Captain Cook’s radical steps to save the Endeavour

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The mid to late Eighteenth century was a high point for British navigation and exploration of the world. In 1770 Captain Cook charted the Eastern coastline of Australia and in 1789, following the mutiny on the Bounty, Captain William Bligh navigated a seven-metre boat carrying 18 other crewmen 6701 kilometres to Timor and safety.

It was an era of remarkable acts of courage and seamanship but there was one thing every seaman feared: running their ship aground on an uncharted reef which inevitably signalled disaster for both ship and crew.

The problem was not so much running aground on our coastline’s numerous reefs but the high likelihood that waves would pitch the ship on its side. Constant pounding of the ship’s topside by waves crashing over the reef would quickly break up the ship – a possible death sentence for those on board.

Captain Cook had a close call when the Endeavour ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef, near to Cooktown as we know it today. Although the ship did not immediately pitch onto its side, Cook ordered the crew to dump into the sea whatever was unnecessary to their immediate survival, including the ship’s valuable cargo and protective cannons. During high tide the lightened ship might then float off the reef towards shore.

The plan worked. The Endeavour and its crew were saved because Cook made the hard decision to throw off whatever was literally dragging the ship down to a watery grave.

Think in terms of your life being like a ship which has to navigate its way across the sea of human existence – our experience of life. At the end of the journey we all like to think that we will make it to port, to a safe harbour, secure in the knowledge that we have journeyed well.

Along the way we experience times when our ship of life is sailing well; the wind is for us and we make good headway. But sometimes the wind is against us and there is the ever present danger of unseen “reefs” that we can run aground on.

The “reef” may be a marriage breakdown or a rift with a close friend. It could be the loss of a loved one, a life threatening illness, depression or a breakdown. These reefs are threatening, they are very real and from time to time the ship of our life will crash into them. But they need not spell total disaster!

Like Cook, when we hit the reef, it is time to take stock of the situation, assess the damage that has been done to our “ship” and if necessary, throw overboard the excess cargo that we are carrying that will then enable us to re-float our ship.

The Apostle Paul spoke exactly of this experience when the ship of his life ran aground on the biggest reef he had ever encountered – the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. Years later when he wrote about this experience Paul described his life as a ship that was filled with valuable cargo – his Jewish heritage, his ancestral lineage, his religious fervour and his commitment to the Jewish religion – but he came to the conclusion that “whatever was to my profit I now consider loss” (Philippians 3:7). In other words, the very things that he regarded as being valuable and that would assist him to gain a right standing with God he threw overboard that he might “gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8). Paul knew that he had to throw off everything that would hold back the ship of his life from making it safely to shore.

The reason all of this is possible is because of what took place at the first Easter some 2000 years ago. Christ died for the sins of the world on Good Friday and then rose physically from the dead on Easter Sunday to demonstrate His victory over sin and death. And since that time, millions of people have found hope and security in Jesus when the ship of their lives have been threatened to be sunk by the reefs of life. By throwing overboard the cargo that held them back from knowing Jesus they have discovered new spiritual vitality, forgiveness from sin and the knowledge that their ship will safely make it to shore at the end of their journey.

What do you need to throw overboard this Easter?

Loving our family changes us within

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FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS the family unit has been understood as the foundation stone of society, a place where children are raised to take their place in society as mature, responsible adults and where healthy relationships with others are nurtured and encouraged. Often described as the “nuclear family” it was generally regarded as consisting of Dad, Mum and the children. Author Dale Kuehne describes this model for the family as inhabiting what he calls “tWorld” and it was essentially built around relationships of obligation.

In tWorld an individual was born with several obligations: first to family, then to one’s neighbourhood and finally, to the nation. These relationships of obligation gave an individual both security and fulfilment. An individual’s identity and happiness in life was found through the successful carrying out of your responsibilities to those around you. For example, you cared for, respected and loved your parents and other relatives because they were a part of the family you were born into. You took your place as a responsible, contributing member of society because that was what good citizens did. In return, you enjoyed the benefits of love, acceptance and security that came from being a part of a cohesive family unit and community. Individuals found their personal fulfilment through the successful carrying out of their obligations in these relationships. In contrast to iWorld, the idea that an individual found happiness through the free exercise of their own personal choice was totally foreign! In fact, as Kuehne points out, the only area that the inhabitants of tWorld could exercise personal choice was in the area of friendships – there was freedom to find happiness in the choice of who your friends in life would be. The old saying, “You can choose your friends but you cannot choose your relatives” comes to mind!

This does not mean that tWorld was perfect. Far too many people found themselves in relationships of obligation that were suppressive and extremely harmful to their development. Because of the stigma associated with divorce that has prevailed in society many people remained in marriages that were loveless, ultimately doing enormous damage to themselves, their wider family and especially their children. In particularly tragic circumstance many women remained in physically and emotionally abusive situations because of a sense of “obligation.”

But tWorld is a good description of the world that we once inhabited because it describes the traditional view of the family unit that has been so prevalent and which we are very familiar with. If you want a picture to illustrate this type of family then think of the Brady Bunch: Mum, Dad and the kids all working together as a cohesive unit, the parents dispensing their wise advice when required and everyone seemingly able to work out their relationship differences with humour and grace. Of course, given the darker side of tWorld previously described above, many of us would feel that a picture of the Addams Family would be a more accurate depiction of the family unit!

It is clear to most of us however that we no longer inhabit tWorld but iWorld, a world where the rights and choices of the individual have trumped obligation and the number one goal in life is to achieve personal happiness through the free exercise of those rights and choices.

When I reflect on tWorld what captures my attention is the way in which the Apostle Paul addressed that situation. Writing to a tWorld audience in Colosse, Paul told the followers of Jesus there that they were to live out their faith in their family units by exemplifying sacrificial love, mutual respect and fairness toward each other. (Colossians 3:18-4:1). This was a radical idea because the tWorld that Paul and his readers lived in was one where the man had total power and women and children were regarded as second class citizens.

To such a world Paul says to followers of Jesus; ‘Live differently! Let your faith show up in that most testing of environments, the family unit and show the world the difference that Jesus makes to all of our relationships.’ It was a call to the people of tWorld to live contrary to their culture a call that is equally valid to the members of today’s iWorld. The question is, “How can we do that?” Let’s explore that next month!

“i” culture tears us apart

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The Bond franchise recently announced plans for the 24th movie in the series including the oldest ever “Bond girl”, 50-year-old Italian actress, Monica Bellucci. Commenting on why she won the plumb role, Bellucci seemed un-phased by all the hype because after all, as she told the press, she had “beauty and talent!”

Bellucci’s comments are grating to me, not so much because of their obvious self-focus, but more so that it highlights a prevailing attitude grafted deeply into the culture of our time – that beauty, talent and an emphasis on me and my happiness is what really counts.

Author and pastor, Dale S. Kuehne calls this the iWorld which he writes about in his book, Sex and the iWorld. The essence of iWorld, he says, is an emphasis on the right of the individual to make personal choices that will lead to his or her personal happiness and fulfillment regardless of what traditional boundaries may be in place and which are also perceived as restricting one’s personal satisfaction with life.

To put it more bluntly, in iWorld every boundary is up for grabs if it seeks to restrict your right to make your own choices about what is right or wrong.

We have been moving into iWorld for some time now.

Twenty years ago I asked a newly engaged couple who wanted me to be their celebrant, “How long do you think your marriage should last?”

Normally the couple will respond with “forever!” but on this occasion the prospective bride’s response surprised me: “If it lasts 10 years, well it lasts 10 years; but if it doesn’t, well so be it…”

As I explored this answer with her, it became clear that the idea of committing yourself to another person for the rest of your life (as opposed to her notion of a commitment based on “as long as we both are happy/still in love”) was a completely foreign concept to her.

I realise I may come off sounding quite critical here – I do not intend to be. I simply want to highlight that over the past 40 to 50 years we have moved from a society based on the belief that inter-personal relationships also include thoughtfulness, love and care for others to one where the individual self and personal happiness is exalted above everything else.

The culture of iWorld strikes at the very heart of marriage and in fact, all relationships. For a marriage to grow and blossom it requires two people who not only love each other but who are also committed to the responsibilities and sacrifices that characterise that love.

Promising to stay faithful to your husband or wife at the exclusion of all others requires just such a love.

Getting up to care for a screaming child late in the night while your wife catches up on her own rest requires just such a love.

Listening to your husband’s complaints at the end of a long day at the office requires just such a love.

Sitting through numberless hours lost at your child’s school awards ceremonies most definitely requires just such a love!

But in iWorld, no such love is required or even expected. All that matters is that you are happy and in discovering that happiness you do not restrict another person’s right to their own happiness.

This does not mean that everything about the world that we have moved from was always right and beyond criticism. Kuehne bravely acknowledges this fact about our former world, a world he describes as tWorld. But he does pose this interesting question: Which world will provide us with our best chance of lasting happiness – tWorld, iWorld or is there another option?

In seeking to answer that question we must understand the world that we have come from and the world in which we currently find ourselves before we can consider the possibility of a better alternative. Kuehne believes there is a better world and so do I – I invite you to explore this with me over the coming year as we seek to both grow and find fulfillment in our relationships with each other!