Reflections of a Broken Man


A Letter to the Chaplain by StephenMac
April 27, 2009, 4:01 pm
Filed under: Reflections

To the Chaplain who was involved in the Dawn Service at Martin Place on ANZAC Day 2009,

God has blessed us amazingly, that in Australia, we may still publicly and openly be involved as Christians in ANZAC Day services. Such freedom is a blessing that is probably not shared elsewhere in many other countries. God has surely provided so abundantly to us, and we do well to remember such blessings.

And so I must ask, why, when you led us in prayer, did I feel that I was praying to an anonymous God? We prayed to the “Almighty Lord and God”, which while true, Jesus (as well as most of the New Testament writers) consistently referred to him as our Father. Are we not allowed to address him in such a fashion? Why, when you led us in  prayer, did you not speak of Jesus, the one who enables us to pray to that “Almighty Lord and God” and address him as Father? Why did you speak of the values of the ANZAC spirit, such as loyalty, courage, bravery, and self-sacrifice, and yet not speak at all of the epitome of those values, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ? Why, in the context of the cenotaph (from the Greek for empty tomb – mentioned mere minutes before your prayer) did you not mention The Empty Tomb, and the hope that comes from that?! Why, in the context of the self-sacrifice of the soldiers of Australia, did you not mention The Self-Sacrifice of Jesus Christ crucified in our place?! Why was there no hope offered to people, knowing that they thought that the only way to live forever would be in the memories of future generations?!?

What excuse is there, as a Servant of Jesus Christ, for not presenting the Gospel in the two opportunities that you were given by Him in the service? I know that it is a difficult and scary thing, to be not only up front of the 35,000 people at Martin Place, as well as the countless others listening in via other media. I know that our secular society may have commented, may have laughed, may have mocked, may have persecuted you for speaking up for the Gospel, but did you not expect this when you chose to follow Christ? What do you think Christ meant when he said “Pick up your cross and follow me?”

If it was an innocent mistake, then I could understand. If you were forced to be politically correct, then I could sympathise. But they asked you, a minister of the Gospel, to pray for us and to lead us in the Benediction, surely they understood that you could potentially speak out for Christ, and present the Gospel.

I am sorry if I have caused you offence, but I was personally offended and disappointed by what I considered an “un-Christian” prayer from a minister of the Gospel.

Yours in Christian Fellowship,
stephenmac



On Sin by StephenMac
April 23, 2009, 11:58 pm
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

*Currently listening to Lost in the Sounds of Separation – by Underoath*

I’m currently reading Tim Keller’s The Reason for God. Heard of it? You have now, and there is no excuse to not go and get it! Do it! Right now! Stop reading this and start reading his book!

Anyhow, the reason it is so good is that Keller seeks to answer the most common objections to faith, seek to really understand the barriers, and then present the clearest cases for God. Again, we’re not just talking about the random impersonal force god, but the God of the Bible. But, in doing so, he makes it so easy to understand. For a Christian, it’s a fantastic way to better understand what you believe and have placed your faith in, but if you don’t know Jesus, can I please please please ask you to read this book, because Keller tries to understand where you are coming from, and respectfully show you that there is a real, rational, personal reason for God.

But what struck me most this afternoon was the definition of sin that he provides. Sin is such an awful word, conjuring up all sorts of images and feelings. But I think this helps: “Sin is the despairing refusal to fin your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God. Sin is seeking to become oneself, to get an identity, apart from him.

reason_book

What this means is that you have a God-shaped hole in your life. Don’t deny it, it’s there. You have that void, that nothing seems to fill. You try sport, achievements, career, relationships, sex, drugs, parties, alcohol, church, family, bible-studies, altruistic societies. All of these things, they may be good in their place, but they won’t fit in that God-shaped hole in your life. Sin is trying to fill that void with things other than God.

Our problem today is that many of us don’t know what to put in that void, and we turn inward, despairing and melancholic. Where is your identity? Is it in the things of this world, the things that grow one day and fade the next? Is you hope and certainty in things that are transitory and passing? Or is your hope in the Eternal God who created you?

EBHG



On Video by StephenMac

Good news everyone!

Underoath have released a video for “Too Bright to See Too Loud to Hear”.

I love this song, best song on the album. I’ve blogged this song before, but I thought it time to reflect on it.

“I originally wrote the music without intending it to be a quote-unquote accessible song,” McTague says of the memorable soundscape. “It was a slow paced, slowed down jam-out song. We were actually out to dinner one day out by our practice space and Aaron pulled out his iPhone and he was thinking about that song and he said, ‘I wrote these lyrics’. And what he wrote was so meaningful. It was this huge statement.”

Citing the lyric “Good God if your song leaves our lips / if your work leaves our hands / then we will be wanderers and vagabonds,” the guitarist continues, “Our band has always been this Christian band and we’ve always been open about what we believe in, but there comes a certain point where a lot of the messages in our songs are very ambiguous. And that was so bold and straight up, talking about how we’re all people but without purpose we can feel lost.” (h/t here)

It’s so good to go to the original source and find out what they really mean rather than speculate on meanings… I had originally thought that that when they said “your work leaves our hands” they meant as in going out from them, as in proclaiming God, yet I am glad to see that it in fact means the complete opposite, and I’m struck by the powerful image of pointlessness and despair that we have should we abandon the one who gives us meaning.

McTague says of the concluding song (Desolate Earth :: The End is Here):

“Being lost, searching for answers and finding hope, we really felt like it summed up the whole record.”

It seems as though hope is a central theme, and the resounding answer is that it can only be found in God. But not just the theistic conceptions of God, not “God” in general, but the God of the Bible, the Father of Jesus Christ. To make sense of Underoath’s lyrics, you must understand that their world view is based on the work and the person of Jesus Christ.

Hope can only be found in Him. Underoath’s call is to find that hope in Jesus. Listen to the rest of the album. They paint for you an image of what a godless world would look like. Listen to “Emergency Broadcast :: The End is Near” (second favourite song on the album).

At the end of it all
We will be sold for parts
We will try to rebuild
But we ate it all away
All ambitions now run dry
Someone stop this thing, turn it off
In search of new life
Nothing will be left to walk this earth again
Turn it off
Our hopes and dreams
Will be swallowed
We always said it wouldn’t end up like this
We will be the new ice age
We will be the new plague
Disguised as a colony
We will wipe them all away
Feast your eyes
Or just rip ‘em out
This is it for us
It’s time to panic
We always said it wouldn’t end
It wouldn’t end up like this
We are the cancer
We are the virus
Tell me it’s not too late

Spencer Chamberlain, the main vocalist of Underoath, says this about the two songs:

WTL!: What’s the connection between “Emergency Broadcast… The End is Near” and “Desolate Earth… The End if Here”?

Spencer: They’re both songs that are just kind of referring to the end of the world, like not really songs about “the end of the world”, but when you’re going through something and you think “This is terrible, this is the worst ever! It’s the end of the world!”, that’s why they’re so visually inspired by real end of times, inner struggles, demons, those dark, sad places you find yourself in.

Underoath know what it is that many of their listeners are going through. They know that society demands of them an identity, and yet there is none to be found. Who are you? Why are you here? Don’t be fooled by these simple questions: they are the most important questions for all of us. The answer is not what “we are of our own making” or “I am whoever I want to be” – we see where that leads us:

We always said it wouldn’t end
It wouldn’t end up like this
We are the cancer
We are the virus

The answer is only found in Jesus Christ. To divide Underoath’s lyrics from Jesus is to completely misunderstand them and to miss the point entirely.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
1 Peter 1:3-5 (CSB)

EBHG



On Being Thankful by StephenMac
April 7, 2009, 7:51 pm
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , , , ,

**Currently listening to Never Take Friendship Personal by Anberlin… oh how I have missed you!**

CS Lewis Song – Brooke Fraser

If I find in myself desires nothing in this world can satisfy,
I can only conclude that I was not made for here
If the flesh that I fight is at best only light and momentary,
then of course I’ll feel nude when to where I’m destined I’m compared

Speak to me in the light of the dawn
Mercy comes with the morning
I will sigh and with all creation groan as I wait for hope to come for me

Am I lost or just less found? On the straight or on the roundabout of the wrong way?
Is this a soul that stirs in me, is it breaking free, wanting to come alive?
‘Cause my comfort would prefer for me to be numb
And avoid the impending birth of who I was born to become

Speak to me in the light of the dawn
Mercy comes with the morning
I will sigh and with all creation groan as I wait for hope to come for me

For we, we are not long here
Our time is but a breath, so we better breathe it
And I, I was made to live, I was made to love, I was made to know you
Hope is coming for me
Hope, He’s coming

Speak to me in the light of the dawn
Mercy comes with the morning
I will sigh and with all creation groan as I wait for hope to come for me

This song was awesomely covered by the guys at the church I was serving at during mission. As I was reflecting on mission, contemplating life the universe and everything, doing your average everyday navel-gazing (as you do), I remembered that I have much to be thankful for. Amanhecer Do dia - dawn of the sun

I am thankful for this life that God has given me: not just this lifestyle or this occupation/pathway, or even this lifetime of opportunities, but for this organic, biological life that exists at his desire as I inhale each breath! Sounds simple, but this is not something that I could have said in my first few years of high-school, nor even in my final years there where I was shown what it meant to be a Christian amidst a torrent of emotions: anger, despair, disappointment, loneliness and melancholy. This is something that I have only come to truly appreciate recently, in understanding that this life is not about me, but about the God who has made me his own.

And I, I was made to live, I was made to love, I was made to know you

I am thankful for the hope that I have been given: again, not just this ethereal or wishful thinking hope that our society pictures, but the hope of life eternal, that imperishable inheritance, that living hope that is only available because God called me. Again, this is not a hope that I have always had, but has been something that has only been recognised recently. This is the hope of Job, who screams out that he knows his Redeemer lives and that in spite of his perceived impending doom, he is still able to see his God knowing that God will vindicate him in the end! I ask you, where else will you find this hope? Nowhere! Not in materialism, not in super-spirituality, not in success or power or money or family or popularity or anything except him who is the living hope.

Speak to me in the light of the dawn
Mercy comes with the morning
I will sigh and with all creation groan as I wait for hope to come for me

What a powerful image that is, the light of the dawn. That God would deign to speak to me of all people, that he would show me mercy and kindness and forgiveness and love, that I may have life, that I may have hope. What else is there to say?

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. Eph 1:3-8

(h/t to sxc for the pic)

EBHG



On Mission by StephenMac
April 2, 2009, 12:24 am
Filed under: Reflections

**Currently listening to Our Love to Admire by Interpol**

So tomorrow is my day off, and I have just been reflecting on the past half-week of mission. I personally haven’t done much. Our mission team has had hectic points, but in comparison to many, we’ve had it pretty cruisy… This has caused me to reflect on how much of what happens is thus God’s work. There is no way that I could make any claim that the awesome things that have happened are the result of my own hands.

Of late, I have been convicted that part of maturity is having direction. And today, I think that hearing about the work of the church that I am at, parish ministry is a definite option. So is church planting in the parish context… so is discipling of leaders in a congregation… there are so many opportunities that thrill and excite me, and if I sat down and thought about seriously, would scare the crap out of me.

MPj04331320000[1]There are so many godly people who have welcomed me into their lives… I spent a mere 90 minutes with a group of people today, and found them to be a most encouraging and godly bunch. There are members of the various congregations who give their livelihoods to the ministry of the Word, and that excites me. This is something worth becoming involved in, even though it would require a lot of work and undoubtedly pain.

The awesomeness of mission coupled with the brokenness of this particular “missionary” and laxity and perhaps even lack of faithfulness reminds me of how much this is God’s mission. This is a “mission” upon which I am sent, called rather than voluntarism, and yet, I feel somewhat like a bystander or an audience of this fantastic drama that is unfolding before my eyes.

Praise be to the God who works despite my pathetic attempts to serve. Praise be to Him who has used me to achieve his will, in what seem like weak and poor conversations. Praise be to the One who is sovereign over our door knocking, over our conversations, over our meetings, over our events, over our contacts, over our congregations, over ourselves. Praise be to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ forever! Mission is pitiful without him.

EBHG