The main focus of this BLOG, is to uphold those simple, and clearly defined truths, that are so often missing from Christian life and conversation.
(There may also be the odd film or book review along the way as well as stories from my life)
If you wish to use material from these posts, you may do so, but please respect the work of the writer. Proper attribution, and accurate quoting that is faithful to the context is appreciated.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Three Guests at My Table

You may be familiar with a sign that a lot of Christians had hanging in their homes. It read "Christ is the head of this home, the unseen guest at every table." Or words to that effect.

It is a nice thought, but I know of people that rankle at such seemingly trite statements. Mostly I think, because the presence of Christ in our homes should be more obvious than that. If we have to put up signs reminding our visitors and ourselves of his presence, then I think something is truly, sadly missing.

Lately I've been thinking about how certain aspects of my life wrestle for priority. So here are a few thoughts, about the three guests at my table. The three things that vie for my attention. They all deal with relationships. They are all connected. The first guest at my table is . . .

1. Relationship with God. I am in a bit of a strange place with this, because, as has been the case for most of my Christian life, I am not satisfied with it. It is that part of my life that, although it has had intention, seems to have had the least attention, the lower levels of priority. It is where I have laboured the least. Coincidentally it is where I see the least fruit. I have an ideal of what this relationship and the subsequent fruit might look like. I have a desire for a certain depth of both engagement, and outworking. But there is a problem.

You cannot grow, where you did not sow.

Everything else grows out of this, it is the one true foundation that all else is built on. Otherwise whatever else is built, is simply a house of cards.

The band Reliant K has a song "This Week the Trend" it talks about the shifting sands of social trending that clamours for our divided attention spans. That ever present need to level up, like and be liked. As if this alone will fill the voids in our lives. It certainly fills the gaps we don't purposefully fill ourselves.

If this relationship is allowed to wither and fade then no other relationship can succeed. The second guest at my table, is . . .

2. Relationship with Community. I'll come straight out and say that the most important community we relate to is family. This should be self evident. I shouldn't need to labour this point so I won't. If you don't have this right, get it right. Now I'll move on, because I want to address our relationship with the community at large.

There has been a resurgence of interest in neighbouring. Thankfully this is happening within the church. Sadly, it should never have been lost. Here's a link to a talk by Greg Thompson on Qideas.
You will have to scroll down a bit to find Episode One. In this talk Greg puts forth the idea that "The community is not looking for the Church" he goes on to express his fear that, "The Church may not be looking for the community".

I have had my world seriously challenged lately by ideas such as these. I have had to question how I view and approach community engagement. I am excited about groups like Qideas, and the nascent Spheres community from Hillsong Church. They are exciting bridge building initiatives that seek to span the cultural divides of the church and the secular. We must remember that Jesus commanded us, that we "love our neighbour". This is an active love, it reaches out. We cannot activate this love unless we learn how to be "in the world" while not being "of the world". I think part of the problem is that we have adopted a form of "distance activism" we send our sponsorship dollars into the third world, which is a good program, I'm not knocking that. But if we think this is enough, when our own neighbourhoods are full of pain and discord, then we have retreated into a gated philanthropic bubble.

The third guest at my table is . . .

3. Relationship with Calling. This is a tricky one to balance, and lately it's had me out of balance. First of all I have my regular day job. It's a good job and it pays me very well. However, there is an underlying tension, it is physically taxing (to my aging body) and it's not what I really want to be doing. For now however, and until such a time as things become otherwise, this job is my principal calling. Through it I supply the needs of my household. Through faithful, diligent service, I fulfil the needs of my employer. This is God honouring work.

 So while I work at my day job I also struggle to find the time and the wherewithal to do the next thing. This involves an amount of study. First I have to work at and develop my craft, (writing). Secondly I have to learn the ins and outs of self publishing and marketing. For which there are numerous resources and experts, all clamouring for my patronage. Lately this has tipped into overload. I have too many books and down loads and resources that remain unread and unused, and the list wants to grow. I have steps to action. Author pages, websites, landing pages and mailing lists to think about. It has all the makings of a cataclysmic dam-burst that will leave me flapping on the ground like a fish out of water gasping for oxygen. Bug-eyed and bewildered.

So I have to re-assess this relationship. What does it demand of me? How much can I give it? What does it take from the others? How can it support the others?

How do these three guests sit at my table in harmony and balance?

I believe the central harmonising point is in the God Relationship. It is after all from this that all else is put into balance. Without that, all else is simply my own vain effort, propped up by my own faltering self-reliance. When this relationship is properly functioning, then my relationship with community is brought into balance. It becomes a conduit for compassion and justice. People become connected to God. Next my calling is brought into perspective and becomes guided and focussed. It can now serve God and community. I am fulfilled through it rather than flattened by it. I approach fellowship at this table with joy, rather than shame or guilt, knowing one of my guests has been ignored in favour of another.

There is a concept in the New Testament of "table fellowship". It is the place at the end of the day where Jesus gathered with his disciples for some of their most intimate gatherings. This is where he taught them more closely. There was relationship, fellowship and community. It is a table we are all invited to sit at.

So how does your table look today, are all of your guests being looked after?


Monday, 1 August 2016


Image courtesy of "xura" at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Last year I started reading a book by Paula Munier titled "Writing with Quiet Hands"

More than anything else, it started me thinking about how we all write these days. We don't write with quiet hands, we write with noisy hurried hands, even now I sit here tapping away at a keyboard, my fingers furiously attempting to keep pace with my flow of thoughts. If I'm writing with a pen my hand is about twenty words behind my brain, struggling to keep up in case the thought vanishes,  and it all becomes illegible. That's how it almost always is.

This sparked me off onto doing Calligraphy for a bit of a hobby. It forces me to slow down, to think about each letter and word, to make each shape correctly, adhering to line and form. The results are pleasing, both to the eye and to the soul.

But this book also got me thinking about other matters. I started thinking about other words and how they reflect and react in our daily lives. I started thinking about; Simple, Quiet, Beauty. So I'm going to briefly examine each word, and then I'll stick it all together at the end.

SIMPLE.  Unadorned, Uncomplicated, Uncluttered, Without Commotion, Direct, Obvious, Clarity, Purity.

To write with simplicity, is to express much, while saying little. To follow simple rules of grammar. To use simple words. To achieve purity of expression. Simple words are easily remembered, and are long lasting.

QUIET. Stillness, Silence, Absence of Noise, Humble, Simple, Calm, Unannounced, Peaceful.

To write quietly, is to write with a humble pen. The words formed need no announcement, they speak for themselves. They do not need to be trumpeted forth. They draw the eye and do not assault the ear. Their echoes linger in soul and spirit.

BEAUTY. Attractive, Pleasing, Vibrant, Adds Adornment, Light, Enhancing.

To write with Beauty, every stroke of the pen has line and form. Like Japanese Calligraphy, every word is a picture, it has shape and meaning. The paper that bears the word is itself a piece of that art. Words that carry beauty are often found on their own. They need no sentence to give them meaning.

When words are written in simple, quiet, beauty, they need no fanfare. They rest on the page and draw the eye, not to themselves, but to their truths.

They do not declare their value, but invite us to draw from them.

They do not demand our attention, they offer us direction.

They do not ask a question, but invite us to stop and ponder.

They are trustworthy, filling us with confidence and hope. Truth is made evident.

They cannot lie, because that would make them ugly, noisy, ambiguous.

Here then, are three words of quiet, simple, beauty.


Monday, 11 July 2016

Values Clarification

How do we determine personal value?

In my previous post, The Makers Mark. I talked about the values we place on ourselves, and how God determines those values.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net 

What I want to ask today is.

What is the criteria we use to determine the value a person has in our life?

What is a person worth to us?

Does that value change?

We all have a wide variety of people in our lives. Family, friends, work, school etc. and we value them all differently.

Then there is that horribly shallow world of the virtual friend, the online friend.

This is the person we want to "like" us. We strive to attract followers to our various social media platforms so that we can feel good about ourselves. We like them purely so they can "like" us. If we post something they don't like or get offended about, we quickly become "unliked", and vice versa.

The fashion industry puts all of its value onto a person purely because of the way they look. Once they no longer have "the look" they are no longer valuable.

All of our relationships; family friends, school, work and social groups.

All of them are subject to shifting values. Family can be split apart, friendships can end, school finishes and jobs change. That person at the shop counter may seem genuinely lovely, but will that still be true when you no longer want to buy something?

I think the most important thing of all though. Is that in becoming aware of how we value people. We must understand how that affects our behaviour towards them. Why do girls go all gooey and wobbly kneed over a teen pop idol? Yes I know, its those raging pubescent hormones, but there is also that projection of a value that has been placed on that person. Sadly girls, Justin Bieber can only marry one of you, and it probably won't be you.

If I value someone purely because of what they can bring into my life, then I am treating them as  a commodity.

But if I recognise the unique value of the individual, then I will treat them differently.

I recently saw this clip of Jefferson Bethke on qideas.org. He's talking on the subject of The Objectification of Women. (You can ignore the sign up prompt and just run the clip) I think what he is saying is applicable to all of us, he challenges how we view and value those around us. It runs for 20 minutes and he talks quite fast, but this is well worth listening to. Plus, he explains all of this much better than I can.

Monday, 6 June 2016

The Makers Mark.

Have you ever wondered, how you can tell what something is really worth?

I've often heard it suggested that value is determined by the price someone is willing to pay.

A friend of mine recently posted an image of a very nice condiment set made of (possibly) cut glass with silver tops. So a discussion ensued about the value of the pieces. Which led me to thinking about the value of antiques.

There are certain things that need to be considered when valuing an antique.

Example of silver hallmarking.
Hallmarks. These determine the identity of the maker or Guildhall. These will be in a series of marks that are stamped into the metal. They also prove the quality of the metal. The example on the right tells us that this piece is; Sterling Silver (lion passant) and that it was tested at the assayers office in London prior to 1870 (crowned leopards head) The date, if you look at the chart below (just to the left of the red circle) is 1841.

Image result for hallmarks silver
Example of Assayers date markings.
Age. The chart on the right shows how dates are indicated. Usually by a letter within a cartouche.
As you can see the letter style changes as does the cartouche as the alphabet is run through.

Commonality. Was the piece part of a large production run? Was it a commissioned piece? If so who was it made for? Is it part of a complete set or are pieces of the set missing? These all add up to determine value.

Provenance. This is the story of the piece. Is there a receipt or work order accompanying the item/s?
I used to share a workshop with an antiques restorer and we saw some very unique pieces of furniture. One was a side table that came from The White House. It was dated back to the Lincoln administration and appeared in a painting of the time. So provenance and history collided to bring about a very valuable piece of furniture. Another piece we saw belonged to a General that served with Wellington at the battle of Waterloo. During the repair/restoration process a pile of letters and photographs were found. Many with names and dates attesting to the authenticity of the piece.

Witness marks. This doesn't have much to do with value. But it is pertinent to what I'm going to say later, and they do have a part to play when it comes to restoration. Sometimes we would get furniture items that were in a partially assembled state, sometimes broken down for transportation. A witness mark will show you where two pieces of timber were joined. There will be a discolouration of the timber. They show how the maker put the piece together in its original state.

So lets take these same principles now and apply them to ourselves. Someone once determined the value of a person, based on the amount of chemicals and minerals found in the average human body. I think the net value was about three dollars.

Well, so much for evolutionary anthropology, we're worth much more than that. Let's run through that list again and see what we come up with.

The Makers Mark. We are made in the image of God. Our purpose on earth is to live as an expression of Christ, and of his Kingdom. We are a unique people, set aside for his purpose.
Ephesians 1:13 (NIV2011)
13  And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.

Passage of Time. Our value is not determined by our past. It is determined by what has been done with our past. We belong to an infinite, eternal God. We are eternal beings, called to eternal purposes. The temporal holds little value, except for those riches we store up in heaven through our Christlike conduct and actions.

One of a Kind. Each and every one of us are; unique, precious and valuable in his sight. There is nothing about us that is common. God holds each one of us with special regard, he has a custom made purpose for each one of us. We are not here to simply "make up the numbers" in a congregation.

Our Story. We all have a story to tell, and that is where our true value is found. We all have a story of; our salvation, a miracle, a revelation, this is our provenance. When we declare our testimony of his glorious works in and through us. It is our witness of how his story has marked our lives, the work that he has done in us. We prove his story in our lives.

There are some instances where the reverse is true. We don't receive extra value because of our calling. No, we receive our calling because of our value. He calls us because he first loves us. For each one of us our callings and giftings are unique, they are tailor made and designed to fit us. For many of us sadly these callings remain unfulfilled. Why? Because of the false temporal values we place on them. We value one calling over another, so our own calling, and therefore the way we perceive our own value, is diminished.

There is nothing we can do to add to our value, it is fixed and it will never depreciate. That is a human invention, that something becomes either more or less valuable.

God has purchased our redemption for a price. The price of the cross.

That is what you are really worth.


Monday, 7 March 2016


I attended my first Q Commons meeting on Friday 4th of March. I wasn't quite sure what to expect as I wasn't clear myself what Q Commons was actually about. All I knew was this, it had something to with Christianity in the public sphere. I have a better understanding now, but rather than me explain it, or if you want to learn more, follow this link here.

Image result for q commonsIn a nutshell. Q Commons is a sort of Ted Talk for Christian leaders and influencers in all spheres of life. Arts, Media, Education etc. In the past they have engaged speakers such as; Malcolm Gladwell, Erwin McManus and actor/director Mark Ruffalo.

Before I attended, I tried to boil it down to something that was easy to explain, at least to myself anyway. So I came up with this thought.

The Fundamentalist, Evangelical Church, has squandered our place at the discussion table by waving its Big Black KJV Bible proclaiming, "The Bible Says" and worse, trumpeting "If the Bible says it, and I agree with it, then that settles it." They sought to instruct, control and shout down the conversation, rather than engage and enter it.

Now, we need to work very hard to get invited back to the discussion.

One of the topics of the night was "The Irrelevance of Faith". Presented by David Kinnaman. David showed us some alarming statistics. One of which was that 42% of Americans believe that people of faith are part of the problem. 46% Believe that faith needs to be removed from public life.

Increasingly, youth are becoming more and more cynical about faith. 1 in 4 youth believe that one day they will be famous, and their chief objective is for fame and popularity.

So, having squandered our place in the discussion, being viewed as irrelevant and unwanted, how do we counter-act this growing wall of scepticism?

Well I believe that such scepticism can only be countered with authenticity.
But what is missing from the Church in regards to our authenticity? I think there are three areas we need to address on the pathway to regaining relevance for the Christian view.

Firstly. Our WORDS. Biblical based statements are affirming. But unless backed with the appropriate actions they ring hollow.
"Because the Bible says" Is not seen as, nor is it welcomed as a valid argument. It is instead seen as a bunch of archaic rules and restrictions that are unwelcome in a free thinking selfie addicted society.

I am not advocating a watering down of the Word of God. I do not advocate that we step away from our closely held beliefs. I simply think we need to be able to carry the message better. To engage the conversation, applying Biblical truth, but in such a way that is open for discussion and promotes thoughtful consideration. This is simply good apologetics.

When Jesus encountered the woman at the well, John 4:19-24, she was already beaten down by religion and dogma. Jesus spoke to her in her human situation and gave her real spiritual hope.

Secondly. Our ACTIONS. Our actions cannot be seen as, or interpreted as, a means to an end, i.e. to get a convert.

The main end of our Christian works, can only be for the betterment of the individuals human situation, without thought for our own personal reward or recognition.

Our actions must bring glory to Christ. This however is not a valid end if we do this only for our own self worth or gain. We bring glory to Christ when our actions give primary value to another human being.

"Love your neighbour as yourself" Luke 10:27, Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:4.
"preferring others before yourself" Romans 12:10, 1Timothy 5:21.

Thirdly. We must remain TRANSPARENT. All that we say and do must be in such a way, that our motive, method and money remain unquestioned.

 Accusations will come, but our integrity must remain, unsullied, even under the most rigorous examination.

We have seen enough lately of Christian leaders being accused and even convicted of fraud. While many of these accusations in the past have simply been vexatious, some cases have been proven.

Pastors and leaders need to shepherd and lead, that's it. They should never use their churches to underwrite their own personal success story.

I don't know if these steps are the total solution, this may not do it all. Cynicism and scepticism will remain. But if we can chip away at the ground the cynics and critics stand on, denying them a position from which to accuse.

Then bit by bit, we regain our ground.

We can stand up again.