Geelong Church Camp

This weekend I presented "Evangelism that Works" at Howqua to the Geelong church members. I also presented a new bit that I have been working on called "Nurture for Growth" that targets Christians commiting to grow other Christians.
The basic principle is that we grow Christians by nurturing them.
Jesus demonstrated this by targeting his ministry in levels of involvement. Time that he spent with the 120 also included the inner circles (70, 12, 3).
As he ministered to the 70 and the 12 the 3 were there. The three were the most trained, most loved, most nurturered. It was common for Jesus to limit his audience and when he focused on the 12, the 70 and 120 may not have been there and at times were specifically not invited. And, at times Jesus chose to seperate the 3 (Peter, James and John) from the the 12 for a special time of training and nurture. These 3 were Jesus' "Nurture Group" as I call them.
Jesus did not appologise for this focused nurture. He saw it as neccesary and chose to specifically involve these three in high points of his spiritual journey - they were at the Mount of transfiguration (Matt 171-3), at the raising for Jairus' daughter (Mark 5:22-42) and in the Garden of Gethsmene (Mark 14:32-36). At each of these times Jesus specifically called these three out of the twelve and instructed the other 9 to stay behind. He made it clear that he was pouring special time and training into these three.
We should do likewise. Here is my basic framework for healthy Nurture.

I suggested to the group that: We must NURTURE THE FUTURE
New Christians don’t grow on trees
Jesus plants them, Disciples nurture them
You only have so much to give
Choose to nurture maturely
Select 1, 2 or 3 people to nurture
Nurture them generously (time, energy, love)

I suggested that we build nurture groups one person at a time using the following strategy:
Get to know them
Find their passion
Get involved in their passion
Give them training
Create a safe place for them to thrive
Form them into a team

I concluded with 2 questions to get you started nurturing:
Who: Who can I ask to nurture me?
Who can I nurture?
How: How can I disciple them?
How can I invlove them?
How can I visit them?
How can I empower them?

This framework and explaination is still in the formation stages in my mind, but I have decided to start presenting and refining it through getting the thoughts and reflections of the listeners. This process of presentation and reflection has helped me hone the "Evangelism that Works" presentation to, by far, the most practical and helpful sermon I have in my arsenal!

God is good!

Evangelism that works

Here is the worksheet for my sermon "Evangelism that works."

Click on the pic for the full size worksheet.

Listen to the sermon on myspace

My notes from reading WOMBAT Selling

WOMBAT Selling
Michael Hewitt-Gleeson

Word
Of
Mouth
Buy
And
Tell

It’s better to be first in mind than the first in the Media.
It’s better for your idea to be a word-of-mouth than an advertisement.
The world is a place with battling ideas, not battling products.
Your reputation as an attractive and innovative idea-fountain is everything.
Ideas that show generosity are attractive to people and will keep them near you.

Don’t expect customers who can shop globally online for a new computer to take seriously the childish antics of the door-to-door Bible salesman.

A brand is a corporate cognitive pattern in the brain of the customer.
It takes 10 repetitions for a brand (or idea) to lock into a persons brain.

CHECK-TO-UNCKECK
CHECK position: When you are actually in contact with the client.
The salesperson controls CHECK.
Checkmate position: When the customer says YES.
The customer contols Checkmate. (only they can say yes!)
UNCHECK position: When there is no contact with a customer where the customer
cannot say yes or no.
Uncheck is your enemy, not the customer. Love your customer and escape
from UNCHECK.

A “meme” is a self-replicating element of culture, passed on by imitation.

Good scorekeeping results in a better results, if your are lucky.
Good service results in happier customer, every time!
Mere scorekeeping is not the same as serving.

It’s not the “close” that gives us the opportunity to win the customer. It’s the start. The more starts, the more customers. The more starts, the more sales.

Start the sale = get the customer’s attention

The GET-GO: the start

Strategy is all about control. If you are in control you are in a strategic position, if you are out of control you are in a strategic position. If you are out of control, you aren’t. Starting is a strategic act because we can control it but we cannot control finishing.

We can control process, but we cannot control results. Perfect the process.
No drill, no skill.
Training exercises should be ¼ training and ¾ exercise.
Workshops should be ¼ lecture and ¾ practice!

Moving from UNCHECK-TO-CHECK
- send an email
- mail an invitation
- telephone with info
- fax a press release
- hold a conference, meeting or seminar
- perform an act of service
- put an ad on the website
- ask a question
- visit with a gift
- have someone else do any of these on your behalf

TT record keeping
Tomorrow: Set the number of times you will UNCHECK-TO-CHECK in the next 24 hours.
Today: Record the number of UNCHECK-TO-CHECK you make yesterday. Meet yesterday’s goal.

TEN-TIMES: Whatever you are planning, setting or doing multiply the expectation by ten and your results will grow.

Double-Click Mindmap

I've been preaching the "Double-Click" sermon from a hand drawn mindmap for the last few months and thought I should type it in so I can upload it.

Here it is.

I will have to preach it at least once more so that I can record it and put the audio on myspace

Click on the map for a bigger image.
Start at one-o'clock and work your way around the mindmap.

Big Idea Study with Nunawading Adventist Youth

Last night I did a Big Idea Bible Study with a youth group from the Nunawading Adventist Church.

We explored Genesis 1:26-27 together, then I had to leave for another meeting and they continued looking at three other passages in three small groups. I'm looking forward to finding out how the rest of the study went. Knowing the :!?... bible study format, it should have worked great!

Genesis 1:26-27
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

! Rule
? How far does the ruling go?
. Everything we can see
. Earth
. As far as we can go without stepping on God’s toes

! God created Male and Female in His image
? Who is more like God?
. Man (said by a boy)
. Women (said by a girl) because they are forgiving and soft hearted
. Humans (as compared to the rest of creation)

! We were created “In His Image”
? What sort of image?
. Loving
. We make choices
. We are creative
. We are sentient (we can reason)

! We are superior to the animals
? What does it mean to rule animals?
. Be fair
. Don’t hurt them
. We are more important
. Take care of them

! Let “US” make man
? Who made man? (Who is God - this “US”?)
. Trinity

Romantic Holiday! (Day 1)

Yesterday we had a very full and fulfilling day. We stayed Friday night in a motel in Hamilton where I was to preach on Sabbath morning. After attending Sabbath School with the little flock in Hamilton and preaching we headed out to the southern Grampians for a hike.
Jenny has always loved the Grampians and wanted to climb a mountain. So we did!
As we were nearing the town of Dunkeld Jenny kept saying we need to stop somewhere to get some boiled water (most petrol stations have coffee machines with free hot water!) so that she could cook up our instant soup to give us some energy for the trip up the mountain. Finally when we got to Dunkeld she asked again and I said, “’I have food you know nothing about’—to quote a friend of mine.” She looked at me with a incredulous expression. When we stopped at a picnic area I produced an entire picnic hamper and she couldn’t fathom where it had come from! What a great surprise! ☺
I had asked the head elder of Hamilton to arrange a picnic lunch and gave him a budget. I reimbursed him and collected the lunch from his wife when Jenny wasn’t looking. And what a great lunch it was! Delicious.

After our lunch we climbed Mount Sturgeon—a 7km round trip hike that ascends 343 meters from the carpark to an amazing abutment of rocks that overlooks the valley in a panoramic 360 degree vista. It was truly amazing.







The first 1.5km was relatively flat and wandered through a surreal plain that had recently been burnt.





It felt like we were on a different planet walking through blackened terrain.










The sun came out from behind the clouds for the full time we were at the top and we enjoyed it’s warmth while resting on the cliff top!





We managed to accomplish the entire climb, with a 10 minute pause at the top, in just over two hours.





After returning to the carpark we drove to Warnambool, then down the Great Ocean Road. The sun had been hiding for most of the day, only peeking out when it was absolutely needed. It emerged about 30 minutes before sunset and we were able to watch it descend over the Bay of Islands and finally watch it set from the Loch Ard Gorge.
We finished our drive to Apolo bay and arrived at Whitecrest at about 9pm. A day well spent!

Romantic Holiday!


Jenny and I have been planning a romantic getaway for a few months. We finally made it!









This photo is taken from the deck of our unit at Whitecrest Lodge in Apolo Bay. Looking across the Great Ocean Road and out over the great ocean!





Due to the fine mist that was falling, an amazing rainbow formed over one of the bends in the road. For a moment there was a very faint double rainbow. Can you see it?

Memorable stories from church

One of the activities that Nathan (the editor) had us do during his segment at the writers seminar was to write a short reflection on something memorable that happened to you at church. Here is what I wrote. Had to chuckle at these memories...

I have had a number of memorable experiences at church, usually with friends. I remember one friend who was prone to doing the unusual as a usual habit. He once swapped his Bible with that of a friend (they were identical bar the gold lettering on the cover) and waited for her to ask why she had his Bible. She never did. A year later he re-enacted the event and swapped the Bibles back. She was never the wiser to it!

I once sat in College church at Pacific Union College with the same group of friends and had a pressing, quite painful, bubble of gas welling up inside of me. I considered going outside to release the pressure, but was in the middle of the row. So, I opted for the silent option. I rolled onto one leg and gently released my clenched stomach. The resulting vibration and volume caused ridiculous giggling from my friends that was matched (and exceeded) only by the redness in my face.

Writers Seminar

This weekend we ran a writers seminar at the Signs. It will be run again, in various formats, in two other locations in the next couple weeks. Firstly at Avondale. Then at Brisbane big camp.

I ran a workshop on creativity yesterday afternoon and had a lot of fun doing it!

Below you will see some of the information that I shared.

Finding creativity in others

Find the real person: (Four questions to get to know peoeple - John Maxwell)
What do you dream about?
What do you cry about?
What do you laugh about?
What do you sing about?

Find their Spiritual gift:
SG’s are God’s Spirit living in us – Our creative nature as Christians is God’s image shining thru. What Creative activity comes naturally to you?
1. What do you love doing for church, family or community?
2. What do people who know you say that you do well for church, family or community?

Building them up:
Get to know them
Find their passion
Get involved in their passion
Give them training
Create a safe place for them to thrive
Build them into teams

Finding creativity in yourself

Become an idea farm
Prepare soil: Read widely, study people, talk to strangers, get lost, consume media, daydream
Get seed: Buy it (proven ideas), borrow it (other people’s ideas) , let it blow in, use last years (your old ideas revisited and revitalised)
Plant seed: Write down every idea (jotter pad, blog, notebook), float half formed ideas to people (friends, family, experts and target audience)
Just add water: Plan it out, write it out, sell it or start it, build a team, write an article/sermon, form it
Harvest: Submit the article, preach the sermon, fly the kyte, run the event. do it
Enjoy/share: You have earned it, enjoy the bounty, share and teach your successes and failures
Lay fallow: Rest (it’s the way God made us!)

Comic times

The kids and I sat on the couch this morning and designed a comic of some old photos with Daddy's new MacBook and a great little program called Comic Life that came free with the Mac.

One very full day

Last Friday was a very interesting one indeed. I put the Rav4 in for service and so Rachael and I decided to take the train into Ringwood to go to Eastlands shopping centre. We got our tickets and boarded the train in Lilydale.
After shopping at Eastlands for a few hours we decided to take the bus home (it's all on the same $2.30 all day ticket!) and so we sat at the bus stop and waited. The bus came. We got on. And two minutes later I realised that I didn't have my bag - it has my IPOD and PSP in it, plus other bits and pieces. The bus driver kindly lets us off and we ran back. (Rachael is a fast little runner!)
When we got to the bus stop the bag was... gone. I stood there stunned and winded. I looked left, right, up the street, down the street. No one. It was gone. People walked by. Cars drove past. A lady in a wheelchair pulled up to the bus stop, "Are you looking for a bag?" she said.
Stunned, I looked down and said, "Yes!"
She said, "I just took it to Centre Management. Just go in the door and turn right."
I was amazed. I thanked her, "You are a very honest person!"
She smiled and Rachael and I quickly made our way to the bag.
Unfortunately, it was getting close to the time that we needed to pick the boys up from school, so we didn't have time to wait for the next hourly bus. We hurried over to the train station. As we approached the train was just pulling into the station. They don't wait for long so we ran again. We found a seat and fell into it exhausted. 15 minutes later we pulled into the third stop and the signs said "Boronia."
The train line splits at Ringwood—one to Lilydale and one to Boronia and beyond... So, we got off the train, waited patiently for 20 minutes, and got on one headed back to Ringwood. While we waited I met a young lady who was searching for work. We talked the minutes away and had a lot in common. She's a professional soprano! (just like me) :)
On our way back to the Ringwood station I was sitting next to one of the many windows on the train and a large rock hit the window with enough force to create a spider web of shattered glass the size of a serving tray. It was a loud noise. And, since it was right next to my head, it was quite startling. Being of sound mind, I didn't jump. I just looked at the cracked window, turned to the guy across from me, and said, "Looks like Superman was flying a bit low." My seatmate, not being of sound mind, was not amused. Another rock had also struck a window further forward in the car. Evidently some kids decided to throw rocks at the same time. Interestingly, even though the glass was shattered, I couldn't feel the cracks—must have been two panes of glass, both very thick.
When we got back to Ringwood, we only had to wait for a minute or two for the right train and we arrived in Lilydale 10 minutes before the boys got out of school. We caught a taxi to the service station and paid for the car service and quickly drove to the school. On the way, the phone rang. It was the service centre calling to tell me that I had left my credit card with them. We picked up the boys and went back to get the card. Having more time, I gave them a few copies of the latest Signs. (As I do) :)
Then we went to Chrinside Park shopping centre and bought a few things for the weekend and headed home. On the way home I decided to stop at Goodyear Tyres as the service centre had said that the tyres were needing replacement. I thought I would book an appointment for some new wider wheels and road tyres (rather than the skinny 4wd wanabe's that were balding). The guy was really nice, made some suggestions and then said, "Why don't we slap one of these on the Rav and see what you think? Do you have 10 minutes." I did. And so they did. And it looked great. I asked when we could book it in to get it done and he said, "We can do it now, if you'd like." I was amazed. Where do you get service like that? So, I had new tyres on my Rav for my trip to preach in Sale the next day (about 500km round trip) and they are excellent tyres! Quiet and hold the road beautifully!
So that was last Friday. My day off.
A successful day.
And interesting to boot!

SQLD Bible Camp

I spent last weekend on the Gold Coast with some of the Adventist Youth from the SQLD conference. What a great bunch of young adults. We explored a few new ways to study the Bible and had a lot of fun together.
I was really impressed with the level of involvement that the youth have in church leadership. Over half of the kids at the camp had preached a sermon at their church. Many of them were in leadership possitions. Richie, one of the youth directors, told me that the youth department runs a 10 week preaching seminar each year for the youth and books them into churches during the training so they get a shot at preaching while they are learning. He said that they keep preaching after the training is finished and the conference office hears about their sermons from time to time as church members report. Excellent stuff!
One of the exercises that we did twice was the :!?... bible study format. The youth found this really useful and enjoyed the discussions that it created. Some of them came up to me after meetings and said they were keen to get back and use :!?... in their pathfinder and sabbath school classes. Here are some of the :!?... details from various verses that the youth camp up with.

: 1 John 4:7-12
! Since God loves us, we should love Him AND others
? Why should we love others just because God loves us?
. If we don't love people we aren't loving God
. We're made in God's image. If we're not loving people we're not reflecting who God is
. If we want a relationship with God we need to love others


: 1 John 4:7-12 (different group)
! Love should be automatic
? How do we program love so that it is a default?
. Love people around you
. We must know who God is to know how to love
. Take your fear to God and allow the Holy Spirit to work on you

: Cololsians 3:1-17
! Life is truely lived when we love
? What is the love that give us true life?
. FROM - gratitude and peace of God
. THROUGH - our words and deeds, gifts of the spirit
. TO - people (vs 8,9)

understanding the Word

Last week at my guitar lesson my teacher told me a funny experience he had over the weekend.

He was at the wedding of a couple friends. The preacher was from Jamaica and had a very thick accent. The preacher kept talking about "Goat." Each time he would mention "Goat" a little snicker would ripple through the crowd.

Finally, the preacher said with conviciton, "To have a happy home you must have Goat in your house!" That was the final straw. One of my guitar teachers friends (they are all secular 30 somethings) let out a loud bleat. You can imagine the impact that had on the audience.

For those people who have always heard Jesus refered to as a lamb, now there's another image to ponder - one that even fits in with the sanctuary model! One of the goats on the day of atonement represented Jesus. But the other is Satan... Better be careful which goat we invite into our house!

Here are some of his other fine lines, "Goat will help you grow closer to each other." and "A marriage is a union of three, two people and one Goat."

How long before I use this as a sermon illustration? hmmm... What am I doing this weekend?

In His Image

I have noticed an interesting pattern recently.
Every special event that I am asked to speak for has the same theme!
Mildura had a regional Sabbath with the title "Molded in Him Image." Then this weekend, at a youth Bible camp on the Gold Coast in Queensland, I have been asked to speak about "Living in Christ's Image." Next month I am telling a story at a kids camp–Their theme? "Made in God's image."

I wonder if the Spirit is trying to teach me something?

Locked out!

I haven't been able to get into my blogger account for a few weeks! Each time I tried I would get rejected. Some new beta program that doesn't seem to work with my Mac at work. And my laptop is at the shop, getting an overhaul :) ...

SO, today I finally got in.

Now that I can, I'll start putting some more thoughts online :)

Praying with a 5 year old

Last night I told my three kids the story of The Widow's Oil from 2 Kings 4:1-7.

We talked about how Jesus provides the needs of those who have faith and seek Him.

When I tucked Rachael, the youngest, into her bed she said, "Dad, how come Jesus doesn't answer my prayers?"

That struck me as an odd thing to come from a 5 year old. My first thoughts were, My little girl is praying about things! What is she asking for? What needs does she have?

So, I asked, "What have you asked for that Jesus isn't giving you?"

She said, "Nothing."

I pondered the reality of a 5 year old asking for and receiving "nothing" and it struck me to do just that. So, I said, "Let's pray right now."

We bowed our heads, "Dear Jesus, please give me nothing and lots of it! Amen."

When we lifted our heads I threw my hands up and with a very surprised expression of joy looked around the room, "LOOK!! He did it!"

Rachael laughed. And so did I. Then we talked about real need and Jesus' real love.

Thank God for kids.

They are so real!

Prayer changes things

Yesterday at church, during Bible study time we had a visitor. He was a muscular tatoo'd New Zealander. I was glad I was meeting him in church and not a dark alley somewhere! He told a story from his life. He has been restricted, by his X, from seeing his daughter for 2.5 years. He was not allowed to speak to or visit his daughter because his wife was extremely controlling and verbally abusive. The way he said it was, "I was convinced her mother was the anti-Christ!"
He was at church in NZ one Sabbath in the town where his daughter and X were living. The Bible Study that morning in Sabbath School had been exploring the story of Jesus and the Centurian - when the soldier says, "Say the word and my daughter will be healed." Jesus was impressed by the Centurian's understanding of power and authority. Jesus says, "Go and it will be done." Then the text says that she was healed "that very hour."
So, at the end of the study the leader says, "Are there any prayer requests?" And the man says, "I want you to do that one hour thing for me. I want you to pray that I can see my daughter within the hour."
Amazing, eh? The guy had "Centurian faith" and believed that this Christian Bible study leader, who had most likely just said a lot about Jesus' power still being available in the same way, could contact this Jesus and His power through prayer. So, the leader agreed and said the prayer.
The next thing the man said was beautiful. He said, "When she finished the prayer I thought, 'well, we've said the prayer so I better do something about it!' So, I got busy." Oh that more of us would act with such faith!
He made a phone call to "the anti-christ" and was amazed when she was friendly and reasonable, something she had not been for many years. She said he could come over and visit his daughter "right now." And, within the hour, he was with his daughter.
Prayer changes things for those who have faith and choose to act in faith!

Scaring the Hell out of people

Earlier this week I listened to a church service from a congregational church in London on my ipod. This Sunday's service was about "loving people to Jesus." As an example the pastor had a few people give testimonies.
There were two "good" stories that showed the love and compassion present in their local church. The other two were "bad" stories about people's experience in other churches. One testimony was given by a lady that was raised a Catholic but went to a Seventh-day Adventist School.
She spoke very highly of the education at the school and the Christian teaching. She was very affirming of everything the Adventist system, teachers and staff did at the school. But, then she spoke of the other primary students and the severe emotional and spiritual damage they inflicted upon her with their words. She was told on a daily basis that she was "going to hell" because she was a Catholic. She cried as she told of how much she liked the other kids and wanted to be their friend but always feared the onslaught of damnation that would inevitably be hurled at her. As an Adventist, I was devastated by her story.
As she told her story one thing she said puzzled me. She said that the kids would say, "You are going to Hell because you are a Catholic and you are going to burn forever and ever!" For the Adventists reading this you will see the conundrum. But, those readers who are not familiar with Adventist theology will not.
Seventh-day Adventists use the entire Bible to understand Death, Hell and Judgment. The results of this careful study demonstrate that Hell is not a present reality but a future time-limited event that starts and finishes after the final phase of Judgment. Adventists believe that those who die sleep in the grave - body and soul - and will return to life and judgment at the return of Jesus. There is no current burning hell. We also believe that Hell is an event in time not an eternal event. Judgment happens. Hell fire happens. And the death received is permanent and eternal unlike the first death that is rectified by the 2nd coming.
OK, sorry for going so much into that, but I just wanted you to understand the struggle I was having while listening to this tearful testimony. My heart ached for her. She was distraught decades after the event. The first question I thought was, "Would Adventist kids say that to a Catholic kid?" I have been an Adventist kid in Adventist schools with other Adventists... The pack mentality is certainly present as it is at any school...

So, yes, Adventist kids would say, "Catholics are going to hell" because, unfortunately that's what the Adventist Pharisees where parroting in front of us when we were kids. It's different now, but it certainly was said (and is still said by some of the ungracious).
But what about the second part? Would an Adventist kid say, "You will burn forever!" I have to say that it just wouldn't happen. In the modern era, it was modeled by some church leaders that "knowing the truth" would lead to Jesus (rather than the other way around). So most Adventist churches focused on teaching doctrine to everyone - through evangelism programs, church services, Sabbath school classes, school Bible classes and family worship. Kids were, and still are, involved in all of these programs in healthy churches (as they should be!) So, most Adventist kids know what Adventists believe.
Then I realised something. This little girl, being told she would go to hell, was (of course) applying her Catholic understanding of Hell to the statements being said by the Adventist kids. So, while they were saying (from their position) "You will go to hell and that's the end of you!" She was hearing (from her position) "You will go to hell and be tortured in eternal hell fire, blistering for eternity!"
This realisation really made me think. People interpret our words and actions through their filters of reality - physical, emotional and spiritual. How often are we misunderstood? Perhaps a better question is: "How often are we understood correctly?"

A number of lessons emerged from my pondering:
1. Don't use loaded language when talking to anyone. Keep it simple.
2. Don't expect people to understand you or where you are coming from. Listen to them. Answer their questions. If they don't ask any questions, ask them to!
3. Don't ever say, "You are over reacting!" They may be hearing something very different than you are saying. Seek to understand then to be understood.
4. Lead people to Jesus first. Let Jesus teach them the truth in time and experience.
5. Oh be careful little mouth what you say!

How do we teach this to our kids?
1. Example first. Treat people as precious to Jesus.
2. Teaching second. Teach you children to love through the stories of the Bible, especially stories about Jesus.
3. Reality check. Explain, over and over, to your kids that other people are different and every single one of them is extremely loved by Jesus. Every time you see someone that is clearly different explain how precious that person is to Jesus and give some good reasons. Doing so will help you with your example and teaching!

I am really overwhelmed by this. That lovely woman's testimony helped me remember that the truth is divisive. Jesus taught that. Therefore the truth must be handled with great care. And people must be treated with even greater care! Jesus came to save people, not truth. True, he explained the truth more fully through his example and teaching. But that was the natural outgrowth of his loving life-saving nature. He loved people deeply and taught people thoughtfully. Oh, to be like Jesus!

Bad Language

I grew up in California, lived for a while in Hawaii, did volunteer work in the Marshal Islands and now live in Australia.

Lemme tell ya, mate. English is one well used and rarely unabused lingo!

When I started as a pastor here in Australia, with an American background, I found that the words I used could distract the audience so much that it felt like I never got them back. I learned to weed-out the Americanisms that interfered with the spoken Word of the day. Interestingly, there was nothing wrong with what I was saying. It was just to whom I was saying it.

I think that's how language works - especially when you are a communicator. Be yourself, even be origional, but don't be a stumbling block to your listener.

My accent (a mix of Aussie and Yank now that I've been here for 12 years) is often commented on. People like the unique pronunciation and cadence of my speech. Once a lady commented after church, "Pastor, you could say anything and I would listen!" I didn't know weather to be thankful for my accent or read the phone book the next weekend to save a few hours of prep time!

My point... Language is for communicating. If it gets in the way - either by being too crass or too upity, too flat or too animated, too quiet or too loud, too short or too long - it is doing harm to your message. So, when speaking - speak to your audience with authenticity and studied sincerity.

When listening to others speak, consider what you can learn about them from their speech. Primarily remember that 95 per cent of the world would rather die than speak to a large audience. So, they are not refined speakers that study their communication skills. They are just talkin' like they done heard momma talk and they e'spec some r'spec. And they should get it!

Speak well. Listen better.

The gift of faith

As far back as I can remember my Mom always said she wasn't sure what her spiritual gift was. We were all pretty sure that it was hospitality because she could feed every kid on the block and still be smiling!

But, one day early in my ministry, I was reading through the passages on spiritual gifts and came upon 1 Corintians 12.

1 Corintians 12:7-11 (NIV)
"Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. . . . to another faith by the same Spirit. . All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines."

As I read the bit about faith being a spiritual gift, and noticed that it is very clear that not every person gets every gift, I had a de-ja-vous experience.

My Mom has never doubted her God. She has, from the time she was a little girl living in an atheistic home, always known that God exists, loves her and has a plan for her life. She has told us (her kids) story after story of the times that her faith was rewarded.

And I often wondered, "Why don't I have that faith?!" In my last year of studying theology I went to the systematic theology lecturer and said, "You know what theology is?" He was kind enough to ask me for my definition to which I replied, "It's the thinking Christians way of avoiding is Christ given responsiblities!" He told me that wasn't fair, and then asked me, "So, what's really bothering you?"

Smart man. :)

I told him that I wasn't sure God even existed. He said something pretty simple in reply. But it really helped. He said, "Dave, you've been studying the Bible too much. Stop studying it and just go read it. Pick a book and read it through. Then come back and tell me if there is a God."

I picked Esther. Because God is never mentioned. But my streategy didn't work. I was overwhelmed by the presence of God in Esther's life.

Faith is a gift that some people are blessed with and others live with a small measure of. I get my faith through others. The more time I spend with faith rich people, the more my faith is encoraged. I also get my faith through telling the story. The more I confess faith in Christ and tell the stories from His Word the more in tune I am with him.

Post-literate society?

This afternoon I was in a computer game store when I overheard an insightful conversation.

There were three teens talking to each other - two girls and one boy. One of the girls said to the boy, "Where did you go earlier? You just disappeared." He replied that he had gone home for a few hours. "What did you do at home?" she asked, "Just sit and stare at the TV?"
He didn't respond immediately. She repeated herself and then he answered, "I was reading." He said this almost as if he was embarrassed.
The girl laughed and said, "Reading? What kind of person reads?" I couldn't see the looks on their faces as I had my back to them and was trying to look busy riffling through a stack of discounted games. Evidently the other boy and girl had exchanged concerned looks (I think they were brother and sister) and so the girl did what she thought was a backflip on her previous statement. "There is this girl in my class, I totally don't know how she got in year 8. She can't read at all. She asked my friend how to spell 'it' and she was serious!" Things started to lighten up a bit and the brother/sister combo laughed and the boy said, "yeah, 't.i.' that's how!"
Then the girl continued, "I mean, I can read. Like not a book or anything. But I can read that,” she pointed at the binding of a game that had three words on it. "That's the kind of stuff I read. But, I'm not good at reading books.”

So... She's not the worst reader in her class-which makes her feel good. But, she also wouldn't go home on a school holiday and read a book, because, she can't (or at least it would be too much of a struggle for her).

What are kids learning in school these days? Indeed, how do they get into year 8 without being able to read a block of text? Are we so technologically advanced that we no longer "need" to read, or are we slipping backward into an illiterate society for the poorer classes? Is it just the poor?

As a Christian communicator, this dilemma leads me to a different group of questions. The 1st century Christians were good at converting Jews because they understood their mythology and could answer their longings. They had a harder time leading non-Jews to Jesus because they didn't know how to convince them Jesus was the answer to their needs. Often they attempted to make "Jews" of them first so they could make "Christians" of them. While it is and was important for Christians to have a good understanding of the Old Testament, there was a lot of baggage in the Jewish culture that was not required for Gentiles.

What about today? If we truly are living in a post-literate society, do we need to teach them to read first so they can fully appreciate the Word of God? Or, is there some other way?
We live in a story based culture. People love to share, watch, tell and retell stories. Our very mythology is story based - the transmission of values and concepts is done primarily through story telling by today’s best communicators. Is it possible to introduce and integrate the story of Jesus without written text?

How necessary is the written Word for the growth of the Christian? Can one become a fully committed follower of Jesus without reading His Word? If so, what would this look like? How would it work? How could such a environment be designed, implemented and maintained to grow fully mature followers of Jesus without text?

Space

I thought of a really great answer. I thought it was brilliant. And since I new the answer, I framed a quesiton for it... And asked Mikey - my theologicially astute six year old.

Q. Why is the universe so big?

Without even pausing to breathe (or think for that matter), Mikey stole my thunder and gave me the exact answer that I had been so proud of.

A. So God can live there.

My actual answer was, "So God can have somewhere to live." Mikey just got straight to the point and hit the nail on the head. He's a sharp cookie. (so don't bite him, because he's likely to damage your gums!)

Dallas Willard writes (in "the divine conspiracy") that God made the universe as big as it is so that we could have space. Space.

Space to hold galaxies.

Space to make decisions.

Space to house universes.

Space to be yourself.

Space to frame earth.

Space to search for meaning.

Space to be free.

Space to search for God.

Space to be alone in.

Space to compel us to question.

Space. God made the universe SO BIG so that we can have space.

I like it.

Go in peace!

There is an amazing ending to the story of Naaman's healing from lepersy that is often not mentioned when the story is told. And yet, I think it teaches amazing lessons about God's nature and his love for true worship.

Naaman has just finished dipping seven times into the Jordan river, has been healed and has returned to thank Elisha the prophet. Elisha will accept no reward and so, here is Naaman's response:

2 Kings 5:15-19
Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, "Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. Please accept now a gift from your servant."
The prophet answered, "As surely as the LORD lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing." And even though Naaman urged him, he refused.
"If you will not," said Naaman, "please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the LORD. But may the LORD forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I bow there also—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD forgive your servant for this."
"Go in peace," Elisha said.

What just happened here? Naaman offers gifts to Elisha and is told: "Worship God, not me."
So, Naaman asks for a bit of Israel to take home with him so he can build an altar on "God's soil." He even takes it from the prophet's front yard! Naaman is serious about his new commitment to worship only Yahweh - the true God.
But then Naaman asks for something very strange. In one breath he says he will never again worship any God but the one true God. And then, after loading two donkeys with dirt, he comes back to say, "Actually, I will be worshipping Rimmon with my king, may the lord forgive your servant for this?"
Elisha's response is absolutely remarkable. It should take our view of God, turn it upside down, shake it around a bit and then hand it back to us, glorified.

Elisha says, "No, you can't worship false gods! You've just made a full commitment to Yahweh." ummmm... no...

Elisha says, "You will have to tell the king of your new faith, leave your old ways and cease all things that take you near false worship." actually... no...

Elisha says, "False worship is the mark of the beast. Go ahead and worship, but you're marked, buddy. Either 'choose you this day whom you will serve,' or 'try and serve two masters'...but h" Nope...

Elisha actually says, without condition, "Go in peace." That's it.

What? No condemnation for false worship? No new convert compelled to tell the conversion story to his boss? No distancing self from temptation and false worship? What is going on here?
Elisha is showing us some remarkable things about God.

I'm sure I haven't found all the lessons this postscript can teach us, but here is what I have learned so far:

1. God sees the heart and what resides there. He judges us by what he alone can see.

2. God honours those who honour their leaders - and He even honours 'pagan' leaders (see vs 2 Kings 5:1 -- the often forgotten begining of this story!)

3. God believes in his believers and trusts them to be faithful - even in their 'pagan' culture.

4. It is impossible to judge people by their actions alone - their heart may not be 'in it'.

What a powerful story! And what an amazing God. What do you see in this story? What have you learned? What will you do about it?

Am I a monkey's nephew?

In the news this month Spain is considering giving human rights to apes. Yes, you read that right, they are considering that Apes are more like us than other animals and deserve to be recognised and treated as such.

This is where the theory of evolution, inevitably, was and is heading... I suppose. What other conclusion could come from saying that all of life has a common primordial source and that we are just "more advanced" than other animals? We tell kids to respect their elders. Now, law makers are just telling us adults to do the same - show Uncle Ape some respect!

So, the idea in this proposed legislation is that apes are not to be owned, but are to be "morally" guarded. They will have similar rights to children (human) and severly handicapped people. To harm an ape would no longer be animal cruelty, it would be a criminal offence punishable under human treatment laws.

Discussion is rampant, as you can imagine. Numerous people are speaking against it and many are supporting the bill. I heard a debate on the radio about the bill. Evidently we share somewhere between 95-98 percent of our genetic material with apes. Not that I'm sharing any of mine, to be perfectly honest. I'm using every bit of my matter, grey and otherwise.

But, back to the debate... One of the debaters said, "We share over 50 percent of our genetic matter with banana's. You don't hear ANYONE suggesting that we give rights to bananas." No, I don't think the apes would be in favour of that in the slightest! Imagine the dilema we would have - teaching apes (in gentle respectable ways) that they can not eat their ancestors. "Show some respect Uncle, that's Grandpa you're trying to peel."

Anyway, what I think the anti-banana-rights-activist is actually getting at is that just because we look like apes (some more than others) we don't need to anthropomorphise them to the point that we give them names (opps, already doing that), teach them to read (oh yeah, doing that too, drat), teach them to communicate with us ("apple" "good girl!"...) I'm digging myself into a hole here.

Perhaps we should just move out and give the keys to the nearest ape. We could always go back to the trees.

Progress vs Purpose

I've just started reading "The Divine Conspiracy" by Dallas Willard and was struck by a quote from the writings of Tolstoy. The basic concept of this chapter is that life without moral structure is meaningless (at least) and enevitably dangerous. In our world today, universities are allowed to teach morality only as something to "understand" rather than something to believe and follow.
For example, you may study Christian morals and then Communist morals and then Muslim morals for the purpose of understanding and comparing the moral codes as an exploration in culture and thinking. But, it does nothing for the student other than to inform. Understanding of moral living without a compulsion to apply that morality is, in post-modernity, the point of religious or philosphical study.
This basically leads to very educated people with no personal moral code. And what is the result of that? It could lead to manipulative managers or vascilating leaders or permissive teachers or frustrated parents or damaged people... But, one thing it wont lead to is someone who passionately lives for a set of ideals because it is true, right and holy. That is, to the post-modern immersed reality, both arrogant and naive.

So, here's Tolstoy's statement considering the above worldview:

Leo Tolstoy in "Confession"
I was like a man in a boat who when carried along by wind and waves should reply to what for him is the chief and only question. "whither to steer", by saying, "We are being carried somewhere".

When I read this, it reminded me of a passage from Acts 27 telling the story of Paul's shipwreck experience. Paul had warned the sailors that if they sail on, at that time of year, they will get caught in a storm. The sailors, recognising that Paul was not a sailor and they were, stated that they were aware of the seasons and that they would easily make it to the next port before winter weather set in. Further, they assured Paul that if they hugged the coastline there would be no worry because they could sail into port at the first sign of bad weather. Paul, in his chains, shrugged his shoulders. He had warned them.

Acts 27:14-15
Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the "northeaster," swept down from the island. The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along.

This passage was brought back to mind as I read the above quote from Tolstoy. He sees the post-modern plight as someone, in control of a ship called life, being told, "Don't try to stear, we are being carried somewhere!" Progress is not success. In fact, success is not necissarily beneficial. Both can be brought randomly by the winds of change. Only purpose - a north star - can bring true success or progress. Merely "going" is not valuable. But, going with purpose is everything in life. If that purpose is the right purpose!

Jesus said, "As you are going make disciples, baptise them, and teach them everything I taught you." We call that the great commision. But, it is not complete as I have quoted it because it does not have the purpose - the north star by which to steer - of going. Just before this three-phase commision Jesus said, "All authority in Heaven and on Earth are given to me, therefore..."

If you are going - discipling, baptising, teaching - with another purpose other than leading people to the authority of Christ, you are going astray. If the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.

We need to steer our ship toward Jesus, toward his reality, his authority. Without the North Star we will be blown by the winds of change and there will really be little reason to steer as, indeed, we are always being carried somewhere...

The flea and the elephant

Once an elephant and a flea crossed a bridge together. When they got to the far side the flea said excitedly to the elephant, "Boy, did we shake that thing!"

Are you walking through life with God? Are you seeing things for what they are? Are you seeing God for who he is? Are you seeing yourself in "Jesus Follower" context?

If your Christian witness is really changing people, your voice is being heard, your gifts are blessing people—remeber the flea and the elephant. You may just be walking in the footprints of God.

TnT - a powerful secret

Would you like to know a secret? It’s a secret that has come down to us through the ages. Noah knew the secret. Moses knew it. Elijah knew it. All the prophets knew it. Jesus knew it. From Genesis to Revelation the secret is revealed through the lives recorded and the stories told in those hallowed pages. What is the secret?

Before I tell you the secret, let me tell you what participating in the secret will create. Participating in the secret will create passionate followers of Jesus Christ. Look back at the people I listed – Noah applied the secret and saved his family in the ark. Moses’ skills in the secret released his people from slavery and built a nation. Elijah passed the secret onto his protégé, Elisha, before ascending into heaven in a fiery chariot. The prophets embodied the secret in every age and their message repeatedly drew God’s people back to obedience. Jesus’ implementation of the secret changed eleven headstrong men into soul winners and through the influence of those disciples the secret continues to change men and women the world round into Christ-followers.

So, what is the secret? The secret provides the power for life change and spiritual growth. Pastors, it will lead your people to fruitful spiritual maturity. Teachers, it will lead your students to active learning. Parents, it will lead your children to a desire to know Jesus personally. Obviously this secret is powerful—as powerful as TnT.
In fact, that is the secret: TnT—Testimonies and Training.

Testimonies: You don’t have to explore the above stories very deeply to discover the presence of people sharing their stories. And, when the foundation of the person’s story is understood it is clear that their story connects back to the moment that God spoke our planet into existence. The teller of the testimony is a conduit reconnecting Heaven and Earth—God and lost humanity—through their story.

This story, which has been alive from before creation has been told and retold in the form of a personal encounter. Noah told of a conversation with God and lived out that conversation by building the ark. All God’s great leaders model their message. Moses told the story of the burning bush—he showed the Hebrew slaves the miracles that God could do to his staff, his hand and his bowl—and once the people believed his story they followed him to freedom.

Elijah threw his mantle over a young man working in a field. The young man, Elisha, knew what it meant—“I am to follow him and learn his message and ultimately I will wear this mantle as my own.” The prophets told story after story trying to reconnect a wandering people with their steadfast God.

Jesus brought the story of the Redeeming God into view as he said to Philip, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” The disciples showed that to lead someone to Christ you must connect them to the story of Jesus. “Let me tell you about the day that I met Jesus.” is how we would say it today. I call it my “Christory”—When my story and His story collided.

Testimony is the greatest tool in the arsenal of every Jesus follower. Without your story you are a stack of statistics. With your story you are a living, breathing dwelling place of the Holy Spirit testifying of your Saviour and His love. To share your story is your greatest gift.

Training: Once we become serious students we seek out training. It’s wired into our nature. We begin to seek deeper truth, higher ideals and wider understanding—we embrace the teacher.

Noah taught his sons to build. Moses mentored Joshua into a Kingdom claiming conqueror. Elisha walked in his master’s sandal prints and learned to be a Godly prophet. The prophets paired tough lessons with their piercing narratives.

Jesus said, "follow me," and once they did the teaching commenced. Ultimately those disciples, because they listened and learned, went making disciples, baptising them and teaching them everything Jesus had taught them. Now the mantle rests on your shoulders. Go tell your story and never stop learning!

Book: Experiential Storytelling

Over the weekend I read a book than Nathan loaned me. It is called Experiential Storytelling: (Re)Discovering Narrative to Communicate God's Message. You can click on the link above to check out the book at Zondervan Publishing.

Mark Miller, the author, paints a telling picture of the world today and of the churches attempt to comunicate with yesterday's style. Then he challenges the reader to lead people into experiences of the Gospel rather than sermons based on the gospel.

The book, published in 2003, recognises a growing need for story based exposition of the Gospel. But, Miller takes it a step further than "telling" the story. He suggests that people - expecially today's youth - learn best through experience. Therefore, creating ways that youth can interact with the story is the best learning strategy.

Peppered with quotes on learing and speaking, it is a great resource for any budding preacher, teacher or leader.

As I read the final chapter, which focuses on expamples of the theory in practice (I would have liked to see more of these!), I couldn't help realising that the Adventist Church in Victoria, Australia is doing a pretty good job of it. The Road to Bethelehem and Road to Calvary "walk-through" programs are both experiential storytelling experiences.

Knowing the Truth: Response from Braden Blyde

What a great, thought provoking topic.

If we were going to go down the whole post-modern track we could say that truth is nothing, truth is everything. What you believe is truth, what I believe is truth, because we make our own realities and truths.

So if we construct our own truths - do we need the Bible (an instruction manual of truth)?

Post modern thought falls down in the area of acountability. If there is no ultimate truth, then we are not accountable to anyone or anything. I don't believe God is a post modernist - but that is not to say he isn't available to post modernists. If God was a post modernist, the 10 commandments would become open to any interpretation, in fact the whole Bible (even Jesus) would be open - and each one of them aceptable. This doesn't sit well with me.

So do we need the Bible to know God? This is how I see it - the Bible is a literary representation and account of the Truth. So by reading it we get to know the Truth. However, the Truth is more than the Bible, it is God. God does not need the Bible to exist, but the Bible exists because of God.

It is therefore possible to know God without the Bible (such as Enoch did), but impossible to know the Bible without God.

Thats' my 2cents worth.

Little C and Big C


Cyrus and I spent a week together in Adelaide. It was heaps of fun! We did lots of fun stuff together including riding a camel at Monarto Zoo. (I got off the camel to take the photo).
This camel was kind enough to take us for a bouncy walk around the place. Then he say down(!) and we hopped off.
Cyrus and I had a great time in Adelaide with the students at Prescott College! What a fantastic week!

Prescott College and Adelaide Youth Rally


Last week was a real spiritual high for me.
I spent the week with the students at Prescott College as their Week of Spiritual Emphasis speaker.
I was amazed at the level of spiritual awareness, rediness and passion of the students. During Song service they sang! the drama's each day were great. The musical items were evidence of a gifted community.
Thank you to all the people who made the week so wonderful! And thanks to the SA Youth Department for looking after the needs of Cyrus and I. We had a great time!
The Youth Rally on Sabbath was another highlight. The young people involved in that program put their all into it. I was amazed by the music, the drama and the Sabbath School lesson was great!
For those of you who were there - remember to Look to Jesus!

The Prodigy Project - Jesus

I was talking to Mikey, my 6 year old, last night about the word "Prodigy." He hadn't heard it before. I explained that a prodigy is someone who is extremely excellent in a particular area. Like a math prodigy.

He decided he was a math prodigy and an english prodigy. He enjoys both fields of study and does well at them, but it pleased me to think that he thought himself exceptional!

Then I said, "Mikey, do you think Jesus was a prodigy?"

He said, "Yes."

I asked, "What kind of prodigy was Jesus?" His answer amazed me. Later Jenny said she would have said a healing prodigy or a salvation prodigy. But, Mikey got to the core of the matter!

Mikey replied without even pausing for breath, "Jesus is a love prodigy."

The more I think about it, the more I appreciate the truth of what Mikey revealed. Jesus is true love. He is everything that is pure and honest and glorious and special about love. He loves the deepest. he loves the longest. He loves the most people. Jesus truly is a love prodigy.

Free Snow Skiing - just attend our one hour presentation

Yesterday while chatting online with a young man from NSW I presented to him a scenario.

Imagine two groups of people that file into a room, take their seats and watch a one hour video.

In the first room the video is of snow skiing accidents. broken legs. People hitting trees. Death. Mahem on the slopes involving common skiers that had a bad day.

In the second room the video is of snow skiing bliss. Powdered slopes. People swishing down the double diamond runs without a fault. Average people taking amazing jumps and landing each and throwing the arms into the sky in celebration.

At the end of both videos a ski instructor walks in and says, "I have a real treat for you! An all expense paid day on the slopes. We will provide skies, boots, poles, lift tickets, lunch and even warm clothes if you need them."

Which group is likely to take the offer?

Now, consider the last four sermons you have heard. Which room were you sitting in? How motivated were you to take the free tickets? How involved did you become?

We have an amazing message. We really do! Jesus, the God of the universe died in our place so that we could live in eternal freedom from the laws of death and sin. Why do we spend so much time walking backwards to Heaven, commenting on the carnage behind us; rather than running toward the throne, with unveiled face - eyes fixed on Jesus, glorying in the new reality of life in Christ?

Which type of Christian life will draw more people to Christ? The one who is constantly commenting on sin and chastising the fallen, or the one who is glorifying and glorying in Jesus...

The answer is so clear...

So live it!

Swearing your your way to the truth

Two guys were walking behind me from the carpark into Coles today. They had a strong attraction to the less attractive words in our english tongue... Well, at least I find them ugly. Often called four letter words these adjectives pepper the conversations of many people.

As we walked into Coles they continued. I thought they might change the channel when we entered the building. But no. Or at least turn the volume down a few notches. If only I had my remote. I would have pointed it at them and pressed mute...

Anyway, as I listened to these two gentlemen profane their way through the fruits and veges a thought crossed my mind.

The words we voice reveal two things about us. Today's comrades and tomorrow's character.

Why leave when things could get worse?

I think it's time for the allied forces to head home before they accidently do something helpful.

In the not so distant past:

The Brittish shot their own man and decided not to prosecute their own men for shooting one of their own. Hey, it was friendly fire. You can't get in trouble for being friendly. Right?

The Australians sent the wrong corpse home. Yes, they've only lost one man in the battle and now it seems they've lost him in the morgue too...

The Americans... Well, they don't even have to leave home to shoot the wrong guy. And maybe, just maybe they should go home, sit in the corner and think about what they've done.

Knowing the Truth - A Small Group Exercise

John 18:37-38
"You are a king, then!" said Pilate.
Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."
"What is truth?" Pilate asked.

Acts 4:10-13
It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth . . . Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

The Small Group Exercise
I value the truth. I couldn't be who I am without Jesus. For He is the Truth. Pilate's question is, in my thinking, the most pertinent question for our post-modern world today, "Truth! What is truth?"
We have the Bible. And this reveals the Truth to us. But, there must be a discoverable and present Truth without the Bible. Why do I say that?
There is a question I love to float by Christians of all ages - "What do we need to do to know God?" Bible study always ranks high, usually first, on the list. Then I ask, "What if you didn't have the Bible? Could you still know God?" The conversation then usually goes somewhere down the "last days" motif and all the Bibles being taken away. And then I say, "No, I mean, what if you never had the Bible - never had John 3:16 - and you didn't have any written proof or truth. Would you then be able to know God?" This usually gets a stunned silence. Someone ventures a "God wouldn't do that to us. He hasn't. It wouldn't happen, because we need the Bible. It is God's WORD - his way of speaking to us!"
And then I say, "What about Enoch? Did he know God? He didn't have a Bible - or any written proof or truth - and centuries later when Moses wrote it down, he said Enoch walked with God. So, how did Enoch do it?"
I LOVE THIS EXERCISE!!! It takes people out of their preprogrammed answer box and makes them think. Enoch walked with God because he walked with God. What does that mean? We don't know much about Enoch, other than he "had been with Jesus." And that was enough for him!
I am not saying the Bible is unnecessary or useless. It is exactly the opposite. It is our source on the Source. The word on the Word. And I wouldn't be without it, but... It is truly nothing if we have not "been with Jesus."

Oh, what a feeling (no Toyota involved)

I have been wanting to blog a few things out ...

And it has been weeks!

But, this morning I woke early and I blogged.

And it feels good!

Enjoy.

The little plant that wouldn't die

Recently while listening to NPR's "story of the day" podcast I was overwhelmed by an amazing story.

Here's the Link

That's the podcast and some further details.

The basics of the story are this:

A plant goes extinct...

Years later a boy finds the "last" of the species - still alive.

So, the government builds a fence around it.

This makes the people suspicious. They think, "Hey, It must be a magic plant!" So people start climbing the fence and stealing bark, leaves and whatever else the can from the bush to use as a cure all.
So, the government put a barbed wire fence around that one. The people start to think that the plant is cursed and is bringing bad luck to the island. So, they throw things at the plant - over the fence. Things like rubbish and animal corpses. Yes, dead animals!
So, the government puts another barbed wire fence around the perimeter. After more trouble another fence is erected (yup, four) and a guard house is build, a guard is hired and the plant (now on a half-acre compound) is protected.

But, that's not the end of the story.

The plant, although it had been cloned many times (cuttings taken and planted), had no way of seeding because there was no pollen from another plant to polinate with. So, scientists in London (who had taken a cutting 20 years before) devised a "sex hormone" to dust the plant with to encourage it to seed. After much careful experimentation and application the little plant seeded!

Back on the island, something amazing happened. Without any help at all, the little plant seeded. All by itself. The biologists were amazed. befuddled. How had it happened?
After much thought, and being presented the question from a news reporter, a leading scientist said, "Maybe, just maybe, on the very brink of extinction, the little plant just decided to stick around."

I like it! That's science.

Actually, that's church.

Think about it. All the scientific research we do to grow the church. All the hormones - NCD, NCLS, etc - over time, do their work. And then God shows up (as if he wasn't there before!) and the church seeds - a church plant!

And the little church, the one still on the island, build fences around their little plant. They wrap barb wire around it. People start throwing things. The plant gets sick. Then someone decides to protect the church - its doctrine, its history, its tradition. And, after a few years, there is a little church with four fences, a guard house and usually a rather determined guard (or two).
Then something strange happens. God shows up. The plant seeds. As if He wasn't there all along.

God is good. . . . All the time.

All the time. . . . God is Good.

Believe it. And, who knows, something just might happen!

A couple more family pics


Here are some photos from yesterday. Jenny's parents took them. Wish I had such a great looking family.

Oh, wait.

I do!

My View on Cricket

When I first came over to Austrlaia I tried to understand the sport.
I like Aussie Rules. It looks like hard work and the guys are fit.
But Cricket? I have never seen a "game" where so many people just stand around. One day I was listening to the cricket on the radio while driving home (Boronia) from work (Preston) which takes around 40 minutes. When I got home I decided to turn on the TV and try to make sense of all the strange terminology. (listening to cricket on the radio is like learning a new language!)
Well... I turned on the TV and after watching for about five minutes of watching one guy run really fast and then throw a ball while everyone else watched, a guy hit the ball. It went into the outfield and it was just out of reach of one of the immobile fieldsmen. He had to move. Amazingly enough, he did. He moved.
He lunged for the ball and fell to the ground clutching his... well... let's just say, he didn't catch "the" ball. The entertainment value was gonig up! A few minutes later they took him off the field. The message came back from the doctor that he had pulled his groin. No kidding. He hadn't moved for the better part of the day and then he decides to lunge. Something had to give out.
You can tell that I am not all that impressed with cricket. Well today in the news...


Clark in doubt for one-dayer after fall
April 23, 2006 - 5:49AM

Australian batsman Michael Clarke is in doubt
for the opening one-day match against Bangladesh
after slipping and hitting his head entering the hotel pool.

The 25-year-old fell during a post-training recovery
session late Saturday at the Peninsula Hotel in Chittagong.

He needed 13 stitches to the back of his head but was
understood to be up and walking around following the
incident.

...

"a post-training recovery session"? ...

"late Saturday"? ...

Sounds like a pool party to me. Sounds like someone was showing off. Sounds like an unlucky number of stitches... Whatever it sounds like, I reckon it's just not cricket.

Or maybe it is.

The Camouflage Pants

I recently heard a story on a podcast that I have used in a couple sermons. It is a powerful story when talking about the very popular question, "Why do bad things happen to good people."

I used it at Victoria camp in the adults division for Sabbath School and in the Teens tent where I was speaking about "United in the moment of Decision." Teens was great fun! Friday night we talked about being "United in the moment of Creation." And on Sunday night after talking about being "United in the moment of Baptism" we had six kids come forward desiring baptism. I invited all the kids who had already been baptised to come forward (there were over 30 of them) to lay hands on the six kids and we prayed for the newbies. It was a special moment!

But I digress. The Camouflage pants...

There was a little boy - about seven years old - who lived in Pakistan. They lived in a valley that had strong winds frequently. The little boy was excited and fascinated by the wind and would always run outside whenever the wind blew so that he could watch the effects of the gale.
His mother did not want him going OUT when the wind was blowing. She wanted him to come IN. But, he would never listen. He just found the wind to enticing.
Finally, after telling the boy repeatedly, "Come in the house when the wind blows!" and being ignored, the mum thought of a plan. She knew how much the little guy liked his camouflage pants. So, she told him, "The next time we have a windstorm if you run into the house quickly I will let you wear your camouflage pants the next day."
The boy thought this was a great deal. And, sure enough, a couple days later the wind picked up and the boy came running home. He ran inside to his mum and said, "The wind is blowing and I came in!" The mother told him she was proud of him and that he could wear his camo pants the next day. And he did!
The next day, the boy was playing outside, in his camouflage pants. As he was playing he noticed the wind pick up. He had learned his lesson and wanted to make Mum happy. So, he got up and started to run home. As he was running the ground began to roll. It was 8 October 2005, the day that the huge earthquake hit Pakistan. The boy ran into the house through the back door. His mother was quickly gathering his little sister and the baby up in her arms and fled through the front door. As she exited the house it collapsed behind her.
She began the frantic search for her little boy. She called and called, looked and looked and couldn't find him anywhere. She began to dig through the pile of rubble that once was her house. After two days of digging with her bare hands, she saw the camouflage pants. Moments later she held the dead body of her boy. He had obeyed. He had come in when the wind blew--something he would not have done even a week before.
The mother, talking to a aid worker, said, "I lost my God that day."
Over 79,000 people lost their lives in that earthquake. How many of them lost their God?

Harvest Festival

Tonight is the harvest festival at Lilydale Church.

Jenny has gone ALL OUT and made a huge doll house!

Hopefully it will raise plenty of money for the Lilydale Pathfinders. They are raising money to go to the Camporee next year.


Better than sacrifice

1 Samuel 15:22
But Samuel replied: "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD ? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

In our Chooseday Café (our weekly small group meeting here at the Signs) we are watching the Nooma DVDs and having a discussion afterwards. This week we were challenged to make our Christianity real.

As the above text states, God is not interested in sacrifice without obedience. In other words, He doesn’t want us to say sorry with no intention of doing the right thing next time. To obey is better.

God never intended for sin to erupt. Without sin, there would have been no need for sacrifice. With unbroken obedience there would have never been death. All the blood of innocent lambs would have been unnecessary—unimaginable really, having never seen or experiencing death.

It is interesting to me how many of the answers we give to spiritual questions require a sinful worldview to be the correct answer. For instance: “What does God want us to do?” Usual answer: “To obey.” Another question: “Why do we pray?” Usual answer: “To ask for something—help or guidance.” Another question: “How does God show His love for us?” Answer: “He sent His Son to die for us.”

Do you see it? What if there had never been sin? God wouldn’t be calling for obedience. He wouldn’t be answering pleas for help. And he would never have sent his Son to die. When we get to Heaven, what will the point of life be?

Back to our DVD discussion. To obey is better than sacrifice. The death of lambs was a waste if it wasn’t parallelled with a heart of repentance and a life of obedience. Jesus’ sacrifice is useless if it doesn’t bridge the gap between a death-filled worldview and a death-free worldview.

What does God want from us? Passionate worship. Why do we pray? To commune with God. How does God show His love for us? Life.

Have you accepted Jesus death on the cross in your place? Then the sacrifice has been made for you. What is the purpose of your life, now? Remember, you subscribe to the death-free worldview now. Who are you? What is your purpose? What is God’s purpose for your life? Why do you pray, testify, love, laugh or sing? Why do you live?

Hardly Normal (Harvey Norman) proves its name

This is a tale of frustration, amazement and jaw dropping ineptitude. And, thanks to Harvey Norman in Devonport, Tasmania it is a true story.

My laptop crashed. Well, really it is Flexirent's laptop... I am just looking after it and paying for the privaledge. So, Flexirent's laptop crashed.

I purchased the laptop from Harvey Norman in Burnie, Tasmania nearly two years ago. Because Flexirent takes out the extended waranty, i knew that I should take it to the nearest Harvey Norman store. I was working in Devonport for that week, so I took it to the Devonport store.

They took my laptop, my phone number and address. I explained that I was in the process of moving from Tasmania to Victoria and would have a new address by the time the laptop was finished, so, "Call my mobile when the laptop is fixed and I will give you the address." The nice sales assistant assured me that would be the case. He also said that it would be 3-5 weeks.

Three weeks later I was sitting at my new office desk in Victoria and decided to check on the status of my laptop. After the usual bouncing from person to peson on the phone I was told by the tech guy, "Your laptop has been sitting here for a couple weeks. It's fixed. We just didn't know where to send it." I explained the agreement that the sales assistant had made with me regarding my mobile number and their promise to call it upon completion of their task. The tech guy said, "Oh, well, I don't have your number. Must be the other tech guy who has it." Evidently they do not communicate—at least more than once every couple of weeks.

So, I gave my address to the tech guy and my phone number—again. He assured me the laptop would be send out "tomorrow" and it would take about 5 days. I thanked him. That was Thursday morning at 10am. Why he couldn't send it in the remaining seven hours of that business day, I am not sure. But, I was comforted to know that it was fixed and on it's way to me. I also asked this tech guy if they were able to save the data on the harddrive or if they had formatted it. I was thrilled when he said, "Nope. Everything is still there. All fixed!"

The next Thursday (that's 7 days, not 5) I decided I better call them again. After the bounce around I got to the tech guy. This time it was the "other" tech guy. He had a very interesting response to my inquiry about my laptop. He said, "Your laptop has been sitting here for a couple weeks. It's fixed. We just didn't know where to send it." (if that seems like a cut-n-paste it's because it is...) I said, "That's what the tech guy said last week! I have him my address! He said he would send it the next day." His response was beautiful, "Oh, you must have talked to the other tech guy, it wasn't me." Evidently I was supposed to see the logic and brilliance in this response and offer words of affirmation and understanding. I did not. I repeated my address in a calm voice, asked when I could expect the laptop and hung up.

Then I called back and asked for the manager. When the bounce around got me to the manager (I got to talk to a nice young lady in "computing" first and asked her—again—for a manager. She cheerfully said, "no promlem!" and transfered me.) When I had the manager on the phone he said he had just heard about the problem and that the laptop would be sent that day. I thanked him and then said, "Can I tell you a story?" What could he say? I guess he had other options, but he graciously said, "Sure, go ahead." I then told him the above story of ineptitude. He had not been aware of the whole story (amazing, eh?) as tech guy 1 and 2 had not fully informed him. I then told the manager, "Look, I have a wedding that I am officiating at on Sunday. Based on the promise from the tech guy last week I assured them that my laptop would be available for their slideshow. They are country people and do not have another option. I need my laptop before Sunday."

Amazingly, he promised that he would see that the tech guy made it happen. I received a phone call from tech guy 2 about 30 minutes later asking, "Would Saturday morning at 10am be good?" I didn't want to completely confuse the guy by saying, "No, I'll be at church on Saturday morning." So, I said, "That will be fine." He then said, "It's going to cost $240 to have it couriered to you—but don't worry, we will pay—it was our stuff up." Indeed.

A few minutes later he called back to say that the delivery was paid and promised. I thanked him and then I said, "You know, for $240 you could fly over, deliver the laptop and spend a day in Melbourne!" His answer helped me to understand the whole frustrating situation, "I thought of that meself and I reckon I would if I weren't 'fraid of flying!" So, there ya go.
I have to say, I spent two years living in Tassie and this situation needs to be explained clearly. This guy was not a typical Tasmanian. But, he was (and most likely still is) a typical Harvey Norman employee.

Oh, you want to know if I got my laptop, don't you. Yes, it did arrive. And the Harddrive had been wiped clean and blessed with a fresh install of Windows XP with no drivers for the laptop. Had I known the install CD's were needed I would have brought them home from work on Friday. (Why did I believe tech guy 1 about the recovery of my harddrive? Good question!) So, I spent the next few hours downloading and installing drivers so that the wedding (which had a practice 7pm that night—a four hour drive away) would have the promised slideshow.

My family arrived home from church. I had a quick bite to eat with them and then I packed up the laptop and headed off to a wedding practice. Which went well, by the way!

Get it India

Apparently, if you ask nicely, you can get nuclear reactors from the American government if you promise to be nice.

There's a conundrum in there somewhere...

Wentworth - Where 1+1=1

Just past Mildura a town named Wentworth has formed due to the natural phenomenon that occurs there. The Darling and the Murray rivers merge - it's quite a sight!


There is also another phenomenon that has occurred as a result of the human presence. The bushes spell things. Smart bushes. Smart people.



Much akin to the literate bushes is the remarkable stairway to nowhere. Much the same as every staircase I have encountered, it goes up and down (depending on your perspective). Unlike other staircases it appears that the primary purpose of going up is to come down. Very ingenious really. Much like a painted rock with "turn me over" on both sides, this staircase is sure to entertain blondes the world over.

Further bush intelligence can be found (more readily than in America) in the amazing two dimensional rendition of the saviour of Wentworth from yonder year. I hear you saying, "Pardon?"
Apparently the town was nearly destroyed in 1956 when the two rivers swelled due to a flood. The Fergies (a type of tractor) banded together and saved the town by building levies. According to the town clerk of the day, "By God and By Fergie we beat the flood."


Half way down the walking track to nowhere (it starts just past the staircase of similar purpose) I found the perfect tree! See the halo?

Dave Edgren ~ Story: Teller, Author, Trainer ~

BOOK DAVE NOW! Dave Edgren is passionate about creating a values-based storytelling culture. In his engaging and often hilarious way,...