Thursday, October 19, 2006


I have been having a discussion over at about the socalled stewardship theology as opposed to "poverty theology" and "prosperity theology"

Some clever people have tried to make those that believe following Jesus means making a huge change in how your money is used, into some new breed ascetics that find some kind of personal piety in not having much. And they have profered this idea of stewardship as the proper balance between two equally extreme abherant teachings.

Well let me just put my opinion out there, and I hope you will all be able to understand where I am coming from: that is a pile of shit!


The accurate portrayal of the so called poverty gospel, says that we take the issue of stewardship to be part and parcel of the gospel. We see it as impossible to say we worship a homeless man on Sunday and ignore one on Monday. We see the idea of living in splendour while people are starving all around the world, and people are dying because they have no clean drinking water, and people dying for lack of medicine for preventable disease, as all issues of stewardship. We believe that there is enough stuff to meet all of the needs of the world, but that our consumerist society has embraced this insane philosophy of more, to the detriment of our neighbors afar and close.

The "poverty doctrine" says that we will not only live more fulfilled lives but actually follow Jesus more accurately by living simply, so others might simply live. That if you have too much stuff, you have someone elses stuff.

This doctrine states that we are to be stewards of this world, and that means cherishing it and protecting it as the maginificent artwork God has created. To seek for ways to erase our dirty foot prints, and live in ways that are complementary to nature, not just consuming of it. This is all about stewardship.

However, this idea of stewardship is turned on its head by a faulty interpretation of scripture. The idea of stewardship becomes the idea of "God gave me all this money I should use it and invest it and make myself as secure as I can with it, so I am being a good steward of what God has given me. In other words, we have take our individualistic consumeristic culture and used it to turn Gods word into an excuse for us to take care of number one. It is simply a justification for selfishness. Or in some of our more virtuous friends, for familyishness. And it gets more extreme, "if I have this extra money I should invest it not give it to the poor, because then I can make more money, and then I will have more to give to the poor, but why shouldn't I invest that too? And ofcourse I should by a bigger house so I can use it for Gods glory, (which usually means I will have a church barbeque there once or twice a year and maybe have someone over for dinner, rather than taking in a single mother or asylum seekers. And ofcourse I should be the Mercedes, it has a higher resale value and is safer and I want to protect my family its all about being a good steward mate!"

Yes I believe in stewardship, but not in this Christian version of it, no thats not what I mean at all.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Watched this movie for the first time a few days ago. It was a moving film that caused me to laugh often, cry a few times and to be in utter confusion for parts as well. The story of a group of slaves that effected a mutiny on their slave ship, and were then captured and put on trial, is based on a historical trial in the United States. This trial became a very tricky political game between the north and the south of the United States over slavery, as well as an international issue between the US and Spain.

What struck me particularly was the speach at the end of the movie by John Quincy Adams to the Supreme Court, where he reads a letter from one of the current US presidents high officials. This letter explains that for all of history people have taken slaves. That it was natural to have slaves, and was part of human nature that the strong would rule over the weak. That slavery was as much a part of the human condition as war. He then goes on to explain he has a different understanding of human nature, one that is based on Freedom.

But it does bring up the question, is it possible that the things we consider human nature now will someday be considered barbaric, and wrong?

I struggle to see how a society could ever tolerate the horrors of slavery, but not only did we, we still are in some cultures. But I can't understand how people accept war, and the death penalty either. Nor can I understand how we as a society can accept abortion as a legitmate medical precedure.

So where does this touch on my own personal message? Simply this, when we are willing to walk in the truth of the kingdom of God, then and only then can we truly hope for a day when the injustices of todays world are overturned, where the accepted wrongs of our day are found to be barbaric. If this world is to have a future worth staying alive for we must live in a way that protects our home planet, that seeks justice for even the least of us, that seeks to live a life that is sustainable, and to seek to live in the law of love.

I hope someday the world will be filled with people that look back on our day and don't understand how we could have justified the way we live.


Monday, October 16, 2006

More of Matthew

So after Jesus' temptation in the desert, we see the beginning of His public ministry. But it is again very different, from what we would expect. We forget the scandal and shock of this truth, but he does not move to Jerusalem. No, he makes his home in Capernum. And in so doing fulfils prophecy, however, this prophecy is interesting. This prophecy does not speak of this land as a wonderful place to bring up children, or one of the most liveable cities in Judea. No this prophecy talks about the darkness, and the shadow of death. Jesus does not begin in the capital, but rather on the margins.

So we have the Messiah, the Christ, the heir to the throne of David beginning His ministry out in the unwanted lands, among the unimportant people. And who does he pick for companions? Bible scholars? Religious leaders? The charismatic opinion makers of His day? No, he finds some fishermen, and their friends. Again, as this coming king, begins to announce His kingdom, he enlists an army of working class people, from working class lands far away from the pomp of the palace, and the glory of the temple. The kingdom is proclaimed out in the dark places, and the king is the friend of the ordinary bloke.

And what does he do? He heals broken, sick and hurting people. He brings hope to the poor, and cares for those that no one else cares for. This new kingdom does not start in the center, but on the edges. And the king at the center of it all, is a compassionate healer, who takes the time for those that others do not take the time for.

And he announces, repent, for the kingdom of heaven is here. Turn away from your own kingdoms, for this kingdom is here now. And this revolution is starting among the normal everyday average people, in the everyday average neighborhoods.

God's kingdom doesn't start in places of power, and prestige, that is the old way. This new kingdom says the first are last, and the last first. This new kingdom starts not among the elite, but among the castaways. This new kingdom is heralded not from the temple, but from the dessert. And is not come by the voices of the priests, but rather a man of dubious lineage with a ragtag bunch of regular folk. Make no mistake though, the kingdom may start in capernum, and the decapolous, it may start in Riverside, and Sunshine and St. Albans. The march may start out in the fringes, in the trailer parks in Detroit, and the orphanages in Cambodia. And the kingdom revolution may start with fisherman, and builders, and street cleaners. But it always winds up confronting the powers that be. It may not start in Melbourne or Canberra, but it will wind up there. It may not start in the white house in Washington DC but it will march upon those steps. It may not start on the hills of Rome, but it will change everything there.

It is time we understand that this revolution starts with people like us, that believe a new way of life. That believe the promises of this world are hollow, untrue and fleeting. It is time we understand that as we walk out the kingdom of God, from our small places, and in our small lives that we will shake the world. Because it is always so, when the kingdom of God comes, eventually all other kingdoms will fall. Remember the gates of hell will not prevail against the church.

It is also time we realize that the only way this ever gets overthrown, is when we sell out the kingdom of God, for the kingdoms of this world, including the kingdom of the church.

I pray that the spirit of revolution will awaken in me, and in you.


Monday, October 09, 2006

Where did the Christians go?

a footnote from irresistible revolution:

The story of Minucius is a beautiful glimpse of irresistible revolution. As a lawyer who was persecuting Christians, Minucius understood the empire and teh religious establishment well. But he soon caught the contagion of love. Here's what he had to say abou Christians before his conversion in AD 200: "They despise temples as if they were tombs. They despise titles of honour and the purple robe of high government office though hardly able themselves to cover their nakedness.... They love one another before being acquanted. They practice a cult of lust, calling one another brother and sister indiscriminately"

And here's what he says after his convesion: " why do they have no altars, no tmeples, no images? What temple shal I build him (GOD) when the whole world, the work of His hands, cannot contain him? SHould we not rather make a sanctuary for him in our souls? The whole heaven and teh whole earth and all things beyond the confines of the world are filled with God... I would almost say: we live with him. What a beautiful sight it is for God when a Christian mocks the clatter of the tools of death and the horror of the executioner: when he defends and upholds his liberty in the face of kings and princes, obeying God alone to whome he belongs. Among us boys and frail women laugh to scron torture and teh gallows cross and all the other horrors of executions" from The early CHristians in their own words by Eberhard Arnold

I think this is a very powerful little footnote. We should change the words a bit and see if it still fits. They despise big ornate buildings, They despise political office, and armani suits, and designer clothes, even though they are dressed in thrift store rags, they love and accept everyone even the homeless and the insane, and they are cultlike in the way they care for each other like everyone was part of one family.



Sunday, October 08, 2006

yesterdays message

We have worked our way up to the fourth chapter of Matthew. I know I have already said it, but it is important to remember both who is telling this story, and to whom he is telling it. Matthew, was a tax collector for the Romans. He would have been despised by the Jewish people as a traitor to their race, and it is to these people that he writes. But Matthew seems to be a bit of a radical, as he confronts the issues of the day, and of what it means to be the messiah.

In Chapter four of Matthew we read about the forty days in the desert and the temptation of Jesus. There are some strange things going on here. Once again, Jesus starts His ministry out in the desert, on the fringe. He is lead by the Spirit into the desert suggesting both the fact that Jesus was lead, and that He was lead to temptation. And we see the devil quoting scripture, which can have some interesting discussions in and of itself. And we see Jesus embark on a natural fast, though a very long one. We can discern from this that Jesus was a healthy man, not overly large, probably wirey with a bit of insulation, to become hungry again at forty days rather than 21 to 30 would mean he did have some stored fuel.

But I would like to look at the three temptations.

The first was after He became hungry to make the stones bread. Now we are talking about Jesus here, he made water into wine, and multiplied bread, what is the problem with this miracle? Why would this be wrong? He was hungry, and dangerously needed food, this seems like a fairly routine little miracle. But Jesus, became man and layed down his divine attributes. His reliance was on the Father and the Spirit, just like our is. In order for Jesus to access the miraculous on His own, He would have to deny the incarnation and put back on His "Godly attributes" This temptation was to stop being a man, and return to being self sufficient. Jesus cannot truly ask us to follow Him if He is not followable. But didn't He do many miracles later? No, He acted as a conduit for the Father and the Spirit, just like we are called to. Jesus tells us, "I only do what I see the Father doing" Jesus, just like us, prayed for the sick trusting in the Fathers power. Even the resurection is explained through this grid, "the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead gives life to your mortal bodies". (After service I was questioned about this a bit, and good on them for doing so, 'but Jesus was God' yes He was, but becoming man He of His own volition layed down His Godly attributes and lived as we do. I affirm the absolute divinity of Jesus, as I also affirm the absolute humanity of Jesus)

The second temptation was to throw Himself off the temple and allow God's angels to rescue Him. Satan uses scripture here. But Jesus resists the temptation to spectacular, by quoting scripture himself. In this Jewish culture expecting the Christ, the spectacular was expected. This would have given Jesus instant credibility among the elite Jewish leaders. It would have instantly created a cult of personality, and a head on fight with Rome. Matthew instead shows us the coming messiah, as a humble man that says, "look, please don't tell anybody" He isn't looking for press coverage, but rather is looking to lead a revolution from the fringes, from the margins. A revolution that starts in the hearts of small insignificant people, and communities that accept the vision for the kingdom of God, for a completely new way of living, and thinking and loving. This revolution will not be televised.

The third temptation Satan offers is basically the entire world, all of its kingdoms and all of its power and glory. Jesus doesn't dispute Satans ability to deliver this promise. But he stands strong against it. You see Jesus was not coming to win over all of the kingdoms of the world, but rather to bring the kingdom of God into the world, and overwhelm these contrary kingdoms. You see all of these other kingdoms, and their glory are lead by the god of this world. There is no kingdom that is not under the power of the temptor.

Remember again we are talking to a Jewish people, who looked at satan not as some demonic figure, but as an agent of God sent to tempt people. This is the ruler of this world, who lures us towards power. The power of influence, and fame, and money and political might. All of these kingdoms are offered to Jesus, I will give you these kingdoms if you worship me. But Jesus understands that His kingdom is not built on the powers, but exists only as our hearts and love is given over to God rulership. Jesus must follow God to the cross, that is the kingdom, the kingdom of God comes from sacrifice, and losing ones life for others. There is no short cut from the cross.

The problem with our modern church today is not our understanding of Jesus cross. I think we understand it very well. We understand the love of God through it, forgiveness through it, atonement, and judgement and prophetic fulfilment through it. Our problem is not in misunderstanding Jesus cross, but not recognizing our own. We are called to lay down our life, like Jesus did. Though we are alive, still sacrifice ourselves for others. Romans 12 explains that this is our call, to be living sacrifices holy and acceptable to God. I believe the devil tempts us the same way today, he asks us to surrender to the power of politics, and influence, to bring about the kingdom in another way, but the only way to bring God's kingdom is the cross. First through Jesus' cross, and now through our own. May we all find the truth in the scripture "she who seeks to find her life will lose it, and she who seeks to lose her life for my sake will find it"


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Cricket starts

Had a good first practice with the team last night. They had started practice together already, but as they were doing it on Sunday mornings I have not been available. So I went to the nets with some friends to get in shape. Last night I had a lot of fun. Some great guys at the cricket club, I bowled and batted alright, felt very comfortable out there.

So I was picked in the thirds for this weekend, and I can't wait to play. Hope I get a few overs with the ball, and take a bag of wickets. :)

Cricket is a wonderful game.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Soren speaks again

I am reading an awesome book suggested by a dear friend named Elisa that I don't talk about enough. She is a wonderful, creative and sacrificial person that has raised three amazing children that refuse to accept the life offered them by our culture and long for something different, something better. And what is a greater act than giving birth to such spirit?

The book is called The Irresistable Revolution, by Shane Claiborne and you should read it.

This is a quote from Soren Kierkegaard:

the matter is quite simple. The bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. Take an words in the new testement and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever got on in the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church's prodigious invention to defend itself against the bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the new testement.

I am proud to be Danish when reading Soren's words.


Monday, October 02, 2006

The baptism of Jesus

Again, I am focusing on the subversive nature of Matthews gospel. And here again we are confronted with a surprising couple of facts. The first is that the announcement and annointing of the Christ, the Messianic heir to the throne of David, the King of Kings, happens out in the desert. And the one who does the annointing is this crazy prophet, who lives on the fringe, both culturally and locationally. John is a weird ascetic, who preaches out on the margins, and yet the crowds come to him.

Now the fact that this drama has already been entirely outside of Jerusalem is very subversive in a Jewish culture. Jerusalem is the center of their faith. It is the house of God, the promised kingdom, the home of David and the promise of Israel. This is where the people of God come to celebrate the feasts and to worship and to be forgiven of sins. And yet, out in the desert places, their lives a priest that preaches repentance. And the people wind up going to the margins, to find redemption.

Not only that, but this illustrates another point. When one works with the marginalised and the poor, particularly when one does so exclusively, you always get the questions, or accusations, "what about those that are not poor or marginalised don't they need Jesus too?" Well I believe this passage shows us that when you work on the fringe, away from the mainstream, and the center of power, and privlidge. When you work away from the center of worship, and religious heriarchy. These people actually come to the fringe, they make their way there. Even the leaders, the priests, the big shots. The reason why is when those that were hopeless have hope, those that think they have hope realize its all conditional, and they find themselves wanting that kind of hope that can shine in such darkness. Jesus, and John started on the margins as this is what opens the eyes of those at the center.

Again subversively Matthew tells of John's interaction with the Pharisees and Sadducees. Lets just say he wasn't very nice! YOU SNAKES, WHO WARNED YOU OF YOUR IMPENDING JUDGEMENT? DON'T COME OUT HERE AND TRY AN PLAY AT BEING SPIRITUAL, YOU MUST ACTUALLY CHANGE YOUR LIVES! hmmm not very pc John. Imagine being a first century Jew and reading about this prophet that gives no esteem to the leaders and teacher of your day. This mad man out in the desert in skins, and eating bugs. The hermit out in the wastelands, condemning the religious elite of the day.

And then Jesus comes to him, and asks to be baptised. John doesn't want to, it isn't right, you are the lamb of God and I am not worthy to tie your shoe, let alone baptise you. But Jesus insists, saying it is neccesary for righteousness. What does that mean? It means Jesus would not ask us to follow the course He did not take himself. Jesus enters the symbolic death and resurection, and then experiences the empowering of the Spirit for ministry, exactly in the same way he asks us to. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords, is so commited to this new way of leadership that he submits to baptism, and waits for God's Spirit before he goes into ministry. The subversive, revolutionary point is simple. Jesus will not ask us to do what he has not already done, even ritually. The new covenant was started with the creator of the world, entering into our new life path. And then the good shepherd says, follow me.

I love that.


Sunday, October 01, 2006

Sunday morning sermon

Well, I am still following N T Wright into some deeper waters. I spoke at the clan meeting for Red Network Sunday morning. The clan meeting is the once a month gathering of all of our smaller tribes (regionally centered smaller communities). I shared some of the thoughts I have been getting from "the challenge of Jesus" by NT Wright.

I started by explaining how the Jewish culture of Jesus day was living in exile in their own land. They were being ruled over by people that did not believe what they believe, nor live the way they lived. It was a cultural, political and religious divide. And there were three ways that they chose to deal with this. These three ways were defined by three groups.

The pharisees and zealotts who believed that they must be good and righteous jews keeping all of the traditions strictly and God would come deliver them

The Sadducees who believed that they should work politically alonside of Rome in order to secure for themselves a good way of life. Don't be "too jewish" and lets all just get along.

The essenes who advocated leaving it all, forming their own communities and ignoring all outside.

We discussed how in our culture we face similiar things, and discussed how different Christian groups among us have chosen to deal with things in the same manner as our ancient Jewish forebears.

Please don't be offended these are gross generalizations

pharisees fundementalists, holiness groups

zealotts political right, we must take control

sadducees emerging church, seeker sensitive, prosperity gospel

essenes Amish, Christian youth culture, pentecostal church

But the truth is we all do a bit of each of these. But my point was that Jesus came to this culture, and these ways of looking for the kingdom of GOd, and brings a completely different idea. Infact He tells us to repent from these attempts and accept the kingdom of God, brought by Himself.

This kingdom says, do not be conformed to culture be salt to your culture, and if you are no longer salty you are really not good for anything. This kingdom says that by our good deeds and our love for others we will be a bright and shining light for all to see, and this will extend the kingdom. Jesus tells us to leave off our running away, because we cannot hid our lamp under a bushell. This is the new kingdom, an upside down kingdom where the least is the best, where the first will be last, and where love is the law. Repent and believe the good news, the kingdom of God is here, but you have to choose to live in it.