home > Pastor’s Desk > 2021 > February > SCARED, SCARRED, SACRED

SCARED, SCARRED, SACRED

Tom Hanks is everyone’s favourite actor and I’d like to apologise to him from the outset for distorting one of his most famous and frequently quoted lines –   ‘Australia, we have a problem!’ But I think Tom (as he insists on me calling him) wouldn’t mind once he found out the gravity of the problem that Australia is facing. This problem has been front and centre of Australia’s attention for the past few weeks and while all of the attention has been on the seedy side of Canberra, it was a brave Tasmanian girl, Grace Tame, who set the ball rolling. The shameful scandal over the sexual abuse of the former Parliamentary intern Brittany Higgins may have given some the impression that Canberra has a problem, but the truth is that Australia has a problem, and since this year’s Australian of the Year was announced, we here in Tasmania can no longer deny that the problem is actually rife in our state as well!

  

WOMEN’S GREATEST FEAR

Brittany Higgins’ resolve to seek justice for what happened to her and the way she was treated was spurred on after Grace Tame, herself a survivor of predatory sexual abuse, took up the cause of many other women in a similar situation to her where the legal system seemed to protect the perpetrator and offer no such similar rights to the abused. On the morning of the Prime Minister’s response to the scandal of what had happened to Brittany Higgins broke, the ABC TV News Channel interviewed a woman who was a former lawyer-turned-Canberra-journalist who described her time in the Parliament House Press Gallery where she repeatedly endured inappropriate sexual harassment (which included inappropriate touching and lewdness) during her time there, and, she said, to her shame, that did not report it. Eventually, she too suffered what women fear most. She is now a women’s rights campaigner.

In that interview she said that the problem was that men wrongly viewed sex only on a purely physical level which in their minds has very little consequence beyond the momentary physical encounter. She went on to say that most men do not understand what really happens when they sexually assault a woman. There was, she said, a starkly different reality for women who endured unwanted sexual violation from a man. This stark difference between the viewpoint of men and women was borne out in what men and women fear most. According to her, all of the surveys of what women fear most reveal the same thing: the fear of being raped. Men’s greatest fear, on the other hand, was the fear of being humiliated. She explained that rape was not just a violation of a woman, it was a “breaking” of a woman. It leaves her broken. I was fascinated that she chose to use this word to describe what happened to a woman’s soul as a result of rape.

Former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said the place [Parliament] thrives on disrespect for women and compared it to corporate culture in the 1970s.
Sydney Morning Herald, February 19, 2021

Our western legal system is largely based on the Judeo-Christian moral code (or at least it used to be). The protection of women was enshrined into that code and the rape of a woman was equated to the capital crime of murder.

¶ “But if the man meets the [engaged] woman out in the country, and he rapes her, then only the man must die. Do nothing to the young woman; she has committed no crime worthy of death. She is as innocent as a murder victim.
Deuteronomy 22:25-26 NLT

It is a sad reality that women are routinely objectified by men (treated like sexual objects for their gratification) rather than treated as human beings worthy of respect. This is one of the reasons why we can no longer as a society regard ‘porn’ as an “industry” — then deceptively describe it with the euphemism (the art of using nice words to describe something horrible in order to trick people into thinking it as a good thing) that it “empowers women.

You might remember that when Playboy Magazine founder Hugh Hefner died he was widely described in the media as someone who empowered and helped to liberate women, when what these confused journalists should have said was that he objectified women for the gratification of men and in the process robbed them of something sacred! I recently asked a female lawyer how I as a pastor should go about addressing this problem, she said, “Teach men about biblical manhood—how to properly treat women!” So here I go.

[Treat] older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.
First Timothy 5:2

 

I MEAN BE A MAN, NOT A MEAN MAN

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Matthew 11:29

I was told recently that the term gentleman referred to a man of substantial means. The Oxford dictionary seems to confirm this definition, but it also states that a gentleman is “a chivalrous, courteous, or honourable man.” The word chivalrous isn’t used very often today, but I hope that after men have read this pastor’s desk article this adjective might be heard more often. To be chivalrous is to be “courteous and gallant, especially towards women (typically used of a man or his behaviour).” It is a word that describes a man’s respectful and kind treatment of women. It is therefore a word that we should hope to hear used more often. The best example of a chivalrous man is Jesus of Nazareth. Women felt safe around Jesus. Jesus never hit a woman. When alone with a woman in a private setting (note John 4 where Jesus was alone with the Samaritan women at the well), Jesus never did anything inappropriate. 

¶ Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
Ephesians 5:25-27

A chivalrous man protects women. A man who truly loves a woman will patiently listen to her and give her his attention. 

 

A SCARRED WOMAN

Broken women are inevitably scarred and also invisibly scarred. Men have an odd appreciation for scars. Women don’t. Many women who have experienced the humiliation of scarring will use different forms of ‘make-up’ to cover and hide their scars including personality make-up, hairstyle make-up, fashion make-up, and even cosmetic make-up.  

A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.
Proverbs 15:13

Some men seem to be able to sense a scarred women and for some despicable reason see them as fair-game. Jesus didn’t. It is my hope that every man who might be disposed this way will accept the challenge to repent, change their view of such women, and learn how to be sensitive to her.  

And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. For she said, “If I touch even His garments, I will be made well.” And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in Himself that power had gone out from Him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched My garments?” And His disciples said to Him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched Me?’” And He looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth. And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
Mark 5:25-34

 

THE SACRED INVITATION

Australia — Tasmania — we have a problem. The rate of sexual assault in my home state is unacceptable. It is sad to hear that the problem has become so prevalent in some parts of our state that some Tasmanian communities have had to establish their own community based sexual assault support services, such as in Geeveston (which has a population of 616). But there is a solution.

If what I have shared sounds like pious moralising then I have failed in my attempt to persuade men that women should not be considered as objects. If to those who have endured their worst fear I have sounded like an out-of-touch just-get-over-it ignorant male, then again I have failed. The pain – the brokenness – is real. What I hope to have made clear is that what has been happening in Australia’s Parliament House behind closed doors is not isolated or restricted to Canberra. Spend a day in any Magistrate’s Court during an open sitting and you too will begin to realise the extent of Australia’s problem. It is a cultural problem that effects millions of homes across Australia and therefore thousands of homes across Tasmania. 

WHERE WE MUST START

It is my hope that all men who know and have surrendered to Christ will commit to helping their local church community to become a sacred space where the scared find sanctuary, and the scarred find soothing. The gospel of Christ offers hope and healing for those who have been traumatised and betrayed. It offers the hope of a new start, a new beginning — not just as the moment of conversion — but any moment that a child of God cries out to their Heavenly Father. Salvation, or deliverance, is available to the son or daughter of God any time they call on the name of the Lord — especially when they have been wounded.

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved [rescued].”
Romans 10:13

If you are a woman who has been scarred, the Spirit invites you to come into the Father’s sacred place by simply calling on the Father (Matt. 7:7). If you are a man who the Spirit is now convicting of your wrong actions or attitudes toward women, then He invites you to come into the sacred place through the door of confession and repentance (1John 1:8-9). And while I hope that each Sunday becomes a safe and sacred place for every man, woman, boy and girl, I also hope that as we continue to build a church without walls, we might imagine that ‘Houston’ might respond to “Jim Lovell” (Tom Hanks) — “We’ve found a solution Jim, a sacred solution, it’s Christ’s redeeming and rescuing and transforming grace that heals, saves, and delivers.” 

 

Your pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

4 Comments

  1. Lydia

    One of the criteria for gaining a ‘working with children and vulnerable people’s card’ back in NSW was to go to a training session. We were told that if we wanted to leave at any time we could, as the subject could be difficult to listen to. This is where I heard the word ‘grooming’ for the first time. Needless to say it is a very unpleasant word if we are not talking about caring for a horse! Also as school teachers we are expected to follow specific guidelines when we work with students. In society it is the same, guidelines which are there to protect the innocent.
    Many years ago I went to an inter-church seminar where the subject of the sexualization of women was discussed and how detrimental pornography was to society, that it would be the death of it and even more so, to the normal marriage relationship, because who knows what ‘normal’ is? The programmes on television can do the same thing and that only concretes the idea that women are sexual objects, to be used, abused and caste aside till the pattern repeats itself at will. Silence is often the method that is used to bind the victim and allow the perpetrator to continue, and yes, just like a pedophile can spot a victim anywhere at all, including church circles, so apparently can men who for what ever reason see women in a similar light. Brave is the female who dares to speak up or go to the authorities or their pastor. She knows what it is like to be brought down to nothingness and then used and re-used at will, to be ridiculed and held up to dry, particularly in church circles as well as the wider the society.
    Therefore we can all conclude that we are in a mess as you have explained clearly enough Andrew. Let’s pray that men will indeed again restore their thinking and their hearts to viewing the opposite sex as God intended. And to add, when I saw The Chosen episode some time ago about the woman at the well and how Jesus addressed her, it brought me to tears, as this is WHO He was, Who He is!
    Therefore for all those women who have been hurt during their youth and the life to follow, having the trust relationship damaged, look to Jesus, look how He forgave. Look to our Heavenly Father how He demanded a sacrifice and how He loved! And then look to our Holy Spirit, how He is there always to comfort us, our Comforter!
    Back in 2005 I listened to a speech by Dr Ray Andrews, who explained the results of sexual abuse and how women handled that and the damage, spiritual damage done to them, which the perpetrator likely would never understand unless there was repentance. It opened my own eyes just as Jesus opened the eyes and heart of the woman at the well.
    Thank you so much Andrew for bringing this sad subject to light as that brave girl in Canberra decided to speak up. Society needs to radically change. Society needs a Saviour!

    Reply
  2. Norman Macdonald

    Well said , all so true.

    Reply
  3. Mike Sladden

    Thanks Pastor Andrew. And thank you Lydia for your brave message. I pray for my sons to be Godly men and to stand up for justice and against injustice, just as I hope we men also do. Blessings, Brother Mike

    Reply
  4. Gladys Parry

    My comment to you no Sunday referred to your previous newsletter. Definitely not to this one.
    Thank God I have lived long enough for some women (or men) to speak out about sexual abuse and for some justice to be done

    Reply

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SUPER SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIANS

Spare a thought for those people who are often overlooked by churches—and if they are Christians—they frequently struggle to even find a suitable church where they can deepen their relationship with Christ. Often we think of those who struggle with life as those who are “down and out” and blighted by impoverishment, or destitution, or ill-health, or family breakdown, or poor mental health. But surprisingly, even those who are seen as super-successful because of their wealth, social stature, public acclaim or amazing achievements, are actually struggling with loneliness, emptiness, and poor mental health — even if they are a Christian. These super-successful Christians are CEOs of large companies, or world-class or national sporting champions, or internationally renowned performing artists, or A-lister actors, or media personalities, or highly sought after professionals such as surgeons or barristers. They often pay a high price for their success, including, long work hours, constant stress, public criticism, extended time away from their families, fierce competition, and strained marriages. These pressures are exacerbated by their constant travel associated with their work which also makes them vulnerable to exhaustion and extraordinary temptations. This is why these super-successful Christians need to join the kind of church that can provide them with the kind of support, counsel, and accountability that every Christian needs. Here’s how a church can become this kind of church.

MAKING CHURCH A WELCOMING HOME

For many people, making a decision to attend a church is a significant and potentially daunting decision. As they come through the front door they are entering an unfamiliar environment. It is also an environment that may be associated with preconceived ideas of what the expectations and rules of the church community may be. These people probably will not know anybody and they might have concerns that relate to their previous or current lifestyle. For those of us who are regular church attendees, it is possible that we may not fully appreciate the challenges a new attendee may be facing. When we can relate to these concerns, I believe we are better equipped to provide a warm and patient “welcome” to what we hope will become their new church home.

LOVE IN ACTION

Physical illnesses and stressful events are endemic in our society. They can be likened to the thorns that cause both pain and damage. It doesn’t take much for them to impact a person’s life in ways that they did not expect. I believe that we can become more resilient as followers of Jesus by applying an appropriate solution to a known problem. I believe that an appropriate and important part of the solution is for us to show love the way that Jesus demonstrated love during His ministry on earth.

THE TOOLS OF REMEMBERING

I like to think I have a pretty good memory.  I like to think I’m organised.  Generally, I am – I don’t double book appointments, I keep track of what I’m doing and when, I mostly turn up on time. But, on reflection, I’m not so sure this means I have a good memory.

TRUTH vs SOMETHING BIG AND HAIRY

“You were lying in your bed, you were feeling kind of sleepy.
But you couldn’t close your eyes because the room was getting creepy.
Were those eyeballs in the closet? Was that Godzilla in the hall?
There was something big and hairy casting shadows on the wall.
Now your heart is beating like a drum, your skin is getting clammy.
There’s a hundred tiny monsters jumping right into your jammies”!

These are lyrics from a song on the very first Veggie Tales video every made. The title of the song?  “God is bigger than the Boogie Man”. Junior Asparagus was lying in bed frightened, and Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber appeared to tell him that he doesn’t have to be scared of the imaginary monsters because, “God is the bigger.” My childhood night-time fears weren’t so much about big and hairy monsters, aka boogie men, or Godzilla in the hall. My fears were house fires – our home burning down, and “burglars” or “robbers”. But I certainly identify with lying in bed, my heart beating like a drum, my skin getting clammy, my imagination in overdrive.

CLOSING THE DEAL

In 1871, the American evangelist, Dwight (“DL”) Moody was preaching to huge crowds each night in Chicago. At the end of each message he would give an appeal for people to either respond immediately to the gospel message he had just presented, or at least go home and consider it. But on Sunday October 8th, 1871, a huge fire broke out in Chicago. It burned through the city for days and became known as The Great Chicago Fire. Around 10,000 people were homeless as a result, and hundreds of people lost their lives. Moody was heart-broken when he realised that many of the people who had died were the people who had attended that Sunday night meeting where he had urged them to consider accepting Christ. His deep grief over this tragedy led him to make a vow that he would never again merely urge people to simply consider accepting Christ. From now on, he vowed, he would plead with all those he preached to – to immediately turn away from their sins and turn to the Saviour. DL Moody committed his life and ministry as an evangelist to be someone who would always strive to close the deal because he was now aware—more than ever—that people’s eternal destinies were in jeopardy! 

BUILDING A MOODY CHURCH

The three things that make the Christian life exciting and enthralling are the same three things that enable a believer to develop a closer relationship with God. The combination of these supernatural gifts gives the child of God an awareness that there is more, much more, to this world than we can see, touch, taste or feel. When the Christian’s faith is grounded and buttressed in God’s Word, godly prayer, and God’s house he or she flourishes. But there are forces at play that are determined to stop the believer from reaching their spiritual destiny. While we might think these enemy forces only use the fiery darts of doubt to hinder the believer’s journey to glory, there is something that they successfully use far more often: our mood. This is why, for any church to be successful, it must discover how to build moody church.

PRAYING PRAYERS

The amazing thing about prayer, is that nearly everyone does it – but hardly anyone thinks they do it well. If you visit any Christian bookstore you will notice that the largest display of books is about prayer. And it’s not just Christian bookstores where you’ll find books on prayer. Regular bookstores also sell a wide range of books on prayer (even if they do classify them as books on ‘meditation’!). One of the most frequently searched questions on Google is, “How to pray” (which then points enquirers to over 2.3 billion web pages answering their question). But in all of human history – and two thousand years before anyone but one had ever heard of Google – there was just One person who was supremely qualified to answer this question. And fortunately for those of us who really want to know the answer to this question (without having to peruse more than 2.3 billion web pages!) He gave us the answer.

WHY SOME BELIEVE

Why is it that two people can look at exactly the same evidence and can come to completely different conclusions about it? Even more puzzling is how two equally qualified scientific experts can look at the same data and utterly disagree about what it means. This happens many times in court cases where the prosecution will call their “expert witness” to give his or her professional opinion to verify that the defendant is guilty only to have the defence to present their “expert witness” who gives his or her professional opinion as to why the prosecution’s expert witness was wrong and to prove that defendant is innocent! This at least illustrates why it is not always the quality of the evidence that leads a person to accept or reject a claim. This especially apply to the claims that Jesus Christ made. Of the four accounts in the New Testament written about His life, three of them were written by eye-witnesses and the other one (Luke’s) was written by someone who interviewed many eye-witnesses. It is with interest that we turn to the last one to be John’s Gospel, where he describes dramatic proofs that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Yet despite these otherwise inexplicable proofs that at times thousands of people witnessed, many still wouldn’t believe. But it seems among those who did believe they all had one thing in common.

UNPACKING CHRISTIANITY

home > Pastor's Desk > 2022 > JUNE 3rd > UNPACKING CHRISTIANITY UNPACKING CHRISTIANITY I have a thing for bags. Not shopping bags or lady’s handbags, but manly bags - functional bags. A few years back I became fed-up with the number of bags I was...