Friday, 24 April 2015

Colliding with the World

We had a baptism down at the local rock pools this year. As people walked by on their afternoon walk along the beach they were fascinated to watch a young man stand and speak out for Jesus and about how he chooses to follow Him in his daily life. 

This young man had come from Buddhism, so this was a complete change and a decision that was very “deep” for him. It meant the world to him to publically say that he wants to live DAILY with CHRIST at the centre of his life.  Some people watched from afar, some people probably walked past laughing and snickering. There were some who stopped and chatted to us as they were friends from the past, so it gave us a chance to reconnect and chat about what we were doing. Some came to the baptism who did not believe, but wanted to support the young man, and it was a great way to include them and share Jesus’s love. Then there were others of us who enveloped him as family, prayed and sang with joy as we shared this moment with him. For many of us, this young man’s example stirs us all on, for baptism is a great reminder of our own faith choices and how we need to walk with Jesus daily. This was a personal experience for us all, as we were able to share it together. Then most us of grabbed “fish and chips” and hung around the beach as one big extended family, all ages together. What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

When I grew up, I was taught by example and teaching that baptism was something you did in Church as with baby dedications, communion and … well let’s be honest, generally any show of religious conviction or belief. These ceremonies were formal and structured and usually within a tightly programmed service.
I remember reading with Sam (my son) when he was much younger, the passage that talks of not hiding your light under a bucket and being a light to the world (Matthew 5:15). Sam, who has not grown up in the same Church environment I had, asked why so many Christians go inside a building on a Sunday morning, if we are supposed to be a light to the world. I thought it was a very good question.
John the Baptist was such a radical in his time.  Being the son of a Priest, he would have grown up in a privileged upper class religious family, where offering sacrifices, officiating at festivals and performing ritual cleansing called “baptisms” were a regular part of his upbringing.  He would have been expected to follow in his father’s footsteps. “Baptisms” in those days were a way that pilgrims were made clean from having contact with other cultures and religions. It always happened around the temple where special baths were set up, so they could be clean to go and offer their sacrifices to God.
Can you imagine the disruption John would have caused being seen baptising people in the local river rather than the private, holy baths set up near the temple? He was bringing a new kind of baptism with a radical new meaning. John the Baptist was called to bring a re-think, a new paradigm, to rattle the status quo, to prepare the way for Jesus, who would take it to a new level again. So imagine the statement Jesus makes as he joins this growing protest movement, by asking to be baptised in the local river, as his first public act. What a collision with the world...what a statement.
For John the Baptist the key word was REPENT. He was calling all to PUBLICALLY show that they have made a choice to “re-think everything”, to choose to have a deep turn around in their thinking and values. A baptism is a great way TODAY to be re-reminded of this and for it to TRULY be PUBLIC is a great COLLISION with the world.
So am I saying that Baptisms in a church are wrong? Not sure if that was John the Baptist’s point, nor mine, but I do know we are called to collide with the world. I do know we are called to be a light in the darkness. I do know that if our passion and conviction to live as Christ is ONLY displayed inside a building, at a prescribed time of day, on a prescribed day of the week, I think we have missed the power of the message of both John the Baptist and Jesus who call us to “Go out and share His love to all who will listen.” A baptism is but one great way to COLLIDE with the world and share our “passionate” choices with anyone who passes, with those that we walk with and those who will listen.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015


How do we help others to be “Here2Stay”, when there are so many reasons for “them2go.” The world is to be explored. The “prodigal story” is alive and well in 2015. In Western Society in particular the world is their oyster, and we have been taught that we are our own “Destiny Makers.” As a mother, a pastor, a friend and motivator I am constantly searching for a way to encourage others to walk closely with God and make Him the centre of their life, their whole lifelong.
I have been privileged to talk with over 500 leaders throughout Australia in the last month and I was encouraged to hear these key words resonant with many of the leaders. If we are going to help our people be “here2stay” we need to re-think what discipleship looks like.
Imagine if everything we did or said came from a foundation of creating a culture of discipleship? Of seeing discipleship as “Lifelong faith formation.” What would that look like? What could that look like? I think it would look a little like what Jesus did with those He walked with.
  • Lifelong – There is no age limit. The only best time to start is at -1 and the best time to stop is when we are passed.
  • Intentional – We need to be focused with the end in mind, and make every moment matter.
  • Relational – Deep Authentic Relationships take time, love, acceptance, listening and sharing.
  • Holistic – We need to re-think our silos in our personal lives and with others. In every aspect of life our tendency is to segment, isolate, specialise as we make our destiny. It is not the way we were created by our Maker.
  • Environments – When we change our language from “Programs” to “Environments” we start to re-think how to use time and resources to create spaces where faith formation can occur.
  • The Generations – We are part of a much BIGGER story. Our story becomes much more real and valid when we are colliding with the generations.
  • Do Life Together –A journey with others, a joint passion, a story shared.

    I know the road is narrow and for “them2go” will always be an easier wide road to travel. But I do believe we are still called to be the voice in the wilderness to call them “here2stay.” God longs for a lifelong relationship with us all, and as our true DESTINY MAKER His design for us all is the best.

    So our only response is to start somewhere.

    Let me finish with a story of HOPE I have found when you fight for A LIFELONG, INTENTIONAL, RELATIONAL, HOLISTIC ENVIRONMENT where THE GENERATIONS DO LIFE TOGETHER.It was a simple Passover meal, in a home where all ages gathered to eat, drink, laugh, be TOGETHER, but mostly to REMEMBER. It doesn’t have to be complex, taxing on the few. Everyone brings something to add to the table. But it does have to be INTENTIONAL. ALL AGES were there, and over the past 9 years an ENVIRONMENT has been created where there is genuine love and acceptance.

    After the simple meal of lamb, hummus, koftas, Lebanese bread and salad we move to the lounge area. We huddle into a smaller space and don’t mind being all on top of each other and with 40 candles ablaze we recount together the things that Jesus said on the night He ate with his friends, 2000 years ago. He said “how I have longed to share with you this meal tonight.” As I looked around the room with the people I get to do life with, I felt those strong emotions for different reasons. I know Jesus was about to do something very difficult, but I know Jesus also said those words out of deep love for those in the room that had become his family. I felt “that there is nowhere I would rather be right now.”As all ages shared a truth of Jesus, there was loving silence most when Sophie, one of our youngest stood to read very softly and seriously “Ï am the way the truth and the life” and she put out one of the candles. And then one of our elderly stood to read her statement and couldn’t help but do a little skip of pure joy and say “praise God” as God’s love oozes out of her as she puts out another candle. On and on we go till there is one candle left. All focused and centered on that candle as we are remember the 39 lashes, the one off 40, which is a death sentence and the final candle that represents Jesus and the price he paid for US. We remember, we pray, we worship as we huddle together in a room 2000 years later.
We finished and I expected then many would leave. Even though there was Baklava to be eaten, with the range of young families, older couples, teenagers and empty nesters there on the eve of the Easter long weekend, surely once the formalities are over it would be time to split. I thought it would be time for “them2go” but no one would leave. They were “here2stay.” In fact the noise of the talk was so loud at times I could hardly hear myself speak. All ages, laughing and telling stories together, and it wasn’t the men in one corner, the woman in another and the teens on their devices in the other corner. It was real conversation, all ages mixed up. An environment was created where all ages could collide. It was beautiful. It was a night to remember, an experience to anchor us all to each other and to Jesus. 
Sure it was just one night, 12 days ago, but it was enough to know that we will continue to do whatever it takes to create these environments for our people to be “here2stay.” Is it that crazy to think it is possible? Jesus created an experience to anchor us all 2000 years ago and we still remember it today. What will it take? What are we called to do or stop doing to see this happen for the people we are called to walk with? How can we create environments where people will be “here2stay” in lifelong discipleship with Jesus and each other till we meet our savior again?
These key words have given us a language and a foundation to re-think and change the way we do Church with  the sole desire that our people would be “here2stay.” There are no guarantees, but I know that those who are willing to walk this journey together are “here2stay.”

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

A reflection on a DARK easter SATURDAY

Can you imagine what SATURDAY would have felt like for those who walked with Jesus? I wonder if they felt something like this...

...Today is Saturday. Yesterday Jesus died on the cross. He called out, "My God my God why have you forsaken me" and then He died. Today He is gone and the day is rainy and glum. All we feel is doubt, darkness and despair.
“I cry out loud soul refuses to be comforted”. (Ps 77)
As I look back on the events of yesterday from where I sit today, there is no hope, everyone has scattered. Judas betrayed us. Peter crumbled at the first test of courage. The temple veil was torn as if God is saying “if the Priests can murder Jesus, then holiness is a shame.” It's a torn curtain, and behind it only emptiness lies. The Roman soldiers played games with his clothes, true to form, obsessed with possessions and money as if they are all that matter. Even on the cross Jesus was mocked by those hung with him and He still forgave them. What good is done now? He is gone, he is dead. What do we do now? Do we forget about all that happened? Do we try to carry on the teaching of a ....dead, defeated, discredited leader? Do we turn cynical, disillusioned, dark, bitter? Today we allow ourselves to question everything about the story we have been told.
Maybe Pontius Pilate was right when he told Jesus that the truth didn't matter. Maybe the Sadducees are right because they believe: “life is short and then you die, so amass all the money you can, by any means you can, eat the best food and wine, because that's all there is!”
So today for me, is a day where getting out of bed is not worth it, no point really. 
What Christ? He lays in a grave, cold and dead and with him all our hopes for a better way to live...

I understand that the disciples would have been justified to feel this way. They didn't know that SUNDAY was coming.

I understand how important it is to feel our pain and despair sometimes. It is not only healthy, but sometimes the only way to truly grasp the joy of SUNDAY.

What I don’t understand is that today in 2015 so many still live this way; they live as if Sunday never happened. It seems easier to stay in TODAY (Saturday), forever. Some people have been there so long that it has become comfortable, a way of life, a crutch, a mantel they carry. Some feel they don’t have a choice. For many it has become an excuse to live in the way that they choose, anything to NOT surrender to a greater power, for that will mean they have to reconsider the meaning of their life. There are many reasons to STAY in SATURDAY. SATURDAY becomes EVERYDAY and months later they find themself still in the dark, the doubt, the despair, the pointlessness of anything, wishing that they never met Jesus in the first place.

But SUNDAY has come. When Jesus ate with his disciples on Thursday night he said "I will not eat of this bread again UNTIL ... He always spoke of this not being the end.  He prepared them for this, but they didn’t understand at the time.

However, TODAY we know that SUNDAY has come and still so many don’t want to listen.

For so many the darkness has overtaken, the despair is consuming, the doubt is an excuse to do what we want when we want. God’s heart breaks when He has done all he can to bring LIGHT to the DARKNESS, FREEDOM to the LOST and BROKEN.

Sunday has come. He has risen. He has done all He can to bring hope to this world. The question is, will you step out of your darkness that has now become your embrace the NEW day.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015


The sacrifice of Isaac has always been a mystery to me. As a parent and as a Pastor it always confused me a little bit. The more I study God’s BIG story, the more I realise CONTEXT is everything.

In ancient Middle East there was a religion dedicated to an idol named Molech.  Faithful adherents would sacrifice infants to Molech every year, a horrible display of twisted religiosity to appease their god’s wrath and earn his favour…. It was common place in the ancient world for a man to lead his son up a mountain to be sacrificed to his deity. (We make the road by walking, B. McClaren, pg 89, 2014).

So it is in this CONTEXT that Abraham and Sarah step into the timeline of God’s Big story.

It is important to know that the dominant theory of God in Abraham and Sarah's day taught that the gracious God who gives human life would also demand human life as a sacrifice. So when Abraham believed God was commanding him to kill Isaac, he believed he was being faithful to a traditional model of how God and life worked.

Imagine being the first one to come down the mountain WITH his son still by his side?  To bring a NEW view into the current culture that was so strong. Imagine the message of grace and love that the children heard; that God didn’t want a sacrifice of child’s life but that He wanted us to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with Him. The only sacrifice that mattered to God was the holy gift of humble hearts and lives dedicated to his way of love.

What a powerful insight. When God provided the lamb to replace Isaac, God was saying that animal blood could please or appease their God as a substitute for human blood.

Then I wonder if we can see this experience, this new paradigm shift, through a child's eyes who lived in this CONTEXT. The culture then was that all ages were together during all events and therefore children would have been present during the sacrifice of animals as an offering to God. So a child could have realised that this might have been them, but that God loves them so much that God has saved them from death.

This is the BIG story of God. This has never changed from the very beginning of time, although God is always doing new things, to make His point.

So we move on in God’s BIG story and the CONTEXT again is very important. We come to the time of Moses and the freeing of God’s people. In this CONTEXT, a King can command that all children be killed, in order to wipe out a nation that threatens his Kingship. God again saves a child from this tragedy. His name is Moses and he becomes the one to lead God’s people out of slavery. Again, there are times I have felt that for God to kill all the Hebrew babies to make His point seems cruel and savage and yet in this CONTEXT it is what Kings did to save their own people. Pharaoh was affected with the same pain that a King in his line did some 40 or so years before in order to weaken God’s people. God also uses a sign of animal blood on the door, a reminder that it is not His desire for His children to perish. That night the parents would have told the stories of a long time ago when sacrificing children was what their God’s required and what God did to change all that.

God’s saving love is shown again to God’s people, as they are spared from death by the blood of a lamb and they escape to the promise land.  A NEW story is added to be told every Passover about the depths of God’s love to free His people and draw them to himself.

So the BIG story moves on again and the CONTEXT changes again. God is doing a NEW thing. Years later while Kings still command that baby boys be killed in order to protect their Kingdom, the memory of child sacrifice to appease for sin grows dim, as animal sacrifice becomes a way of life. It is in this CONTEXT that Jesus in the form of a man steps into the timeline of God’s BIG story.

The Passover is a very important time to retell the story of God’s Love and saving grace. The elements of the meal all have special meanings. The Passover begins with a child asking a question, because their CONTEXT is still that children were always a part of these occasions as all ages were present. They told of the blood of the lamb placed on the door to save the children from dying in the night.

But on this night, Jesus draws attention not to the lamb (the animal sacrifice), but to the bread and the wine. He is bringing a NEW meaning to this meal. He is preparing them for a NEW CONTEXT. Today we take communion and think nothing of using the bread and the wine, but those present on the first night would have been shocked.  Today our communion does not even include lamb, it is very rarely associated with an actual meal. But the very first LAST SUPPER had a very important CONTEXT. God was teaching His people that His son would pay the price, and be the sacrificial lamb. And like all those years ago with Abraham and Isaac, and Moses, from this point on things will CHANGE.

From Jesus’s death onwards animal sacrifice was no longer necessary. Jesus had paid the price. We no longer sacrifice animals for our sins and shortfalls. A simple remembrance table is set with the bread and wine as a focus.

God’s message has never changed. He still wants us to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with Him. The only sacrifice that matters to God is the holy gift of humble hearts and lives dedicated to His way of love. We must never lose the power of his LOVE because the CONTEXT has changed, because we have not been affected first hand by the loss of our own children, by the need to kill animals and make sacrifices. We did not see firsthand Jesus dying a painful death.

We live in a TIME of RESURRECTION and HOPE. A time where Jesus has paid the heavy price of our shortfall, and we his children no longer have to die, but have new life in HIM. Let us NEVER forget to see this amazing sacrifice through the eyes of a child, who long ago, learned that God’s love is so great that He would replace HIS child, for himself and die a painful death in our stead.  May this Easter not lose its power because of our lack of CONTEXT.