A year of Protest on Norfolk Island

It has been a year of protest on Norfolk Island. This has raised for me a challenging and pressing question: as Christians, should we protest and picket the government? 

After all, human government is deeply biblical. Look back to Genesis 1:28, where God commanded Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” Authority, by nature, reflects God’s authority. Romans 13 echoes this foundational biblical theology, “for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Rom. 13:1).
 

Traditionally, although there have been protests organised by Christians (think Martin Luther King), Christians have been mostly negative about protesting. The recommended response to injustice has been to go to God in prayer and leave the matter with Him. In 2 Timothy 2:1-2, Paul urges that ‘petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness’. One of the effective means by which Christians live out their godliness is through prayer for the king to the King of Kings.

Despite this, we still need to remember how our modern governments work. Ancient governments did not claim to represent individuals in the way our modern Western democracies do, so protests made little impact (and publicly protesting against the policies of Rome or Assyria was fairly pointless unless you wanted an immediate, public and brief encounter with the lions in the amphitheatre).

I think there is probably a case for Christian protesting today. More importantly, I think today’s governments actually expect some measure of protest. Increasingly it seems they create and announce policies with little thought and even less consultation and then – fingers crossed – impose them on the public. If they are met with strong objections, then the policies or laws are hastily withdrawn, redrafted and resubmitted. In a culture where only those who shout are heard, any failure to protest may be presumed consent or approval.

Perhaps you’ve heard of “Just War Theory”? It’s one of the ways Christians have responded to armed conflict. I think there are some similar principles, which can probably be proposed for a political protest – a “Just Protest Theory” if you will. After all, both war and protest are powerful forces that can easily tempt us to do wrong things – anger and hatred; grumbling and complaining; gossip and slander; insubordination and rebellion; anxiety and worry – these are just some of the wrong responses that can arise whenever the conversation takes a political turn. It’s even easier to get carried away when you are surrounded by the sound of marching feet, waving banners and the shouts of solidarity.
 
LET ME CAUTIOUSLY SUGGEST FIVE PRINCIPLES FOR PROTEST:

  1. We should protest on behalf of others rather than ourselves. Our duty to love our neighbour may involve us in protesting for them.
  2. All other means of influencing the governing powers should have been exhausted. Protest should always be a last resort.
  3. We must be assured that our protest will do more good than harm.
  4. There must be a clearly defined and widely understood aim for our protest (it’s all too easy for things to degenerate into anger and dislike).
  5. The limits of any protest must be set beforehand. Christians can have nothing to do with words of hatred or – even worse – acts of violence.

Moreover, in all that we do, we should try to bring Jesus into our protest. There is a widespread suspicion that the Christian church is no different from all those other community groups that exist only for their own benefit. Protests are an opportunity to show that actually we do care for others. Perhaps you can already think of ways our protesting can be pro-testimony and pro-Jesus?

Finally, Christians should pray for the salvation of our leaders. Paul writes, “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people…Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.” (1 Tim. 2:3–6).

Praying for the salvation of our leaders is good in the sight of God. The salvation of souls is in keeping with God’s gracious nature and His sovereign purposes; it is the reason Christ died on the cross. When we pray for our island, we must not limit our prayers to the latest policy decisions and other temporal issues. We must also pray for the souls of those in government and civil service, that by God’s grace they might be saved through faith in Christ!

Questions for reflection…

Here are some terrific questions for reflection / your time with the Lord this week.

How real has God been to your heart this week?

How clear and vivid is your assurance and certainty of God’s forgiveness and fatherly love? To what degree is that real to you right now?

Are you having any particular seasons of delight in God? Do you really sense his presence in your life, sense him giving you his love?

Have you been finding Scripture to be alive and active? Instead of just being a book, do you feel like Scripture is coming after you?

Are you finding certain biblical promises extremely precious and encouraging? Which ones?

Good Days and Bad Days

Mother’s Day is one of the most celebrated days of the year for the simple reason that no one got here without a mother. Nevertheless, it’s a difficult day for many. There was a time in our own life when it represented a very painful day.  Before we fell pregnant with Wendell, we lived through miscarriage, infertility and IVF. At church, it sometimes seemed as if it was the “real” women who were honoured, while the infertile women (and their husbands) grieved in the shadows. Not only is it a hard day on those who are infertile, but also for those who have lost a child, or are alienated from one. When we are experiencing a prodigal child, it’s extremely painful to sit in a service and hear the virtues of motherhood extolled when we may feel like we have failed God in our parenting.   The key to all of this is grace. Through God’s church, we minister to each other during the good days and the hard days, and so whether you’re celebrating or suffering this year, I pray God’s grace for you. I pray you will be strengthened in the grace that strengthens and is strengthening all of us: “And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).

Here’s a beautiful prayer I read on the internet this week:   

To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you  

To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you  

To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away – we mourn with you  

To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with tears and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say thoughtless things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.  

To those who are foster mums, mentor mums, and spiritual mums – we need you   To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you  

To those who have disappointment, heartache, and distance with your children – we sit with you  

To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you  

To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience  

To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst  

To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be  

To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths  

To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren – yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you  

To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you  

This Mother’s Day, we walk with you.  

We pray these things to you as our Father, who loved us before the world began, and will love us forevermore.  

In Jesus’ name,   Amen.

Lest I forget Gethsemane

we nawa gwen forget dem 

ANZAC Day 2015 marked 100 years since the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. Norfolk Island’s own contribution to both world wars was, per capita, the largest in the Commonwealth, which is proudly remembered by all islanders. This year the dawn service was held, not at the Cenotaph, but at the location of the first service in 1917, Emily Bay.

The fact that we remember the Gallipoli campaign as a great national day must be odd to people of other countries. The Americans have Independence Day, the French have Bastille, the British have Waterloo and Trafalgar, but ANZAC Day centres on an ignominious defeat in a side show theatre of the Great War. It sounds like foolishness, but of course we understand that this defeat symbolised something far greater.

The Bible speaks of a far greater defeat that stands at the epicentre of human history. A defeat which seems like foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved is the very power of God (1 Cor 1:18). The foolishness is of course the death of Jesus the Christ, which is still a stumbling block to so many in all their ‘wisdom’.

Last Saturday we will rightly say ‘lest we forget’, as we remembered the great sacrifice of others for out mortal bodies, but last Sunday we remembered the immeasurably greater sacrifice of Jesus for our immortal souls.

Lest I forget Gethsemane,
Lest I forget Thine agony;
Lest I forget Thy love for me,
Lead me to Calvary.

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! 

Friendship

The most central image for church goes right to the heart of our identity, it’s that we are family; brothers and sisters in Christ; sharing the one heavenly Father.

In his book The Four Loves, CS Lewis shares a beautiful meditation on his friends [Charles Williams] death in an essay entitled ‘Friendship.’

In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out.  By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets.  Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s [Tolkien’s] reaction to a specifically Charles joke.  Far from having more of Ronald, having him “to myself” now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald . . . In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious “nearness by resemblance” to heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each of us has of God.  For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest.  That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying “Holy, Holy, Holy” to one another (Isaiah 6:3).  The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall have.

Lewis is saying that it takes a community to know an individual!

How much more is this true of Jesus Christ? Christians commonly say they want a “relationship with Jesus”, that they want to “get to know Jesus better” but… We will never be able to do that by ourselves! “Only if you are part of a community of believers seeking to resemble, serve, and love Jesus will you ever get to know him and grow into his likeness” (Tim Keller, The Prodigal God, pp. 126-127).

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.

Norfolk Island Church of England | Love Jesus | Love Each Other | Love Norfolk Island

Our prayer is that God is shaping us into a community of disciples who:

  • Love Jesus (1 John 4:10)
  • Love Each Other (1 John 3:16)
  • Love Norfolk Island (John 3:16)

We’d love for you to pray with us!

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