Who did we really lose in 2016?


Much hand wringing over ‘lost stars’ occurred as we saw 2016 out. Movie stars, pop stars, famous stars. Endless chatter about what a shocker of a year it has been……

But what will change? You will still have their tracks on CD, iPod, whatever. The blue-ray boxed disc set of the movie series is still on the shelf. And to be perfectly blunt that was about as much of a relationship you had with them anyway. More of them will die in 2017; we’re all getting older, and so are they.

What of those who lost a mum, a dad, a husband or wife? Spare a though for them. What about your own mum or dad, or grandma or pop? When did you last visit grandma? Have you made it a habit to have family dinner with mom and dad each week? Or are you too busy, or have you somehow allowed ‘famous singers and actors’ to displace mom and dad, grandma and pop?

Let me assure you, when you lose one of them, the loss will be immeasurably more than any collection of entertainers on a screen, or voices in your iPod.

Ring dad now, make a date for dinner, make it a habit. Plan that visit to grannie; yes it will cost you. It costs me money I can’t afford to go interstate to visit my mom twice a year, but I know for sure that I will regret it one day if I don’t.

Real relationships with your family are worth so much more than Netflix and iTunes accounts. Invest in them in 2017.


Reflections on Luke 11 – LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY. [#7]

praying-facebook(2) ..your kingdom come. 

How our hearts all cry AMEN! “Father, the pain of the struggles in this life ‘distanced from you’ is just too great. We all cry out from the depths of our hearts a cry of repentance. We each own personally the sin of our father and mother, Adam and Eve, the sin that created this gulf, the absence of your person visibly. ‘Your Kingdom come…’ your presence, voice, face; to engross and captivate every waking moment in that kingdom.”

Have you noticed that this instruction is so much shorter than the earlier teaching in Matthew 6? There Jesus instructs them (Mat 6:10 ESV)  “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

I wondered about that a long while, and allowed it to just ‘lay out there’ in my thoughts. I wonder if this shortened explanation of what to pray is a deliberate response to the natural inclination of us to ever want more and more detail, more and more explanation and knowledge.

In like manner Jesus reduced all the law down to its bare bones; ‘love God with all your heart, and love your neighbour as yourself.’

The way Jesus explains this praying for the kingdom allows for you to imagine and meditate as your heart leads, and me to do the same.

Will you not pause today and pray ‘your kingdom come?’ And stay with the thought awhile. Ask the Lord to show you some insight as to this mighty plea.

Reflections on Luke 11 – LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY. [#6]


(2) ..hallowed be your name, [continued]

It is difficult to pass on without wrestling to address this odd, archaic word just a little more.

“These hallowed halls…” Yes, that is about the only real life instance I remember of the word in use, as best I can recall in reference to some old and stately university building, steeped in history, feeling like it was still inhabited by those great scientists of old; Newton, Boyle, Lord Kelvin….

And it helped me to reflect on a connection between the word in Luke 11 and my memory of it in recent use, one in particular.

What effect did these ‘hallowed halls’ have on those passing through them? Well obviously reverence, respect, and a sense of peace and calm. Chewing gum on the floor and graffiti on the walls would be rare.

Now, if walking the corridors of an old institution could impart such emotions, would not a discipline of daily waking up to worship our creator instil in us a sense of calm and peace to carry us through the coming day? I sit here looking out the window at stately trees, late winter mist clearing in the dawns light, hundreds of birds greeting the day with joyful sounds. Is there not more to hallow there than in that musty old building?

Indeed ‘hallowing God’s name’ each day grounds us in these characteristics of reverence and respect, and prevents us from the greatest danger of all, becoming self-referencing. It is the characteristic of being ‘self-referencing’ that defines the anarchist, the destroyer of peace.

Yes, rather than being some selfish demand of God, it is ‘for us.’ As Matthew Henry says in his marvellous commentary “That man is a brute, is a monster, that never prays, that never gives glory to his Maker, nor feels his favour, nor owns his dependence upon him.”

Lord, hallowed be your name today….

Do not be surprised if the world hates you.

hate-1680x1050That’s right, don’t be surprised, alarmed, frightened or perplexed.

Nearly 2,000 years ago the ageing disciple John was writing a marvellously encouraging letter to his followers, full of pleas to love, and to have great hope. The letter bursts with the joy and hope we have in Christ. We are told again and again in various ways to ‘rest in Christ.’

And then, here in the middle of this letter, the comment, ‘Don’t be surprised if the world hates you.’ And then he moves right back to his exhortations to love one another and to abide/rest in Him.

What struck me reading this verse (3:13) is how fleeting this reference is, how incidental. That’s all he gives this fact that we so often agonise over, wringing our hands over every new evidence of ‘persecution of the church’ especially within the arena of our local and state governments.

No, John simply says ‘don’t be surprised by this hatred’ and goes right back to encouraging us to be tellers and demonstrators of the good news, the only real good news around.

I think that itself is worth us reflecting on. Am I exuding the joy of the good news? or am I exhibiting anxiety and peevishness that the ‘world is winning the culture war?’ You know, regardless of who is winning the so-called culture war, our job is still simple; to be and to tell the good news.

If you haven’t lately, read John’s stirring letters. Let them fill you afresh with confidence, peace, assurance.

Reflections on Luke 11 – LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY. [#5]


(2) ..hallowed be your name,

This is something fascinating isn’t it? It’s actually worded as a ‘petition.’ Now why would Jesus be asking us to pray this? Isn’t this selfish of God? Isn’t it a ‘grovelling’ kind of thing to be praying? After all if God is so great, isn’t he above any petty misuse of his name by us?

So what is this all about? Well, I’m no theologian, and having read some of the theological stuff on this petition I’m still not entirely satisfied by most of the explanations and conclusions. That’s probably my problem, not theirs, mind you. But one thing sticks out for me after a month of chewing the cud on this prayer.

Our first thought is that justice and peace on Earth would be more vital things to pray about. We humans don’t immediately connect that with this ‘hallowed be your name,’ UNTIL we stop and reflect how crazy this world is becoming, how unmoored from the old but vital values (virtue, respect, honour, justice, dignity of life) we have become, BECAUSE we have thrown the mooring cables to God’s rock of stability and meaning overboard. If there is not a holy and righteous creator, what point of any appeal to man to holiness and righteousness? And there’s the point!

Only if God is real, only if he is holy, only if he is equally omnipotent, loving, AND holy does life then demand to be lived through these values of virtue, kindness, justice etc. Virtues that are subjective and mirages, whimsy; virtues grounded in God’s omnipotence and holiness are gripping and persuasive. Indeed, our mission, our ‘good news’ revolves around the hallowing of God’s name.

I find in these four words also a kind of ‘falling in behind God’ in the request, “Lord, make your name holy. And help me to treat it as holy, and extoll it so!”

“But Robbie, that might be true for you…”


More than once they were the words of my mother in response to my side of a discussion.

I understand that what she was really saying was that ‘that is your opinion.’ However something deeper is happening in society today. We have dislodged the word truth from its former granite plinth. The very word itself is now propositional, something ‘we’ create or define in accordance with our feelings.

What do you think? What is ‘truth?’

Reflections on Luke 11 – LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY. [#4]


(2)  He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father,

Oh dear, what worlds of wisdom, what depths of grace, what infinity of assurance, what weight of love there is in this one word from our Saviour.

Many years ago now I was on an interstate bus, overnight. The young lady sitting next to me turned out to be a Jehovah’s Witness. And she was on fire to evangelise, me being the target. I was tired and weary and not long into my own life of understanding the gospel. I recall so vividly her excitement in asking me if I knew ‘God’s REAL name.’ This young lady couldn’t contain her excitement in sharing this wonderful news. God’s real name was Jehovah, as revealed in Old Testament texts.

Today, in that same circumstance I KNOW what my response would be; “Yes, that’s wonderful knowledge, and there is much to learn in understanding that Old Testament name. But you want to know an even better secret? Jesus came and revealed a BRAND NEW name for God to the world. After thousands of years of calling God Yahweh/Jehovah do you know the radical new and special name he revealed? The name that will change forever how you relate to God once you know and understand it?  ….It’s ‘Father’”

Father! What amazement must the disciples have felt. A whole nation for thousands of years relating to God in a word not dared to be even spoken. Mystery, a veil between, trembling at the foot of the mountain still, and Jesus prays ‘Father.’ WOW! A new world has begun; the gates to Heavens grace are flung open in the sound of this one word – Father.

Reflections on Luke 11 – LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY. [#3]


 (1) When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” 

I want to pause and take a step back for an overview before looking at the detail.

One benefit of staying with a passage and soaking in it is the clarity brought to ones mind.

Here in this exchange Jesus is asked a wonderful thing, ‘teach us to pray.’ And in his response is clearly in two parts: verses 2-4 where he tells them/us WHAT to pray for, and verses 5-13 where he tells them/us HOW to pray. Yes, it really is that simple. If we remember this clear fact of the passage we are saved from much error, much confusion born of reading verses out of context. When reading verses 5-13 we often forget that Jesus has JUST told us WHAT to be praying for J

Before my next post feel free to read Luke 11 yourself with this clear framework in mind. It really is illuminating.

Reflections on Luke 11 – LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY. [#2]

praying-facebook (1) When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” 

As we dig deeper into this amazing scene two things strike me here in the second part of verse 1. Why did that disciple ask him to teach them, and what of the reference to John?

Did they know what John had taught his disciples about prayer? If so then there was obviously something ‘different’ about what they observed in Jesus as he was praying. In any case, the very look of Jesus in prayer drew them to ask, ‘Lord, teach us.’

I sense a flavour of awe and intrigue in that request, men attracted irresistibly to the sight.

A sight of what? Power? Deep intimacy? Aura of holiness? One can only imagine and speculate, but what a joy to do so, to reflect

……..and to ask with that disciple, ‘Lord, teach me to pray?’

Plebiscites, presidents, public discourse, and prayer.

Acts 4

So much debate, so much angst, such rancour; and that’s just among the Christians, let alone in any interaction with those on the other side of these issues.

The plebiscite on marriage equality. A question to all the Aussie Christians pinning their hopes on ‘winning’ the possible upcoming plebiscite. Is that where your hope is? Still having a majority?

And Presidents. Yes, I know it is America, but oh how we Aussies are all in a tizz over the upcoming presidential elections. Not to mention the tizz we are in watching our own political machinations in Canberra. Another question. Is this what we Christians have descended to? Arguing over who is the lesser of two evils?

And if it is not these two ‘Earth shattering’ issues, Christians can always agonise over our eviction from the public space and the relentless secularisation of all public discourse.

Want to know something? We’ve been here before, and many times. Read your Bibles, turn off 90% of the news and current affairs you are watching (the headlines generally suffice to keep you up with what is going on), get on your knees, AND SHARE THE GOOD NEWS!

Yep, it really is that simple.

But hard.

Let me explain. It is simple because that is what our Lord asks of us, to connect with him and learn to do life HIS way. It is hard because we seem to have already been brainwashed to fight the world WITH the world’s weapons, and we don’t want to lay them down. It’s hard to walk away from our pet battles and quiet ourselves in prayer and communion. It is hard to trust God when all around us seems to be going to pot. Like Peter we want to get up and swing a sword or two.

Want to be encouraged to take this life changing leap into real peace and real action for the Kingdom? Let’s look at the very first example in the early church. If we take note of what they did, and the results, we might just want to lay aside most of what we are presently doing.

Act 4:1-3  The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people.  (2)  They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.  (3)  They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day.

Whoa, jail? Yes, jail! That’s how things started for us folks. That’s pretty much how it has been ever since for 2,000 years, except for a few times when we ended up in the majority, and that never lasted. It always went back to us getting slung in jail.

So let me say this as kindly as possible, us getting slung in jail is the normal Christian life over the past 2,000 years. The times such as in the English speaking world the past 250 years has been so constant FOR US that we miss this. And just maybe the fact that we got so used to ‘our normal’ that we have lost something of the fire that Christians in the rest of the world have while they live with getting slung into jail fairly regularly. Did you ever suspect that maybe God doesn’t want us to stay in the ‘majority role’ anymore?

But there’s more in this story, and it’s to do with how we should respond to what the world wants to do to Christians (sling them into jail, that is) Let’s read on in Acts 4 some more

Act 4:7  They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”

Yep, up before the magistrate.

Act 4:8-12  Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people!  (9)  If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed,  (10)  then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.  (11)  Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’  (12)  Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Well that’s one way to win friends and influence people isn’t it? Let’s give those prosecutors even more ammunition!

Anyway, at the end of this episode three things are worth noting.

FirstAct 4:18  Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.

Just like you and I are ordered not to speak about Jesus in the public arena today in so many settings.

Now, I want to pause from the narrative for a moment here and ask; what would we do in this kind of circumstance? Go to our local MP? Start up a petition? See a lawyer? Maybe get together a protest march? That’s always popular (and makes us feel good too). Or remind ourselves that we need to get politically savvy and use ‘our influence.’

Well, what did the early church do? Let’s return to the story.

Second – Act 4:19-20  But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges!  (20)  As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

You know, I don’t see any agonising here, no indignation as to their rights being trampled. Just plain simple ‘stepping over the top of the garbage’ evangelism if I can put it that way.

Oh, you’re gonna beat us up? Let me tell you about Jesus.

You’re gonna put us in jail you say? Let me tell you about what we saw, Jesus.

Thirdly – Act 4:23-25  On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them.  (24)  When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.  (25)  You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: “‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?

Not just Peter and John, but the whole church immediately figured out that this opposition and threatening was a cause of rejoicing, read right through to verse 31, it is simply AMAZING! Not a hint of political action, just praise and rejoicing and worship, filled with the Holy Spirit.

So dear brothers and sisters, instead of agonising over some of today’s political and social storms how about pulling together into Holy Spirit filled praying, sharing and rejoicing in the opportunities to preach the good news. Yes, even if and when it gets you ‘slung in jail.’