Wealth Beyond Measure

Some days you realise how wealthy you are and how much you have to be grateful for. The weekend before last was one of those times.

It began Friday morning as I took off down south with Sam, my mate Stu and his son Micah. We were off on an overnight father and son climbing expedition to the Stirling Ranges (not quite realising it was a 6 hour drive from the city). I reckon we might have re-thought it had we known…

However the distance really didn’t matter in the end as we enjoyed the time in the car catching up on conversations and thoughts that we hadnt had time to explore in our shorter times together. In fact it isn’t hard to wile away 6 hours when you are really good friends.

Its a huge blessing to still have a really good mate from teenage years, one who knows me well and with whom I have many common loves. And to see our sons connect and laugh and have fun together was a real blast too. I hope one day we might go back with our sons’ sons and do the trip over, although by my reckoning I could be in my 70’s… Doable… but it might take more than 90 minutes to reach the top.

I came home feeling blessed and very rich to have a friendship of this calibre and depth.

As we drove home I was hoping to go to Anna’s 40th – an ex student and friend, but we arrived in the city a bit too soon and with a tired boy in tow, needed to head back to Yanchep. So I passed on the party. It was a hard call as I knew I’d be walking back into a room of people (most of whom I hadn’t see for 20 years) where there would be some very fond memories and some wonderful opportunites to renew friendships.  I was reminded how blessed I was to make those kinds of connections during my time as a teacher – how good it is that some of my students have become my friends.

On the way home I saw my Mazda Bravo work ute, that I had sold 3 days previous, parked on the median strip on Marmion Avenue. ‘Hey look that’s my old car’ I said to Sam as we scooted on past on our way home. I didn’t for a moment consider that the gearbox might have carked it. The young Scottish couple who had been in Perth for one whole day when they bought my car rang about 30 minutes later to ask if I’d ever had the gearstick get stuck in 5th?… Nope… never…

I felt pretty sorry for them. I hadn’t intentionally sold them a lemon, but it had turned out pretty bad. I voiced some concerns about the whole deal on facebook and within an hour Terry had offered to chip in, then Darryl, then a few others and before 24 hours had passed enough people had committed to help these random strangers so that they were blessed with $1600 and the ability to buy a new gearbox.

Yet again I was giving thanks for friends and the various people God has put in my life who demonstrate love and kindness in these simple acts of compassion. I felt privileged to know these folks/

I was feeling ‘rich’ in so many ways on that Sunday evening and then came an email from one of our church crew saying how much they enjoyed being part of QBC over the last 12 months. It was another huge blessing and had me sitting back in my chair saying ‘wow – how blessed am I?…’

I guess friends are part of life and we can take them for granted, but on that weekend I was reminded from all sides that when we have good friends we are so very very wealthy.

The ‘L’ Word


I haven’t heard this one used for so long that I thought maybe we had grown up and moved on, but then it popped up again in conversation yesterday.

“I was going to go to XYZ Bible College, but a friend told me they were liberal…’


What exactly does that mean?…

Well there is a fairly technical meaning in relation to theology (which I won’t try to unpack here) and then there is the ‘people aren’t as conservative as me on issues of theology I deem important’ meaning.

This was the one in question.

We probably need to be clear that ‘liberal’ really ought not be applied to a Bible College that doesn’t preach a party line, or that allows people to examine the evidence and arrive at their own conclusions. That is not ‘liberal’. That is good learning practice. Nor is it ‘liberal’ to employ lecturers who don’t all hold the same theological convictions on all issues – as if that were even possible…

But clearly ‘liberal’ is still out there and accompanied by its old friend ‘fear’. If you go to a liberal college then chances are you will end up believing that Jospeh Smith died for our sins and then married a re-incarnation of the virgin Mary… Its the slippery slope… Next you’ll be wearing lipstick and going to movies…


During my time leading Forge we mixed with all varieties of denominations and I discovered that those I once labelled ‘liberal’ (yes I was a liberal labeller for a while…) were actually people who took the Bible seriously, but arrived at different conclusions to me. On some issues they were actually more conservative, but then we only use liberal to biff people on our pet issues.

So maybe next time you hear the word ‘liberal’ used against someone ask what’s meant by it. Ask which definition of ‘liberal’ is being employed and ask what role fear plays in the equation.

There is a place for scrutinising theology and there is a liberalism that is destructive to genuine biblical theology, but there is also narrow minded, red necked, fear mongering that only knows one word to pin on those with whom there is either disagreement or concern.

iPhone 5 Impressions

I got an iPhone 5 shortly after they came out. My contract had expired just at the right time…

So what’s it like?

Rather underwhelming I have to say. Its longer and skinnier than my ‘4’, but I liked the other shape better. Its faster which is good as my kids use my phone as a game centre and load it to the gills with all sorts of nonsense. The old iPhone 4 was breaking under the strain and the GPS would regularly be playing catch up, getting to the destination often after I had arrived.

So far I haven’t used Apple maps as there is no voice assist here in Oz so the GPS is still the way to go.

The new cable connector is a rort. Seriously who needs to change all their cables yet again?…

Battery life is about the same, but I do like the ‘Do Not Disturb’ function. After 10pm and before 7 you can’t call unless you are one of my ‘favourites’ and then you can get thru…

So, a fairly uninspiring upgrade really, but then what more can you really do with one of these things?…


It Matters

I updated my facebook status this morning along these lines:

“In Australia there are so many reasons not to go to church… in summer its too hot, in winter its too cold and wet, in autumn and spring its too beautiful a day to spend inside… and then there’s today where its just too butt ugly out there to want to go anywhere… looking forward to being with the crew on this squally Perth morning.”

Its a very ugly day here in Perth, blowing  a gale, hailing and raining. (The first day of the abalone season and as I write a search is underway just 400m from home for an Asian guy who went in the water this morning and didn’t come out.  Last I saw they were sending scuba divers in so its not looking pretty. Tragic to lose life over a shellfish.)

But back to church…

As I sat with the QBC crew today I had one of those profound moments of realisation that what we do by turning up every week matters. It really matters. Not in an attendance register / taking the roll kind of way, but in a committed to one another kind of way, in a lifestyle forming kind of way, in a countercultural choosing kind of way.

My facebook status alludes to the fact that its a choice that is easy not to make in our culture, because there are many reasons to choose things other than being together. And to be honest at times I have found the framing of this choice a bit difficult to swallow. When framed legalistically / dutifully I begin to zone out and lose interest, but when we speak in terms of forming our corporate identity and of practicing disciplines that form us into Christlikeness then I am all ears.

I’m not overly worried whether its Sunday, Monday or Thursday evening that we gather, but rather that we choose to do it and that we enter it in our mental diaries as a non-negotiable. That’s a harder line than I have taken in the past, but in the last few years I’ve increasingly seen ‘turning up’ as the first step in becoming a community. If we can’t ‘turn up’ then we are seriously screwed before we even leave first base.

We live in an era where regular church attendance (a crappy term I know…)  is probably considered to be 1 week in 3, or if you’re really committed, then fortnightly. As a result we have lost some of the positive energy that goes with being a church community. Fragmentation in wider society is reflected in church culture where we no longer have the same bonds.

I also see the weekly discipline (because it is just that some weeks) as something that informs and forms my children. They see us practice things that matter to us and in their heads they will inevitably conclude that commitment to a Christian community as a non-negotiable in our week is a priority. While there are no guarantees with kids, my hunch is that if they don’t see that in us then I imagine it will be less likely to form in them.

There have been plenty of mornings I have woken up and not felt at all like joining the crew at church. I have felt more like sleeping late, hitting the beach and simply doing ‘what I want’. Its not that I can’t do any of those things at other times, but sometimes I just don’t like the sense of commitment that goes with… well… ‘commitment’…

I wonder how we would go as the church if were able to have both a strong commitment to mission and a strong commitment to Christian community? I see one as shaping and sparking the other and vice versa. We can pick up the ‘mission ball’ at the expense of the ‘community’ ball, but when we begin to choose either/or I think we slowly amble into a world of our own preferences.

Some stuff is hard and we just need to do it.

That said, every morning when I woke up and thought ‘church… blech…’ and chosen to be there I have found myself encouraged and reminded that this is stuff that matters.

I’ve started running again and its the same feeling. Sometimes you just can’t be bothered. Its cold, wet and much nicer in front of the telly, but no one becomes the person they hope to be making the easy choices all the time.

(I just noticed that this post links back to a post I made earlier this year here, where David Fitch gave some excellent insights.)


Wiping Bums and Following Jesus

Daz Gardiner

I’ve been wondering lately how you can know when a Christian leader, speaker, minister (whatever) is moving from being a servant to a celebrity.

When do you start to cross that line and when are you so immersed in your own image development and promotion that you forget who you actually are?

I think its’ a bit like ‘ugly’ – you can’t quite define it, but you know it when you see it. Its something that makes you go ‘ech… really?… oh dear…’ And in the midst of your cringe you wonder if you should say anything or if you are just the party pooper who ‘doesn’t get it’. Because celebrity Christians are rarely questioned (face to face) and actually don’t like being challenged. It spikes the conscience.

There are a few tell tale signs of celebritism that always set off my finely honed ‘wanker alarm’. There’s the nasty stuff like only flying business class or only staying in 5 star accommodation. If that’s your thing then I won’t ever be calling you.

Then there’s the slightly less obvious ‘speakers rooms’ at conferences where the important people get to hang together away from the plebs, a practice often justified by some curious logic. There’s reserved front row seats… the chunky ‘love offerings’ (technically not tax deductible as they are gifts), a bizarre form of hero worship that only feeds the beast, and then more recently there has been the awful and embarrassing self promotion on social media. Facebook hasn’t helped the cause by creating ‘fan’ pages, but seriously I think I’d reject those things on principle.

Yes, this could all be sour grapes because I’ve never been successful or famous enough to ever be in celebrity mode, but I have been in positions where there has been the opportunity to enter into some of that stuff. My gag reflex on Christian celebritism is pretty strong so I tend to sniff it and call it fairly quickly. But I’ve also been privileged to know some people who regularly speak to crowds of thousands, but haven’t been seduced.

A few years back when we were in full swing with Forge in Perth I invited Darryl Gardiner from New Zealand to come and join us. Daz isn’t well known in WA, but he is a brilliant, hard hitting communicator who regularly speaks to big crowds around the world. He happily spoke to a very small crew, engaged with them before and after and showed himself to be the real deal. He even returned all of his speaking fee because we were doing it tough financially at the time in Forge.

However the real test for Daz came early on Saturday morning when our son Sam – aged 3 at the time – made it to the toilet, got his business done, but couldn’t finish the job. We always laughed when Sam was on the toilet because we would hear this little voice screaming out, ‘Muuuuuuummmm…. can you come and wipe my bottom?!’ (I was always glad that my name was not ‘mum’) That Saturday morning he must have yelled and screamed for a bit, but mum never came. With the doors closed we obviously couldn’t hear him – but Daz did…

So what do you do when you’re the international guest speaker sleeping in the room next to the toilet while the 3 year old is stuck? I’m guessing if you’re full of your own importance you ignore the kid and complain about it later (to someone else), but if you’re in servant mode then you do what Darryl did.

You wipe the kid’s bum.

He told us about it later amidst some laughter. Ok so we didn’t do it on purpose (promise Daz) but in that action Daz made a huge statement. The Jesus we claim to follow wasn’t too full of himself to do the menial task of washing someone’s feet and Daz wasn’t too self important to perform one of life’s less pleasant tasks either.

While we are wiping bums we are unikely to be too concerned about whether we are flying business class or staying in the Hyatt…