Wednesday, December 16, 2009

About to go Offline for a Month

Every year (approx 23rd of Dec - 23rd of Jan) I shut down my DELL Studio XPS 16 and go offline for a month. No Win 7, no Microsoft Word or Excel. No e-mail, facebook, blogging or blog reading. No Trademe, no Google, and no Wiki. It's a wonderful time of the year. You can actually live without all that stuff. Not long to go now!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Website of the Week...

I haven't been on the website for ages. It's a fun site.

The latest issue talks about clever nursury workers being able to pick the kids that only come to church for Christmas and steps parents can take to get past the nursury workers.

This issue from 2004 talks about Christians planning on being offended at a soon to be released Eminem album. Still one of my favourites.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Must Read Book Combos

I love to read. It’s just the way that I’m wired. I know plenty of people don’t enjoy reading; all I can say is oh well...

I’m semi committed to trying to read 52 books a year. I haven’t got there yet (mainly because studies keep me away from novels most of the time). I managed 46 in 2007, 36 in 2008, and am on target for another 36 or so this year.

Here are some book combos you might enjoy over the summer. I’ve tried to group some of the best books I’ve read this year together in groups of three. The intention being that the books while different from each other are complimentary in regards to broader themes and input.

I would 100% recommend every book on this list to all pastors and leaders. None of them are duds.

Why don’t you try a combo this summer?

Leadership & Management

How to Get Things Done – David Allen
(Fantastic book about managing your things to do list and responsibilities in life)
Communicating for a Change – Andy Stanley
(Excellent read about how to communicate more effectively, especially in regards to public speaking / preaching)
Death by Meeting – Patrick Lencioni
(Are you in too many meetings, running to many meetings, find most meetings pointless? This book will help you refine your meetings and increase productivity and effectiveness)

Biblical Grand-Narrative

The Lost World of Genesis One – John Walton
(A must read for all pastors, this book looks at Genesis chapter 1 as temple inauguration, massive implications in regards to creation, evolution, and how we deal with the creation account of Genesis)
The Drama of Scripture – C.G Bartholomew and M.W Goheen
(Excellent read and explanation of the big story of the bible. This is the big story in which every other story fits, every sermon is back dropped by, and ministry shaped)
Surprised by Hope – N.T Wright
(Wright as usual is outstanding. Surprised by Hope looks at life after life after death. A MUST read in regards to heaven, recreation and eternal life)


Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger – Ronald J Sider
(Deals with the realities of poverty for so much of the world; what will the Christian response be?)
A Life Stripped Bare – Leo Hickman
(A light hearted look at one man’s attempts to live an environmentally ethical life a big city)
Freedom of Simplicity - Richard Foster
(Outstanding challenge from Foster in regards to simplicity in our lifestyle choices and attitudes. One of my best reads this year)

Spiritual Disciplines

Fasting – Scot McKnight
(Inspired me to fast with renewed vigour, understanding and passion. Excellent explanation of what fasting is, is not, and why anyone would fast)
Off Road Disciplines – Earl Creps
(This is a great book about some alternative disciplines that are helpful in growth in life such as reverse mentoring. Senior Pastors, you want to read this)
Freedom of Simplicity – Richard Foster
(Outstanding challenge from Foster in regards to simplicity in our lifestyle choices and attitudes. One of my best reads this year)

Church Culture

The Church in Emerging Culture – Leonard Sweet
(Four different perspectives on the church in today’s culture, great lessons to be learnt from different perspectives)
Everything Must Change – Brian McLaren
(Essential read, some timely challenges to the message and mission of the church in the 21st Century)
The Essence of the Church – Craig van Gelder
(Brilliant book about what the church is. Discusses nature, then ministry, then organisational life of the church. Too often as leaders we discuss church around the wrong way)
Deep Church – Jim Belcher
(Offers a third way between emerging church and traditional church. If you’re in or lead Pentecostal church (like me) then reality is you are already a mix off all of the above. Worth a read for sure)


Random Designer – Richard Colling
(Discuss the compatibility of evolution and creation)
Saved from Sacrifice – S. Mark Heim
(Challenges traditional views of atonement theory, excellent read for all pastors)
Theology for the Community of God – Stanley Grenz
(Outstanding, outstanding, outstanding, everyone should at least read one book on systematic theology in their life, this is it!)

What books would you recommend I read?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Climate Change

Some people are skeptical in regards to human induced climate change.
(John Finkelde just posted about being a 'climate change agnostic.' He's a legend pastor from Australia with a cool blog you can find here).
The reality is we have to trust the experts.
While it may be tempting to say 'unfortunately’ we have to trust the experts, the truth is that fortunately we get to trust the experts. Average Joe just doesn’t have to time or ability to be an expert on every major issue in life. We have to, with humility and discernment, learn to trust experts. We do this in regards to our health with doctors, our cars with mechanics, and our computers with I.T gurus, to name but a few areas of life. We have to do this in regards to climate change as well. As Governor Schwarzenegger said in reference to human induced climate change, ‘if 98% of doctors said my son was sick and 2% said he was fine, I’d listen to the 98% every time. It’s common sense.’ The reality is 98% of scientists agree that human induced climate change is a reality. I’m no expert but I am happy to trust the majority of experts.

Why perhaps is conservative Christianity so ‘anti/skeptical’ of human induced climate change?

1. Mistrust of science due to scientific promotion of theory of evolution. Literal fundamental readings of Genesis 1 fail to allow for the compatibility of creation and evolution. The reality is though evolution and creation are not mutually exclusive. Best book to read would be The Lost World of Genesis One by John Walton.

2. Poor theology in regards to creation care, the gospel message, and the desire of God to save the entire cosmos. We were created to dwell in harmonious relationship with creation; sin has massively damaged this relationship though. Salvation is not just for the individual though and is available for all that call on the name of the Lord; salvation will also rescue creation from the bondage of sin. As Christ followers we are to bring salvation to our neighbours and creation. Best book to read would be The Green Revolution by Ben Lowe or even Theology for the Community of God by Stanley Grenz.

3. Potential reality of required life style changes should human induced climate change be true. As Christ followers created in the image of God as1) icons of Him on earth, 2) as stewards to take care of creation, and as 3) beings created for community and right relationship with God, ourselves, each other, and creation. If human induced climate change is a reality, faithfulness to Jesus and the gospel would require us to change the way we live.

Climate change and environmental issues are a massive opportunity for the church to engage in culture. We do have a message concerning those issues. It’s the message of the gospel!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Website of the Week...

Hire Things is a great concept to reduce consumerism, promote sustainability, develop community, and even make a dollar or too. Not much I can hire in Tauranga at the moment. Great concept though, especially as more people get on board. Check it out.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Here is an online Advent Calendar by IVP you might find meaningful leading into Christmas.

For those of you who don't know what Advent is click here.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Who Mans the Catapult?

So young, so ancient
Weathered, knocked, scarred
Lying around, biding time, asleep
Silent dreams, inner ambition, selfish and selfless
A castle? A foundation? A sculpture? A landmark?
Work, strive, pursue
What’s not there can never be there
What’s there once wasn’t
Rest, relax, pause
Obvious and known, hidden and to be discovered
There is a sparkle within
Chance, karma, coincidence, or called, destined, ordained?
Promoted, picked, placed
Launched, accelerated, fast tracked

Who mans the catapult?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Website of the Week...

Check this out the Junky Car Club. Drive a crap car in order to be more generous. Awesome!

Understanding the Sabbath Part 4

We now conclude by looking at what it means for us to keep the Sabbath today.

Do we still have to keep the Sabbath today?

Yes of course we do. Just like we still have to keep the rest of the Ten Commandments, every single one of the Ten Commandments is still applicable today. It’s just that every single one has been developed and amended through Christ.

We don’t keep the Sabbath by imitating God’s rest for a day and looking forward to seventh day rest again in a week’s time.

We keep the Sabbath by entering into the state of seventh day rest through relationship with Jesus Christ. Through repentance and faith we come into a saving relationship with Christ. We discover fruitfulness, a call to dominion, relationship; we begin the process of being restored into the fullness of the image of God.

We enter into the beginnings of seventh day rest as seen in Genesis 2:1-3 as we become a part of the kingdom of God which is now, but not yet. It has begun and will be completed at Christ’s return, where we will enter fully a new season of seventh day rest.

Is the Sabbath a Saturday or a Sunday?

It’s not about a certain day of the week.

The Sabbath is about resting in a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

Does that mean that we have to go to church every Sunday?

The Sabbath is not kept by going or not going to church.

Church is about discipleship, community, relationship, being part of the body of Christ.

What about if you are a shift worker?

Shift workers should get saved as well and therefore enter Sabbath rest and keep the Sabbath command.

Isn’t the Sabbath more a principle than a command in the 21st Century?

As Christ followers the Sabbath is a command as much as the other Ten Commandments. We just need to be sure of what we are commanded to do. The Sabbath is now about relationship with Christ.

There is still a principle of Sabbath that is important for us as Christians to practice.

While the law no longer remains the intent of the law is still positive and there are principles here that are beneficial for us all.

We must practice and commit to regularly (I would suggest 1 day a week) pausing and resting from our regular work.

For most of you this will most likely happen on a Sunday, and for most of you, you’ll also attend church on that Sunday.

What we need to be mindful is that the Sabbath is about rest and worship.


- from your regular work
- most likely your work of providing (of earning and bringing in income)
- still be involved in good works of dominion, serving your fellow Christians and building God’s kingdom
- still mow the lawns
- can still paint the fence
- can still work in a team at church or whatever


- not in the sense of a church service
- not in the sense of songs
- worship in the sense of a choice to rest and a choice to dwell on that which the Sabbath is a reminder and a celebration of…

The fact that life is not all about work, six days of work are important, but don’t let work become and end in itself.
God is my provider, as much as I work to provide, I trust in him.
That’s why in season and out of season I still chose to rest and worship God.
When things are bountiful and when things are tight.

Exodus 34:21
Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the ploughing season and harvest you must rest.

God is creator of all and sustains the cosmos, as much as we work as stewards of creation, his is in control and watches over all.

God is Lord of all people, I work to bless and serve my Christian family, but God is Lord of their life and ultimately cares for them.

God is building his Kingdom, as much as I am called to and must work towards his will being done on earth as it is in heaven, he is the true builder of his kingdom, not me.

God is my deliver

God is in control – I don’t have to be busy doing, doing, doing, working, working, working, I can let go and trust him. I can rest even though there are 10 million things that need doing.

If you can’t rest, if you can’t relax, it’s indicative that either you think you can control life, control things, by doing, or that you don’t trust God.

We must keep the Sabbath today. We rest in our relationship with God, we worship and acknowledge God is our provider, sustains, and is in control.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

50 Ways to Help the Planet

Understanding Sabbath Part 3

We now move to the New Testament where amongst the Jewish people the Sabbath is still kept and celebrated with the Pharisees having all sorts of rules about what can or cannot be down on the Sabbath, about what does and does not constitute work.

Jesus though is about to muck all of this up in the same way that in Matthew 5 he mucked up current understanding of most of the other commandments and declared himself to be the fulfilment of the law.

Matthew 11:28
28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Matthew 12:1-8
1 At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, "Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath."

3 He answered, "Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5 Or haven't you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that one [
a] greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' [b] you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."

In these passages Jesus makes some pretty incredible statements regarding the Sabbath.

- Implies that he has authority at least as great as Mosaic Law, where the command to keep the Sabbath originated.
- Declares himself to be the Lord of the Sabbath.
- Announces that true rest (seventh day rest of dominion, fruitfulness, and relationship with God) can now be found in Him.
- True and lasting rest which the Sabbath only remembers and looks forward to can now actually be entered into through Jesus.
- He is the one that is actually going to bring the blessing that the Sabbath celebrates and looks forward to, into reality.

This is pretty major.

John 5:16-18(30)
16So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. 17Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." 18For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

Here again Jesus makes some pretty incredible statements regarding the Sabbath.

- Declares His father God, and himself to be at work.
- Analogy is to the work of the first six days of creation.
- They are working towards the seventh day, rest, restored relationship, creation as it was intended to be.

The passage goes on through to verse 30…

30By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

Revels that God will realize his goal for humanity in the person and work of the Son.

It is the son who will give life to the dead, judge all people, and bring honor to himself and to the Father.

He will realize the Sabbath by bringing an end to human rebellion and the reign of death, that destroyed the seventh day as it was meant to be.

He now participates with the Father and the Holy Spirit in a second great work of creation, begun after the fall, that will culminate we know in his return, judgment, and the re-creation of the havens and the earth to the seventh day state God always intended.

This is radical.

To be continued in a final post suggesting what the Sabbath means for us today…

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Freedom of Simplicity 7

Chapter 7 - Outward Simplicity: Beginning Steps

Today there is a heretical teaching that is an absolute plague on American Christianity. It is the dogmatic unexamined credo that whatever we gain is ours to do with as we please. If we earn $70,000, how we spend it is our private affair. Perhaps we will concede that it is legitimate for the Church to talk about tithing but the other 90% is none of its business.

How utterly self-consumed and provincial! In no way can we twist scripture to justify such a belief. Our lifestyle is not out private affair. We dare not allow each person to do what is right in his or her own eyes. The Gospel demands more of us: it is obligatory upon us to help one another hammer out the shape of Christian simplicity in the midst of modern affluence. We need to love each other enough to sense our mutual responsibility and accountability. We are our brother's and sister's keeper.

Most dangerous of all is the tendency to turn an expression of simplicity into a new legalism.

We understand that Peter spoke to the particular issues of his day; our task is to discern what constitutes ostentatious elitism and speak to that situation today.

Never forget that poverty is not simplicity.

Most of us if we kept a careful record for one year would be amazed at how much we spend in certain categories.

And also 7 or 8 keys to stepping into simplicity that you could initiate in your life today. You need to buy this book and read it.

My major takeaways...

1. Simplicity is not simply a private matter or choice. It must be discussed and addressed in our churches, life groups, friendship circles etc. This presents a massive challenge but we cannot back down from it. Pastors and leaders need wisdom. Congregations need an open heart and a passion for Kingdom living. We all need the Spirit of God to speak and lead, understanding that means we may not be led where we want to go, but into what is best for us.

2. Simplicity is not poverty and denial it is freedom, peach and purpose. It brings health and growth. Unless we chose to simplify, to live sustainability, to live counter culture to the world, we will continually damage this planet, our relationships with people around us, and our intimacy with God. Consumerism and materialism is counter to the culture of the Kingdom. We have to recognise that as truth. We also have to be brave enough to acknowledge that so much in our lives is unnecessary excess. Sure we can call it blessing, favor, and the grace of God. Again we have to come back though, to what is that blessing for? Challenging and difficulty but a journey we must all take. Billy Graham said - 'The growing possibility of our destroying ourselves and the world with our own neglect and excess is tragic and very real.'

3. Simplicity is all about the sorting of priorities in life. It brings us into a depth of relationship with God, with others, and with creation that brings life in our Christian journey.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Understanding Sabbath Part 2

Having established a pattern or work in our lives we are now ready to look at Sabbath and the implications of seventh day rest to our lives.

History of the Sabbath...

In Genesis we have the first mention of something that somehow relates to the law of Sabbath.

Genesis 2:2-3
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

After six days of creating, God, on the seventh day rests from all his work.

He blesses the seventh day and making it Holy.

He creates a new type of time or a new state of being – a state and a time of rest.

The seventh day is a new period of time, a new session, a new state, which is blessed and is Holy.

Its creation in its completed and good state.

This seventh day state of rest is not just a day but is ordered creation as God intended things to be.

- Where man and God now dwell together.
- A time of right relationship with God, with each other (Adam & Eve), with oneself, and with creation.
- Where everything is as it was created and meant to be.
- Where one worked, but not a work of labour and toil, but of fruitfulness and dominion, humankind as stewards over creation.
- It’s a state of rest in that creation is complete and now can be enjoyed, developed, savoured, and celebrated.

Then in Genesis 3 we have the fall.

Humanity falls short of all God desired and created them to be.

As a result God pronounces some serious curses on Satan, Eve, and Adam, on humanity and all of creation.

Genesis 3:17-19
17 To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,' "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return."

Sin now has a massive foothold in the world.

- Man and God no longer dwell together like that used to.
- There is failure of relationship.
- No longer right relationship with God, self, each other, or with creation.
- Fruitfulness and dominion, is now painful toil, sweat, thorns and thistles.
- Nothing is as it was created and meant to be.

This seventh day state of rest is now lost. That which was blessed and holy is now cursed.

Moving from Genesis now to Exodus and Deuteronomy we discover God commanding the Israelites to keep the Sabbath, to keep a day of rest.

Exodus 20:8-11
8"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9Six days you shall work and do all your work, 10but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Here in Exodus, the seventh day of Genesis has now been substituted for the term Sabbath.

- Therefore the LORD blessed the seventh day and made it holy.
- Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

The Sabbath is essentially a celebration and imitation of God’s resting on the seventh day after the previous six days of the creation narrative.

The Israelites remember the Sabbath, they take a day to rest and cease from work in imitation of God.

They rest even as God rested.

Although it may be all these things, the…

Sabbath is not about relief from work.
Sabbath is not about rest in order to be more efficient in one’s work.
Sabbath is not about a massive sleep in so you can recover from last week and get ready for next week.

The Sabbath is about remembering that there is more to life than work.

It’s about remembering that God worked for six days only in order to create the seventh day state of rest in which humanity could be fruitful, take dominion, and relate with God, self, each other, can creation as they were designed to do.

Through the remembrance and observing of Sabbath rest, the Israelites remembered and worshiped God, (not worship as in band and song, or service) worship as in lifestyle that prescribes worth to God.

Through rest they remembered, worshiped, and honoured God as creator God, and remember than in fact creation was good, and that the work of creation was in order that God and man could dwell together.

The Israelites remember the wonder of the seventh day state of rest that God originally created.

They rest for a day and symbolically enter that rest of the seventh day, knowing that it has been lost, but that it was always God’s intention for humanity.

They celebrate that God is faithful in that he is working towards restoring things to as they once were as well.

That God still desires to dwell in relationship with humanity.

We now go to Exodus 21:12-17.

Exodus 31:12-17
12 Then the LORD said to Moses, 13 "Say to the Israelites, 'You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy. 14 " 'Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people. 15 For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of Sabbath rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death. 16 The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. 17 It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested.' "

Here we see that as well as keeping the Sabbath as an imitation of God...

The Israelites kept the Sabbath as a sign and reminder of their unique relationship with covenant God.

They are to remember that God is the one who blesses them and makes them holy, even in the same way that he blessed and made the Sabbath, the seventh day holy.

That God has set them apart as a special people and is going to restore the original rest and blessing of the seventh day of creation to them.

Even though that was lost God is going to somehow recreate and re-establish things as they are meant to be.

They remember that God is the covenant keeping God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

He is the God that they are making a covenant with at Mount Sinai.

They remember the promises of God to Abraham.

God is the God who has and will bless them in order that they might be a blessing.

They can trust in his promises and his faithfulness.

These things are remembered and celebrated through the Sabbath.

We now go to Deuteronomy 5:12-15.

Deuteronomy 5:12-15
12 "Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labour and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

Here we have a third reason why the Israelites are to observe and remember the Sabbath.

The Sabbath is a memorial of God’s faithfulness in delivering them from the captivity and slavery of Egypt.

The analogy is that six days the Israelites worked, laboured as slaves, but on the seventh day God delivered them and brought them into rest, brought them into a place of freedom.

God delivered the Israelites from slavery back into a place of freedom, and dominion, and relationship, beginning with deliverance from Egypt to the wilderness and completed upon entry into the Promised Land of Canaan.

They celebrate that God is restoring and bringing them back to the seventh day rest of Genesis 2:1-3.

So for the Israelites…

The Sabbath is…

- An imitation of God’s rest and a reminder of how God intended creation to be.
- A reminder that life is not about work but about community and relationship, with God, with others, with self, and with creation.
- A reminder that God is the creator God, worthy of all worship and that creation was good.

The Sabbath is…

- A reminder that God is a faithful covenant keeping God.
- A reminder that God has chosen them as his covenant people, that he will bless them in order that all the nations of the world might be blessed.
- A reminder that God’s desire is to dwell amongst and with them, that he will be their God and they will be his people.

The Sabbath is…

- A reminder that God delivered them from Egypt, from slavery.
- That God is a faithful deliverer.
- That God will bring them again into the rest he originally intended for all creation, which for Israel is pictured in the Promised Land.

To be continued...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Freedom of Simplicity 6

Chapter 6 – Inward Simplicity: Holy Obedience

Three stages to discovering the simplicity of self-blindness. 1) Freeing ourselves from an ‘intoxication’ to material or outward things and becoming sensitive to the things of the Spirit, especially our inward condition. 2) Moving away from total absorption in ourselves and our eternal destiny and to being centred in the fear of God. 3) The natural calm and unpretentious exuberance of simplicity.

Fenelon – ‘With this purity of heart, we are no longer troubled by what others think of us, except that in charity we avoid scandalizing them.’ We do not have to be liked. We do not have to succeed. We can enjoy obscurity as easily as fame.

Genuine humility has a gentleness about it that is delightful.

We would do well to discipline our words to what is actually the case without embellishment or overstatement.

My major takeaways...

1. Not living by the standards of the world is truly a free place to live.

That we do not have to be liked and that we do not have to succeed, that obscurity can be enjoyed as easily as fame is so counter to everything society throws at us. It is a truly free place to live though. Continually and consciously in our thinking and actions we need to ensure that we are choosing to live with this attitude.

2. Simple living is not a life of phlegmatism.

It is not a place of no longer caring about what you do in life. Rather it is about caring so much about what you do in regards to obedience to the Holy Spirit, faithfulness to God’s word, and living the way of Jesus and the Kingdom that as long as there is authenticity in ones relationship with God that is the yard stick. No longer the standards of the world. This does not result in lethargic living but rather purposeful, measured, and sustainable determination.

3. What a virtue humility is!

When we live in this place we can begin to develop humility in our lives. True humility truly is gentle and delightful to be around. People with humility draw the best out of others, walk with confidence that is never overbearing or seemingly arrogant, and you so easily find yourself open to what they have to say. Think of the most famous or well educated person you know whom you actually enjoy spending time with, humility will be a major characteristic in their life. How much more effective would Christians be in reaching their neighbours if true humility was a common characteristic.

4. Simplify your speech.

That we so carefully need to watch our words. So much of what we say has the potential to be embellished and overstated. So much of what we hear, we know is embellished and inaccurate. Jesus instructs us to let our ‘no’ be ‘no’ and our ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and not to make oaths. Is this because oaths are bad? No, it’s because if an oath is required then it implies we have two standards of talk. Oaths which are when we are being truthful and then the rest of our speech which may or may not be honest, trustworthy, or reliable. As Christians we don’t need oaths because all of our talk, all of the time, should be honest, trustworthy and to be counted on. This is a real challenge but a challenge worth embracing. Simplify your speech.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

New books have arrived...

New books from Amazon have arrived!

Green Revolution - Ben Lowe
No Impact Man - Colin Beavan
Deep Church - Jim Belcher
Fasting - Scot McKnight

Looking forward to getting stuck into them. In what order though?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Understanding Sabbath Part 1

The following posts are taken from a couple of sermons I preached earlier in the year.

Have you ever wondered about the Sabbath day and what it means for your life?

It’s one of the Ten Commandments so it must be fairly important.

1: Have no other God’s before me – straight forward in our NT context.
2: Don’t make anything as an idol – again straight forward.
3: Don’t take the name of the Lord in vain – yep of course.
5: Honour your father and your mother – for sure, and now you have to love your enemy as yourself.
6: Don’t commit murder – obviously and building on that now even to hate is as murder.
7: Don’t commit adultery – yep and even to lust with your eyes is as adultery in the NT.
8: Don’t steal – seems obvious but perhaps we need some help here, for 1st Century Christians, if you had two coats while someone had none, that was stealing. Big challenge for us in the global village.
9: don’t bear false witness against your neighbour – again pretty clear, no lying etc.
10: don’t covet your neighbour’s wife or any of your neighbour’s possessions – also obvious and also a big challenge in our materialistic and consumer driven society.

It’s pretty clear and pretty straightforward that we are still to keep these nine commandments. As New Testament believers, they are even expanded in their scope and applicability to our lives.

What about number 4 though?

4: Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy – what does that even mean?

• Does that mean go to church every Sunday?
• Isn’t the seventh day Saturday though?
• What about if you are a shift worker?
• What about if you just have a little part time job and have to work just Sunday mornings? Can you then go to church on a Sunday night? Is that all good?
• Is that even what it’s all about?
• What’s the story in regards to Sabbath in the 21st Century?

Some key scriptures...

Genesis 2:2-3
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Exodus 34:21
Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the ploughing season and harvest you must rest.

Exodus 20:8-11
8"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9Six days you shall work and do all your work, 10but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Deuteronomy 5:12-15
12 "Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labour and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

Before we begin to unpack the Sabbath though we need to look at the concept of work.

Six days you shall work and then one day rest. What should that work look like?

Let me suggest 4 types of work that we should involve ourselves in.

1. Work to provide

2 The 3:10
Anyone that doesn’t work, shouldn’t eat.

Most people have jobs and work in order to provide themselves, and hopefully others as well with resource to live life.

We live in a monetary economy rather than an agricultural economy, so we work (at various jobs, in various industries or services, which I trust is ethical) for money in order to clothe, house, feed, and supply our families.

You don’t and won’t always necessarily enjoy this sort of work.

We should be excellent in this work, as unto the Lord, be honest, be diligent, be punctual, go the extra mile, keep a good attitude and right spirit, and work hard.

2. Work of dominion

Gen 1:26-30
26 Then God said, "Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."
27 So God created human beings in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
29 Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food." And it was so.

This is the work of stewarding creation.

Caring for animals and the environment.

Developing things, creating things, inventing things, painting, writing.

Doing things out of worship and to the glory of God.

Living sustainable.

All of those things and others I would put under the heading of the work of dominion.

Sadly though many of us just live status quo in regards to these sorts of issues.

Abdicated everything to the City Council or our MP, or weird greeny hemp type people.

God always intended though that his people would take dominion and steward and care for creation.

3. Work of blessing fellow believers

Gal 6:9-10
9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

The bible encourages us to do good to each other at every opportunity.

4. Work of partnering with the Holy Spirit in building God’s Kingdom

Matthew 6:10
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

Witness to the world around us through presence and proclamation of the gospel.

Outreach through service and social concern.

Living the ‘way’ of Jesus as light in the dark.

So before we even go further and talk about Sabbath and rest, let us ensure that we are committed, diligent, and hard working Christians.

Not people absorbed only in our careers and the work of provision but in all four types of work.

Are you an active worker in all four areas?

To be continued...

Freedom of Simplicity 5

Chapter 5 - Inward Simplicity: The Divine Center

What will free us from this bondage to the ever-spiraling demands that are placed upon us? The answer is found in the grace Christian simplicity. This virtue, once worked into our lives, will unify the demands of our existence; it will prune and trim gently and in the right places, bringing a liberty of soul that will eliminate constant reversions to ourselves.

Within all of us is a whole conglomerate of selves. There is the timid self, the courageous self, the business self, the parental self, the religious self, the literary self, the energetic self. All of these selves are rugged individualists. No bargaining or compromise for them. Each one screams to protect his or her vested interests. If a decision is made to spend a relaxed evening listening to Chopin, the business self and the civic self rise up in protest at the loss of precious time. The energetic self paces back and fourth, impatient and frustrated, and the religious self reminds us of lost opportunities for study or evangelistic contact. If the decision is to accept an appointment on the human services board, the civic self smiles with satisfaction, but all the excluded selves filibuster. No wonder we feel distracted and torn. No wonder we over commit our schedules and live lives of frantic faithfulness.

But when we experience life at the Center
(with God as the Center), all is changed. Our many selves come under the control of the divine Arbitrator, (The Holy Spirit).

Everything becomes orientated to this new Center (Christ) of reference.

We enter a refreshing balance and equilibrium in life.

From Brother Lawrence - The time of business for me does not differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great a tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.

My major takeaways...

I couldn't believe how much Foster's comments about the different 'selves' within us fight with each other. When resting I fight with myself that I should be studying, when studying I wonder if I should be exercising, when exercising I wonder if I should be with the kids, when with the kids I fret about undone tasks that need completing. Absolutely there is need for me to consciously get Christ at the center and trust him as I do all that needs doing in life, all in due course.

I have have to chose to...

1. Let go and trust Him. All my DOING will never get everything DONE. I have to remember how important it is at times simply to be. Be with Him, be with my kids, be with myself etc.

2. Chose to slow down.

3. Accept that seasons in life create different priorities. Even though I still have to fight this, having kids has helped me a lot. Golf and the gym are on the back burner at the moment. Bikes, books, and bath time reign supreme.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sabbath continued...

Scott McKnight also offers some thoughts Sabbath, Do Christians have a Sabbath or Not? I enjoyed his thoughts and looking forward to reviewing my own sermon notes from earlier in the year and posting them.

Monday, November 2, 2009


One of my passions in life are spiritual disciplines. One of these is of course the practice of Sabbath. I should perhaps post my sermon notes on the Sabbath from earlier in the year.

Derek Leman is a Messianic Rabbi in Atlanta in the states, here are some of his notes on preparing for the Sabbath. While I don't practice the Sabbath in the same way that Rabbi Derek and his family do, I really appreciate his perspective as illuminating in regards to preparing for the Sabbath as a principle in my own life.


Freedom of Simplicity 4

Chapter 4 - Simplicity Among the Saints

For the Dessert Fathers and Mothers the world, including the church, had become so dominated by secular materialism that, for them, the only witness against it was to withdraw from it.

Celibacy is necessary for some forms of simplicity. Francis could not have done what he did if he had not been single. Nor could Jesus.

The Quakers chose simplicity in their attire, in speech, in vigorously opposing injustice and oppression.

These early 'Publishers of Truth,' as they called themselves, too with utter seriousness the task of hearing the voice of Christ and obeying his word. They would ask,'What does it mean to live faithful lives in our day?' and they fully expected to receive an answer.

We who live in a world of half truths and rationalizations and intellectual gymnastics that keep us from hearing and obeying the word of Christ need to hear the witness of the Friends. Because we live in a different culture, we must ask once again what it means to live faithful lives in our day. But we must ask fully expecting to receive an answer and fully expecting to be given the power to obey the call.

J. Hudson Taylor - 'Butter, milk, and other luxuries I cease to use, and found that by living mainly on oatmeal and rice with occasional variations a very small sum was sufficient for my needs. In this way he was able to use two thirds of his income for other purposes. He wrote, 'My experience is that the less I spent on myself and the more I gave to others the fuller of happiness and blessing did my soul become.'

My major takeaways...

Simplicity is not something new in the 21st Century. Even in the first century Christians were choising to live simple lives in order that their affections would be set firmly on Jesus and in order that they might better help the poor and the needy. That being the case, how much more the need for simplicity in the 21st Century!?! How would the saints respond to the extravigences of life that we posses today?

Butter and milk were once considered luxuries. Would we class them as that today? Many in the world would.

What do you consider luxury items? What do you consider nessasary? What is extravegent? What is enough? What do you have to have to live? What can you do without?

I find that the more I journey with the Holy Spirit, the more I practice simplicity as a discipline, and the more I think of others and their needs, the more my answers today are not what they were yesterday.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


My conclusion is that the biggest issues and concerns that we carry in life should not be our own.

I don’t want to trivialize the reality of the pains, problems, stresses and other issues that we face in life. And especially not the genuine tragedies of life such as the death of a loved one, a marriage break up and other such crises. However, in regards to most of the problems that we face most of the time, I just think we need to put them into perspective. This in no way causes them to disappear but actually puts us in a better head, heart, and faith space to deal with them.

The plain reality is that most of our worries are just not that big a deal. If you are reading this post you probably accessed it on your own personal computer, or the computer you use at your job, or on a computer in a shopping mall that you just paid a few dollars to check Facebook with. All of which hints at the fact that whatever issues you have in life at the moment they are not likely to do with finding clean drinking water, getting some food for your children before they die of malnutrition, or the impossibility of obtaining medical treatment for an easily curable disease.

These sorts of issues are not our issues. Thank goodness. However they are the issues of around 2.8 billion people in the world that are trying to live off less than $2 a day. They are the issues of the 30,000 children that die every day because of hunger and malnutrition. They are the issues of another 6,000 children that die each day because they lack clean water and sanitation. They are the issues of the parents of these children, if the parents are still alive.

Understanding these sorts of crises, genuine issues that face millions and millions of fellow Image bearers every day, helps puts our issues into perspective. In honesty my own personal concerns and worries look insignificant, certainly not worth losing sleep over, and defiantly not insurmountable. I thank God for his goodness, his faithfulness, his blessing, and his favor on my life. I move forward in the power of the Spirit and I deal with that which is in front of me.

More important than gaining perspective on my own worries in life is the challenge to make the worries of others my own. When I do this, those issues don’t just help me with that which I am facing, they change the whole way that I live my life!

- My reliance and trust in God is deepened.

These issues are overwhelming. I am forced to look to God, to put my trust in God, to cry out to God. I can’t carry them or solve them on my own despite the burden I feel. My devotion and relationship with God is deepened and grows. I can make those issues my concern but I can’t carry them. I have to look to God. I pray more. I am more aware of our need to be saved.

- My life style is challenged.

I am forced to ask big questions. In a world with so much, why do so many have so little? Where should I spend my money, what is truly important in life, what is simply noise and clutter? Am I a part of the problem or a part of the solution? I depend on the Holy Spirit to guide me as I push forward. I determine not to brush things over as being too difficult or complicated. It’s too big a deal to do nothing. I find I am challenged to change my priorities in life, the way I consume, that which I value. I discover a simpler way to live. A more right way. I discover a different path, the Way of Jesus.

- I find freedom.

Rather than feeling lost in problems too big, I find freedom to live unconcerned with that which consumes society so much. The rat race doesn’t matter. The ladder doesn’t matter. The house, the car, the boat, the clothes, the status, accolades, fame, fortune, and anything else society holds to be significant fade away. I’m no longer trapped in a game that counts for nothing. I’m no longer concerned with the perspective of others who judge from a set of criteria I no longer live by. Rather I am free to be who God called me to be, to live as God called me to live, to be consumed by that which is on His heart rather consuming that which society declares necessary.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Freedom of Simplicity 3

Chapter 3 - The Biblical Roots: The New Covenant

This astonishment (of the disciples in Matt 19:24) was due primarily to their belief that the wealth of the rich young ruler was a sign of God’s special favor upon him.

And Jesus perceived how bruised and trampled in spirit people were because they were poor and felt that God was displeased with them. Repeatedly he opposed this false and destructive doctrine, showing instead that in the economy of God, the poor, the broken, were special objects of his blessing and concern.

Jesus further saw the wearisome burden upon those who had gotten riches and were trying to hold onto them.

Riches are deceitful precisely because they lead us to trust in them and Jesus saw that trap and the spiritual destructiveness which attends to it.

The life of Christian simplicity is necessarily tied to concern for the poor and defenseless.

Love is well-reasoned concern for the good of all. Love does not have tunnel vision. If I bring the needy into my home and destroy my own family in the process, I am driven by something other than love. These commands of Jesus must be understood with the broader context of the law of love. The biblical instruction is not meant to destroy us, but to set us free.

What we discover in the New Testament witness is the combination of penetrating criticism of wealth with a carefree, almost light hearted attitude toward possessions. It is a combination seldom found today.

In regards to the New Testament church sharing all things together: Please remember, we have no indication that what occurred in the early days of the Church was commanded of that it was even the right thing to do. This is not some pattern to be slavishly imitated. What we see is an incredible freedom to experiment with practical ways to flesh out the meaning of love for God and neighbor.

‘Why all this talk about miracles, divine power, and spiritual preparation? Can’t we just get on with the business of simplifying our lifestyles with all the God-talk?’ I answer that you are welcome to try, and God help you – because you will sorely need it.

There once was a time when I urged simplicity of life upon people indiscriminately. I would cajole,, shove, push, and often they would indeed change their lifestyle; but I found that it was all quite destructive. I discovered that simplicity is just another anxiety-laden burden until people experience God’s gracious power to provide them with their daily bread. Only as kingdom power breaks in are we free to live in trust.

My major takeaways...

1. Material wealth is never an accurate measurement of Godliness, of favor, of being in the will of God, or of living according to the will of God. Godly principles indeed bring increase they are a poor measurement of Godliness though.

2. The simple life makes room for the poor. Simplicity doesn't mean lack of resource, you can live a profoundly simply life while working in a job that earns plenty of money. Simplicity is the grip that the money has on you and your choices with that resource. The simple life makes room for the poor and chooses to bless and to include and to stand in the gap. We should never confuse simplicity for lack.

3. Simplicity has to be guided by the Holy Spirit. The simple life is so counter culture that it has to be Spirit led. You can't talk people into it, force people into it, or instantly embrace the concepts. The quite leading of the Holy Spirit is required.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Skydiving Simplicity

Check out this video. You don't even need a parachute!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Freedom of Simplicity 2

Chapter 2 - The Biblical Roots: The Old Covenant

Simplicity of the heart can flourish only in the fertile soil of trust (in God).

The creation story is the starting point for our understanding of simplicity. We are part of the created order and hence totally dependant. We are dependant on God for even our sense of worth as individuals. Our uniqueness and dignity are rooted in our creation in the image of God. Our value is not tied to wealth, status, accomplishments, or position. It is a gift. Obviously, this wonderful truth flies in the face of the modern tendency to define people by what they produce or have.

Notice how the fourth commandment of the Sabbath rest strikes at the heart of the everlasting itch to get ahead. We find it so very hard to rest when, by working, we can get the jump on everyone else. There is no greater need today than the freedom to lay down the heavy burden of getting ahead.

At the hear of the sin of covetousness is the inner lust to have. Covetousness is the idolatrous worship of things. The problem is that we, like the alcoholic, are unable to recognize the disease once we have been engulfed by it.

My major takeaways...

It is so easy for us to measure our worth and also the worth of others based the measurements of 21st Century society rather than on the truth of God's word. Wealth, status, accomplishments, and position so easily become the yard stick. It's ingrained in us. We have to break free from this and commit to not measuring ourselves or the worth of others by these things. Unless we do so we are trapped. We must do, achieve, and become, before we can simply be. Rather it is out of being (a person of worth created in the image of God) that we should be doing.

This changes all the doing. It is no longer a striving, no longer a means by which to feel valued. It is no longer a means by which to increase, accumulate, and consume. Rather it becomes the doing that is the good works that we were saved in Christ Jesus for. Doing that brings blessing, impacts lives, and reflects the love of God. It becomes a simple doing, grounded in faith, hope, love, justice and righteousness.

How many cups have you used?

Read this today 'One Life, One Cup' about a Japanese man who has been using the same cup for his tea for the last 30 odd years. How many cups have you used in your life?

Japan has always been a country and culture that fascinated me. This man's attitude towards his cup is simple but has profound impact when multiplied across other areas of life and also by multitudes of people.

It's only a short read but well worth the read. Click here.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Freedom of Simplicity Chap 1

Have just started reading Richard Foster's Freedom from Simplicity. Will post some thoughts chapter by chapter.

Chapter 1 - The Complexity of Simplicity

Simplicity helps us to see material things for what they are - goods to enhance life, not to opress life. People become more important than posessions.

1. Simplicity is both a grace and a discipline.
2. Simplicity both easy and difficult.
3. Simplicty is both an inner reality and an outwardlifestyle.
4. Simplicty affirms both the goodness and the limitation of material things.

Misery also arises when people try to make a life out of provision. While it is an essential ingredient in the good life, it is by no means the only ingredient, nor is it even the most important one. So often the biblical teaching on provision has been taken and twisted into a doctrine of gluttonous prosperity. All the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, coaxing to 'love Jesus and get rich' reflects our failure to see the biblical limitation on things. Incarnated in our theology are covetous goals under the guise of the promises of God. And the interesting thing about all these little gimmicks to blessedness is that they work; they really do work. That is, they work if what we want is a little money; but if we desire the abundance which God gives, they fail.

My major takeways...

I've been reflecting on and attempting to live a simple life for a number of years now. Opening this book and reading the first chapter reminded me again how easy it is to slip into the pursuit of material possesions, wealth, and accumulation, even when you think you are trying to live contrary to those pursuits.

We have to live intentionally in life otherwise we just get pulled along and caught up in the same rat race as everyone else, not realising that God offers a totally different way to live.

I also appreciated thinking of simplicity as both and inward reality and an outward life style. A simple, relaxed, peaceful, at ease, content, inner world is an awesome way to live life. As we chose to trust God, practice Sabbath, learn to let go, and develop faith, its amazing the sense off peace that is inwardly possible and its incredible effects on the way we interact with the world!


If you haven't been watching Eco-Trip on the Living Channel over the last few weeks you should be. It is an outstanding series which takes a closer look at the 'truer' cost of some of the things we take for granted in life. Bottled water, paper napkins, salmon, mobile phones etc. It is presented by David de Rothschild. I have found it fascinating, eye opening, challenging and inspiring.


All plenty which is not my God is poverty to me - St Augustine

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Simplicity and Complexity of God's Word

It is relieving to recognize that the basics of God's revelation of himself (including his Creator role) are easily skimmed off the surface (of the Bible), but not surprising that God's Word contains infinite depth and that it should require constant attention to study with all the tools we have available. God is not superficial, and we should expect that knowledge of him and his Word would be mined rather than simply absorbed. This means that all of us will be dependent on others with particular skills to help us succeed in the enterprise of interpretation. This is not elitism; it is the interdependence of the people of God as they work together in community to serve one another with the gifts they have. The Lost World of Genesis - John H. Walton

I love this extract from Dr John's book! It beautifully sums up so many of the things that I appreciate and value in life.

- the simplicity of God's Word. At one level it is Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth

- the complexity of God's Word. There is so much depth and breadth to the Bible and to its true implications for humanity and the way we live life. Not because God tries to be complicated but due to the realities of God speaking to finite people at a particular time and place. This makes God's Word a treasure trove to be explored and interacted with. Not for intellects sake, and not for some spiritual high found in a 'deep truth' moment, but rather because of the divine nature of the text. The reality is that literature thousands of years old still carries weight and meaning for life today; as much as ever before. With the help of the Spirit and with the skills and fellowship of community this is possible.

- that God is not superficial. God desires to know humankind on a deep an intimate level. God speaks and desires to relate with us in the midst of the most complicated and trying experiences. Not with throw away lines and quick fix verses but in a real and personal way. A way that can at times be summed up with simple rhema words but that also often involves deeper rational and faith filled interaction.

- that deeper study or understanding of God's word is not in order to create elitism. The opposite is in fact the case. PhD understanding is not for PhD sake but rather for faithful, trustworthy, applicable, and life changing everyday application. What an awesome challenge that is to all in the academic world.

- that God's word is best approached and interpreted in community. Together we discover truth for life when we come to God's word. This stands in the face of society's individualistic attitudes and tendencies and requires humility, teachablity, openness, conviction, good will, and love. All of which are admirable qualities.

I fall in love with God and God's word more and more every day. I hope you do to.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Whole Gospel

Came across this today on a blog I have never seen. A good article on The Whole Gospel, something that I am passionate about. Enjoy

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Confrontation of Justice

My friend Michael Frost just posted these thoughts on his blog that really resonate with me. Well worth a read.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Ongoing, overwhelming, taxing.
Twisting, turning, surprising.
Stopping, sitting relaxing.

A peak.
A vista.
A moment of clarity.

Continuing, climbing, perspiring.
Praying, praising, deciding.
Daring, doing, aspiring.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Encouraging, fragrant, warm.

New, unknown, refreshing.

Hopes, stirs, anticipates.

Today, tomorrow, the next.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

For Faith to Flourish...

For faith to flourish it must engage in a vigorous conversation with its own past and with contemporary culture. It is about looking backwards and forwards. Christian faith must neither amount to simple repetition of past doctrinal formulations, nor a mere echoing of present attitudes, but must be a dialectic between the two. - Dave Tomlinson

Sunday, August 30, 2009

End Times...

Here are my sermon notes from Sunday morning just gone for those that wanted them. Apologies to those that were not at the service they will only make limited sense.

The End Goal


‘Should the Lord tarry...’ even but a few more minutes... we are going to begin the final chapter of the biblical grand-narrative, we are going to start looking at end times.

A subject that for literally 20 years I just found plain scary and haven’t wanted to look at.

All because of one old song written by Larry Norman in 1969. Which didn’t actually sound like this but may as well have to my 7 year old ears.

“There’s no time to change your mind, the Son’s come back and you’ve been left behind!”

That combined with a movie you may remember called Thief in the Night...

That movie which again as a 7 or 8 year old, I can only describe as a Christian horror movie, scared me to death when it came to end times.

I’ve just written myself off from receiving two particular blessings the bible talks about.

- Blessing for those that eagerly await the return of the Lord
- Blessing for those that read and heed the book of Revelation

Not for me.

Stay away from that stuff it’s just plain freaky!

The actual truth is...

When we talk about endtimes we are not speaking about doomsday and the end of the world, we are speaking about the divine intent and goal that lies behind God’s activity and actions in the lives of individuals, communities, and creation throughout history.

It’s fully mysterious, but it is massively exciting as well!

I want to begin this morning though by very quickly again summarising the big story.

I just don’t think we can do this too often.

It is THE big story and it must be THE framing story of OUR lives.

The Story so Far...

Chapter 1 – Creation:

In the beginning God created the entire cosmos; a good and pleasing creation, without sin or evil. Unique in creation was humankind, created in the image of God for special relationship with God, self, each other, and creation. Humankind was to reflect the nature of the Triune God, who exists eternally in perichoretic community (a differing, loving, giving, dance of perfect relationship) and relate to one another in like manner. For a time all was as God intended, however humankind fell short of what it was created to be.

Chapter 2 – Sin:

Sin, meaning to miss the mark or to fall short, resulted in a failure of relationship. Humanity was left alienated (from God, ourselves, each other, and creation), condemned (guilty before a righteous God), enslaved (in bondage to sin and its effect on every area of our lives and societies), and depraved (powerless to overcome our sin problem). There is hope though.

Chapter 3 – Israel (redemption initiated):

God chose Israel as a special people to dwell with in covenant relationship, his intention always being that through Israel all nations might find reconciliation with God. At times Israel lived as the people God intended them to be but continually they turned away from God.

Chapter 4 – Jesus (redemption completed):

God then sent his Son Jesus to establish the Kingdom of God and to deal with humanities sin problem once and for all. Through his sinless life, death upon the cross, and resurrection from the dead, Jesus defeated sin and death. Through faith (knowledge, belief, and continuing or ongoing trust) and repentance (a turning away from a previous way of life), all may find forgiveness, reconciliation, restoration, hope, and freedom from sin.

Chapter 5 – Church:

Jesus also established the Kingdom of God, a kingdom that is now, but not yet. A kingdom that begins with the rule and reign of Christ in our hearts and from here impacts every area of society. A kingdom with principles that are often upside down and back to front to the ways of the world. A kingdom that will advance and is established through the church; believers living according to kingdom principles, in authentic relationship and committed community, governed by the Word and led by the Spirit.

This is where we live today, as Christ followers and participants in the community that is the church; God’s number one plan to reach and impact a lost and broken world.

We live now in this chapter of history. The church. Today we are going to look forward at the last chapter in the story. Which aren’t so much end times but rather God’s end goal.

By the way, that little blurb in the bulletin. That’s gold right there. That’s Genesis through Jude in one hit! About 40 sec of reading!

Framing Story:

This isn’t just any old story though.

Like I said before...

This is THE big story that must be THE framing story of OUR lives.

What does that mean?

It means that you think of any area of life...

How to live?
What to do?
Which choice to make?

This story should and will inform your regarding that choice or question.

· Environmental Issues
o Christians should be on the forefront
o Image of God, special responsibility, right relationship with creation
o Govern and steward the planet
o Whole individuals and societies are in wrong relationship with the planet
o Animism – spirits and souls in everything, plants and trees, worship creation
o Pantheism – everything makes up God, plants and trees, worship creation
o Western Society – abuses the planet, strips of resources, not sustainable
o Restore right relationship
o Impact you lifestyle and actions massively

· Justice Issues
o Documentary on Close up the other night
o Slaves used in producing coco
o Grand-narrative teaches about perichoretic community
o Loving on another, not abusing one another
o Sin is all consuming, individuals, societies, systems
o We cannot participate in those systems
o Change our habits

· Challenge seems too big
o Story tells us that through the church God will establish his Kingdom
o Will be done on earth as it is in heaven
o Not just our church, the universal church, all and every community can make a difference

· Personal problems seem too big
o How can God understand?
o One person two natures
o Fully God
o Fully human
o Challenges, temptations, loss, obedience & consequence, heartache, pain, forsakenness
o The same as you and I

Throughout the series we have tried to show applications and implications of the story.

Ultimately though: each of us is responsible personally to know the story, to know the truth of God’s story and to reflect on it personally in our lives, discovering the implications and applications to life for ourselves. We are each responsible to build community with others to journey together in light of the story, discovering truth together and letting that mould and shape our lives.

The story has radical radical implications for life today!

As does the final chapter which we are beginning this morning.

So here we go...

Chapter 6 – Re-creation / The End Goal / Happily Ever After / End Times:


· We look at end times with caution and with openness.

We are reading as we look at end times is called apocalyptic literature.

Probably the most difficult and tricky type of literary type in the bible.

- Metaphor
- Parts are literal
- Parts are figurative and illustrative
- Lots of pictures or types being used to describe things
- Prophecy that has been fulfilled mixed with prophesy that hasn’t been fulfilled mixed with prophesy that but nature can be fulfilled more than once

Revelation 19 talks about Jesus returning on a white horse with flames of fire coming out of his eyes and a sword coming out of his mouth.

It’s a picture, a description, a metaphor; Jesus isn’t literally coming back like that.

What does it actually mean then? Can be tricky stuff to work out.

So we have to look forward and read forwards carefully.

Appreciating the tricky nature of what we are looking at I trust you’ll be generous with me this morning as I try to summarise some pretty deep issues.

Actually more that we can’t say than what we can say.

You may end up with more questions than answers as a result of this morning’s message.

If you were looking for a sequence of events, sorry...

· The bible does not give us any data for dates or even a detailed sequence of events when it comes to the future.

Any this then this then this, and this is exactly what it is going to look like is fanciful/interesting/fiction at best and misleading at worst.

Thief in the Night, series makes massive leaps of assumption to make the series it does.

Left Behind Series, the authors have to make up all sorts of stuff and make huge assumptions and read all sorts of things that are not in the bible to tell the story the way that they do.

We can’t watch these movies or read these books thinking that they are accurate interpretations of scripture telling us how the future will unfold.

There just not.

Personally I prefer the Chronicles of Narnia as a better series in painting a picture of how the future may or could unfold.

The reality is that the future is full of mystery.

This morning I’m going to use a few scriptures but not that many.

End times really needs its own 10 week series if you wanted to get stuck into every verse and scripture.

Again because the scriptures are apocalyptic there are all sorts of reading rules and stuff to try and understand them.

Each passage simply takes too much explaining and is too technical for me to be able to explain with any clarity.

I’m going to kind of sum up the thoughts of respected and trusted theologians in regards to end times.

For those that are interested my sources are...

Theology for the Community of God – Dr Stanley Grenz
In Understanding be as Men – T.C.Hammond
The Gospel of the Kingdom – Dr George Ladd
Systematic Theology – Dr Stanley Horton
The Drama of Scripture – Dr Craig Bartholomew and Dr Michael Goheen

My goal is really just to talk about the main things that we need to be aware of regarding the future.

There aren’t a whole lot of details that can be given with certainty but I want to try and cover what can be said with certainty.

The End Goal:

What can we say with certainty...

While the bible does not give us the data for dates or a sequence of events in regards to end times, what it does give us is massively important.

1. History is meaningful and will reach a climax!

The bible allows us as Christians to assert that history is meaningful.

That history will reach a climax.

That God’s work in individual lives and communities and in creation has purpose.

It allows us to assert that divine intent lies behind God’s actions in the world.

That is why we don’t so much look at end times, rather we look at God’s goal, we look at re-creation, we look at happily ever after.



Justice will be done.

Sin and sickness and evil and oppression and hopelessness and death will be dealt with.

End times are not something we should be sacred of.

We should look forward to the end to the consummation of all things.

The next thing we can say with certainty is that...

2. Jesus Christ will return.

This is what will bring about victory.

The transition from the old age into the age of the kingdom which is now but not yet was the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The transition from the now but the not yet into the new age will come about through the return of Jesus.

It will happen not through cosmic evolution, not through human progress and scientific breakthrough, not even through the church getting bigger and bigger and stronger and stronger.

Victory will come at the return of Jesus Christ and through his righteous judgement bringing justice to the world.

- Jesus’ return is a fact that we can look forward to with anticipation.

- The return of Christ is what will bring about the resurrection, judgement, the renewal of all things, and it is the return of Christ that we look forward to and forwards to.

- The return of Jesus is what will usher in the new age in its totality.

- This would appear to be a process (with several stages) rather than a single event.

- Jesus’ return could happen at any time. Nothing to stop Jesus returning before this sermon is completed.

- Jesus’ return will happen in like manner to his ascension. Careful not to read too much into that.

Acts 1:10
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."

- It will literally mean we will see him in a manner comparable to natural sight.

- We don’t need to know dates, times, and places, we need to occupy until he comes.

T.C.Hammond warns – In regards to ‘times and seasons,’ a rigid systemization dependent on veiled allusions in scripture, which are also capable of meaning other than that which is arbitrarily selected to fit a particular theory, is to be discouraged.

We are to live every day as if the Lord is going to return tonight. Explain.

We are to live every day as if the Lord is not going to return for another 10,000 years. Explain. (Parents generation uni, house, washing machine).

We have to live in the tension of and / both.

3. The righteous will be resurrected and transformed.

1 Corinthians 15:15-21
20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a human being.
Luke 24:30-43

At the return of Christ the dead in Christ will be raised and they will receive a new and glorious body.

A new body the same as Christ’s glorified body.

1 Corinthians 15:35-36
51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

- Human likeness continuity and discontinuity, new but recognisable
- Powers unknown today
- Spiritual, incorruptible, and immortal
- Careful not to over spiritualize or to view too materialistically

4. There will be a judgment.

- Something to be looked forward to
- Through God’s righteous judgement things will be put right
- Individuals will be judged
- Our works and deeds will be judged
- Sin in its entirety will be judged
- Not just the judgement of individuals and individual sin
- Systems will be judged
- Injustice will be judged
- First will be last and last will be first
- Oppressed will be lifted up
- Sick will be restored
- Sin will no longer have sway
- Truth will be declared
- Principalities and powers will be judged
- Through judgement recreation, renewal and restoration will take place
Elena is going to look more at this next Sunday morning.

5. All things will be made new

Revelation 21:1-5
1 Then I saw "a new heaven and a new earth," [a] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 'He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' [b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
5 He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."

There are three consummations evident in the bibles record of human history...

- Ordering of the world before the creation of humankind
- The events leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ
- The cessation of the present world system

Each of the first to consummation ushered in a new era.

So to the final consummation of all things will usher in eternity.

‘Behold I make all things anew.’

Scripture seems to imply not annihilation of the old, not a new creation, but rather a recreation.

There will be a complete destruction of all that is sinful and a conversion of the old into a new world never to know sin and corruption.

Again the bible paints a picture of continuity and discontinuity.

Recognisable but made right. No longer the same.

In once sense our story has come full circle now.

We started in Genesis with paradise lost through sin.

We now see paradise regained in Revelation.

- Where there was once a missing of the mark a falling short through sin
- Where there was once a failure of relationship – God, self, others, creation
- There will now be complete and utter restoration to the image and likeness of God
- There will be no mourning, death, crying, pain, sickness, suffering etc.
- Where once Adam walked with God in the cool of the evening, once again the dwelling of God will once again be with man. No separation.
- The entire planet, galaxy, cosmos will be renewed.

I don’t know the extent of the discontinuity and the continuity.

Our resurrected bodies will be recognisable, in a practical way, not a supernatural way.

The new earth will also be recognisable as well, I don’t know if it will be recognisable in the sense land, animals, water. Or recognisable in the sense of, ‘wow look there’s the Sistine Chapel, I never got to visit that before, I’m glad I can now.’

N.T.Wright suggests in his book Surprised by Hope, that perhaps more of what we do in this life may carry over to the next than what we think.

Fascinating thought.

6. Eternity will be spent either in heaven or in hell.

Shane is going to do a whole sermon on heaven and hell in a couple of weeks time.

Exciting stuff.

Eternity spent in hell – a state of complete absence of the presence of God.

Eternity spent in heaven – a state of humankind and God dwelling together

It seems to me most likely that the heavenly realm, the heavenly Jerusalem, and the recreated, renewed earth come together and eternity is spent here.

Shane will discuss this fully though in a couple of weeks.

Hell – complete absence of God
Heaven – dwelling with God

7. We have a great HOPE!

Psalm 25:3No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause.

Romans 15:4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.

Colosions 1:21-23
21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of [f] your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.

1 Thessalonians 5:8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.

Hebrews 6:19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

1 Peter 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.


· History is moving towards a climax
· Jesus will return
· There will be a resurrection and a transformation
· There will be a judgment that sets things right
· All things will be renewed
· We have great hope as Christians

Need not get caught up in trying to work out dates, times, sequences.
Live as if Jesus was returning tonight.
Live as if Jesus will not return for another 10,000 years.

There is a happily ever after to the story provided that we...

- Know the story (God has been at work throughout history to reconcile humanity and the entire cosmos to himself)
- Assent to the story being true (It’s not a fairy tale, it’s not fantasy, its true!)
- Continually and daily put our trust in Jesus Christ (that he made relationship possible, we can be forgiven and reconciled)
- Repent and turn from our former way of life and live in light of the big story, live in light of God’s story.

I want to encourage every person here this morning, those that profess to be Christians, those that perhaps are looking but would not yet consider themselves to be a Christ follower.
Have you responded to the grand-narrative as I have just outlined?

Make that response in your heart, life, actions, words, lifestyle!