Monthly Archives: August 2012

What’s Missing?

A friend  alerted me to a book by the well know Christian author Larry Crabb: Becoming a True Spiritual Community- A Profound Vision of What the Church Can Be.

In this book he raises a question that many people are asking, “What is missing in the church?”

Crabb speaks for many of us when he states:

And I’m disappointed, overwhelmingly so, when I take stock of the current state of Christian community. In my own life, there are several bright pockets of relational joy, for which I am extremely grateful, but none that quite measure up to Trinitarian standards.

And he continues by declaring.

I am willing to risk giving up my cultural definition of church and try to define it biblically.

When I read this I knew someone else understood my plight. My desire for something more profound wasn’t just an idle and foolish wish. More over it reminded me how profound our revisioning of the church needs to be. Larry Crabb’s offering adds to the other excellent work being done by people such as Michael Frost (Exiles) and Tim Chester and Steve Timmis (Everyday Church). Crabb’s book takes us deeper into the heart of the Christian community. He looks at what stifles spiritual community and suggests ways in which it can be/must be enhanced.

It is dangerous using a phrase like “Spiritual Community” because we all have our own understanding of it – usually shaped by our experiences. Larry Crabb speaks of “turning our souls towards one another”. He references people such as Henri Nouwen, Teresa of Avila and Dietrich Bonhoffer – who all take us beyond institution to a perspective that is far more intimate and relational with God and each other.

This book also challenges many of the attitudes and values of counselling and therapy and explores how our healing/restoration will be far more effective if, in community, we point each other towards God, and if we see suffering as a means of drawing closer to Him.

This is a book I haven’t finished yet, and I already know I will have to re-read. What it is calling for is a paradigm shift in the way we “do” church. I hope to say more about this book and its impact in future posts.

Categories: christian, Christianity, Church, Devotional, Faith | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

A Christian World View

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Colossians 1:15-20

Today we had a Christian education refresher course/professional development day at our school. I teach at a Christian school, and many people, often Christians challenge me about the need for Christian schools.

The text above encapsulates the need. We are directed to recognise that “all things”, which includes what we often (mistakenly) call the sacred and secular, are under Christ’s authority. Mathematics, history, character development, art, music, sport, worship, prayer, Bible and etc. are all under the rulership of the King of creation. Paul reminds us that as the very Word of creation, Christ, is the upholder of every aspect of it.

In the words of the Dutch theologian and Prime Minister Abraham Kuyper:

“In the total expanse of human life there is not a single square inch of which the Christ, who alone is sovereign,does not declare,’That is mine!

To suggest that education is neutral denies both Christ’s claims but also fails to see the humanistic foundations of public education; an education in which humanity is (an idolatrous) king.

We had a great day. All the staff – teachers, administration, bus drivers and gardeners, as well as board members – came together to be reminded of their part  in important Kingdom work.

Categories: christian, Christianity, Devotional, Faith, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

A God Who Sings

As we start the working week, here is a verse that reminds us that God sings over his children like a loving mother over her baby:

The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Zephaniah 3:17

Categories: Bible, christian, Christianity, Devotional, Faith | 1 Comment

The Day Bed

A Daybed but not the one in question! Courtesy Google images.

Quite a number of years ago we were given a day bed; a small backless couch which we placed in our entry hall. But a time came when it surplus to requirements. I thought of chopping it up but finally we took it to the local, pre eBay, auction house. The auctioneer said he would try to sell it but didn’t hold out much hope. On the way home I suggested to my wife that whatever was raised, if anything, we would give to the church building fund as we were in the process of putting up a new building.

Two weeks passed and suddenly I remembered the couch. I rang the auction house and asked what it had raised. “5.45,” was the reply. Five dollars and 45 cents. Ok, it was probably better than chopping it up. When the cheque arrived it was for $545. For a brief moment I thought that maybe we should split it 50/50 with the church. We could have used $272.50. I remembered my promise and I also remembered the story Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. It is one of the scarier stories in Scripture because it is so close to our own everyday life: that mismatch between what we say and what we do; between our heart and how we wish to appear before others.

There are nearly as many explanations of this passage as there are commentators. Three points stand out for me.

1. Lying within the church to other brothers and sisters is as good as (or should I say “as bad as“) lying to God. That in turn has implications for the level of “truth in love” that needs to be developed within the Christian community.

2. Ananias and Sapphira had obviously colluded within their marriage. It is a contrast to a healthy marriage where the husband and wife hold each other accountable before the Lord and encourage Christian growth.

3. I ask myself how often I have tested God with my own lack of faith and arrogance? The answer is: far too often! I too deserve the punishment of Ananias and Sapphira. This is all more the more reason to trust in, and depend on, the grace of God and put aside any wilful desire to fool Him or disregard Him.

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Razed by Fire

The Beautiful Alesund Rebuilt After the 1904 Fire

When we were travelling through Norway an amazing recurrent theme started to appear: fire. Many towns, being built of wood, had serious town-wide fires in their history. Trondheim had 9 between 1598 and 1842. Bergen had a few and Alesund was totally destroyed in 1904.

Albert Einstein is supposed to have said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. May be we are all a bit insane. A bit of the Norwegian town builder resides in each one of us. There are so many unproductive habits and sins in our lives that we don’t deal with. We walk old paths hoping to get to a different destination and we are surprised when nothing has changed.

After the Great Fire of London in 1666, building regulations were changed: houses had to be faced with bricks and roads were widened. The Government of the day was keen that this fire would not happen again. Too often we are not that wise.

We need to take similar action. We need to change our ways. In Acts 2 we are reminded by Peter that the Holy Spirit enables us to repent and believe. “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” We don’t have to change our habits in our own futile strength. It is a journey that God goes on with us. Once we have come to Him in faith, His Holy Spirit remains to give us power over foolishness and sin.

What “fires” repeat themselves in your life? Is there a wiser material to use in the future?

Categories: christian, Christianity, Devotional, Faith, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Titling at Windmills

The Windmills of La Mancha

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:46 & 47

One of my favourite characters in literature is Don Quixote. With a sense of honour and justice he sallies forth to defend the honour of his lady Ducinea. The truth is that he attacks windmills thinking that they are the enemy and gets gets involved in all sorts of preposterous behaviour, assuming that he is doing good. Even Dulcinea is a figment of his fervent imagination. Faithful Pancho supports his master but knows the truth.

When I explore the idea of “church’ I get a sense that I am like the deluded Don tilting at windmills and passionate about something that doesn’t really exist. Reading Acts, imperfect as the church was, they still had something special. There was a community living in excited expectation, sharing and supporting each other.

What is there in our Western C21st culture that blinkers us to the enormous potential of the church? What binds us? Is it our wealth and materialism or our lack of faith? Or is it the fact that we have been “doing it this way” for so long we fail to see the possibilities?

In the last two years I have been to many churches and I have seen wonderful things: programmes, passion, solid preaching, functional buildings and friendly people. Yet I still sense that somehow we are missing the point.

Am I the only one? Are Don Quixote and I closer than I think?

Categories: christian, Christianity, Church, Faith, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

The Death of Innocence

Lately I have been exploring the “calling”, “vocation” or “office” of children, that is, the the role they have in the plans of God and His people. We know they need to be disciplined and taught but children also have a role in reminding us of faith, trust and wonder – among other things.

Our society in recent generations has been destroying that naivety. Our children are becoming old before their time. As I write this a local retail chain is being criticised for selling “tramp” or “hooker” style clothes for young girls. This is only the tip of the iceberg.

The challenge for Christian homes is to allow children to grow up at a pace that is wise, healthy and godly. This pace allows the child to comprehend faith with a sense of wonder and certainty without the cynicism and crassness of the world cascading in. I know the early years of family life with young children can be tense and busy, but take time to allow your children to be in awe of God and to explore faith in a positive environment.

I know we can’t hold the world’s ideas back from our homes, but we can use those crucial early years to prepare our children for the onslaught.

Categories: Child Theology, christian, Christianity, Church, Devotional, Faith, Family | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

The Baby – A Calling

Following the path
of God incarnate
the child enters
into life
with genetic markers
stumbling parents
future choices.
her calling
is clear and sharp.
She cries praise to God,
and gazes in amazement
at every light and face,
movement and sound.
Wonder fills her eyes
as her mouth explores shape
and texture
while arms and hands
flail with random abandon.
She will be taught
in time
but now
she teaches us
the naïve joy of life
and newness
trust and hope.
She preaches a gurgling word
straight from the Maker.
Categories: Child Theology, christian, Christianity, Devotional, Faith, Poem, poetry | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gelert’s Grave

Grover overcome with emotion at Gelert’s grave. This was before he heard the truth.

In Beddgelert (meaning Gelert’s Grave) in Wales there is a beautiful memorial to a faithful dog. The story is that Lord Llywelyn came home to find his baby son missing from his crib and the family dog covered with blood. In a fit of rage he killed the dog only to hear a cry come from his son whom he found unharmed alongside a dead wolf the dog had killed.

There is a grave and a small memorial in the town. The only problem is that the story was  a sentimental piece of fiction and the grave a creation of an C18 publican who wanted to encourage tourism to the town.

Clever spin is not new. Before newspapers, paintings were created of events and poems and ballads written so that the public would be given an image that the leaders of the day wanted the populace to believe: one that support their case.

The Bible is not spin. It has been tested by historians and archaeologists, dissected by theologians and time and time again it is not found wanting. In fact the reverse is true. It shines a light on us and we, humanity, are found wanting. No wonder people, time and time again, seek to discredit it.

But John 8:32 says it all:  “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The story of the Saviour promised in the Old testament and delivered in the  New Testament is an amazing recounting of God’s coherent plan for His people. No spin. No concoction. Always consistent and coherent.

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A Prayer With Which to Start Sunday

I found this beautiful little hymn in Marva J Dawn’s book, “Is It  Lost Cause? Having the Heart of God for the Church’s Children” It is a great prayer with which to start this Lord’s Day. The hymn is by the C19th Moravian, Frederick William Foster.

To Thee our vows with sweet accord,
head of your church, we pay;
we and our house will serve you Lord;
your word we will obey.
Grant us and all our children grace
in word and deed your name to praise,
and in each family, your will 
and purpose to fulfil.
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