Of Masks and Men

stingProfessional wrestling seemed to peak in the late 90s, while I was finishing up high school. I remember nicking off from school to go watch Main Event: WrestleMania at a mate’s house, hoping to get a glimpse of Sting come down from the rafters and scare the hell out of everyone in the ring. Ah, fun times.

Sting was one of those wrestlers that wore a mask. He wouldn’t wear a corny one that looks like a piece of lycra with some holes in it. No, Sting’s mask was painted on, a white paint with some black flowing stripes. It showed enough of his face to know who it was but also hid something behind it, enough to leave some mystery.

Like entertaining wrestlers we too live behind masks. Probably more than one.

A wrestler does it for entertainment, for their work, to become someone they’re not in real life. Much like an actor playing their role in a biopic. We, on the other hand, seem to hide behind masks because we’re fearful of what others might think of us.

I wonder what masks you wear?

In Matthew 23:25-26 Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for wearing masks. He says,

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

Jesus condemns the Pharisees and scribes for their two-faced hypocritical lives. They elevate the law and commandments and self-made rules above loving God and neighbour. They wear masks as they walk around pontificating about their own righteousness, shown by their outward signs and condemnation of other ‘sinners’. Yet on the inside these Pharisees and scribes are as unrighteous, sinful and dirty as the prostitute, tax collector, and leper.

It is hard to take our masks off. Like a woman taking off her make-up, scrubbing hard to get the foundation and blush and lippy off her face so too it is hard for us to scrub our masks off and reveal our true self to the world. If we expose our blemishes to the world we fear what people will think, we fear we will be judged, we fear we will be rejected.

Thankfully we have one that knows our true self. Thankfully we are known by Him who accepts us, blemishes and all. As much as we turn away, hide and put Him aside, God sees all of us and accepts all of us. Despite our faults and imperfections God stands with open arms accepting us just the way we are.


This post is a free writing exercise in response to The Daily Post topic ‘Mask‘. 

Another Year Begins

It’s a New Year.

A time filled with expectation, excitement and possibilities. 

For me this means a couple of changes, particularly early in the year. I currently have seven more days of leave before I begin as Associate Pastor for Youth & Young Adults at Rowville Baptist Church. In early March there will be a new addition to our family so that will change things up a bit too!

With the turn of a new year brings the opportunity to take stock of what’s important and bring some focus to the year.

I find I’m not very good at resolutions but I do enjoy taking time to think, pray, and plan the coming weeks and months.

typewriterphoto

With this in mind there is always the goal of writing and blogging more. I found last year a bit difficult in this regard, mainly due to personal reasons, as can be seen by my posting patterns. Yet, as 2016 has come upon us the writing vibe has gradually been increasing and I hope to see this as an avenue for more blogging.

If you hang around here over the coming months I hope you will see posts about the Christian faith, youth ministry, sport, and some reflections on what I’m thinking through or teaching. It’s a random assortment of material, which isn’t exactly the advice given by the blogging gurus out there. But nevertheless, I do hope it will be a benefit to you as readers as it will be to me the writer. 🙂

2015 In Review

The WordPress.com stats monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Considering I’ve hardly written at all this year (7 posts in all) I’m pretty happy with these. Here’s hoping for a better writing year in 2016!

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,800 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 30 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Adoniram Judson’s Courtship Proposal

AAJudsonAnn Hasseltine asked Adoniram Judson to write to her father and ask for permission in order to begin a courtship with her, this is what he wrote in July, 1810:

“I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next Spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of him who left his heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing immortal souls; for the sake of Zion, and the glory of God?”

That is some proposition!

Ann’s parents ended up letting her make the decision. And in her journal she writes:

Jesus is faithful; his promises are previous. Were it not for these considerations, I should, with my present prospects., sink down in despair, especially as no female has, to my knowledge, ever left the shores of America to spend her life among the heathen; nor do I yet know that I shall have a single female companion. But God is my witness, that I have not dared to decline the offer that has been made me, though so many are ready to call it a “wild, romantic, undertaking”.

My Top Books of 2014

At the start of each year I set out to read, on average, a book a fortnight. By the end of the year I’ve usually done that. What can I say, I enjoy reading. It’s usually a mix of fiction (30%) and non-fiction (70%). The list of books I read don’t include the ones I dip into here and there but are the ones I read right through. If you’d like to see every book I read this year then head here, otherwise, below is a list of the top books I read, the ones I gave 5-stars to.

books old

One Day by David Nicholls

I found this a great novel and it moved me in ways I didn’t suspect. I can understand why it won the 2010 Galaxy Book of the Year Award. It’s the story of two people who circle each other their whole lives and each chapter is written as if it’s a journal note from the same day each year. Worth a holiday read.

You Lost Me. by David Kinnaman

A detailed analysis of why Millennials/Gen Yers are leaving the church. This is an excellent read for anyone concerned about the future of the church and particularly if you are a Pastor or Youth Pastor. Kinnaman bases much of the book on research done by The Barna Group. Much of the information wasn’t too much of a surprise to me as this is my world but it was a good reminder to continue to think hard about engaging and growing young people in the faith.

Calico Joe by John Grisham

Just a classic piece of work by Grisham here. Not a long book but it will keep you reading.

What’s Best Next by Matt Perman

Can you believe that there is actually a theology of productivity? No, either could I until I read through Perman’s book. I’ve been following his blog for a few years now and love much of what he says. I found this volume really well structured to ensure solid theory and practical solutions. If you’d like to be more effective in life and work then read this book. Perman has got great thoughts on productivity and leadership and this book is well worth the time to read. It will take time to implement some of the suggestions he gives but when done I imagine a much easier way of life.

The Pastor’s Kid by Barnabas Piper

Such a good book. So good I had to review it. This book is for anyone in the church because it is helpful for Pastors, Pastor’s kids, and the general church member. It names everything a PK will go through and senses while in the church with their parent being a Pastor. It helps naming those things but also helps others understand what and why the PK is going through what they’re going through.

A special mention must go to In My Place Condemned He Stood by JI Packer and Mark Dever. It’s mainly a collection of essays written by Packer and one by Dever. They are all based upon the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ, its meaning, purpose, and result. Each essay is comprehensive and will help grow your faith. Terrific read.

Better Together For Mission

The title of this post is the title I have for the sermon I’m preaching this coming Sunday.

It’s causing me issues.

I’ve spent most of this morning writing and deleting words from my screen. I haven’t been able to put into words the things I need to say and so currently have very little to say.

Part of this post is to enable me to write something that may actually trigger what I want to say come Sunday.

Of course, I’m hoping to say what God wants me to say. As I do every time I preach. But that’s all well and good when the words flow, the passage makes sense, and the topic is an easy one.

So far these have alluded me.

When thinking about ‘Better Together For Mission’ there comes to mind the group or communal aspect of mission.

Mission is not a solitary exercise between one individual to another, although it could be. But even when it seems to be this way there is usually prayers from church members or mission supporters that are being lifted up and heard by God, therefore having an impact upon the situation.

In a local church context there are programs run by numerous people within the church, another example of community working together for mission.

Where programs aren’t a big emphasis then the daily mission task of the average Christian is being encouraged weekly through the Sunday gathering with a reminder of what it is to be a believer during the week.

The point is that mission is not individualistic, it is communal. And so the partnership between individuals, the church, and God is evident in each and every mission activity we do.

But this still doesn’t resolve my problem.

If mission is something that is part of the whole of life as a believer then mission is life. It isn’t some part of life, it is the driving force behind a purposeful life.

The reality is this kind of focus and priority isn’t seen as regularly within the church and the Christian life as we’d like. Unfortunately it’s more like a bit part, something that comes to our minds only when we’ve been reminded that God has a mission for us here in the world.

On one hand we could say that mission is a communal exercise, even if we find ourselves in the middle of nowhere, with a language we hardly understand, and a culture we find confusing. But it must be ingrained in us to think that mission is a natural part of living. A life focused on another mission – to earn heaps of money, to climb the corporate ladder, to write a Pulitzer prize – is one that doesn’t give God the priority. These things may come our way but they aren’t the driving force in life, they are second to the mission of follow Jesus. be more like him, and see others come to know him too.

As I write these words my mind is cynical about what I’m writing. Is this the reality of the Bible? Is it simply simplistic to write this and how does this play out in life?

I’m not sure right now and I’m not sure when I’ll be sure. Perhaps this speaks more of me than of what God’s mission is for the world.

But if there is a focus on anything but Jesus then something is wrong. That I know for sure.

Perhaps that’s the answer right there.

We won’t be involved in what God is doing around the world, whether right next door to where we live or 4000km away, unless we have Jesus as the focus, priority, and central aspect to our whole life.

If Jesus isn’t the centre of our life then his mission for us won’t be the centre of our thought.

If Jesus isn’t the centre of our church then his mission won’t be the centre of our local ministry,

If Jesus isn’t the centre then something else will be and we will lose out on being part of God’s mission.

Inspirational Books

Inspirational books can shape and change you. They can stay with you for years and years and influence what you do and the way you live.

The other day I was asked on Facebook to list the top 10 books that “have stayed with me” in some form. While that phrase is open to interpretation I listed the following 10 books as having an impact and influence in my life thus far.

1. The Bible by God
2. Jim Elliot by Barbour Publishing
3. Charles Spurgeon by Arnold Dallimore
4. Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung
5. The Trellis & The a Vine by Tony Payne & Colin Marshall
6. The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis
7. On Writing Well by William Zinsser
8. Pity the Nation by Robert Fisk
9. D. Martin Lloyd-Jones (2 Vols.) by Iain Murray
10. Knowing God by JI Packer

What books would you list?

The Eighth Sin: Apathy

I’m inspired by today’s The Dailypost topic “The Eighth Sin”.

image

First, I’m intrigued that sin is still talked about. Outside of the church I don’t hear too many people talking about sin. It should be talked about more. I’m glad to see it on the radar here in this little exercise.

Second, what came to mind when thinking about what might be the eighth cardinal sin was apathy.

When reflecting on the past couple of weeks I can’t help but think we’re an apathetic people.

This is an apathy that is best wrapped up in the saying, ‘Out of sight, out of mind’. But because of the information age we’re in there is no real excuse for being out of sight. My social media feeds are filled with people sharing articles and posts written about the persecution of Christians in Iraq and the terrible conflict in Gaza. Yet, as I reflect further I notice that it’s only a handful of people that are talking about this, or commenting or liking.

I don’t expect everyone to have their say. For some it’s not a forum where people wish to discuss or even mention their views on anything. Yet, that is one of the main reasons we are so apathetic.

Apathy allows us some emotional distance from what is going on for others. Apathy means we don’t make a stand when we should. Apathy means we don’t give a voice to the voiceless. We let injustice run its course.

To be apathetic means we don’t care. And that’s sad.

Not everyone can care about everything. That’s impossible in such a complex and issue-ridden world. But on things that aren’t ‘issues’ but are to do with the life and death of human beings, then perhaps we do need to care. Perhaps we need to shake off the comfort and ease of apathy. Perhaps we need to confess we are sinners and one sin that affects us is our apathetic nature.

Thankfully sin is forgiven, even our apathy. Yet this doesn’t mean we don’t have to change. Just as the sin of apathy is forgiven through the person and work of Jesus Christ, the ability to change and work toward a more just world, a world where the voiceless are heard, is achieved through the continual trust in Him and His rule.

Who Am I? by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoefferby Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Who Am I?

Who am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell’s confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
Like a Squire from his country house.

Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
Freely and friendly and clearly,
As thought it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me
I bore the days of misfortune
Equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat,
Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
Tossing in expectations of great events,
Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all.

Who am I? This or the Other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptible woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine!

Cringe-worthy Writing

I don’t think I could’ve spotted bad writing a number of years ago. But, reading my journals and blog posts from the past let me know I can now.

journpic

Every now and then I journal and have done so for the past 10 years. It’s not frequent, it stops and starts. But yesterday I read through some old journals. Boy, what poor writing.

I also read through some old blog posts. They were terrible. They’re written like I’m a Professor of Pompousness, like I’m pontificating about my subject in a way someone from the 1800s would talk. It’s like I’m writing for a costume drama.

I could be depressed by this but I’m not. It’s actually encouraging.

It’s encouraging to see that my writing has improved over the last four or five years. It’s encouraging for me to notice bad writing, like really bad writing. And it’s encouraging to think what the next five years of writing might mean.