and enter the 12 foot body of a Na’vi male, squishing mud between his toes and leaping from branch to branch – and eventually leading the Na’vi against the destructive human forces that brought him to Pandora. Imagine what it would be like for us – no longer uncoordinated, no excess weight, able to reach that tin on the top shelf… The concept taps into the fantasy world of humans with ease.

What about the visuals? Well, what can I say? In 3-D, the film is absolutely mind-blowing. It is the most visually astonishing film I have seen. As Chris Hewitt wrote in his review for Empire, once you put on those 3-D glasses it “becomes a transcendent, full-on five-star experience that's the closest we’ll ever come to setting foot on a strange new world.” (1) The 3-D effects add depth to a spectacular and unfamiliar world, and it’s as though you are there as Jake Sully explores the alien environs in his new form, with its six-legged beasts, iridescent foliage, massive stone arches 300 metres in height and 500 metres across, and floating mountains with waterfalls that plunge into nothingness. Cameron creates a whole new world, a moon almost ten times the size of Earth (I know that because I bought Wilhelm and Mathison’s Avatar: A Confidnetial Report on the Biological and Social History of Pandaora (2) – okay, I’m a geek, but I know it and I’m proud). The 3-D technique enhances the experience of exploring the undiscovered wonders of this Eden-like world, unsullied by the rapacious greed and the countless ravages of war and pestilence of our own planet.

Phrases such as “preemptive strikes,” “shock and awe” and the need to fight “terror with terror” have led a number of critics to see the film as anti-American, or anti Bush/Republican. However, while using such recent terminology, I think Cameron’s view is a bit bigger. At the London Premiere of Avatar Cameron shared the following thoughts on the human proclivity for conquest and the insatiable need for more:

“I think there’s this long wonderful history of the human race written in blood going back as far as we can remember... where we have this tendency to just take what we want without asking. That’s how we treat the natural world as well - there's a sense of entitlement. We’re here, we’re big, we’re got the guns, we’ve got the technology, we’ve got the brains. We are therefore entitled to every damn thing on this planet.

And that’s not how it works - and we’re going to find out the hard way if we don't wise up and start seeking a life that’s in balance with the natural world [and] the natural cycles of life on Earth.” (3)

Sounds all right to me… For too many Western Christians, Christianity and capitalism go hand in hand, and to Gordon Gecko’s mantra “Greed is good” would shout a hearty ‘Here here!” Some critics point the finger at Christianity as the primary source for the present ecological crisis, with the divine mandate to exercise “dominion” over the earth used to justify ruthless treatment of the natural world (4), and the mission movement charged with being used as a vehicle to pave the way for colonization. While simplistic and harsh, the challenge cannot be dismissed out of hand. Cameron’s commentary on the first world’s lack of respect for the culture and values of indigenous peoples of the majority world is hard to ignore, and in a world where global warming, rising oil prices, oil slicks and deforestation are hot issues, Cameron’s vision calls for a respect for the planet that should be at the forefront of any global Christian agenda.

The Na’vi themselves are impressive also. The Na’vi are three metres tall, and move with the otherworldly grace of the Elves in Lord of the Rings. With their azure skin and feline grace, they are a sight to behold. They are a Neolithic society, a highly developed culture based on the spiritual connection of all living things. This connection is emphasized through the use of the queue, a long braid that houses neural tendrils that allows the Na’vi to connect to other living creatures, like connecting your i-pod to a laptop. This allows the Na’vi to be in harmony with plants and animals. It kind of reminds me of Neo in The first Matrix film where, after being jacked in, he wakes up and says, “I know kung fu.” Wouldn’t that be cool – with such intimate connections among our leading rugby players, perhaps we could bring home the Rugby World Cup in 2011… but I digress…

Regarding its religious outlook – the humans in the film show no interest in religion at all. Their interests are scientific, technological and financial, as they seek the precious element unobtainium. Obviously they didn’t take a chaplain. I think it is interesting that film prefers the simpler and more spiritual outlook of the Na’vi to the soul-less technology and voracious materialism of the human forces.

The Na’vi, on the other hand, are very spiritual. There religion is a mystical form of nature worship. The Na’vi worship Eywa (which sounds like a switched-around version of Yahweh, the name of God in the Hebrew Scriptures, usually translated as “the LORD” in capitals in our modern translations). Eywa is the guiding force and deity of Pandora. The Na’vi believe that Eywa acts to keep the ecosystems of Pandora in perfect balance. The scene where the Na’vi corporately call on Eywa while writhing from side to side had me thinking of the hideous rave scene in The Matrix: Reloaded, or the hippie 60s musical Hair. The Na’vi are in touch with this maternal, organic energy that runs through the entire planet.

This ‘mystical force that unites all things’ is the religion that the prophets Hollywood find acceptable. Consider the similarity to the spirituality of the Star Wars universe, with its mystical force is a mystical energy that permeates the universe and runs through all living things and unites all living things in the universe. Remember Yoda talking to Luke in the swamps of Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back? (No – oh man, I am a geek!). “My ally is the force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us, binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the force around you. Here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere…” The religion of the Na’vi is very similar, although, unlike the force, they can pray to Eywa.

There’s been a resurgence in the beliefs and practices of neo-paganism – ‘new paganism’, influenced by pre-Christian European beliefs - and the desire within New Age spirituality to return to indigenous forms of spirituality, which seem to many ‘untainted’ by the spiritual lack and materialistic views of western life. Howe describes modern neo-pagan witchcraft in the following way:

The ideal in most neo-Pagan practice is to become as one with the natural world-to live in harmony with nature… Witches are people who revere both the God and the goddess. They seek a more friendly relationship with their natural environment, endeavoring to recognize the sacredness of all of nature. (5)

While the respect for nature is a positive response to poor stewardship over the last century or so, the spiritual view is clearly not a Biblical one. It can be described as a pantheistic view of God (‘pan’ – all; ‘theo’ – god; lit. “all is god”) where nature and ‘god’ are identical, and, as much as Hollywood advocates this idea, it is a far cry from the personal God of the Bible. God is not merely the energy that runs through all things. Rather, God spoke creation into being. God – Creation; Different.

Yes, “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps 19:1), and so creation can reflect the glory of God. However, the personal God of the Bible speaks and grieves and loves, and we can live before him in majesty and mystery, love and acceptance…

So, go put the glasses on and enjoy the visual feast of Avatar, but be wary of the spirituality that Tinseltown’s evangelists seek to preach from their cinematic soapboxes…

written by Ps Simon 


(1) Chris Hewitt, “Review: Avatar”, Empire; available online at: http://www.empireonline.com/reviews/reviewcomplete.asp?FID=133552 [accessed 3 Feb 2010].

(2) Maria Wilhem & Dirk Matheson, James Cameron’s Avatar: an Activist Survival Guide (HarperCollinsPublishers: London, 2009), 6.

(3) “James Cameron's Avatar Premieres in London” BBC News 11 Dec 2009; available online at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8406868.stm.

(4) Cf. Lynn White Jr, “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis,” Science 155 (1967): 1203-7.

(5) Richard G. Howe, “Modern Witchcraft: It May Not Be What You Think”, Christian Research Journal Vol 28, No 1, 2005, 15, 18.

Feb 12, 2010

Life Lessons

I’ve been walking a very interesting journey of late.
One year ago today my husband proposed to me and I said yes!
One year down the track we’re married – and would recommend it!
What we learnt in the first 24 hours of marriage to expect the unexpected – but that story will be shared another time.
The other morning I was driving my husband to work at 5am.  He works out at Hatapu at the moment and so it’s out in the country.  So I was driving 100km on the open road in the dark before the sun rose when all of a sudden a dog ran out onto the road out of nowhere.
I slammed on my breaks, smoke literally coming from my tyres, skid marks on the ground and grinding to a stop just in time just before I hit the dog standing there.
My heart was racing, I felt very blessed to be o.k and thanking God for his protection.

I must say I drove slowly home on the main roads.  So my thoughts pondered about the happenings and how I could relate it to life.
Here’s a few thoughts.

•    Sometimes we can be going so fast in life that it takes something out of the ordinary, something that scars us to finally slow down and stop.  

•    Sometimes we can be so preoccupied in our own lives and where we’re going that we don’t notice the people that stumble into our paths.  Sometimes we are going too fast so we mow right over them.

•    It’s important to remember that we are not invincible and that we need to take responsibility with the role or task that God has placed in our hands
Just a few thoughts.

So be inspired – God can speak to us throughout our every day situations if we just stop and listening.

Naomi van Jaarsveld 

Feb 11, 2010

Our Own Dr Seuss?

Putting rhyme and words together is fun – particularly when it works!
So I took on a challenge to put Eph 3:20 to rhyme:

Here it goes:

He said to Mable, he is able,
To do far above,
 what you can think or even pen down in ink.
And the pictures of your mind,
 are not enough to find what he has in store.
There is more and more.

Now that’s not the quote exact,
but you get the matter of the fact.
He is able. He is able.

Ephesians 3:20 (King James Version)
 20Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,

Feb 4, 2010

It's Time To Celebrate!

Our household is celebrating Sheridyn’s 40th Birthday!... Yeehaa, blow the party whistles, cut the cake – it’s celebration time!

I love celebrations!... Do you?
Have you ever noticed that the Bible is full of celebrations, banquets and feasts!  Wow, what will Heaven be like?!

Celebrations can refresh, revive and invigorate us. 

If you read the book of Esther (an amazing, adventurous book – with a wise and gutsy woman!)... you’ll see that the Jews stopped and celebrated (Esther 8:17) because they were given the opportunity to defend their lives on what was to be a ‘Day of Destruction’. 
The ‘Day of Destruction’ was still coming – but the Jews chose to celebrate the positive, rather than moping around on the negative.
They were refreshed, revived and invigorated to go and win the battle before them.

I believe that Celebrations can also be a declaration of faith! 
Let’s celebrate the positive things in our lives - as well as ‘celebrate by faith’ what God is yet to do in and through our lives! 
Yes and Amen!

Jan Rodgers

Feb 2, 2010

The Good News of the Gospel

Alot of people think that they understand what it means to be a Christ follower... but I bet that most people can not explain why there is a heaven and a hell and why we needed Jesus to die on the cross.

Today people believe that good people from all 'roads' will be on the road to heaven.

Others convientlty believe that there is no hell.

Well here is a video that gives a very clear and convincing presentation of the Gospel:

I challenge you... why not share this video with a few of your family members, friends and acquaintances'.
If you've taken the challenge, why not share what you've done with our blog's community... it will encourage and inspire others.