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  • Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Pickwick Publications

    Foreword by Walter Brueggemann, my chapter is entitled 'In conversation: The Old Testament, Ethics and Human Dignity'. A superb resource edited by Julie Claassens and Bruce Birch

  • What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    by Dion A Forster
  • An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    by Dion A Forster
Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling. by Dion Forster and Graham Power.
Download a few chapters of the book here.

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Entries in Gospel (5)

Sunday
Dec062015

Advent, Violence and the Prince of Peace - beating our pistols into plowshares

On the second Sunday of Advent, which focuses on peace - the coming of the Prince of Peace, I am deeply convicted of violence. I am convicted that I live in a world where violence is advocated as a legitimate way of solving problems. I am convicted by the swift violence of wars, gun massacres, racist views and gender abuse. I am convicted of the slow violence of poverty and inequality. I am convicted by the violence of my fear to act, my lack of courage to do what is right and what is required. I pray to be more and more like the Prince of Peace. I pray to live in a security that cannot come from politicians, possessions, or pride. I pray to live from the security of the eschatological certainty of the just reign of God that will establish peace, true peace, inner peace, social peace. It will come. It is inevitable. I pray that when it comes I may have found the courage to live on the side of peace and that my words and actions would reflect those of the Prince of Peace.

I was caused to think about this issue because of an astounding, deeply disturbing, and perplexing comment that the President of Liberty University made at a University gathering in the USA where after last week's gun massacre he encouraged students and faculty to wear concealed weapons to violently oppose 'Muslims' should they attack the campus! This is supposedly a Christian University! I cannot fathom what Gospel Mr Falwell is reading! It is foreign to me.

What astounds me is that children of the Prince of Peace would advocate violence as a way of solving complex social and religious problems. This is not the way of Jesus - this is the way of another master, one who comes to steal, kill and destroy. I am challenged to live as Jesus does - by peaceable love and not by violence. It is a much more courageous choice. It takes much more love, it requires one to be Christlike - even in suffering.

You can watch a video and read a report on Falwell's speech here:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/12/05/liberty-university-president-if-more-good-people-had-concealed-guns-we-could-end-those-muslims/

These two quotes inspire me and invite me into a new way of living. They seem to be more in keeping with the Gospel of Christ than the violence advocating statements of Falwell:

“The Christian community is the only community whose social hope is that we need not rule because Christ is Lord.”

- John Howard Yoder, Let The Church Be The Church

“Jesus gave (his followers) a new way of life to live. He gave them a new way to deal with offenders — by forgiving them. He gave them a new way to deal with violence — by suffering. He gave them a new way to deal with money — by sharing it. He gave them a new way to deal with problems of leadership — by drawing upon the gift of every member, even the most humble. He gave them a new way to deal with a corrupt society — by building a new order, not smashing the old. He gave them a new pattern of relationships between man and woman, parent and child, master and slave, in which was made concrete a radical new vision of what it means to be a human person.”

-John Howard Yoder

Let's put down our weapons and beat our pistols into plowshares. Let's give up on our violent ways and live a radically different life - a life of peace that can bring about true peace.

Monday
Jul112011

Evangelism, discipleship and the Kingdom of God

What good is 'good news' that never comes to pass? I have heard many wonderful sermons about God's Kingdom. Sadly I have encountered far fewer 'good news' communities and Churches - groups of disciples who seek to be agents of God's good news. I am convinced that our mission is to do what Jesus himself came to do. Christians are called to establish God's Kingdom of loving and transforming grace in tangible and practical ways.

The following quote (via @invisibleforeigner) resonates strongly with me:

“If the Good News is the presence of the kingdom of God, then ‘evangelism’ is much more than ‘saving souls.’ Evangelism means sharing and showing to the world how to realistically, faithfully, and creatively respond to the real needs of the world laboring under ongoing rebellion. Evangelism means living according to the ways of the kingdom of God and inviting others to join us on the way. Evangelism is not selling Jesus, but showing Jesus; evangelism is not mere telling about Christ, but about being Christ.”

— Lee Camp, Mere Discipleship

Of course there are many wonderful Christian communities and groups that are visible expressions of God's 'good news'. I want to be part of such a community!

Monday
Mar292010

The purpose of my life in one single sentence...

This trip to Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong has been fantastic!  It has been incredible to see what Christians i these countries are doing in order to see God's Kingdom of grace, mercy, justice and love established!  

I have not been sleeping all that well - this too has been a great blessing.  I have had a lot more time to pray, read the scriptures, and just be silent on my own.  

Today I visited the investment firm of a friend - they are one of the more prominent investment firms in Hong Kong with a massive portfolio!  I have heard of their commitment to the redistribution of wealth and the effective transformation of society through recapturing economic systems so that they can more adequately reflect God's desire that no person should have to much while any person has too little.

They employ a host of very bright and hard working people for their firm (not all of them are Christians, but they do have to understand the principles on which the firm operates).  It was a joy to spend some time with them discussing how Christians can use their ability, influence, and resources under God's guidance to bring about transformation.  In one particular project that I heard of this week a Christian person raised funding to build a 10km retaining wall in one of the Asian nations that would save numerous villages from mud slides caused by poor management of forestry resources (so deforestation that leads to soil erosion).  Not only did they create jobs for the community, but they exercised stewardship of the earth.

This is an encouraging way of honouring God through your worklife!  This is Kingdom Living, it is a Gospel lifestyle!

As I walked into their office building on Kowloon Island in Hong Kong this picture was the first sight a saw - the verse is:

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8).

This is my 'life verse'.  In short, if you were to ask me to sum up the intention of my life in one sentence I would have to say that God has created me to act justly, to love mercy and to walk in humility under God's loving grace.

I am quite encouraged!

Well, tomorrow is our last day of meetings in Hong Kong before we depart back to South Africa.  I am looking forwards to a fruitful day of interaction.  However, I am ready to get home to my wonderful wife and children.  I am truly blessed and thankful!

Monday
Oct152007

The prosperity gospel (with a small 'g') - fantasy, fallacy, or fully realisable?

I am always a little weary about pointing a finger directly at what I find wrong in another person, simply because I am so well aware of how wrong I am most of the time, about most things... However, this afternoon when I got home my 8 year old was flicking through the channels on DSTV. She stopped for a moment on TBN (Trinity Broadcast Network) and I caught a glimpse of a guy called Andre Roebert.

I have great respect for the late Ed Roebert, not necessarily because I agree with his theology (which I cannot say I have studied in any detail), but simply because God used him to do something great in South Africa during his lifetime. I remember reading the story of the 'Hatfield Baptist Church' (if I'm not mistaken) called "Church ablaze" many, many, years ago, and being impressed by the courage and faith that it took to break with convention, follow God's calling and dream, and do something great. I think John Wesley did it in his day, Nicky Gumbel will surely be remembered for doing it in our day, and possibly Ed will be remembered in South Africa (surely in Pretoria) for what he did here.

The Hatfield Christian church (now near Menlyn in Pretoria), is still doing great things I believe - a school, AIDS ministries etc. As for Ed Roebert, well, I never did hear too much more about him, or take the time to read up and scrutinize his theology - sometimes ignorance is bliss!

So, seeing the name Andre Roebert made me wonder who this guy is - I was curious. So, I did what every net savvy person does, I 'googled' him and found his ministry website - River Ministries in East London. I clicked on the link expecting to find the usual glossy, independent church web page... Instead here's what I found (located right in the centre of the web page):


For those who don't load images on in their browsers let me copy the text from the image below:


River Ministries is a non-profit organisation (incorporated in terms of Section 21 of the Companies Act of South Africa that was established as an administrative vehicle for a number of related and like minded ministries as well as some commercial business entities. The purpose of the group is to establish the Kingdom of God on the earth through the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ - River Ministries was established in 1995 by Pastors Andre and Jenny Roebert

The ministry's slogan seems to be 'more than a church' - I might say, that by the standards of orthodox ecclesiology this is so much LESS than a church.... But, I could be wrong.

When I looked at the 'like minded' commercial enterprises (mentioned in their statement above), I see that they have a property (probably their Church building - I think I went there for a friend's Ordination some years ago) which they sub let, and an air charter service with 3 planes!

Now here's where I need to ask for guidance and help. I am constantly sprouting forth about doing the work of God's Kingdom in new and creative ways... Yet, why do I feel so uncomfortable about this? Perhaps its because for a ministry that is 'not for profit', their primary communication to all visitors to their main website is about a company, with no statement about the content and power of the Gospel to transform individuals and society (note I use a capital 'G', whereas they used a small 'g')?

I worry about this kind of portrayal of Jesus, and of those who serve him and follow his ministry. We read in the Gospels that Jesus was one who lived on the margins of society, with a preferential option for the outcast and disregarded, those who were poor, oppressed and disenfranchised. I wonder if Jesus would have set up a property and air charter service to establish His Kingdom among us? Please forgive me if I am wrong, and if I have judged this ministry unfairly. I don't think that all wealth is wrong - in fact I know quite a few very wealthy people who are responsible and faithful stewards. But, I do worry that these people have made it the centre of their 'ministry'. You need only look at the list of CD's available (read the topics and descriptions) to see that there is an unhealthy emphasis on capital gain, not for the good of society, but for the enrichment of self!

My request is that as Christians we take care not to taint the Gospel of Christ with the gospel of mammon.

I seem to remember Jesus, when teaching on the Kingdom, saying something about it being more difficult for a rich person to get into the Kingdom than it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle (Luke 18:25).

Sadly, I smell a scandal brewing...

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Wednesday
Jul252007

A Church that displays the hospitality, warmth, and welcome of Christ's Gospel.

Last week a number of Christian lay people and ministers met in Cape Town informed by the 115th Conference of the MCSA (PE-2001) that resolved that we (Methodists) would be "a community of love rather than rejection", and the practical enactment of this value that was resolved by the 117th Conference (Johannesburg-2005) which decided that safe places be formed "...for people of a same sex orientation to tell their stories. [where there can be]... healing and forgiveness for both the church and these members".

The purpose of this meeting in Cape Town was to consider how we could increase the witness, welcome, warmth and, hospitality of Christ's gospel for all persons (much like Jesus himself speaks of in John 3:16). The purpose was to seek to break down the 'dividing wall of hostility' between persons of different positions on the same sex matter in the Church (Ephesians 2.14), and that Jesus’ love is equally given for all people (John 3.16, Romans 3.23-24; Romans 6.23). A number of testimonies were shared by people of a same sex orientation, who love Christ, and yet have felt excluded from, and unwelcome in, Christ's Church. It was a challenging, and moving, meeting.

I recorded a number of these testimonies, devotions, and Bible studies. We have decided to make the report of the listening committee available (this report sums up the feelings, ideas, and experiences of the members of the meeting).

The report is in MP3 format, it is about 6MB in size, and is presetned by the Reverend Alan Storey.

You can download the report HERE (simply click on the link).

DISCLAIMER: Please note that this report does not represent the official views of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, or any of the local societies of this Christian denomination. Rather, it is a process report that resulted form the resolutions of Conference 2005. As a process report it is likely to change, adapt, and grow as it encounters persons and positions that represent different perspectives on this issue.

For an alternative perspective from within the Methodist Church of Southern Africa please download and read the following document:

An alternative position on persons with a same sex relationship. (Adobe PDF document).

So, please do pray that we will find a way forward that:

a. Is true to God's will and desire for God's Church and God's mission in the world.

b. The moral, ethical, justice, mercy, and grace filled principles of the Gospel are upheld for persons who hold very different, and often conflicting views, without denying each other's dignity, commitment to Christ, and without harming the mission and evangelical purpose of Christ's Church.

c. No person should ever feel that Christ does not love or accept them.

d. Our Churches would love the people that Jesus loves, and love doing the things that Jesus does, even if it is difficult and challenging to do so.

Please feel free to engage me on this issue!

With much love in Christ! Dion