Friday, 24 September 2010

Friday Reflection: Trevor and Love.

Here's a post from May 2008.  It's an image I posted of a Trevor comic I read in the local newspaper.  I don't think the writer would have had any specific intent in his creation of this comic but I was left feeling amazed at the truth behind it. (You can read the original post here)

The cross continually blows my mind with the depth of love needed for Jesus (God himself) to be willing to take our place in the penalty for our sins.  I understand that a judicial system must carry out its given sentence.  I have no presumptions that I am inherently a good person, I know I willingly break God's laws and code all too often.  But the fact that even though I continually spit in God's face with my actions, he is still willing to pay for all the junk I do wrong just leaves me stumped.   How can he love me so much!?  Paradoxically I feel so unworthy of that love, yet because I have received that love, I feel of unmeasurable worth.

They're the thoughts this comic conjured up back in 2008, and still do... I am no less amazed, or grateful now than I was then!

John 4:10 "This is love, not that we love God but that he loved us and sent his Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins."

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Why does God need a payment for Forgiveness?

Some good stuff in my Theology reading today...  Erickson p833

"Why does God not simply forgive sins?  Why does he require a payment of a pound of flesh as it were?  We humans are capable of forgiving one another simply by an act of good will.  We do not require that persons who have wronged us make reparation before we are willing to take them back into our favour.  If this is possible for Christians to do, should not God be able to do the same?
Those who raise this objection have failed to consider who God really is.  God is not merely a private person who has been wronged, but is also the official administrator of the judicial system. As a private person he could in a sense forgive offenses against himself, just as humans forgive one another.  But for God to remove or ignore the guilt of sin without requiring a payment would in effect destroy the very moral fiber of the universe, the distinction between right and wrong..."

Makes sense to me.  We don't expect people to get off when they're found guilty in a court of law.  It makes me more thankful that Jesus was willing to be that 'pound of flesh' repayment for my sin.  That's still incomprehensible... all I can be is grateful

Christians and the Law

From Erickson p820

"The law should not be thought of as something impersonal and foreign to God, but as an expression of God's person and will.  He does not command love and forbid murder simply because he decides to do so. His very nature issues in his enjoining certain actions and prohibiting others.  God pronounces love good because he himself is love. Lying is wrong because God himself cannot lie.
This means that, in effect, the law is something of a transcript of the nature of God.  When we relate to it, whether positively or negatively, we are not relating to an impersonal document or set of regulations.  Rather, it is God himself whom we are obeying or disobeying.  Disobeying the law is serious, not because the law has some inherent value or dignity that must be preserved, but because disobeying it is actually an attack on the very nature of God himself."

I think this also shows why legalism is such a problem, because we're taking the law for its own sake not Gods, kind of making an idol out of the law.

Good thoughts??

Saturday, 18 September 2010

A few years late...

...but I've finally edited up the WEC Highschool Camp ice slide footage from 2007.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Friday Reflection: Christocentricity.

This is a post I wrote in September 2006.  Each Friday I'm going to look back and find something from the 5 years I've been blogging and bring it into today's context.

Here's part of the original post, about an elective I did at Recharge in 06

The Recharge booklet had this little blurb about this elective.

Within the church, fashions come and go, fads rise and die, agenda’s wax and wane. When all the hype dies down we sometimes as Christians and churches find ourselves off-centre, with our energies and passions directed at things other than Christ and His agenda setting teachings. This elective will examine how the Beatitudes contrast vividly with aspects of contemporary Australian spirituality and how we can recalibrate.

Straight off the bat we tossed up the dominant properties of today’s Australian spirituality. In the media, both Christian and secular, who are the main characters representing the Australian church. What do we within the church see as the main aspects that are seen about Aussies ‘religious spirituality’.

I put forward that Australian’s spirituality is music driven, we discussed the music/worship niche; it seems that churches these days are defined by their music. This is highlighted by the fact that people can walk out of a church service and ask “How was the worship tonight?” – “Yeah it was a little off tonight hey…”Churches win new people from other churches because their music is better.

Stan (of course) had a list he had prepared earlier. Dominant Christian figures included mainly Anglican and Catholic Bishops, but of course you can’t ignore that these days Brian Houston is probably Australia’s most well known minister. He defined the major themes of Australian Spirituality to include some of the following, power, wealth, blessing, intensity, prosperity, (there were others but I’m sorry they’ve slipped my mind).

I think he was pretty well right on.

We then spent the remaining time looking at Jesus’ sermon. His big speaking opportunity when he takes the time to teach people about his Father.

To read the entire blog click here.

These days I think the focus of music is still high in most churches.  Though I know the culture of City North and other Baptist churches around here is more making sure proper doctrine and Biblical teaching is at the forefront of services.

I think the growing pressure on the church, and the secular disdain for the church is changing our major themes of "...power, wealth, blessing, intensity, prosperity..." and making us find a firmer foundation to base our beliefs on.

The church can always do better, and in Australia I think the majority still have to change their main theme back to Christ.  But as persecution grows I think that will force us to do that more and more.

Thursday, 16 September 2010


Wasted 4 hours today trying to convert and edit the footage of my sermon to make a DVD to hand in for my college assessment.

If only I'd watched the original footage, I'd have very quickly realised the whole thing was useless... it cuts out after 10 minutes to some weird multi colour pixel thing, and then splits itself into different files, but each one is not consecutive and there are chunks missing, and the live footage jumps around like an out-take reel.

Totally useless for my assessment.

Thankfully I can hand in an audio only file.  I have one of these which works fine (from the church website).

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

The 2000 Map

The latest email from the boys doing The 2000 Walk shows a map of the 2000 languages still without any Scripture translated for them.

Most are well within the 10/40 Window, the greatest area of need for the sharing of the Gospel.

So pick a language group and pray for them, and if you have any other means to help get in contact with the Walkers.

How Well Do We Know the Story?

Does our Church upbringing, and Sunday School influence mean we get an idea of Bible stories but sometimes miss the real meaning?

Take Cain and Able (Genesis 4:1-17)...

Most people know this story, from Sunday School teachings and our growing up influences (possibly even preaching from the 'usual' standpoint) yet does our knowledge and idea of the story provide a true idea of what the narrative is really trying to get across.

Our usual understanding would be Able = good... Cain = bad.  God was angry at Cain for his offering, Cain was jealous that God accepted Able's offering and killed him.  God then comes and gets angry with Cain, cursing him. - The moral of our usual understanding is that sin is bad, sin separates us from God and God knows all our deeds so we can't lie to him.

But should the story be better named "Cain and God" as opposed to "Cain and Able"?  Abel is not really a subject of the story, more so it is the interaction between God and Cain which is the subject of the story.

The first thing we notice when we read the story without the bias of the usual understanding is that there is no real distinction between the two offerings of Adam's sons except that God accepted one but not the other.  There is no reason given for this, there's no instructions given on how offerings were to be presented, or even what should be presented - so we cannot read future law given to the Israelites into the story if we are to take this story as the text gives it to us.  It's not that Cain simply comes with an unsatisfactory offering.   The first critical point in the text was that God looks at "Able and his offering" and "Cain and his offering" and accepts the first but rejects the later.

According to the Hebrew text, the response of Cain was one of depression not anger.  This then aligns with the second part of God's questions "Why is your face downcast?"   This brings about a unusual idea which I think in many cases is overlooked.  First - God talks to Cain just as he spoke with Adam.  We often read this and dismiss it as normal, but just think, even though it is only pages away from God's communication with Adam in Gen 3, this is a totally different setting.  Humans are now outside of the garden, yet the inter-communicative relationship continues, and more than that, it's not only continuing with Adam, but his son Cain who's offering has been rejected by God.

Second - Cain talks to God and is given a choice.  From the text we see that Cain is not simply evil - but that his first offering here was simply not accepted by God.  God doesn't right him off (we are not given the impression that God was looking towards Cain's murder of Able) - but gives him the choice "If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?... sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it."  God basically calls Cain on his offering, nothing can be done to change that rejection, God though extends to Cain the opportunity to go forward and now do what is right.  The emphasis is on Cain's response to God.

Is Able's murder then a response to his offering or Cain's response to God?   The passage doesn't highlight an issue of  whether this is pre-meditated murder (Cain entrapping Able into the field to kill him, or Cain taking Able into the field in an attempt to find a way to rule over sin yet failing miserably), instead it kind of gives the idea that this part of the story is more symbolic of Cain's relationship to God, than Cain's direct response to Able.    Able is the reminder that Cain's offering was not accepted, so instead of jealously it could possibly be a reaction to God (Cain murders Able because he cannot murder God - get rid of the reminder if you can't get rid of the source).

So then does the morals of our usual understanding align with this textual reading?  For one, the sin didn't separate God from Cain - he still spoke with Cain, they interacted with each other. God laid out what was wrong, yet offered the continuing choice to rule over sin.  Even when Cain had murdered his brother, God may have cursed him, but still gave him a mark of protection so that he would not be killed himself.  There does not seem to be an ultimate disconnection from God, and possibly a means of reconciliation (not recorded in the text however).

Even in sin we can be relational to God, he is disappointed, he does require us to rule over sin, yet we can come to God even in sin and be renewed (for us this comes through justification by the blood of Jesus).

In many cases this is presented as a simple Sunday School story to show us good and bad - yet being the first story told to us outside of the garden, it might point to a wholly more significant function.  Only one generation after creation, we see personal sin, punished personally and sin developing to murder (culturally even today the most heinous of crimes), more than that the murder of a brother.  Yet God relates with this sinner, speaks to him even in his worst moments, and though Cain fears his punishment would cast him from God's presence God replies that that would not be so.

There are many things we can take from this passage, on a much deeper level than the story we usually take in.

Are Church Denominations Diminishing?

John Sweetman wrote on the NeoLeader blog here about the changing trend in churches with the diminishing of denominational walls.

"...Denominational distinctives and pastoral pride and protectiveness are diminishing In the face of an overwhelming flood of secular opposition. Christians are focusing more on what they have in common rather than what separates them.
An evidence of the growing ability for churches to work together is the flourishing school chaplaincy movement. Churches not only work together on committees, but invest significant funds in this cooperative venture. The use of our money is always a clear sign of our values.
Some churches remain isolationist because they perceive that they have something to offer that other churches don’t. Some churches are willing to cooperate to a degree but are concerned about the lowering of theological barriers. Some churches only work with the narrow group that they trust. But generally barriers between churches are diminishing and cooperation is seen as an important value. People are praying, serving, working and worshipping together across churches."

Is this your experience with churches in your area?

Friday, 10 September 2010

Meeting people's needs.

This is something we've been discussing in my Pastoral Care Field Education classes at college.  We've looked at chaplaincy and conflict ministry and then last week ministry to the bereaved and funeral services.

It's also something I've been experiencing through my pastoral internship at City North, especially these past few weeks.   I have found myself in situations where I have no idea what the people I'm ministering too are going through, it's something much greater than I've ever experienced, yet I still need to be able to meet their needs in this time of trouble.

Some things I've learnt are...

  • don't say too much - in many cases people simply need you to be there.  I've found that simply sitting there and listening, or crying with or watching is what people need in times of struggle.  I found this a tad hard when I was mainly interacting with a friend who's Dad had passed away overseas... most of my communication with him was via Facebook chat.  Yet still even in that situation just simply being online and there to talk if needed was the key factor
  • don't be afraid of silence - this one leads from the last, but if you feel the need to fill every time of silence you're going to end up saying a lot of unnecessary stuff.  Silence is a time to let thoughts process, and that's key when people have suffered trauma, been emotionally ripped apart or are grieving.  Just wait until thoughts have been processed and people are ready to either try and discuss them or just thank you for supporting them while they do it.
  • don't feel you have to avoid the issue.  If someone has died, discuss it, talk about the person who passed away, discuss relationships - good times and bad.  If it is a conflict, don't try and dance around the issue, mention exactly what you think is going on then listen to other sides of the story.  
  • read the Bible.  Know passages that will benefit people in different times, and whether they are believers or not, do not be afraid of giving them Scripture that is relevant to their situation.
These are just some points I've thought about recently.  What is your advice for meeting people's needs??

Happy 1st Birthday Nathanael

Today is my nephew's 1st birthday.  It does not feel that long ago that we were receiving word from Vancouver about our new little addition and travelling there to meet the little fella.

It's been a great year, especially since Ness and Andy came home round Christmas time, I've had a lot of fun playing uncle.

Happy Birthday Nae!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Psalm 121

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?

2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;

4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;

6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;

8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Worst Quote I've seen in a while...

Saw this on a very fundamentalist Christian's page the other day...

"If they are not your friends for eternity, they are not your friends." --Mark Cahill
I understand that this person may have taken Mark Cahill out of context and in context the quote may not be as harsh as it sounds, yet it's clear the opinion this person was trying to convey by quoting just this part of the text...  I'm very glad Jesus didn't have that opinion, cause it's only cause of his love while I was his enemy that now means I can be his friend.

Sermon Online

If you do wish to listen to my sermon. You will find it on the City North website - here.

It is kind of daunting knowing that anyone who wants to, anywhere in the world can now listen to a sermon I've preached!

Monday, 6 September 2010

Preached it up.

My first sermon at City North Baptist went well last night.  I'm no Mark Driscoll, but I felt that God used it so I can't ask for more than that.

The title of the sermon was "Our Mountaintop View of God's Love" and the passage was Romans 8:31-39.   The main truth was that "We are Safe in God" and I looked at 3 times when we are safe in God.

- In Condemnation
- In Suffering
- In any Situation.

The overwhelming idea is that because Jesus has paid the ultimate price for our sin, and we won't or don't have to suffer for them then nothing will separate us from God's love and hence we are always safe in God.

It was an encouraging passage, and for believers an encouraging message (I hope) - and I also pray that it was challenging for anyone who doesn't have a faith in Jesus and allowed them to see that though God doesn't promise us we won't suffer, he does promise he will never leave us and always love us.... but God is only for us if we have faith in his Son.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Kinda Scary

It makes it just that little bit more real when you see your name in the Church bulletin as the preacher for the next Sunday...

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Christ's Parallel to Passover

Quote from John Stott, "The Cross of Christ" (p166)

"The message must have been absolutely clear to the Israelites; it is equally clear to us who see the fulfilment of the Passover in the sacrifice of Christ.  First, the Judge and the Saviour are the same person.  It was God who 'passed through' Egypt to judge the firstborn, who ;passed over' the Israelite homes to protect them.  We must never characterize the Father as Judge and the Son as Saviour.  It is one and the same God who through Christ saves us from himself. Secondly, salvation was (and is) by substitution.  The only firstborn males who were spared were those in whose families a firstborn lamb had died instead.  Thirdly, the lamb's blood had to be sprinkled after it had been shed.  The had to be an individual appropriation of the divine provision.  God had to 'see the blood' before he would save the family. Fourthly, each family rescued by God was thereby purchased for God. Their whole life now belonged to him. So does ours. And consecration leads to celebration.  The life of the redeemed is a feast, ritually expressed in the Eucharist, the Christian festival of thanksgiving..."
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