A wasted life

nate_saint

“And people who do not know the Lord ask why in the world we waste our lives as missionaries. They forget that they too are expending their lives… and when the bubble has burst they will have nothing of eternal significance to show for the years they have wasted.”

~ Nate Saint

In honor of Plymouth Brethren missionaries, Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Roger Youderian, Ed McCully and Pete Fleming, who were killed by the Auca Indians, January 1956.

Thanksgiving on Norfolk Island

Since the 1890’s the community of Norfolk Island have been decorating All Saints Kingston and celebrating Thanksgiving together.

The Pilgrims, following their first harvest in the New World in 1621, hosted the very first Thanksgiving; a celebration feast offering thanks to God for his bountiful provision, protection and care over them in the New World.

George Washington Thanksgiving ProclomationThe first U.S. National Thanksgiving day of celebration started with a proclamation signed October 3, 1789 by the country’s first president, George Washington. Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor—and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.” 

In 1863 amid the civil war, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a National Thanksgiving Day “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.  It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. 

Thanksgiving_Proclamation_AbeLincolnAnd I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans. mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.

How did the most American of holidays end up on a remote Australian territory in the middle of the South Pacific?

Mark Johanson (with our own Tom Loyd) of the IB Times explains (http://www.ibtimes.com/how-thanksgiving-became-holiday-remote-norfolk-island-893484):

“On Norfolk Island there is one day when all congregations join together, and that is to celebrate Thanksgiving Day,” he explained. “The Pitcairners always celebrated the English Harvest Home festival, but it was not until the mid-1890s that All Saints Church was specially decorated for the service.”

This was Isaac Robinson’s idea, Lloyd said. Robinson was an American trader who settled on Norfolk as agent for Burns Philp & Co Ltd., later becoming Norfolk’s Registrar of Lands and the island’s first (and so far only) United States consul.

“The idea of Norfolk having an American consul does sound slightly absurd today,” Lloyd admits, “but in those days American whalers made frequent calls, and Robinson proposed dressing the church up American-style for Thanksgiving.”

Three of Robinson’s friends helped him decorate All Saints Church in the capital, Kingston, using only palm leaves and lemons, and though he died and was buried at sea the next year, his notion caught on. For Norfolk’s second Thanksgiving service, the parishioners brought down all sorts of produce to decorate the church.

“The tradition became to tie corn stalks to the pew ends and pile flowers on the altar and the font,” Lloyd said. “At first, each family took home its own fruit and vegetables after the service, but today they are sold to raise money for church preservation.”

See you at All Saints!

God’s H.E.A.R.T

Gods-own-heart

Thom Rainer (a US pastor and writer) prays evangelistically using the simple acronym, “GOD’S HEART”. I think it’s excellent. Maybe this pattern will help you as you pray evangelistically too:

G = Pray that believers (beginning with yourself) will appreciate God’s grace. When we really appreciate what God has done for us, we naturally want to tell others about Him.

O = Pray for believers (beginning with yourself) to live in obedience to God. If we’re not walking in obedience to God, our disobedience hinders our prayers (Isa. 59:1-2). Remaining in Christ really does matter when we pray (John 15:7).

D = Pray that believers (beginning with yourself) will decide to tell others. Evangelism doesn’t just happen. Telling the story of Jesus is a choice… an action…a decision. We often know we should do evangelism, but decide not to do it. Pray that won’t happen.

S = Pray that believers (beginning with yourself) will speak the gospel fearlessly and clearly. In fact, that’s the way Paul taught us to pray in Ephesians 6:19-20 and Colossians 4:2-4.

H = Pray for your non-believing friend or loved one to have a receptive heart to the gospel. Apart from Christ, people are dead in their sin (Eph. 2:1), held under the devil’s sway (Acts 26:18). Only God can make our hearts open to the good news.

E = Pray that their spiritual eyes will be opened. Our non-believing friends or loved ones are blinded to the truth of the gospel (2 Cor. 4:3-4), and the “god of this age” does all he can to keep them in darkness.

A = Pray that they will have God’s attitude toward sin. Understanding God’s remedy for sin begins with understanding our sickness. We’re all sinners (Rom. 3:23), and we must see our sin as God sees it – as wrong against a holy God.

R = Pray that your non-believing friend or lovedwill repent and believe. The message of Christ is clear: we must turn from our sin and trust Christ for salvation (Mark 1:15). God gets the glory as He frees nonbelievers from the domain of darkness (Col. 1:13).

T =  Pray their lives will be transformed. When God does that, the non-believing world takes note.

Who is praying for you to speak the gospel boldly and clearly? Are you praying for other believers to be evangelistic? Are you praying for non-believers? Are you asking God to save and transform a specific person? Even if you’ve been praying for someone for many years, don’t give up. God still responds to the prayers of His people. That’s His heart!  

‘be prepared to die for God’: Misleading headline of the year award

Perhaps you saw the article on SRE “contributed” to the Norfolk Islander last weekend? 

In my opinion, The Australian newspaper has resorted to the worse kind of sensationalised journalism in the piece, ‘Be prepared to die for God’, kids told in state school classes (October 17th).

It is worth mentioning that the story was actually discussed in the media several months ago, and the issues raised were then adequately dealt with by the NSW Government and the providers of SRE (it all started with a group of atheists in Victoria. Read more here: http://australia.thegospelcoalition.org/article/banned-an-interview-with-john-dickson).

It’s also worth mentioning that is a non issue for Norfolk Island Central School too – we don’t run high school scripture and there are no plans to do so!

I suspect this article was “contributed” as a parting shot by a participant in the P&C debate about whether or not to pursue a “Chaplain” at Norfolk Island Central School (as I’m sure you’re already aware, the P&C voted against employing Mitch Mahaffey as Chaplain). This was probably an unhelpful article to “contribute” given that a high school SRE class wasn’t the subject of the debate and also given that the law requires a Chaplain to be religiously neutral (the best way to think about the role that the Federal government funds is to think of a Chaplain like a youth worker or mentor).

So why did The Australian choose to regurgitate a non-story from months ago? I can only assume it follows the dreadful murder in Parramatta of Curtis Cheng by schoolboy Farhad Jabar. These are genuine concerns for Australia, but sadly there are Australians who are distastefully seizing upon this issue and using it to try and remove Christian teaching and presence from schools in NSW.

Yes, the teachings of Jesus really are radical in their own unique way. But let’s face it: there’s a world of difference between an Islamic radicalism that beheads enemies, and Jesus’ radicalism that forgives enemies.

Why our secular intelligentsia can’t or won’t publicly admit this obvious difference simply baffles me. Why would anyone want to prevent students from following in the footsteps of the Nazarene?

All of the extreme ideas cited by Natasha Bita, are of course nothing of the sort. Michael Jensen’s book, You: An Introduction, is designed to start a conversation. It certainly holds a view of God who is holy and love, and of a world that is simultaneously amazing and broken, joy giving and painful, but all this fit perfectly within orthodox Christianity. And far from being dangerous, read further and you’ll find that is no inciting to anger and hate, but there is much encouragement to love and respect, and to think deeply about life and biggest questions of the cosmos.

And in response to the criticism given to a letter that was written by Bronwyn Chin, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2013, is it not appropriate to share stories of hope in the midst of suffering, or should our teenage children only have access to stories where the narrative is hopeless and meaning allusive?

I think it’s actually pretty shabby that The Australian decided to run the article at all. Not just Christians, but Australians in general understand that aligning Christianity with Islamic extremism is absurd and bordering on slander.

Bottom line – it’s fine to not like SRE. It’s also fine to not like the fact that it remains in NSW State schools, and it is fine to argue for its removal, but it is not fine to harness public fears about real issues and to suggest that SRE is somehow akin to or might lead to the kinds of evil ISIS are perpetrating around the globe.

Finally, it is important for us to understand three basic points that Natasha Bita failed to mention in her article:

1. Along with John Dickson’s book, ‘A Sneaking Suspicion’, You: An Introduction, was temporarily banned from NSW schools earlier in the year, but they were quickly re-introduced once the Education Minister was made aware of the situation and no issue found with them.

2. SRE classes are not compulsory. No parent is forced to have their children attend the classes. These classes are for families who want their children participating, and clearly there are significant numbers of families who do want these classes.

3. There is not a state endorsed or supported religion. It would be closer to the mark to say that the religion of atheism is calling for support from the state to ban religions from kids! FIRIS’s desire for the removal of SRE is because they see SRE as being part of an archaic legacy, something which no longer belongs in schools. The problem is that by the removal of SRE, this would in fact infringe on the rights of parents who do actually want their children to attend SRE. Yet, FIRIS would rather infringe on the rights of these parents in order to have their agenda achieved, something which goes against their supposed ethos of caring about the ‘rights of the parents’. The only parents that FIRIS really cares about apparently, are those parents who share in their aim of the removal of SRE.

Are our SRE teachers on Norfolk Island dangerous? Only about as dangerous as the kind mum or grandma  who taught you when you were at school! It was probably someone you knew, and they probably cared about you too! No one was forced to believe the views they presented or to even attend their classes, and yet the ideas and the stories you learnt there are the ones that have profoundly shaped our nation. Even if we disagree with them, is it not valuable for our children to have the opportunity to at least read and engage with those ideas for themselves?

I hope that last weeks article hasn’t left you confused and I would encourage you to contact you favourite SRE teacher if you have any questions about the programme.

Firing Squads, Jailhouse Religion and Amazing Grace

We must never forget that much of the Bible was written by murderers who were given a second chance – Moses, David, and Paul. We must never forget that our churches would be empty if we killed everyone who was deserving of death. 

Reformed Bali Nine ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran and their six fellow prisoners were shot by a 12-member firing squad in the early hours of Wednesday morning. According to the pastors who were with them in their final hours, the men refused to wear blind-folds and spent their last minutes of life praising God by singing Amazing Grace. Andrew Chan famously became a Christian in jail, and right up until his death he led the worship service in Kerobokan prison. He attributed this change entirely to his religious conversion. But what are we to make of this hope that Chan carried with him right up until his death? Not everyone buys it. “Jailhouse religion” is the derisive term for crooks finding God in the hope of a pardon or better treatment and it’s fair to say that if there is no God then the whole episode looks like a meaningless waste.

Even as a Christian minister, a familiar accusation is that my religion is “a crutch”. I admit that many people are religious, not for rational reasons, but simply because they have an emotional need to believe that there is a heavenly Father that cares for them. On the other hand, we should also admit that many people reject religion, not for rational reasons, but simply because they have an emotional need to not believe that there is a heavenly King we have to obey. Aldous Huxley (author of A Brave New World) freely admitted this: “I had motives for not wanting the world to have meaning; consequently I was able without much difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption….for myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.”

We need to admit that we have a built-in bias. In order to offset that, have you ever taken a long, hard look at the evidence for faith? If an honest judge had to sit in judgment on a claim against in which she knew she had a built-in bias, she would have to work to be diligent and objective in her examination. On the one hand, it means people who have a strong interest in God should undertake a careful examination of the arguments and evidence, so they don’t believe simply out of emotional need. But on the other hand, people who have an indifference to religion should undertake a careful examination of the arguments and evidence so they don’t disbelieve simply out of emotional need.

If Chan was onto something all those years ago when, in solitary confinement, he first sensed God alongside him as he read the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, then he joins many others who have gone to their deaths in similar circumstances, not glad of the fate that awaited them, but hopeful, even confident that through their death they were in fact being ushered into life. Chan’s God is the God of second chances. Think about how Jesus approached those who had sinned in the Gospels. He highlights such teachings as “judge not lest you be judged”; “I did not come for the healthy but for the sick, not for the righteous but for the sinners” and “you’ve heard it said ‘an eye for an eye’ but I tell you there is another way”. Christ stood relentlessly for mercy, favouring forgiveness over punishment. There is actually an incident in the Gospels where Jesus is asked about the death penalty. A women has been humiliated and dragged before the town, ready to be killed. Her execution was legal; her crime was a capital one. But just because it was legal, didn’t make it right – and Jesus interrupts the scene with grace. In the passage in question, found in John 8, Jesus challenges the mob ready to stone an adulterous woman; famously declaring, “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone” (v 7). The only one who is left with any right to throw a stone is Jesus – and he has absolutely no inclination to do so. It is this duel conviction that no one is above reproach and that no one is beyond redemption that lies at the heart of our faith. The beauty of it, is that closer we are to God the less we want to throw stones at other people. Of all people, we who follow the executed and risen Christ should be people who are consistently for mercy, for grace and for life.

We dare not forget the story – of a God who so loved the world that Jesus was sent, not to condemn the world but to save it. We must never forget that much of the Bible was written by murderers who were given a second chance – Moses, David, and Paul.

…We must never forget that our churches would be empty if we killed everyone who was deserving of death. And so this week, I both grieve and sing. Because, despite these terrible events I can join them in this prayer – amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!

David Fell is the Chaplain of the Church of England on Norfolk Island, an Anglican Church that loves Jesus, loves each other and loves Norfolk Island.

UNIT Youth is almost here!

Next Friday night at the Parish Centre, the combined churches of Norfolk Island launch a new High School youth ministry called UNIT Youth.

UNIT Youth is a new initiative designed to provide excellent and intentional ministry to our young people – it’s an exciting program specifically designed for teenagers, where they can gather with other kids for fun, friendship, and Christian teaching. The first night of UNIT gets off to a fiery start with what we are calling Pyromaniac Craze Night. Why not join us for a relaxed BBQ dinner at 6.30pm before the night kicks off at 7.00pm.

10003925_624367047633863_414920252068855207_nMitchell Mahaffey has been employed to lead UNIT. Mitch is an experienced Youth Worker from the Sunshine Coast in QLD and holds a Certificate IV in Youth Work as well as a Certificate III in Outdoor Education. A team of adult volunteers including Mark and Jess Scott, Ashley and Grant Newman and even Rev. David Fell will assist Mitch. We are highly confident that your children will be carefully led and supervised by Mitch and his team. We are doubly confidant that they will receive teaching and mentoring that will greatly enhance their growth and development as young adults, es­pecially in the Faith. In fact, we believe that UNIT will become a genuine centre for counter-cultural influence, both protecting kids from negative peer pressure, and helping them to critically evaluate and navigate society.

But here is the thing – we need your support. We value partnering with parents in all of these things and we urge you to support this new venture by encouraging your kids to come!

We can’t wait to see you there! 

Stretching Our Heads Across Eternity

I hope you’ve been enjoying our sermon series on Ephesians. If you’ve missed any of it, let me try and re-cap for you!

Deep breath. Rub my hands together. Here’s my attempt at a short, to-the-point, yet helpful 100-meter dash through the first three chapters of Ephesians. Ready?

Ephesians 1 is our glorious introduction to the church. Church is not just a nice spiritual thing for us to do together. It was eternally purposed by God to be “in” King Jesus. From before the foundation of the world God thought of us, and thought of how to call us and join us together, inside of Jesus, along with all the rest of creation. Jesus is the great Ruler over everything, in this age and the next. Yet this great and glorious King has been given to us as head of the church, so that the church is “the fullness of him that fills all in all.”

We’re supposed to respond to this chapter with, “Woah! Wow! Amazing! We have been called into a glorious, cosmic, Divine purpose, planned by God before the foundation of the earth! Wow whee, my head is spinning.”. It sounds over the top, but I mean every word. That’s how we should respond to Ephesians 1!

Ephesians 2 and 3 brings in some details, but the effect is the same. We’re seated in the heavenlies in Jesus despite the fact that we were once all demonically influenced sinners (really, see 2:1-3). We are now citizens of heaven and part of a glorious mystery, hidden through all the ages, to join Israelites and Gentiles, all people, into a dwelling place for God.

Wow!

Talk about stretching your head across eternity and the universe – can’t wait to see you again this Sunday!

David Fell is the Chaplain of the Church of England on Norfolk Island, an Anglican Church that loves Jesus, loves each other and loves Norfolk Island.

God’s Vision For Church

Last week marked my first morning in the Church of England pulpit, and I suppose the obvious questions were; WHAT is he going to be like? Or perhaps more importantly; WHAT is church going to be like, now that he’s here!?

And so I thought it would be good to spend some time examining Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, and thinking about God’s vision for Church. How does GOD define church? I hope that doesn’t sound too pious, or like I’m avoiding those obvious (and good) questions, but that’s what REALLY matters isn’t i? What does the church mean to HIM!

In any case, I suspect that if we are united in the WHY of church, then the questions about WHAT it should be like, and the HOW we’re going to do it will only become more and more obvious…and we simply work those out together in time!

The book of Ephesians lifts our gaze. It enlarges our vision. God wants us to see the enormity of the change Jesus brings to the UNIVERSE and how THE CHURCH is at the very CENTRE of his plans for ALL TIME.

Admittedly, that can all seem a long way from everyday appearances. So we need to see beyond the EARTHLY. We need to see with SPIRITUAL eyes. To see our true identity, to see our true potential. So that’s what Paul PRAYS. Ch 1 v18

18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

We worry about decaying buildings, and who’ll fix the organ or whether someone will volunteer to run the Sunday School. We worry about dwindling numbers and tiring bodies.

But the King over every authority and power, past, present and future, visible and invisible, on earth and in heaven, head over governments, and media, and demons, and cancer, and natural disasters, and political uprisings, and army generals, IS FOR US, THE CHURCH.

That’s WHO we are. And WHOSE we are.

Father, I pray that the eyes of our HEARTS may be enlightened in order that we may know the HOPE to which you have CALLED us, to know the riches of your GLORIOUS INHERITANCE, and to know your incomparably great POWER for us who believe. AMEN

David Fell is the Chaplain of the Church of England on Norfolk Island, an Anglican Church that loves Jesus, loves each other and loves Norfolk Island.

That Incredible Christian

I was talking with someone recently who described Christians as being “like everybody else, except that they are forgiven and on their way to heaven”.

“I’m just a sinner saved by grace” is a common refrain among many Christians today; however, Christians haven’t always talked this way about the life of faith. It’s not that my friend was being trite in her description (no, she was very sincere); however, it does tend toward a shallow view of Christianity, especially to non-Christians.

We are not just sinners saved by grace. We are saints indwelled by the very Spirit of God!

AW Tozer in his famous article, “That Incredible Christian,” captures this idea well (note the contradictions):

  • The Christian believes that in Christ he has died, yet he is more alive than before and he fully expects to live forever.
  • He walks on earth while seated in heaven and though born on earth he finds that after his conversion he is not at home here.
  • Like the nighthawk, which in the air is the essence of grace and beauty but on the ground is awkward and ugly, so the Christian appears at his best in the heavenly places but does not fit well into the ways of the very society into which he was born.
  • The Christian soon learns that if he would be victorious as a son of heaven among men on earth he must not follow the common pattern of mankind, but rather the contrary.
  • That he may be safe he puts himself in jeopardy; he loses his life to save it and is in danger of losing it if he attempts to preserve it.
  • He goes down to get up. If he refuses to go down he is already down, but when he starts down he is on his way up.
  • He is strongest when he is weakest and weakest when he is strong.
  • Though poor he has the power to make others rich, but when he becomes rich his ability to enrich others vanishes.
  • He has most after he has given most away and has least when he possesses most.
  • He may be and often is highest when he feels lowest and most sinless when he is most conscious of sin.
  • He is wisest when he knows that he knows not and knows least when he has acquired the greatest amount of knowledge.
  • He sometimes does most by doing nothing and goes furthest when standing still.
  • In heaviness he manages to rejoice and keeps his heart glad even in sorrow.

The paradoxical character of the Christian is revealed constantly.

  • For instance, he believes that he is saved now, nevertheless he expects to be saved later and looks forward joyfully to future salvation.
  • He fears God but is not afraid of Him.
  • In God’s presence he feels overwhelmed and undone, yet there is nowhere he would rather be than in that presence.
  • He knows that he has been cleansed from his sin, yet he is painfully conscious that in his flesh dwells no good thing.
  • He loves supremely One whom he has never seen, and though himself poor and lowly he talks familiarly with One who is King of all kings and Lord of all lords, and is aware of no incongruity in so doing.
  • He feels that he is in his own right altogether less than nothing, yet he believes without question that he is the apple of God’s eye and that for him the Eternal Son became flesh and died on the cross of shame.
  • The Christian is a citizen of heaven and to that sacred citizenship he acknowledges first allegiance; yet he may love his earthly country with that intensity of devotion that caused John Knox to pray “O God, give me Scotland or I die.”
  • He cheerfully expects before long to enter that bright world above, but he is in no hurry to leave this world and is quite willing to await the summons of his Heavenly Father. And he is unable to understand why the critical unbeliever should condemn him for this; it all seems so natural and right in the circumstances that he sees nothing inconsistent about it.
  • The cross-carrying Christian, furthermore, is both a confirmed pessimist and an optimist the like of which is to be found nowhere else on earth. When he looks at the cross he is a pessimist, for he knows that the same judgment that fell on the Lord of glory condemns in that one act all nature and all the world of men.
  • He rejects every human hope out of Christ because he knows that man’s noblest effort is only dust building on dust. Yet he is calmly, restfully optimistic. If the cross condemns the world the resurrection of Christ guarantees the ultimate triumph of good throughout the universe. Through Christ all will be well at last and the Christian waits the consummation.

Incredible Christian!

David Fell is the Chaplain of the Church of England on Norfolk Island, an Anglican Church that loves Jesus, loves each other and loves Norfolk Island.