Thursday, 28 February 2013

Where are the Men ?

Recently I visited a church while the Stations of the Cross was under way and, I observed that there was quite an imbalance in the ratio of women to men, about 7:1 in fact. I began noticing this imbalance (a quick head count) at other times too; the closest call was in a prayer meeting I attend where it was 3:1 in favour of the ladies.

In another town, at a funeral, it seemed that most of the men were outside in the car park having a smoke and chewing the fat while their wives were inside.

I wonder what the reason is; some say that women are more spiritual than men, that we are more earthy, others that the church has been ‘feminised’ over the centuries and men find little to identify with anymore.

I don’t think that the first reason carries much weight, as in Jesus’s day men flocked to him, every hillside and valley were packed with men listening for hours or days on end. They even climbed trees and opened up roofs to get closer and have their needs met.

I don’t think men have changed, and Jesus hasn’t changed either so maybe we lost sight of who he is and our need for him. Maybe those who say that the lion of Judah has had his claws manicured, his teeth filled down and his mane given a blue rinse have a point.

What image comes to mind when we think of our Saviour ? Is he a wild, potent stallion galloping across a plain; or a compliant young gelding being led around an enclosure; do we think of him as being like Ghandi with a beard and a full head of hair or as someone who manufactures his own weapons and unleashes his fury on the temple shopkeepers; a man’s man with rough splintered hands who knew (however unlikely the candidate) who would win the football league last year ?

Or maybe what has men huddled in the car park or running at the fence is to do with the perception of what a Christian man ought to be. Is the objective to become a ‘good boy’ or even worse, a nice guy; or rather should we be extremely dangerous, fighters for justice and truth in the service of the most courageous of warriors and the noblest of Kings.

My brief survey may not be accurate or universal but any deviation from a 1:1 ratio must surely be cause for concern, investigation and remedy. A man without God is weak, and a church without men is weak too; it needs them in the pews and in the world, taking their places on the battlefield that only they can fill.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Death Spiral

Japan’s finance minister, Taro Aso made an astonishing statement recently, to the effect that Japan’s elderly, infirm and others financially dependent on the government, should ‘hurry up and die’.

This was prompted by the rising cost of care for the elderly, the ageing population, and a very low birth rate. With little or no immigration and having fully embraced the western contraceptive culture, many analysts say that Japan, as a nation, is in an irrecoverable ‘death spiral’ facing extinction. The average age is already in the mid-forties, compared to say Arab countries where it’s in the mid twenties.

This hostility to the old, weak and vulnerable members of society represents a massive shift in Japanese culture over only a few decades. Whilst it never embraced Christianity in the mainstream; the values of the Japanese were always transcendent.

Their code of honour (Bushido) was one of respect for their elderly parents and ancestors, a sense of duty to protect the weak and helpless, self-discipline and a focus on the higher values and virtues. In the pre-war and ancient times traders and merchants were the least regarded in society.

Post World War II, Western ideas were embraced and led by industrialists who enshrined profit, production, technological achievement and economic might as the new values. Now as one of the most developed, richest and advanced nations, it is coming to realise that it sowed the seeds of its own destruction in its choices. The contraceptive culture, contains within itself the subtle command to ‘empty the earth’ in opposition to God’s command to Adam and Eve to ‘fill the earth’.

Now in a panic to save itself, the nation turns in on itself all the more, willing to sacrifice its old and helpless on the altar of the Yen, to postpone their inevitable fall.

Truly, the only remnant of Bushido in Japan resides, paradoxically, in the hearts of the countries Christians; they alone will fight for life, for the weak and vulnerable, and hold fast to the integrity and honour that once made Japan the cradle of Eastern civilisation.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Sowing & Reaping ... it works if you're listening !

One week when I was a widowed mother of two small children, the Lord spoke to me to pay off a layaway that I saw in the CFNI Bookstore. I didn't know the person. The layaway was laying behind the counter with a ticket on it. The Lord say pay it off.

I asked the clerk how much was owed on it. It was exactly what I had in the bank. I was on my way to a women's ministry.At the meeting, I received $100.00 back. The Lord spoke to me, "Don't eat your seed. " I took the $100.00 to a minister and gave it.

 On the way home, I stopped to visit another ministry. They gave me $200.00. The Lord said,"Don't eat you seed." I went right back to the minister that I had given to earlier that day. I gave the $200.00. 

The next morning I had a knock at my door. A man from our church gave me a check for $500.00 seed offering. He was proving God for a job he was hoping to get. (Malachi 3:10) The Lord spoke to me again, "Don't eat your seed." I took the $500.00 to the same minister again. 

On the way home, I stopped for services at another ministry. They asked me to lead worship that afternoon service. As I stepped off the platform just before preaching, a man handed me something. 

I tucked it into my pocket. After church, I pulled it out of my pocket. It was a check for $1000.00. On the bottom of the check it said "My Seed." 

Then the Lord spoke to me and said "Now go pay your bills." I had just enough to pay them with about $50.00 left for groceries.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

True Leadership

I had the great privilege last year of attending a lecture by Lech Walesa in one of the Universities in Manila. An electrician who became a union leader; a union leader who became a prisoner; a prisoner who brought down an evil empire and became President of Poland.

Usually, here in the Philippines, the presidents become prisoners only after their term of office when their dodgy dealings are uncovered, so it was a breath of fresh air to hear from a man who understands authentic leadership and what it costs. Its essence being service; sacrifice; suffering and faith in God. The very things that none of the listening students could possibly learn in their courses or with their background as the country’s elite.

We heard about those turbulent times in Poland firsthand, how when the trade union Solidarity only had a handful of members, the new Pope John Paul II visited and overnight it had a million new members, the strikes, imprisonment, struggles and eventual victory and the aftermath and rebuilding of a nation. His leadership was earned, tested; proven.

What is also unusual in a world leader is his humility and simplicity, he gives all credit to God for the miracle of their liberation from communism, through the hand of his friend the late Pope. His many awards and honouree degrees he drops off at the shrine of Our Lady in Czestochowa acknowledging her part too. 
Now grey haired he travels the world as a mentor to many with a deadly sense of humour (the translator took a full minute to compose himself before he could deliver some of his jokes).

On meeting him I felt like I was on holy ground, a true man of faith, an authentic revolutionary leader on the one hand and a benevolent Grandfather on the other. An inspiration to us all.