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Posted By Nan

To continue with the discussion of western European colonisation. These continents were invaded mainly by Spain, Portugal and Britain. They were ostensibly Christian countries and there was great social unrest about Christianity at home that was being suppressed, sometimes viciously. The people were being taught that they had to have a faith and the faith of their country was the only true faith. Ok, so they invade an area populated by people foreign to them and their culture. That’s OK, these people weren’t Christians so they were obviously ignorant heathens. Let’s just ignore the fact that they had rich cultures and religious beliefs – you can’t justify destroying a people with a culture. Let’s deny they have a  culture and convert these ignorant heathens to Chrstianity. I heard an interview by an indigenous film maker once. He mentioned a scene in a film where an indigenous woman went to church to pray. He stated that indigenous people fitted Christianity very easily into their faith. There was no need to destroy them to teach them about God. Hudson Taylor’s approach would have worked well here. If you don’t know who he is, a search of the internet will inform you.
To continue the invasion, over time, the indigenous people who were left were pushed to the fringes of society. Displaced from their land they were unable to get food and became increasingly reliant on these invaders. No attempt was made to include them in the invader culture and no effort was made to understand their culture. Over time policies were developed, especially in North America and Australia, which involved the stealing of children from their families. The pain this caused. What astonishes me, and has astonished many others, is how Christian women condoned this inhuman theft of children from mothers who loved them and cared for them. They told themselves these indigenous people were terrible parents and they were ‘saving’ the poor little children. How does taking a child from a loving family and placing it in a children’s home where it endured physical and often sexual abuse ‘save’ it. The pain caused to these children and their families is beyond comprehension. So many of these thefts were carried out by churches. As the horror of this shameful period in history becomes better known, the church looks increasingly like the evil one. Due to the harshness and judgemental attitudes of many who claim to ‘represent’ God on this earth the church already has the image of a harsh, unloving, hypocritical institution. By association, God is seen as being this way. The treatment of indigenous people is just further proof of how horrible God is. Small wonder people dismiss God as irrelevant, or non existent. Small wonder they search for God in other religions. Why should they choose Christianity as the place to find God? The evidence placed before them by the church over the centuries has demonstrated that that is one place God will not be found. I know Christianity is the only way to God through Jesus, but not enough people out there in the world know that. Good, loving Christians who demonstrate Jesus’ love for the world don’t get press time. It is high time, we changed that. The best way forward is to live like Jesus and demonstrate His love to those we encounter in our daily lives. Study His behaviour in the Bible. I am not going to give you specific examples, because I want you to read the gospels and find them. Remember, Jesus did not look at the sinners and condemn them. He looked at them and loved them. He sometimes matter of factly pointed out their sin, but he continued to love them and in the light of their love they no longer desired to sin. Isn’t it about time we demonstrated love and acceptance to those we consider sinners instead of vocally condemning then. When we have done that we can add a large dose of humility and hire a crane to remove the beam from our own eyes and realise we are sinners too.

 
Posted By Nan

Before I discuss the issue of indigenous people, I am going to discuss the issue of culture being more observed than true faith.
Before I go on, it would be helpful if you read Acts 6:1-7 and 1Timothy 3:1-13. Both these passages talk about being equipped for ministry. It relates a lot to the last blog and to this one as well.
Today, I came across a story on a Christian Ministry website. It related a story of an incident I was involved in many years ago. At the time I was a member of an expat church where the people were more concerned with being one of the establishment, and found God something inconvenient some people insisted on mentioning during social gatherings on Sunday morning. What really upset me about the reflection on this incident, was that it left out the most vital part of the story. It was the story of a prayer partner of mine who needed healing. This woman struggled with a desire to serve God and a need to be socially upwardly mobile. Some of this pressure came from her husband who related the story for the site. She had been injured in an accident and had been crippled by unforgiveness for many years. She had unsuccessful prayer in the past to heal some physical injuries, but the really important healing was spiritual. God couldn’t heal her because she wouldn’t forgive. During prayer by a member of this ministry team, with me accompanying him, she forgave the person responsible for her accident. As soon as this happened she received a mighty healing. She acknowledged the importance of forgiving this person afterwards, but her husband, in relating the story, left that vital bit out. I wondered why he did that and I prayed about it. God reminded me of how driven this man was. How much of a perfectionist he was and how much he enjoyed the expat lifestyle and rubbing shoulders with ambassadors and industry leaders. He was an incredible social climber. As I remembered more about this man, I understood why he had left out the most important aspect of the story. As a perfectionist, he couldn’t accept that he was not perfect and needed to forgive and be forgiven, so he could not comprehend his wife’s need to forgive. It is a shame that the ministry site did not pick this up and correct it, because the teaching of this ministry is one of spiritual healing being paramount.
This man is a classic example of many in the church. For people like this, the church is a social club with opportunities for social advancement. It has always been part of their culture. As teenagers they may have felt stirrings of faith, but these were quickly squashed by the need to fit in to the social club and follow its culture. If the culture of a group is counter to Christian faith, then a decision has to be made. Many people have a strong attachment to their culture and a strong need for approval. They have not been taught to seek God’s approval so they accept human approval and choose their culture over their Christian Faith. Many of them never see what they have done. They still believe they have a faith. They are blind to how little faith they have. Many people just see church as being part of their culture and faithfully observe Christian Traditions without them having any meaning for them. I was talking to a woman once about her childhood and she mentioned how her parents used to drop her off for Sunday School every Sunday. She didn’t know why she went to Sunday School, maybe to make friends, she never met God there. As a teenager, she searched to fill the spiritual void in her life and found the ‘spiritualist church’. I thought it was sad that in all the years she had attended Sunday School, no one had introduced her to God. Maybe everyone in that church went there for social purposes. How many people of true faith are in churches compared to the numbers who follow a culture?

 
Posted By Nan

In the series I wrote on Christian church attendance, I talked a lot about people attending church, not because they believed in God, but because it was a tradition, part of their culture, their social set. I grew up in a family that claimed to be Christian. The ‘G’ word was never uttered in that house. No one ever prayed. The most instruction I received about God came from my oldest brother. He was eight years older than me and taught me that I didn’t have to fear death because Jesus had died for me and if I believed in Him I would go to heaven when I died. When I became a Christian at the age of 15, he bought me a Bible because I didn’t have one. There were no Bibles in our ‘Christian’ house. I used to look up to him as being an inspiration in his Christian walk. Sadly, even he has fallen into the Sunday social club habit. He has lost sight of God. He stands in the pulpit on Sundays and preaches empty words that contain cultural attitudes and behaviours but no longer contain God. I remember when my mother was dying. He and I discussed whether our mother believed in God. We knew our father didn’t, He told the Presbyterian Minister who asked him to be an elder that he didn’t believe in God. I think that is when I stopped considering churches to be places that necessarily invited God to join their worship. That minister told my father it didn’t matter whether he believed. He could still be an elder. I can’t believe anyone could say that. My brother finally gathered the courage to ask my mother if she believed in Jesus and she said yes. How could someone who professed that faith have spent her entire life never uttering God’s name in our house, never praying or acknowledging God and never mentioning Jesus? I guess the answer to that is the same answer as the answer to the question of why Western Europeans did what they did to the indigenous people of the world.
That minister is a good example of what happened in the churches of Western Europe. The people who led them did not necessarily believe. Being a minister in a church was often something chosen by parents for their son to do. It was thought to be a good, respectable job. Your faith didn’t enter into it. How many ministers in churches had no belief in God and taught what they had learned by rote to their parishioners. How could unbelieving leaders teach their congregations about faith if they didn’t have any themselves?
Many years ago, a friend was recovering from cancer. He was young and the cancer had been devastating. I gave him a copy of Every Day With Jesus that covered the subject of going through hard times. I felt it would really help this man who professed to be a Christian. When I asked him later how he found it, he gave me a really sad answer. He said it had been really challenging because in his church they were not encouraged to read the Bible or pray!
Without getting too much into reformation divides, this man was Catholic. It was a strong doctrinal belief in the Catholic Church during the Reformation that Protestants read the Bible and that was what caused the rift in the church. Ordinary people couldn’t be trusted with the Bible. They should be denied access to it and told how to interpret it by the priests. Of course in those times priests were often put into the priesthood by their families, not because they had any faith so they were not very well placed to teach their congregations about God.
Very few churches encouraged people to read the Bible. There was no expectation that people should have a personal relationship with Jesus. Christianity was about culture and frequently it was about Western European culture. Sometimes I think it is better for us in this ‘post Christian’ age where Christians are the exception. That way we don’t get caught up in the general culture of Christianity but instead learn to relate to God personally and accurately.
I have run out of room – I will continue this blog later in the week.

 
Posted By Nan

1 Peter 3:15 "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."
This blog is one of a series I will be writing over the next few weeks. God has really laid on my heart the need to raise this issue. It is not a pleasant or easy issue to raise and many will disagree with it.My prayer is that you will be challenged, and even if you turn away from this blog, the seed that is sown will continue to challenge you.
Over the past few weeks I have been working on an assignment. It has left me with little time for my blog. It has also highlighted how much the church becomes incorporated in culture and is influenced by it. It is virtually impossible to separate culture from the church. Hence the events of the colonial period in Western European history, events that have been largely ignored when teaching history, until recently. Despite increasing awareness of these shameful events, there is still a great deal of community ignorance and disinterest in them. I am referring to the way the Western European nations colonised the other continents. In particular, I refer to the shameful way these Christian invaders treated the indigenous inhabitants of the Americas and Australia. Colonisation was about power and the push by the various ruling families in Europe, later the nations they ruled, to increase their power. Christianity was used to justify the treatment of the indigenous people of those lands. There was a general attitude of ownership of God. Western Europeans believed they were Christianity. No one ever seemed to acknowledge that Jesus had been a Jew. His culture was not that of modern day Jews. It was a culture probably closest to those Jews who continuously inhabited Palestine to the modern day. He did not tell people they had to behave like Western Europeans, yet Western Europeans arrogantly believed they were the door to God. How we humans corrupt God’s message to suit our own purposes!
During the enlightenment period in Western Europe people came to believe that science was the only truth. They rejected spirituality as unquantifiable and therefore untrue. Progress was the way forward. There was even the attitude that progress would probably mean some people would die in the name of that progress. This referred to those unfortunate enough to inhabit the lands these greedy Western Europeans coveted. Bet no one looked at the ten commandments when they set about colonising. Of course they used the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) as their excuse and the destruction of the inhabitants of Canaan mentioned in the Old Testament. I doubt they ever asked God. From my reading of church history, I doubt many of them even believed God existed – like the Pharisees in Jesus’ time. It was far easier to follow cultural traditions and not let belief and faith in God bog you down with things you might be required to do that might mean you had to ‘rock the boat' and potentially be cast out.
This attitude that I will discuss further in the next few blogs is one that has led people to see God as negative, harsh and judgemental. It horrifies me how people in the church, using God’s name, have so misrepresented Him.
I will explain further in my next blog…

 
Posted By Nan

This blog is a week overdue, it has been extremely busy this past week and I have not had time to sit at the computer and write my blog.
I seem to be getting nudged lately about writing more blogs on friendships. I have had a lot of contact lately with difficult people and have been finding them very stressful. So I have been spending a lot of time in prayer, seeking God’s guidance for the way to move forward through this.

The first answer was Psalm 23. If you can, read it before you go any further.

I was especially drawn to verse 5 “you prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies”. Blessings come when in the presence of enemies. Instead of seeing our enemies as curses, we should change our viewpoint and see the table and the blessings God gives us in the presence of our enemies. So often, we look at the negatives and do not see the positives. Reading through the psalms, I am always struck at how often a psalm would start with a complaint about enemies and end in praise of God. Thinking about that, I see this as the psalmist realising that what is important in the situation is not the enemy, but God.

Hebrews 13:15 talks about offering a sacrifice of praise. I have noticed through my life that those times when I praise God for a situation are the times when the situation gets better. Praising God is another way of turning our eyes on Him and handing our lives over as well. God will not intervene until we give him permission. Praise gives Him permission. So, with the difficult people in my life at the moment, I am looking forward to many praise opportunities.
Last year I found a Word for Today devotional that talked about an acronym “ANTHEM”. The devotional was aimed at people who had sexual thoughts but I thought it was an ideal framework to adapt to any need and God keeps reminding me of my need to remember it.
The acronym is as follows:

Avoid negative thoughts,
No to thoughts (and satan) when they crop up,
Turn to Jesus, (remember the chorus - turn your eyes upon Jesus?)
Hold on to Jesus’ promises,
Enjoy your special place in God’s love,
Move on from being a victim to a victor!

We need to be alert to reject negative thoughts from negative people when we think of them, Say no to them, turn to Jesus instead, lay hold of His promises to be with us and stop being a victim but step into Jesus’ Victory.
So I have written Anthem in the margins of my lecture pads to remind me of this really important message.

After reading “One thousand gifts” by Ann Voskamp and discussing it with a friend, I added TPJT as well.


Thanksgiving – because it is important to be thankful to God
Praise – because we need to praise God
Joy – because the Joy of the Lord sustains us
Trust – because we need to trust God.

 

What has happened with the difficult people? They don’t seem so difficult any more and I have learned a really important message about being a Christian.

 

 

 
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Nan
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