Category Archives: Stuff I don’t know much about but rave on about anyway

Spirituality, Knowledge and Understanding

When I first started at my present church, around 24 years ago, there was a real sense that you never quite knew what was going to happen on a Sunday. If you just take this phrase on its own you might think its a positive. It isn’t. One Sunday you might find yourself singing a four hymn sandwich from ‘Sankeys’ Hymn Book. The next week the ‘Brown Book’ would come out. For those who don’t know the ‘Brown Book’ refers to the first of three ‘chorus’ books that David and Dale Garret produced. These were charismatic flavoured books full of songs which almost universally Churches across Australia embraced.

As our church transitioned to a blended and then fully contemporary flavour of service I remarked to people that while McDonalds food was not particularly of good quality it was successful due to its consistency.  There is a knowledge and understanding of what human beings respond to and appreciate that McDonalds uses for its own purposes. That basic principle, of having church as something which is at least consistent is a value I have worked hard at to instil in my local church community. Of course music style is but one aspect of church life.

There is an aspect of even the Sunday experience which needs to go beyond consistency. What are the most precious moments of Church life? Where God shows up with conviction, power, encouragement. These are not moments you can plan or schedule. Perhaps they are moments where the most important aspect of church leadership comes into play. Moments of repentance, prayer, solitude, fasting, spiritual discipline. Unbridled praise and exuberance. These are moments of real joy.

Having had a son who worked at McDonalds I have first hand insight into their training and recruitment methods. How is it that they can get a group of teenagers to produce a consistent product across not just a nation, but the world? Cultural differences swept aside a Big Mac tastes like a Big Mac in Perth, Bunbury and Launceston. Some may say this is unfortunate, but it has worked for them. The reason McDonalds has training like this is because it wants customers to have the same experience wherever they go. If your organisation wants to serve increasing numbers of people you need good systems in place. What you are delivering needs to be regular. God created us to live in cycles and seasons. Sunday comes around ever week.

At my church we have implemented a number of systems around welcoming people to church, Life Group integration, Baptism, Youth Group and of course children’s ministries. We understand that as an organisation grows you need systems. In a Church context you might say we have grown beyond one person. It is because we care about people we need a business like system.

There are moments when God has worked in someones life that you just cant explain. Recently at my church we have had 12 baptisms in a month. I couldn’t plan this, I couldn’t make this happen. God has worked supernaturally in peoples lives. In ways I could not orchestrate. You sit back in wonder as you see the Spirit of God at work. People receiving words that have little to do with well crafted sermons or well performed music.

Is the church meant to operate like a business system? Is it a business? These are two different questions.  A business has as its intent the desire for profit. To make money. A church has as its intent a desire to fulfil the Great Commission. To see people say yes to Jesus, to believe in Him and be baptised and discipled. Those in Church organisations would say this purpose is higher than business. So a Church is not a business. Yet it has purpose. I don’t believe we should be careless about this purpose but strategic, business like. Its too important.

In Church we are in the people business, what matters most to us is people. In Acts 4 we read that 5000 men were now part of the church. Someone had counted those people because they counted what mattered.  My own belief is that the gospel, seeing people say yes to Jesus, is more important than any other human endeavour. In Churches we should use human knowledge and understanding combined with the power of the Holy Spirit, the love of God and Christian community, to see as many people say yes to Jesus as possible. In fact the church should be at the forefront of how to run an organisation well. This includes welcome, integration, discipleship and community.  A Church also leaves space for God to work, moments when He speaks and you have the flexibility to listen and change your plans.

There is evidence that Jesus Himself directly argues for children of the light to be shrewd, to use good money principles to help advance the kingdom. Consider this section of scripture from Luke 16.8-9, ““The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd. And it is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light. Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.”

There are a number of metaphors for the church in the New Testament. Body, family, temple. Some may suggest that these imply little organisation. I suppose it depends on how big your family, body and temple is going to be. I imagine the structure of the early church with its explosive growth, not just in Jerusalem, but throughout much of the known world, needed structure and indeed good organisational principles to thrive.  Members, were added (Acts 2:41), job descriptions were present (1 Tim. 3), votes were conducted to expel immoral members (1 Cor. 5:4), and votes were taken to elect church officers (Acts 6:5; 14:23). We also read that he church organized a missionary team and sent them out (Acts 13:27).  Paul advised, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40). To accomplish this task, the Holy Spirit empowered people with supernatural gifting that went beyond what could be expected in a normal organisation.  Government, leadership and stewardship.(Rom. 12:8; 1 Cor 12:28). The church is organized and ~ equipped to carry out its purpose, which is the Great Commission.

Are we in the hamburger business? No. Our operation is of far more eternal consequence than that. Is our primary identity that of a business? No of course not. But we should not dismiss human wisdom in growing and organising church. The book of Proverbs is full of it! What thrills me is seeing many churches become all they can be as the Spirit of God works, and human creativity and knowledge is used. What a potent force.

Is it possible we dismiss good business principles because we don’t understand them, or they might cause us to be confronted with truths about our churches effectiveness? At my Church in the last two years we have implemented rigorous feedback procedures. We has also started to measure those things that are important to the Kingdom. Just as we see the early church do.

(For another discussion on this topic and what prompted my contribution to this discussion please see my friend Andrew Hamiltons Blog)

Reckless love of God

We started singing Cory Asbury’s song, “Reckless Love” recently at Church. Every new song we sing at Church goes through a process. Some of the parameters are ‘singability’, when it was released, its culture, its feel, its tempo and of course its theology and meaning.

This song has caused some ruckus in the evangelical world particularly over the phrase, ‘ reckless love of God’. Some wonder if God could be described as ‘reckless’. Surely God is thoughtful and considered.

I have a theory that all emotions are helpful in the right context. Perhaps even a sense of recklessness is appropriate if you consider the context. Jesus shared the parable of the shepherd who left the 99 to pursue the 1. The one who had wandered away from the flock. There is a sense of recklessness about this action, motivated by God’s love for every one of us.

I wonder sometimes if we have allowed our Western thought of rationalism to permeate church culture of the point it overshadows the testimony of scripture. To the point we subconsciously think that God considers as we do. Is it not possible to consider the fact that God may be overcome with love, so greatly, so deeply, that His pursuit of us is considered reckless?

Would you say that it would be reckless if I knew I was going to be killed for someone who would not even return the love I was offering? I think you might. Yet this is the type of love God has shown for us.

I love singing a new song, as the scriptures command. It forces me out of sentimentality and into spirituality. To consider again, anew and afresh…the reckless love of God for me.

Suzuki Grand Vitara 2006 12v Outlets

I have had my Zook for over ten years now and its safe to say with the numerous dings and scratches from 4wd adventures it is no longer shiny like it once was.

However in one regard at least it is better. After getting back from some 4wd adventures down South of WA I decided to finally find out what was wrong with two of the three 12 volt outlets on the vehicle. The passenger ‘cigarette lighter’ was not working and the rear one had never worked. That was a pain because the Engel fridge is normally in the boot.

I had also installed a secondary 12v outlet with twin outlets for rear seated passengers to charge their phones or whatever. That also had stopped working.

I took apart the whole assembly surrounding the gear lever and discovered the wiring I had used was past its used by date so I rewired the secondary outlet. A couple of fuses were gone so I replaced those. That was harder than it sounds because the GV has micro blade fuses and they are difficult to replace, even with a fuse puller. A small screwdriver was actually far more helpful.

Then to the boot outlet which has never worked. Imagine my surprise when I dissambled the surround and discovered the wiring was not even connected. I reconnected it, checking first that the wires had power, and I found out the 12v outlet was unstable anyway. So I replaced that with a good marine grade outlet. Then I fitted a fuse tap in the front fuse box so I could run the rear socket with its own circuit. Standard it runs on the same circuit as the passenger 12v outlet. Thats not a great idea when running a fridge as well as 2 or 3 iPhone chargers through it.

The satisfaction of seeing the blue light come on with my tester was immense. Having owned the car for ten years, I finally have fixed that minor annoyance.

The outlet from the rear with no wires going into it.

Cooking Brisket

Cooking brisket is a bit of an art. I have tried unsuccessfully a number of times to get it right. Yesterday I nailed it. Was the best brisket Ive ever had, and I made it myself!

First I got the nice fatty brisket up to room temperature and then rubbed a black pepper sauce on it. Then ground some black pepper, sea flakes, brown sugar and some cayenne pepper.

Now a low smoke in the offset smoker. Temperature around 100 degrees for about 6 hours. Fatty side down, and the fatter part of the brisket pointing to the firebox. But not too close.

The beef should look dark brown, but not black.

Now I wrapped in in about three layers of foil. But not before pouring some liquid into the parcel. I used some pork stock that had ginger beer in it. At the same as the brisket was cooking I was also slow cooking some pork shoulder. So the juice was superb. But you can use beer, wine, or any stock. Wrap it up so its properly sealed. It must be sealed so the moisture stays within. This is vital.

Then I stuck in back in the smoker for another 4 to six hours.

I unwrapped it with great trepidation. But it had a beautiful pink ring of smoke around the edge of the meat and it was fall apart tender with a lovely bark around it. Simply smoky, superb.

Losing weight

It is no secret that I could lose a few kilos.

Today I shared with someone my weight and they were quite surprised. My problem is I carry weight reasonably well. In other words I don’t look as heavy as what I am.

I need to lose a few kilos.

I am travelling to Chicago in a few weeks for a ministry trip. I know from experience that it will incredibly intense, taxing, tiring. In this trip I am helping to lead a team, so I have added pressure leading Pastors in a foreign country. It will be physically taxing, there is a lot of walking. The need to be fit was part of the pre-requisite.

My goal is to lose a few kilos.

How do you lose weight? Everyone knows how to lose weight. Eat healthy food, do more exercise. Its a very simple equation. Use more energy than you take in. But the reason so many fail at losing weight is because we don’t measure the gain or loss.

I need to measure my kilos.

Every day, perhaps that is too much, but everyday I weigh myself. I need daily and constant motivation to continue to eat well. For myself I have cut out all carbs and most sugar. It is not easy. But I can see the results daily. That is what is helping me.

I am losing a few kilos.

Who wants to spend their lives eating muesli bars instead of sushi

How much are we drawn to comfort, to the stable, to what we know. To that which fails to challenge us or take away our breathe.

I read this article, I presume it is satirical, where a world renown sushi chef gives reasons why granola bars are better than sushi. He writes that sushi in unpredictable, hard to prepare and goes off. Granola bars are none of that. (here) This is why he argues granola bars are better.

Sushi is not boring. No two sushi are the same. Its very temporal nature is what makes it interesting.

So is life. It is temporal. It is inherently unreliable.

Lets not treat life like a muesli bar when in fact this life we have been given, for God only knows how long, is something to be treated as interesting, full of possibility, full of challenge, full of the opportunity for joy.