24/09/2009

Don't Change!

Category Bible
Before I get any comments on my post yesterday about changing, I thought I'd consider something that is unchanging! It is from the rather large file labelled 'things I can't get my head around!'

Change seems to be a constant in life, from the moment you're born things change. The things you eat, the place you sleep, the clothes you wear, your body, your intellect, your paradigm ... The changes go on and on and never stop. In fact it would seem the one thing you can rely on is that things will change!

Yesterday (and in general) I say embrace change. In fact I probably go looking for ways to change things! Why? Because it could be better, or easier, or faster, or cheaper, or closer, or or or ...! Change is always happening and it would seem we can't stop it, even if we want to. We might stall the change, but that often brings on different changes (which sometimes we want even less than the initial change)!

So how does this constant state of change be reconciled with a verse like Hebrews 13:8? Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday and today and forever.

Is it the qualities and characteristics of Christ that don't change (love, grace, and mercy), or is it the physicality of him? What about me isn't changing and should it?

05/08/2009

Translations (Galations #2)

Category Bible
I'm amazed at the different meaning you can get from the bible just by reading different translations. It would seem to me that it is vitally important to read a bible that is in language you readily understand. This can make it difficult as many people are very critical of some translations and paraphrased versions of the bible.

For me, I often need to have things said several different ways before I can really grasp the meaning of what is being said. Language has an emotive context that is dependent on your experience of the words being used. That means that for me to really grasp the meaning of what is being said I often need to hear it from several different sources.

Take Galations 2:21 and work through four different translations; KJV, NIV, AMP, and MSG.

I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!

[Therefore, I do not treat God's gracious gift as something of minor importance and defeat its very purpose]; I do not set aside and invalidate and frustrate and nullify the grace (unmerited favor) of God. For if justification (righteousness, acquittal from guilt) comes through [observing the ritual of] the Law, then Christ (the Messiah) died groundlessly and to no purpose and in vain. [His death was then wholly superfluous.]

Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God's grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.


The point of todays post? Laws can't help me live a life worth living. I need Jesus! And he came to help, to put the world right again ( John 3:17) and what better place to start than with me?

04/08/2009

The Shack #2

QuickImage Category Books Bible
The Shack is a really good book to read. It has an unbearable aspect to it BUT this is critical to the story that unfolds and the message of the book. N wasn't going to read it because of what the story is about but I convinced her it was well worth reading. We both admit crying at different points in the story and both think it was an excellent story to have read. I've already started blogging some of it (the bits which really stuck out to me), but I'm going to continue that over the next couple of days.

There is a really good chapter in the book about judgement (I'll spare you the setting and the leadup as I highly recommend you read the book). However it transpires that Mack (the main character) is asked to judge God. At first Mack is unwilling seeing how futile it would be. However Mack soon realises that juding God is exactly what he has been doing (slight paraphrase to condense the book):

Isn't that your complaint, that God failed you and your child? That before creation God knew that your child would be brutalised and yet still created them. And then he allowed that twisted depraved soul to snatch your child from you and despite having the power to stop him? Isn't God to blame?

Seems like a common complaint to me. Seems like we're all to willing to take whatever good God has given us then blame him for the bits we don't like. It also seems to me like we misunderstand freewill. Maybe (just maybe), as my 3 boys grow up I'll get a better understanding of freewill as they start to become young men independent of N and I.

Maybe we need to get a holistic understanding of Romans 8:28 (Amplified) all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good or (Message)we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

03/08/2009

Cadets #2

Category Bible
Last night I went to SAJChurch.com to hear my cadet friends lead a church service and preach again. This time it was his turn to preach and her turn to lead. It is interesting how much can go wrong and yet the congregation be blisfully unaware! Speaking with them afterwards I became aware of some 'musical challenges' that I was totally unaware of during the service. In fact even after having them drawn to my attention it was obvious that they had no impact on the service flow or impact.

The message followed on from the previous one in Philipians 2. This week the focus was on verses 12-16 (taken from the Message here):

What I'm getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you've done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I'm separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God's energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.
Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I'll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You'll be living proof that I didn't go to all this work for nothing.


There was a good structure, background, and take home points in the message. More than that though the whole story of the bible was brought into focus. Where Paul was referencing Moses and the Israelites got highlighted. Comparisons to others of Paul's letters were also made. All in all the message left you with a solid understanding of what Paul was saying and what it means for us today.

What sticks with me is provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Do we do this when we're at church in the pews or when we're living our lives in the community? It would seem Paul really did know Jesus and His teaching well, Matthew 5:13 Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You've lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.

29/07/2009

The Little Stuff

Category Bible
Some mornings I go to my local cafe (Mojo) for a decent flat white. This morning I became acutely aware of God in the midst of this occassional habit. My relationship with God was reflected in the relationship with my barista. It seems strange thinking that I can learn about my relationship with God through someone who doesn't claim to be in the Kingdom, but I am reminded of the fact we're created in God's image (Genesis 1:27).

To me that means even supposed non-Christians can reflect the character of God, His creativity, His love, His zeal for life, His pursuit of relationship. Rather than try and explain this too much, I'll just record this mornings interaction (which is typical of my usual visit to them) and let you read into it how this reflects my relationship with God.

I start the day with coffee and some days I treat myself to a decent flat white. I walk into Mojo without fuss, I just open the door and head towards the counter. I'm always greeted, and they're always pleased to see me. They know what I want, and how I like it made. Even when they're busy they make sure I know they've got my order.

Some days I don't want to speak, I just want to enjoy the smell of coffee and sounds of drinks being made. They seem to sense that and when I'm wanting that quiet moment and happily just smile and make my coffee.

Other days we chat away about snippets from our lives. The little stuff which makes days great or the little hassles that can affect your mood. Maybe we celebrate something that has happened since the last time we spoke (a movie one of us saw, a song we like). The conversations are usually light but they consist of the stuff that is woven into the fabric of our lives. They're about us, who we are, what we do, and reveal our character.

I always leave wanting to return and knowing I'll be welcomed back.

Check out e100nz.org.nz to get yourself started understanding what you've got yourself into!

27/07/2009

Busy?

Category Bible
Are we really that busy? Everyone is complaining about how busy they are and how there is no time for what they want. I have a pretty full schedule, and try to fit lots into everyday (sometimes too much), but am I really that busy?

Are we busy or just the least organised and poorest schedulers ever? Personally I think many people are just poorly organised as opposed to busy. But then the question that springs to mind is are we trying to do to much?

Of course I often wonder if busyness is just a ruse to not focus on the main point of life? Jesus talked a little about this in Matthew 11:
Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. "The Father has given me all these things to do and say. This is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I'm not keeping it to myself; I'm ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen.
"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."


Maybe busyness is just our way of distracting ourselves from what really matters?

25/07/2009

Galatians #1

Category Bible
So for a lot of reasons (some good and some bad) I'm completing some bible studies in a formal way. This has been a little hit and miss but earlier this week I started a paper on Galatians. What does this mean to you? You'll be getting a few posts on Galations over the next 6 weeks!

There are two things I want to start off by saying here at the beginning of the course ... Galatians ... FASCINATING and Judaism ... OUCH!

Galations ... FASCINATING - Already I've learnt a few things which are to me fascinating. I didn't know that around the time the letter was written Christianity was just another part of Judaism. To me that is stunning given I live in the 21st century and not the st. How could people confuse Christianity with Judaism? Of course years from now I suspect people will wonder how so many churches considered themselves part of the Christian church with our rampant abuse of power, love of money, materialism, and manipulation of people (sorry I got disctracted for a moment).

However Christianity, the way Jesus lived, His grace and mercy are so anti everything that is normal in the world. Even the best we world offers us is so worthless when compared with what Jesus offered people. It was not Judaism (even though it came out of Judaism), it was not like anything ever seen before either. Previously we've chosen and pursued judgement and justice and now Jesus seems to be modelling mercy and grace.

Also in the FASCINATING file is the fact it is the only one of Paul's letters that doesn't start with a couple of chapters of praise and encouragement. Strange ... but when you get to know more you start to understand why! As Galations 1:6 that is right, he has hardly said hello before he is right into it saying:

I can't believe your fickleness—how easily you have turned traitor to him who called you by the grace of Christ by embracing a variant message! It is not a minor variation, you know; it is completely other, an alien message, a no-message, a lie about God.

Judaism ... OUCH! I don't think I need to say much more about this other than I am clearly not very committed to anything. Maybe I'm just a bit of a wus, but there is one rather painful reason I would think twice about converting to Judaism. However maybe it is actually because I believe that appearances count for nothing and that God can and does manifest himself and His live in the most unlikely and undesirable characters.

22/07/2009

Justice

Category Bible
So a jury found Clayton Weatherston guilty of murder (see the story here), but I can't help but wonder what real justice looks like. There is no justice now for Sophie Elliott, or her family, or friends. Neither can their be any for Clayton Weatherston's family.

A better starting point may be to ask myself what does justice actually look like? Is it an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, or would that leave us all (if we're completely honest) blind and toothless?

Maybe (actually there is no maybe about it), I don't know what justice should look like in this case so perhaps I should pass on the question of what justice looks like and hold on to the words of the prophet Isaiah as quoted by Jesus:

Look well at my handpicked servant;
I love him so much, take such delight in him.
I've placed my Spirit on him;
he'll decree justice to the nations.
But he won't yell, won't raise his voice;
there'll be no commotion in the streets.
He won't walk over anyone's feelings,
won't push you into a corner.
Before you know it, his justice will triumph;
the mere sound of his name will signal hope, even
among far-off unbelievers.


Maybe by accepting grace and becoming an agent of grace I will gain a new and correct perspective of justice.

20/07/2009

Cadets

Category Bible
Last night N & I went to a church our friends are currently attending as part of their training to be Salvation Army officers. They were leading the meeting and speaking so we were keen to not only support them but also to how other churches do it! It was interesting for several reasons, one of them being the formula used by the church in putting a service together (which must be both quite liberating and restrictive at the same time)!

The second reason (that I'm going to write about) was that the sermon was from Philippians 2 and was one of those hard topics that most of us would rather not hear, humility. While covering Philippians 2:1-11 the bulk of the message seemed to be focussed on verses 5-11:

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.

The main point of the message was quite the paradox (I like those) and even now I'm pondering it. Humility brings unity with God. Unity with God brings humility. Seems like humility is something that is a journey with the destination somewhere off in the distance, close enough to see and remain focused on, and yet far enough away to keep you pressing on towards it. The second point I don't recall right now (I must have been to caught up in the paradox)! The other point I do remember as it is an exceptionally good explanation, is humility isn't thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.

This was the first time I have attended a service where there has been bible teaching for quite a while. In fact in talking with N I couldn't remember when the last time was! Odd really that in the church there exists such ignorance of the bible. Of course the e100 bible challenge and associated facts might explain some of that!

Hopefully the future for our friends will follow this start and bible teaching will be the corner stone of their ministry. Nothing seems more important than aligning ourselves with Jesus, His teaching, and His love.

18/07/2009

Did you know ...

Category Bible
only 47% of Christians say the teachings of the bible influence their life? SAY WHAT??!! That means that 53% of people who claim to follow Jesus don't allow the basis of Jesus life influence them. UNBELIEVABLE!

It gets worse ... less than 25% pick it up once (that is right ONCE) a week and only 11% say they read it daily. I'm not always in the 11% as I do miss days, but I find this staggering. Are we just following a crowd (albeit a small crowd) into something we know nothing about? How can we think for a second Jesus will have anything to do with us if we haven't figured out the bible was a critical element in his life.

Check out e100nz.org.nz to get yourself started understanding what you've got yourself into!

17/07/2009

I Want it All

QuickImage Category Bible
Queen brilliantly penned the song I want it all:
I want it all
I want it all
I want it all
and I want it now!


Once wasn't enough! To make sure we caught what they were saying they state their objective 3 times. I can imagine one of three boys using those words, and repeating it three times (possibly more) when it doesn't get the response they want. Each time it would increase not only in volume, but also intensity.

Still not content with jsut telling us, reminding us, and then saying again what they want, Queen finish up by adding when they want to get it (now)!

Seems life can be like that. No matter what I have, no matter what I'm doing, there is always something else I want, something else to do. And when do I want it? Or if someone else is asking me for something, when do they want it?

Where can I find rest? Where can I find a rhythm? How can I live lightly and freely?

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly. Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

15/07/2009

Prayer

Category Bible
Prayer is one of those funny topics I don't talk about too often. It is one of those things I don't understand and can't explain. It is just a difficult subject to get your head around and I tend to not like things that I can't offer some kind of rational and logical explanation for.

I can hear so many Christians already churning out the lines I've heard so often about prayer and even quoting the bible to me (most probably Matthew 7:7-11). But you know what I get that bit and it is obvious that for many Christians that is the only bit they get (because some peoples prayer is just a list of demands and wants. Those verses in Matthew are probably the easiest bit to get when it comes to prayer.

The bit I don't get is the whole answer thing ... Sometimes I'll pray and ask for a carpark (who hasn't), and more often than not this works (should I really be surprised)? But what happens when we don't get an answer (perhaps it is more we don't see an answer)? You know the kind of prayer, a friend has a baby that is gravely ill ... you pray ... there is no healing ...

Now I know that we believe in a God of love (after all without love I don't think there can be any grace), but I just don't get that. Why? Because I can't see an answer, I can't see God being revealed in the situation. I can't understand how God can be in the situation. I can't find a logical and rationale rhyme or reason in what has happened.

As things turn out it would seem I'm not alone in this and Oswald Chambers explains prayer a little better to me here in his book, My Utmost for His Highest: The danger we have is that we want to water down what Jesus said to make it mean something that aligns with our common sense. But if it were only common sense, what He said would not even be worthwhile. The things Jesus taught about prayer are supernatural truths He reveals to us.

09/07/2009

The Prodigal Son

Category Bible
In a conversation with my Dad about church, we touched on the parable of the prodigal son (found in Luke 15). While not necessarily theologically correct we wondered about who was supposed to represent Christians or the church. The conclusion I reached was that Christians could be represented by any one of the three characters in the parable.

The question is am I The Prodigal Son who takes what is his and leaves to find his own way? While initially successful things start to become undone when a recession hits. So I determine that I'll go home and be one of the hired hands, working to put food on the table.

Maybe, I'm The Father who reluctantly yet willingly lets the prodigal son take his future inheritance early and leave? Undoubtedly the father knew where the path the prodigal son was taking would lead. But there doesn't appear to be any refusal of the inheritance, or harsh (and judgemental) words spoken. I've been told that the culture this story is set in would consider asking for your inheritance early akin to declaring your father dead! And yet the father acquiesces then starts waiting for his prodigal son to return.
When the prodigal son returns the father doesn't even really let him apologise. He is so pleased to have his lost son back and safe he arranges an impromptu party (now that is my kind of father)!

Hopefully I'm not The Older Brother. While not mentioned to the end, there is no indication that he looks or waits for his brother. He just dutifully (and probably not joyfully) looks after the family business. When he discovers his brother has returns he doesn't even go to see him and see how he is! He takes off angrily because of how the prodigal is being treated.

Looking at the parable of the prodigal son in this (un-theological) way leaves me wondering which character best represents me. On one hand I want to be the older brother who lives his life able to experience and enjoy everything that the father has. Seems like a good place to be. And yet I'm conscious that in me there are elements of the prodigal son who says, Give me all the good stuff and let me do what I want with it ... I know what I'm doing so see you later!

But the father represents the kind of Christianity that appeals to me. Full of grace, eagerly awaiting and expecting the prodigal to return (at which point I bust out huge party for EVERYONE (even the older brother) to enjoy.

04/07/2009

Riddle me this!

Category Bible
Why is it that we think Jesus spoke in such riddles? If you take the one phrase, "Son of Man" it is used over 80 times in Matthew, Mark, Luke & John. Jesus used it refering to himself in the 3rd person and to be honest, it is more than just a little confusing!! The phrase means little to me, and in the context of 21st century, western civilisation, we have little understanding of the phrase, especially in day-to-day language.

Once again, thanks to Zondervan, I have found an explanation. It isn't the first time that something has suddenly made complete sense, but it is definitely one of those light bulb moments. Taken from the book Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg (buy it here if you want it) I really like the explanation.

As with previous light bulb moments (for me), it seems so simple you wonder how you could have missed it. However the challenge is I keep forgetting how necessary it is to read the bible in the context it was written and not as if it was written yesterday by someone walking down Courtenay Place (click here for a live look at Courtenay Place). So much of what Jesus said was actually referencing different parts of the bible. The challenge is we don't know it like they did when Jesus lived. We don't get the inference he makes when a statement (like "son of man") that is actually the beginning of a passage of scripture.

I guess that if I followed all the references in my bible I would have figured things like the "son of man" statement out! Anyway enough of my rambling, here is the quote from the book:

One night Daniel had a vivid dream in which he saw a great, heavenly court in session. Suddenly, he saw "one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven." Immediately this exalted figure approached the Ancient of Days and was "given authority, glory and sovereign power." Daniel goes on to say that "all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed" (Daniel 7:13-14). According to the Jewish scholar David Flusser, this passage from Daniel was considered the most potent messianic prophecy in all of Scripture. Jesus also speaks about himself as the Son of Man who will come in glory on the clouds (Mark 13:26; 14:62; Luke 21:27), a clear reference to this passage from Daniel. His audience would know exactly what he is saying.

02/07/2009

XXX Church #1

Category Church Bible
I recently heard an interview with Craig Gross the founder of XXX Church (if you're intrigued then go to their website). Parts of the interview really capture the essence of Jesus life and what He was all about so I'm going to post them here with a random musing of my own!

Just because a person goes to a porn show or out with a hooker doesn't mean he has no interest in Jesus. Zacchaeus was a crook, but he still wanted to see Jesus. Just because someone isn't looking into your church doesn't mean he's not looking for the gospel.

This is one of the parts of Jesus life I really struggle to see reconciled into 21st century church life. We seem to want to create safe little places (which in itself isn't a bad thing), but then we shut the doors to anyone and everything else! Sure we use language that imply invitation and openess but on the whole people, those kind of people don't want to come along?

Why? Normally because of people like me! The outspoken, judgemental, critical, person who claims that everything has to be about Jesus which means that everything has to be perfect and holy. This means I hold on to the past traditions of my church that were meaningful and significant during formative years. I disregard the function of the act and hold onto the form.

Meanwhile the world passes me by looking for meaning and purpose, climbing up a tree trying to catch a glimpse something, anything, that gives off even a dim reflection of hope.

29/06/2009

Another question

Category Bible
Maybe a different question to what I asked yesterday is the inverse of the final question! Do your works produce faith? By this I mean do the things you do lead others towards faith or away from it? Are my actions and reactions likely to turn people towards Jesus or away? Reminds me of a previous post I made (prompted by another blog) that included this video:


28/06/2009

Does your salvation produce works?

Category Bible
Does your salvation produce works? I know this will (or perhaps) should ignite the debate of faith versus works, but it is something I often wonder about. Should I be busy doing God's work (loving people, sharing His grace, establishing His kingdom), or should I focus on strengthening my faith (reading the bible, being discipled, discipling others)?

To me this is a bigger than big question! I don't want to just be busy with doing, I want to be effective for the kingdom. I don't want to be caught up in action that is centred on those in the kingdom (the 3 parables in Matthew of lost things (a sheep, a coin, and a son) all make one thing clear ... God goes looking for what is lost)!

I know I've blogged several times on this theme, but it is a central point of my thinking. I also know that Jesus was often criticised for spending time with sinners and not the religious. He (Jesus) was always quick to respond to this: I came to seek and to save that which was lost. Luke 19:10 (AMP).

I'm taking the long way round to get to my point (nothing new there), and also thinking I'm making a point when in reality I'm just asking a question (after all what do I know?)! TGE (The Great Escape is online at thegreatescape.net.nz is part of my works. It is a deliberate attempt to bring people who don't know about Jesus into a place where we try and create the opportunity to talk about deeper things, spiritual things, God things. How successful it is I'm not sure, but I do invest some effort into it. Part of TGE is also about relationships, journeying with people (I'm not quite there yet), and acting in a way that demonstrates my faith.

James talks specifically about this, I like the way he puts it (even though it is actually Eugene Peterson translating it for me): Dear friends, do you think you'll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, "Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!" and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you?

Isn't it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, "Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I'll handle the works department." Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.


What works does your faith produce?

27/06/2009

The 2nd Coming

Category Church General Bible
This weekend TGE (The Great Escape) Cafe starts again. After a tumultuous start to the year with some logisitical and property challenges we're finally underway again. It is exciting as I really enjoy spending time with the people loosely associated with my church. The common denominator is Playgroup (we all have young kids), but over the past year or so we've found more and more in common ... mountain biking ... movies ... fish and chips ... We've shared these things together in the busyness of our lives.

We've started a website dedicated to TGE to help stay in touch with those who come along and communicate what is happening. Check it out at thegreatescape.net.nz if you're interested.

The message tomorrow is taken from Luke 21:34-36 which says the following: “Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware, like a trap. For that day will come upon everyone living on the earth. Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.”

26/06/2009

Quotes

Category Bible
Rather than blog today my thoughts, I've decided to include a quote from the Philip Yancey book, Soul Survivor. It isn't that they're necessarily new to me, or share a particularly deep insight that I've missed in the past (although the quotes are show a keen understanding of Jesus life). It is just that every now and I become weary from battle. At times the fight seems to be happening all around me and I can't escape it.

At these times I find it helpful to remind myself of the basics ... the simple stuff that often gets overlooked! So thanks Philip Yancey for a book that helps those of us who struggle, to survive church!

The gospel of grace infiltrates this world not primarily through words and rationale arguments but through deeds, through love

To follow Jesus, I learned, does not mean to solve every human problem - Christ himself did not attempt that - but rather to respond as he did, against all reason to dispense grace and love to those who don't deserve it.


25/06/2009

Love #2

Category Bible
Today wasn't going to be about love, but I have had the verse from Mark I referred to yesterday rolling around in my head (it sounds like a marble in a can of spray paint if you were wondering)! It has been kind of perplexing as I reflect on the values I pursue and ideals I hold as virtuous because, well, it is so simple ... but I keep trying to complicate it!

I can imagine the scene that leads to Jesus answer in the bible as it is one I would most likely participate in ... A discussion about the finer points of religion is taking place and it is getting more and more animated as words are used to paint pictures of what the kingdom of God should be like. People are up on their high horses (I would have been one of them) extolling a prescription for a life that honours God. Nothing else will met that. Jesus is in the middle of it answering questions and provoking a life of action and not simply words or ritual.

Then some smarty pants Christian comes out with this (which is verse 28 from The Message): One of the religion scholars came up. Hearing the lively exchanges of question and answer and seeing how sharp Jesus was in his answers, he put in his question: "Which is most important of all the commandments?"Mark 12:28

Now if I was there I would probably have been trying to answer this for Jesus! I would have been suggesting all sorts of different answers based on theory, religion, rote, dogma, all those good things that the church has perfected! But Jesus answer, as always, has a bit of a twist:

Jesus said, "The first in importance is, 'Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.' And here is the second: 'Love others as well as you love yourself.' There is no other commandment that ranks with these." Mark 12:29-31

What is the twist? To me the twist is that Jesus doesn't denegrate religion or the tradition that goes with it. He doesn't toss out everything that church had become and suggest people reject it. If anything he embraces it (love the Lord God with ALL your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy). While not the exclusive domain of church, these comprise many churches.

Then Jesus continues and suggests an action from us ... He says to love others as well as you love yourself. Action must follow (or am I delusional)? So the question I have today about love is how does my love of God (which should be with ALL my passion and prayer and intelligence and energy work itself out in action towards others?

24/06/2009

Love

Category Bible
Today is another verse posting day, again from the Message. Interestingly I haven't had as many conversations lately about my fondness for the Message compared with other more traditional translations.

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

The Message really puts it well for a mind like mine (which is a little twisted) by adding a couple of adjectives - trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly - they really bring the active Paul is calling us to alive and make it a little more meaningful.

In fact it almost sounds (to me) as though Paul is trying to explain what is meant by the greatest commandment (Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength Mark 12:30). While that seems simple we miss the point (perhaps I'm only speaking for myself on that one), so Paul takes a moment to explain it for those who are slow to catch on like me: trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly

Can justice (see yesterdays post) exist without love?

23/06/2009

Hope

Category Bible
I just want to post a verse this morning (which is part of a series I've been looking at). As seems to be my habit, I've ended up settling on the Message translation (or paraphrase for the purists) because it really brings the meaning to life for me.

Before you knowit, his justice will triumph;
the mere sound of his name will signal hope,
even among far-off unbelievers.
( Matthew 12:21)

Seems like the world could use a little more justice. Not the mosaic law justice (eye for an eye), no point us all being blind. BUT the justice Jesus bought - the blind seeing, the deaf hearing, a new kingdom being established in the midst of our everyday lives.

18/06/2009

Revolution!

Category Church Bible
I love revolutions, the very idea of them excite me. I am convinced that Jesus was (I mean IS) a revolutionist and he has invited any and everyone to join him. The revolution is what you'd expect BUT not achieved through conventional wisdom and thinking. I'm sure you will understand why the following quote resonated so strongly with me.

What Jesus was about was starting a revolution. He called this revolution "the Kingdom of God." This revolution isn't centered on getting people to believe particular religious beliefs and engage in particular religious behaviors, though these may be important, true, and helpful. Nor is it centered on trying to fix the world by advocating the "right" political causes or advancing the "right" national agendas, though these may be noble, righteous, and effective. No, the Kingdom of God that Jesus established is centered on one thing, and one thing only: manifesting the beauty of God's character and thus revolting against everything that is inconsistent with this beauty.

From "The Myth of a Christian Religion: Losing Your Religion for the Beauty of a Revolution" by Gregory A. Boyd
Buy the book now or read more from this book from Zondervan.

17/06/2009

Coming Home

Category Bible Church
If people are lost what are we doing about it? Reading Luke 15 there are the 3 stories of things that are lost (a sheep, a coin, and a son). In the first 2 (the sheep and the coin) assertive action is taken, someone goes after lost item trying to find it! The shepherd goes out into the open country to search for it. A similar reaction happens with the lost coin, the house is turned upside down in order to find what was lost. The shepherd and the woman go all out to find what is lost, leaving what is found safe in order to find 1 sheep or 1 coin.

The prodigal son story is a little different because the father doesn't go out to search. However he does look for his lost son and when he recognises him on the horizon runs to embrace him.

All 3 stories have a similar theme and ending ... something valuable or precious is lost - a search starts (in some cases a full on search and rescue mission) - what was lost is restored to its correct place. In each story there is an action that occurs after it is noticed something is lost. The shepherd goes out into the open country, the woman looks in every nook and cranny until she finds it, the father when the son was still a long way off, heart pounding, runs out, embraces, and kisses the son. Click on read more to see the whole passage of Luke 15 from the Message.

2 things stick out to me: 1 someone acts when the realise something is lost. 2 when they find what they're looking the celebrate! What if we were to act this way at church? What if we were to actually go looking for those who are lost and then celebrated when they're found? What if we actually ventured outside our sanctuary in a search & rescue party?

16/06/2009

Definition of lost

Category Bible
How do we define lost? Normally I use to to describe to location of something (car keys) that I've misplaced. But I also use the word to refer to my location when I'm was travelling from A to B and I no longer no how to get to B. I also sometime get lost when I haven't been able to follow a movie's plot.

I guess how much value on place on what I've lost determines my course of action. Do I go looking? Shrug my shoulders and forget about it? Stop everything else until I've found what I'm looking for? The bible makes it very clear how God goes about finding those of us who are lost. There are lots of stories that speak about this, each with a slightly different bias (the lost coin, the lost sheep, the prodigal son, to name the 3 most well known). I guess the message of the bible could be summed up in a ploy synopsis that says, we start off at home, wander off and get lost, Jesus comes and finds us, now we're walking back toward home. The bible specifically mentions this:

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost. Luke 19:10 (AMP)

But all of that is just background noise to what I want to ask today ... If the church is God's idea, and here to help point the way 'home' then how good are we at looking? A sign out the front of the building is about as much help as a map of Siberia is to someone lost in London. Services inside the building as good to the lost as a petrol station 100 miles up the road is to the person who has run out of gas!

How can we effectively be Jesus and seek and save that which is lost when we're so preoccupied in our little building? When are we going to step outside of the church and be living monuments of God's grace? When are we going to actually go and seek and save that which is lost?

15/06/2009

What if?

Category Bible
What if the world consisted of only 100 people ... How would (or perhaps should) a Christian react or respond.


15/06/2009

Christianity Defined

Category Church Bible
Shortly after the young Francis of Assisi embraced a faith that would help color the face of Christianity for centuries to come, he sensed God telling him, "Francis, all those things that you have loved in the flesh you must now despise, and from those things that you formerly loathed you will drink great sweetness and immeasurable delight."

As the young Christian rode his horse out of town, he saw what he once most despised; a leper. Exuberant in his newfound faith and with joy flooding his soul, Francis chose not to run from the leper, as he would have done earlier in his life. Instead, he leaped from his horse, knelt in front of the leper, and proceeded to kiss the diseased white hand.

Francis's initial conversion was invisible, exhibited only in the changed expression on his face. That's as far as many of us ever go -- a superficial change of mind in response to a compelling argument for faith. This act was astonishingly explicit -- a grotesquely gorgeous parable of a radically changed man. The very instant Francis's lips touched the leper, what could have been merely a religion crumbled under the weight of a new way of life.

From "Holy Available: What If Holiness Is about More Than What We Don't Do?" by Gary Thomas

Buy Now: http://www.zondervan.com/Cultures/en-US/Product/ProductDetail.htm?ProdID=com.zondervan.9780310292005

Read More from This Book: http://browseinside.zondervan.com/index.aspx?isbn13=9780310292005

What if we put ourselves in a position to ensure our conversion made us a different person. What if we actually tried to be living monuments of God's grace?

12/06/2009

1 of 12?

Category Bible
It strikes me that I could have been 1 of the disciples! I've often said that I might have made it to being one of the 72 Jesus sends out (), but had never really thought about being 1 of the 12! So where does this thought suddenly come from?

I was listening to The Bible Experience reading from Matthew 26 and following on from the last supper Jesus tells them how the disciples will fall away. Yes - I get things wrong and miss the point regularly! This got me thinking more about the disciples and how they so often missed the point. How many times did they have to take Jesus aside and ask what he meant by his parables? How many times did Jesus have to correct their behaviour?

Perhaps it is a little easier getting direct (and instant) feedback. But it seems to me that I could have been 1 of the 12 because I miss the point and need the parables explained. I can be certain that I would have been the one who started the conversation recorded in
Matthew 16:5-13 (one of my favourite missing the point moments)! I also get things wrong and don't act in a way that leaves people wanting to know more about God. Rather they're probably left running away from the mention of Him.

Still I guess the point is that we can all be 1 of the 12 ... after Matthew 28:19 says exactly that, go and make disciples. I'm no mathematician but I suspect I'm possibly disciple number 12,588,273,306,281,419,552!

10/06/2009

Preaching the Gospel

Category Bible
In the 5 Kinds of Christians articles (this is about part #9), I came to the conclusion that we should be agents of grace. This reminded of the Saint Francis of Assisi quote, preach the gospel always, and if necessary use words! All too often we're intent on just talking about things (especially Kingdom things). All too often we miss the point that we're meant to be living monuments of God's grace and not a megaphone Pharisee. Personally I find it more comfortable to run around with a megaphone pointing out why others have got it wrong.

A living monument of God's grace ... What do people say when the look at my attitudes, my actions, and my reactions? Do they get a glimpse of God's love or just an earful of regurgitated Pharisee nonsense judgement?

The following quote is from the book Stories behind Men of Faith by Ace Collins, published by Zondervan.

"Preacher," the Hindu man continued, "these ... seven [children] have no one who will take care of them. They have no clothes, no food, no home, and certainly no money. Tonight you said that we need to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and care for those who have nothing.... Will you take care of them? Will you live the words you asked us to live?"

John Douglas had come to India to preach, not be a nanny. Yet as if he were looking into the face of God, the American nodded. "I will do so."

Falling back on his business experience, Douglas formed a nonprofit organization to expand orphan care beyond those initial seven children. In 1957, with the backing of just a handful of people, World Missionary Evangelism was founded. Two decades after his death, World Missionary Evangelism is still supporting the work John E. Douglas began and is heavily involved in what he had longed to do on the day he died. Through the organization he started, African AIDS orphans are being cared for, educated, and given the same kind of devotion Douglas gave those first seven Indian orphans brought to him by a Hindu man intent on challenging the preacher's faith.


Paul put it this way in Romans 9:31-32 (MSG): How can we sum this up? All those people who didn't seem interested in what God was doing actually embraced what God was doing as he straightened out their lives. And Israel, who seemed so interested in reading and talking about what God was doing, missed it. How could they miss it? Because instead of trusting God, they took over. They were absorbed in what they themselves were doing. They were so absorbed in their "God projects" that they didn't notice God right in front of them, like a huge rock in the middle of the road. And so they stumbled into him and went sprawling.

09/06/2009

Another thought on 5 Kinds of Christians

Category Bible
Technically this post should have been entitled 5 Kinds of Christian #7! Not sure how but I've turned a 5 part series into 7 (so far) and I'll probably refer back to it in the future so will possibly have a continuing (neverending) series on my hands)!

Anyway, again the blog of Steve Taylor jumped out at me. On the day I post about grace being our defining characteristic he produces a brief look into 1 Corinthians 6 (see the full post here). Seems that we agree with the apostle Paul that grace is the absolute defining characterstic of those who want to associate themselves with the name of Jesus.

08/06/2009

5 Kinds of Christian #6

Category Church Bible
Here we go, part number #6 in a #5 part series! Difficult to imagine but I found myself identifying with different characteristics in each of the 5 kinds of Christian (well some anyway)! Just to review (briefly) the article on Captain Collo's blog listed 5 types of Christian: #1 Active, #2 Professing, #3 Liturgical, #4 Private & #5 Cultural.

As I think about the 5 types I can't help but think these are just the characteristics of personalities. Some are detail people so far more interested in the semantics and specifics of doctrine. Others are more action focussed and are interested in doing rather than being. Some of the characteristics seemed generational (i.e. Gen X characteristics) probably included a specific age group (i.e. my experience is that the majority of liturgical Christians are older). However I digress from where I want to head with this.

As I read from My Utmost for His Highest (Oswald Chambers) in the weekend I came across the following quote (sorry if you follow me on Twitter and saw it already) which (with a little bit of a twist) fits my paradigm. The quote is We are not here to prove God answers prayer; we are here to be living monuments of God's grace.

Increasingly I am convinced that grace is the defining characteristic of Jesus life and therefore should be the defining characteristic of mine. This doesn't mean I DON'T go to church but it also doesn't mean I DO go to church! It DOESN'T mean that I have to fit one of the 5 kinds of Christian but it DOES mean I should be becoming more like Jesus.

When I desperately need grace (which seems to be more and more often) where do I go? When the world is crying out for grace, where does it turn? In fact it would seem to me that a better way to phrase that question is to ask how will the world know where to turn for grace? Does my life (the sum of my actions and my inactions) leave people who I interact with thirsting for God? Do I bring out the God flavour in the world?

06/06/2009

5 Kinds of Christian #5

Category Church Bible
This is part 5 in my (slightly plagiarised) series from the article the 5 kinds of Christian (which I came across in Captain Collo's blog). The 1st kind of Christian is an active Christian (see here for the article). The 2nd kind is a professing Christian (see here for the article). The 3rd kind is a liturgical Christian (see here for the article). The 4th kind is a private Christian (see here for the article).

Cultural Christians 21%
Little outward religious behavior or attitudes
God aware, but little personal involvement with God
Do not view Jesus as essential to salvation
Affirm many ways to God Favor universality theology

Perhaps I have found a point (or 4) to disagree with in this kind of Christian! Previously I have convinced myself that the other 4 kinds of Christian weren't quite as bad as I initially thoughts. In fact I can see the different manner in which the types work there way out in the different personalities of people.

However, not viewing Jesus as essential to salvation? Isn't this actually anti-Christian? How can someone who claims to be Christian (a follower of Christ), not view Jesus as essential to salvation? Doesn't the entire New Testament (short of the 4 gospels which tell the story of Jesus life) outline how Jesus is the only way through which one can find salvation?

1 Peter 1:3-5 from the Amplified Bible (which I refer to as we were discussing it at my life group earlier this week), outlines it very succinctly (well as succinctly as the Amplified Bible can) and I've either bolded or underlined the bits that jump out to me: Praised (honored, blessed) be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah)! By His boundless mercy we have been born again to an ever-living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, [Born anew] into an inheritance which is beyond the reach of change and decay [imperishable], unsullied and unfading, reserved in heaven for you, Who are being guarded (garrisoned) by God's power through [your] faith [till you fully inherit that [a]final] salvation that is ready to be revealed [for you] in the last time.

Can one actually be a Christian without believing that Jesus is the Christ, who came to help put things right (a loose paraphrase of John 3:17)?

05/06/2009

Adventures in missing the point #1

Category Church Bible
From time to time I manage to listen to podcasts of speakers I enjoy and find challenging. Tony Campolo is one of those speakers and one of his podcasts was entitled Adventures in missing the point. The podcast was a discussion between Tony (Campolo) and Brian McLaren. Prior to hearing the podcast I had already figured out that I am very good at missing the point! After hearing the podcast I though I would start a series on the same subject and in addition to expanding on some of their points add some missing the point moments I have.

I'll start with a quote from the podcast: The emerging church is group of young people who have said the traditional church has turned off a lot of people so we're going to do Christianity in a non-traditional way. We're going to say things that we think need to be said and take risks traditional churches are afraid to take.

I've missed the point! I thought that the traditional church was all about that. I had thought that the church was about giving the world a taste of life with God, bringing out the colours in the world (Matthew 5:13 - Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? from The Message).

As generations change, traditions need to evolve to prevent them (the tradition) being lost. In my experience we focus too much on the ritual of a tradition and not enough on the spirit of it (although that could just be my personal response). We get caught up in the way things should look and forget about what the prevailing attitude should be.

03/06/2009

Are we there yet?

Category Bible
It is interesting how for so many people life is all about here and now. Even many Christians seem to default to this kind of attitude where our behaviour conveys the message, this is as good as it get!

Is the way my life is now the best it is going to be? Is this current existence the best there can be and what God had in mind when he created the heavens and the earth?

Perhaps not ... Everyone has to die once, then face the consequences. Christ's death was also a one-time event, but it was a sacrifice that took care of sins forever. And so, when he next appears, the outcome for those eager to greet him is, precisely, salvation. Hebrews 9:28

31/05/2009

Pentecost

Category Church Bible
Why are there demoninations of churches? Given they all had the same beginning (Pentecost Sunday - today!), have the same head figure (Jesus), worship the same person (God), claim the same inerrant book (the Bible), and seek the same end result (the establishment of God's kingdom) how did we end up with so many different denominations?

There are many factors that led to different denominations starting. Take The Salvation Army - Born out of the Methodist church William Booth wanted church to be more accessible to the down trodden of society. He believed that Jesus came for everyone and there should no entry requirements at a church. He even determined that if people wouldn't come to church he would take it to them (an open air meeting in Salvation Army speak).

However, it is to make a convincing argument that all churches should be inclusive and not exclusive, open not closed, and out in the community not meeting behind closed doors. Acts 2 captures the first church meeting. Acts 2:26 captures part of this first service as Peter quotes King David: I'm glad from the inside out, ecstatic; 
I've pitched my tent in the land of hope.

Today is the birthday of the church ... If you belong to a church can you say that you're glad from the inside out? Ecstatic? Have you pitched your tent in the land of hope?

30/05/2009

The Bible Online

Category Bible
There are loads websites dedicated to the Bible, commentaries and the interpretation of passages (one might consider this blog one of those sites)! There are also Twitter accounts (biblewords), Facebook groups, blogs and loads of other Internet services dedicated to getting the Word out there. All of these make accessing the Bible and information about it simple and fast. But they also overload you with a deluge of information that you often need to filter through.

I find it easy to get to this information and regularly access the Bible online (from my laptop and phone) wherever I am. It isn't that I don't like physical books, it is just I can have access to dozens of translations at the click of a mouse.

My favorite site (that I seem to use almost daily now) is BibleGateway.com. They make searching simple and swapping between translations a breeze. They've even got a number of other tools and study options (I use their verse of the day tool on this blog). While looking something up moments ago I found The 100 most-read Bible verses at BibleGateway.com here. It makes for interesting reading and could be turned into a basic bible knowledge test.

29/05/2009

5 Kinds of Christian #4

Category Church Bible
This is part 4 in my (slightly plagiarised) series from the article the 5 kinds of Christian (which I came across in Captain Collo's blog). The 1st kind of Christian is an active Christian (see here for the article). The 2nd kind is a professing Christian (see here for the article). The 3rd kind is a liturgical Christian (see here for the article).

4. Private Christians 24%
Largest and youngest segment
Believe in God and doing good things
Own a Bible, but don't read it
Spiritual interest, but not within church context
Only about a third attend church at all
Almost none are church leaders

This seems like a generational shift to me. Some of these traits are immediately associated with Gen Y. Although Gen Y traits are (in my opinion) an extension of Gen X traits which were part of the rebellion of the Baby Boomers. However there is no indication of the demographics that comprise this group. It is also a fair statement to say I know people who would fit this group that come from all age groups so it isn't a generation problem. It is just Gen Y characteristics make them more likely to fit this group.

The most alarming aspect of a Private Christian regardless of what age they are is that they own a bible but don't read it. This seems unbelievable as at the very least I would expect any Christian to be familiar with at least the 4 gospels. For me reading the gospels sparks an interest in parts of the Old Testament (after all Jesus kept referring to them) which in turn makes me want to know more about other parts of the Old Testament. Then I also want to know what the rest of the New Testament says as it tells me how Christianity came about and the problems people faced (i.e. it is more often than not I need help with everything I do)!

The other intriguing trait is believe in God and doing good things. That takes me to James (again) chapter 2 and a few selected verses from the Message (again). The ones which leapt to the front of my mind when I read about private Christians were: Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.

28/05/2009

Budget Day

Category Bible Random
Normally I don't comment on politics, it isn't that I don't have an opinion, it is just that it seems so futile to me. Politicians seem to do whatever they want and if they're challenged because of an inconsistency or broken promise go to great lengths to protest their innocence due to mitigating circumstances. I guess I could learn a lot from them as it seems arrogant to make promises and sweeping statements out of ignorance - I really try not to do that!

Today is budget day and it sounds as though many the promises our new government made during the election will be broken. Now there would seem to be sound reason for this. The forecast the previous government gave of a healthy surplus has emerged as an enormous deficit (wish I was the one left holding that baby)!! The budget will undoubtedly be a betrayal to those who voted for the new government based on some of the election promises.

However what will interest me most as the budget is announced (2pm NZ time) is how Christianity, specifically denominations react. There will be Christian leaders standing up in the media over the next day or 2 telling us what is bad, why more should have been done, which will be followed by praise for some, "less than expected" assistance packages.

Reading from James this morning I was reminded of many things especially about how I need to watch my words and ensure my actions are consistent. Faith without works is dead, and deeds without faith is empty. However, James 1:27 reiterates a theme that is prominent throughout the bible:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world

Both sections of that seem impossible but surely pursuing the first will lead to the second being achieved.

27/05/2009

5 Kinds of Christian #3

Category Church Bible
This is part 3 in my series from the article the 5 kinds of Christian (which I came across in Captain Collo's blog). The 1st kind of Christian is an active Christian (see here for the article). The 2nd kind is a professing Christian (see here for the article).

It is interesting as on my initial read of the 5 kinds of Christians I thought that active was the only kind there should be. By the time I was blogging the 2nd kind (a Professing Christian) I was already changing my mind. So rather than post any initial revised hypothesis/conclusion I will work my way through all 5 types then post a summary!

3. Liturgical Christians 16%
Predominantly Catholic and Lutheran
Regular churchgoers
High level of spiritual activity, mostly expressed by serving in church and/or community
Recognize authority of the church

The older I get the more value I can perceive and derive from liturgy. In all aspects of my life I find that maintaining focus is helped by regularly looking at the key aspects of what I'm working on. Much of the value comes in ensuring my attitude is right and alligning my focus correctly.

The more focused I am the better I am generally able to do. Focus increases clarity and ensures that time and energy is spent in ways that achieve my goals (or the goals of the organisation I'm working for/with). Focus also allows me to better measure my efforts - This is largely because I focus on the key goals and ensure whatever I'm doing is alligned with the goals.

Recognising the authority of the church is an interesting one ... What is the authority of the church? Where does it start and end? Throughout history there have been countless examples of people standing up against church authority (Luther, Wilberforce, and King in particular spring to mind). This normally ends in one of two ways. The church realises the error of their way and changes or they martyr the person as heretic!

26/05/2009

Part of the Story?

Category Bible
Are we part of God's story? I've often heard people talk about the bible being God's story, and us all being a part of it. This is interesting considering that the first part of God's story (Genesis 1:1) is all about God creating the heaven's and the earth. What have I ever created? I'm pretty good at creating a mess and havoc, but not much else.

The story continues though (I'll let you read it for yourself) and gets to the 'end' (I say the end in inverted commas because for me it is kind of where it all starts) ... It 'ends' with God saying I am making everything new! Revelation 21:5. That means the beginning and the end are the same, God created in the beginning and at the end He is making everything new again.

Making is a verb in the present tense which means God is busy right now! My question today is how is He busy? Is it through His power (that same power that first created the heavens and the earth), or is He making everything new through people? I'd like to think it was the latter, but I'm not always that good are creating things ... are you?

25/05/2009

5 Kinds of Christian #2

Category Church Bible
Here is part 2 in my series from the article the 5 kinds of Christian (which I came across in Captain Collo's blog). The 1st kind of Christian is an active Christian(see here for the explanation).

2. Professing Christians 20%
Believe salvation comes through Jesus Christ
Focus on personal relationship with God and Jesus
Similar beliefs to Active Christians, different actions
Less involved in church, both attending and serving
Less commitment to Bible reading or sharing faith

Not too much wrong as we start down this list ... but why do people who believe in the same starting point for salvation (John 14:6-7) end up in different places? Surely, unless I've missed something obvious my entire life (which is possible), believing that salvation comes through Jesus results in following Him (after all Jesus is God incarnate and constantly told us what God wanted - mercy, justice & faithfulness). But I begin to digress from my point ... John 14:6-7 from the Message:

Jesus said, "I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him. You've even seen him!"

However, perhaps there isn't such a difference between type 1 and type 2 ... type 1 ends up involved in church. Type 2 doesn't BUT we don't know where they end up. Are the 5 kinds of Christians put together by a group of church leaders? Professing implies they're passive, especially when the 1st type are active.

What is the end goal for a Christian? Mercy, justice & faithfulness ... not regular attendence at a church, or leadership within a church. In speaking to religious leaders in Matthew 23:23-24 Jesus says: You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God's Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment—the absolute basics!—you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required. Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that's wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons?

I confess ... I'm a Pharisee.

20/05/2009

5 Kinds of Christian #1

Category Church Bible
I came across an article about the 5 kinds of Christians their are. It was interesting to me because I see different characteristics of all 5 types in myself! Over the next few days I'll post the different types one at a time with some additional thought/comment of my own.

Active Christians (19%)
Believe salvation comes through Jesus Christ
Committed churchgoers
Bible readers
Accept leadership positions
Invest in personal faith development through the church
Feel obligated to share faith; 79% do so

Most of these seem like normal characteristics of Christianity to me. The interesting ones to me are accept leadership positions. I'm assuming this means leadership within a church context. To be effective and specifically salt and light (refer Matthew 5:13-16) surely we need to be out with people and not in with ourselves (refer to href="http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark%202:15-17;&version=31;" target="new"> Mark 2:15-17 for why I think that). This (to me) means we should be on the committee of clubs, school boards, associations, business boards etc and acting both legally and morally to protect people and (most importantly) overflowing with grace!

I'm also assuming that 21% of active Christians feel guilty or remorse and not being able to share their faith (which they feel obligated to do)!

18/05/2009

Grace #1

Category Bible
As I think about church and living as a Christian in 21st Century New Zealand I can't help but wonder what difference God makes to my life. Christianity is different to other religions and philosophies because of grace. Grace that we receive but also grace that we're meant to be agents of. The very definition of a Christian surely is Jesus and from what I can tell bad people were more interested in hanging out with Jesus than good people!

Sometimes it would seem that today the inverse is true. Christians repel bad people and live in isolation from the communities we're meant to be a part of. Again this (to me) seems to be directly opposed not only to the life Jesus led but also the rest of the bible (which seems to be a story of a God who relentlessly pursues people to provide a full life). Already I digress ... Reading from Amos 5 this morning (in the Message) I was struck by verses 21-24:

I can't stand your religious meetings.
I'm fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals.
I'm sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making.
I've had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
When was the last time you sang to me?


Do you know what I want?
I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it.
That's what I want.
That's all I want.

15/05/2009

The Perfect Church #2

Category Church Bible
Apparently there are different traditions of church (detailed below). Is it a human deficiency that leads us to focus on one area over another? Personally I can say I'm more inclined to focus on things that I think I can do well instead of those I can't. BUT does this apply to a community of believers? I had always thought that 1 Corinthians 12 was specifically talking about this. We need ALL our faculties to operate meaningfully.

Does this mean the following 6 church traditions prove that we struggle with unity? Does it mean that we mistake uniformity for unity?

1. The Contemplative Tradition

The prayer-filled life focuses upon intimacy with God and depth of spirituality. This spiritual dimension addresses the longing for a deeper, more vital Christian experience.

2. The Holiness Tradition

The Virtuous Life focuses upon personal moral transformation and the power to develop "holy habits." This spiritual dimension addresses the erosion of moral fiber in personal and social life.

3. The Charismatic Tradition
The Spirit-Empowered Life focuses upon the charisms of the Spirit and worship. This spiritual dimension addresses the yearning for the immediacy of God's presence among his people.

4. The Social Justice Tradition
The Compassionate Life focuses upon justice and shalom in all human relationships and social structures. This spiritual dimension addresses the gospel imperative for equity and compassion among all peoples.

5. The Evangelical Tradition
The Word-Centered Life focuses upon the proclamation of the evangel, the good news of the gospel. This spiritual dimension addresses the need for people to see the good news lived and hear the good news proclaimed.

6. The Incarnational Tradition
The Sacramental Life focuses upon making present and visible the realm of the invisible spirit. This spiritual dimension addresses the crying need to experience God as truly manifest and notoriously active in daily life.

10/05/2009

Mother's Day

Category Church Bible
Every year when Mother's Day comes around I realise that despite thinking about it in the weeks (literally) leading up to it I'm taken by surprise! This year was no different but I had 1 get of jail free card - My mother is on the other side of the world at the moment!!

At church this year we decided to Celebrate Mother's so we could include as many people as possible (after all who doesn't have a mother?). We had a cafe that started at 9am and at 10:30am celebrated mother's with an unconventional service that included songs by The Spice Girls and Oasis. The brief message was about perceptions and I talked about how my perceptions of my Mum had changed through the years.

I used to think she just nagged ... now my perception has changed and I know she nags because she cares and wants the best for me. I used to think she was an absolute clean freak ... now my perception has changed and I realise that there is a place for everything (including that paper clip) and everything should be in its place (or else)!!

Now that I'm an adult I realise that all my Mum ever did was love me. She knew better than me and was trying to teach me some important lessons about life and ensure I had the best life possible.

The message contrasted this changing relationship with the perception we might have of God using John 3:16 & 17 This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. (The Message)

04/05/2009

Strength

Category Bible
Not my words (although what you usually hear is an interpretation of someone else's words anyway), but the Christian*Cyber*Ministries occasionally has something of real value. Today their verse was from Colossians 2:20 Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules? (NIV). They then followed it with a bit of other motivational/sermon speak which I was less taken with. However they ended with the following:

Love is stronger than hate
Blessing is stronger than cursing
Praise is stronger than accusation
Forgiving is stronger than retaliation
Giving thanks is stronger than complaining

Seems this is completely accurate when one looks at Jesus life (which I think I'm supposed to do)!

01/05/2009

Bono - A Statement of Faith?

Category Bible
Thanks to the power of Twitter I was directed to an article with what appears to be a statement of faith by Bono. The most interesting part about the conversation (to me) is how Bono hints at our desperate need of faith. Karma leaves us all getting what we deserve (which isn't much)! Karma leads to a downwards spiral (which I guess makes Karma anti-evolutionary)!

I am desperate for grace in every aspect of my life. Sometimes I expect it, or even demand it. Other times I dare not think grace could be offered to me. Paul sums this up quite well for us (which Eugene Peterson then puts in a way I can easily understand)!

Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn't, and doesn't, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn't been so weak, we wouldn't have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him. Romans 5:6-8

Some may not think this is a statement of faith at all ... I'm not presumptious enough to tell you what to think and will let you decide for yourself! Click on the read more link or go here to see exactly what Bono said.

29/04/2009

Perceptions

Category Bible
Perception is reality ... unfortunately! In the mind of others I am the way they perceive me (this may be a good thing sometimes)! How do I ensure the way I am perceived is actually the way I am? Impossible without a lot of time! People will always try and interpret what I'm saying and not listen to what I mean. However with time and consistent action their perception should (if I have integrity) be alligned with the reality of who I am and what I'm doing.

The perception some have of God is different to mine. Mine is summed up in John 3 by Eugene Peterson:
This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person's failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

28/04/2009

I'm Lost

Category Bible
I'm lost, yet I'm not bothered because The Son of Man came to look for and to save people who are lost Luke 19:10 (CEV). It is good to read the gospels again and notice that while Jesus did spend time in synagogues, he spent more time out there looking for the lost. I'm lost!

14/04/2009

Easter according to Asbo

QuickImage Category Church Bible
As always, Asbo says it very well!
Download File

14/04/2009

Easter Sunday #2

Category Bible
Following on the theme of Easter Sunday and the gospel of Mark I have even more questions (despite them being similar to the questions I asked in this earlier blog entry), they seem relevant. Maybe they seem relevant because I'm considering how I would respond to the circumstances the disciples found themselves in.

As I read the start of Mark 16 there are a couple of other questions I have ... Question 1 - Why were the women heading to the tomb when there was an enormous boulder in front of the entrance? How did they think they would move it? What was really going on? They hadn't been prepared for Jesus to die and they'd not only watched the crucifixion, but they'd also watched as Joseph of Aramathea had boldy gone to Pilot and asked to have the body of Jesus to bury (check out the end of Mark 15 for this bit of the story). So they knew the tomb was sealed up and according to other gospels would have been guarded by Roman soldiers ... Maybe they were going to ask the Roman soldiers to roll the boulder away?

Question 2 - Is the end of verse 5 (back in Mark 16) an understatement? I mean they get to the tomb and find the boulder rolled away and without batting an eyelid or anything like that Mark has them rocking on into the tomb! I'm not sure I would have been quite so bold to head on in. As they enter verse 5 tells us they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side. Right now I'd expect all sorts of adjectives and descriptions of the shock, fear, anger, etc as they go into the tomb, see the body is missing and discover a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side.

Am I alone in this? Apparently I am because Mark puts it this way: they were alarmed. Maybe, just maybe they're beginning to remember what Jesus had done and what He had said. Maybe they're beginning to remember what he told them was going to happen. Then I carry on reading and get to verse 8!

12/04/2009

Easter Sunday According to Mark

Category Bible
This morning I went to Opawa Baptist church to hear Reverand Dr Steve Taylor (what a mouthful) speak. I've heard him speak previously so was exicted about hearing him again, this time in his home church (Opawa Baptist).

He spoke about the ending of the Gospel of Mark. There is lots to blog about here BUT I won't go into it all (maybe another time). What was amazing and I had never considered before was how the oldest and most accurate copies of Mark don't have the ending we're most accustomed to. These most original copies finish at what we refer to as Mark 16:8. This isn't exactly a triumphant finish ... The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, saying nothing to anyone because they were too frightened to talk!

This isn't exactly where we, 21st century Christians know the story ends! After all, have of the service this morning consisted of people calling out He is risen! to which everyone is supposed to respond He is risen indeed! As Rev Dr Steve Taylor worked his way through the message he talked a little about the context and history, how tombs were in those days, why there were large rocks over the entrances etc.

However the piece which stuck out to me was verse 1 ... the women went out and purchased burial spicesto put on Jesus' body. Now this makes we ask two questions (neither of which were asked), both which are related to the resurrection of Jesus.

Question 1 - Why are they worrying about burial spices after Jesus is dead and buried? I don't know anything about the traditions of the time but I would have thought that you would sort out all the burial spices prior to sealing the tomb up. I could be wrong but it would seem to me that the whole way through the trial and the crucifixion that the women and the disciples expected Jesus to avoid being killed. If they had expected him to live, then they wouldn't have had burial spices ready (which they didn't). Is this why in verse 1 they went and purchased the spices after Jesus had died? They hadn't expected Jesus to die!

Question 2 - Why did the women react so fearfully? Had they not been with Jesus when he raised Lazarus from the dead? Had they not been with Jesus when he demonstrated the power of God to miraculously intervene in situations? Had they not been with him less than a week earlier when he rode a donkey into Jerusalem which was essentially Jesus announcing to the world that He was the messiah (all Jews knew that one of the many prohesies about the messiah was that He would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey)? How can they miss the point and be so scared after hearing about the resurrection they run away?

Ok, it wasn't quite 2 questions, but I suspect they reacted exactly as I would have ... I wouldn't have been prepared for Jesus to die! I would have been waiting for an 11th hour victory. The sensational kind that Hollywood tells me happens all the time! I wouldn't have been prepared with burial spices and would have had to go out the next day for them! And I would have been petrified to find that the body had gone and I was supposed to tell people Jesus was alive ... I would have been more inclined to respond with a 'yeah right!'

11/04/2009

Which Jesus?

Category Bible
I listened to the Tony Campolo Palm Sunday podcast on the ferry last night as we crossed the Cook Straight to the South Island. Part of the podcast focused on a book by Tony Campolo called Which Jesus?. The story which is based on truth but mixed in with Tony's imganitive musings of what events may have transpired.

It starts with pointing our that Barabas (the man freed instead of Jesus) had the same first name (that is Jesus), and also grew up in Nazareth. Tony reasons that they (Jesus Ba-Rabas and Jesus Ba-Joseph) would have known each other and possibly even been playmates. Incidently the Ba-Joseph means son of - Joseph, so Ba-Rabas means son of Rabas. Tony also points out that Rabas (forgive the spelling) actually means God so Jesus Ba-Rabas means Jesus, son of God - spooky!

Can you imagine the coincidence, or perhaps irony that Jesus Ba-Rabas (son of God) was a man who was sentenced to die by crucifixion. He was a man that most probably deserved to die given who he was and what he did. And yet he was fortunate enough to be sentenced at a time that prior to his sentence being carried out he got the opportunity to be pardoned by the crowd choosing him (which they did).

Oh the irony that Jesus Ba-Rabas has Jesus Ba-Jospeh die for him. Jesus Ba-Rabas, a man deserving death, pardoned by Jesus Ba-Joseph, an innocent man who even the guards at the crucifixion recognised as not deserving to die.

09/04/2009

Easter Meditation 3

Category Bible
Unfortunately I missed yesterdays Easter Meditation as I was out of the office with a prior work commitment. Today was the final meditation by Colonel Buttar. Again he chose a short passage with his focus being on a small portion of the short passage.

In Luke 23:44-47 we read about the final moments of the crucifixion. Darkness came during the day and the sun stopped shining. The curtain in the temple was torn in two - Significant as the curtain separated us (the common people) from God. In this last moment of His life Jesus some how summons the strength to call out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." I'm no expert on death nor crucifixion, but I've always imagined than if you die in an excruciatingly painful manner, you will make a lot of noise at the start, then gradually fade away (in volume) before your life slips quietly from you (of course this is heavily drenched in the perspective of Hollywood)!

Why does Jesus see the need to to commit his spirit to the Father? Is it another human moment where, like all of us, as we come to the end of our physical lives we are fearful of the transition? We all know Psalm 23 and how that tells us we only walk through the valley of the shadow of death which I have taken to believe that we have immortal souls. Are Jesus words communicating this human apprehension of the transition from our physical bodies?

Into your hands I commit my spirit.

09/04/2009

Church Style #2

Category Bible Church
As in my previous blog entry about style (see here) I wonder how much style was relevant to Jesus. As I read from Matthew 9 today verse 12 stuck out (well 11-13 to be exact)! I've read these often but can't help but wonder if Jesus answers the style question here for us. Jesus tells us that we should be out taking the kingdom of God where ever we go. We shouldn't keep it in a holy huddle (I'm not sure who coined that phrase but I do like it)!

To quote Phillip Yancey, the gospel of grace infiltrates this world not primarily through words and rationale arguments but through deeds, through love - From his book Soul Survivor. The sooner I start acting this way the sooner I the kingdom will be a part of me where ever I am and whatever I'm doing. The gospel of grace is Jesus life! To quote from Soul Survivor again to follow Jesus, I learned, does not mean to solve every human problem - Christ himself did not attempt that - but rather to respond as he did, against all reason to dispense grace and love to those who don't deserve it.

08/04/2009

Leadership #2

Category Church Bible
It is difficult to believe that the church had the two men responsible for translating the bible into English and printing it killed! Leaders in the church had determined that nobody could read a bible except a priest. As it was in Latin most people couldn't read or understand Latin so one would think that an English version was a good idea.

Still leaders of all sorts in any organisation are humans and fallible (well I definitely am)!

07/04/2009

Easter Meditation 2

Category Bible
Today the brief thought from Colonel Buttar came from Matthew 27:45 & 46. It is a passage that I've blogged about previously ( here) after listening to a Tony Campolo podcast on Easter. Again I went and read Psalm 22

In reading it today I am struck by an entirely human moment in the middle of the Psalm. Verse 15 again seems to be a very human moment (just like with yesterdays meditation). It seems that at this time, when Jesus has been hanging on a cross for over 3 hours (my best guess), he has a human moment. Personally I think I would have had a moment similar to this a lot earlier in the event! In fact I think my human moment would have looked very different (think about the rental car scene of Steve Martin's in the movie Planes, Trains & Automobiles! Not long after these words Jesus dies (or as verse 50 puts it, he gave up his spirit).

Reading Psalm 22 paints a picture of what is coming through the moment that we focus on at Easter. To quote Tony Campolo (or his pastor) again, it's Friday ... but Sunday is a coming! Is this Jesus way of communicating to us that we shouldn't get stuck in the moment of the crucifixion? We should remember that rather than being the end of a story, his story and ours, it is actually the beginning of the story?

Everything before this moment counts for nothing ... unless Sunday comes!

06/04/2009

Easter Meditation 1

Category Bible
Today began 4 days of Easter meditations here at work. Led by Colonel Lyn Buttar he decided to leave us with a simple message each day on the Easter theme. The reading today was verses 32-34 of Luke 23 and the words we were asked to remember were Father forgive them.

Now I've never thought too much around these verses but have always had quite a disconnect around why we (Christians) think the crucifixion was so bad. Yes it was a horrific way for anyone to die, perhaps even more so when the person is innocent. No Jesus hadn't done anything to deserve being punished (especially put to death). The disconnect in my mind has been around the fact that the crucifixion is the cornerstone of our redemption! Without the crucifixion I'm incapable of knowing God (any biblical scholars or theologians out there feel free to correct me - please)!

So (to return quickly to my Easter theme), the question I have is why did Jesus say, Father forgive them?Wasn't the master plan for this to happen? Was this said for their sake as they were only following orders in crucifying him? Was it a totally human moment where the physical torment and emotional strain came flowing out in a grace filled statement?

Either way, forgiveness is something for me to work on because I am only forgiven by God as I forgive others.

02/04/2009

unChristian

Category Bible Books Church
Thanks to Captain Collo for the following link he blogged and reference to this book called unChristian.

It covers a subject close to my heart and raises a matter that I want to pursue further. Christians don't have a reputation (generally) as being Christ like. In fact Christians are more likely to be considered anti-gay, judgemental, and ungracious interested only in non-Christians so they can convert them! We've become known for what we're against and best I can recall Jesus was actually for people REGARDLESS of their personal circumstances. In fact as I read the new testament I find the harsh words Jesus spoke were always to Christian leaders!

His life was defined by love and grace not condemnation and ulterior motives. The love he had was genuine and his grace extended to everyone including the outcasts of society and the religious leaders he was vociferously opposed. There would seem to be a message in Jesus life for us but we've managed to miss it. Maybe unChristian (the book) will help us recapture the pursuit of Jesus.

For me, I want to live a life like his. Known for genuine love and grace. Caring for people, all people, and concerned entirely with the kingdom of God being where ever I am.

31/03/2009

Easter

Category Bible
As we rapidly approach Easter I took half an hour to listen to a Tony Campolo podcast about Easter. I was amazed to learn something I had never known wrapped up in something I had known for quite some time!

Tony was talking about Jesus word's, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? At first he points out that the crock hanging beside him might have become a little nervous, after all a short time before Jesus said these words he told the man that they would be together today in paradise! You would be forgiven I'm sure for questioning Jesus at this point!

However Tony continued and makes the statement that I'm sure we all know, that the bible has only been divided into chapters and verses in recent history (according to gotquestions.com in 1227 AD). So when Jesus wanted to quote scripture he couldn't say Isaiah 1:11 says ... However Jesus did have a distinct advantage (other than the obvious). The religious people of the time knew (and we mean really knew) their bibles. So when Jesus said My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? people would have instantly known he was quoting a Psalm!

I didn't know this so paused the podcast to look it up. Check it out here here courtesy of biblegateway.com and the NIV translation. For me it threw an entirely new understanding on the passage and paints a very different picture of what Jesus was perhaps saying when he said those words.

15/03/2009

Translations

Category Bible Church
I've posted a couple of times about The Lord's Prayer and how at our Kidz Church we've persisted with the KJV and NIV versions. Neither of these are particularly child friendly and even adults may need help with understanding different parts of it (if you're one of those adults check out Tony Campolo's podcast on The Lord's Prayer).

Despite The Message not being a translation I often find it a far better read. This is because it's language is a lot closer to what I use and hear everyday. It also uses analogies that I can get (after all I've never been 100% what a bushell was - other than terrible coffee).
Feel free to correct me, but the bible is only going to be of any use if it impacts our lives (which assumes we're reading it). Martin Luther King Jr managed to understand the gospel message so well he lived it and was martyred for it. For the bible to be able to impact my life it needs to be in language I can understand (this is why I'm no scholar - the original texts are in Greek and Hebrew neither of which I comprehend)!

My 2 cents worth? Use multiple translations and versions to try and get the best possible understanding of what was being said. Then if you're still stuck talk to someone and explore the passage in Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias.

12/03/2009

Martin Luther King Jr

Category Bible Books
As I read Philip Yancey's book Soul Survivor I'm reading snippets of other people's stories and how they impacted his life. So far (only in the 2nd chapter) it has already been very good as Philip gives a tiny snippet of Martin Luther King Jr.

It is fascinating to hear Philip talk about him Martin Luther King Jr from his southern, conservative heritage. It is a perspective I tend to not consider as it is difficult to comprehend how the colour of someone's skin could be so divisive (although recent history tells us it is very common.

However that isn't the point of this blog entry. I was amazed to read about how Martin Luther King Jr was so quickly targeted after becoming leader of the civil rights movement. And then in a low and dark moment after receiving threats God spoke to him ...

'Martin Luther, stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up fo truth. And lo I will be with you, even until the ends of the earth' ... I heard the voice of Jesus saying fight on. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone. No never alone. No never alone. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone.

Matthew 28:20 [NIV] Surely I am with you always, even until the end of the age

04/03/2009

The Church Question

Category Church Bible
Following on from the Twitter question last week and my post about church, I've been thinking about how church became what it is today. Now I know that this is somewhat of a stereo type, but most churches are comprised of a Sunday service (singing & sermon), and a range of other groups (bible studies, mum's groups, youth groups, Sunday Schools, etc).

Now I could ask what the point of this is but I think that would be a little facitious of me (so I'll save it for another time). But I think a better way to phrase the question is to ask, how productive is this? For the purposes of clarifying how I'm defining success I'm thinking of the Sermon on the Mount and specifically Jesus' message about being salt & light click here for the speicific verses from The Message).

How successful are churches in achieving this God flavour in our communities?

Stay with me for a moment here because my real question is, how does the model we use at church affect our ability to be God flavour in our community? Often church becomes the thing that takes us out of society and out of our communities. Surely in order to be God flavour we need to be in our communities. So what does this mean for the model of church we currently have?

02/03/2009

Matthew 6 (again) Matthew 6 (again)

Category Bible
I know I blogged about the Lord's Prayer only last week but it has been at the fore of my mind since then. The first reason is the podcasts I listened to of Tony Campolo discussing it. The second reason being Kidz Church has been learning about it. The third reason (which is related to both the 1st two points) is that I was a little miffed by a couple of points raised in Kidz Church yesterday.

I find it really difficult to understand why, especially in Kidz Church we would use bible translations and versions that don't use today's language. What are we achieving in trying to explain things to kids using a language that we don't use? I (personally) think that paraphrases and recent versions such as The Message and Contemporary English Version can be a great help to us here. Heck, I often use them to see if I can get a better understanding of what a passage (any passage) is saying. I'm not saying they're authorative (after all what other than the original Greek and Hebrew documents are?) but they're very helpful!

I also think that the give us our daily bread (KJV language) line isn't about providing any and everything our culture deems necessary. It is far simpler than that and possibly tied into passages about being like a child to enter into the Kingdom of God. My kids don't worry about what we'll eat tomorrow. They ask about lunch or dinner (and often all the snacks that join those meals together), but rarely (if ever) are worried about meals later in the week (other than B1 who is interested in knowing when we'll next be eating lemon pasta his favourite meal!

The Message really captures the essence of how we should pray in today's language (although I'm not a bible scholar so may be missing something from the original Hebrew text). I post it again today so I can again read it:

   Our Father in heaven, 
   Reveal who you are. 
   Set the world right; 
   Do what's best— as above, so below. 
   Keep us alive with three square meals. 
   Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. 
   Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. 
   You're in charge! 
   You can do anything you want! 
   You're ablaze in beauty! 
   Yes. Yes. Yes. 

27/02/2009

Parable of the Talents

Category Bible
Today morning tea was crowded as food was on offer (yes I went and yes it was my first time attending for while)! It was a good time though as the food was to celebrate a new appointment and also a retirement so the atmosphere was good.

As always following the morning tea break (and today the speeches associated with the appointment changes) prayers commenced. Today a friend was leading them and spoke about the parable of the talents (found in Matthew 25:14-30. The point that he made was we should be using a gifts for God and for building His Kingdom.

No argument from me on that but it did make me consider how we define gifts. For example I may think that I am a particularly gifted speaker so pursue that as my way of building God's Kingdom. However what if I'm also a gifted musician? Others may think that music is the gift I should be using to build God's kingdom. Do I need to use both gifts? Who decides?

22/02/2009

The Lord's Prayer

Category Bible
Even typing that title, The Lord's Prayer evokes images for me. The language is, well, quaint at best, and typically it is recited as a group so we mumble the words with zero expression. Many times during The Lord's Prayer I must confess I've got a little case of the giggles as I imagined how someone who had never prayed might view this. At times it appeared to me as though we are either a bunch of brain-deadzombies or maybe a cult of brain-washed idiots.

So I thought I might try and figure out if this is what Jesus had in mind. After all He is the one who first said it as he taught his disciples how they might pray. It is interesting because of what precedes it in Matthew 6 (apologies if you don't like The Message - Personally I think it has done an excellent job in paraphrasing the Lord's Prayer). I also found a pocast by Tony Campolo where he spends a few episodes working through The Lord's Prayer, the bits of significance, the parts that would have stopped 1st century Jews in their tracks, the phrases that seem audacious, all of it!

Even now I can't quite get my head around just how significant and radical The Lord's Prayer was when Jesus taught it. How then has it become so ordinary to me that it is mumbled through with such familiarity I miss what Jesus intended?

Matthew 6 brings some of it back life for the 21st century. I'm doing the teach time at Green Eggs and Hame (5-7 year olds Sunday School programme) and will use it.

   Our Father in heaven, 
   Reveal who you are. 
   Set the world right; 
   Do what's best— as above, so below. 
   Keep us alive with three square meals. 
   Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. 
   Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. 
   You're in charge! 
   You can do anything you want! 
   You're ablaze in beauty! 
   Yes. Yes. Yes. 

17/02/2009

Generosity

Category Bible
I subscribe to a devotional from Cyber Christian Ministries and thought today they really managed to sum up generosity very well. How often we only give out of our surplus (which isn't actually being generous at all).

Scripture: Proverbs 22:9 A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor. [NIV]

Generosity arises in many forms, coming from the soul that has received deeply. How can a man give that which he does not have? The easiest form is with money. A dollar here or there out of one's store and many a man swells up in pride. But, to share a dollar when you only have one - To share your food when you are hungry - To spare your time when you are in a hurry - To give away your prizes when you worked so hard for them - To lend a hand when you are down - To forgive when you have been wronged - To give attention when you are slighted - To smile when you are hurt - To listen when you are lonely - To shake the hand that has beat you - To greet the one who has spurned you - To share your life when you are losing it.

Now that's generosity!

Not out of our abundance is the depth of generosity determined. Rather, when we have little. How can we give that which we don't have? In the giving, we receive. Not to get, but to give - a profound mystery understood only by those of generous heart. Christ, the first giver, his life for mine. Our generosity - Christ our continual gain.

10/02/2009

Cliches

Category Bible
I was listening to a podcast earlier today and was amused by the over use of several industry cliches. It was intriguing because the more they were used, the less effective they seemed to become to me and the less I was convinced the person either a) actually knew what they meant or b) understood who his audience was. Anyway it did make me think of the cliche, God is love

It is a statement prone to misunderstanding, misuse, and misguided efforts to explain it. What follows is none of those, but could, depending on how you read what follows, be all three! However I can't help but think that both the OT (Old Testament) and the NT (New Testament) speak to this (if we approach it correctly).

For example I recently heard a sermon on the book of Jonah. The message (according to this sermon) was that God punishes us! I was mortified to hear this message and was unable to reconcile this against the image of God I grew up with or read about in the bible (maybe it is all in the way you read it). The message I get when reading Jonah is exactly that which is found in the verses that follow. God is love Not in a cliche way, but in a get along side you kind of way.

Through the wonderful world of Twitter I follow someone (or something) called BibleWords. Essentially once a day BibleWords tweets a verse. Today it was Ezekiel 18:31 which reads (from The Message), Why would you choose to die, Israel? I take no pleasure in anyone's death.

For once in my non-theological, untrained, non-studious, bible-illerate way I saw a direct juxtoposition of the OT and the NT. I've often heard people talk about this and how the OT is the NT concealed and the NT is the OT revealed (not sure where that quote originates sorry). The verses around here seem strikingly similar to those found in John 3 (again from The Message).

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.

04/02/2009

The End of an Era

Category Work Bible
Today is the end of an era in many ways here at work as Lisa ends 3 years and 4 months working with us. It is a probably a little over a year since Lisa alerted me to her (and her husband and kids) intention to pursue officership as their vocation for the future. Suffice to say I wasn't particularly pleased at hearing this news and rationally reconciled this as being what was best for the team and the organisation (not personal selfishness)!

Officership is an intriguing journey to choose (although many would say you don't choose it)! It is a path that involves surrender. The surrender of worldly ambitionambition and the abandonment of the pursuit (actively or passively) of wealth and material possesions. These aren't necessarily difficult sacrifices to make as I've yet to buy something that brings anything other than a distraction. The Christian life is simple, "leave what you have and follow me" were Jesus' simple instructions to his disciples. The complexity of the Christian life is in maintain this focus.

Hebrews 12:2 sums this up well. let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. It then continues (which is a part we like to forget) to say who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. That part takes an effort, not to be distracted by the world that surrounds us, not to live in isolation of the world Jesus came to help.

I couldn't convince Lisa to stay, and I couldnt' stop her application for officership! I can't offer Lisa any advice other than the some verses from John 4. Here we find Jesus sitting by a well talking to a Samaritan woman. Part way through the conversation he says, If you only knew the gift God has for you ... the water I give takes away thirst altogether.

It is my honest prayer that Lisa and Chris with their kids will not be thirsty.

26/01/2009

Interpretation

Category Church Bible
It is interesting how differently we all interpret things. This morning at church (with some of the ITX crowd) the sermon was on Jonah. An attempt was made to take us through the entire book of Jonah which was in some ways a little ambitious (IMHO) but did make the tempo quite fast (which I like). However the thrust of the message seemed to be that God will punish us right here and now if we don't do what He wants. In the van on the way back there was some discussion about the other possible messages that could be taken from Jonah.

Personally I think part of the message of Jonah is grace (God's relentless love and constant forgiveness). So despite my feelings or reaction to the sermon a lively discussion followed.

21/01/2009

Humility

Category Bible
This morning I read a devotional about humility. It talked about how many of us choose areas we will be humble in and parade those around. I thought about that (applying it to myself personally) and came to the concolusion it can be a little like that at times - I stress how I wouldn't act a certain way or say certain things (which is possibly a way of saying, "please see these good things in my life!" It is literally parading around my humility.

Anyway here at Lotusphere there are plenty of people with plenty of reason to not be humble. They are very talented, very knowledgable, and very accomplished people in their professions. And yet they are so approachable, open to conversation and discussion and not condescending (at least not the few I've spoken with).

The verse in the devotional was Matther 11:29 Take the yoke I give you. Put it on your shoulders and learn from me. I am gentle and humble, and you will find rest [CEV]. I'm sure I've heard dozens, possibly hundreds of sermons on this verse, and yet none quite seem to sink in for any kind of time. The Message translation (which I think I've quoted before here), puts it even better (but doesn't use the word humble):

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly.

It resonates well with me, walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it .... you'll learn to live freely and lightly

13/01/2009

Focus

Category Church Bible
As I continue to read The Church on the Other Side (Google Books is amazing!) I thought an analogy Brian D. McLaren used:

Imagine that we are a modern construction company building a housing development. Our goal is to build a great development for the good of our company and the future residents. So we cut down trees, scrape away the topsoil, fill in the wetlands, channelise the streams, and do whatever else is necessary to build the development. Nearby, we clear-cut, and then strip-mine a mountain so that we can get raw materials for our houses and roads. Downstream, silt from our development clogs up a bay. Animals flee or die. Native plants are replaced with ornamental species in black plastic pots. But since none of these problems are visible or bothersome to our residents, we don't notice. It is not that we don't care; it is that we don't notice. We never even think of the larger effects of our development's success. The development's success is our only goal. We finish the development, people move in, and we win awards for an ideal planned community.

Now by itself that paints a picture of so many churches and the attitude of many Christians. We're focussed and we're busy. But we're so focused on the 'development' that we can't see other things around us. We don't realise what is happening out side of our 'development' as that is where we live and operate.
Brian D. McLaren continues:

This is the church as we have too often practiced it in the modern era. The world exists as a source of raw materials for the church. It's okay to tear people out of their neighborhoods as long as we get them into the church more. It's okay to devalue their "secular" jobs as long as we get them involved in church work more. It's okay to withdraw all our energies from the artsand culture "out there" as long as we have a good choir and a nice sanctuary "in here." It's okay because, after all, we're about salvaging individuals from a sinking ship; neighborhoods, economies, cultures, and all but indvidual human souls will sink, so who cares? In this way of thinking, we could build more Christians, better Christians, and dynamic Christian communities ... at the expense of the world, no for its good.


Now feel free to correct me because I'm not a biblical scholar or a student of theology ... However I just don't think that is what Jesus came to achieve. He came to help (John 3:17) everyone, not just those who 'knew him' (Matthew 9:12).

09/01/2009

Salt and Light

Category Books Church Bible
Matthew 5:13 is a verse that reminds me that I'm meant to live my life outside of the church. Like Jesus my life is meant to make a difference to the people I associate with, the people I come into contact with. The more I reflect on the verse the easier it seems to be. Learn to love others the way Jesus did. Simple and yet difficult to act out because of selfishness.

Anyway, I'm reading The Church on the Other Side by Brian D. McLaren (thanks Rod Carey for loaning it to me) and it is a provocative read ... Well not so much for me yet, but I can almost hear the outcry in so many churches at the heretical ideas in the book. Great stuff, I love a bit of controversy, seeing a cat amoung the pigeons, participating in passionate discussion about how we work out our faith in our daily lives and make a difference!

Matthew 5:13 in the Amplified Bible puts it really well: You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste (its strength, its quality), how can its saltness be restored? It is not good for anything any longer but to be thrown out and trodden underfoot by men.

If you follow me on Twitter or are my friend on Facebook you will have noticed me comment on occasion (mainly Sunday's) about church. Church is something I struggle with so the book is a refreshing view which so far (page 37) is a lot closer to my paradigm than what I've experienced in church so far. If you click on read more

06/01/2009

Judging

Category Random Bible
This is really a quote, but seen I posted one yesterday I thought I'd call it something different today.

We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Reminds me of a verse.

23/12/2008

Judgemental

Category Bible
I confess it, I'm judgemental, unbelievably so and to make matters worse my standards are constantly changing so nobody has any hope of meeting them much less exceeding them!! However this blog entry isn't about me, it is about the church (yes, the royal 'we' that is the church)!

I'm intrigued by the fact churches are often very judgemental if not in what is said, then through their action (or inaction), or through being associated with past sins of their predecessors. This morning as I was visiting a centre I drove past a church with a highly visible, anti-abortion bill board prominantly on display on the front lawn. What struck me about this wasn't anything theological, moral, or otherwise, but rather was the judgmental nature of it.

The bill board clearly invoked the message that abortion was murder. Now rather than debate the rightness, morality, or issue of abortion all I could think of was that the message of the billboard was the church (and therefore God) is anti-abortion. My problem at this point was I don't think that is the message of the Gospels. In fact one could argue (well I would) that Jesus' entire life was diametrically opposed to this type of message.

Matthew 9:12-13 [NIV] On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Is any message declaring what we're not about condusive to being a doctor and helping the sick?

16/12/2008

Blinded

Category Random Bible
This morning I read an article about someone who was invoking the 'eye for an eye' part of Islamic law (read more here). It is a stunning story which couldn't more aptly depict why grace is so essential to our lives.

Earlier this year I read Philip Yancey's book What's so Amazing about Grace. One of the points of his which sticks in my head is that 'natural justice' is flawed. While it seems logical and even fair (I dont' want to say just in place of fair) in this instance (literally and eye for an eye), so many things can be considered unfair about such a judgement. Other people will undoubtedly be negatively impacted by this retributive justive being undertaken. Other innocent people will have to suffer as a result.

Grace however undeserved doesn't deliver justice, but does deliver a lasting palatable solution. Ungrace (Philip Yancey's word for the 'eye for an eye' law) leads us to a downwards spiral which would lead to us all being blind. Grace however leaves us all as equals. I don't deserve grace, but am offered it. This is best summed up in Matthew 6:12; Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others [MSG].

14/12/2008

Rules

Category Church Bible
During the week I observed a classic example of us making rules the most important thing. It was a trivial matter and larger was about the letter of the law as opposed to anything else.In addition to getting a little laugh (albeit a sad laugh) at the situation it did make me realise a few things ... The 1st is that rules make it easy for us to determine who is 'in' and who is 'out' (similar to the Pharisees). The 2nd is it allows us to derive a sense of 'rightness.' 3rdly it provides a means of comparing ourselves with others. There are obvious dangers in all 3 of these all of which result in behaviour not associated with the kingdom.

I had the TV on this morning while feeding J and the verse Matthew 6:33 was referred to (seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need).Jesus seemed to go out of his way to find people unlike him, from different backgrounds, with different 'rules' for living. His 12 closest friends were a mix of backgrounds, personality types, and occupations. In all the interactions Jesus had with his 12 friends and the people they met, his message was far more about action than rules. In fact twice in Matthew (9:13 and 12:7) Jesus says I want you to do something for others and not just blindly follow the rules of your religion.

Where is the balance? Can rules exist (within the context of church) and not end up in use becoming like the Pharisees?

10/12/2008

Service

Category Random Work Bible
I was speaking with someone today about service and they came out with the following quite exceptional quote: What we expect in service from others is normally not the same service as we ourselves provide others with.

It wasn't a dig at me or the service my team are providing, rather it was an observation they have made. As I reflect upon it I realise how true it can be. While I strive to provide good service I don't feel that is often reciprocated (I could give about 3 examples from this week alone). However before I got up on my high horse and begun a royal rant I remembered Matthew 7:1-5

"Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, 'Let me wash your face for you,' when your own face is distorted by contempt? It's this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.

03/12/2008

Quotes

Category Bible
I came across the following quote from Tina Turner:

The real power behind whatever success I have now was something I found within myself - something that's in all of us, I think, a little piece of God just waiting to be discovered.

Does this a statement acknowledge God as creator of life or is it just a vague reference to something bigger than ourselves words can't quite grasp? It seems to me (but I guess I have been conditioned that way) that the more I look around the world the more I have to look for a creator.

Genesis 1:26 & 27 speaks about this:

God spoke: "Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle, and, yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth." God created human beings; he created them godlike, Reflecting God's nature. He created them male and female.

Seems like Tina speaks the truth (well the truth according to how it has been revealed to me)!!

19/11/2008

10000 BC

Category Bible Movie
I watched 10000 BC in the weekend and quite enjoyed it. It wasn't that it was a brilliant movie, or had stunning cinematogrophy, or had great special effects, or anything that often contributes to a great movie.

What I enjoyed was the simplicity of life once upon a time. Yes it was harsh, brutal even, with survival sometimes being a daily struggle. However that single focus on survival seems quite pure compared with life today. Pursuing so many goals and objectives.

It does remind of however of part a conversation at my life group last night ... Life is simple, just read Matthew 6:33!

01/10/2008

Grace

Category Random Bible
It is a little word with many different meanings. However in the context of Christianity it is a defining word that was incredibly demonstrated by Jesus and it is the basis of our hope. Within my job I deal with an enormous variety of people and I try to be gracious when dealing with them all (I don't always succeed)! Both myself and members of my team are treated with both an abundance of grace by some people and a complete lack by others.

To be treated with grace is amazing. Even if we feel wronged and that a course of action was necessary, there is an incredible sense of grace when people act humbly, love mercy and seek justice (a loose paraphrase of Micah 6:8 and Matthew 23:23)

22/09/2008

Thought

Category Bible Church
Copied from the blog of Danielle Strickland (http://armybarmyremix.blogspot.com) which also appears in her book written with Campbell Roberts, Just: Imagine.

May the Lord disturb and trouble you,
May the Lord set an impossible task before you,
And dare you to meet it.
May the Lord give you strength to do your best;
And then - but only then -
May the Lord grant you peace.
Amen

16/09/2008

The Bible Code

Category Movie Bible
At my life group tonight we watched a video (yes VHS) from 1999. It was about The Bible Code book written by Michael Drosnin. Essentially it shows how equidistant letter sequencing (ELS) allows major world events to be found (i.e. predicted by) the Torah (the 1st 5 books of the bible). They used a number of major points in history (WWII, Oklahoma bombing, Lady Dianna etc) and found names and dates encoded using ELS.

It is interesting how one can be a complete skeptic about the theory of ELS (like me) and yet still be astounded that the events can actually appear. Unfortunately (well in my opinion anyway) they didn't go into enough detail of ELS to satisfy my inquisitive mind.

This isn't to say I don't believe there is a validity and authenticity to the bible and the unique claim it makes (to be the word of a living God). It is just to say that I find it difficult to reconcile the claims being made. I should point out the people making the claims are far more qualified, intelligent and capable (in biblical matters) than I am!

03/09/2008

Great verses

Category Bible
Every now and then I find a verse that seems to just sum the gospel message up and provide me with a measuring stick for life. Matthew 25 starts with two parables I struggle to find meaning with (or perhaps they are just hard truths for me to apply). Then it carries on to a passage where the sheep are separated from the goats. In this part of Matthew are the words:

I was hungry, but you did not give me anything to eat, and I was thirsty, but you did not give me anything to drink. I was a stranger, but you did not welcome me, and I was naked, but you did not give me any clothes to wear. I was sick and in jail, but you did not take care of me.

Seems reasonable enough to me. Whenever I'm asked about something I didn't do I can give great reason and rhyme as to why I didn't get what was needed done. Many times the reasons are genuine and are accepted accordingly. Other times I may not be so frank or I may receive less leniency. However what sticks out in this passage to me is Jesus response to the protests:

Whenever you failed to help any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you failed to do it for me

Maybe it is time for me to have a priority check.

01/09/2008

Hard to get

Category Bible
Matthew 10:32-42 must be one of the harder passages of the bible to understand. Some parts just don't make sense when considered in the light of the predominant message of the church. The parts that are particularly difficult (for me) from this passage are verses 34 - 37. Here they are from the CEV translation (note: other translations haven't helped me much)!

Don't think that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came to bring trouble, not peace. I came to turn sons against their fathers, daughters against their mothers, and daughters-in-law against their mothers-in-law. Your worst enemies will be in your own family. If you love your father or mother or even your sons and daughters more than me, you are not fit to be my disciples.

Does this mean I'm not a very good follower because I have (in my opinion) good relationships with my father and son? What is the actual message Jesus was trying to get across? He says I came to bring trouble, not peace which is a really hard concept for me to grasp. Is this just a melo-dramatic passage to let us know the pursuit of His Kingdom must be the primary goal of our every breath? In the verses preceding this passage He was sending the disciples out.

Maybe if I can convince Jesus not to send me out (out from what I'm not sure) I won't have to be concerned with the meaning of these verses!

29/08/2008

Community

Category Church Bible
I can't help but wonder if church (that is the church in general and not any specific church) has lost its way. Tonight we had fish and chips with a number of families who are in some way associated with Playgroup. We then watched a movie together and were all down by 7:30pm (so kids weren't too late to bed)! 80 people were there and it really was a great time. Kids ran and played and adults had the chance to relax and unwind a little after the week at work.

All to often it seems we (the church) are obsessed with getting people into our buildings and our programmes. This is in direct contrast to Jesus who lived his life out with the people. We (the church) also seem driven to live with an internal focus (praise, worship, bible teaching/study) and want people to join us there. I guess it is more comfortable. However increasingly I think we need to build community through events similar to last night and through investing time in taking the Kingdom of God where it is needed.

This isn't a call to preach or build new churches. Rather it is a realisation that the influence of my life is limited when the traditional concept of church is pursued. Jesus said I tell you for certain that if you have faith in me, you will do the same things that I am doing. You will do even greater things, now that I am going back to the Father John 14:12 [CEV].

08/07/2008

Matthew 9

Category Bible
Listening to the Bible Experience Podcast this morning I was reminded of the point of Jesus life ... Healthy people don't need a doctor-sick people do ... I didn't come to call the righteous, I came to call sinners ... So if you haven't been called should be (i.e. are righteous) are you supposed to call others? Or are we all called (because we're sinners)? Rather than being turned off by the word sinner (after all it is a harsh judgement however true it may be) I'm looking at the sick people need a doctor.

25/06/2008

Psalm 13:5-6

Category Bible
In the Dominion Post this morning was the following text:But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me. Now I can relate to parts of this and have heard others speak of a similar experience (albeit coloured with their culture and place in society). But the bit in bold? I can't say I've done that or seen anyone doing that today (unless a whistle counts as singing)!

24/06/2008

Matthew 8

Category Bible
If you've ever read chapter 8 of Matthew you might be able to help me out here ... Best I can tell Jesus has spent the day healing people. It starts with a leper who is healed but is told not to tell anyone (even through crowds witness this healing). It proceeds to an army officer demonstrating more faith than Jesus has yet witnessed (and he tells his disciples), then they head off to Peter's Mother-in-laws so Jesus can heal her (so she makes them dinner)! During this meal (which is in itself quite an accomplishment - personally I would have cooked for myself rather than try to heal someone) or shortly afterwards many people were healed. The crowd must have been getting pretty intense at some point because Jesus decides to leave. As he is trying to get out of there a number of people come and ask to follow him ... Jesus responds in his usual manner which shows not only the cost to follow him but also the commitment necessary (God must come before all other things) ... anyway Jesus hops in a boat with his disciples (I'm guessing only the 12 but aren't 100% sure about this)! He then proceeds to have a sleep while a storm whips up and things go from bad to worse as the disciples wake him up. Now a number of the disciples were fisherman so would have been out in storms plenty of times before so my guess is this was either a really bad storm. Anyway Jesus (as you probably know) tells the winds and waves to be still and they are. Thinking about that is still quite a surprise ... that the wind and waves would stop when told. BUT what really gets me is how the disciples responds ... "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him." [CEV]. Now here is where I'm a little lost ... The disciples have spent a considerable amount of time with Jesus by now. In fact the day seems to have been one non-stop roller coaster ride of people being healed wherever they went! Jesus even heals Peter's Mother-in-law so they can have dinner. This kind of occurence seems more than super-natural to me. Witnessing one miraculous healing is gob-smacking enough but a whole day of it? And then at the end when Jesus tells the wind and the waves to be still, only at that point do they ask, "Who is this?"

12/06/2008

Matthew 11

Category Bible

In reading Matthew 11 verses 28 - 30 seem to come from nowhere! I'm not really sure how it fits into what has been happening prior to it (but maybe I just can't connect the dots very well)! I really like the verses (28 -30) but particularly like the fresh perspective The Message gives them: "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." But even now I'm struggling to get my head around how the follow on from the verses that precede them.

04/05/2008

Podcast

Category Bible
Somehow I stumbled upon The Bible Experience podcast recently and I've been quite enjoying it. While it is a bit overdone (like a boy band song) it is great to hear the bible being read out loud. Interested? http://www.zondervan.com/Cultures/en-US/Product/Bible/The+Bible+Experience.htm?QueryStringSite=ZCS

02/05/2008

How do you interpret the bible?

Category Bible Random
I came upon the following short quiz that shapes what you think of the bible ... http://www.buildingchurchleaders.com/assessments/individuals/hermeneuticsquiz.html I'm not sure if a high or a low score is better! Either way it is an interesting self-examination of what value I actually place on the bible.

21/04/2008

Booth's 6 Resolutions

Category Bible Church Random
SIX RESOLUTIONS by William Booth (age 20) 1. That I will rise every morning sufficiently early to wash, dress, and have a few minutes, not less than 5, in private prayer. 2. That I will, as much as possible, avoid all that babbling and idle talk in which I have lately so sinfully indulged. 3. That I will endeavor in my conduct and deportment before the world and my fellow servants especially to conduct myself as a humble, meek and zealous follower of Christ, and by serious conversation and warning endeavor to lead them to think of their immortal souls. 4. That I will read no less than four chapters in God’s Word every day. 5. That I will strive to live closer to God, and to seek after holiness of heart and leave providential events with God. 6. That I will read over this every day or at least twice a week. “God help me, enable me to cultivate a spirit of self-denial and to yield myself a prisoner of love to the redeemer of the world.” “I feel my own weakness, and without God’s help I shall not keep these resolutions. The Lord have mercy upon my guilty soul.”

17/04/2008

Is Eugene Peterson an Evangelist?

Category Bible
Having read Psalm 21 this morning I'm wondering if Eugene Peterson (writer of 'The Message' paraphrase of the bible) is a raving evangelist. Many passages and verses require a person who wants to follow the Jesus to act out their salvation! Take Psalm 21 verse 13 (I've never previously associated Psalms with evangelical teaching) ... Show your strength, GOD, so no one can miss it. We are out singing the good news!

11/04/2008

Stuck in a Hole?

Category Bible
Sorry if you get the Cyber Christian Ministries daily messages ... I was challenged by it today as I considered how I respond to situations. If read before or after watching The Oasis (http://www.theoasismovie.com.au/om/default.htm#) it provides a clear definition of how a follower of Jesus might live. John 5:8 “Jesus said, "Get up, take your bedroll, start walking." The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off” MSG A man fell into a pit and couldn't get himself out. A stream of people came by as he was in the pit and commented ..
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07/04/2008

Matthew 23

Category Bible
Following on from Just Action I read part of Matthew 23 again this morning (as I prepared for a difficult meeting I have today). Captain Danielle Strickland spoke about this at Just Action. I was struck then, and again this morning, at how naturally I default into being a Pharisee ... "inside you are evil and only pretend to be good" ... justice, mercy and faithfulness ... Time to read again how Jesus interacted with all the people who he came into contact with. Time to once again be see how direct Jesus was and yet how much justice, mercy and faithfulness was in each word, each action, each reaction, each breath of his.

03/04/2008

Succinct

Category Bible
Is there a more succinct and simple direction than what you find in Matthew 6:33? But more than anything else, put God's work first and do what he wants. Then the other things will be yours as well

10/01/2008

What Am I Doing?

Category Bible

Jesus went on: "Does anyone bring a lamp home and put it under a washtub or beneath the bed? Don't you put it up on a table or on the mantel? We're not keeping secrets, we're telling them; we're not hiding things, we're bringing them out into the open. (Mark 4:21-22)

03/01/2008

Taking Time in 2008

Category Bible
What am I going to take time for in 2008? Paul had some expectations of himself ... "... my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death" — Philippians 1:20

12/12/2007

Thought for the Day

Category Bible
"You're blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.” (Matthew 5:8)

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