Yes, you are religious

In Australia people are giving up on religion, so the ABS says. Personally, I doubt it. There may be less people attending church, and a reduction in the number of those who have nominal attachment.┬áBut really, everyone is religious. Even the ‘no religion’ response is a religious response.

Those who do not believe in God still offer a response to God – one of unbelief. As those who are agnostic say ‘we don’t know if there is a God.’

Maybe there are just different religious responses.

Those who ignore God, and live as though he doesn’t exist.

Those who avoid God. Who know he’s probably there, who tip toe around his fingerprints, and do their best to think about other things.

Those who manipulate God. Or at least try to. If I

  • work on my broken relationship
  • pray harder
  • get to church more
  • stop that terrible behaviour
  • give to that charity
  • fill in the blank

…then God will do what I ask, bless me, accept me.

Then there’s following God. Receiving his gift of grace, forgiveness and life, and living a life that shows his true intent for life and humanity. This is the life Jesus has come to give.

‘No religion’ is not an option, so which one are you? And how is that working?

God and the Live Export Beef Trade

Read: Gen 9:7-17

In his book, ‘Engaging God’s World’, Cornelius Plantinga observes that Genesis 1 opens our eyes to the core character of God. In his act of creation, God answers the formlessness of the heavens and the earth with his creative word ‘Let there be light.’ While Plantinga does not make the point directly, I have wondered whether the essence of God’s grace is to give out of who he is, and what he has, to cause others to flourish.

Once you start thinking this through, you start to see it everywhere in the Bible. You see it in creation itself, in God’s call of Abraham, and ancient ‘nobody’; in his establishment of his covenant with insignificant Israel, the birth of Isaac, Israel’s entry into Canaan; even in King David, who simply did not cut it when it came to how a King should look. Most of all, we see it in Jesus’ coming into the world to bring grace and life and truth. We see it in his commitment to his mission, and his self sacrifice (Phil 2). We see it in God’s mission through the church, and to the church’s call to sacrifice and servanthood. It is everywhere: God wants his world to thrive and his people to flourish. This is not some prosperity driven gospel of success. The flourishing life God wants for his world is that they thrive in his self giving gracious character. He wants us to thrive in being like Jesus.

…the essence of God’s grace is to give out of who he is, and what he has, to cause others to flourish…

This passage in Gen 9 speaks of the covenant the Lord makes with ‘all life on earth’. I believe one of the applications here is that God loves all life. His Spirit makes life abound! These words in v.17 get us thinking about our responsibilities, not just to human beings, but to all forms of life, and the environments in which they live. A few days ago, ABC’s Four Corners exposed horrible practices of some beef export companies. It was ghastly footage to anyone who viewed it. Imagine, then what God thinks! Maybe he was weeping. Maybe he still is.

Maybe God weeps at the indifference shown by some of his people to questions of environmental concern. We all know there are priorities: the well being of other people is paramount. But that does not mean God’s people can dumb down matters of environmental stewardship and the just use of land and creation.

Since we are images of God, we are called to care about the things God cares about. He loves life. He wants it to flourish and thrive. And Jesus his Son is his means of reconciling the whole cosmos to himself.

Q: Do you think Christians have typically denied their environmental responsibilities? How have you seen this?

Your biological clock is ticking, and what are you doing about it?


I have never really owned up to the fact that I am getting older. It’s like I am in some sort of denial. Every year the birthday celebration comes and goes, and you get the dorky cards from your older sister, people have a dig at you for gaining another year (as if you had any choice), and the only comfort is that a few of your mates are a few years older than you are.

My mother’s move into high care has challenged my own persistent denial. Here I was visiting my mother at Lovely Banks. When she stood up, she had to be assisted. When she walked, she was assisted. When she showered, when she brushed her teeth, when she got dressed, when she went to the toilet. She needs assistance with it all. And yet, just a few days before I had been looking at a photo of her dressed as a bride with her husband, Cor. I had seen the vibrant smile of a young mother sitting on the front step of their cottage in Commonwealth Rd, Portland. I has seen her as a graduate of Bathurst High School. And now, about the only thing she can do by herself is fall asleep, or change the channel on the TV. Young once. Now old.

And I realised, it’s the same with me. No, not as old. But at one time I too was a high school graduate, a young groom – not knowing whether to be more proud or excited. I, too, was a young father. Now all my children are adults, and my Mum is in a nursing home. So I need to face the facts: I am 52 years old, and I am not getting any younger.

So I am going to make a few commitments:

Exercise more. I have let my riding program go for much of this year. Yesterday, I went out for the first time since early August. It was good, but my average was way off. I want to work hard to get my level of fitness up again. I will never be Lance Armstrong, I know. But I have been told that he cannot preach his way out of a wet paper bag, either, so that’s OK.

Discipline my eating. I am going to trim what I eat through the middle of the day. I have a generally sedentary job, and I don’t need a man sized meal at lunch time. Coupled with riding, this should see me drop a few kilos. We’ll see.

On a more long term note: I really want to make the second half of my life more productive. I want to add value to my ministry. I want to be a better preacher, a better leader, a better coach, a better husband, a better man (if you’ll pardon the cliche). I want my second half to count and to have impact way more than my first half.

So, now, today, I want to make a difference.

God reminds us that we get about ‘three score years and ten’. The best estimates of life expectancy have only added about a decade to that, even in the 21st century. Even then, don’t make too many assumptions. For all of us, life hangs by a slender thread. Free radicals, and crazy people driving little red cars mess with the mix on a regular basis.

So, now, today, I want to make a difference. Today, I want to do things that matter. Today, I want to strive for the sort of world God delights in. I want to keep learning. I want whatever I do tomorrow to be better than whatever I did today.

Q: what have you changed to make more of a difference in the second half of your life? …and you’re not there already what does this idea get you thinking about?

Great reading: Bob Buford: Beyond Half Time: practical wisdom for your second half

Grace and peace: Dave

Thoughts Occasioned by a Funeral

Last week we buried Eric. He was a fine person. A good man. A great follower of Jesus. And the first of my youth group generation to die. All that has got me thinking.

I met Eric in 1973 when I started attending his church in Blacktown. My parents had been solid in their faith for years, and had recently decided to switch churches. The church they chose was were Eric and his family attended. I was at a stage in life where I was making big decisions about life direction. I wasn’t being particularly principled about it. I was just in ‘default’ mode. When you are 15 years old, and your parents attend a church where there are no kids your age, there are always going to be more attractive options on a Sunday morning. I did not know it then, but I was at faith’s fork in the road. My parent’s decision to switch was a life saver. The life that was saved was mine.

Looking back now, I see how God used Eric, and a few others, to draw me into faith and followership. They helped me belong. They draw me into a small group who opened the Bible and sought to find its relevance for our lives. It was great. It was real. I came to see how following Jesus could be fun, exciting, and a rich broadening of what it meant to truly live.

At Eric’s funeral I remembered all this. I remarked how we shared a love for music, and great bass lines. He was into keys, I was getting into bass guitar. I remember now that he loved a good Monty Python line. And he loved his trail bike (he had a Kawasaki 250 or something). He let me ride his bike. He even let me ride his bike when I fell off it.

I don’t think Eric was my closest friend, and probably was not his closest friend either. Even so, it was the community, the friendship that Eric and others provided, that became the soil God used to nourish my faith. I am incredibly thankful for that. And I was blessed to have the opportunity to say so at Eric’s thanksgiving service.

Eric was the first of that generation of friends to die. Many of those present had made the same comment. It has given me reason, not only to reminisce, but also to consider life and death, and some of the important aspects of what it means to follow Jesus in such a time as this.

I hope my thoughts will be of value to you.

Shalom,

Dave