WINNING AT WORK : A Contribution to the Vision of Dipolog to Become "a God-centered, Peaceful and Self-reliant Super City by 2030"

on Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Colossians 3: 23-24: Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

1.    The city of Dipolog is to be congratulated on endeavoring to become a God-centered city.  In 1968 Mao declared that China was a religion-free country, but today there are at least 130 million Christians!  How did this happen?  The Chinese Academy of Science determined that the power of Great Britian in the 19th Century was directly correlated with the evangelical revival in that country at that time. In the same way, the United States’ power directly related to the evangelical revival which caused America to be the super power in the 20th Century.  So congratulations Dipolog for coming to the same conclusion!

2.    My story and "shame" as a negative power in my life and Philippine people’s!

3.    Why is the Philippines unable to provide employment for its people?  The tragedy!  I want in this talk only to deal with one aspect of the problem.

4.    I want to suggest to you that you need to make some small unnatural adjustments in order to become a winner at work.  They will come from changing the focus of your life from self on to others.

5.    We see with our brains!  The tsunami belted a small primitive island in the Indonesian archipelago.  The Islanders shot arrows at the relief plane.  They saw what our eyes see.  But they saw with their brains!  The brain interprets what the eye captures.

6.    Most men define themselves by what they do.  We ask each other: What do you do?  What are you doing now?  The chief topic of discussion between men is the subject of work.  They talk more about work than family.

7.    According to Psychology Today, your career is probably the most important influence on your perception of your quality of life.

8.    Men are action driven.  When men stop working, they start to die.  A career is more important than anything else for most men.  They spend more time in the workplace than anywhere else.  In western countries around 60-65% of a man’s time is spent at work; 30-35% is spent on personal interests; nil-10% is spent on religion.  In the Philippines of course these figures would be very different for many men, but true for an increasing number of Filipino men.

9.    80% of most men feel they are a misfit with their work.  Most men feel that they are under-utilised.  Perhaps you are like the majority of men who see work as a concession to life?  Something you have to do.  A necessary evil.  You are in good company, as this is the dominant view of most men.

10.    We know that for 50% of their time the average worker is not emotionally engaged in his job (Gallop studies).  He has no passion.  In fact 22% of workers are actively disengaged.  These workers do not even try to be productive and just want to collect the paycheque.  Indeed, the ultimate goal for many is not to work but to retire.  Perhaps you or your friends have said: then I will be free to live!

11.    The Hebrews understood work as a curse flowing from the sin of Adam in the Garden of Eden.  For the Greeks, real men did not work, they pursued “higher” activities! When Socrates drank hemlock – only his mates were present,women & family were of no consequence! What a value system!  The Romans adopted Greek concepts.  No citizen of the city of Rome worked – that was the job of slaves.  These Greco-Roman ideas have heavily influenced our society.  These ideas heavily influenced the traditional Catholic Church where the only work of value was the religious life.

12.    Unfortunately,I believe, the Spanish left a major curse on the Philippines when they left the idea that the successful man does not work. He just lives in the big house – women do the work! This is a tragedy!

13.    Christian men often have haunting unanswered questions when it comes to work. They ask:
(i)    Is there one right job for me?
(ii)   Does my job really matter to God?
(iii)  How does God work at work?
(iv)  How much work is too much?
God’s Word - the Bible - has answers to all these questions,but these are questions that I can try and deal with in question time if you are interested.

14.    God is at work and he puts men to work.  God is a worker.  In the Garden of Eden there is profit-sharing where God permits Adam to eat the fruits of his labour with the exception of the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Work and work-related issues are chief topics of the Bible.  The ground is cursed, but not work.  The Bible addresses work issues even more than it does the family.  Men are seen as co-workers with God in the New Testament. There is a priesthood of all believers who are Christians. [1 Peter 2:5,9]

15.    Key levels of motivation behind a man’s work. Please consider where you stand.
(i)   Paycheque driven - because I want to meet my needs and the needs of my family.
(ii)  Passion driven - because I desire to have a certain standard of living; because I desire to accomplish something meaningful.
(iii)  Philanthropy driven - because I can earn money I can give to help others.
(iv)  Purpose driven - because I can earn money that I can give to advance God's kingdom on earth; because I can serve and glorify God in my work and spiritually impact people.   

16.    The higher view of work came about from the Protestant Reformation but has increasingly been adopted by all progressive movements in the whole Christian Church.  The Protestants replaced the authority of the church with that of the Bible, Sola Scriptura, etc.  This is one of the greatest contributions to the appreciation of the value of your work.  Work was noble, a partnership with God.  The so-called Protestant work ethic was born.  It emphasised that everyone should work and that all men’s work was equal.  There was an explosion of economic activity that we are still reaping the benefits from in western  countries.

17.    You see this clearly in the passage Colossians 3:23-24: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.  Work hard and cheerfully at all you do, just as though you were working for the Lord and not merely for your masters, remembering that it is the Lord Christ who is going to pay you, giving you your full portion of what He owns.  He is the one you are really working for.”

18.    Jesus said: “Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” [Luke 6:38] This is a key business principle and a crucial principle for any success I have enjoyed in business.

19.    The Protestant Reformation and the revolutionary Protestant work ethic resulted in:
(i)    emphasising work as the will of God for everyone;
(ii)   endorsing all work with an equal dignity;
(iii)  encouraging honesty and diligence in work while (where possible) investing, not consuming, the profits from work.

This higher view of work unleashed:
(a)    Sudden economic expansion;
(b)    Personal prosperity.

20.    The Louvre Museum in Paris is built on an old castle.  You can see the castle turrets if you do a basement tour.  Some blocks of stone have crosses on them.  These are the work of Christian stonemasons.  They wanted to make each block for the glory of God.  Yes, they were just chipping rock, but look at how they are understanding their work.

Are you excited about what you do?  Do you have a sense of achieving excellence in your work?

21.    What men want from their work:
(i)    Success.
(ii)    Recognition.
(iii)   Fit.
(iv)   Fair compensation.
(v)    Community.
(vi)   Balance.
These considerations are relevant to the motivation & encouragement of both ourselves as well as employees.

22.    Avoid sexual immorality at all costs. [1 Cor 6:18]  It leaves a stain on your name. [Prov 6:33]  Watch out for the black widow spier. [Prov 7:10-12,15,26-27] Everybody will Know over time ! If you cheat your employees will feel they can cheat in other ways!

23.    Benefits of a good name at work:
(i)    People admire you as a man.
(ii)   You influence others in a positive way – especially young men.
(iii)   God is honoured and you feel His pleasure.
(iv)   You feel deep satisfaction about your work.

24.    Consider the attitude of three bricklayers building a wall:
(i)    I am just laying bricks.
(ii)    I am building a wall.
(iii)   I am building a cathedral.
How do you see & understand your work?

25.    Your work tomorrow will be driven by how you understand your work with your brain, not the work itself.   That is the power of perspective!

26.    I want to suggest to you that you will pursue with passion only what you dream about.  Do you only see the immediate?  Are you drifting in your work?

27.    Your dreams may require great faith, but are doable!  Something worth doing.  The more our soul integrates with work, the more energy we will have.  “Know thyself.” This dictum is only really possible by having a relationship with God.

28.    We are most energised at work when our gifts are used.  In major studies only 20% of workers believe their gifts are being used.  We are energised when our gifts are used.  Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses.  (Buckingham & Clifton study.)  (Wise counsellors.)

29.    Warren Buffett said: “Do what you do best.”


Biblical Christianity and the influence of the great French Catholic thinkers - Pascal, Madame Guy, Brother Andrew.

30.    I spoke about a focus on others, not self.  Is your identity in what you do?  Your identity should NOT be in what you do, but in Christ.  What happens when you become unemployed or incapacitated if your identity is in what you do?

31.    Story of Blaise Pascal: Pascal was born in Clermont-Ferrand in 1623 and died in 1662.  He was a mathematician, physicist, theologian, and man of letters.  He invented the calculating machine, the barometer, the hydraulic press and the syringe.  Pascal is commonly regarded as the father of the computer.  Albert Einstein said he was the smartest man to live in Europe during the last 1,000 years.

His non-Christian friends in Paris said to him: ”You have faith, but I am a person who needs proof.  Maybe you can live by faith, but I don't!  Pascal said, "That’s ridiculous” and made what is called Pascal's wager.

Here is Mr X and Mr Y.  Mr X believes that there is a God and believes that there is a Judgement Day; therefore there is a differentiated life after death.  In short, Mr X believes that his choices in this world will result in different outcomes of either being saved or lost.

But Mr Y does not believe in God.  Or, if there is a God, he is not a judge and there is no differentiation between being lost and saved.  In short, Mr Y is a type of agnostic whereas Mr X is a Christian.  Mr Y is putting his faith in there being no God and both are wagering their lives.  So both of them are gambling their lives on faith commitments that cannot be empirically investigated.  Mr Y is by faith assuming the Christian God does not exist but he cannot prove his viewpoint.

Let us go a little further.  Think of the area of marriage.  Science can't help you much in the area of spouse selection.  Fundamentally from the perspective of science no one has ever seen love.  You cannot determine scientifically whether the person you are proposing to marry will be ideal.  It will be a matter of faith.  And you will act upon those beliefs.  This does not mean a total leap into the dark.  No!  Not at all!

In fact, most of the things in life that give you meaning cannot be proven empirically.  Relationships cannot be examined scientifically, but this does not mean that you cannot use your mind or reason for the choice you make.  It doesn't mean that you can't analyse the situation, but you can’t prove it.

Jesus says that everybody has faith commitments.  This means that you are on a road.  Everyone is basing their life on whether there is a God and a Judgement Day.  Everyone has developed life strategies on the basis of faith commitments.  Everyone is moving on the road because of faith in their answers to these ultimate questions.

All that Pascal was trying to argue is that everyone is taking a gamble.  Thus it is absolutely irrational to gamble your life without considering the claims of Jesus; without thoroughly investigating Christianity - for example, reading all the way through the New Testament.  What proof is there for your position, of the non-existence of the claims of Christ if you don’t even know what evidence exists for the truth of the Christian Gospel?  As Jesus said to Pilot: “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” [Jn 18:37b]

32.    Kierkegaard said: “Only if your identity is built on God and His love, can you have a self that can venture anything, face anything.” Is this you?

33.    St Augustine said: “Our loves are not rightly ordered.” We have all rebelled & committed spiritally adultory with other Gods. God desires to be like a husband to him but we want the things he can give us but we dont want him. Some people rebel by being very good believing that their righteousness means that they dont need Jesus as Saviour & Lord. At the very least all of us commit relationship sins that we don't know about . Consider how often say a husband may offend his wife and he is unaware of it!

34.    Solzenitzen said: “There is a line that divides good and evil and it cuts through every man’s heart.” Only Jesus Christs sacrificial death at calvery can pay the just punishment for us!

35.    Jonathan Edwards said: "You are invited to experience God when you become a Christian."  When you turn to Christ after after facing up to your rebellion against Him.
36.    The experience of Christ is like the difference between knowing that honey is sweet and having the actual experience of tasting the sweetness of honey.

37.    Chariots of Fire:  In the movie Chariots of Fire Abrahams and Liddell were both trying very hard to win gold medals for the United Kingdom.  But Abrahams was doing it out of a need to prove himself.  At one time, speaking of the sprint event in which he was competing, he said, ”I've got 10 seconds to justify my existence.”  Liddell, on the other hand, simply wanted to please God who had already accepted him.  That's why he said to his sister, ”God made me fast, and when I run I feel his pleasure.”  Harold Abrahams was weary even when he rested, and Eric Liddell was rested even when he was exerting himself.  Why?  Because there is a work underneath our work that we really need rest from.  It's the work of self-justification.  It's the work that often leads us to take refuge in religion as against true Christianity. Jesus said: " Take my joke upon you & learn from me, for I am gentile and humble at heart." (Mt 11:29)

38.    What is Christianity? You are not invited to sign a series of belief statements, but rather to a feast! You are not invited to obey a set of rules, but rather to a feast! You are invited not just to know the Glory and Wonder of God, but rather to experience the Glory and the Beauty of our Lord. How do you explain the difference to a blind man of red as against blue? The Bible says: "Taste and see the Lord is good." [Psalm 34:8]

39.    A new marriage relationship between man and God.  Jesus calls Himself the bridegroom [see Matthew 9:15; Mark 2:19;20; Luke 5:34,35 ;John 3:29 and Revelation 18:23] [See also Isaiah 54:5: “For your maker is your husband ... The Lord Almighty is his name …”]

40.    The price Jesus has paid to give His bride the cup of joy. To enable you & me to avoid the terror of hell.

41.    Will you come to the feast? Listen & hear the Spirit of Jesus calling you now!

Losing My Religion: Stopping Australia's Decline

on Wednesday, November 9, 2011
As a society we have spent on and been absorbed with ourselves and our Western society is in serious decline.  Last year (2010) saw 29 million mental health prescriptions in Australia.  A large part of the bill will have to be paid by others, particularly children.  We are obsessed about environmental concerns, but ignore the havoc being wreaked upon children by family breakdowns and other social pressures.  Prof Patrick Parkinson's report, For Kids 'Sake, recently published by Sydney University, details the extraordinary number of children who can no longer live with their biological families.  More than 26% of Australian children are suffering from mental health problems.  The growing amount of self-harm inflicted, and the growth of inappropriate sexual encounters between children are but the tip of the iceberg.  History teaches us that the greatest civilizations eventually fell due to their own internal decay.

The present global crisis has its roots in economics and bankers losing touch with economic reality and morality.  Losing touch with the traditional values that built Australia.  Consider the story of Long-Term Capital Management founded in 1994.  By August 1997 the Fund’s capital was $6.7 billion with debt of $126.4 billion – a ratio of 19:1.  Merton and Scholes were awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics.  Then as a result of a Russian debt default Long-Term Capital “blew up”!  The Nobel Prize winners had known plenty of mathematics, but not enough history.  The current Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, has said: “We are in the most serious financial crisis since the 1930s, if not ever.”  Yet when you analyse what is happening in financial markets you realise that the smartest men in the room are not so smart after all!

I want to suggest to you these issues are at root not actually economic or social problems but rather spiritual problems.  There is a malaise about spiritual things, and in particular the Christian faith, which is deeply alarming.  Most people who call themselves Christians are ignorant of Christ’s teachings.  I want to give you some suggestions on why and how this has occurred.

If you listen to modern music it is deeply ambivalent about religion.  Consider John Lennon's song, Imagine, written just before he died, where he expresses the view that the world would be better off without religion.  John Lennon tells us that it is religion that divides us and if we got rid of that we would all be happy.

But all religion is not the same.  Consider Mohammad (born 570 a.d.) and Christ.  Mohammed married the last of his many wives and concubines at age 53.  A’isha was a 9-year-old girl who had been betrothed to him at age 6.  Mohammed also killed 600-700 Jewish men at Medina by beheading them in a trench they had dug.  It has been correctly said: The life of Christ is radically different from Mohammed.  St Paul came to Europe with a book; Mohammed with a scimitar!

If you wanted to divide the 20th Century in the West into different eras it would broadly fall into three distinct periods.  As we commence the 20th century in, say, the period before the First World War, religion was still very privileged.  If you were not to believe you certainly would be considered a crank.  Religion was considered something that decent people believed in!

By the time you got into the middle of the 20th Century there was a huge change.  After the Second World War intellectual leaders and cultural trendsetters all said the same thing: they predicted a future without religion.  They taught: we are going to outgrow religion.  Religion was for the time when we didn't understand the world and now we do. Religion was bad for your intellectual development, bad for social development, and bad for your personal development.  If you recall the first Star Trek series, Capt. Kirk and the crew never talked about religion as they were living in the future and it was completely irrelevant and obsolete.  We have gotten over religion just like kids have gotten over Santa Claus.

However, at the end of the 20th Century there emerged a deep ambivalence towards religion.  People became spiritual agnostics who regarded religion as belief in unbelievable things, but these people claimed to experience inexplicable metaphysical feelings.  They could no longer discount the possibility that there was something beyond the material world.  No longer was religion seen as merely wish fulfilment.  You would hear comments like: we hate religion but know there is something there.  My relative – Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Harvard, Stephen Jay Gould – wrote an essay.  He said just before he died: “50% of my peers are Christians!”  He said: “The big question is, who is the fool?”  Today there is a loss of faith even in non-faith!

Many educated Australians claim to be very upset with God, but equally want God and spirituality.  And we Christians need to listen to their critiques of religion.  The reason we should listen to the critique is that Jesus Christ himself deconstructed religion, savagely, repeatedly and relentlessly.  Jesus, however, had a different motivation.  Jesus was trying to clear the ground for His message.  Jesus called most religious people “whitewashed tombs”. [Mt 23:27]

If you are not a Christian you need to hear the critique of religion so that you can understand the distinction between being religious and being a Christian.  Where is the line?  Where can I be really mad at the church but not at God?

Let's now look at the modern critique of religion.  I want to mention three men whose views have dominated the discussion of religion even though most people do not recognise where their ideas have come from.  Where did modern people get their unhappiness with religion from?  I want to suggest that there are three men in particular who we need to know something about.  These men are: Karl Marx (1818-1888), Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900).

Freud looked at religious people and saw them as people who don't want to change their lives, but rather they want to justify their lives.  Remember the scenes in the last Godfather movie?  Parts of the family are in church, baptising a baby, whilst their henchmen are out killing all their competitors.  I go to church, that's my religion.  What's my religion for?  I pay!  I put a new wing on the church, I do penance.  Thus Freud says, "Religion is basically psychological self-justification."  “Self-righteousness.”  In short, man created God!

Marx comes along and looks at religion and sees people using religion not to psychologically justify themselves, but rather to sociologically justify themselves to exclude others.  In effect Marx said, "You have hurting people and you use religion to mask their symptoms."  You give them promises of a better life in the world to come so that they do not focus upon their present plight.  Just live a good life on earth and in heaven you will have a wonderful time!”  “Pie in the sky” is a critique of religion which we often hear in Australia which interestingly has Marxist roots!

Then along comes Nietzsche who is even more influential.  He claims that anyone who is involved in religion is just on a power trip.  In fact, Nietzsche would claim that anyone who has any answers to any questions is just on a power trip!  Freud says religion is a way to justify yourself and thus is concerned with self-righteousness.  Marx says your religion is just a way of avoiding unfairness in life.  Then Nietzsche comes along and says that religion is just a way to accrue power.  The result is abuse.

The truth is that many people have used religion exactly as suggested by Freud, Marx and Nietzsche.  “Self-righteousness”, exclusion, power trips, anxiety are in all our hearts.

Flannery O’Connor, an American Catholic author, has written a marvellous short story - Revelation - which illustrates the points made by Freud, Marx and Nietzsche.  This is a story of a religious person - Mrs Turpin - and will help you understand the big point I'm trying to make.

The doctor's waiting room, which was very small, was almost full when the Turpins entered and Mrs Turpin, who was very large, made it look even smaller by her presence.  Her little bright black eyes took in all the patients as she sized up the seating situation and their social positions.

There was one vacant chair and a place on the sofa occupied by a blonde child in a dirty blue romper suit who should have been told to move over and make room for a lady.  He was five or six and his mother, nothing more than white trash, Mrs Turpin thought, was not going to make him move.

"Sit down," Mrs Turpin said to Claud, "you know you're not supposed to stand on that leg.  He has an ulcer on his leg,” she explained.  Mr Turpin rolled up his trouser leg and revealed a purple swelling on a plump marble white calf.  "My!" a pleasant ‘Christian’ lady, who had acknowledged with her eyes the problem with the ‘white trash’ woman, said, ”How did you do that?"

"A cow kicked him," Mrs Turpin said.

Next to Mrs Turpin was a fat girl of 18 or 19 called Mary Grace scowling into a thick blue book which Mrs Turpin saw was entitled "Human Development".  Mary Grace could not stand the prudishness and judgmentalism of Mrs Turpin.  The poor girl's face was blue with acne and Mrs Turpin thought how pitiful it was to have a face like that at that age.  Mrs Turpin thought that even though she was fat she always had good skin, and although she was 47 years of age there was not a wrinkle in her face, except around her eyes from laughing too much.

Sometimes at night when she couldn't go to sleep, Mrs Turpin would occupy herself with the question of who she would have chosen to be if she couldn't be herself.  If Jesus had said to her before he made her, "There are only two places available for you.  You can either be a nigger or white trash,” what would she have said?  She guessed she would have said, "Make me a nigger, but not a trashy one!"

The stylish ‘Christian’ woman said to Mrs Turpin, “What sort of farm do you have?”  “We’ve got a couple of acres of cotton and pigs and chickens,” said Mrs Turpin.  The white trash woman said, "Pigs!  Nasty stinking things, a-gruntin’ and a-rootin’ all over the place.”  Mrs Turpin gave her the merest edge of her attention.  "Our pigs are not dirty and they don't stink", she said.  "They are cleaner than some children I've seen.  We have a pig parlour with a concrete floor and Claud hoses it down every afternoon and washes off the floor.”  Mrs Turpin thought, that child can do with a wash.

Mrs Turpin counted her blessings that she was not like the white trash woman.  In fact, she thought, “I am three levels above white trash.”

Mrs Turpin turned to the ugly girl and said, "You must be in university?"  I see you reading a book there."  But the girl continued to stare at her and did not answer.  The girl's mother blushed at this rudeness.  "The lady asked you a question Mary Grace," she said under her breath.  "I have ears," Mary Grace said.

Mrs Turpin said, "I thank the Lord that he has blessed me with a good disposition".  The day has never dawned that I couldn't find something to laugh at."  "Not since she married me anyways," Claud said with a comical straight face.  Then Mrs Turpin said, “I think the worst thing in the world is to be an ungrateful person. I just feel like shouting, thank you Jesus for making everything the way it is!  I thank you Jesus.  Jesus thank you!” she cried aloud.

The book struck her directly over her left eye.

Ms Gallagher is a well-known anthropologist.  She claimed that she had got rid of truth claims of the type built upon Freudian and Marxian principles.  She was now completely committed to Nietzsche principles of suspicion.  We have to get rid of all truth claims.  She said that any truth claim, even Marxian, was essentially a religion.  This was because she saw that Marxists exclude people.  “We represent the proletariat and we have the right to kill you,” which has caused misery in the history of communism.  She wanted to get rid of all truth claims.

When Ms Gallagher was studying in Africa she saw women in sexual slavery.  She saw women oppressed.  She says, “All of my life I've been committed to the idea that all truth claims are power plays.  One culture never has the right to say to another culture what they should do as this is just a power trip.  But what I'm seeing in Africa is evil.”  But when she went to the governments in Africa asking them to do something about what was going on, they said to her, "You were just imposing your Western ideas.  You call it sexual slavery but we don't see it that way.  It’s just a power trip!”  She went on to say that their claim that it was just a power trip by her was the biggest power trip of all.  Then she realised that the claim that everything is relative is a religion.  It is a dogma.  It is a power trip and a way of excluding people.

Nietzsche says that there is no God and thus there can be no right and wrong.  Thus what was happening in Africa was not right or wrong.  But if your premise leads to a result that you know is not true, then you should change the premise.  Consequently Winifred Gallagher was able to say that secularism cannot be true.  But there must be a truth.  She became a spiritual agnostic: I hate religion.  I can't buy into their answers, but I know secularism is not true.  Yet I know there is a truth.  Is this all there is?  And yet I know that it is not.  There is now a loss of faith in non-faith.

People have come to see that the argument that if they weren't dogmatic then everything would be all right is nonsense.  In fact, we are being just as exclusive and self-righteous as religious people.

Now here is what I want you to see.  Jesus Christ is the most anti-religious person imaginable.  Much of Marx’ critique is actually in the Bible.  Look at Amos and Isaiah.  {In Amos, God cannot stand the music offered in His praise [Amos 5:23].  Our righteous deeds are like polluted garments [Is 64:6]}  They say that if you use God to oppress the poor it is not the God of the Bible.  Jesus condemns the Pharisees (the religious people) for how they pray and devour widow’s houses.

Then Freud comes along and says religion is all about self-justification.  It is about trying to buy God off.  But Jesus tells us that God can buy you but you can never buy him.  See, you can't placate God with your own good works, which unfortunately religious people do, by giving money and doing good deeds and so often repenting.  Yet when Jesus comes up against someone like that he always cuts them down.  He slams the lawyer who asked what he needed to do to be saved.  Jesus said, “You need to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, strength and soul” and “love your neighbour as yourself.” [Luke 10:27]  The lawyer tried to justify himself.  Then Jesus told him the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Jesus Christ is the most un-religious teacher of religion the world has ever seen.  In fact, the word religion rarely shows up in the Bible and typically it is used negatively.  In fact, there is only one possible place where religion is used positively and then perhaps ironically - James chapter 1.

Have you not heard of people saying. I cannot believe in a God who people use to abuse others?  But Christianity is the only religion which teaches that God came to earth to be abused by others.  Our God was trampled upon by the powerful.  Christianity says that at the heart of our faith, God becomes weak so that we could be saved.

Back to Flannery O’Connor:

Mary Grace raised her head from the floor.  She reached to choke Mrs Turpin.  Her gaze locked with Mrs Turpin's.  "Go back to hell where you came from, you warthog," she whispered before she passed out.

How can I be saved and still be from hell?  Mrs Turpin recognised something from Mary Grace that took the form of a message from God.

Later that day Mrs Turpin moaned, "I am not," she said tearfully, "a warthog.  From hell!"  But she knew she had been given a message, a message to a respectable, hard-working, churchgoing woman.  Her eyes began to burn with anger.

"Why God did you send me a message like that?” she said in a low fierce voice.  “How am I a warthog?”  Why me?  There's no trash around here, black or white, that I haven't given to.  And break my back to the bone everyday working.  And do for the church."  She yelled out, “Why do you call me a warthog?  Who do you think you are?"

As she looked up into the sky a visionary light settled in her eyes.  She saw a vast horde of souls were tumbling towards heaven.  There were whole companies of white trash, clean for the first time in their lives, and bands of black niggers in white robes, and battalions of freaks and lunatics shouting and clapping and leaping like frogs.  And bringing up the end of the procession was a tribe of people whom she recognised at once as those who, like herself and Claud, had always had a little of everything and God-given wit to use it right.  Yet she could see by their shocked and altered faces even their virtues were being burned away.  Even their virtues were being burned away.

The vision then faded and she listened to the invisible cricket choruses, but what she heard were the voices of the souls climbing upwards into the starry field shouting, “Hallelujah!”

Mrs Turpin needed to see that she needed to repent not only of her sins but also her virtues.  Because the virtues can be little more than ways we deceive ourselves into believing we are controlling God and feeling superior to other people.  In short, I've been trying to earn my salvation through my virtues, the result being that I am not a Christian but a religious person!

Mrs Turpin at last began to understand the Gospel.

Aldous Huxley, who wrote Brave New World, tells of his rebellion at University; his need for sex meant he abandoned religion.  Typically the great thinkers of our time have feet of clay when you analyse them.  As Aldous Huxley said, if he accepted the God of the Bible he would have to give up premarital sex!”

But the good news is that if we become less religious and more Christian we can be part of a society that avoids decline and fall.  Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks said: “That is to do what England and America did in the 1820s.”  These two societies, deeply secularist after the rationalist 18th Century, scarred and fractured by the problems of industrialisation, calmly set about re-moralising themselves, thereby renewing themselves.

Lord Sacks went on to say: “The three decades – 1820-1850 – saw an unprecedented proliferation of groups dedicated to social, political and educational reform – building schools, YMCAs, orphanages, charities, friendly societies, the abolition of inhuman working conditions.  That collective effort of re-moralisation eventually made Britain the greatest world power in the 19th Century and America in the 20th Century.”

Niall Ferguson’s book, Civilization, quotes the Chinese Academy of Science as discerning the key reason for the rapid economic growth of Great Britain as not being technology but the Christian faith.  Conversely, the decline of Great Britain correlates with the decline of the Christian faith in Britain.

The challenge for you and me is not to be deceived by our virtues and to truly do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  We have 26% of Australian youth suffering mental health problems.  Governments cannot solve this problem.  We all need to be involved as individuals.  Look at scouting.  Troops close because they cannot find adults to act as leaders.  We then create social capital!  It is this creation of social capital that will make our society a better place and avoid the continual decline.

To say there is no God can be a way of justifying behaviour.  How do you justify your behaviour?

Nietzsche said: “If there is no God we get beyond ‘Good and Evil’.  But as we have seen, that is not reality!

Henri Nouwen said: “Being the beloved [of God] is the core truth of our existence.”  “And all our hearts are restless until they find their peace in God.” [Augustine]

Jesus said: They hated me without reason. [Jn 15:25]  Do you hate Him without reason?

Jesus said: “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” [Jn 14:6]


(1)         Dr Timothy Keller of the Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York has been the source of many of the ideas in this talk.
(2)        Merold Westphal’s book Suspicion and Faith: The Religious Uses of Modern Atheism contains the detailed analysis of the views of Marx, Freud and Nietzsche.

Vanda Gould | Chairman's Report

on Wednesday, May 18, 2011
The Directors of CVC are pleased to report a net profit before tax of $30.3 million and after tax of $23.3 million for the year ended 2006. It is encouraging to note that this result was achieved across all segments of the Company's operations and represent the progress that has been made towards the Company's objective of creating the widest possible range of recurring earnings.

Vanda Gould | Chairman's Report for the year ended 30 June 2007

William Shakespeare is arguably the most creative person in european history. His contribution to english language alone is immeasurable - he coined somewhere between 2,076 and 6,700 new words which are now part of the english language. Shakespeare was also a successful businessman and entrepreneur. In his master piece - Hamlet - there is much we can learn about life. It is a profoundly moral play showing morality (as well as evil) to be contagious. There is a line in Hamlet which in a general way summarises CVC's philosophy of business:"Neither a borrower nor a lender be." Of course, we structure some of our investments as loans for legal reasons, but in general they form a type of equity.