Saturday, August 31, 2013

An Untameable God

The words of Chris Tomlin's song Indescribable are a powerful poetic description of the awesome creative power of God who created the beauty, vastness and complexity of the universe. Yet, in the very title of this inspiring worship song is the paradox that, despite the best efforts of the song writer, God is indeed indescribable! Our language is inadequate to describe Him, our expectations too small to contain Him and our strength too weak to tame Him. In the presence of such a God, "Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim You are amazing God." 

Today, while attending the "Dwelling in the Spirit" conference in Melbourne I encountered the "indescribable, uncontainable, untameable" power of God as I fully surrendered myself to the presence of God's Spirit during an awesome time of worship. What made this time of worship so powerful, apart from following an amazing afternoon and evening of teaching and the tangible presence of Holy Spirit, was that there was absolutely no attempt to contain or tame the movement of God by those engaging in worship. There was an air of expectation and a deep desire to experience ALL of God, however that manifested itself. 

At times, I have been one of too many Christians who have tried to contain God to a size and image that fits our intellect or theology and have tried to tame the movement of God to that which is rational and controllable.  As I continue to witness God move in mighty ways, breaking through spiritual, emotional and physical barriers, releasing people from the bondage of sin to freedom in Christ, why would I (or anyone else) want to contain or tame that?! 

When Jesus gave His commission to the disciples, He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20) Contain that...NO WAY!! 

When God sent His Spirit at Pentecost, Peter witnessed to the crowd that, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Acts 2:17-21). Tame that...NO WAY!! 

Friends, it is time to stop restriction God's work in your life and His Church by reducing Holy Spirit's movement to something describable, containable or tameable! It is time to fully surrender to God, to fully embrace Holy Spirit and to be fully devoted to Jesus, allowing Him to radically transform your life and use you in ways you could never imagine!! It is time for the Church to remove any blockages that prevents Holy Spirit from being unleashed in worship, mission and ministry in Jesus name and to the glory of God!!!

It is time for every Christ follower to be "Awestruck" and "fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim You are amazing God."

Published in October/November 2013 edition of JAC:  Journal of Aggressive Christianity

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Parties, Politics or Policies?

Eleven days out from the Australian federal election and both major parties are entangled in a fierce arm wrestle to win our vote for the top job in Canberra.  In a political environment where little separates the contending parties, Rudd and Abbott are flexing their muscles on major issues with policies that are playing for the worst in the people they intend to serve.  Winning debates and winning votes at the risk of losing credibility and basic humanity is leaving Australian voters on the sidelines unsure which party to cheer for and the minor parties with plenty to jeer about.  

So, how does one decide who to vote for?

Do I vote for the party?  Party loyalty seems to be less of a priority for voters with little distinction remaining between the platform of policies of both major parties.

Do I vote for the politician?  Personality based politics is getting tiresome for voters with party leaders constantly engaged in a war of words attacking each others character and credentials.

Do I vote for the policies?  Policies that are more concerned with winning votes than the actual needs of people quickly lose the trust of voters who are impacted by ill-considered policies and broken election promises.

"Election campaigns are dangerous things. They're dangerous for individuals who get caught in the crossfire between political leaders, dangerous for good policy and dangerous for the credibility of politicians. They're also times when policy statements fly so thick and fast we often fail to notice matters that affect us."  Ross Gittens - The Sydney Morning Herald

Growing up in a working class family in the north western suburbs of Melbourne, party loyalty was priority and was as polarized as the rivalry between Ford and Holden.  Moving interstate into a position of leadership in a remote community, the local political leader became more important to me than party politics with my vote being aligned with the person who would best serve the community, regardless of their political party.  Today, with an increased sensitivity towards critical issues that have national and international implications for us as global citizens, I am now more drawn towards value driven policies than party politics or political leaders.  

 "The crackdown on asylum seekers already in Australia has outraged the Greens and refugee advocates, with Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young likening it to an ''arms race on who can be the cruelest.''"

The shift in my voting patterns reflects a growing realisation that my vote really matters and a deep desire for my vote to make a difference!  My transition from a party to political leader to policy driven vote is taking me into unknown territory this election to look beyond the two major political parties to find policies that align with my values.  I find myself giving consideration to minor parties or independents as a protest against my dissatisfaction with current policies and an accountability for future policy making.  What that looks like in the end remains to be seen on election day.

 "Australia has much to offer to the world. We have become one of the most stable and prosperous nations on earth, but with privilege comes responsibility and the way we rise to meet these responsibilities will ultimately determine if we truly are a great nation." Family First Party

As Australian citizens we not only have the privilege to vote but the responsibility to exercise that privilege in a way that transcends party politics and political alliances towards value driven policies that will best serve the people of this nation.  We must each determine our own values and discern a framework around how to come to that decision when casting our vote.  For me, as a Christian wanting to see God's will done on earth as it is in heaven, I am praying the prayer of Solomon when he became king of Israel to guide my vote and to give wisdom to those contesting this election:

"Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?"  1 King 3:8-9

Monday, August 26, 2013

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: The Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: The Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction
When the saying, “Don’t let truth get in the way of a good story” normalizes the way truth is handled, personal and corporate reputations fall victim to our obsession with rumours and scandals.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Armed & Equipped

"From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other..."  (Nehemiah 4:16-17)

This passage of Scripture was shared as a devotional thought in a leadership meeting I attended last week with the reminder to defend ourselves against the enemy while doing the work of God.  As leaders of the church engaged in Christ's mission to establish His kingdom on earth we encounter all the forces of darkness that are working in opposition to kingdom values.  While the war has already been won through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, we continue to battle "against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" as we live between the times until the consummation of the kingdom of God when Jesus comes again.

To live victoriously and work successfully between the times it is essential to be well armed with the Word of God and well equipped to fulfil the work of God.  

To be well armed means to "put on the full armour of God" and to "pray in the Spirit on all occasions" (Ephesians 6:10-18).  To be well equipped means to "continue in what you have learned and have become convinced that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:10-17).

God has equipped us with every resource we need to fulfil His purpose and has given us His Spirit to empower us to complete His mission.  We are indeed well armed and well equipped to successfully live and work as the people of God!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Leading from deep within the trenches of business, politics, community services or church based mission can leave one feeling overwhelmed by the pressures and demands of leadership on the frontline.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

12 Months of EphesiansFour12

Today marks the 1st anniversary of blogging under the title of EphesiansFour12.  This has been an extraordinary journey fulfilling my Passion for the LORD, the LOST, LIFE and LEADERSHIP by sharing what God has been speaking into my life through his Spirit, Word, and other passionate leaders.  

Through this blog I have sought to compliment my calling as a Salvation Army Officer to "equip the people of God for the work of the ministry by building up the body of Christ" through written reflections that demonstrate passionate faith, holy living, inspiring leadership and Christ-centred mission.

Pursuing a passion for the LORD has taken me deep into God's Word, inviting Holy Spirit to "reveal great and unsearchable things I do not know" (Jeremiah 33:3).  It has challenged me to pursue holy living that reflects the character of Jesus and to engage in a passionate prayer life that connects with the heart of the Father.

Pursuing a passion for the LOST has broken my heart for the things that break God's heart.  It has ignited a fire within my spirit for the "Saved to Save" mission of The Salvation Army, fueled an intolerance for injustice and formed a holy discontent for mission that is devoid of good news or denies the power of Jesus Christ.

Pursuing a passion for LIFE has been a celebration of a physical and spiritual transformation that has brought into alignment a commitment to nurture a healthy body, mind and spirit.  It has allowed me to explore and explain the motivation that led and sustained me on the pathway towards life transformation and develop "The Cycle of Motivation" as a tool to empower others in their life journey.

Pursuing a passion for LEADERSHIP has been an exciting journey of discovery from a variety of leadership interactions with people of like mind and spirit.  It is a journey that has exposed me to the teaching of successful church, business and political leaders - both past and present, in person and from the pages of books.  It has taught me how to be an equipping and empowering leader.

What I have learned and shared over the past twelve months through EphesiansFour12 has awakened apostolic and prophetic gifts that have taken me to places as a leader I would have never imagined.  Therefore, I can't wait to experience what God has in store for the next twelve months as I continue to Pursue a Passion for the LORD, the LOST, LIFE and LEADERSHIP.

Thank you for sharing the journey!

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Monday, August 12, 2013

The Human Face Of Asylum Seekers

There are some things in life that cannot be truly known unless experienced.  We may seek to understand the world we live in by a variety of sources of information, but when we listen to people's stories and experiences we gain a perspective of life that you cannot really get from a secondhand report.  

This was brought home to me last night listening to the courageous story of a Sudanese refugee who had escaped the war of Sudan as a child and spent 12 years in a refugee camp in Kenya before a complicated journey that enabled her to settle in Australia.  As she spoke into the challenge for Australians in understanding the plight of asylum seekers and refugees, she made the most gracious statement I think I have heard in recent political and social discussion about this issue.  Haluel said, "I don't blame Australians because you will never feel something you have never experienced."  

This profoundly humble statement put a different colour skin on the prayer of St. Francis, "O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love."  Despite the pain of her own journey, Haluel had the humility to recognise how difficult it is for people who have not traveled her pathway to feel the depth of desperation that compels vulnerable people to make a dangerous journey towards the hope of a better life.  

It is my sincere prayer that all Australians would reciprocate this humility by listening more to the stories and experiences of others when considering the challenge for asylum seekers and refugees, than the politically motivated rhetoric that is dehumanising this humanitarian issue.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Changing The Culture Of Generational Poverty

Today, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop entitled "Bridges Out Of Poverty" which provided a broader awareness of poverty and a deeper understanding of the values and vocabulary of those who are trapped in a culture of generational poverty.

There is so much to be learned about seeking to understand instead of judging, developing respectful relationships, and building capacity with those we seek to support in crisis.  However, I found myself kicking back against the final quote of the day:

"Whilst we can't and don't want to change the culture of Generational Poverty, we can work with what we've got."

Whether it be generational poverty or any other brokenness in our society, I refuse to accept that it "can't" change and reject the suggestion that we "don't" want it to change, when the culture of generational poverty is enslaving human beings to living a life less than that which they were created for!  We may seek an understanding of their culture to effectively "work with what we've got;" not to leave people where they are, but to give them a vision of an alternate reality and empower them to redefine their cultural paradigm.  This is not to impose change upon people who are bound by generational poverty, but to influence change among these people to break the cycle of generational poverty.

To simply "work with what we've got" with a spirit of resignation is to deny hope and to perpetuate hopelessness. Instead, God has raised within the spirit of The Salvation Army an unquenchable hope that dares to believe that lives really can be transformed.  Our founder believed in a God who loved the world too much to leave it as it was and sent Jesus to "change the culture" by establishing a kingdom of hope in a world of despair.  William Booth's 'Darkest England' scheme also refused to settle "with what we've got" but inspired a vision of hope and an audacious belief that The Salvation Army really could and should change the culture of generational poverty. 

We ought to believe in nothing less than the hope that Jesus gave through new life and be prepared to challenge any culture that offers less when responding to generational poverty today!

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Problem With Scripture

While recently doing a Google search on Salvation Army leadership, I unexpectedly landed on a blog site naming and shaming Christian leaders in Australia who have expressed a biblical point of view on the Marriage Act.  The article was critical of the Church and pushed an equally biased position, reflecting the worldview of the author, as the position it was criticising.  Despite the author's obvious agenda, the article presented a significant challenge to Christians who hold conflicting biblical worldviews, which exposes the problem with Scripture.

After publishing a long list of denominational leaders in Australia, the author writes the following:

"These, ladies and gentlemen, are the modern day equivalent of the racist bigots who quoted scripture to oppose civil rights and inter-race marriage during the 1950s and 60s. These are the 21st century equivalent of the clergy who opposed women’s rights and suffrage. These are the equivalents of the nineteenth century men of the cloth who spouted scripture in defense of slavery.  Discrimination has always been easily defended by resorting to scripture and God knows the church has rarely taken the lead in attending to the marginalisation and suffering of minorities." 
(Chrys Stevenson, "Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear" - Assorted Rants on Religion, Politics and Skeptical Issues,

The problem with Scripture is that the inspired Word of God is read through different lenses that reflect the cultural and denominational biases of the reader.  Combine these biases with the gap between the historical context and present reality, the intent of the author/s and interpretation of the readers, the purposes of God and the plans of humankind, it is no wonder people who equally believe in the authority of the Bible can come to such different conclusions about its message.  

This is a problem painfully asserted in the above quote.  Throughout the history of the Church, Christians have passionately defended various forms of injustice by interpreting and applying key verses of Scripture that seem to align with their particular worldview.  Using Scripture to proof text a theological point of view can not only cause conflict among those who read Scripture, but confusion about the character of the God who is revealed by Scripture.  

So, what is the solution to this problem?  Do we simply disregard the authority of Scripture and rely on our own authority to figure out life, faith and God?  We tried that, 'everyone doing what is right in their own eyes,' and look where that has got us (if in doubt, turn on the news!). Do we legalistically enforce our own version of Scripture that best supports a particular worldview?  That too has been done with devastating results!  Do we defend or deny any personal biases?  It is naive to think that we can strip away all of our cultural and denominational biases and arrogant to assume one way is the right way, as we are all culturally conditioned creatures who have fallen from the Creator's original design for His creation. How then do we read and interpret Scripture?

There are literally dozens of theological courses that provide a systematic framework for biblical interpretation, and while in many ways helpful, they too can be a part of the problem.  Again, we are still left without a solution!

At the risk of oversimplifying a solution, Jesus said, "when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth" (John 16:13).  Any interpretation of truth as revealed by Jesus, who is "the way and the truth and the life" (John 14:6), through the Holy Spirit in Scripture that is consistent with the character of Christ, produces the fruit of the Spirit and restores right relationship with God, is a solution that transcends cultural and denominational biases.  Jesus personified grace and truth (John 1:14), Holy Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23), and the Father is a righteous and just God (Psalm 33:5) and requires his children to "act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8).  The problem of Scripture is resolved when we read and apply Scripture through such a set of lenses.

For it is impossible for a correct interpretation and application of Scripture to...

...produce hatred, because God is love!
...produce injustice, because God is just!
...produce legalism, because Jesus is full of grace!
...produce licentiousness, because Jesus is full of truth!
...produce division, because where the Spirit is there is oneness of heart and mind!
...produce bondage, because where the Spirit is there is freedom!

I believe passionately that the "Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God and that they only constitute the divine rule of Christian faith and practice" (Doctrine 1 - The Salvation Army) and that "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man [woman] of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16).  I believe the Scriptures are a spiritual weapon to fight against the forces of darkness, not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12).  And I believe the Scriptures are a light that shines a way in the darkness (Psalm 119:105) and are good news proclaiming the year of the Lord's favour (Luke 4:18-19).

If we are to truly be faithful in our interpretation and application of the Word of God then may the Scripture be fulfilled in our lives as we declare in solidarity with Jesus, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour" (Luke 4:18-19).