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.”


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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

What is your endgame?

October 23, 2008

What is you endgame? What is it that you set out to achieve in life?

Australian (and generally Western) secular culture has a very clear endgame. That is, what people ultimately want to get out of life. Hundreds of years have ingrained a philosophy or ‘gospel’ of what the average Westerner should set out to do in their life and this frames what is seen as a ‘successful’ life. There are certain things that people take for granted as being milestones and goals that are expected to be achieved in their lives.

Let me suggest, in no particular order, some key milestones in the gospel of the ‘Australian way of life’:

  1. Receive an education sufficient to grant you access to 2.
  2. Get a job that meets your personal need for a sense of worth and financial ability to live ‘comfortably’
  3. Have friends
  4. Have surplus cash for hobbies and interests
  5. Own a car
  6. Get married
  7. Buy a house
  8. Have children
  9. Retire and enjoy the ending time of your life in comfort

This is the classic gospel of the average Australian and we more-or-less take this for granted. This is not to mean that we will all achieve this, but it is expected that we aim for these things and it is socially acceptable to achieve these things.

Have you ever questioned these things? Is the attainment of these things something that you take for granted? Are these goals so much a part of our Western culture that we don’t even consider that God may be calling us to something else? Do you seek God’s guidance about all these things to ensure that it is His will that we pursue them?

The beauty (or pitfall) of all the things described in the list above is that they are reasonable and seemingly honourable goals. We can look at them and see that they are not bad or inherently sinful and therefore wanting them and achieving them is okay… or is it?

Let me suggest some corresponding milestones and goals:

  1. Commit yourself to the lifelong instruction of the Holy Spirit
  2. Live by faith without financial reward through employment
  3. Have friends (I can’t think of a good counter to this!)
  4. Contribute your surplus cash to people who are in need
  5. Catch the bus wherever you go
  6. Commit to a life of being single
  7. Live in a community of people where everything is shared
  8. Adopt a child that has no family
  9. Work hard up until your last breath

What is the difference between the first list and the second list? Not much, really. They are just two different approaches to how you may live your life. Neither is a greater calling than the other. Neither is even more difficult than the other. Not receiving regular financial reward from employment is tough, but so is committing yourself to a lifetime of hefty mortgage repayments. Likewise, having your own home allows you rest and privacy, whereas living in a community gives you close and immediate support from the people living around you.

I like to think that my endgame is “the will of God”. This means actively consulting God and receiving His guidance in every area of our lives, rather than simply defaulting to the gospel of Western culture, outlined in the first list above. God may call us to list 1 or He may call us to list 2. God’s will for our lives may be a mix ‘n’ match of both lists. There is no right or wrong in either of these lists. Right is doing God’s will and wrong is doing anything else.

I want to encourage you all to seek the will of God in every area of your lives, particularly those that are ingrained in our culture, because these are the hardest to question. I have been asking these questions myself and am very challenged by what I feel God is calling me to. I’m not sure if it is list 1, list 2 or a mix of both. I like to think that I am open to everything. God seeks a willing heart; which is an action-oriented commitment. It is not inherently difficult to do God’s will (because he enables us to do it!), but it may mean breaking some norms of Western culture and taking some risks.

Make “God’s will” your endgame.