Saturday, December 29, 2012

hood ornament

I wasn't intending to trivialise the "imago Dei", but the use of the picture of hood ornament came up when describing humanity in my session with 130 students and 70 leaders today.

Not exactly a flattering comparison, you say? Yeah, I know.

But it popped into my head when working through the two occurrences of the word "glory" in Psalm 8.

In verse 1 where the word is used of God - "you have set your glory in the heavens."  The original word here speaks of "light and glory which God wears as king."

Then in verse 5 where the word is used of humanity - "you have ... crowned them with glory and honour."  The original word here speaks of "ornament" or "splendor".

So, the glory we've been given by God is an ornament of the glory that is His own.

Now, can you see where I got "hood ornament" from?  When you think about why a prestige car manufacturer might include a "mascot" on the front of their vehicle, it's actually a helpful parallel.

This kind of ornament identifies the quality and authenticity of the creation.  It is the finishing touch.

When you consider that God has created humanity to identify the quality and authenticity of His creation, that's pretty amazing.  If we are His finishing touch - there's a whole lot of sanctity of life right there.

It might be an illustration best limited to testosterone charged rev-heads, but it's not entirely ridiculous :)

Friday, December 28, 2012

the drive to mt barker

I remember the first time I drove up the South Eastern Freeway in my LC Torana.  1988.  Two days after Christmas.  Windows down.  Burning in the hot Australian sun.

On my way to Mt Barker.  On my way to CE camp.

CE camp in South Australia carries an 85 year heritage - filled with camp traditions like the camp cop, city vs country softball, a cheesy song sung at mealtimes, and many stories of life transformation.

Today I took the same journey up the freeway - 24 years on - in my green Hyundai Lantra - with airconditioning.  And as I wound through the Adelaide Hills, the memories flooded in - at camp I met so many people, made such a fool of myself at mealtime skits, experienced the presence of God in powerful ways.

Today's drive was certainly nostalgic, but also a little unnerving as I pondered my role as camp speaker.  Wondering if the role I play might be used of God in the same way that He's used others in my life.

My hope for this week is that as we meander through the story of God, each participant will experience a moment of transformation - maybe even more than one.  My hope for this week is that my hope for this week might be true for me as well.

Monday, December 10, 2012

anna's routine @ christmas

In the hurry and jostle of Christmas, I wonder what Anna's normal day consisted of - and whether or not the "important people" even noticed.

A elderly woman known as one who spoke of deliverance for her people. Widowed at a young age, from a family line that knew all about displacement, Anna's reputation for prayer and fasting was perhaps admired by some, and ignored by others.

She held a deep anticipation for the awaited Messiah, and she had aligned her life around the agenda of God's timetable. In the jostle of temple life, Anna saw through the illusion of religious practice and the need to please the right people. Somehow, she was able to recognise the presence of God - cradled in the arms of an unsuspecting and frightened young couple.

"Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem." (Luke 2:38)

Probably viewed as little threat to religious and political powers, Anna carried a story and perspective that would undo the institutionalised and regather the dispossessed.

Her story in the midst of the "first Christmas" narrative invites me to:
- consider my priorities in the hurry;
- notice God's presence amongst the jostle;
- and tell the story of deliverance in the face of potentially remaining unnoticed.

Monday, November 19, 2012

shiftm2M wrap-up

After a year of walking through the life of Jesus with other leaders over four retreats in a house in the blue mountains, I've been able to name three awesome outcomes.

1. Shiftm2M has given the YMA leadership team an excellent springboard to re-envision ourselves.  Thanks to shift we're in a great space for having some vision conversations with our networks in 2013.

2. I've regained confidence in the material.  After growing up on the material that Shift uses, I would say that I've become somewhat "overacquainted" with it, and have lived in the suspicion that it tends to reduce the life of Jesus to a formulaic process.  I'm glad to say that the manner in which Shift happens allows people to go deep into the gospels, while still providing practical tools for movement-building.

3. The relationships built over the year have been paramount to my development as a leader in 2012.  The insights, counsel, and practice of God's presence amongst others has been formative in my own journey.

These immediate observations are a drop in the bucket when I begin to think about all the observations and discoveries made, but I'm grateful for them none the less.

Friday, November 16, 2012


It's how she begins talking with him.


Not in a pretentious manner, but with uncomplicated humility.

Her address carried the rich sound of familiarity. Closeness. Intimacy.

She stood behind the man who was faced with the uncertainty of surgery. And we bowed low with our hands laid on him.

She prayed.


And it was if the Spirit of God swum into the room and hovered over us as she carried our brother before our Father with her words. Words of clarity and healing. Personable. Hospitable. Theological. Deeply pastoral. Simple. Restorative.

After a year of journeying through the life of Jesus, it was in the closing moments of our final retreat where I experienced the heart of Jesus more fully than ever before.

Because a servant of God drew on a deep well of relationship with her Papa to usher restoration into the brokenness before her. Like Jesus did.

"I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them." (John 17:26)

Monday, November 5, 2012

defining mission

"Mission is the practical expression, whether by speech or by action, of the glorious lordship of Jesus.  It is where we get to create little foretastes of of the kingdom of Jesus, which has come and is still yet to fully come.  If in that kingdom-to-come there will be no unbelief, then the church's mission is to create such a foretaste by commending belief to all.  If in the kingdom-to-come there will be no injustice, the church's mission will be to work to eliminate injustice here and now.  If in the kingdom-to-come there is no grief, no mourning, no suffering, the church's mission is to overcome such things today.  Mission, then, is an expression of worship, for it too involves offering our world back to God." (p164,5 The Faith of Leap - Frost & Hirsch)

There is no doubt that "becoming missional" is a topical desire and discussion in the context of local church.  In light of the risk and reality of this discussion falling into the overflowing waste paper basket of church fads, concrete outcomes of this discussion are desperately needed.

This year I have found myself around the leadership table in my own local church context, and "becoming missional" has been the dominant flavour of conversation.  Now we are faced with the need for tangible expression and vision casting - and the need to define what we mean by mission.  Simply.  Biblically.  Transferably.

After a long journey in thinking through the theology of God's mission, and some inspiration from the above quote (and others), I've landed on something I hope might equip our people well ...  

"mission is any activity (in word or deed) which reflects the heart of God to people"

My hope is that this might help us discern how God is already working around us,  broaden our imagination of what missional activity looks like, and will cause our activity to meaningfully intersect with the desperate brokenness of our world.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

renew your mind

"Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think." (Romans 12:2 NLT)

The way the NLT translates this verse has been really helpful for me. Usually I've seen this verse as a way of chastising myself into making sure I don't think bad thoughts. So renewing my mind is a prod into only thinking "godly thoughts."

But I'm not so sure that's all it's saying. Sure, filling my mind with good things is an honorable pursuit, but the reality is that this world is filled with brokenness and I can't help but think about that brokenness.

The NLT ("changing the way you think") helps me to not just "think on good things", but to completely reframe how I interpret this world - to see this world through the lense of the reign of God - His kingdom.

Three questions have been helpful for me over the last week:

1. What is it that I find myself thinking about?

2. In what way can I change the way I think about this?

3. In what way is this transforming me?

"Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." (Romans 12:2 NLT)

Friday, September 14, 2012

A missiological shift needs a theological shift ...

What does it mean for the church to be 100% sent?

That was one among many questions at our CCCA leadership summit this week. What needs to happen for followers of Jesus to be seeing themselves and acting as missionaries in the context God has them in?

One of the themes that came out was the need to to be sending people into mission in the context of community as soon as they come to faith - no delay.

I like this - a lot. I long to see first-time followers of Jesus being immediately mobilised, with others, into telling others about Jesus.

My question is - why would they do this? If the faith entry point for people is "a personal relationship with God", then I think their faith entry point implies two things:
1. That their relationship is personal and nobody else needs to know about it.
2. That their relationship with God is an end in itself, and not part of a bigger story.

I'm quietly convinced that a missiological shift in the practice of multiplication means a theological shift in the proclamation of the gospel.

At this stage my own practice of multiplication is yet to convincingly prove this hypothesis - but we're seeing some interesting signs with immerse.

It's time to aim for more than just some interesting signs.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

mission orientation

A way to help me understand  mission is to state it like this: "the discovery of the work of God in someone else's life."

 I'm learning the thrill and risk of orienting myself to discover this in places I havn't ventured before.

Yesterday saw me across the table from a ministry peer as we swapped notes on some of the pressures we're currently wading through.
Something on my list was an opportunity to serve a local school in a completely untested way. New material, new paradigm, and a yet to be recruited team for seven weeks of two three-hour blocks.  As I stare down the barrel, it all seems a bit hard.

His perspective was brutal.  "That sounds like mission to me, and if something needs to go, it can't be mission. You just need to do it."

So, here I am with a large margin of unknown, and a heap of potential for outright failure - leaning into faith and seeking to discover how God might work.  Simply needing to orient my priorities around mission.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

capturing imaginations

"As the sunlight dances on the floor ..." The sun had broken through after two days of overcast weather in our retreat centre in the mountains.  And it took the prayer of an insightful leader of chaplains to lift our mood from gloominess to expectancy - to open our eyes to the fact that the sun had burst through the clouds on that final morning. 

Sometimes I need someone to pray like that - to capture my imagination with a vision of the unseen.  

Leadership often calls us to be the imagination capturer.  To be the one who stands in the gap and helps others see the sun breaking through.  To draw others into a fresh picture of the God of the Universe, and provide space for God to reveal Himself in real and powerful ways.

The retreat I was a part of last week certainly did this for me.  An apparent random selection of leaders brought a kaleidoscope of perspectives - deepening my understanding of who God is and how He invites me to participate in His mission.

And now I'm back in my own sphere of influence, and I'm looking for opportunities to capture imaginations.

Monday, March 26, 2012

this is our mess

Devastating.  That's probably the only word that would describe the scenario.  The group  stood around the shards, rubble and vomit - and were simply devastated.

They loved each other, it's true, but it was so difficult not to begin pointing figures of blame.  You could see it in their eyes - they desperately wanted to explain the cause.  They desperately wanted to remove themselves from the perception that they might be responsible.

And so the polite questions of veiled accusation began to bounce around the circle.

"Did anybody see what actually happened?"

"Who broke it?"

"How did it come to be here in the first place?"

"Is it possible the original design was faulty?"

And on it goes, around the circle - and the mess becomes their subject.  The stain solidifies, becomes normal and commonplace, and it's all the group now talks about.

One day a small child approaches the group, shoulders her way in-between two of the adults, falls to her knees and begins scrubbing.

"What are you doing?" enquires an elderly gentlemen, whose feet have become encrusted into the dried and putrid remains of this fracture.

"I'm cleaning up our mess."  she said without a second thought.

"So, you're to blame - this is YOUR mess?" chides a young woman, internally sighing a sense of relief.

"No," the young girl answered, "this is OUR mess."

And she kept scrubbing.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Bible as a Screenplay - 6

THE PREMIERE A good movie has the potential to be a transformational experience. When a much anticipated release is premiered, people flock to the cinema not just to be entertained, but to enter into an experience, and to perhaps walk away having their view of the world and life changed. Story has always worked in this way - we love to be able to enter into another world, and more often than not, we come away from that world back into our own as changed human beings. God's story has far more capacity to bring transformation into our lives than any well-crafted modern story - because it is the greatest story of all time. Why then, do we persist in presenting the Bible as the manual for life? My contention is that it is far more than that - this is a story to be experienced and embraced and retold. We have unprecedented access to the "screenplay of God's story" ... He is the greatest ever writer/producer/director, and He is intentionally including us in the ongoing retelling of His story, and mysteriously incorporating us into His plot as it continues to unfold.