The day Australia lost its innocence

By Stephen Downie, TPTL Field Officer Australia
Bible Reading 1 Corinthians 13

On Monday December 15 in Sydney Australia, 17 people were held hostage in a Cafe in Martin Place at gun point. Two Australians in the prime of their life, a man and one lady a mother of 3 children, were cut down in the siege. 17 people doing what
a lot of Australians do was simply drinking coffee and a chat.

This has highlighted the presence of evil in our midst. This is not the only indication of evil in Australia. We have families caught in a murder – suicide tragedy. In December, 2014 a 10 year old girl committed suicide. There is child abuse in the community in institutions and in the Church.

I was in Smithton Tasmania, which is far north west, isolated from the big city, a village type place and there is a massive problem with drugs. Drug dealers have moved in and picked on individuals in High School and Primary Schools and once the Ice
drug is tasted you are addicted. 300 people were at a meeting to express their dismay at the changes in life in Smithton and the helplessness parents feel.

We must choose to follow the path of love and peace and above all the Prince of Peace and give
no entry for evil to flourish.

God is love, says the Bible.
Love casts out fear, says the Bible.
Love thinks no evil, says 1 Corinthians 13.
Faith, hope and love, but the greatest is love.

Wake Up Australia

Australia began in 1788 with an indigenous population, convicts and soldiers and it became the greatest country on earth. Governor Philip arrived with the first fleet and his instructions were to enforce due observance of religion and good order…
in due course the celebration of public worship.

Governor Macquarie was always trying to improve the moral and religious well being of the Colony. Macquarie particularly wanted to encourage Christian education. James Stephen, the Parliament Under Secretary of the Colonial Office believed God was going to
make Australia a Christian nation.

Australia became known as “The Great Southland of The Holy Spirit.” Leadership came from the top. Now the leadership in Australia must be a groundswell from the people full of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus was a Refugee

Reflection by Stephen Downie, TPTL Field Officer

The most difficult political policy in Australia over the last 20 years has been the Boat People. Federal elections have been won and lost on this subject.

Whenever possible we must not let politics get in the way of the Gospel. Out of sight out mind is the best way to deal with Boat People as far as the majority of Australians are concerned. TPTL Australia has donated 500 copies of the Gospel of Mark and 200 copies of the Gospel of John to Christmas Island. Thanks be to God that there are wonderful Christians who are working among those detained on Christmas Island.

Ruth Harriet from Queensland reports: We were sitting, talking with a group of friends in one of the men’s compounds. One young man told us that he had not spoken to his father for over a year. When he became a Christian, he read in the Bible about showing respect and honour to parents. He decided to apologise to his father. As a result of his change of heart, his family want to know about Christianity.

We were about to leave one compound and we were told that a young man had some questions for us and wanted to make a time to talk. We said that we were happy to talk right then. So, with a Christian man from the compound who was often our interpreter, we sat and listened. The young man told us that he had watched the way Christians in the compound lived, and now he was ready to search the truth and this was what he had been doing!

On another occasion we had some men come on an outing. We usually ask their stories of how they came to know and love the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the men told us that even though they lived in a very difficult situation, he could see that some people were able to handle the situation better than others. He observed that there were some people who were patient and kind and always calm, no matter what happened in their compound, even in the midst of some very frustrating times. After a while he noted that the ones who were demonstrating patience and kindness had one thing in common – they were Christians. This led him to find out more about Christianity and then to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ for himself.

At a family camp there was a new family who had started to come to meetings. This was because their good friends had become Christians and now they wanted to know more.

I visited one mother who was on suicide watch last week. I commented that she looked really a lot better and brighter. Perhaps she was ready to visit friends. She said that she didn’t want to talk with other women at the camp because they complained and were very down and had no hope. I told her the names of some Christian women. She mentioned one in particular and said, “Yes, I know that she has hope.” I asked her if she knew why that lady had hope. She told me that she knew her friend had hope in Jesus and had told her about hope in Jesus.”

Where there is problem it can be an opportunity for the Gospel!

Sport and Church in Australia

Reflection by Stephen Downie, TPTL Field Officer

We all know sport is a religion in Australia. We say the days of weekend shopping, Sunday sport and all manner of things on the day of rest had a big effect on Church attendance and Sunday School.

Australians also worship the beach, the sun, and money. Yet more people attend Church over the year than sporting events in
Australia. There are more Churches (13,000) than Schools (9,500) in Australia. More people attend Church each week (1.8 million) than the population of South Australia. (1.6 million)

In fact all sporting codes are under pressure with their attendances because people are getting bored with the game, irritated by the referees and regulations of the game, disgusted with the mix of alcohol and gambling and the cost of seeing the game; all sports are looking over their shoulders with the advance of soccer.

If more sport is played on Good Friday it will be up to the people to vote with their feel and not attend.

It is a strange thing about America that you cannot pray in a school but often prayer is offered at a Sport’s stadium.

“I’ve had enough of sport”, says one author unknown.
“It’s all about money.”
“The seats are too hard.”
“The coach never speaks to me.”
“There are too many hypocrites in the game.”
“Some games go too long.”
“The music is too loud.”
“I don’t take my children to a game because I want them to choose for themselves.”

The most respected Sportsperson in Australia is Gary Abblett of the AFL Gold Coast Suns. He is a Christian. He has won the
Brownlow medal twice and was a certainty to win it in 2014 but for his injury. He and a few others in the Gold Coast Suns were given time off during one week to attend a Christian Conference in Sydney. He, with a few other players from the Suns, takes time for prayer before going out for the games.

There are some famous names in sport that have given the game away because, for them, it had become all-consuming. It was
more important for them to serve the Lord than be famous in sport.
C T Studd the great cricketer, and Eric Liddell of Chariots of Fire fame and famous Olympic runner and who played 7 Rugby Union tests: both these famous sportspeople became missionaries.

It is important to keep a balance with Sport and your personal faith in God. If your team wins or loses the faithfulness of the Lord is shown to be more precious than the roller coaster ride and fickleness of sport.

Where Have All the Men Gone…

Reflection by Stephen Downie, TPTL Field Officer

Bible Reading: Matthew 1:18-25

Have you noticed how there are very few men as Bank tellers these days! I was in a Supermarket and there was a middle-aged man in the checkout taking the groceries for payment. I could not help commenting it was good to see him there, doing what we think as a female domain. There seems to be less men working in the welfare sector.

You know how we hear a lot about the equal rights of women and there should be more women in parliament and so on. This is a call for recognition of the place of the male in the family and in society.

In some small churches there are sometimes only a few men. It is a serious matter for young people today to meet members of the opposite sex like it used to be in Church. Rallies, picnics and outings that was strong on Christian fellowship and social mixing were features of the Church in earlier years. Due to this change, in many Churches, for a long time young people turned to clubs and now it is the internet with all its consequences and mistakes.

It is noticeable in the Churches in the Middle East how it is strong with males. Is that because Christian men in the Churches in the Middle East have a defined place?

When I was in Perth I saw a school teacher in the garden, just near the Perth Station, designed by Josh Byrne of ABC Gardening Australia. The children were all over him and playing with joy and abandon. It was a beautiful sight. It would take just one child to complain about the  teacher and it could destroy his career. garden

Therein lies the problem. A lot of men have become afraid. Some men have become timid. I am not for a moment excusing behaviour that is wrong but we are in danger of losing the joy of living because of fear.

If you want to look at a good man in the Bible you need to go no further than Joseph of Joseph, Mary and Jesus in the Christmas story. He is a little in the background. When he thought Mary had betrayed him, he was going to divorce her but he would not be cruel to her. He would not put her through a court battle or use the child as a football or disgrace Mary.

Watch him follow through the leading of the Lord.

The story of Joseph in the Christmas story is the story of manliness. It is not the masculinity we applaud today when we see a sportsman play the game with a broken jaw. The manliness of Joseph is in his decency. A humble man! A gracious man! He did not head up a multinational organisation and he was not a billionaire. Would Joseph be regarded a success story today? He was very successful in God’s eyes.

The Internet

Technology is now big time. For a Christian organisation that has promoted the Bible in hard copy for over hundred years it is very challenging times to catch up and communicate with society. computerstakeoverworld

Will technology ever replace the hard copy Bible? For many youth it has already happened. In some churches Scripture reading is now up on the big screen and
fewer people are bringing their Bibles to church. When you read the Bible on the big screen or on your iPhone or iPad, is it still possible to read the passage of Scripture, put it down, take it up again, cross reference and commune with God in the same way as the hard copy Bible?

Thomas Chan and his wife of Surfers Paradise have contributed 35,000 pieces of Christian literature in the Gold Coast and Brisbane. They have YouTube:
gospeltract.

As with all new things, there is the potential for good and evil. The same machine that can communicate a message to the world and give you information
at your fingertips, help people in bush fires and disasters, is the same machine that can destroy relationships, bully people, exploit women through pornography and can be the cause of suicides.

There are examples of scams where people have lost their homes, and there are computer games that can be addictive and soul destroying. I have watched
people in their homes fixed to a computer game, throwing grenades and killing others in cyber space.

A virus can attack your body and a virus can attack your computer. What about the virus that attacks the mind and the soul! There are things we need to control before they control us.

Money, computers, possessions, sports all have the potential to consume us and take the place of Jesus as Lord of our life.

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can both destroy soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)

Items for Prayer and Praise

from Stephen Downie

Praise and thank God for the appointment of Fred Strong as Associate Field Officer in Victoria. He has a lot of ministry experience to offer in Gospel singing and presentation.

Praise God for 100,000 copies of John’s Gospel distributed in 8 weeks by Nepalese Christians.

Pray for 50,000 copies of John’s Gospel and 60,000 booklets on Christian living to be printed in Myanmar

Praise God for 30,000 John’s Gospel printed for Romania/Moldova with Christian Mission Aid International

Pray for Stephen’s visits: Melbourne in June, Brisbane in July, Country NSW in August, Perth in September, Adelaide in October and Tasmania/Victoria in November.

To be Christian is to be Kind!

Ephesians 4.29-31
The Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, says words to this effect: “You cannot understand Australia until you understand the Christian heritage.”autumn2012_8

The Prime Minister of England, David Cameron, says words to this effect: “The riots in England have shown that we have lost the Christian values and we
are now seeing what it is like to have no moral compass.”

In so many circumstances you can see the race to the bottom in Australian media to devalue Christian values and to undermine the Christian gospel. We
are in a spiritual warfare! Walk the length and breath of India and everywhere you would go, you would see the outcome of Christianity in that land because of Christian compassion with lepers, the very poor, hospitals, schools, orphanages and charity. The signs of Christian footprints are everywhere in India.

We visited Yuvalok Christian School in Bangalore, the southern part of India. It is a school that survives on donations. There were 540 students, dressed in
uniform, looking healthy and bright eyed. The Principal of the school said, “All these students would have been on the street begging if it were not
for this school. We give them two meals a day, a good education and a Christian place to learn. They go back to poor homes, relations that are beggars,
all of them are orphans, 16 are HIV positive.” This is the story of the Christian gospel all over India.

In Uganda the Christian Church ministers to HIV positive victims with compassion and care. Many victims cannot get to a medical clinic without
walking 6 hours. Women in Uganda are finding hope in the Christian gospel. Instead of them being treated as less valued than cows they find in the Bible and in the Church that they are valued and made in the image of God.

The Church in Uganda is seeing much blessing because of the ministry of God’s Word and the compassion of God’s people to those downtrodden,
rejected and exploited people. After a Church Service in Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates, a doctor and his dentist wife asked me to come to their home. I was reluctant because I had a two-hour journey back and another meeting in Dubai at night.

When I got to their home, I was given a cup of tea and then told that in the next room was a sister who was in her fifties and had been intellectually
handicapped since 4 years old. In the room, I had the family with me – the handicapped lady in her bed. I was aware that these
two people beside me were educated, one a doctor and the other a dentist. Yet with all the knowledge they knew they needed Divine help! Their humility
and their faith deeply touched me. In my mind’s eye I could see theologians debating what should be done about this bed-ridden lady and her difficult
condition.

I prayed for this lady with the same simplicity and faith that this Christian couple was sharing with me. I later heard that the immediate danger to her health
had passed. I believe that wherever the Christian gospel takes hold you will always find love, goodwill, prayer and kindness!

Faithfullness

Bible Reading: Daniel 6:1-22

The visit to Dubai and Abu Dhabi of the United Arab Emirates in January was an experience I will always treasure in ministry. The fellowship, hospitality, worship with the believers and the strong attention to the Bible showed a Church firm in the faith in a restrictive society. The UAE is an Islamic society and Christians need to be careful and respect government laws.

Most Christians in the Emirates work on Sunday, so meetings are arranged on Friday, which is the holy day for Islam, or Sunday night after work. Churches often meet in a large complex that might have 11 to 25 congregations meeting in various parts of the complex, sometimes at the same time. The government provides the land, and pays for water and electricity. A Church is not allowed to conduct a public meeting outside of the building. No literature can be distributed and there can be no proselytising.

I met some international Christian pilots who explained how they take a Bible into the cockpit, and read their Bible in flight when the plane is on auto pilot. When a co-pilot asks if he can read their Bible, an exchange takes place like this: “You can read my Bible but I will not give it to you. You must take it from my hand.” This is to avoid any legal implications or offence. The Christian pilot could lose his job and be deported.

Notwithstanding these restrictions, and perhaps sharpened in their faith because of these restrictions, I found believers strong in the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever society in which we live we are called to be faithful. We fit in where we can fit in, and respect the government in power and live in peace.

Let us pause to remember in prayer those Christians in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Uganda, Thailand, Burma, China and so many other places in the world where the Christian faith must go underground or believers must be very careful.

Australian Christians have a different set of circumstances. We are not physically persecuted and we have not lost our freedom to witness. However, we are facing an Australian society that is more secular and cynical, and the Church is often sidelined by the media, and we might feel out of the mainstream of society. We too are to be faithful !

Sometimes there comes a point where we have to take a stand, and it may be at a cost.

Daniel was prepared to fit in to a point under a foreign regime but there came a time when he had to show his integrity and faith, and the story shows the Lord was with him even in the Lion‟s den.