Thursday, May 31, 2007

When the Fire's Gone...

Imagine the following scene: Cheryl has been given the honour of carrying the Olympic torch for part of its journey around the world prior to the Games. The flame is passed to her and she runs, the crowd cheers, her heart is full of pride that this is her moment. But somehow the flame goes out!

Still she runs, shrugging her shoulders. After all she still has the torch! But now the crowd has stopped cheering and are looking at her perplexed. She holds the torch higher hoping it will renew their cheering but ... nothing.

It is the flame that's important, not the torch. It's so easy to live our life like that: carrying the torch of a Christian identity, but missing the very flame that gives it its meaning and its poignancy.

I dwell a lot on the ups and downs of life, of Kingdom-living, of spirituality and motivation. There's been so many times when it felt like the fire was gone. The fire of God's presence, of my resolve, my spiritual passion, my love for God and for the Mission...

The thought for this stream of posts (Relighting the Fire) stems from an invitation (one issued often in the past 20 years by God's Spirit to Yours Truly): to revive that profound spiritual ardour that has perhaps waned - even died …

It's (I hope) also going to be an invitation to go beyond the passion you used to have for God or the level of intimacy you think you want and to explore the undiscovered territory where Jesus Himself intended to lead you when He first said to you: “Follow me.”

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Matthew 5:23-26

I was reading this passage (get it out and read it; I'm not typing the whole thing in here!) and felt that God was speaking to the lazy pentecostal in me...

The message was: You don't fix things with God as a way of avoiding fixing it with the human involved.

The new faith is that relationships with people are far more important than religious practise. In fact, they ARE spirituality in many ways. Forget your pious prayers and recommitments, Pete. Go make things right with the one you wounded...


The struggle of all disciples of Christ: “God’s in my world (or soul) and so is blah and blah and blah and blah. I wish one of the blah’s weren’t there. Then there would be more room for God and for me to concentrate on Him.”

But the times when I actively invite God Jesus the Spirit into ALL of it, interesting things happen. It coalesces, sometimes changes happen instantly (and sometimes they require a new campaign of metanoia, repentant action), I don’t feel so bad about myself.

Then the wheel turns and I shoulder him out of it again and on it goes.

We compartmentalise things constantly; it’s a human predisposition: maybe if we saw that we can't actually shoulder God out. Once we're His, we're His and He's always loving, always prodding, always challenging, always providing ... maybe we'd get over ourselves and just live with Him...

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Go into all the ... parks and shout at people

I came across an article that makes me sigh with mild frustration.

Frustration because of the offensive way many of us Christians have decided to shout "good news" (you're all in danger of hell!) at any body who doesn't want to listen.

Mild because I've been bothered by this since the 1980s, but when I've mentioned it to most of my brethren, they've looked at me like I was blaspheming. So some of the fire's gone out of my indignation.

But's it's obviously still alienating the people it's aimed to bring closer. So to me, it's just a dumb strategy.

Back to the article ... Read it here, come back and share your thoughts. Maybe you think it's ok and you have a sensible rationale: I'll listen.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Lord's Annointed?

I love this comment from Matthew Barnett (of the Dream Center):
“None of these guys (Abraham, David, Moses, Jacob, etc.) would receive ministry credentials today!”

We have a God who gives a lot more than just second chances; your fallenness, your sin, your wounds, your track-record - it doesn’t rob you of fruitfulness. These were men who met with God outside of "church", outside of formalised religion, outside of any "role" they had taken on in life. They did not filter their spirituality or relationship with God through their ministry assignment - they met Him mano e mano ... well, mano e God-o anyway... Because they didn't have to keep their reputations clean, they could face their failures and shortcomings squarely and openly when God confronted them. They were concerned about God's attitude to their sin rather than the opinion of other "leaders" (e.g. "Against You and You only have I sinned" - David in Psalm 51).

Having been a pastor, I feel so sorry for many of my brothers and sisters who have reputations to protect, images to uphold. And often neither is of their own choosing, it's a construct of the congregation or denomination.

The "successful" mega-church pastors, the perfectly-dressed and supposedly incorruptible televangelists, the ones whose churches dub "the Lord's Anointed" - I'm afraid I don't relate. Give me an irrational Simon Peter, a lustful King David, a bad-tempered Moses, a sneaky Jacob any day - each is a man who is real enough to authentically encounter God and show me the way to do the same...

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Opposite of Contentedness

"Should we accept only good things the hand of God and never anything bad?"

How alien (to the way we think) are these words from Job - right at the lowest point in his life!

Humans regularly experience peaks and troughs in life. My observation is that some of us even behave in the following way: chasing highs and embracing hype – then dipping or crashing into periods of emotional listlessness or complaint or lethargy or anger or anxiety.

In short, we want life and (because of the marketing we've believed) expect life to be lived on the mountaintop, expending massive emotional physical temporal financial resources in that pursuit.

In natural systems (e.g. tides, weather, the rhythm of our bodies) and human systems (e.g. economies, fashion, popularity, sporting competitions), there are always peaks and troughs, highs and lows, booms and busts. Usually the greater the high, the greater the low when the 'bubble bursts' – though this is not always true since higher rainfall is not necessarily followed by drought.

Humans are at least preoccupied with the peak and shun the trough to the point of sometimes labelling the latter unfair. So the sensations of

  • winning,
  • a full stomach,
  • orgasm,
  • chemical high,
  • a huge cash payout,
  • an experience of God’s glory or power,
  • the first episode of a favourite TV show’s new season,
  • purchasing a new item,
  • receiving a gift,
  • having life 'run smoothly' for a while

– these all represent the mountain top –and truthfully we want life to be comprised of nothing else but these kinds of highs.

I have to keep reminding myelf that this desire is unreasonable, since it is in denial of several facts:

  1. The universe that God designed is cyclical by nature (e.g. the body cannot exercise all day but needs recuperation; it cannot rain all year nor be sunny all year without severe damage to the environment and its inhabitants)
  2. The effects of sin on earth are such that they have destroyed equilibrium (e.g. our greed has adversely affected weather patterns and the quality of our food; the rich continue to get richer at the expense of the poor)
  3. The Bible reveals that God is far more interested in our character than our comfort and avoids ‘spoiling’ in favor of disciplining/shaping us.

This longing for continual highs also touches on another issue: our tendency to expect more and more and more …

Give me a job at $60,000 a year and today I will rejoice in my blessing … but this time next year I will be complaining that 60K is just not enough!

Give me sex every day and I will soon be bored with what last week was like being in heaven (although I'd be happy to test that and see if it's true...)

Give me the presence of God at my beck and call, and I will soon become complacent arrogant and overindulged - I will devalue even Him…

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

About This Blog

My writing is not quite modernist: it won’t prescribe a formulaic, cut and dried process for maintaining a perfect spiritual life, for finding the golden ticket to heaven, it won’t present watertight reasoning that God exists or that my perspective is the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

I believe in mystery.

Neither is my writing exactly post-modern: I don’t believe that truth is a human construction, I try to find answers and structure.

I believe in absolutes.

My writing is a blend of each because I have lived through both eras. I’ve been both informed and left guessing by both kinds of Christian spirituality.

If we trust the words of the Bible where it says that God's words are truth, that Jesus is the way, that Jesus is the truth, etc. – then that trust can become an anchor for our reality, for our faith, morality, worldview and philosophy. And a trustworthy anchor at that...

But comprehending God (and therefore The Truth) is a lot like getting a good look at a solar eclipse; it can’t really be done.

Oh you can look at the eclipse through the correct frosted glass, but that’s filtered then, isn’t it? You can use a viewing box like the one in the picture below but then that’s only a representation of the eclipse, as is a photo, video clip or painting. (To look at it fully - to truly see it - would cause permanent damage to the seer.)

We will never fully know God while in our present form; but we can know him. And it’s to this pursuit – the knowledge, no, the knowing of God – that this blog is dedicated.


I like beginnings. I like new things. I like clean slates. This blog is a fresh canvas but will soon be painted on.

But today, it's enough for me to remember that as I confess my fallenness to Father, Jesus steps in, wipes it away and send his power via Holy Spirit to continue to repair that fallenness, to lead me away from sin, to present me faultless before His Father and my Father.

In this moment, I am a clean canvas...