Which Road Are You On?

Last weekend I attended ‘The Road Event’, a tremendously stimulating conference organized by Über, a Christian church in Melbourne Eastern suburbs.

The conference charted the development of cultural trends and ideas that have worked together to influence how we see life and how we view ourselves and our world. It all sounds a bit philosophical when you put it like that, but in actual fact is was down to earth, accessible, and incredibly insightful.

Much revolved around the use of the ‘story’ metaphor. The basic idea is that not only can your life be seen as a story, but that culture, too, is formed by one or a number of ‘stories’. Think of it this way: There is an overarching story or worldview that dominates our world. This ‘story’ may not be uniformly held or believed, and there might be different and competing stories. Even so, the influence of this ‘story’ is unmistakable.

There is an overarching story or worldview that dominates our world

Thinking about how ‘stories’ impact on our culture is much the same as thinking about the dominant world and life view around us. I don’t see too much difference between the different terms. What I do sense, though, is that the idea of a ‘story’ is a little easier for people to understand than the often philosophically overweight, jargon laden discussions about ‘world and life view’.

So what is the dominant ‘story’ in Australian culture? I can’t confess any real expertise, but it’s not hard to observe a few dominant themes:

• We have evolved from lesser life forms, there really is no God, we are a mass of carbon based atoms. Consequently the older ‘stories’ of faith, religion, and even traditional morality are irrelevant

• Consequently, there is no overarching ‘story’ to give life coherence and meaning. So the best way to live is to just be yourself and do no harm to others. Have as much fun doing this as you can, but don’t be surprised if you feel a yawning disconnect with everything.

• We have done terrible things in polluting our planet, so now we have to address them by reducing greenhouse gases and developing in sustainable industry

• All people should get a fair go, we should all have the same opportunities, and we should do what we can to help those who are disadvantaged

There are lots of others, but you get the drift. By ‘story’ we mean the major life views or world view that influences how we live. ‘The Road Event’ helped us see how we have been influenced by the culture of ‘the road’, an in this story where life has no ultimate destination all that matters is how we travel. All that matters is the journey. It sounds innocuous, but this view has influenced the church, Australian Christianity, social institutions, family life, our sense of self.

So my next posts are thoughts that flow on from this. I am indebted to the speakers at ‘The Road Event’: Mark Sayers, Andrew Shamy, Sarah Deutscher, and Tim Hein for their insightful critique, their warmhearted challenge, and their inspiring biblical vision.

Q: what ‘stories’ do you think dominate our culture? Leave a comment, and start a discussion!

John Piper interviews Rick Warren – a definite ‘must watch’

I have just taken 90 mins to watch this excellent interview between John Piper and Rick Warren. It is definitely worth your time to do the same. Here’s why…

Piper  Warren

You can view the interview here:

My interest was piqued because Warren’s Purpose Driven Life was incredibly influential some years ago, having become one of the biggest selling books of all time (after the Bible). PDL was also a great resource for the development of the small group ministry at Redlands Christian Reformed Church in 2003. That we could have sermons, small group studies, and reading materials all themed together was a terrific way to launch into our small group ministry. We have never looked back.

Beyond any organisational aspects, the subject matter of the Purpose Driven Life was also a great encouragement and stimulation to us. That’s why we could not understand some of the negative criticism levelled at the book. Rick Warren was denounced from some quarters as a mean centred theologian, light on theology, as one who played fast and loose with the text of the Bible, as well as a raft of other criticisms.

So when Rick Warren recently published the interview between John Piper and himself, I thought that was not to be missed. John Piper is of course one of the more popular reformed evangelical voices in the USA. His views are widely received and respected in circles where I serve amongst the Christian Reformed Churches of Australia.

If you’re a person who loves the reformed heritage, I would encourage you to watch the interview in its entirety. As you do, you may just

* Be challenged: that there is good reason to be respectful of Rick Warren’s ‘Purpose Driven Life’ and thankful for the contribution his work has made to Jesus’ Kingdom and glory

* Be surprised: that there is not so much separating Rick Warren and John Piper. Well, that’s how I saw it. You draw your own conclusions

* Be reminded: that we need to be balanced and gracious in the way we deal with what other Christian leaders say and do. Australian Christian leaders are sometimes a little too quick to engage in the tall poppy syndrome. We are not immune to this weakness, friends.

* Be encouraged: Piper and Warren are so gracious to one another and so warm in their interaction. I found myself saying ‘I wish I would interact a little more like that’. They made me desire to honour Jesus more in my work

Q: Leave a comment and let us know what you think about this interview

The Audacity of Grace

Read Ezekiel 34:11-16

I am struck by the contrast between the abusive shepherds of Israel and the Lord, who is the good shepherd. A context of the shepherd’s self interest and abuse we are drawn to the breathtaking faithfulness of the Sovereign Lord. He knows all, and decides to do all to change this ugly pastoral picture into a one of peace, tranquility, protection and blessing.

More amazing is that God does this despite the terrible situation before him. He could have sold the farm, written off the loss, and done one huge cull. His lavish grace draws him to do something else: he took on the shepherds job himself and got to work changing the situation.

What he promises here: to search to restore, to care for, to rescue, to bring to pasture, he has done in Jesus, the Good Shepherd (John 10), and Jesus continues this work through his church (Matt 28:16-20; John 21:15-19).

When people fail, God will find other ways to bring his purposes to fulfilment

God takes our failing and rebellion upon himself. God steps in and brings restoration and hope to our brokenness. This is the audacity of grace. And we have to learn from his undying commitment to his own saving purpose. When people fail, God will find other ways to bring his purposes to fulfilment. Jesus’ death and rising is all the proof we need.

Q: What do these verses say about your own style of leadership, or about the challenges faced by your own church?

Are you standing in God’s council?

Read Jeremiah 23

This is a sobering read. God’s prophets were using their power unjustly, and the God whose words they should be speaking has a broken heart and trembling bones because of their unfaithfulness (23:9,10). These prophets are speaking grand words among their friends (23:25,35,36). It’s funny how the words they had crafted for the ears of people, prophecies they had staked their future, are nothing more than delusions (23:26). Who would work so hard for a delusion?Why invest so much energy in a vapour?

Is this the cult of personality? Popularity’s trap? It’s an easy one to fall into. Any preacher or leader knows how good it is to feel words like ‘wonderful message, great sermon, terrific decision’ slap us on the back. It can have us chasing the affirmation, intoxicated by the stream of positive strokes. It’s easy, isn’t it, to seek endorsement of people instead of following God and saying what he wants us to say.

I don’t think anyone rolls out of bed one morning saying, ‘I think today I’m going to start to be a lying prophet.’ These things happen incrementally. They are the amalgam of a thousand prior decisions, each of them minuscule on their own, but adding up over time to represent a totally different direction, a changed value, a new behaviour. Only rarely are these changes for the better.

the temptation to give our own message is always present

Jer 23:22 shows us the better way, ‘If only they had stood in my council…’. If only the first decision each day would be to hear God through his word, to discern his better and best way, to hear his voice. His affirmation and his honour are paramount. Seeking this, we are will do a better job of speaking His word.

Q: Are the affirmations you are receiving leading you deeper into God’s will and council? What might need to change?

The good you do is never wasted – do you know that?

I was sitting next to Mum this afternoon, and she was sound asleep. Not just dozing, but sleeping deeply, so deeply I could not rouse her.

You know how sometimes your thoughts run away from you, and you start to think the worst? That’s what happened to me. When Mum was in this deep sleep, I started wondering whether there was something wrong, and whether Mum was unravelling quicker than we thought, and whether this was how it was going to be, and how would Dad manage it all. And just for a moment I was lost in one disturbing thought: “has it all just come to this? Isn’t it all a bit of a waste?”

It was only a moment, but I had used the word. Or thought it. And it was the word “waste” that bothered me. I have to say, I’m not proud about the fact that this word entered my head. But just for a moment it was my reality.

It shouldn’t be. Because even though Mum is not well, and she’s going through some enormous changes, ‘waste’ is a word that should never enter the picture.

Shirley Anne Groenenboom is a great mother and a faithful wife. Along with husband Cor she raised four healthy and exceptionally well adjusted children. This she did in circumstances that were far from ideal.

Mum and daughter Jenny, on the step of the family home in Portland, NSW

There were plenty of people doing it way tougher than our family, there always are, and always will be. That does not invalidate any of the challenges Mum and Dad faced in the 50s and 60s. Mum was a teacher, and worked incredibly long hours. She was always up early marking work, and always up late preparing for the next day. I don’t know how she sustained that.

If you know a full time teacher who has a great social life, and watches TV or engages in leisure pursuits every night, you need to know they are not pulling their weight

For this reason I have never been able to understand people who think teachers have it easy. I am the son of a teacher, my sister is a teacher, and I am married to a teacher. And I can tell you: they work incredibly hard. They are worth every cent they are paid, and they fully deserve every day of leave they receive. Probably more. If you know a full time teacher who has a great social life, and watches TV or engages in leisure pursuits every night, you need to know they are not pulling their weight. Just saying.

Mum, graduating from Bathurst High School

Over the years, Mum has taught people who are now fine builders in Brisbane. She has taught people who are now great pastors in good churches. She has worked and served in church communities. She has written stories for children in a church magazine. She has been a great friend for people going through tough times. She has built a legacy of warm friendship, passionate following of Jesus, and high standards of education. With husband Cor she has raised four children to follow Jesus and who seek to make a real difference in his world. The good you do is never wasted. Not ever.

One day, assuming we do not meet with accident or illness, we will all grow old. The events of the last few days tell me that process can be debilitating and confronting. I don’t think it’s overstating things to say it that way. But the things you do to make a difference in the lives of others are never wasted. They can be normal, everyday things. Just doing your job. Just teaching the class. Just trying to connect with someone who does not want to cooperate. And guess what? You can be frustrated, irritated, angered, and feel like knocking some heads together. But the good you do is never wasted, no matter how hard it gets.

And why? Because it matters to God and he works through it all. Check out Isaiah 55:8-11.

Q: have you ever felt like giving up? Ever thought what you were doing was a waste? How did you deal with that Leave a comment and let us know…

Grace and peace: Dave

Location:Boundary Rd,Cobden,Australia