Saturday, December 31, 2005

Twenty one years of following Jesus

Last night while sitting in the backyard with a few good friends, my daughters and their friends squealing loudly in the little blow up pool in our back yard trying to cool off in the 40 degree heat (slightly over a hundred for our US friends), I remembered that night twenty one years ago, when I decided to follow Jesus. I haven't stopped since.

I had met a girl at my moms church that I thought was pretty good looking. I asked her out and we went on a date. Everything went wrong, I even couldn't find the latch to unlock the petrol tank. But I was charming enough to secure a second date. She suggested we go to the New Years eve party at her brother in laws, and I figured that would be fine.

What happened there that night changed my life forever. Here were a people that seemed to genuinely love one another, in a natural way. There was an atmosphere created by this love that was profoundly different. What was really surprising to me is they showed this love to me as well. I was an outsider, dating one of their cherished young women, but they accepted me, and lavished this strange love on me. I found myself wanting to spend a lot more time with these people, and to be able to be part of this kind of community.

At midnight they got in a circle, there was about thirty-five of us. Starting about two seats to my right Terry, who was the host and the husband of my dates sister, said he would like to usher in the new year by giving testimony of Jesus work in his life the previous year. And he talked about how God had met him in his day to day life. Then he looked to his right and the next person began to talk. I was relieved I was going to be almost last. But as I sat listening to story after story of God's work among these people, I began to understand where this love came from.

When my turn came I told everyone that I had not experienced God the previous year, but that night was making a decision to experience Him from that day forward. There was no sinners prayer, no altar call, but that night, among those beautiful people, I found Jesus, and have been following him ever since.

Maybe this is why I love small group church, the stories of God's interaction with people, the irresistable nature of community outreach. These were the beginnings of my journey, and I am ofcourse colored and biased by them.

In the last 21 years a lot has changed, I have changed, I have two children and a loveley wife. I have had many faith experiences, many church expressions, many ministries. The two things I will forever hold on to from that night however are these:

God indwells His people


The way we love one another, shows the reality of Christ

I hope you have a wonderful new year

the rev

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Not a big fan of the word. Makes me feel pretty inadequate. Never been a very disciplined person for the most part. But the strange thing is, I am capable of intense discipline for short periods of time, or even extended periods if I have a goal. Training for an mma fight I would be able to watch my diet meticulously, train very hard even when others weren't watching. Continue well past the pain threshhold. I remember getting to a point where I just did what Javier Vazquez and Romie Aram said. Didn't matter that I couldn't breath properly, that my legs were burning, that I literally was having trouble just standing up. If they said one more wind sprint, then one more wind sprint it was.

I remember one morning at seven oclock, I was in the basement of Millennia Jiu Jitsu, where I trained for my fights. There was noone around. I was doing laps of bear crawls, wind sprints, step ups, squats and pushups. I was trying to push myself beyond that quiting instinct. While I was on all fours trying to race around the mat, I felt like God spoke to me. He said this is where the battle is won. When no one is looking, when you are all by yourself.

I knew He wasn't talking about the fight, but rather life. Life has been called a fight, a marathon, a contest. But often we only perform when the lights are on and the crowd is cheering. But it is how we behave when no one is watching that really matters, that is where the game is won.

I have been getting up early each morning before the wife and kids are up, and going to the nets to practice my bowling. This little act of discipline, which has the very selfish goal of helping me to perform better at cricket, has reminded me of the need for my discipline in my God life as well. So I pray, I read, I remember the sacrifice of Jesus, and I bowl some leg breaks.

I hope I win!

the rev

Ever get a song stuck in your head?

Well this morning I have two songs stuck in my head:

All to Jesus I surrender
all to Him I freely give
I will ever love and trust him
in His presence daily live

I surrender all
I surrender all
all to Thee my blessed saviour
I surrender all


Make me like you Lord
make me like you
you are a servant
make me one too
Lord I am willing
do what you must do
to make me like you Lord
make me like You

Man, I better go listen to some Nirvana quick. If I don't get this outta my head soon, something crazy might happen.

the rev

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Every year for many years I was expected to come up with a Christmas teaching. They were supposed to be different from the last few years, unique, inspiring etc. Sometimes I would let it really wind me up, and sometimes I would have something I really wanted to share. But ultimately, how many times could you say the same thing a different way?

This year I would just say this, Jesus came to us. He came humbly. He was a fragile little baby. Relied on others to feed Him, change his dirty nappies, and protect Him. The voice that spoke the universe into being, was now voiceless, just the gurgle and ga ga of a tiny child. The creator of the universe, as this fragile, humble little thing. This is how it started.

The little baby, ofcourse, grows into an amazing man. But still suffers with hunger, tiredness, aching muscles. His status in society is one of menial labourer. He is looked down upon, made fun of, and has His lineage questioned.

He starts His ministry by submitting to another. Picks the most unlikely group to be His followers, fishers, tax gatherers, zealots. He hangs out with a very un-important crowd. His last great act of defiance, is the lowering himself to common slave status washing even the betrayers feet. And then gives His life, the life of the Creator, for us.

I wish this Christmas for Christ to come and be born in me. And I also pray I will allow Him to be the same servant, giving up power, for love.

the rev

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

there is no race problem!!! sure there isn't

Some stuff I have read on an Australian martial arts forum.

"I'm surpised it took so long to happen, the lebos have been out of control for over 10 yrs in Sydney... "

"I think this kind of thing has been brewing for some time. i dont even live in sydney but even i have heard plenty of stories about the lebs and i think it's about time we AUSSIES started to stand up to this sh#t. I also think that most of Australia shares this view. I think this is just the beginning and we will see this happen in other parts of Australia also. "

"Most lebanese youths have no respect. Aussie familys should be able to go out to the beach and not feel intimidated or be harassed. It's a shame but, Sydney has been ruined by ethnics and there gangs and gutless tactics. "

"The flawed ideology of multiculturalism has reared it's ugly head.
Unfortunately for us, it is something that is enforced by our self-serving politicians of vested interest and we, the average Aussies, end up footing the bill as a result of having what's supposed to be good for us dictated to us from nanna. "

These quotes are not all from one person either. Now there are other posts as well condemning what happened, and saying how upset they are. But the fact is this is a racial issue and must be dealt with as such. The recent issues with Muslim extremist terrorism, and the politics behind it only fuel the fires.

Atleast it hasen't escalated to the levels of US riots. Was a bit scary being in Southern Cal during the LA riots.

the rev

Monday, December 12, 2005

Whiskey don't make liars...(racial violence in Sydney)

I never intended to bend the rules but

Whiskey don't make liars it just makes fools

so I didn't mean to say it

but I meant what I said

too long in the wasteland, too long in the wasteland

must of gone to my head - James McCurtry

I know I may not have a right to say what I think in this Australian drama, especially with so much going on back at home with the execution of Tookie, and the issues following hurricane Katrina, but as the big mouthed American I just can't help myself.

I was appalled at what happened, I was appalled at the response of the police, and I was appalled at the ridiculous comments of the Prime Minister John Howard. But I will stick to the latter here.

The ridiculous statements that this was not a racial thing, that Australia doesn't have racial problems, and that this was more about alcohol, than race infuriated me. Like the song above, I do not believe alcohol makes you lie, it just takes away your inhibitions. These drunk people acting like kkk members were not just acting drunk, they were acting racist. The drinking allowed them to act in a way that was contrary to their social training, but their sentiments were truly held. This was a racial thing, it must be treated as such. As an American I can say that where I grew up had its racial problems, but it wasn't as bad as other areas like the deep south. But I have experience much more racism here, than I did in Southern California. The number of times I have heard comments that made my toes curl is frightening. I have heard things I would only expect to hear from the reddest of red necks or the neo nazi skin heads back home with surprising regularity.

It is my opinion that the correct way to deal with this is not denial, but rather acceptance. Yes we have a racist past, yes we a legacy left to us from this, and the way forward is to reject this and grow together as a community. The government should acknowledge the problem as the first step towards dealing with the problem. I will admit that we in the US have a long way to go towards overcoming our past, and I would hope that I can with my Australian friends here say we have a long way to go to overcome the past here as well.

To be fair, I will also say that it would help if the attacked community would not only claim racism, (which is fair enough, thats what it was), but also address some of the issues that brought the racism out in the open, they might have a bit more luck dealing with the issues. When Jesse Jackson got up and chewed out the African American community for taking part in their problems, and exhorted them to live right, it went a long way in restoring some trust in the African American leadership. Finger pointing rarely gets us forward.

I sincerely hope this can serve as a wake up call, and a start towards a new better future. I also hope it doesn't descend into a more and more violent racial struggle. I pray for my new country, I pray for these darker skinned brothers of mine, I pray for the lighter skinned brothers of mine, I pray for myself. Let love win here, let hatred be defeated, let peace reign.

I am sure I offended some people here, feel free to let me have it.

the rev

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

to boldly go where no man has gone before

Monday morning I talked about pioneering ministry. We have a bit of experience starting from scratch, and I was asked to talk a bit about starting churches or ministries from scratch.

Talked a bit about the need to just be willing to have a go. But also to bring atleast one other person with you. A lot of this is just having the guts to jump in there and try it. And there seemed to be some importance to Jesus about sending his disciples in atleast twos.

I talked about the need to pray. Now many people think of prayer as begging God for something until He gets tired of your nagging and gives it to you. We do this with church planting and evangelism as well as material things, sickness and emotions. You have all heard the stories, just pray long and hard enough and God will give you a church. Well my concept of prayer is not like this. I really believe in prayer walks, allowing God to talk to us and reveal to us the spiritual truth of our neighborhoods. I remember walking through East Los Angeles in prayer, and seeing that all of the houses had bars on all of their windows. God used this to show me the fear of this neighborhood, and to help me understand how fear can turn a home into a prison. Ofcourse praying for people in our alone time can yield the same kinds of insights if we listen more than ask.

Lastly I talked about the idea of the person of peace. Jesus instructed His disciples to find people of peace, people that were open to them, and to the gospel. It is these people that allow us access into a culture. Sometimes these people may not accept our teaching, but they accept us, and through these relationships many doors to the community are opened. Rather than banging our head against the wall we are to seek out those that welcome us, and in turn introduce us to the community.

the rev

Monday, December 05, 2005

Christian Leadership

Saturday night at the FORGE intensive I shared on leadership from a Christian perspective. Though my presentation included video, and images, I will try to in some way convey what I spoke about.

My first thoughts were about the need for leadership in the church. Well really in the world, we hear it in every enterprise and endeavour. "We need leaders". "Leaders are the need of the day". "The pressing need of our time is good leadership". It is constantly pointed out that we are in a leadership drought. But what is it that we consider a leader. I showed some film clips. Braveheart, Malcom X, Return of the King. We looked at leadership as portrayed in these movies. We want men, (maybe grudgingly women too), that can inspire us, that can motivate us, that can cause us to rise up against all odds, and fight the good fight. We long for Aragorns, with their good looks, powerful presence, and brilliant tactics. They can eloquently call us to the future, pointing clearly towards a triumphant vision, a dream, a fulfillment. And is it any surprise we find ourselves lacking in leaders? Who can fill that roll? "Not many, if any, I don't know anybody"- scribe

But Jesus talked about, and showed us a different view of leadership. Jesus told us that the way the worlds leaders rule over people should not be our way, and that in Christ's kingdom, the leader should be the servant of all.

I of course had three points:

The world wants visionary leaders, leaders that paint a picture of the greater future, and then inspire us to fight everything to get there. Funny Jesus didn't seem so visionary at times. "they will hate you as they hated me" "They will persecute you and kill you" "you will be cast out and despised" "I send you out as lambs among wolves". Not very inspiring there Jesus!!! But Jesus was a visionary leader, He gave us a vision of who we are. In this Malcolm X was a better example than Martin Luther King jr. We find people saying the strangest things about Malcolm X, I didn't agree with him at all, but I sure loved him. How does that work? Well Malcolm X gave the african American men and women a vision of themselves. They were not slaves, ghetto dwellers, criminals, they were sons and daughters of kings and princes, they were a noble, strong, powerful people. Jesus did this. He wasn't concerned with retaking Jerusalem, He was concerned with sons and daughters of God, realizing their place in the kingdom. He gave us a vision of who we really were, and a vision of who God really is. The loving father anxiously awaiting our return. If we want to be leaders in Christ mold, we must follow Him in this.

Point two, the world leaders are charismatic. They lead by force of personality and often manipulation. But Jesus calls us to lead by service. "He who would be great among you should be the servant of all" Jesus illustrates this point over and over again, but sees this as so central to His future church, he takes His last moment to show the disciples just how important this is, by taking off his outer clothes, wrapping himself in a towel, and doing the lowest of the servant duties, washing His disciples feet. He kneels before them, and removes the dirt and grime from their journeys. Even of the one that will betray Him. In a world where leadership is such a strong, royal type of thing, we must remember this example set by Jesus. And I would challenge us to resist the temptation to make this example null and void by saying to ourselves, "the best way I can serve others is to be the strong leader they need". This type of misinterpretation in nothing short of blasphemy. I would be known by the way I serve rather than the way I preach, write, or even evangelize. Heaven knows this is not my nature, but it is CHrists nature, and He who dwells in me, is about the long, slow, torturous task of shedding the flesh.

Lastly, the leaders of this world lead by positional, and powerful authority, but a leader in the mold of Jesus, leads by spiritual authority. Too often we get these mixed up, and power, is always authoritative. We cannot accept that just because someone is powerful, and holds a position in the church that the authority they wield is spiritual authority. And I would say often it is not. Spiritual authority comes from one place, and this may be contentious, and controversial, but I would say spiritual authority only comes when one is willing to give up ones own life, and even salvation, for those they are leading. We see this in Gandhi, we see this in Martin Luther King jr, the early church fathers. But we see this very clearly in two of the most magnificent leaders in the bible, Moses and Paul. Moses pleads with God, in the midst of Israels debauchery, and idolatry, Lord, do not destroy this people, infact I would that you would destroy me, and save them. Paul expresses similiarly, If I could by giving up my own salvation, secure the salvation of my brothers and sisters of Israel I would do so. It is only from this that we see true spiritual authority. Jesus, ofcourse showed us the way. Giving up His life for us, and even taking our sin upon Him and being forsaken. He was willing to give up everything for the sake of those he served. Again we are reminded, he who seeks to save his life will lose it, and he who loses his life, for Christ's sake finds it.

As leaders we are called to give a vision of God, and of ourselves, to serve with abandon, and to lay down our own life for those we are given to. Then and only then are we imitators of Jesus, and if we are not imitators of Jesus, though we may be leaders, powerful, inspirational, charismatic and succesful, we will not be Christian leaders, but merely leaders that happen to be going to heaven.

the rev

Thursday, December 01, 2005

My daughter laughing

Went to bed a bit early tonight, had taken the sleeping pill the doctor gave me since I haven't been sleeping much because of my sickness. Was figuring it would be kicking in soon. I left her watching Billy Connely's world tour of New Zealand. Which is usually a very interesting sometimes funny show.

As I layed in bed not sleeping I hear my daughter laughing. What a beautiful sound. I felt my lips pulling back into a giant smile as I enjoyed my daughters laughter. I thought to myself that if I am truly made in the image of God, then He must take great joy in our laughter as well. Though the carrying of our cross, and the denying ourselves is serious business, it is business to be carried out with a joy, and an appreciation for God's medicine for the soul, laughter.

I am blessed to hear my daughter laugh. I am blessed to laugh with her. And God is blessed to watch His children smile and laugh and enjoy life. I pray that in our endeavours to reach people, to help people, to stand against injustice, and with the poor and the marginalized, we will also know the joy of laughter. We will also share the joy of laughter. And so doing, make our Daddy smile.

the rev