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Thursday, 18 February 2016

I May Not Like What You Say, But I Will Defend Your Right to Say It

The last two days my newsfeed on Facebook has been filled up with news about Manny Pacquiao. First to do with people talking about the fact that he likened homosexual relationships to being worse than animals, then secondly to do with Nike getting rid of his sponsorship. Many of the more violent and hyperbolic reactions that I read about came from celebrities in the Philippines such as Vice Ganda, some came from friends I know and others came from general online comments about how 'Many has always been a homophobe.' 

Now, if there's one thing I know it is this - Many was not acting wisely when he said what he said. It was clumsy and it was only guaranteed to trigger fireworks. However, the context of the situation is that he was asked for his opinion and he provided it. The backlash against that opinion ultimately in my eyes has proven to be completely ridiculous.

Take for instance the following two articles which are laughable in their sheer media bias and lack of reason: 

Each suggest that Many Pacquiao has somehow just destroyed his entire legacy by what he said. As if they don't know about his history of rumors to do with being a womaniser and abuser of substances. If you read the articles, one would think he had committed adultery or murder or some such crime. What instead did he do? He made one statement which was his opinion.

I care more about the way in which a person lives their life than about the singular statements they make on a spur of the moment decision.  Some might argue that this shows Many's 'hatred' and 'bigotry' but I challenge you that if you are simply willing to throw stones at him and not consider his point of view then you are the one acting in a bigoted manner. I saw a man who, unswerving, holds to his faith despite what the popular opinion might be. He was not trying to gather favour with people but with God by holding to a Godly standard of sacredness.

Now in the following three videos (each go for about ten minutes and are fascinating viewing if you can find the time) Ravi Zacharias makes some fascinating points about differences of opinion. He challenges people about the type of society we live in and when people argue that it is an autocratic society, wherein we govern ourselves, he challenges them about whether opinions only matter to us when our opinion agrees with someone else. Whether you agree with him or not it's great viewing.

Now Vice Ganda mockingly released a statement via Twitter asking along the lines of 'who even follows the entire Bible.' This is a common fall-back argument for many people that I have seen again and again. You know the answer? No one. I don't follow the entire Bible whatsoever. Not even a perfect looking church leader like Brian Houston or Billy Graham can. But you know what they do do? Possess a faith and a hope in the salvation of their lord and saviour Jesus Christ. They look to please Him before they please man on any issue of public redress and when God has made such a sacred thing as marriage they believe that humanity cannot mess with it.

So you see this is what I've concluded. You may not like Manny's opinion and expression of it. You might see him as bigoted, hateful or whatever choice phrase you pick. But I will support the right for him to have a decision and I challenge anyone throwing stones as to whether they can say that they are not being as hateful back in return.

I may not agree with your lifestyle. I will likely not support you in following that lifestyle necessarily - I wouldn't give a drug addict drugs; an alcoholic some wine; or a gambler money to spend on the races. But I will accept your human right to be human and make choices. Whether those choices are wrong or not - the choice is yours. As Dr. Ravi points out in the above speeches, it is part of our rights as humans and the beauty of being human is we have freedom of choice. However we do not freely choose the consequences of those choices. You can either choose to criticise and throw stones with the chorus or you can defend a fellow human's right to his opinion even if you disagree.

Not all beliefs, all religion, is equal. Dr Ravi stated that. It's the perfect phrasing of my own belief. Try criticising the Saudi government for their beliefs about gay marriage - in Saudi Arabia! You won't get very far. But that's the beauty of who God is: he unequivocally grants freedom to us to choose to love, to worship or to break the sacred commands he provides. Yet, humanity must ultimately pay the consequences of those freedoms and choices. The question remains - how are you using your freedom and will? Are you choosing to worship your creator or your own selfish desires? I believe that despite however clumsily Manny said it that he has made a conscious choice to look to his Lord first and that is truly the kind of admirable, excellent spirit that I am chasing after this year.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Have Time for God - He Always Has Time for You!

I recently began writing a story concept which has been floating around in my head for the better part of a year. I had always intended to begin writing it, but it took the encouragement of a writing friend to get on my horse and write. Why had I not begun writing before? Using my gifts of writing is a passion of mine, like reading or teaching or playing games and watching films. Why had I neglected a dream and a passion to write? In short: because I kept telling myself that I was too busy.

In reality this was an excuse for me. I was busy certainly, but the reality was that I had the idea that my written ideas were not quite polished, not going to become the story that I dreamed they could be. Yet, as was pointed out to me most recently: if you don't begin even in a small amount, how can you hope to achieve the goal that you set out for?

So this has become a blog post about goals and journeys meeting procrastination. It ties into the idea that my church in Melbourne discussed before I left - the idea that we need to position ourselves to receive God's blessing. After all, while you may be blessed if you go and surround yourself with trash can you fully use that blessing? Just food for thought that comes to mind. I said in my last blog post that I recognise how I have positioned myself for blessing through moving to Swan Hill and have seen in this first month just how God has provided me with great finances, a fantastic apartment location, staff that I can be an example to of Christ's love and the blessing of free internet and 150 dollars electricity credit despite minor setbacks.

I heard a message two weeks ago by Brian Houston. Now unfortunately some Christians, I have since read love to attack Hillsong for being 'ungodly'. In my view, I believe this is because they don't see Hillsong as having the same revelation of gospel and grace as themselves and therefore it must be 'false doctrine'. While my revelation is not precisely the same as Hillsong's in some ways I do accept that they are however following God's plans and purposes for their church in being a light on a hill to welcome all who need God's grace and it's sad to see fellow believers choosing instead to criticise rather than celebrate how God is using another part of his body.

That aside, this message was about how Daniel was separated and blessed by the nation who stole him away to Babylon and the subsequent conquerors of Babylon because of his Godly and excellent spirit. I believe God wants me to have that same spirit here in Swan Hill among my fellow staff and students - to distinguish myself through my very being and so spread the gospel where I may not openly be able to preach with words as much as in example.

I was struggling therefore yesterday with whether to tithe and how much and wondering if I was going to give out of obligation. I recognised however, that to hold the money back would be just as bad given my revelation about giving money gifts to God. So I continued to pray and realised that no I was not going to be giving in the end because I 'had' to but because I wanted to. The only thing holding me back was the idea of all the other things I could do with that money - such as buy and Xbox One or pay off more on my car. None of which are bad desires in and of themselves. But they should not be any reason to separate me from giving first and worshiping God first.

So I gave to my previous church, feeling at peace that this was a gift to God until I properly establish myself in the church up here. I won't say the amount because to me giving and talking about giving should not be about amounts but rather about the heart behind it. And as I was reflecting on this this morning in relation to my writing procrastination I was reminded of the story of Mary and Martha:

Luke 10: 38-42 (NIV)

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Now Martha was concerned with the idea that her sister Mary was sitting down listening to Jesus rather than helping her look after her house. I don't think that there was anything wrong with the fact that Martha wanted her house looking beautiful for her Lord, but it's clear her heart was not in the place it should be with how Jesus told her that she was worried and upset over many things when all she needed was to be concerned with one thing. Which it seems to be implied is 'are you learning to follow Jesus truly as Lord.'

Martha was likely thinking of how she could make her house beautiful and spotless to make a good impression of herself. Jesus saw past that and reminded her that the most important thing was to be paying attention to Him. At times with my teaching I can be so concerned about teaching a lesson that I too forget that the most important thing is to pay attention to the needs of the students. Of course here, Jesus was reminding Martha to instead pay attention to the teacher and choose what is better.

Have you been like me recently? Too busy to chase after doing something you love, choosing more meaningless tasks over the important dreams you hold. Have you been too busy for God? Or have you been trying to spend time or in my case money on things other than Him? We all do it in various ways and this is not to guilt trip anyone but to encourage everyone to think about the fact that you do have time on your hands and are not too busy but may be like me: not spending it the right way in the right time. I know what I want to do, be more like Daniel with an excellent spirit who always had time for God.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Godly Positioning

Two Sundays ago, my pastor in Every Nation preached what he felt the prophetic theme for 2016 was. He believed it was 'position for blessing' and spoke about the idea of how God wants us to position ourselves in a way that allows him to bless us. This very concept ran true to me because I have witnessed it coming true in the last three months.

At the start of December I proposed to Jeanille that we get married. This was after an argument which left me feeling as if I wasn't worthy of doing so, but I still felt God prompting me to continue with my - His - plans and to my delight she said yes. Several days later I received an email from a small school (one of many campuses of a bigger global school) in Swan Hill requesting that I attend an interview in Kerang. I was reluctant to do so but God and Jeanille both pushed me to go and to really trust and see what God had for me. The interviewers were impressed with me and asked for me to return in the new year and when I finally did they offered me the job - which possesses greater financial blessing and work opportunities than I could have imagined and all on the first interview after having been rejected many times.

Just this last week I began to teach at the Swan Hill campus, experiencing God's blessing despite the fact that my power was delayed in turning on (my company offered me a refund and some credit - more than I expected). The reality that I have discovered is this: when you follow God's plans you will put yourself in a position and place of godly positioning, where you can receive more than you ever imagined, even if you also experience trouble.

I want to encourage you all to follow God's plans for your life even if you need to go outside your comfort zone. Trusting Him places you in positions of financial, spiritual and holistic blessing regardless of any troubling reality. As Proverbs 3 states 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.' My paths are certainly straightening, what about yours?