Thursday, June 30, 2005


In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah's reign, King Sennacherib of Assyria came to attack the fortified cities of Judah and conquered them. King Hezekiah sent this message to the king of Assyria at Lachish: "I have done wrong. I will pay whatever tribute money you demand if you will only go away." The king of Assyria then demanded a settlement of more than eleven tons of silver and about one ton of gold. To gather this amount, King Hezekiah used all the silver stored in the Temple of the LORD and in the palace treasury. Hezekiah even stripped the gold from the doors of the LORD's Temple and from the doorposts he had overlaid with gold, and he gave it all to the Assyrian king.
2 Kings 18:13-16
I was really surprised when I read this bit. I was pretty sure Hezekiah was one of the kings that honored YHWH, and for some reason I thought YHWH wouldn't be to happy with him giving away all the Temple's silver. But it doesn't say anything about God getting angry about it, and he looked after Jerusalem all through his reign.

Stealth idols

When the Israelites were wandering in the desert, and were attacked by snakes, YHWH got Moses to make a bronze snake. Everyone who looked at it was cured of snakebite. (Numbers 21:4-8)
However, the Israelites eventually ended up worshipping the bronze snake, and King Hezekiah had to destroy it. (2 Kings 18:1-4)

It seems as though a gift or tool can become an idol, even though it's good and God has given it to us. We can end up putting our faith in these things, instead of in God, who gives them to us.
It's possible for us to idolise buildings, music, scripture, particular forms of church. In the emerging church we're just as much at risk of this. We're just as susceptible to idolising postmodernity as our predecessors were to modernity. Any ideas about how we can avoid this?


I've decided to start blogging stuff that stands out to me when I read scripture, to make sure that I am taking something in. So if I don't say much about what I've been finding in the scriptures, please email me and ask, because the chances are that I haven't been bothering.

Just read 2 Kings 16. I was pretty upset that the Israelites' exile started because King Ahaz let King Tillegath-pilneser of Assyria take over Damascus, in exchange for protection from Prince Pekah.
In the next chapter, Tillegath-pilneser's successor, Shalmaneser took over Samaria, so King Hoshea (Pekah's successor) asked the King of Egypt for help.
The people also tried to solve their problems by worshipping idols, through magic and by ignoring YHWH. As a result, the Israelites (except for Judah) were exiled to Assyria, and their land was resettled.
I suppose what I understand from that is that we need to depend on God before we depend on other people or on money or strategies or whatever.

Another thing I noticed was that the new settlers were given an opportunity to follow YHWH:

The king of Assyria then commanded, "Send one of the exiled priests from Samaria back to Israel. Let him teach the new residents the religious customs of the God of the land." So one of the priests who had been exiled from Samaria returned to Bethel and taught the new residents how to worship the LORD.
2 Kings 17:27-28.

21 Grams

Last night I watched Alejandro Iñárritu's 21 Grams, a film about life and death and revenge and forgiveness and redemption.
Sean Penn plays Paul Rivers, who is dying and needs a heart transplant. Benicio Del Toro plays Jack Jordan, an ex-convict who has turned to fundamentalist Christianity in order to redirect his life. Naomi Watts plays Cristina Peck, a reformed cocaine-addict.
Their stories merge when Jack runs over Cristina's husband, Michael, and Cristina allows the hospital to give Paul her husband's heart.
Jack turns himself in, and his faith is severely tested in gaol. Cristina ends up back on cocaine. Paul finds out about what it cost Cristina and Jack for him to live. He struggles with whether he should try to reconcile them or avenge Michael's death.

The title of the film comes from the experiments of Dr Duncan MacDougal, who claimed that the human body lost 21 grams at death. He rekoned this was the weight of their departing soul.* In this film, Iñárritu raises questions about the 'weight' of life, and what it is that leaves our bodies when we die. He also wrestles with questions about why people have faith and why God would allow such awful stuff to happen to people.

*Ian Sample from The Age got a bit upset about this, here. I think he missed the point.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

'Falling at Your Feet'

by Bono and Daniel Lanois
from the soundtrack to The Million Dollar Hotel

Every chip from every cup
Every promise given up
Every reason that's not enough
Is falling, falling at your feet

Every band elastic limit
Every race when there's nothing in it
Every winner that's lost a ticket
Is falling, falling at your feet
I've come crawling, falling at your feet

Everyone who needs a friend
Every life that has no end
Every knee not ready to bend
Is falling, falling at your feet
I've come crawling, now I'm falling at your feet

All fall down All the manic dazed faces that you pull
All fall down All the action is not under your control
All fall down The graffiti rolling down off of your tongue
All fall down And the compromise you make for some

Every teenager with acne
Every face that's spoiled by beauty
Every adult tamed by duty
They're all falling at your feet

Every foot in every face
Every cop's stop who finds the grace
Every prisioner in the maze
Every hand that needs an ace
Is falling, falling at your feet
I've come crawling, and I'm falling at your feet

All fall down All the books you never read
All fall down Just started
All fall down All the meals you rushed
All fall down Never tasted

Every eye closed by a bruise
Every player who just can't lose
Every pop star hurling abuse
Every drunk back on the booze
All falling at your feet
Oh I'm falling at your feet

All fall down All the information
All fall down All the big ideas
All fall down All the radio waves
All fall down Electronic seas
All fall down How to navigate
All fall down How to simply be
All fall down To know when to wait
All fall down Explain simplicity
All fall down In whom shall I trust
All fall down And how might I be still
All fall down Teach me to surrender
Not my will, thy will

Last night we were having a look at some scriptures on humility, and I was reminded of this song. It seems to be based on Philippians 2:

Because of this, God raised him [Jesus] up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Everyone and everything falls down at the feet of God. The pop star, the alcoholic, the loner, the police officer. It doesn't matter whether they realise their imperfection or not; they all fall down. The song concludes that the only way to find peace is to surrender to God, rather than trying to have our own way.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Helping children and young people respond to God

That is what I'm supposed to be talking about Friday morning at New Life Centre's Bible school, in Warrnambool. They asked Trav to, but he can't, so he asked me to.

Our experiences of evangelism influence our understanding of evangelism. We develop the way we evangelise based on how what we have seen work or fail in other situations. What positive and negative experiences of evangelism have you had?

Scripture Union has ten principles of conversion:

Holy Spirit is responsible for conversion

'And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.'
Romans 8:28-30
'No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: "They will all be taught by God." Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.'
Jesus, John 6:44-45
If it is God that brings people to himself, then what's our role?
If we can leave the responsibility of changing people to God, we can also concentrate more on our own relationships with God.

Kids are different to adults
Kids aren't able to respond to God in the same way that adults do.
For example, younger kids usually find it hard understanding abstract ideas. For example, last year when Trav was a Religious Education teacher, a lot of the kids reckoned that God was a person, a kind of superhero.
However, just because kid is unable to understand the human ideas about God doesn't mean that they can't have a relationship with God. In the scripture I quoted earlier, Jesus refers to Isaiah's prophecy:
'All your sons will be taught by the Lord,
and great will be your children's peace.'
Isaiah 54:13
This implies that God is already in a relationship with a person before they can understand him. In that case, perhaps we need to provide an environment where kids can experience God and continue to learn from him.

Darren Wight has post on this here.

We need to avoid manipulation
I think that's pretty obvious. I think this is particularly relevant in helping kids and teenagers respond to God.
Why do you think people use manipulation? Would they necessarily think they are being manipulative? Could any of our evangelistic methods be seen as manipulative?

Children are concrete thinkers
As I mentioned earlier, most kids have a hard time understanding abstract ideas. This can make it hard for them to understand the Bible, because it wasn't written for children, so it contains a lot of abstract stuff. So how do we explain the content of the Bible with kids?

Kids are part of families
Often we forget that kids are part of families, and that this has implications on conversion. For example, if a kid's parents don't want them to go to Sunday school (or whatever) there's not much the kids can do about it. Conversely, sometimes parents send their kids to the Scripture Union Family Mission program in Warrnambool even though they don't want to go.

Kids need to respond individually
It's no good if a kid decides to 'respond' simply because all of their peers do.

We need to be relaxed when helping other people respond to God. This isn't easy. It helps to remember the first principle - that it's not up to us to make someone respond to God.

Conversion is a process
A lot of the time we see God's kingdom as being like a farm with a fence. We see each person as being inside of outside the farm by whether or not they display different characteristics that we see as 'Christian'. This way of understanding God's kingdom means that we see it as our task to get people who aren't Christians onto the inside of this fence.

In the desert the farms are so big that fences aren't very useful. Instead, the farmers dig deep wells, because they know that the animals won't go to far away from their source of water.
We can look at God's kingdom like this. Instead of regarding each person as either inside or outside the kingdom, we can look at in terms of how close they are to the centre of the kingdom (Jesus) and whether they are getting closer or further away. This model acknowledges that every decision a person makes is important, as in bringing someone closer to God.

Earlier in the year I did a more in-depth post on this here.

Males should counsel males; females should counsel females
Obviously, so it doesn't look like there's anything dodgy going on.

Presume nothing
Just because someone responds in some way (at an altar call or whatever) doesn't necessarily mean they've decided they want to be a Christian. It might be that their dog died, and they want to talk to someone about it. We need to find out what they want.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

PostSecret - confession?

Just found this blog. The reader is invited to send in a home-made postcard with a secret on it that they've never been revealed to anyone else. Some of them are published on the site.

Thursday, June 16, 2005


This G.K. Chesterton quote is in the front of Neil Gaiman's Coraline, which I'm writing an essay about:

Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.
Although his name sounds familiar, I don't know much about him, but he seems interesting, and appears to have been a theologian, so I think I might have to find out more about him.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


<< Seven dimensions of culture index
In more affective cultures it is appropriate for people to display emotions openly, and it is unnecessary for people to hide their emotions. A person from a more affective culture is likely to ignore less obvious displays for emotion them, because they appear unimportant.
This often causes conflict when a person from an affective culture encounters someone who is more accustomed to a neutral culture, because neutral cultures assume that it is wrong to show one's emotions openly. People from neutral cultures do have emotions, they are just displayed very subtly. People from neutral cultures often think that people from affective cultures are to easily excited and overly emotional, because they display their emotions more obviously. A person who displays their emotions to much will not be very highly respected.

I think mainstream Australian culture is probably more neutral than affective, but I think it's a very moderate example of a neutral culture.
One of my friends, whose family are from a Mediterranean country is always getting Caucasians telling her that she is too agressive, because she is used displaying emotions more loudly than most Caucasians are.

Do you think that your culture is more neutral or more affective? Have you ever expeienced a culture that was the oppsite?
<< Seven dimensions of culture index

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Wilsons Promontory

Haven't posted in ages because I've had so much homework, and then I was hiking on Wilsons Promontory over the long weekend.

The ten of us stayed in Foster, at Fiona (the hike leader)'s grandma's house, on Friday night. We drove down to the Prom early Saturday morning, and set off for Five Mile Beach from the Five Mile Road carpark. It rained quite a bit at Saturday, but it had stopped by the time we got to Five Mile Beach. Me, Andre, James and George stayed set up camp at Five Mile Beach. The others decided they wanted to keep going on and camp at Johnny Souey Cove, even though they'd have to cross a lagoon at high tide, spend two hours travelling over rough, steep terrain, and it was getting dark.

Hardly slept at all that night. I did a bit though, because I had some dreams.

We met the others at Johnny Suey the next morning (we crossed the lagoon at low tide), and then we walked along the beach to Three Mile Point. From there we set out through the bush toward Three Mile Beach. The track was pretty ellusive, so we got lost, and ended up bush-bashing our way to the rocky coast, and rock-hopping the rest of the way to Three Mile Beach. I suggested that it would be easier to get back to Johnny Suey by rockhopping, so me and Andre and Fiona went back that way.

The second night we all camped at Five Mile Beach. There were these other people staying there, a guy and his son, so we got them to come and have tea with us because Suzie had cooked way to much food. There was an old couple staying there too, but whenever we tried to talk to the they just went, 'Hmph! Hmph!' and told us where our campsite was.

Yesterday we packed up all our stuff and walked back to the Five Mile Road carpark. We drove to Fiona and Caroline's parents farm, near Fish Creek, where Malcom had a conversation with their mum in New Zealish and Australian accented Japanese and the rest of us drank tea. Then we went back through Gippsland and Melbourne, to Ballarat.

Blog tree

Thought I'd made a blog tree. Admittedly, some of these blogs have only two posts. Please tell me if I've missed anyone, or if I've mixed up who got who to start blogging.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Specific/Diffuse (part 2)

<< Seven dimensions of culture index
Specific/diffuse is hard to understand, so I'm putting together an example. Tab said about Broken Hill,

It's hard to get in (to the native culture) but once ur in, ur in for good, and it's a complete acceptance.
So I'm going to use my constructed idea of Broken Hill (having never actually been there) as an example.

Frederick, who is from my constructed idea of Newcastle moves to my constructed idea of Broken Hill. At first he finds that the people in Broken Hill won't talk to him very much. They don't seem very welcoming. However, over time, some of the locals do begin to open up.
My constructed idea of Broken Hill has a very diffuse culture. It appears to Derrick that the locals are pretty stand-offish, and they are pretty cautious about making friends. They want to find out a reasonable amount about a person before they're willing to open up. Compared to people from more specific cultures, they don't have many friends. However, their friends will be very close. They'll just have one group of friends. They will play tennis, go to the pub, do road trips with the same group of friends, whereas in a more specific culture there will be a different group of friends for each social activity.

Hope that helps to explain it better.
<< Seven dimensions of culture index

Thursday, June 02, 2005


<< Seven dimensions of culture index
A person who is part of a more specific culture has a large public sphere and a small private sphere. They will easily accept somebody into their public sphere, but will not easily allow anybody into their private sphere.
Each area or activity in which two people interact is understood to be completely seperate. A person's life is divided into many components, of which only one can be entered at a time.
Specific cultures consider everything to be made up of specific elements. They analyse each element seperately, and then recomposite them. It is understood that the whole is the sum of it's parts.
In a more specific culture, interaction between people is highly Purpose-Driven™. Facts, standards and contracts are highly valued.

A person who is part of a more diffuse will tend to have a large private sphere and a small public sphere. Strangers aren't easily admitted into either sphere. However, once a member of a diffuse culture does accept someone, they will give them access to every part of their life. Your friend is your friend in eevry area of life. Your boss is your boss in every area of life.
A more diffuse culture will see something as a whole, and see all the different elements as interdependant. The relationships between different elements are regarded as more important than the seperate elements.
Style, manners, trust and understanding are very important in diffuse cultures.

Do you think that your culture is more diffuse or more specific? Have you ever expeienced a culture that was the oppsite?
Please tell me if I've explained this dimension adequately, because it's probably the most confusing out of the seven dimensions.
<< Seven dimensions of culture index