I have been reading Fast Forward to Mission by Alan Hirsch. My facebook friends can access a free download from a link on my timeline, but, for technical reasons beyond my ability, I can’t provide the link here. My paraphrase of this work is.
The gospel of Jesus connects our own story to the story of God, working through, over and within history, and in doing so, gives us meaning and understanding of our own place in the universe. Not only does it give us meaning and understanding – it connects us in meaningful ways with others as we understand the story of God who works not only through us and for us – compels us to engage with all of humanity allowing the experience of God to challenge, change and continue to draw all to himself …
Perhaps like me, you too struggle understanding the meaning of many of the stories that Jesus told. Some of his stories are easy to understand, while others are much harder. One story / parable that I have struggled to understand is one found in Matthew 13:44, where Jesus told a parable about a hidden treasure that someone finds in a field. He tells how the person who finds it, goes and sells all they have to buy that field; such is the immensity of the treasure.
I’m currently reading Dallard Willard’s book, Revolution of Character. On page 60 he gives an explanation of this parable which I think totally nails its meaning. Think about the treasure that is found in the field. It’s so valuable, the person who found it, gladly and joyfully sold all they had to buy that field. Do you think this person was sad and reluctant to sell all they had? No! Not at all!
The meaning of the parable is that Jesus is the treasure. He calls us to give up our life to come and follow him. He doesn’t call us to come follow him reluctantly. He calls us to come follow him gladly. He calls us to deny ourselves to come and follow him. But what is it we are denying? And what is it we are gaining? We are called to lose ourselves in his eternal immeasurable love. Allowing that eternal immeasurable love to change us, mold us, hold us, cover over, well up within and flow out from us.
Why would we want to hang onto our own lives – whether our life is good or bad – when, such a immeasurably valuable treasure is freely offered to us… all we need to do is deny ourselves, acknowledge the fact that there is a better way and accept Jesus.
Perhaps you would like to pray this prayer with me. _ Jesus, I need you. I need your love to permeate through me, cover me and flow through me. I turn from my ways and accept you. Help me to know what it means to walk in your love. To walk in your forgiveness. To turn away from my sin. Fill me with your Holy Spirit, and show me the riches of your immeasurable love.
Is right doctrine more important than right living? For even the demons believe right doctrine.
Ok peeps. I got to confess it to you all. There are times when I have a deep problem in loving the vilest sinner. It’s true. I have done for a long time. Yes its true. I know Jesus loves this person. I know he has washed his sins away. I know he has filled him with his Spirit. I know this person is forgiven and totally accepted by God.
But man, there are times when memories of the past raise their ugly head, and I bow my head in shame.Its in times like this, when I remind myself, I can only love and be kind to myself, because God first loved me. And so I can love myself because God loves me.
All of us sin in thought word and deed. All of us are caught up in sin. We can’t help it. But the good news is that Jesus Christ took our sins upon himself. Through him we are forgiven and accepted by God. For God so loved the world, he gave his only begotten son – so that who ever believes in him, shall have eternal and abundant life.
I don’t know about you, but, I reckon thats good news, what do you think?
I came across this interesting article about the issues and difficulties movie makers have in filming money on screen. To be honest, its something I have never thought of before.
Henry writes a hard hitting fictitious short story about feeding the hungry. I believe that churches should be involved in feeding the hungry and is something I am involved with. Last week I was invited by our pastor to come along to a street ministry where homeless people are fed. ( We have recently started fellowshipping at this church) I arrived a little early and because didn’t see anyone I knew,I hung back across the street, waiting patiently for those I knew to arrive. . (I wasn’t sure if the group that nearby was part of that ministry, or were another group.) An older wizzened man, called to me, and said, “Hey mister, come here and join us.”
He was a short, frail homeless guy, whom I later found out was nicknamed the professor. While he hardly had a cent to his name – he was truly rich in the grace of hospitality and the gift of encouragement. I went to minister to those like him; and instead, found myself richly ministered to in return.
Dave Black writes a nice little essay on the top 20 books on the NT that he has read. I’ll throw my list into the ring with a bit of a twist to the rules and call it my top reads for Kingdom Living.
1.) The Bible. – It was late in 2006 when I holed up in a pub at Gunning, and read the N.T right through in 3 days.
2.) There have been a number of significant biographies that have impacted me: 9 O’Clock in the Morning, Dennis Bennett. Smith Wigglesworth. John Wesley. Charles Spurgeon. Luther. Hudson Taylor. Corrie Ten Boon. David Livingstone. Brother Andrew – God Smuggler, Light Force. Nicky Cruz, Run Baby Run. In his Steps – Charles Sheldon
3.) Anything on prayer. Andrew Murray. E/M.Bounds. George. E Muller. The Kneeling Christian. Praying Hyde. Reece Howells Intercessor. David Brainard. Corrie Ten Boon. Don Carson – Spiritual Reformation. (While I don’t hold to a Calvinistic reformed theology – I found his book an excellent read.)
Practicing the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence. I consider this book to be foundational for my own ongoing prayer life. Praying and communing with God where ever we are.
4.) Spiritual Formation. Eugene Peterson. John Stott. C.S Lewis. Dallas Willard. Richard Foster. David Watson. Cloud / Townsend. Phillip Yancy. John Piper – Desiring God. Michael Harper. Gary Chapman (5 love languages) Rick Warren. David Watson.
5.) NT Commentaries – Gordon Fee – Revelation. Tim Gombis – Drama Ephesians.
6.) NT study. Greek is David Black and William Mounce. Gordon Fee – How to read the Bible for all it is worth.
7.) Apologetics. Josh Mcdowell. Ravi Zacharias. R.J Berry (Real Scientists. Real Faith), J. Packer, John Eldridge, C.S Lewis. I love his statement.. Call Jesus Lunatic, Liar, or who he said he was – but, don’t call him a good moral man; because he hasn’t given us that option.
8.) NT Theology – Roger Olsen. Stanley Grenz, Martin Lloyd Jones, John Stott. Clark H Pinnock – Flame of Love. Veli Matti – Pneumatology. Ross Clifford & Phillip Johnson – The Cross is not Enough.
9.) Blogs that make me think. Roger Olsen. Robert Martin- Abnormal Anabaptist, Scripture Zealot, T.C Robinson – New Leaven, Shane Clifton – Australian Pentecostal Theologian, Mark Stevens – The Parsons Patch, Dr. Claude Mariottini (Claude is an OT professor. But, he still makes me think! ) Dan Thompson – Apprentice to Jesus., Dave Black – Southern Baptist Greek Professor. (And a good friend)
10) Christian Writers – Max Lucardo, Phillip Yancy, Bill Hybells.
We have (I should say had) a small pergola / shelter in our backyard. I have been planning on moving it a few metres back and turn it sideways, for a few weeks now. It was one of those things with a few sheets of colour bond, 4 light square steel tube legs and a frame.
Muggins after studying it for a while, thought that it would be easy to cut the legs off just above where they were concreted in, and slowly walk the shelter to the required spot. Truth be known, I was kinda going to have a few guys around on Sunday to help me..but, I got impatient and I thought I could do it on my own… so I decided to do it yesterday.
I didn’t figure on the guttering / frame around the roofing iron to be full of years of accumulation of Tea Tree leaves and other debri. There was at least 80kg of debri hidden in the frame. And so after cutting the legs, it kinda collapsed on me.
So muggins had to pull it apart. And I now have this big mess to clean up. In many ways, its collapse was a blessing. I was going to move it to where I am making another pergola, aquaponics garden, and covered area and it most likely would not have blended in that well.
What can I say – yeup. I am a man. I did it my way!
It doesn’t take anyone long to find out that I like fire. For the facts are I am a bit of a fire bug. I was laughing at a mates comment when he said he didn’t know anyone else who had so many methods of lighting a fire – he then corrected himself saying that he actually meant so many types of fire receptacles. We have a slow combustion wood heater which provides our home warmth in winter. I also have a number of different fireplaces to use out side for a bbq. These range from a hole in the ground, a ring of bricks or concrete blocks, half of a 44 gallon drum that has 4 legs welded to it to make a fire pit, a 9kg gas bottle that has been made into a pot belly stove, a car tyre rim and more recently I picked up the top third of a beer keg that makes a awesome fire pit. Chances are if you come to my place for a visit, and I’m outside and I offer you a cup of tea or coffee; you will find I will light a fire to boil the billy. If you come over and its time for a feed, I will make an excuse to light a fire to cook dinner. It could be as simple as a couple of snags, chops or steaks on the plate, some toasted cheese sandwiches made in the jaffle irons, or it could be a more complex roast or stew made in the camp oven.
A group of men meet at our place every Thursday for what I call – Fire, feed and faith.” Here we light the fire, boil the billy. Take turns to provide a feed which is often cooked on the fire, and to share life and encourage each other. I don’t know if its the strong tea / coffee, the warmth of the fire, or a God factor; perhaps a combination of all three – I have often found myself chewing the fat and praying with another brother into the late night or early hours of the next day.
Last week a couple of ladies upped me like a rat up a drain pipe at the weekly community bbq. They said to me, “Where is our billy tea?” You make it for everyone else, where is ours – they strongly upped me. So, I replied, I will make it for you next week. This morning I took along the top of the beer keg fire pit. A pot holder I made to hang the billy and coffee pot above the fire and the camp oven. I made a “Craig’s” version of Chilli Con Carne, which comprised of Sausages, Baked Beans, Red Kidney Beans, Onion, diced Tomato, a pkt of frozen mixed vegetables and two packets of Chilli Con Carne mix. An hour or so later, one of our regulars arrived and called me “Swagman Craig.” I am forever amazed at the names this community come up for me. Bushy, bushman Craig, the bush prophet, the bush psychologist, farmer Craig, and now another one. This actually is much better than the more recent one they used for a few weeks in calling me the “Garden Gnome,” which had something to do with the way my beanie peaked one particular morning, making me resemble a garden gnome.
The fire, the stew, the tea and the coffee was a great hit. Better still was the way that the fire is a focal point which seems to naturally build community. People grabbed a chair and we sat around in a ring talking to each other. We shared life with each other. I was given some very cold stares when I cheekily suggested that now we had given the ladies a taste of what men’s group was like, and that we would revert back to the normal way of doing community bbq. We all laughed when another guy came along a bit later and he said the same thing.
There is something hypnotically powerful about a fire. Sitting around a fire somehow reaches deep into our inner being – it touches and connects with our raw primitive nature. It creates the space in which life slows down. It creates the space where we don’t feel the need to rush about and do something else. It creates a space in which we start to connect on a deeper level with others. Its like the fire consumes the barrier walls which we put up between each other. The flickering flames, the hot coals and the smoke is a connection point in which we share of ourselves. And perhaps more importantly it creates a space in which we can listen to others share of themselves. As we sit around the fire, it creates the space for faith to be explored. It opens the inner being to explore more about God. To explore more about our humanity. To explore more about our need for community and to explore and connect with the living God.
I love country people. Straight to the point with no bull. This translation resonates with me.
I have a regular practice of saying to my sons that I love them, like them and am proud of them. During our recent holiday adventure, I faced my son and held him on his shoulders. I looked intently into his eyes and said, “John, I want you to know that I like you, that I love you and that I am very proud of you.” I continued, “John, I also want you to know that I like being your dad, that I love being your dad and that I am proud to be your dad!” At one time he looked away from me. I stopped what I was doing. We made eye contact once again and I said, “John, this is important. Don’t look away. I want you to receive this blessing!” and with that, I continued to bless my son and speak life into his being finished with giving him a huge bear hug.
My nephew who came along with us, he jumped out of his chair asking, “Uncle Craig, will you do what you did to John, to me?” So I took my nephew by his shoulders, looked him in his eyes and said to him, “I want you to know that as your uncle, I love you very much, I like you very much and I am very proud of you. Not only that, I want you to know that I like being your uncle, I love being your uncle and I am proud to be your uncle.” I also want you to know that God likes you, that God loves you and that God is proud to be your God. As I was blessing him, I felt my hands go red hot. I could feel the power of the Holy Spirit flowing into the depths of his soul. And he pressed into me, giving me this almighty bear hug.
It grieves me to the core when I see fathers, mothers, and those in authority speaking death into the lives of those they are called to love and build up. Why is is that in our culture its so easy to speak destruction to those around us. I see a generational curse at work in this regard. Parents have never had life spoken into them. Their parents had no life spoken into them. And so the trend continues from generation to generation. I have been reading and pondering the chapter of Isaiah 61. This chapter begins with perhaps one of the best known passages of Scripture, the one where Jesus begins his ministry. stating that the spirit of the Lord is upon him.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
When we continue reading this passage, we see that those Jesus ministers to will be called “Oaks of Righteousness.” We read that these Oaks of Righteousness are called by God to rebuild the ancient ruins. Restore the places long devastated. And that they will renew the cities long devastated for generations. Our cities, our communities, our families are devastated and ruined by the destructiveness of words that have been said and not said. As for me – I want to be one who helps build up and restore life. I want to be a man who will proclaim good news. I want to be a man who binds up the brokenhearted. To set free those bound by the binds of poor choices and sinfulness. And in doing so – partner with God, as he releases his people to bring restoration and renewal of our nations, cities, communities and families into the ways of God.