A years worth of reading.

Church Planting Magazine have a competition where they are offering a years worth of reading to a lucky winner. You can find them here.

I’m going on an overload fast.

It may come to a surprise to some, and not to others, that I am a social media junkie. For many people who are shut in, social media can create an important sense of contact and engagement with the outside world. Certainly that was the case for myself, when on October 17th 2007 my world as I knew it came crashing down around my ears.On that day I collapsed at work, paralyzed on the right side, had a high temp around 40 degrees Celsius and was hospitalized for the next 52 days. There I was to learn to walk, talk and do things that I had normally taken for granted. My time in hospital and upon was a mixture of pain and joy.

I was to be later diagnosed three separate times as having Multiple Sclerosis and was three times later told that I didn’t. (The first time was in the morning 2 hours before I was to sit my major Greek exam) Needless to say I didn’t perform very well in that exam, having the doctors diagnosis echoing between my ears. Eventually they came up with the diagnosis that I suffered an acute form of viral encephalitis. When I was released from hospital, I needed to go shopping in a wheel chair. I needed a shower chair to shower in. And I was to go through a darker time of abuse, a time which you can read more about here.

However I digress. Social media in all its forms became an important part of my life. While I was housebound it allowed me to engage and have contact with the outside world. Not only was I able to be encouraged; I was also able to encourage others. Over the years I have made some very close friends from those I first met online. And I was later to meet the woman who was to become my wife through Face Book.

Social media become a ministry tool. One where I was to develop online friendships and friends with other students, scholars, pastors, and those interested in sharing their life. In many ways social media became a methodology of learning. One where a variety of scholars would blog their interests, current thoughts and teachings on a variety of subjects. On that note, I too was able to contribute by blogging my own thoughts, research, life experiences and ideas. But more importantly then the ideas that were imparted – it was the sense of getting to know people behind the cyberspace facade that was more important.

When others shared of their pain, I was able to encourage and pray. Social media become a platform to engage in life with others. To speak life into others. To hear the pain of others and to take those people to the throne room of heaven and lift them to the Lord. It become a frontier where I was able to share the grace of Christ, to talk about Christ and one that I can acknowledge the Lord used as a vessel to cause others to come and know him as their personal savior.

BUT. Social media also has its downside. I have an addictive personality. I can’t help myself. I am always scrolling through my feed wondering what will come next. I’m always happy to get involved in the conversation about climate change. Church. Global disasters. Wars, wars, and rumors of wars. And a plethora of other stuff that in and of itself maybe not bad; but, overall becomes consuming.

Those who know me well, know that I am a complex, yet simple person. I enjoy a joke. Indeed one wag recently told me I had a wicked sense of humor. There are times I like to play the devils advocate. There are times I like to stir the pot. There are times when I want to cry and be serious. But, overall, the cry of my heart is to be an encourager in the service of the Lord.

Recent times have seen me becoming more critical then I like. I’m becoming miffed at those I disagree with, even angry. The overload of images of war and terrorism has impacted my soul. The fear of terrorism on our soil and the confusion of working through the issues of moderate / radical Islam here in our own country has an impact. Both on myself, family and those I engage life with. I have seen images, watched videos which I wish I never laid eyes on. I hear on one hand the voices of moderate Muslims speaking out about their own understanding – yet watch videos of their preachers (Even here in Australia) saying and encouraging things which the moderates claim they don’t believe. Social media is echoing and reflecting the mess that the world is in. Then there is the stuff about climate change. The world is going to end, the alarmists tell us. The world is going to end the religious tell us. The world is going to end the war haters and mongerers tell us.

I’m seeing unprecedented conversations of racism, hatred, fear, extremism, pain, heartache and criticism which is interspersed with times of joy, happiness, encouragement, Godliness and prayer fullness. And I am tired. Bone weary, soul weary tired.

I am hearing the Lord whisper to my soul. “Craig, come to me, for my yoke is easy, my burden is light! Come to me, for you are overloaded with the cares and worries of the world – come and spend time with me.”

So for a period of time, I am deactivating my Facebook account. I am going to fast from cyberspace overload. During this time I will still be contactable via email, phone and face to face conversations. And during this time, I will still be praying for you all. Blessings. Craig B. 

What shall I do with fear?

In the name of Jesus, I stand against every form of fear the Devil wants me to be overcome with. Devil, I tell you and your henchmen, to rack off. I am given the Spirit of Love, Power and Sound mind.

Therefore, I will show love to all, and not fear to do so. I refuse to come under your curse of hatred. Scripture tells me that all are created in the image of God…and therefore I intend to treat all with the dignity and respect that has. I will not fear to stand up and protect those who need protecting. I will not fear to forgive those who need forgiving. And I will not fear to call to account, all who need to be called to account.

The word of God tells me that God so loved the world, he gave his only begotten son, so that who soever believes in him, shall not perish, but have eternal life. I declare to the demonic forces of destruction, that indeed, Jesus is Lord.

Its my wife’s birthday. All she wanted was for me to write and speak a blessing over her.

Its my wife’s birthday today. I wont share her age, because I am a gentleman, and that’s not something gentlemen do. She asked me yesterday if I would write a blessing for her, speak it over her and give it to her, so she could keep it in her Bible and refer to it often. Scripture talks a lot about blessing. Indeed one of the major activities of the priesthood in the OT was to stand above the people, reach out their hands, and speak what is known as the Aaronic blessing over them.

I am upfront about being Pentecostal in experience and practice. That is I believe that the gifts of the Spirit still exist today. And so not only did I prayerfully seek to write out a blessing for my wife, I also sought the Lord for a specific prophetic word for her. Now I want to be upfront, that I think much of the modern pentecostal approach to prophecy borders on the same wavelength as someone reading their stars regularly in the local newspaper. We find in the Scriptures all we need for life and faith. In saying this, the very same Scriptures which we find life and faith, also tell us not to scoff at the prophetic word, and that we are also to be eager to seek all gifts, especially that we may prophecy.

So, to be obedient to the direct command of Scripture, its something that I seek the Lord time to time to do. And after a time of seeking the Lord, I wrote down the word which came to me for my wife. Now, I am upfront in admitting that I wasn’t writing scripture. The canon is closed. But hey, lets admit, that not every prophecy of the early church was ever written down in Scripture either – so lets not pretend that we are equating modern prophecy to Scripture, after all the early church in the NT, never made that claim either.

I also did something different. I got out Jo’s scrap booking stuff and made her a card. I was truly out of my depth here and so I prayerfully asked God to help me. I’m glad to say, he answered my prayer and together we managed to put a nice card together, in which I pasted the word and blessing I had typed out.

This morning, I made a batch of my own secret recipe pancake mix, which contains oats, wholemeal flour, butter and milk and allowed it to rest.  I believe in the power of symbolism. So I then went outside and made a staff.I took my knife and debarked a branch and smoothed it down; while Jo had herself a nice long hot bath and enjoyed a bath bomb. Some time later, she got out of the bath, prepared herself and stood in the middle of the lounge room, prayerfully expectant for her blessing.

I picked up my staff and raised it in the air. And while holding it up, I spoke over her the word which I believed the Lord was giving me for her. (And no, I wont share that with you here…that is Jo’s business.) I then finished speaking forth the prophecy and proceeded to speak the blessing over her. I gently laid the end of the staff on her shoulders and the top of her head and spoke forth the blessing I wrote for her. And when I finished, I handed her the card with the prophecy and blessing.

It was an incredible experience for us both. It was humbling and powerful. It was encouraging and a time of mutual strengthening. It was something that neither of us took lightly. And afterwards I was thinking about Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians for husbands to wash their wives with the word. And I am left wondering, if indeed, this kind of activity is what the Apostle Paul was intending when he wrote to them.

Lord, deliver me from myself.

There is a great little story in the Bible about a character called Jabez. Jabez means pain, or born in pain, and was a name his mother called him during his birth.

Scripture only gives us a few lines about him, saying that he was more honorable than his brothers, and cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.

Think about the power of this prayer. His life is one of pain. His experience of life is pain. His family called him a pain. And so he asks God to expand his experience of life so that its not one of pain. Keep me from harm so I will be free from harm so I will be free of pain.

He is asking God to bless him and deliver him from his painful experience of life. He is asking God to deliver him from himself.

Today, maybe your own experience of life is that of total pain. Perhaps, like Jabez, you can ask the Lord to bless you, and enlarge your own life experience so that you are delivered from the pain of self.

Jesus says, come to me all who are sick of living life their own way. Come, follow me, put my ways into practice, and I will give you a new way of living.

Am I an Anabaptist?

Fellow blogger Robert Martin, who blogs at Abnormal Anabpatist made the comment in my previous post “Neither Calvinist or Arminian; But, I’m not sure I’m Baptist either.”

I keep tellin’ ya, mate… you’re pretty close to Anabaptist. :-)

Go find the book “The Naked Anabaptist” by Stuart Murray.

Anything Robert says is worth considering. He is a deep thinker, a careful writer and I am always  encouraged in reading his blog. I also follow another blog called Menno Nerds, which is a compilation of a number of Anabaptist authors, where again I am often encouraged and forced to think outside of my comfort zone. I must admit I am drawn to the Anabaptist movement. In many ways it taps into my own heart for combining social justice as a natural outworking of the Gospel message.

Anabaptism is more of a movement than it is a organisation. Christians from every theological belief can be a member and so within their ranks are those who hold to Reformed, Arminian, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Baptist and those with more liberal views – who together believe that Christianity is more than just belief; its putting shoes on that belief and putting it into action. Hence they have a lot to do within a social justice environment. Along with their deep commitment to social justice, another deeply held conviction is that of being peacemakers and within the framework of peacemaking, there is no room and allowance for violence as peace makers.

For the most part, I too am a peacemaker. And so I too am almost a Anabaptist in my belonging. Except that I believe that God allows for Christians to be involved in violence when the circumstances permit. I hate war. I abhor it. At the same time, I believe there are times when we need to allow for war. During Jesus ministry, he had tax collectors coming to him for advice and asking what they must do to live out a kingdom life. His reply to them was to only collect the tax they were meant to collect, and no more to line their pockets with. Soldiers came to him asking him what they needed to do, and he told them to be content with their pay, and not to extort people.

We note that Jesus commended a Centurion’s faith, when he came to Jesus asking him to heal his servant,  saying just say the word, and he will be healed, for he too was a man who knew his authority and only had to say something for it to be done. In Acts, we find another Centurion who the Scriptures call a righteous and good man. He was a man who likewise had a heart of social justice and looked after the poor. He was a praying man, and he had an angelic visitation where he was told to send for Peter who would be found in Joppa. At Joppa, while in prayer, Peter had a vision of a sheet of unclean foods being offered to him to eat – and when he protested against it, God told him not to call unclean that which he calls clean. And we read that Peter accompanied the centurions messengers back to his home, where he shared the Gospel message with them. Not only did he share the Gospel with them, the Holy Spirit fell on them, enabling them to speak in tongues also. Something which amazed Peter and his companions causing them to offer them a hand of equal friendship and being equals in God’s family. We also read of the Apostle Paul in his imprisonment, where he is having fruitful ministry amongst the palace guards. And so we read from the Biblical witness its easy to find that people employed in jobs in which we would equate today as being security guards, policeman and soldiers. Apart from Jesus’ direction to them  to be content with their pay and not to extort people – I can’t find any other direction to them in regards to the work they were required to do. Certainly, there is no ‘recorded’ direction or commandment that they were to leave their positions and stop doing the work they were trained to do.

Because of this, I can’t say with any amount of certainty that its 100% wrong for Christians to be involved in any defensive acts of violence when its required of them. Even to the extreme of being involved in war, if the action is to provide protection for those who need it. Indeed, those actions could be considered a work of love, if indeed they save the lives of others, who would otherwise be wiped out. But, perhaps that is a another conversation for another day.

Neither Calvinist nor Arminian; but, I’m not sure I’m Baptist either.

I have been spending some important and prayerful time working through my worldview when it comes to Christian belief. On many aspects I love much of the preaching that Calvinism offers; but, I recoil in horror and cannot take ownership, nor do I find their five main sola’s have much biblical support. At the same time, I am not truly Arminian; though again I enjoy and love much of the preaching and teaching that I find in classical Arminianism. I am not Roman Catholic, though once again, I do find some pastoral support in some of their doctrines and practices – such as the confessional. I’m not a quaker, though some of my favourite authors are quakers. I am Charismatic / Pentecostal in regards to experiencing the fullness of the Spirit, which includes speaking in tongues – though, I don’t hold to the belief that speaking in tongues is the main sign of the Baptism of the Spirit.

This afternoon I discovered a nice essay titled “Neither Calvinists nor Arminians but Baptists.”   It’s a paper from the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in the U.S.A. I was extremely impressed and encouraged to read this paper; even though its now four years old. I enjoyed reading how the authors stood firm on their own belief structures, without being apologetic about it. Its my own experience that Calvinists can be extremely dogmatic in their push and zeal to evangelise the brethren to hold to their particular doctrinal beliefs. In many ways I find this ironic, as Jesus calls us to go out into the world to make disciples. However I digress.

I think its important for every Christian to know what they believe, and why they believe it. And not just believe it because someone has taught them this is the way it is. I have to say that I am nearly a Baptist in my world view – except for the fact that I’m not a cessationist and have a different interpretation of what the gift of tongues is, to that of most Baptists. I’m also hold to the position of annihilationism when it comes to the doctrine of hell. And when it comes to end times, I am a Panmillenialist, which means that it will all pan out in the end. (Though in saying this, I dislike with a passion left behind type theology.) So as you can see, I don’t think I fit into the Baptist camp either.

However, this I do know. Christ has redeemed me from the hold of sin. I stand before God the Father, confident in his work for me. And this confidence is enough for me.


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