If You Find God Too Easily…

If I find Him with great ease, perhaps He is not my God.

If I cannot hope to find Him at all, is He my God?

If I find Him wherever I wish, have I found Him?

If He can find me whenever He wishes,

And tells me Who He is and who I am,

And if I then know that He Whom I could not find has found me:

Then I know He is the Lord, my God:

He has touched me with the finger that made me out of nothing.

Thomas Merton

I suffer from that strange weird Christian malady of planning a time of retreat and then expecting that God will show up when I am ready for him…

This has led to many a frustrating time as I have allotted the time, then sat there and waited to hear from him, but its felt like he has had better things to do. After 20 minutes of silence and flicking thru my Bible looking for inspiration I usually find myself drifting off mentally and then just giving up and going to do something else.

I usually end up feeling extremely unspiritual and even a little bit cheesed at the Boss for not showing up when he knew I was going to be there. I mean omniscient, omnipresent and all that… surely you could get there when I am ready… couldn’t you?…

I have just spent the last few days away in Lancelin and part of the goal was to connect with God and hear what he might want to say to me at this time. I took a different approach this time though. I figured seeing as how God doesn’t play the way I would like him to, I will simply do what I do and see if he shows up anywhere over the time.

So I left conscious that I was making time to be with God, but also conscious that my track record has been a tad dodgy in this regard.

So in the time there I read, surfed, 4WDed, slept, prayed and generally did what I would do if I wasn’t going there with any sense of intention.

And yes, there were some moments of sensing God’s voice – some in the surf, some when journalling and some when driving… nothing earth-shattering and Damascus Rd in nature, but still enough to give me some direction and insight.

I still have plenty more questions percolating within at the moment but I guess I will approach them in the same way.

I do think its important to create space for connection with God, whatever shape that takes, but I also think Merton is onto something when he asks ‘if we find him too easily is it really God we have found?’

I’d like to think God works to my diary, but he doesn’t seem to see things quite like I do… I was sitting writing this post when I got distracted and decided to check my email only to find a letter from my mate John Wilmot with the Merton quote in it.

Seemed appropriate.

Or you can just buy a pair of jeans that fit…

Ok so maybe this is me showing my age…

From here

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Not Bad

A little girl asked her mother, “How did the human race appear?”

The mother answered, “God made Adam and Eve and they had children, and so was all mankind made …”

Two days later the girl asked her father the same question.

The father answered, “Many years ago there were monkeys from which the human race evolved.”

The confused girl returned to her mother and said, “Mom, how is it possible that you told me the human race was created by God, and Dad said they developed from monkeys?”

The mother answered, “Well, dear, it is very simple. I told you about my side of the family and your father told you about his!”

Sitting Wondering and Wandering

Next week its my job at our gathering to teach from John ch 12 as part of our study in this book, so today I have been sitting with the chapter and pondering it, as I do when I’m trying to get a handle on it.

Its funny how some days you get a feel for the chapter straight up and then other days (like these) you just wonder ‘what on earth am I going to do with that?’ Usually its just a sign that I haven’t delved into it deep enough or reflected on it sufficiently to make sense of it.

But its a frustrating stage, because I tend to wander off from the passage and check facebook or write a blog post… or…

The two stages of ‘preaching’ I enjoy least are this stage and then the actual ‘writing it down’ stage. Getting the ideas and shaping them is fun, but getting there and then from there to doing it… can be hard work.

So far I don’t have any ideas even!

The funny thing is that it always works out in the end even if I don’t always know how I get to where I finish up. I am not highly methodical with my teaching and tend to dip and dive all over the place until something hits me and appears to be the focus.

Didn’t Fit

You may have noticed I have reverted back to my old blog template of 7 years, after trying a different one for a few months.

For some reason every time I looked at the new one it just didn’t feel like me.

Weird hey?…

This one is old and familiar, maybe even a tad dated, and you can’t do ‘widgety’ things with it, but it does feel like ‘mine’ so it is back to stay…

I think…

Conference World and Real World

I had been pondering this exact topic when I flipped to Mark’s blog this morning and watched this clip. He says it well.

Over the last 10 years I have read and learnt a lot about how the church can express itself as a missional community and how we can creatively engage with the world around us. Mark describes this as the ‘panorama’, but then there is the question of how does this translate to real life in the context in which I live and work – the ‘practical’.

Some great ideas just aren’t worth a pinch of poop in ‘real life’ and they only reflect how detached the conference speaker has become. The other tension is that of getting so bogged down in the nitty gritty of our everyday work that we lose a sense of hope and vision for what may be possible.


Six months ago today we had just put up the camper in the Lighthouse Caravan Park in Exmouth and were 3 days into our round Oz trip.

I can still taste the joy of hitting the road and knowing that we were on an amazing adventure!

I have been sitting here studying John 12 as prep for some teaching in a couple of weeks time, but my screensaver kicked in and the images of our trip started to circulate… bringing me to put my Bible and commentary down.

I am increasingly realising what a significant experience it was and how much I long to do it again. Every image I have been watching has an associated feeling and a desire to one day replicate that experience.

Why wouldn’t you?…

So 6 months ago we were in Exmouth, hot and dry, wondering where the road would take up, sharing the time with some good friends and not realising we were saying goodbye and that we wouldn’t see each other again as they moved back to Spain halfway thru our trip.

It was an amazing time and even though I remember the moments of aimlessness and tedium with no bigger purpose to attend to, it is only discipline and commitment that keeps me from selling up, packing up and doing it all again.

Here are some of the pics I was looking at:

Evening swim at Barn Hill (100ks south of Broome)

Cactus – the absolute middle of nowhere. I had 3 solitary surfs at this place! It is infamous for being shark territory, but I didn’t see any… this time…

Katherine hot springs – we were well and truly wound down by now!

Stunning Cable Beach… in exchange for 2 weeks of preaching we got a house for two weeks… nice

Pambula Beach NSW… crikey… we nearly didn’t leave

Jindabyne… snow… kids loved it!

This is one of my faves – our campsite at Robe River right on the river and sensational

I could go on and on and on… but that will do for now

Squawk Flap Thud

I finished ‘Untamed‘ this morning, a fantastic book on missional discipleship by Alan & Deb Hirsch. Having been around these guys for so long and knowing them well, many of the stories and ideas were familiar, but I still found the book itself is an inspiring and challenging read. When do we ever stop needing to be challenged in our discipleship?!

Particularly potent was the final ‘afterword’ where the Hirsch’s cite Kierkegaarde’s ‘Geese Parable’, a version of which I have found online here

Sorenn Kierkegaard, the famous Danish Christian philosopher, grew up in the countryside surrounded by farms that reared geese (among other animals). Each spring he would watch as a new gaggle of goslings was hatched and began to be fattened for the table. Over the course of their short lives these geese would gorge themselves at constantly refilled troughs of grain until they were so fat they could hardly walk. He imagined that they believed their lives to be perfect, as every need they had was catered in abundance.

When autumn came, the truth became apparent. The wild geese that had spent the warm summer months in Denmark would gather in preparation for their southerly migration. As they assembled to fly south they would circle in the skies above the farms, calling out to any stragglers to join in their flight. At this point the farmed geese would lift their heads from the feeding troughs and look into the skies, heeding the call of their wild cousins. For the first time in their lives they would become animated, running as best they could around their enclosures and attempting to fly. Of course, their gluttonous diet and life of luxury meant that they were far too fat to get airborne – but still they would try. And then, as quickly as the commotion had started, the wild geese would fly off and the fattened farm geese would watch them briefly before returning to their grain to continue eating their way to their deaths.

The Hirsch’s add that the parable goes on to tell of a wild goose who looked with dismay at his domesticated cousins and decided to go and spend time with them in order to help them awaken to their true calling as geese and join the others in wild flight. Sadly he lived there till he was tamed also. Every year he would see his old friends fly overhead, strengthen his resolve to fly again, but then lapse back into the comfort of the feeding trough. Kierkegaarde’s point is that when a wild goose is tamed, seldom does it become wild again.

In light of what I shared in the previous post, this parable is a warning that when we lose our passion for the life of authentic discipleship, chances are we will be so conformed to comforts of our new context that we might never ‘fly again’

Untamed is a very easy read, yet its got some real horsepower in its concepts and stories, so if you would like to be inspired afresh to a life of ‘wild geese’ discipleship then I’d recommend it.

Middle Class and Middle Aged…

In the last 19 years we have had some wonderful times.

We have led a fantastic youth ministry, traveled a heap around Oz and overseas, had 2 great kids thru IVF, moved house 6 times, taught in various Bible colleges, pioneered an experimental mission project, directed Forge locally and nationally, given up my teaching career, lived on mission support, started a business, lost a quarter of a million bucks in a dodgy investment and traveled right around this beautiful country of ours.


Surely it must be time to settle down…

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately and actually writing much more on my private blog than on this one, especially around this question of where life is headed now that we are back from our round Australia trip and working a regular job as a church leader and a retic bloke.

For better or worse I am both middle class and middle aged. This is not a bad thing in itself – in fact it can hardly be helped. It is what it is…

But it is a dangerous place to be, because now more than ever in my own life there is a temptation to simply fall in line, earn a good dollar and chug along as middle class people do in suburbia. You know the deal… do your job, look after your family, pay off your mortgage and generally try to live as comfortable and safe a life as possible. Oh – and ‘give a little back’ if you can find the time.

I remember as a teenager or ‘20 something’ looking at some middle aged people I knew and wondering ‘What happened to you? Where did your passion go? When did you stop dreaming? How on earth did you slip into that depressing rut of conformity and pseudo contentment that you now call ‘life’?’

Surely it wasn’t a conscious choice? Was it?…

Maybe it was.

I actually feel like I am being faced with that exact choice at this stage in my own life. I can feel the seductive lure of financial security and material possessions beckoning and promising me a comfortable life – perhaps even a ‘happier’ life than I currently experience.

You know the deal?…

Lately I’ve been wondering if I should be replacing our 68cm clunker of a TV with something a bit more hip and sexy. It seems everyone else has a whopping great plasma and I don’t. I somehow find myself drawn by this need to acquire one of these items, as if it will transform my life.

How dumb is that?…

I read the real estate section of the paper each week wondering if we should ‘upgrade’ our home and live in a better suburb closer to the beach, one where the capital growth will be stronger and the future prospects healthier.

Would I actually be a more content bloke in a bigger house, closer to the ocean?…

And as I consider these and other absurdities I see that what happens next is that we go into debt to finance the life we are told we ‘should have’ and then we are shackled to 20 years of hard labour to pay for it all.

It seems this is the routine – it’s the middle class suburban script – and it’s a very easy one to slip into. And when life gets busy it’s even easier because we don’t have (or make) time to reflect on who we are and where we are headed. We simply fall in line, take a number and join the crowd of people all vacuously moving in the same direction even if we don’t know where the destination is.

If everyone’s going there then it must be good… you’d think…

My personal reflections over the last couple of months have been rumblings – rumblings of discontent, admissions of failure and at the same time a dogged reluctance to simply do what’s expected.

At this point in life, I actually find myself simultaneously yearning after and yet retching at the thought of a safe, secure and comfortable life in the suburbs.

I am very conscious of my own selfish desires for more stuff and a nicer house with ocean views and a bigger TV, but I am equally conscious that (while these things aren’t bad in themselves), to actively pursue them is to invest my life in them – to give my heart and my energy to the pursuit of ever increasing personal comfort and security.

And what’s most disturbing is that it feels really normal to do so.

In fact it feels like the script I am supposed to be following even within a Christian community … and to break with it is to be something of a nutjob.

I am concerned by it all and especially by the temptation I feel to just quietly roll with it and accept it as ‘how things are’ these days.

I seriously wonder how we live distinctly as the people of God when we blend in so easily with the world we are a part of. I don’t for a moment think we ought to get more denim skirts and head scarfs to stand out (I’d look pretty silly in a skirt anyway), but I do feel like one of the ways we lose our ‘saltiness’ is by chasing the ‘dream’ and making optional the things of the kingdom and the call that Jesus places on our lives.

Because what happens as we pursue affluence, comfort and security is that our life then starts to revolve more and more around these things. Our whole ‘vocation’ shifts from that of following Jesus and his call, to kicking the Jone’s arse with our bigger TV and better cars.

We can’t really call ourselves disciples of Jesus when we aren’t chasing after the things he sees as important – can we?


No. We can’t.

We can be lovely, church going people who live decent moral lives and give every appearance of being devout Christians but when the soul is rotting from self obsession then we are kidding ourselves.

That so called ‘radical gospel’ of dying to self and taking up our cross that once inspired us, becomes something that we did as teenagers when we were young and idealistic and didn’t know about how life really works, but it just doesn’t fit with our lives now…

It just isn’t practical – what with kids and a mortgage…

I’m thinking screw that.

I don’t think Jesus ever intended for it to be ‘practical’! I don’t think he was trying to somehow pre-emptively mould his call around 21st century suburban life so that we could squeeze him into our busy schedule.

I am convinced his call is as stark and as confronting as ever, but the dominant expressions of the Christian life in our country at this time would suggest that Jesus call actually results in a comfortable self focused middle class life, not a sacrificial, other centred life.

And we are fed so much bullshit both from within the church and without that in the end it appears to us as truth.

I realize this post pops up like a dunny in the desert in the middle of a blog that has seen little action in a long time, but it reflects some of my journey at this time and I felt like it belonged ‘out there’, for those who still read and wonder what’s been ticking away in my inner self.

And, yeah – sure its a rant, but more than that it’s a confession that I am not living the life that I want to live and that I am struggling with my own self deception and conformity, with my own muddled motives and desires. I feel the allure of the comfortable life and I know its not wholly bad in itself – I really do know that – but I also know that very few who choose that path live with the kind of vigour and passion that I want my life to have.

I’ve been back 6 months and I’ve been finding it hard – hard to follow Jesus when there is so much else competing for my passion.

Where it goes from here I’m not sure. I might be middle aged and middle class, but I sure as hell don’t want to live like it.

I am reminded of that line from Robert Frost:

“Two roads diverged in the middle of a wood. I took the one less traveled by and it made all the difference”

The last fifteen years have seen us take plenty of roads less traveled by and in spite of the allure of a comfortable life I don’t see that now is a time to make any changes to that.

In the Absence of Law?…

I’m going to talk about money this week at our Sunday gathering – more specifically the whole issue of generosity and giving and how we go about this.

I’m not one of those people who gets ancy about the topic of money and avoids speaking on it. I actually reckon its the critical topic if we are going to make disciples in 21st C Australia. If we can’t help people become disciples in the area of finance then we are probably going to limp along as the church and actually make very little difference in our world – not because we won’t be able to ‘pay our pastors’ (as if that were the critical issue) but simply because we don’t come to grips with our own Achilles heel and our primary cultural dysfunction.

We love money – at least we love what it can do for us – and to give it away just seems absurd. Last week I heard that most people fantasise more about money than about sex!

Crikey… I gotta tell you I am not in that crowd.

So my objective on Sunday is not to compel people to give more in the offering bag, but rather to challenge us to look critically at how we view money, how we use our finance and to think seriously about why we give what we do and where.

My hope would be for a church where there is incredible generosity and where we are known as absurdly generous people.

Since spending a fair bit of time studying the whole issue of tithing I have become convinced of its irrelevance to the church today. Stuart Murray Williams was probably my most significant read in this area, but there are others also who are questioning whether this is a practice we should continue with at this time.

One of my big concerns is that we muddy our theology again with tithing. You know when we welcome people to the ‘house of the Lord’ we revert to an OT ‘temple theology’ and when we advocate tithing we pick up on OT worship practices that are not intended for today.

One of the original tithes was for the priests and levites and I hear that as a primary argument today – to pay our pastors – but – and maybe its just me – I am concerned for how that morphs the ‘pastor’ into a NT priest.

Aren’t we all priests now?…

If we go this route aren’t we sending some muddy mixed messages theologically?

Interestingly – while we equate the tithe to 10% the OT tithe was actually quite different. Biblical tithing was based on a person’s produce from the land and was done annually on a seven year cycle. Three separate tithes were instituted. The first was the Levitical tithe of 10% on everything for the first six years and was given to the Levites and priests. The second tithe was the Festival tithe of 10% on the 90% remaining produce after the Levitical tithe. This tithe had to be eaten in the presence of the Lord and was collected on the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th years only. The third tithe was the tithe for the poor to be collected on the 3rd and 6th years only. No tithe was collected on the 7th year or Sabbatical year. The farmers were to let the land rest in that year.

And as well as tithes the OT people were also required to bring various kinds of offerings to God.

From that Old Testament base we have for the most part concluded that to honour God with our wealth today we need to give back to him 10% of our income. Which is kind of ironic, because if you add it up they were actually giving around 17% for 6 years and nothing on the seventh.

So why do we preach tithing?

There is no rocket science required to figure that one out!

I think we generally feel that people need a marker to aim for so we set 10%. Its much more of a pragmatic argument than a theological one. If we don’t set out for 10% then maybe the people won’t give enough…

But they don’t anyway.

During my study on this I read a survey that cited the average giving by church members to the church offering to be around 2% of their income. And my own experience over 20 years of church life would suggest this is spot on.

Most people don’t tithe!

In churches the 80/20 rule is alive and well with 20% of the people funding the activities and resourcing the other 80%. Its a pretty sad situation really – quite lamentable – but it opens bigger questions of where should our money go anyway? And why is this the case?

The NT has a lot to say about giving freely and generously,about everything being God’s (rather than 10%) but nothing to say about a tithe…

Lets move on.