The Church Irresistable

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In this episode Dean and Justin share about their recent travels and inability to catch fish. Then Justin discusses the beautiful expression of church he uncovered in the Free State.

Listen here, or right-click and choose save as to download

Jesus and the authority flip

itunes-barefootIn what turns out to be Justin and Deans most explosive podcast every, they discover Jesus declaring his kingdom message that undoes their concepts of sovereignty, politics and authority in the most beautiful way

Please note that due to Soundcloud’s restrictions we can no longer offer their embedded player. However you can subscribe to the podcast through iTunes or get it here Click to play, or right click to “Save as”.

I share this to start a conversation and so I would love to hear your thoughts

Setting the Table

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In this episode Justin and Dean are in “prison”, they also use their free time to talk about what might be the basis for our christian unity, the sacrament of Eucharist and how it might be reframed so that it becomes part of our daily life. I hope you enjoy!

Resting in the “Yes” of resurrection

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Much of my christianity was spend doing stuff for God, especially doing things to try and build my relationship with him. I would exert every effort to try and get closer to God. However I couldn’t sustain it. Eventually I had to be honest with myself because no spiritual discipline really gave me what I wanted, a deeper relationship with him.

Then one day I said yes to God (if you want to read the whole story check out my about page). I had become frustrated with how shallow the worship was in my congregation and in the ones around me. Sure there were times of connection, times where the Spirit would really move, dancing, laughing, crying. However there was so little change and growth compared to the “height” of these encounters. So when God told me I couldn’t transition into the new thing, that he would unplug me from it and plug me into the new thing I said a “Yes” that would change everything.

Surrender is such a big word, and yes it is so important in our christian tradition. We know that it is one of those words, like “Grace” or “Jesus”, it’s always the answer. However it is a word that doesn’t come naturally to me at least, but I am sure that I’m not alone, and it’s a word I would trip over all the time. How can I surrender everything when I don’t even know everything about myself? How can I surrender all of my future when that is such a long time, I know I will take back my surrender in the future sometime, especially when it get’s inconvenient.

So I found the word “Yes”. It’s a simpler word, an easier word, a more humble word, at least that’s what I think. Now the real reason I love the word “Yes” and the big difference for me between it and the word “Surrender” is that it goes perfectly with a gift. That’s what my problem was. I wasn’t able to receive all that God had given me by using the word surrender. However I have been by using the word “Yes”, it has made it so simple to receive God’s work and his Gift in my life.

After Easter, we live in days that should be full of Resurrection, the ultimate gift of life, the gift of a new life, from a new source. When I think about Lazarus, Jesus and others that have been raised from the dead they were helpless to do anything while in that state. Resurrection is the greatest gift of all, it is given to someone who is in a completely helpless state to change themselves. That was me. I realised that if I was to live this new creation life, from a different source than me, I had to acknowledge my own helplessness, and my own need for resurrection. I had to be willing to purely receive, instead of my old surrender mindset of “What can I give to God, so I can get from God”.

The fear is that we become passive. “Yes” has allowed me to remain engaged with God and yet in a posture that allows me to receive. “Yes” doesn’t cause me to try and make it happen, it helps create a space big enough for God to move, it helps me be more aware of what he’s doing, and then I am free to respond to him the best way I know how. When I tried to “surrender” the focus was all on me and what I was giving up, but with “Yes” it remains more naturally on God.

“Surrender” seemed to me to require that I make the ultimate sacrifice, sort of like the spiritual equivalent of climbing onto the altar myself, and plunging the dagger into my chest and with my last breath setting everything on fire, hoping I would be changed. “Yes” has been to me like agreeing to go into surgery, not liking the idea, but knowing the surgeon is trustworthy and knowing that even when I can’t care for myself I will have him and his staff giving me the best care possible. Then once he has done his deep work in my heart he resurrects me, awaking me to this new life, this new creation.

Check out Hebrews 4 and let me know what you think:

The multifaceted nature of Easter

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It is so easy for us to become too familiar with the cross and with Easter because it happens each year. Also because we see the message as the “Basics” of the Christian life. Obviously they are that, but the problem is that too often our understanding and our experience of the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus does not change. I think it is because these two events are critical to our salvation and so we don’t allow them to change because that might actually change the basis of our salvation?

Anyway what I want to do is not take anything from that, what I want to rather suggest is that there is a whole spectrum of light within the Easter event that can only enrich what we already know about it, our relationship to it and obviously our relationship to Jesus and God our father.

Last week I said that nothing shapes our understanding of God like what we believe happens at the cross. I would like to add to that this week that our understanding of the cross is incomplete without the resurrection. These last few days as we approach Easter, it might be helpful to meditate on the cross in the light of the resurrection.

One of the things I have realised is that we have separated the Cross from the Resurrection. Sure on Sunday we will have preachers everywhere talk about how Jesus is alive and how that is good news, which it obviously is. However Jesus being alive and what is meant by resurrection are two different things. If Jesus comes back to life that just happens to him, probably because he is perfect, or God’s son, or both. However Resurrection means that what happened to Jesus, a physical resurrection with a new physically transformed body, will happen to us too. My years in church didn’t prepare me too well for a physical resurrection because I was going to heaven when I died, I would get a “spiritual” body and so I didn’t need a new physical one.

It is very easy to come to the conclusion that Jesus is being punished for the sins of the world by dying on the cross, when we view the cross in isolation. However have you ever thought that if this is true, then God is holding us to a higher standard than himself? We are told to forgive, even to forgive our enemies. We know that to forgive means to not punish, it means to release the person, to not exact revenge on that person. However on the cross we hear Jesus say to his father “Forgive them for they know not what they do” and yet God still has Jesus die.

The only way I can understand that moment is in the light of the Resurrection. I don’t believe God required Jesus to die to punish us for our sins. I believe that he answered Jesus prayer and forgave us our sins even while we nailed Jesus to the cross. However I do believe that one of the things Jesus is doing through his death on the cross, is defeating the principal of sin and death and making a way open to the new creation, so that we can live on this earth from a totally new place.

Jesus doesn’t see death and going to heaven as a way to escape earth and all of it’s evil. Rather he presents his resurrection as a new way that we can engage this broken world with the realities of his new creation. I believe he is calling us through the resurrection to not escape to the “safety and pleasures of heaven” but to rather re-enter this world practising new creation realities, physical realities that are empowered by the love of a Father who is reconciling the world to himself.

Would love you comments and thoughts, and I hope and trust that you encounter Jesus in a new and living way this Easter

Some thoughts on the cross (or why did God kill Jesus?)

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The single most important question we can ask is “How does the cross shape our picture of God?”

What makes that question so powerful is that more than any other question it defines who God is to us and in turn it defines who we are. I am coming to believe that we cannot change (am I the only one who finds changing myself near impossible) in any significant way if we do not change what we think about God and more specifically who he is in the light of the cross.

In the light of that I recently watched this well known story which has been used for many years to lead people to Jesus. Here it is:

(Obviously I do not want to discount anyone’s salvation if they came to Jesus through this story, but I am saying that it is not the healthiest or most accurate picture of God.) I came away from watching it feeling very uneasy and like something was wrong with that picture.

Now I just happened to be reading around the issue of psychopathy, which is a sliding scale, obviously just because someone isn’t the most emphathetic person doesn’t mean they are an axe murderer. However I made a startling discovery, there is a very simple test (obviously this is one of many) psychologists can use to determine a tendancy towards psychopathy and it goes like this:

Imagine a train is traveling down a rail-road track which has a fork in it. Now if it forks to the left there is one person caught in the tracks, but if it goes right there is a group of 15 people that are caught in the tracks and you have to flip a switch to divert the train and chose how many people will die.

Obviously we find the thought sickening but if forced into that situation we are going to flip the switch and sacrifice the 1 to save the 15. Now here comes the twist, there is a second part:

Imagine you are on a bridge that crosses a rail-road track and you see a trail hurtling along it. There is also a very large gentleman on the bridge with you. Suddenly you see that a group of 15 people stuck on the track and they will die when hit by the train. However the gentleman next to you is so large that if you push him off the bridge, he has enough girth to stop the train and save the group. Could you push him off?

Now apparently in a psychopaths brain, they can chose to push the fat gentleman off without giving it another thought because the maths still works. The average person can’t because you no longer have to just flip a switch, it is now very personal and you have to actually push a person into harms way.

This is how the above mentioned video can portray God, as a person with psychopathic tendencies. I am sure you haven’t thought about it like that because this actually happens at a sub-conscious level, but it still has a big impact on you just like other sub-concious knowledge. Emotionally we are focused on the sacrifice of the son, but when the emotions fade, what kind of God are we left with?

The problem we have at the cross if we hold to this view of God is that it portrays God needing to use violence to solve the sin problem we have in the world. Now if I look around the world I can’t help but see that while we need to have justice and law to make things work, when someone breaks the law through an act of violence, another act of “justified” violence or retribution doesn’t actually solve the issue. Violence begets more violence.

This thinking actually reduces God’s law of love to the same level as justice. What that means is that for God to love he must have justice. For God to love us, or to forgive us, somebody must first die and blood must be shed, oh and they must be innocent. I no we don’t like to say it like that, but have you ever figured out how punishing an innocent person effectively deals with the sins of a guilty person?

What I see in the cross is something very different. I see God in Jesus, here is the verse (that is an important distinction to make, that on the cross God and Jesus aren’t separate) reconciling the world to himself. Secondly he allows Evil, Sin and Death to exhaust all their violence on him and he overcomes them by the beauty of sacrificial love and by his resurrection, here is the verse.

In the cross, I don’t see God demanding an innocent person die for the guilty. I see satan, sin and evil coming to kill steal and destroy. I see the wisdom of God worked out by breaking the cycle of justified violence (look at the conflicts around the world, no matter what side you are on each side feels justified in acting out in violence). I see Jesus paying a ransom with his life, I see the power of sacrifical love and innocence as a higher law, infused with resurrection power, breaking the grip of death itself.

I would love to hear your comments and thoughts.