I love this video of kinetic typography from the film Rocky Balboa. I’m sure everyone needs to hear this at some stage in their life:

Of course we look to God to help us through the tough times and we don’t have to take everything upon ourselves, but we mustn’t underestimate our own strength.

If you believe in God and in the salvation that he has given to us through Jesus, then you should also acknowledge the great power and strength that God has given to us: his sons and daughters. Rightly, we should place reliance upon God, but never at the expense of our own God-given motivation, determination, vision, intuition, intelligence, wisdom and strength.

Please take the time to read this article that a friend recently sent me the link to:

What If Jesus Meant All That Stuff?

It was written by Shane Claiborne, who is a leader of The Simple Way community in the United States.

It was directed toward non-Christians and expresses many of my frustrations and what I would like people to think of Christianity.

I don’t want to comment on it too much, because I don’t think I can really add too much to it.

What If Jesus Meant All That Stuff?

The author of the acclaimed “God’s Politics“, Jim Wallis’, has written a superb follow-on book, “The Great Awakening“.

The Great Awakening: Reviving Faith and Politics in a Post-Religious Right America, is a must-read for anyone who has a genuine interest in matters of faith in a political world. It is also a recommended read for anyone that has a heart for social justice.

I have read Wallis’ earlier book God’s Politics and would say that The Great Awakening is a significantly better work. God’s Politics feels more like a brain-dump from Wallis, without enough structure and organisation and tends to be repetitive. The Great Awakening however, feels much more rounded and ‘complete’. Where I was nodding my head in agreement perhaps once every few pages in God’s Politics, The Great Awakening strongly aroused the sense of justice deep in my spirit – I was nodding along in agreement with Wallis’ words throughout the book. If you are considering reading God’s Politics and don’t have a particular interest in the more-specifics of US Democrat and Republican party politics, I would recommend skipping it and reading The Great Awakening.

My Reading List

I would like to draw your attention to a letter written to the editor and published in Adelaide newspaper, The Advertiser:

“Unfortunately, Tory Shepherd’s comment (“Straying from the flock”, The Advertiser, 23/6/09) will fall on deaf ears. Gullibility and irrationalism are institutionalised throughout the private school system and Australian society generally.

The Australian Government spends millions every year to ensure thousands of students are indoctrinated in Iron Age religious belief systems.

In religious homes, children are taught to defer to the approved authority, rather than think for themselves.

This indoctrination is reinforced in government-sponsored faith schools and churches.

At least for some generations to come, priests, pastors, gurus and clerics will continue to tap into the conditioned minds of unquestioning devotees, controlling, exploiting and directing them as they please.

Look at the deference and dollars wasted on the Pope’s visit to Australia.

As long as they pay homage to men as to gods, Australians generally will remain an ignorant and superstitious people.”

SHANE OSBORNE, Adelaide.

I know Shane Osborne – we get on at the same bus stop on the way to work in the mornings. He is an intelligent man and has many years’ experience in both Catholic and Protestant churches.

I posted this because I think we need to pay attention to criticism that is made of the church. I don’t mean to say that all criticism of the church is valid, but I would certainly say that some (if not many of it) is. The church is perfect in only one way – the head, Jesus Christ. Every other part of the body is made up of you and me. We are infinitely capable of doing amazing, loving things; but we are also fallible and can be bitterly selfish and judgmental.

First of all, I don’t believe that Jesus Christ is any of the things described in Shane’s letter. And to expand on this, I don’t believe that a church centred around Jesus Christ should be like this and draw this kind of critique.

In Shane’s experience the church is “controlling”, “directing”, “indoctrinating” and “irrational”. He is not a passing critic – he has been involved in church and has had these experiences. Right or wrong is no question here, perception is reality and if the church has made someone feel like this, then there’s a lot of answering to be done. Jesus Christ never made anyone feel like this – He was a model of love, non-judgment and complete acceptance. Jesus loves. Full stop. No conditions.

I don’t want to spend this time going into all the valid and invalid points made by Shane and the short-comings of many institutional churches (of which I feel there are many). What I would like people to do is to step back and think about how they and their churches have shown the love of Jesus Christ. The fact is that many churches have alienated people, judged them and pushed them away. This shouldn’t happen. Jesus loved all without condition and if you don’t do the same then you should remove the “Christ” from “Christian” when people ask what religion you follow.

I’ll finish up by saying that many of the prophets from God were routinely ignored, abused and finally martyred for their convictions. I’m not sure that Shane Osborne is a prophet of the Lord, but I feel that we would ignore him at our peril.

Blog Dialogue Series

May 6, 2009

Over the past few weeks I have been corresponding with Arthur from the Cyberpunk + Blue Twin go back to uni blog. We have discussed teaming-up to do a blog dialogue series. This will involve choosing a topic, producing a post on that topic, and the other person will provide a response with his own thoughts and views. We’ll probably alternate who begins each topic.

The purpose of this (for me) is twofold:

  1. To encourage me to blog more regularly; and
  2. To exchange thoughts and ideas so that I can draw closer and in greater understand of God, while hopefully doing the same for others.

These wont be harsh critiques, but hopefully more like sitting down on the sofa and throwing thoughts around. There is nothing sacred and nothing secular, just openness and growth.

The first blog topic is “What are the non-negotiables of church?” I’ll hopefully have a post up in the next few days.

Please join in on the discussion and comment with your thoughts – it would be appreciated! I will also provide links to Arthur’s page when he posts in the dialogue series.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Prayer is not a ritual; it is not a practice; it is not tradition; it is not a sacrament, it is not ‘the right thing to do’; it is not the ‘key to salvation’; it is not to appease God; it is not the way to receive forgiveness; and it is not the many other things that we hold it to be.

Prayer is about relationship and it is about community. It is really just a fancy word for talking to someone, where that someone happens to be God.

If you always find prayer boring then you aren’t doing it right.

You may find prayer boring because you aren’t actually talking to God. Repeating standard prayers and praying for the same thing each time could get very boring for us, let alone God who has to hear it each time. Try and talk to God like you would a good friend or a trusted mentor – he is a real person (for lack of a better term) and probably likes to mix things up a bit – I know I do. Sure you can be formal at times, but casual prayer and talking about mundane stuff that is going on in your life is good too.

You may also find prayer boring if you think God is boring; like those people you can’t talk to for long because you have nothing in common with them. Well, if you think God is boring then perhaps you need to get to know Him better – I guarantee you that you have a lot in common with Him. God is also very interactive, so if you don’t feel that God talks to you, then ask Him to. Be specific too. I asked God for a long time to ‘show me how much He loves me’. Now that is a prayer that God can’t resist answering!

So get into it – talk to God. He’s real, He has emotions, He has a sense of humour and he likes us to chat with Him. Even if you don’t profess to be religious in any way, God would still like you to talk to Him.

Do you have ubuntu?

March 27, 2009

I have been reading Jim Wallis’ latest book, “The Great Awakening” and came across a wonderful quote from Desmond Tutu, the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa:

“Ubuntu is a concept that we have in our Bantu languages at home. Ubuntu is the essence of being a person. It means that we are people through other people. We cannot be fully human alone. We are made for interdependence, we are made for family. When you have ubuntu, you embrace others. You are generous, compassionate. If the world had more ubuntu, we would not have war. We would not have this huge gap between the rich and the poor. You are rich so that you can make up what is lacking for others. You are powerful so that you can help the weak, just as a mother or father helps their children. This is God’s dream.

It embraces hospitality, caring about others, being able to go the extra mile for the sake of others. We believe that a person is a person through another person, that my humanity is caught up, bound up, inextricably, with yours. When I dehumanise you, I inexorably dehumanise myself. The solitary human being is a contradiction in terms and therefore you seek to work for the common good because your humanity comes into its own in belonging.”

I don’t want to add any more to that – it’s just brilliant!

It has been a while since I have posted on my blog – unfortunately illness has slowed me down. I have had a lot of sinus problems that has been causing me a bit of grief, but am feeling much better now. If you have a spare 15 seconds, your prayer for my health would be most welcome 🙂

What I have been doing lately is reading. I  just read Frank Viola’s (Author of the popular “Pagan Christianity”) book, “Reimagining Church”(my reading list). I think it’s a brilliant book and presents a very ‘radical’ view (but perhaps only relatively radical) on how Viola thinks the Church should operate. The book is very challenging to those who are currently in a ‘traditional’ church structure, as is clear from these key points that I drew out of the book:

  • An outsider should enter a Church meeting and not be able to identify a specific ‘leader’.
  • The existence of Church ‘denominations’ is tantamount to heresy.
  • There is no basis for paid clergy (or clergy at all, for that matter) and their presence actually inhibits the spiritual development and ministry of the ‘laity’.
  • Christians get too hung-up on petty differences and if you really embrace only what is fundamental to being a Christian (i.e. the bare minimum), then we should be more embracing of other people who seemingly hold very different beliefs, yet still proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.
  • Having ‘covering’ over a ministry is through the Lord Jesus Christ alone. A ministry is not legitimised simply because it is under the ‘covering’ of a denomination or a spiritual guru (like a senior pastor). Likewise, a small house church (such as I belong to) needs only the covering of the Lord Jesus Christ and not an earthly church institution or spiritual elder.
  • The church is not a democracy, but decisions should be made on the basis of consensus. Elders are very important for providing guidance and persuasion to less mature brothers and sisters, but they do not ‘run’ the Church.

These are just a few points which really struck me when going through the book, but I recommend you read it because there is a lot more in there that may speak to you.

Viola uses many biblical references to support his opinions, and after talking to a friend who is also reading the book, perhaps he over-justifies his position. Sometimes it seems that what we argue about God and the Church should be justified and precisely supported through biblical insight. I have a problem with this process, because as good at the Bible is, it is a poor substitute for the communion and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Bible need not be contradicted, but I believe that we can receive much deeper and fuller revelation of the nature of God and the Church, through the Holy Spirit. Of course, this needs to be done with others, so that the words of the Holy Spirit can resonate between believers – we are not capable of receiving God’s full revelation as individuals but as a Church the fullness of Jesus Christ is possible.

Another related point that I have been thinking about lately is on the Holy Spirit leading the Church. I was brought up with the teaching that Jesus Christ is the heard of the Church, and leads us through the direction of the Holy Spirit. Yet, it seem that key individuals such as senior pastors are leading the Church. I think we need to put aside the rhetoric and actually let the Holy Spirit lead the Church. The fullness of Jesus Christ cannot be revealed through one person (or even a leadership team), but it is revealed through the whole body of believers. So unless we give opportunity for the quietest and most unassuming people in our congregations to impact the Church, when the Holy Spirit moves them to, we are not experiencing the fullness of Jesus Christ.

Many of Frank Viola’s points and opinions resonate well with the spirit within me, what about you? Whether you have read the book or not, let me know your thoughts.

Links and stuff

January 29, 2009

I have just created a new page which contains some links to good websites and to some of the blogs that I read regularly. The blogs are a mix of personal friends, well-known international Christian personalities, and some people I stumbled across that are making some great contributions to my personal growth in understanding what being a Christian actually means for me personally and for the Church.You can access the page by clicking “Links” above, or by just clicking here.

In particular, I would like to make mention the blog of Alan Knox, Assembling the Church. I stumbled across his blog when I was linked to it from another blog I was reading. Alan has a focus on ecclesiology (looking at the nature and function of the Church), and he regularly brings forward some excellent posts that are always followed by the insightful comments of his readership.

If you have stumbled across some other good material (blogs, website etc.), leave a comment and please share it with me!

You will often hear the term “The Christian Faith”. Have you ever thought about what the Christian Faith actually is? I feel that the term “faith” is used so much that people readily interpret it as referring to a belief structure. For example, someone may say that the Christian Faith is about believing that God loves us and sent Jesus the Son of God to die for our sins. There is nothing overly wrong with this statement, but I feel that it is not the central point of faith.

Faith is not passive – it is very much active. We have faith because God loves us and because Jesus died for our sins. But believing this is not actually faith in itself – faith is a response to this truth. Faith is living a life that really trusts that God loves us and He is with us wherever we go and whatever we do. To be truly living “The Christian Faith”, we need to live in a way, recognising that God loves us and is with us all the time, otherwise we are living in our own strength, which is devoid of faith.

For example, faith is:

  • Trusting that God will put food on your table each day
  • Trusting that God will maintain your health
  • Trusting that God will provide adequate finances
  • Trusting that God will move you into the right career
  • Trusting that God will place you where you need to be to share His love with someone in need

These are only examples and you may not always get these as you might want them, but the overriding faith is that God is in control and ultimately has at heart, the best interests of us and those around us.

In the Western World we have everything we could possibly need and most of us have everything that we want (within reason). My family asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I couldn’t think of much at all. There is certainly nothing that I need and I already have most of what I want. For us, this is both a blessing and a curse. But what if you ask a homeless person what they would like for Christmas… I bet you could find a lot of needs, let alone wants.

God has been speaking to me over the past few months and I feel that my message for 2009 is going to be focused around the concept of “Faith and Sacrifice”. Faith cannot be fully realised unless it is accompanied by Sacrifice. Unless we really offer up our lives to God in sacrifice, then our faith is meaningless and non-existent by the very definition of “faith”. There are many things that we can sacrifice: time, talent, finances, property, meals etc. From observation and experience, I can say that sacrifice is the short-cut route to seeing God work in your life; simply because He can’t do anything for you if you already have everything you want or need. I’m quite sure this is the reason why miracles are not as prolific in the Western World as they are in other parts. Jesus generally performed miracles to meet real needs that he observed.

I hope to write many more entries on the idea of Faith and Sacrifice. I’ll mention some of the sacrifices made by people recorded in the Bible, find stories of modern people of faith, and bring some of my own experiences. So, I encourage you to think and pray about what things God is calling you to sacrifice; and not just sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice.

I’ll finish this introductory post with a prayer I heard a few years ago, which I start every day with:

Dear Heavenly Father,
I want you to fully and completely
direct my life from now on. Because
of your love for me, I am willing go
where you want me to go and be
whatever you want me to be.