The incredible worship

Why do churches try to manufacture the presence of God?

This is a passionate plea for churches to review our practices. Aussies can’t see God in what we’re doing at present. While culture doesn’t set our agenda, we’re off mission when we don’t represent God well.

God isn’t visible. That’s why some faiths carve little images to worship. We don’t believe dead timber or stone can represent the living God, so from ancient times people have asked, Where is your God? (Psalm 42:3, 10).

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Incredible! What Aussies are saying to the church

Only a minority of Australians now identify as Christians. How does the church respond?


Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for the 2021 census arrived this week. For the first time Christians are less than half the population: just 44%. No, people haven’t switched to other faiths: 39% identify as “no religion.”

What are Aussies saying to the church? I’m hearing values such as these:

Continue reading “Incredible! What Aussies are saying to the church”

The church’s role in the world

What does it look like to be human?

What is our role in the world? In a word, to be human.

That doesn’t work if the church holds a negative view of what it means to be human.

God doesn’t. He addressed Ezekiel as son of man — literally human descendant. Jesus called himself the son of man more than any other term. God is restoring humanity in Christ. That’s why our role in the world is to be human.

What could be more fulfilling? Being human is what we were designed to be.

So, what’s the problem? Humans have chosen another path, wanting to be superhuman. It makes us subhuman, for seeking power over each other destroys our humanity.

That’s the reason Ezekiel was in Babylon. That’s why Jesus was crucified. That’s the problem all the way back to Cain and Abel. It is challenging to live as a humans when others are being beasts.

This podcast (23 minutes) was recorded at Riverview Joondalup 2022-06-19.

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How church works (podcast)

What did early churches do when they gathered? The New Testament provides almost no direct description of the elements of their meetings. Why?

The Old Testament gives all the details of the tabernacle and its furnishings, the priests and their garments, the liturgies to be performed and the offerings acceptable to God. Why is the NT missing all these details? What’s different?

This podcast covers the only explicit list of things the early church did when it met:

1 Corinthians 14:26 (my translation, compare NIV)
What are we saying, family? When you gather, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let everything be focused on construction.

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Making God known (podcast)

In Australia today we’re seeing Christianity shrink back towards being a minority religion. How should we respond? What does God want us to do? How can we help people discover the invisible God?

The Book of Acts traces the development of the church from 120 Jewish believers to Rome. Within 400 years, it had reached Britain, the edge of the Empire. What did Christians do that was so credible while they were still a minority religion? What can we learn from how they followed Jesus?

What is the one thing we should focus on?

Continue reading “Making God known (podcast)”

What is Church? (podcast)

How would you describe the church? What does God expect us to be? Where do we focus our limited resources and efforts? These are crucial questions for our time.

This podcast looks at what the word ekklēsia meant before Christians used it to describe their meetings. Our identity is the people who gather around King Jesus. Our mission is implementing God’s government in his world. So, what should we do?

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Online church: virtual faith?

Is the future of the church online?

Church attendance was already declining in the West when COVID prevented many of us meeting. Online church became a way to stay in touch, express our faith, and hear encouragement from God’s word. So, is the future of the church online?

People were experimenting with online church before COVID. You could join a church in the virtual world, and even be baptized through your avatar (>1 million views).

What about online church? Could it be the salvation of the church in a world where people don’t want to or can’t attend?

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The Lord’s Supper challenges culture (1 Corinthians 11:17–34)

Why were the Corinthians “doing more harm than good” when they met?

Why do churches meet? If we’re not clear what we’re meeting for, we may do more harm than good:

1 Corinthians 11:17-21 (NIV)
17 Your meetings do more harm than good. 18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you …
20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk.

The heart of what’s wrong here is competition instead of community.

This isn’t unique to the church. From the Parents and Citizen’s committee of the local school to the political parties that want to run the country, competing groups are always after the best outcome for their faction. It’s how the politics of power works.

But the church embodies the culture of a different kingdom. We’re doing more harm than good if our gatherings reinforce existing culture instead of the king whose authority comes from the cross.

Continue reading “The Lord’s Supper challenges culture (1 Corinthians 11:17–34)”

Who are “my brothers?” (Matthew 25:40)

Who was Jesus expecting us to help when he said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”?

Who are Jesus’ brothers/sisters in this statement?

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40 NIV)

The context is where he’s sorting sheep from goats, based on how they took care of his needs. The sheep ask, “When did we ever see you in need and help you?” And that was the king’s response.

So, was Jesus thinking only of Christians as his brothers and sisters? Or did he have the whole human family in view? It matters, because the church needs to be clear about its mission. The answer you give reveals how you understand the scope of Jesus’ kingship.

Continue reading “Who are “my brothers?” (Matthew 25:40)”

Serving in God’s house (Matthew 24:45-51)

So, what is the church called to do? A practical answer from the Master of the house.

Okay, so you’re a pragmatic person, and you need to know what practical difference all this stuff about the coming of the son of man makes for how we live our lives now? This post is for you. Jesus answered your question at the end of Matthew 24.

So what does the king want his servants to do now in anticipation of the whole world under his care? Here’s what he does (and does not) want us to do. This is what serving Christ looks like:

Continue reading “Serving in God’s house (Matthew 24:45-51)”

We discovered we weren’t alone when we got stuck

Last week, we got bogged. At Willie Creek north of Broome, we turned onto a track that degraded into deep sand. I tried to turn around, but our front-wheel drive was never going to make it. It was an embarrassing, rookie mistake. What happened next blew me away.

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What “church” did Jesus expect? (Matthew 16:18)

There was no church at the time, so what did Jesus anticipate we would be? How does church relate to kingdom?

What did Jesus have in mind when he declared he would build his church (Matthew 16:18)?

Catholic hierarchy? Protestant associations? Street-corner buildings with good music? Organizations doing good in the community? A temple to replace the one Rome would destroy in Jerusalem?

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Peter as pope? (Matthew 16:18-19)

Did Jesus make Peter pope, with power to justify people?

Matthew 16 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (NIV)

To understand Jesus’ words, we must deal with the elephant in the room, the superstructure Catholics have built on them. These verses are central to Catholicism. Visit Capernaum today and you’ll see a larger-than-life statue of Peter with the keys (above). Visit the Vatican, and it’s a crucial image in the Sistine Chapel. Continue reading “Peter as pope? (Matthew 16:18-19)”

How to glorify God?

If God is great, what are we?

We know the chief aim of humanity is to glorify God. But how?

  1. Do we reflect God’s character in his world, so people see God in us?  OR
  2. Do we tell people to look at God and not at us, since we fall so far short of the glory of God?

Does our connection with God make us great too — God’s handiwork, the image of his character? Or would that approach make us prideful sinners who seek God’s glory for ourselves?

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Discovering church while there’s no church

What can we do while we can’t go to work, can’t go to church, can’t go to the gym, can’t go out with friends? It’s not just the activities we miss; it’s the meaning we find in sharing life. So, what meaning can we find while we can’t get together?

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Becoming human: life in Christ (Ephesians 4:1-16)

Read Ephesians 4:1-16

It’s easy to spend thousands on books and courses to help you become a better human. We’re preoccupied with how I can reach my potential and have the best life I can.

There’s a fatal flaw in that approach. What if my boss is a tyrant, or my spouse is a control freak? I can learn to disassociate, to isolate myself for my own sanity, but human flourishing is something we can only do together. Who can show us how to develop a better life together?

Let me recommend a book. It’s called Ephesians. It’s the good news that God is working to restore not just me but all of us together to become all he intended. Continue reading “Becoming human: life in Christ (Ephesians 4:1-16)”

Empowering the king’s servants (Ephesians 4:10-13)

The gospel of the Lord is the good news of his kingdom — his kingship restored to the earth in his anointed. Here it is in summary:

Ephesians 4 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe. (NIV)

The Bible’s whole story in that verse. Our heavenly sovereign entrusted his earthly realm to people who rebelled against his kingship and ended up as captives to evil instead. Instead of using force to defeat force, God’s anointed ruler joined us in our captivity, dying at the hands of the rulers who were puppets of evil. When God raised him out of death, the captives enslaved under death were set free — free to live in the reign of God’s anointed. When the king was restored to us, his kingdom was restored to the universe.

Since God designed humans to be agents of the divine sovereign’s reign in his earthly realm (Genesis 1), the Messiah restored this mandate to humanity. The resurrected king gave gifts to humanity. His gifts were people — people entrusted with the responsibility to share in his management of the planet, by leading humanity into communal life under his kingship:

Ephesians 4 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 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. (NIV)

This is unique. Any other ruler would have been wary of trusting power to ex-rebels, but Jesus entrusts his regal dominion to people, servants who empower the whole of humanity to grow up into Christ, our king.

Continue reading “Empowering the king’s servants (Ephesians 4:10-13)”