Saturday, April 30, 2011

Aliens, dinosaurs & cats

During a scripture seminar Q&A yesterday I answered the question "Does the bible mention aliens?"

My reply consisted of aliens, dinosaurs and cats.

The bible doesn't mention cats. Anywhere. Ever.

Now no one would think that, just because they aren't referred to in the scriptures, that cats don't exist. They just aren't mentioned.

The reason? The bible is not about cats. It is about God, mankind, the world and how they fit together.

The same line of reasoning applies for both dinosaurs and aliens. The bible is not about aliens so it does not mention them. The bible is not mainly about dinosaurs either so it does not explicitly mention them.

Does that mean that either exist/existed? I have no idea. I'm comfortable for T-Rex to have roamed the Earth and E.T. to be chilling at home.

The bible doesn't seek to answer those questions.

It seeks to reveal the character of God, His relationship with all creation, what He wants from us and how He seeks to bring us back to Himself.

Friday, April 29, 2011

How could God allow sin to enter the world in the first place?

It is widely understood that God is not a fan of sin. He is not okay with people making choices that hurt others and go against the way that He has commanded us to live for our own (and others) betterment.

So why would God allow sin to enter the world in the first place?

The reason boils down to the value and significance that God wants our choices to have.

Imagine... If you had a long term partner, and they said they loved you, you would feel pretty good about it. They are making the decision to love you.

But how would that feeling change is you found out that every time that person said they loved you, I was paying them $100? Would that statement be cheapened?
Or how would you feel if you discovered that your boyfriend or girlfriend was actually a machine that I programmed to love you? Would you feel cheated if you discovered they could make no other option?

Now imagine that I had $50 in my hand. Would you want it?

I have the choice to give it to you. To be generous. God will not force me to do it, nor will he stop me if I choose to do so.

But, I can decide to keep my money and, instead, punch you in the head. I can choose to be cruel, not kind. God will not force me to do either, but He also won't produce a magical force shield around you if I lash out in violence.

God will honour my decision. This is true if I decide to give you money, help the poor, punch you in the head, or fly an aeroplane into a building.

This gives my choice significance and value.

So... What has this all got to do with the question of sin's origin?

God did not design us as machines. We have freewill to choose how we will live and who we will follow. We can either love God and live for Him or reject God and live for ourselves.

When God gave humanity the power to choose, He took the massive risk that they would choose to rebel against Him. And this is how sin was birthed. God gave humanity a choice and then honoured that decision.

People choose to reject God, not embrace Him. He give them a choice on how they wanted to live. For, in doing so, He gave their selection significance and value.

We can only freely choose to love God if we have the equal opportunity to do the opposite.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

H.A.L.T. the argument

In the past I've written how I regularly trawl's Church, Christianity, Speaking and Leadership topics.

Last night I stumbled over this post and I think it applies really well for listening, but also confrontation.

If you're going to have a discussion that could break down into an argument, abort if you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired.

STOP. Eat. Calm down. Take a breath. Get some sleep. Have some fun.

Remember, sometimes it is better to H.A.L.T. the discussion and pick it up at a better time.

Whenever I've gone into a combustible meeting with any of these symptoms, or been faced with someone else with these ailments, it quickly turns ugly...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Golf Club Church

Over my years of blogging I've mentioned a golf club that I go to for a few quiet refreshments. The club is nothing spectacular, but it has cheep beer and is always a good place for a chin wag.

I've been going to the club for a few years, drawn in my a mate, and it stuns me how the golf club is similar to a church.

First, the club is made up of predominately elderly people. They are active, but they would all be eligible for the Masters Olympics. Sure, there are some young people, but they are in the minority.

Second, there are regulars. The same people, at the usual table, standing in roughly the same spots.

Third, there is plenty of gossip, bitching and general moaning.

Fourth, the regulars seem to (alongside the ribbing), genuinely care for each other. Every so often you will catch a glimpse of meaningful concern for what is going on at work or within their marriages.

Fifth, money is a continuing issue. There is ongoing budget stress and this is sensed around the club. Especially amongst the staff.

Sixth, the staff seem to be (somewhat) under appreciated and stuck in a rut.

There have been numerous times when I could shut my eyes and hardly tell the difference between the golf club and a church. Whether it is a complaining staff member who is overworked, the stream of meetings, the politics, the rumours or the concern about the clubs longevity, I wonder how those within the club would feel that they are actually in a church setting.

Only they talk about golf, not God...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Which bible translation?

DISCLAIMER: I don't pretend to be an expert in this topic. If you look at the Web you will find plenty of smarter people than me who will point you in plenty of different directions. This is just my 2c.

A while back I was asked which bible translation one should read.

The more I thought about the question the more difficult it was to answer.

A whole bunch of questions jumped into my mind after I nearly spouted out... "NIV. That's what I use. It's pretty good."

Why does it matter???

The bible being written in languages I, and the vest majority of people, don't read. I can't read Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek.

Any bible I read will be a translation from the original languages.

Additionally, language is fluid. Words are altered over time. Definitions change. Words are added and dropped from the vernacular (a good example would be the thee's & thou's from the KJV).

But these questions need to be considered...
Will the bible to be used for personal study or to be read aloud?
Do you want foot notes and cross-references?
If they were getting a study bible, would they be aware of any bias of the translators?
Will the bible to be used with kids or well educated adults?
Will the bible to be used for a new Christian or a mature believer who desires a fresh perspective?
Does the person care about gender inclusively and realise what it would mean if it were a "paraphrase" or a "dynamic equivalent"?
Would the person actuality read the introduction at the front of the bible (does anyone...) to see where the translators stand on the above questions?

To boil it down, I think you need a decent word-for-word translation (like the ESV). But this can sound like a modern-day word jumble when read aloud.

So I think you also need a decent thought-for-thought translation (like the NIV... even though it's not perfect). I would use this as my every day bible and when I was looking in-depth at a passage I would cross check the other two.

Finally, I would have handy a paraphrase (like the Message) but understand that this is a loose, poetic interpretation, under the guise of the author.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Holiday skipping

Note: This isn't a dig at anyone in particular, I've seen it happen at every church I've attended. I've also partaken in the holiday skip myself.

It's the holidays and unusually, churches had more people in them than normal. It was Easter Sunday.

But there were also a chunk of the regulars who were absent. Perhaps they were busy with family commitments. Perhaps they had an emergency. Perhaps they are on a well deserved holiday. Perhaps they fell down a well.

Or perhaps they just decided to skip church.

The trend to miss church whenever there are school holidays is common. I struggle to understand it.

If following Jesus is the central thing in your life, then why would you allow church attendance to slide just because it is school holidays (especially if you are a young adult and there is a chance that you're not on holidays anyway!)? Why would you let the most important thing in your life go off the boil just because you don't need to slow down in a school zone?

To make things worse, some churches even plan for the drop off. Why would they do this? Why would they send the message that this is okay?

The most disappointing occurrence is when it happens this morning. It may just be me, but I find it odd that a Christian would miss the pinnacle of the Christian year. Sure, if they're away, they may have gone to church elsewhere, but Easter Sunday seems like a pretty lame day to sleep in...

Rejecting Easter repost

I don't normally do reposts, but it is Easter Sunday and this post (and the series that goes with it) is appropriate.

Rejecting Easter.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Why do they call Good Friday Good?

A day when a completely good... absolutely innocent man... was betrayed by one of his closest friends... abandoned by all... endured a fixed court case... with false witnesses... with no presumption of innocence... held under the cover of darkness... prosecuted by the wrong person... with no defence entered or allowed... was beaten... spat on... whipped... tortured... overlooked for a murdered... who heard those who cheered Him then cry for His death... who had to transport His own death implement... held to it by five inch nails... stripped naked... mocked by those who passed by... insulted by those who orchestrated his murder and those who were killed beside him... who endured an excruciating ordeal... dying a death reserved for the lowest of the low... the worst of the worst... a demise off limits for those under Caesar... the victim, in Jewish eyes, being cursed by God... who in his own words was FORSAKEN BY GOD…

It was the ultimate injustice. Before his own mother, a son, a friend, a teacher, the King, the Messiah, the SON OF GOD was killed. The day the bread of life was broken and the blood of the Lamb spilt.


The only reason we can dare call this day Good is because of what it achieved. It tore down the division between humanity and God.

The results of Jesus’ death and resurrection are the reason we celebrate Easter and can call Good Friday Good.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Odd biblical bits

Some parts of the bible are weird... And dangerously amusing to share... And disturbingly confusing.

Example #1?
Leviticus 22:24.

Question: Who's job was it to check that? Poor bloke. Poor animal.

Example #2?
Deuteronomy 25:11-12.

I shared this with a few teenagers today (is that wrong?).

Question: How many times did this have to occur before God determined there needed to be a law about it? I think once is too often.

Do you wanna...?

Are you here cause you want to hear from God?

I imagine this would be a dangerous statement to kick off church over the Easter weekend.

Church attendance will swell over the next few days, but the reason will have little to do with "wanting to hear what God has to say and how it can influence their lives."

It will have to do with tradition. Or keeping up appearances. Or smoothing things over with the family.

What would happen if the idea of God communicating with people was placed squarely at the centre of the Easter service invitation?
If you gave people the choice that they will hear what God has to say about their life, unless they leave in the next two minutes, how many people would vacate?
Equally, would the result be any different if you said it prior to any other service?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sneaky clock watching

My current church didn't have a clock in the sanctuary until a month ago.

Then I put one in. It sits in a nook which can be clearly seen from the front, but Isn't visible by the choir or attention grabbing from the rest of church.

The reason for this was simple. I struggled to keep my talks within the short time frame of the chapel services and loosing track of time was the preventable cause.

But the motive for adding the time piece was beyond mid-week chapel and extended to Sunday services.

No one enjoys a service that drags on. A clock is the easy fix. I am stunned that every church doesn't have a manner to keep track of time.

It sends the clear message that the time of those in the congregation is important. It sends the message that their time is valuable. It honours the time that we share on a Sunday.

And hopefully it means the demise of 60 minute diatribes and two hour services.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Rockin' my church boat

Today I was asked what "rocked my boat" when it comes to church.

It took me a while to answer the question.

But the reply that I eventually scrapped up was this...
My boat is rocked by good church services.

Regular, week after week, reliable, quality church.

Not gimmicks. Not mind-bending creativity. Not "new expressions of faith communities."

Just run-of-the-mill church with the predicable expectation that it will be good. If I went to a church where that happened, it would rock my boat.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Palm efforts

It's Palm Sunday, so... once again... we made Palm crosses.

As we wound our way towards this Sunday we also did another Palm Sunday ritual.

Asking the congregation for Palm Branches.

The annual request and angst over acquiring palm branches made me wonder...
Do we put more effort into obtaining branches from a tree than we put into planning the actual church service?

Saturday, April 16, 2011


The navy have genetically engineered the perfect weapon. A shark/octopus hybrid... A SHARKTOPUS. What could possibly go wrong?

In the footsteps of Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus and Mega Piranha...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Voice credibility

One unique thing about this week, since I'm on holidays and have barely left the house, is the silence. In ministry you hear a lot of voices. Some opinions are useful and well meaning, others are less so. But what gives a voice credibility? What needs to be weighed up when deciding if a viewpoint is feasible?

  • What is their perspective? Do they see what happens behind the scenes? Does the person understand what you are trying to achieve?

  • Do they give balanced feedback, or are they predominately negative/positive?

  • Are they personally invested in the ministry?

  • Does the person want you to get better?

  • Does the person care for you and the ministry?

  • Is the person angry at you or something in the ministry? Is this clouding their view?

  • What is the persons history with you and the ministry?

  • Finally... and equally as important... is what they said true? Or at least have a hint of truth that can be learned from?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Buckshot and lasers

When things go well the results and praise should be spread like buckshot.

In light of success, the congratulations should be generously spread far and wide. Churches will often claim that "we" did that.

But, when things go pear-shaped, the results can be like a laser. They are focused in on a singular or select few people to blame. A church can turn and claim that it was "their idea".

This is one of the dangers of leadership. You risk putting yourself in the sights of peoples laser-blame.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Random Graham

I previously mentioned a blog here which also has a post tiled "100 truths about me." I'm not inspired enough to write 100, but wanted to give you a greater insight into who I am and the list I came up with this morning was...

1. My first ever sermon was given at
Katoomba Anglican Church. The passage was Hebrews 12:1-2. I had the entire sermon memorised.
2. My first pet, a bird named Sam, was found hung in his plastic ladder by my sister when she was around 10 years old. He is still buried in the back garden with the ladder around his neck.
3. I've owned three cars in my life. Cecil, Gerald and Big Red. Gerald was crap.
4. I've kept a daily diary for the last 14 years.
5. I chew quietly to myself when I sleep. I'm told, so does my sister. It must be a genetic thing...
6. My first kiss was in a park. Her name was Rachel.
7. My first kiss was my wife was on a dance floor. A seedy, seedy dance floor.
8. The place my parents got married is now a car park.
9. I went on schoolies three times.
10. I returned from my first schoolies with bright yellow hair.
11. Subsequently, I had bright yellow hair on my 18+ proof-of-age card.
12. My first cat never died. He just disappeared.
13. I used to wear one hard contact lens in my left eye.
14. I wore glasses in primary school. To help strengthen my lazy right eye I had a yellow smiley patch over my left. The look was not attractive.
15. I almost always cry when I watch Forrest Gump or the final episode of M.A.S.H.
16. I've kept all the letters my wife has ever written me in my bedside table.
17. I still have the sign in sheet from my first week at youth group. I was in year 6.
18. I once had the name Graham Baldcock on a boarding pass. When this is a rugby trip, the name sticks.
19. When I was a teenager I cut up a heap of my childhood photos to make a collage for Mum. I never did make the collage.
20. When I was a kid I slept with a seal.
21. I used to be deathly afraid of Freddy Kruger as a kid. I watched "
Nightmare on Elm Street 3" at my sister's birthday party.
22. I can name every WWF/E champion from 1978 to approx 1999. I can also name every Wrestlemania main event for the first 20 years.
23. My Mum would stroke my nose to put me to sleep. It still works to this day.
24. My first job was working at a deli.
25. I had the name "weasel" on the back of my year 12 jersey.
26. I sing in the shower.
27. It annoys me that I can't pronounce my name.
28. When I cry at my child's birth it will be as much about become a father as it will be that my Dad won't be around to see it.
29. I flirted with the idea of getting tongue surgery to fix my speech impediment.
30. I only had one girl friend before dating my wife.
31. I used to steal cigarettes from Mum and Dad to smoke at the park in year 6.
32. I used to steal loose chance from Dad to buy micro machines.
33. My two favourite authors are Agatha Christie and Valerio Massimo Manfredi.
34. I have a chipped tooth. I chipped it biting into a chocolate freckle.
35. I can't ride a bicycle.
36. I couldn't swim confidently until I was 17.
37. I've read through the entire bible twice. The first time took me 1 year, 8 months, 10 days.
38. I've never been in a fight.
39. As a kid, I once put a knife into a toaster. There were sparks.
40. Years ago, I got a mobile phone from Dad when mine stopped working. It still has a video he took of my niece. You can hear my Dad's voice in the background. I miss his laugh.
41. My Dad and I both got snooker cues for my 21st. I beat him at snooker. Often.
42. I once broke a water pipe connected to someones water meter. I just kept walking.
43. I was paralysed for a short time when I was hit over the head with a pillow.
44. I've had my appendix removed. And three of my wisdom teeth.
45. I've never used a razor to shave my face.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hosts vs Gatekeepers

Last week I was chatting to a minister who mentioned a question that transformed a meeting over chair/pew selection. The question was... "When a guest enters your home, what do you do?"

This enquiry changed the tone of the potentially combustible meeting since everyone had their viewpoint switched from gatekeepers to hosts.

As a host, their focus is on the guest. They are mindful of the visitor's comfort.

As a gatekeeper, their focus is on themselves. They are mindful of maintaining the status quo and their comfort. So, are the doors of most churches, manned by hosts of gatekeepers???

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bursting the bubble

My wife and are are in a demographic that is coveted by most churches.

We are in our twenties and married. Whenever we go to a church where we are unknown, the eyes of the greeters and ministry staff light up.

And inevitably we need to burst the guest bubble and inform those at the church that we aren't actually looking to join the church, but are visiting since I'm on holidays.

The whole situation reminds me a tad of dating. Someone attractive is spotted, they flirt a little, and then it is disappointingly discovered that one person is in a relationship.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Holiday church?

I'm in ministry, on holidays and it's a Sunday. I face a dilemma...
Do I go to church? Which church do I go to? One where I'm known, or one where I'll be anonymous?

It's interesting that often those up the front of church stress the importance of service attendance, but when they have holidays, they toss up whether to attend themselves. We are tempted by the same option to "have the week off" which irritates us when our congregation members do it.

It's odd that we would not see the amazing opportunity to just sit in a church service and be fed, not needing to "be on." To my advantage, I have my home church nearby. I can turn up, feel comfortable, welcomed and (importantly for my point tomorrow) recognised.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Problem input

I'm on holidays for the next week and I can't be happier. As the term wound down I was getting more and more ready for some time off as stress started to emerge.

During the week, at another two days of the leadership intensive that I'm attending, we spoke about weighing up they way that problems are fed. They suggested that, when faced with a problem, you form three groups. Facts, Gossip and Imagined.

Some input that you process is based on fact. The details are certain and confirmed.

Some input is secondary, based on hearsay and rumor.

Finally, some input is based solely in our imagination and false assumptions.

Troubles often arise and are nourished by the two later groups. Perhaps, if we focused on the first group, we would sleep better at night...

Friday, April 8, 2011

Square shoulds for a round hole

I SHOULD do a lot.

I should have more kids on a Friday night.
I should be a more captivating speaker.
I should have more blog readers (I love you all!!!).
I should be more popular.
I should be able to play the guitar. And play 500.
I should be like Doug Fields. Or Rick Warren. Or Bill Hybels. Or Brian Houston. Or the youth minister down the street with the successful youth ministry.

These are just some of the things that the voice inside my head says I SHOULD be. And whenever I rate myself against this scale I fall woefully short.

The reason? I often have the wrong sized "shoulds" for who I am meant to be and where God has placed me to minister.

Really, the only thing I should be is who God made, shaped and calls me to be. It is not to be Doug. It is not to be Rick. It is not to be Bill. It is not to be Brian.

It is to be Graham. That is who I SHOULD be...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Yesterday's extra-ordinary

As time goes by your memory sands the extraordinary-ness from the past. Imagine...

The day after... Yesterday was great.
A month later... Oh, I remember that day, it was really good.
A year later... That day was memorable. Just.

If you made a list of all the amazing things that God has done in your life, or that you've seen Him do, you would probably be surprised. If you're like me, you've forgotten many things that, at the time, were amazing. But, as time has lapsed, they have lost their shine. They have become... ordinary.

Chances are, what was extraordinary at the time, will be remembered as the ordinary of yesterday.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

And... yeah... Amen

While reviewing the sermon from Sunday morning with the Minister of the Word at church (which we do after most services) I mentioned a pet hate of mine.

Actually, it was something that majorly got under my skin at my home church, but was on display last Sunday. The sermon trailed off with an... ah... yeah... amen.

It reminded me of the three most important parts of the sermon to prepare and practice.

The start – To get you off to a comprehensible, solid, confident beginning.
Transitions between points – To give the sermon good flow.
The end – To finish with a bang, not a whimper.

Monday, April 4, 2011


For the next few days I play one of the Jesus characters in the churches Easter Experience. I am Anglo Jesi, which adds to the complement of Spanish, Indian and Asian Jesi. Check out the promo, shot a few years ago.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Youth group excuses

A while back I did a post about excuses people give for skipping church. Similarly, the longer you deal with teenagers the more excuses you hear for them not attending youth group.

They are getting ready for an event the following day...
They have their birthday party...
Or a friend’s birthday party...
Or a random party they got invited to...
Or it's a family member’s birthday...
They need to study...
They have assignments...
They are too tired...
They are grounded...
They had a really big week at school...
Their friend isn't coming...
They are on a date...
They broke up with someone who might be at youth group...
They are having a fight with someone who might be at youth group...
They just "aren't feeling it anymore"...
They "aren't being fed"...
They say the "group has changed from how it used to be"...
They are "just having the week off"...
And on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on...

I mentioned here that one of my reflection criteria was attendance. My aim is to have any teen at youth group 80% of the term.

I use 80% because it is a reasonable indicator of commitment, but stuff comes up. Some of the above excuses are genuine and unavoidable. Sometimes they really to need to be dong an assignment or it is their Mum's birthday.

But sometimes the excuses are just that. Nothing more than an excuse.

So, why does it matter if they attend?
First, because believers are to meet together on a regular basis for encouragement and support.
Second, youth group gives them a place to ask questions and grow in their faith.
Third, youth group gives them an opportunity to serve and be an example to one another.
And finally, youth group should be a place where there are people (particularly adults) who and interested and care about them.