Wednesday, November 20, 2013

It makes me so angry...

Does anyone else think it's is crazy and totally, ridiculously self-indulgent how much we Christians spend our time arguing and telling each other what we can't be and can't do when there are so many out there in desperate need.

I mean, seriously - what is it going to matter to someone who is desperate to escape drugs, abuse, poverty, depression, disease, despair… what we think about:

whether women are 'allowed to be in ministry', or
what a woman's 'place' is, or
what the exact definition of evangelical/new calvinism/blah blah is
etc etc

It's all crap really.

What do we tell someone who is at the end of themselves, desperate for love and for Jesus?
"Welcome to the fold - now here's a list of rules for you to learn. Here's a bunch of lines you cannot cross, unless you want us all to hate you…"


If our gospel doesn't work for the poor, the desperate, the lost, then it doesn't work. Then it's not the gospel of Jesus.

I don't care how convinced you are that you're right about your theological bent, if you are not bringing freedom and hope to the neediest in this world, then you're missing the point and your words are useless.

People already have enough chains on their ankles, enough people telling them who they can't be.

Jesus was in the business of setting people free.

Why is the Church so bent on keeping people in their place?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

We are all right, and we are all wrong

I struggle to identify with any particular theological views or 'camps', and while I find reading all the different blogs and articles fascinating and thought provoking for a while, inevitably I reach the same reaction - I feel like throwing my ipad across the room in dispair.

Egalitarian, complimentarian, charismatic, evangelical, new Calvinism, pro-Driscolls and Driscoll is the devil-ites....

Whatever it is, if I find one point I agree with, I feel like I'm not free to just take that point as it is. I feel like I have to take the whole manifesto or nothing. And if I want to disagree with one point, all I can find is an opposing point of view that wants to bring me to 'their side' - again, you're either with us, or you're against us.

Why do we feel the need to pick a defined camp to pitch our tent in? 

Can't we recognise that in some ways we are all right and in many ways we are all wrong?

We need each other and each other's views, because each of us just has one tiny part of the truth, that when brought together begins to outline some semblance of the whole. We as the body, in unity, create a still imperfect but increasingly accurate and powerful sketch of Jesus himself.

And I disagree that to combat an erroneous extreme we need to be just as loud, combative or extreme ourselves. All that does is keep the pendulum swinging with increasing momentum. It doesn't restore balance except perhaps for that fleeting moment as the pendulum passes the middle ground before powering through to the other side.

That's why, while I agree with some feminist points, I cannot agree that feminism is the way to combat oppression and discrimination. And why, while I agree with some points of both complimentarianism and egalitarianism, I cannot agree that either of them have the whole answer or that we should define ourselves as either/or. And why, while agree with some points of many different theological movements, I cannot agree to label anyone with anything more narrowly defined than Christian. 

I believe we can combat extremism, we can restore balance, we can create wholeness by seeking that in ourselves and encouraging it in others. Without labels. With unity. With freedom.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween as a time for joy that light has overtaken the dark

Halloween is one of those touchy subjects for Christians. And especially in Australia, since it's never been a particularly wide spread event, people treat it with a kind of fear.

But I think if we give Halloween too much credit as 'evil', then we are saying that evil has some power over us.

Yes, the spiritual darkness is real, and revelling in it is dangerous and destructive. But are we saying that kids dressing up in crazy costumes and eating lollies is a stepping stone to devil worship? I think we need to give ourselves some credit.

After all, at Christmas and Easter many of us embrace or at least accept the traditions of Santa and the Easter Bunny, with equally if not more pagan roots, without fearing our children are a step away from goddess worship or practicing magic.

How about another way to look at it - by dressing up, by poking fun, we are laughing in the face of the evil and death we know Jesus has already over come. We make fun of the darkness that has no hold on us because we know the light has come.

Maybe, just maybe, Halloween could fill us with joy? It's an idea...

I'm not trying to start a celebrate Halloween campaign, but watching this video just made me think - why should we fear it?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Why your current struggles don't disqualify you

Maybe our journey of faith is a bit like riding a bike. 

If you've ever tried to ride really slowly, you'll know that it's actually harder and far more unsteady than if you get up a faster speed. 

Sometimes our faith is like that. We feel like we're failing on the smaller things, we feel unsteady and inconsistent and like we can't quite get the hang of it. (Whatever it may be - prayer, faith, patience, love...) And we begin to wonder - if I can't get it right at this slow pace, how will I ever be able to handle more? 

But maybe it's like riding a bike. With some momentum on a smooth path (how good that God makes our paths straight!) you might actually find that when more is asked of you the flow of faith will keep you steady and moving, and you won't feel like you have to push it quite so hard to achieve things.

Of course, you do still need more fitness & stamina, and more practice and skill if you want to be a good bike rider who can navigate obstacles, climb hills and go the distance. 

An inexperienced rider who races ahead because they like the feeling of speed could get into trouble if something tries to unseat them and they haven't learned to maintain their balance. 

And they will quickly tire if they try to keep that pace for very long without enough endurance and support. 

In our spiritual lives we can take this as encouragement that what seems like a hard slog now won't always seem that way, and the fitness and practice we are getting now will be vital for the future. 

And we should also remember to encourage and build up others to come along on the ride with us. 

Because when you do pick up speed, you want others with you. 

Think of an elite cycle race where the peloton helps each other. You might have some sprinters who lead the way, but even then they are usually still working in a team with a common purpose. Even the best of the best cyclists need others to draw them onwards, to keep the pace, and to have the slip stream to rest in even as they are moving, if they are going to last the distance. 

We need the same. We need to draw each other on in faith and provide a resting place even while in motion. 

Remember this analogy and don't fear your current struggles disqualify you from any more than slow and struggling, or stuck in training wheels. 

You are learning everything you need, and when the time comes and the pace of what God is calling you to increases, it will be easier than you think. You will find that even though the demands may also increase, you will be ready and able to take your place in the body of other 'riders', and the momentum and flow of the Spirit will draw us all onwards, for the ride of our lives with God!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Where's the power of prayer?

I know that God will give you whatever you ask him - John 11:22

That was Martha to Jesus, when Lazarus had died. We all know what came next. God really did give Jesus whatever He asked for. Wouldn't it be amazing to have that same authority and access that Jesus had, to ask for anything of God, and have Him listen to us!

Oh, hang on... isn't that what we do have?

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. - 1 John 5:14-15

And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive - Matt 21:22

If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it - John 14:14

Ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you - John 15:7

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours - Mark 11:24

...I think we get the picture.

Ok, well, I've asked for lots of things... but where are they? If I can ask, if God hears me & if anything I ask in Jesus name will be done... why does it so often seem like nothing happens.

If God is the one "who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us" (eph 3:20) - why does it seem even less than I ask or imagine happens?

If healing the sick and more is mean to be a part of life for those who believe (Mark 16:17-18), and I am meant to do even greater works than Jesus did one earth (John 14:12)... where are these great things? 

How can it be true that I have, through Jesus, the same authority in prayer that raised Lazarus from the dead?

Maybe it is because I am not the body of Jesus. We are. We are the church - together we are the body. Together we bring Jesus to the world. Alone, maybe I'm just kind of like part of Jesus' fingernail. I need the rest of the finger, the hand, the arm, which needs to be connected to the shoulder, which is attached to a healthy torso, which is supported on strong legs...

You get the picture.

Now, don't get me wrong. There would have been a whole lot of power even in just Jesus' finger nail. Praying alone doesn't mean God doesn't hear you or your prayers don't work. He does, and they do.

But alone our spiritual life is never going to be as full and alive as when we are connected the fully functioning body. When the church seeks unity and spiritual growth and maturity together, when we see health restored to the life of the church, I believe we will see greater power in the prayers of Christians, both  collectively and individually. 

For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them - Matt 18:20

And this is a good thing! We need each other. We were never meant to carry this power or authority alone. God knows how much we benefit in seen and unseen ways from relying on, serving, praying with, praying for and worshiping with each other. 

If we want the same power and authority and results from our prayers as Jesus had, we need to come together as one body and
do what Jesus did.

And what did he do?

- He prayed - a lot. He was always taking time away to spend it with God. Both together with others and when we are alone, we need to take this time and spend it with God. Jesus knew the Father heard Him and knew His voice intimately.

- He was moved by compassion. We ask and do not receive when we ask with the wrong motives. (James 4:3) We want to spend it on ourselves. But Jesus asked because He was moved with compassion for the needs and suffering of others. Jesus wept! When need to open our hearts to love others as He did, from deep down inside. (And we definitely need each other for that - we cannot pour out love when we do not receive His love, and one huge way that happens is through others.)

- And what did Jesus do with his power and authority? He humbled himself as a servant, to not condemn the world but to save it. As a body, we need to do the same. We need to worry less about what the world is doing wrong, and start giving out this transforming love through our actions towards lost, oppressed and hurting people.

As this intimate prayer, compassion and servanthood begins to increase in the body, the Church, I believe we will also see an increasing in the power and effectiveness of our prayers to see miracles, to heal and to set people free!!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Forgiveness Isn't Time Based

Even if I've accepted that God really does forgive me for every single thing - and a lot/all of us haven't quite even worked that out properly - I still notice in myself a tendency to think of forgiveness as reactionary and based on time.

Consider this thought that in some form or another I feel has probably gone through our minds: "Thank you forgiving me God. You're so good. And I'm so grateful that next time I mess up, because I know I will, you'll forgive me then too!"

So that sounds positive. It's hopeful. We're being grateful. We're acknowledging our sinfulness but knowing that God will forgive again, so we aren't letting it get us down.

But, hang on - what's with that word 'again' - forgive again?

While I get our sentiment, I just realised that little word is masking quite a big theological error in me.

Thinking of forgiveness as time based. Like we sin, we admit it and then God forgives.

But wait - when Jesus died on the cross before I was born and said 'it is finished', if God is only forgiving me now, again, what was all that for?

If forgiveness is based on time, when we actually do the wrong thing, then God should have waited til the absolute last day before the world ends, and then Jesus can take it all.

You'd think this would have been more clear to me before this - considering my blog is even named on the fact that Jesus died for us while we're still sinners.

But somewhere lurking in all those subtle wrong thoughts that get twisted with the right ones, I realised I sometimes I was acting like Jesus' death and resurrection was just the pardon written out but without the signature. That I still have to get God to sign it now, every time, again.

But when Jesus said it was finished, that really was it. Totally. Completely.

It was all signed, sealed and final before we were even in existence.

Because God is outside of time. We have been in Him always, not just when He thought one day, "This looks like a good time to create a Jessie. Lets see how she turns out."

And each day, He isn't surprised that I do something wrong. He isn't disappointed. (Because that implies He expected something different and I failed to deliver.) He's not hoping for something different today, then sighing when He has to clean up another mess...

So when I ask forgiveness today, I'm just recognising that I stepped away, and stepping back into what is already mine.

God's already seen my tomorrows. He's already in them. He doesn't have to wipe the slate clean again tomorrow after a bad day today. When I'm in Jesus, the slate is always clean, permanently.

Because Jesus is in me. Because I am in Jesus. God looks at us and sees the same slate that Jesus has. He sees us as perfectly clean and righteous because we are in his perfect and righteous son.

We will step out of that time and time again - over and over we seem to forget and look back to our owned messed up slate and start thinking that defines us - and then have to turn back and remember the truth, time and time again. But God is not in time.

When I read 'His mercies are new every morning' I was thinking He had to restock after I depleted them the day before. But actually His mercies are boundless and infinite. They just seem new to me every morning because I reminded afresh of how amazing it is that I am forgiven.

He forgave us, once and for all, at the cross. That encompasses everything. Always.

God is never surprised. He's never disappointed.

When you find yourself tripped up by sin and rebellion and blindness again, He only reaches for you and longs for you to put your eyes back in Him.

And as constant as His forgiveness is His delight in you!!

Great is His faithfulness!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Both Worship and Service

Imagine a husband and wife.

Which of these would be better?

If one served the other - out of love - doing things for them, and looking out for their needs, providing things for them. But never showed any emotion. Never got lost in passion or adoration for them. While the husband might know the wife loved him, and see it in her actions, wouldn't he long to feel it too?

Or if one showed passion to the other, made their love clear. But then did nothing to serve the other. Bursts of adoration, but then ignored. Wouldn't they wonder why this person who professed so much love was never moved to act on it for them?

Surely we would say that neither is better. That one would make people burned out and used up, and the other would feel good in the moment, but not be lasting. Different people might display these if different proportions, but if one is almost absent, the marriage would be in trouble.

It is the same in the church, as the Bride of Christ.

We need both worship and service. Neither is less than the other. Both are so necessary and so right. Different people may display these expressions of love in different proportions - and the many members come together to create the one harmonious body. But still in each individual person, we cannot have one entirely without the other.

Worship and adoration, being moved and swept up in love for Jesus, longing for His embrace, being overwhelmed by His presence and grace... these are such wonderful, important things.

When Mary poured out her valuable perfume over Jesus just days before his death, her act of sacrificial worship was praised and deeply appreciated by Him. There was no better way she could have used that perfume at that time, than to worship and lavish love on Jesus.

And service - Jesus, in all His power and position as the Son of God, chose to humble himself as a servant. And He tells us to do the same with our inheritance as co-heirs. We should clothe the naked, feed the hungry, free the oppressed. Whatever we do for the least, we are doing for Him.

But are we then to say... I'm a server. I'm practical. I'm not emotional or touchy feely, so I don't really get much out of worship. Even the most stoic man or woman must lose themselves in love for their husband or wife at least sometimes. Why would love for Jesus never overtake us likewise, and so much more so?

Or if we are worshippers, if we feel strongly the emotions and passion of love for and from Jesus... should that not then move us to act? To pour out that same love on others, just as Jesus did? Why would we only hoard it for ourselves, if our worship truly is sacrificial and transformative?

We need both - the fire and the long burning fuel for those flames.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Creation is a gift to delight us

Have you ever watched a show like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition? A huge team if building crew and community volunteers comes in, an while a family in need get sent away on holiday, the team demolishes their old crumbling house and builds them a brand new one. In a week!

If the family has special needs they go to great lengths to include everything they require. Quite often, especially when designing the kids bedrooms, they will include fun and whimsical things. These are not for practicality but purely to delight and surprise
the children.

The overwhelming gratitude an screams of delight from the family is a sight to behold!

There's someone else who created something amazing from nothing, also in a week. He also included everything to provide for our needs, and also a whole lot that is just a gift to surprise and delight us.

Creation is God's gift for His beloved children. (That's us).

The beauty an colour when the sun sets, the aesthetic balance and form of a tree, a rainbow that appears when it rains. All these are for our delight and wonder.

The way the weather and atmosphere and element enable us to live, breath, grow and multiply - all perfectly tuned for our needs.

What would we think if the extreme makeover team, and the volunteers who helped, returned to see the family and the house they gave them and found it trashed and plundered. Stripped of its beauty and neglected so that its no longer functioned properly as a home. If some family members had robbed the other rooms for themselves leaving brothers and sisters with nothing.

We would be horrified at their lack of gratitude; their total is regard for the wonderful gift they ha received.

At yet we do this to our home on earth. We plunder its resources rather than steward and care for them. We trash its beauty with selfish disregard. Those of us with the means rob far more than our fair share and leave others with the consequences.

How would our approach to the world we live in be different if we thought of it as a wonderful gift bestowed by one who takes every opportunity to proclaim His love us?

If we believe the earth came about by random chance, then sure, why does it matter why we do with it.

But if we believe it was an act of love by our Creator, then let that move us to rejoice in the gift by delighting in its beauty, stewarding its resources well and giving praise to God through the way we care for this gift.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Jesus saved my life. And then He wrecked it.

I once was lost, but now I'm found. It's just that where I find myself is not exactly where I thought it would be. (It's bigger and better - but a lot more challenging.)

With the exception of a period in my teen - young adult years, I've always been a Christian. It was quite a major exception, though. Lets call them my "prodigal son/daughter" years. I was rebellious and stubborn; I did harmful things to myself in the name of personal freedom; I let wounds fester and consume me, just because I wouldn't let anyone 'tell me what to do'. I told God I didn't believe in Him anymore (oh the irony) because I felt like he'd let me down too badly.

And I was miserable. In all of the outward display of freedom and fun, I was lost and dying inside.

I think you know where this story is going... Jesus saved me.

It's a pity that a statement like that is glossed over as a cliche these days, because it's actually so profound. But it's almost impossible to explain unless you have lived it yourself, and even then the impact is often lost.

It was both instant and gradual.

When you are rescued the initial relief is instant and amazing. And yet there are still things to deal with from your time in chains. There are wounds and trauma and old habits that die so, so hard. There are even detours back into captivity when for some brief periods the difficulties of dealing with pain don't seem worth it and you want to hide back in the familiar dark.

But I am so grateful for the way God always had his hand on me, so that even when I thought I was as far away from Him as I could get, He was preparing the way ahead.

It got gradually easier to see that there was purpose even in the pain, and that God was healing me of many things. But I thought that was pretty much it. Jesus saved me from self destruction and the rest of my life was going to be about putting me back together. I honestly thought that the rest of my life was going to involve 'dealing with things'.

Oh, I knew it would get easier. I saw glimpses of joy and peace. But while it wasn't a totally conscious thought, I believed life would always be hard for me.

I had gone away from God because I felt the Christian life was boring and it was too hard to be good. Now that I was back, I realised that God was there to strengthen me, and it was religion and legalism that made me feel burdened and judged, not Jesus. But somewhere in there I was still believing that life for me was going to mean giving up old dreams and passions that had led me astray, and settling down into a sort of quiet, peaceful and slightly boring life. I thought I just had to make the best of it.

I think a lot of us believe that to some extent or in some form. While we may read of the exciting lives of a few extreme missionaries, leaders and disciples, we tend to think that's for the select minority and for the rest of us Christianity is just quiet submission to an ordinary and hopefully comfortable, trouble free life. No wonder we don't get that excited about heaven - we think its just an extension of a quiet life with no dangerous excitement or passion.

And you know what? If you live like that for a while, you stop aspiring to anything more. You become numb to the passions that stirred in your youth, and you start thinking that this is what you want - a regular life, climbing the ladders put in front of you, acquiring things and comfort to make your life easy, and maybe giving other people a little leg up the rungs if it comes easily to do so.

That's where I found myself.

There had been things God had asked me to let go of - and I'd obediently done it, trying to push away the feelings of sadness and loss at watching my dreams packed away. I tried to bury any discontent, because I thought God had asked me to live a quiet life and stop searching for something else.

The thing is, if I'd just taken those feelings to God instead of burying them, I might have heard Him sooner telling me that it was just temporary, that the things I was giving up were not packed away to never see the light of day. They were given to Him. He was taking my dreams and desires, and refining them, shaping them - refining me and shaping me - until the right time to lay hold of them together.

And as He gives me back, piece by piece, some of the dreams I thought were lost to me, I am beginning to see a clearer and clearer vision of what those dreams really look like when they start to become reality.

And that's where the wrecking my life bit comes in.

Because the great thing about dreams in the dreaming stage is that they can be anything. In a day dream, anything is possible; there's no fear, no doubt, no pesky limitations when everything is still in the airy imagination stage.

Then God starts giving you what you said you always wanted. Oh boy... You mean when I used to dream about doing big things and changing the world... It might actually be possible??

Umm... I don't know about this anymore. In my day dreams I'm always a lot more confident, equipped, popular, daring, talented and thin.... and I didn't have a 10 month old daughter and no sleep. I don't think I can actually do this...

But the more Jesus reveals himself to me, the more he ruins any chance of me returning to a quiet, comfortable life. Though it terrifies me, it also thrills me; when I imagine living not just for Jesus, but like Jesus and with Jesus and through Jesus - when I imagine the possibilities of a fully awake and unified and passionate body of Christ - I can't look back. It's too good. It's too exciting, and full of purpose and promise and passion.

And it's unsettling.

The tension within me is telling me to either give away everything I own right now... Or take a nap til it passes. One of the two is going to happen somehow.

Either we are going to put our money - and life - where our mouth is and embrace the fact that Jesus was serious when He told us what life with Him would be like, or we are going to retreat further into comfort and as much ease as we can acquire, while everyone else fends for themselves - and we miss the whole point while we are spiritually sleeping.

I'm telling you, if you thought Jesus saved you from pain simply for a life of quiet ease until you get to heaven, and if that thought bores you and you are feeling flickers of old dreams and new passions stirring up the dust - watch out. If you've convinced yourself you know what it means to be a Christian, but you can feel the tension of knowing there's something missing, take another look at what Jesus really said.
Don't play dumb any more.

The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How will I ever get on in the world?
- Søren Kierkegaard

Jesus is about the wreck your life - and it might just be the best thing that could ever happen to you!

I can't wait!!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Don't speak until you hear me say "Shout!"

Have you felt like you aren't really heard? Like you've got things to say, thoughts to express, but no one really understands?

At times I've felt like the words I speak are met with such silence, as if I had literally not even spoken.

Other times its just a feeling, emotional or spiritual, that the words you're saying are heard with the ears but not with hearts and minds.

Take heart. I think God has allowed this silence for a purpose.

Like surrounding Jericho, we have been silently moving into position for the right time.

And we God says "shout", our voices will be heard and walls will fall, strongholds of injustice and suffering will crumble.

Hold tight to the whispers, words and stirrings in your heart. The time is coming soon to raise your voice. We will be in silence no longer.

Monday, August 19, 2013


This week - and for a lot of weeks now - it seems to have been raining non stop. Which would be fine because normally we love sitting inside listening to the rain. Except that this week the rain has been getting inside our house.

A crack has opened up above our sliding glass door. When it is raining and windy at the same time, water is somehow getting under the eaves of our roof, filling up in the wall cavity and then steadily escaping above the door into our house.

So we are waiting to see if its the responsibility of the company who built our house two years ago, or if our insurance company covers it, or whether we'll have to pay for it ourselves.

Meanwhile, water keeps dripping.

When this began I was about to talk to my husband about sponsoring a child.

But in the face of our own financial uncertainty I thought, maybe now's not the best time.

Then another little voice said - maybe now is the perfect time.

Generous (adj.) - "showing readiness to give more of something, especially money, than is necessary or expected"

It's easy to feel 'generous' when you've got plenty. But is it really generosity when you're giving only when you've covered your needs, wants and then some, and will give from the excess?

Shouldn't our faith in God's provision extend beyond that, to freely giving even when we aren't 110% sure of our own security?

Luke 21:1-4
And then He turned His attention from the religious scholars to some wealthy people who were depositing their donations in the offering boxes. A widow, obviously poor, came up and dropped two copper coins in one of the boxes.
Jesus: I’m telling you the truth, this poor widow has made a bigger contribution than all of those rich fellows. They’re just giving from their surplus, but she is giving from her poverty—she’s giving all she has to give.

We don't think all that much of greed these days, not really, not unless its in-your-face obvious. But greed is actually subtle, and has permeated so much of our lives. And Bible takes greed seriously. Just look what happened to Judas who was overtaken by it and then betrayed Jesus.

I think we need some radical generosity to heal our corrupted hearts.

But God doesn't just tell us to do it because its 'right', He's not trying to make us go without to be more pious.

He knows the beautiful paradox of His kingdom, where the more we give, the richer we are. Maybe not financially (but He'll take care of you there too), but in all the ways that really count.

Isaiah 58:10
If you make sure that the hungry and oppressed have all that they need,
then your light will shine in the darkness,
And even your bleakest moments will be bright as a clear day.

So maybe that's saying that even of our water logged wall falls down, or everything seems bleak - if we care just as much about others as we do ourselves, the light of God will make our lives the brightest they've ever been.

I'll take less house and money any day if it means so much more God.