Truth Wins?

This Sunday we come together at QBC to look at Heaven, Hell and all that stuff. Its the stuff we rarely think about (at least hell is) and then there is the idea that we will spend eternity in ‘heaven’… another curious inheritance that may need some re-thinking and clarifying. I like NT Wright’s assertion that ‘sure – you will go to heaven – but you don’t stay there’. He focuses on what he calls ‘life after life after death’ which is definitely more hope-filled and inspiring than whatever heaven may be.

Bell’s book Love Wins (see promo above) put this issue back on the mainstream agenda quite significantly when it was released and Francis Chan’s response Erasing Hell pushed back hard arguing for a more traditional take on the subject.

This video is a clever pushback on the Love Wins promo and takes a different perspective

Chan’s basis for argument was that ‘God is always right about everything’ so if I don’t understand hell then the problem lies with me. Bell was a bit more elusive, but does seem to be saying that God will ultimately draw everyone to himself in this life or the next.

There are of course other options and the late John Stott is known for his annihilationist perspective an argument he suggests may not be traditional but is certainly within the bounds of orthodoxy.

So on Sunday we will come together to chew this one around. And… yes… I will offer my two bobs worth at the end but only after we have helped people really grapple with the issues both biblically and practically.

The title of this post is of course tongue in cheek as I’m sure we all will feel that our persepctive is the ‘truth’ and that we have taken the ‘biblical’ position. Whatever you may think of Rob Bell (I like the guy) he does remind us that we have a tendency to use the word ‘biblical’ as a lump of 4×2 to batter others into submission to our point of view. In reality we bring our own perspectives to the Bible and while we will endeavour to interpret it truly we may well end up with the ‘truth as we see it’.

Two Reasons to Go to Church

David Fitch is back blogging. I always enjoy his perspective on the church and mission and this piece nailed a similar thought I have been processing lately.

Sometimes I find myself wondering why people either come to church or don’t come. It is a beautiful spring day in Perth and church numbers were a little down today. Some sick, some busy, some probably just doing something else… the beach… a picnic… whatever…

Like David writes in this post, I am not a fan of ‘going to church’, but I am absolutely convinced we need to be deeply knitted into a regular (probably weekly) corporate expression of faith – otherwise we simply aren’t ‘getting’ one very significant aspect of discipleship.

Those who know me well enough would know I am not just referring to attending a church service, but if you aren’t going to do that as a baseline activity, then the question I would raise (to anyone claiming to be a Jesus follower) is just who are you connecting with at a significant level and who is sharing the road with you?

There is no solitary discipleship and if we choose to move that way then we are kidding ourselves. Ultimately it is going to see us come unstuck.

David offers two reasons to go to church:

a) to get something

b) to submit to something

The first is possibly the primary reason many people go – to ‘meet their needs’ – and that is not all bad, but it does revolve around the self and can easily end up in the consumer approach to faith. We end up as those who evaluate and ask ‘what did I get out of today?’ We do have needs, but this one so easily veers into selfishness. Not a good reason to do so.

The second really struck a chord, as what David is essentially arguing for is ‘going to church’ as a spiritual discipline – something we do even when we don’t feel like it because we know that the outcome is going to be valuable at some point and because others will benefit rather than just me.

Its a mature approach to church – while the first is an immature one.

I think we can easily poo poo people who attend church religiously – no pun intended (and maybe some do need a bit of poking) – but perhaps they are also establishing a discipline and a rhythm that will both serve them and others well.

The act of ‘going to church’ is not the end in itself. You can do that and still be a spiritual infant. But when ‘going to church’ is done consciously to submit to a needed discipline and to bless others then our own health can only flourish

We live in a country where regular church attendance has been in steep decline for a long time – and I would suggest that the rigour of discipleship has paralleled that decline. It used to be that those who were ‘committed’ would go to church at least once on a Sunday – but more likely twice if it were possible. (The big negative to this was that life then revolved around ‘church’ and we lost contact with the world.)

We then went to regular weekly attendance, but more recently we see people attending fortnightly or maybe 1 in 3 and still seeing themselves as committed to the community.


I hope we never veer back into the legalism that saw people judged for not being in the building each time the doors were open, but perhaps we need a course correction that sees people choosing to do what is now considered unusual and making their weekly gathering a top priority rather than something they will get to if there is nothing in the way.

Whether you meet in a school, a dedicated building, a home, a cafe or on a beach if we see our weekly gathering as a spiritual discipline and as an act of service to others then we will start to point the ship in the right direction.

Good News For Who?

If you read the gospels and listen to Jesus it seems that he comes to ‘preach good news to the poor’ and that it is almost impossible for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. He is pretty harsh on ‘the rich’ (whoever they may be…)

If the gospel is (as Scot McKnight summarises it) ‘Jesus is Lord’ then the news of his rule taking place will certainly be good news for the poor. They are going to get a much better deal than they have done and life is going to be much more attractive – perhaps even something like what the creator intended…

But for the rich…

‘Jesus is Lord’ can be a complicating statement, because to most of us who are rich that is not very good news… You see we tend to see ourselves as in control of our lives and destiny and Jesus wanting to stake a claim is hard to swallow.

Jesus never spoke of preaching ‘good news to the rich’, in fact if anything he preached ‘woe to you who are wealthy now because you have your reward in full’ (Luke 6:24) It has me reflecting this morning on the challenge of mission to the middle class west – where we are actually ridiculously rich beyond belief – even if we can’t see it.

The news of God’s kingdom coming may not be that exciting. The news of God restoring the world and dealing with poverty, sickness and sin may not ‘work’ for us because to deal with poverty means sharing what we hoard.

Perhaps that is why the gospel in middle classdom gets translated almost exclusively as ‘sins forgiven and eternity in heaven’ – a far more attractive package to the person who doesn’t want to resign control of their own life and possibly share their wealth…

I think the gospel is good news for all, but given our self centred western mindset it is difficult for us to see how there is any good news in life revolving less around us.

I found this quote on Stephen’s Said’s facebook today and it ties in well with our struggle to accept the gospel.

Christianity is a lifestyle—a way of being in the world that is simple, non-violent, shared, inclusive, and loving. We made it, however, into a formal established religion, in order to avoid the demanding lifestyle itself. One could then be warlike, greedy, racist, selfish, and vain at the highest levels of the church, and still easily believe that Jesus is “my personal Lord and Savior.” The world has no time for such silliness anymore. The suffering on Earth is too great.”

NOT a Coffee

I would be the first to admit I am something of a coffee snob these days. I generally don’t drink coffee when I’m out unless I am going to a dedicated coffee shop where there is some guarantee of quality.

Lately though I’ve drunk a few Maccas coffees, picked up a coffee at a roadhouse on the Great Northern Highway and a few other places that would be generally considered off limits.

So yesterday when Ellie and I went to Sizzler for lunch I decided to give it a shot… The result is what you see above…

An automated machine spewed out the most vile looking and tasting stuff you can imagine. It resembles one of Sam’s science projects!

My tip for people buying coffee machines is stay well away from automated machines and buy a manual one – where you take control over the process. They are cheaper and you will end up producing a much better brew. But if your coffee ever looks like the one above feel free to tip it down the sink and start again…


It’s taken me a while to settle back into life but I think I am nearly there…

I have some rhythms that are familiar and that let me know that I am ‘home’. After four weeks of wonderful holiday it is hard to get back into those rhythms. It’s even harder when the weather conspires against you and forces you to stay indoors when your work is outside.

This morning I am sitting on the verandah, reading Howard Snyder’s biography of John Wesley, and just enjoying the beauty of our suburb on a sunny Saturday. This week seemed to restore a bit of that rhythm and I am happier about being home.

For me the week begins with home schooling on Monday AM and then some admin and prep work in the afternoons. Monday is a mixed bag. It was even more mixed this week as we had another family staying with us. While in Broome we made friends with a family of 5 who are doing their ‘lap of Oz’. They turned out to be Christians like us and we formed a really good connection – both kids and adults. We told then to visit when they hit Perth, so they dropped in, planning to stay for a night, but the weather turned savage and they ended up being with us for 4 nights. It was one of those unexpected blessings that life brings where you end up really having a fun and significant time with people you hardly know, but who are ‘family’. Very special and beautiful to make those kinds of connections.

Tuesday to Thursday are my ‘go hard’ days, where I do my retic and turf work, and I went hard on those days. I know I’m back in rhythm when I am looking forward to Thursday evening… And this week it came like a breath of fresh air after some hard physical slog.

Fridays are when I prep for Sunday’s teaching. Some days it comes easily and other days you get distracted, can’t get the ideas to flow or are just too weary from the previous three days to do anything worthwhile. Yesterday went well and after some focused work I was done by 2pm. ‘Done’ is a relative term. Ten years ago I would not have considered myself ‘done’ as I was a preaching perfectionist but yesterday I was ‘done’ in the sense that what I had completed was ‘good enough’ to serve up on Sunday. It won’t win any ‘preacher of the year’ contests, but as I have grown a little older and less ego-centric I have ceased to participate in these futile events of my own imagination.

So Friday ends with me heading off to help at our church’s kids ministry program. I am the ‘games bloke’ and I can still remember many of those crazy games from my time with YFC. I never thought I’d be doing kids min, but my kids are in it, I need to be there so I’m happy to help. I’ve been memorising some kids names over the last few weeks – remembering from my days in youth ministry what a difference it makes when an adult knows your name. It still makes a difference…

Friday night ends with a glass of red and 4WD mag on the couch while the paralympics rolls in the background…

And then comes Saturday – the sabbath – where I get to rest and enjoy the home, the beach, the family and whatever else goes with the idea of sabbath. Today I happen to be having a ‘daddy and Ellie’ day where we head out to lunch at Sizzler (her choice…) and then a fun evening at home with our good friends Stu & Carolyn.

Rhythm… I like it. I don’t like routine. I find routine boring. It is doing the same stuff over and over. But rhythm is different. It’s recognising that our lives work best when they are in some kind of order and when we can anticipate what’s ahead.

Part of my rhythm had been regular blogging so chances are you will see me back on here a little more often than I have been lately.

So You Want Your Kids to Follow Jesus?…

So you want your kids to follow Jesus as they grow up and become adults?…

Who doesn’t?…

Yet it seems the most common epidemic in the church is that of young people jettisoning their commitment to Christ in the teen years. I’m sure there are many varied reasons for this but one reason must surely be that they have never really come to grips with submitting to authority.

I was on Facebook this morning when I saw a post by John Sweetman on a sermon he was going to be giving on raising kids. One of his points was this:

One of my points is to represent God’s authority by setting strict boundaries when kids are young (Heb 12:7-11). I know this is not always popular, but if children don’t somewhere learn to submit to authority then they will struggle to submit to Jesus as Lord

There are no guarantees when parenting. But I am right with him on this one. It’s one thing to give your kid freedom to express and learn but I think that idea of teaching kids submission to authority is vital to preparing them for following Christ. (And I couldn’t care less if that sounds politically incorrect, ‘old school’ or whatever!)

I saw Scot McKnight this week summarized the gospel in 3 words as ‘Jesus is Lord’. Stanley Hauwervas was a little more feisty (as is his nature) in stating ‘Jesus is Lord. Everything else is bullshit.’ However you see it if we want our kids to get the gospel – that Jesus is Lord – and will claim authority over our lives then we do them no favours by not preparing them for that reality.

Of course there are those weird parents who will treat their kids with brutality rather than authority but I think you know I’m not talking about that nonsense. As adult disciples we are always grappling with Jesus’ call on our lives and his authority over us. When you have a pre-wired sense of submission you can recognize this as sin and call it for what it is, but in the absence of this understanding the notion of someone calling me to submit can seem foreign and abusive. ‘Why would I want to do that?…’

So I reckon John nailed it there. Parents – if you want your kids to follow Jesus as they mature then teach them while they are young that there is genuine authority to be submitted to and respected. There is also authority that deserves confronting and challenging and hopefully as our kids mature they will be able to discern who to listen to and who to question.

As for Jesus – he has already made the call…

He was asking for people’s thought on how we prepare our kids for lives of mature adult discipleship and if I were to add my own (Danelle’s and my take) we would say that when kids see their parents genuinely living the life of faith, choosing the ‘narrow path’ and living lives of genuine discipleship (not just going to church) then they are presented with a vision of how the life of the kingdom can be. They might reject it – but at least they would be saying ‘no’ to the real deal.