Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A credible witness

My friend Darren wrote this book, I would recomend you buy it right now! :)

Here is what Ash Barker has to say about it:

“Darren Cronshaw is an emerging Christian voice for our country. This new, inspiring book about models for Australian mission is drawn from characters in our founding as a nation. There is no sentimentality here, but neither is their cause for total despair. God has been and is currently at work in Australia. Darren shows us how to join this God who is found on the under-side of our history and offers us an opportunity to make a new, more just history too. This is the book every-one concerned with Australia’s future needs to read and take seriously. If you want to be both faithful to God and relevant to our times, then don’t miss out on ‘Credible Witness’.”

Director, Urban Neighbours Of Hope

you can get the book by clicking here.

I hope you do, Darren is a brillian thinker, has done heaps of research for this, and is a top bloke.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Always one of my favorite holidays, despite its sometimes dubious historical connotations. You get together with friends and family, you eat a lot, and you talk about what you are thankful of. Or atleast you feel a bit guilty for having so much when others have so little.

A few things I am thankful for, the Ashes series starts today, and this year it will really feel like thanksgiving, instead of watching football all day and then eating a big dinner, I will watch cricket all day and then eat a big dinner.

Great friends, that are committed to living in community, and seeing the kingdom come.

My wonderful wife and daughters who are my pride and joy.

A mother who not only thinks the sun shines out of my ass, but makes up good reasons why this is a logical position to take.

Having had some of the best mentors a guy could have throughout my life, Butch Plumber, Buddy Suitor, Dave Everitt, Neil Cole, Sam Metcalf, Carlos Estrada Vega, Fr. Bill Moore, Phil McCreddon, Alan Hirsch and others, I am truly blessed.

My current ministry, that has me more excited and more supported than ever before.

The sixty plus people eating turkey with me tonight.

So in the spirit of thanksgiving what are you thankful for?


Monday, November 20, 2006

Sabbath day

Yesterday was such a weird and wonderful day. We started out the day like we usually do, me making some coffee, spending a bit too much time on the computer, and then making lunch for my girls to take to school. But Mondays being Raquel and I's date day and our Sabbath, we tend to take it easy from there on out.

We were going to go to the beach for the day as it was supposed to be quite hot, and it actually was, but it was also very cloudy with a few rain drops. So we took Winston to the park for a run around. Winston hits the park and just starts running non stop till he is completely worn out. Then a woman walks by with one of the most beautiful little girls you have ever seen, my wife has taken some pics I'll try to put them up later. The little girl is terrified, and enthralled by Winston. So Raquel sits with Winston so she can pet him without being knocked over by his enthusiasm. We begin to speak with the woman who is from Sweden. It was a nice conversation and she tells us of her doctoral thesis, which is a study on "anti-Americanism" which I really would like to talk to her more about. We exchanged numbers and as they live around the corner will hopefully see them again.

Then we came home and did some planning for our Thanksgiving celebration. Just a chance to share our culture with our new friends and family. There will be about sixty eating with us this year. Lots to plan, three turkeys, three hams, and lots of recipes to be given out (aussies don't even know how to make candied yams with marshmallows).

Worn out by this we took a nap (sleeping too long and resulting in a bit of insomnia later)

We had a talk about our relationship and both decided we need to work on a few things, being on the computer less is my main objective.

Then we had a simple dinner.

And we watched Factotum, a movie based on a Bukowski novel. It was actually much more realistic than Barfly, with Matt Dillon playing a more subdued Bukowski than Mickey Rourke does. It was probably much truer to life but as such, was also a bit boring, and a bit depressing. But towards the end a poem is shared that I just love.

roll the dice

if you’re going to try, go all the
otherwise, don’t even start.

if you’re going to try, go all the
this could mean losing girlfriends,
wives, relatives, jobs and
maybe your mind.

go all the way.
it could mean not eating for 3 or 4 days.
it could mean freezing on a
park bench.
it could mean jail,
it could mean derision,
isolation is the gift,
all the others are a test of your
endurance, of
how much you really want to
do it.
and you’ll do it
despite rejection and the worst odds
and it will be better than
anything else
you can imagine.

if you’re going to try,
go all the way.
there is no other feeling like
you will be alone with the gods
and the nights will flame with

do it, do it, do it.
do it.

all the way
all the way.

you will ride life straight to
perfect laughter, its
the only good fight
there is.


Then we watched my favorite show on television, "Boston Legal" where there was an interesting line, "I almost died once, and at that moment I thought about who would miss me, I thought about who would be sad that I was gone, I wondered who out there loved me, at that moment I wondered if I was loved"

I know many of you who read my blog personally, and incase I haven't said it enough:

You are loved


Sermon on the mount part 5

We have now come to some of the most difficult passages in the whole of the new testement. I believe this is where Jesus begins to explain justice in the kingdom, and particularly in the kingdom breaking into the world.

Matthew chapter 5

An Eye for an Eye
38"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'[g] 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Love for Enemies
43"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor[h] and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you: Love your enemies[i] and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Jesus starts this sermon outlining the upside down nature of the kingdom of God, he then begins to tell us of our calling, He moves on to morality, and now he begins to talk about justice. Now this isn't Jesus call for justice for the poor, or the marginalized, but rather our sense of self justice. And he starts right at the heart of the matter with the "old way".

He says that the old way of eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth is not the rule for this kingdom. He then says some very extreme statements. Do not resist and evil person! If someone strikes you do not strike back! If someone is trying to take away your shirt, give them your coat also! If someone compells you to go with them a mile, go with them two, and give to whoever asks to borrow from you!!! Jesus tells Jewish men, who abhor the Romans, and feel incredibly wronged to be under their rulership, and believe they are justified to fight against this oppression, that when a Roman soldier tells you to walk with him a mile and carry his pack (a legally acceptable practice that could not be turned down) rather than fight against this oppression you are to go with them twice.

This seems completely unfair does it not? Do not resist an evil person? Come on! I take a very unique and uncommon view here, I actually believe that Jesus meant what He said. I believe this because He then spends his life demonstrating it. He actually does it, and then His disciples do it. He did not live like this was just some hyperbole, to make a point, He actually lived it out. And calls us to follow Him.

He then explains that God allows both good and evil to cop both good and evil. That the Father often appears unfair in his dealings with the world, and also calls us to do the same. To be perfect in our love for those that are good and friends, and for those that try to hurt and injure us. This is not easy. Infact is is very very hard. Almost as hard as being told to sell everything you own, give the money to the poor and live a life as an itinerate preachers apprentice. Rather than try and make this softer, easier, more palatable, I would rather say: this is Christ's teachings, and though I fall short, I will fall upon Gods mercy and empowerment, and attempt to grow into this level of faith. Lord help my unbelief!

The road is narrow, and hard, and few choose to walk it, but it truly does lead to life. Jesus is telling us as we walk this narrow road, our sense of personal justice is to be sacrificed to a new law of love. The good news is, God's Spirit promises to empower us to do just that.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sermon on the mount part 4

Now Jesus goes on to define morality in the kingdom. This is very important to understand as we noted in the last message, everything is getting turned on its head here. If our righteousness must exceed the pharisees in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, yet they kept the law religiously, then what is this new form of righteousness, or morality. In fairness there is a bit of a understanding of justice in a Hebrew understanding of righteousness, but this would already be known by the people. So just what are we talking about.

Jesus begins by talking about murder. Under the law it is wrong to murder, and if you murder someone you will be judged. But in the kingdom Jesus tells us that it is not only your actions towards your brother but the thoughts and words you have towards your brother that will condemn you. It becomes more than just a matter of your actions but a matter of your heart.

Jesus tells us that we should repair these relationships with our brothers and sisters, and even tells us that this is more important than religious ritual. Again saying that your rituals are not important, if your heart is not right.

Then he moves on to our sexuality. I saw a cartoon once where Moses comes down the mountain with the ten commandments and says, "I have good news and bad news", as everyone looks up expectantly he tells them, "the good news is I got him down to ten, the bad news is... adultery is still in". In regards to our sexuality, Jesus again tells us, it is said under the law that your actions will make you guilty or innocent, but in the kingdom, it is your heart that matters. Lusting after a woman is like commiting adultery in your heart. I know that is not what most of us men want to hear. It might make the girls feel better that Jesus doesn't specifically say you can't lust after a man, or even a woman for that matter, but I reckon its implied. It is our heart that is at issue here.

Then Jesus says a statement that has been misunderstood and actually regrettibly acted on in some severe moments of guilt. He says if your eye causes you to stumble pluck it out, or if your hand causes you to stumble cut it off. This use of hyperbole, it a teaching device to help us understand the point. The point is, sin is a matter of the heart, not our bodies. Our bodies do what our heart and mind tell us to do. Your eye cannot make you sin, and neither can your hand, but your heart and mind can and do. Jesus makes a nonsensical statement to help us get it.

He then goes on to tell us, stop with the pretense. No need for swearing, just do what you say you are going to do. If you say yes, you should be of enough integrity that that means yes, and the same with no. When you have to resort to swearing on your mothers grave, you are basically saying, "well I am usually a liar, but now I will tell the truth" it is all stupid Jesus tells us.

The key here is that morality becomes an issue of personal integrity, of our heart, and our mind. It becomes more than just an outward following of rules and regulations, of lists of do's and don'ts, but becomes a desire to follow the king, be the light of the world, and live in our world as a restorative, and pleasing flavour.


Monday, November 13, 2006

Sermon on the mount part 3

Well this one is a bit complex, and I was wondering how I would word it simply and consisely, so please forgive my tardiness.

I would remind us of the context of this passage, first off this is the first "sermon" that Matthew gives us explaining what exactly this kingdom of God is, and we must understand it is set in opposition to the expected military and spiritual kingdom the Jewish believers are expecting at this time. We also must remember that in this crowd we would expect to not only see pharisees, but a crowd of people that look up to the pharisees as the true moral, and devout Jews of their time.

Jesus started out telling us the upside down nature of the kingdom through the beatitudes, and then tells us how important it is to live this kingdom, in all its difference before the world. That the way we live will cause others to glorify God. And now he begins to touch on the issues of morality.

The Fulfillment of the Law
17"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Remembering that the Jewish culture of this time would think that the entire basis for morality is the keeping of the law, including the temple sacrifices, Jesus gives us a radical new vision of morality. He will go more into the specifics in the next verses, but for now we are hit with a few startling claims. Let me first give my impression of 17 and 18:

Jesus is saying that the law is not to pass away until it is completed, or fulfilled. But Jesus is the fulfilment of the law and the prophets. By His death and resurection all of the law is fulfilled, and finished. But these people are not listening post resurection, they are listening before that fulfilment. And they are therefore still under the law. Now there are those that would state that the law is still binding until the world passes away, and I will not argue this at this point, however I do believe Romans 7 explains that the law was indeed completed.

But regardless of your position on this point we wind up in a very difficult place now. For those that break the commands, and teach others to do the same will be called least "in the kingdom of heaven", but those that keep and teach them will be great in the kingdom. The point is, though they will be least they are still in the kingdom.

But then Jesus adds that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the pharisees and the scribes you won't even make it into the kingdom! Now we must understand that this crowd is made up of pharisees and those that believe the pharisees and scribes to be the best jews, the most righteous, the most moral, and they do not get into this kingdom. But those that do not keep the law, and teach others not to keep it, will be in, though they will be least. Isn't that a bit strange?

The point is that righteousness in the kingdom is no longer to be judged by adherance to the law, nor the result of temple sacrifices, but rather an issue of loyalty to the king, and to the law of love. Remember in this time these people thought that if they just keep the law well enough, and if they are devout enough, if they are Jews indeed and in deed, that God will overthrow the Romans and they will reclaim their right of rulership. Into this context Jesus says, no, the kingdom will not come by violence, it will not come in power, or political might, but it will come in being the example of people that truly are ruled by God, regardless of their circumstances. They are to enter this kingdom now, to live in this upside down kingdom of the weak are the strong, the poor are the rich, the suffering are the blessed. This is the kingdom, and righteousness is determined by your commitment to the king, not the law.

Even the most zealous keepers of the law the pharisees are not entering the kingdom of heaven until they lay down their worldly aspirations.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Intense focus

I just finished reading Muhamed Ali's autobiography. I really enjoyed it, it was weird that I didn't remember just how big of a deal his refusal to be drafted into the army and the resulting ban on his career was. That man, though being a braggart, really stood up time and time again.

But the strange thing that happened when I was reading this, was my missing fighting. Not the fights. But the training for fights. I wouldn't think it was strang to miss the fights themselves, the adenaline rush, the crowds cheering, the intensity of competition. I would understand missing that. But the training? Absolute hell, especially if you are cutting weight as well. I would do round after round of sparring with big guys who were only doing every fourth round. Getting hit, and slammed to the ground. Running sprints. 300 pushups and 500 sit ups everyday. Running stairs. The weight room. I felt like I was going to die for six weeks straight, and then to not be able to eat well on top of it. What is there to miss about that? I hated it.

But as I was thinking about it, I realized...

you have one goal, one focus. All of your energy, passion and drive is intensely focused on one thing. When that thing comes it may be great, it may be average, but it is the journey to that thing that is amazing in its simplicity. At that time it seems that everything else is just a blur, only one thing really comes in focus.

Raquel and the girls must have been very neglected at those times, as well as church and other friends. It is good that I have stopped fighting. But I do miss that intense focus.

And I wonder if we can have that kind of focus in our following Jesus. Ofcourse it would be much different, but can we get so intensly focussed on Jesus that we see him in every face we meet. That it effects all of our lives, what we eat, how we live, the sacrifices we make?


Monday, November 06, 2006

Sermon on the mount part 2

So remembering Jesus begins this message by taking our perceptions of blessing, and cursing and turns them upside down, we come to the next passage. This is Jesus way of explaining how important this all is. And please let me warn you, I am going to say some pretty harsh things in the following paragraphs but please realize I am preaching to myself as well.

Jesus says, you are the salt of the earth, but if the salt loses its "saltiness" how can you salt it? It is worthless. Then he says, "you are the light of the world" and also shows us that a city set on a hill cannot be hidden, and if you hide the light it is also, worthless.

Now I have heard many sermons about this passage. It is infact a standard call for Christians to be the light of the world and salt to the world. Most of the sermons I have heard talk about the natures of salt, and the natures of light. And they are fine. It is true that light chases away darkness, and that salt is a preservative, and was a highly sought after and indispensible part of the culture. These are all true and they help us to grow. However, so often these become calls of morality. And I will get into that discussion in the next few messages as Jesus flips that on its head as well. However, I will contend that there is something much much more going on here than God asking us to be good little boys and girls.

There is no denying the absolute impact of these statements, I pray you can hear them again with fresh ears. No frail cliches these verses. Jesus says you are the salt of the earth, and if you are not salty then you are good for nothing. And says the same about light. The fact is, if we as the followers of Jesus, and the citizens of the kingdom of God, are not the radically different people that we are called to be, we are good for nothing in Gods kingdom. Jesus is telling us, if you are not the salt and the light, what good are you?

We must remember that in this culture, yearning for power, for freedom, for their pride to be re-established, their goal was conquest, and in their good Jewish minds this meant not only being militarily powerful, but also morally and ethnically pure. They were looking to sway God by their piety to redeem their place in the world. But Jesus tells this people, all the world looks to you. You are what seasons the world. You are what gives light to the world. And if you continue to merely imitate the desires and the lusts of this world, what good are you.

Now we are not talking about some silly morality. Let me say loud and clear there is nothing light giving about being Ned Flanders. If you avoid words on the naughty list, and dress conservatively, only listen to gospel music and go to church three times a week, you are not being salt. Now there is nothing wrong with these things, infact there is much right about them. But the message that we are to be good little boys and girls so we can be salt and light is just not true. Jesus goes on to say that people will see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. And please let me assure you, no one is praising the Father because you said shucky darns instead of shit!

We become salt and light to the world when we begin to live in this new order. When we esteem the least in the world, when we eschew power, when we love unconditionaly, and sacrificially. Remember the beatitudes set the tone here. We are called to live a life with such different priorities and focus that the world says, "well they may be crazy, but if everyone was that kind of crazy this world would be a better place" The world is looking, are we making the poor more important than the rich? Are we seeking after success and power just like everyone else? Are we looking out for number one? Are we actually living in a love for our brothers and sisters that makes others desire what God has given us? Are we truly leaving the kingdoms of this world, power, fame, self interest, self determination, consumerism, title and degree mongering, for the new kingdom of God. Are we losing our life to find it?

This is not moral encouragement, it is a declaration of independence. It is a revolution! It is the kingdom of God come!!!

Be salt!!! Be light!!! if you aren't, what good are you?


Sunday, November 05, 2006

Matthews Sermon on the mount part 1

Well I have three sermons to catch up on. I will try to write one a day for the next three days.

We have been looking at the subversive nature of the book of Matthew. Not only is this book written by a tax collector, subversive enough for a 1st century Jewish person, but the things Matthew decides to include make me smile with a bit of anarchist glee. Matthew shows us a radically different Messiah than the Hebrews were expecting, infact, Matthew shows us a Jesus different than maybe we expect.

Jesus after beginning out on the margins preaching "the kingdom of God is come" is now explaining just exactly what this kingdom is. We cannot understand this properly if we do not understand the context of expectation of a political, military kingdom ruled by the Messiah who leads Israel to victory against the Romans because of their piety and refusal to fudge on their "Jewishness". Jesus begins to explain a kingdom that is radically different from this expected kingdom, and only seeing this as an answer to their expectations can we really understand the full, subversive and revolutionary message of this passage of scripture.

Jesus starts with the beatitudes as they are commonly called. The blessings. And as he does this, He right away turns everything on its head. As the crowd looks around at the others in their midst, and think of the temple, and the coming "kingdom" Jesus says, "blessed are those who are spiritual beggars, unable to care for their own spiritual nature theirs is the kingdom of heaven" And everyone sees the scribes and pharisees who are very confident in their ability to meet their own spiritual needs. Remember these people see the pharisees as the righteous people, as the true spiritual ones, and there is no neediness among them. And the revolution begins.

Blessed are the mourners, for they receive comfort. We find solace in Gods comfort, mourning isn't judgement on our sin, but rather the human condition that makes us find God.

Blessed are the meek, not the powerful, not the strong, not the holders of influence and the swayers of destiny. But the meek.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, not those who think they already have righteousness. I am reminded of the parable of the Pharisee who stands before God and says, "thank you Lord that I am not like those disgusting sinners, but I am a good guy, doing all of the great churchy stuff" I will mention as well that the Hebrew word for righteousness is very connected with the idea of justice, which should not be forgotten and has huge implications.

Blessed are the merciful. But wait, we are not to be merciful but to destroy sin and sinner in our midst so that God will pour out his vengence upon the Romans, and we will destroy them with no mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart. You mean not the pure in actions, in traditions, in lineage? Surely this Jewish purity is what will present our case to God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, as a quick view of the crowd will show zealotts with sharpened swords ready to do battle against their gentile rulers, the peacemakers not the holy warriors will be called sons of God.

Blessed are the persecuted. Not those sitting with stature, and favour and political and religious power. But those that are tormented for actually living out this alternative kingdom.

Jesus starts this announcement and primer on the kingdom by destroying our expectations. And though we must understand the context of the passage in its history in order to grasp it, we must also understand our context in order to live it. Does our Christian kingdom look like this? Are the poor and marginalized esteemed? Are the peacemakers looked at as sons of God? Or do we give honour to the powerful, the strong, the succesfull? Is our Christian culture a radical departure from the worlds worship of success and strength? Jesus starts His kingdom excercise telling us, everything has got to change.


When house church goes Freddy

Well we have a way of doing things at our house church community. We are always very casual, relaxed, and informal. We eat together, we talk together, not many rules or regulations. We need to do a better job providing an alternative for our very young members.

The way things work is we take turns hosting our Sunday morning gathering. When it is at your home you are the curator. You don't have to do everything yourself, but you organize it. Including breakfast, and whatever we will do for our time together. Sometimes a bible discussion, sometimes communion, sometimes a lectio divina, sometimes a life conversation and prayer. But its your responsibility.

And last week one of our members took the responsibility to minister to the children seriously. He was going to tell a bible story using different kinds of dolls so the kids could enjoy an audio visual kind of thing. So it had a barbie that miraculously grew facial hair and had a camel hair vest which was ofcourse John the baptist. And had a "Zorg" that was the king. and some other dolls for other charactors. And then things got a bit weird.

Our considerate and thoughtful curator asked one of the children to come and perform the execution of Barbie John the baptist with a hack saw. So this young man removes the head of this plastic doll with a smiling relish as all of us adults gasped in appropriate horror. My wife and I were particularly worried about the concern of the sweet young lady we brought with us as a first time visitor.

All curator duties have been suspended til further notice, maybe its time to go back to a three hymn sandwich. :)


Thursday, November 02, 2006

I have been moving house!!!

Sorry for my long absence. I have been without internet for two weeks. I will be back now, but it seems I didn't need to be here, you entertained each other without me!

Was great to hear from my mom, she may be a bit biased.

I have lots of things to post, and the continuation of the Matthew series so please keep checking in the next few days.