mgpcpastor's blog

Leave a comment

The Presbyterian Church And The Queensland Floods

I asked some friends of mine in Queensland if there had been any denominational communication about the situation of Presbyterian Churches and Institutions affected by the floods in Queensland.
For those of you some distance away, but who can find a map of Australia, an area the size of New South Wales (the State immediately south of Queensland) is inundated and is either flooded or directly affected by flooding.
My friends forwarded me the following email.
It is from John Gilmour, Director of Chaplaincy with PresCare, and contains a general note along with a couple of communications with prayer points from Rockhampton and Maryborough.
The email has been widely distributed to all Qld congregations, and is of use to us all as our prayers this weekend are extended to our friends in Queensland, both in the church and the wider communities to which they belong.

Subject: FW: Prayer for Flood victims.
From: John Gilmour
Sent: Friday, 31 December 2010 7:07 AM
Subject: Prayer for Flood victims.

This email started out as a request for pray for the PresCare staff effected by the floods but as I thought about it seemed to me that the impact on the Church is far greater than that. Members of congregations across the state are affected. I know from conversations and my travels that Emerald, the Rockhampton congregations, Bundaberg, Maryborough, Dalby, Chinchilla,
Warwick and have either been or are still effected. The list is not complete I have just thought of Central Burnett (Gayndah) as another area where we have a congregation that needs our prayer support.
To give you an Idea of the type of points for your congregation’s prayers I enclose the reply to my request yesterday for Specific Prayer Points from Alexandra Gardens at Rockhampton our most exposed site at present. Sandra Thomson wrote

“Dear John,

The following are some suggested prayer points:

Pray for the safety of people in Rockhampton and surrounding districts and that they receive the assistance and support needed to recovery their belongings and return to their homes. May they all receive the love and attention that is so necessary during such difficult times.
Give thanks to the SES and other volunteers who have been there to provide support, strength and hope to all the people who unfortunately are experiencing turmoil in their lives due to the flooding in Central Queensland.
Pray for tolerance, patience and peace for residents, staff and their families at PresCare Alexandra Gardens as they endure the effects of the flooding in Central Queensland.
Give thanks to God for the generous offers from staff to return from annual leave, work extra shifts and change their rostered shifts to work for their colleagues who are unable to work due to closed roads and the unexpected water inundation of homes.
Please God give the people in Central Queensland the guidance and understanding needed to care and share for others in a loving and caring way during these difficult times.

Kind regards,
Sandra Thomson
Care Services Manager”

While Doona Souvan at Groundwater, Maryborough sent this reply;

Hi John,

Prayer points I would focus on would be for employees who have been isolated and have had property damage, safety on the roads which are very dangerous with a lot of pot holes, prayer that people have the strength to move forward with their lives and recover from such losses. Prayer for the local Maryborough and Wide Bay Communities that we are able to come together as a community to get through this crisis.
My prayers will be with the residents of Emerald, Bundaberg and Rockhampton where the rivers are still on the rise and lots more devastation is yet to come. Pray for their strength and safety. Pray for the staff, residents and for Sandra and Sharon at AG during this difficult time.

Cheers and Happy New Year,
Donna Souvan
Care Services Manager

I am sure you can add many points to those above. Listening to the various politicians and emergency workers on the radio and TV highlights the extent of the problem.

Ps. Sorry about the false start but hope you find this of help.
Pps. My apologies to those who normally get the emails for their congregations but the list I am using is an old list, we normally put it through Church Office with its most up to date listing but I have tried to ensure some one from each congregation receives this. If you need to forward it on to whoever is leading Sunday Service please do so.

John Gilmour
Director of Chaplaincy

If I receive any other news I’ll post a copy and/or links here.

Leave a comment

How To Build An Igloo – 1949

It reached 35 degrees in Mount Gambier, 37 degrees in Adelaide and is still 40 in Melbourne.
(That’s 104 degrees for you fahrenheit folk.)
(It’s only 32 in Darwin, must be having a cold snap.)
Anyway, what better way to spend ten minutes that watching two Eskimos build an igloo.

Among the facts I did not know: all the snow blocks are carved from within the footprint of the igloo; the block wall is a continuous spiral, not concentric circles; and right-handed people place the new blocks along the wall in an anti-clockwise direction, while left-handers build in the opposite direction.

From the National Film Board of Canada.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Thanks to 22Words.

Leave a comment

Boney M’s Bobby Farrell – Dead At 61

Which Psalm has the second highest public awareness?
Psalm 23 is pretty well-known to the public. It gets sung and read at funerals and used in other places.
Well, during the 1970s and 80s you could make a case for Psalm 137, which begins with the words: By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion.
The psalm featured in the rastafarian/reggae song Rivers Of Babylon, later to achieve worldwide fame in a disco cover version by the group Boney M.
A refrain based on words from Psalm 19: ‘Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight’ was also a part of the song.
It was one of those nerdy Christian youth moments: ‘You think this sounds cool? Well it’s really from the >dun, dun, duhhhhh< BIBLE.'
It was right up there with singing 'Amazing Grace' to the melody of 'House Of The Rising Sun'.
The modern rendition is a classic expression of 'liberation theology', transferring the hope which Israel had for freedom and restoration to the aspirations of a contemporary body of people, instead of recognising that these themes point to the eternal and perfect promise of freedom and restoration that will be realised when Jesus returns.

Sadly, Bobby Farrell, one of the performers of the classic lineup of Boney M has died. You can read a report here.
If you’re motivated you can search up material about the group, really a studio creation of producer/song-writer Frank Farian (later to achieve notoriety with another creation, Milli Vanilli). Wikipedia has pages for the group and the song. Boney M were not one-hit wonders by any means. Daddy Cool, Brown Girl In The Ring, Rasputin, Ma Baker and a few others were all pretty decent songs of their era.

As an old year passes to a new year God’s people are still looking and waiting for the full realisation of that promised land.

Leave a comment

Resolved To Get Up On Time In 2010, But Addicted To Your Snooze Button…

…then get Clocky.
The company blurb from the Amazon product page:

Never over-sleep again! Clocky is the alarm clock on wheels that runs away beeping! You can snooze one time, but if you don’t get up, Clocky will jump off of your nightstand up to 3 feet high, and run around your room as if looking for a place to hide. You’ll have to get out of bed to silence Clocky’s alarm. Clocky beeps in an R2D2-like robotic pattern so that you are sure to hear him. He’s kind of like a pet, only he will get you up at the right time! You can set Clocky to run away right when the alarm sounds, or set to snooze one time before he runs away. Clocky features a customizable snooze time up to 9 minutes long. You can also turn off Clockies wheels if you don’t want Clocky to run away one morning. A backlight helps you see Clocky at night. Clocky is perfect for those of us who have trouble waking up in the morning! He is compact, clever, and playful. He will never cease to amuse you as you wake up in the morning. This is an authentic Clocky alarm clock by the original designers of the product, Nanda Home Inc.

You’ll have to search for yourself to find an Australian retailer.
Sorry, I can’t remember where I saw this first.

1 Comment

Memorise The Book Of Philippians By Easter 2011

Timothy Brister, along with the team at Resurgence have invited the internet to memorise the whole book of Philippians by Easter 2011.
(That’s at the end of April, so there’s plenty of time)
They’ve produced a neat pdf presentation so you can paste each week’s worth of verses on one leaf of a small notebook, and have room to make notes on the other leaf.
It makes use of the text of the English Standard Version, but if you prefer another version you could use it as a guide to produce your own.
For the social media conscious there’s online supports for your memorisation, or if you’re old-fashioned you could find a real person to partner with.
It all starts on January 1, (naturally) so if you’re inclined to join in get prepared.


Outline Of David Powlison’s ‘Power Encounters’ By Justin Taylor

I recently recommended David Powlison’s (out of print) book Power Encounters to someone looking for a reliable resource on spiritual warfare.
The book was written during when the ‘strategic level spiritual warfare’ craze was at its zenith among the spirit-filled brethren, so some of its observations about practical situations can sound a little dated. (Strategic level spiritual warfare, for you young’uns was, at its best, a reflective use of biblical authority to battle the spiritual forces of evil, and, at its worst, a cross between animism and ‘Ghost-busters’.)
The book does recognise the reality of spiritual warfare, and seeks to guide against excess and over-emphasis.
Justin Taylor produced a helpful set of notes outlining the book
(while also alluding to the possibility of a second, hopefully well-revised, edition).

Reclaiming: Spiritual Warfare

“A great deal of fiction, superstition, fantasy, nonsense, nuttiness, and downright heresy flourishes in the church under the guise of ‘spiritual warfare’ in our time…. But the warfare we need to wage engages and implicates our humanity, rather than bypassing it for a superspiritual, demonic realm.”

Reasons for the Urgency

  1. We live in a society where the modern agenda has largely failed.
  2. We live in a society that has become increasingly pagan.
  3. Missions, anthropology, and modern communications make us aware of the practices and beliefs of animistic cultures.
  4. We live in a society of high-profile bondage to “addictions.”
  5. Bizarre or troubled behavior, often related to experiences of extreme abuse, seems to be appearing more frequently.
  6. Many people have sometimes experienced an uncanny, heightened sense of the presence of evil.
  7. A growing number of Christians teach and practice “deliverance” ministry in the quest to cast out inhabiting demons.

Powlison’s Intentions

Truly all Christians believe in spiritual warfare; we all believe that Christ delivers us from evil. Powlison seeks to answer two crucial points of confrontation regarding spiritual warfare.

The first question engages how we understand the Christian life. What are we fighting? How does the evil one actually work? How does he exert—or attempt to exert—his dominion?

The second question engages our practice of the Christian life. How should we fight? What is the way God delivers us—and tells us to deliver ourselves and each other—from bondage to the devil? What is the mode of warfare?

Our Common Ground

The large majority of Christians give assent to four propositions, whatever our other differences.

  1. We are involved in spiritual warfare.
  2. Jesus Christ is the triumphant Deliverer and King.
  3. The modern age deadens people to the reality of spiritual warfare.
  4. Errors and excesses occur in deliverance ministries.

If deadly rationalism saps spiritual vitality on the one hand, the exorcistic mentality spawns mutant spiritualities on the other. Both the disenchanted world of modern rationalism and the charmed world of premodern spiritism are wrong.

What Is Spiritual Warfare?

Three competing visions vie for our allegiance:

  1. Capitulation to the spirit of the age by radically reinterpreting the Bible’s “spirit” realities as mythical projections of psychological, sociological, political, and medical phenomena. (Inadequate for all serious followers of Christ.)
  2. The demon deliverance ministries
  3. The “classic” Christian mode of spiritual warfare

The “Ekballistic Mode” [EMM] of Spiritual Warfare

An invented term to describe the demon-deliverance movement that might seem awkward at first. It is a grassroots practical theology that finds varied expression both in pastoral ministry and in methods of personal growth. It envisions the warfare of Christians as a battle against invading demons, either to repel them at the gates or eject them after they have taken up residence. Obviously based on the key assumption that demons of sin reside within the human heart.

The “Classic Mode” of Spiritual Warfare

Evangelism, discipleship, and personal growth. Follows the pattern of Jesus facing Satan in the desert. The textbooks are the Psalms and Proverbs, the ways that Jesus addressed moral evil, and the teachings of the NT epistles.

EMM’s Strengths

  1. They recognize and challenge the spiritual barrenness—the practical atheism—of the secular modern age.
  2. They encourage conservative Christians to reenvision the world as a spiritual place so that the fight for Christ’s kingdom and glory might be more effective.
  3. They challenge the notion that people’s personal problems can be reduced to purely psychological, social, physiological, or circumstantial factors.
  4. Many “spiritual warriors” demonstrate admirable love and self-sacrifice.
  5. They show that prayer matters.
  6. They usually believe and practice classic-mode spiritual warfare much of the time.

Cultures Dark with the Occult

There are three important features of the occult worldview and its degraded existence.

  1. Demonological explanations for all events and actions—good or bad—predominated.
  2. Occult idolatry and practices were the norm.
  3. Nations that practiced the occult also pursued other generic addictions, such as gluttony, drunkenness, varied forms of immorality, greed, blood thirst, and power.

All the contemporary “causes” are in place in the OT, but the Scriptures never identify or address spirit inhabitants as the problem nor cast them out as the solution. The OT, as a voice into these demon-filled cultures, exhibits two striking features.

  1. It minimizes Satan.
  2. The OT maximizes human responsibility.

Lifting the Curtain

Every so often in the OT God lifts the curtain to show the spirit realities at work behind the scenes. Six major passages:

  1. Genesis 3:1-15
  2. 1 Samuel 16:13-23
  3. 1 Samuel 28:3-25
  4. 1 Kings 22:6-28
  5. Job 1:6-2:10
  6. Zechariah 3

God’s Sovereignty in an Evil World

God uses evil for his glory and the comfort of God’s people. EMM advocates simply do not articulate this understanding of God’s sovereignty in the mist of evil. Consequently, their understanding of spiritual warfare becomes skewed. The demons become increasingly autonomous; sin becomes demonized; the world gains the look and feel of superstition rather than biblical wisdom. EMM advocates rightly seek to reestablish a worldview that recognizes spirit beings, both good and evil. But the drift in EMM thinking toward demonological explanations creates a world more precarious and spooky than the Bible’s world. Ironically, in the end, the EMM worldview has more affinities with the occult worldview than the Bible.

The Bible gives an opposite, theocentric explanation. There the love of God—love for his name’s glory and his people’s welcome—strikes the deciding blow in the battle. Psalms and Proverbs are the supreme manual for spiritual warfare, for fighting both flesh-and-blood and spiritual enemies. Knowing that the devil is God’s devil brings us incalculable joy and confidence in battle with our adversary.

A Different Mode

The OT teaches a worldview and method of fighting spiritual evil that is essentially different from EMM.

  1. There is a radical focus on the Lord—God is at absolute center stage.
  2. Human beings are always responsible moral agents and share center stage with God.
  3. Although the OT acknowledges the activity of Satan and his demons, it shows that God is sovereign and the demons are constrained.
  4. God’s sovereignty has striking implications for the OT’s mode of spiritual warfare, mode of ministry, mode of living the godly life, and mode of fighting multifaceted evil. The mode of warfare God taught was having faith in the Word of God, fearing God, turning from evil involvements, taking refuge in the Lord, and obeying his voice. EMM is never the mode of warfare.

Sin and Suffering

Proponents of EMM make two major arguments:

  1. Because Jesus and the apostles cast out demons, we should do likewise.
  2. Because EMM is not forbidden by Jesus or the rest of the NT, there is no reason not to use it.

Powlison argues that the Bible does not teach us to wage spiritual warfare using EMM. Rather Scripture teaches us a different way to live the Christian life and fight our ancient foe.

The Dominion of Darkness Entails Sin and Suffering

One key to understanding spiritual warfare in the ministry of Jesus Christ is to notice that he mounted a twin-pronged offensive against the powers of evil—against moral evil and situational evil. Jesus employed two modes of warfare to address two different facets of the evil works of the devil.

  • Moral evil = the evil people believe and do.
  • Situational evil = the evil we experience (suffering, hardship, unpleasant and harmful events, death)

The two meanings of evil are closely linked; Satan employs both for his evil purposes.

God consistently portrays inhabiting evil spirits as situational—not moral—evil that hurt and abuse people. Sins, such as unbelief, fear, anger, lust, and other addictions, point to Satan’s moral lordship, but never to demonization calling EMM. Jesus usually approaches the sick from the angle of sufferers needing relief, not sinners needing repentance. Contrary to EMM teaching, unclean spirits are never implicated as holding people in bondage to unbelief and sin.

Whenever and wherever Jesus addressed Satan’s attempt to establish or maintain evil moral lordship, he used the non-EMM, classic mode of spiritual warfare. Jesus always used the classic mode to deal with moral evil; he used both the classic and ekballistic modes to deal with situational evil.

Jesus’ Mode of Ministry and Ours

“Eleven examples of Jesus’ works that we are called to do in a fashion different from our master. Notice three things after each example.

First, Jesus addresses genuine human needs that continue today.

Second, Jesus performs a particular action in an unusually striking and authoritative way, a command-control mode: ‘I say it, it happens.’

Third, we are told—by precept or example—to accomplish the same work but in a different way, the classic faith-obedience mode.” (p. 77)

  1. Pay taxes
  2. Catch fish
  3. Walk on water
  4. Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty
  5. Speak with God’s authority
  6. Call people to ministry
  7. Forgive sins
  8. Confront and curse sin
  9. Raise the dead
  10. Control the weather
  11. Heal the sick

Dealing with Demonic Affliction

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts portray Jesus and the apostles as using the command-control mode to address sickness, the weather, paying taxes, speaking with personal authority, and so forth. The rest of the New Testament, following the main approach in the Old Testament, exemplifies and commands a different mode. Is there a similar switch for dealing with demons associated with ailments and afflictions?

We certainly will not be surprised to find a mode shift. Scripture is ‘silent’ on the issue in the same way it is silent on paying taxes, performing resurrections, or stilling storms by words of command. The silence thunders. The mode of addressing demonically induced sufferings reverts to the classic mode: Live the Christian life of receptive faith and active obedience in the midst of life’s hardships….

The modern demon-deliverance ministries are predicated on two fundamental errors. First, they misread the biblical record and fail to distinguish between moral and situational evil. They cast out ‘demons’ of moral evil, something neither taught nor illustrated anywhere in Scripture. Second, they fail to reckon with the general mode shift away from the command-control mode and toward the classic mode.

Steps to a Far More Powerful Way

  • Fight and win spiritual warfare through discovering the Creator God who rules heaven and earth.
  • Fight and win spiritual warfare through learning to find refuge in the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Fight and win spiritual warfare through learning to dig into the Scripture in search of true wisdom.
  • Fight and win spiritual warfare through stopping fighting alone.
  • Fight and win spiritual warfare through growing to understand the thoughts and intentions of his heart.
  • Fight and win spiritual warfare through speaking words that do genuine good to others.
  • Fight and win spiritual warfare through honest work
  • Fight and win spiritual warfare through learning to aim your heart at what true prayer intends.
  • Fight and win spiritual warfare through not giving in to cultivated lusts.

Leave a comment

What Is A Local Church?

A couple of posts that provoke consideration about the nature of local church.
John Armstrong attempts to get to know the “First Reformed Cyber Church”
From Armstrong:

“Pastor Dianna Smith says “Worship at First Reformed Cyber Church is a very Reformed liturgical process.” She says this is just a new format that is being used to connect with younger people. Smith posts Scripture passages, music and videos, as well as litanies, all ahead of time. When the service begins she then guides those who take part from link to link. She will direct participants to read the Scripture text on their own and then, when they are finished, to respond with an “Amen” or by clicking “Like.” By this she knows when to proceed. Sermons are abbreviated and thus usually a sentence or two. (I am not making this up!)
Smith says the part of this that is most meaningful is “the joys and concerns” people share with each other. She adds, “They will post their joy and I will respond to it, and others respond to it.” People go back and forth encouraging and supporting one another. She adds, “The church is so excited about it, to see the young people that are a part of it, belonging to this way of worshiping.” She initially estimated 10-15 teens would participate but this has exceeded the teens of First Reformed and now draws 300 to 400 hits a week. She adds, “I’ve already had a family join the church that are members of Cyber Church only.” She employs many contemporary idioms and says this is really about “powerful worship.”
Read the rest of Armstrong’s post here.

On the 9Marks blog Deepak Raju reports on a US court decision that reflects a better understanding of biblical principle than some contemporary ‘churches’.

The internet church called Foundations of Human Understanding argued that they are a “real” church. The Court disagreed.
“The Foundation argued that it met the associational test by gathering a ‘virtual congregation’ of believers when its members listened to sermons broadcast over radio and the Internet at scheduled times. The Foundation’s ‘electronic ministry’ also included a call-in show, allowing members to call and interact directly with the clergy.”
“The Court of Appeals applied the associational test, which defines a church as a religious organization that, as a principal means of carrying out its religious purpose, holds regular religious services for a regular, cohesive body of believers to associate with one another and to engage in communal worship.”

The conclusion of this matter:
“The court’s ruling in the case gives guidance – and warning – to churches that use newer technologies to broadcast sermons and other religious messages to reach a wider, and perhaps younger, audience. To maintain ‘church’ status with the IRS, churches that take advantage of technological advances should ensure they are holding regular communal worship services for congregations that are physically present, and that such communal worship is not merely incidental to virtual activities.”
Read the remainder of the post here.

These sorts of evaluations are not people telling other people what a local church is, rather they are applying the criteria that the Bible itself lays out, and the way that teaching has been historically understood.
The new movements may be a lot of things, but they are not, in the biblically understood sense, a ‘church’. That is if we depend on the Bible to define what ‘church’ is.