Indigenous Languages Initiative

Posted: January 8, 2019 in Uncategorized

iyil-logo

It’s not uncommon to hear criticism of Christian missionaries for their patriarchal approach to indigenous people.

However, in this International Year of Indigenous Languages it is significant that the work of at least one pioneer missionary in Australia will be recognised.

The National Library of Australia has commenced a project as part of the International Year to digitise some important books on Aboriginal languages, including a number produced by veteran missionary-linguist, Wilf Douglas.

Works will include dictionaries and word books from as far back as 1954 in the Western Desert language of Warburton Ranges, the Bardi language of Sunday Island and the Noongar language of the south west of Western Australia. 

Few people have contributed as much to the knowledge of Australian Aboriginal languages and their protection from potential extinction through the development of dictionaries and grammars for previously unwritten languages.

Congratulations to the National Library of Australia for embarking on this significant project in the International Year of Indigenous People. 

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Come Eat With Me… An excerpt

Posted: December 28, 2018 in Uncategorized

Following is an excerpt from one of the early chapters in my new book, Come Eat With Me. The book will be on shelves and online very soon. 

The Bible starts with a great picture of God preparing the table, placing the first people in a garden where everything is beautiful. but within a short time, they have come across a challenge. They are given a choice about eating some fruit from a single tree, and the suggestion that is put into their minds by the snake is that eating of the fruit will give them knowledge about the difference between good and evil.

Prior to that, everything was good and life was pretty simple. I think we’d all like that kind of life, and joining God’s community on earth would be pretty cozy if we didn’t have to worry about choices between good and evil. but the choice the first people made had immediate consequences, and it was their own family that suffered from their decision.

it’s interesting that the story about the sons of the first people involved a meal. Abel was a sheep farmer and was very proud of the way he cared for his flock and was able to develop exciting new methods of animal husbandry. His brother Cain was a farmer and he was equally proud of his ability to grow crops that would produce delicious food.

I can imagine the day Cain harvested one of his early crops, and successfully developed the process of baking a loaf of bread. He invited Abel to kill a sheep, and together, with all their families, gathered in great excitement to eat a meal together. What a time of celebration that would have been. But perhaps the happy families weren’t as happy as it seemed on the surface.

Cain, it would seem, was jealous of his brother. Perhaps it was because the family liked the roast lamb and found the bread a little dry without any butter and jam which, by the way, hadn’t yet been invented. Certainly, the decision of Cain’s parents to explore the idea of understanding good and evil was starting to work its way into Cain’s psyche.

In recognition of God and as an expression of thanks to him, Cain and Abel each brought a portion of their produce and made an offering to God. But there was a problem. We’re only into the fourth chapter of the bible and we’re told that God who has invited us to come and eat with him rejects Cain’s offering, and in a jealous rage, Cain kills his brother.

Why did God reject Cain’s offering? it wasn’t anything to do with the quality of his produce, but more to do with what was lurking in Cain’s heart. As we work our way through this book we will make an exciting discovery. The evil that was crouching at the door of Cain’s heart prompting him towards jealousy and then murder, was to follow humanity for the rest of time.

When Cain brought his gift of grain to God, it was not done in a spirit of thanksgiving and love, but, I would suggest, was a process of institutionalizing the act of worship. The act of bringing an offering wasn’t a genuine response from the heart, but the act of someone who was doing what they thought needed to be done.

Why did God reject Cain’s offering? Hold that question for a while, because the vast story of the Bible is all about the answer to that question. Over time we will discover in the stories about God’s invitation to eat with him, that the evil that lies deep within will continue to disrupt many potentially beautiful meals, but in the long run a solution is at hand.

Come Eat With Me

Posted: December 22, 2018 in Uncategorized

My new book, Come Eat With Me will be on sale shortly. I’ll share some thoughts from the book in future blogs. In the meantime, look out for it as I believe it due for release early in 2019. Check out details on the publisher’s website.

Dealing with Shame

Posted: June 17, 2018 in Uncategorized

the-heart-of-man-movie-review

Shame is that feeling that most people experience at some stage. A feeling that you just want to run away and disappear. Feelings of unworthiness attached to shame make it very difficult to accept love and kindness from others and even make us think that we don’t deserve forgiveness ourselves, and consequently are unable to forgive others.

In about a week, cinemas will be showing the movie The Heart of Man (check out the trailer). The Heart of Man is described as a cinematic retelling of the parable of the prodigal son, interwoven with true testimonials of personal and sexual brokenness. Narrative storytelling and documentary filmmaking combine to reveal the compassionate heart of God that illuminates an age-old truth: shame is not a barrier to God’s love, but a bridge to absolute transformation, victory, freedom and hope.

Check it out at a cinema near you (if you live in Australia).

As I have been working my way through the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew chapter 5, I’ve come to Jesus’ comments about adultery. Put simply, Jesus makes it clear that there aren’t too many people who can wriggle out of this one. So what do we do? Hide away in shame or pretend we don’t know what he’s talking about?

Receiving God’s forgiveness through confession is critical to our ability to deal with shame and guilt, and shame, when it’s handed over to God becomes a bridge rather than a barrier.

Check out my podcast here.

A Culture of Life

Posted: June 10, 2018 in Uncategorized

In my last blog I talked about Jesus’ teaching about the law. I’m working my way through what has become known as the Sermon on the Mount, (recorded for us in Matthew chapter 5), and immediately after giving his summary about the law Jesus began to talk about murder. “You’ve heard it said, you shall not murder,” he explained, “but I say to you….”

What Jesus proceeded to do, was to draw  a picture of the extreme opposite of murder – extreme love.

In an effort to understand what Jesus was saying I’ve put together some diagrams that may help.  The law that Moses handed down from Mt Sinai said very clearly, you shall not murder.

THE LAW GRAPHIc1

The fence around that statement is very clear and the people in Moses’ day got the message pretty clearly.

But in time people started to knock down the fence by coming up with ideas that would help us to address what we saw as problems with this very finite law. After the fall of Rome in 410AD Christianity came up with the ‘just war’ theory to solve the problem of how to kill people if there was sound justification for war. People found reason to support capital punishment, and other laws were introduced to soften the harshness of the statement: You shall not murder.

Then we discovered that we could change our language to soften the law a little. We can talk about abortion, euthanasia, or assassination, as slightly softer ways of describing the act of killing. Ultimately we began to argue that that old law was so broken that we could just ignore it altogether.

THE LAW GRAPHIC2.jpg

As Jesus was talking to his disciples, he explained that this old law would eventually reach its fulfilment. That time came when Jesus died on the cross. That momentous event marked the fulfilment of Moses law.  What came into effect after that was the law of Christ. The next diagram shows that Jesus came and established new boundaries.

He didn’t tell us to ignore the law and become lawless. He didn’t tell us to go back to the old law with the broken down fences. He introduced a new law, which is the law of love. Here’s the diagram to represent this change.

THE LAW GRAPHIC3

Christ’s law was completely different from the old law because it focussed on the sanctity of human life. It recognised that everyone is created in the image of God and God loves each person with an inexhaustible love. Murder is no longer a relevant way of dealing with people we don’t like, because a new law is in place.

Jesus explained it by saying you don’t even call a person a fool and if someone has something against you, go and sort it out. Jesus’ law was the very opposite of murder, it was a law of extreme love.

Instead of contemplating murder, the role of the person who follows Jesus is to be a voice who lovingly and directly speaks to the worth and value of life; and actively works toward cultivating a culture of life.

I wonder what the culture of life will look like?

This is the fourth in a series I am presenting at Maida Vale Baptist Church. Read the first here, the second here and the third here. You can also listen to the whole series of messages on podcast here

It’s the Law

Posted: June 3, 2018 in Uncategorized

One day Jesus is sitting on a mountainside talking to his disciples and a great crowd of people, and he decides to address the question of the law. It’s a tricky topic, but he’s not in the habit of avoiding tricky topics, even though everyone in the crowd would have had an opinion about the law and how it was to be interpreted.

He starts off by saying: Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. What was he saying? Well, here’s a way of understanding it. If there was a game of football, and part way through the game, the umpires called for the game to stop and told everyone to go home, the game would have have been cancelled – or abolished. If the game was allowed to come to its natural end, it would be fulfilled.

When Jesus came, he lived within the law of the land, and the religious law. He did not abolish the law while he was one earth. But at his death on the cross, Jesus cried out, “it is finished.” At the cross, the law had reached its fulfilment.

Jesus went on to say to the people there on the mountainside:  For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. If we argue that the law is still in place we suggest that Jesus death did not accomplish all he set out to do. We’re claiming that the cross was only a partial accomplishment, which goes against Jesus’ own teaching, and the whole teaching of the New Testament, that in his death, Jesus accomplished all that God had sent him to do.

So what does that mean in practical terms? Watch out for next week’s blog when I get into the nitty gritty of observing the law.

 

Being Salty

Posted: May 27, 2018 in Uncategorized

Jesus was up on the mountainside one day. His disciples were there, along with a great crowd of people, and he began to teach them. He was telling his disciples that they were the salt of the earth. Salt, you’ll appreciate is ideal in bringing out the taste in food. In other words, Jesus was saying that his followers should be bringing out the best in the society in which they live. Their influence should be like salt that makes everything around them taste better.

But as Jesus was speaking to his follower there on the mountainside, there was a great crowd of people who were listening in. Some of them may have thought of becoming followers of Jesus, in which case they were hearing what would be expected of them. But it was almost as if Jesus was saying to this crowd, see these men here who are going to become my followers, you need to keep them accountable.  I’ve told them they’re to be salty in the way they interact with the rest of their community, you need to know that’s what’s expected of them.

survey

I wonder what would happen if I were to hand out a survey like this one to a group of my friends, and ask them to mark me on my ability to be like Jesus. I wonder how many people would be prepared to give out a survey like this to their colleagues at work and ask them to judge you on how “salty” you are. I wonder how Jesus’ disciples were feeling that day on the mountainside, knowing that their friends were listening to Jesus and may have been thinking, “well, Matthew’s been a thieving so-and-so in his time, I wonder if he’ll change now he’s a follower of Jesus?”

If we say we want to follow Jesus, are we prepared to be accountable to our friends and workmates for our decision?

“Being Salty” was the theme of a message I presented at Maida Vale Baptist Church. Check out the podcast

Next Steps

Posted: May 20, 2018 in Uncategorized

This morning at Maida Vale Baptist Church I am starting a new series called Next Steps, based on the Sermon on the Mount recorded for us in Matthew’s Gospel of the Bible. Matthew tells us that there was a big crowd of people around Jesus so he called them together, and he sat on the hillside to speak to them.

There were no microphones, sound systems or fancy powerpoint presentations. Just a bloke on a hillside, speaking clearly and making use of the natural acoustics.

Matthew says the purpose of Jesus’ sermon was to teach his disciples, but he was surrounded by this great crowd of people. It struck me that Jesus was able to achieve two things at once. He wanted his disciples to learn some things so that they could go on and teach other people in the future. But there were no secrets, no special messages for the faithful that others weren’t allowed to hear.

His message was open to all, and the different listeners were able to take what they heard and take the next step they needed to take on the basis of what they heard. When we hear the words of Jesus, we can’t just listen and walk away … we need to think about the next step we need to take in response to his words.

Check out this blog each week – I’ll probably update it each Sunday afternoon and let’s consider our next steps.

Reporting the Regions

Posted: November 27, 2016 in Uncategorized

Sometimes people research history. Sometimes people discover what has already been written. Sometimes people are responsible for writing history, and only discover later the significance of what they have written.

Over two decades between 1973 and 1993 I worked as a journalist around regional Western Australia, and for whatever reason, took the time to keep the clippings of many of my stories. When I looked back on these stories I realised that they represented a significant re-telling of history. At the time many of them didn’t seem all that interesting, but on reflection I realised each one contributed to an understanding of what has happening at the time.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “We are not makers of history, we are made by history.” I have had the privilege of being able to record history over a period of time, and I realise that some of the stories represent experiences that helped to make me the person that I am today. There is great value in reflecting on the past and learning from the past. There can be great disappointment when we fail to learn from the past.

In doing this exercise I have recognised the importance of thanking God for the journey he has taken me on through my life and in that journey, teaching me, moulding me and preparing me to be the person he wanted me to be. I am still learning, still being moulded, and still in preparation, but I have a deep assurance that God is with me, guiding me all the way.

I haven’t blogged for a while but have been prompted by the news today of the death of Leonard Cohen, one of the great poets of the 20th and 21st century. In fact, I had just written this piece and recorded it for Sonshine fm this week.

The 82-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter has just released a new album and one of the songs, called treaty seemed to be asking a question about his relationship with God.

It reads like this: I’ve seen you change the water into wine
I’ve seen you change it back to water, too
I sit at your table every night
I try but I just don’t get high with you
I wish there was a treaty we could sign
I do not care who takes this bloody hill
I’m angry and I’m tired all the time
I wish there was a treaty, I wish there was a treaty
Between your love and mine

I don’t want to pretend to know exactly what Cohen was saying. People have been trying for years to explain his rather enigmatic lyrics. But, there’s a strong religious flavour in his latest album, and I think what he is saying in Treaty is a reflection of the thoughts of many people.

We’ve heard about God. We’ve heard about Jesus. But there are aspects of the story that Christianity tells, that we find extremely hard to grasp. We’re angry and tired all the time and don’t feel like entering into argument or discussion on theological or ethical issues.

But we wish there was a treaty between God’s love and mine. Some sort of agreement about what actually makes up that love.

You see the God of the Bible is described as a God of unconditional love. And in some ways that’s a bit hard for us to handle. Because if God loves us unconditionally, it kind of makes us stop and think about how we respond to that.

And we suddenly realise that we can’t love God in the same way. We realise our own shortcomings, and our failure to really love him. And that can make us feel guilty.
It makes us feel like we want some kind of treaty with God. Some kind of agreement about what our love should look like. If only he didn’t love us so much we wouldn’t feel so guilty. We wouldn’t feel as though we’re inadequate in our love.

But that’s the great thing about God’s love. His love for us is so expansive, so far reaching, so mind blowing, that we realise we really are inadequate to respond appropriately.

But it’s in our inadequacy and our guilt, and our feelings of uselessness, that God reaches out to us, and he says, I can take all of that stuff. That’s now my problem, not yours.

So in a way, we don’t need a treaty in the way that Leonard Cohen suggests. But perhaps there already a treaty in place. The Bible talks about a covenant. A new covenant.

That covenant, or treaty is based on God’s unconditional love. It’s about Jesus coming to earth and giving up his life, making the ultimate sacrifice, so that we could know God’s love and forgiveness. So that discovering his love isn’t about what we have to do, or what not to do, it’s about accepting. It’s about receiving.

Leonard Cohen says: I wish there was a treaty, I wish there was a treaty
Between your love and mine. There is, you know. That treaty is Jesus. And he invites us to give up our feelings of guilt and our efforts to find love, and to accept his free gift of love.