8/31/2011 11:06:00 pm

My Sister is Awesome

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Click for large.

Hannah One

Hannah Two

Hannah Three

8/31/2011 08:13:00 pm

Half a Week with the Johns

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I've been at a conference this week for work. It was called Oxygen. John Piper and John Lennox were speaking.

I wasn't all that excited about the conference going in. Mainly because I hadn't heard much John Lennox and I tend to find Piper boring. I think he has great things to say, I just don't tend to hear them because I spend most of my time tuned out.

It turns out I did spend a lot of time struggling to pay attention. I also fell asleep a lot. This is not a sign of the boringness of the speakers just the mild narcolepsy I seem to suffer. I fall asleep in the cinema and going to the movies is my favourite thing to do so preachers should not be offended.

Still, when I was paying attention, I did learn and was challenged by some stuff.

Piper's big thing is that we need to seek God's glory in everything because God seeks his glory in everything. The way to seek his glory is to live in obedience and worship of him. To seek all your satisfaction in him. His catchphrase is "God is most glorified when you are most satisfied in him." He spent most of the conference explaining what that meant.

The challenge I found, was to make everything about seeking to be satisfied in God. I'm not really sure what that means. Piper doesn't seem to be great on practical application. But I think he's right. I guess I'll try and figure out how to do it.

Lennox is way too smart. He spends his time debating the leading atheists in the world. So when he was on his apologetics stuff, I was hooked.

Today he talked about Psalm 69, among other things and mentioned verse 6:

Lord, the LORD Almighty,
may those who hope in you
not be disgraced because of me;
God of Israel,
may those who seek you
not be put to shame because of me.

I've never thought a lot about that verse before, but certainly struck a chord with me. I have often felt like the weak link in the chain. I desperately want people to meet Jesus and grow in their love of him. I don't want to be the guy who let's them down, who makes God seem less wonderful than he is through my lack of faithfulness. I probably won't make this my regular prayer because it's pretty negative. But it's nice to see David saying something I feel.

And those are just two things I've picked up. There are lots more. I seem to be getting little snippets of Piper popping up in my brain as I got through the day. I'm hoping I can make much of God, since he as made much of me. The conference has spurred me on to be doing that.

8/18/2011 11:03:00 pm

Wedding Videos

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If I could make wedding videos like this, I would make wedding videos.

8/18/2011 12:53:00 am

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

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I saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes on Monday. It was pretty fantastic.

I thought it was going to be dumb from the trailers. But it turns out you can make a "Apes take over the world" movie and do it well. You loved and cared for the apes. You didn't generally like the humans. In fact the human you like the most in the film causes the destruction of human civilisation. That's a bit of a downer for him.

It's odd to watch a film made by humans that's so anti-human. I haven't seen any films made by dogs that are anti-dog. Or by apes that are anti-ape. I guess species shame is a uniquely human trait. Although, perhaps dogs are so ashamed to be dogs that they can't even be face making films about how ashamed they are because it'll draw attention to them as dogs and they hate being dogs. Someone should look into that.

All that said, it was a good film. Good effects. As plausible a plot as you can get with intelligent apes taking over the world, and it had a nice inevitability about the end of human civilisation. I think it was the kind of film Rise of the Machines should have been. Although that female terminator was a lot hotter than any of the apes. At least, hotter to me. Were I an ape I think I would have hoped she had more hair and more opposable toes.

So the conclusion is, despite it's anti-human agenda (probably driven by our primate overlords) and the distinct lack of hot apes, Rise is a damn good film.

8/16/2011 11:29:00 pm

Talking Right

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I've been enjoying reading Don Miller's blog lately.

I just read this post where he stuck up a video of Bill Hybels announcing that Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, had pulled out of the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. Schultz pulled out of the event because of an online protest threatening to boycott Starbucks because Willow Creek is perceived to be anti-gay.

I really appreciated the way Hybels was so gracious to Mr Schultz and even to the people who had started the petition. I also appreciated that he stated Willow Creek's view on homosexuality positively and without judgement.

In contrast to Hybels' comments I saw this on ABC news today. And while obviously biased and heavily edited, I wish Christians didn't say dumb stuff like this in public. (Also see if you can notice Richard Dreyfus sitting next to Bob Katter.)

I hope when people let me down and misrepresent me I can be as gracious as Hybels.

8/15/2011 11:54:00 pm

The Centrality of the Cross: Part Two - Practice

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Here is Part Two of my series on the centrality of the cross. Part One is here

Ok. So the cross is central, someone might say, but if you keep mentioning the Cross all the time, what’s to stop it becoming formulaic and just the magic words to keep a service orthodox? Isn't mentioning the cross just religion?

The truth is that anything you want to keep as a defining principle or event, can be mentioned only out of compulsion, or habit but it is not inevitable. I think the trick is to keep asking throughout the life of the church “How does the cross impact on this?” In major times of teaching we must be clearly showing how the cross makes a difference. Let me show you how this works for three different topics, dealing with evil, relating to people of other faiths and responding to the poor.

The Cross and Responding to Evil

In this world we are constantly faced with the reality of evil. We are confronted with war and terrorism on a global scale, violence, rape and neglect in our communities and anger, hurt and abuse in our own lives. The church, if it is truly going to engage with world needs to know how to respond to evil.

Biblically the church will be calling its people to a ministry of reconciliation, of love for enemies and forgiveness. It will also hold firmly to the principle of justice and the fight against evil.

When the church teaches these things without the cross then it either becomes too hard, too soft or the preacher of two irreconcilable ideals.

If the church preaches forgiveness and love without the cross then evil becomes tolerated and the victim’s suffering gets dismissed. Forgiveness comes free and costs nothing. The suffering victim is told to love their enemy and forgive because that’s what Christ taught we should do. The evil doer escapes punishment and the victim must carry the burden of someone else’s sin.

Any justice achieved now will be unsatisfactory. How do you make a people group adequately pay for the acts of genocide they committed against their neighbours? How do you make the rapist adequately pay for violence they committed against someone created in God’s image? How do you make the mother who neglects and verbally abuses her children adequately pay for all the pain they inflict and the future damage they cause? You don’t because you can’t. We are a church that worships a holy God who hates sin. This means that no punishment and vengeance dolled out by earthly authorities will ever make up for the sins committed.

The end point in the fight against evil must be the destruction of the source of evil. If a church preaches justice and the fight against evil without the cross it must fight a battle that it cannot win with a God who is uninvolved. The reality is that all of us are participants in evil, and if we pursue evil to its end, we will pursue it not to the ends of the earth, but to the centre of our hearts. If we are to destroy evil, we must destroy others and we must destroy ourselves. If we were ever to whole-heartedly fight evil outside of the cross we too would just join in the cycle of violence.

In the history of the Church whenever it has been in charge of the state it has almost without fail ended up punishing sin with an iron fist.* Death for the adulterer, the homosexual, the witch and the disobedient child. And in the churches’ pursuit of justice it becomes the committer of evil.

Yet when we face evil in the light of the cross we see a God who hates sin, who punishes sin, who never trivialises suffering, who puts the wicked to death and gives life to the righteous.

At the cross Jesus takes all the wrath of his father heaped upon him. He, the sinless one, has the sins of humanity placed upon him. There on the cross, beaten and naked, he goes through hell and we see just how much God hates sin, that he would kill even his own Son.

He does this so that through him God would be able to forgive the wicked. Here at the cross we see God’s justice as he punishes evil, rebellion and sin. And we see God’s mercy upon the sinner as he offers his grace and forgiveness.

So when the church preaches forgiveness and reconciliation to the victim in light of the cross it does so knowing that God has already forgiven us. We are all perpetrators of evil and the one who we have done evil to, first and foremost, is God. Yet God forgives us and takes all the wrath we deserve upon himself.

When we call on each other to forgive those who sin against us, we do so in the knowledge that God has already forgiven us. But not only that, one way or another, the sin that has been committed against the victim will be dealt with. Either God has punished it at the cross or he will punish it at the end of time. No evil escapes the hand of God. Justice will be done.

At the cross we see how seriously God takes evil. He doesn’t trivialise suffering but shows that it is so serious that only the life of his beloved Son will pay for it. Jesus takes the wicked, gives them a new heart and a righteousness that is his own. The destruction of wickedness need not mean the destruction of the wicked if it is Christ who makes them righteous. Or to put it another way the wicked person is put to death, as they die to sin, and are born again, a new creation in Christ.

The cross shows us our King who is not dead but will one day come to right the world. What he began on the cross he will finish on that last day. The wicked will be judged and the righteous will be vindicated. Judgement will come and it will be great and terrible just as it was at the cross, yet no more will the innocent suffer for sins they did not commit. We will celebrate because we know that the right response to evil is the wrath of a righteous God.

The church can rest assured. The churches’ fight against evil and for justice can march on knowing that the true judge of the world has come and is coming again. The church fights knowing that we do not, and the systems of this world do not, need to be the final reckoning for sin. When we strive for justice we know that because Jesus is taking care of punishment we must strive for fairness and equality; More than that, we strive for love. As the cross shows us love, love becomes our modus operandi. Because of the example and power of the cross we see that our greatest weapon against injustice is love, and we work so that all people might be changed by love, ultimately to have their evil nature put to death, and to be given new life in Christ. Only that power comes through the cross.

When the church centres it’s response to evil in the cross it finds a response that is more compassionate to the sinner and to those who have been sinned against than could be imagined and harder on evil than is thought possible.

The Cross and Interacting with Other Religions

In Australia we are blessed to live in a multicultural society. This means that one of the great challenges to the church in our country will be how we interact with other faiths.

This is even more important given that we, the people of earth, have a history of fighting over religion more than anything else.

For the church to engage in fruitful dialogue with people of other faiths it must hold the cross at the centre of its thinking and its speaking because the cross gives Christianity it’s greatest distinctive, it clearly sets us apart from every other faith.

Often interfaith dialogue seeks to show the similarities between multiple faiths and find areas of commonality so as to build mutual respect because “we are just like you.” This can end up with people praying to the same God, in the same religious services, under the ridiculous notion that all roads lead to the same God. We flush out all the distinctives in an effort to forge better relations with other faiths.

Unfortunately this insults all involved. Dialogue is vitally important, but dialogue never has to mean acquiescing vital tenets of faith in the name of tolerance.

When the church talks to and about other faiths, it must keep the cross front and centre, otherwise how will we know who we are, and how will they know who we are?

No other religion has a God who is so foolish as to let himself be killed by those who he created. No other faith solves the problem of the human heart purely through divine initiative. No other God has saved its people purely out of his own goodness and through no merit of the people.

This being the case the cross gives the Christian, no right to boast. Knowing that salvation comes only through the death and resurrection of a loving God rather than our own goodness, means that we cannot in any way look down upon people of other faiths. The difference between the Christian and the non-Christian is not that the Christian is smarter, better, more special or more moral. The difference is only Jesus, and the faith that he gives.

So as we relate to those of other faiths, the cross will lead us to love them because, just like us, they too need Jesus. As Luther (or someone) said “We are all mere beggars trying to show other beggars where to find bread.” The cross will lead us not to acquiesce the uniqueness of our faith in the spirit of unity and tolerance but to humbly share with people of other faiths a vision of a God of ultimate love and ultimate mercy. Then they will see Christianity clearly, and true inter-faith dialogue can happen. But until we embrace the cross we insult our God who died for us because we hide away his greatest act of love, because of it’s offensive nature, and we insult those we speak to about our faith, because we think they cannot handle the most distinctive part of our faith.

The Cross and the Poor

People will often feel the church should be focusing on sharing Jesus’ love through deeds of justice and mercy. The church has a responsibility to be loving the poor and marginalised. If the church is to stay true to its mission we will be loving the poor.

This emphasis can be seen as being in tension with preaching the cross. We can spend our time in church talking about Jesus or we can spend our time in the community loving like Jesus. It’s a choice between words and actions. If you follow this thinking to its most extreme the only time we should be talking about Jesus we should be talking about him in relation to how we care for the poor.

But the truth is that the best and true motivation for our love for the poor has to come out of the cross. A proper understanding of the cross has to lead to a changed response to the poor.

Without the cross our care for the poor and marginalised becomes about obeying the rules set forth by our teacher, it becomes an exercise in changing our hearts through our actions. The more we love the poor, the more we will be conformed to the likeness of Jesus, and our hearts will be changed and the more we will love the poor. The more we achieve this, the more we will be living in the will of Christ and worthy of his love and honour. It’s a religion of work with ourselves at the centre. We are at the centre because we try and please God with our own goodness and adherence to his values. We are at the centre because we are doing the work that changes our hearts, and hoping this will please God.

But the cross turns that on its head. The cross says that for our sake Christ became poor (2 Cor 8:9). He came, the most rich becoming the most poor. And he poured himself out for a wretched and sinful people, saving them from their own self-imposed, spiritual poverty, making them children of God and giving them, in himself, every spiritual blessing.

The cross shows us a God who has saved us in the greatest act of generosity ever to brighten the universe. Our life comes from a God who has saved us out of his heart, a heart inclined towards the undeserving poor.

Christ has risen to new life giving us a new heart and his power through the Holy Spirit.

We now have a responsibility to be loving the poor and marginalised because we know that we are the recipients of Christ’s love when we were poor. We know that we are only who we are because God had mercy on us when we had nothing.

As a result we live out the teachings of Christ not to change our hearts, or to please our Lord, but because he has given us a new heart and through the power of his Spirit he changes us to be like him and live out his love. We love because we have been loved and received his love. We love the poor out of grace. We love the poor who are undeserving because we are undeserving. We reach out to the lowest, seek out the most lost and go into the places that are darkest because he came searching for us when we were lower, more lost and in greater darkness, and now he empowers us to search and love like him.

Any church that spends all its time talking about the cross but does not see justice and mercy as an outworking of the cross hasn’t really understood the cross. And any church that forgets the cross when talking about the need for loving the poor and marginalised has forgotten where the true locus of power lies in Christianity.

So there are three ways where the cross is played out in giving meaning to the everyday issues Christians face. Jesus Christ, known and preached as our Lord who came, lived, died and rose again for us, must be at the centre of all we do. Without him and his saving work done at the cross through his death and resurrection, we are to be pitied more than all people. I’ll let John Stott bring it home: “To encounter Christ is to touch reality and experience transcendence. He gives us a sense of self-worth or personal significance, because He assures us of God's love for us. He sets us free from guilt because He died for us and from paralysing fear because He reigns. He gives meaning to marriage and home, work and leisure, personhood and citizenship.”

* I haven’t actually done my research and looked up every time the there has been a Christian theocracy in the past two millennia and examined their penal system. But I can think of plenty of examples of the Church gone feral when given the reigns to power.

8/08/2011 10:06:00 pm


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I preached on singleness in church the other night. I'll upload the sermon soon. Maybe nowish. But here is the video I showed at the beginning of the sermon. I realised I left off my phone number. Oops.


Update: The sermon is now available here on my preaching blog.

8/04/2011 12:04:00 am


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Today I told a chapel of about 200 year 5-8 students about the Bieber experience. It was difficult.

I originally had an illustration about unrequited love (surprise, surprise) but realised that probably the year 5 kids wouldn't really connect with it (it's difficult to like a girl for 4 years when you would have had to start your crush when you were 6). So I decided to tell them all about watching Bieber and crying. It was a risky move. I thought I might win friends with my self-depreciating humour. I think however, I may have just made myself look dumb. Except for the girls who loved Bieber. Maybe today they really heard the gospel for the first time because cried in his movie. Maybe now there's one less lonely girl, cause she found her saviour.

Or maybe I just looked strange.

I was shooting for authentic.

Oh well.