• Where did the Concept of Evil go?

    A few years ago I was chatting with a friend who once was a Christian. She told me her reason for rejecting the Christian faith and it wasn’t one of the usual suspects. Her reason for rejecting Christianity was sin. Not sin in the Church or sin in her own life. No, she rejected Christianity because the Bible speaks of people being sinful and yes evil. She thinks that we can’t label anyone evil anymore.  “What about Hitler I asked?” She pointed out that he probably had a troubled childhood and that it is wrong if us to judge him.

    My friend is taking to its logical conclusion the vibe that is out in our culture that is trying to lose the word evil. All too often we say the person is crazy or sick but we are reluctant to call anyone or anything evil except for the most heinous of people and or acts.We are to quick to to talk about a person’s upbringing and how that made them do what they did rather than describe some act or someone as evil.
    In the movie The Silence Of the Lambs the serial killer, Hannibal Lecter, says this to Clarice Starling when she asks what happened to him:

    “Nothing happened to me, Officer Starling. Happened. You can’t reduce me to a set of influences. You’ve given up good and evil for behaviorism… nothing is ever anybody’s fault. Look at me Officer Starling. Can you stand to say I’m evil?”

    Lecter is denying that he is a result of his environment or his upbringing. He is saying that he himself is evil and this is the very thing that Agent Starling or our culture does not want to say. We don’t want to brand someone as evil we want to say that there were outside factors and they are responsible but this person is not evil.

    But the Bible gives a different picture. The Bible never downplays the fact that outside influence shape behaviours. But it does call people evil and behaviours sinful.

    When our culture denies that there is evil or tries to explain away sin and evil behaviours we have lost the ability to call things right and wrong. We have lost our moral compass. We live in an age where we should have the freedom to call behaviours/thoughts wrong or evil because evil is a word which has the most explanatory power in some situations

    .As a Christian I can also say that evil has an finish date. Evil’s time will be up when Jesus comes back and rids the world of the evil that is destroying it. The very evil that our world tries to argue away.

    You may also like:

    Would Jesus have killed Osama?

    Spiritual warfare is more boring than you think

    How should Christians respond to sin in their own life?

  • What I loved about Engage 11

    For the first three years of the Engage conference I was on the Engage organizing committee and Luke Woodhouse and I led the conference band. Needless to say I had a blast in those years but I loved just kicking back and not doing all that much except listen to the talks last weekend!

    Here are some of the things I loved about the weekend:

    • I loved Rory Shiner’s talks. I have known Rory for years and he is a blast to be around and a great preacher too! He helped me see once again how the physical, bodily resurrection changes my life. His line “Sin is bad eschatology” has been ringing in my ears all week!
    • I love Piper, he was his usual self. I have heard the talks he gave on the weekend in some form or another over the web. But being there, I could really get his passion and his vibe on a whole different level. I loved how he made me think hard, especially about the text and how he made me look at my life and ask “Do I find joy in glorifying Jesus?”
    • As usual the Engage team put thought into the little things. The food, drink, music, coffee and vibe all added to the feel of the weekend and this feel keeps Engage as one of the best Christian conferences around.

    I just want to say how much I and the people from my church love Engage. I can’t wait for next year and I hope that Engage keeps going from strength to strength under the great leadership and organizational skill of Steve Morrison and the team!

     

  • What I learn from Christians with mental illness/anxiety issues

    My church has recently started up a ministry to people with mental illness/anxiety called Eternal Hope. It is a simple ministry where we read from the bible, share how we are doing and then pray for each other.  But here is the thing.

    I feel like a fake when I am there.

    If we have never met, I am stupidly optimistic and positive and so when I go to Eternal Hope and I hear their pain and struggle I feel like a fake.

    I feel like a fake most when my brothers and sisters at this group talk about heaven. They talk about longing for heaven and how this life is a struggle. Then I think about my life, beautiful wife, child on the way, awesome church and I think “Man I don’t want to be in heaven yet!!!”

    But that is the point my brothers and sisters at Eternal Hope see reality more than I do. They see that their home is heaven and I see what is in front of me. What I learn from my brothers and sisters at Eternal Hope is that I need to be more in love with where I will be spending my eternity.

     

    What about you do you long for heaven or are you content with earth?

     

  • A sermon celebrating Dad’s life

    Dad was born 21st of April 1948 to Hans and Kristiane Kristensen of SdrVium in Denmark. He was born premature and was not expected to live. But dad, being the fighter that he was, he lived. Early on in Dad’s life his parents taught him the value of hard work mixed in with lots of love and fun. He was taken to church every Sunday where he was taught about Jesus in Sunday School by his grandmother whom he loved dearly. At school dad was a bit of the class clown but he excelled in all his classes without much study.

    After school Dad went and did his apprenticeship in carpentry. Around this time he started to race in rallies. Dad had a lot of stories to tell about him and rally driving. He never won a race but one time he did come in 2nd. It was in the worst car he ever drove: a Ford Cortina. His dad told him before the race that if he broke down, don’t come and call him. Well they came 2nd and on the way back home they did break down. My grandfather was called and because they came second, my grandfather picked him up.
    Not long after he was finished his apprenticeship, Dad moved to work in Greenland and in 1972, after going back to Denmark for a short time,Dad boarded a ship bound for Australia. When he landed he found a job very quickly and John and Sharn Vanderplas took him under their wing.

    Dad told me that when he landed in Australia he had a limited use of English and so he learnt English from the guys on the worksite and also from reading the Telegraph Newspaper and till the day he died Dad Loved reading the Telegraph. But Dad’s grasp of the English language wasn’t perfect. He did get some words wrong and our family had so much fun with this. One time dad was talking about his beloved Magazine Unique Cars but dad called it Uni Q cars. To which we all laughed and said ‘Can you pass the uni q cars? Where is the paper? Under the copy of Uni Q cars.’ Dad had enough of this and said “shut up none of you can speak two languages!” To which I replied “Well neither can you!”

    Some time after that Dad started working for the guy he would call boss for almost 40 years, Ysbrand Verhuel. In this time dad came home with many stories about working with Ysbrand, Kenny, Lee, Darrell,Weemalah Bill, Doug and many others. He took great pride in his workand to all those he worked with I just want to say he loved you guys like brothers. Thanks so much for being the best bunch of mates for my dad. And thank you for giving my dad so many good times, stories and jokes. The last time I remember my dad really laughing was recounting a joke that Kenny told. My dad loved you guys and you guys loved Dad.Thanks for that.

    It was around the same time that dad started working for Ysbrand that Dad saw her. She was a leggy brunette with a big smile. They were at the German club in Stanmore in Sydney and she had just told one of her Girlfriends that “all the good guys were taken!” and then dad asked her for a dance. The girl was my mum and that was the first and last time Dad asked mum for a dance. In the year that Mum and Dad were dating dad would finish work in Bega and then Narrabri at 3:30pm and then he would get in his car and drive the many hours it took to see Mum.On the 18th of December 1976 mum and Dad were married. Mum had snagged the guy she would later dub her handsome hunk of humanity!Mum and dad had a very loving marriage, one where there were a lot of laughs. time I remember Mum had gone out clothes shopping that day and since come home. She had changed into her house cleaning clothes and then dad came home and mum said to him “I bought some new clothes today” and Dad looked up at mum in her daggy housecleaning clothes and said “Mmm looks Good”.

    On the 8th of may 1978 Mum and Dad welcomed into the world their first child, a beautiful girl named Sarah. A few years later Mum and dad welcomed me into their lives. Dad loved us kids like anything and he would consistently go out of his way to help us fulfill our dreams.Whether it be driving me to Gunnedah every 2nd week for guitar lessons or helping Sarah out with…… Dad was only too ready to do all he could for his kids.

    Growing up, our home was full of laughter and where laughter was,dad was usually to be found. It seemed like every week dad had a funny story or joke to tell that he heard from work. But Dad had the amazing ability to get a rise out of us at will. Whether it be watching the news with mum and saying something totally inappropriate to which mum turn to dad and react, or saying something to Sarah that was politically very right wing, or arguing with me that Elvis Presley was the best guitarist ever and that Jimi Hendrix couldn’t play compared to Elvis,Dad knew how to get a rise out of us. And when we bit hard and argue back, that cheeky smile came across his face which meant that dad was having a stir and loving every minute of it!

    Growing up, Dad taught Sarah and I about hard work, not taking yourself seriously and about loving and respecting everyone. For Dad it didn’t matter where you were from, what colour your skin was or whether you were rich or poor. As long as you worked hard, respect others and liked a good joke, you were okay in Dad’s book.

    Dad wasn’t part of the generation where guys were open with their feelings of affection for each other. Dad showed his love for people by doing things for them. Whether it be being the Danish translator town for a lot of people or helping out chopping some wood for someone, or just doing some odd job, I think most of us could say something that Dad helped us with. And if you gauge how much Dad Loved by how much he helped others, dad was one of the most loving men we have ever known.

    Dad loved his family in Denmark and I think he would say that some of his best times were when we went as a family over to Denmark. We Had many trips to Denmark and we all loved every minute of them.And over the years we have had many visits from various friends of the family or cousins, and in the last few years Mum and Dad were blessed with three visits from Karen and Knud, Dad’s sister and brother in law.

    In 2009 dad had a cancerous kidney removed but unfortunately that cancer had already spread. Dad was diagnosed with Bone Cancer in January 2010 and the prognosis was dire. In the time that he had cancer, although dad was frustrated, tired and sometimes in pain, mum says that Dad never complained once, never got angry and always hoped for the best. It was in this time that our family experienced the great skill and care of Dr Jack Shepherd and Dr Scott Finlay along with the great nursing staff at Moree hospital. Moree is extremely blessed by God to have such skillful and caring medical practitioners and I want to thank them on behalf of our family for all they did for dad. But the other person that deserves high praise is mum. Mum, you worked around the clock tirelessly for dad, you always were so upbeat and positive and you never asked anyone for sympathy, you just did the job of loving dad and you did a great job. I think dad lasted so long because you were such a compassionate, faithful and loving wife.

    But one of the greatest things that Dad did in his last 18 months on earth was to reconnect with Jesus. Dad always had a belief that God was there but it seemed as though because the end was imminent,dad took these beliefs more seriously. And so we need to ask, what hope is there for my dad now that he is no longer here with us? But we also have to ask what hope is there for any of us in the face of death? Because one day we will all be where dad is right now. There is so much hope in the face of death in the two passages we had read before that mum and Sarah chose.

    In the first one Jesus is having his last meal with his mates, his followers, and he has told them he is going to die and so they are freaking out. But did you see Jesus words:
    “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.”

    Jesus says to his followers that he will prepare a place for them. Jesus has prepared a place for dad too. See, so many have said to me and my family that dad is in a better place now and that is true. But Dad being in a better place now is not mere sentimentality, it is reality. It is this hope that we can all be assured of. That you can be assured of. But how can I be so confident? Well it is because of what Jesus says.

    Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

    Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
    Jesus, in effect, says ‘If you want this hope you have to connect with me.’ See the message of Jesus that my dad believed in is that God Lovingly created each one of us with beauty and with dignity and worth and yet despite our best intentions we have pushed God aside and said ‘Hey man, I will run my own life.’ But it is God who fixes the situation that we are in. It is God who came down as a man named Jesus and it is this Jesus who took the punishment for our rebellion when he died on the cross. It is this Jesus who rose physically from the dead guaranteeing that death, although it is final on this earth,it is not the end. Jesus is preparing a place for us. See dad is not in heaven because he was a good bloke or because he went to church or whatever. Dad is heaven because of what Jesus has done for Dad and because dad trusted Jesus when he reconnected with him.

    But what is that place like? What is heaven like? Well that is what our 2nd passage talks about.
    And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

    There are two things that we see here what this place is like. The first thing is that God will be with his people. The relationship that we broke is now fully restored. And secondly, did you see what is not there?There will be no more pain or crying, no more death or mourning, no more cancer, no more. I dunno about you but I am sick of mourning,I am sick of crying, I am sick of death. But the hope that Jesus gives is that he is preparing a place for us that is exactly like this.
    One of the things I hope you will do today as you celebrate my dad’s life is you will ask yourself whether you have this hope that my dad had in the end. Dad was not scared of death because he knew where he was going.
    Last Friday when dad died, there was no mention of dad on the Prime News, or Seven news or the ABC news. There was no mention of him in his beloved telegraph newspaper. But when he died, all heaven was on their feet welcoming dad home. That is the future we can all experience. That is the future my dad is experiencing all because of Jesus.

  • No, but I am sexy…

    There is a constant temptation around us to live and work for things that don’t last.

    We live and work to be popular

    We live and work to have money

    We live and work to be in a relationship

    We live and work to be sexy

    There is always a constant temptation to live for these things that may be good things, but the problem is we make them ultimate things. Our lives become defined by these things.

    I sometimes wonder what questions Jesus is going to ask of us when we get to see him face to face?

    I don’t think he is going to ask:

    How popular were you?

    How much money did you have?

    Did you get that sexy boy/girl to like you?

    Was your body really hot?

    I think he may ask

    Did you live for me?

    Every moment of every day did you live for me?

    Take stock of your life now. Are you living for him every moment of every day? If Harold Camping was off by a few days and Jesus came back now and he asked you

    Did you live for me? What would you say?

    Yes, or

    No, but I am sexy!

     

  • Comforting Truth no. 4: Heaven

     

    A few years ago I was sitting in Hungry Jacks in Kings Cross at around 9pm when a bunch of prostitutes walked in. They were loud, raucous and quickly made themselves the centre of attention. A song came on over the radio called Heaven by the Eurogliders.[1] The lyrics of the chorus are:

    Heaven, must be there-ere

    Well, it’s just got to be there-ere

    I’ve never – never seen Eden

    I don’t wanna live in this place

    One of the prostitutes turned to another and said “Do you think it exists? Heaven I mean.” The other one said “Sure, cause I don’t wanna live in this place!” At this they laughed, ordered their food and loudly went on their way.

    When I see my dad racked by pain, hardly able to eat anything and I know there is no human way he will survive this cancer I think of heaven. Because when I see my dad in so much pain I don’t wanna live in this place! I want be in a place which is described like this:

    Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:1-5)

    I want to be in a place where there are no more tears or cancer or hatred or violence or death or mourning. That is the place I want to be. So when I see my dad racked with pain or when I see him exhausted and sleeping on the couch, a mere shell of the man he once, I was I realise my hope, my future and my home is heaven.


    [1] You can see the video clip here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJou-XIUywQ