Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Sad Case of the Headless Chook - CROSS PURPOSES 135


September 24 2008

The Sad Case of the Headless Chook

At the recent Pastors’ Conference at Warrambui one of the pastors was telling about the first time he watched a chook experience the axe. Off went the head, and away went the chook, round and round the yard.
“Hey, Uncle, what’s that chook doing?”
“Don’t worry about it. It just doesn’t know it’s dead yet!”

Oh yes, we chuckle. And why not? It’s clever, it’s obvious and it’s funny. As Aussies would say, “The chicken’s not the sharpest tool in the box.” Or as Foghorn Leghorn was known to say, “He’s as sharp as a bowling ball!”

COULD IT BE TRUE OF THE HUMAN RACE? “ It just doesn’t know it’s dead yet”.

WHAT IF IT’S TRUE OF US? OF YOU OR OF ME? You don’t think that’s possible? Let me share something with you.

Of all the challenges I face in working for the church the one which gives me most grief is this: I’m surrounded by hundreds of Gen Xers and Gen Yers who have given up on God. Look across the churches and the age structure 16-45 has all but disappeared. Almost all of these young people I’m talking about have has a seriously good introduction to the things of God. Many have had a brilliant education in Lutheran High Schools. And then they gave up on God. Why? I don’t know and I wish I did. I’ll try to set something on paper.

1. God is boring.
2. God is irrelevant.
3. God is full of lies and so is the scripture and the church.
4. God isn’t compatible with my freedom, my lifestyle, or my trust in science.
5. If I were to take the God seriously I might have to change my priorities and behaviour.
6. I can’t be bothered with God .
7. I just don’t need God.
8. It’s easier if I tell myself God is dead – that way I have zip to account for.
9. God is dead.

COULD THAT BE IT? “GOD IS DEAD BUT HE JUST DOESN’T KNOW IT YET?” This would be a convenient truth, or a terrifying truth, depending on your perspective.


I reckon you’re not dead yet. You’re bothering to read this for a start. You know about God. It’s all still there but the flame needs to be breathed back to life. What I do know is that there’s an awful lot of under 50’s who are in danger of spiritual and eternal death. A whole generation seems to have walked away from a faith which was freely received and welcomed by generation after generation for hundreds of years.

If God is dead (and doesn’t know it yet), then by all means do your best and worst in life.

If you are dead, or near death in spirit (-and you know it!) – then pray to God that he show you the exact nature of your death, that reality which reduces your life to a one dimensional shallowness / emptiness.

But know, oh yes please know, that the Holy Spirit freely reveals Jesus Christ to those who humble themselves before God and turn to him.

And know, please, that he has a particularly joyful welcome for those who long for real life. He knows you are stubborn often and ignorant frequently. He still loves you better than the best ever possible mum and dad, might have done and then some!

The Father waits.
Jesus, with his shepherd’s crook, has hooked you.
And longs for your willingness to come home.

Bless you people


Monday, September 15, 2008

SIBERIAN TOMATOES - Cross Purposes 134

Cross Purposes 134

September 15 2008

SIBERIAN TOMATOES (Yeh! Tomatoes not Tigers!)

Some time ago friends sent me a copy of a daily devotion based on Siberian Tomatoes. It’s written in an old style of language but its message is reasonably clear. (I don’t know the authors name!)

“Siberian Tomatoes

Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:4

In Siberia, where the summer daylight hours are extra long, tomatoes grow huge and green. Unlike the tomatoes in northern California where I live now, and in southern Illinois where I used to live, the tomatoes in the Siberian fields do not turn red and ripen. The early winter frost always hits before the tomatoes mature.

Like Siberian tomatoes, we never ripen to the perfect redness and juiciness God intended. Like a hard winter frost, our own sin thwarts us from ever reaching perfect maturity. Yet out of pure mercy, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to attain for us perfect maturity and completeness that we could not attain ourselves. Now when God looks at us who depend entirely on Christ, God sees the rich, red ripeness of Jesus, not the hard, green immaturity of our soul.”

I rather like some of the thoughts here – especially about Jesus Christ being our ‘maturity’ before the Father. I’m not so sure about the idea of ‘never ripening’. I believe with all my being that change is possible “in this life”, that hard hearts can be unhardened “in this life”, that a softening and ripening of my whole life is possible in this life. Just reflect for a moment on what Paul wrote to the Christians in Ephesus.

Ephesians 4:11-16 “ So it was Christ himself who gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

I’m really encouraged in these things by Paul who makes it clear that we can set our minds and hearts on growth and maturity (Romans: 8:11) and who reminds us and assures us of the God who makes it all possible because he has placed us in the best place of all: “In Christ”!
Philippains 4:13 “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
Philippains 2:13 “God is working in you to make you willing and able to obey him.
So there! Even in this life the Lord Jesus is working on you being a juicy, ripe, red tomato!
Bless you

Here’s a joke for you, to comfort you if you’re ever been misunderstood.

“Well, Mrs O’connor, so you want a divorce?” the solicitor questioned his client. “Tell me about it. Do you have a grudge?”
“Oh, no,” replied Mrs O’connor. “Shure now, we have a carport.”
The solicitor tried again. “Well, does the man beat you up?”
“No, no,” said Mrs O’connor, looking puzzled. “O’im always first out of bed.”
Still hopeful, the solicitor tried again. “Well, does he go in for unnatural connubial practices?”
“Shure now, he plays the flute, but I don’t think he knows anything about the connubial.”
Now desperate, the solicitor pushed on. “What I’m trying to find out are what grounds you have.”
“Bless ye, sor. We live in a flat – not even a window box, let alone grounds.”
“Mrs O’connor,” the solicitor said in considerable exasperation, “you need a reason that the court can consider. What is the reason you seeking this divorce?”
“Ah, well now,” said the lady. “Shure it’s because the man can’t hold an intelligent conversation.”

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

“Wow Dad, look at the whole world!” - Cross Purposes 133

Cross Purposes 133

September 10 2008

“Wow Dad, look at the whole world!”

Sometime before we left Canberra in 1999 to come to Sydney I cut out a little snippet from “The Canberra Times”. I didn’t record the date. In that snippet a bloke called Rob Cameron reported what his daughter Lucinda said:

“Last Saturday morning we were driving along Hindmarsh Drive from Fyshwick over the crest of Red Hill and down into Woden; she exclaimed as the valley unfolded before her: ‘Wow Dad, look at the whole world!’ “

I often drove that road and experienced the same joy of the world opening up before one’s eyes. To the left one could look out toward the Brindabella Mountains in the distance. Straight ahead were the delightful Stromlo Forests as a backdrop to the many Canberra Suburbs in Woden and Weston Creek. (Did you know that Canberra is often described as a “city built in a park”?)

Should you have chanced in that same view after the 2003 firestorm that roared out of the same Brindabellas, through those Stromlo forests and into many Canberra suburbs, you only have been able to say with grief “Oh God, look at the whole world!”

The contrast between “before” and “after” the fire is a reminder of the “before” and “after” of the fall. That which is beautiful and flawless is seared and broken. There are now weeds, and sickness and death. Sin got in, the devil got a hold, death reigns and there’s lots of misery for the earths’ inhabitants. Whereas before the ‘Son’ could say “Wow Dad, look at the whole world!” now he looks to his ‘Father’ and says “Oh Dad, look at the whole world!”

But there’s hope too. In Canberra, that which was ravaged is being renewed and restored. Houses are rebuilt. The bush regenerates. Nature’s healing is well underway.

And hope for the whole earth? Yes. First thing was to get the cleaners in. That’s Calvary! Second thing was to destroy the invader and his powerful hold. That’s Calvary too, and the resurrection. And the overcomer – that’s Jesus – is making all things new.

Along the way the earth’s inhabitants have come to know that God is a Father of grace and mercy. And that’s the best thing of all. “Wow Dad! Look at the whole world!”

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Grandpa and Grandma go to heaven - CROSS PURPOSES 132


September 3rd 2008

Grandpa and Grandma go to heaven.

They were both 85 years old – and their last wedding anniversary marked 60 years of ‘bliss’. They weren’t young but they were certainly in rude health because the wife was insistent on nutritious food and lots of exercise.

One day this good health proved little help to them – their plane crashed and they went off to heaven…

Peter led them to a wonderful cottage with a magnificent kitchen, spacious rooms and a waterfall visible from the back deck. In astonishment, they caught their breath when Peter said: “Welcome to heaven, this is your new house.”

The old man, being Dutch, asked Peter what this would all cost. “Well, nothing,” said Peter, “This is yours and yours alone.”

Then the old man looked out the side window and saw a golf course, lovelier than he had ever seen on earth. “What are the green fees?” he asked. “Listen,” said Peter, “this is heaven remember. You can play every day, any time of day, and it’s all free.”

Following this they wandered over to the clubhouse and their eyes danced at a marvelous buffet with very conceivable delicacy in abundance. “Don’t ask,” said Peter to the old man, “this is heaven remember, and everything is free for your enjoyment.

The old man looked around and cast a quick eye toward his wife. “But where are the low fat and low cholesterol foods, and the decaffeinated tea and coffee?” “That’s the best thing about this place.” said Peter. “You can eat and drink as much as you like, of what you like, and you will never get fat or sick.”

The old man thought for a moment.
“No gym or pool aerobics needed for muscle fitness?”
“Only if you want it” said Peter.
“Eat anything I like? Poffertjes and Pavlova and chocolate?”
“No limit” said the heavenly custodian.
“No daily checking of blood sugar levels?”
“Not required ever” said Peter.
“No monitoring of blood pressure or having to swallow handfuls of vitamin supplements?
“Never again. This is heaven remember. Everything you do here is healthy.” said Peter.
The old man turned slowly and addressed his wife. “You with your joyless diets …and endless pushing to exercise…and pills and things…we could have been here twenty years ago!”