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.

Monday, 21 December 2015


My previous posts in this series took us down two different paths.

First we looked at the path through the wilderness. Here we talked about those things that can be learned on that path. It is where we can learn about; His word, our worship, our walk, how to war and how to wait.

Secondly, we looked at the path through the valley. Here we saw God in action on our behalf to; judge His enemies, to lead guide and comfort, to perform His word and to reward those that seek Him.

In this study we are going to a higher place. It's time to go up the mountain.

Once again, you have probably already thought of a few mountains. So let's go climbing shall we?

I have read a few books about mountain climbing, in particular books about Hillary and Everest, as well as others. I've learnt some things from these books which I will touch on in places, but for now, let's turn to the Bible.

Whenever we see mention of a mountain in the Bible. It is usually either an obstacle or a place of revelation. It is this aspect of revelation that I want to focus on.

The mountain is a place where God is revealed. It is a place where he reveals something of  Himself,
or something of His intention to us.

On Mt Sinai, God revealed Himself to Moses through His law and His word. His truth was revealed. Exodus 19-22

On Mt Carmel,  God demonstrated His power. His authority was revealed. 1 Kings 18:20-39.

On the top of Peor,  God revealed himself to Balaam, the pagan prophet, commanding him to bless and not curse. His will was revealed. Numbers 22-24.

On Mt Nebo, God met with Moses one last time and showed him Canaan, the land over Jordan. His promise was revealed. Deuteronomy 32:48-49.

On the Mount of Transfiguration. The disciples saw Jesus glorified. His divinity was revealed.  Mark 9:2-7 and Luke 9:28-35.

Whatever your experience on the mountain, and these examples are just a sampling, you cannot stay there. This was the error Peter made. He wanted to make booths and camp there. You must come down. The atmosphere is rarefied, the weather is changeable, unpredictable and you are exposed. Above a certain altitude, the top of the mountain is called "the death zone", and for very good reason.

Bear in mind that Moses died on Nebo because of his disobedience in the wilderness (see Deuteronomy above). The children of Israel camped around Kadesh Barnea for forty years because they refused to enter the land. Numbers14. Perhaps we could view Babel as an attempt to manufacture a mountain experience.

Whatever we learn on the mountain, we must also learn to carry it down. It is a well known fact among mountaineers, that more deaths occur on the descent than on the ascent. This is where climbers become careless. The climb up and the elation of the summit have taken their toll. Fatigue sets in, ego overrules wisdom. You have never really conquered a mountain by simply reaching the top. You must now get off it alive. You have to come down, because the mountain is not the finish of your journey.

If you're taken up the mountain, go up.

If you're not, then don't.

When you're told to go down, go.

Because whatever you've learnt there, you will carry with you on the next part of your journey. There may be another wilderness to cross, another valley to go through, another mountain to climb. This journey will continue until we come to the top of the final climb. Mt Zion.

So keep walking. It's not time to stop just yet.

Images used in this post.
"Light Path"
Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
"Mount Mckinley"
Image courtesy of bAll_llAd at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, 14 December 2015


My previous post in this series covered the path through the wilderness. If you haven't read it yet, you can scroll down or follow this link. At the risk of being repetitive and boring. Let me remind you again, that our Christian walk takes us down numerous pathways. We don't choose which path or when, but we can choose how we walk through them. Along the way there are lessons to learn. The wilderness path helps us to learn about God's word, about worship, warfare, our walk and how to wait.

In this study we take a walk along a new path. It is the path through the valley.

And no doubt, once again, your mind will hurry off to think about all the valleys you've heard about from the Bible. At least two or three in particular. Well, reign in your thoughts. We will probably touch on much of what you were just thinking, but there may be some surprises in store for you.

The valley of Decision. Joel 3:14. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision. For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.
I have a hunch, that this is one of those verses we are all familiar with, but don't understand. Because this is not a valley you want to find yourself in. This is not, as I suspect many of us may believe, a place of our decision. Where we get stuck while trying to make up our minds. This valley is also referred to as the valley of Jehoshaphat. It is the valley of God's decision, it is a place of His judgement. Look back at Joel 3:2 and you will see what I mean. It is a place where God brings down his judgement on the nations for their treatment of Israel. So again, you don't want to find yourself in this valley.

The valley of the shadow of death. Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil for you are with me, your rod and your staff comfort me.
Okay, I quoted this from the NIV 2011 as I usually do. We are more familiar with the phrase "valley of the shadow of death". The Hebrew word that is used for valley in this verse means a narrow gorge. Deep in shadow. It is a place of foreboding and peril. Yet David knows that he does not walk this path alone. He knows that God goes with him, to guide, protect and comfort him.
A little side note, whenever you see a reference in the Bible about; a branch, staff, rod etc. It is often a metaphor for Jesus "the branch of Jesse".

The valley of dry bones. Ezekiel 37:1 The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.
Ezekiel found himself in a broad flat valley. This valley had no shadow of death. Everything in it was dead. Nothing but dry bones, and God asks Ezekiel (vs3) "can these bones live?"
God commanded Ezekiel to prophesy. To speak words of life into the dry bones. Soon there stood before him a vast army.

The valley of weeping. Psalm 84:6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca (weeping), they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
The verse prior to this speaks of pilgrimage. It is thought that the "Valley of weeping" is a reference to the sap running from the balsam trees that grew in the valley. This is in fact a joyous passage. The references to autumn and pilgrimage speaks of the feast of Tabernacles. In fact this Psalm is filled with familiar verses, and is rife with it's longing after the house and presence of God.

A superficial glance at these passages might give us a picture of a valley, that speaks of gloom, sorrow, foreboding and death. But a closer examination reveals that God is present in all of them.

In Joel 3, He is present to bring judgement on his enemies, and vindication for His children.

In Psalm 23, He is present to lead, guide and comfort us.

In Ezekiel 37, He is present to perform his word, and bring life where all we can see is death.

In Psalm 84, He is present as a reward for those that earnestly seek Him.

The path through the valley is not always smooth. It is a path that needs your careful attention. Stumbling and falling is a common hazard. Quite a few years ago (about 25 actually), I went with a group of friends though a place in Sydney's Blue Mountains called Claustral Canyon. It was a tight narrow path following a stream. It required abseiling down three waterfalls. The water was very cold, and some times the only way through was to swim. The canyon is a beautiful place, but it is also narrow and treacherous. In some places it is almost possible to touch both side of the canyon walls at once.
But did I mention? This place is dangerous. On this trip, we started out following a wrong path, as a result one of our friends nearly lost his life to hypothermia.

You may be stuck in a valley right now. It may seem narrow, hard and lifeless. It may seem as though the narrow places have blocked out all light. That the hand of God rests heavily upon you, as you weep out your tears of pain, confusion and frustration. This is not the place to give up. Valleys have streams and rivers running through them. In the midst of this confined place, is a place of refreshing. Do not turn from the path, follow it. A valley will either bring you out into a broad place.


It will bring you up to the mountain.

Images used in this post.
"Rocky river between steep and lush mountains"
Image courtesy of Tuomas_Lehtinen at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

"Light Path" Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, 23 November 2015


The Bible talks a lot, both metaphorically and literally, about the paths we travel. They might be called roads, or referred to as a 'way' or something else. But there is no doubt, that to embark on the Christian 'walk' is to start the journey on these paths.

This is the first in a series of posts on this subject. I'm going to look, one by one, at what I believe are the four major paths we must all walk along. We will look at the people in the Bible that also walked these paths. Hopefully we will learn something along the way, and understand the path we are walking right now.

So, are you ready? Good, lets get started.

First, we're going to look at the path through the Wilderness.

Wait, did you just think to yourself, testing? Well that's only part of it, so before you let yourself drift off with that thought. STOP.

Because the path through the wilderness is the path to beginnings.
Look at these five major figures in the Bible that had wilderness experiences. Each of them went into a wilderness setting before something new was released into their lives.

Moses was in the wilderness forty years before he became the deliverer of the Israelites.
Joshua was in the wilderness forty years before he led the Israelites into the promised land.
David was exiled into the wilderness before he ascended to the throne.
Jesus was in the wilderness forty days before he began his public ministry.
Saul (Paul) spent three years after his conversion in Arabia and Damascus, before he stepped into his apostleship Gal 1:17-18.

So the wilderness, is a place of preparation, it leads us to a beginning, a new thing.

There are a number of things we must learn on our way through the wilderness.

We must come to the tabernacle, to learn how to worship. As we learn to worship, we learn to lose ourselves.

We must come to Sinai to learn His word. As we learn His word, our relationship with God is revealed.

We must be led by the fire and the cloud, as we learn to walk. As we learn to walk, we learn to follow.

We must face down our enemies as we learn the art of war. As we learn to war, we learn to walk in our victory.

We must gather manna, and drink water from the rock, as we learn to wait. As we learn to wait, we learn obedience to God's sufficiency.

We will all go through this wilderness experience, and more than just once, it may be many times. It might be through sickness or injury, personal struggles, a career that seems permanently on hold, or that promise that you're still waiting to see come to pass. We may not always recognise it, but we learn something along the way, hold fast to God, and move on. The wilderness is a place of barrenness and emptiness. We experience that barrenness in our soul. If we are not careful, if we do not keep our focus centred on God, then we can so easily lose hope, we fall into despair and desolation.

The big mistake, is in not learning, not growing and not moving at the right time. Out of the entire nation of Israel, only two saw the opportunity God had placed before them. I am of course talking about Joshua and Caleb Numbers 13 and 14.

It is of very great importance to remember, that as barren, empty and lonely as the wilderness may feel, you do not walk this path alone. Deuteronomy 1:33 "who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go."

You can't walk it alone. Because on your own you will not survive. You must be shown the way. Trust God to lead you to water, to sustain you. Draw from his word, lean in to worship. And above all else, don't be afraid to take the fight to the enemy.

As we have seen with the children of Israel. How we respond to the wilderness journey, will determine the length of the journey. Joshua and Caleb had an unbridled passion and faith in God's ability to take them into the land, but were held back for forty years by the fearful complainers and grumblers. After Jesus had faced down the devil, angels came to minister to him. Even while in exile David continually called on the Lord, who led him into victory.

As you walk out this pathway, remember you're not alone. God is there to guide you and provide for you. You will pass through.

Images used in this post.
"Light path"
Image courtesy of dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
"Mesquite Sand Dunes at Sunrise-Death Valley National Park"
Image courtesy of dexchao at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Monday, 16 November 2015

Hashtag. All lives matter.

This past weekend has seen tumultuous, tragic events taking place.

Hundreds have died because of needless, senseless, hate filled violence. In Beirut, Nigeria and Paris to name just a few.

But all the focus has been on just one place, Paris.

And I have to ask why?

Why is all the focus, the outpouring of rage, the cries of injustice, the demand for a solution focussed on this one place.

Image result for beirut bombingYou might have seen this photo, which was circulated by Angelina Jolie. This is a bomb blast that erupted in Beirut. (I'm not sure when this photo was taken, I can't guarantee it is current to these events) There was however a series of bomb blasts, suicide bombers, the action of ISIS in a Hezbollah stronghold. Many have died and hundreds were injured.

I didn't see the flag of Lebanon appear on Facebook profiles. So obviously we care less about this right?

Because that's just one terror organization attacking another. Here is an article posted in Time Magazine , because the people of Beirut are asking this same question.

There is also the report of some slayings in Nigeria. Well the problems in the African continent are many fold. The Sudan, The Congo, Somalia, Libya, Algeria, the list of trouble spots there is almost as long as the list of nations.

What about the war in Yemen, ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Israel. Well, maybe Israel is a different story, because it is Israel that is tarnished with the fault, it's currently fashionable to blame Israel for everything, so there's no need to feel sad about that right? Oh yes, there's another one you probably haven't heard of, West Papua. Where the people are being brutally oppressed by a neighbouring country.

So why does Paris get all the attention? Is it because it's a place we would all like to visit? It's the city of lights, the city of love, the site of Jim Morrison's grave. The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, The Louvre, The Moulin Rogue. A cultural centre of art, history and romance.

I'm not trying to belittle this tragedy, and I am not sympathetic to Islamic extremism. I simply want to know why we responded the way we did.

Maybe we're tired of all those other, unfashionable places and their little troubles. Those places aren't romantic. They're not centres of art, history and culture. Well actually they are. Maybe it's just that none of them have the "Mona Lisa".

Most disturbing of all. Is what I see in social media. Post after post of retaliation, hate, anger. Sadly, so much of it from Christian friends. Some of whom incidentally, seem to have spent their Sunday watching two girls beat each other up for entertainment.

Even more disturbing. And this is the thing that has my real attention. Is this article about French Mayor Robert Chardon. He is calling for legislation to ban Islam from France. A sentence attributed to Mr Chardon is, "it's the only solution for most of France's problems".
It was only a generation ago that someone in Europe spoke about problems and solutions. That was in the 1930's. The problem, was the Jews. Except they weren't going around bombing people.
Is Europe on the verge of wholesale, systematic, state sponsored ethnic cleansing. AGAIN?

We remember the holocaust, that others try to deny. We say never again, not on our watch. But the language is starting to emerge, again.

To answer my first question. If there was not a current flood of "refugees" in Europe. Then the attacks in Paris might not be seen as part of a larger threat. The troubles in Beirut and Africa, are not really a threat to us, are they?

Do all lives really matter? Or just the ones from western democracies?

As a Christian, I have to say, yes they all matter. Because as a Christian, I want above all else, to be transformed.
I want the mind of Christ. I want to exhibit the nature and character of God. I want my DNA to be reprogrammed, overwritten with superior coding. I want to be like Him.

So what does God say? What does "the Christ within me, the hope of all glory" say, how does he respond?

Here's a few verses you can look up. Ezekiel 18:23 and 32, 33:11. I'll tell you what they say.
God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked.

We care more about the deaths in Paris than elsewhere. Our grief is selective. No one was deserving of a horrible, fearful death. Yet who are we to say that the death of an innocent child in Beirut, is less tragic than a fan at a Death Metal concert in Paris? Did someone deserve it more?

Here's another verse. It's pretty much one of a kind.
Psalm 11:5 "The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked, those that love violence, he hates with a passion."

God does not take any pleasure in the loss of a soul. And he abhors the act of violence, as much as he hates the act of retribution. Because in the end, everybody loses.

We cannot be selective in the outpouring of our grief. Nor can we advocate the act of retribution.
I saw a response to one of the many posts this weekend. One that said Pray for Paris, Pray for Peace.
The view taken, was that this was an ineffectual approach. Obviously they thought a good old bombing campaign was the answer.
Well maybe it is. If the god you pray to is impotent.

You've probably heard the phrase, "war is a necessary evil". I have always held to the view that war is not always necessary, but it is, always evil.

I've changed my view again.

War is made necessary, by the evil within us.

Monday, 2 November 2015

In the Drivers Seat.

A few days back, I was driving around on my way to pick up some people from the Airport. It occurred to me that I have two different driving styles.

Firstly, there is the way I drive when I'm on my own. Secondly, there's the way I drive with passengers. In fact, there's a third variation, which depends on who the passengers are.

It all got me thinking back to something I wrote in a book a few years back. The book covered some events in my life when I had broken my neck in a cycling accident. I was going through a fair amount of soul searching, when I had this conversation with myself.

“What would your day look like if you spent it in Joel’s company? (Joel is a senior pastor at Hillsong church. I say senior but he’s younger than me.) I realized, that the way I was living, my actions and conversation would be radically altered. Not that I was living a sin filled life, or that my speech was particularly profane, it just wasn’t what it could be. I, wasn’t who I could be.
Then this happened. (I’ll try to write it so you get the two simultaneous thoughts that ran through my head.)
It would be almost as if God was with you . . .    (You idiot God is with you)   . . . the whole day."        

(Excerpt from "I am Broken" by Leo Sandy. Available as an e-book on Kindle, iTunes, Kobo and Nook.)

Which brings me to ask. Where have we placed God? Where do we see him?
Is God remote, a disembodied spirit? Do we think of him as only being in heaven, sitting on a throne?
Do we really believe that he has a vital interest in our day to day waking life?

Because it seems as though a lot of us live with exactly these kinds of misconceptions.

Philosophical thinking would have us reduce God to an idea, nothing more than an abstract notion.
A set of noble ideals to aspire to. Certainly not a personal God that seeks after relationship, dialogue and involvement.

It's kind of like how we drive our cars when we can "see" that Police Car. But once it's gone, the law becomes reduced to an abstract ideal. We know the law exists, but because we don't see the agents of enforcement in our presence. It gets cast aside.

Wait. Am I suggesting that we don't consider God to be present, and that we have cast him aside from our conscious thinking? In many ways, yes.

My analogy of the police car serves us well here. Because we tend to forget the presence of the law, when we forget the presence of the agent.

I believe we've settled into a reductionist compartment view of God. God is in heaven. Jesus is up there too, because he ascended and took up residence in the throne room. As for Holy Spirit, well, where and what is he?

The Holy Spirit is God. In totality. It's a concept that our finite minds have trouble grasping, because we think in terms of solid objects. When we think of spirit, our thinking has been reduced by fairy tales and genies and such like, one thing in one place. Take it out of the bottle and put it back again.

But the Holy Spirit fills the whole earth.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:7-10 NIV 2011.

David understood this idea of an all encompassing, ever present God. He knew, that God was always there. God is infinite and complete. It matters not wether we refer to him as; God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit. The name doesn't change the fact.

I think another part of the problem is with how we read a verse in Ephesians.

". . .the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption . . ."
Ephesians 1: 13b-14a. NIV 2011

That verse, when misread, becomes completely reductionist. We reduce the Holy Spirit to a "bit" of God. The KJV uses the word "earnest", which means a down payment.

Here's the problem. You can't cut God into pieces. God is infinite, without beginning or end.
Even if you were able to separate something infinite into component parts, each part would still be infinite. Because that is its inherent nature. (Now while you get your head around that, let me assure you. I have checked this with a friend, whose has degrees in Mathematics. He says this is correct.)

Too many Christians I fear live their lives from exactly this viewpoint. They have a "bit" of God. They have a "bit" of his power, a "bit" of grace. When we have a small view of God, (and it is entirely possible to know God is infinite and still hold him in a small view) then other things take the centre of our view. God gets pushed out to the periphery, he becomes a fleeting shadow.

We are not meant to live out our Christian lives as if God is only present some of the time. Only accessing His presence when we need it, or when we remember. God is meant to be fully seen, not just glimpsed at. This is why, when I had that moment with God, I realised that I was living "in part". I can't only live as a Christian among Christians.
We must live our lives in the fullness of the present, presence of God.

So, (if you will excuse me quoting from "The Cars") Who's going to drive you home tonight?

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Lighting the Way

We're supposed to let our light shine for all to see right?

 A light in the darkness, a guiding light, a light that shines more and more until the final day.

But I wonder, how many of us check our alignment, to make sure our light shines correctly?

Image result for headlights imagesI find driving at night a bit more difficult than it used to be, and more hazardous.

It used to be simple. Driving on the left hand side of the road at night, you look to the left when there is oncoming traffic. (If you happen to be reading this in a country that drives on the right hand side of the road, then obviously you would look to the right). You turn your eyes away from the oncoming glare, in doing so you retain your night vision. And there's that handy mirror that you flick up to dim the light from following vehicles. But it's not that simple anymore. There is an increasing number of vehicles on the road, mostly 4WD's, SUV's, people movers, that all have their lights set up high in the bodywork.  Now those oncoming and following lights are at eye level. Add to this, the proliferation of brighter types of lights, halogen, LED and the like. Driving conditions become have blindingly hazardous.

Image result for headlight adjustment
But it's not just the lights or the cars themselves.
A lot of cars have their lights badly adjusted. A car used to get inspected periodically, and the light adjustment was checked. Now it seems sufficient if the lights just work. It doesn't seem to matter if one of the lights is permanently aimed into the eyes of an oncoming driver on full beam.

Then there are the increasing numbers of cars I see without any lights on at all. It seems that we live in such a well illuminated driving environment, that some drivers are unaware that their own lights cannot be seen.

They simply assume (or so it seems) that if they can see, then they are also seen. But I do appreciate how easy it is to do this. Coming out of late night shopping centres with their well lit carparks, it's easy to forget. Then we plunge onto darkened roads, and the lights still aren't on.

I wonder how many Christians go through life like this?

In Matthew 5:16, Jesus said. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven."  (KJV)

I want to draw your attention to this little word, "so". It means, "in this way".

It 's the manner in which you allow your light to shine.

The purpose of the light is to bring glory to God.

The light should never be directed at ourselves.
It should never be hidden, or left off.
It should never, ever, be allowed to shine in such a way that it causes offence.
It should never annoy or distract.

But I know, it's so easy some times. we step out of our brightly lit church environment, and we assume our own light is visible. Sometimes we act in a moment of zeal or perhaps immaturity, but we cause offence or distract. Sometimes we caught up in passion and excitement and forget, it's not about us.

A friend of mine, Lyn Packer, recently wrote on her prophetic encouragement page that "we must disappear, so He can appear."

We teach our children to sing "this little light of mine" but the problem is, it's not our light, not really.

The Apostle Paul said "I know that in me there is no good thing".

We don't actually have a light we were drawn from darkness into light.

We have received light that has been given to us, we are not the source of the light.
It has been entrusted to us.

We must "walk worthy of the one who has called us".

It is our responsibility, to ensure that the light that shines from us, is properly directed, lighting the path so that others may follow.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The IDYLL of the IDLE

This is what happened when I got woken up at 1.40am with a leg cramp. Then I couldn't get back to sleep and my brain started working. Then, at about 3.30am, I had to get up and write stuff down, which lead to this thought.

If we live an IDLE Christianity.
Entranced by an IDYLL of Christianity.
Does it lead to an IDOLATROUS Christianity?

Which lead to this.

When I was in my late teens. I had two vans, sort of. One was a poster of one of those 70's custom van's. Custom airbrushed paint job, mag wheels, big V8, chrome pipes, bucket seats, padded velour interior, state of the art sound system. A Party House on wheels.

This was my IDYLL, the kind of van I dreamed of having.

Then there was the van parked in my driveway. It was beat up, the paint looked like it had been put on with a broom. The stereo was cheap and tinny. The wiring questionable, no upholstery and two seats that were anything but, bucket. But throw in a crate of beer and it was still a party house, of sorts.

On some level, it probably had the potential to become something like the van in the poster. It was after all, a van.

The problem was, I was idle in regards to that potential. I was a lot like the man in Proverbs 19:24.
A sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he will not even bring it back to his mouth.
I had at my hands a measure of ability and potential, but did nothing to gain or benefit by it.

I was quite simply, "idle".

Image result for idler gear definitionThere is a small part in an automotive gearbox, and it doesn't really do a lot. It's called an idler gear. This little gear does have a purpose. But most of the time it just sits, idle. When does this little gear come in to play? When you want to go in reverse. Manual gearboxes are called synchromesh. All of the gears have a level of engagement, they all turn together. As they are engaged, one by one they contribute to the forward motion of the vehicle.
For the little idler gear to become engaged, everything has to come to a complete stop. You have to select neutral, and then reverse. That's right, that little gear can only make the car go backwards.

For the idle Christian it can be pretty much the same. Just sitting there, unengaged. If they do need, or try to engage, things can just get slowed down.

The same can be seen in the long term unemployed. If they become accustomed to being idle, unproductive habits develop. In order to re-enter the workforce they have to be coaxed in, they have to learn new, or re-learn old habits. Sometimes to the point of completely retraining.

But what happens to the idle Christian if they don't engage? Where does that lead to?

An idle Christian life (as I define it), is one with knowledge and experience (small or little it doesn't matter) but no practise, and therefore no power. Because of a lack of power, faith and confession begin to atrophy. Disillusionment sets in, they lose their capacity to believe. Disconnection sets in. The comfort zone is settled and occupied. They have become like the person Paul spoke of in 2Tim 3:5, "having a form of godliness, but denying its power".

Now we are left with a Christian, (in name only) that is trying fill the empty God space with other things (this comes under the general heading of backsliding).

And sometimes our ideal of Christianity gets shattered. We have an expectation of people, and of Jesus. So when people don't behave as expected. When our experience doesn't match up with others. When we don't see God move.

That's when we hear those little whispers, "Has God really said?"

Anything we put in our lives, anything we place before our eyes. To replace or perhaps to shut out the empty God space in our lives. Anything we attempt to do to add meaning into our lives, when we have lost our meaningful God relationship.

That is called an idol.

Our idleness has removed us from our idyll.

We have become idolatrous.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

The "other" uncomfortable Jesus.

A few weeks ago, I was shown this poem by G. Betty Hares.


Conceived out of wedlock,
Born in an outhouse,
Laid in a make shift bed of unsterile straw.

Let's trim it up a bit,
Make the cows gentle,
Add a sky of soft velvet and bright twinkling stars.

Let's accent the romance.
Forget the reality;
After all it did take place a long time ago.

We know such things happen,
But this must have been different,
This was the Son of God crying and cold.

Deep down I've a feeling,
He refused to be different,
That his birth, like his death, was as bad as could be.

If it's different I've made it so,
Heaven forgive me!
And that's why I'm blind when I meet him today,
In the addict, the drop out, the homeless, the hungry.
And that's why they often don't meet him in me.

I like this poem, because it challenges the way we have so often mythologised our concept of Christ.

We prefer to create for ourselves a "comfortable" Jesus, one that is easy to live with.

There is a dual nature to the person of Christ, and I think that most of us tend to gravitate towards one aspect of his nature or the other. Some of us like the idea that Jesus was kind-hearted and healed people. But we're not too sure about cursing fig trees and storming the money changers tables with whip in hand. We like the gentle, meek user friendly image of Jesus. Oh yes, we understand that he will sit in judgement one day, but lets not dwell on that now shall we?

Atheist Richard Dawkins has said that he finds the story of the crucifixion utterly abhorrent. But he quite likes the beatitudes. So he is comfortable with one idea of Jesus, but not with another.

Then there are those that gravitate to the more authoritative Jesus, those powerful images of storms going out at the breath of his words, warnings of judgement to come. For them, power is embraced at the cost of mercy.

We need to see and understand Jesus in his completeness. Because if we focus only on the "nice" Jesus, then we bypass judgement and accountability. But if we focus only on judgement and authority, then we shut people off from grace.

So how do these two natures sit in balance? Here are some clues.

Matthew 10:16b Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

Psalm 85:10 Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Ephesians 4:15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head even Christ.

Throughout the scriptures we see this balance happening. Where truth, judgement, wisdom, righteousness, are paired together with peace, love, innocence, mercy. In the verse in Ephesians, Paul is telling us that obtaining this balance is the key to growing into Christ. And I particularly love the picture of intimacy between righteousness and peace.

We sing a song in church at the moment, that speaks of God's FURIOUS LOVE  being poured onto the cross. It is a confronting idea that God, in that same moment, poured out BOTH, his WRATH and his LOVE.

Richard Dawkins rejects the idea of the cross. Because he cannot reconcile the compatibility of these dual natures.

The poem I began with speaks of an inability to see Jesus in the needs of others, and the inability of the needy to see Jesus in us. We pray and cry out for more of him. But maybe what we really need is all of him. When we embrace both his regal nature as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and his submissive nature as the Lamb of God. When we understand what it means to exercise judgement and mercy together, then we will be more like him.

Footnote. As I was working on this post, I got all excited about this idea of "The Lion and the Lamb laying down together". Because we quote that all the time right? Except no such verse exists. I thought for certain that it was in Revelation. Wrong. It does in fact come to us in mixed up form, from a verse in Isaiah 11:6 The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.

And, I was so excited because I was going to work this idea into the post. I was certain I would astound you all with this killer of a point. Which brings me back to how easily we get carried away with our mythologised views of Christ.

A favourite preacher of mine, Charles Nieman once said, "If you're going to preach the Bible, then preach the Bible, at least find out what it says."

That's good advice.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

The Priestly Robes

Have you ever wondered what it was like, when the priests in the Temple brought the sacrifices to God?

To me the scene is almost unimaginable, the most bizarre of spectacles. The shedding of blood, bullock after bullock, goats and sheep for the slaughter. Carcasses burnt to charcoal on the altar. Fat fires flaring under the hot Judean sun.

It would have been unbelievably messy, sweaty, smelly back breaking work. It was sacrifice.

But this is just one aspect of the Priestly office. Their main purpose was to represent God to the people, and the people to God. Until recently I don't think I had ever really seen this in action. That is, until I stepped in to the 2015 Hillsong Conference.

It was on the Tuesday evening after the main rally had ended. Joel Houston, with the United band, stepped onto the stage to lead the final worship session of the night. As I have seen him do on previous occasions, Joel brought nothing of himself to the microphone. On this night, as he introduced the song "Prince of Peace" I saw Joel, metaphorically, put on priestly robes.

It was the role of the High Priest to carry the burden of the people of Israel. Symbolized by the graven stones sewn into the priests ephod.

Joel, with faltering voice, reached out to the crowd to talk about the struggles we face in life. He invited us to lay them before God, to open our hearts and trust Him just a little bit further. To lay them on the altar.

But not only a priest, Joel became a shepherd, leading his flock to drink from still waters, inviting us to dine at a table, laid out in the midst of our struggles.

Not everyone in the Christian Church likes this style of worship. The style that is typified by Hillsong, United, Jesus Culture and others. I recently read an article by one such critic. You can read this article by Mike Livingstone if you want. I agree with  some of his points. I agree that the one thing a Christian should never do on any platform is to point to them self. But I can't help wondering, when I read articles like this, if maybe the issue is just that they don't like the method.

On more than one occasion, I've heard the words "Christian Rock" spat out of the mouth like an expletive.

Later in that same week of Hillsong Conference, I had the joy and pleasure of sitting in on a worship set led by Martin Smith, the former front man for Delirious. I have loved this mans music for many years now. In particular I was thrilled to hear him play a favourite song from the Delirious playlist. The song is called "Obsession".

My connection is not with the song, and it is not with the man. The words of the song speak to my human condition, my personal struggle to walk out my beliefs. It points me to Jesus. This song was for me a beautiful moment lost in surrender, arms stretched wide. In the midst of the song, the lights, the video screens, the people around me, there was an invasion of stillness.

Is the scene on the modern church stage really all that different to the scenes of the early temple?
With loud celebratory songs of praise, the smoke and flame of the sacrifice, the sun bouncing and glinting off burnished bronze and polished gold, off the jewels on the priestly garments.

As I stood in the midst of that auditorium. As waves of sound crashed over me, I had a thought.

Some people, Christians, will point and say. "THAT'S NOT WORSHIP".

But sometimes.

It just is.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Go Set a Watchman

"Every man's island, Jean Louise, every man's watchman, is his conscience."

Brief History of the Book.
The history of this book is well documented so I will keep this part short. Go Set a Watchman was the first book written by Harper Lee. It was at the behest of a publisher that Lee wrote, To Kill a Mockingbird. It covers in greater detail a portion of the back story that we see in Watchman.
The Manuscript was found in a safe deposit box only recently. Harper Lee is in assisted care, her mental state, following a stroke, was in question, but supporters of Lee were adamant that she was enthusiastic for the book to be published. So now we have it.

Style of the book.
Some of the initial reception for the book has been unfavourable. Some of the critics have complained that the story, "meanders" there are other complaints, but they have little to do with the way this story has been written. And that's what we have to ask here, is it a good story, is it well written?
As for style, I have been reading a book called "The Irresistible Novel" by Jeff Gerke. In it, Gerke explains that many of the reasons submissions for publication get knocked back, is down to personal taste. It is usually about style, narrative, point of view, plot devices. Here is the problem with Watchman so far as critics go. It was written in the 1950's. It has not been re-written. Style has changed since then. Anyone trying to compare this book by todays publishing standards, is in danger of missing the story completely.

Importance of the context.
This, as I have said, is a book written in the 1950's. It is about a post WW2 generation. It precedes the civil rights movement, but hints at it's early rumblings. The story has a strong sense of personal biography to it. Harper Lee's father, just like Atticus Finch, was a lawyer. Lee herself grew up in Alabama, the same US State these stories are set in.

The story has a very strong sense of reminiscence. It is a return to the idyll of childhood, a yearning for simpler carefree times. We visit that childhood often. But it clashes with a present reality that counterpoints those memories. If the book seems to meander, it is because there is so much backstory. We have to remember, this book was written first. Mockingbird was written second. We need the backstory, as well as the internal dialogue, to understand the all important context of this story.

Because the central character of Jean Louise (Scout) discovers the truth of her fathers racism.
It is a rending of the heart. Atticus is the last family Scout has left. We are given a sense that maybe, his court defense of the young negro in Mockingbird, is one of expediency rather than of altruism.
But we want to reject this possibility. Because we, as 21st century readers and movie lovers, are equally in love with Atticus Finch. The champion of the down trodden.
But Atticus Finch has feet of clay. Or does he?

This is what is left for Scout, and for us to discover. The truth about this heroic father figure, and about herself.

"I did not want my world disturbed, but I wanted to crush the man who's trying to preserve it for me"

This is a great book, it's characters are richly developed and realized. There is humour and conflict. It is well paced, even as it meanders. You simply have to trust the author to tell the story. My great disappointment was not with the book or the story. It is with the Author. Because Harper Lee a Pulitzer Prize winner, was a writer of undeniable talent, and these are the only two books she has written.

As I read this book I also had the feeling of a metaphor. This is a story for America. Post war America. That has lost the idyll and innocence of it's youth. Times are changing, and America must change with them. But will the change be enough, or soon enough? Oddly, this is a story for today. Because the story resonates with current issues and questions, that America is once again facing on the subject of race.

Was this book written 60 years too soon? Or was it published 60 years too late?

In a 2011 interview, Harper Lee was quoted as saying, "I have said what I wanted to say, and I will not say it again."

In that case, I have to ask. Have we been listening?

Monday, 20 July 2015

Mariage, Definitions and Disputes.

In a follow up to my previous posting, Same Sex, Same Jesus? I was also thinking about our current definitions of marriage. This again is hotly disputed territory. So it may help if we try to understand what we're talking about, what we're thinking and why we think it.

I have done a small amount of research on this subject in the interest of clarifying some of my own definitions. However, most of what I write here are my own understandings of the subject at hand. i.e. How do we define marriage?

Let's start with the simplest and most common term of all. Holy Matrimony.

Straight away we have a problem, because I seriously doubt that many people, and possibly this is especially true of Christians from a traditional denominational background, have a correct definition of what it means to be "Holy".

Most readers will automatically have some idea of purity or piety, maybe even celibacy. Even an idea of a man with god like status. Perhaps some notion of someone so close to God that they are nigh on unapproachable. (Such a view is actually borderline idolatry) This is most likely the product of traditional church thinking/teaching. It perhaps stems from images of Moses, his face shining, coming down from the mountain with the ten commandments. Blend in with this the idea that we are all essentially sin-stained and unacceptable to God.

Most of this however is false, or at best a bad interpretation of the truth. It is why we have a problem with verses like 1Peter 1:16 and Lev 11:44-45, "be holy even as I am holy". Given the above (mis)understanding. This is of course impossible. Because of our fallen nature we can never, in this life, be pure and sinless as God is. So what does holiness mean?

Holiness is best described as "separation to God's purpose". In it's simplest terms, the Holiness of God refers to his dedication to seeing his word come to pass. Of all the things that God could be doing today, his primary focus, is you. He is unswerving in that, wholly committed, unshakeable. He has devoted his existence to the benefit of mankind, reconciling man unto himself. This devotion, this holiness was fully expressed on the cross. The work of that cross, the salvation of humanity, restoring us into relationship with himself is his primary focus, this is his holiness, the task he has separated himself to. So when God asks of us to be holy, he asks that we unswervingly dedicate ourselves to his purpose.

The Biblical concept of marriage is properly found in the language of the "covenant". I am going to address this topic in a post to follow later. So I won't spend too much time on it here. Suffice to say that a covenant was an "equal" agreement. Both parties to the covenant agreed to lay something of their-self aside in order to benefit the other. That is why in the marriage vow, it is often said, "forsaking all others". It is the wholehearted commitment to the other, the laying aside of self, that makes the union "holy".

There is however another problem with marital terminology. It is the idea of sanctification from sin. This is largely due (I believe) to the teachings and practices of the medieval church. Where sexual intercourse was seen as sinful, the result of our base and lustful human nature. The only way to sanctify the act was in the marriage bed, a concession thrown to the uneducated masses, held in the thrall of the all powerful priestly elite. This was again the result of the misinterpreting and misapplication of scripture, in particular the writings of the Apostle Paul and his statements about marriage. Yes, biblically speaking, sexual intercourse outside of marriage (fornication) is a sin. It represents the benefits of the covenant, without the commitment to it. It is self serving. But marriage itself doesn't save us from sin. The medieval interpretation was quite simply, an abuse of power.

So how should we view marriage?

Essentially marriage is intended as an image, or reflection; of the unity and harmony of the Trinity. Also, of the relationship between Christ and his Church (the bride of Christ). This is all a bit tricky now as Paul describes these things as mysteries. I fear a lot of people are uncertain of how to describe the relationship of the Trinity. Let alone reconcile the idea of us all becoming one heavenly corporate body described as "a Bride". Most simply, it is the language of unity, harmony, agreement, oneness with Christ, "he in us and us in him". Eternal, unbroken fellowship.

Now there is a third problem. The dilution of the meaning of marriage.

Over the years divorce has become more common place, de-facto relationships are the norm, in certain countries you can get a temporary marriage license. Try it for five years and if you don't like it you, have a "get out of  jail free" card. No divorce, no lawyers, you're free to try it with someone else. Much of society now views marriage as an archaic unnecessary formality. Even in the church, some statistics would suggest that divorce rates are very similar to those in secular society. From my own personal experience. I have seen two divorces in my own family. Many of my friends, probably about 45%, that married more than 20-25 years ago are now separated or divorced. I have one friend now in their fourth marriage. Many of my friends have divorced parents. Sadly, the idea of "two becoming one" is increasingly lost. Marriage is more and more the simple co-habiting of two individuals.

So if this is all true, then why all the hue and cry over same sex marriages? Why is there such vigorous lobbying for something that is viewed as archaic, outdated and temporary? Mostly it's about legal rights to medical consent, pensions and inheritance etc. They want the same legal protections over wills and such like as other couples. Even a co-habiting de-facto relationship has legal standing after just three months. It has more legal recognition than a same sex union of ten years. Unfortunately, there is the more militant, highly vocal and litigious side of this debate that wish to pursue the issue purely on the grounds of discrimination. This element does more harm than good to their cause.

I read this article by Amanda Vanstone today on this very subject. Mostly it is about party room politics and conscience votes. But she does make some salient points and observations on the decline of marriage values. I don't necessarily agree with all of them. But she does defend the right for religious institutions to refuse a wedding ceremony on the grounds of their beliefs.

Society has been bombarded with assault after assault on the institution of marriage. It's meaning and symbolism has been eroded. You can have an Elvis impersonator marry you at a drive through booth in Las Vegas. We see courtship and marriage as prime time T.V. "reality" entertainment. The Bachelor(ette), The Farmer wants a Wife. Bridezillas and others that are much worse. What was once sacred and special is itself now base, ordinary, the subject of public derision. More effort is put into planning, or rather staging, elaborate ceremonies, than is put into developing the relationship.

Perhaps, for so many people, the reason a same-sex marriage looks no different? Is because we have lost sight of what it is, that makes marriage so special.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Same Sex, Same Jesus?

In the current discussion, (OK it's just short of all out war) regarding the Christian Church and same sex issues, there have been a lot of opinions floated about. Much of this discussion has been dominated by outright bad theology (from both sides) and outright bigotry, (again, from both sides).

Somewhere in the middle of all this, there are some in the church that are trying to find the right way to address the issue. The question looks something like this.

"How do I uphold the truths of the Bible, on the subject of same sex attraction, without compromising those truths and my own beliefs. While at the same time being able to express the undiluted love and grace of Jesus Christ?"

That's a tough question. It's so tough, most don't even know how to approach it, let alone how to begin to try to answer it. But some are trying.

For example, Carl Lentz. Lead pastor of Hillsong Church New York City. His approach has been to steadfastly refuse to address the issue from any public platform. He has a number of reasons for this,
Firstly, as he so often iterates, Jesus never did so. Secondly, he will not make a blanket statement on the subject. His preference is to have a face to face conversation. Because he knows that each person will respond differently to such a message. By having such conversations he shows respect and gives validity to each persons viewpoint. Here is a video of Carl  pressing that exact point.

Well is Carl on the right track? To answer this we must look at the ministry of Jesus.

But before we go any further it is essential we clear something up. It is of no use to this debate whatsoever to ask, What Would Jesus Do? What we must ask is, What Did Jesus Do?
Did Jesus publicly address the issues of same sex attraction? No, at least we have no record of such a statement.

He did however address several people facing issues attached to gender. Issues that resulted in ostracism, religious exclusion, bigotry and judgement among other things. I came up with four of these people without even thinking too hard about it. They are all women, because to be a woman in Jesus time, was, by our modern standards to be something of a second class citizen. And these four women were even further down the order than that.

The first of these women is, "The woman at the well" John 4:7-27. This woman is a social pariah, outcast from her own community, she has had five husbands and hasn't even bothered with a wedding for man number six vs. 17-18. She is coming to the well at noon, when nobody else is there. She is a Samaritan. A class shunned and hated by the Jews. Note that the disciples were shocked that Jesus was talking to a woman and a Samaritan vs. 27. But central to this discussion is a part that is often ignored, apart from Jesus' answer. It is the question of worship. Historically the Samaritans were a people excluded from the Jews, some were Jews returning from the dispersion, but unable to prove their lineage. Partly it was a result of the Israel-Judah division of the nation. partly they were descendants of forcibly displaced Babylonians. Because of generational mixture they thought of themselves as Jews. They erected a temple under the direction of a priest who was cast out of Jerusalem by Nehemiah. They celebrated Passover. The temple was later destroyed. In a similar manner to the current practise of Islam, the Samaritans would face the mountain site of the destroyed temple when they worshipped. Now comes the question from this woman. Vs. 20b "you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem."
There you have the whole picture. A Samaritan woman, excluded from society, excluded from worship. She has been given a law from religious leaders. "This is how you must worship, but we won't let you in because we despise you."
Jesus was not at that well by accident.

The second is the woman with the issue of blood. Mark 5:25-34. Here is a woman excluded, by reasons attached to her sexuality, from any form of social interaction, even family, and she has been this way for twelve years. Despite all her best efforts and those of many physicians her condition has remained unchanged. Under Levitical Law, she should not even be in the city, let alone in the middle of a crowd, she was deemed "unclean" by the law. Leviticus 15:25-33.
In the midst of a pressing crowd, as we so often see, Jesus stops for the "one" the individual.

The third is the woman caught in adultery. John 8:3-11. Here is another question of law. A law that demanded judgement. The religious authorities, (trying to trap Jesus) demanded an acknowledgement of the Law in this case, that judgement be exercised, and the woman be stoned. The law demanded her immediate death.
Jesus responded with mercy, first addressing the condemning crowd. He pointed out that all are guilty of sin, therefore none are fit to stand in judgement. Then he offers forgiveness.

The fourth is the woman with the alabaster box. Luke7:36-50. Jesus is a dinner guest in the house of Simon, a Pharisee, and once again we run into the condemnation of religious authority. The woman by all accounts is a prostitute. She has come to anoint Jesus and worship at his feet. An act Jesus does nothing to discourage. It outrages his host, so much so that Simon questions Jesus' authenticity and spirituality, "If this man were a prophet" he asks himself vs.39. As a prostitute, this woman was barely tolerated. Her life is regarded as shameful and under the ban of society.
Prostitution is akin to; harlotry, adultery and idolatry. The woman is an outcast.
Jesus, once again does not address her situation until the very last, instead he turns his attention towards his host, addressing his hypocrisy.

So there are four examples of how Jesus responded to four different women. They faced a variety of issues, but with many common factors; gender, law, social exclusion, exclusion from worship, reputation, self esteem, shame, outcasts, rejected.

Jesus stepped into all of their worlds, he offered; acceptance, forgiveness, restoration, wholeness, grace, mercy, love, salvation.

So in light of this, how should the church respond to the LGBTI community? Probably the last thirty years or more could be held as a bad response. From the hysterical preaching of AIDS as Gods judgement on the gay community, right down to the waving of placards proclaiming God's hatred towards his children. Now they are paraded as evidence of end times apocalypse.
Not much of this is based on a truly biblical New Testament Church response. It is based on a lie, the lie that homosexuality is somehow worse than all other sin. A lie that feeds upon prejudice, fear, a personal sense of revulsion. The Bible draws no such distinction. We should have done, and now must do, better.

Some would say throw the doors open, let them come as they are, we wont judge. Others would say bar the doors and lock them tight. Neither is a helpful response. To barricade and bar entry is to alienate and deny access to Christ. To open the doors without restraint is to invite a further dilution of truth.

Because to come to Christ is to acknowledge ones sin. The response of Jesus as we so often see, is to forgive the sinner, but then to advocate a process of change, "go your way and sin no more". It is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring that change to pass, it is not the job of the church.

This is a journey we are all on, as the Bible says, "working out our own salvation daily" Philippians 2:12 (my paraphrase). I cannot tell you how to embark on that journey, and neither can anyone else. We can sit together, share our stories, pray together and encourage one another. I would advise a few things that are helpful to this journey, such as; prayer, devotional reading, Christian fellowship, corporate worship, attention to sound Biblical teaching etc.
Because salvation, without the ongoing work of salvation, is mere lip-service. The mouthing of prescribed platitudes. It does not constitute relationship with God.

Carl Lentz is often quoted as saying "We are a come as you are Church" and that's good. Jesus never turned anyone away that came seeking him in honest humility. But that invitation must be balanced. What the church cannot say is, "stay as you are" because that is a broad road, it is not the path to salvation.

Monday, 1 June 2015

To Know and To Know Not

I have written previously, about our belief structures, in a post titled Is vs Does

I would like to continue with this idea a bit further, part two if you like, by asking this question. Do we know God, or merely know about  God

A great many people know about God, they've at least heard about him. Many may even profess to have a degree of knowledge about God, they've read and heard some stuff and formed an opinion about him.

For this latter group of people, theirs is head knowledge. They are analytical. They will judge the beliefs and actions of others, purely in accordance with what they know and the opinion they have formed. Their knowledge, I believe, is very similar to the law based world view of the Pharisees.

There are some good examples of these people in the Bible.

Samson. Whose whole calling and experience was handed to him on a platter. He did not respect it. He did not nurture it. When the Spirit of God departed from him, he was unaware of it. Judges 16:20.

Saul. Another one that stumbled into his calling, rash and impetuous. He did not know how to seek God.1Sam 9:5-10. He did not know how to trust and follow God. 1Sam 13:9-13. In the end he was stripped of his throne in favour of "a man after God's own heart." 1Sam 13:14.

The Pharisees. They were experts in the law. Dedicated in their forms of worship. Yet blind to the presence of the Messiah, the living God, walking amongst them.

Philip. One of Jesus' own disciples, of whom Jesus asked, "Don't you know me Philip, even after I've been among you such a long time?" John 14:9a. NIV 2011.

For believers such as these. Their Christianity is a veneer and easily peeled away.

It is based on superficial experience.

It has a superficial expression.

They have "a form of godliness, yet deny it's power"  1Tim 3:5.

The men of Nazareth, Jesus' home town, said they knew him. Sadly their familiarity filled them with unbelief. For they knew him only as the carpenters son. Matt 13:53-58.

This is a world away from knowing him.

As for those that truly know their God, "they shall be mighty and do exploits" Daniel 11:32 KJV. Jesus said, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me." Jno10:27 NIV 2011.
These people, a great many of them, are also found in the Bible.

David. A young shepherd boy, who wrote songs of praise, to the creator of the stars he slept under. He slew a giant the king was hiding in fear of.

Daniel. Who stood before pagan foreign kings, refusing to bow to their gods, stepping unscathed from the lions den.

Philip. A young believer, chosen to serve at tables because of his faith and dedication. Acts 6:1-6. He preached the Gospel in Samaria, confronted Simon the Sorcerer and baptised the Ethiopian Eunuch. Acts 8.

For believers such as these, their knowledge is heart based. It is deeply rooted and not easily shaken.

It comes from a personal revelation.

It becomes a personal relationship.

 The men of Samaria said to the woman from the well. "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the saviour of the world." John 4:42 (Italics mine)

If you were to look at my left hand you would observe that I wear a wedding ring. You might come to the conclusion that you know I am married.

But I know my wife.

Do you know?

Or do you simply know, about?

Monday, 4 May 2015

The Critical Mass

The Rise of the 21st Century Pharisee.

In the last year or so, I have become aware of a disturbing and increasing trend within the Christian Church.

It is a trend towards the open and relentless criticism of Christian leaders and figureheads.

This trend is being aided and abetted by unfettered, unregulated access to online sources and resources. It is a vehicle that is being driven with neither restraint, nor regard for others on the road.

There is even a website, an online news organisation, (and I'm sorry I don't have the link for you). It is made up of professional Christian journalists. They use their site as a platform for investigative journalism, directed towards the church. In other words, they make it their business to investigate and expose what they see as corrupt or inept church leadership. Christians. Sad really. And these are just the professionals.

There are others, they have their own websites. The majority are not professional journalists. Or they appear in forums and comment pages. They all have but one purpose. To criticise the work and ministry of other believers.

Some of the targets I've seen in recent months are people such as; Joel and Victoria Osteen, Mark Driscoll, Creflo Dollar. I can also include musicians in that list; Switchfoot, Brooke Frasier, Future of Forestry. There are a great many others.

People, (Christians) protest outside their venues. Some complain that they are not Christian enough, while others complain they are too Christian. Their message and lyrics are either too confronting, or too vague.

One commenter, posting on the Future of Forestry YouTube channel. Took it upon himself to declare that they were "fallen". The cause of his great umbrage? A drum sequence, taken from a performance of "The Little Drummer Boy". He saw it as excess and vanity.
When all it was really, was just a group of musicians having some fun. "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord" The Psalmist exhorts us. (Psalm 66:1, 81:1, 95:1-2, 98:4&6, 100:1) And that's just what they were doing.

Now, having said all of this. I will add this.

All of these leaders, ministers and artists that I have mentioned. All of them, and many more besides. I have opinions about all of them. But they are my opinions. They are based solely on how much I know about each of them. I know much about some, less about others. My knowledge is incomplete. Therefore I do not offer or broadcast my opinions. I keep them to myself.  Because I might be wrong about something, I may have misheard, misread or misunderstood. So to say anything, would be a mistake.

Here's an example of why from my own recent experience.

Last year, Hillsong Church (My church). Announced Mark Driscoll as a keynote speaker for the 2015 Conference.

Now Mark has faced a great deal of criticism for his leadership, attitudes toward women in ministry, among other things. In recent months he was removed from leadership by the church board. People I know started posting links to sites and sources that were simply out to get him, they seemed to be in agreement. I could so easily have joined them.

I could have written to, or confronted the pastors of my church. Demanding that such a man be removed from the guest list, it would be damaging for our church, that he not be permitted to speak and so on. I could have gotten on my high little horse and started making all sorts of noises. But I didn't.

Here's what I did do. I waited. I decided to Trust the Church Leadership, and see how they would handle the emerging situation. I had an inkling of how it might be possible to handle the situation in a sensible sensitive way. I am happy to say, I was vindicated in my belief. Because here's what happened. Mark Driscoll still appears as a guest with his wife Grace. They are now listed with the sub caption,  Interview.

You see this is the sensible way to deal with it. This is a clear example of Christians being "ministers of reconciliation" 2 Cor 5:18.

Are church leaders above reproach? Certainly not. Should they be held accountable? Absolutely. But that is the role of church boards and governing bodies. It is not the role of outsiders and armchair critics, trumpeting their false piety.

We should never be found on the side lines hurling stones of accusation. No, not us. We are all too broken for that. Instead of "J'accuse",  we should humbly cry "Mea culpa".

While I am attending this years  Hillsong Conference,  most likely as a volunteer. I may get to hear parts of the interview. I may re-form my opinion of Mark Driscoll.

But you won't read it here.

Because it will remain my opinion.

Since this post was first published, there have been some changes to the facts as written above.
Namely, that Mark Driscoll will no longer be a guest at Hillsong Conference 2015. The details behind this decision can be found elsewhere. I have no wish to repost them here.

Some things have not changed. My attitude towards church leadership, and my belief that we should not engage in wholesale criticism of such leadership.

Such criticism is nothing more than, gossip, tale bearing and back biting. The Bible is quite clear on these subjects. I don't believe I need to quote chapter and verse on this. It is not the right of every believer with a blog and an axe to grind, to post whatever they like, about whomever they dislike.

Lay down the axes, they cannot be used to build the church.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

When worlds collide.

This week, I witnessed the stark disparity of thinking, that exists in the minds of our nations young women.

I saw two different examples of young women voicing their opinions on the cultures they have been raised in. One of these young women is a Muslim, the other (without trying to sound racist) a white Australian.

There could not have been a starker contrast between these two minds. One came across as a self appointed harbinger of radical feminism. The other has a much firmer grasp of the realities of the world she lives in.

So let me introduce them to you. Firstly we have Cassidy Boon. She put this article up on The Stately Harold. She is a twenty year old feminist calling for a ban on ANZAC day because it is sexist.

The second is Lamisse Hamouda. She had this article published in the Sydney Morning Herald. She is writing about sexist attitudes in Islamic education.

Lamisse put forward her arguments with sensitivity, authority and intelligence. Her voice is forward thinking, unifying and decries unscientific thinking.

Cassidy stands alone beating a broken drum that no right thinking person would march to. She dares to lecture us about history. Yet she speaks without any factual reference to history. Instead we get ranting misandry, devoid of intelligent thought and reason.

The stark contrast comes, when we realise that both of these women are writing about the same subject. Both of them spoke out, decrying antiquated patriarchal thinking and dominance. Yet their voices are glaringly different.

Only one of them gives us hope for the future of Australian womanhood.

If were at all possible. And oh how I hope it happens. I would pay good money to go see these two young women debate each other. Let's put them on the ABC's Q&A programme.

Monday, 20 April 2015

The road, more or less, travelled.

I love driving. Particularly, I love driving in the country. Something I have spent many days doing with my father. Driving around the North Island of New Zealand, delivering machinery as part of his business. I'm not so fond of city traffic, especially after working as a courier for a few years, but I can tolerate it. I prefer the open, uncongested country roads.

We have friends that live in Mudgee. A country town about four hours drive to the north west of Sydney, Australia. Long weekends and holidays are a ready excuse to escape the city. So it was, that last Easter, we packed the car and headed for wide open spaces. The trip itself turned sour when we passed through The Blue Mountains. This was when the weather closed in and the traffic went crazy. Low cloud, rain and narrow roads with too few passing lanes. Seemingly endless road works and speed restrictions, coupled with impatient, incompetent drivers turned a four hour drive into six.

Even after the congestion cleared into a short stretch of wider double-lane roads, things did not improve much. I always seemed to be following those drivers that get nervous above certain speeds. 80 in 100 zones, 40 in a 50. Nearing Mudgee my patience was all but eroded and I was now making the most of every passing opportunity. Safely and legally of course. I was just sick of following traffic. I wanted clear space around me. That was when I passed one car too many, a white Holden Commodore. One that I speculated may well have been a Plain Clothes patrol car. So past I went. Half a click later, the lights came on. Blue and Red lights. All I could think was "Double Demerit points".

So the start to the weekend wasn't so great.

But it did get better, the weather remained in a state of flux, between sunshine and rain. Great food, drink and the company of friends. We opened a bottle of French Champagne to celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary.

Then there is the road home, a road we are all on in these lives of ours.

We left Mudgee on the Monday afternoon in mediocre weather, raining a bit but trying to clear. We had spectacular views of cloud capped mountain tops and idyllic countryside.

It was in that first hour of the journey
that the breathe was sucked out of my body.
 We were passing through the region of
 Capertee when everything seemed to stand
 still, just for a moment, at 100kmh.

The sun was low in the west and suddenly broke through the clouds. All around the landscape was radiant. The trees lit up in many hues of iridescent green. Greens so bright they were almost painful to look at. To the east, the sky was very different. Black with heavy cloud that towered up to the heavens. Cloud so dark it was gunmetal blue. Contrasted against the imposing sky, this brilliance of green washed the land.

Moments later we plunged into heavy fog and low lying cloud. Visibility was down to a bare 50 metres. Wipers and fog lights on, speed reduced, proceeding with caution, wishing I was back in sun-drenched lands again.

This is our journey home. We yearn for heavenly vistas, washed in light. Colours beyond our imagination. How we long for them. We see a brief glimpse, a taste of eternity, we want to stay there. We'd rather not face the darkening storm. To feel the lash of wind and rain. We'd rather not pass through fog banks, where the path is obscured and uncertainty creeps in. We crave the light. But the light is not behind, it is ahead. It is our journey, our aim. It is the road we travel.

The road that leads us home.