Monday, November 21, 2011

Project 3:11 - No shirt, no one cares.

No shirt, no cares. As long as I've got some.

Well, I know that's not entirely true. Plenty of people care. And plenty more people probably would when confronted with it. But do we care enough to do something? Do we care enough to change the way we live our lives - even if it's is contrary to the way our society functions?

"If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry." Luke 3:11. Do we take that seriously?

When I was reading John Smith's book, Sharpening the Cutting Edge, he described an incident when a man on the run - a criminal running from other criminals - came to his house with torn up feet because he had no shoes. John gave him a pair. And not just one pair of many, but one of only two pairs of shoes John owned.

That struck a chord with me. Just a few days before, I had been looking for something and opened a cupboard I hadn't opened in a while. In that cupboard are at least 15 pairs of shoes. I got a surprise when I opened it because I had almost forgotten they were even there.

How can one person be giving away one of two pairs of shoes to someone who has none, while I have so many I can forget I even have half of them?

I don't consider myself extremely materialistic. I would normally comfort myself in the knowledge that I'm not a shop-a-holic. That there are people far worse than me. That I'm not excessive in buying clothes, by western society's standards. That I normally only get things I need.

But I was convicted. What is my definition of need? I don't have shoes to match this outfit, so I need new ones? I'm going to a wedding and can't wear the same dress as I did to the last one, so I need a new one. I've had the clothes I currently have for years and they are out of fashion, so I need new ones....

Compare that to someone who has not a single pair of shoes, so they need some. Someone who has only one outfit of clothing that is falling apart, so they need new ones. Someone who is freezing to death on the streets, and needs warm clothes.

My excuses, while valid and acceptable in my circles of friends, sound hollow and pathetic, and downright selfish in comparison.

But what do I do about it? That was my next question. It is no use feeling convicted if that leads to no action, other than an increased sensation of guilt when I next go shopping.

Am I brave enough to refuse to go on the way I have? Will I risk being unfashionable and dated, having clothes that are old, and having people notice that I wear the same things over and over?

Those reasons sound a bit silly - why does it matter? But if we admit it to ourselves, it does. Perhaps it is because of our work, and the image we present. Or our social standing. Or the way we want others to perceive us by what we wear and what we own. The way we want to view or perceive ourselves. For some reason, buying and owning things is very important to us.

What is it that drives us? And what prevents us from seeing how superficial those things are? Or if we do see it, what prevents us from acting on it?

These are the questions that just won't go away. And so I'm taking some action.

I don't know what the best long term action to take is. Consumerism, capitalism, materialism - those are monolithic ideals to grapple with outright.

But I do strongly believe, even in the face of ingrained social structures, one person can make a difference. But it can't stop with one person. It's no good me making a change, then simply going about my life pleased with myself for being so caring.

And what good is me stopping buying clothes if the only result is simply that I have less clothes, or worse - more money to spend on other equally unnecessary things.

So what I am planning is somewhat of an experiment. An investigation. A mission.

My first step is to go 12 months without buying any clothes, shoes or accessories (handbags, jewellery, scarves etc). How will I cope with that? I suspect it will feel easy until something wears out, breaks, or doesn't fit anymore. Or until I have a wedding to go to. Or until I walk into a shop and see a pretty dress. Or simply open a magazine. How will I combat these things?

The second step is to do something good with this experiment. I estimate that I currently spend around $1000 a year on clothes. I think this may be less than average, which means some probably spend less and some far more - But is the attitude and values behind the spending that I intend to focus on. I could be in danger of spending less on clothes only to spend more on something else to compensate.

So step 2a is to investigate what to do with the money I would have normally spent on myself.

Step 2b is to investigate how to better spend the money when we do buy things - eg. Finding companies that give back, such as TOMS and hello somebody. Looking at op shops and second hand clothing options. If you have suggestions, let me know.

Step 2c is to investigate how best to give away some of my more than two shirts, a la Luke 3:11. I suspect, expect and hope that this will involve more than just getting more creative with my wardrobe, but getting more creative with my attitude.

Step 3 is to look into the attitudes behind spending,accumulating and possessing. How can we realistically live in a western society and yet follow Biblical principles? Is it possible? And if it is, is it possible without a complete overhaul of society? How can everyone live their lives with social justice in mind without having to become a hippie or a radical?

Is my experiment too extreme to be realistic? Not extreme enough to effect real change?

What will be the affect on my life? What will be the outcome in my lifestyle and my attitudes?

Step 4 is to share it. Affect wider reaching change than just my own life. So I will be blogging ( & jc&me) and vlogging as I go. Answering some of the questions I have posed above, your questions if you have any, and no doubt coming up with far more questions than I have answers. And at the end of it producing something for others to take away from, ie a book.

So follow along if you dare... I hope to do the experiment so others don't have to. So we can all then do the actions that will actually make a difference. But I also want this to be a dialogue, not just a one woman crusade.

A quick google search will reveal that going a year without buying clothes is not a unique concept. It has been done before. So if I'm going to do it, it has to be about more than just 'shopping my wardrobe' or saving money. It has to be about more than me.

If you have any questions for me to investigate, people or companies to talk to, issues to tackle, your own experiences and stories to share - let me know.

The experiment officially begins January 1, 2012 so that I am prepared and there is a plan and method rather than a fumbled knee-jerk reaction.

But my conscience has already got the better of me, and I think, I hope, that the change in my heart has already begun.

Monday, November 14, 2011

God OFTEN gives us more than we can handle

One of the misquotations of the Bible that frustrates me most is when people say "God doesn't give us more than we can handle". It's meant to be a comfort, to tell us that things will never get so bad we can't handle it. And, oh, I know it's meant to comfort us that God is looking out for us. But it is an ill conceived and misleading comfort.

Firstly, nowhere in the Bible does God promise life will never serve us more than we can handle. In 1 Corinthians 10 it says that God will not allow us to be tempted more than we can bear, and when we are tempted he will provide a way out. This means that there is always the choice not to sin.

This has nothing to do with handling hardships and trials, which is what is implied in the misquotation.

It is no wonder people accuse Christians of simply having a god and a religion to make us feel better about the things that are out of our control, like God is a cosmic comforter blanket, when we ourselves treat him so. Like God is there to make sure, once we are Christians, that life is easy and cotton wool wrapped from the harshness of the rest of the world.

The fact is, God regularly gives us more than we can handle. He gives us responsibilities and challenges that are way beyond what we are qualified to deal with.

And while he doesn't give them to us, he also allows to experience events and circumstances in life that are heavy enough to crush us.

The important thing to remember in this is, along with what he gives us and allows us to experience, he also NEVER leaves us. We are too weak to handle much of what life will deal us - but God is not. There will be much we are given that we can't handle - but God can.

We have a responsibility to not be cotton wool wrapped Christians. We should know the words of God well enough to not misuse them and misquote them.

Saying God won't give us more than we can handle simply makes the people who feel like they are being crushed think that there is something wrong with them; it causes disillusionment with a god they think must have abandoned them.

It perpetuates an idea that Christianity is about being a safe distance from the world, on a fluffy cloud free from pain.

And that it is up to us to be strong. That there is something wrong with us if we are in pain.

If Jesus' life is any indication - and shouldn't it be every indication - being a Christ follower is not about a painless, cushy life. How can we expect treatment better than Jesus himself received?

But that shouldn't frighten us if we know the Rock on which we stand. When we know the Word of God, we know God. God may not have promised freedom from hardship in this life, but he is and has promised many things. Immanuel - God with us. Redeemer. Jehovah-Jireh. Almighty. Shepherd.

We have a God who is good. Who will never leave us nor forsake us.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
. Psalm 34:19

We will be given and experience more than we can handle. And why? Because the point is not to rely on ourselves, on our own strength, but on a God who has overcome it all.

For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. (2 Cor 1:8,9, emphasis mine).

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Nothing is wasted

Sometimes what we are doing seems small. We feel small.

We work hard and get weary, and sometimes it's hard to see what we are even achieving. Sowing into people's lives, into relationships, into faith and into a walk with God - it's not results based. There's no quantifiable measurement or report card or award to tell you your progress.

The seeds you sow today may not sprout or be harvested for years. You may never see the outcomes.

And sometimes it feels like if you just gave up and did nothing it wouldn't even make a difference.

But when you feel like throwing it all in, that's when we need to remind ourselves of what it is we are actually working for.

It's not for immediate results or recognition. It's for eternity.

And nothing we do to serve God is ever wasted. Even if it seems small now, even if you can't see how it will ever pay off, even if not a single person notices how hard you are working - God sees. And it counts.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

1 Corinthians 15:58

Monday, November 7, 2011

Faith that He is and that He will

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
-Hebrews 11:6

Without faith, we cannot please God. And faith in what? That God exists. That's the first thing. But I just noticed something that I had never noticed in this verse before. It doesn't end with just believing God exists, but also having faith that God cares and will respond to us.

The Message version words it helpfully:

It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.

All this time I've believed and had faith that God exists, that God is there, that he is real. And I am seeking him. But where my faith has faltered, and where I think many people's does, is in really believing that God will actually come through if I earnestly seek him.

And so I've half-heartedly sought him, afraid that I'll just be wasting my time, that nothing will happen, that he won't be found and I'll just be left disappointed.

But to approach God, I can't just have faith that he is there - I know that - but also have faith that I actually can draw near to him and that he will draw near to me.

Why do we find it so hard to believe? The Bible is full of verses telling us that - come near to God, and he will come near to you. Seek, and you shall find. Call on [him] and [he] will answer. 'You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart'.

And therein lies the rub - that's risky, that 'all your heart' business. We are used to our hearts being breakable, fragile things. The thought of giving all of it - well, that's scary.

But if we want to approach God, that's what he requires. Not that we do enough good deeds and pray the right prayers. But that we earnestly seek him. That we give all of our hearts.

And our faith that he will respond.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Blogging through... Sharpening the Cutting Edge #2

I don't know about you, but when I imagine defending my faith and standing up to injustice I imagine the 'other' people being those who aren't called Christians, those who believe something different to me.

I forget that a counterfeit that is labelled the real thing can be even more dangerous.

John describes an encounter in the Philippines. The mayor of a village was bulldozing villagers houses for his own building projects. John and others with him ran in front of the bulldozers and attempted to disable them. That was when a vigilante pointed a rifle at John. But it was the t-shirt that drew his attention. The man pointing the gun and supporting the bulldozing of villagers homes wore a t-shirt reading "Kill a Communist for Jesus".

These people who called themselves Christians also later used scripture to justify asking these people to turn in those who had supported their opposition of the corrupt mayor.

It should remind us that our faith is not defined by going to church or knowing Bible verses, or by calling ourselves "Christian" - it is defined by our actions, our beliefs and the love of Jesus acted out in our lives. It's about a real encounter and relationship with God - because without that we open ourselves to twisting even the words of the Bible to suit our own purposes.

And isn't that what the devil loves. A counterfeit that looks like the real thing. The boundaries between the Truth and a warped version can get so much more blurry, than if we compare our faith to someone who believes something completely different.

The truth is not just knowing the words - even the devil knows the words. The Truth is Jesus. The living Word is Jesus.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Blogging through...Sharpening the Cutting Edge #1

With a name like Sharpening the Cutting Edge you would expect John Smith to give it to us straight, and he doesn't disappoint. Which is refreshing. I even see it in myself - a tendency to get too concerned about being offensive or saying the wrong thing or being misunderstood that I dull the blade of what I really think. But sometimes things become so safe and palatable that they've lost any meaning.

And so do our lives become insular and sheltered from what is really going on.

The first thing that really got me as I read this book was the sentence: "But how many people deny themselves chocolate on the basis that a large proportion of the world's supply is produced from cocoa farmed by slaves?"

I felt sick.

I had never bothered to think about it. I can't excuse myself for lack of knowledge - I'd heard about it and the information is not hidden had I looked for it. But I had chosen not to care.

Do I need chocolate that much that I don't care if people are in slavery to produce it?

We joke about being addicted to chocolate, needing our chocolate fix... but when we really think about it, how pathetic are we, relying on a sugary luxury to the detriment of others. It's chocolate. Not water. Not medicine. Two things which many people are denied and yet we value a confectionary product and our own taste buds over those things.

We look back on the abolition of slavery in the 19th century and applaud those who stood in opposition to the status quo and stood up for human rights. We probably imagine ourselves being those people - because we are at a safe distance from those events. No one can actually call us to action on that issue. And yet most of us probably sit on our couches eating chocolate quietly ignoring the fact that slavery is still happening.

This was my first introduction to John's book. It must have shocked me so much I didn't dare pick it up for a while after that, because it was months ago that I read that sentence.

Take the quote on the back seriously when it says, "This book is dangerous in the righteous sense of the word. One simply cannot read it without feeling the ground on which one stands being shaken..." (Alan Hirsch)

So with that in mind, I read on with trepidation but excitement. I love a good ground shaking....

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

For yourself vs By yourself

We can't copy someone else's journey.

While God is the same, an absolute Truth, and what he has done for us, he has done for ALL of us...we can't simply copy the way someone else does it and expect it to work for us.

God works individually in each of us. And there are many things you will need to work out for yourself. Something that is right for one person, may not be for you. You have different talents and gifts. You also have different weaknesses and problems.

If you see other Christian's drinking wine without problem, and yet you know that alcohol causes problems for you - saying, 'well they do it so it must be ok' is only going to get you into trouble.

And simply following a rule someone else has set without actually understanding why, or without a change in attitude or in your heart, does little good in the long run.

If I say to a child "Don't touch the oven", with no explanation, that may work for a little while. But if the child never believes for themselves that it is actually hot and touching will be a bad thing, one day they are going to want to touch it for themselves to find out.

You are not a passive passenger in your faith.

"work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12)

Don't take this as permission to ignore good advice from others or have a pick and choose faith - like I was tempted to think of it when I was younger and (more) rebellious. But it does mean there are things to be sought after, things to be worked out and learned and understood. And you need to do this for yourself. No one else can hand you a close relationship with God, or give you a recipe to follow from their lives. Your faith takes active participation on your part.

But for yourself is not the same as by yourself. By yourself means isolation, carrying the burden alone, and often a dangerous lack of perspective and accountability.

God of course needs to be involved, or what are we doing?

But God gave us other people for a reason. Taking another person's story as an exact to do list won't work, but neither will ignoring other's story because it is different to your own.

Learning from advice, leadership, friendship, example, teaching - these things all add to and guide your own journey with God.

Don't fall into the trap of "No one understands me. I'm not going to listen to them because they just don't get it." or "They couldn't handle that, but I'm stronger than that." We are all different and you will never find anyone who exactly 'gets' everything about you - but what you are looking for in finding people you can trust to have influence in your life is godliness. The commonality of a desire to pursue God is a powerful connector, no matter the other differences.

When we set ourselves apart from, away from or above others the only yardstick by which we measure things becomes our own. Everything seems right if you wrote the rule book.

Don't wait for someone else to work out your faith for you. Be active and pursue God. And remember that in pursuit of God, a relational God, other people will be and must be a part of it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Blogging through "Sharpening the Cutting Edge" by John Smith

For a man with the most unassuming name possible, John Smith has certainly had one H-E-double-hockey-sticks of a life.

From the cover of his book, it introduces this fascinating and challenging man as the "founder and Executive Director of Concern Australia and the founding President of God's Squad Christian Motorcycle Club of 35 years.... He is as much at home talking to business leaders, academics, church leaders, politicians and the media, as he is with school children, university students, the poor and marginalised, and outlaw motorcycle club members."

I heard him speak at my three day chaplain's conference earlier this year. There was some controversy as a few people were perhaps offended when he shouted at as during one of his talks. But I, for one, loved it. I think we need people who are not afraid to give it to us straight; who don't care if they make us uncomfortable; who, in fact, use discomfort as a powerful tool.

But it has taken several months to actually get around to reading his book. Perhaps because I knew it was going to be challenging, so I put it off.

I'm going to blog my way through it, commenting on the things that stick out to me. I've barely got through the first two chapters and already I've felt convicted, uncomfortable, near tears, and profoundly inspired.

Get ready for a bumpy ride.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Refiner's fire

   I will refine them like silver
   and test them like gold.
(Zechariah 13:9)

Being made pure and refined by God is a beautiful thing. Think of the beauty and value of pure gold and pure silver. Something pure is free from imperfections and blemishes and things to dilute or marr it.

But think of how gold is purified. It may be melted in fire many times over before it is completely free of impurities.

Now, fire. That doesn't seem so pretty. So the actually becoming pure - not so easy. It will mean testing. It will mean the heat will be on. It will mean that a lot of impurities may come to the surface to be removed.

But that's the important part - they will be removed, burned away. And what is left is pure. What is left is you, as God created you to be, without all the junk.

The fire does not destroy you. It does not burn indescriminantly. It only burns away what is not meant to be there. The process of refining is worth the end result.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

pure and useful

When God looks at us, he sees someone pure, someone covered and redeemed in Christ's blood. We can approach him without fear because of Jesus.

If this wasn't so, we would all still having to be going through the rituals of a high priest to be able to even get close to God. There are chapters and chapters dedicated to just describing all the rules of the set up of the tabernacle and the requirements of the priests, down to the type of thread in the clothes they wore. A person had to be clean and purified to approach God - or we see what happened to those who approached God without being pure. Such as the guy who tried to stop the ark from falling and was struck dead because he touched it.

Those sort of examples seem horrifying to us. He was just trying to help! was my first reaction. But it is meant to emphasize to us the absolute holiness of God.

But that doesn't need to make us fearful, now. Because of Jesus, we have been purified. We can freely approach God. What a marvelous, amazing gift and blessing. We can go boldly into his presence, like a child to their father.

While in the old testament the priests made regular sacrifices in the tabernacle where God dwelled, on behalf of all the people - now we have a High Priest who made the ultimate sacrifice. And now God dwells in US. (That is us, as in you and me - not the U.S.)

Though we still act sinfully, we do not need to be ashamed before God. He sees us as purified. why do I still need to live a certain way then. Doesn't it not even matter. If it's by grace we are saved - why do anything?

The answer to that question, one that if we are honest with ourselves we have probably all considered at some time, depends on what we think life is about.

Is it just a waiting room where we sit on an uncomfortable bench until the heaven train comes to pick us up?

Or is it something meant to be lived, a time to serve God, a time to be of use in the kingdom of Heaven, while we wait for that eventual enternity?

Because then I think all the 'stuff' we think God is telling us to do, is actually his provision of a way of life that makes things easier on us. He knows that if we live the way he has told us is right, then we will live freer and happier and more purposefully.

2 Timothy 2:20-21 - In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

We are pure and without shame before God - we are sinners, but that doesn't any longer exclude us from God's awesome presence.

But if we want to be free and unburdened in His presence, to realise the joy of the purity and freedom that God has already attained for us - then we'd be wise to stop fighting against the way of life God recommends.

Those people who say "If God forgives anything, I'll just live however I want and then just repent on my death bed" are missing the point. If the last second repentance is real, then Yes, those people will still be with God like those who became a Christian at age 2.

But it's not just about where we are when we die - if we live only for ourselves, what fullness and fulfillment are missing out on while we are living on earth?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Dotting the t's and crossing the i's

Dot your T's and cross your I's.

Sounds pretty silly doesn't it. Read it again if you missed it. It's easy to do if your read it or someone says it fast. It sounds like it's supposed to, until you realise that it's backwards.

It sounds like the saying that means get everything perfect and do it just the right way. But it actually makes no sense. If you did that - put dots on t's and crosses on i's - you would be achieving the opposite of getting things perfect.

Religion can be like that. We think a set of rules and doing everything just the right way will make it all work. But it's actually backwards. Religion can actually sometimes cause us to achieve the opposite of what we are meant to.

But the enemy likes to say it to us fast. Make us skip over it quickly, so we think we are seeing and hearing all the right things, so it must be right. He makes us miss the fact that it is all in the wrong order. All the right parts in the wrong places makes a big difference sometimes.

Rules cannot take the place of relationship. Doing all the 'right' things doesn't take the place of a right heart. Ritual doesn't take the place of devotion and love.

The devil likes to make us believe his version of things where we are still sinners in chains, who have to get the paperwork right to get free. And then he reminds us constantly that we don't know how to get it right.

Striving to get everything perfect actually gets in the way of what God has for us - because we never can get it perfect. We'll never attain that goal. Trying to will only distract us from really knowing God.

Because God is the only one who can make things perfect. God is the only one who can put things in the perfect order, the right parts in the right places. He has already done that for us.

Grace means that God's got everything covered. If and when we mess things up, it doesn't matter because God has already done it all. He's already crossed those t's. And he has won. He has triumphed over sin and death.

Because of Jesus, when God looks at us he doesn't see a messed up person who can't manage to live up to His rules. He doesn't see a failure in need of punishment. He sees a child, a pure, white, cherished creation. And he loves you.

Don't you just want to lay down everything you've been carrying and searching for to get it right, lay down the lies and the misdirection you've been struggling with, and just bask in that love?

Peace and joy. (Romans 5:1-11)


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Spreading the good news

I used to hate the word 'evangelize'. To me it brought up images of super outgoing people getting in other's faces speaking at them about stuff they didn't want to hear.

For me it was kind of a personal prejudice - I have to admit I was envious of the people who had the self confidence and out-going personality that made conversation with strangers easy.

But I also wondered what it achieved. I wondered if sometimes it was counter productive.

I know how uncomfortable I feel when random people approach me trying to talk to me about stuff. Even if it's about things I care about - being surprised on the street is not normally the place I want to talk to about it. So I normally decline politely and keep walking. Or try to avoid eye contact completely. (I want to apologize to everyone I ever walked past who wanted to talk to me... I probably make it way more awkward.)

But I've kind of changed my mind. Please don't start approaching me trying to sell me anything. But when it comes to evagelism, I'm not so afraid of the word anymore.

I realised - do I want people to know Jesus? Do I believe God wants people to know Him?

Then it's not about me. It's about them.

Those people who are searching and needing to hear the good news. The best news. The only news that really matters.

And you know what, it's not random. I think that putting ourselves out there willing to speak means we are giving God permission to use us - and He knows those people who need to hear it and when.

Approaching random people and talking at them still won't work for anything. But approaching people who God has already been speaking to, or who are in some stage of a journey in knowing Jesus - that's not random.

It's possible, but I don't think we are going to get 'conversions' every time we speak to someone about God. I don't actually think that's even the aim.

But being unafraid to speak about Jesus means another step, another piece, another moment in someone else's life that may just be helping to point them in the right direction.

Like Esther, if we don't do it, someone else will.

Not all of us are gifted at it - some people will walk the city streets on a Friday night and talk to all sorts of people. For others, we can start with those close to us. Those we maybe walk by, or say hello to, or buy our coffee from every day. Or even our friends, who maybe know we go to church, or that we are some 'Jesus' person, but with whom we've never actually had a conversation about faith before.

Start as small as you like. But start. Start speaking the name of Jesus, who the world so desperately needs. Don't keep Him to yourself.

1 Corinthians 2:4
My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power

Peace and joy. (Romans 5:1-11)


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

No Service?

The other day my phone signal kept disappearing. I was just in my own house, in my own living room, where I normally get perfectly good reception.

And yet, there, in clear letters across my phone screen - no service.

I had no internet that day either.

I felt completely disconnected. And there was nothing I could do about it.

Sometimes I feel like that with God. Like the signal's dropped out.

I know there should be a connection, because I've had it before. Just like normally I get a signal in my living room. But it's gone.

And sometimes it feels like there's nothing I can do about it.

On my phone, I can press all the buttons and reset all the settings as much as I like, but if I'm in a dead spot or the network is down it won't make any difference.

And sometimes it feels the same when I'm trying to talk to God. I can try all the 'buttons' I know - play music, read my Bible, sit quietly, pace, dance or even rage.... but I can still feel like I'm in spiritual dead spot.

And I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling this way - wondering what happened to the signal, and how do you get it back? Is there something wrong with me?

But there's nothing wrong with the phone - it is still functioning. And there's nothing wrong with anyone else's phone. I'm not receiving calls or messages, or getting on the internet. But that's not because people aren't calling or sending, or that the internet has disappeared.

It's the network.

If God is the caller, and my phone is me, then maybe it is the church that is the network. Communication lines are down. The system isn't functioning like it should. We should be in community, in fellowship.

But instead we are all on our own feeling disconnected. Everyone's trying to communicate but nothing is getting through, and so we are isolated.

Church should not be the place we go to look good on Sundays. It shouldn't be the place where we feel like we need to put on a happy face. It shouldn't be the last place people want to go when they are hurting because they fear being judged. It shouldn't be the place where people have replaced how to really talk and listen to God, with rituals and religion and light shows.

We need to get back online. God wants to fix the network for us, if we'll let him.

Maybe, in the mean time while we are figuring out what's one awry, we shouldn't wait for our phones to reset and receive calls again. We should get out of our living rooms and go to where each other are.

Maybe when I feel like I've lost the signal that lets me download that 'Jesus' feeling, I should go out and find Him where he is at. With the people He died for.

Peace and joy. (Romans 5:1-11)


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

God is not a secret

How would you feel if you got to pick a car out of two options - only to discover later that there was a third one, an amazing one, that you never knew about. Would it seem fair for others to say "Well, it was your choice - you could have chosen that third option." What would you respond?

Quite likely, you would say - "How could I choose it if I never knew about it?"

Now think about our faith.

We hold on to it like it's our personal possession. We've discovered it, but we act like everyone else will have to discover it on their own. We're 'in', that's all we need to worry about.

And why doesn't everyone else hurry up and realise what they're missing? We want them to notice we've got something they don't, and to want what we have - but then we aren't willing to go out there and tell them what that is.

It's like a whole bunch of people smugly watching us choose one of two cars, when they know that there is another one that would be perfect for us if only we knew about it - yet saying nothing.

Instead, we try to be comfortable for others. To water down and downplay our 'Jesus Freak-ishness' so as not to offend.

No wonder people don't want Christianity - most of what they see is far from genuine, so they don't even know what following Jesus really means.

We spend so much time catering to what other people think they want, that we forget to show them what is actually real.

“A lot of times people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
Jobs was talking about why he never designed products based on focus groups—what the average consumer thought they wanted in a phone or computer—but I think it applies to Christian communities, too. Sometimes we try too hard to be all things to all people, rather than just going all-out with the vision that’s been planted in us. It’s important to listen, but it’s also important to not get distracted and confused about the goal: Not giving people what they think they want, but living out the love and showing them what they didn’t know they wanted." From Kristin Tennant at 'Half Way to Normal'.

We very easily compromise, because we believe what others tell us about what they think they want.

But we know what is possible. We know what is real and true. We can't wait for others to ask us for something they don't even know exists.

They aren't going to. It's like the third car. If you don't know it's there, how can you ask for it?

And I'm not advocating Bible bashing, or even preaching on street corners.

We need to take hold of what we know for ourselves, really take hold of it and live it out in faith. Faith means believing that what we have is actually worth sharing no matter the cost.

Then we actually have something to offer those who are lost and searching, and don't even know what they are missing.

Jesus is not meant to be a secret.

Peace and joy. (Romans 5:1-11)


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Every day love

I wrote the other day about love as an order, a command. For Christians it's not an option - we must love others, even our enemies. Because Christ first loved us.

But what does that look like. Knowing we should love, and actually loving are two different things.

Well, it's actually more simple than you think. In the words of old school DC Talk, luv is a verb.

You act it out.

Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for a friend.

We often think of that verse in terms of dying for a friend. We say it - would you be willing to die for another person out of love? Like Jesus did.

But Jesus didn't only die for us, he also lived for us. And he lives for us.

Dying for someone out of love is almost a piece of cake compared to actually living for others out of love. Dying you only have to do once. Living is every single day.

What can you do right now to show love? Act it out. Even if you don't feel it, yet.

Peace and joy. (Romans 5:1-11)


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Love - it's an order.

Romans 5:8
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Do you get that?

It is that Romans 5 passage that is what my whole blog hangs on - hence (Romans) five: one - eleven. While we were still sinners... That's what Gods love is like. Completely undeserved, and yet completely unconditional. Would you die to save someone else? Perhaps if it was your closest friend or loved one. What about an enemy? Someone who would never do the same for you? Someone who would be happy that you were dead...

When I asked this of some students, one said, "Will me dying definitely save them, or is there still a chance that I would have died for nothing anyway?"

Good question. Did Jesus die on a guarantee? No - we were still sinners. And we have a choice. That means Jesus died for people who may never even choose to be saved because of it.

That's God love. Risky, bold, extreme, self sacrificing. And if we say we are followers and imitators of Christ, then it's required of us too.

Matthew 22
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Love God. Love others. Everything else hangs on this.

And loving your neighbour as yourself? That means seeing others as equal to yourself, in the full understanding of your own sinner status - meaning you are no more or less deserving than anyone else. We are all equally as undeserving.

Matthew 5:43-47
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?

It's easy to love those people who love you back. Those people who are nice to you and think you're an awesome person. But anyone can do that.

What about those who don't really care about you. Or those people who despise you? Or actively hate you? Do you love those people too?

Thanks for loving me God, but that's hard. I'll try, I guess, but I can't promise anything...

John 15:9-17
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.

So, you want to remain in God's love? Obey His command. What is that?

This is my command: Love each other.

See that little word - command. Yes, I know you physically see it. But do you really get it?

If you were in a group of soldiers in the middle of a war, and a command came through - what would happen if instead of obeying immediately everyone stopped to question it. 'are you sure', 'ok, but that sounds difficult', 'can't we do it later?' Bang, bang, bang. Everyone's dead because they were standing around thinking.

That's what a command is. It's not a suggestion or a 'pretty please, if you get around to it'.

Love each other. It's an order.

John 13:34-35
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Love is a big deal. And it's unusual. Real, true love - not simply the warm fuzzy feeling we have towards those who are easy to feel good feelings for. But the intense, consuming love that has no conditions or boundaries.

People will know we are Christians by this kind of love, if we can do it, because that kind of love is what the world is desperately looking for. They'll know it and want it when they see it; the question is, will they see it?

Because I think a lot of us as Christians are walking around desperately still searching for that kind of love ourselves. How can we show it if we don't have it?

We love because He first loved us. First you have to understand and be filled with God's love for you.

Seek Him.

Peace and joy - and all consuming love. (Romans 5:1-11)


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

That's an understatement...

The Bible is so wonderfully and frustratingly understated. A whole event, that may be several pages long in an embellished childhood Bible story book, can take place in a single verse. Often leaving us underwhelmed as to the true significance of what is contained in those few words.

Even the conception and birth of Jesus - a pretty important event, I think we'd all agree - is summed up in six verses in the first chapter of Matthew.

And so when we read quite sedately that an angel told Mary that she would have a baby from God, that Joseph thought of divorcing her, but then was told in a dream to marry her, and did - we just carry on sedately reading like thats all normal.

Wait, what? Hang on. First of all, an angel tells a girl she's pregnant even though she's a virgin. Just imagine your friend or daughter coming to you and telling you "I've never done the deed, honest, but I'm pregnant.".... Oh, sure, Mary.

And add to that, "God told me" and I'm sure that sort of thing has been grounds your family having you committed. Or burnt at the stake.

It sounds extreme. But seriously, imagine it. Would you have believed her, truly?

And then Joseph. Understandably, he comes to the conclusion that some other guy has made her pregnant. As far as he is concerned that leaves two options. One, quite legally, is to have her stoned to death. Horrific as it sounds to us, that would have been quite an acceptable punishment for what everyone would have considered adultery.

Joseph, though, was obviously a good man - he decided on the second option - to just quietly divorce her. As far as everyone else was concerned, he would have been well within his rights to get justice in the situation. But instead he chose to protect Mary and just quietly walk away.

But God - you know how he is, always turning our plans upside down - tells Joseph in a dream that Mary is telling the truth, and that the baby will be the Saviour, and his name will be Jesus.

Oh, ok. So off he trots to marry her. Off we go sedately reading again now...

Um, let's back up a little again. First of all, how convincing would a dream have to be to make you go against your instincts and forget what everyone else would think? Because this would have been scandalous! Imagine the gossip! Move over, Charlie Sheen.

Even in our society, where we hardly bat an eyelid and sex and pregnancy, we would wonder what on earth was going on with these people.

"Did you hear about Mary? My cousins friend's mum lives next to her mum, so I've heard it all."
"What you mean that crazy girl who thinks God got her pregnant."
"Yeah, that's the one. I mean, how silly does she think everyone is, to think we wouldn't know she's just been fooling around."
"Poor old Joseph, I wonder what he'll do."
"Well, you think he'd be at least happy to get out while he still can. Would have been a narrow escape, if you ask me. But, I heard he's going to marry her."
"What? When she's pregnant to some other guy? And crazy, to boot. Why would he...unless, it's not some other guy..."
"Exactly...why would he do that, unless he's got a guilty conscience. He got her into this mess, so he figures he better marry her."
"The whole things a mess. I'm just glad it's not my daughter! Can you imagine? I couldn't look my neighbours in the eye ever again with a family like that...."

And that's just a mild look at what we might think. Imagine the intensity of judgement that would have come from a society that stoned people to death.

Yet through it all, through what would have been a scandal and a stigma to follow them everywhere, through the danger and judgement...they were obedient to God no matter what it cost them.

And from that obedience came Jesus.

If Jesus was a store, the sign would read "Jesus Christ. Disrupting our comfortable lives since 6 B.C."

But aren't we glad he does.

Peace and joy. (Romans 5:1-11)


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Friday, September 16, 2011

SFF: Better than nothing

I'm always waiting for the perfect time. The perfect time to start eating healthier, lose weight, start an exercise program, sort out my wardrobe...

Trouble is I never have enough time/energy/motivation at any one time - so it's never the perfect time. So I never even start.

You see, I feel like if life isn't in a routine enough to start an exercise program and actually keep it up consistently for a long period of time, then why bother starting yet. But when is life ever in a routine consistently?

Or if I'm trying to start eating more healthily or lose weight...well, I've got all those events and get togethers coming up where it will be too hard to manage what I'm eating, so I'll start after that...But when is there ever going to be a time where nothing is on?

Every time I look the state of the clothes in my wardrobe...or should I say out of my wardrobe, because the floor and the bed and the washing basket generally contain more clothes than the wardrobe does...I just think, it's too big a job. I don't have the time and energy to sort that mess out right now, so I'll do it later. But who, looking at a mess, ever feels like they have the energy for it?

So everything stays as it is. I stay not exercising, not eating right, same weight, same mess. Because it's not the perfect time yet. But when will it be?

Never, that's when.

Because rarely do big overhaul changes work. But there is a time when something is better than nothing.

Like I've got 5 minutes right now... If I get down and do some sit ups, well I may not do anymore for another week or two, but at least it's better than nothing. Or if eat an apple now instead of those chips...well I may eat a bowl of ice-cream later, but at least I got that nutrition which is better than nothing. Or if every time I go into my room I put away two or three things, then at least something got done, rather than nothing, even if it's still messy.

And you know what, things change. 5 sit-ups this week, turns into some calf raises while standing in the shower and some dancing while I sweep the floor next week. And gradually the healthy to unhealthy food ratio tips back the right way, even if for now it's just eating one handful of chips instead of two, and a smaller piece of cake. And eventually the wardrobe once again contains at least half the clothes.

Then I can see things changing...even I'm still not fit, still not super healthy, and still see mess.

Because sometimes that one thing is better than nothing. Whether it's health, weight, exercise, housework, parenting, work, prayer, reading the Bible....

Don't wait for the perfect time/enough motivation/the exact right devotional book that will just solve it all. Don't wait for perfection before you start. Or you never will.

Big changes happen through small actions.

Peace and joy. (Romans 5:1-11)


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I can do all things...but should I?

You could do it. If you were given that task, job or responsibility that is beyond anything you've yet done or beyond what others think you are old enough or experienced enough for - you could do it.

And you could even do it very well. But at what cost? It would be at the cost of fair few mistakes and a whole lot of learning from experience. And probably at a cost to your peaceful sleep and low stress levels.

Sometimes when God is saying "not yet", he's not actually questioning or doubting our ability. He's not saying "no way, you would be hopeless at that". He knows you could do it. He also knows what it would cost you. He also knows how much more satisfying and effective it can be when you take the time to prepare - mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually.

He's saying "what I've got in store, you will enjoy it so much more if you wait until the right time, until it's not a stretch but a natural and right progression."

There is a reason Christians in ministry (or just life) burn out so often. It's not because God asks too much of us - it's because we take "I can do all things through Him who gives me strength" to mean "I Should do all things."

If God is saying "not yet", don't worry. He knows you could it. But funnily enough, God does actually want us to enjoy our lives and His plans, not just strain to reach higher and higher.

It's ok to wait.

Peace and joy. (Romans 5:1-11)


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

God's just lettin' you know

We think God is a god of mission statements and commands. Like if he tells us something, it's because he then wants us to carry it out.

"What's this, a message from God...ok, I'm listening. Right, got it. I'll get right onto that. I'll be back when I'm done to get my next assignment."

Maybe we think we're meant to be some kind of secret agents or action heroes - Your mission, should you choose to accept it...

We go off and try to make it happen - largely on our own, maybe with a few cursory check in's with 'mission control' - mostly to make sure God still knows we here trying our best.

We try to work out what steps to take, what effort to put in, what to do and say and put into place. And then we wonder what's going on when it seems like such hard work. Or we give up. Or we think we were wrong about the whole thing. This really is mission impossible, when we do it this way.

But sometimes, God probably wasn't giving you a command or mission statement that you had to carry out. Maybe he was just letting you know - "hey, kid - because I love you and because we're friends, I thought I might let you in on what's happening and the things I'm doing. Then we can share and enjoy them together!"

Sometimes it's right when we finally given up struggling to complete a mission that we have realised is beyond us, that God unfolds his perfect plan and his perfect timing; we discover he has placed everything where it needs to go already. We can relax. We can rest in him.

The path is already laid by God - yet for some reason we continue to think we need to build it; and so we busy ourselves digging ground and laying uneven pavers - until God gently guides us back and says, "Here, I've laid this path for you. It's straight and clear - let's walk on it together."

If you feel like God is telling you things, if he's given prophecies over your life, or revealed things that seem important - rejoice, and then relax. You can be excited and eager, but assured that God will direct your steps.

He's not telling you because you alone have to understand it all and make it happen somehow - you're his friend and his child, he wants you to be excited and in on the plans he has. Maybe he's just lettin' you know.

Then in Him is the impossible, possible.

Peace and joy. (Romans 5:1-11)


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Devote and destroy

When the walls of Jericho fell (Joshua 6:20&21) the Israelites rushed in a devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed it totally.

In re-reading an old journal entry I found a note: devoted, "the Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them."

Devoted. Never has that word seemed so scary.

We say we have devoted our lives to God, but have we really?

Devotion means destroying our former selves and lives completely. That's why it can feel so scary to be completely submitted. Not because we don't think God has good plans for us, but because we know along the way there will be a lot that is uncovered and destroyed before God fulfills his plans in us. And we can be pretty certain that it's rarely going to be a painless process. Especially since many of us have spent a lifetime building a walled fortress far more imposing than Jericho around our hearts.

How much are we trying to cover and hide with walls as if God can't see through them? Yet still pretending we are fully devoted to God.

But you know what, those walls come down relatively easily if we let God have his way. A job that seemed impossible - destroying Jericho - the Israelites did by simply walking around the city. They didn't have to go in fighting and battering - they simply had to show a bit of commitment, and ignore the inevitable thoughts of "this is stupid, everyone is laughing at us" and let God have his way. Sure it took a while, but compared to what it would have taken the human way to defeat that city, marching was nothing.

Then when everything was laid bare, they had to destroy it completely. Spare nothing.

Leave no vestige of your old life or sinful nature behind to sprout again like noxious weeds. Devote it. Destroy it.

Then what you will have left is the promised land. A clean and pure heart. No obstacles or distractions between you and God.

It IS worth the pain.

Peace and joy. (Romans 5:1-11)


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Parents are custodians of Gods children

I was running a bible study with some young people and talking about how God is beyond our understanding. And that's a good thing, because it means we didn't create him and we should be glad about that. If our God was created by us we'd end up with a god like the ancient Greeks and Romans, whose gods were just as flawed as humans, but with a whole lot more power with which to cause trouble. Anything we create is going to be less than us because it has to be within the realms of our understanding for us to create it.

But that's not actually the topic this blog post is about, because it was a question that one of the girls asked me that made me think. She asked "is everything we create less than ourselves - what about children?"

It's a good question, and one that raises the issue this post is actually about. Because that supposes that we do actually create children. That they are a product of our own effort.

Children are obviously not less than us otherwise every generation would get progressively dumber and less capable, and that's not the case.

But that's because we don't create our children. We may use the biological processes of our bodies to bring them forth. But we didn't create those biological processes that make that possible. We didn't create the genetic material. We don't pick and choose the characteristics and personalities and gifts and abilities of our children (though some would like to and are trying to - but that can only end badly).

God created us. He set up the natural process to make children possible. And HE knit us together in our mothers womb. Basically mothers are the carriers of God's creation.

We don't own our children. We are the custodians of God's children.

That doesn't mean I'm saying parents aren't important. God chose you to be the parent of your children for a reason, and that is a special thing. But it also doesn't mean parents have the right to their children to do whatever they like. We are given an important responsibility to bring up the children we are given to know God, their heavenly father and creator.

I think many people think they have rights as parents, more than they think they have responsibilities and custodianship of a person who ultimately belongs to God. And this leads to parents feeling their children owe them something, that as parents they deserve certain things and can demand certain things simply because they are the parent. Discipline is for the benefit of the child, not because the parent is angry or frustrated at how inconvenient the child is being.

We don't create our children, we are blessed with them according to Gods goodness. And so as God's children, whether they are biologically ours or not all children are our responsibility to care for and raise up for God - the church's responsibility as God's family.

Western society is particularly bad at remember this community, and at thinking of everything we have as solely our possessions. We need to consciously remember to think of children as gifts from God; we are meant to be the stewards and custodians of gifts from God, not the owners. Those gifts still belong to God even while we are looking after them.

Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.
-Ephesians 6:1-4

Peace and joy. (Romans 5:1-11)


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Loud surrender

My surrender isn't always quiet and peaceful, hands raised in worship, tears of joy on my face. That is beautiful and lovely.

But I don't always feel quiet and peaceful inside. And I think God gets that.

Sometimes I forget that he created me and sees everything. So I try to put on a face, and say the things that are politically correct. Like, "God, I know I'm meant to be patient and at peace, and so that's what I'm going to do. Here I am, patient and at peace."

When really I'm boiling over inside. I'm a hurricane of emotions. I forget that God doesn't want my polite platitudes. He's not fooled. He can already see what's inside and he's saying "why are you trying to hold on to that all by yourself. Let it go. Give it to me."

So lately I've been consciously making the choice to say to God exactly what's on my mind, not just what I think should be on my mind. If I'm mad, I'll tell him. If I'm frustrated, I'll tell him. If I can't understand what is going on, I'll tell him. Even if I'm mad at him, even if I'm frustrated at him, even if I don't understand what he's doing. I tell him all that. He knows it anyway, do I think I'm hiding it from him?

So my surrender is sometimes loud and physical. If I'm by myself it might be outwardly like that, but mostly it's in my head, in my spirit. Sometimes to surrender I have to bash down a wall in my heart first.

God is big. He can take our little fists beating against his chest. And better that he takes it all than we let it out on someone else, or hold it all inside until we implode. And he holds on to us, so we can't hurt ourselves, and when we've let it all out we can just rest in his arms.

I say to God my Rock, "Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?" My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, "Where is your God?" Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God (Psalm 42:9-11).

Peace and joy. (Romans 5:1-11)


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Girls...who run the world? Um...God.

According to Beyonce, girls rule the world. She's been singing about it for years - women taking care of themselves.

Don't get me wrong - I like Beyonce. I think she's pretty cool, and she's definitely got a lot of talent and intelligence. And You'll probably catch me singing along to 'who run this motha' with the rest of them.

But I fear Beyonce is an example of how our world view can seem right, but still be skewed from God's view.

I am glad that women are recognising that we cannot expect men to provide all the perfect love, identity, protection and security we desire. Putting the sole onus on men to be everything and the centre of our lives is unfair and misplaced - it can only lead to confusion and disappointment.

But then where do we turn. It is from ourselves that we find all these things? Do we rely on ourselves? Do we put ourselves at the centre?

I think the only outcome of that is more confusion and disappointment.

The world turns from one way to another, and another, and another. Constantly searching for just the right model for a perfect, happy, successful life. The problem with all those ways, though they may not seem bad in themselves, is that none of those ways is God.

If we put anything other than Him at the centre of our lives, then that becomes our god. And a god of our own creation is going to be just a s flawed as we are - especially because it is often ourselves that we are putting at the centre.

Beyonce is a strong woman, and I hope the influence she has over other women who need encouragement is a good one. But dont look to the world for the definition of what a woman should be. Even if it seems good, if it's not God, it leads nowhere.

I hope Christian women can remember to provide an even stronger image of life to those who are seeking. One of a loving God where all our security and identity was created and the only place it can again be restored to us. Not by rejecting men and relying on ourselves - but by putting aside ourselves and relying on God.

Colossians 3:1-4
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

New 'wear it' Wednesday

This is a whole different kind if Wear It Wednesday, taken from the kind of wear it when something you've done that is wrong or embarrassing is put on display and you have to "wear it".

Appropriately, the urban dictionary informs me, the term also has a meaning to do with drinking - being drunk or hungover.

Appropriate because I used to drink. I used to bringe drink, which is a big part of the reason why I don't drink alcohol at all anymore.

The first reason is because I don't actually like the taste. But that obviously isn't a big enough reason in itself, because I still used to do it.

From year 11 until early in my fourth year of uni, I used to binge drink. In high school it was once every weekend that I could get away with it. By the end, while I was studying in England and traveling in Europe it was as many nights a week as I could get away with.

I was a mess. Frequently I would drink until I was sick, or at least until I made a complete fool of myself. I felt desperate. I thought I wanted to feel something, to feel belonging, to make everything easy and fun - but in reality I wanted to feel nothing. I wanted to feel nothing because that's all I truly believed there was - nothing really worth having. Or nothing real that I was worthy of having.

And so I drank until oblivion would let me forget for a while that I was desperate.

Even though my time living in England has some of the best memories of my life, it was also my lowest point.

It shows you the amazing capability we have as humans to cope and function in a sort of half life, and fool ourselves that it is full.

The saddest thing is that nobody noticed my despair. Nobody did anything about my drinking,, other than to make sure I got home safely. Nobody did anything, because it was normal. I was just another drunk girl who needed to be put in a taxi home. My friends may have found it annoying those times they had to look after me, but that was it. It was normal.

Imagine if I came to church so drunk I couldn't walk straight. I'm pretty sure there'd be a reaction. Depending on the church and the people, it might be a judgmental, unloving reaction - or it might not - but either way there would be a reaction.

And shouldn't there be? Shouldn't it make you think "What is happening in this persons life, their heart, their soul, that they have ended up this way? They need to know the love and freedom that is available! Dont let them miss out and struggle on a minute longer! Love them!"

The thing is, those people don't come into our churches. I didn't. At my worst point I hadn't been to church for years, and even though I was starting to admit to myself I still did believe in God, I wouldn't have set foot in a church. I couldn't. I felt too ashamed. I felt like I would be judged and rejected for my failures.

Maybe I wouldn't have been - there are many welcoming loving churches out there. But there are manny desperate people out there who feel the church is the last place they will find love and acceptance.

So for the first time - because normally I avoid telling people (Christians) the truth about those years of my life - I'm wearing it.

The urban dictionary says wearing it is about being humiliated. Fortunately for me, I know longer feel shame about it. Fortunately for all of us, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

Because Jesus already 'wore it'. Everything. All our sins. Every. Single. One.

There is no fear or shame, but love, mercy, grace and forgiveness.

And a desperate world out there who needs what we've got.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The joy of the Lord is my strength

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
-Nehemiah 8:10

This is even from the old testament - you know that bit of the bible that we tend to think of as the 'harsher' God.

God is the same yesterday, today and forever.

The joy of the Lord is your strength. Not - God will give you joy if you a strong and stick it out.

His joy is your strength. Rejoice in Him.

Monday, August 8, 2011

God doesnt care about the rules.

Really think about it... Why does God care about sin? Is it because it is just another thing we are screwing up?

I think sometimes we think that's what it's all about. God doesn't want us to sin because he wants us to be good little children who obey the rules.

True, God is perfect and holy - to be God he has to be totally removed from sin. But if you think about it, thats exactly why he doesn't want us to sin - because then we remove ourselves from him.

He's not angry at us because we broke his rules - he is heart broken, and emploring us to come back, to stop turning away. Because he knows how much we are hurting ourselves.

And that's why I think God doesn't care about rules. What he is interested in, rather than us doing all the right things, is us knowing Him. He knows the love and forgiveness he is pouring out on us constantly and he knows that we miss out on that when we sin. Not because God withholds is love like a vindictive teacher who wants to punish a frustrating student.

But because he longs to give love and we are refusing to receive it.

If we realised that everything God has told us about how to live life, the right and wrong things to do, is all there to point us to the way to live in a close relationship with Him - if we looked at it like that, rather than thinking of it as a whole bunch of rules and expectations God burdened us with - we'd be so much better off. The greatest commandment is love God. If you need a rule to live by, aim for that one.

If we could do this, others would start seeing the love that Christianity is meant to be all about.

We wouldn't rank sins anymore, we wouldn't put ourselves above others. We'd be humble and see that whether our sins are telling a 'little white lie' or murdering - it's all a choice to turn away from God. It's all causing us to miss out on the big, crazy, consuming love of God.

That's why God doesn't care about rules like we think he does. He cares about love. A love that consumes and changes us from the inside out. It is all a gift. The biggest, most radical, amazing gift you've ever be offered.

Receive it!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Sabbath is for us

Mark 2:27 "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."

Sometimes we look at 'the Sabbath' as some rule God has given us that we have to live up to or else we aren't being holy.

You know what, you can relax. You'll never be holy enough anyway.

And here is Jesus telling us something we often forget - the Sabbath was made for us. God knew out lives would be hectic and busy and full of responsibility and stuff to get done, and that we'd need rest; time to get closer to Him. So he said to us "take a break. Rest in me."

Might you feel differently about 'keeping the Sabbath' if you looked at it as God's gift to you? His permission to take it easy!

Monday, August 1, 2011

We don't just have bigger weapons

Sometimes I think we look out our authority in Jesus like we just have the bigger weapon. Like the demons have little guns, but we have a bigger one.

Or in the words of Crocodile Dundee we say
"You call that a knife?" and think we've pulled out our big Jesus sized knife to the enemies switch blade.

But I don't think that's good enough. That still leaves room for someone to have a bigger weapon. Even if we had a bazooka to their water pistol, it leaves room for someone to come along with a tank.

Or someone to use the weapon better than us. We might have the giant knife, but we're still afraid they slip in there and get us in the ribs.

In Mark 3:11 it says Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.”

They fell down before him and cried out. They recognised him instantly. They didn't wait for him to say anything to them, to pull the God card. They saw him and recognised him as the son of God. As the ultimate authority under which they have no power. None. It doesn't matter what weapons they thought they had, what they thought they could get away with, as soon as they saw Jesus they knew they had already lost.

And you know what, Jesus is in us. We now have the authority too. And that's not just a bigger weapon than the enemy, that's the absolute assurance that God has already won and the devil has no power. And he knows it.

He just doesn't want you to.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Homosexuality, family & scapegoats?

I don't think homosexuality is the way God intended it. For families.

But also, I don't think an abusive man who torments his wife and children is the way God intended it.
Neither is a selfish and damaged woman who can't fully love her children because she doesn't love herself.
Neither is a weak man who won't step up and take responsibility for his family.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Habit Forming.

The way you start out is the way you'll continue. It's hard to change.

For several years we have been living in government housing because as teachers we can get subsidised rent in the country. It's great to have such affordable living, and we were happy to compromise on the quality. We can overlook stains on the carpet, faulty plumbing and other little defects because it's so cheap.

Plus it also temporary. We were in the process of building our own band new house, so we were saving all the newness and the care for that. We stuck with our $10 garage sale couches because we knew we were going to be getting brand new ones eventually.

But we also didn't worry about taking too much care with the old stuff. It didn't matter if it got marks or scuffs. What's one more stain on the already dirty carpet. What does it matter if we go a bit longer between vacuuming or washing the floor. And forget working hard in the garden, or washing the windows regularly at all. We weren't careless, but we didn't give it the same level of care and diligence that we might a new house, or a house that was our own.

The problem is that for three years now, we have got into lazy habits. Now we have our own brand new house and we expect the care and perfect housekeeping to just switch back on automatically. We work hard on keeping our new house as new as possible, but it's difficult now. We're not used to it. And this house is bigger, and it's all very white and clean. It's an effort to relearn all the habits that we let slip away.

We treat lots of things in our lives like that. Not least of all our spiritual lives. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Familiar = True?

The other day I was walking down the hall way with a snippet of poetry going through my head - "Urge me away to bitter shadow. Always sweet love is one ache we need." I thought, I've heard that somewhere before, what poem is that from?

Turns out when I had been putting the shopping away in the fridge a few seconds before I must have glanced at the fridge door - which is covered in random groupings of words from our magnetic poetry kit. It sounds poetic, but it's not poetry. That group of words is sitting there in between "Read my cry you purple rain butt" and "Go cook rob in his moon bed". Funny. But not poetry.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The stones will cry out

When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
 “I tell you,” he replied, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out. Luke 19:37-40

Don't let the rocks out do you! Don't let anyone tell you to keep quiet about our God!


Monday, July 18, 2011

They'll know we are Christians by our ________?

They'll know we are Christians by  our ________?

By our congregation size?
By our happiness?
By our prosperity?
By our fun youth group games?
By our professional standard of lights and smoke machines at church?
By our blog posts?

"By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Oh, by our love. Really? That's it?

We complicate Christianity a lot more than we should. We add a lot to the Bible in our minds and views and then end up reading it like it was there all along. I think because the enormity and of God is difficult to comprehend, so we like to give Him more boundaries and restrictions ang guidelines.

So then we underestimate it because we've tried to package it and present it so neatly. 

Like love. Seems so basic. And yet it's actually the most important and the most challenging thing of all.

I think that's why God likes to remind us of it so often.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing

 the greatest of these is love

over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind

Love your neighbour as yourself.

love your enemies

Above all, love each other deeply,

let us love one another, for love comes from God.

We love because he first loved us

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us

God is love.

(John 13:34-35
1 Corinthians 13: 2 &13
Colossians 3:14
Matthew 22: 37 & 39
Luke 6:35
1 Peter 4:8
1 John 4:7 & 19
Romans 5:8
1 John4: 8)

It's simple. But He never said it was easy. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

I am seoond - Bailee Madison

Last Saturday I posted the video of Brian Welch, the former lead guitarist of Korn, sharing his testimony. It was powerful and inspiring to see how God's love can rescue us from anything.

But sometimes people think it's exciting to have a testimony like that, to have something so dark to be rescued from so that we have something powerful to share.

This video from I Am Second, of Bailee Madison, is like the complete contrast to Brian's story. And yet it is no less inspiring and powerful.

Whatever our story, God uses us.Whatever your story, God will use it.

Visit I Am Second to see more video testimonies.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Think you might burst?

I remember getting back in the car after a Youth Alive rally, feeling pumped up and hyped like you do. I just wanted to talk about the night, talk about God, spout the joy I was feeling like a fountain. But everyone else was tired. It was late and we had to drive an hour home. Nobody else was talking. I remember sitting in the car staring out the window, feeling like I might literally burst... even in  a car full of young Christians, I felt like no-one else wanted to talk about God like I did.

I wonder if Jesus had other conversations. I wonder if some nights he was just like, "Hey, I've had a long day of healing the blind and the lame. Lets kick back and watch this episode of "The Real Housewives of Jerusalem."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Death, be not proud

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul's delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell'st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die. 
-John Donne
He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces... Isaiah 25:8

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.  Hebrews 2:14-15