Saturday, March 28, 2009

Letter to a Young Traveller: 10 Reasons to Travel (a collaborate exercise)

The post on Ten Reasons *not* to Travel was, for some, lost in translation.

To write ten reasons not to travel is NOT to say that there aren't ten reasons TO travel. (Cop them negatives!) 'Twas interesting how many people thought that I believe that travel is out. If you knew me, you would know that this was not true. I like holidays.

I can only assume one of three things:

1. I am lousy at communication (which I will work on).
2. I am as judgmental as some said I am (which I will repent of).
3. I touched on a raw nerve. Or perhaps an idol.

Probably a little of all three. But what makes me think that travel is something of an idol is that no one disagreed or called me judgmental for my post on 10 Reasons *not* to go out for dinner. I think its exactly the same thought at heart. Anyway, it appears that travel is close to the nerve.

So I'm suggesting a collaborative effort.

Let's think up ten reasons TO travel. Suggest them to me. What were your reasons (if you traveled)? You can say anything you like in the comments section (as long as you are kind). Tell me your thoughts. I will process them by Wednesday, by way of my older (more negative) post, and suggest Ten Reasons TO travel.

While you are commenting on Travel, I here now suggest ten good reasons to go out to dinner tonight (provided your intentions be honourable!):
  1. God is created things that is 'pleasing to the eye and good for food.'
  2. God gave bread to 'strengthen man's heart'.
  3. God gave wine to 'gladden the heart of man'.
  4. You like steak. Rare. And with a Red.
  5. You have a favourite place, and you want to go there.
  6. You love someone and you wish to express it. (Date Night?)
  7. You want to express the you are one in Christ with a former enemy.
  8. To celebrate that someone was once lost, and now is found.
  9. Because the Kingdom of God is a great outdoor banquet.
  10. To take a homeless person and treat them like royalty.
Oh, the list could go on.

So -- onto travel: Your reasons for travel, should you wish to tell me?

(Oh, and if you linked to the last post, would you be so kind as to link to this one? Otherwise, its just an exercise in controversy.)

Pic on Flickr by paololivorno.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sermon Audio: RSS Feed. (And I'm Bloggin' with the Anglicans)

Someone asked me if there is an RSS Feed for York St online sermons. I don't really know what that means. But does THIS look like an RSS Feed?

And I just joined as a weekly Blogger at Sydney Anglican Website. See HERE. It's the Einfeld Story.

If it that works, then let me know.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Letter to a Young Diner: 10 Reasons *not* to go out to Dinner.

I've found it interesting how my last post was read. I apologise if I made it sound that one could never travel. As if I could make that claim anyway! But my post had a purpose: to challenge some of the reasons we give.

This post may clear up what I meant in the last last.

One anonymous person wrote in the comments:
I would hate to see you write a post about:
10 reasons to not go out to dinner.
I could think of 10:
  1. To avoid eating dinner with your spouse;
  2. To satisfy gluttony;
  3. To cure your sadness;
  4. To spend your inheritance in a week of culinary feasting;
  5. To get drunk;
  6. To save money (depending on where you live in the world!)
  7. To buy friendship;
  8. To gain approval for your expensive tastes;
  9. If you are on the run from the law;
  10. Because you believe it will satisfy you forever.
I can think of plenty of reasons to go out for dinner. But, like travel, most people don't need those reasons. They just go anyway.

If you can get this post, you'll get my meaning in the last one.


Pic by Juliarosen.

Letter to a Young Traveller: 10 Reasons *not* to travel.

This is the Second Last Post called: "Letter to a Young Traveller".

There is a final one, called: "Letter to a Young Traveller: Ten Reasons to Travel."

You can read them all by clicking HERE, and scrolling down.

I'm not dissing on travel per se. I married an American and so I travel. I'm just offering some weaknesses in the reasons we Christians give for travel. And if we have weak reasons, perhaps a moment of pause is worth taking. There may be 10 reasons to travel. It's worth thinking what those reasons are, and owning them before your good God.

Here are my top 10 reasons not to give for travel:

1. “I’m going to 'find myself' In France”.

You find yourself in God, not Paris.

2. “I want to be free from responsibility for a while”.

Freedom from responsibility almost always brings about selfishness. [Doesn’t it have to?] God is kind, and already gives us Sabbaths and Holydays, which is why we get 4 weeks holiday a year (2 in the US), and a Sunday each week. To go away for more than that is, to quote an old minister of mine: 'A long time without accountability'.

3. “I don’t like ‘X’, and a plane trip away is my ticket out”.

Where 'X' is something you hate: work, a relationship, life, debt etc. The trip is a means of escape. The problem is that you always take you with you. 'Escape' is not the answer. Trust in God is.

4. “I just want to see if I can rely on God on my own”.

The Bible doesn't endorse lone pilgrimage as a means to growth. On the contrary, it says to trust where you are. What you presently do it the key to spiritual growth. 1 Cor 7:17-23:
Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.
There was a time [during period of the Roman persecutions], where to stay in community despite persecutions and serve the Body of Christ in a spirit of sacrifice was the only means to grow. Now [in a period of spiritual lethargy], we think that the only way to grow is to Go?

5. “My girlfriend/boyfriend is traveling, and I want to join Him/Her”.

Traveling with just your partner [or even in a small group] is a married activity and it belongs in marriage. I have thoughts in this related to Genesis 2:24. It was worth hearing the argument. Get married, rather than travel with just your mate. People often say: but its OK, we won't be tempted. My answer: Then why are you dating? But my biggest concern is what it signals to younger and less mature Christians.

6. “I need to see Europe before I die etc”.

This may not be true. It is worth pondering what you think the New Heavens and the New Earth will be. I think that this may be a statement of mistrust. I will explore the ‘Riviera’ God has planned in the age to come. The only reason to say this is that deep down you do not believe that you God's Heaven will be good. C.S Lewis in The Weight of Glory:
‘Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.’
7. “I have already booked, so I have to go.”

If it isn’t right for you to go, do not assume that simply because you have a ticket that you should go. Don’t blow your life on $3000. That’s like parents of a bride saying to a young bride who knows its not right: "you have to get married; you have the reception booked."

8. I've saved up $10,000 for Travel. I have to go.

See Point 7. Money cannot be the driver of your decisions.

9. Americans know how to do things better than us.


10. “My experience of life is too limited. Exotic Travel is something I therefore have to do”.

Certainly, there is value in seeing more. St Augustine famously said: "The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page." However, I think that this is and will always be true of each of us, all the time. It will even be true of you after you come back from your European Vacation. You probably ought not to see travel as the answer to this. Isn’t the BIG experience of life found in knowing God? Isn’t that exotic?


Pic on Flickr by moandia.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Marcus Einfeld: Why 'I'm Basically Honest' is the Basic Human Lie.

Right now, I'm watching Four Corners, about Marcus Einfeld. All related to his comment "I lied, but I'm basically honest." This Post is a repeat of what was said in this sermon on Sunday. I am watching a man who needed to 'come to himself'. It is astounding. Here are my comments:


Like many, I’ve been puzzled over the Marcus Einfeld saga. Sent to jail for a $75 speeding ticket!

In 2006, Marcus Einfeld was caught speeding. That itself is not newsworthy. But this is: He then wrote a 20 page statement saying that someone else was driving the car; a person who had been dead for 2 years. In other words, he perjured himself. He lied under oath.

Everyone has been thinking: Marcus – what were you thinking?

He is a former Justice of the Federal Court of Australia; a President of the Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission; a ‘National Living Treasure’; a pillar of society. You might even say: 'An Older Brother' in Jesus' Parable of the Prodigal Son.

So why throw that in a $75 fine? He mustn’t have been 'himself'.

And yet, I think that the Marcus Einfeld story is the human story. It’s my story. That is, I have an outward persona. And outward me. A ‘me’ I want you all to know. An honourable me. An employable me. A proud me.

And there is an inner me. A ‘me’ that I don’t tell you all about. A 'me' that struggles with pride; and various other stumbling and bumbling acts. A 'me' that my wife can tell you about. And my God too.

I’m not a dualist – a word which means that there are two selves. No – I am one whole person. But I like people to know I’m OK, while at the same time, I know that I am deeply flawed. And more, the outward me is not a lie. I’m not pretending. Just as Marcus Einfeld is not pretending about his work as a judge.

It’s just that the ‘me’ I that I present is not the complete picture.

Now, this is very important: Think about Marcus Einfeld. Is he an older brother? Or a younger brother? Is he basically, a good guy who’s served his country well? Or a scoundrel who has deserves his pigsty?

What do you think?

My take: He is an older brother who now has been given the opportunity to perhaps realise that he has been a younger brother all along.

His crime may feel small That is: he sped a little; and told fibs about it. But this week, no one really believes that.

Why? Because his lie was declared in the one place that lies can’t abide:

The court.

To let go of his crime is to say that justice never matters; that telling lies in the court is fine, as long as it is small. No. He struck at the very fabric of civil society.

Does anyone really think that his past goodness can erase the current crime?

Ben Aveling Alexandria wrote a letter in the Herald:
Bruce Hulbert writes that Marcus Einfeld is not a threat to society. In what way is actively and repeatedly seeking to undermine the rule of law not a threat to society?
It is the same with God.

You may be good; you may have been honorable. I hope so. I really do. But the one place where sin cannot abide is with a Holy God. We know that lies can’t stand in an Australian Courtroom. So why do we think they stand before a Holy God?

We are all bent on self. Incurvatus in se. But we serve a Lord. We serve a Messiah, whose love for this broken world is vast. He is not Incurvatus in se. He is bent on loving the world which does not love him back.

We just have to be honest about not being honest.


Anyone else care to reflect on the Incident?


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sermon Audio (Lent 4): The Power of a Moral Inventory

From this morning:
  • Sermon Audio for today's sermon can be downloaded>> HERE.
  • Bible texts used can be read>> HERE.
  • Sermon Text can be downloaded as a PDF>> HERE.
Here is the introduction:

My Text today is Luke 15V17. Jesus story of two Prodigal brothers. One of them (the younger) took all his inheritance, and blew it on a fantasy, and landed in a pigsty. And found that he was given a (kind of) gift there: Time to think. V17:
When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!
Isn’t that a great phrase? 'When he came to his senses...' In other translations, it says: 'When he came to himself...' Now, what an interesting possibility? That you can be you, but not yourself for a time. You can be yourself, and yet come to yourself. It’s an idiom that we understand and use in modern English. We would say, 'wake up to yourself', or he’s 'out of his mind'.

But in order for the Son to get out of the Pigsty of his choices. He had to 'come to himself'. That was the only way home.

This sermon: Three things to do with yourself. So you can find God. Especially as we invite you to communion this morning.

Three things to do:
  • Come to yourself.
  • Be tough on yourself.
  • Take yourself to your Father
Sermon can be downloaded HERE.
Pic on Flickr by foreby.

A Sneak Peak at the Sermon Today

My text is Luke 15:17 >>
When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!
And here is a sneak peak:

The truth is: We are all bent inwards to self. Martin Luther, as well as St Augustine, Karl Barth and others used a Latin Phrase to describe sin in the human life:

Incurvatus in se

Which means: The Curvature of the Soul.

Like the nautilus shell, we are each turned or curved inward on oneself. No matter who far we travel, left to our own devices, we always curve towards self. And selfishness.

There is a Winnie the Pooh Story where Pooh and Rabbit are walking in the Hundred Ache Wood. Trying to find their way out. But no matter which way they go, they always come back to the same spot. Like A.A. Milne’s classic: No matter how much we travel in life, we always come back to the same spot: Ourselves.

Incurvatus in se

Is there a way out? Is there a way forward? Is there a way for the younger brother to get out of the Pigsty?

Isaiah 1:18 >>
"Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
Yes there is.

In A.A Milne’s story, Winnie the Pooh has a suggestion: A counter-intuitive one. He notes: Every time we try to find our way out, we find this spot. We always do the same thing, and get the same result. So he suggests:Let’s try to search for this spot, and maybe we’ll find our way out. Something Rabbit roundly rejects.

The Younger Brother had likely done the same thing for a season. Lived for himself.

Incurvatus in se

And this behaviour led to the Pigsty: a place where he not himself, but a shadow of himself. A failure. A new and counter intuitive action had to take place. He couldn’t just think the same way.

What does Jesus say?
When he came to himself, he said: I will go back to my father.

This morning:
  • 8:30 for Traditional BCP Holy Communion.
  • 10:00AM City Church (The Lord's Supper)
See our website for details.

Pic on Flickr by Mark Coggins.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Subway Art Gallery Opening on the 23rd St C,E.

View the Blog Post HERE.

Very Clever.

H/T to Cafedave.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Letter to a Young Traveller: Extra Tip

How about this one?


There will be many temptations while you travel to give up the normal disciplines. One of them will be your generosity to others. You will be tempted to think about how to save and spend the money on yourself. But how powerful it would be if you resisted?

Let's say that while you were at home, you gave 10% of your earnings to the local church, to mission and to the poor. My tip: keep giving that same amount to your local church etc while you are away. And give even more to people and mission in the countries you visit too. This, of course, will require pre-planning, and deep discipline.

Any other late thoughts?

(10 Reasons not to give for travel will be posted on Monday.)

Pic on Flickr by natmandu.

Sydney Anglican Test Pattern

If you go to the Sydney Anglican Media Website, you'll be greeted with this test pattern. They are upgrading their site.

Look closely there: My friend Craig appears to be the New Media face of Sydney Anglicans...


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Letter to a Young Traveller: Eleven Tips (#9-11)

Read all 11 points by clicking HERE.


Know that many people take a step back in their relationship with God, most 'mark time', and only a few come back with a stronger in faith. This, of course, is my impression. If you know this is possibly true, then you can determine to be the one who comes back stronger. The reason that most people mark time or go back is that they don’t plan ahead. They plan their ticket, their route, their accommodation, their work, but they don’t plan to their spiritual life. Take a read of Luke 14:25-35.


First thing to pack is NOT your toothbrush. It’s your BIBLE. Buy a smaller one if you need. Read it every day. Read maybe these books:
  • Daniel [How to live in a hostile to God world]
  • James [Faith without works is dead],
  • Jonah [God is God even in Tarshish]
  • The Psalms [Honest prayer].
  • Luke [Jesus travel narrative: from Galilee through Judea and Samaria to the cross, with lots of calls to radical discipleship].
Maybe even print out the whole book, so that you can read it and highlight good things on the planes and trains etc.

Plus take a couple of good Christian books. This can really shape a trip as well and is great for each plane leg. In reality some say it is difficult to read just the bible, but a book AND bible is great.


Don’t come back and be all disappointed that ‘people are still the same’. Especially at your Church. People will look at all your photos, but they will not have had the experience that you have had. Come back loving the idea of being more involved in church than you already are! In other words, don’t come back arrogant about your experiences. Come back humble.

That's it. Discuss.

Next: 10 Reasons not to give for Travel.

Pic on Flickr by Loungerie.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Letter to a Young Traveller: Eleven Tips (#5-8)

I've revised #5 (there were two separate points), and then added one more tip. Hope you don't mind. Reminds me of Douglas Adam's famous Four Part Trilogies. Here you go...

Read all 11 points by clicking HERE.


Keep in contact with a group of committed Christian people [who commit to you]. Get them to check in with you regularly and ask you tough questions. Maybe the same tough questions each time. And make the last one: "Have you lied about any of the other questions". And seek out some new Christian friends on travels. It is people who make trips memorable. Meet people from other parts of the world who love the Lord. They will hold more influence for you than the view of the Grand Canyon. Seek for it, and pray for it.


As much as you can, go to a protestant Church every Sunday. Plan your travels around it. Then don’t be too critical of it [unless it’s really bad], but bring greetings in Christ’s name from your Church. If you land in one place for a time [which many do], then research churches before you go. If you want any help with Churches, email someone who may know.

7. WRITE HOME IN A HELPFUL WAY (Don't encourage envy)

When you write an email home, don’t write things to make them want to join you. Don’t encourage envy by writing a list of places that you have been and why it’s been the BEST place, and why your friends need to travel so they can be with you, or traveling like you.

Write instead about what things you are thanking God for, and matters with which you are struggling with God. Write about God. Write about people you meet who need prayer. Write about things that trouble you, like sin and injustice, rather than simply the things that are fun.

Write in such a way that you show that you seek a 'better country' -- one that cannot be visited with a passport. Write about life – what you are doing, and give us an inner view on what’s happening. Think about whether you are causing envy. We don't just want pictures of you on a beach. We want to know how you are growing. We want to yearn for the world that the writer of Hebrews speaks about in Hebrews 11:13-16.


Know what you are doing is very 'freeing'! That may be sound good, but it comes with a profound downside. It is important to know that travel often means that you have no real accountability and no real responsibility [except be at the airport on time.].

This may sound good, but responsibility and accountability are what God uses to teach us godliness and humility. It’s what he uses to chisel out in us the life he desires for us. I'm not sure what you are going to be doing, but it’s interesting to note that in travel, your only concern is yourself. You decide what you want to do, etc...

This can give you a distorted view on life. Many come back thinking that this life [working, church, accountability] is the ‘bad life’, and the travel life is the good one. But you will probably learn more in the pain and responsibility of the selfless life than in the pleasure and unaccountability of travel. You may remember more of a vacation. But you will learn more by staying at home.


Pic on Flickr by toomuchcoffeegirl.

Sermon Audio (Lent 3): The Limits of Regret

Listen to Sunday's Sermon online: "The Limits of Regret". Click HERE.

Main texts are: Luke 15:13-16, 2 Corinthians 7:8-13, Joel 2:12-17

Our text for this sermon starts in Luke 15:14:
After (the Younger Son) had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
What would you call this? It is a tragedy. It is a tragedy in anyone’s language. He had taken a chunk of his Father’s Estate, considering him dead. He has taken a piece of his Father’s heart, and he gambled it on a fantasy. Poverty is always a tragedy. But self-imposed poverty perhaps more so.

The fantasy came crashing down in the perfect storm of irresponsibility and circumstance.

He had spent everything (That’s irresponsible) and then there was a sever famine (That’s circumstance). That sounds like a description of our current economic crisis, don’t you think?

This story is particularly a tragedy in a Jewish culture: He hired himself out to a ‘citizen of that country’. In other words, a Gentile. That is tragic for a Jew. And that Gentile made him work with pigs. This probably makes that Gentile an anti-Semite. Very Tragic for a Jew.

Every Jew listening to this story would have been wincing. And judging.

Next verse: V17
"When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!
What is happening here? It is a sea of regrets. Like Job who sat in the ashes of suffering, this son sat in the pigsty of regrets. It is a strange place to live in a pigsty. And stranger still how hard it is to get out of one.

Today, I want to ask the question: What are the Limits of Regret? And then a further question: What are the possibilities afforded by regret?

First, what are the Limits of Regret? There are at least three limits I can think of:
  • A. Regret alone can be faked.
  • B. Regret alone can be self indulgent.
  • C. Regret alone can lead to your death.
Listen HERE.

Pic on Flickr by jpwbee.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Letter to a Young Traveller: Ten Tips (#1-4)

Read all the points by clicking HERE.

Ten Thoughts and Tips. Here are the first four:


Know that God is God in every corner of the world. He is not just present. They invented a word that only God can fill: Omnipresent. He is in that cafe in Paris. He is on your boat from Morocco. He is in your Ashram in India. He is on safari in Kruger. He is on that beach in Mexico. He is in your hostel in Ho Chi Minh City. He is in the Internet cafe in Idaho. Read Jonah before you go. And Jeremiah 23:24. You cannot escape him.
Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord.

Know that this is God’s world. Wake up every morning and thank him for it. Live for him in every corner of it. Treat God's world in the way that God desires for it. Obey him in every quarter. He searches his world as he searches hearts. But also know that most people in God’s World do not treat him as God of his world. So go in with wide eyes. And call a sin a sin. Read 1 Chronicles 28:8:
And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.

Love him with all your heart. If you don’t think that you do now, then cancel your ticket. Sort out your relationship with him before you go. It is most likely that your relationship with God will probably not get better because you are overseas. And no, you are not the exception to the rule.


Defend Jesus, and defend God’s church wherever you go. Make it your aim to tell most people you meet that you are a follower of Jesus, and that you have your life in him. And tell them quickly. You won't tell them at 11PM in some bar after a few beers. Better to tell them in your areoplane seat. Don’t be another selfish traveler, be an ambassador for God.

5 more to come...
Then 5 reasons not to give for travel.


Pic on Flickr by Giancarlo rado.

A Letter to a Young Traveller

If you want to read all the Tips and posts on this (There will be at least 4, then click HERE.)

Many years ago, I penned some thoughts for a young man who was about to travel overseas. He was a young guy who saw travel as an answer to his yearnings and difficulties. He had just bought the tickets, was planning the adventure, and he was dreaming of the possibilities that lay ahead for him.

I realised as we spoke that I'd asked dozens of people if they had 'planned for their travel', and they invariably said Yes. I had asked: what are your plans? And they spoke only of their itinerary, rather than a plan to grow as a Christian and as a person.

I wrote to him to readdress that imbalance.

You will see that some of my advice concurs with the thoughts of Alain de Botton, from The Art of Travel. He says:
Aside from love, few things attract more longing the prospect of a holiday. During the ordinary working months, exhausted by our jobs, and family routines, wearied by the weather, the holidays stand out on the horizon of our frayed lives, as an oasis of happiness and repose.

And yet the business of going on holiday is rarely talked about apart from a bluntly practical point of view. There is no end of talk about where we should go. What gets less attention is ‘why’? What are we searching for? How much do our travels measure up to the longings that inspired them?

I decided that I’d try to find happiness there (in the Mediterranean). Everything was exactly as the brochure had promised. But there was one thing that wasn’t as I had hoped. But this wasn’t something that I could complain to anyone about.

At the middle of Day 1, a troubling realization began to dawn on me.

That I had inadvertently brought myself along with me.

Would you like to read that correspondence?

They are 'Ten Tips for Travel' and 'Ten Reasons not to give for Travel'.

Pic on Flickr by stoopwafels.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sermon Review on 'The Lure of Distance'

Click HERE for Mark Barry's review and thoughts on the Second Lent Sermon called 'The Lure of Distance'. It's a sermon about why we run. It touches on why we travel.

Also, not quite a review, but my friend Craig makes a comment HERE.

Thanks Gents.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Devasted in Canada

My Statcounter tells me that someone in Canada found their way to this Blog by Googling 'I'm in the Hosea Situation.' They found my Hosea Sermon and Blog Post.

If you are a praying person, can you stop to pray for this man or woman? May he or she know the pained love of God.
Pic on Flickr by eshi08.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Sermon Audio (Lent 2): The Lure of Distance

The second sermon during Lent, on the Parable of the Prodigal Son is about the 'Lure of Distance'.

You can listen or download the sermon by clicking HERE.

My Text is V13 of Luke 15:
Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.
What’s happening here?

It’s a Middle Eastern tragedy. That’s what’s happening.

It’s about a younger son, who left home, shaming his father. He walked out taking all the money he could from his father. He traded his relationship with his Father for cash, and his cash for pleasure.

And – presumably – he went looking for the life he wanted. So the story is also about a search. A desire for a better life in a distant country. A yearning; an experience; a thrill; a fantasy.

Now, my question for today is simply this: What is the Lure for the Younger Son? What is the Lure of Distance? Why do many of us want freedom from responsibility & work? And even some relationships?

The text gives us no motivation. He asked, and he left. V12.
  • Maybe he was done with the hard work.
  • Maybe he was tried of waiting.
  • Maybe he wanted to impress his mates.
  • Or spread his proverbial wings.
  • Maybe he didn’t like his Dad anymore.
  • Or was tired of his sanctimonious brother.
I argue in this message that their are at least 2 attractive things about distance:

1. The son thinks it’s a better life in the distant country.
(This is a question of Pleasure.)

2. He thinks he will discover himself in the distant country.
(This is a question of Identity.)

Listen HERE.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lent on York>> The Lure of Distance (Thursday Lunchtime)

Today, at 1:10PM, we continue a simple and yet profound 6-week exploration into a story Jesus told: The Parable of the Prodigal Son. My intention is to make these meetings informative, interactive, and exploratory.

Today’s meeting>> The Lure of Distance (Luke 15:13-14) (1:10-1:45PM).

We explore why the human heart seeks (at times) to run. Many of us travel great distances (physically and emotionally) to avoid responsibility, God and relationships. We will explore why the ‘Lure of Distance’ is a mirage, and how to return to the life God desires for you. For Christ's sake.

We’ll also talk about why we take holidays, and what to expect in them. There will also be a short DVD from Alain De Botton The Art of Travel. In other words, there will be much to discuss.

Last Sunday’s Sermon is not yet on MP3, but the full-text can be downloaded as a document HERE.

Please feel free to invite whom you will. Just forward this email.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"Evangelicalism doesn't need a bailout. Much of it needs a funeral. But what about what remains?"

Take a read of THIS from Michael Spencer. These are fightin' words. But it's not all doom and gloom. Later in the article, he writes: "Despite all of these challenges, it is impossible not to be hopeful. As one commenter has already said, "Christianity loves a crumbling empire."

Read the 'prophecy':
Oneida, Ky. - We are on the verge – within 10 years – of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity. This breakdown will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and it will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West.

Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants. (Between 25 and 35 percent of Americans today are Evangelicals.) In the "Protestant" 20th century, Evangelicals flourished. But they will soon be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century.

This collapse will herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian West. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become hostile toward evangelical Christianity, seeing it as the opponent of the common good.

Millions of Evangelicals will quit. Thousands of ministries will end. Christian media will be reduced, if not eliminated. Many Christian schools will go into rapid decline. I'm convinced the grace and mission of God will reach to the ends of the earth. But the end of evangelicalism as we know it is close.

Why is this going to happen?

1. Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This will prove to be a very costly mistake. Evangelicals will increasingly be seen as a threat to cultural progress. Public leaders will consider us bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society.

The evangelical investment in moral, social, and political issues has depleted our resources and exposed our weaknesses. Being against gay marriage and being rhetorically pro-life will not make up for the fact that massive majorities of Evangelicals can't articulate the Gospel with any coherence. We fell for the trap of believing in a cause more than a faith.

2. We Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive the secular onslaught. Ironically, the billions of dollars we've spent on youth ministers, Christian music, publishing, and media has produced a culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it. Our young people have deep beliefs about the culture war, but do not know why they should obey scripture, the essentials of theology, or the experience of spiritual discipline and community. Coming generations of Christians are going to be monumentally ignorant and unprepared for culture-wide pressures.

3. There are three kinds of evangelical churches today: consumer-driven megachurches, dying churches, and new churches whose future is fragile. Denominations will shrink, even vanish, while fewer and fewer evangelical churches will survive and thrive.

4. Despite some very successful developments in the past 25 years, Christian education has not produced a product that can withstand the rising tide of secularism. Evangelicalism has used its educational system primarily to staff its own needs and talk to itself.

5. The confrontation between cultural secularism and the faith at the core of evangelical efforts to "do good" is rapidly approaching. We will soon see that the good Evangelicals want to do will be viewed as bad by so many, and much of that work will not be done. Look for ministries to take on a less and less distinctively Christian face in order to survive.

6. Even in areas where Evangelicals imagine themselves strong (like the Bible Belt), we will find a great inability to pass on to our children a vital evangelical confidence in the Bible and the importance of the faith.

7. The money will dry up.

What will be left?

•Expect evangelicalism to look more like the pragmatic, therapeutic, church-growth oriented megachurches that have defined success. Emphasis will shift from doctrine to relevance, motivation, and personal success – resulting in churches further compromised and weakened in their ability to pass on the faith.

•Two of the beneficiaries will be the Roman Catholic and Orthodox communions. Evangelicals have been entering these churches in recent decades and that trend will continue, with more efforts aimed at the "conversion" of Evangelicals to the Catholic and Orthodox traditions.

•A small band will work hard to rescue the movement from its demise through theological renewal. This is an attractive, innovative, and tireless community with outstanding media, publishing, and leadership development. Nonetheless, I believe the coming evangelical collapse will not result in a second reformation, though it may result in benefits for many churches and the beginnings of new churches.

•The emerging church will largely vanish from the evangelical landscape, becoming part of the small segment of progressive mainline Protestants that remain true to the liberal vision.

•Aggressively evangelistic fundamentalist churches will begin to disappear.

•Charismatic-Pentecostal Christianity will become the majority report in evangelicalism. Can this community withstand heresy, relativism, and confusion? To do so, it must make a priority of biblical authority, responsible leadership, and a reemergence of orthodoxy.

•Evangelicalism needs a "rescue mission" from the world Christian community. It is time for missionaries to come to America from Asia and Africa. Will they come? Will they be able to bring to our culture a more vital form of Christianity?

•Expect a fragmented response to the culture war. Some Evangelicals will work to create their own countercultures, rather than try to change the culture at large. Some will continue to see conservatism and Christianity through one lens and will engage the culture war much as before – a status quo the media will be all too happy to perpetuate. A significant number, however, may give up political engagement for a discipleship of deeper impact.

Is all of this a bad thing?

Evangelicalism doesn't need a bailout. Much of it needs a funeral. But what about what remains?

Is it a good thing that denominations are going to become largely irrelevant? Only if the networks that replace them are able to marshal resources, training, and vision to the mission field and into the planting and equipping of churches.

Is it a good thing that many marginal believers will depart? Possibly, if churches begin and continue the work of renewing serious church membership. We must change the conversation from the maintenance of traditional churches to developing new and culturally appropriate ones.

The ascendency of Charismatic-Pentecostal-influenced worship around the world can be a major positive for the evangelical movement if reformation can reach those churches and if it is joined with the calling, training, and mentoring of leaders. If American churches come under more of the influence of the movement of the Holy Spirit in Africa and Asia, this will be a good thing.

Will the evangelicalizing of Catholic and Orthodox communions be a good development? One can hope for greater unity and appreciation, but the history of these developments seems to be much more about a renewed vigor to "evangelize" Protestantism in the name of unity.

Will the coming collapse get Evangelicals past the pragmatism and shallowness that has brought about the loss of substance and power? Probably not. The purveyors of the evangelical circus will be in fine form, selling their wares as the promised solution to every church's problems. I expect the landscape of megachurch vacuity to be around for a very long time.

Will it shake lose the prosperity Gospel from its parasitical place on the evangelical body of Christ? Evidence from similar periods is not encouraging. American Christians seldom seem to be able to separate their theology from an overall idea of personal affluence and success.

The loss of their political clout may impel many Evangelicals to reconsider the wisdom of trying to create a "godly society." That doesn't mean they'll focus solely on saving souls, but the increasing concern will be how to keep secularism out of church, not stop it altogether. The integrity of the church as a countercultural movement with a message of "empire subversion" will increasingly replace a message of cultural and political entitlement.

Despite all of these challenges, it is impossible not to be hopeful. As one commenter has already said, "Christianity loves a crumbling empire."

We can rejoice that in the ruins, new forms of Christian vitality and ministry will be born. I expect to see a vital and growing house church movement. This cannot help but be good for an evangelicalism that has made buildings, numbers, and paid staff its drugs for half a century.

We need new evangelicalism that learns from the past and listens more carefully to what God says about being His people in the midst of a powerful, idolatrous culture.

I'm not a prophet. My view of evangelicalism is not authoritative or infallible. I am certainly wrong in some of these predictions. But is there anyone who is observing evangelicalism in these times who does not sense that the future of our movement holds many dangers and much potential?

Pic on Flickr by Maytevidri.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Sermon Audio (Lent 1): The Joy of the Father

Here is the Sermon from Last Sunday. The first in the Lent series on the Prodigal Sons.

Download or listen: HERE.
Scripture Text to read first is HERE.
Google Document of text of sermon is HERE (if you just want to read it).

*Warning: The tape is very old, I think. So the quality is not good. We bought new tapes this week. But its OK.*

But here is a start:

God is Grace. He is more than that, but he is not less than that. God has grace woven into the fabric of his being. And Jesus is the exact image of the invisible God, so it is no surprise that Jesus has grace woven into the fabric of his being.

Look at Luke 15:1:
Now the tax collectors and "sinners" were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."
Look at the main verbs in those two verses:
  • Gathering.
  • Muttering.
  • Welcoming.
Who is doing what?
  • The (so called) Sinners are gathering.
  • The Religious types are muttering.
  • And Jesus is welcoming (and even eating with them.)
Right there in those verbs is the heart of the Christian message.

Three questions to unlock the text: (All about motivation).
  • What is the motivation of the sinners to gather? V1
  • What is the motivation of the religious leaders to mutter? V2
  • What is the motivation of Jesus to welcome? V3-12
Download or listen: HERE.


Friday, March 06, 2009

Cheerios and the Garden of Eden

The Little Lady has Cheerios for breakfast, and The Little Man has Weetbix.

Just a few minutes ago, The Little Lady (L) apparently threw a cheerio at The Little Man (O), and I didn't see it. And this exchange took place. Notice the struggle for her to 'fess up. Notice the skilled technique. L is 3, O is 4.

O: Daddy, L threw a Cheerio at me.
L: No I didn't.
O: You're lying. You did throw a Cheerio at me.
L: I'm not lying.
O: Yes you are.

L pauses.

L: What's lying?
O: Lying is when you did something and then say you didn't.

They both appeal to Dad, and I am in the kitchen.

O: Dad, L is lying.
L: But I don't suppose I am lying.

Moment passes. Dad now at breakfast table.

L: (In voice of consternation): O said a rude word. He said 'lying'.

Dad mentally processing this remark.

L: O was just playing a joke about that.

Dad now staring at daughter.

L: I think that cheerio spilled off my bowl.

Dad: It didn't work in the Garden of Delights. And it don't work at my breakfast table.

A lesson in how to use every trick in the book.

Off to work...


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Lent on York: 6 Weeks of Lunchtime Exploration

(This post is an invitation. Send it to whomever you think may need it.)

This Thursday at Lunchtime, we begin a simple and yet hopefully profound 6 week exploration into a story Jesus told: The Parable of The Prodigal Son. It is a story that is good for Lent, for it speaks about regrets, repentance, recovery and restoration. Only 6 weeks.
  • Just 6 weeks during Lent.
  • 6 Thursdays before Easter.
  • No more than 6 weeks.
  • No less than 6 weeks.
We dig for insight into these two verses in Luke's Gospel, describing the bold and awkward activity of Jesus:
Now the tax collectors and 'sinners' were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."
Notice the verbs. The sinners Gathered, the Pharisees Muttered and Jesus Welcomed. Right there in those verbs lies the heart of the Christian message. But their application is far reaching. My intention is to make these meetings informative, interactive, and exploratory.

So here are the first two weeks:

>> This Thursday March 5 (1:10-1:45PM)

The Joy of the Father (Luke 15:1-12)
We explore the link between a joyful God and a joyful human being. Many of us know what it is to carry a small and restrictive heart. We know our capacity for fear and judgmentalism. This meeting explores how the Joy of God could enlarge your capacity for joy, speak to your fears, and save you from a judgmental spirit. For Christ's sake.

>> Thursday March 12 (1:10-1:45PM)
The Lure of Distance (Luke 15:13-14)
We explore why the human heart seeks (at times) to run. Many of us travel great distances (physically and emotionally) to avoid responsibility, God and relationships. We will explore why the Lure of Distance is a mirage, and how to return to the life God desires for you. For Christ's sake.

Then keep these dates in mind:
  • Thursday March 19 (1:10-1:45PM) - The Limits of Regret
  • Thursday March 26 (1:10-1:45PM) - The Power of a Moral Inventory
  • Thursday April 2 (1:10-1:45PM) - The Freedom in Confession
  • Thursday April 9 (1:10-1:45PM) - The Barriers to Joy
To invite people, please create link to your Blog, or just send them the URL of this post, or use the 'email this' link at the bottom of this post (that little envelope.)

Should be fun. But better still, it will free the heart to live and love like Jesus did.

Pic on Flickr by atomicity.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Moore College to move to St Philip's York St (after the deaths of the Principal and a Bishop)

Not now. But in 1935. 

Oh yes. 1935.

(For the record, John Woodhouse is very much alive, as are all the Bishops.)

There is an historian working at St Philip's at the moment. It's an historic church (Australia's first parish), and it is in many ways responsible for the evangelical nature of the Sydney Diocese. The historian is trawling through the Parish Council Minutes and writing down whatever looks interesting. She showed me the Minutes of a meeting on August 24, 1935. If you care to take the time to read the minutes below, you will find some remarkable things. Some preliminary remarks:
  • The Archbishop was the newly appointed Howard Mowll.
  • The Parish of St Philip automatically had (up until 1935) as its rector the Assistant Bishop of the Diocese.
  • The Bishop/Rector, whose death if referred to, was Bishop Kirby, who died on 12 July, 1935. This meeting happened 6 weeks later.
  • The Principal of Moore College who died was Principal Davies. 
  • His successor was T.C. Hammond (who become the Rector of St Philip's as well as the Principal).
  • The Harbour Bridge was opened in March, 1932.
  • This meeting (to ask St Philip's it's views on a potential move) was over in one hour!
I love this stuff. 

So, take a few minutes, if this interests you! (I've included the headings, to make it readable):

The Archbishop was in the Chair. Those present were: Mesdames Mares, Levick, Murphy, D'Arcy-Irvine (M), Hancock, Broadley and Gray. The Misses E. Mares, E. Mannix, P. Mannix, Conway, Harvey, Rowe, Davis. Messrs. A. Mares, Levick, Banks, Cowper, Blissett, Archdeacon Charlton, Rev. Newby-Fraser and Rev. Broadley. Rev. H. Broadley acted as secretary.

The Meeting opened with prayer a little after the half-hour owing to the Archbishop being delayed.

-- Archbishop late

The Archbishop apologised for his lateness and then went on to say that he had summoned the meeting because he wanted to discuss with them an important matter, namely the question of the future of St Philip's. He had invited others than those legally entitled to come because he wanted to know the feeling of a gathering of those interested in St Philip's.

-- Should the Assistant Bishop be automatically Rector of York St?
The appointment of a new Rector was more than merely a parish matter. Some years ago it was decided that the Bishop-coadjutor was to be the Rector of the parish. The load of work was such that he had discussed the position with Bishop Kirkby who had agreed that the two positions ought to be separated. Before making any appointments the Archbishop wants to gain more light on the subject.

-- Is there 'leading' in the coincidental deaths of the Principal and the Bishop?

He remarked on the coincidence of the deaths of the Principal of Moore College and of the Bishop, and wondered if there was a leading for him in those events. It had suggested to him the possibility of linking up Moore College with St Philip's. If that was to be brought about, it was desirable that action be taken by Ordinance at Synod. Such a proposal must be acceptable to the Standing Committee which is due to meet on Monday 26th inst. Before going before Standing Committee the Archbishop wanted to test the feelings of the representatives of St Philip's.

-- Architects and feasibility plans done in four days

The subject had been mentioned to Moore College Council which after a meeting last Tuesday the 20th said that a decision hinged on the question as to whether there was enough land at St Philip's to rebuild the College there. Architects had been consulted on Wednesday 21st and the reply was to the effect that the plan was feasible. Plans drawn up had been brought along by the Archbishop.

-- St Philip's not as big as it should be (and not enough money to get a 'first class man' in the Pulpit!)

The next matter was to get the situation defined from St Philip's point of view, which was also that of the Archbishop. The church is a city church, the population has greatly decreased in the parish, and the congregation is not as big as it should be. The next Coadjutor-Bishop may not be connected with St Philip's and the problem of financing a really first class man in St Philip's pulpit has to be faced. If the stipend of the Bishop-Coadjutor is taken away there is not enough left to get a first-class man.

-- The Harbour Bridge just opened, making St Philip's conspicuous

A big change has been made by the Bridge, the site is now very conspicuous. It is unfortunate that the hoardings had to be allowed on the property to raise funds; they make a bad impression on passers-by as to the attitude of the Church of England in the Diocese. In due course the hoardings will be taken away and the question will then be as to where the finances are to come from. Therefore the building of a new Parish Hall is of more than parochial interest.

-- Bringing Moore to York St to solve two problems

The two difficulties of the appointment of a suitable Principal of Moore College and of a Rector of St Philip's would be met if the Principal was to be made Rector of the parish and the Vice-Principal was to be the Curate. The Archbishop hopes that a strong Evangelical is going to be Principal of the College and likewise the Vice-Principal. Such a combination of Principal as a Rector is already at work in Oxford.

-- Use the students to do the Parish Work

In reference to the duties to the College interfering with the duties to the parish, the Archbishop said that in the College would be a team of young ordinands to do the work in the neighbourhood. If St Philip's is not linked with Moore College and not connected with the Bishop-Coadjutor, then the best man could not be got for St Philip's.

-- Newtown to be sold and the money given to York St Building!

If the College is to be brought to St Philip's, then instead of spending more money on the present site in Newtown, the property could be sold and the money gained by such a sale, together with the funds in the hands of St Philip's Trustees, could be used to put up really worthy buildings.

-- Objections by students (too noisy and no tennis courts!)

Various objections were that it was an advantage to have the College near the University, that it would be too noisy at St Philip's, that there would be too much distraction for the students, that tennis courts were not on the property, could be answered satisfactorily.

-- Some legal matters

If the Synod approves the scheme, the Principal of the College will be required to sign a document agreeing to cease to be Rector when he ceases to be the Principal. The Principal would live at Moore College for the time being. The Vice-principal would live at St Philip's. The Rectory would be left standing as the Principal's house until it was pulled down at some future time to make way for a residence in keeping with the rest of the buildings.

-- The plans shown

The plans were then shown and the meeting thrown open for questions. In answer to a question, the Archbishop said that the parish organisation would still go on, with the advantage of having an increased parochial staff.

-- Some questions from the Parish

In answer to another, it was stated that the Rector would have to be available for people who wanted him. There would be accommodation for 40 students.

In answer it was said that the parish nominators would still function just as they do when the Bishop is Rector.

-- The Archdeacon asks the Parish to support the Archbishop

Archdeacon Charlton suggested that support be given to the scheme; it commended itself to him and would create a centre of influence throughout the Diocese.

Mr. Levick moved that the Archbishop be supported by the congregation. Mr. Seatree seconded the motion and it was carried. The Archbishop said that the matter was not finalised by any means yet. It would have to go before Standing Committee and again before St Philip's and Moore College Council and again to Standing Committee. Archdeacon Charlton expressed the appreciation of the congregation at the interest and frankness shown by the Archbishop.

-- St Philip's York St's 'evangelical tradition' and 'strategic position'

The Archbishop replied that the matter was one of great importance to him owing to the Evangelical tradition of the parish and to it having been put in a position of such strategic importance.

The meeting closed with the Benediction at 5.50pm.

So, what happened?? T.C. Hammond certainly became Rector, but the College never moved. Does anyone want to trawl through Standing Committee and Moore College Council minutes?


Thoughts? What's changed? What has stayed the same?