Moved Mountains

Banner - Mt Trio, Stirling Range National Park, Western Australia - (c) 2007

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam is Dead

I just heard on CNN that Saddam Hussein was executed this morning. I was waiting for this announcement since the fail of his appeal earlier in the week.

It is definitely, as Alyssa said while we watched the report, hard to feel sad. This man was the epitome of evil. He directly and indirectly was involved in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi's and Kurds and Iranians. His regime was drenched in the blood of his own people and he ruled with fear. But even knowing all this, I do feel a twinge of sorrow. Not so much for Saddam himself but for the philosophy (or theology as the case may be) that says capital punishment is the answer to the problem of violence. That restitution can be found in the taking of a life.

I recently came across a phrase that aptly describes this way of thinking. It is the "myth of redemptive violence"; the idea that violence in any form can bring about positive, redemptive change.

As a follower of Jesus, I struggle to come to terms with the nature of justice, particularly true, godly, justice. And, while I plan on doing more research, I do at this point in time accept at least some of the tenets of the "just war theory", in that in some cases for justice to prevail a coercive and sometimes fatal force is required (if a homicidal maniac was threatening my family and likely to kill or do serious harm to any one of them, I would, if I had the opportunity, use whatever force necessary to prevent their coming to harm - I make no apologies for this). Yet, as a Christian, I also believe that Jesus spoke clearly on the issue of capital punishment - the calculated and judicial act of taking a life in payment for a crime committed.

Jesus brought home the fact that, under the Law, we are all guilty and deserving of the death penalty - but he came to provide a different solution -to save not to condemn to death (John 3:16-17). Furthermore, when he was faced with the adulterous woman in John 8 (1-11), a woman who under the Law was clearly deserving of the death penalty, he reminded the accusers of their own guilt and freed the woman, with the command to "go and sin no more".

In this simple act Jesus made clear the two fold significance of sin and its penalty and his own mission of salvation, rather than condemnation. He set the captive free, regardless of her guilt because of the very same guilt (the guilt of sin) resting on the shoulders of those who, rightly, accused her.

I have no doubt that Saddam Hussein deserved life imprisonment. But I cannot accept that a deliberate act of violence, perpetrated against him by the Iraqi judiciary is any less bloodthirsty or any more redemptive than any of the violent acts committed by Hussein while he held control of Iraq.

As a follower of Jesus I must oppose the death penalty, no matter how fitting it may seem, because, with the sole exception of the cross of calvary, this kind of redemptive violence is a myth. We cannot take Jesus' act in John 8 and view it in isolation. Did he only mean his actions to be a reflection of the specific situation he was facing at that time? Or can we look beyond the surface, at his teaching's elsewhere in the gospels and say with conviction, Jesus did away with the death penalty in every circumstance? Just as most of us wouldn't accept any courts imposition of the death penalty for adultery, or for witchcraft or for homosexuality, if we are to be consistent, we also cannot accept the death penalty for murder or any other violent crime. No matter how appropriate it seems at the time.

Yes, Saddam Hussein died this morning for nothing. The memory of the crimes he committed will long outlive any fleeting sense of joy or justice achieved by the act of his execution. I just pray that God will, as he is in the habit of doing, work all these things for the good of those who love him!

For an interesting take (and I don't fully agree with everything Rob Bell is expounding here) have a listen to Rob Bell's series of sermons on the Myth of Redemptive Violence at Mars Hill - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

I'm It!

Jamie over at More Than Stone has 'tagged' me. I had read about this little game of tag going on over on John Smulo's blog. Not sure where it originated but is a beaut bit of fun!

So here's the deal - you get to know 5 things about me and then I get to tag 5 more people.

1) I was an alcoholic for around 14 years and managed to spend my life doing some pretty stupid things before I was rescued by Jesus Christ!

2) I am married to an amazing lady - Alyssa - who is the most beautiful, intelligent, loving, wonderful soul mate I guy could have. Alyssa is a scientist who has just started working for a mining company as a metallurgical clerk - and has won many academic awards for her studies in chemistry and metallurgy and mathematics.

3) I live about 300m from the Indian Ocean and wonder how I could ever have lived anywhere else - I love the ocean and swimming and surfing and just spending time on the beach in prayer, or watching the sun set or taking time to think and meditate.

4) I used to live in a town called Alice Springs which is just about as far from the coast as anywhere in the world can be. It's smack in the middle of Australia surrounded by thousands of kilometres of desert. I actually loved living there and count the desert as my second favourite place to be after the coast (what a contrast huh!).

5) I am running some astronomy nights in January (every Friday night) here in Binningup for my Fellowship (the Binningup Beach Christian Fellowship). I was heavily involved with the astronomy side of things as a ministry for a number of years and still enjoy spending time under the stars with a telescope, especially if it involves showing others the amazing beauty of the created heavens. The most commonly heard comment from people seeing Saturn and its rings or Jupiter and its moons or even just seeing our own cratered Moon for the first time is, "Oh my God!" Which then gives me an opportunity to say "Funny you should say that..." and to talk to them about Jesus.

So - in order to keep this tradition alive I am now going to tag, Hamo over at Backyard Missionary, my old mate Matt Perry at Matt Perry dot Com, Scott Vawser at No Guarantees, JR Woodward at Dream Awakener and last but not least, Helen Mildenhall at Conversation at the Edge.

Whew! Oh yeah, and - TAG!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bursting Your Christmas Bubble

It's nearly Christmas and while the western world gets caught up in the consumerist whirl wind and buys up a storm, Christians are focusing their thoughts on the birth of their Saviour, Jesus Christ. But before you get too carried away celebrating the second most holy holiday on the Christian calender, you might want to stop and think about the historical accuracy of the Nativity story.

According to "the world's most respected biblical historian", Geza Vermes from Oxford University in the UK, the nativity is nothing more than a myth created by early Jewish followers of Jesus to legitimise their claims of his divinely appoint right to throne of David and title of Messiah.

You can listen to an interview with Vermes on the ABC's The Ark website, recorded last Sunday (17th December). CLICK HERE to chose your favourite audio option.

And for those who are questioning how someone who can make the completely unscholarly and ludicrous claims this man makes in this interview and still be called the "world's most respected biblical historian" - have a very merry and blessed Christmas and a safe and Christ-centred holiday season! Don't forget to remind as many people as possible that Jesus Christ didn't remain a baby in a manger - but rather grew to be the most influential revolutionary this planet has ever known.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Taking a Break

Well, it's nearly Christmas and I have holidays starting in around 2 weeks time (and I can hardly wait). But in the meantime I've got reports to write, am preparing our training program for endorsement by the Education Department and preparing for the new year with it's cafe afternoons, Friday evening gatherings and overseas travels.

I am also finding it difficult to blog in a meaningful way at the moment - I am struggling a bit with introspection - not sure what to do about it - and don't want these frustrations and feelings to be reflected in what I write here. I know that further on down the track I might live to regret it! :) So I'm taking a bit of a blogging break - while there might be an irregular post or two I'm not going to be bothering with the daily updates for while.

But I am pretty sure I'll be back, maybe once Christmas and the associated madness that seems to follow it has subsided and I've had a chance to think again about where we are heading as a family, where I'm heading in my church and ministry and life, and where this blog sits in all of that.

To those that regularly frequent Moved Mountains - thanks! And to everyone, have a great Christ-centred Christmas and safe and blessed holiday. See you on the other side.

Blog-Geek Help

I'm having some problems with the layout of this blog and I haven't got much of a clue when it comes to CSS.

If you have a careful look at the 'MM' title image at the top of this page you'll see a series of fullstops (.......................). In what was a mammoth task, I swapped the standard Blogger title for the image you can see, but couldn't find a way to get around the display of the Blogger title. So instead of the Moved Mountains, which would have appeared over the title image, I inserted the fullstops, which are not so obvious.

The problem is though, they now appear as the title of the blog on the RSS feeds (etc) and one the comments page. I am hoping someone can help me get rid of the fullstops and replace them with an invisible Moved Mountains!

Dependant on Sundays

  • How have you dealt with the over dependance on the Sunday morning service in your context?
  • What alternatives have you used with success (and how)?
  • How do you move people away from Sunday morning attendance as the guage of "true" committment?

  • When did the day of rest become the day of toil?
As I head off to the weekly Sunday morning meeting, I'm confronted again with the overdependance or overimportance put on the Sunday morning "church" service by some people. Don't get me wrong, I think a weekly meeting and time of corporate prayer and worship is important, but why is the Sunday morning service seen as the compulsory, be-all and end-all in Christian gatherings?

I attend at least 3 meetings a week where the major components of the Sunday service are included (with perhaps the exception of communion), yet whenever I, deliberately, throw out the possibility of not attending on an odd Sunday morning, I receive phone calls, comments and the occaisional "remember, we're told not to forsake the fellowship of the saints" comment thrown in for good measure. Come on! I meet and fellowship with Christians all week. I often am working 7 days a week and find that a Sunday spent at home, with a sleepin Sunday morning and a day spent with my family is incredibly beneficial.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

They Stole It. I'm Stealing it Back!

You've all heard of the TV series Charmed right? Well, you may have noticed a symbol similar to this popping up on the cover of the witches mystical spell book - the book of shadows (oooooooohhhhh).

Its proper name is the triquetra (or trinity knot). In it's simplist form (without the outer circle) it is an ancient celtic symbol of unknown origin or purpose, appropriated by celtic Christians to represent the triune God - three distinct parts in one complete figure. In more recent times the interwoven outer circle was added, representing eternity.

The thing is, I've taken it upon myself to re-claim the triquetra as a Christian symbol. Particularly because I think it looks really cool and rather profoundly symbolises the God I serve. So Charmed, your on notice!

Feel free to join in the "reclaim the triquetra" protest and copy the image to your blog or website as a sign of Christian solidarity! (If you do post it, let me know and if possible link back to this page).

We've also decided to use the trinity knot as the logo for our new Friday evening gathering, which now has a name - Alternate[Or].

Friday, December 08, 2006

Danger! Jesus Ahead

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
  • “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
  • “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
  • “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
  • “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
  • “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
  • “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
  • “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5:1-16
The image, above, is the cover of my upcoming book - I'll let you know once I start writing it! ;)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

DA Carson and Emerging Missiology

  • If you are "emergent/emerging" and have read this book, what were your first thoughts?

  • What has Carson missed in his treatment of this subject?
I am just about half way through D.A. Carson's book BCWTEC. This is the second book I have tackled recently directly dealing with the EC as a movement, while very different to the first book (the Shaping of Things to Come by Frost and Hirsch) I have found it balanced and informative so far.

I know many within the EC have been highly critical of Carson's views. Yet, for the most part, and taking into account I have only read about half the book, I have found his work to be fairly balanced. He has highlighted the strengths of the movement as well as the weaknesses.

Over the next couple of days I want to briefly talk about a few of the things Carson deals with that struck a chord with me and raised questions in my mind as I have been exploring the EC.

The first of these is:
  • the post modern ideal of tolerance and a tolerant society

  • secondly absolutism

  • thirdly, something Carson also mentioned in his talk while in Australia a few months back, the decline of post modernism is other parts of the world,

  • and finally - as a bit of a side track - the notion of the Just War that Carson briefly touches on (am particularly interested in this because there seem to be some very strong links between the EC and passivism).
So, tomorrow I'll get started on the first of these and I look forward to your views and reponses.

If you haven't read BCWTEC and would like to get a bit more of an idea where Carson is coming from, you can read a paper by him HERE dealing which deals with the same topic

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

It's not the Word but the Meaning that Matters?

Following on from yesterday's post on words and the way they are understood (or misunderstood) in different contexts, Shannon posted this comment:

While I think that many "Christian" terms can alienate people, I also believe that traditional Christian language must be, to some capacity, preserved. I think in any discussion with a non-believer when we use words like, saved, born-again and such it becomes our responsibility to teach them what these terms mean and represent.
I agree with Shannon - and obviously it is important, if we are to understand each other and are able to communicate with others in a meaningful way, we have to have our own vocabulary. Spiritual/theological words are important. But I think there is something even more important - and that is the meaning behind these words. And in many instances this is something on which even many Christians can't agree.

What is "salvation"? Is it something Jesus does for us on His own or is it something we have a hand in? Does "Spirit Filled" mean a life controlled and governed by the Holy Spirit or does it mean the ability to speak in tongues and exercise other charismatic gifts? And I could go on.

So is it really the words or phrases alone that hold all the importance, or is meaning (and taking it one step further) context also an important part of the deal? How do we get around the clear differences of opinion that exist within the church over the meaning of theological words? How can we communicate meaning to non-believers when we can't even agree on meaning ourselves?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I Know What I Mean, Why Don't You Know What I Mean?

Being able to communicate clearly is incredibly important, particularly in this day and age. I doubt there has ever been a time when the meanings of words have been as fluid and open to "interpretation" as they are now.

This is something we have to be incredibly aware of when trying to communicate the gospel. Not everyone understands the terms or phrases we use in the same way we do. Not everyone will even understand them at all.

Terms like, "born again", "salvation", or even "saved" have definite theological and biblical meanings but they are also jargon terms that people who have not been a part of Christian circles (and in particular evangelical Christianity) will understand very differently to those who have. Here in Australia that means a large slice of the community are not going to understand what we have to say in the way we want them to if we continue to use these terms when interacting with them.

Here's a little clip I found a while ago that highlights the issue well!

I also received the following in an email today - which is actually what got me thinking about this topic again. Great examples of simple messages being misunderstood because one person wasn't in on the jargon being used by the other.

  • Tech support: What's on your monitor now, ma'am?

    Customer: A teddy bear my boyfriend bought for me at K-Mart.
  • A woman customer called the Canon help desk with a problem with her printer.

    Tech support: Are you running it under windows?

    Customer: "No, my desk is next to the door, but that is a good point. The man sitting in the cubicle next to me is under a window, and his printer is working fine."

  • Tech support: "Okay Colin, let's press the control and escape keys at the same time. That brings up a task list in the middle of the screen. Now type the letter "P" to bring up the Program Manager."

    Customer: I don't have a "P".

    Tech support: On your keyboard, Colin.

    Customer: What do you mean?

    Tech support: "P".....on your keyboard, Colin.

    Customer: I'M NOT GOING TO DO THAT!!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Evangelism: Shifting Focus

The practice of evangelism is something I have been reconsidering lately and I found a couple of great posts on this topic on the Backyard Missionary and Smulo Space blogs.

In Some Points on Missionary Work in Suburbia Part II Hamo makes the point, as well as "living" Christ we also need to be intentional about "speaking" Christ with those we are seeking to lead toward the kingdom.

...some people will not like our choice to follow Jesus and to speak of him in conversation. Some people will simply avoid us. They won’t invite us to parties. They will classify us as ‘religious folks’. And at times that will hurt. We have had that experience up here already and I’m sure we will again.

But let’s not let the occasional rejection stop us speaking of Jesus!

And I use the words ’speaking of Jesus’ intentionally because while actions do speak louder than words, there is still a place for the verbal communication of the gospel, for speaking of how Jesus has revolutionised our life. We don’t need to be evangelistic nutbags to speak of Jesus, but if he is in our lives then inevitably (if we are being true to who we are) he will ‘leak out’.

Truthfully I believe some of us have become so soft that the slightest ‘knock’ for being Christians causes us to withdraw and never venture down that road again.

Time to toughen up folks!!

And in Reimagining Evangelism, John Smulo gives us another list based on Rick Richardson's book, Reimagining Evangelism

* Collaboration versus Activism
Here we look to clues where God is already at work.

*Community versus Individual
Rather than a salesperson approach to evangelism, we build witnessing communities.

*Friendship versus Agenda
The old model of evangelism has an agenda, which is about downloading content and closing the deal. The reimagined model has a friendship.

*Story versus Dogma
Not merely dogmas and beliefs, but storytelling about God's reality in our life.

*Outside the Box Jesus versus Cliche Jesus
Rather than sharing with people a Jesus they think they have figured out, we share a Jesus people have yet to discover.

*Good News About God's Kingdom versus Good News About the Afterlife
This involves not merely talking about being forgiven and a one-way ticket to heaven, but God's rule and reality in this life.

*Journey versus Event
It's not so much about who made a one-time decision; not so much about who's in and who's out. Instead it's about who is journeying toward being a wholehearted follower of Jesus (other's might say "Jesus-follower", but we don't want to be anal about that--smile).

What are your experiences with "relationship building evangelism"? I know this stuff is covered elsewhere on the web but I am interested in hearing your practical examples of this kind of thing at work. I think the more sharing of the practice, rather than just the theory, of this kind of thing the better. Our communities and the kingdom can only benefit from it.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Captivated by Christ

This morning I spoke at our Sunday meeting for what is going to be the last time for a while. I have requested I be taken off the preaching roster so that I can have the time to prepare for an increase in workload associated, primarily, with the new Friday evening meetings we are starting in February.

The message I gave today is one directly related to my own personal experience over the past few months. And I want to share a little bit of it here. I wasn't sure how it would go down but, as is usually the case, God was able to work through my words (and His Word) to touch the hearts of those who heard it. To say I am moved by the response would be an understatement.

A few weeks back, in a quiet moment at Kick Start, I picked up a Bible and began to read Phillipians (you can read my response at the time here). When I got to the middle of chapter 3 I read something that hit me like a brick. It solidified, qualified, made real so much of what had been spinning around my head for the last couple of months.

The crux of it is this: I think we (and I include myself in this), the church, have made many things more valuable than Christ. The way baptism should take place, the things we "have to know" before we can become good Christians, the way we dress, look, speak, behave. We have made all these things and more, benchmarks against which to measure our godliness. Inevitably Jesus comes in a little further down the list.

As I was preparing for today I found myself thinking back to the 14 years I spent as a drug addict. They were terrible years. I wasted so much of my life and did so much damage - to myself and to others. But somewhere in the middle of all of this I managed to remain captivated by Jesus. The Jesus I had been introduced to as a young boy, sitting in a little dusty room of an ancient house attached to a little Methodist church in a country town.

It wasn't doctrine, it certainly wasn't church, and it wasn't even Christians. At least not the vast majority of Christian's I had had dealings with. No it was the person and work of Jesus Christ.

I was captivated by Him. By who He is and what He represented and by the way He lived His life. And this is what kept me going, kept me struggling on in the hope that one day I would know freedom.

In Matthew 11 Jesus says something striking - it's something that I have found myself time and again engrossed by, but something that, until very recently, I haven't really understood, at least not in the context of what I equated with the "Christian" way of doing things.

Jesus said:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

This is the Jesus I want to know. I don't what to know the Jesus of the spiritual "Pharisees" - the Jesus of rules and regulations and conformity. That Jesus doesn't captivate me. No, the Jesus I want to know is the Jesus of the Gospels. The Jesus that transformed the life of a religous man called Saul, when he met Him on a dusty desert road.

When I read Philipians 3 7-12 I fully understand what Paul was talking about. Last week I was a Pharisee too. Last week I gave religious importance to stuff that was, in reality, garbage! This week though - and hopefully into the future (I am sure I will need reminding) - I am a new creation! I am putting off the binds of the Law and living in the knowledge that I, as Paul says it, belong to Christ!


Saturday, December 02, 2006

What the "Capote"!

Alyssa and I watched (well sort of) Capote last night. Actually Lyss fell asleep before the halfway mark and I found it really hard to keep my eyes open and so called it quits about an hour in.

I hadn't really heard much about the film but I knew it was based on reality, and had Harper Lee of To Kill a Mockingbird fame (everyone's read this book haven't they?) as a central character. I knew nothing about Truman Capote but read on the back cover of the DVD that he was the author of, among other things, Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Also on the back cover were the words "best picture of the year".

Basically the plot surrounds a murder in rural Kansas. A family of 4 are slaughtered in their beds by two itinerants - one a part-Cherokee Indian.

Enter Capote and Lee. Capote heads on over to the scene of the murders as a correspondent for the New Yorker magazine with Lee as his research assistant. He befriends the local Chief of Police, a good "Christian" man and church-friend of the murdered farmer (this point is stressed- they were friends from church).

Somewhere along the way Capote decides he is going to write a book rather than a magazine articles and constantly refers to the proposed book as "his greatest work" and the "book I was always meant to write". Although up to the point at which I turned off last night, he hadn't written a word and they seemed to be making a thing of this. I am guessing the book won't end up getting written.

When the killers are caught, Capote befriends them as well but takes a particular (sexual??) interest in the young half-Cherokee.

I found Philip Seymour Hoffman's (Capote) affected, effeminate, drawl particularly distracting, as was the subtle (yet not, given Capote's mincing manner) homosexual subplot. Something that, at least up until the halfway mark, was only glimpsed in the periphery. While this was quite cleverly done, with Capote throwing in subtle, anti-homosexual comments from time to time to keep you guessing, it did kind of hang around like a bad smell.

While I know nothing about Truman Capote, I am guessing, from the era in which the film is set (1959), the film makers are trying to capture the essence of the culture of the day, when being homosexual was less than acceptable - highlighted by Capote's condescendingly negative critique of another authors overtly homosexual book, early on in the movie.

There was nothing that really grabbed me about this movie at all but I hate to waste 7 bucks so am going to persevere to the end once I have finished preparing my message for tomorrow. At the very least I might get a good afternoon nap out it!

Friday, December 01, 2006


I promised myself if I posted anything even remotely relating to the church the rest of this week, I would do it in a positive light.

I love the church! It is the body of Jesus Christ, the universal, united, worldwide congregation of believers. But man does that other definition of the church, the denominational, institutional, religious, bureaucratic definition drive me up the wall at times.

I am sorry and I do promise not to do any more church-beating for at least a week ... after I get this out of my system.

Anyway - here's a video that sort of describes how I feel at times when dealing with my denominational HQ. No offense intended.


Fundraising for African Projects - Rwanda

Yep there's that horrible "F" word - fundraising!

This is an ongoing and difficult part of the mission partnership I helped set up a few years ago. With a trip coming up (fast) in May next year I thought I would throw the line out into the bloggosphere and hopefully attract a few bites.

Some of the projects we have undertaken in the last 12 months:

  • Purchase of several acres of land in Umutara district for church plant.

  • The construction (being undertaken as you read this!) 0f two more 10,000 litre rainwater tanks on Mt Kigali for the use of the poverty stricken community that resides there. This is in addition to the single 10,000 litre tank installed during our visit in 2004 (pictured below).

  • The continued provision of wages for two school teachers working in the Unity Academy community school on Mt Kigali.

These are just a few of the ongoing projects funded, resourced or supported by the Mission Partnership. Other programs operated by CUF include an AIDS ministry, and a vocational training project for widows and orphan girls.

The website is HERE - we are also looking for some sponsorship towards the cost of attending the Amahoro Africa gathering in Uganda in May. We are hoping to get two delegates along - John, the leader of the CUF in Rwanda and me. In any event, John will definitely be going and has already met with some of Amahoro's people.

Thanks for taking the time to check this out and for considering if this is something you might be able to support.