The Journey

Category Random
I had one of those moments where when I was speaking to someone I thought of a great story to illustrate the point I was trying to make. It was a conversation about unity (which doesn't mean uniformity). My point is that we (the royal we of leaders - and I'm generalising a little here) seem unable to reconcile different approaches or perspectives into our way forward.

Imagine that you're part of a team and you have to get from point A to point B. The challenge is that between the two points is Mount Everest! However before you start you talk with your team to decide how you're going to get to point B. You discuss the options available to you. There is a motorway running all the way around Mount Everest to point B and a car available to you. There is also a scenic road you can take and tour buses waiting to take you on a guided tour to point B. There is a four wheel drive track winding it's way through to point B (and 4WD vehicles avialable), as well as adventure motorbikes that could take a narrower path through to point B.

But that isn't all, there are also mountain bike tracks, hiking paths, mountain climbing gear, almost every imaginable means of getting between 2 points. This plethora of ways to get to point B is before you and your team mates.

Am I wrong because I want to mountain bike when you're interested in taking the tour bus? Or is the person wanting to climb over Mount Everest to point B wrong because that, while most direct, is likely to take the longest time! In fact it isn't difficult to imagine that within the team there would be support for most of the ways of getting to point B as well as a few alternative ideas (pogo stick, walk backwards, etc)!

If the goal is point B then surely the way you get there is irrelevant? Surely there is unity in purpose (getting to point B) and the way we actually get there is determined by our uniqueness and the way we're wired (some of us just love being outside in the wilderness having an adventure, others can't stand even looking at the great outdoors through a car windscreen)!

There is no right way to get to point B. Some ways may be faster but the point isn't speed, it is getting to point B. Some ways may be more scenic, but the point isn't seeing things, it is getting to point B. The point is getting to point B and the team is united in that.

An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn't be a body, but a monster 1 Corinthians 12:21


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!


Staggering Home

Category Church
I once read an illustration that suggested that as Christians, we are like a drunk staggering home. We're not walking in a straight line, we make some wrong turns, we swerve from side to side and to many we may look to be walking aimlessly and lost. I couldn't agree more with this illustration!

Is this why a church plant can lose original members? Because we're staggering home, not in a straight line, making some wrong turns, swerving from side to side. Because while I might sway to the right up here it could be because of my drunkeness so when you head left because of your drunkeness. And because we appear to part ways am I no longer heading home?

Maybe the parting occurs because we're at a T intersection and I think we must turn right to get home and you think we must turn left. Are we that immature we both need to be right? Can we not get home by turning both right and left?

I'm staggering my way towards home (God's Kingdom) and yet I'm already in it. I'm taking some wrong turns but my destination remains the same. I'm swerving from side to side as I try to fix my eyes upon my home.



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?


The Perfect Church

Category Church
What would your perfect church look like? I was discussing this very matter this morning as someone relayed how they would enjoy a live feed from church into their lounge. That way they could dress down (I don't know many people who dress up for church), pause the service and wander off the get a drink etc. It all seems so idyllic ... and yet I can't help but wonder whether church is for me, or for someone else (and if it is for someone else, who is that someone else)?


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.



Category Random
I am really feeling completely misunderstood at the moment. It would seem that what I'm incapable of communicating well and this is the source of great frustration for me and someone else. Of course we're both as bad as each other with me feeling I can communicate better through the written word and him only ever wanting to talk.

Maybe we're at a Crossroads and need to turn separate ways?


What If ...

Category Random
What if you literally got a note from God inviting you to a weekend somewhere? I know it sounds ludicrous but that is the premise of the book I'm reading at the moment (The Shack) and it is an interesting thought. We so readily dismiss the idea of God doing something so physical, so real, and so tangible. And yet in the same breath we say to anyone who will listen that our God is omnipotent and capable of anything! In fact our God is so strong He could make a rock so big He couldn't pick it up (not sure if that is a paradox or a contradiction)!

Anyway, what if I got a note from God inviting me to go away for the weekend? Would I run around in excitement telling everyone within earshot (like I would if I got a note from Eric Johnson or Frank Zappa? Would I treat it like those time share selling deals where I figure it might be worth it for a free weekend away? Perhaps I'd simply dismiss it as nonsense because my concept of God doesn't include him writing notes to me!

Whatever the situation, it seems a little naive that to accept the notion that God would write me a note and yet I feel foolish thinking that He wouldn't!



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.


Yes - Yes - Yes

Category Movie
Last night at my Life Group we watched the movie Yes Man then proceeded to discuss what we had actually said yes to. It is interesting because we reflected on how we often tend to say yes to things because they seem like the thing that needs to be done. Sometimes the enemy of THE BEST is good ... there is plenty of good that can be done, but it shouldn't distract us from achieving THE BEST that we can.

In the Nooma video Shells Rob Bell speaks about this very matter, saying yes to something. Rob points out that Jesus never did anything out of obligation to what people wanted, expected or demanded of him. Jesus was asked to stay in Capernaum and for good reason, people were being healed, the kingdom was coming, and there was much good to be done. Undoubtedly knew this when asked to stay, but He was also aware of what he had said yes to and that the enemy of the best might be good. He was interrupted by people constantly, but this didn't determine his life because Jesus was driven by what and who He had already said YES to. Jesus said NO to people and situations because he had already said YES to God.

What have I said yes to? Do I let my yes become my best or do I resist saying no and lose my way?

Not sure how this entire Nooma video managed to get online, but it is worth the time to watch it.


The Shack #1

Category Books
Upon the recommendation of a friend I'm reading The Shack by Wm. Paul Young. It doesn't start well (at least I don't think so) BUT it is painfully necessary as it is obviously just setting the scene for the rest of the story.

However, in starting it I'm conscious of a conversation I had with a freind yesterday. We talked briefly about whether humanity is made with an infinite capacity to love, or to have one's heart broken. It seems that everyone has their heart broken at some stage in their life, by someone. Is this how we're wired? To put ourselves in a position of vulnerability where our heart can (and does get broken)? Interestingly, the story seems to be along these lines with the subtitle of the book being where tragedy confronts eternity.

It seems to me humanity and life is emersed in tragedy. Some of this is our own doing, other parts just the way life is - unfair!

The end of chapter 4 has a great paragraph in it that probably sums up many peoples experience. At this point we know how Mack (the main character) had his heart broken, and we know the pain, depression, and sadness he is wearing. He realised he was stuck, and Sunday prayers and hymns weren't cutting it anymore, if they ever really had. Cloistered spirituality seemd to change nothing in the lives of the people he knew ... He was sick of God and God's religion, sick of all the little religious social clubs that didn't seem to make any real difference or effect any real changes. I couldn't agree more!

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



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.


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!


Productive Days

Category Random
I'm sitting in a meeting on a Friday afternoon which made me wonder why someone would schedule one on a Friday afternoon! Half the people around the table already look like they've glazed over and some appear to have already left for the weekend! Of course this is fairly normal for a lot of the meetings I end up attending (yes I am a very lucky guy)!

It seems counter-productive to me to schedule a meeting on a Friday afternoon, BUT it could be utter brilliance!

I've observed people incapable of operating on a Monday because it is the 1st day of the week. Productivity on a Monday is pretty low (if there even is any) for these people. In many cases this extends to Tuesday (afterall it is the day after Monday). Then on Friday some people have already mentally left for the week (others never mentally arrive) so nothing happens. For these people Thursday is like other peoples Fridays ... Small (2 minute) tasks are done but anything larger is postponed until next week.

That leaves Wednesday for some people to be productive. Wednesday is the middle of the week and often results in a break so one can recover from the start of the work week and prepare for the end of it.


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)



Category Random
Commitment is one of those funny things especially in the context of church! I wonder if it is possible for someone to be committed to the Kingdom of God and yet bounce from one church to another (or even not go to a church at all).

I have probably heard most of the arguments there are around this matter over the years even though I'm not a church hopper. In fact the only time I've changed churches (bar once) is because I've moved city! So I think it is fair to say that I'm committed to my church. But is this the right place for my commitment to be?

I contend that my 1st commitment is to the Kingdom of God and I've yet to hear anyone say matters should be otherwise (i.e. I should be committed to my church 1st and the Kingdom 2nd - that would be an interesting case to hear though)! However if one's 1st commitment and priority is to the Kingdom of God then does the church they are attending (or not attending) matter? Does it matter whether they chop and change?

I'm a little undecided on this matter and could be convinced either way at this stage so I may come back to this question another time ... My commitment is to the Kingdom of God. Currently part of this being worked out is in the church I have been a member of since it was planted 11+ years ago. However increasingly I am conscious that my church is a lower priority than the Kingdom of God. Are the two inextricably bound or am I looking for to justify my departure?



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.


Computer Gender

Category Random
Is your computer a he or a she? I remember seeing this joke years ago but stumbled onto it again today and had a little giggle so thought I woudl share it:

A group of computer scientists (all males) announced that computers should also be referred to as being female. Their top five reasons for drawing this conclusion were:
1. No one but the Creator understands their internal logic
2. The native language they use to communicate with other computers is incomprehensible to everyone else
3. The message "Bad command or file name" is about as informative as, "If you don't know why I'm mad at you, then I'm certainly not going to tell you"
4. Even your smallest mistakes are stored in long-term memory for later retrieval
5. As soon as you make a commitment to one, you find yourself spending half your paycheck on accessories for it

However, another group of computer scientists (all female) think that computers should be referred to as if they were male. Their top five reasons were:
1. They have a lot of data, but are still clueless
2. They are supposed to help you solve problems, but half the time they are the problem
3. As soon as you commit to one you realize that, if you had waited a little longer, you could have obtained a better model
4. In order to get their attention, you have to turn them on
5. Big power surges knock them out for the rest of the night

And it does more! So check it out here


Adventures in missing the point #2

In listening to a podcast from Tony Campolo, he used a quote from Charles Finney. Apparently Charles Finney was the inventor of what most modern church dwellers know of as an altar call! This peaked my interest so I used good old Wikipedia do find out a little more about Charles Finney. What follows is taken directly from Wikipedia (click here for the full article):

Charles Grandison Finney (August 29, 1792 – August 16, 1875) was a Presbyterian minister who became an important figure in the Second Great Awakening. His influence during this period was enough that he has been called "The Father of Modern Revivalism".

Finney was known for his innovations in preaching and religious meetings, such as having women pray in public meetings of mixed gender, development of the "anxious seat" (a place where those considering becoming Christians could come to receive prayer), and public censure of individuals by name in sermons and prayers. He was also known for his use of extemporaneous preaching.

However the point of this post isn't a history lesson about Charles Finney, but it is a quote from him. It is a quote that would seem vaguely relevant in a culture of consumer Christians (Christians who shop around for a church that gives them only what they want and costs them as little as possible).

A real Christian is someone who is ready to join actively in what God is doing in the world NOT just simply surrendering to Jesus and having your sins forgiven – Charles Finney


Blogging - The 8th deadly sin!

Category Random
I was a little surprised to hear blogging and social networking take a hammering in the news this morning. It seems that some comments on a blog and social network site are being investigated because they were made by someone on the jury in the Weatherston case. This seems to pretty clearly be out of line given the ability of these kinds of technologies to be commented on and therefore be influenced by people outside of the court process (of course this presupposes that the court system we have is fair to start with).

However the news of this did make me wonder about the place blogs in particular play within society. I can recall several occassions where entires on a blog had to be rescinded because they could have been read incorrectly and cast a company or organisation in a bad light. In some instances they have poorly represented the position of someone, etc. This has in most cases ended up in people toeing the company line, even people loosely associated with it often unwillingly have to be 'brought into line.'

It seems to me we're not really that interested in the conversation anymore. We don't make the time, or the space for important talks and to allow ourselves and others to assimilate and process information. We're not really that interested in people forming personally opinions shaped on their experiences and knowledge, we'd far rather they just accept what we say and move onto our next life-changing statement!

It might be the 8th deadly sin, but blogging for me is a way of having a conversation (albeit with myself), as I try to make sense of matters of faith and life here in 21st century Wellington.


The world is just awesome!

Category Random
The line used to advertise the Discovery channel is the world is just awesome! and I tend to agree. This link will show you 10 amazing frogs. My personal favorite is the 2nd one on the list that is transparant, but all 10 are pretty awesome! Check them out and think about just how awesome this world is!


How not to use PowerPoint

Category Random Technology
Of course I don't use PowerPoint, I'm an open source kind of guy so either use Lotus Symphony (love it), or Open Office (seems to handle Microsoft Office formats better). Nevertheless, this is a good demonstation of the most common mistakes people make in PowerPoint.



Category Church
For some reason I've noticed a gradual change in me over the past few years. It is interesting as what I'm thinking I changed from is something I didn't think I ever was! (if that makes sense)!

You see I'm increasingly finding I want to spend time with people who don't associate themselves with church. I don't think I ever wanted to spend my time exclusively within the church or with people who call themselves Christians, but I now would rather my time and energy go into people and activities outside the 4 walls of church.

This isn't meant to be critical of the church, or people who refer to themselves as Christian. Not at all! I just am increasingly aware of God's grace and the life Jesus led (which seems to me to have been largely out in the community as opposed to within the church). As in previous posts here on my blog I also find people I know outside of church are actually anti-church.

A quote from "The Unexpected Adventure: Taking Everyday Risks to Talk with People about Jesus" by Lee Strobel and Mark Mittelberg (see more here or just but it! One of the greatest enemies of the unexpected adventure is our insistence on always expressing ourselves within the bounds of Christian normalcy. So we end up dressing, looking, talking, and acting like a hundred other people in our church, fearful to express our true individuality and possibly stymieing our unique ability to connect with people in our circle of influence. As if God were the creator of clones.

How can this change? Sure if they came and experienced it they might change their mind, but the point of Jesus life wasn't to build the church as we know it, it was to bring us into a relationship with God. As seems to be Eugene Petersen's habit, he sums it up well in 2 Corinthians 5:16-18:
Because of this decision we don't evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don't look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We're Christ's representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God's work of making things right between them. We're speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he's already a friend with you.



Category Music
On my road trip yesterday I enjoyed some albums I haven't listened to for a while. There was a lot of singing, tapping on the steering wheel and air guitar playing (albeit with the handicap of driving at the same time)! The collection for yesterday was a little dated but all classics (in my mind) and worthy of being played at high volume from time to time. To give you a little taste of the music I enjoy here are the albums:
Harry Connick Jr - She
Sting - Mercury Falling
Bruce Springsteen - Greatest Hits
Prince - The Hits
Van Halen - Greatest Hits


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.


Tech Tip #3

Category Technology
Technology is supposed to help us and sometimes it does. Today I could have done with some extra software to read me emails (preferably on my BlackBerry). Speech recognition (as in dictating email messages) would have been helpful too! But today I lived my life largely offline as I traveled 350 odd kilometres in the morning, visited 2 centres, then drove the 350 kilometres back home again!

How often have you received a PDF file and wanted to make notes on it ... so printed it out and scribbled all over it? I don't do that anymore!! Skim (skim-app.sourceforge.net) does all of this ...
Add and editing notes
Highlight text
Turn the PDF into a presentation
Add your own bookmarks (for those BIG PDF files)

And it does more! So check it out here


Understanding Engineers #6

What is the difference between mechanical engineers and civil engineers?
Mechanical engineers build weapons and civil engineers build targets.


Why go?

Category Church
Through a link on a blog I was reading yesterday I ended up reading an small piece (that was really just a question) on the Origins Project website. It asked the question why bother going to church. It is an interesting question which is difficult to answer when one has grown up attending church and discovered Jesus in the midst of the depravity of humanity that exists within churches.

If anything, rather than attempting to answer the question (for which there are many plausible, and mildly convincing (or amusing) responses), I'm more led to wonder how church began (that is the church we now experience). It would seem to me that in general church consists of some congregational singing, some talking (one way communication), sometimes sharing (again one way), sometimes drama, and in some churches there is even art (something Christians seem to have abandoned to the world years ago).

This formula for church seems to be followed fairly closely in most churches I've ever attended or visited. While the outworking of it might be different: screaming guitar based rock singing through to 17th century hymn tunes; monotone preaching in 18th century language to hip colloquialism filled rhetoric speaking; essentially we are experiencing the same thing ... It is all cake! Some is chocolate, some is banana, some is ice cream, you get my point.

So if church is just cake, what should happen when society no longer likes cake? What should happen when cake actually becomes something that isn't generally accepted as being good for you? While the general opinion of society may not be hold much sway among a group of people who believe in a timeless, unchanging God, what should happen when the people Jesus came for don't want to be in the very place we think he is doing his best work?


Understanding Engineers #5

Category Random
Three Engineers were carpooling to work: an electrical engineer, a mechanical engineer, and a computer engineer. Suddenly, the car stalled. The electrical engineer said "It's gotta be the starter..or the battery...we should check the wiring." The mechanical engineer said "No. I think it's the carburator. It might need to be rebuilt."
The computer engineer said "Well, why don't we all get out, get back in, and try starting it up again?"



Category Music
It might be 11 months old, but it is still worth a look!


What is the purpose of church?

Category Church
What is the purpose of church? What is it for? Why do people go? So many questions, with so many answers! But it seems to me that we have missed the point. Church is avoided by many for no other reason other than it is called church (as per my post yesterday). My 6 year old son couldn't understand why the 5 or 6 friends he had invited to thegreatescape.net.nz hadn't come along.

While we don't know why they didn't come, and there could be very good explanation, we did speak, and personally invite one of his friends families. It was a funny conversation (to me) as we talked about stuff (as you often do), then asked them about having coffee on Sunday morning. They honestly seemed interested until they realised it would be at a church. No it wasn't going to be in the church service, just the church building. That just didn't matter, the interest disapated rather quickly.

Now there is good reason for people to not like church, just look at history, even recent history! But how do we solve this problem? Do we ditch church and start something different? Or do we abandon the building and the premise of how we do church to pursue an everyday expression of choice to follow Jesus?

Maybe I can phrase it better ... Is our faith better expressed in our everyday lives or in a church building? Is the kingdom of God established in us honestly trying to demonstrate God's love during the week, or in a few people half-heartedly singing praise & worship songs led my a musically inept group behind closed doors?


We need a new word!

Category Church
What is it about inviting someone to church that leads to such a negative reaction? If I invited them to the golf club (not that I belong), the surf club, or whatever other club I belong to I don't think I'd get quite the same reaction. But because it is church you get this completely different reaction. The funny thing is even when it isn't church you're inviting them to, but something that just happens to be at church I still get that reaction.

It reminds me of being a teenage boy and being rejected by a girl who, had to wash her hair or was going to clean the house for her parents! The most random excuses including the old we'll see what happens come out. It is hilarious to me but a real pity.

Maybe it is time to ditch the term church and come up with something different. Or maybe it is time for us to ditch doing church the way we do (which can be exclusive) and figure out how we can contact and engage those not willing to be a part of church.


Understanding Engineers #4

Category Random
Normal people believe that if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Engineers believe that if it ain't broke, it doesn't have enough features yet.


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.


Ukelele Magic

Category Random Music


Understanding Engineers #3

Category Random
What is the difference between mechanical engineers and civil engineers?
Mechanical engineers build weapons and civil engineers build targets.



Category Random
I am full of questions, but I'm OK with that. I don't think having questions is wrong, or undermines matters. In fact I think they are helpful! Most of us don't like asking questions in a group setting for fear of appearing ignorant. Most questions aren't that dumb and have half of the group wanting to know the answer (they were just too scared to ask)!

For me questions are part of the journey whether they be about technical matters, sport, or spiritual. They are an intrinsic part of unbundling who I am in the context of a particular setting (work, play, etc). This is a direct affront to many who seem to think that questioning things devalues or cast doubt on the matter. Science doesn't discourage questions, it embraces them for the truth will be revealed. Questions are the path to discover and the first step of learning.

Zondervan have several electronic publications, one of which includes excerpts from books they've published. The following quote is taken from "The Unexpected Adventure: Taking Everyday Risks to Talk with People about Jesus" by Lee Strobel (of whom I am a fan) and Mark Mittelberg (I've never heard of him).

Christians often miss the adventure of spiritual conversations because they're afraid they're going to get asked a question they can't answer. They don't feel very conversant with why they believe what they believe, and consequently they censor themselves and avoid evangelistic interactions altogether so they won't be embarrassed by what they don't know.

That's a good reason to comply with 1 Peter 3:15: "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." When we have done enough study to have an adequate factual foundation for our faith, we naturally become more willing to engage with people who may have doubts.

None of us, however, knows the answer to every possible question a skeptic might raise. When a seemingly unanswerable issue confronts you, remember that Christianity has withstood similar challenges for two millennia. Keep in mind that it's a good thing when an individual has questions. This could very well be an open door to further conversations as you invite him or her to check out the evidence with you.

Read more from this book here.


Understanding Engineers #2

Category Random
As per yesterday, this isn't mine, nor is it the first time I've seen/heard it. However it does give you a glimpse inside the practical mind of an engineer ...

A priest, a doctor, and an engineer were waiting one morning for a particularly slow group of golfers. The engineer fumed, "What's with those blokes? We must have been waiting for fifteen minutes!" The doctor chimed in, "I don't know, but I've never seen such inept golf!" The priest said, "Here comes the green keeper ... Let's have a word with him."

He said, "Hello, George! What's wrong with that group ahead of us? They're rather slow, aren't they?" The green keeper replied, "Oh, yes. That's a group of blind fire fighters. They lost their sight saving our clubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let them play for free anytime."

The group fell silent for a moment. The priest said, "That's so sad. I think I will say a special prayer for them tonight." The doctor said, "Good idea. I'm going to contact my ophthalmologist colleague and see if there's anything he can do for them." The engineer said, "Why can't they play at night?"


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.


Understanding Engineers #1

Category Random
These aren't original, I've seen them before doing the rounds ... however they are rather funny!

To the optimist, the glass is half full.
To the pessimist, the glass is half empty.
To the Engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be!


Compassion (or lack thereof)

Category Random
It has been interesting to see the reaction to Michael Jackson's death. Within the day the top 15 songs on iTunes were all Michael Jackson tracks. Within a couple of days (not sure of the exact time frame sorry), his music accounted for 60% of ALL music being sold worldwide! Let us also not forget that Thriller is the biggest selling album of all time with approximately 100 million copies sold (2nd place album is AC/DC's back in black with only 45 million copies sold). I don't think anyone would disagree that he was a rare talent who had an enormous impact on the music industry and the world.

I heard that it is planned that Michael's funeral will be at Neverland (which seems fitting). What I'm stunned by are the people who live around Neverland voicing concerns about their quiet, peaceful existence being disturbed by thousands of cars driving up and down what is essentially a country lane! Is their no compassion left in the world?


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