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To use the fork or two hands? - that is the question!

1 February, 2003 2:09 PM

ioocmudcake01.gifI find myself feeling a little low this 1st day of Feb. So I'm posting a story that I tell when I speak in churches or schools - its a story of an event that impacted my life incredibly - in fact it was an event that I credit with turning my life around. Its also a story that brings a smile to my face. I hope you enjoy it...

I entered the cafe in the hope of finding a small quiet place to sit, relax and read whilst enjoying a cappuccino. Caf�s have always been a favourite place for me. Not only do they give a place to escape the busyness of life but they meet some deep dark need within me to be cool and sophisticated. Don't ask me where it comes from, I guess deep down I'm a yuppie at heart!

I stood at the counter waiting to order when I heard my name being quietly called. "Darren....Darren" At first I thought it was my imagination and ignored the impulse to see from where it emanated. However it persisted. A small pleading voice coming from the end of the counter. Looking around to see if anyone had noticed and to check no one was watching me ( I had to keep up the 'cool' front!) I stole a quick glance in the direction of the calling.

Anyone else would have seen nothing out of the ordinary, but to me it was obvious from where the voice came. There at the end of the counter stood the one that now had me mesmerised. My heart leapt as I moved forwards, captivated by the beauty.

latte2.jpgEncased in a glass cabinet was the biggest, richest, moist looking dark chocolate mud cake that I'd ever seen! It took everything within me to stop from regressing to a primitive neanderthal state as I stood there gaping at this work of art before me. This was no ordinary cake.

Mud cake and I go way back. We are one. Where there is mud cake there is Darren. I had to possess this cake. I was an integral part of its destiny. It was as if I had found a long hoped for soul mate. I was going internally berserk. The excitement was huge, yet I contained it. One must be sophisticated after all.

I ordered my mud cake and cappuccino and found a table by the window, barely able to hide my excitement.

I waited. The hustle and bustle of the caf� went unnoticed as I strained to see if the waiter was on his way. After what seemed like an eternity he appeared before, me cappuccino and cake in hand. He placed it before me with a wry smile on his face. It was better than I'd expected. The wedge of cake before me was massive, bigger by far than any I'd seen or hope to receive again. Not only was it big, it was accompanied by a generous serving of fluffy whipped cream.

I waited for the waiter's retreat, all the time trying to seem aloof and unaffected by the splendour before me. I had to remain 'cool'. He was gone, the time had come.

cutlery.jpgWith trembling hand I took the small fork I found along side the cake and gently sliced a small, moist sliver of chocolate delight, dipped it in the cream and lifted it to my lips.

I've always considered my taste buds to be pets, some say a dog is mans best friend, I beg to differ. They were in for a treat! They leapt with excitement and showed their appreciation with a flood of pleasure filling my mouth and radiating into my body. This was sensational!

The fork followed the same path time and time again, not too fast, one did not want to draw too much attention to oneself. I had an image to protect here!

Baby9.jpgIt was after the initial waves of euphoria began to subside that I began to realise that my restraint in partaking of my mud cake was a wise move. I was not alone in my part of the cafe. The table directly in front of me was occupied. There before me sat two people. the elder of the two was a woman, probably in her early thirties. Beside her sat a young girl, probably around three, blond, extremely cute, wearing a little pink frock and visibly excited.

You know how children are when they are excited, they fidget, they look around, they pull at the sleeve of adults around them and they bounce. Boy oh boy was this lil girl bouncing! Something very, very cool was about to happen.

The bouncing began to increase in ferocity with the approach of the waiter, he came it seemed, bearing the object of this little girls desires. A latte and piece of carrot cake was placed before the woman. The milkshake placed before the little girl was largely ignored as she strained, on her knees now, to see what else the waiter had for her. There it was. The little girls eyes widened in shock as before her was placed another piece of Mud cake. She was soooo excited!

It was the same sized piece as the one that had been put before me just minutes before, but in front of this tiny girl it seemed huge, it was bigger than her head! The whipped cream alone would have filled both her cupped hands and not only that, but much to my jealous disgust she had two scoops of vanilla ice cream on the side!

Electricity now seemed to be passing through this young child as she surveyed the enormous pile of cake, cream and ice cream before her. Held back momentarily by her mother until the waiter had left them alone the anticipation grew. I knew what was to come, I had just been there, this girl was about to be in heaven!

I could not take my eyes of this picture. The moment had come. As I continued to nibble at my cake, trying so hard to control my excitement for fear of seeming uncool I watched this child DEVOUR her cake. There was no fork. Instead she reached out to this huge piece cake, dumped a handful of cream and another of ice cream on top of it and then proceeded to pick it up with both hands and shove as much of it into her mouth as possible in one go! It was not pretty. There was chocolate instantaneously spread across her face from one side to the other, there was cream in her hair and their was saliva and goop all down her little dress. She fully entered into the experience of eating this cake, no holding back.

Baby1.jpgShe had eyes only for the cake. She didn't care if she was being watched, she didn't care if she was messy, she WAS in heaven. The joy in her face was unmistakable, this was an intensely passionate moment.

As I sat there, fork in hand, nibbling at my cake I felt convicted. Personally I feel it was a 'God moment'. Like he was whispering into my ears with the picture before me.

'Darren.....you see that little girl? You see how she is going after that cake? THAT is the way I want you to go after me.'

Too often I know I go through life with a fork in hand. Trying to be cool, trying to be sophisticated, worried about how I look, concerned with what others might say and as a result nibbling at life and nibbling at faith.

Baby4.jpgThat day a child gave me insight into another way of living, one I'm sure I once partook in, one I now strive to embrace. She reminded me of the words of Jesus who encouraged his followers to enter into life like a child. Kids have passion, they express themselves, they are single minded, they don't mind what others think, they are unashamed! Sometimes being a child is messy, sometimes others do gawk and point, but in the midst of it all I've found a way of life that I'd not give up for anything. It is the way of two hands and no fork!

Darren Rowse 2003

Who's In - continued...

20 January, 2003 9:02 AM


Just checked the ongoing 'Have Your Say' conversation in the Who's In post. Was surprised to that the conversation continues there! Thanks for them - there is some really insightful thoughts and stories there - thanks to those who are using my 'Have your Say' section to share their own experiences - its a real privledge to hear your story. Check out, Laura, Paul, Richard, Johanna, Alan, Bene, Rachels etc comments in that post particularly - they are top quality!!! Debs last comment gives a bit of a feel for what has been said. She writes:

'wow - what an amazing story - my friend and I are viritually howling our eyes out here in our study. We both have had similar experiences of being cast out of churches - not because we did the unforgivable sin, but because we were broken people searching for a God who we thought accepted such people. Thank God we found a church that allowed us to be broken and in time find healing.'

It seems that my story of the woman who was ostrasized by her pastor was not such an extreme or isolated case! This saddens me and makes me all the more determined to help facilitate something that is different.

Sunday

19 January, 2003 12:26 PM


Tonights service at DCCC continues the theme of 'Where is God on Monday?' Its been interesting to hear over the month the stories of different members of our congregations share where and how they experience and sense God during their week. I've personally found it very refreshing and just as stimulating, if not more than the preaching that we normally hear from the 'experts' week to week. (including my own preaching!) Its great stuff.

Tonight we are taking a break from the story telling and I'm giving people some space to think about the year ahead. They'll receive a sheet with a blank timetable of their week on it. They'll then plot the things that they generally do in a normal week and then spend time reflecting upon where they expect to experience God in it. I guess the challenge is to realise that God is there 24/7 - and we need to learn to tune in and be more open to experiencing and being under his direction in the 'normal' things of life and not just on our 'Sunday worship experiences', mid week small groups or the times we set aside specifically to pray.

One of the books I've found helpful in thinking this through with a small group is Tom and Christine Sine's Living on Purpose. I'm looking forward to meeting and learning from them in person in a couple of weeks time as I do an intensive subject with them at college.

Who's In?

13 January, 2003 10:04 PM

I was told this true story over a year ago by a friend. It shook me then and continues to haunt me. It now plays a part in shaping the type of church I want to be involved with. (Names have been changed to protect the violated and violators) Its long but I can't share it any other way!

Margaret was a spiritual person. She had always sensed there was more out there, some power that was behind life, some being that seemed to be reaching out to her, desiring to entwine itself with her life.

Margaret grew up in suburban Melbourne in the 60's an 70's. A time where a young woman could 'find herself' . A time where one could experiment with who they were and what there place in the cosmos was. She began to reach out to an unseen but felt God.

Over the years her exploration included trips to Asia to spend time with various gurus, reading books about astral travel and in more recent years she and her young daughter became regular visitors to the New Age festivals that seemed to spring up around the outer suburbs of the city. At times Margaret seemed to find the enlightenment and peace she hungered for at other times she felt empty and longed for more. Her search continued.

After decades of searching Margaret met a Christian that introduced her to a local church and its pastor. The pastor met with her a number of times and in time introduced her to Jesus. She and her daughter became Christians and felt wonderfully and warmly accepted by this community of believers.

Margaret felt alive - she was able to name this previously unknown God that she had felt drawing near to her. She began to grow and mature in her faith yet she still had questions. Questions about how her new found faith in Jesus fit with her previous experiences. Had she not experienced enlightenment and peace through her yoga, her crystals and exploration of other religions? Or was it all just simply of Satan or perhaps just some psychological phenomenon?

She wanted to make sense of it all and began to read a New Age book again - looking for Jesus in their pages. She made an appointment to see her Pastor, surely he would be able to advise her. The appointment came and she shared some of her doubts and experiences of before her conversion. She asked him questions and told him about the book she had been reading. He said very little and she went home confused.

Sunday morning came and Margaret and her teenage daughter went to worship as they did every week. They sat towards the front, eager to learn and connect with God. After the singing had finished the Pastor got up to speak. All was normal at first apart from the fact that he did not stand at his pulpit as was his habit. Instead he began to leave the platform and walked into his congregation. He walked up to Margaret and then pointed at her so that no one could be mistaken about whom he spoke of.

"This woman has been dabbling with things of Satan!" he shouted to his flock. "She is not to be trusted. I do not want any of you to have anything to do with her from this day forward. This woman is a WITCH!" He then proceeded to order her from the building while those she had come to know as friends looked on.

Margaret and her daughter have never set foot in church again. Her daughter who this story was related to my friend by had an incredible distrust for the church and Christians as a result also and says she'll never return either.

This story made me angry. Its an extreme illustration of something that I feel many churches today are guilty of - building walls. The pastor that day put a boundary around his congregation. It was publicly stated and well defined. Everyone knew that morning who was IN and who was OUT. If you had questions, doubts or wanted to try to make sense of the gospel in relation to another belief system you were excluded in a vindictive way from the community.

As I said, this is an extreme case. Many, perhaps even most churches and pastors would take a more gentle and graceful approach with Margaret. However its got me wondering what boundaries we continue to build up around ourselves as churches. I've taken a good hard look at how church operates and I think that most are guilty of the same thing in many and varied ways.

Most of the boundaries we build are very subtle and unintentional - but none the less they exist. They can range from simple things like the language we use and the way we dress right through to the big issues like how we determine membership or issues of theology and exercising of gifts. When we do this the mentality is one of US and THEM. Time and energy is spent by the community defining the boundaries and making sure people are kept on the side that they belong. To become one of US (to belong) means you have to change your behaviour or beliefs. (or at least appear to do so)

The way I read Jesus is that he didn't operate this way. I can't find an account where he told a sinner or outcast to go away and fix themselves up before they could come to him. In fact the people he go most angry at were people who were into the US and THEM game. Time and energy in Jesus community wasn't spent on defining boundaries and keeping people in their place, rather it was spent on drawing people into a life in the kingdom.

I don't have all the answers, community gets tricky at times and so often we find ourselves 'playing the game' without even knowing it. But the kind of church I desire to be a member of is one where belonging isn't determined by what someone believes or what someone's lifestyle looks like - rather I suspect it needs to be based upon something a little deeper like their attitude and what direction they are moving in. Like Jesus community it might at times look quite opposite the way many of our churches operate - with the outsiders taking up central positions and the so called insiders finding themselves on the outer.

What do you think???

Godliness is next to manliness

13 January, 2003 4:12 PM

from Melbourne paper The Age January 13 - By Kelly Burke

"Testosterone is keeping men away from church as religion fails to satisfy the thrill-seeking urge, according to research in the United States.

While women's over-representation in religious participation has been the case for centuries, the question of men's irreligiosity has been largely ignored, says Rodney Stark, a University of Washington professor of sociology and comparative religion. After studying data from 57 nations covering all the world's major religions, he has concluded that male physiology, not socialisation, has rendered them comparatively godless.

The reason men are less likely than women to be found in a house of worship is the same reason men are more likely to find themselves behind bars, Dr Stark claims.

"Recent studies of biochemistry imply that both male irreligiousness and male lawlessness are rooted in the fact that far more males than females have an underdeveloped ability to inhibit their impulses, especially those involving immediate gratification and thrills," he says in research published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

Consequently, men tend to be more short-sighted about their souls. "Going to prison or going to hell just doesn't matter to these men," he says.

The theory is not just pertinent to Western society, according to Dr Stark, nor applicable only to those religions that threaten a negative payoff in the afterlife for non-participation. Although the gender gap was less pronounced in countries where religions such as Buddhism and Shintoism were dominant, the male/female imbalance was still there.

But Gary Bouma, professor of sociology of religion at Monash University, is sceptical about Dr Stark's findings. "The best you can say about his explanation is that at least it isn't insulting to women," he says, referring to the plethora of theories centred on female submissiveness and emotional capacity.

"(Stark) hasn't really changed the question and he does not give the answer... the physiological basis for risk-taking in itself has yet to be determined," Professor Bouma said.

According to 2001 census figures on religious affiliation, men significantly outnumber women in claiming agnosticism, atheism and professing no religious belief. But one of the most strident gender imbalances is to be found in Satanism - 1415 Australian men identified with devil worship, compared with just 383 women.

Dr Stark said says these figures were consistent with his risk-taking theory. "These men are possibly making a religion out of taking risks," he said.

"They're thumbing their nose at the church... making a religion of the irreligious." "

Thanks for the heaps up again Cam!

Quote for the day

4 January, 2003 9:27 PM


Someone once said to me "If you want to achieve things you've never achieved before, you need to be willing to do things you've never done before".

So often in life we dream of reaching new heights. We do it in our careers, in our relationships, in our ministries etc. But more often than not we're not willing to do anything different to reach those new heights! We are not satisfied with where we are at - but we're not willing to move out of our comfort zone to move forward. As a result we keep doing what we've always done and we fail to fulfil our dreams.

This is a principle that can be applied to virtually all areas of life. If you want to see the world, you'd better be willing to get on a plane or boat. If you want a dynamic relationship with your partner, you're going to have to step up to the plate when it comes to putting in some relational effort. If you want a promotion you will need to do that overtime and make the extra effort with your work.

Surely this is true for today's church also. The statistics across many Western Nations show that many Protestant churches are in steep decline. Last week in a Melbourne paper an article reported that one of our largest denominations, the Anglican church, had issued a press release stating that most churches in Australia would cease to exist in 15 years.

I'm not satisfied with this! I don't want the Church to be an irrelevant institution in my country and world when I turn 45! I want it to be a dynamic force that is presenting the gospel of Jesus in relevant and life changing ways! I dream of a church that is not sniggered at when mentioned in conversation, but one that is respected for the contribution it makes to our society.

If this is what we desire - to be somewhere that we are currently not - surely we need to be willing to do some things that we've never done before. We need to be exploring new ways of being church. We need to be open to new forms of worship, teaching, prayer, leadership and community. We should be dreaming, experimenting, tweaking and striving to find relevant ways to connect with our world. We should be changing the ways we think, speak and look. We should be empowering new, up and coming leaders, giving them permission implement their fresh ideas.

If we are not willing to do new things, we shall continue to do the things we've been doing for decades, if not centuries - and I fear we will never reach the dizzy heights of our dreams!

The wisest man I know

4 January, 2003 12:54 PM


Last night we had the privledge of having possibly the wisest man that I know stay over at our house. He is 20 years old, about 4.5 feet tall, he hardly ever stops smiling and his name is Andy.

We look after Andy once a month for 24 hours to give his parents (two remarkable people) some respite from caring for him. You see Andy has Downs Syndrome and his parents appreciate a night together and alone every now and again. So Andy, V and I paint the town beige for a Friday night and Saturday once a month! Heres a pic of V, Andy and me at our wedding.


For me to be honest it was something that made me feel a little uncomfy - don't really know why in hindsight - but my wonderful wife V is the most caring compassionate person I know so I thought I'd tag along with her - do a 'good deed'!

I soon found that it was not I doing the 'good deed' but Andy who gives more than I ever could. Every time I spend time with him I feel I've had a personal visit from God - all 4.5 feet of him is quite divine! His love for people and life seems to know no limits. His patience and kindness to us big, complicated sods astounds me. His ability to talk to just about anyone makes me envious. His childlikeness is amazing. (today he decided to do the chicken dance in the middle of the crowded market where we visited) And his gratefulness for every small thing I do for him makes me feel guilty for the hundreds of times each day I grumble about the smallest hardship.

In addition to all this he has the most amazing faith I've encountered. Sure its simple - but every time I see it I wonder if thats the way it should be for all of us. Last visit he had a sore stomach - he was actually in considerable pain but didn't want to let on that he was suffering. Eventually he asked me to come sit with him in our little back yard on an old park bench we have. As we sat there he rested his little head on my chest and stammered out the words 'D, would you pray for my sore stomach? It will make it feel better.' Then he took my hand in his and placed it on his tummy while I prayed. I didn't really have too many words to add to his incredible demonstration of faith - what could one say?

Hit a nerve?

3 January, 2003 5:29 PM


Seems the last post hit a nerve both positively and negatively with some if the comments are anything to go by! A couple of the comments concerned me particularly and have made me think much on this subject as I worked today. Cameron concerned me because he seems to lump all Muslims into one basket - the one where they are all terrorists. I personally take offence at this as I have always had friends that are Muslim and they are some of the most peace loving people I've ever met. This is another topic altoghether that perhaps we could explore at some later stage. For now you might like to look at my previous post on my visit to a local Mosque here to get a feel for some of my own journey on this.

Ellis concerned me somewhat as they seem to be trying to isolate themselves from all those that don't profess Christianity as their religion. I don't understand this thinking at all - partly because such an approach would almost be impossible here in Australia due to the smallness of the 'Christian Market' (see last post for what I mean) but also because to me it seems to directly contradict the message of Jesus who time and time again took the religious leaders of his day to task for this type of behaviour. Jesus crossed borders, social taboos, norms and related with just about every people group that he should not have related with.

Why do so many Christians seem to have a 'compound mentality' where they look themselves away from the world and only ever relate to their own kind. There are obviously some who literally are doing this, but I suspect we all do in other more subtle ways.

I could write more - but don't want to harp on about it. Lets keep talking about this!

America's Best Christian Paintball Park

2 January, 2003 9:13 PM



Stumbled across this link to the Promised Land Paintball Park . To be honest its a concept that leaves me a tad puzzled.

Now before I say why let me say that I've done paintball (or as we call it here in Aus - Skirmish) and I found it to be a fun, although slightly painful, experience. I don't have problems with it as a game/sport even though its a bit violent in nature to be shooting people, even if it is with paint balls from a low powered air rifle.

What confuses me is why the park advertises itself as a 'Christian' Paintball Park. I know they are not alone in this, so many businesses do it, but I wonder why? I wonder if in doing so do we separate ourselves somewhat from the world in which we are called to engage with.

Jesus gave us the ultimate model to follow in his becoming human, his incarnation, in order to bring humanity life. When we separate ourselves and our businesses from the world we live in by slapping the word 'Christian' on our door, do we we run the risk of alienating some in our communities from the message we proclaim?

Please do not misunderstand me - I'm not saying we should hide our faith - rather I'm trying to work out what the positives of distinguishing ourselves so blatantly are? What makes a paintball park 'Christian'? Many of the 'customer comments' (and there are rather a lot!!) on the site seem to talk about it being a 'family friendly' and 'safe' environment. Its a place where you can only come if you come with a 'member' -I guess the unruly type are kept away - I wonder if Jesus and his disciples would have gotten a game?

I guess I say this from an Aussie perspective also where if a business were to name itself the 'best Christian paintball park in Australia' it would probably stand to go bankrupt in a matter of weeks. The 'Christian' market in Australia is tiny by comparison to that in America - 'Christianity' is not something that a business that is serious about making money would put in its name here - it would have quite the opposite effect! I take it things are a little different in the US. For example, the sales of 'Christian Music' in the US every year is larger by far than the total sales of ALL music in Australia each year.

With such a large 'Christian' market, the cynic in me wonders if maybe putting the word 'Christian' in your business's advertising is probably more a money making decision than it is a statement of belief.

Gee - I must sound like a real grump tonight. I'm not aiming to be and I'm not meaning to launch an attack upon 'Promised Land Paintball Park' - I'm sure they do offer a fun day out, if I were in the Mid West of the US I'd pop by, however think these types of questions need to be asked - anyone got any thoughts???

UPDATE - the original comments to this post got lost in the move to my new domain - if you're interested you can access them here

Chance meetings

28 December, 2002 9:16 PM


Last week we celebrated V's birthday by going out for dinner to a local cafe. Our waitress was obviously from the US and it was obviously her first night on the job. Despite her best efforts the service from other staff was poor - she was obviously having 'one of those nights'. I felt sorry for her - but obviously not that sorry because she did not enter my mind from the moment we left the cafe until the next night when we saw her trying to borrow a video at the local video shop. Again she seemed to be having 'one of those days'. They wouldn't give her a card because she couldn't prove where she lived. Once again I 'felt sorry' for her - but obviously not that sorry because we walked right on by her in the shop - although she obviously could have done with some support or a friend.

Shortly after I got the guilts - we should have stopped, said hi, asked if we could help. She was obviously new to our area, our country and was probably in need of a friend. Had God perhaps put her in my path twice in 24 hours for a reason? Had I missed an opportunity to show another person compassion? I couldn't get her face out of my mind the next day as I went Christmas shopping the next morning with V. I prayed that if God wanted us to meet her that he'd have to give us another chance. I promptly forgot about her again.

Well of course as we jumped on a tram to come home after shopping there she was, sitting right in front of us. V and I almost laughed as we looked at each other. We promptly introduced ourselves and found that she (Mel) lived at the end of our street, that she was indeed a lonely traveller and was appreciative of someone to talk to. We invited her home for a drink - nothing profound happened - but we promised to keep in touch.

Maybe God didn't trust us to give her a call - because yesterday on the tram home from watching the cricket - there was the smiling face of Mel again. Four chance meetings in a city of over 3 million people in 5 days! Last night she came for drinks and ended up stayed for dinner. Again the conversation was not 'profound', but it deepened. I don't know why we keep bumping into her, we may never - but for me its been a lesson in looking for what God is doing in the ordinary interactions and places of life. In the cafes and video shops and on the trams - places where its so easy to be self absorbed - yet places where God often nudges us and provides opportunities to connect with his other children. Its also been a lesson in the patience and grace of God - even slow coaches like me get included in his plans

I wonder where we'll meet Mel tomorrow!?

Worldometers

24 December, 2002 2:38 PM


Have you seen these? Can't guarantee their accuracy, but whether or not they are spot on, they do make some fairly telling commentaries on the world we live in.

In particular I was struck by Population, Food Supply and Health.

Brings things a little more into perspective as we celebrate tomorrow. Thanks Presurfer for the link.

I'm Pregnant

22 December, 2002 7:45 PM


Its true - and you are pregnant too!!!! We all are!

In preparation for preaching tonight I found myself reading Luke 1:26-38 - Mary is confronted with an angel bringing the news of her pregnancy with Jesus. Quite the day for young Mary, not only does she meet an angel, but she finds out that she's pregnant with God's baby! What pressure!

As I read the story I felt that the message God gave Mary through the angel is the same message that he was giving me and my congregation for today. We are pregnant with Jesus. God has placed something of himself in each of us. We were knitted together in his image - his fingerprints are all over us. Many of us are able to lable the seed he's put in us as a 'relationship with Jesus' or 'faith' or even 'spirituality'. Others perhaps can't name it, but may have inklings about it. When we look at a sunset, or watch the waves crash in at the beach, or perhaps even as we gaze into the heaven or eyes of a new born. We may not have the language to describe our feeling, but we just 'know' that God is present with us.

So there is something of God within us, something of Jesus. We are pregnant in a sense with him. I believe that what he's put in us is designed to grow. As a baby does so too does faith. Babies needs nurturing, food, care and protection - as does our faith. This Christmas we need to allow our 'pregnancy' to progress, to feed our faith (and not just our stomachs), to build it up and to take time from the busyness of this season to connect with our maker.

But Mary didn't just stop at being pregnant. 9 months later she gave birth to Jesus. In a very physical way she birthed the one that had been growing within her. She introduced him into her culture, her context. She brought him into the relationships that she had. She showed the world to him and showed him to the world. In a sense Mary was the first missionary, presenting Jesus to her context.

I got the sense as I prayed this week that we too are called not only to nurture our 'pregnancy', our relationship with Jesus - but also to give birth to it in a sense. To not just leave faith as an insular me and God thing, but to introduce him to our world - to release him in our context.

Our world needs people like Mary right now. Turn on the news at night and you'll see it on a global level. We need people willing to 'give birth to Jesus' as we face issues of war, terror and conflict. But it is also needed on a very individual and local level too. You'll see it if you look carefully. When you walk through your neighborhood or watch and talk to your neighbors. The people around us need people like Mary who are willing to 'give birth to Jesus' in their own local context.

Our world doesnt need people to shove Jesus down throats, to bible bash - rather it needs people to 'birth' him through living lives like the one he set as a model. It needs people willing to have relationships like the ones he had. It needs people willing to speak the message that he brought, to touch the people he touched and to stand up to injustices that he stood up against. In this way, in our own contexts we have the opportunity to 'give birth' to Jesus every day. In this way we begin to fulfill the call for us to be 'his body' and in the process take steps towards meeting some of the incredible needs of this world.

I'm told the birthing process is a painful experience. I have no doubt it is on a physical level (I belive you mum!) but it can also be painful to 'birth Jesus' in our context. Its often not easy.

But the birthing process is also one that brings 'LIFE' - to a child, to its parents and to the friends and family around them. This is true for when people 'birth Jesus' also. Life will result - people (including us) reach our potential and discover what living is all about.

This Christmas lets nurture our 'pregnancy'. Lets strengthen the faith that grows within us. But lets also be willing to birth it - to release the faith that we have - to impact the world we live in.

Seasons Grind?

20 December, 2002 2:08 PM


Does anyone else find it difficult to come up with fresh ways of communicating some of the 'annual' gospel topics?

I'm not trying to be controversial, just honest - Every year I wrestle with the Christmas messages that I am asked to prepare for in my preaching. Its not that the story is boring or has not connecting points for the culture we live in - rather I sometimes feel the pressure to come up with some creative, new way of presenting it.

Christmas services at DCCC get some of the biggest turn outs for the year. As I gaze down on the congregation this week I know that I'll be speaking to hundreds of people, each of whom will have heard the 'age old message' tens, if not hundreds of times!

The agendas of those sitting in the pews will be varied

- Some will be out on their annual pilgrimage to get their once a year 'hit' of Christ. They are their to catch the 'spirit of Christmas' - not really to hear me talk, but rather to connect with other 'annual pilgrims' and to sing Carols.

- Others will have been dragged along by our more regular attenders. The 'Draggers' will be hoping that something in my words will help their backslidden children, friends or neighbors to 'see the light'. The 'Draggees' will be looking for the first opportunity for escape from the bizarre wonderland they've found themselves in.

Throw into the mix the normal collection of weekly attendees who between them want everything from modern day parables, to 6 point exegesis's, to postmodern powerpoint presentations and sermons relevant to everyone from the ages of 3 to 99!

Ok, so I'm making myself sick - the hyperventilation has begun....

Christmas a time for family, friends, fun, reflection, giving and peace - I wonder how many other preachers are out there rocking in the fetal position this week?

Sermon Salad

15 December, 2002 7:30 PM


Tonight's FESTival service has just finished and I felt it went well. It was the last one for the year.

I preached on Hebrews 11:19-26. It was a 5 Lettuce Sermon following the 5 "let us" references in the passage. I actually used real lettuces as a visual to help people remember my points.

In brief it went a little like a this....

Lettuce 1 - Let us enter into the presence of God - do we take the ability to do this for granted? Those of us who've grown up in church often take it for granted, we know nothing else. The original readers of this passage might have felt a little difference having had to rely on a High Priest to do it for them. The challenge is to open and use the gift of being able to enter into the Holy of Holies and not just leave it unopened and unused. What a waste it would be for SUPERMAN not to use his strength, his ability to fly, his x-ray vision - what a waste it is for us not to enter into Gods presence as is our privledge, right and responsibility.

Lettuce 2 - Let us hold onto the hope that we profess for he who promised is faithful. In the midst of an often hopeless world we need to hold onto the hope we have in Christ. The promises he makes are amazing and true - the challenge is to hold onto them in those dark times. And when we can't to allow those around us to do it for us. I love that this is not written to individuals, its not 'Let You', its 'Let US'...faith is an US thing, not an ME or YOU thing.

Lettuce 3 - Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. The call is to inspire those around us to mission, to have an impact on our world. Again, the call to mission is not just an individuals call, its our call. YOU have a responsibility here to spur ME on to outbursts of love and good deeds, to make a difference in the place I find myself. I have the same responsibility to spur you on! We're not in it alone.

Lettuce 4 - Let us not give up meeting together. Again - its when we meet and travel together that faith comes alive. Where two or three of us gather in his name JESUS is there among us. I don't believe in faith for the individual - sure, at its essence it is a personal decision - but in its outworking I don't believe its meant to be.

Lettuce 5 - Let us encourage and warn one another. Same message really - although to be able to WARN someone and have them take notice of your words you really need to be in a pretty good relationship with that person. To me this speaks of being in close, loving community.

Here endeth tonights word of the Lord....be encouraged my friends!!!

The Japanese discover Alt. Worship - Greek wedding style!

14 December, 2002 8:45 AM


Was just channel surfing on the old TV - saw a little report from Japan about a new restaurant that is doing booming business. Its normal except for one aspect - after the meal those eating can pay an extra 5 yen (just a few cents) to go out the back of the shop and smash their plate. These normally well behaved and quiet Japanese restaurant patrons are given a marker to write whatever the plate represents before they smash it. Quite a liberating process if the restaurants success is anything to go by!

Sounds like a crazy combination of a Greek Wedding meets alternative worship experience - maybe we should try it this week at church....I can just envisage our congregations all lining up to piff the communion glasses and plates (complete with names of annoying friends, family and workmates) into the baptistry!

Passion

13 December, 2002 11:41 AM


Had email from Kerstin this morning with a question that made me stop and think for a few minutes. Was one of those very simple questions that actually makes you stop and evaluate what track you are on. She asked - "What made you passionate about reaching the "lost" generation of Australia?"

I answered: When I look around me in the streets of the inner city where I live and see a whole heap of young adults - most of whom would never set foot in a church. They are spiritual beings - very - searching for answers. But they see the church in Australia as totally irrelevant.

The demographics in Australian of church attendees show a Huge hole - 18-35's are missing.

I desire to make an impact upon this demographic. On a local level through our little community, but also on a national and global level through working with Dreamland/Phuture.

That's the brief answer. What about you? What are you passionate about???

BIZARRO EVANGELISM

10 December, 2002 9:06 PM


If you had say one thing that you found difficult or embarressing about Christianity what would it be?

I was listening to a Christian speaker last year talk about an interaction that his Christian group at college had in England.

They were asked to engage in a public debate with a group of 'pagans'. Instead of having to argue for the positives of their own belief system, they had to talk about their struggles with it! So the Christians had to talk about the things that they stuggled with, were embarressed about or found difficult in Christianity. The other group had to do the same for paganism.

Apparently the debate was a huge success, and quite a profound moment for many - on both sides of the bizarro debate.
Quite a bizarre form of evangelism - kinda reverse psychology I guess.

What would you say if you had to enter into such a bizarro debate about Christianity? Might be an interesting exercise...

Update - previous comments (pre MT) are here

Mosque visit

10 December, 2002 1:58 PM


Last Sunday afternoon I visited the local Mosque.

No I'm not considering a change of vocation or religion, rather it was an open day where people were invited to come to see, listen to and meet Moslems in their place of worship. I came away feeling warmly welcomed, better informed and rather pleased with myself at having played a small part in developing relationships between this sometimes ostracized group and the community at large. What a great personal illustration I had as I preached this Sunday about following Jesus example of caring for the outcast and identifying with the rejected!

On Wednesday I received a friendly email from a church elder. It read, 'Did you know you were on the ABC News (Aussie National TV Network) at 7pm last Sunday wandering through the mosque?'

The array of thoughts that proceeded to flash through my mind shocked me. After an initial chuckle at the thought of the mix matched outfit I was wearing in my fleeting national television exposure, my first thought was one of horror at the implications of being seen 'in such a place'! What could this do to my career? What if some of my more conservative friends saw me chatting to and shaking hands with 'those people'?

Jesus took 'inclusivity' to a whole new level. To agree with his teaching on the topic is a relatively simple thing. But to follow his example in action sometimes means facing some deeply ingrained beliefs, views and attitudes.

(Previous comments for this post were unfortunately lost in swapping to MT)

Preaching

8 December, 2002 7:21 PM


Just finished another Sunday - it was good. Tonight I spoke about the Kingdom of God. We did some interactive discussion and then I rambled on for a bit. I felt it went ok, although I continue to wonder about the vast amount of time and energy that I put into the production of a service. Someone once said (think it was in a class earlier in the year)

"The average human being spend less than 3% of their awake hours in church services - why then do we as churches put 90% of our own and volunteers time into them?"

Ok so they actually said it better than that - but you get the point. When you add all the hours of preparation that are put into a service from musicians, tech people, speakers, set up etc.... What would be the effect if that time was channelled into something else? For example if that energy was focused upon cleaning up a neighborhood, having meals with non churched friends, a breakfast program for unfed kids......

Don't get me wrong, I love when we get together to pray, worship, learn and just hang out - but I sometimes wonder if our priorities might be a bit out of wack.

S.O.A.P LIFE JOURNALING

1 December, 2002 3:21 PM

S.O.A.P LIFE JOURNALING

Did SOAP life journaling this morning with both morning congregations. Mixed response - some lapped it up while others almost dozed. It was good to have something reflective in services that sometimes can be a little one, or two dimensional.

SOAP journaling the way I've adapted it goes as follows....(from the hand out I gave today)

Have you ever sat down to read the bible, read a chapter or two and then realized that you didn't really take any notice of what you were reading? You are not alone. Many people have a lot of trouble retaining and applying what they read in the bible.

Life Journaling, using the SOAP acronym, is a way that some people find useful. The method is simply a matter of following the letters of the word soap. It is probably most effective when you work through a book of the bible, reading a different chapter each time. (some people find every day helpful) You will need a bible, a pen and something to write in. Use a journal to keep your reflections together.

Scripture - read the chapter that you have chosen. Don't skim over it or read it too fast. Try to enter into what you are reading. You may need to read it two or three times. When a verse, phrase or word stands out or catches your attention, write it down in your journal. (make it a maximum of two verses)

Observation - what is it about that verse or that phrase or word that kind of struck you? What is it that seemed to catch your attention? What insight or observation do you actually want to write down? What might this verse have meant to the original writer or reader? Write your observations of the verse in your journal.

Application - how does your observation impact you? How should that thought, that observation, that insight, actually change you? God isn't speaking to you to increase your information; He's speaking to bring about transformation. He wants your life to grow, to develop, to change. Again, write your thoughts down. What might God be saying to you through this verse? What action will you take as a result of what you are hearing from God in this way?

Prayer � Respond to God with a prayer. Write to him as though you were writing a letter. Tell him how you feel about what you've read, tell him what you think. Ask him to help you as you seek to apply it to your life. Ask for guidance as you act upon it. You may want to write a poem or draw something to signify what you've just thought about. Your prayer doesn't have to be long or deep, just try to make it come from where you are at.
Experiment with different translations of the bible. You may find noticeable differences between them.
This process can be as long or as short or as you want it to be. Mould it to suit where you are at, your time constraints etc. It can be done individually or as a group. As a group, pick a common passage and report back what you've written at the end of an agreed time. Have fun with it.

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