blood moons hagee For a long time I have avoided teaching from the book of Revelation mainly because I find it a hard book to read. I don’t resonate with the genre much at all. Beasts, dragons, angels, trumpets and seals all make for rather confusing reading.

While I recognise its epistolatory/apocalyptic genre within scripture, the closest I can get to it, is to think of the fantasy, sci fi stuff, another genre I rarely read if I can avoid it.

But the difference with Revelation is that this stuff is the inspired word of God and therefore a little more significant than Lord of The Rings or the like. So I thought it might be a challenge to overcome my aversion to this book and really dig into it so that we could get a handle on it as a church.

There’s no question it is a significant section of the entire biblical account, but one that either gets avoided or ends up being the domain of nutbags and crazies. My hunch is that most of us end up doing our first reading Revelation through the lens of whatever view we have grown up with. For me that was the world of Left Behind, a movie that scared the crap out of me as a 12 year old and then has come back more recently to haunt this generation of 12 year olds… and Larry Norman crooning ‘I wish we’d all been ready’… So my thinking on the issue was formed by popular (Christian) culture and by the odd sermon that was drawn from that perspective. Although to be honest once I scanned Hal Lindsay’s stuff as a teenager I discovered that even then I had enough discernment to regret wasting money on his book.

So a few days back I sat down to engage this subject again – as an adult – as someone wanting to start from scratch and wanting to make some sense of it. I recognised there were various takes on Revelation and I thought it would be good to begin with one of the ‘counterpoints’ series books entitled ‘Four Views on Revelation’. The introduction went well…

Then came the ‘preterist’ view – that Revelation was written for the people of the time. This is a fair argument. Surely a book that is part letter is addressed to people for whom it will have immediate significance? However I found myself zoning out as I was reading…

The whole interpretative process is laborious and needs careful analysis to do it justice. I went back to reading the book itself again, to try and make more connections. But once you get beyond the concrete first 3 chapters it begins to become obscure and ethereal, difficult to follow and quite bizarre. If we hadn’t been told that John had been sharing a vision and I’m sure it would qualify as some drug induced hallucination.

So I finished the book, went back to the overview and got bogged down yet again. I began to surf the net and observed that as well as four views of the book, there are several views on the millennial issue (depending on how you interpret them) and then within the dispensational view there are three divergent views on the location of the rapture… And having dug into some of those rapture forums for the last hour I can tell you that is feisty stuff. It seems the narrower you draw the lines of interpretation on this book the more fanatical people become and the more they detest each other and their heresies! I’m wondering if post-mill guys are even allowed to intermarry with pre-mill girls? My reading is that the cultural /theological jump might be a bit too big to navigate…

I find myself asking ‘do I really want to keep going with this?’ Will it be in any way helpful?…

What I would like to do is to be able to give people some tools for understanding this book – for reading it intelligently – as opposed to reading it thru the novels of Tim LaHaye. I actually haven’t decided which ‘millennial’ view I would subscribe to yet, but I fear for those who seem to swallow popular culture as facts when there is clearly no consensus on this issue.

So its back into it this afternoon after this short rant and we’ll see if I can make more sense. It’d be nice to be able to:

a) help people understand how our theology gets shaped – I seem to do a lot of this as we all have filters and lenses that we don’t always realise are there and it needs reminding.

b) present people with 4 lenses that they can look thru and help them think critically about the content thru those lenses.

c) help people deal with the popular ideas and assess them in light of other views.

The biggest struggle I see at the moment is that in a very short time I need to get across a mountain of information to be able to do this intelligently. Not sure if I can manage in the limited time I have, but now that I’ve started I might as well push on for a bit longer. We will soon know… And by the way I have no idea what the hell ‘blood moons’ have to do with anything…


baliboThe Aussie movie Balibo has been available for view on ABC iView the last few days, so after beginning work at 7.00 am yesterday and being finished by 8.30am I decided to sit down and watch it .

It is set in East Timor at the time of independence and traces the tragic demise of the journalists sent there to cover the story.

After being a Portuguese colony for many years East Timor was granted independence in November 1975, however this was followed by an Indonesian invasion in December of that year and subsequently much bloodshed under Indonesian rule.

The ‘Balibo 5’ were a group of Aussie TV journos who went to the town of Balibo to cover the story and believed they would be left alone because they didn’t pose a military threat. In the end the invading forces simply killed them, burnt their film and moved on.

The story follows the journey of Roger East – also an Aussie journo – who goes to Dili to investigate the disappearance of the men. He is shown in dialogue with the later president Jose Ramos Horte as the invading forces approach Dili. Horte is fleeing the country and calls East to join him and tell the story back in Australia. East’s response is brutal, but captured the truth of the situation. Paraphrased it was : ‘No one cares about a nation full of Timorese people getting slaughtered – that isn’t a story – but if I can uncover the truth about 5 white journalists who have been killed then it will become a story…’

Ouch… but how true. Tens of thousands of brown people getting slaughtered won’t register with viewers, but five of our own people… now that’s a different issue, isn’t it?…

After choosing to stay, East was killed by firing squad a short time later, and the whole episode has been the subject of a war crimes investigation. What was equally disturbing (according to my reading of events) was that the US and Australia by and large turned a blind eye to all that took place because it wasn’t politically expedient to get involved. The US had formulated a policy of ‘silence’ on the invasion. That coupled with fear of a potential communist state developing appears to the reason the US and Australia kept silent.

Balibo is a brutal and disturbing movie on many levels and my brief reading of the history leaves me equally disturbed.

To Plant a Church

isaiahLike so many things in life, I once thought I knew a lot about this subject.

We have begun praying about whether the next step for our crew at QBC could be to plant a new community up in Yanchep. Danelle and I have been here 3 years now and haven’t sensed God poking us and urging us on, but I get the impression that those days may be numbered. It may be time to kick something into gear

But what to do?… Where to start?… And in fact haven’t we already started by being here, getting to know people, the rhythms of the neighbourhood and being a part of things?

Recently I was sharing some thoughts with a small crew of men I have the privilege to mentor and be involved with.  We were gathering on the tail end of a denominational meeting regarding church planting and I wanted to tap into that subject while it was on the radar.

So I began reflecting on what passage of scripture was giving shape to my thoughts on mission work these days. What would be framing my thoughts and ideas around mission and church planting?

I gravitated naturally to Luke 10 – a great passage and full of helpful insights, but as I read it, it just didn’t feel like where my heart was at with the whole thing. I rummaged around a bit, delving into Acts and exploring some of the other NT books, but finished up back in Isaiah Ch 6 – the calling of Isaiah…And the more I read this, the more the tone of it resonated with some of what I feel today. So I started trying to come to grips with what I was feeling.

I probably haven’t seen Isaiah 6 much in this light before, although I remember those old visiting missionaries used to work it death… As I took some time to meditate on it the things I observed included:

Isaiah opens with a vision of God that captures and inspires him – of a holy God – not to be messed, but awesome and compelling. I’d be hoping that anything we do in this world would have its roots in a vision of God that is like this. If we don’t start with a vision of God then chances are we begin with just our own vision and dreams. At the core of this is knowing God and having an encounter with him that inspires us.

There is also a realisation of who he is, ‘a man of unclean lips – who lives among a people of unclean lips’. Isaiah begins with a correct perception of himself. He hasn’t got himself pegged as the saviour of the world Mark II. He hasn’t got himself on a pedestal. In fact if anything he is lamenting his own inadequacy and failing. Perhaps if we began with this kind of humility we may have more of a chance of seeing God at work, because we would know that in his absence we are helpless.

Next follows a revelation and experience of atonement and preparedness – Isaiah is met by God and this event somehow prepares him and activates him for his mission. I’m not sure how all of that works, but it seems like a kind of commissioning.

There is the request from God – ‘who will go for us?’ An opportunity to accept or decline.

Isaiah’s willing response – ‘here I am – send me’.

And then the description of how things are going to unfold. And this is where it gets really interesting because its hardly an inspiring message…

He said, “Go and tell this people:

“‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’
10 Make the heart of this people calloused;
make their ears dull
and close their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”

11 Then I said, “For how long, Lord?”

And he answered:

“Until the cities lie ruined
and without inhabitant,
until the houses are left deserted
and the fields ruined and ravaged,
12 until the Lord has sent everyone far away
and the land is utterly forsaken.
13 And though a tenth remains in the land,
it will again be laid waste.
But as the terebinth and oak
leave stumps when they are cut down,
so the holy seed will be the stump in the land

Sounds like a hoot.

Its a mission that has very little promise of fruit being borne. It sounds futile and fruitless as people’s hearts become hardened but the task just goes on and on… I wonder what it was like to get that call and be given that job?

I couldn’t help feeling that there is some of this flavour to mission in the west today, especially in a place like Perth. I’m sure we aren’t alone in this, but mission in the west often feels like a very difficult task.

In fact I am conscious that one of the things that holds me back from going full tilt at something like this is a dislike of failure – of being the person who gives the message that falls on deaf ears. It isn’t fun. I know because I’ve done it for a while now. But maybe that’s not the issue.

Interestingly there is no checking in by God to see if he is still up for it, but rather an acceptance that this is how it will play out and that’s just how it is. Its hard enough to find people willing to plant a church in the west, but I wonder if we suggested that Isaiah’s call might be some sort of a frame for operation if any would put their hand up?

I think the right ones still would.

And for what its worth I’m not wanting to be overly negative there. I believe what Paul said – that the gospel is the power of God for salvation – but I wonder if we have overplayed the ‘taking the city for God’ hand and finished up with a lot of egg on our faces. Revival hasn’t broken out in Perth. People are not experiencing Acts 2 kind of conversion experiences – at least in my corner of the world – but the call is still there to listen to God, love people, speak the truth of Jesus and pray expectantly that he will do his work


To Live is Christ…












Up until a few years ago I had a tagline at the bottom of my email that was a quote from Helen Keller. It said ‘Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all.’

It summed up how I tried to live and the kind of spirit I wanted to bring to whatever I was doing. It was true to who I was at that time and it evoked a kind of an adrenalin charged, full tilt approach to life.  It ended up taking us on various adventures and initiatives that were a lot of fun and often risky.

It fitted really well thru my 20’s to early 40’s, but there came a point in time where I dropped that quote from my emails and to this day I haven’t replaced it with anything else. Although ‘the older I get the better I was’ does seem like a good fit…

I was a bit sad at its departure and I found it hard to understand why I no longer resonated with it like I used to, but I had to be honest and say ‘that’s just not where I am at any more.’ Its not me and I can’t keep sending emails that have this on the bottom.

I actually found my mid 40’s a confusing time as I was no longer driven, ambitious, focused and all those other qualities that seemed to mark my years of ‘achieving’. In my mid 40’s I started to relax a lot more, didn’t care as much if things didn’t work out and I was less obsessive about being successful. I didn’t set goals like I used to, didn’t push other people like I used to and wasn’t continually dreaming about the next mountain to climb. It was seriously dis-orienting to find myself in a ‘room’ that was unfamiliar and yet a room that I couldn’t just seem to power my way out of.

I had a few lame attempts at ‘upping the ante’ and ‘getting focused’, but truth was my heart wasn’t in it. It wasn’t that I didn’t care, but it was that I didn’t care in the same way and for the same things.

At some point along the way I discovered Richard Rohr’s book, ‘Falling Upwards‘ and what a gift that was. Someone who simply articulated the shift I was experiencing from what he described as a ‘first half of life spirituality’ to a ‘second half of life spirituality’. He described my experiences so well it was like he knew me and was giving me some personal counselling. Ambition was being replaced with contentment (and yet also a discontentment because it felt like a part of me had died..). An ability to relax and enjoy life instead of constant productivity and yet a nagging sense that I wasn’t achieving as much… More time and energy for people rather than tasks. It was almost like my identity was inverting in some ways and I couldn’t control it.

I described it to someone once as saying ‘I get less done, but I’m a nicer bloke for it.’ Truth is I think I probably got just as much done, but it happened from an intuitive awareness of what to do next rather than a couple of days of planning and strategic thinking.

So ‘a daring adventure or nothing at all’, no longer describes the energy I bring to life. Yet at the same time I want to be able to live with adventure, faith and risk. I want to follow Jesus wherever that leads. I guess I have become increasingly aware that some of what I have ascribed to ‘Jesus leading’ over the last 20 years was more like my ego needs meshed with some of God’s grace – probably a lot of God’s grace…

Rohr describes it like this:

The phrase “two halves of life” was first popularised by Carl Jung, the Swiss psychologist. He says that there are two major tasks. In the first half [of life] you’ve got to find your identity, your significance; you create your ego boundaries, your ego structure, what I call “the creating of the container.” But that’s just to get you started. In the second half of life, once you’ve created your ego structure, you finally have the courage to ask: What is this all for? What am I supposed to do with this? Is it just to protect it, to promote it, to defend it, or is there some deeper purpose? The search for meaning is the task of the second half of life

Recently we picked up the book of Philippians in church and I was struck again by Paul’s words ‘To live is Christ. To die is gain.’ These weren’t trite words, or words that sounded good on a business card for a tentmaker apostle. They were words that summed up his life – that actually described the energy he brought to his life and ministry.

I’ve been meditating on those words for several weeks now and I have realised I love those words – I love the simplicity and the focus of what he says and the sweep of what those words mean.

‘To live is Christ – to die is gain’ is an unselfish statement in every way, but more than that its a Jesus centred statement – one that captures the life of faith in a powerful nutshell and one that I would love to say ‘yeah that’s me!…’

Truth is that’s what I hope to be but I think to attach that to an email would be something of a lie. But it is something to aspire to – something to focus on. To live each day as Christ – at work, at the shops, at the beach and so on. And I do think I am getting better at that and it flows more naturally, but I’m also aware (oddly much more aware now) of how dark I am – how much evil lurks inside and how easy it would be to lose my way.

I’ve also noticed that the second half of that statement makes much better sense to me now than it did even five years ago. ‘To die is gain’, just sounds bizarre to someone who has so much to do and so little time! But as life has shifted in its equilibrium and as I have got to know Jesus better I find that it resonates more. I don’t want to die. Not yet at least. But it no longer looms as a ‘gong’ sounding over an incomplete life. It is beginning to feel more like something to anticipate and look forward to with longing. ‘To be with Christ is far better’, Paul says, but perhaps it is a measure of our attachment to this world that those words seem to lack any potency.

Tomorrow I turn 50, something of a landmark I guess and according to Sam I will become ‘the oldest dad in the world’. Nice one buddy!

But I feel like I am out of the woods now when it comes to that sense of disorientation and confusion that Rohr describes as normal for men in mid life. I feel like I have been able to let go of the selfish need to seek adventure and new initiatives, and am now better able to listen to God. It comes with what may appear to be a decreased energy for adventure, but I’m coming to realise that its more about a desire to do what is line with where God is leading us, rather than asking him to put his blessing on another good idea of mine.

So my hope is that those words will define the life I live and will continue to help me stay focused in this second half. That said, you probably won’t see them appear on an email any time soon… but they’d be nice on a tombstone one day hey?


Cursing Our Children With Ambition











So here’s a question for you parents…

What are your hopes and dreams for your children? How do you envision their lives will turn out – if all goes to plan?  What would make you burst with pride as a parent?…

Chances are it will sound something like this :

‘Happiness… It’s the word people gravitate to first – and sure – it’s a generic word that means everything and nothing  – but it is usually followed by a familiar list of items that are intended to equate to that word…  Think a university education, a satisfying well paying job, career advancement, financial security, a nice wife / husband, a home in a good suburb and a generally safe, enjoyable life.

This seems to be the dominant response of most parents whether they are people of faith or not.

I ‘get’ this to some degree for people who do not follow Christ because this is the template our world lays out for young people to fit into. But for those who hope for their kids to be disciples of Jesus my question would be ‘why are your dreams so lame and so dull? Why would you choose to curse your kids with such a deflating and uninspiring vision of the world?’

The list most people rattle off is a description of the end goal of middle class aspirational living. A happy family in a nice suburb with a good career and enough money to do all they want to do. Not necessarily bad… I know…

But I would want to suggest that this is a blind spot for us as Christians – a default setting in our make up that needs challenging and dismantling.

When Paul said ‘to live is Christ – to die is gain.’ I don’t think this was the vision of the world he was embracing! When Jesus chose the path of a servant through to the cross I doubt he was seeing this either. Why is it we can hold up people as heroes of the faith but not actually seek to be like them?…


Why is there such dissonance between our rhetoric and our actual lives?

My guess is that we have been so indoctrinated into this culture of self centredness that we cannot imagine what life looks like outside of these ambitions.  We simply don’t have a stronger more compelling vision to offer our kids. And maybe that’s because we have so fully (and perhaps unintentionally) succumbed to the Australian middle class dream rather than seeking the kingdom.

In my early years of teaching I spent a lot of time encouraging kids to be missionaries, overseas workers and the like with the disclaimer that if God didn’t want you there then maybe you could go to uni, get  a job etc…  It was a primitive, unsophisticated attempt to articulate some of what I am thinking of here – an inversion of popular thinking to try and provoke a different imagination. I don’t think there is any particular merit in full time Christian work, but I have often wondered why it is seen as an exception – as needing a ‘special call’. Does anyone get ‘called’ to be a plumber?

Tonight over dinner we discussed this with my kids and I had the joy of telling them Jackie Pullinger’s story, how as a 19 year old girl she hopped on a boat bound for China because she felt the call of Jesus to be a missionary and she wanted to follow him. I am guessing it wasn’t the direction most people would have imagined a 19 year old girl taking, but what a life she has lived.

For what its worth I think our world needs engineers, teachers lawyers, and all of those other professions and we need Christians to fill those roles as much as people of other faiths. So it’s not the vocational choice that is the issue.

It’s the package.  The predictable trajectory of life that every young person seems cursed to take, unless they are willing to think differently, unless they are willing to resist the societal forces that seek to form them into responsible, productive upwardly mobile clones.

Perhaps rather than telling our kids to study hard, work hard, do the right thing… etc we should teach them to listen to God, teach them the heart of Jesus and encourage them to seek what he wants first.

Maybe that will finish with them getting an engineering degree and a well paying job, but the mindset that accompanies it may well be a very different one.

Is that too idealistic? Am I just being grumpy? Or can we hope to raise children and young adults who will say ‘to live is Christ – to die is gain’, and to live their lives for the sake of others because they have had that idea embedded in their psyche far more powerfully than ‘be rich, be happy?’

Red Dirt Adventures


A couple of months back we were sitting having lunch with good friends B & M when B announced ‘We’re going on holidays over Easter’.

‘Are WE?’ I said… ‘I didn’t realise.’

‘You can come’ says B… and the rest was history. A whirlwind trip was planned to the Pilbara to visit the gorges in Karajini and a return visit to Wittenoom. It was the first serious jaunt for the big 60 and while I was confident, it is always a little nerve racking taking a 27 year old car into that kind of territory.

We headed off on Easter Thursday evening following our church service. After a route stuff up which saw us backtrack 40ks we finally got somewhere south of Dalwallinu around 11.00pm and called it a night on the side of the road.


An early start got us on the road headed for Newman. We stopped in Dalwallinu for fuel and iced coffees and I made that horrible mistake of forgetting to check if there is toilet paper in the holder… There was no easy solution this time…

Back on the road, we managed to get to Newman by 5.30 and set up for the night. The most tedious part of the drive was over and apart from some sore butts we had done it in pretty good time. On 100k/hr the Cruiser averaged around 14l/100kms which I was pretty happy with as we were going hard and were fully loaded.


From Newman it was that sensational drive into Karajini. I don’t think there are many more stunning drives around than leaving Newman and seeing those rugged rock mountains, covered in spinifex rise out of the ground. Its a very masculine landscape and yet awesomely beautiful at the same time. It was one of the most worshipful moments I have had for a while.

We made it to our camp spot just out of the national park and where we could camp for free. We did the set up and made for Weano Gorge. It was mid 30’s and pretty warm so we were ready to get wet.

On the walk out to Handrail pool I managed to slip my leg between two rocks and scored a massive bruise all up the shin. Very painful and not fun on the first day.


The next few days were spent visiting a couple of gorges each day – Circular pool, Fortescue Falls, Joffre, Knox and a couple of others. We’d get home late in the afternoon, send Danelle and the kids out to collect firewood and then relax for the evening around the campfire.


We left Karajini after 3 days and drove into Tom Price for a night to top up our water supplies, get some food and fuel up again. It was a shame to leave the bush, but the Tom Price park at the bottom of Mt Nameless is pretty spectacular too and it was nice to have a shower…

I had managed to get a puncture while in the gorges so we got that fixed and enjoyed some coffees from the coffee machine. The next day we left Tom Price for Hamersley Gorge before heading on to Wittenoom and managing to score the prime camp spot by the gorge with the most water in it. Its a stunning spot and as remote as you will find anywhere. We hit the tracks and followed the road into the old mine, but with a heap of asbestos tailings lying around we thought it better to head back out.











We spent the next two days exploring that area and just relaxing. I still find Wittenoon a fascinating place.

No one was inspired for the drive home, but then that’s how it goes when you’ve had a fantastic holiday and are looking down the barrel of 16 hrs of driving..

We tried to leave Wittenoom around 9, but discovered that the newly fitted radiator in the Cruiser was getting hot and had actually lost 5l of water over the time we were there. It was good we discovered it before actually hitting the road as it was well past coping. We decided to try and top it up and get by. Fortunately it worked and got us home with no dramas and its going in for its fix up tomorrow.

Our halfway stop on the journey was the aboriginal mission at Karalundi about 60ks north of Meekatharra, a great campsite with grass, showers, toilets and all you need for an overnight stop but back from the main road. We only saw it briefly but given the options are limited in that part of the world we thought it was great.

The drive home was nasty… Rain started in Cue and by Wubin it was pelting down. The final 300ks was just a case of smashing along bumpy roads in the rain and then when we finally reached home we had to unpack in driving rain.

The sunny days of the northwest were gone and it was back to the hard and (very) cold reality of home.

Until next time…