Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Life/Small Group course: Towards Belief

Towards Belief is a great ten week apologetic resource that developed as a result of research undertaken by McCrindle Research.  This research looked into the religious and spiritual beliefs of modern Australians, and specifically what issues turned them off Christian faith and the Church. The research also clarified the belief blockers – the reasons many people have lost confidence in the Church and its message.

As a result of this research 10 episodes were formulated.
The episodes include:
Episode 1: Suffering 
This episode presents both an intellectual and personal response to the issues posed by the existence of suffering.
Episode 2: The Bible 
This episode looks at whether what the Bible contains is historically accurate and can be trusted.
Episode 3: Supernatural 
This episode explores belief in the supernatural and looks at a specific case where it seems that supernatural intervention is undeniable.
Episode 4: Religious Violence 
This episode explores whether Christianity, as a religious worldview, causes wars, atrocities and genocides. How does the Church respond to this charge?
Episode 5: Exclusive Faith 
Christianity’s claim that Jesus is the only way to God is viewed as arrogant, intolerant and a significant blocker to personal belief. In this episode, guests give plausible reasons for the Christian worldview.
Episode 6: Church Abuse 
Abuse scandals, particularly in relation to children, have rocked the Church, leaving it open to the charge of hypocrisy.
Episode 7: Science & God 
Eminent and experienced scientists explain how and why they can have scientific credentials from the world's leading universities, as well as having a Christian faith.
Episode 8: Homosexuality 
In this episode we look at the Biblical view on homosexuality and what is the Christian response in the current social environment.
Episode 9: The Church 
There is a public perception that the Christian Church is dying. We talk with leaders who are seeing the Church grow and they give their perspective on the future of the Church.
Episode 10: Towards Belief 
In the end, there is still a step of faith to be taken. This episode looks back over the personal stories of some of the guests and seeks to clarify that choice.

Some of those being interviewed:
Prof John Lennox, Prof Richard Swinburne,  Amy Orr-Ewing, Rev Nicky Gumbel,  Ps Erwin McManus, Os Guinness,  Dr John Dickson,  Prof Stanley Hauerwas, Michelle Tepper,  Dr Greg Clarke, Dr Dale Kuehne, Michael Ramsden, Joel A'Bell, plus more...

visit http://www.towardsbelief.org.au/ for more information!!

Reflection: Real love is like a soaker hose

The Christian life revolves around having two loves.
One is God. And the other is other people…people in our congregation and people in our wider community.
But loving as God commands is not always easy….some people can be very difficult to love Is there someone you find difficult to love?
Do you struggle with loving some people?
Maybe they have hurt you.
Perhaps they are so different from you that there is nothing in common.
Our struggle to love someone shows that we are human. And it shows that we are serious about love.
Anyone can have a theoretical romantic approach to love. From a distance we can say we care about someone. We can even pray for them. But shouldn't our prayers be the starting point that are pointing us towards some action?
 For instance in Matthew 9:37-38 Jesus says to the disciples ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into the harvest field. Then in the very next verse in chapter 10 guess what He says to the disciples. “You go.”
And that is being active in love.
And such love is hard.
Loving a homeless person, loving someone who has hurt you, loving someone who is different from you or loving a problem person are some of the people God wants us to love. And loving them can be difficult.
Consider verses 12 and 13 of John 15. Jesus says “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

God is calling us to be involved in a love that gives.
Many people find giving and laying down their life even for their friends difficult much less those people we have problems with.

 As people affected and infected by this world, most of our lives are orientated around what makes us comfortable, what we want, what we can get, what we have.
Giving like Jesus is not a natural thing for us. At times we will struggle in loving others as God has loved us.  There is only one remedy for this.
We need to constantly be connected to the source of love. When it comes to love we are a lot like a soaker hose. A soaker hose is nothing more than a dry bit of rubber. It has no hope of giving life. For it to be effective it needs to be connected to a source of water.
But when it is connected to water, water flows not only into it but also through it and out of it. It not only receives water it also passes water onto whatever is around it. Likewise for us to love like Jesus we need to be connected to God.
And when we do this God and His love not only flows in us, it also flows through us and onto those around us. And so our times of worship together, our times in small groups, our times in personal and family devotions are times where God is not only showing His love to us, but also preparing us to love others as He has loved us.
Now back to your situation and the people you are struggling to love.
It may take time to love as God has loved you. However keep on persevering. Keep listening to God. Some of these people may take time. We are called to live a life of love….loving God and loving others. They are not to be separated.
Remember the Greatest Commandments....Life is about loving God and loving others...and why? because Jesus first loved us.....
 by Pastor Richard Schwedes (Portland-Heywood Lutheran Church)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Book: Lutheran DNA testing the Augsburg Confession in the parish

Lutheran DNA takes the Reformation's Augsburg Confession of 1530 and asks whether parish issues today continue to find expression through the lens of this historic writing. The Augsburg Confession is named in Lutheran churches as a clear expression of Christian belief and practice. How is it so today? Stories, illustrations, and reflections flow out of this James Cobb's parish pastor's experiences, as he reflects on meanings from Augsburg to Baltimore.

"This book exhibits the heartbeat of Lutheranism in The Augsburg Confession of 1530. Its twenty-eight "articles" disclose how Lutheran congregations around the world (with a steady membership of about sixty million) are to function in order to preserve their identity as healthy and effective disciples of Jesus Christ in the interim between his first and second coming. The author describes the theological pulsation in the form of personal stories and experiences, tested in various parish settings, and geared to make readers partners in catechetical and spiritual formation. The book lends itself well to parishioners concerned about their theological identity and rationale for mission."
--Eric W. Gritsch
Professor Church History, Emeritus
Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary

Research paper: Young Adult Ministry Evaluation 2014

The Lutheran Church of Australia Queensland District undertook a research project in 2014 that assessed current young adult engagement in the church, identified the drivers of effective youth adult ministry practice and assessed current Youth Adult Ministry capacity.
Part of the research explored:

  • The reasons why young adults have remained involved in the church
  • The reasons why young adults have not remained involved in the church
  • The key drivers of effective young adult ministry

To read a copy of the research and its conclusions visit http://www.lyq.org.au/files/attachments/yam_evaluation_2014_final.pdf

Book: Souls in Transition - The religious and spiritual lives of emerging adults

How important is religion for young people today? What are the major influences on their developing spiritual lives? How do their religious beliefs and practices change as young people enter into adulthood?
Christian Smith's Souls in Transition explores these questions and many others as it tells the definitive story of the religious and spiritual lives of emerging adults, ages 18 to 24, in the U.S. today. This is the much-anticipated follow-up study to the landmark book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. Based on candid interviews with thousands of young people tracked over a five-year period, Souls in Transition reveals how the religious practices of the teenagers portrayed in Soul Searching have been strengthened, challenged, and often changed as they have moved into adulthood. The book vividly describes as well the broader cultural world of today's emerging adults, how that culture shapes their religious outlooks, and what the consequences are for religious faith and practice in America more generally. Some of Smith's findings are surprising. Parents turn out to be the single most important influence on the religious outcomes in the lives of young adults. On the other hand, teenage participation in evangelisation missions and youth groups does not predict a high level of religiosity just a few years later. Moreover, the common wisdom that religiosity declines sharply during the young adult years is shown to be greatly exaggerated.
Painstakingly researched and filled with remarkable findings, Souls in Transition will be essential reading for youth ministers, pastors, parents, teachers and students at church-related schools, and anyone who wishes to know how religious practice is affected by the transition into adulthood in America today.

Editorial Reviews
From Publishers Weekly
With the protraction of higher education, delays in marriage and childbearing, and extended financial support from parents, emerging adults (or EAs, ages 18–23) enjoy unprecedented freedoms. What does that mean for their spiritual formation? Smith, a veteran sociologist of religion, and Snell, of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at Notre Dame, draw on statistical samples and more than 200 in-depth interviews to craft a compelling portrait of college-age Americans. This generation, steeped in religious pluralism, gets high marks for inclusivity and diversity awareness but has troubling consumerist tendencies, consistently prioritizing material wealth and devaluing altruism. Not surprisingly, EAs are less religious than older adults and than they themselves were as teenagers—which comes home especially poignantly in a chapter of follow-up profiles on some of the interview subjects from Smith's 2005 book on teen spirituality, Soul Searching. Surprisingly, however, EAs are not significantly less religious than emerging adults of prior generations. Although the book is heavy on survey data, tables and sociological typology, it's well-organized and seasoned with enough memorable interviews that lay readers will value it as much as specialists. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

"Well-organized and seasoned with enough memorable interviews that lay readers will value it as much as specialists." --Publisher's Weekly

"Ranks for me as a potential book of the year for 2010." --Beliefnet.com

"Unlike the nonsense delivered in news magazines and opinion polls, Souls in Transition is serious scholarly research about religion among emerging adults. The sober, fair-minded presentation of evidence about what is and what is not happening among Americans age 18 to 23 is refreshing." --Robert Wuthnow, Princeton University 

"It would be hard to exceed the brilliance of Soul Searching, but Smith and Snell have achieved this feat in Souls in Transition. Through a masterful combination of surveys and interviews the authors illuminate emerging adults' religious beliefs as no one has done before, and also provide numerous insights on how religion is connected to other aspects of their lives. This book is social science at its best and should not be missed by anyone who wishes to understand the lives of today's emerging adults." --Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, Clark University, Author of Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens Through the Twenties

"Christian Smith's work in the National Study of Youth and Religion is the gold standard for research on religion and adolescents--and now, emerging adults. So buckle up: Souls in Transition reads like an avalanche as Smith reports the findings of the 18-23 year old cohort, takes on our culture's current "crisis of knowledge and value," reveals the uneven terrain of emerging adulthood. Insisting that religious disinterest in 18-23 year olds is neither inevitable nor universal, Smith challenges parents and congregations to support and model religious engagement with emerging adults. If you're a parent, pastor, campus minister, educator, congregation member--or a 'twenty something' yourself-- this book needs to be on your shelf." --Kenda Creasy Dean, Ph.D., parent, pastor, and Associate Professor of Youth, Church and Culture, Princeton Theological Seminary.

"Impressive...Smith, a professor of sociology and director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame, is a gutsy sociologist who does not mind tipping sacred cows or poking around in areas that theologians like to claim for themselves such as religious formation...Smith's research offers us hope." --Christian Century

"Souls in Transition makes a mighty contribution to the sociology of religion. It is innovative, full of rich narratives, and presents a wealth of accessible quantitative findings. Anyone interested in gaining a serious understanding of America's newest adult cohortswhat they believe, how they practice and view their faith, and the major social influences shaping their experienceshould start with this book."--Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 

"This title presents serious scholarly research in a way that is thoroughly accessible to average adult readers, a good mix of readability and substance that belongs in any religious, academic, or public library."--Catholic Library World

"This book...offer excellant methodology, analysis and theorizing"--Richard Flory, University of Southern California

"There is much more in this book....the book is primarily about the religious and spiritual lives of emerging adults, it successfully embeds those issues within the larger cultural context where they reside."Richard Flory

"Soul Searching , was particularly noteworthy for the introduction of a new phrase in the lexicon of American religion."--John Muether

"A conscientious note-taker, relentless interviewer, and skilled writer, Smith makes these twelve young Americans stand out vividly." --Contemporary Sociology

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Colaborate - Lutheran Confirmation program

Colaborate is hands-on investigative learning that leads to deep engagement with the Bible, church history, and Lutheran theology.

So what is Colaborate
Problem-Based Learning helps students answer the question, "So what?"
Problem-based learning allows students to discover for themselves the ways the doctrines, traditions, and beliefs of their faith are relevant to their lives. This style of learning compels them to search out meaningful answers that will be integral in their faith formation.

The Colaborate Lutheran Student Bible brings the story of God to life for teenagers.
Featuring interactive graphics, interesting facts, and insightful commentary, this NRSV Bible is designed to bring the story of God to life for students. As an essential component of the Colaborate curriculum, the Bible adds value to your conversation with highlighted key verses, additional questions and activities. It’s smart, it’s fun, and it’s a Bible your students will hang on to for years to come.

Colaborate changes the way students think about faith.
Rather than faith being handed over as an established set of facts to be learned and mastered, it’s presented as a path of growth and discovery. This promotes a rich, meaningful experience that will stay with students long after they complete their confirmation classes.

Hands-on projects create a strong connection to the content.
Students will expand and deepen their understanding of concepts through projects that range from handbook-based questions and activities, to group art projects, to games and off-site explorations.

Colaborate was created by theologians, practitioners, and artists who know the Bible, Lutheran doctrine, and young people.
This team worked together to combine theological depth with provocative questions, surprising insights, and punchy graphics that will spark conversation and capture the imagination of your students.

Flexible curriculum lets leaders decide the order of the lessons and the focus of the content.
Want three weeks on Genesis? There’s plenty to work with. Want to skip Adiaphora for now and jump ahead to the Small Catechism? Go ahead.

Colaborate is easy to lead.
Not only is the accompanying Leader Guide clear and intuitive, the Problem-Based Learning perspective means leaders don’t have to be experts. Instead, they become mentors, facilitators, and co-learners. They are encouraged to share their own questions and discoveries as they guide students through the session.

Sample Video 

Book: Religion is for fools (apologetic/comedy)

Bill Medley is Australian, a professional entertainer, currently serves in Christian ministry within the Presbyterian Church of Victoria, Australia.

As a religious sceptic, Bill Medley investigates the five major world religions: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism, from a layman's perspective. He attempts to see what can be known, if anything, about a 'God' or an 'afterlife' from logic and tangible evidence.
Originally written as a letter to his sister-in-law, in Religion is For Fools! he shares his findings with her and tries to address her objections.
Bill Medley worked as a professional entertainer for fifteen years. His stand-up comedy routines sometimes included satires on religion. Here he gives it a more serious examination.

Review - Ian Matthews Auslan Christian Books
When it come to apologetics, it is safe to say this book is pretty unique. Rather than a systematic defence of Christian doctrine, starting with the conventional aspects such as the conventional arguments for the existence of God or natural law, here we have an award-winning Australian comedian-turned-preacher writing to his (real life) sister-in-law with his honest reflections on the issue of faith.
The book has an refreshingly light and approachable tone, but underneath this is a well-structured approach that starts with the various claims of world religious leaders (noting only Jesus claimed to be God and using C S Lewis’ ‘madman, liar or God’ argument), before moving on to consider the resurrection, the reliability of Scripture and prophecy – chapters called ‘Once Upon a Tomb’, ‘Did Ancient Writers Get RSI’ and ‘How To Lose a Prophet’ – before looking at the implications for this conclusion.
To be honest, I wouldn’t have read this book based on the cover and titles – I found them quite off-putting. However, the humourous approach and especially the respectful way it deal with other world religions impressed me considerably. A clever and creative approach to the often dry and abstract world of apologetics.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Persecuted Christians -their story and praying for them

Open Doors provides some comprehensive information relating to persecuted Christians around the world.
Their web site includes:


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Video: Real LCMS - Strands of DNA from the movement called 'Missouri'

Mike Newman - the Mission Executive director challenges people to rediscover the real DNA of Lutheran Church Missouri...and therefore encourages us to regain what it means to be Lutheran with a mission focus

The Real LCMS: Strands of DNA from the Movement called “Missouri”

Monday, March 02, 2015

Easter Video: Why? Easter

Luther Reading Challenge

The Luther Reading Challenges invites you to join with others from around the globe in reading the works of Luther each day...then discussing what they meant when they were written and what they mean for us today.
Begin the Luther Reading Challenge by visiting https://www.lutherreadingchallenge.org/

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Book: One Blood free ebook copy

One Blood, the best book on Australian Christianity and the Aboriginal people is available again, now in e-book format.
Dr John Harris’ landmark book One Blood has been out of print and unavailable for some years. Yet there has been continuing demand for the book; indeed, Tim Costello, CEO of World Vision Australia, recommends “every Australian Christian should read One Blood”.

The book studies 200 years of Aboriginal encounters with Christianity, and discusses the impact of European missionaries on Aboriginal culture.
When Dr Harris set out to write the book, he did so to tell a story. “I wanted to write the warts-and-all story of the Christian missions in Aboriginal Australia.”

Harris has always known Aboriginal people as friends, from the time he was born. For many years he gathered accounts of mission life from them and from missionaries. For about 20 years he read thousands of diaries, newspapers, reports and mission magazines. He knew that, “here was a big story made up of many smaller stories, stories both happy and sad, stories of success and tragedy, of death and life.”

“I simply wanted to tell the story using the words of the people who were involved, those who knew what happened.”
Harris says he wrote the book for the Church. “I thought I was writing it for other Christians, to help them understand the Aboriginal Christian past. I wanted to set down the facts, not just in my own words, but by the use of a huge range of original sources.”

The book’s reception exceeded all Harris’ expectations. It became far more than the story of the missions. It turned out to be the story of what happened to Aboriginal people, in their own words and in the words of those who knew them best and lived among them.

“Many people, both Christian and non-Christian, learned of the tragic history of Aboriginal Australia through reading One Blood, the history none of us were taught in school,” says Harris. “It prompted churches and Christian organisations to make their apologies to Aboriginal people long before Kevin Rudd did. And it had important influences in the secular world as well. Sir Ronald Wilson read One Blood and because of it, he agreed to chair the National Enquiry into the ‘Stolen Generations’.”
Despite the influence of the book, its out-of-print status, and the continued demand for it, Harris was pleasantly surprised to be approached by Concordia with an offer to sponsor a digital edition.

The e-book of the second edition of One Blood  has now been published.

“The content remains virtually the same apart from a very few minor corrections,” says Harris, who was key in the process of converting the book into a digital edition. “It is a very big challenge to convert a large academic book from the original printed hard copy into an e-book. Fortunately, all the crucial footnotes and references remain: all 2,609 of them.”

Harris is aware of the need for a new revised edition of the book, to include all that has occurred since the second edition was written in 1993. “Many things have happened in the past 20 years including the Bringing Them Home report, Kevin Rudd’s apology and the canonisation of Saint Mary MacKillop.  Many things have happened in the churches too.”
“This is a somewhat daunting but exciting task which I hope to be able to complete. I pray that God will give me the life and strength to complete the third edition but we cannot know what life will bring.”

Harris concludes, “This digital edition will reach a new generation of readers. It is my prayer that you will learn from it and that it will challenge and enlarge your thinking.”

Get your ebook copy of One Blood at http://www.chr.org.au/books/24.-One-Blood.zip