Thursday, December 25, 2008

Watch the cricket... without the gambling

Christmas holidays in Australia brings all those certainties of life - the Sydney to Hobart, the threat of bushfires, crowds at post-Christmas sales and of course, cricket.

I love the cricket. I love the ebb and flow of the game, the personalities, the careers that develop and wane, and the long-lasting tension. I even love some of the gadgets that Channel Nine come up with to 'improve' our viewing. The 'hot spot' is great.

But unfortunately this year a new feature has crept in which, although popular, is at best unhelpful, and at worst, downright dangerous.

It seems that Channel 9 has stitched up a deal with a major online betting provider, and as part of the deal, they seem obliged to regularly mention the current market on who is going to win, what is going to be the score etc. Apart from this being annoying, it is yet again an invitation for people to throw away their money, thinking that they might gain a quick and easy reward.

Australia clearly has a problem with gambling - the basic statistics of $/head gambled, number of poker machines etc demonstrate that. But the problem is far greater that an economic one - with major family and social dislocation resulting in the vast majority of problem gambling cases.

Please Channel 9 - get a social conscience and drop the deal. Please everyone, enjoy the cricket - but keep your credit card in your pocket.

(By the way - do you think we are witnessing Hayden's last series??)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

'Tis the season for ... ridiculous gifts!

Well, the mailbox is filling with Christmas junk mail again - so it's time to play that favourite game 'Spot the most ridiculous Christmas gift!'

Its the game where the marketers try to convince you that you really need something you don't need, and we all prove that in fact our society has a lot more money than it really needs.

As usual the early running has been made by the 'superfluous kitchen gadgets' page in the Myer catalog. Alongside such seasonal regulars as the Popcorn maker and the donut maker - this season there is a new gadget that I think just could win the coveted 'Most ridiculous Christmas gift' crown.

Its the Sunbeam 'Eggo'. It "hard boils or poaches eggs and tweets when ready." Thats right, for only $37.95 you can buy a machine that will .... wait for it .... boil an egg!  Call me old fashioned, but when I was a lad, we used a saucepan to do that.

Apart from the craziness of buying such an contraption and having it take up bench space in your kitchen - what does it say about our world, that Sunbeam thinks its worthwhile spending time and money developing such a product. You've got to assume they have done their market research and thinks this little baby will sell. 

Is it possible that our consumerism has made our mind go a little runny? Have we allowed our sense of what is necessary to become a yolk? Are our priorities getting scrambled? 

If you're tempted to buy someone something totally useless this Christmas - stop! Don't do it! Either think carefully and buy them something they need, or, failing that, buy them something someone else needs (like an item from the CMS gift catalog  www.

As we bear fruit, lets boil our own eggs the old fashioned way!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Being anxious and distressed because of our friends

We're working through Philippians in Bible study at the moment, and last night came to 2:12-29. As expected we spent a lot of time working through 2:12-18, thinking about how we might shine as lights in the world etc - good stuff.

Then we got on to v19-29, where we hear about Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus, the relationship they have with each other and the way they struggle and content for the truth of the gospel. We talked about being fellow workers and struggling for the gospel in our lives and contexts, but then spent some time talking about v26-28, especially the anxiousness and distress that the Philippians are having because they have heard of Epaphroditus' illness.

It got us wondering, would we describe what we feel for our friends when we hear of their illness or bad news as 'anxiousness' or 'distress'. Probably not - was the answer we came up with. We might feel sorrow, sympathy, compassion or worry - but probably not anxiousness or distress.

Of course we do feel these things when its our wife or our kids or our parents who are suffering, but not our mates at church.

So what does that tell us? Well, presumably the depth of the 'anguish' we feel when we hear of a calamity falling upon someone we know is directly proportional to the depth of our relationship with them. The closer we are, the more we feel it. An extreme example is if our child is sick we get worried, even anxious. If a child in Africa is sick - there is not effect on us whatsoever.

But for the Philippians, for Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus - news of illness brought distress, sorrow and anxiety. Why? Because their relationship was one of Father and Son in the faith, because they were fellow workers and fellow soldiers in the gospel.

I wonder if this is a challenge to us? Perhaps the fact that we feel concern and sympathy rather than distress and anguish for our fellow workers is a sign that we need to deepen the relationships we have together? Perhaps part of that deepening of relationship comes in the mutual contending for the gospel, rather than just chatting over morning tea and having meals together? Should we be deepening our relationships with one another not just socially, but 'gospelly'?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Two encouragements to bear fruit

I heard two great sermons yesterday - one 'live' and one on the radio. Each one had a point that really struck me as we live in the world that we do.

Sermon 1 - a 'state of the union' type address at one of our link churches.
There were lots of good points made by Phil, but the one that really struck me was that "a little religion is good for you in this world, but in the world to come it is useless". 

We were looking at Matthew 10:34-39 and we were being encouraged to think that in Jesus' mind there weren't 'full on' Christians - just Christians. To have a little bit of religion, get a few of the moral bits or learn a few religious platitudes is actually in the long run useless.

He suggested that as Christians we can be tempted to become a bit 'flabby around the middle' rather than the lean mean Christians that Jesus wants us to be. Instead of being radical followers of Jesus, we can make Jesus 'a priority'. As we face more pressures at work and on the wallet etc, this was a great reminder to keep bearing fruit.

Sermon 2 - on the parable of the prodigal son.
Simon encouraged us to think about the older son, the one who works diligently and home and gets really angry when the foolish younger son comes home and gets a big party. So often we can kind of sympathise with the older son - actually it does seem a bit rough that he gets to work all day and receive nothing, but then his idiot little brother comes home and gets the full royal treatment.

Simon's word to us as we think about that - repent of that thinking! The older son is ungrateful, he doesn't understand the love of his father, he doesn't understand the joy of being in a secure, accepting and loving relationship, and he doesn't understand the magnitude of the lost one being found!

Again - a great encouragement to know the relationship we have with God, praise him for that, and praise him when other people come to be part of that relationship too.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A change in society on some of the issues of life.

I'm wondering if there has been a change in our society? I think I noticed this in the recent American election campaign, but a few national issues and a couple of conversations that I've had the past few weeks have confirmed my suspicions.

My suspicion is that being what the Americans would call 'pro-life', is now seen as a radical, right wing, fundamentalist position, whereas in the past I think it would have been seen as a mainline view. Sure, the view may be disagreed with, but it would be an acceptable view to hold.

Take for example the recent debate in Victoria leading the legislative change that now allows late term abortions. In all the press coverage surrounding that debate, the 'pro-life' view was presented as being out of touch, last century, conservative, disempowering of women etc. 'Of course this change should go ahead' was the general view. To disagree, to argue for the preservation and value of life was to be a radical fringe thinker.

That in the legislative realm, what about personally. I was talking to an old friend in the pool today (while we watched our kids splash around) and he said that he had found himself keeping silent in a couple of 'water cooler' conversations about abortion recently, because he didn't want his workmates to think of him as a fundamental 'evangelical right' American-type nutter. Now this guy is articulate and carefully thought out. He's the sort of guy who would, and does, speak out regularly on issues of Christian living around the water cooler. And yet here he felt himself staying silent. Have we seen the tide turn on a major social issue so much that we feel the need to keep silent?

With all that in mind - I reckon what the current Moore College students is a great idea. Because they are all poor and the government wants poor people to have more money and spend it to stimulate the Australian economy, in December they are giving poor people with kids $1,000 per child. The Moore College crew have decided that to support families, and particularly to support mothers who are feeling the pressure to abort their babies but don't really want to - they're going to give half of that money to Anglicare and other organisations that care for these women. Good on you!

Have a look here for more details.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Melbourne Cup - just say no!

Tomorrow is that iconic event in Australian sporting history, 'the race that stops a nation', the Melbourne Cup.

It seems that while it may stops us thinking. In 2007 in the order of $150million was wagered on the race, most of which of course went to the government and the bookies. Frankly - betting on anything is a dud investment, betting on the Melbourne Cup is a real dud - with 24 horses in the race the odds are stacked against you.

Apart from the obvious problem of probability and the well documented social evils associated with gambling, the main problem with the Melbourne Cup is that it hooks into our senses of greed and materialism. Normal, rational- and often godly people suddenly become greedy for the win, desirous of the latest fashion and spend vast amounts of money on over-rated food. (Am I sounding grumpy??)

Can I make a suggestion? As people who are aiming to live godly, content lives, lets say 'No' to the Melbourne Cup. Lets not let it stop us. When the office sweep comes around say a polite 'no thanks'. Perhaps if refusal will make too much of a scene - thats a good thing. Or maybe, buy the ticket, but give the same amount of money to the Christian ministry of your choice - along with any winnings that may come your way.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

On the importance of relationships

It's less that four months until we leave for Mexico - in fact today I was in at the CMS office and saw bookings made in our name! (That brings home the reality of things).

One of the questions that is coming up regularly as we visit churches is 'What are some of the cultural differences between Mexico and Australia?'

Of course there are many, but one big one is the importance of relationships - especially face-to-face relationships. Whereas in Australia we might be happy to send emails or speak on the phone to a work colleague or a friend, in Latin America it seems that face-to-face counts for much more than it does here. Of course this can be pretty inefficient, but it also means relationships that are formed are much deeper and perhaps can tolerate more??

A good example of this importance of personal relationships is seen in what I'm doing in a couple of weeks.

One of the groups MOCLAM (the organisation I am working for/with in Mexico) will provide training materials to is the CIEE - the Latin American coalition of IFES (International Fellowship of Evangelical Students). The CIEE has staffworkers and student groups scattered all over Latin America on hundreds of tertiary campuses. They want to use the MOCLAM courses to train their staffworkers - which is really exciting and a great opportunity.

In November, the national secretaries of each of the CIEE groups are getting together for a week-long meeting in Panama City - to discuss, among other things, training.

Grahame Scarratt and I are going to the meeting to get to know the people and talk to them about the courses and how we can help. Now Panama City is a long way away (8hrs flight from LA), it costs a lot to get there (especially with the $ the way it is) and the entire meeting is going to be in Spanish (which I don't speak). And yet it is really worthwhile me going - because face to face relationships are so valuable.

The fact that I'll only be able to participate in broken conversation and certainly won't understand the finer details that are being discussed doesn't matter. I'm told just the fact that people will get to know me and put a name to my face and all that sort of stuff counts for heaps.

If you're a praying type - perhaps you could pray that this would be a productive meeting, and that I'd have the energy I need to meet lots of new people. Also, please pray that many of the Central American folks will be able to get there, because their currency situation is very bad.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sydney Synod mission hour

I was one of the guests of the Sydney Anglican Synod last night - during their missionary hour.

You can read a report of the presentations here  

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A great Christmas gift

If you're starting to think about Christmas (and hey, who isn't.....) then can I suggest a really great gift idea. The CMS 'Perfect Gift Catalog' has just been released, and its full of great gifts like

$5 for clothes for street kids in Ethiopia
$10 for training pastors in Egypt
$15 for training leaders in Cuba (my personal favourite!)
$25 for breakfast for 90 kids in Cambodia
$50 for training Aboriginal brothers and sisters in the Northern Territory

and there's stacks more.

If you'd like to get a copy and starting your shopping, go to and download the catalog.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Connect09 - an unexpected problem??

Connect09 is a fantastic initiative being promoted among churches here in Sydney. The idea is to encourage people to 'connect' with people around them - most of whom haven't yet heard about the great saving news of Jesus. Its a great idea - and seems to be taking off all over the place. From what I hear, churches, small groups, individuals are coming up with ways to share Jesus with their neighborhood. It'll be an exciting time next year - I'm disappointed that I won't be around to see it.

But I wonder if there is a slight problem (and certainly unintended by the organisers) with Connect09 that might be worthwhile thinking about? That is, with all the effort going into local evangelism, is there going to a forgetting of the world beyond our parish boundaries? Is the 'bucket of effort' going to be poured completely on our neighborhood, leaving nothing for those who work beyond our borders?

Perhaps this raises a bigger question as well? Is there a sense in which we build up our own churches, grow our staff teams, build better buildings and fit them with flashier technological gizmos - but forget about supporting mission?

Maybe there needs to be a clause in the Connect09 project briefing papers somewhere about the connections that are being made overseas and the need to support that work as well?

Of course if Connect09 'goes off' (and by the sounds of it that is quite likely in many places) there will be a whole lot of people who are keen for evangelism and service and who have found that if they give things a go, they might be able to do it beyond '09! 

It'd be a great thing if that 'giving things a go' extended for some beyond our borders.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

10 Ways to make life miserable for your new minister

Mark Layson, the new senior minister at St Matthew's Ashbury started recently (replacing me - and doing a fantastic job.) A couple of weeks before he started, I preached a sermon '10 ways to make life miserable for your new minister' (hoping that the irony was suitably apparent!)

Here they are.

1. Expect that he will be an expert in everything and get everything right the first time.

2. Don't let him use his particular gifts.

3. Assume he'll be the same as your previous minister.

4. Assume his wife is exactly the same as your previous minister's wife.

5. Expect him to remember your name after the first time he meets you.

6. Expect his kids to fit in perfectly straight away - afterall they are the minister's kids!

7. Have the attitude that he will solve all your problems.

8. Don't encourage him to be a godly leader.

9. Don't do anything he suggests.

10. Do everything he suggests.

The sermon is available at   Look for the sermon on August 31 labelled 1Timothy.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What to do with your 'giving dollar'?

We had a great discussion at Bible study last night about living the Christian life, social and economic justice and money. Great stuff!

One of the questions that came up related to the priority of giving money to Christian organisations - whether they be our local church, mission, social action, child sponsorship etc. Should we as Christians show a preference to where our 'giving dollar' goes?

I think the answer is clearly 'yes' - but I wonder if the order I came up with is based on pragmatics rather than scripture? One of the arguments put forward was that there are a whole lot of people in the world who will give to various aid groups that are not Christian (Amnesty, Medicines san Frontier etc) and so therefore as Christians we should concentrate on the Christian organisations and projects. Afterall, your average bloke walking down Martin Place is unlikely to give money to CMS! Thats not a bad argument, but I always get a bit nervous arguing from pragmatics, so can we do a bit better?

Galatians 6:10 encourages us to do good to everyone, and especially those who are of the household of faith. I'm sure this isn't just talking about cash, but surely it includes cash.

We know that the early church certainly put a high priority on collecting and giving money to other churches (1Cor 16:1-3) and that the local church workers had the right to be paid (1Cor 9:8-12).

And so surely the ministry of our local church and our fellow Christians around the world must figure highly in our giving pattern, which perhaps means when it comes to our giving dollar, groups that are not involved in gospel work should fall to the bottom of our list, or even off the list all together.

Here's a little observation for what its worth. I think most Christians do pretty well at supporting the ministry of their local church. Sure churches could always so with a bit more money and there are always new projects to be done, but on the whole when it comes to the local budget, there are a lot of very generous people around.

But sometimes thats where the giving dollar can stop. The attitude can be 'I'll spend my dollar in my patch and thats that.' I wonder if sometimes we need another reminder of the spirit of 'doing good for those outside our parish boundary'. Whether it be AFES, CMS, MTS or whatever - we need to ensure that our definition of 'the household of faith' is not limited to those who we see at church on Sunday.

Its another way we can work at bearing fruit.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sholla! is now online!

If you are interested, our monthly newsletter (1 page, with pictures!) is now available online. Its called 'Sholla!' which of course is a pun on the Spanish word for hello.

Go to

There is a password for the download - just to add a very minor level of security. The password is the title of our newsletter (no capitals, no punctuation)


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Overcoming apathy towards mission

I have to admit that I'm pretty new at this mission education game, but even in our fairly limited experience we've noticed a significant trend. That is, the major battle we need to fight against as we go around visiting churches and different groups encouraging people to become partners with us in mission - is apathy.

We haven't yet met someone who has said 'I am dead against what you are doing, I think its a stupid and fruitless pursuit!' We've met only one person who has said 'I'm glad you're doing it because there's no way that I'll be going.' We've met lots of people who have said 'what you're doing is great, we'd like to be partners with you!' (which is fantastic). But we've also met a significant group who have said... well... nothing.

Its not that they're against mission or against us, it's just that they're apathetic towards the whole thing. Its as if mission hasn't made it onto their horizon.

For some, it seems that this is the result of the natural self centredness that comes with being a typical person in a certain generation (ie: read: not being able to see beyond one's own iPod).

For others, its that life here is really busy. What with work and the kids and getting study and helping out at church and all the busy stuff of life ... its hard to allow anything else into my head space.

For others its a bit more sinister than that. Their apathy is a result of a comfortable life. Whether its the pursuit of material success or basking in the already achieved success, it just seems that looking beyond to a world beyond, let alone the world of mission is a vista too far.

And so one of the things we're trying to do as we visit churches is to work out how awaken the apathetic.

We've found that easily the most effective method is to have personal conversation. The up front presentations, the flashy powerpoint and video extravaganzas, the snappy and witty interviews (OK- so more snappy than witty) all have their place, but in one sense they are just teasers for the personal and small group conversations that will follow around cups of tea and meals.

So if you are reading this and having us at your church in the next few months - we look forward to visiting your church and to showing you 'our wares', but most of all we're interested in talking to you personally and lifting your eyes from your immediate concerns, to the global concerns of God around the world. Be prepared!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Hearing from God

Frankly, there are a few bits of the Bible that are a little bizarre! Yesterday at church we read one of them in Ezekiel 1.

As Ezekiel stands on the banks of the Chebar Canal with his fellow Israelites in the Babylonian exile, he has a vision  - and what a vision it is!

He sees terrifying and powerful creatures, weird and wonderful mechanics and magnificent views. He hears the sounds of the Almighty and the sound of an army. It is a wonderful sensory overload!

Verse after verse we hear of the awesome and terrifying vision that he has - and all the while we are left to wonder 'What does it mean?'

Ezekiel I'm sure would have had the same sense of wonder and amazement, and perhaps a little bit of confusion - just like us. But there is no doubt about what he understands is happening, and what is the appropriate response.

"Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking."  (Ezekiel 1:28  ESV)

Ezekiel knows that as he has his vision, a window is being opened for him, a window to the glory of God. And he knows what is the appropriate response to the opening of such a window - its to fall down, and to listen. As we read on we also learn that Ezekiel obeys what the Lord says to him  - yet another appropriate response.

The point is this I think. To be in the presence of the Lord, to experience his glory and majesty, and to hear him speak - is no small matter.

How often do we hear the saying 'I'd believe in God if he just showed himself to me' by which is usually meant 'I'd believe in God is he would do the party trick which I demand of him.'

Ezekiel didn't demand any party tricks, he didn't put any conditions on God's appearance, he didn't define a box for God to fit into. He let God be God, and he bowed down before him.

Is that sometimes what we need to do? To remember who is God and who has been created by him. To realise his majesty and his glory and to acknowledge him not by demanding things of him or putting him in a box, but by doing what Ezekiel did - bowing before him and listening to him.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

I'm about to be replaced!

I'm about to be replaced!

The nominators have done their work, the induction service is all planned and ready to go and the rectory is looking spick and span.

Which has got me thinking - what should we be looking for in our leaders. I guess this is specifically aimed at church leaders, but US readers might like to keep it in mind as the presidential elections come up soon.

As I thought about being replaced, and thought about Mark (who is replacing me), my mind turned to 1 Timothy 3, and the qualifications for overseers that Paul lists there.

"The saying trustworthy. If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil."  (1 Tim 3:1-7, ESV)

'Leadership' is one of the big buzzwords amongst Christian training institutions - especially in the developing world. Everyone thinks leadership is a good thing. Everyone thinks leadership is something worthy of spending time training for. Everyone has got their own theory and set of key elements of leadership.

Its interesting as you read the briefs of leadership schools or courses, its often about equipping a person with a set of skills. Skills like problem solving, strategic thinking, targeting and marketing, getting people to do what you want them to do, mediation and motivation.

And yet when Paul lists the characteristics he wants in a leader, its character, not competency that comes to the fore. Before they can set the vision and run the committee and raise the funds, Paul wants the leader to have a character that is shaped by the gospel. He wants people whose hearts have been transformed by the gospel - because the position of gospel leadership requires a gospel shaped life. 

Did you notice that in that passage, only one of the categories that Paul lists is a competency? 'Able to teach'. The other dozen or so are all character issues.

We all know of leaders who have failed. Often when we think of them and the ministries they were involved in - its a point of great sadness that they are no longer leading that ministry. But nine times out of ten, their failure in leadership has not been a competency issue, but one of character. They have failed to be hospitable, self controlled, not a lover of money or the husband of one wife. Over and over again we see that if you want to be a gospel leaders, you must first and foremost have a gospel heart and a gospel shaped character - because if you don't, it will quickly be exposed.

As we head off to the mission field in Latin America, and into a position of leadership with MOCLAM, its really important that we reflect on these character requirements. We can spend so much time on language study and developing skills in promotions and leadership and resource management - its easy to get caught up in all of that. But if we get all those skills, but don't have a gospel shaped character, then its all going to come crashing down pretty quickly.

I guess in the end it comes down to the fact that as Christian leaders, we need to make sure we're not 'in it' for our own glory, but for God's glory. We need to make sure that people don't notice what a great leader we are, but notice what a great God we serve.

If you're in Christian leadership - keep working on your character. If you're under a Christian leader (and we all are at some stage), lets keep doing what we can to encourage our leaders - to be the leaders God wants them to be, not the leaders the world says they should be.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Competing for the imperishable wreath

The Olympics are great - but its a good thing they are only on once every 4 years otherwise my average yearly productivity would certainly drop. My favourite moment so far was the Handball game between Denmark and Russia. Denmark scored after the final bell to snatch victory - really exciting. I'm looking forward to the men's marathon - it'll be the stuff of real legends I'm sure.

We were deputising at St Andrew's Cathedral this week and had a great time. On Sunday night we visited the FIX congregation, and I was reminded of these verses from 1 Corinthians 9.

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly: I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to other I myself should be disqualified."  1 Cor 9:24-27

One of the things that emerges during Olympic competition is the sacrifices that the athletes have made to get to where they are. While those sideline interviews with parents and friends of athletes are a bit irritating, they are also revealing, because the friends will tell us what its really like for the athletes. The crack of dawn training, the pain, injury and frustration, the extended periods away from home and the personal criticism that comes when expectations are not met.

And why do they do it? For the victory. For the medal. For the chance to become a household name. For the wreath.  Of course all of these things will fade away and perish.

At FIX on Sunday night the name 'Dean Lukin' was mentioned. People my age and above remembered the South Australian tuna fisherman who won gold in the superheavyweight weightlifting in LA in 1984. But there is now a whole generation who has never heard of Dean Lukin. In the years to come there will be a generation who have never heard of Michael Phelps, Libby Trickett and Stephanie Rice, let alone the people who get knocked out in the early heats.

In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul uses the athlete as a model for the Christian. Its a 'how much more' sort of argument. They are disciplined and self controlled for a perishable wreath, for momentary glory - how much more should we be disciplined and self controlled for eternal, imperishable glory.

Just as the athlete trains hard and is disciplined in what they eat and going to training and all that - we are to be disciplined in godliness.

For some of us, the Olympics provide that spark of enthusiasm we need to get out and run around the park or swim a few laps or get the bike out of the garage. That's great - I'm partial to the odd bit of physical exercise myself. But Paul wants the Olympics to take us not just onto the physical training track, but into the godliness gym as well, and be disciplined in our godliness.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Yodeling and sin .... is there a link?

I have been forced this week to consider if there is a link between yodeling and sin?

Perhaps  I should explain.

On Monday night I was watching 'Enough Rope' ( where Andrew Denton was interviewing Mary and Melinda Schneider. I know you know this, but Mary Schneider is Australia's (and perhap's the world's) Queen of yodeling. Melinda is her daughter and is a country singer.

It was an excellent interview - lots of really good thoughts about parents, daughters etc.

To close the show, Melinda sang a song she had written called 'Be yourself, everyone else is taken.' It was a song about, well, being yourself, not letting anyone else tell you what to do or what you should be.

On Tuesday night I went to Bible study. We've been working through 'The Blueprint', an excellent series of studies on basic Christian doctrine. This week, we were doing 'Sin'. As we looked at the classic 'sin' passages like Genesis 3, Rom 8:5-6, Eph 2:1-3 it made me think again of that phrase 'Be yourself, everyone else is taken.' And I wondered if that in fact is the very essence of sin?

When Adam and Eve disobeyed the command of God in the garden, isn't it them saying 'I want to be myself'. When the Israelites rebelled against God and turned against him, despite his constant and loving provision for them, weren't they saying 'we want to be ourselves'?

But as Christians, we have been redeemed, bought out of this desire and need to be ourselves. As Christ dies and rises again, he redeems people for God so that they are no longer slaves to individualism and self expression, but are now slaves to godliness and righteousness. No longer do we want to be ourselves, instead we want to be Christ's.

"But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification, and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Romans 6:22-23

Its a great challenge isn't it. Our society says self expression, following your dream, being yourself is a great end (I'm sure we'll hear all about it during the Olympics), but as Christians we're not to pursue our own self, but our fruitful slavery in God.

Now, lets see if Mary Schneider is on iTunes......

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What is deputation?

For the next 6 months or so, Sarah and I are involved in 'deputation'. So what is this 'deputation'?

Deputation is the old word for what we now call 'mission education'. As missionaries of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) (, one of the privileges we have is to be involved in education - especially the education of people in Australia about what God is doing all over the world. The idea is that as we talk about the work God is doing in Mexico, in Latin America and in all four corners of the globe, our hearers will for moved to pray for the work, care for their missionaries, give to support what CMS is doing, and perhaps consider going.

We have two majors areas where we are responsible for mission education.

First - we have six link churches. These are churches that have said they would like to specifically support us as their link missionaries. They will take a particular role in caring and praying for us, our prayer points might go in their weekly bulletins and on their websites, they might direct some of their church budget to CMS to support us - that sort of thing.

We will spend a week (or two depending on the size of the church) at each of these link churches. We'll be meeting as many of the church members as we can in situations from Sunday services, to small group Bible studies, dinners, morning teas - whatever they organise for us to do. We're really looking forward to this opportunity and the new friends and partners we're going to be meeting.

Second - we go to various one-off events - either organised by CMS or by someone else to which CMS people have been invited. Sometimes these are big events, like campus midyear conferences, sometimes they are smaller - regional CMS support groups and prayer meetings. Sometimes we'll be asked to talk about the work we're heading to do in Mexico, but other times it might be something a bit different - like how we became missionaries, or the training strategies of CMS.

Wherever we are, we're really keen to answer questions, share what God is doing in our lives and invite our hearers to become partners with us.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The importance of the word of God

Have you ever wondered why it is that Christians seem to talk about God's word so much?

I've joined the Men's Bible study group at St Matthew's Ashbury, and we've just started doing the Matthias Media 'Blueprint' studies - a series of 9 studies that look at Christian doctrine. This week's study was on God's word.

There were all sorts of great things we were reminded of, like the fact that God created the universe by his word, he inspires his word, he has made his word available to us in a language we can understand. But the point that particularly struck me was the fact that as we read God's word, not only do we hear about the things that God has done in the past and a bit about what he is like, but we come to know God himself.

For many of us, we don't need convincing of the need for regular reading and thinking about God's word - but I wonder what we think is happening as we do that? 2 Tim 3:16-17 talks about us being corrected, rebuked etc - and that is true. We must look to the word of God for all guidance in matter of faith and conduct.

But I think we need to be reminded that we can go one step more. Not only can we know what God wants for us as we read his word - but we can know God as well. What a special honour that is!

Now before we get too puffed up with our own self importance and we think we can read God's word and 'work him out', we need to make sure that we understand the part the Holy Spirit plays in or understanding.

"We have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual." 1 Cor 2:12-13

The Holy Spirit allows us to know God as we read God's word. Again, what a special honour.

If you are like me, sometimes (OK - more than sometimes) Bible reading can drop off, get squeezed out by those important things like sleeping or watching 'The Amazing Race'. But I was reminded at Bible study as we thought about God's word to again read it to be corrected and instructed, but also to get to know God.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A first attempt at blogging...

Well, this is it. My first attempt at blogging. 

My good friend Peter Orr, on his last day in Australia convinced me that blogs are 'the new books'! We'll see Pete - but hopefully this will help me stay in touch and share some thoughts as we head overseas in 6 months or so.

The family and I are currently about to start deputation with our CMS link churches - which will be an exciting experience I'm sure. Its a great thrill to be traveling around the place talking to people about what we are praying God will be doing throughout Latin America.

We start at St Andrew's Cathedral on August 10th, and have many visits following that. We'll also be speaking at various one off events around Sydney, in Canberra, the Southern Highlands and in Newcastle. If you are around it would be great to see you at one of them.

I'm aiming to update the blog about once a week - hopefully with things a bit deeper than this! But there you go - this is an introduction.