Tag Archives: Christian Church

Monday Poem – “Alive to dead to having life”

Alive to dead to having life

I shivered
Then quivered
Then ummmed and ahhhed,
I couldn’t find a way to start,
I didn’t have the words to say
But like a child asked something anyway-
“How do I remember this moment?
Lord, how do I own it?
Good sir, I want to know it-
How do I make life a friend, not an opponent?”

He replied
“My little child-
Death to pride,
Death to lies,
And death to self!
This moment’s ripples will be felt
Through all the generations-
Beyond all imagination
But you have to die first (death to self).
This moment’s offspring will be plentiful
But first you have to die.
You see,
A child must die to silly things
And rise to the changes happening,
Then a bachelor dies on his wedding night,
To become a husband to his wife.
Then as a husband put himself away
And serve his queen both night and day.
Each and every sacrifice
Is a rite of passage ordained by Christ.
And that is how to love your life
To give up your ‘needs’, your ‘wants’ and ‘rights’”

I wanted to cry,
My Lord said I had to die?
I wanted to argue, crow and fight
But of course I could see my Lord was right
And besides, He had died the first death for me
When His naked Son lay on that tree.
He has obliterated my debt,
He has died that first death.
He has taken me into Him, now I am blessed!
He has laid my arguments to rest.
And may they rest in pieces on the floor,
May this moment last forever more.
From boy to man to child,
From alive to dead to having life.
From the lowest lows to highest heights.
From dying to self to living for Christ.

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What’s so “good” about Good Friday? (a repost)

(NOTE: I wanted to post something for Good Friday, but I have been very busy this week preparing a sermon for Easter Sunday and written nothing new for today. However, I thought I would repost something I wrote a few years ago as it is relevant for today. Have a blessed and safe Easter… nick)

What’s so “good” about Good Friday? (a repost)

Traditionally Good Friday celebrates and publicly remembers something most Christians remind themselves of everyday- the day on which Jesus Christ the Son of God was crucified.

We are reminded in 1 Corinthians 11 to remember and “…proclaim the Lords death until he comes…” not just one day a year. However, Easter is kind of special because it’s a more public acknowledgement of the importance of Christ’s death and a widely accepted celebration of the gospel. Although there’s no Biblical reason to mark a certain day of the year and celebrate it as “Easter”, it’s a good chance to talk about these things with all sorts of people.

God didn’t just create the world, but in love died for sinners. Perhaps the miracle of salvation is more amazing than the miracle of creation. Salvation is the redeeming, recreating and renewing of wicked humans through sovereign grace. God did this through punishing His Son through crucifixion (a horrific punishment), exacting justice through the worlds only perfect man Jesus Christ. The cross is the most important chapter of Gods saving work. It is the event that split history, the centre point of everything for the Christian because it is at the cross that God punished Christ for our sin. It is where Christ saved me.

Every human alive today has sinned. Most people are aware of it, though not everyone acknowledges it. To sin is to do something with our minds, hearts, mouths or actions that go against God’s moral law and holy character. We are all guilty before God because of our sin and deserve to be judged and punished for it. Because of His goodness God will not allow evil things to go unpunished. Eternal punishment is the only just punishment for breaking an eternal law and sinning against an eternal God. You and I deserve to be punished forever. We deserve the wrath of God. That is why we need to be saved and what we need to be saved from.

As the only entity who is one hundred percent man and one hundred percent God, Jesus Christ is uniquely positioned as the only way that you and I can be saved from the Gods wrath. Buddha can’t do it, happy thoughts can’t do it, ignoring it can’t do it and neither can trying really hard to do nice things to make up for the bad things. Our sin is against an eternal God and our punishment is eternal. We have two options- as unholy people we can pay for our sins eternally or as an eternal, holy person Christ can pay for our sin once. The cross is salvation because God chose to save people by setting His wrath against Jesus Christ.

This is why today Easter Friday is referred to as “Good” Friday.

What was done to Jesus by humans was evil not good. What he suffered was horrific. The fact that somebody who was perfectly innocent needed to be punished is sad. But the impacts and implications of Christ’s death are very good- because of Jesus dying on the cross anyone who puts their faith in Him and follows Him by turning away from sin can appropriate the gift of His forgiveness. If today is to be set aside to publicly celebrate the cross then it is indeed Good Friday. “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit…” (1 Peter 3:18).

Monday poem: “Imitators”

Imitators

My thoughts and poems are plagiarized
But don’t scoff for yours are too
The only difference is I try to copy Christ
My question is how about you?

Do you copy those you meet and hang around?
Is it “fitting in or bust”?
Do you imitate the stockbrokers?
Is it money that you lust?
Do you strive and strain for what can be gained
Or do you just like to complain?
We all bend our knees to something else
What is it you let reign?

Do you wish for greater intellect,
A better body or skill-set?
Do you feel your life would be complete
If these little needs were met?
Surely you must realize
It’s not the glory, gold or sex
That makes a life worth dying for,
No it’s not what you can get.

These things are functional idols
That we worship and pursue.
We all bow to someone,
I’m Christ’s fool, whose are you?

Monday Poem- “Song of chipper thoughts and missed opportunities”

Song of chipper thoughts and missed opportunities

I love your intelligence
But I hate that you don’t see it
Has potential to change the world,
How can you act like you don’t need it?

Go this time and shine,
Go radiate
And show the doubters
That they’re the broken ones.

I need your extra time,
Don’t you hate that you don’t use it?
You have a gift to give
But it’s a gift so don’t abuse this
Time and opportunity
And I want to help you there,
I’ll help you raise the curtains
But some parts you alone can share.

So don’t abuse this
Opportunity
To radiate
To show the doubters
That they are wrong and ignorance
Is no excuse on judgement day.

It’s your time to shine.

A rare thing: On our depravity, our need for a reboot and the only way

Tonight I saw a rare thing; or rather I heard a rare thing.

We were looking up at the stars in the wee hours of the morning, contemplating the universe, current affairs and the state of mankind. These are all common themes in the wee hours of the morning. Amongst my friends (and I think people in general) there is a general recognition that the universe is grand and big, and that current global events are fairly fickle. These are all “safe” topics, even when you disagree slightly. Our conversation along these lines was not unusual, but it was a rare recognition about the state of mankind that surprised me tonight.

You see the notion of the extreme extent of the sinfulness of each human is something that is oft understated in western culture… especially amongst people as proud as some of my peers. In the past years my understanding of my own depraved heart has given me a type of awe or reverence for sin. Not in an all-consuming way but in a thoughtful sense of urgency I guess. When left alone with my thoughts I appreciate the situation of sin I suppose. When I’m alone I can easily see and confess my condition, my need.

When I’m alone.

But that’s when I’m alone.

As we discussed the world news tonight under the stars we joked about a need for a reboot. A wiping out of all of mankind in some sort of robot-apocalypse, mass-suicide or even a flood. My friend passionately believes the opposite to what I believe regarding the possibility of world-wide floods, Bibles and God. They are a self-described antitheist. When they grimly joked about solutions to the state of the world they were only joking, but then they got serious. They talked about how reboot was the only answer but quickly added how it could never work.

“The problem is mankind,” they said, and they were dead right. “No matter how many times we rebooted we would always fail and stuff things up. The evil is within us, it’s what we do.” My friend used the word ‘we’, an important and rare recognition. The willingness to accept personal responsibility for evil is something I have not come across in many people. The hopelessness of sin and total corruption of the human heart is extreme. How rare it is for this condition to be acknowledged openly? It is all too often downplayed, ignored or excused. Tonight I was invited to discuss and give proper respect to it under those stars.

Even in the Church, where the sinfulness of humans is supposed to be a core doctrine we rarely see confession on the level of total, open acknowledgement. It’s seen as taboo, offensive or old-school to preach or talk about it. There is a lot of talk of relevance, love, friendship, justice and a nebulous version of salvation, but sin is not often mentioned to the extent it was tonight. This is a big problem in itself because without acknowledgement of sin, there is very little power or purpose in Christianity, even in the cross. Sin is the problem in the world and the depravity of mankind is epic and huge. The wrath of God is against us forever because of it, because of our wicked sinful condition. Christ has come to provide amends, to take the punishment of the wrath and offer a better way. Without acknowledging the wrath is there and fair, how do we escape it? It is impossible.

It can be an offensive place to go, to enter into this dialogue about sin. Oh, we say we are an open-minded culture but try bringing that one up. In Australia you can go where you never once would and talk openly about religion, politics and sex. You can say what you like about anyone and anything. You can do anything, and be anyone. But woe to the one to suggest that there is something totally wrong with the world and that it comes from within. We are dismissed as narrow-minded. It is not politically correct, even if it is correct, and is usually seen as residue from a more primitive time when religion ruled the land.

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13,14)
If the Church (by Church I mean Christian people not an organisation) declines to offer to the world the concept of sin and total depravity, the importance of Christs sacrifice will be lost on them. People will refuse Christ, not knowing his relevance to them. They cannot call His death and resurrection good news without first knowing the bad news.

Sin is reality and we underestimate its power, here & now and in eternity.

My friend was correct about the need for a reboot, and they were correct about the problem being the hearts of man. It is impossible to reboot things with sin so prevalent. To reboot the world we need Christ, Gods answer to our sin. Though my friend see’s the problem clearly, and in a rare moment at two in the morning is prepared to recognise its fullness, they unfortunately stop there. The rare confession and acknowledgement of sin is merely the beginning though, and although in acknowledging total-depravity my friend is probably closer to life and God than a lot of religious people, they were not ready to reboot. They are off to a good start though, for it is only when we admit our need can we begin the reboot.

God.
Depravity abounds… in this world around me and within me.
Forgive me.
Give me faith to believe and to cling to Christ.
That is what is needed.
He is the only way.

Monday Poem – “First Hand”

First Hand

What shall I say of your might, O’ Lord?
Your sovereignty confounds and perplexes me
But still I declare it, God of the angel armies.
What though of the downtrodden and abused?
Can they still say these great things of You?
Can they even declare that You are there?

What of the little one hungry and alone,
Pining for some bread, and somewhere to call home?
Does he know Your name, O’ God of nations?
Beyond creation to his situation
Does he even know Your name?
Let alone that he can trust
That You are mighty and Your sovereign plan is just?

Are You able and just don’t care
Or caring and just unable?

Or is there a third
Known and yet unheard?
Something he didn’t see but that
The angel army saw,
That they glimpsed before the fall
And knelt for what they saw
Was more glorious than all
The seraphim could stand.
Their Masters redemption plan
On a scale far more grand
Than every grain of sand
And every single strand
Of hair upon this little ones head.

Not in the midst of but behind and in a worthy way, O’ giver of life!

I am careful to not question You might
But to tremble and ask with respect “to what end”?
I ask You why
Not as a Pharaoh but as a child,
As a little one, hungry and alone!
On the bread of life I depend upon this food
(This time with You)

I long to be Home with You.
Come O’ mighty One, take us away,
Take us to be with You.
And only then Sir, will I know of Your might first hand
In full, I’ll know and understand

Thursday thoughts: on being a workaholic, needing to drop the mask and repent of busyness

I’ve been busy lately, and I want to say sorry about that. To God, to family and friends, to me- sorry for my busyness, it’s been wicked and evil of me. Granted some of the things I’ve been doing have been important things to do but I think I do need to slow down. You see I’m always “busy lately” and there is no excuse. I’m sick of it.

It’s my own fault too. Somewhere along the line I lost the ability to not be busy. I have to relearn the art of chillin’ out… the art of relaxing and doing precious-not-much… the art of being content…

Busyness has become my god, my false idol, a mask that I wear and I need to stop valuing it as highly as I do and recognise that it is causing me harm. A friend of mine uses the word repent a lot when talking about stopping sinful behaviour. As I think my busyness has hit critical mass and that it has become sinful, then that’s what I need to do. Repent. Repent of busyness.

I guess you might think that I am taking it a bit far by referring to busyness as a sin. Surely it is better than the other extreme which is laziness. I thought that it was much much worse yesterday but this morning I’m not so sure. Rather both can be just as bad as the other depending on the motivation. Yes it is wrong to be a slothful bludger who wastes time doing nothing, but surely it is also wrong be a workaholic who fills time up with things of questionable worth at the expense of worship, calling and relationships. Surely it is wrong to be obsessed with filling up time as much as I am obsessed with filling up time.

I realised this morning while I was walking home from work that I am addicted to being busy. This thought occurred to me when I stopped in the park on the way home to read a little and just relax. After a minute or two of stillness I was already feeling guilty. “Fancy feeling guilty for having a rest on the way home from an eleven hour night shift,” I thought to myself. I couldn’t shake the feeling though. I had to get up and keep walking, so I could get home and get busy doing something on my list.

As I look back over life I see that this “work-worship” has been a habit I have consistently gone in and out of. For example, this Christmas will be the first Christmas in my working life that I have not had to work on Christmas day. Actually, scratch that… not “had to work” but “chose to work”. A few times I have had the option and opted to work. It wasn’t the money either that was causing me to make the choice, but rather a false identity that I’d chosen for myself because I thought it would make me look good or more accepted.I wanted to look like a hard worker as though it was some sort of virtue. As though I would be accepted if I busted my guts to achieve at the peril of loved ones and sanity.

Acceptance through performance is a good way to put it actually. I’ve never put words to it before, because I’ve never been honest to myself about my motivations. Working hard and striving for high results to gain acceptance is wrong. Even if it does sometimes produce results, it is a detrimental approach because our identity and sense of acceptance should not come from what we do or achieve but rather from God alone and from the gospel. But it’s not easy to get your identity from God when you aren’t even taking a moment break to think about Him and to honour Him with time or thought.

I come from a line of hard-workers and I think that I get my work ethic from my family. It is a quality I’ve admired in people ever since I saw my father and mother working so hard to look after their family. I learned early from seeing my grandfathers approach to work too that work is a blessing. I didn’t realise until now though that if we spend too much time working or busying up life with jobs, then work can be a curse instead.

One of my first jobs ever was in a cheese factory sub-contracted through my father’s work. It was insanely hot, insanely physical, and insanely laborious. A lot of mind games occurred while working there. At the time, in the particular factory that I was working in, the job attracted a lot of cockheads for some reason. By cockheads I mean extremely negative, nasty men of all ages who loved to take things out on each other. I’m not sure, but perhaps they were frustrated at working in the same job and for the same pay as someone who had just gotten out of high school.

It wasn’t long before a lot of the negative, nasty aggression was aimed at me. They’d hide my boots, my apron and bag. They’d write derogatory things on my locker and apron with permanent texta. They’d pay out on me for being “the boss’s son”, saying I only got the job because of my dad. This made me ultra-determined to carve my own name, and get my own reputation as a hard-worker.

As the cheese season went on, I worked harder than anyone else there and it began to be recognised by my workmates. I would clock on before anyone else, and clock off after anyone else. I’d have shorter smoke-o breaks. If there was a call for anyone to work back later, or to work a double, I would stick my hand up and do it. This was a sweaty, exhausting eight hours and to do another eight hours on top was seen as crazy by some of the others, but they did begin to affirm my efforts. When I’d show up fresh and ready the next day after having done long shifts the day before they stopped saying I only got the job because of old man. One nicknamed me “Nick the Worker”; a couple others would invite me into their cockhead social circle which mostly meant drinking beer. It felt good to have that type of acceptance and affirmation, and I wrongly connected that good feeling to hard-work.

As I worked in other jobs, I carried the work-ethic into other jobs. When I became a Christian I carried it into my faith and started “doing things for God”. It probably didn’t help that I was (and still am) a part of a pentecostal Christian church that emphasised “doing things” and taught that every Christian was called by God to “do things” or “be a great man of God”. I tried so hard to impress men, and to impress God.

The Bible (and the church) never ever taught that I needed to do (or be) those things for salvation or to receive God’s acceptance, but because of my background of drawing a lot of my identity from what I do, that’s how I interpreted it in practice. Despite knowing and being taught that God’s approval and salvation is His sovereign prerogative not based on any of my works or achievements, I tried to be a great leader, or a great preacher, or a great youth pastor, or a great artist, or great worker, to gain approval. I still do this. Not just trying to get Gods approval, but my fellow man’s approval too.

Being a workaholic is measured differently in different settings but I think it’s internal more than external. Motivation is the thing. To work hard is a good thing if it is done as worship, or to fulfil financial obligations, or because you enjoy it. It is not a good thing when it becomes who you are instead of what you do. If you are measuring your worth by your achievements or by the fruitfulness of time spent, then you are probably focussing on the wrong thing. For me and in my faith and work communities, the measure of spiritual success became measured by what I was able to achieve or project. This morning on my walk home I have realised that I have somehow slipped back into that mentality and that is not a good thing.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
– Luke 10:38-42

I got home and read my Bible over breakfast. I found and read that account from the life of Christ and realised that God was speaking to me. I want to respond. I didn’t want to write a big long blog today but it has come spurting out of my heart. This is my confession. I am too much like Martha, I want to be more like Mary. I don’t want life to only be about doing things (even for Christ), I want it to be about spending time with Him and in His presence.

I need to embrace to concept of the Sabbath again. When I talk about the Sabbath I am not talking a day of rest every week although that is important. I need to take regular time everyday to recognise that God alone is my source of identity. It is not about me, it is about Him. It is not about what I do, but rather about what He has already done on the cross for me. It is not about what I am called to, but Who has called me and Who I am called to.