A friend sent me an excellent video that challenges the ridiculous amount of money that is spent each year on Christmas. I know I was challenged!


My Reading List

December 8, 2008

I have just created a new page that shows books that I’m currently reading and books that I have previously read and recommend. It is not nearly an exhaustive list and mainly includes books that I have read in the last 12 months (putting a strong emphasis on my current thoughts/interests), but does include some great material: Reading List.

I really struggle with the concept of taking out insurance. Insurance is a subtle symbol of the individualistic nature of our Western society and of the lack of faith that Christians have in God.

When I bought my car, I took out a loan (debatable whether this was a good idea). The financing company demanded that I have comprehensive insurance over my car, in the case that I write it off and cannot afford to repay the loan. I have asked myself whether I would take out insurance if I was not required to.

Life insurance is a simple example of the lack of true community with those around us and a lack of faith in God. Why do people take out life insurance? Well it’s generally so that when someone dies suddenly, a sum of money can be received by the surviving family. If the financial provider of the family passed away then the money can be used to cover living costs and any mortgage repayments. After all, if the surviving family members cannot meet their everyday expenses, they could face losing their house, forgo luxuries and maybe even struggle to put food on the table.

So why do I think insurance is such a bad thing then? Well, it minimises our need to have faith that God will look after us in times of trouble; and it also underplays our need to be part of a community of people, who can support and bless us when we fall into times of trouble.

Using the example of life insurance…

There is a lovely family: a husband, a wife and three beautiful young children. The couple have been married for 15 years and have spent the last 10 of those in their own home, which they have a mortgage over. The husband and wife both work part-time so that they can look after the children on their respective days off. One day in a sudden event, the husband passes away, survived by his wife and children. The wife quickly realises that her single salary is not enough to pay the bills as well as the mortgage. Her husband didn’t have life insurance and so she was left in financial turmoil. Even if she wanted to work full-time, she would still have to sell the house to get-by; but she’d rather continue working part-time to be able to care for her children.

Sounds like a terrible situation – it is. But what if this woman was part of a community of people that were very close and who shared life together. They meet as a group for meals regularly; they share their joys and sorrows with each other; they cook meals for their friends when they’re ill; and their children play together in the park. This community was very saddened by the death of their close friend and felt deep compassion for the rest of the family and their situation. In response to the financial strain placed upon the family, ten people within the community committed to contributing one hundred dollars a month so that the family could cover all their expenses and stay in the family home. The thought that they could be financially supporting the family for the next 20 years, until the house was paid off, did not even cross their mind. This family was their family – their community was so strong that they would do anything for each other, even if it meant sacrificing some luxuries of their own.

Sound like a nice story to you? I would love to be part of a community that was so close and so loving of each other, that doing such an act as described above, would be done without hesitation.

Western society hails the achievement of the individual and admires those who are independent and who can get-by without needing others. This is a fallacy. Real community is a central element of the Christian faith and of a healthy society. We were not made to be wandering souls without others beside us; rather we were created to enjoy full and loving community with both God and those people around us. “Love your neighbour as yourself” was Jesus’ way of saying “lend a hand to those around you as if they were your parents, your brother or your own child – someone that you would do anything for.”

Not only is this kind of community possible, but it is mandated by God, created through His Spirit and exists in pockets all throughout the World. Unfortunately the individualism of our culture has diminished the scale and impact of true community in Western nations like Australia.

I challenge you to love others as yourself and create real, lasting community with those around you. It will not only bring you closer to others, but it will bring you closer to the heart of God.

A mate of mine recently sent me this video on the recent passing of anti-gay marriage laws in California. I don’t beleive that homosexuality should be condoned by the Church, but showing love for others is something that the Church should be doing a lot more of.

This is a passionate plea from Keith Olberman (MSNBC Host), is for people to embrace love and I find it heartening that it was broadcast on television in the US. It is genuinely worth watching the complete video:

There’s Blood on Your Hands

November 13, 2008

I’m sure you know that tingling feeling as the hairs stand up on your neck, when you hear your favourite song; when you’re deeply touched by a melody or some great lyrics…

I’ve been listening to a song recently that has spoken to me in a wonderfully prophetic way, bringing on a tingling experience.

The song is called “Instead of a Show” and it’s on Jon Foreman’s latest “Summer” EP. It is a product of Biblical prophecy straight out of the book of Isaiah, as Jon describes in a live acoustic performance of the song.

I don’t need to provide any commentary on the song – the lyrics speak for themselves:

Your eyes are closed when you’re praying
You sing right along with the band
You shine up your shoes for services
There’s blood on your hands
You turned your back on the homeless
And the ones that don’t fit in your plan
Quit playing religion games
There’s blood on your hands

I recommend all of Jon’s latest solo material in his three EPs. He so clearly sings out of real passion and communicates so much of his heart (and God’s) when he does.

I was just reading a review of a book “Passing the Plate, Why American Christians Don’t Give Away More Money”. I can’t say much about this book because I haven’t read it, but I was taken by one line in the review, which is apparently backed up by real data:

[in America] If just the “committed Christians” (defined as those who attend church at least a few times a month or profess to be “strong” or “very strong” Christians) would tithe [giving away 10% of their income], there would be an extra 46 billion dollars a year available for kingdom work.

Tithing and financial generousity is a very strong value of mine and it frustrates me when Christians and churches will ignore the poverty of the world (and even their own backyard), to serve their own wants (as distinct from ‘needs’).

I’m currently battling with the concept of savings and investments and what it means for me. Jesus said in Matthew 6:

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Does this mean that we shouldn’t keep some money aside and plan for the future? I’m not sure. But it certainly implores us to ask the question. If Jesus was sitting on a fat savings account with lucrative investments, could you really see him ignoring the plight of the poor and homeless by protecting his ‘nest egg’?

I can’t.

We hear a lot about having a “personal relationship” with God; how this makes Christianity unique and how important it is to our faith. But, what exactly does this mean for us and how do we know this personal experience with the creator?

I think there are many Christians that struggle with this concept, while others may not. Why is this? I’m really not too sure whether it is our hesitance to really commit to God, or whether God just relates in different ways to different people. I haven’t contemplated this enough to write a full entry on it (maybe another time), but I just read an entry on this topic in Brian McLaren’s blog, I recommend you having a read of it here.

In the entry, I like the emphasis placed on the desire to seek something more in your relationship with God and the discussion and openness with those around you. We are on a journey and everything never comes at once.

Please post your comments, I would love to hear what a “personal relationship” with God means for you. Is it like being in love, is it like having a good mate or are you struggling with the relationship at the moment?

Each NoMovember men from all around the country grow a moustache to raise awareness for men’s health. It’s a great cause, but also makes this month quite entertaining as you see all the filthy mo’s around the place. Through the event, money is raised for The Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia and beyondblue: the national depression initiative. If you know anyone getting involved, make sure you sponsor them!

Unfortunately I’m not getting involved this year, but here’s a nasty a pic of me from Movember ’07.

So, who do you want to die?

October 27, 2008

How many times have you read the headlines: “Australian SAS are the best” or “Aussies hold out, kill 15 enemy”.

I have read these articles and felt a sense of pride about being Australian, that we get the job done; we ‘prevailed over the enemy’; and we’ve got some of the best soldiers in the world. However, I’ve recently been challenged by this ‘pride’.

Why do we get excited when our troops make it out while numbers of enemy are taken down?

At this point we could get into a discussion about whether war is sometimes justified or always wrong, but I really don’t want to go there now – perhaps another time. However, perhaps we can both agree that soldiers are just pawns in a strategy that they have little or no control over and neither did they have anything to do with the events that precipitated the conflict to begin with.

If we move forward with this in agreement then it would be correct to say that if we break down war (the physical battle itself) into its most basic element – two soldiers with bayonets locked – then we see two innocent parties with no choice but to kill the other. While all this is going on, we sit in our homes watching our TVs, reading our news and are relieved (and in my case, sometimes ‘excited’) when the Aussie soldier beats the other to the kill.

I then asked myself what it is about the Aussie soldier that I cheer for his or her triumph over the other soldier. If indeed they are both innocent parties, then the death of either one should be devastating to me; especially if I claim to follow the example of love that Jesus showed to all people. Perhaps we rationalise our joy at the Aussie triumph by saying that the enemy is wrong and we are right and that we must stand against those who are wrong. I agree with the idealism of this statement, but that is all it is: idealistic. Look at the war in Iraq – there are clearly many things wrong about us going in there. There are also some good reasons for us going in there. Unfortunately there is no black and white, which is why there is so much debate (amongst equally intelligent people) surrounding the war. So it is dangerous to simply presume that we are right, and because of this it is a good thing when we triumph in battle.

So what is it? Do we really believe in the wartime rhetoric, that we are in the right and they are in the wrong – is that why we cheer for the Aussie to kill the enemy? Or is it that we are so ethnocentric that we feel that an Aussie life is more important than an Iraqi life? I certainly don’t see how sharing a piece of real estate, living under a common government and eating meat pies, should shape my preferences for which soldier should die.

Now when I watch the TV and read the wartime news, I try to look beyond the ‘good’ news that there were no Aussie casualties in the recent skirmish. Rather, I grieve that we are in a war where many innocent men and women, just like me, from all around the world are paying the ultimate price.

Here is an entry that I wrote on a blog, about a year ago (27 August 2007). I thought I would re-post it in my page

When we started Serpents and Doves close to 12 months ago, the few of us that began the community made some self-assessments of what of the Five-Fold leadership types (Apostle – Prophet – Evangelist – Shepherd – Teacher) we each were. I was designated the Prophet.
I often feel that I have good insight into situations and into people; and although I often do the wrong thing and say the wrong things to people, I do feel that God has gifted me in the area of discernment. I feel that I can readily recognise the Spirit within an action or a person and have a clear understanding of right and wrong. I can see an answer to a situation with such clarity that not everyone seems to be able to do. So, I feel that God has gifted me with the ability to hear Him and to be able to speak his will into situations.

This is great, if you can actually hear the Lord. To be able to hear the Lord on a consistent and reliable basis, you need to be in good communion with Him. You need to ask Him to speak to you (or more accurately, ask Him to help you hear what He is already saying), and you have to be prepared to listen to what He says and take the message on-board yourself, and share it with others if that is required. Unfortunately, with the busyness of work and study, I have not had the best communion with God. I have not spent enough time in prayer, worship or reading the Bible. So it is ironic that when I did eventually hear God speaking to me, it was about exactly what it is that stops me from hearing Him and having a continual relationship with Him.

I asked God fervently to speak to me and tell me something, because I knew that He has many things to say to me. He planted ‘discipleship’ into my heart and later when I was talking to Dan I was reminded of this, and when presented with an opportunity to speak to S&D the Spirit gave me a passion for this message.

As it often occurs, an idea came to me so simply and crystal-clear. It wasn’t even an idea, but more of an “oh yeah, of course!” I had drawn away from God by giving my heart to other things. The most obvious of these was my work. I have a good job with a promising career ahead; one that needs to be worked at and that you cannot expect to fall into your lap. I realised that I have created an idol of my work, and even worse, an idol of my managers. I found something that I am good at and I know what needs to be done to be successful and feel like a key part of the team. I have discovered what I need to do to keep one step ahead of my managers so that they are impressed by my planning and foresight. I got up early in the morning to get to work and arrived home late each day, because I knew this is what is required.

Now, don’t get me wrong; there is nothing wrong with doing your best, or doing a good job for your manager. There is nothing wrong with working long hours every once and a while (provided they are not excessive and bad for your general health). What is wrong about my situation is that I found the time for work, but I didn’t find the time for God. If you can do all the above, while spending time in prayer; spending time reading the Bible; spending time in worship (actually, your job can be worship), every day (at least one of these every day), then you probably don’t have a problem. But if you work hard to get the job done, impress your manager, and get the recognition you want, but are not able to have a continual relationship with God, then you have a real problem.

If we are Christians then we should realise that we are made to be in communion with God. Further, we are at our best and are able to operate at our optimum when we are in close communion with God. We are happier when we are in close communion with God. We are meant to be in communion with God. If we are not in close communion with God regularly then we are not doing that which we are made for, but we are also not doing that which will put us in the best position for success in this life – in work, home and play. If we simply don’t have time to spend with God, because we are too busy or too tired at the end of the day, then we are not in the right place and action needs to be taken. In the case of your job, there are two options: work less so that you can spend time with the Lord; or find another job. What I can guarantee you is that your job is not worth keeping at the expense of your faith. But, you may say that God has put you in a workplace to minister to the people there and you have an obligation to them. First of all, you have only an obligation to your God. Secondly, if you dont have a continual relationship with God then you ministry to your workmates will be weak at best. So, you’re not doing anyone any favours.

So, what am I saying? Well, it is not to quit your job. In fact, although I work in a busy, high-pressure environment, I do feel that God has placed me there. And if He has, then He did it because there is a way for me to have a continual relationship with Him, be able to do my job well and to be successful (for which praise is to God!), and to effectively minister to those people I work with. That comes down to faith. If you are meant to be somewhere then have faith that you can honour God in it – He’s actaully a pretty good bloke and can easily make your situation easier, your knowledge greater, your efficiency stronger and your stress weaker.

I feel that this message was directed to myself, as well as Serpents and Doves. I do feel that God gave this message to me to pass on to the community; not to ponder on, but to action in each of our lives.

Since taking up God’s challenge, I have not stopped doing stupid things, but I do hear God tell me how stupid they are and am now in a better position to hear Him and to carry on with the purpose of doing His will whenever I can. It really does make a difference if we just take the time for Him each day. Pray in the morning; listen to audio Bible on the train; pray in the car on the way to work; acknowledge and worship God when you are doing a good job. After all, it is His blessings upon you that make it possible for you to be successful.