April 25 2021

Lest We Forget

Lest we forget
Is a warning
It’s an acknowledgement
That it’s easy to forget
Easy to take things for granted
Easy to let history repeat itself
Easy to lose the peace and freedom we currently enjoy
Easy for them to grow old and for age to weary them
And so we must each year
Work hard at peace
Work hard at freedom
Work hard at remembering
Lest we forget

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April 3 2021

Easter Saturday – a reflection

Easter Saturday

The day after tragedy

When all seems lost

When God looks like He has failed

When your hopes are dashed

When the bubble is burst

And the tomb is sealed

When your expectations about how life is supposed to be and God is supposed to work are left in tatters

And you are left confused and disillusioned

Unsure of what comes next

Unsure… And unaware

That God is still in control

That God has a plan

That God is doing something through the suffering and the tragedy

That God might be bringing about something you never would have imagined

Outside of the box

Better than a world where not His will but mine is done

Where your Saturday is not simply the day after Friday

But also the day before Sunday

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February 6 2021

“An identity greater than my sexual orientation”

The following is the testimony of a Christian man I know who has experienced same-sex attraction for years and has attended the sort of support that Victoria’s new “Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill 2020” has just declared illegal.

There are many people who do not fit the narrative of “conversion therapy survivor”. Their stories are often ignored, or even silenced. I am grateful for this man’s bravery in sharing his story, and I am proud to present it here unedited.


MY EXPERIENCE OF A VICTORIAN SUPPORT GROUP FOR SAME SEX-ATTRACTED YOUNG ADULTS

I am an evangelical Christian and I have been attracted to both men and women from age thirteen.

I was a sensitive boy, creative and kind-hearted. In Grade One there was only one girl in my class and I felt sorry for her, so I became her friend. This led to my only close friends being girls, from Grade One til the end of Grade Four when my two close friends left the school. I then had to learn how to play soccer to try and fit in with the boys.

I am one of the Digital Pioneers Generation. We did not have the internet when I was a young child, but it came into popular use while I was in Primary School. We were flexible adapters and adopted this new technology as a way of life. This also made us the first generation to have access to online pornography from our homes. Our parents had no clue what we had access to or how to deal with it. This was not their fault, but it was a huge problem.

When I was thirteen, two major things happened. Firstly, I was bullied mercilessly by one boy in my class at school and did not connect at all with other boys at school. Secondly, I discovered pornography depicting men. It was actually a TV ad that was the gateway. It aired in prime time, maybe during the news or a sitcom. It was an ad for a movie they planned to air a few days later. I don’t want to name it here, but it was a mainstream movie that featured sexualised men’s bodies in an exciting way. This made me curious, so I logged on to our family computer and started googling. I have since reflected and have theorised that the heavy-handed rejection by the boys my own age may have confounded the problem.

This sin tormented me. I was hooked on the poison, and I remember feeling highly distressed while I was trying to get to sleep, saying “I’ll never, ever tell anyone about this!” However about 6 months later the guilt got too much for me and I confessed to my parents and prayed with them that God would help me repent. 

However I was still attracted to men, in particular the athletic male form. I was also attracted to girls, and asked out a couple girls during high school. For the record, I have never had a boyfriend or any sexual encounters with men.

When I was 18, still attending church, I was often plagued with guilt and shame about my orientation.

When I was 18, still attending church, I was often plagued with guilt and shame about my orientation. I went to a friend of mine who suggested I speak to another young man who had connections with a ministry to help people like me. I was referred to a support group for same sex-attracted young adults, run by a Christian organisation that does not exist anymore. 

One of the reasons I am sharing my story is to describe what my experiences were in this support group. In light of the new Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Bill 2020 becoming law in Victoria, I thought it may be helpful to share what it is like to be a Christian aiming to obey the Bible’s teaching on sexuality while having these attractions. And also to show you what this support was really like.

The group’s activities consisted of the following: sharing our testimonies, hanging out over a meal, praying for each other, Bible devotions, and using a video resource to fight the battle with porn. We also volunteered at a Christian conference on the topic of homosexuality which took place on the same weekend as a camp to support us. Part of that weekend were small group conversations. Those conversations consisted of tips on how to get support from your mates, even straight ones, and encouragement that God loved us and accepted us. 

It is sad that at least two of those young men have “come out” since then, but I am glad that I was given the opportunity to know that I was not alone in this struggle, that it is possible to live a faithful Christian life while being same sex-attracted, and that there was help available to try to change my orientation if I wanted that.

I really wanted to change it. I wanted to obey God fully and also I feared that it would hurt my future wife emotionally if I were to marry one day. 

I have since learned that God is able to change people’s sexuality if he wishes, but for me, he did not change that part of my experience. I know that Jesus is close to the brokenhearted. I know that people are broken as a result of the global problem called sin. Gay sex is a sin and so is lust. (Just like heterosexual lust and pre-marital sex are wrong.) I aim to live a celibate single life being content, or get married to a gracious Christian  woman who loves me, warts and all.

It was only in the last few years that I realised that the world would call me bisexual. I am glad I never adopted that label. God has blessed me with an identity greater than my sexual orientation, because I am a child of God, adopted into his worldwide family, the church.

God has blessed me with an identity greater than my sexual orientation because I am a child of God, adopted into his worldwide family, the church.

My experience at the support group for same sex-attracted adults was a positive one, one that was encouraging and harmless. The leaders were kindhearted people who invited us to eat at their kitchen table, volunteered copious amounts of their time and taught us from the Bible how to live God’s way. They showed us the grace and love of Jesus.

Now in my thirties, I still have these attractions. I meet weekly with a godly friend as an accountability partner and have seen great progress in becoming more like Jesus. I am a mess, but a beloved mess!

I am horrified at the idea of what my life would have looked like without the support of countless pastors and other Christians who walked with me on this journey. Let us be that support for the current generation of same-sex attracted Christians, no matter what the law says, for the law of Jesus is far greater, and it is to him that we answer to at the end of the day.


To read more testimonies of Christians who both experience same-sex attraction and seek to follow Christ, I can recommend checking out:
https://www.livingout.org/

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January 22 2021

A Bad Bill – Understanding Victoria’s “Change or Suppression Practices” Bill

The following was written by Rev Neil Chambers, Senior Pastor at Bundoora Presbyterian Church. It was originally published at bpc.org.au/updates/ . It has been reposted here with permission.


Click below to listen to Neil Chambers as you read the article:

The Change or Suppression Practices Bill

I have been asked to comment on the ‘Change or Suppression [Conversion] Practices Bill 2020’ which is currently before Parliament and has been a cause of concern for many. The origin of the bill is the conviction that LBGTI people have been harmed and are still being harmed by the continuation of ‘Change or Suppression Practices.’ This has to be acknowledged and we should be grieved at coercive and cruel practices based in ill-informed understandings of the origin of sexual orientation, especially where people have been pressured to participate in these against their will. Nevertheless the bill raises serious concerns about, amongst other things, its conflation of issues relating to gender identity and sexual orientation, its definition of change or suppression practices, its reach into private and voluntary conversations, its criminalisation of therapy that is not in line with affirming gender transitioning, and its enshrinement of gender ideology in law.

The Problems with the Bill

The bill combines both sexual orientation and gender identity in its scope and seeks to embrace them both in its prescriptions. But these are distinct issues and have different responses. It is the inclusion of gender identity in the bill and the insistence that the only response permissible to gender dysphoria in young people is affirmation of change to the desired gender that has provoked the most concern amongst professionals. Gender re-assignment treatment has recently been described in the recent English High Court judgement in Bell vs Tavistock [1/12/2020] as experimental:

“We express that view for these reasons. First, the clinical interventions involve significant, long-term and, in part, potentially irreversible long-term physical, and psychological consequences for young persons. The treatment involved is truly life changing, going as it does to the very heart of an individual’s identity. Secondly, at present, it is right to call the treatment experimental or innovative in the sense that there are currently limited studies/evidence of the efficacy or long-term effects of the treatment.” [paragraph 152]

To preclude the exploration of other treatments of gender dysphoria, to insist that only one line of response can be pursued, would seem to go beyond the scientific evidence and potentially do harm. On professional concerns see the public letter addressed to the Victorian Attorney General by the National Association of Practicing Psychiatrists.

It is also clear that the only response that is allowed to someone revealing a same sex or bisexual orientation is affirmation and strengthening them in that identity. Doubt about whether it is fixed or might change, grief at what that might mean for them and for their family, or the distance of distaste, all human reactions, will fall far short of what the government is mandating and in the complexities of family relationship may well be used against those who express them.

In addition the definition of change or suppression practices, the behaviour that is being criminalised is intentionally both broad and ill defined.

Section 5 of the Act states:

(1) In this Act, a change or suppression practice means a practice or conduct directed towards a person, whether with or without the person’s consent—

(a)  on the basis of the person’s sexual orientation or gender identity; and

(b)  for the purpose of—

 (i)  changing or suppressing the sexual orientation or gender identity of the person; or

(ii)  inducing the person to change or suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Sexual orientation is further defined to include sexual practice “”sexual orientation means a person’s emotional, affectional and sexual attraction to, or intimate or sexual relations with, persons of a different gender or the same gender or more than one gender;”. [Part 5:59:3]

Thus encouraging someone who is same sex attracted to abstain from sexual activity outside of marriage of a man to a woman would be seeking to suppress someone’s sexual orientation.

Section 5:3 gives examples of prohibited practices:

(3)  For the purposes of subsection (1), a practice includes, but is not limited to the following—

(a)  providing a psychiatry or psychotherapy consultation, treatment or therapy, or any other similar consultation, treatment or therapy;

(b)  carrying out a religious practice, including but not limited to, a prayer based practice, a deliverance practice or an exorcism;

(c)  giving a person a referral for the purposes of a change or suppression practice being directed towards the person.

The Explanatory Memorandum [page 5] adds:

“These examples are illustrative only and do not narrow the definition in subclause (1) which is intended to capture a broad range of conduct, including, informal practices, such as conversations with a community leader that encourage change or suppression of sexual orientation or gender identity, and more formal practices, such as behaviour change programs and residential camps.”

There is a real possibility with this wide definition that conversations with a Pastor, or a youth group leader, or an AFES worker, where the biblical teaching that same sex activity was sin was being outlined to help someone understand the cost of following Jesus, would be breaking the law, even if those conversations were taking place [as they would] voluntarily [“whether with or without the person’s consent”]. Further, prayer with someone that he or she would be strengthened to resist temptation and live a chaste and godly life would also potentially be construed as breaking the law. This is deliberate.

One of the reports that has informed the Government’s development of this law [Preventing Harm, Promoting Justice, by the Human Rights Law Centre and La Trobe University] makes it plain that it considers the teaching in faith communities of homosexual practice as a sin [or of gender to be binary] to be a harmful suppression practice which develops a culture which is unhealthy for LGBTI people. The government leaving the definition broad leaves open the possibility that this teaching itself will be banned under this legislation, despite a mention of religious freedom in the Victorian Charter of Human Rights.

Another of the disturbing features of this bill is its reach into private and voluntary conversations. This legislation will make people reluctant to talk with those who might be troubled by their same sex attraction or their discomfort at their gender if they cannot be wholly supportive, if they have doubts or reservations. Yet it is helpful to people to be able to explore their feelings and responses with those they know and trust, and helpful to families to be able to speak openly about these matters. One sided conversations do not help understanding but the fear that what is now a welcome conversation may become later a resented conversation will cause many to hold back.

Others have written about the bill and its shortcomings, and links are at the bottom of the transcript. While the prevention of harm to others is a worthy goal, and while we should not minimise the distress of gender dysphoria or the cost of living a celibate life, this is a bad bill with significant implications for our freedoms. And it is a bad bill because it is based on false beliefs.

The Beliefs Behind the Bill

One is the idea that gender identity is fixed. The letter of the National Association of Practicing Psychiatrists says:

“The Bill is premised on the idea that gender identity is fixed and unchangeable, making attempts to change or suppress it futile. The press release accompanying the legislation put out by the Department of Justice and Community Safety makes this explicit. It says: “there is no evidence that…gender identity can be changed.” This is an extraordinary proposition and is contradicted by a large body of medical and scientific evidence.”

It is an extraordinary proposition where one of the goals of the Bill is to support people making a gender transition, and where there are a growing number of de-transitioners. The letter cites some of the evidence and you can pursue the issue of gender fluidity further there.

But the more fundamental problem is the false gospel of salvation through defining your own identity that runs through the bill, which is in truth an expression of that ideology clothed in prevention of harm.

That gospel is expressed in the ‘objects’ of the Bill. 3:1[c] states one of the objects of the Bill is:

“to ensure that all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, feel welcome and valued in Victoria and are able to live authentically and with pride.”

This means it is the intention of the Parliament to:

“(b) to affirm that a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is not broken and in need of fixing; and

(c)  to affirm that no sexual orientation or gender identity constitutes a disorder, disease, illness, deficiency or shortcoming;”,

only just falling short of declaring no sexual orientation or practice to be a sin.

The important thing is that people can live ‘authentically and with pride’ for that is the vision of life found in the secular gospel. We are to be true to ourselves, and that means finding identity and purpose in ourselves and being free to express that in fulfilling our desires, in a context where sexual identity is central to personal identity. Salvation, the life of human flourishing, is found in sexual authenticity. Any gospel therefore that calls for authority to be found outside ourselves, or says that life is found in denying yourself, is an alien gospel in our society.

Our Response to the Bill

So how should we respond to this Bill?

It is possible to respond politically – to lobby politicians to ensure amendments that protect private conversations and our freedom to teach and preach the truth. There is a place for that, for the freedoms threatened by the overreach of this bill – freedom of speech, freedom of association [defining on what basis people can belong to voluntary associations], freedom of belief – are vital to the functioning of our society.

This bill will also, if it prevents the exploration of alternative treatments other than gender re-assignment for gender dysphoria, do harm to young people. Such action though must be done in love, not anger, and in humility not a spirit of offended entitlement, acknowledging the reality that some have been hurt in the past by responses to same sex attraction that have been co-ercive.

But the best way to respond to a false gospel is with the true gospel, proclaiming Jesus is Lord and life is found in denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Him, for He is the one with authority to judge and to forgive. In love we want to be able to call people of all sexual orientations and all gender identities to follow Christ, to tell them that He is worth everything. But that means we must also tell them the cost of following Him, and the Scripture is clear that all sexual immorality, and that is all sex outside the marriage of a man and a woman, is sin, and continuing in sin is inconsistent with inheriting the kingdom of God [1 Cor. 6:9-11]. We need to show the goodness and the greatness of Jesus, and we need to be in truth a community of forgiven sinners who love one another, including believers called out of and tempted by sins we might find confronting.

To respond to the false gospel with the true gospel will now take courage. As others have observed the broad nature of the offence is meant to create a climate of fear in which we will self-censor, become less clear and bold in teaching what God has given us for our good, the sexual morality of Scripture. But our Lord Jesus has told us that we should ‘not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul, but rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” [Matt. 10:28]. And He has warned us that He did not come to bring peace but a sword [Matt. 10:34-39] and that anyone who does not love Him more than all is not worthy of Him.

Now is the time for we ourselves to remind ourselves of and build ourselves up in the truth and goodness of Jesus, to remember that what is at stake in being faithful to Him is eternal life, and that our Lord has all authority, including over governments, and will work all things for our good and for the glory of His Name. We will need to do this together, to know each other’s encouragement in a community of love as we face the hostility of a society seduced into believing a lie. The Lord Jesus is not less Lord because the Victorian Government is seeking to bring in a piece of legislation that may test our faithfulness. We must look to Him, and not expect allies either in free speech advocates or civil libertarians. And we should not be discouraged when people who claim to be Christian come out in support of affirming same sex sexual orientation as acceptable to God. In writing to the seven churches in Revelation our Lord warned his people that there were those who taught that God’s people could share in idolatry and practice sexual immorality [Rev. 2:14, 20]. His condemnation of them and those who follow them is clear, as is our Lord’s expectation that we have nothing to do with them [Rev. 2:21-24].  

And we should pray. Pray for our government, that they would encourage and reward good, and shun wickedness. Pray that in His mercy the Lord would continue to allow us to ‘live quiet and peaceable lives, godly and dignified in every way’ [1 Tim. 2:2], where we are free to preach the gospel. Pray especially that this legislation would not be used to exclude Christian groups from campuses or chaplaincy. And pray especially for those most threatened – Christian counsellors and health professionals, Christian teachers and chaplains in schools, our own youth leaders, evangelists on our university campuses – that they would be sustained in love of the lost, in trust in the Lord to keep them, and in hope, the hope that tells them that the work of the Lord is never in vain, and worth the cost. And yes, pray for your pastors too. I do not think for the moment we are as much at risk as those others I have mentioned for we work in a more explicitly religious context, but we always need prayer for boldness in preaching the gospel.

Censoring ourselves would just embolden the opponents of the gospel. Worse, it would deny to lost people the Saviour who is seeking them, to dying people the Lord who can give them life. So hear the Saviour’s call to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. The path of faithfulness to His Father cost Him His life but was the path of exaltation over all, and one day every knee will bow and confess Him Lord.

Resources:

Change or Suppression [Conversion] Practices Prohibition Bill 2020

RESPONSE –  National Association of Practicing Psychiatrists

RESPONSE – Human Rights Law Alliance

Helpful Blogs:

Both Murray and Stephen have a number of helpful posts on the matter. Murray has been following this issue for many months, and was writing on it well before the final bill was introduced to Parliament. In addition Stephen’s book ‘Being the Bad Guys’ [Good Book Company] is very helpful in considering the changes taking place in society and how we can helpfully respond and persevere.

Helpful Websites:

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January 21 2021

If Marriage was a Ravensburger Puzzle

A poetic reflection written for my wife (who loves Ravensburger puzzles) on the celebration of our 9th wedding anniversary.


If marriage was a Ravensburger puzzle…

You’d start with an image that shows you exactly how your relationship will look in the end.

There would be no mystery, no deviation from the plan, no surprise at the end that it didn’t quite end up looking like the picture you imagined at the start.

As you worked to put it together, every piece would have its assigned place and with just a little time it would all eventually fit together perfectly, with each piece being placed down with an effortless and satisfying snap.

There would be no left overs, no pieces left to the side, nothing to be thrown away or sacrificed or accepted as simply just not meant to be.

Whenever you came across two pieces that didn’t fit, there would be no conflict, no effort to make them work together, no change or compromise required. You’d just put it aside knowing that it would perfectly fit somewhere else in the puzzle.

And in the end, the perfect picture you created would look just like you expected and portray some beautiful photoshopped mountain landscape or a cute litter of puppies or a plate of immaculately decorated cupcakes.

And before you packed it all away, you would gaze upon your accomplishment with a sigh of perfect satisfaction.

If marriage was a Ravensburger puzzle.

But marriage is not a Ravensburger puzzle…

There is indeed a beautiful perfect picture of marriage that together you are trying to create – The marriage between Christ and His Church.

But your puzzle pieces come from two different boxes and with that comes two different pictures on the cover that you each imagine you will be creating.

You jumble all the pieces together and try to sort them out.

Of course one of you likes sorting by colour and the other by shape. One likes to work on the images in the middle and the other likes to find the edges first.

And the pieces don’t exactly fit. They’re not cut with precision. Some are big and some are small and some are cracked and some are missing and some have even lost their sticker.

They take compromise, sacrifice, creativity, problem-solving, laughter, tears, communication, prayer, mercy and forgiveness.

Some pieces need to be shoved together. Some need to be cut to fit. Some need to be thrown away. And some, you’ll simply never find a place for, even though they look perfectly fine.

And now and then a couple of pieces will fit with that perfect Ravensburger snap, and it will be easy and effortless and leave you with a satisfying sigh. Enjoy those pieces.

But in the end the puzzle will be a mess.

A big beautiful 1,673.5 piece mess of a puzzle that will wonderfully display the ideal image on the box of Christ and the Church, not by its perfect symmatry, but by the love and sacrifice and joyful faithfulness by which it was put together.

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May 14 2020

5 tips for “church at home” with kids

This is an article written by my wonderful wife, Catherine Camilleri.
Originally posted on the Bundoora Presbyterian Church website.


5 tips for “church at home” with kids

There have been so many changes over the past few weeks that it is hard to keep up! The learning curve for adults and kids alike has been huge, as we have adjusted all aspects of life to a new corona environment. Our family has had fun working out how to ‘do church’ at home and I thought I’d share a few of the things we’ve been doing in case they help your family also. So here are 5 tips for making the most of live streaming church with your kids.

1) Be Prepared

One of the key things we have tried to do each weekend is ‘set up’ for church. On Saturday night (or usually Sunday morning) we pack away the toys, place out bibles, set up a table of activities and have nametags ready for when the congregation of three ‘arrive’ at church. A set up space makes the room feel different to the rest of the week and communicates that we are doing something special. In the morning we prepare kids snacks for the service, we get the livestream ready and make sure we have had breakfast (and caffeine for the adults!). The basic goal is that when church begins you can all participate without having to come and go. 

2) Involve the Kids

We have found that the more we involve our daughter with this preparation, the more she is engaged with the service. Helping to set up the room, making nametags and choosing musical instruments tell her that this is something we are doing as a family together. For young children especially ‘imaginative play’ can help them get excited about church and give a sense of ‘normality’ to these strange times.  Some families ‘walk to church’ by walking around the block before the service begins, others do ‘welcoming’ and we often do ‘drop off’ for Little Sunday School complete with pick-up tags! 

3) Explain the Service

Livestreaming has provided us a new and rich opportunity to engage our kids in the Sunday Service. When else can you have a conversation with your kids during the service about what the word repentance means? We have used a variety of things to help engage our daughter during the service. From having a kid’s bible open with the same passage, to acting out the bible story as it’s being read or having home-made musical instruments ready for the singing. God’s Word reminds us that he wants us to explain our religious practices to our children so let’s make the most of this unique opportunity!

And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’ ” Then the people bowed down and worshiped.

Exodus 12:26-27 NIV

4) Modelling Worship

“Church at home” gives us a great opportunity to model to our children our worship of God. More important than any creative tool you could use is the model we set as they watch us each Sunday. Making time and space in our home for church shows our kids how important God is in our lives. Our attention and participation in the service models how we listen to God in his word, talk to him in prayer and praise him in song. Never underestimate how significant a witness you are to your children simply to listening and responding to God. So make the livestream time on Sundays a priority and be aware of your own distractions. This may mean leaving your phone elsewhere if it is not needed!

As government restrictions are lifted we may also have the opportunity to model hospitality to our kids as we welcome other believers into our home to worship with us on Sundays. (A great opportunity to also model sacrificial love by cleaning and disinfecting in preparation!)

5) God’s Word for Everyone

The most challenging part of the livestream service is what to do during the sermon. We want our kids to engage with God’s Word but we need to hear it for ourselves also. For us, we send our daughter to “Little Sunday School” with activities she can do by herself and morning tea to eat. As a back-up we have our iPad with headphones ready so she can watch a kids’ talk whilst we listen to the sermon. For older kids, this could be a great opportunity to teach them how to listen to sermons. You could print off the sermon outline or transcript or give them a special notebook for their own notes or drawings as they listen. You could even think of one or two questions to ask them at the end.

I recognise that a lot of this is made easier for us having only one child, so if it is not possible to hear the sermon during this time either alternate which parent is ‘on duty’ or plan another time when children are sleeping to sit down and watch the sermon together. Whatever you decide, make it a priority to be able to hear from God’s Word for yourself. Remember, God’s Word is powerful so there is much for your children to learn even by hearing his word preached in the background whilst building a Lego tower.

Have grace for yourself and your kids

Even before coronavius, some Sundays are just difficult! Grumpiness abounds, kids are crazy, adults exhausted, the house is a mess and the list goes on. Your Heavenly Father loves to hear from you and provide for your needs so ASK for his help each Sunday. God has shown grace to us, so have an abundance of grace and patience for your kids and yourselves in this season. God doesn’t expect us to do things perfectly. In fact, our weakness exists so that we would trust his sufficient grace! (2 Cor 12:9-10

So pray, prepare and try new things until you find what works for your family.  We have been doing this for a number of weeks now and each Sunday we have seen more and more fruit from our efforts. Our daughter is participating in the singinging and children’s talks, we are able to hear more of the sermon and there are less meltdowns on Zoom after the service.

There has been lots of prayer, conversation and experimentation to get us to this point. But it is worth it to make the most of this and every opportunity to teach our daughter how amazing our God is and that he is worthy of all our praise and worship, both on Sunday and forevermore.

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March 5 2020

6 People Buying Toilet Paper

PERSON 1 – Reads some article somewhere that toilet paper might run out if Coronavirus hits our shores.

PERSON 2 – Thinks person 1 is silly for believing that article but sees them buying all the toilet paper and doesn’t want to be left with none, so buys a bunch as well.

PERSON 3 – Hasn’t read any article but sees persons 1 & 2 buying toilet paper and concludes there must be a national shortage and so buys whatever toilet paper they can.

PERSON 4 – Just ran out of toilet paper at home and just wants to find a couple of rolls. Takes a photo of empty supermarket shelves and posts it to social media expressing how silly it is that people are freaking out.

PERSON 5 – Sees multiple photos of empty supermarket shelves on social media and completely freaks out. They go on Ebay and pay $100 for a roll of toilet paper thinking it might be the last there is.

PERSON 6 – Bought a bunch of toilet paper early and is selling it on Ebay. They wrote the article and sent it to person 1.

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October 1 2019

Why a Pro-choicer might March for the Babies

march babies

On Saturday 12th October, several thousand people of all walks of life will attend a peaceful protest in the city of Melbourne called “March for the Babies”. At the same time, a counter protest will also take place in the city. At one march will be mostly people who identify themselves as “pro-life” and at the other march will be mostly people who identify as “pro-choice”.

I say “mostly” because many people don’t like the rigidity of such terms. On the complex and sensitive issue of abortion, people often have mixed emotions, views, beliefs and opinions. Sometimes a label like “pro-life” or “pro-choice” doesn’t accurately describe someone’s position on abortion.

To clarify, let me try to summarise the two positions as generously and unbiasedly as I can:

  • prolifevsprochoiceThe pro-life position focusses on the life of the unborn child arguing for its right to be protected from abortion.
  • The pro-choice position focusses on the choice of the pregnant woman, arguing for her right to have an abortion if she wants to.

When two protests like this take place, it is easy to suggest that these two positions are absolute and that there is no overlap. The sides are polarising and people feel pressured to choose which side you wholeheartedly support. I do not think this needs to be the case. Although, I personally am pro-life, I also acknowledge that there are many positions that a person may hold and I would hate for someone to feel excluded from attending the March for the Babies, simply because they felt they were not sure they were a 100% pro-lifer.

I would even suggest that a pro-choicer might feel free to join the March for the Babies. In fact, I think there are good reasons to do so.

5 REASONS WHY A PRO-CHOICER MIGHT JOIN THE “MARCH FOR THE BABIES”

1. The march is not about taking away women’s rights.

The march began back in 2009, one year after certain abortion laws were passed in Victoria. As it says of the March for the Babies website: “On October 10, 2008, the Victorian Parliament passed the Abortion Law Reform Act, one of the most extreme abortion laws in the world. This law eliminated all legal protection for Victorian children until the moment of birth.” The goal of the march is to draw attention to these laws with a hope that they will one day be repealed. Sure, many people present at the march will have strong views about all abortion. Sure, you may disagree with people you would be marching alongside. But you would agree on one point though – that the laws in Victoria are too extreme and should be changed.

2. The Victorian laws as they presently stand allow for abortion all the way up to birth.

late-term-double-image-fetusMany people are unsure about when a human being should be granted the right to life. At the point of conception, the human doesn’t appear to have many of the qualities of what we would call a “person”, but few people can see a late term baby in the womb with all the features of a newborn, knowing that they can feel physical pain during abortion, and that they could survive outside of the womb, and still think that they do not deserve some protection. Even if you are fine with first term abortion, march for the sake of those late term babies.

3. Doctors and nurses are forced to be complicit in the process of abortion.

Often the argument is put forward, “If you think that abortion is wrong, then don’t have one.” Well, Victorian doctors and nurses do not have that freedom. Even if they believes that abortion is a form of murder, or even if the child is in its final term, then by law the doctor or nurse must either perform the abortion themselves or refer the patient to someone who will. If you are pro-choice you may also believe in a medical practitioner’s right to choose. If you think that doctors and nurses should be allowed to conscientiously object to being complicit in an abortion, then join us in marching for this law to be changed.

4. Our current laws allow for partial-birth abortion.

Partial-birth abortion, also known as Intact dilation and extraction (IDX) is a very controversial form of abortion that is banned in many places around the world. It involves killing the child on the very verge of being born, when its entire body is out of the womb except for its head. This is the sworn testimony of nurse, Brenda Shafer, who describes what happens during the procedure:

partialBirth“I stood at the doctor’s side and watched him perform a partial-birth abortion on a woman who was six months pregnant. The baby’s heartbeat was clearly visible on the ultrasound screen. The doctor delivered the baby’s body and arms, everything but his little head. The baby’s body was moving. His little fingers were clasping together. He was kicking his feet. The doctor took a pair of scissors and inserted them into the back of the baby’s head, and the baby’s arms jerked out in a flinch, a startled reaction, like a baby does when he thinks that he might fall. Then the doctor opened the scissors up. Then he stuck the high-powered suction tube into the hole and sucked the baby’s brains out. Now the baby was completely limp. I never went back to the clinic. But I am still haunted by the face of that little boy. It was the most perfect, angelic face I have ever seen.”   

Partial-birth abortion is as close to infanticide as you can get. It is killing a baby when it is almost completely out of the womb and justifying it by the fact that the babies head is not outside as well. And it is legal in Victoria.

Whether you call yourself pro-life or pro-choice, if that law turns your stomach, then join us on Saturday.

5. If an abortion fails, the living baby is left to die.

This may sound extreme, but it is actually true. Consider the scenario… During a late term abortion, the baby is removed but they abortionist failed in their attempt to terminate the child. Now they have on their hands a living, breathing, BORN child. What must they do? Well, in Victoria the child still has no right to life, and these unwanted babies are left to die without food or medical support.

Every year in Victoria, more than 50 babies die shortly after failed abortions. In 2010, Peter Kavanagh MLC (DLP, Western Victoria) raised a motion that these deaths should be investigated. The motion was voted down. They didn’t even want to investigate it. In a media release, Peter Kavanagh said: “My suspicion that abortionists assume the right to kill any baby after birth, whom they try but fail to kill before birth, is now confirmed, however, with the revelation that survivors of abortion are being deliberately neglected to death. One nurse even reports that she was told to drop a surviving victim of an abortion into a bucket of formaldehyde.”

Most people, even hard core pro-choice advocates, would agree that a child should be afforded basic human rights after it is out of the womb, and that if partial-birth abortions aren’t infanticide, this surely is. And yet, in Victoria, that is what the law allows.

If all this information about the Victorian abortion laws is new to you, then check out the following video, which explains it in a bit more detail:

There are many questions raised by the issue of abortion. There are many discussions worth having and there are many compassionate and thoughtful people on both sides of the debate.

But even if you fall more on the pro-choice side, you might still be able to stand with some pro-lifers in saying that Victoria’s abortion laws, as they currently stand, are wrong and worth protesting.

I hope to see you there.

Saturday 12th October, meet at Treasury Gardens in Melbourne by 1pm.

Click here for the Facebook event
Click here for the “March for the Babies” Website

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March 13 2019

Good. News. About Jesus.

Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.

Acts 8:35

Most Christians know that they should be like Philip in Acts 8:35. We should share “the good news about Jesus” whenever we have the opportunity and we should try to make as many opportunities as we can. This, of course, is challenging. We often feel like we don’t know the best thing to say, or if we do, we can easily feel nervous or even fearful about how people may respond.

In my own journey of facing these challenges, there are the three key things I try to remember as I share the good news about Jesus:

It’s good. It’s news. And it’s about Jesus.


#1. It’s about Jesus

If you want to share the heart of Christianity, your focus has to be on the Christ at its centre. The gospel isn’t the good news about you. It’s not about how your life has improved since becoming a Christian. The gospel is about Jesus – about who he is and what he has done – and we must make sure we remember that focus.

As Paul the apostle wrote:

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

1 Corinthians 2:1-2

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord…

2 Corinthians 4:5
Do you use the “J” word?

One way I challenge myself to remember this focus is with a funny little test I call “The Three Levels of Wussiness”. If I have a face to face conversation about spiritual matters, I reflect afterwards on which words I chose to use and which I chose to avoid.

Now, if I just talked about “Christianity”, or used phrases like “As a Christian” or “my faith”, I consider that a Level 3 of being a wuss. It’s not that I said anything particularly wrong. It’s just that there is little to no risk to me or to my listeners when you keep it that vague. There’s also little to no chance that the actual gospel was communicated.

If I have a bit more courage, I may get to Level 2, which means I talked about “God”. More personal, but still nice and broad as people can often inject their own definition as to what that word means.

Level 1 is where I actually use the “J” word and talk about Jesus specifically. For me, that is clear. That is courageous. That where I might actually be sharing the gospel. Because the gospel is specifically the good news about Jesus.

You may think I’m being harsh on myself, or maybe for you, just telling people that you’re a Christian is a big step. If it is, then don’t let my “Three Levels of Wussiness” test make you feel overwhelmed. God is glorified by (and can use) any small faithful word that we say in an effort to point people to the gospel.

My goal is not to guilt-trip you or myself. To be honest, I fail heaps of the time. It’s simply easier to answer a religious question with “Well, as a Christian…” rather than “Well, Jesus teaches that…” I do these reflections with a big awareness of my weakness and need for God’s grace and help. I simply want to challenge us to not wimp out by avoiding using the “J” word. As God gives you these opportunities to share the good news, pray for courage and remember – it’s about Jesus.

#2. It’s News

The second thing I want to remember is that the good news about Jesus may involve lots of things, but fundamentally… it’s news.

When Paul tells us to remember the gospel, look at how he summarises it:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you… For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

1 Corinthians 15:1, 3-5

The gospel – the central message of Christianity – is not a philosophy for how to live. It’s not a list of moral rules or a system of religious practices. The gospel is not even a presentation of theological truths or a creed that people need to sign up to. Of course, the New Testament does contain all of those things, and they are good to discuss. They just aren’t the gospel.

The gospel literally means “good news”. It is a declaration of something that has happened in history – centred around the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. So, even if you’re using the “J” word but you’re not sharing the news about Jesus, then you probably aren’t sharing the gospel.

Why is that an important distinction to get right? Because it’s only the good news that is “the power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16). It is coming to hear and believe this news that is the primary method God uses to save people. Ethical philosophy, social commentary and systematic theology are great topics of conversation, but more than anything else, people need to hear the simple news about who Jesus is and what he has done.

This also implies something else important – you can’t just use your good works to share the gospel.

I’m sure you have heard the popular saying:

Preach the Gospel at all times.

When necessary, use words.

This quote is wrongly attributed to St. Francis of Assisi (there’s actually no evidence he ever said this), but whoever said it, the way these words are often used is to argue that you don’t really have to use words to spread the gospel to the world. You just live it out.

Although, the New Testament does commend living “in step with the truth of the gospel” (Galatians 2:14), it never suggests that sharing the gospel could ever be done silently. If the gospel is actual news that people need to be informed about and respond to, then actions alone will never suffice. Like any sort of news, both the spoken and written word will need to be the primary way that it will be communicated.

Now, I say “primary” because I do think there is a place for visual mediums such as illustration, painting, theatre and cinema. I have used lots of these creative tools over my life and know that can be very effective at communicating the gospel. But no matter what tool you use, if your goal is to share the good news, then you must remember that it is news.

Like an approaching bushfire, the gospel is important news that needs to be responded to.

Consider this illustration: A bushfire is sweeping across the countryside, approaching a nearby town. That is the news and all in the town need to hear it and respond to it. Now, you could communicate this news through phone calls, text message, sirens and visual alerts popping up on people’s phones. There are many ways that you can tell people the news that a bushfire is coming.

It’s also true that if you believe this news, then you will act in such a way that demonstrates that – hosing down your house or packing your bags and evacuating the area. In fact, if you weren’t acting like that, then even if you did tell people about the bushfire, why would anyone believe it was true. So our actions definitely do back up our words, but they can not replace them.

Like an approaching bushfire, the gospel is important news that needs to be responded to. We must live lives that show that we believe the gospel, but we must not rely on just our lives to communicate it. As the first part of that saying says, “Preach the Gospel at all times”. Just remember that words will almost always be necessary.

#3. It’s Good

Sharing the gospel is not easy. The news about Jesus is challenging and for some, offensive. There is also an increasing movement in the West to simply write off the gospels as fairy tales with no historical value that requires a response. If that wasn’t discouraging enough, the bible tells us that the human heart is naturally blind to the light of the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4) and that no one is able to respond to the gospel unless God enables them (John 6:65).

Turning hearts to respond in faith to the news about Jesus is literally an impossible task – conversion is God’s work, not ours. In that context, it almost seems futile to share the gospel. If the expectation is that, unless God acts, the message (and maybe the messenger) will be ignored, rejected, mocked and opposed, why would anyone share it? Why put yourself through that?

I used to answer that question with “Because it is true.” But I am more and more convinced that even believing in the truth of the gospel will not actually get us sharing it. More than knowing that the news about Jesus is true, we need to know deep in our soul that the news is good.

So, the third thing I need to remember in order to share the “good news” is that it is indeed good news! The gospel is the hope for the world, the light in the darkness, the solution to the problem of the human condition. It is epic enough to fix the brokenness of the entire universe and intimate enough to reconcile an individual soul to their Creator.

God the Son truly did come to earth 2,000 years ago. He truly walked the dusty roads of Jerusalem, performed miracles, taught the truth about God’s kingdom and loved people as we never could. He truly did take our sins and die in our place on the cross and on Easter morning he truly was raised from the dead and now rules the Universe! And all people, no matter who they are or what they have done are called to abandon their sin, turn to Jesus and take this free gift of forgiveness, reconciliation and eternal life. This is the good news and it is truly good!

But do we really believe that? Do we honestly believe that your friends and family will be better off if they embrace the gospel? If we do believe it is good news, then why aren’t we sharing it?

When someone has discovered a new crazy diet that has changed their life, or has started watching a show on Netflix that is blowing them away, or has just won TattsLotto, or is going to get married and everyone’s invited, they have no problem telling people about it. It is natural to share good news, especially when others can join in on it too.

But is that how you think about the news about Jesus? Or do you think about it as simply a weird set of beliefs that we Christians ascribe to, but you wouldn’t want to burden anyone else with? If that’s the case, then you will never share Jesus with anyone, or if you do, it will only be out of some begrudging sense of duty.

If you want to joyfully and naturally introduce people to Jesus, you have to be convinced, as Paul was, of “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).

Consider these poetic words of King David:

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.

Psalm 63:1-3

His lips can’t help but speak about God because he knows that God’s steadfast love is better than life. We need to remember that too. We are such distracted and forgetful creatures. We need to daily remind ourselves and each other of the goodness of the good news.

In this “dry and weary land”, we need to spend time in God’s Word, drinking deep from the gospel and letting it overflow onto our lips in words of praise and gospel sharing. Then we will join with King David as he calls to people in another great psalm:

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Psalm 34:8

I hope this article challenges and encourages you. I hope for some it convicts and humbles you. But really, this article is for me. Even in the process of writing it, I have become more aware of the words I use and the opportunities I have to talk about Jesus.

Most importantly, I have become more aware of my need to continuously thirst for God and be reminded every day of the goodness of the good news. May we all spur each other on as we try to share the good news about Jesus with prayerful dependence and godly courage.

And as you do, remember these three things – the gospel is so good, it’s wonderful news and it’s all about Jesus.

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February 24 2019

Does the Bible permit the drinking of alcohol?

There is some debate amongst Christians about what the bible teaches about drinking alcohol and getting drunk. There are generally four positions that Christians fall under:

  1. Drinking any alcohol at all is forbidden for all Christians.
  2. Getting drunk is forbidden. To avoid this sin, no Christian should drink any alcohol at all.
  3. Getting drunk is forbidden. Drinking responsibly is permissible.
  4. Drinking alcohol, even to the point of drunkenness is not forbidden.

I think the bible holds position 3. Let me show you why I reach that conclusion.

Old Testament Warnings

There are many passages that warn God’s people of the dangers of wine’s alcoholic properties. The wisdom of the Old Testament for example warns us that “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” (Proverbs 20:1) An even more descriptive passage says:


“Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things. You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, Like one who lies on the top of a mast. ‘They struck me,’ you will say, ‘but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake? I must have another drink.’” (Proverbs 23:29-35)

The dangers of wine were well known and for the sake of them ruling with justice and wisdom, the kings of the Old Testament were instructed not to drink alcohol at all (Proverbs 31:4-5). This was also true of the Old Testament priesthood (Leviticus 10:9) and the Nazarites (Numbers 6:1-4).


New Testament Warnings

The New Testament also warns against alcohol, describing “drunkenness” and “drinking parties” as “sin” (1 Peter 4:1-3) and in both Galatians 5:21 and 1 Corinthians 6:10 the Apostle Paul makes the very heavy statement that drunkards “will not inherit the kingdom of God”.

It’s no surprise therefore, that one of the qualifications of being an elder in the first century church was that you could not be a “drunkard” (1 Timothy 3:3, Titus 1:7) and a deacon also had to be one who was “not addicted to much wine” (1 Timothy 3:8). Likewise, godly older women were instructed not to be “slaves to much wine” (Titus 2:3). Last but not least, if there was still any confusion, Paul the Apostle gives Christians a clear command to not drink alcohol to excess: “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery.” (Ephesians 5:18)

The Bible’s celebration of wine

As we have seen, the bible in both Testaments clearly warns against and forbids drunkenness and this prohibition is especially important for anyone in any form of spiritual leadership or religious duty. But whilst it is clear that the bible forbids drinking alcohol to excess, it should not be concluded that the bible forbids drinking alcohol at all.

In fact, the bible is generally quite positive about wine as a good gift from God and there are clear passages where the drinking of wine is not only permitted, but recommended and celebrated:

“Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.” (Ecclesiastes 9:7)

“You [God] cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate,

that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man.” (Psalm 104:14-15)

“Then he said to them, ‘Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord.’” (Nehemiah 8:10)

“Oh may your breasts be like clusters of the vine, and the scent of your breath like apples, and your mouth like the best wine.” (Song of 7:8-9)

“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins.” (Mark 2:22)

“No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” (1 Timothy 5:23)

Although these passages are quite an endorsement for wine, the clearest and arguably most relevant passages in the bible that demonstrates that God does not forbid wine is the Wedding at Cana in John 21-11. If you don’t know the story, I will describe it in more detail later, but the point is that this passage records the first of Jesus’ miracles – the famous turning of water into wine. If drinking wine itself was sinful, then when they had run out of wine, Jesus would not have miraculously produced more. Jesus’ actions show that not only is wine not forbidden – it’s actually a good and wonderful thing.

So, to summarise, it would seem that in general (apart from Old Testament religious leaders) the bible permits the drinking of alcohol, but it does not permit drinking so much that you get drunk.

Biologically this lines up with how God has designed our bodies. He has given us a liver which has the capacity to filter alcohol at a certain rate and if we exceed that we will intoxicate ourselves which is a form of bad stewardship of our bodies and a recipe for leading us into foolishness and sin.

We are also called to be “sober-minded” in many passages (see for example, 1 Peter 1:13, 4:7 & 5:8) so that we are ready to do good, help others, avoid temptation and be ready for any action that we may be needed for.

The only position that agrees with all of the bible’s passages on alcohol, is the third position mentioned at the start of this article: Getting drunk is forbidden. Drinking responsibly is permissible.

So wine is fine but you booze, you lose.

It is similar to the gift of sex. Sex is good and should be celebrated as long as it is within the confines which God has ordained – namely, a marriage between a man and a woman. Food too is a good gift that can sinfully be enjoyed to excess. So sex can be expressed sinfully in orgies and immorality and eating food can become a source of greed and gluttony. In the same way, drinking wine can turn into drunken parties and debauchery. Of course, neither sex, food nor alcohol should be considered forbidden for Christians, but we must not abuse or misuse these good gifts either. Keep sex for marriage, eat healthy, and if you drink, don’t get drunk.

Permission not a command

Now, just because the bible says that it is ok for a Christian to drink alcohol in moderation, it doesn’t mean you have to. Many Christians have decided that for them, the best way to avoid drunkenness is to not drink at all. You are very free to hold that position. In fact, some people should. If you feel particularly tempted to drink to excess, maybe consider not drinking at all. Also, I know that some ministers choose not to drink, not because they particularly feel vulnerable, but to not leave any room of possibility for the sin of drunkenness to take hold.

Of course, others may argue that it is good for a minister to share in a drink with others, to model moderation and to avoid the appearance of suggesting that alcohol itself is forbidden. They may also see the evangelistic benefits to being able to enjoy a beer with someone as for some guys that can be a social sign of friendship and comfortability.

So, on the issue about whether you personally should drink alcohol, that is something that you must decide for yourself. The bible does not forbid it, so you shouldn’t think it sin, but it may be for you unwise.

In 1 Corinthians 6:12, just after warning against drunkenness, Paul writes, “All things are lawful for me but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me but I will not be dominated by anything.” If you are worried about wine not being “helpful” or potentially “dominating” you, then even if alcohol may be “lawful”, you don’t have to drink.

There is also wisdom in not drinking alcohol, if it will cause another Christian to be tempted to drunkenness or due to their lack of understanding about the bible, will believe you are sinning by drinking. Consider this instruction from Paul:

“I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God.” (Romans 14:14-22)

As you can see by this passage, there is nothing sinful or “unclean” about drinking wine, but also it is good not to drink wine if it causes your brother in Christ to stumble. We may have a right to drink, but we give up our rights for the sake of “peace and for mutual upbuilding”.

A practical application of this might be if you are having some Christian friends over for dinner and you know that one of them is a new Christian and believes that drinking alcohol is sinful, for their sake, you probably should not offer a bottle of wine with the meal.

So feel free to drink responsibly and feel free not to drink for your good and the good of others.

One last thing I would say is, if you choose not to drink, you should not judge any other Christian for making a different choice. If you think they are unwise for drinking due to some particular circumstance, by all means tell them in love. But do so with the awareness that you are giving them what you believe to be wise and godly counsel, and not rebuking them for sinning. In the same chapter I referred to above, Paul covers this principle: “Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls.” (Romans 14:3-4)

Could it be Non Alcoholic Grapejuice?

The last point I want to cover is the suggestion by some Christians that when the bible commends or permits the drinking of wine that drink was not actually alcoholic, it was unfermented grapejuice. In Matthew 26:29, for example, Jesus refers to wine as simply “fruit of the vine” and there’s no necessary indication that it was alcoholic. Those that argue this position, point out that fact that there is no differentiation in the original greek for the word for grapejuice and the word for alcoholic wine.

Despite the truth of this linguistic reality, I don’t think this gives a loophole to hold the position that drinking alcohol is sinful.

The reality is that all grapejuice eventually fermented naturally as they had no technology or method of preventing that. So the suggestion by those that hold this position is that when the bible encourages and celebrates the drinking of wine, it is only referring to freshly squeezed grapejuice, whereas the wine that it warns about as potentially leading to drunkenness is the older fermented grapejuice. This distinction is simply not made in the bible.

For example, in 1 Timothy, Paul first warns against wine’s addictive potential (1 Timothy 3:8), but then near the end of the same epistle, he suggests that Timothy “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” (1 Timothy 5:23). It is a big stretch to suggest that Paul is talking about one drink in chapter 3 but a different drink in chapter 5, even though he uses the same word for both. The more obvious conclusion is that Paul is simply talking about wine – normal alcoholic wine. Wine has the potential for being addictive, but that does not make it sinful to drink in moderation. In fact, as Paul points out, it may even be good for your health.

The Wine at the Wedding

Lastly, the story of the Wedding at Cana is for me, the best passage to demonstrate that Jesus both endorses the drinking of wine and that the wine that is being talked about is alcoholic wine, not unfermented grapejuice.

The story is found in John 2:1-11 and tells of Jesus’ first miracle. Jesus attends a wedding where wine is being served and to the great social shame of the bridegroom, they had run out of wine before the party was over. You probably know what happens next – Jesus turns six jars of water into delicious high quality wine, saving the reputation of the bridegroom and displaying his glory and power to his disciples. The question is, when this passage talks about “wine” is the grapejuice being talked about something that is non-alcoholic or alcoholic? I think it is undeniably alcoholic. Here’s why:

Firstly, there’s really no reason for thinking it is non-alcoholic. The idea of having alcoholic wine at a celebration was culturally acceptable, which is why drunkenness was still an issue that needed to be addressed even amongst Jews. Remember, even Jesus was accused of being a “glutton and drunkard” (Matthew 11:19) by those that opposed him. Jews were not “teetotallers”. The only reason why you would think that the wine at the Wedding in Cana must be non-alcoholic is because you were trying to force that idea into the story.

Secondly, as I have already mentioned, in the first century there was no way of preventing grapejuice from fermenting. So to suggest that all the wine at the wedding was non-alcoholic, you’d have to also suggest that they were supplying completely freshly squeezed grapejuice as required, to avoid any of it fermenting. This is simply impractical, especially as weddings in ancient Israel would often involve days of feasting and celebration.

Thirdly, and most convincingly, the words of the master of the feast himself tells us that the wine was alcoholic. After tasting the wine that Jesus had miraculously created, he is amazed that the bridegroom was only bringing out this fine drop at the later stages of the wedding celebration. He says: “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” (John 2:10) Think about that. Why do you bring the good wine out first and leave the cheap grog for later in the party? Because later on, everyone is too drunk to discern or care about how good the wine is.

The ESV is slightly subtle in it’s language, but as you can see here, the root of the Greek word that is used is always referring to when someone is affected by alcohol. For example, in Acts 2:15 when Peter tells the crowd that “these people are not drunk, as you suppose”, the Greek word for “drunk” used here is almost identical to the Greek word translated as “people have drunk freely” in John 2:10.

The point is hopefully clear. The wine that was being drunk at the Wedding in Cana was definitely alcoholic, and the new wine that Jesus created was even better. I won’t even entertain the suggestion that although the rest of the wine at the feast was alcoholic, Jesus created non-alcoholic freshly squeezed grapejuice and the master of the feast still thought it was better. Try serving high quality Ribena after you’ve run out of Merlow at your next wedding and see if your guests think you’ve given them an upgrade!


Conclusion

The Bible has much to say on wine. A lot of it is good. Some of it is bad. Wine is definitely a dangerous thing and alcohol has caused much damage over the millenia because people have not listened to the bible’s warnings about it’s addictive and intoxicating potential.

But if you are wanting a straight answer as to what the bible says on the topic of alcohol and what is or isn’t permissible, here is my summary:

  • Is it permissible for Christians to drink alcohol? Yes.
  • Do Christians ever have to drink alcohol? No.
  • Is it at times wise and loving for Christians not to drink alcohol? Yes.
  • Is it permissible for Christians to get drunk? No.

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