Lucky Faith

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It can be a fine line between faith and superstition…

And we may not even realise that at times we cross over. How often have you heard it said (usually when someone is applying for a job or similar) ‘If God is in it then it will all work out – if not then its not his will’?

Really? Is that how it works? Sounds quite Islamic in tone, but for many this is how following Jesus can look.

Or when you miss out on buying that house you placed on offer on?… Then clearly it wasn’t ‘God’s will’ right? (Or maybe you just didn’t offer enough)

What about when you sense God leading you in a direction and you take the path and it doesn’t go well? Surely if God’s leading and we are following then all will go nicely?…

Yeah… Cause that’s how it worked out for Jesus’ first disciples…

There’s, the guy who tithes religiously and believes God will bless him with wealth – so when he doesn’t tithe he sees his lagging business as evidence of God’s judgement on him.

Why do we draw these conclusions? I imagine some of it is because we want to be part of a world where the divine is involved and that’s a good thing, but I imagine some of it is because we need an explanation for life’s twists and turns. We need a way of predicting outcomes in our world. We need security…

The problem comes in that when we develop either a fatalistic faith or a ’cause & effect’ faith we eliminate mystery from the equation and we veer dangerously into the superstitious. And security is funnily enough generally at odds with faith. That’s not to mention that we have to pin some stuff on God as ‘his will’, when in reality it may be at odds with all he hopes for.

Reality is we live in a screwed up world, so we simply can’t draw these simplistic conclusions no matter how they ease our troubled minds.

Sometimes you didn’t get the job because you’re a dick…

Sometimes your business can boom and you can give nothing away…

Sometimes … fill in your own story here… but let’s leave behind the childish equations that allow us to either manipulate God or explain him and lets accept that faith must go hand in hand with mystery and that’s a good thing

 

Car Insurance Tip

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So I bought a car… Ok nothing new in that… I do it often

But I needed to insure it so I called the mob I am with (GIO) and their first quote to me was $1600.00. Really?…

I’m not 17, I haven’t been in jail… I have had one at fault claim in the last 5 years… Even though I paid for a no claim bonus protection it only applies to the ‘current’ policy, so if I take a ‘new policy’ I lose that advantage. That said if I switched the Cruiser policy to the Colorado it was still $1100.00 which seems like a lot.

A quick ‘compare the market’ check showed $900.00 as about average, which still seemed a bit high to me.

I went back to Progressive Online who we have our other car with and they came up with $825.00 so I bought it. Suddenly it seemed cheap!

But…

Then I got to pick the car up early and I needed to move the policy start date forward by one day. How hard can that be?

With Progressive you can’t talk to a real live human so I had to do the email thing.

Eventually my advice was to cancel the new policy and ‘add’ the new car to the existing policy. I didn’t know you could do that and I anticipated a nutso service charge (skeptic that I am).

Because we needed it sorted asap I nearly baled on them altogether, but just in time I found the necessary info, got the emails sorted and discovered that by ‘adding’ it to my other policy the premium was now $383.00

The policy is the same as GIO’s, but you just can’t speak to a human. I think I’m willing to take the gamble for the saving.

As for you ‘YOUI’… after 30 minutes on the phone of never ending questions… $1800 was never going to be considered a fair price. And you even sent me the quote via email just in case I changed my mind.

Possibly not…

So – I learnt something there and it might be useful to someone else. I suggested Progressive may want to let us in on the idea of ‘adding’ a car as cheaper as I instantly saved over $400 as a result.

So that’ll pay for some new car accessories!

How Was Your Experience With Us?

Up to now pretty good…

It seems the latest trend in business is to send people online feedback questionnaires asking ‘how did we go?’

I dunno how many of these I have received in the last few months and no doubt you have too. I get that people want to improve their service, but chances are the only respondents will be those who had a very bad experience because they now have a place to vent.

The problem is that those of us who had a ‘normal to good’ experience are now a bit miffed at yet another email to process and discard. So in reality you may have just pissed off your satisfied clients…

There is a place for feedback in business, but if every time I call a tech helpline I am going to get bombarded with ‘were you happy?/please rate us’ messages (I’m looking at you Exetel…) then I am going to get a little grumpy soon, especially as I have already had to sit on hold and call you several times… And I may even seek another service…

Maybe there’s a better way…

 

But Because You Say So…

I woke this morning to a new year and began reading in Luke 5 where Jesus calls the first of his disciples and as I read I couldn’t help but notice his audacity in telling seasoned fishermen, who knew their stuff, but had caught nothing all night, to push their boats back out and give it another try.

Yeah right…

Simon frames their response well, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

What Jesus asks seems like foolishness to them. It flies in the face of their many years of experience and does not make any sense. Better to just go home and call it day, maybe wait for the tide to change and come back tomorrow.

Simon kinda makes that point, but then goes on to say ‘but because you say so we’ll give it another crack’. I’m not sure of Simon’s tone in that conversation – was he humouring Jesus? Deferring to him but inwardly believing he was wasting his time?

Clearly they weren’t.

But I’m less interested in the outcome of ‘so many fish that their boats nearly sank’, than I am in Simon’s recognition that Jesus is the one who calls the shots and our role is to listen – to be in a place where we can hear him – and then respond in line with what he asks. The reality is that sometimes Jesus asks us to put the boats back in the water and the result is not a huge haul. But what does matter is that we trust his voice – whether it makes good sense or not.

Its the question I find myself asking men all the time now, ‘What is God saying to you? What is he asking you to do?’ Because if you know that then your opinion, no matter how informed, is not an issue.

Sometimes he will ask you to fall in line with good sense, sometimes he will take you down a back road for no apparent reason. But if we genuinely believe that there is a God who interacts with us – who seeks to guide – then we do well to ask him what he wants of us.

Too much of our thinking is shaped by contemporary wisdom – by what is smart, expedient, financially prudent and so on, but these things aren’t always Jesus concerns.

I’ve been challenged numerous times lately to do things ‘because he says so’ rather than because they are in the best interests of what my culture tells me is important and I imagine its an idea we need to keep continually returning to if we are to live a life of faith rather than a life simply reliant on our own smarts.

 

 

 

 

 

When Life Crosses Over

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Lately I’ve found myself talking to church people about business and my clients about Jesus. Not always how it plays out, nor necessarily how it ‘should’ play out, but really nice to see the flow of life and learning in both directions.

A couple of guys in our church community are kicking off business projects and I know a bit about that stuff these days, so its good to be able to offer coaching type questions into their world and help them articulate what they are hoping to do. I find business energising and I know I’ve learnt a heap over the years, so I feel like I can offer useful insights both as a business person and as a Christian leader.

And after 8 years of being a retic bloke I know a lot of my repeat clients quite well, so the chat often turns to the ‘other part’ of my life – and sometimes unexpected conversations develop. This morning I was filling an hour between appointments and ended up doing a job for a mum from Quinns Baptist College, a woman who was a church attender in a past life but had drifted off.

I managed to find a fix for her job that saved her over $200 which made her rather happy and in the process of conversation she began discussing her own faith or lack thereof. It ended with her writing down the details of our church gatherings and telling me she’d see me there. Maybe she will – maybe she won’t… That isn’t the point.

The point is that after 8 years of living, working and being part of the same community I know I’ve been able to gain enough trust and respect from enough people to be able to speak about more than PVC and nozzle patterns. Its a small glimpse of what I hope to see developing more in business as I go along.

Natural, honest, earthy conversations about the bigger things of life – but only if you want to… If you don’t I’ll just shut up and keep digging.

 

Hope Diminishing…

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I keep listening to Rob Bell in the hope that he will restore my faith and my confidence…

His podcasts were wearying for a while, but recently I started listening again as he began to adopt more of a sermonic approach to some of what he is saying, even to the point of having a biblical base for his thoughts. There’s no question Bell is at his best when he is preaching and communicating the Bible and lately he’s picked it up again.

His three latest podcasts, creatively titled God Part 1 God Part 2 and God Part 3 are all ‘based’ in scripture, and do offer some provocative and helpful insights, but they also speak more clearly to where Bell is locating himself now.

In his final session (Part 3) he uses two passages of scripture to make his point – Jacob’s dream, where he makes the point that God has ‘been there the whole time’ but Jacob just didn’t notice – ‘his consciousness hadn’t evolved’ to that point. Then he flips to Acts where Paul states ‘in him we live and move and have our being’, from which he concludes that we are all ‘in God’ and that God is best seen as the ‘connective tissue of the universe’. He goes on to argue that the trinity is the ultimate expression of this and that we are all ‘in’ God, but only some of us have been enlightened to this.

HIs first session was actually quite helpful when he deconstructed the myth of God being separate from the world – ‘above us’ or disconnected from us, but in his reconstruction he has well and truly embraced what we would call ‘panentheism‘, the belief that all is ‘in’ God.

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The wiki def is this:

Panentheism (meaning “all-in-God”, from the Ancient Greekπᾶνpân, “all”, ἐνen, “in” and ΘεόςTheós, “God”), also known as Monistic Monotheism,[1] is a belief system which posits that the divine – whether as a singleGod, number ofgods, or other form of “cosmic animating force”[2] – interpenetrates every part of the universe and extends, timelessly (and, presumably, spacelessly) beyond it. Unlike pantheism, which holds that the divine and the universe are identical,[3]panentheism maintains a distinction between the divine and non-divine and the significance of both.[4]

 

I keep hoping he is saying things in such a way that ‘Ophra-ites’ will be able to understand, but I am increasingly coming to realise that he is now living in a different theological and philosophical space.

And I’d suggest his podcasts are best avoided by anyone without the ability to think theologically and do some rigorous discernment. There is such a subtle melding of biblical language and ‘teaching’ with new age bullshit that a newbie may well be unable to discern the flow of thinking and its implications. (I know you’re probably going to ask me ‘so what’s the problem with panentheism?’ and rather than regurgitate someone smarter than me’s thoughts you can read them here. )

I wouldn’t often use a word like ‘dangerous’ to describe someone, but I used this word the other night as I was explaining what I was hearing to Danelle. There is enough truth, combined with blazing communication skills to make him sound compelling and smarter than all the other people, but there are also clear and definite statements that locate him now in a place that is very different to where I would want my congregation to sit.

So – again – let’s not condemn the guy…

Seriously – that doesn’t help. But let’s be aware as we listen to him that he is operating now from a paradigm that is no longer within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy and while some of us might have been around for long enough to be able to eat the fruit and spit out the pips that isn’t everyone’s forte.

 

Welcoming My Brother Jack

Some songs kick you in the guts.

Paul Colman’s ‘My Brother Jack’ is one I found myself listening to one day on Spotify and in an instant I was smashed – heart broken at a story that is all too common.

Colman tells the story of taking a non-Christian friend along for the ride with some of his Christian mates and their shock and horror at his choice of music. The conversation turns aggressive with Jack the victim.

The song is a reminder of how our sub-cultures form and sometimes become blinkered to the real people who they serve to exclude.

Colman nails this problem and the final line of the song sums up where its at for me. Listen to it and if it doesn’t disturb you then maybe you’re ‘in too deep’…

 

What is Discipleship Like?

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Ok so discipleship and Ikea are two juxtaposed ideas…

But… if you have ever been to Ikea then you know that the people traffic is set up to go in one direction only, to guide you thru the tempting array of sterile and banal euro-furniture that is currently trendy.

All’s good so long as you follow the plan and keep moving with the crowd, but if you want to back track – if you want to shop ‘in the opposite direction’ then you inevitably find yourself bumping into people and weaving against the flow.

Its easy to flow with the crowd in the direction you are expected to go, but try challenging that and it becomes awkward and difficult. In Ikea you aren’t meant to move in a contrary direction… (you might not hit the cash register and buy stuff)

Its a snapshot of discipleship – choosing not to go with the flow, but to swim upstream and to move in a whole different direction. Jesus’ sermon on the mount is your guide here. You never leave the environment, but you choose to live differently within it.

If you do, expect the forces of society to try and constrain you back into the ‘right direction’, but also know that you don’t have to go…

You can walk right back out the door you came in thru and buy your stuff on Gumtree…

(Thanks to my mate Billy for the conversation over coffee this morning that percolated this thought)

Finding Our Way

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As we have been working our way through the book of 1 Corinthians I found myself intrigued by that little phrase in Ch 2 ‘but we have the mind of Christ’…

What’s that mean and how does that shape us?

We dug into this a bit at QBC last week. This phrase is set in a chapter where Paul contrasts ‘worldly wisdom’ and ‘spiritual wisdom’, suggesting that we can view the world from two very different angles and that will obviously shape how we live.

So we began to talk about worldviews and the consequent journey to (or from) Christlikeness. My suggestion was that while we may think we work from a Christian worldview occasionally tainted by the world, it is more commonly the case that we work from a western worldview which only becomes ‘Christian’ if we intentionally challenge and dismantle ‘common wisdom’. We are primarily discipled by our culture and unless we are able to first recognise then and then challenge it we will always struggle to live lives that are aligned with Jesus.

We’re not that unlike ole mate Tony Abbott in that we say we subscribe to the Bible as our authority, but only when it suits our lifestyle. When the biblical worldview clashes with what we want to do we can give it the shove and do what we want anyway.

So – how do we live more Christlike lives? How do we intentionally work at shifting our worldview from secular western to biblical (albeit a ‘western’ expression)?

Last Sunday I offered 3 keys to that move. They aren’t intended to be exhaustive by any means, but more ‘simple and memorable’. As we embrace them we move towards Christ and the life he offers and as we choose not to practice these things we also move away from Christlikeness and back to pragmatic self serving.

So my suggestions for living more Christlike lives and shaping a more biblical worldview begins with:

1.Recognising our source of authority – realising that when we bow the knee to Jesus and call him Lord we are then allowing him to call the shots in our lives.

We can so easily become our own source of authority and in that we make what Paul would call ‘worldly wise’ decisions. Paul says if the world ‘got’ the type of wisdom we are speaking of then they wouldn’t have crucified Jesus, but when pragmatic self interest is at the root of our decision making then we end up doing what is expedient and self serving.

We’d probably wack him on a cross too because that works for us and makes our life easier. So the first step is acknowledging that there is such a thing as Godly/spiritual wisdom – that’s it found in the pages of the ‘book’ and that this is where our source of authority is derived from.

Take that block out of place and the rest doesn’t matter. Seriously – get authority wrong and nothing else is worth considering.

2. We become like Christ in Community – and when we are out of community we struggle. We are not intended to live the life of faith alone and our hope of becoming like Jesus only gains traction as we do it with other people. As Paul finishes this chapter he says ‘But we have the mind of Christ’.

And there are two ways to read that statement. You can read it like this – ‘we’ have the mind of Christ – every single one of us – we have the ability as individuals to discern what the spirit says to us – and there is truth in that.

Obviously we do that…

But I’d suggest there is more truth and stronger truth in saying ‘WE have the mind of Christ’ we – us – together – will discern the voice of the spirit and we will do that better together than me on my own.

If we believe what the Bible says about the heart being deceptively wicked and deceitful above all things then we know that we can fool ourselves into ‘hearing God’ approve of all sorts of things that we would like him to sign off on.

But try doing that around some people who really want to follow Jesus together and see what happens. This week I had a serious conflict with a tradesman who owes me money and today sent me 18 abusive texts. Internally I feel like going round there with a baseball bat… but if I put that as a serious suggestion to my close circle of friends in church they would probably help me return to my roots and consider a more Jesus like response…

When we follow Jesus together we offer our lives up for challenge and for response. We should expect push back at times. We don’t make fait accompli statements about what we will do contrary to what the scriptures teach and expect not to be challenged.

But if we are out of community then we put ourselves in a space where we have little by way of accountability and challenge.

We have the mind of Christ together.

3. Practicing Christian living – as we live more like Christ our worldview gets changed. As we accept a greater authority than ourselves and as we live in community we begin to behave differently. And as we actually do the stuff Jesus speaks of our worldview changes again.

Today as the abusive texts rolled in, I didn’t respond. (I thought of many clever things to say…) Part of that is because over the years I have learnt and practiced a more peaceful response to conflict. There was a day when I would have been ‘punching back’, but I guess a lot of practice over a long time has had an effect.

Its been said that ‘we are what we habitually do’, that our most regular practices give shape to our lives. That’s both encouraging and worrying… It means we can reshape our lives as we engage in the practice of new habits and as we choose to leave our old ways behind.

But it begins with a different vision of the world – a different sense of what is really going on and what matters.

I’m concerned that we see Christians getting ‘better’ at actually being the kind of people we claim to be, not in a legalistic way, but in an acceptance that the life we are called to live is going to be lived in a counter-cultural way, that we will not simply follow the script and do what’s expected.

But that will take a source of authority, a community of people to discern the ‘mind of Christ’ with and a resolve to practice new ways of being.

 

 

‘Doing a Tony Abbott’

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‘Doing a Tony Abbott’…

I wonder if a phrase of this ilk is going to enter our Christian parlance?

This week Abbott spoke at the annual Margaret Thatcher lecture and announced that the Bible and the ‘golden rule’ was good and all that, but not to be taken too seriously – certainly not to be adhered to if you are likely to put yourself or your country in danger. It makes good sense except when it doesn’t work to your advantage…

His exact words were:

“Implicitly or explicitly, the imperative to ‘love your neighbour as you love yourself’ is at the heart of every western polity. It expresses itself in laws protecting workers, in strong social security safety nets, and in the readiness to take in refugees. It’s what makes us decent and humane countries, as well as prosperous ones.

“But right now, this wholesome instinct is leading much of Europe into catastrophic error,”

“Our moral obligation is to receive people fleeing for their lives. It’s not to provide permanent residency to anyone and everyone who would rather live in a prosperous western country than their own.

“It will require some force, it will require massive logistics and expense, [and] it will gnaw at our consciences. Yet it is the only way to prevent a tide of humanity surging through Europe, and quite possible changing it forever,”

There’s no doubting his simple take on this is, ‘The Bible says X – X is good – really good even – and it has ‘worked’ – but if X means your life is affected negatively then X is bad’

I’m no Abbott fan and I disagree with him on this policy, but I think we need to exercise a bit of care with our critique because as Christians we’ve done exactly this for years. When we get to a place where we can finish the equation above with ‘but if X means your life is affected negatively then X is still good’ then we will have got the log out.

But while we read the Bible and consciously, knowingly say ‘what the hell – I’ll do what I like anyway’ then we can’t be taken seriously.

If we’re honest we are pretty good at ‘pulling a Tony Abbott’ … but then that honesty doesn’t always come easily…

Just a thought…