Pastor’s Word

Fight for your sons and your daughters

Led by Nehemiah, the people of God were and hemmed in and threatened, even as they merely attempted to rebuild the walls of ruined Jerusalem. Nehemiah told his people –

Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” (Neh. 4:14). There is a good fight that we must fight, the good fight of faith (1st Timothy 6:12).

Here is an example: religious education has been offered in our state schools in Victoria for over 140 years, since the beginning of state schools. Today, RE is increasingly under attack: in the last two years, one third of state schools which had RE classes have closed the door to RE: from 940 in 2011, to 666 in 2013.

For many years religious education was given to all the children whose parents had not withdrawn their child. Critics have complained that some children were put in RE classes without their parents’ approval. So for a few years now, parents fill in a form, and only those children do RE whose parents approve it.

Under Victorian law, religious education is a child’s entitlement consistent with their parents’ stated religious affiliation. The principal “must schedule special religious instruction in the school timetable when accredited and approved instructors are available.” In defiance of this law, numerous principals and a few school councils have overridden parents’ wishes to veto religious education in their schools. That is why over the last two years, one third of schools which scheduled RE have shut it down, including Benalla.

This defiance has been possible because of the Minister for Education in Melbourne, Mr Martin Dixon, who has “full confidence in school principals making decisions in the interests of their parent body and the school community” – even though the law says RE must be scheduled when instructors are available. Notice who Mr Dixon says can decide about RE – not the parents, but the principals making decisions in the interest of the parent body. Our Session has written to Mr Dixon twice on this matter, so far without an answer.

The ABC 7:30 Report also featured comment on religious education in state schools from eight people, all of them negative. We can see a well-organised campaign to close down RE altogether, and it comes from the religious convictions of people who wish to impose their beliefs and override parents.

What can we do about it? Well, we firstly can ask our heavenly Father to restore RE both in our Benalla campuses and in other schools.

We can also encourage parents of primary children to tell their school that they want RE to continue for the sake of their children, and to enlist like-minded parents. We can also write to the Premier, Dr Dennis Napthine, GPO Box 4912, Melbourne 3001, and ask him why his Education Minister is allowing school principals to ignore their own regulations to close religious education in state schools. This is an election year. We also must examine other ways of sharing the Word of God with children through children’s clubs after school and holiday activities.

What we must not do is nothing.

See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 18:10).

With love in Christ, Ken Martin, Minister


Consider the Poor

Dear Friends,

Blessed is he who considers the poor; the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble” (Psalm 41:1).

The Good News Bible puts it, “Happy are those who are concerned for the poor; the LORD will help them when they are in trouble.” Blessing is found in thinking, noticing, caring from the heart, not merely tossing a donation.

Caring for poor people is important just because they are less likely than others to be noticed or considered.

It is important because they are created by God, and they matter to Him; they are to be respected.

Caring for them is important because we are told not to trust in uncertain riches; those who are now prosperous, who have no need of anything, might well pass through a sudden change, when health and friends and funds are all swept away.

Considering the poor is always what Jesus did (Matthew 11:5, Mark 6:34); and He Himself feels how we treat the poor (Matthew 25:31-46), the naked, the hungry and thirsty, the prisoner. If we are kind or contemptuous to those who are less well off than ourselves, we are doing this to the Lord.

The richer Australia grows, the harder we become. The Government, now short of money, has cut out single parent pensions as well as tax relief for single-income families; there is no increase for unemployment benefit. The Opposition is silent about these cutbacks. Charities report shortages of food and other aid to pass on, so that many needy ones are sent away. Also there are steadily more homeless Australians. Thank God, many Aussies still care, and will keep on helping.

But our country is changing: many of our new immigrants are wealthy people from cultures without compassion for the poor. The current very large wave of immigration looks likely to contribute to changing the way people think about the poor.

While well-off Australians are building bigger and better taj mahals to live in, many people will never afford a home of their own. In contrast to New Zealand, both sides of our politics welcome foreign investment to buy up our city and rural land. No wonder many of our families find the purchase of a home to be too high a hurdle.

The prophet of the Lord rebuked the luxurious rich people for their contempt towards the poor:

because you tread down the poor and take grain taxes from him, though you have built houses of hewn stone, you shall not dwell in them; you have planted pleasant vineyeards, but you shall not drink wine from them” (Amos 5:11). Amos warned the people of exile to come, and they ignored him. But they were invaded and dragged into exile, just as the Lord’s prophet had said.

Beware lest we as a nation gain great wealth and lose our values; likewise let each Australian beware of the love of money, which forfeits the soul.

With love in Christ, Ken Martin, Minister

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