Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Thinx 61: Faith Awakened Review

Faith Awakened - A Novel by Grace Bridges

'Faith Awakened', by Grace Bridges, describes a virtual utopia inside a post-pandemic dystopia. It's "Second Life" and "Earth 2" on steroids, where you are your own avatar, wired directly to the network (thanks to a cable punched through your forehead.) As for the dystopia, while your body whiles away the years in solar-powered cryosleep, the rest of the world perishes, thanks to a genetically-modified air-borne ebola.

There are two interwoven narratives. The first describes life in dystopia and the events leading to the pandemic. Then there is the discovery of utopia, and a hurried escape into it. Finally, there is an emergence into a world reborn: safe, clean … and massively depopulated.

The second narrative describes an idiosyncratic utopia, modelled by a computer in response to programming performed by its inhabitants before their entry into it. The virtual reality software takes care of the details -- when it works.

There is spirituality here too: both narratives refer to an Awakener, a semi-personal figure who brings them out of darkness into light, who meets them in both the real and the virtual world, and who is somehow involved in their physical and spiritual salvation. Who is he? That remains to be revealed, it seems.

© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2007

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Thinx 60: Faith Awakened

Faith Awakened - A Novel by Grace Bridges

Yes, I've read it and I'm writing a review. Stay tuned.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Thinx 59: Something I said at Communion

This piece of bread is food. It reminds us of the Passover. The food was preparation for a journey -- the Exodus. For us it is also a preparation -- for the journey of Faith.

Eating this is an act of worship, part of the worship that began at conversion and that will continue through this service and out into the week.

Every thought, word, and action which reflects the glory of God is an act of worship, even the eating of something as simple as a piece of bread.

© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2007

Monday, July 02, 2007

Thinx 58: Revenge

What is it about human beings: we get hurt and then say to ourselves, "Okay, you hurt me, I'm going to hurt you back." And escalation seems strangely inevitable -- there's no way of measuring our pain against some external standard, so we never give back exactly what we have received. In any case, everyone's perception of pain is not the same. So we set out to make them really hurt, often hurting ourselves -- doing some kind of violence to our souls -- in the process.

As God says to us, through Paul, in 1 Corinthians 6:7, "Why not be wronged? Why not be defrauded?" We defraud God often, making promises which we do not keep. We do that which wounds God. We hurt him with out disobedience. We break the first commandment, listening to and obeying the voices of the flesh, the world and the devil. Does God turn around and give us as we have given him?

© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2007

Monday, June 18, 2007

Thinx 57: Catalyst #2

Another reason why I'm part of Riverton Baptist Church's Catalyst group:

What do you do when carers don't care? What do you do when government agencies no longer work out of love and respect, but instead treat people as an inconvenience, a burden to which the barest minimum of care is to be given, so that a box can be ticked and a pay-packet collected? How do you seek, and actually get, justice for the poor, the widow, the orphan and the immigrant? What do you do when people suffer injustice, not just at the global level, but also at the national, and community levels? How can issues of unfair treatment be addressed in a way that is appropriate but also effective?

I went to the
Catalyst training because I was interested in the global issues. But I also went because I wanted to find out if Catalyst's methods could also be used to make a difference at the community level. I have found that the methods work across the board.

Do you want to make a difference now, and for eternity? Consider

© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2007

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Thinx 56: Catalyst

One reason why I'm part of Riverton Baptist Church's Catalyst group:

Seven years ago last Sunday, my father died. His passing was noted in a number of places, including the front page of The Sydney Morning Herald, in Column 8, and Wesley Mission's

My father was a dangerous man -- dangerous because he acted on his beliefs. He believed in Jesus (and that's often enough danger for most.) However, he also believed that the government, though in its place by the behest of God, is nevertheless a human organisation. Government, at all levels, is staffed by men and women, all subject to the foibles, fears and failings that are part and parcel of being sons and daughters of Adam.

Dad also knew, better than most it seems, that the government is neither all powerful, all present nor all knowing. In fact, quite the opposite: it needs the help and efforts of others in order to get anything done; it often can't see past the end of its own nose; and it is totally incapable of reading people's minds.

So my father set about improving things for the government of his day: he wrote letters -- sometimes 10 or more per week. He sent them to the government, and to the media, by mail, by documents exchange, and later, by email. He wrote on a wide range of subjects: from
Starr-Bowkett Societies through to pointed debunkings of whatever the government's "spin of the day" may have been. He wrote tight, dense prose, fortified with legalese, squeezing into a sentence what others often take a paragraph to achieve.

And he did this consistently from the mid 1950s through to the end of the 1990s.

I am the eldest of his children. I am the son of a catalyst. My methods are not his, but his passion is in my blood.

I am also a son of God, and his love compels me to confess his gospel, and also to act upon it.

© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2007

Friday, March 16, 2007

Thinx 55: Gifts ... without Repentance

Gifts ... without Repentance, an amazingly insightful posting, from Paul F. Mitchell who wrote it for his "ninetyandnine" site back in May 2003.

Please pardon the jargon, but the article 'resonates' with me, especially in this excerpt:
God gave the gifts because He desired them to be used. Man created the obstacles. God never forbade sports, or dance, or music. God simply said, “Sin not.” Centuries later, man decided he had to help God out and define all the “modern” ways we sin. God said, “Be holy.” Man decided that holiness should go beyond the scriptural parameters, and began trying to define holiness by setting boundaries. God said, “I’ve come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly,” and man said, “Here’s your abundant life—you can’t do this, this, this, this, or this…and, oh yeah, you can’t do this or that, either. Now aren’t you blessed!”

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Thinx 52: If you had permission ...

Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.
-- Gil Bailie.
The place where God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.
-- Frederick Buechner
If you had permission to do what you really want to do, what would you do? Don't ask how; that will cut your desire off at the knees. How is never the right question; how is a faithless question. It means "unless I can see my way clearly I won't believe it, won't venture forth." When the angel told Zechariah that his ancient wife would bear him a son named John, Zechariah asked how and was struck dumb for it. How is God's department. He is asking you what. What is written in your heart? What makes you come alive? If you could do what you've always wanted to do, what would it be?
-- John Eldredge, "Wild At Heart", p. 200
When I read that I pulled out my notebook and wrote the following:
* Pastor a church ... preach
I really enjoy preaching. It's a scary, exciting adventure. Very carefully, you pick up the two-edged sword by the blade. Even as it cuts others, it's cutting you.
* Coach men to be men and women to be women
What is the church's role? To enforce cultural stereotypes or to challenge them?
Society at large can't make up its mind about men. Having spent the last thirty years redefining masculinity into something more safe, sensitive, manageable and, well, feminine, it now berates men for not being men.
Christianity, as it currently exists, had done some terrible things to men. When all is said and done, I think most men in the church believe that God put them on the earth to be a good boy. The problem with men we are told, is that they don't know how to keep their promises, be spiritual leaders, talk to their wives, or raise their children. But, if they try real hard they can reach the lofty summit of becoming ... a nice guy. That's what we hold up as models of Christian maturity, Really Nice Guys. We don't smoke, drink, or swear; that's what makes us men. Now let me ask my male readers: In all your boyhood dreams growing up, did you ever dream of becoming a Nice Guy? (Ladies, was the the Prince of your dreams dashing ... or merely nice?)
-- John Eldredge, "Wild At Heart", pp. 6-7.
It's also time to remind everyone that we are all on the front-line of a great spiritual conflict.
For this reason, take up the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand your ground on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand.
-- Ephesians 6:13 (NET)
And when is this evil day? I used to think it was some time in the future. It's right now.
taking advantage of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
-- Ephesians 5:16 (NET)
And yes, you will be wounded. The battle is spiritual ... and very real. And the enemy hates you with a violent and implacable hatred.
So the dragon became enraged at the woman and went away to make war on the rest of her children, those who keep God’s commandments and hold to the testimony about Jesus.
-- Revelation 12:17 (NET)
* Tell people what they can do.
So much time goes into telling Christians what they can't do that they never find out what they can do. Each church tradition has its rules regarding what is acceptable and what isn't. I grew up in an Anglican church; made my first conscious commitment through YFC; was discipled through the Uniting Church; was discipled and then sent out as a missionary by a Presbyterian church; married a Baptist; attended a Brethren assembly while studying with Wycliffe/SIL; worked for an Anglican-derivative church in Pakistan; attended a Southern Baptist (planted) International Church in Pakistan; and now attend a Baptist church in Western Australia.
I've been around. And yet, for all that, I still know more what not to do than what to do. I still don't have much in the way of experience of sharing my faith; I still don't know how to lobby a politician; and I still don't know where to even begin challenging our godless, evolutionized cultural milieu.
* Take kids on urban mission trips
People who want to get missionary experience usually go overseas. That's fine if you can afford it, or if you have a mob of people behind you who are willing to help you afford it. But there are also lots of possibilities for missionary experience within our own city. Western Urban Associates are into this kind of thing and can link you up with those who do authentic hands-on urban mission.
* Take apologetics students on witnessing trips, exploring and using every evangelism method known to man
I studied apologetics in Bible College. So did a friend of mine. We each passed our respective units. Trouble is, we never actually went out and "did" apologetics. It'd be great to have an apologetics teacher who says,
"Okay, for next week's class we will meet in Hay Street Mall, near the entrance to Wesley Arcade. First I will go and demonstrate how to start a conversation and direct it into a discussion about Jesus. Then we will break up into small groups and each have a go at doing the same. Then we'll go up to Corey's new shop in West Perth for a coffee and debrief."
* Tell the truth about who we are: that there is no such thing as a 'Carnal Christian' -- teach the all-sufficiency of Christ
I've been very much encouraged by Tom Wells's book "Christian: Take Heart!" It thoroughly debunks the 'Carnal Christian' teaching, and is massively encouraging in the process. It's message deserves a wider readership and a sensitive handling from the pulpit
* Help develop a programming language for the world that doesn't require the programmer to know English
Apparently Sun Microsystems went into China a while back claiming that the Chinese could all learn Java in 3 days. It didn't work. Imagine, now, going in with a programming language based on Chinese, or into Bolivia with a programming language based on Quechua, or into Zambia with a programming language based on Nyanja. The vast majority of computer programming languages are based on English, and no one seems interested in doing anything about that, because ...
It comes down to an inability to see outside the comfort zone, or to comprehend the extent to which [programming language] monoglossia pervades. We are not going after people who can already program. [And] we aren't asking people to switch, although that would be nice. [Rather,] we are after the 78% of the population who find it difficult to master a second language (or in the case of southern China, the 83% that are incapable of learning a third, when they have had to get Mandarin in addition to Cantonese, or in Java, where they have had [to] master Indonesian in addition to Javanese, Sundanese or Balinese). These are people who are cut out of advanced scientific or commercial work because their brains can't do English.
We already know this elsewhere; this is after all why we do Bible translation -- because we can't expect Achinese or Andaman Islanders to learn Aramaic and Hebrew ... [before] Christianity on the off-chance that it might appeal to them
-- Diarmuid Pigott, personal communication, December 2006.
Okay, that's my list. What's yours?

© Copyright Bruce M. Axtens, 2007