Monday, June 24, 2013

tim has left the building

Well, this is my last official blog post to you as UniSA chaplain for Magill and Mawson Lakes Campus.

A new chaplaincy will be in place, so if you have any questions then please contact these good people :

Thank you to those who have supported me in many ways over the years and to those who read this blog.

Wherever you are in your belief about God; I hope you take with you Jesus Christ and his teaching. 
Research Jesus even more/not less - you might be surprised in how much there is about him, how many lives have been changed for the better through him and what an amazing person he is. No one can force you but the invitation is there for you and everyone.

Look after yourself and look out for the welfare of other people, especially those who have little to give back.

May God bless you richly!

Adios Amoebas!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Science and Faith

Lawrence Krauss vs John Dickson on Q&A early in 2013 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Forgiving people who think you are wrong - and they are right!

Forgiving people who think - you are wrong - and they are right!
subtitle: "Grrrrrrrrrrr!"
I generally don't hold grudges. I'm - not - saying that to be smug - I am lucky or blessed to have a personality that cuts people a lot of slack, gives them a lot of space. I am the 'middle child' in my family, and I'm told that us middle children grow up learning the skills of negotiation and compromise from the time we can listen and talk.
I do get hurt as much as the next person and if someone honestly says they are are sorry - I might pout for a few hours but I'll eventually forgive them ...usually before sundown.

So...inspite of generally not holding grudges -there is ONE sort of forgiveness that I find very difficult and I am being challenged with this as I write. How do you forgive a person who has absolutely no intentions of saying they are sorry for all the hurt they have caused, no intentions of changing their ways, no intentions of listening to 'reason' ? Well...that is something else. I've been around long enough to know that some forms of forgiveness are nearly impossible without divine help - so I'm praying this one through.

Well, because, I don't feel I fully understand this one yet, I'm handing over to an article I recently found challanging. I'd be interested in what you think too:

I have not written the following -it is a direct cut n paste from an article in 'Christianity Today' 2005 written by R.T. Kendall.


Can I forgive those who have betrayed me if they are not repentant? —Debbie Robinson, Washington, D.C.

" If we wait for those who have hurt us to repent first, we will almost certainly wait for a long, long time. We also give ourselves a justification to stay bitter the rest of our lives. This cannot be right. Even non-Christian organizations are emerging to show the value of forgiveness; their premise is that the greatest benefit of forgiveness accrues not to the one who is forgiven, but to the one who forgives. One of Jesus' main teachings was that we love our enemies, pray for them, and do good to those who have hurt us. It is curious how some of us read the Gospels over and again and miss this.

We may get the theology, but not the graciousness that Jesus taught and exemplified. How much repentance do you suppose there was at the Cross while Jesus hung there? There was not only an utter absence of repentance, but also total contempt. Jesus' reply: "Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34). Had Jesus adopted the position that he should wait until they repent, he would have shown himself to be as lost as those for whom he was dying. Furthermore, he did not shout at them, "I forgive you." He prayed, Father you forgive them. Chances are high that those who hurt us don't even think they have done anything wrong. Nine out of ten people I have to forgive don't think they have done anything wrong to me (which suggests that I, too, have probably hurt people without knowing).

When I was minister of Westminster Chapel in London, the people who had betrayed me didn't think they had done one thing wrong. You could have hooked them up to a lie detector, and they would have passed with flying colors. My old friend, Josif Tson, whom the Communist government of Romania imprisoned and beat for his faith, came to me with the sobering words: "R.T., you must totally forgive them; unless you totally forgive them, you will be in chains." I never went to them and told them I forgave them (this would have insulted them). It happened in my heart. Once you forgive in your heart, it ceases to be an issue whether they repent or not. The blessing I got personally from this has been incalculable.

 When Jesus asked his disciples to love each other as he loved them (John 13:34), he knew Peter would deny him, then added to all of them: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me" (John 14:1). Many of us forget that he was still talking to the ones he knew would desert him in a few hours. When he showed up after his resurrection behind their closed doors, he did not say to them, "How could you do this to me?" He merely said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you" (John 20:21). He affirmed them as if nothing had happened; he let them save face. I have answered the question "Must I forgive them?" Let me now answer the question "How am I able to forgive them?" The answer: because God has forgiven you. Are you perfect? If you say, "I haven't done what they did," I answer yes, I believe you, but you have done other things that in God's sight are likely to be just as grievous. Not only that; you have the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is love (Gal. 5:22). You therefore can do it. In my case, I thought I couldn't. But I did. And it was the best thing I ever did. But it wasn't easy.

The signs to know you have totally forgiven can be summarized this way:
(1) You do not tell anybody what they did to you (this would be trying to punish the one who hurt you);
(2) you do not try to intimidate them;
(3) you do not let them feel guilty;
(4) you let them save face;
(5) you accept the matter of total forgiveness as a "life sentence"—you have to keep doing it, indefinitely;
(6) you pray that they will be blessed and let off the hook.

When you do these things, you have fulfilled what Jesus had in mind for you. You will never be sorry. The blessing of the Holy Spirit on you will compound and multiply to exceed your greatest expectation. Finally, the greater (or deeper) the hurt, the greater the blessing that will be yours. R.T. Kendall, formerly minister of Westminster Chapel, London, now retired, is author of Total Forgiveness (Charisma House, 2002)."

What do you think?

Monday, May 20, 2013

responding to suffering

Suffering, pain and misfortune affects us all in drips, handfuls, spades and even truck fulls.
The infamous "why?!"question has been pondered since memory lost in time.
There are religious and philosophical answers to the 'why' of suffering  - in the general sense - but in the specific sense "why is there suffering in - my- life?" I honestly don't think any of us will ever really know this side of our mortal existence.

Obviously, many of  us bring evil upon ourselves by unwise decisions, hanging out with the wrong people, giving in to our carnal hungers and so on. But there is also the side of life which is completely out of our control. Life itself, one minute nurturing and almost heavenly; then turns against us and hurts, attacks and devours.

Here is an example from a day before today (as I write this):

The quote on the wall at 0:34 says it all.

I don't have much time nowadays for armchair philosophers and indeed, Christians, who believe they know exactly why specific suffering happens. Maybe in each of our own lives there are times where we are being chastised - and we know it; but much of it is a mystery and that's just the way it is.

I'm more interested in the question "how do I survive?" and "how do I respond?"

Here are just a few tips that I've learned the hard way in my own life -so if I pass them on to you, then maybe you can benefit a little. I by no means think I really know how to deal with suffering because I don't like pain and avoid it if I get the chance! This is just one beggar passing on scraps of bread to another:

  •  Feel the pain - there are times where it is socially inappropriate to be crying in public or ranting at strangers or work colleagues - but in a safe place where you are with people who accept you ;feel the pain ,cry, talk, ramble, let it all out. Don't let the stoic religious types tell you to keep a stiff upper lip - the Bible is full of people crying out in pain- Jesus cried, the book of Psalms are full of "laments": see Psalms 12, 44, 60, 74, 79, 80, 83, 85, 90, 94, 123, 126   The who book of Lamentations  and Job and to a large extent, Ecclesiastes   is about human suffering and being 'in the moment'. There is a tenancy in some Christian circle to appear happy and in control, all the time; this is not Biblical neither is it reality. When you are in pain and when you are suffering, you need  it let it out in healthy, natural  and safe ways.
  • Shake your fist at God - if you looked at any of the Psalms above - a number of times they say to God - YOU- brought this on me! Now isn't that blasphemous? Won't you be struck by lightning? Apparently not. If we are going to be true believers in what the Bible teaches us - then it is assumed that in the middle of great pain and anguish - that 'getting mad at God' is totally acceptable. Ultimately if you believe God exists (which I obviously do) than there will be times that the only human logical outcome leads back to God as causer or at least 'allower' of some trauma in our lives. You don't believe me? Then - who - said this: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
  •  Move on - Jeremiah the prophet accuses God of totally ruining his life- but then moves on to praise God - see Jeremiah 20:7-13. This is a common theme in the Bible and it goes to be true for us too."But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail". So, even though we are encouraged to 'vent' at God - it is not healthy to stay angry. Whatever suffering we go through -we move a few steps forward and a couple back - but always in the direction of getting into a place of  acceptance (and hopefully some peace), whatever our lot in life.
  • The big picture is positive - Our lives  -according to the Bible - are part of something bigger, brighter and positive. This teaching is all through the New Testament. We suffer, Jesus suffered .A lot doesn't make sense. But In faith, we believe the promises of  God that we are part of something better.
    Romans 8:18
    I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." 
  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4

See Matthew 5 and plenty of other verses!
  •  Treat people with respect - probably the hardest thing to do when you are in pain - treat people around you with respect. Suffer fools, don't be too hard on others, be considerate to their needs. Romans 12.

  •   Don't lose your sense of humour - perspective is everything. After you recover from the worst of suffering, try and cultivate a grateful and thankful heart. A sense of humour and a sense of fun and play will eventually return. It is a discipline to do so - because feeling sorry for ourselves comes a little too easily. Once again, the Bible encourages us to go down this track. Being thankful is tied up with praying and talking got God:
" Never give up praying. And when you pray, keep alert and be thankfulColossians 4:2

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus"   1 Thessalonians 5:18

  • Live a life of compassion - again, I'm no advocate for pain  and I'll continue to avoid it where I can! However, it is interesting that some of the most beautiful and wise people I have met over time have often gone through hardships in their lives and have learned to be empathetic to other people. There are probably reasons for this, but ultimately the pain we go through will lead us to a path with a  crossroads and there are two signs - one says 'bitterness' the other says 'love'. It is a decision we must all take. I hope you will or have chosen the road of love, empathy and compassion. It is a  gentle and ultimately an enjoyable road to travel down.  Trauma in our lives will change us and there is no going back. But each of us has a choice to get up again eventually, dust ourselves off and go forward toward the light that beckons us ahead. 

    " Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" Galatians 6:2

A snippet after last year's tornadoes - I'm sure the same will happen again this year

But then again some people get their prayers answered....

Monday, May 13, 2013



...besides being a lovely girl's name - is a word that gets thrown around in church circles quite a bit.
Even though the church is full of human beings like myself, which brings all sorts of  ups and downs; there is one thing I am very, very grateful for is being taught by my church - and that is - God's 'grace' to us in Jesus.

So what actually is this word "Grace" in the context of the Bible?

A quick seach engine look comes up with the normal understanding used in the world:

Grace: Noun
Simple elegance or refinement of movement.
Grace: Verb
Do honor or credit to (someone or something) by one's presence."

However, the Christian theological version has more of an 'old world' feel to it but is worth trying to grasp...I actually think the first paragraph of good ol' wikipedia does it justice:

"...grace has been defined as "the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not because of anything we have done to earn it", "the condescension or benevolence shown by God toward the human race". It is understood by Christians to be a spontaneous gift from God to man - "generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved" - that takes the form of divine favor, love and clemency."

Basically, don't bother trying to suck up to God because it won't work - he sees into our hearts with all our hopes, dreams, disappointments, hurts, joys, hurtful thoughts, scheming, lusts, darkness and so spite of whatever goes on in our hearts and heads - he reaches out to us with his love for us.

Romans 5: 6-8 tells us about this in a nutshell:
"6 Christ died for us at a time when we were helpless and sinful. No one is really willing to die for an honest person, though someone might be willing to die for a truly good person. But God showed how much he loved us by having Christ die for us, even though we were sinful."

The world at large often gets the impression that we Christians spend our time 'being good' for some sort of brownie point system. A good understanding of God's Grace puts that to rest: don't bother- God sees our heart motivations and has chosen to love us anyway. Neither does it mean we do what we want - see Romans 6

Our 'doing good' is a 'relational' issue with God now - not a point scoring exercise.
We do what we know God wants done in this world. This is not unusual - with your own friends or your partner - don't you make a point of doing what makes them happy when you are with them??
If you are 'point scoring' with your friends -then they are not really your friends. The same is true with God. He has told us he loves us, forgives us and gives us his 'Grace'...we are in a relationship with him and we live and learn what is his Will for us. It's a no brainer, really. We are in a good relationship with him - why ruin it?

There is a lot to be said about God's grace but it is good news for any person living on this planet who wishes to be at peace with their Maker.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Scoffers, the gullible and the discerning

The old term "Scoffer"(to speak derisively; mock; jeer) was used in the Bible I used to read when I was growing up many moons ago. I liked the sound of the word because it reminded me of someone grunting, turning their head away and rolling their eyes "yeah right, as if". Grunt. Scoff. Scoooffff.

In the world at large it is sometimes seen as 'wise' to be cynical, to mock, to jeer, to scoff. The accusation of '"gullible" or "stooooopid idiot" is something all self-respecting educated man, woman or child wants to sidestep in big strides. You only need to be a part of an Internet forum to meet 'scoffers'. It doesn't matter if you are discussing philosophy or the raising of pansies - every forum seems to have built in at least one 'scoffer'; one person who infers that everyone is stupid - particularly new people on the forum. There is also at least one in every pub, in every workroom. The built in cynic at every party who rains on the parade and criticises every idea in a brainstorming session. You know who I mean.

The Bible's response is surprisingly balanced: Obviously being gullible is taught against in a big way in the Bible -most of the teachings are to make us wise and world-ready. There are whole books of wise sayings (Proverbs, Ecclessiastes) and if you read the recorded words of Jesus Christ - he is no fool - he was very, very observant and aware, perceptive and gifted in communicating. Jesus appealed to anyone who had "ears to hear" I'm not talking about the 'stain glass' Jesus- but the one recorded in the Bible. I still find his words powerful to this day. So being a gullible is strongly taught against in the Bible. We are encouraged to find wisdom and to not trust mere mortals at face value.

The road of careful observation and discernment is applauded in the Bible. Use your head. Listen to your heart. What are you observing? What do you see?

The writer of the book of Acts gives the thumbs up to people who - researched for themselves - to see if the Christian message was true - they took the time and effort:

"Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true."
(from Acts 17:11 in the Bible, my italics)
Jesus often preached against the thin veneer of human beings - here is just one example:

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." (from Matthew 7:15-20 in the Bible)

Of course, there are many, many, many examples in the Bible of using "discernment" and not taking human beings on face level only. 1 John 4:1talks about 'testing' and so on and so on.

So where does that leave "scoffing" or cynicism? In the Bible  scoffing is considered foolish. That's right - not wise - but foolish.

Read it for yourself:

“‘Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’”Acts 13:41

  "O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge”1 Timothy 6:20

 "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers"  Psalm 1:1

“He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself, And he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself."  Proverbs 9:7
"Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you." Proverbs 9:8

"A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, But a scoffer does not listen to rebuke." Proverbs 13:1

"A scoffer does not love one who corrects him, Nor will he go to the wise."Proverbs 15:12

"He who begets a scoffer does so to his sorrow, And the father of a fool has no joy." Proverbs 17:21

"Judgments are prepared for scoffers, And beatings for the backs of fools" Proverbs 19:29

"A proud and haughty man— “Scofferis his name; He acts with arrogant pride" Proverbs 21:24

 You get the picture - being perceptive and discerning is encouraged but being a mocker, cynic or 'scoffer' is considered extremely unwise in the Bible.
For those who have once considered themselves 'scoffers' but want to change - there is some great news: the answer is fantastic- God is very generous and wants to give you wisdom. Ask for it.

"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." James 1:5

"For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding". Proverbs 2:6

"In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:6

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."
Matthew 7:7 

Don't be gullible - we live in a world full of untruth and hearsay. Don't be a scoffer or too cynical - it is a thin veneer of really being a fool and missing out on a lot of the good life. Be discerning. Be humble and look to God for all the wisdom he wants to give."Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."

Monday, April 8, 2013

all things must pass

My position as Chaplain at Magill and Mawson Lakes will be drawing to a close by the end of June 2013.
Before you ask - no, I haven't done anything wrong, no, I haven't been sacked and no, I am not resigning either. The Lutheran Church of Australia (SA/NT) has been very involved in tertiary ministry and had a big presence over the last decade or two but 'all things must pass' and as there are - new visions - tertiary ministry in a few places, such as Magill and Mawson Lakes will be "restructured" in a new way. I'm not privy to exactly what it will look like but I'm sure you will find out soon enough. Keep an eye on our LCA district page - particularly after June - when I hope it will be updated!

On a student level, there is a fun loving Christian group LSF who have a web presence here:

I've been at Magill since 2004 and Mawson Lakes since 2005 and I have always felt privileged to have the opportunity to be a formal Christian presence on campus. It has been a growth time for me personally as the many people I have met have also kept my faith grounded with real life issues; so theological flights of fancy were quickly grounded in their hangers and I often had to ask myself - "how does Christian belief translate into this situation today, tomorrow and next week".

I'm not quite gone yet but I thought it fair to let you know ahead of time.

I've really grown to appreciate this verse because it sums up everything I find important:

 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13