Friday, September 30, 2016

You are not exceptional

In my last post I wrote that no one is truly as unique as they feel

This could have been disappointing...

Well, I've got more bad news for you.

You're also not exceptional.

What do I mean by that?

I mean that you, and I, are not the exception.

Even though we might want to be... We are not.

We are not the exception when it comes to the short cuts we think we're entitled to.
We are not the exception when it comes to following the commands of God. They don't apply to everyone else but us.

This is the lie temptation feeds us.

We are told the we are unique... So no one else understands.
We are told that we are the exception... So we can get away with this.

This is how temptation sucks us in and, just like in the garden of Eden, withdraws us from the community around us.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Your story is not unique

Everyone wants to be unique.

Very few people are.

I'd go so far as to say no one.

No one, at the core, lives their life on an absolutely revolutionary path.

For, in reality, others have always faced the same things in the past.

And... That's a good thing.

There's no new questions to stump you.
There's no new temptation to trip you up.
There's no situation that hasn't been wrestled with previously.

Why is this a good thing?

Because you can learn the lessons from others before you...
You can go to people for I've-lived-through-this advice...
You have examples, both good and bad, to glean wisdom from...

Unfortunately, in a culture where everyone wants to carve out their own path, we can miss the opportunity to see that being a part of the rich tapestry of life and faith is a blessing.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The adult check-list

If they gave out licenses in order for someone to become an adult, what things would they need to be able to do in order to qualify?

I pondered this while performing one of the tasks which should be on that list.

I changed a tyre on my car. Three actually. As you can see here, it's not the first time.

But the ability to change a tyre is only at the start of the list.

Here's what I think you should be able to do in order to activate your adult-card... In no particular order...

  • Be able to change a tyre.
Truly, it's not that hard. Anytime someone calls the NRMA to change a flat the service-man should just laugh at them while performing the swap.
  • Be able to check and change the oil in your car.
The second lamest reason for your car to need assistance.
  • Be able to jump start a car.
Inevitably, you'll need to do this. Blowing off a hand whilst doing it would be unfortunate.
  • Be able to drive a manual.
You never know when that's the only kind of car that'll be available.

  • Be able to parallel park.
You should be able to park by the curb competently enough that a group of strangers or your family can watch without cringing.
  • Be able to cook in order to survive.
Trust me, living off food that other people had prepared, gets expensive real quick.
  • Be able to cook a roast dinner.
It's good to have a main meal up your sleeve.
  • Be able to cook a specialty meal.
How else do you really impress a date?
  • Be able to cook breakfast.
For the morning after you've really, REALLY, impressed a date/your spouse.
  • Be able to swim.
You just should be able to do more than just stay afloat.
  • Be able, and willing, to change a nappy.
Any nappy. One AND Twos. Not just your own kid. Without complaining.
  • Be able to do your taxes.
Whilst you might use an accountant, you're both capable to fill in the form yourself and have done so in the past.
  • Be able to change a light bulb.
See what I wrote earlier about changing a tire, change NRMA to handyman, and multiply that by a million.
  • Be able to change a tap washer.
See what I wrote about the oil in your car... Ditto.
  • Be able to iron clothes.
At minimum, you should be able to iron a business shirt.
  • Be able to sew on a button.
For when you notice it missing from your freshly-ironed shirt.
Bonus if you've got more than one knot in your arsenal.
  • Know what alcoholic drink you enjoy and how it's best served.
Of course, enjoyed responsibly.
  • Be able to make quality hot drinks.
Everyone loves the person who can make great coffee or brew a fine tea.
  • Be able to read a map and use a compass.
You never know when you'll need it. But, when you do, you'll be screwed if all you know is how to use GPS and there's no Internet.
  • Know first aid, especially CPR.
See what I wrote about a map and compass, now insert the element of potential-life-and-death.
  • Be able to build and start a fire.
Again, copy and paste from above. Bonus if you can start it without matches.
  • Know how to find or collect water if stranded.
Repeat from above - can you sense a trend?
  • Be able to kill a bug relatively fearlessly.
If you live in Australia, you've gotta know how to handle creepy crawlies. Especially huntsmen spiders.
  • Know how to form a good argument.
No matter where you are - work, home, the pub - this will be invaluable.

  • Know how to give a good speech.
This will put you ahead of a lot of people who hate public speaking.

    • Be albe to spell and use propa grammar.
    This will put you ahead of a lot of people, especially in a professional setting.
    If performing a good speech would put you ahead of others, this will advance you light-years.
    • Be able to tell a good story.
    The hidden secret of good communication.
    You'll always have a source of entertainment if you can draw a half dozen things decently.
    What do you protect, provide and stand for?

    In no way is this an exhaustive list, but I think it's a good start.

    Of the 31 points, I can do approximately 23 (you can speculate which ones I can't do).

    So, if you don't mind, I'll turn in my adult-card once I hit publish...

    Wednesday, September 21, 2016

    The two letters which should be said a lot in church


    If you don't know...
    If you're not aware...
    If you're new here...
    If you're not convinced...

    The word if sends a powerful message.


    Because it shows that you don't presume.

    You don't presume that everyone is a regular...
    You don't presume that everyone is identical...
    You don't presume that everyone is in total agreement with what you're saying...

    All because you use the two little letters which should be said, repeatedly, from the front of the church.

    Sunday, September 18, 2016

    Healthy > Active

    When it comes to ministries, there's a dark secret...
    All too often, active trumps healthy.

    No one would admit it openly, but it's the reality.

    Active = Bodies
    Bodies = Wallets
    Wallets = Money

    Is this equation a tad cynical?
    Yes, but it's quite reflective of decision-making mindsets and budgets.

    But, the measure of success of a ministry should be something far deeper than mere activity.

    More than bodies participating...
    More than a strong social media presence...
    More than being financially sustainable...

    The marker for success should be health.

    Which might not look a lot like "success."

    Health might mean a shrinking in number.
    Health might annoy others.
    Health might be financially costly.

    But a healthy ministry will have a rich desire to cultivate Christ-likeness and be a place of both authenticity and welcom-ness.

    For, these healthy ministries will have a far greater eternal impact, even if they don't always appear to be a throng of activity.

    Tuesday, September 13, 2016

    Why the church should always provide pew bibles

    Last Sunday night I visited a church and noticed something missing which I, incidentally, raised with the senior minister when he introduced himself to me.

    They had no pew bibles.

    Once it caught my attention, and I brought it to the attention of a few people around me, the more I realised the disservice that they were providing.

    First of all, the absence of bibles strips those in the pews, especially those visiting - and expecting pew bibles - or new to church, the chance to physically handle the word of God or be able to take one.

    Now, I know that anyone with a smart phone has a bible at their fingertips, but that leads me to my second point..

    For, secondly, if you're expecting those attending to either bring their own bibles or look up the passage online, then you deprive the church of a unifying scripture translation. This complicates both the content of preaching and the focus of the bible reading.

    On multiple occasions last Sunday the preacher switched from the translation which was read due to his comfort with an alternate. This bugged me. And it could have been easily avoided.

    But, furthermore, the practice of allowing for innumerable bible translations just opens the door for more translation questions to be raised which you might not delve into. Why would you encourage this?

    Additionally, I was bothered when the congregation was encouraged to look up another part of the bible since I couldn't quickly flip to it. Having the bible in your hands allows you, if you're biblically proficient, to easily follow any random trail that might spring to mind or be able to see on the page the wider context of the passage.

    Finally, and most importantly, the pew bible - or lack-thereof - sends a subtitle, yet powerful, message.

    Can you say that you, as a church, really value the bible if you don't provide one, ensuring that it's available to all?

    Sunday, September 11, 2016

    Tilting the odds

    This morning I, once again, lead the service and preached at a local church.

    This was different from last week.

    Not only were I not up the front of a church service, but I skipped church altogether in the morning.

    Because it was Father's Day... And I wasn't given a solid enough reason to go to church over having breakfast with my family.

    I know... Stone me. Drag me out into the street and have me flogged because I chose to have a big breakfast over attending a church service.

    But, I wasn't given a special incentive to select church over bacon.

    And, somewhat shamefully, bacon triumphed.

    On special, family-based occasions, I think that the church service needs an extra hook.

    Now, I know, attending church - meeting with both God and His people - should be enough... But the draw of family breakfast can be awfully alluring.

    So, I would put on breakfast for the parents on mother's or Father's Day. Parents knew that French toast or bacon would await them.

    In the end, a simple idea like this gives church an extra lift when people are deciding what to do before they open their flowers & chocolates or socks & undies.

    Wednesday, September 7, 2016

    The best evangelistic steps: Appeal. Think. Chat.

    I wrote that my go-to gospel presentation could be summed up by three letters... FTH.

    But, when it comes to delivering an evangelistic appeal, it can me summed up by three words... Appeal. Think. Chat.

    Make the Appeal - Present the gospel message.

    Give an opportunity to Think - Provide space, be it a few moments, overnight or longer to reflect on the gospel message.

    Encourage a Chat - Since discipleship happens in relationship, encourage someone who wants to respond to the gospel to speak with a mature believer (be it minister, youth minister, volunteer leader).

    I think this method works better than the eyes-closed-raise-hand-walk-down-the-front approach which has been so popular since it not only gives time and space for the listener to truely weigh up the implications of the gospel, but also connects then into a wider discipleship process/relationship, hopefully closing the vast backdoor of many large evangelical ministries.

    Monday, September 5, 2016

    The bible reader should have this important trait

    Now that my primary public ministry is the occasional church service leading and preaching, I've been giving a lot more thought to the practicalities of the church service.

    Yesterday, during church, my mind pondered the bible reading.

    And, I confess, all too often I did this a disservice.


    Because I'd randomly ask people to do the bible reading once they arrived at church.

    Put simply, the bible deserves better than this.

    And, in putting so little purposefulness into the reading of the scriptures, it sent the message that they we're as important as the other elements of the service which would be meticulously rostered and prepared.

    But, as often as was practical, I did do one thing right.

    I ensured that the bible was read by the laity.

    The importance of this, again, revolved around the message which it sent.

    The bible should be read by those outside the paid church staff because it communicates that the bible's not so sacred or complicated that it's reserved for the "experts."

    One remarkable advancement from the Reformation and the printing press was that it put the bible into the hands of the commoner.

    It would be a shame if we started to reverse that progression...