Immunisations carry inherent risk, hopefully vanishingly small. A well functioning society usually trusts its drug regulators (FDA, TGA, etc) to approve only those inoculations with an appropriately positive risk/benefit profile. But sometimes an approved inoculation is subsequently found to have lower benefit or greater risk than at first realised. Thus formerly approved inoculations can be, and have been, subsequently withdrawn.
It would therefore be wise for the church to simply say very little or nothing at all regarding endorsement or otherwise of a particular inoculation.
I am a committed Seventh-day Adventist and love our message, mission and movement. One of the key contributions of our church is the Adventist Health message, which promotes healthy lifestyles. A direct result and advantage of promoting lifestyle health is that gains achieved through lifestyle interventions generally have corresponding reductions in reliance on pharmaceutical interventions. This should, in theory, include a corresponding reduction (even if only marginal) in the need for, and reliance on, immunisation.
Lifestyle approaches to health may not completely nullify the potential benefit of a given inoculation, but they may reduce the available benefit (measured in risk reduction) from an inoculation and its clinical trials. For example, if a clinical trial’s study and control groups both followed Adventist principles of healthy lifestyles, the measured risk reduction benefit would be less than if both groups followed a typical modern lifestyle. That’s because the baseline risk has already been reduced through lifestyle measures. Since all inoculations have a risk/benefit trade-off, it would make sense that someone following the healthy lifestyle practices recommended by the Adventist health message would, from a risk/benefit trade-off perspective, probably not be able to justify taking as many immunisations as someone following a typical modern lifestyle. Inoculations with a more marginal risk/benefit trade-off would probably not meet the threshold of benefit, given the baseline risk reduction achieved through lifestyle, to overcome the risks associated with the inoculation.
Further, one of our founders, Ellen White, the person singularly responsible for the Adventist Health message, strongly discouraged reliance on pharmaceuticals. Our church does not interpret this advice as negating all pharmaceuticals, but it predisposes us to place a relatively higher value on lifestyle interventions and relatively lower value on pharmaceutical interventions.
Inoculations are pharmaceutical interventions. By design, they introduce foreign matter directly into the bloodstream of the human body. Adjuvants are typically at least somewhat toxic. This is not a problem unique to immunisation – all pharmaceuticals carry some risk and have some marginal level of toxicity. E.g., antibiotics, by definition, are toxic to the life of particular microbes. Please remember, and I must state this clearly: I am definitely not saying that just because something has some level of toxicity it should not be used for health purposes.
According to our church’s health message and values, it could be expected that we would be relatively less reliant on immunisation and relatively more reliant on lifestyle interventions to prevent illness. And it would also be expected that the general direction we would be aspiring toward is one in which positive lifestyle interventions are maximised and pharmaceutical interventions are minimised.
This does not mean that our church should advocate against immunisation, just as it doesn’t advocate against pharmaceuticals in general.
But in the same way that the church also don’t advocate for pharmaceuticals, I would suggest that it need not advocate for inoculations either. It normally makes sense to leave it to the FDA and TGA (and similar organisations around the world) to do their jobs to ensure safety and efficacy. But sometimes new information comes to light and inoculations have to be withdrawn from the market. If the church had endorsed every approved inoculation, that would have meant endorsing inoculations that were subsequently terminated and would then need to be unendorsed by the church.
It would be better to simply say very little or nothing at all on the topic.
Big Pharma has done much good for world health. For example, Merck created a drug that has safely and effectively eradicated river blindness in Africa. Merck donated sufficient ivermectin to eradicate river blindness globally. Its inventors deservedly won the Nobel prize for it.
I’m usually very reluctant to take antibiotics, but antibiotics have been instrumental in healing my gut from issues caused by parasites that I’ve had for 20 years. Despite the problems, I’m thankful for the benefit brought to our world by pharmaceuticals.
My Proposed Statement on Pharmaceuticals and Immunisation
The Adventist church has a statement on immunization (American spelling) that I think can be improved based on our collective experience with Covid-19 and the response of governments around the world that has characterised by many as tending toward coercive and totalitarian. One thing I’d like to see removed is placing peer reviewed science alongside inspired revelation as the basis of our beliefs and practice in any area. We certainly would not do this in the area of origins, and there are many areas of health science that still conflict with inspired revelation, which clearly trumps peer reviewed science in our church’s epistemology, as substantiated by our experience over the decades. I would also broaden it to include pharmaceuticals as I think the issues involved and stance we take are applicable to both. This is my proposed revised statement:
Pharmaceuticals and Immunization
The Seventh-day Adventist Church places strong emphasis on health and well-being. The Adventist health emphasis is based on biblical revelation and the inspired writing of E.G. White (co-founder of the Church). We believe that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and therefore that looking after our bodies, including being careful about what we put into our bodies, is integral to our Christian life and worship.
The Adventist Health Message has a long and distinguished history advocating for maximising positive lifestyle interventions to promote health and minimising pharmaceutical interventions where possible. We understand that pharmaceuticals can contribute to optimising health, particularly in acute health crises, but we do not get involved in the endorsement or approval of particular drugs or immunisations. As a church, we leave it to regulatory bodies and the process of peer reviewed science to assess safety and efficacy of particular medical interventions, and encourage our church members to exercise personal freedom of conscience to decide which ones to take.
What do immunisation, global warming and flat earth all have in common?
Apart from being rife with conspiracy theories that can’t all simultaneously be correct, there is another thing they all have in common. Our church does not have special revelation or expertise in any of them. Actually, Ellen White’s advice on flat earth theories over a century ago is relevant here.
“Whether the world is round or flat will not save a soul, but whether men believe and obey means everything… [W]hen Christ gave my commission to do the work He had placed upon me, the flat or round world was not included in the message; the Lord had taken care of His house, His world here below, better than any human agency could care for it, and until the message came from the Lord, silence was eloquence upon that question.” 21MR 413-4
What I take from this quote is that as a church we don’t need to enter into disputes and take positions on things that are not relevant to the church’s message and mission.
I’ve developed my thinking a bit during Covid-19. Previously I’ve advocated for our church recognising the validity of the issue of anthropogenic global warming, in order to improve our credibility. I’ve even written articles in RECORD on the topic. While I still personally believe that there is human caused global warming that creates risks for society, I probably would be less concerned about trying to convince the skeptics and be more ready to advocate for the “silence is golden” position. (I still haven’t found a credible argument that anthropogenic global warming isn’t real.) And on the flipside, I am increasingly aware that environmental crisis is an area where a coercive government response may be a threat to religious liberty.
The church does not have special expertise or revelation in the areas of immunisation, global warming, or the shape of the earth. We have members and employees who are experts in each of those fields, but that does not confer that expertise on the church as a body. For example, I have done doctoral research and continue to work in water engineering as it intersects with climate change, so it frustrates me that many in our church speak dogmatically from ignorance about that area of science. However, it is not a topic on which our church needs to have an authoritative position.
Our church has made extensive statements generally in support of Covid inoculations, but emphasising that the church is leaving the choice up to individuals. However, with the benefit of hindsight, I think this is a case where the less we said about pharmaceutical interventions the better, whether for or against inoculations on the one hand (where we have weighed in) or early treatment with repurposed drugs such as ivermectin on the other (where to my knowledge we haven’t). There is ongoing debate in the media, in the scientific community, and between countries as to whether or not inoculations should be mandated and whether or not ivermectin is safe and effective or should be banned.
The risk the church runs is that we could be trying to be an authority on an area of life (i.e., effectively saying Covid inoculations are beneficial) where we don’t have any special revelation or authority. Safety & efficacy of pharmaceutical interventions is not a core function or expertise of our church. To weigh in on this topic as we have in this pandemic would effectively be trusting that the processes of peer reviewed science and regulatory oversight are going to lead to good (or at least benign) health interventions. But history shows that’s not always how it plays out. There are numerous drugs and inoculations over the decades that have had to be pulled from the market because of unfavourable risk/benefit with the benefit of hindsight.
It’s fine to trust the intentions of regulators and scientists, but as far as I know, in no other area have we ever trusted or allowed our church’s position on a topic to be determined by peer reviewed science or government policy. It is simply not consistent with our epistemology or mission to entrust church belief or policy to the outcomes of secular science or government.
It seems to me that Covid inoculations (and a bunch of other Covid public health responses) are arguably likely to be found to be at best suboptimal with the benefit of hindsight. There could, of course, be totally understandable reasons for this, such as the urgency involved in responding to a global pandemic.
What can our church contribute in the Covid response?
The ultimate solution to every problem besetting humanity, including Covid, is the gospel. As such, it makes little sense to prioritise mitigating Covid risks over preaching the gospel. In fact both those objectives can both be met simultaneously without compromising either. Preaching the gospel should always be the church’s central mission focus.
The gospel provides an interesting insight into pandemic response. Given that the gospel is the ultimate solution to every problem, including Covid, it could be argued that belief in the gospel should be mandated to bring about the ultimate favourable resolution for everyone rapidly. But such a mandate would be entirely anti-gospel. The gospel is about love and freedom. Mandated irreversible personal health interventions are inevitably associated with fear, coercion and control.
And we have an eminently safe and effective health toolkit through the Adventist health message. While we can trust our government to have good intentions to do the best it can for public health within the constraints of human wisdom and expertise, we have a scientifically proven health message inspired by Divine omniscience and omnipotence in which we can place our full trust and confidence!
The Liberty & Health Alliance is one group of Adventists who, from what I’ve seen so far, are doing amazing work in advocating a biblical message of health and freedom extremely relevant for these times. They are not particularly pro or anti inoculations, but share relevant information for people to make their own decisions. I believe they provide a template for how our church can contribute meaningfully in the Covid response.
Thanks for all the engagement, questions, and critical feedback on my earlier post on what I believe has been a somewhat draconian response to Covid.
Recommended Public Health Response?
A great question was what public health response would I propose instead? My public policy suggestions are tentative as there is a lot I don’t know, but here are a few ideas for what it’s worth:
There are a couple of overseas templates that I think are worth following: Japan and Uttar Pradesh in India.
Japan, as I said in my blog post, is actively pushing against mandates and prioritising informed consent. It is reported that US States that are pushing back on mandates and lockdowns are also doing better than those with more draconian responses. (There could be confounding factors such as population density for some of the more rural/conservative states.) Sweden’s epidemiological data also seems to demonstrate that harsh lockdowns are not necessary.
Japan has also allowed the use of off-patent and off-label medicines, such as ivermectin.
I would place far fewer restrictions on the population, instead promoting voluntary risk reduction measures, collaboration and trust. And I would place a lot more restrictions on media and pharmaceutical companies, who are both profiting from driving a fear narrative.
I would place a higher standard (i.e., reverting to what is normally done) on the safety and efficacy review of inoculations, and allow people to freely choose whether or not they take them. There are now numerous studies showing that Covid inoculations are not nearly as effective as hoped. This emerging evidence should trigger a shift in public policy away from mandates.
Fact-Checking the CCCA Presentation
A friend shared a fact-check of the CCCApresentation that I shared. This is helpful, as it is always good to view multiple perspectives on important issues – particularly where there is controversy. There were a couple of valid observations that were new to me.
However, the AFP’s fact check is insufficient to bury the CCCA presentation for these two key reasons:
They’ve picked a few relatively minor points and ignored the major points of the presentation, in my view. Major concerns that remain undealt with include:
No comment on all cause mortality end point.
No comment on BMJ’s publication of whistleblower’s concerns.
No comment on several other trial study design issues.
No comment on pervasive conflict of interest.
No comment on Pfizer’s history of criminal activity.
No comment on the overall trend of heart issues in professional athletes – just correctly pointing out that one case (Christian Eriksen) is probably not linked to the inoculation, even though AFP overstates the original claim of CCCA on that particular point.
The AFP repeats the myth that ivermectin is ineffective, contrary to numerous published studies.
While I’m no apologist for ivermectin, there has clearly been an indefensible demonization of repurposed drugs such as ivermectin.
Within a few weeks of the 9/11 attacks in New York when the world was tentatively taking to the airways again, I went to Madagascar to volunteer in humanitarian development work with ADRA for 5 months. That seems so long ago now! It was a fantastic opportunity and experience that I treasure.
However, one of the ‘costs’ of living in remote villages with very limited facilities (think camping) for weeks at a time was that I often got dysentery. At the time I didn’t think much of it. I would just take a few Flagyl pills which seemed to sort it out.
When I arrived back in Australia, though, I had chronic diarrhoea. Actually within the first year of my return (during 2002) I had a few infectious illnesses to contend with including Lyme disease. Through a combination of prayer, hydrotherapy and antibiotics I recovered from Lyme disease in 2003.
But the disrupted gut health continued. It became my new ‘normal’.
Every few years I would have flare ups of fatigue, brain fog and additional gut symptoms and disruptions. With each flare up I would try a range of diagnostics and treatments – both conventional and alternative. I was seriously researching and considering a faecal transplant. I was willing to give anything a shot!
Along the way we found quite a few things including:
SIBO and dysbiosis (managed with diet, probiotics, supplements and natural antimicrobials)
FODMAP and other food sensitivities (managed by diet alterations)
Leaky gut (treated with lots of glutamine and several other things but the intestinal permeability persisted)
Dientamoeba fragilis (successfully treated with antibiotics after trying a few natural antimicrobials first)
I even saw a gastroenterologist who gave me a colonoscopy and endoscopy and concluded everything was pretty good – except I just needed to retrain my bowel using psyllium husks for 6 months. Thanks to his very high confidence and the benign nature of his prescription I faithfully did it… With absolutely no impact on my symptoms. I haven’t had the heart to give him the feedback or go back for further follow-up.
The most recent health professionals I’ve had looking into my gut was the team at Goulds Natural Medicine in Hobart. I had several telehealth appointments with them over a couple of years, mostly managing symptoms and incrementally tackling the SIBO and leaky gut.
One of the diagnostic tools Goulds use for managing gut health and function is microbiome sequencing with companies such as CosmosID and NirvanaBiome. I’ve done several such microbiome sequencing tests over the years, but the two that I did with CosmosID (the 2nd of which was via NirvanaBiome) identified a pathogen of potential interest.
First, in November 2020, the sample had an inconclusive detection of Cyclospora cayetanensis. Cyclospora is a self-limiting pathogen similar to Cryptosporidium. Given the detect was inconclusive, we didn’t think much of it. (There was another similarly inconclusive detect of another pathogen too. Such results are often thought to be fragments passing through and insignificant.)
But then in April of 2021, there was a repeat similar inconclusive detect of Cyclospora. My health care providers still didn’t think it significant. But I thought it might be significant, and I was willing to try the particular antibiotic used to treat Cyclospora. Even though I had already had way too many courses of antibiotics over the years, I had never tried trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim), which is pretty much the only drug to which Cyclospora is susceptible.
So I gave Bactrim a go in May 2021, and from June 2021 until now (7 months later) my gut health has returned to how it was prior to 2001/02 (my time in Madagascar). Thank the Lord!
The transformation has been so complete that I haven’t even bothered to do any further diagnostics for confirmation. If at some future time I do feel so inclined, the tests I would want to run would be intestinal permeability and another microbiome sequencing test. But resolution of my symptoms is conclusive enough for me.
I am very thankful for this protracted saga of ill health for a number of life-defining reasons:
If it wasn’t for my deteriorated gut health, I most likely wouldn’t have crossed paths with my now wife. Renee is a naturopath, and I first needed her professional help before realising I actually needed her companionship in all areas of life!
My gut saga has helped refine my character, chipping away at my arrogance and self-sufficiency, and helping me to depend more on God.
Hopefully my story can help others who struggle with gut issues. There are so many people with gut problems. The causes, histories and symptoms can be quite varied, but the common denominator is the critical importance of nurturing a healthy microbiome.
The evidence and logic are clear; for me it is past time to speak up and push back against mandating ineffective trial treatments.
If you only have time to look up one of the many credible and compelling links included here, please review this presentation (video & PDF of slides with references) from the Canadian Covid Care Alliance. A convincing case is made that the “Pfizer inoculations for Covid-19 do more harm than good” and “should be withdrawn immediately.”
While I am no health scientist or professional, I have done a PhD so am familiar with the scientific process and peer review. My view is not set in stone but follows the evidence. The Covid virus itself is changing and of course the scientific knowledge about it is also developing. My thinking and response are correspondingly open to change.
Notwithstanding my openness to learn and grow, I believe Australian and global public health policy settings are far removed from what would be expected from a society that prioritises values of health, safety and societal freedom (as has been understood and practised in Western democracies for much of the last couple of centuries).
“Covid-19 comes nowhere near the level of lethality needed to justify what amounts to a huge inroad into the basic standards of a functioning liberal democracy.” – James Allan, Garrick Professor of Law, UQ
Why the Apparent Mismatch Between Public Policy and Scientific Evidence?
I trust our government and health professionals to be doing the best they can given:
In many fields there develops over time a consensus of scientific enquiry such that new evidence tends to confirm core hypotheses and these are eventually firm enough to inform public policy. An example is anthropogenic global warming.
Is there a role for fact-checkers when scientific enquiry can often be more divergent than convergent at this early stage? Unfortunately, current fact-checking regarding Covid is at risk of being driven more by political and corporate interests defending existing or desired policy settings rather than being open to the truth gained through genuine and open scientific enquiry.
Isn’t it selfish to push back against inoculation?
If inoculation was safe and effective (including at preventing transmission), then yes, it could be argued to be selfish not to be inoculated. The preponderance of evidence undermines these requisite conditions, however.
There are a number of legitimate alternative perspectives that actually put the ‘selfishness’ shoe on the other foot:
Trying to influence the choices of another by applying labels of selfishness is itself an inherently self-serving act. Coercion is antithesis to selflessness, love and freedom. Protesting against illogical mandates at risk of losing one’s livelihood is hard to construe as selfish (although such construction has been attempted).
The freedom to choose is an amazing gift. Science can’t explain it. God
has given us this gift: freedom of choice.
How do we know what the right decision is?
Who to marry
Where to live
What to do for work
Where to send my kids to school
Today we’re going to find out some amazing things about God’s character,
his love. In the area of how to know God’s will. How to make decisions.
I work at in the water industry. We have a structured way of making
decisions. Look at the options, drivers for change, stakeholders, risks.
Analyse the costs and benefits. Write it all up, then take it to a committee
In our personal lives though, how do we make decisions? As Christians,
how do we make our decisions?
Can we know God’s will? I believe we can, but maybe not in the way you
may think. As we learn the secret to knowing God’s will for our decisions today,
I think we’re going to appreciate God’s love for us more.
This is a sermon of two halves: what doesn’t work, then what does work.
Here’s a Bible verse that sounds like the answer for good
decision-making. Is 30:21.
Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” Whenever you turn to the right hand Or whenever you turn to the left.
This idea of the still small voice, that tells you which option to take
at every turn. For every decision you make God tells you which option is best.
Should I wear this shirt or that shirt? Ok, this one.
Is that the way it works?
We’ll come back to this verse a little later – it’s important. But I’m
going to suggest though that some Christians may misunderstand and misapply
this verse. It’s easy to get confused on this.
First we need to have another look at God’s character of love and
freedom. Then this verse will make a whole lot of sense.
God’s character is beautiful, and a daily relationship with Him is
amazing. Sometimes we have misplaced expectations, though.
Have you ever felt
that you just don’t pick up the right signs when it comes to a plan for your
life? Have you ever felt that God’s “impressions”
led you into a brick wall?
A lot of people
would like to believe that God would speak to us whenever we make a decision.
Guide us away from disasters. Guide us to the good life. But many of us have been frustrated in our
attempts to get any clear sense of God’s will.
The signs seem to point in different directions.
Maybe you’ve been
in a situation where you were faced with a tough decision. You wanted to know
whether to take a new job, to move to a new town, or continue a
relationship. Maybe you went to bed
wishing you could wake up and find a big fat “yes” or “no” painted in the sky
when you woke up.
And then you feel
even worse when someone tells you that God gave them clear direction. But
you’re still waiting for Him to give you clear guidance. Does it make you feel
just a bit jealous? Why doesn’t God direct
I’ve seen some interesting approaches to decision making, among my
One person used to open the Bible randomly, blindly point to a verse,
then interpret it as either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ about buying a particular investment.
Another friend used to flip a coin for his decisions, and pray that God
would direct through that.
I know a girl who was extra keen to make her decisions based on signs
that God was leading. She said to her boyfriend that she’d prayed to God that
she would marry the man who said a particular phrase to her. She didn’t say what
that phrase was. She did say that he’d almost said it though.
They broke up a few months later. He must not have said the right
Another young couple met at church and started a relationship. He
believed God spoke to him and said to him that she was the woman for him, so he
asked her to marry him. She said yes, and it was happily ever after. Well, not
quite. They divorced and both remarried. They both started to question if God
even exists. Partly because they thought God was leading them and now they feel
I could share plenty more examples. People being impressed to read
certain Bible verses that seem to point to a particular decision. But that too
can lead you astray. The devil tried that trick with Jesus. He quoted the Bible
to try to tempt Jesus to do the wrong thing. You can read about it in Matthew
direct intervention in our lives can be addictive. Or at least thinking we are
being directed by God.
We can easily get
trapped into thinking that “God’s will for me is one path and one path only.
The exact career path, home locations, “the one” life partner. Any deviation
from that one thread of decision-making is living out of His will.
And if I’m not
seeing clear signs, then I must be off that one path for my life.” At least
that’s how many Christians think.
I’ve thought that
there’s only one path and it’s my job to find it and stay on it as close as I
can. It’s addictive, and it’s also deceptive.
In contrast, I
believe God gives us freedom to choose our path within a broad range of options
that are all within His will. His Word gives broad principles of how we should live
That principle is
evident right from the beginning. Did God tell Adam and Eve which food to eat?
No, he let them
choose from a very wide variety, but just said there was one tree not to eat
from. In Gen 2 God said:
“Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of
the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat.”
This is a key
principle for Christian decision making. There’s often many choices that God
can bless. God gives clear boundaries for what is good and bad, but there’s
often a broad range of options that are acceptable and good. We often waste a
lot of time and energy trying to be sure that we make the best choice when our
lives could be much more effective if we just made a good decision and moved
The devil has
twisted this to make it look like God is restrictive on our choices. In Gen 3
he said to Eve that God told them they couldn’t eat from every tree.
There’s actually a
Bible verse that says we should make good decisions and move on, not agonise
over the best choice: Eccl 11:4,6: The whole chapter is great.
Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap…. Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.
In other words,
make good decisions and move on without worrying over whether it was the best
Only rarely does
God specifically tell us who to marry. Hosea and Gomer spring to mind as an
Or where to live.
Or what career to
pursue: think of Jonah, Moses and Saul who became Paul.
I believe these
are special cases. Exceptions, not the rule.
In none of these
cases do we find the human praying to God that He would reveal His choice in these
specific matters. God simply came and unambiguously gave an unexpected
Christians today tend to seek God’s will in their decision-making much like
We want to avoid
the hard work, risk and responsibility involved in constantly prioritising
among good options for major life decisions. We want God to do more than simply
tell us broadly what is good and bad. We want Him to tell us which specific
option is best. Wouldn’t that make life much easier? I say this looking in the
Who likes making
hard! Not many people enjoy the responsibility of making decisions. Who’s been
in a group that goes out to eat or do something and you all look for someone
else to decide where to go? No one wants to make the decision in case it’s not
the best thing.
But God created us
with this funny thing called free choice.
God created us to
be free persons, with the ability to creatively express ourselves. To be
independent. To love. Love is only possible for one who has freedom to choose.
Otherwise we are merely robots.
God is a good God!
Way better than a fortune teller. Let’s not sell ourselves short on just how
good God is! He didn’t give us the gift of free choice, only to turn around and
want to take it back from us.
In a good
marriage, both partners try to please each other. But imagine if a wife tried
to please her husband by asking him which job he wanted her to take, which
clothes he wanted her to wear, and made every decision according to his
desires. One of them would soon become unhappy. The wife would tire of the
husband’s overbearing control. Or the husband would tire of his wife’s
inability to figure things out for herself. Probably both of them would end up
Yet sometimes we
treat our relationship with God like that. Why do we want Him to make all our
major decisions? Are we really looking for a mutually satisfying loving
relationship based on freedom?
I don’t know about
you, but my motivations have been selfish and lazy, when I’ve fallen into that
trap, of treating God like a fortune teller.
relationship is happiest when there is freedom of choice – freedom of creative
expression. All within rather broad boundaries of what’s acceptable and what
isn’t. I think that’s how it is with God, too.
God didn’t give us
the gift of free choice only to want to take it back from us.
We’re also God’s
children. If the parent makes every decision for the child, the relationship
will soon become dysfunctional and the child will not learn or grow.
In reality, God
gives us broad principles of right and wrong and gives us freedom to exercise
our creativity and choice.
Isn’t that what
we’d prefer for our kids?
Can you imagine
wanting your kids to just ask you to direct all their career and life choices?
Yet that’s effectively what we expect God to do for us sometimes.
prefer your growing children to express their own unique identity and make
decisions for themselves? We still like our kids to talk to us about their
decisions – just like God likes us to bring every part of our lives to Him in
prayer. Prayer is asking God for wisdom, for His character.
You might be
thinking: “but asking God to make all our decisions has the added benefit of Him
knowing the future. So he can tell us what’s going to work out best.” (Like a
The problem with
the fortune-teller approach is that God’s Word doesn’t work like that. It gives
us principles on which to grow in making our own sound decisions. It’s not
meant to be a recipe for discerning God’s choices as if we were reading tarot
cards or astrology.
God’s character is
much more beautiful than that of a fortune teller! He created us to be much
more than robots.
There are also
many practical problems with the belief that God led you to a particular past
decision that you made, or direction that you chose.
Let’s say you pray
something like “God, if I get the job I’ve applied for in Melbourne, then I’ll
take it as Your leading that You want me to move my family there.”
everything seems to confirm that “God” wants you in Melbourne. You get the job;
your wife also gets a transfer there. The kids find an excellent school.
Everything is going really well.
Then the business
that employed you winds up. Your wife falls pregnant again so soon neither of
you will be working.
The kids’ school
ends up becoming a negative influence on the kids due to bullying and other
What do you do?
“God” led you to Melbourne, right?
If God really did
enter into all our bargaining and direct our lives like that, would He put an
expiry date on His leading in a particular decision? Would He say, for example,
“OK, move to Melbourne and stay there no matter what happens for the rest of
your lives.” Or maybe, “until things go bad and you feel like going somewhere
To take this
approach consistently, you would really have to stay following a particular
direction until you received a new or different direction.
If you felt that
God chose a particular school for your children, would you be free to move them
if they were bullied or abused at that school? Would you interpret any
adversity as a new “direction” from God? Or maybe God is testing your faith?
How do you know?
There are always
going to be exceptional circumstances or events that the original decision
doesn’t cover. Unless we literally do have God constantly directing every
decision, every moment of our lives. Right down to shoe laces and lane changes.
But is that really
what that verse in Isaiah 30:21 meant?
We’re going to
resolve this tension soon. We’re going to see what this verse actually means,
and how God’s character truly is love. He’s a God of love and freedom, not
fortune-telling or control. He didn’t give us the gift of free choice only to
take it back from us.
Things become even
more complicated when other people are involved.
My mum met someone who had a very clear idea of God’s will for his life.
He said he had a direct connection to God’s will. Impressive, eh? Only problem:
this guy said to my Mum: God told me to marry you.
Oops! What would you do? Fortunately mum was able to think quickly so
she said: Well, God hasn’t told me that.
The guy was a bit of a fruitloop so my mum got away as quick as she
Think twice before
praying: “God, I’ll marry the first person who speaks to me.” Such a prayer is
foolish. It doesn’t make what happens next “God’s will” just because you put
your fortune-telling “God” in a corner.
Jephthah made a
stupid deal with God that the next thing that came through the door he would
offer as a sacrifice to God. And alas in came his daughter. The tragic story is
in Judges 11. The lesson is that we shouldn’t pick random signs like that to
make our decisions. God doesn’t intervene just because we made some deal on our
This story may not
make much sense at first, but God actually loves us too much to intervene when
we make stupid deals.
The fact that God
didn’t intervene with Jephthah’s daughter is actually a demonstration of His
character of love and freedom. The story is there for our benefit, even though
at first it seems terrible. The mistake was by Jephthah, and it’s recorded for us
so that we don’t treat God like a fortune teller in our own lives.
Now we’re moving
into the second half. We’ve looked at things that don’t work now we’re looking
at things that do work.
Does God ever
direct particular choices for an individual’s specific life decisions? Very
For example Saul
on the Damascus road. If He does, it’s, usually unexpected and unambiguous.
God is leading
through the circumstances of our lives constantly. We call it Providence. But
we usually don’t have specific insight into how God is working in our lives.
If God does give
you a specific instruction, then you should definitely follow God’s direction
with all your heart and soul.
Or if you have a
passion or a burden on your heart to do something in harmony with God’s word, do
it with everything you’ve got. Like Ezra and Nehemiah who we’ve been studying
about in this quarter’s Sabbath school lesson.
If you don’t have
specific instruction from God on your particular life choices, it is not
because you are any less spiritual. You can still live your life knowing you
are within His will. Look at this verse in Galatians 1:4:
who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this
present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,
If we’re letting
God deliver us from this present evil age, then we know we’re in God’s will! It
almost sounds too simple, doesn’t it?
So then should we
depend more on ourselves for making decisions and spend less energy seeking to
know God’s will? Absolutely not. Seeking knowledge of God’s will is more about
understanding His character and growing in wisdom, faith and love than about
getting arbitrary signs that point to option A or B.
And yes, we should
still give God the glory for His leading in our lives. For giving us wisdom,
and growing our characters. But hesitate before you claim that God directed you
to a particular choice as though He were a fortune-teller that could be
commanded to give you an answer through a job interview or a flip of a coin.
That could backfire on you; and bring God’s name into disrepute.
I’ve made this
mistake, of treating God like a fortune teller. I prayed that if I got accepted
to do a PhD, I would take it as God’s will. When I got accepted, I told people
that God led me to do the PhD. In hindsight, I don’t actually have any evidence
that doing the PhD really was God’s specific calling for my life at that stage.
The mistake was not so much doing the PhD, but claiming that that was God’s
will for me.
What if I prayed
“God, if I get accepted to be a drug mule I’ll take that as Your will that I
should go to Indonesia.” I would most likely get the gig. But does that make it
God’s will because I prayed that prayer?
What if Steve
Smith prays, “God, I’ll take it as Your will that I should play Test cricket
for the summer if I get selected”.
Of course he’ll
get selected for the next test match. Whether playing cricket would be God’s specific
choice for him or not is an entirely different question.
usually go over Sabbath. The first test in Brisbane next month goes over
Sabbath. So on that basis his choice should be automatic. He doesn’t need a
sign. God has already told him not to work or do his own pleasure on the
Now don’t get me
wrong, I like Steve Smith. I’m happy for his story of redemption after being banned for a year.
It’s a great story. But wouldn’t it be even better if he found Jesus and gave
up cricket because he found something that truly satisfies! Why chase fame and
glory through sport when you have everything in Jesus?
If Steve Smith
chose to obey God, he would have to give up Test cricket. Following God is much
more rewarding than being regarded as the best batsman in the world. What shall
it profit a man if he gain the whole world but lose his own soul?
Often doors will
open or close suggesting an answer to your prayers. But there’s always the
problem of not knowing whether an obstacle is God allowing your faith to be
tested or God closing a door. Or whether an opportunity is God allowing you to
be tempted or God opening a door.
Often God simply
doesn’t intervene at all, beyond natural cause and effect. He allows us to
mature and grow in our decision-making. Slowly we begin to realise the
confusion created by treating God like a fortune-teller. As though we could
command him to give us answers whenever we’re in a pickle.
We treat God like
Google sometimes – we go to Him only when we want answers. And sometimes God works
with that! He reaches us where we’re at – thankfully!
God is our loving
Father. He’s more than happy to give us wisdom and freedom to creatively
express ourselves. He loves to see our loving response to His goodness as we
learn and grow. This does not lead to decision-making independent from God. It
leads us to closer intimacy with our Heavenly Father. Over time we appreciate more
and more the amazing gift of freedom of choice. That is love, and God
God has given us freedom to choose, to express ourselves, to be our own
unique person. In short: to love, not to be robots. So to be anxious for the
right answer for every decision is missing the point. God didn’t give us free
choice only to want to take it back again.
I want to leave
you with three things that do work for knowing God’s will.
principle for the secret of knowing God’s will for your life is this — become
familiar with God’s voice. How? Not
primarily by listening to voices inside us, but by listening to the Bible, the
Word, that God Himself has spoken.
This is so basic.
If you want to know when God is speaking, you need to be familiar with His
voice. What does He sound like? What kind of things does He say? What does He
tend to emphasize? You find all that
recorded in the Bible.
That’s where you
KNOW that you’re listening to God’s voice – learning the secret of His will.
Jesus Himself gives
us a wonderful promise about His words:
“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I
will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:”
this with the one who ignores His words.
That’s like building your house on shifting sand.
The Word is a good
foundation. It’s where we build from.
There’s a lot more things the Bible says that we know are God’s will.
Here’s some examples.
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who
desires all men to be savedand to come to the knowledge of
the truth. 1 Tim 2:3,4
In everything give thanks; for this is the will
of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thes 5:18
For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may
put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.
1 Pet 2:15
The next principle is look for signs that make sense.
Be careful when you ask for a sign. I’m not saying don’t do it. But
think about what you’re doing. The Bible gives some interesting examples.
Gideon requested a sign with the fleece after God already told him that he
would defeat Midian. God might answer your prayers for a sign, but think about
it: was Gideon’s request out of faith or doubt? Did God already tell Him enough
to act before the sign?
The Pharisees asked Jesus for a sign, and listen to the response of
Jesus in Matthew 16:4:
A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and no sign shall
be given to it…
So if you want to look for signs, pray for signs that make sense. And
not just to you, but to those looking on – even those who don’t believe in God.
If you’re deciding on a life partner, ask for insight into the person’s
character, not for that special person to send you a text message in the next
Too often people
ask God to speak to them through signs that are completely arbitrary. They want a yes or a no.
And they give God
instructions on how to send the message.
“If you want me to attend that church, then have the pastor call me
In other words,
people just pick something out of the blue and ask God to turn that it into a
ways of discovering God’s will than that.
God can give you signs that make sense, signs that are information. If
you’re evaluating churches, ask God to show you information about those
churches, good or bad.
If you need to
decide on a life partner, a new job, or moving to a new place, ask God to show
you information about your options – the good things and the bad things. These
are signs that make sense.
The Bible says God
wants to give us wisdom. That doesn’t mean all the answers, it means the
understanding and skills we need to come to the answers ourselves.
Let’s look at
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all
liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
God wants us to
GROW in wisdom and knowledge. Just
picking signs out of the blue, doesn’t help us do that. God wants to make us wiser,
not luckier. So we need to be more
careful in looking for signs. Is this a
healthy relationship, or an unhealthy relationship? Is this choice going to hurt the people I
love, or help them? Is this new job
going to expand my abilities, or shrink them?
Ask the right questions.
Ask God to give
you meaningful answers, to show you evidence one way or the other. These are the signs that make sense.
Just asking for
God to answer our questions with a yes or no through some random sign will not
help us grow in wisdom.
We need to pray
for wisdom, not just answers.
That’s why Jesus
said: (Matthew 16:4)
A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and no sign shall
be given to it…
Men, have you ever
wondered why women sometimes don’t tell us exactly what they want? If we want
to choose a gift for them, or take them on a romantic date, they sometimes only
give us vague answers as to what they want. Do you know the reason for this? Neither
do I really. But I’ve been told that it’s because the women in our lives want
to know that we love them, and that we know how to express that for ourselves
without being told exactly what to do. They don’t want to spoonfeed us!
Sometimes I think
it’s the same with God. He doesn’t want to spoonfeed us, to tell us exactly
what we should do in certain situations. He’s given us the principles in His
word. Now He just wants us to use the love, wisdom and creativity that He’s given
us. To live out our lives in a way that demonstrates we choose to love Him. Not
as robots that just follow detailed instructions. God doesn’t promise to make
us robots, He promises to give us wisdom to discern His voice.
Am I saying that therefore we should totally abandon the idea of Is
30:21 – the text about a voice in our ear guiding us to the left or right? Not
at all, the verse is there for a reason. To find out why it’s there, let’s read
the very next verse, verse 22.
You will also defile the covering of your images of silver, and the ornament of your molded images of gold; You will throw them away as an unclean thing; You will say to them “Get away!”
The verse doesn’t say that God will make every decision for us.
It means He will guide us away from evil and toward good. We will know the
difference between right & wrong. He speaks to us through our conscience to
tell us what is right and wrong.
It’s clear from the context and the rest of the Bible that signs for
every decision is not what the verse is telling us. The Bible does not promote
fortune telling! But it does give enough guidance to help us know & choose
right over sin – every time.
I think God allows
us to not have immediate clarity on all our decisions between good alternatives
for good reason. I think it’s dangerous for us as humans to have inside
knowledge as to God’s will ahead of time. It’s might be OK looking back, but
when we’re looking forward, there are several risks:
We’ll take things for granted. We’d take
people for granted. Instead of choosing to love our spouse, we’d stay with them
because God told us to.
We’ll become arrogant and difficult
to work with. It’s hard to argue with someone who claims to have God’s will on
If we really did know where God was
leading us, we might freak out because sometimes He leads us places that we’ll
only ever understand looking back, not looking forward.
Now, let’s look at
our third and final principle which will help us find the secret of knowing
God’s will in our lives. It’s this: listen to those who listen.
When we have to
make an important decision, it always helps to get feedback from other
people. We don’t want to restrict
ourselves solely to a voice inside our own heads. Other voices are important. The most useful
voices are people who listen, people who have themselves listened to the voice
Godly counsellors are
a big help. Men and women who have
experience in listening to God speak through His Word. People who are happily
following God’s will for their own lives.
good piece of advice in Proverbs 11:14:
Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counsellors
there is safety.
Where do we find
safety? In the multitude of counsellors. Listen to those who listen. Here’s why that’s
I don’t know if
you’ve noticed, but in the Bible there are many examples of God speaking to us
through other people, but only a few where He directly spoke to a human.
messengers and prophets to warn Israel, Jonah to warn Ninevah, and even another
prophet to warn His own servant David. God could speak in our ear directly, but
sometimes he uses other people.
interesting example – and that is Saul who became Paul. God did actually speak
to Saul directly, but only very briefly. What did God tell Saul to do? He could
have laid out the whole plan then and there, while he was lying on the ground
blind. But he told him to go find Ananias, and that Ananias would tell him what
to do. You can read all about it in Acts 9.
So what have we learned today?
First, God’s will is not simply one path for your life. God has created
you with freedom and love. You have creative choice. There are many options for
your life that are within God’s will for you. God didn’t give us the gift of
free choice only to take it back again.
Second, we learned how to make good decisions that are within God’s
will. How do you choose the green paths and not the red paths?
Become familiar with God’s voice –
in the Bible
Look for signs that make sense (ask
for wisdom! – not answers)
And listen to those who listen
Do you want your decision-making to be more in harmony with God’s will? Do
you want to know God’s will for your life? Then ask for wisdom more often than you
ask for signs. The bible says we should ask for wisdom, but Jesus says wicked
people ask for signs. Ask for God’s character before you ask for the answers
that you want.
More often than not, God will answer in ways you don’t expect, because
we have a lot of growing to do to understand God’s will and character. I know I
have a lot of growing to do!
The answer to knowing God’s will for your life is becoming thoroughly
intimate with God’s word. Praying every day that God transforms your character
into harmony with the principles of the Bible. Praying for God’s character of
love. That’s the important part of being in God’s will. Then you’ll be able to
make the little and big decisions in your life more and more in harmony with
His will. But it takes time. A lifetime of growth, with plenty of learning from
mistakes along the way.
I’m sorry if you were hoping for a silver bullet formula for knowing
God’s exact recipe for all your decisions. Like a fortune teller. I simply
don’t believe that’s consistent with God’s character of love and freedom.
The reality of God is much better than that! God gave us freedom to
choose, to grow. He doesn’t then turn around and ask us to give up that
The best choice we can make is in Josh 24:15. Choose ye this day whom you will serve. Choose today to serve God.
If we do that for all our decision-making, that will get us a long way.
A relationship with God gives us more freedom, not less. Not freedom to be
selfish and do whatever we want to do, but freedom from sin. Freedom to love, and
to be creative in our expression of that love.
Will you commit to taking time every day to learn more about God’s character of love and freedom, and letting that rub off on you and your decision-making? Will you commit to choosing today to serve God, and to personal growth with God every day of your life?
I believe, for all of us, our decision-making in 10 years time will be
way more in harmony with God’s will – his character of love and freedom – than
it is today. There’s no simple recipe for instantly moving all your
decision-making into exact harmony with God’s master plan for your life. God is
not a fortune teller!
God loves us enough to give us freedom.
Following God’s will involves continual learning and growth. Choosing
what’s good, true and loving over what’s selfish. It’s the challenge of
Christian growth. It takes time, patience, growing trust, and all based on love
Respecting the sacredness of Uluru to the Anangu people is the main publicised reason for advocating against climbing.
The principle of protecting religious freedoms, on the other hand, should not require that we all treat everyone else’s sacred items as sacred to ourselves. We don’t all hold each other’s beliefs simultaneously. Rather, each should be free to worship what we each regard as sacred as we each choose individually, without infringing on anyone else’s rights while so doing.
There is an underlying issue of land rights and ownership, for which there are no simple answers. To boil it down to a simple question of whether tourists should be allowed to climb Uluru risks reducing a complex issue down to symbolic tokenism without actually meaningfully contributing to reconciliation for our first nations people.
There are real human safety risks that do actually mean that the climb as it is being conducted now is not ideally suited for the present or future. This is at the forefront of the justification for closing the climb according to the Park Rangers with whom I spoke.
After three days staying at Yulara and exploring lots of enthralling
walking tracks and activities in and around the Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park,
the weather cleared and the climb opened. My wife and I took turns climbing
Uluru while the other one looked after our young children. It almost didn’t
work out for us to be able to do it, but just hours before our departing flight
and a month before the scheduled permanent
closure of the climb, we scratched this controversial item
off our bucket lists.
Now, lots of my friends will think that climbing Uluru is the wrong
thing to do. I hear you: I too can see plenty of good reasons to close the
climb. Here I outline why I chose to climb it. Not so much to justify my
decision – many
would say that nothing could justify it – but to highlight and challenge
some complex and conflicting narratives.
First, let’s examine the stated reason for the requests not to climb
prominently displayed on signs around the site:
‘Our traditional law teaches us the proper way to behave. We ask you to respect our law by not climbing Uluru. What visitors call the climb is the traditional route taken by our traditional Mala men on their arrival at Uluru in the creation time. It has great spiritual significance.’
I get that. I too am a spiritual person and regard many things in
life as sacred.
If one of the Anangu people was personally offended because they
knew that I personally climbed Uluru, I would think harder about my decision to
climb the rock, especially if I had an existing relationship with them, or may
do so in the future. When I climbed, however, I saw no Anangu people in the
area. Just car- and bus-loads of tourists. It is much more likely that my
choice to climb will offend
(those unfairly characterised as) urban elites than
A couple of days before I climbed, an Anangu girl was selling her
artwork in the carpark where we were watching sunset. I asked her if she minded
people climbing Uluru and she said she didn’t mind with a casual shrug.
Now that I’m posting this blog, there’s a risk, of course, that I
may be offending local cultural and spiritual values for any Anangu who happen
to read this. If you are offended, my sincere apologies, but please keep
Being a spiritual person, I value my freedom to worship as I choose. I strongly affirm the right of the Anangu people to treat Uluru as sacred. Similarly I would like everyone to respect my right to keep my Saturday Sabbath as a day of rest and worship. This means I refrain from working or engaging in any form of trade or business. But for me to require that everyone honour my Sabbath and refrain from working would be an overstep. I would be moving from protecting my freedom of worship to forcing others to treat something that is sacred to me (i.e., a portion of time) as sacred to themselves too.
A relevant analogy here is the way that Hindus treat cows as sacred.
himself did not want to restrict his entire nation from killing or eating cows
as he recognised that not everyone views cows as sacred. (No issue for me – I’m
I see the sacredness of Uluru to the Anangu people as similar to sacred cows and
Sabbath / Sunday sacredness. If someone gets upset because I didn’t treat the
Uluru climb as sacred in the way that the Anangu do, then they should be
equally upset because most of the world eats beef, and because everyone
dishonours a portion of time that is sacred to a significant number of the
world’s population. Muslims regard Friday
as holy; Jews and Sabbath-keeping Christians such as myself regard Saturday as holy; and much of
Christianity regards Sunday
To treat the sacred customs and laws of the Anangu as normative for
everyone may end up being condescending tokenism. It is as though repentant
colonialists are now saying ‘we regret obliterating your culture, customs and
laws, and now we will force us all to abide by it (though in an area where the
impact on our daily lives will be minimal yet we can engage in virtue signalling to
condemn others who disagree)’.
There definitely is a clash of values between everyday Australian
culture and the culture of the Anangu. I resonate with some of the values expressed
by the chair of the Board of Management for the Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park,
which made the decision to close the Uluru climb:
Whitefellas see the land in economic terms where Anangu see it as Tjukurpa. If the Tjukurpa is gone so is everything. We want to hold on to our culture. If we don’t it could disappear completely in another 50 or 100 years. We have to be strong to avoid this. The government needs to respect what we are saying about our culture in the same way it expects us to abide by its laws. It doesn’t work with money. Money is transient, it comes and goes like the wind. In Anangu culture Tjukurpa is ever lasting.
However, my own values come from different sacred writings: the
Bible. I don’t expect the Board chair to honour all the laws in the Bible that
are important to me. For true equality and reconciliation we should all be
given freedom to choose which sacred laws to follow.
I’m a big fan of reconciliation. For me the most complete and
sustainable form of reconciliation starts with each of us being reconciled to
our Creator. Then we will naturally be reconciled with each other.
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Cor 5:18-21
This reconciliation is all voluntary, based on love and freedom
rather than imposition of sacred rules. There remains total freedom to reject
the offer of reconciliation and choose selfishness instead. But that’s another
Back to the climb, respect and reconciliation for the Anangu.
“You wouldn’t climb a church, would you? This is the exact same, as Uluru is a sacred site for the Traditional owners of the land, the Anangu People.“
I don’t condone the past forceful colonial dispossession of Aboriginals from their land. I’m not certain on the best solution for the future, but I’m guessing it probably doesn’t include handing back ownership of all Australian land to our first nations people. I honestly don’t know how much land or which land should be handed back. I do know that yesterday I simply exercised my right to be in that part of Australia, including to climb Uluru.
You may think that flood story is all a bit of far-fetched
mythology; but here’s something to ponder. Local Aboriginal tribes also have a
mythological Creation account for Uluru that includes a flood story with the
specific detail of 40 days of rain
that matches the biblical narrative. (This is only one of many
similar such indigenous
creation accounts around the world.)
This provides a challenge for the publicly sanctioned discourses of
Aboriginal cultural sacredness and also the current scientific consensus
regarding origins. Any biblical creation or flood story does not fit
comfortably into socially acceptable narrative, yet provides remarkable
overlaps with Aboriginal
dreamtime stories and actual empirical geological
evidence of the rock
I do also care about our first nations people. There were many things that I saw while on holidays in the Northern Territory that warmed my heart. Aboriginal people have created sustainable tourism to grow their own economy while protecting the environment, sharing the experience and their culture with us. Anangu and other tribal leaders from Uluru to Kakadu gave us great insights into the land, plants, animals, people and culture of the regions we visited.
But there were also somewhat saddening observations. At Katherine,
where my brother lives, I went into the bank where an elderly Aboriginal man
was trying to withdraw money. He tried three times to provide a matching
signature but each time was unable to. He was drunk. The bank teller caringly
suggested that he go have some water to drink and come back after a couple of
hours to try again.
At our lodge at Yulara a middle aged Aboriginal man from a neighbouring tribe (not Anangu) asked us to buy some alcohol for him. We said that we’ve never drunk alcohol in our lives and that he’d be healthier if he also didn’t drink any more. We had a friendly conversation for a few minutes but he was obviously disappointed that we didn’t support his desire for more alcohol. We were also sad for his plight brought on by the imposition of Western cultural excesses on a people ill equipped to handle such vices.
OK, so back to my climb. Yes, it was a once-in-in-a-lifetime opportunity that was too attractive to pass up. OK, I’ll admit there’s probably a bit of selfish motivation mixed in there. But if my selfishness was all about ‘conquering’ Uluru for myself, then I would have just done it without researching and posting this. True, my attempt at navigating the conflicting narratives in this post may also be tainted by selfish desire to prove my point – or gain notoriety?
But I would like to think that I’m actually making a valid point about the various conflicting narratives in our world where modern media (particularly of the ‘social’ variety) dumb-down discourse through virtue signalling and other devices that actually tend toward polarisation and away from reconciliation. (Why else would Israel Folau be vilified and ostracised as homophobic when there is scant substantive evidence for such a conclusion?)
Moving along, I regard a couple of other values as important and relevant here: safety and the environment.The safety of climbers provides perhaps the most striking of contrasts and mismatches. For the various Park Rangers I spoke to at Uluru, the real issue behind the climb closure is safety. For their own Work Health & Safety requirements rangers wear an attached harness to climb Uluru while the public goes up with no safety guidance or requirements other than one chain that goes the length of the steep climb.
The lone chain for climbers to hang onto is an anachronism. It was an appropriate response to climbing deaths in the 1960s, but in today’s litigious, risk averse and safety conscious age, one would expect to see a gondola lift or at least a harness system a la Sydney Harbour BridgeClimb. But even that would be distinctly out of place in the rugged natural environment that is Uluru. The chain itself is regarded as a scar on the naked beauty of the rock. Not to mention the buses lined up in the carpark spewing forth hundreds of tourists at once into what is ideally experienced and enjoyed as a serene and relatively solitary environment.
Then there is the mismatch of the bravado of the unfit and overweight thinking they are able to tackle the raw wilderness adventure that is an Uluru ascent. Rangers suggested that at the least there could be mandatory health screening before admission to attempt an ascent. The majority of deaths on Uluru have been from over-exertion: heart-attack. I would also suggest that a better way to ensure safety of climbers is to have a sign-on / sign-off register, and to only allow a limited number commence each minute rather than an en masse assault like an advancing army of Alexander the Great, only much less organised and more likely to wound each other than gloriously conquer Uluru.
The strain on the natural environment is another good reason to cease the climb in its current format. We saw several personal items falling uncontrollably down the rock – water bottles, camera parts, tissues, hats – all in the space of a few minutes. For those who take the better part of the day, there are the inevitable deposits of human waste (and toilet paper) in the crevasses and water courses on the rock.
There are numerous cultural clashes too. We saw angry Chinese
would-be climbers shouting at the rangers because they closed the climb for
safety reasons due to high winds. The tourists’ frustration was understandable
when they could see other climbers beginning their ascent, lucky to have
entered the gate just before the rangers assessed the risk as too great. Surely
there is a better risk management approach than to simply stop more people
entering the climb while those already on the rock are free to take all day
with no information service to alert them of heightened wind risk.
Contrast that with the anger
of virtue signalling city dwellers shaming
climbers. Meanwhile the local Anangu people did not show any anger that I saw;
rather indifference or sadness at the history of exploitation of their country
In my own climb I tried to resolve as many of the mismatches as I could. I took only my phone up to grab some quick pictures and climbed up and down without ever touching the chain. This made it easy to overtake the hundreds of tourists ill-prepared for such a climb. I only spent about 45 minutes on the rock in total: 20 minutes to the summit (about 10 min to top of chain) and 25 minutes down, stopping to admire the raw natural beauty of the rock and its surrounds.
As should be obvious by now, physical fitness is another value of mine. A few days earlier I also ran around the base walk in around 52 minutes (11 km). My whole family rode bikes around it on another day, taking our time (about 2 hours for 16 km). We also went to sunrise and sunset viewing places on multiple occasions each, and did the walks at Kata Tjuta.
The Uluru climb actually reminds me of climbing straight up the face
Pyramid at Girraween. The incline, risks and level of difficulty are quite
similar. I have walked up the first Pyramid countless times (and the second
Pyramid once) so my one and only climb of Uluru had a sense of déjà vu for muscle memory if not for the
completely different surrounding terrain and type and size of rock.
So I’m happy to have immersed myself in some of the natural, cultural and historical world of Uluru. At least, enough to have formed my own perspective on the many clashes of culture, ideology and values that it highlights. Unsurprisingly, with such conflicting values and narratives, I leave with mixed feelings about the upcoming permanent closure of the climb, and invite you to form your own views.
My wife Renee and I have been approached over the years by several friends promoting at least five different multi-level marketed (MLM) health brands.
What do they think? Either we’re really unhealthy and need their cure-all, or maybe they think we’re so into health that we’ll get excited by their products.
Both would be at least partially true. We’ve both suffered our fair share of infectious diseases and chronic illness. Not enough to stop us living ‘normal’ lives (whatever that is!?). And we’re both into health and wellbeing. Renee is a naturopath. I’m into running. We’re both into good whole plant foods and lots of it!
I’m sure the MLM products are all great – most of them anyway. A quick google search reveals many positive reviews for most MLM health brands. There are also a lot of negative reviews out there too.
I’m usually a bit cautious. There are some obstacles for me to get around before getting too excited:
They typically don’t list their ingredients and quantities or concentrations. They hide behind ‘proprietary’ ingredients.
The MLM business model is a turn-off for me. I’m not a fan of MLM for either accessing or distributing beneficial health products. It makes motivation too easy to conflict between sharing health and making money – and even then only a few actually do make money out of MLM. Unfortunately the business side of MLM sometimes ends up being a strain on friendships.
Even if only one of the MLM products was as good as the claims made for all of them, that one would naturally come out on top and everyone would be onto it – in particular a high proportion of top athletes. But it’s actually rare to find an athlete spruiking any MLM health boost, let alone finding one that naturally comes out on top.
I don’t think they’re all snake oil. I’m sure there are tons of beneficial MLM health products.
Between us Renee and I have had personal experience with a few different MLM health products:
Mannatech – I was personally helped a few years ago by this. I had friends/relatives trying really hard to convince me to buy into the business but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
Isagenix – We’ve both had friends/family get into this and try to get us onto it. Some of the products are OK but no better than other stuff Renee can get as a practitioner.
Young Living – Again we’ve been helped by these oils and we have friends who are right into the business side of this, and pushing it hard. Good product.
And more recently we’ve had friends tell us about Zija…
I’m open-minded about these things. Perhaps one of them really is the bees knees. Or perhaps more than one.
However, for the following reasons, I’m not about to make joining an MLM a core part of my life:
MLM blurs the lines between recommending what is best for the recipient and what is best for the salesperson. Not every health issue needs solutions from the same MLM brand. It takes a person of high integrity to be able to recommend a solution in which they have no commercial interest when their own product, from which they can make money, is not as appropriate.
Many MLMers convince themselves that their products really are the only ones that will help every health issue. For the neutral observer, there will always be suspicion no matter how much integrity and wisdom an MLMer has. There are enough blatant snake oil sales pitches from MLMers that there is a high risk that even an MLMer of integrity will be automatically tarnished with the same brush.
There is only one cure-all known to mankind for complete healing, and that is best summed up by a word that exists in Greek but doesn’t have a single English equivalent. The Greek word is the verb “sozo” and it needs two English words to translate its meaning: “to save” and “to heal”.
What’s more, “sozo” is free. There’s no real catches, just that you can’t earn it. If you try to work for it, you’ll lose your “sozo”. The efficacy of “sozo” relies on belief in unmerited favour.
But I’m getting off topic. The thing is, why should I expend my time and energy pushing some imperfect little health kick and alienate my friends because I’m perceived as always pushing my health product?
There’s something infinitely better – and free – that it is my privilege to share with anyone who wants it. Now that’s even worth taking the risk of losing friendships and reputation, because it really does work!
Life is all about choices… or is it? Is free will just an illusion or is there an immaterial, moral dimension to our experience, to reality? Are we really free? And if so, how should we make the most of that freedom and make the best choices? Is there a shortcut to optimising our decisions by consulting some fortune-telling God? Watch this video to find out.
500 years ago Martin Luther kick-started the Protestant Reformation with his own 95 theses posted in Wittenberg on 31 October 1517. Much has changed in our world since then, and Martin Luther’s protest was a significant moment in improving many things.
But there’s still a lot left to protest about. I’ve chosen my own 95 points of protests about various social, environmental and religious issues relevant to our world today.
Second coming & prophecy
The same revolutionary Jesus Christ who literally restarted how we count history 2017 years ago promised He would come back to earth and restart history again.
The Bible prophecies of Daniel 2 and Daniel 9 give astoundingly accurate predictions of future events, culminating in Jesus first and second comings. Dead sea scrolls demonstrate authenticity. Jesus’ first coming was exactly as predicted, as were major world events through to now. One event still outstanding: Jesus’ second coming.
I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe. John 14:29 – Jesus
And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately. Matthew 24:6 – Jesus
I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. John 14:3 – Jesus
(Ir)relevance of the church
Protestant = one protesting against misrepresentations of God and the Bible. 500 years after Luther posted his 95 theses, such protest is very much still relevant. But Christians fighting amongst themselves to be “right” is rather missing the point.
I protest the child sex crimes of the church!
When church is done right, it’s one of the very best things on earth. When church is done wrong, it’s antichrist. – David Asscherick
The aim of most religion is to work to improve one’s standing. Sadly, that’s why religion is losing its relevance – there are far more effective self-help programs out there. Religion IS relevant if it helps us rest in God’s goodness, not pursue our own. He took our bad and gave us His good.
Church done well is a hospital for the sin-sick, not a museum for saints.
Biblically, the church’s role is proclamational not salvational. We have something to SAY but we are powerless to SAVE. Jesus alone saves. – David Asscherick
Separation of church & state
Religious freedom and separation of church and state: one of the best things to come out of the Reformation. Surprisingly, Luther himself didn’t embrace this principle. It’s being obscured again today.
The conservative right wants to impose religious values on society. The liberal left correctly separates church and state. However, the left imposes secularism and makes it difficult to uphold one’s own religious values without being treated – even punished – as a bigot.
When you vote, ask not “Who will legislate my religious values?” but rather “Who will allow freedom of religious values and beliefs, even those opposed to my own, and freedom to express and share religious beliefs and values with others?”
Government & economy
Polarised partisan politics combined with the shallow social media analysis are unravelling Western liberal democracy.
On evidence to date it seems the best of bad options for political systems is liberal democracy. But the jury is out again now thanks to 24/7 (fake?) news cycle, ‘scrutiny’ of social media and plethora of self-serving leaders.
Capitalism: a logical extension of the Reformation and Protestant work ethic. Great source of individual freedom and opportunity, but also basis for huge inequality, populist uprising and global conflict. “Income from labor is about as unequally distributed as has ever been observed anywhere. “ – Thomas Piketty
Given the fundamental selfishness of human nature, it makes sense to legislate on the assumption of homo economicuseven though this presents a less-than-ideal foundation.
I still believe that free market capitalism, with regulatory intervention to protect externalities, is the best of bad options in current circumstances. Only the permanent and complete removal of selfishness and greed will present a better system, but we have to wait for God’s final perfect solution for that.
American exceptionalism only gets off the ground as an idea if the role of government is celebrated (as opposed to minimised) or if the foundational ideology is racist. Otherwise America is just like any other nation, but with a unique set of chance characteristics that happen to put it in a position of global dominance for a limited time.
Salvation & sacrificial atonement
Jesus took the guilt, shame and death that we each deserve so that we could have the abundant life that only He deserves. Amazing!
Jesus on the Cross: the unique story where the hero voluntarily dies for the villain. The best news ever!
The Bible is full of profound and timeless wisdom. Such gems as “do to others what you would like them to do to you.” It’s worth regular reading.
“A simple layman armed with Scripture is to be believed above a pope or a council without it.” Martin Luther
Hell & death
Eternal torment in hell: if true, then God is not love but a tyrant. Thankfully, not true. Imported into early Christianity from Greek philosophy.
Ghosts, witches, séances, apparitions, Wicca, etc – all propped up by two wrongs: the myth that the soul cannot die and the real but passing presence of evil supernatural beings.
Health & health care
A vegetarian diet was largely scoffed at just a few years ago. Now it is the rage. 150 years ago Ellen White received prescient health insights and set up a whole demographic for longer healthier living. #AdventistHealthStudy
Affordable universal healthcare saved my life. Thanks Australia!
How can a mother’s rights over her womb trump her unborn baby’s rights to life while after birth, a baby’s rights to life trump a mother’s rights to her breasts and uninterrupted sleep? I’m all for consistency: let’s also prioritise the rights of the unborn child.
Judgmental intolerant society
The moral relativism, ‘tolerance’ and non-judgmentalism of the left unfortunately tends to lead to absolute intolerance and judgmentalism of anything deemed not to fit the new ethic.
Marriage and the Sabbath. Two institutions given by God right at the beginning in a perfect world. Both under extreme attack.
The Sabbath is the most misunderstood gift to humanity. It is an institution of rest. The exclusion of work. Yet for many it is confused as a works-based approach to God. How can: (no work + rest) = work?
“Professing to be wise, they became fools” (Rom 1:22). The prevailing wisdom of the age on sexuality, gender and reproduction is foolishness. – David Asscherick
Arguing for ‘marriage equality’ from an ‘evolutionary origins of species’ point of view has no principled basis for restricting ‘equality’ to two consenting non-related adult humans. From a genetic perspective, ‘marriage equality’ arguments should either let any combination of any number of organisms marry or restrict it to identical twins. Something between those extremes is ‘optimisation’ which negates the whole argument for ‘equality’. I’m all for optimisation. Enough genetic difference (e.g., X & Y chromosomes) yet similarity (e.g., homo sapiens) to optimise life for succeeding generations.
The truest thing about each human’s identity has little to do with their sexual identification or sexual preference. It is that each of us is created in God’s image, and is loved by the Creator of the universe, enough for Him to die for us!
Marriage provides an amazing foundation for a resilient family unit, the building block of a successful society. It is more about fierce uncompromising commitment than about feelings of romance or sexual attraction. Let’s move the conversation to setting the bar high for healthy resilient marriages rather than merely defining legally what marriage is and isn’t.
Thanks John Howard for Australia’s gun control. Americans seem to have a hard time figuring out why controlling access civilians’ to personal nukes would be a bad idea.
If you’re going to argue that gun rights are sacred, please articulate a principle that logically differentiates a civilian’s right to bear guns from their right to bear nukes.
The NRA and its ties to conservative politics in the US (actually, both sides for that matter) has totally warped American perspectives on gun violence. One American’s personal stance on never touching a gun speaks volumes: the story of Desmond Doss. #HacksawRidge
Conspiracy theories & polarised discourse
Conspiracy theories are much easier to concoct than accurate explanations of complex realities. Some ‘alternative facts’ may end up proving correct; but there is very little value in peddling conspiracy theories.
Any debate these days tends toward extreme polarised points of view. Truth usually comes with at least two associated error traps often at opposite ends of a spectrum. Slogans and strawmen arguments abound, but wisdom and understanding requires committed engagement.
Inequality & social justice
Thank you Jesus for positively discriminating to assist the downtrodden and disadvantaged.
Act your wage: “People buy things they don’t need, with money they don’t have, to impress people they don’t like.” – Clive Hamilton, Growth Fetish
“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” – Jesus, Luke 12:15
But if someone who is supposed to be a Christian has money enough to live well, and sees a brother in need, and won’t help him—how can God’s love be within him? Little children, let us stop just sayingwe love people; let us really love them, and show it by our 1 John 3:16,17
Gender & sexism
The biblical view that I hold is that both genders are of equal value but are created to be different and complementary both ontologically and functionally.
While I don’t believe women should be actively prevented from doing things that men traditionally do, nor valued or remunerated less, I question whether an objective of 50-50 splits or equivalent sameness in all functions and roles is helpful. Men will never be able to perform the incredible functions of women in bringing children into the world.
Climate change & environmentalism
There is overwhelming evidence that anthropogenic global warming is a major global issue. The conservative right, with its ties to the energy and resources industries, has manufactured unreasonable doubt, successfully obfuscating the evidence.
With strong links between evangelicals and right-wing politics, Christians have fallen for twisted logic to believe that humans could not possibly alter earth’s climate.
I’m no leftie, but the left is far more realistic than the right on the diagnosis of climate change, even if not all their proposed remedies are ideal.
Christians take note: caring for the natural environment and animal welfare are very much biblical principles and responsibilities of all humankind.
Foreign policy, immigration & armed conflict
A softer stance on foreign policy happens to be in harmony with biblical principles of “turn the other cheek”, “love your enemies”, and so on. I’m not saying there is never a place for the use of armed forces, but I resonate with stories such as that of Desmond Doss. Far too much is spent on military. #HacksawRidge
Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan as an example of showing open friendship and love to foreigners, who Jesus preferred to call neighbours.
For people who claim to be children of God, having open borders and sharing our wealth and resources makes a good deal of moral sense.
The example of modern Germany, being prepared to take in Syrian refugees, is much more similar to the principles of Jesus than aggressive border protection policies of other Western countries.
Globalisation vs nationalism
Nationalism – putting self first – is against Jesus’ principles of open friendship and sharing. But globalisation can easily entail attempts at coercive central government control.
Globalisation is inherently socially disconnected and isolating. To the extent we embrace global connectedness, we lose local connectedness. We simply do not have the capacity to maintain loving close relationships with that many people.
Christians take note: neither extreme of globalisation nor nationalism is in harmony with biblical counsel and the wisdom of Jesus. How about open, sharing local communities whose open borders are more for the purposes of giving than accumulating and protecting?
The left sees nothing wrong with Islam; while the right sees many things wrong. Yet the right is unable to see own faults. Christians take note: Jesus called out the faults of those who claimed to be God’s followers far more vehemently than He called out the faults of the ‘heathen’ religions outside of Israel.
Jesus continually said good things about Samaritans. He was a friend of the Samaritan; and is a friend of the Muslim today.
The Samaritans were the equivalent of modern day Muslims. Yet somehow Jesus seemed to ignore the hostility of a few of them and focus on the hypocrisy of His own chosen people.
I open my heart, wallet and the place I call home to refugees of all faiths. I’m all for shielding and protecting Muslims, even if not the religion of Islam, or any religion, for that matter.
Morality & law
Finding a basis for moral laws is a philosophically fraught area. It is difficult to argue for any version of foundational morality without appealing to religion (e.g. the Judeo Christian moral law). There does not appear to be any better alternative.
Abandoning the foundation of Judeo Christian law usually diminishes law and order. However, I would only make a pragmatic appeal to a solid foundation of morality rather than attempt to impose religion.
If morality was solely defined by consensus or utilitarian ethics, it seems doubtful that there would always be protection for the basic human rights of minorities or the voiceless – e.g., the unborn.
While I do think that the last 6 of the 10 commandments are the best basis for upholding morals in society, the challenge is finding an appropriate extent to legislate these. For example, it makes sense to outlaw rape, in harmony with the seventh commandment (against adultery), but probably not to outlaw consensual adultery. Similarly, it makes sense to outlaw perjury, but probably not lying about the size of the fish you caught. I can’t think of any reasonable legal application of the commandment against coveting.
To me it seems hypocritical to fight against same sex marriage while not fighting, to the same extent, against the legal provisions for ‘no fault’ divorce. But equally it is hypocritical to claim that opposition to same sex marriage must necessarily be imposition of one’s religion on non-believers.
Personal revival of spirituality
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. John 17:3
God can be more than ‘proved’ – He can be known and experienced – David Asscherick. See Psalm 34:8
Faith rests on evidence and reason, but God offers more (not less) than this: firsthand experience and personal relationship (Heb 11:1). – David Asscherick
Letting go of self and pride, admitting you were wrong, and continually learning. This is the most liberating way to live, and enables us to grow spiritually.
Suicide, mental health, screen time
There is a direct correlation between the amount of screen time and the decline in mental health of our current generation. – Numerous scientific studies.
Enjoy the outdoors with family and friends but without technology!
Is God real? Creation vs evolution
“In the beginning God.” – the Dawkins delusion, by God (apologies to Alister McGrath)
I’m against pseudo-science. But atheists who are respected scientifically get away with speculative and unprovable ideas such as SETI and the multiverse. So it seems reasonable to let Christians get away with the idea of “God” being the answer to SETI or the multiverse. Atheism 0 Theism 0
The common picture of God has been so badly distorted from reality so as to make atheism attractive in comparison. Like the erroneous doctrine of eternal hellfire. That one piece of distortion makes the atrocities of Hitler and Stalin look like child’s play. And God an absolute tyrant. Own-goal by theists.
Theism wins easily, in terms of utility, risk management & opportunity maximization, and philosophical/logical coherence. And, according to John Lennox, empirically, to boot. #PascalsWager Theism 1 Atheism 0.
Accounting for free will. in a materialist (atheist) worldview, everythingis known or determined (even if humans do not yet have insight into the future). There is no freedom. No choice. Just the illusion of it. It is in this (atheist) worldview that I have to conclude that my choices are pointless, that there is no free will, and that everything that was going to happen is already determined. The script is already written. Theism 1 Atheism 0.
The fact that freedom exists is what the new atheist unwittingly tries to take advantage of when he or she tries to persuade others to choose to abandon belief in God. But freedom of choice does not exist in a purely material universe.
The fact that true freedom exists powerfully argues that a powerful intelligence (God) designed it that way. That God loves you enough to give you the choice of whether to believe His claims or not. To serve Him or not. And to love Him back or not.
Abiogenesis: a major stumbling block to an evolutionary explanation for the origin (not just diversity) of species. Theism 1 Atheism 0.
Consciousness: another major hurdle for material explanations of the universe. Theism 1 Atheism 0.
Morality: either it has a transcendent and absolute quality, allowing (say) paedophilia to be vile under any circumstances, or it’s entirely a relative social construct which may change across time and place. Theism 1 Atheism 0.
Meaning, purpose, destiny: without these, life is axiomatically meaningless, directionless, and pointless. Theism 1 Atheism 0.
Material explanations for the universe are struggling to come up with any sort of compelling explanation for the presence of information (e.g., genetic code), logic, and finely tuned physical laws. All from nothing!? Theism 1 Atheism 0.
In the years ahead there will be two massive pendulum swings away from atheism. One will be true (Rev 14:6-12), the other will be false (Matt 24:24-25). The false correction will swing from atheism to experience-based spiritual phenomena (2 Cor 11:14-15). The true correction will swing from selfishness to self-sacrificing love (Jn 13:35).
The great controversy between good & evil
Evil may look like it has a strong foothold, even the upper hand. But love has already won the war. Evil and death have been forever defeated at the cross!
I’m keen for the world as we know it to come to an end, but not because I want conflict and destruction. Instead, I am looking forward to God restoring our lives and planet to the perfect eternal love and happiness He intended.
Christians please note: the Bible teaching regarding the ‘investigative judgment’ as a mechanism for transparently dealing with evil totally makes sense and comes naturally if you believe in ‘soul sleep’ and Arminianism (i.e., personal freedom of choice). It’s a natural fit into the narrative that “God is love”.
God is love! Love requires freedom. Freedom entails risk.
God’s presence in and direction for my life
As our loving Father, God wants us to learn to make good decisions for ourselves based on the principles and values of His character of love and freedom. Not to treat Him as a Divine fortune-teller.
I miss my dad, who died a year ago. He had a big positive influence in my life. He was an atheist who found God and totally changed his direction to live for God. I look forward to seeing my dad again.
I love my wife, Renee, and my kids. They have taught me much about selflessness, love and God. I have found marriage to be the best way to refine one’s character, reduce selfishness, and increase happiness.
I have had numerous life experiences that demonstrate to me that God is real, life has purpose and meaning, and authentic love and freedom truly exist. A ‘chance’ meeting at a train station and recovery from a freak accident are just two of many life-shaping experiences that confirm experientially the empirical and philosophical evidences that God is real and God is love.
Jesus of Nazareth: my guru, friend and Saviour. God of the universe. Yours too.
Today I’m sick. It’s a common flu. Man-flu to be precise. It will be most likely gone soon, afflicting me for just a few days in total.
It’s somewhat frustrating, being sick. All the things you expect to do are no longer possible. You’re tired, in pain, and have little strength. Not to mention a bit unpresentable socially.
But it’s a great time for reflection – at least when the brain fog starts to clear.
I’ve thought back to a few other times I’ve been sick. Like the time on our honeymoon when, defying the normal incubation time, I got dengue fever within 24 hours of arriving in Asia. Renee thought I was just being a melodramatic man-flu hypochondriac until we got the pathology results. It was a sweet honeymoon, despite Renee also getting bad food poisoning on our last day in Asia.
My catalogue of infectious diseases is quite impressive – not that it’s something I’m looking to add to. I’ve had dengue twice, malaria twice, and Lyme disease once. As well as glandular fever. It all took its toll on my energy levels, particularly during a 10 year period 2001 to 2011.
Even though I was a prime candidate for chronic fatigue, I’m thankful that I only needed a couple of extended periods of downtime for recovery. One was for a few weeks, while working in Sydney, after returning from living in southeast Asia. The other was a few months, while doing my PhD and struggling with Lyme disease. I had recently returned from volunteering in Africa.
In hospital recovering from accident in 2013
On top of my catalogue of infectious diseases, I also have an equally (un)impressive list of trauma injuries, from an almost fatal accident riding my bike in 2013. A motorbike hit me, head-on. I lost my spleen, broke several bones in my torso, arms and hands, and needed emergency surgery to arrest potentially fatal internal bleeding.
As a result of that trauma, I was medically assessed to be 88% of a whole person. I’m incredibly thankful, though, despite all that I’ve suffered, to continue to experience life to the full – 100% normally. At least it’s normal to me!
What have I learnt from all the challenges to my health?
First, happiness is not dependent on health. It is a choice made in our thinking, and is not primarily a function of our physical circumstances.
Second, God is the ultimate source of life and health. A couple of times when my life has been in the balance, I believe God’s healing power pulled me through. Actually, I’m sure it’s more than just twice but I’ll recount two occasions here.
The first was when I had Lyme disease. My symptoms were progressively getting worse. I was getting high fevers despite taking antibiotics, and my energy levels were depleting fast. The doctors were not able to provide any other treatment approach. So I went looking for alternative sources of health and healing. I did two things at the same time: 15 fever baths over three weeks commencing straight after anointing with prayer. From the time of the prayer and anointing ceremony I did not experience any recurrence of Lyme disease symptoms. I thank God!
The second was at the time of my bike accident. The surgeons operating on me realized that I was close to dying. One of them, a Christian, asked his church to pray that I would survive. Many of my family and friends were also praying. I survived, was able to leave hospital after staying only six nights in total, and as a bonus discovered that I’m in the minority who happens to have a viable accessory spleen. Mine is slowly growing, taking over the function of the old one.
The third lesson, and perhaps the one I need most to be reminded of, is this: it’s important for me to depend more and more on God. This can be difficult for me to do as I get busy doing life, but forget the real source, meaning and purpose of life which is all centred in God. Being sick helps me to once again realise that I can’t ultimately depend on myself for anything.
The Livingston family, early 2017.
God’s love is 100% dependable. It doesn’t mean that we’ll never suffer, but it does mean that He is prepared to suffer with and for us. Jesus’ death on the cross for us provides for both our eternal happiness and security, as well as the freedom to choose it for ourselves, or not to choose it.