Saturday, August 29, 2009

Centre of Attention

What to do with the #13 jersey for the All Blacks? Its been a problem for some years on and off - flirtations with fullbacks over the years (Muliaina and Cullen) and now with the 2 players expected to battle for the position in 2009 are out for the business end of the Tri Nations (Smith/Kahui).

There are some interesting theories out there:

  • Promote Nonu to centre and push Carter to 2nd V outside Donald - actually this is the one I fear the selectors will opt for - but its fatally flawed as we must have Carter at 1st V
  • With McAlister also out the smart choice for me is to bring Nonu back at 2nd V outside Carter and use the successful formula of 2008 - Nonu was at his best outside Carter in 2008 and was possibly the only NZer not to benefit from Carter's selection (as he was dropped)
  • That then leaves the centre berth - Toeva has had a couple of goes there without impressing across the whole game - he remains my choice for consistency of selection and frankly the guy still possesses a raw talent that is worth persevering with - he has had some wonderful moments alongside the woeful ones
  • There isn't anyone in the Air NZ Cup who is showing they are ready. If it comes down to a selection from outside the squad then I would go for Tuitivaki
  • The option of pulling Muliaina back to centre making room for Corey Jane is a possibility, but for me, you've still got to be working a theory for the future and that one is plainly stopgap at best - plus Muliaina's best tests have always been at fullback
  • I could be persuaded to push Nonu out to centre and bring Toeva into 2nd V - that way the kicking option is brought into the mix, but it seems to me to bring a double uncertainty into the mix - how will Toeva go generally? how will Nonu go at centre?

WHat may be telling are the Air NZ Cup games this weekend - Toeva is at Centre for Auckland and Nonu is at Centre for Wellington. Maybe Jamie is listening to the 3 wise men this week?

Friday, August 28, 2009

For the Cyber Junky

With news breaking today that Cyber junkies can unplug at US retreat I got to wondering. My foray into Face Book this year was quite an eye opener. I had no idea people were spending so much of their lives there - some of things that I noticed:

  • Status updates as a cry for help
  • Lots of time being spent on games, quizzes etc
  • Chat, chat, chat
  • Wall conversations that were publicly viewable and sometimes shouldn't be

Lots of it is just fun and another way of keeping in touch with people. But I wondered if the sentiment from the Cyber Junkie monastics applies to more than just children:

"Computers and the Internet are also parent-sanctioned refuges for children eager to escape hard knocks that are usually part of growing up."

Not sure - perhpas like most neutral passtimes, its a matter of degree and focus - definitely a trap there for some people. I reserve my greatest scorn for posturing, self-important bloggers...

Of course what I really got wondering about was Nigel's recent retreat and his obvious technology addiction and Rhett's forthcoming retreat relative to his status as a recovering blogging addict and current Call of Duty binge killer. Just saying.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

"Every culture in every time offers both catalytic and corrective impulses towards Christological insight. In some cases these insights bring important correctives on the back of cultural correctives where the pendulum swings back from a position of extreme rigidity. In other cases they catalyse new ways of thinking that enrich an accumulated Christology without subtracting from the historical Jesus. On occasion, these new insights reach too far and become the basis for future correctives. However, every culture needs a freshened Christology to redeem its particular fallenness. Culture is not neutral however – so the danger is inherent where the fallen nature of culture creates God in its own image. In so doing, the historical Jesus is fatally redrawn as something less than the incarnate God. But just as Christ is the redeemer of culture, so our ‘Christologies’ must engage with cultural currents. We cannot avoid it."

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sleep is Spiritual

"...I realised that - as unspiritual as it sounds - if I was going to get serious about becoming a more loving person, I was going to have to get more sleep. I have discovered I have a very hard time thinking and feeling and acting like Jesus whe I lack sleep...For some of you...the most spiritual thing you could do right now take a nap."

John Ortberg, The Life You've Always Wanted.

A great truth here from John Ortberg, quoted in the context of spiritual disciplines and recognising that we are holistic beings. What happens in one part of our life affects what happens in other parts. After all, we only have one life.

I have discovered this to be very true in my own life. I am generally less likely to be Christlike after the birth of a child (this can last for some months :)) It's not an excuse for bad behaviour, but it is a reason to look to when "out of character" behaviour creeps in.

It's one of the first questions I ask in mentoring if someone appears to be badly out of sorts. A lack of sleep can flow over into so many areas of life: health, motivation, relationships, depression, energy, prayer, reading - the list goes on.

Those of you who know me well, will know that I am not a big fan of sleep. Just too much to do enjoy in life to waste it sleeping! But Psalm 127 reminds me:

2 In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Gay-Bashing Tornado

So there was this tornado that smacked a Lutheran church in the US right before they were going to debate the issue of homosexual practice as being appropriate for ministers.

John Piper says God did it as a firm but gentle warning to Lutherans and indeed us all to turn from the approval of sin.

Read his own words here. Read everyone elses by googling Piper tornado.

By the way the insurance industry agrees with him that it was an act of God.

The legend grows.

Oh and for the record the Evangelical (?) Lutheran Church of America ignored the tornado and John Piper and voted in favour of removing the celibacy provision from their position on the ordination of gay ministers.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Call

The process of birthing a call to ministry is one I find intriguing. An unassailable truth, that is a starting point for me, is this that there is not one person for who it isn’t a reality - Everyone has a call to ministry – Ephesians 2:10

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

So we are not a factory production line job - we are an example of fine craftsmanship. We are designed to have a relationship with God – we are also designed for good works – we are designed for action with purpose – for ministry.

What I find compelling is Samuel's call to serve in a set apart way. And of course Samuel was not a pastor: he was a prophet! Some things I notice from Samuel 3:1-21

1. Samuel was already in ministry when God called

“The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli…” (verse 1)

A call to ministry will very often be associated with an insatiable desire to minister - so one test of calling is simply is there any ministry! Along with this comes fruit of ministry - again its a key qualification for ministry. If we are called in one sense or another than just trying to serve somewhere is an important next step – don’t wait around for someone to spot your talent - get serving. Its often from this process that the groundwork is laid as it was for Samuel.

2. God had to call Samuel more than once

“The Lord called Samuel a third time and Samuel got up..” (verse 8)

The process of call is part of preparation for ministry – for Samuel’s ministry as a prophet he needed to learn to hear the voice of God and to speak sometimes hard truths – what better preparation than to have to bear the news of Eli’s atonement. When you look around the scriptures there are all sorts of different calls, but all come from God:

o The Damascus Rd call – Paul wasn't looking for it, he was already pretty happy with his calling
o The Progressive call – perhaps the most common - for the thickies like me
o A Call from birth – Jeremiah 1:5 “Set apart from birth” – even Samuel: 1 Sam 1:11 “…if only you will look upon your servant’s misery and give him a son then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life.”
o The Church's call – confirmed by the church appointing you – Barnabas – starts off as a Christian who sells a piece of land and gives the momey to the apostles – subsequently we find Barnabas being appointed to a task at Antioch and then ultimately he is recruited by Paul
o The Open door Call – walking into a ministry opportunity and discovering fruitfulness

All sorts of calls, and so often we seem to need to hear it more than once! And for many they work in tandem.

3. Eli was the first to realise God was calling Samuel

“Then Eli realised that the Lord was calling the boy.” (verse 8)

The role of spiritual mentors is critical – leadership development is really just a specialised form of discipleship. Research shows the role of the spiritual mentor may be the single most important influence. It's important to look at what Eli didn’t do though – he didn’t “call” Samuel – God did - Eli simply pointed Samuel to the call.

4. Samuel gave the Lord permission to speak

“Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Giving God permission to speak into your life is important - giving God permission to take your life, well thats a whole different deal. It may not be the career path your parents chose for you…or even what you would have chosen for yourself. And its an ongoing thing - the path to following a call is all part of the process - giving God permission to provide for you is part of walking that path and for me one of the most helpful confirmations.

Well just a few musing thoughts from me from Samuel's call - one of my favourite stories.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I'm With The Band

"...being a bass player is a lot like being a minister. You lay down the beat, trying to keep it solid and true. Sometimes your job is to keep it steady enough to allow others to shine, to sing, to play, and to dance, as God wants us to. Other times, it's the bass that makes it funky and adds a needed surprise. But the bass is just one part of the band, and alone, it doesn't sound like much.

For people who are drawn to music, the mystery that draws us into the bands we love the most, is that we know it's not just about the one. The notes and sounds come together, the different people play their roles, and yet what is produced transcends all that. It's like when you become a member of the body of Christ—you join a band that is way better than you are, and the next tour is always just beginning."

I'm With the Band

Monday, August 17, 2009

Times Up For the Dreadlock Boys

Nonu and So'iaolo have to go for this test against Aussie. In Nonu's case its not so much that McAlister is demanding inclusion as it is about Nonu's lack of form. Another kicking option is sorely needed in this side and overall the balance is missing. Nonu appeals as an impact player in any event.

Read however has made a compelling case for inclusion against the indifferent incumbent. Its his time to stand aside, I'm afraid. Read is mobile, does the basics well and adds a touch more height in the lineout.

Corey Jane is widely expected to take Joe's place but I'm one for persevering with him if his form seems close. The coaches will be much better positioned to determine that. I won't mind either way.

Otherwise, this side picks itself.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday School Ain't What It Used To Be

From the mouth of the 4 year old:

Dad: What did you talk about in kids encounter tonight?
Rhys: We read a story where Jesus healed a man
Dad: Was it a good story?
Rhys: Yes but I don't want to be healed?
Dad: Why?
Rhys: I want to keep my skin
Dad: Why are you worried about your skin?
Rhys: Well, Jesus takes away your skin...

So Jesus is a flesh-eating zombie! I'm so glad for the high quality religious education he is getting (he really is)!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Both And

"There has risen up a modern idea which I cannot too much reprobate, that Christ made no atonement for our sin except upon the cross: whereas in this passage of Isaiah we are taught as plainly as possible that by His bruising and His stripes, as well as by His death, we are healed. Never divide between the life and the death of Christ. How could He have died if He had not lived? How could He suffer except while He lived? Death is not suffering, but the end of it."

"Many of us find ourselves estranged from the narrow issues that define conservatives and from the shallow spirituality that marks liberals. We are thirsty for social justice and peace but have a hard time finding a faith community that is consistently pro-life or that recognizes that there are "moral issues" other than homosexuality and abortion, moral issues like war and poverty. So some folks just end up trying to save individual souls from their sins, and others end up trying to save the world from "the system." But rarely do we see that the sickness of our world has infected each of us, and that the healing of our world not only begins within us but does not end with us."

"…the more controversial implication, is that the salt and light metaphors indicate that Christians can change non-Christian society. The models must mean that, because both salt and light are effective commodities. They change the environments in which they are placed. Salt hinders bacterial decay. Light dispels darkness. This is not to resurrect the social gospel. We cannot perfect society. But we can improve it. My hope is that in the future, evangelical leaders will ensure that their social agenda includes such vital but controversial topics as halting climate change, eradicating poverty, abolishing armories of mass destruction, responding adequately to the AIDS pandemic, and asserting the human rights of women and children in all cultures. I hope our agenda does not remain too narrow."

"First, Methodism reflected, among other things, a dissatisfaction two kinds of Protestantism. First there was a doctrinaire Protestantism that would fight, defame, exclude and even kill for so-called Orthodoxy, but didn’t produce true personal and social holiness. And second was a comfortable, complacent, institutional, apathetic, lukewarm institutionalism that betrayed Jesus in equally distasteful ways. Wesley and others sought methods by which followers of Christ could actually become more Christ-like. They knew that simply assenting to the right doctrines didn’t necessarily produce right relationships with God, self, others, enemies, and creation, and so they sought to create a widely-doable method for pursuing holiness and wholeness. I think whatever this emerging thing today is, it is a desire for Christians to become more like Jesus, and for what passes for Christianity to become less of an embarrassment to its presumed founder."

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mid Term Report Card

G Henry

Shows improvement in specialist area. Would benefit from coaching his coaches.

W Smith

Seems confused about basic concepts. Some unfortunate results regarding trying to play Joe into form but will avoid detention if he stops hedging about Dan. May need an early vacation.

S Hanson

Lacks the 3 R's. Restarts, Rolling and Retention. The lineout is now the key restart in the game. He has to get it right. The rolling maul found him out v France, but why oh why have we not used it ourselves? Ball retention and recycling (4 R's) is slow, slow, slow...Wayne is underperforming but is not assisted by fat Steve.

R Deans

2-0 in 2009. Has only won 3 of 8 encounters in the Tri Nations since he arrived. May achieve a pass mark yet. But not a great start.

P De Villiers

Is crazy. He must have some awesome assistant coaches. We know he has a great captain. How will the Boks fare on the road? This tournament is not won at home.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Winner Takes It All

Three stories about three different guys each trying to make a buck.

The first guy – he’s the manager in a business that’s not doing as well as it once was. The owner, who is pretty well off, blames the manager – and he asks for a full accounting of his management. Now the manager has 2 options – he can either work on the accounting or he can accept the inevitable – that he’s out of there . So he goes to a couple of the clients who owe mony to the business and he gives them a discount on their outstanding accounts – one he gives a 20% discount, the other he cuts the account in half. Now he might have been doing this to get some cash into the business, in the hope that these guys would pay their bills – but what he’s really doing is trying to create the option of a job with these clients when his own job comes to an end. Funny thing happens, the owner finds out, and instead of losing his job – the owner compliments him for acting so shrewdly.

The second guy - he's massively well off – living it up – designer clothes, gourmet food, penthouse suite. Slightly annoying though – there’s this guy that basically sits on the pavement outside his apartment begging – now the guy is clearly not well – in the sort of way that makes you want to avoid him – that sort of poverty and illness is actually a little bit frightening. Funny thing happens – they both die at the same time. The rich guy finds himself in Hell and desperate for a drink of water – he looks around for a servant, looks up and sees the begging guy and thinks – he’ll be able to get me some water. But the beggar can’t get to him and he can’t get to the beggar and so he realises he’s pretty much stuffed and so are quite a few of his friends and family if they carry on the way they are.

The third guy – he’s into horticulture – its doing really well – recessions don’t affect the basic ability of the ground to grow things right? Business is thriving for him but his plant is too small to take advantage of the production – so he increases the size of his facilities so he can make larger profits. There’s nothing dodgy about the business – all above board – but he has this awesome opportunity to really make hay while the sun is shining so he can retire early and live the good life. So he tears down the existing plant and builds the new facility, at great cost you’d think – it takes some months but he’s guessing it will be worth the effort. And then he dies.

The first man is the Shrewd Manager from Luke 16. You'd think he'd be the subject of a moral lesson from Jesus about stealing or telling lies. But instead he's used as an example of someone who uses wealth to find friends - Jesus' point is not that we can buy friendship but that people are prone to use their wealth carelessly, rather than using resources in such a way that cultivates friendship with God.

Which brings us to the second man, the Rich Man in the second half of Luke 16. Here is a man who is careless with his attention to the needs of others. He doesn't even notice the beggar sitting at his gate, does nothing to hinder him, but nor does he help him. Even in the afterlife he fails to see the beggar as a person of innate worth - rather he says him as an obvious servant for HIS needs. The beggar needed a friend in his earthly life. The rich man found himself without friends in the afterlife.

Maybe, just maybe the 2 are related :) Friendship with God and friendship with those in need?

The third man is the Rich Fool from Luke 12. He's not careless at all - in fact, he's really careful with his opportunities. After all, it's God who has made the earth fruitful and he's just reaping his Genesis 1/2 opportunity. But his caution becomes an obsession with the good life that displaces any attention he might give to the spiritual side of life and God. Bottom line says Jesus, "You can't take it with you."

So interesting to me that Jesus speaks more on wealth and resources than he does on heaven and hell. Some longer-winded thoughts here. Oh well, back to TradeMe...

Friday, August 07, 2009

Examining Examen

One of the Spiritual Disciplines I am exploring at the moment is the Prayer of Examen. The Prayer of Examen creates focus to reflect and recall your day with the goal of examining how you live life in the presence of the God. By slowing down and examining your day you have the chance to find God in places you perhaps missed and to ask questions of your self where God seemed absent. There are so many ways to approach this idea which was initiated by Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. I like the 2 phased approach though the examen of consciousness and the examen of conscience. Richard Foster says it like this:

In the examen of consciousness we prayerfully reflect on the thoughts, feelings, and actions of our days to see how God has been at work among us and how respond. We consider, for example, whether the boisterous neighbor of last night was more than just a rude interruption of a quiet evening. Maybe, just maybe, he was the voice of God urging us to be attentive to the pain and loneliness of those around us. Perhaps in the glorious sunrise of this morning God was shouting out to us in his love of beauty and inviting us to share in it, but we were too sleepy or distracted to

In the examen of conscience we are inviting the Lord to search our heaats to the depths. Far from being dreadful, this is a scrutiny of love. We boldly speak the words of the Psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24). Without apology and without defense we ask to see what is truly in us.

For me, it is most natural do do this through journalling - just works for me, but you can do it any way you like. There are various questions and so forth - you can find stuff all over the net that are developments of the principle. So you can find something that sits well with you as well as find some variety if you find that helpful!

A quick note if you do search the net for help. You'll quickly comes across those who will tell you that spiritual exercises like this will send you straight to the pits of hell. Like Apprising Ministries a member of the self-appointed Reformata, Always Reforming. Just ignore them. They can appear quite compelling at times such is their rabid confidence - if you dig deep enough the wild dog comes out:

" example of what men like Rob Bell want your kids to return to AM presents for your some of the instruction from the “handbook” used by this Spirital Gestapo unit of Ignatius while they “were at work revitaizing” the corrupt spirituality and dogma of the Roman Catholic Church, which led to the Reformation in the first place."

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Jeopardy Ecclesiology

"She is a mystery, isn’t she? Still going after all this time. After the Crusades and the Inquisition and Christian cable television. Still going. And there continue to be people like me who believe she is one of the best ideas ever. In spite of all the ways she has veered off track. In spite of all the people who have actually turned away from God because of what they experienced in church…But she will live on. She’s indestructible. When she dies in one part of the world, she explodes in another. She’s global. She’s universal. She’s everywhere. And while she’s fragile, she’s going to endure. In every generation there will be those who see her beauty and give their lives to see her shine. Jesus said the gates of hell will not prevail against her. That’s strong language. And its’ true. She will continue to roll across the ages, serving and giving and connecting people with God and each other. And people will abuse her and manipulate her and try to control her, but they’ll pass on. And she will keep going..."

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Piper: Out of Touch on Out of Ur

The latest offering from John Piper on Out of Ur is just a little odd on the (non) use of video and drama within the worship service. To be fair, he (initially) makes it clear its an issue on which there is freedom:

"The NT isn't explicit on the use of screen...the Bible doesn't forbid it."

But he shows very little insight regarding the context of Scriptural preaching which is really quite surprising. The scriptures are full of artistic, often visual media which in context are illustrating, deepening the primary message. Whether you reference the use of pagan poetry, prophetic role plays, image-rich parables, object lessons, profane expressions - I could go on!

He is also basing his position on a positive affirmation with which I'd agree.

"I believe in the power of preaching...the Spirit-anointed exposition of Scripture, through explanations and applications of what's there."

Here's where he gets reductionist:

"I think the use of video and drama is largely a token of unbelief in the power of preaching...and to the degree pastors use this entertaining spice...its gonna backfire It's gonna communicate preaching is weak, preaching doesn't save, preaching doesn't hold, entertainment does."

"Lets have the arts in our churches but lets not squash it all into Sunday morning."

He just doesn't get it. He'd be better to own that. He's no doubt a brilliant preacher and is comfortable with the spoken word as the only communication tool in his services. Which is cool. But is it really necessary to go to this extreme? "You're perfectly free to do what you want according to Scripture, but by the way, you don't believe in preaching if you do!"

His last comment sums it up:

"Nobody is going to go to hell because of the short run."

He pretends this is a non issue, but is he really saying that, with the last qualifier?

For me, I have seen the arts used unhelpfully as part of worship/preaching. For sure, I've probably done it. But no one is going to Hell in the short term or the long term because of that.

What I'm more concerned about is those who WILL discover a relationship with Christ, because the church bothered to speak their language in presenting the truth of Christ. Paul describes a principle that informs my life really well in 1 Cor 9:

19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

And I don't mean to get ad hominem with this comment but has anyone ever seen John Piper and Larry David in the same room?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


At The Stream Conference on the weekend, Dr Tom Noble referenced the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. He observed that metaphor of quadrilateral might suggest that it was a polygon of equals (my words!). So he proposed a different option - a 3 legged stool with Scripture as the floor and the 3 legs as Reason, Experience and Tradition. This didn't sit well with me - simply because the focus of such a metaphor will always be on the stool rather than the floor!

So what about the idea of a house? Scripture is the foundation which supports the walls of tradition and reason along with the roof of experience.

I think that might work a little better.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Odd Thomas

So, I started reading a Dean Koontz series while I was away - Odd Thomas - super ironic, writing style in a sort of suspense, horror, sci-fi, mystery blend. The main character is Odd (his first name) Thomas and he sees ghosts. Elvis being his most regular visitor. Lots of fun with some very interesting comments on Christian faith along the way. How could I resist an opening like this:

MY NAME IS ODD THOMAS, though in this age when fame is the altar at which most people worship, I am not sure why you should care who I am or that I exist.

I am not a celebrity. I am not the child of a celebrity. I have never been married to, never been abused by, and never provided a kidney for transplantation into any celebrity. Furthermore, I have no desire to be a celebrity.

In fact I am such a nonentity by the standards of our culture that People magazine not only will never feature a piece about me but might also reject my attempts to subscribe to their publication on the grounds that the black-hole gravity of my noncelebrity is powerful enough to suck their entire enterprise into oblivion.

Koontz is an author my father-in-law intoduced me to. His Life Expectancy is a book I'd highly recommend with its relentless pace, twists and suspense. But really its the ironic writing style of Odd Thomas salted with truth that makes it for me:

You can con God and get away with it ... if you do so with charm and wit. If you live your life with imagination and verve, God will play along just to see what outrageously entertaining thing you'll do next.

I don't mean to imply that I'm afraid of Death. I'm just not ready to go out on a date with him.

All I ask of Fate is that the people she hurls into my life, whether they are evil or good, or morally bipolar, should be amusing to one degree or another.... The problem is finding smile-inducing evil people, because the evil are the most humorless, though in the movies they frequently get some of the best lines.

You know what's wrong with humanity?... The greatest gift we were given is our free will, and we keep misusing it.

We can approach belief from an intellectual path, but in the end, God must be taken on faith. Proofs are for things of this world, things in time and of time, not beyond time.