Sunday, December 10, 2006

A risky God

Great quote on the Prodigal Kiwi blog, and one that echoes my feelings after seeing The Nativity with my mate Darrell on Friday.

It struck me that Jesus was such a risk-taker. Of all children born, he had a choice, and he put himself into the most dire and risky environment. And also risked Joseph and Mary's lives too.

It's a call to adventure. Too often it seems like simply a call to the oppressively impossible. It's impossible sure enough, but that should give us inspiration. Not despair.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Are we ready to welcome the Church of the Mongrel Mob?

Are we ready to welcome the Church of the Mongrel Mob?

Very cool. And very challenging. Sam Chapman, whom I have met, has lived his life in community for as long as I've heard of him. This is not mere talk, this is shared life. And it's working, as this article shows. I thank God for what He's doing through Sam et al, and ask, what can/should I do?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Slate blogs the Bible. - By David Plotz - Slate Magazine

Slate blogs the Bible. - By David Plotz - Slate Magazine

This is very cool. Just heard about this on NPR's On the Media podcast. David Plotz is going through the Bible, verse by verse, and blogging about it.

Sounds like he's taken some flak for reading and interpreting the Bible unmediated, mostly from rabbis. However I believe the Bible - mysterious as it is - speaks for itself. I hope David finds the Bible reading him as he reads it.

Monday, November 13, 2006


Got some fancy new shoes on the weekend after my other ones fell to pieces. They're nice - they measured my feet and how I stood beforehand. Good feeling, knowing you're stepping into something that's made for you.

Made me think about how the Christian life is referred to as a walk. It takes persistence, but it also means God has prepared my path. I don't know if He's given me cushioned soles though!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

What repentance looks like

You can read Ted Haggard's apology to his congregation here.

I didn't know much about Ted Haggard except that he was high profile in the US Christian community and also featured in Jesus Camp.

It was really sad to hear of another Christian leader's fall, and hypocrisy. Sad because of the harm it does to Christianity's image, but sad too because it makes me think of the things not yet sorted in my life. There but for the grace of God go I - even if not in the same way.

But what gives me hope is the truly repentant tone of Haggard's letter. There is no PR spin here, nor is there deflection of blame. This is what repentance looks like, and although it's scandalous that this has happened at such a high level of leadership and therefore responsibility, truth is we are all very broken people. It'll be interesting to see the church's response to this, although at the same time that's best kept behind closed doors and not made into a media circus.

Interesting and insightful analysis from Gordon McDonald here.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


Just spring-cleaning my desk and found a quote I'd scribbled down. I don't remember who said it but it was a guest on In the Studio with Michael Card:

"We wouldn't know Him (God) for all that He is, if we didn't see Him in and through all that He made."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

More thoughts on "The New Atheism"

Continuing from the last post, a few more thoughts.

"Everything you hinge your life upon is false"
According to the article, a lot of self-identified agnostics are really "polite atheists" who are shy of declaring their atheism because, in effect, it says to their believing friends: "Everything you hinge your life upon is false."

That may seem a bit on the nose, but it didn't faze me. Because, in effect, that's what I'm doing to people with a naturalistic worldview when I present Christianity - real Christianity - as a coherent, rational worldview with moral consequences. That's why I don't present it unsolicited too often - because if it's real, sorry, if Christ is real, then He will change your whole life and belief system, not just become an add-on to your life.

Yet how many people have not heard this? They make a commitment expecting it to be X, and then hear later that it's supposed to be Y. No wonder it's hard going for some, and many have been turned off church forever.

Why Wired?
I heard an excellent podcast (which I got through iTunes' feed, and can't find on Wired's podcast blog!) in which Wired's managing editor (I think?) interviewed Gary Wolf, the author of the article. In it, the managing editor asked, "Why is this a Wired article?"

Wolf answered along the lines that the Wired economy is built on technology, which in turn is built on science, and that these Intelligent Design people are standing in the way of true science.

It's an easy statement to make, but it's utter bollocks.

Another podcast I've been listening to, Intelligent Design the Future, seems to be a lone voice trying to remind the media that:
  • Intelligent design is as fair a conclusion to draw from nature as evolution
  • Scientists who believe in ID are still scientists
  • Intelligence in design doesn't necessarily mean the designer is supernatural
  • These scientists often face censure from their colleagues for not toeing the Darwinist line
  • It's Galileo all over again, but this time the Darwinist majority takes the place of the Catholic Church, getting really mad with those who dispute their dogma
On that third point, intelligence in design doesn't necessarily mean the designer is supernatural, sometimes words get in the way of real understanding.

If you're an atheist or an agnostic reading this, how about we substitute the word "supernatural" with "extradimensional"? Does that make the picture any more plausible to your scientific understanding?

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Interesting article on "The New Atheism"

A very thought-provoking read from Wired Magazine on "The New Atheism". I admire the author's honesty with the shortcomings of the anti-faith and its proponents. As expected, the article didn't go very deep into the "other side", instead simply paying a visit to a charismatic, not very intellectually rigorous church.

Still, even with that, this article doesn't give me cause to worry about my faith. The logic is impeccable - if God is not real, then don't act like God is real, be an atheist. And the counterargument should give religious people food for thought: if God is real, live like it, don't just play at it.

People like Dawkins pour scorn on agnosticism, yet I believe agnosticism is also a viable, if uncomfortable, place to be. I'm realising myself that, as Henry Blackaby says in Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing His Will, Truth is revealed, not discovered. I'm learning stuff in the past few weeks that I thought I knew for 15 years.

Ultimately, my personal argument against atheism is my relationship with my Creator. It's not empirically verifiable, and that's okay. But it is something I need to walk out every day, otherwise I undermine what I'm saying here.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The world's best-selling book, minus the main character

I think modern, secular Western culture doesn't quite know what to do with God. We have two millennia of Christianity's undeniable influence and yet, in intellectual circles anyway, we have banished him or explained him away.

Perhaps this is part of the thinking behind The Honey and the Fires: Ancient Stories retold for our Times.

It's "a modern, secular retelling of some of the most powerful stories from the Bible", according to its publisher the ABC.

On one hand, I'm pleased. People who may otherwise ignore the immense spiritual and cultural heritage available in the Bible will get a glimpse of the exciting tales told between its covers.

On the other hand, something very important is missing here. God!

It begs the question: can you have the Bible without God? And in many places the author, playwright Roger Pulver, does a beautiful God. But the heroes of the Bible included here: Joseph, Daniel, Esther ... all did their acts of courage because of a belief and a relationship with their Creator.

Mixed feelings. But the best thing you can say about anything is that it makes you think. It makes me think, how often have I tried to live life without God - it appears a lot less complicated, after all!

But inevitably his Reality comes crashing into my life, full of grace and mercy. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Checking in: cartoons, PK, and Worldview

Just a brief hello, more to come soon (hopefully!)

I've finished Derek Prince's War in Heaven (review to come), read and finished Arthur Katz' Ben Israel - veeeeeery interesting - been to Promise Keepers, and begun reading How Now Shall We Live? Also very interesting.

I also met Brendan aka Jim the cartoonist at a recent PR event. Lots of overlapping experiences and different perspectives - hope to keep in touch with him regularly.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Fodder for Christian writers and artists

Some food for thought for Christians who want to write and create art that touches people of all persuasions.

First up, an interview with screenwriter and professor Craig Detweiler about film, and a 2-part interview with CS Lewis, possibly the last he ever gave, here and here.

Some gems:

What lessons would you most like to see Christian filmmakers learn?

Detweiler: We surely don't need any more End Times films. We don't need any more films that mean what they say and say what they mean. I think we have to discover the lost art of subtlety and subtext.

At Biola, we start our filmmakers with visual aesthetics. We let them know that film is not meant to be an illuminated Bible. This is an art form that is visual by design. It does not need words to convey the message. What I'd like us to do is figure out what lighting, sound, color, props, and set design say. I'd like us to discover the power of silent film, to discover how Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc worked and continues to work, how Sunrise continues to work, how The Last Laugh continues to work.


Wirt: Can you suggest an approach that would spark the creation of a body of Christian literature strong enough to influence our generation?

Lewis: There is no formula in these matters. I have no recipe, no tablets. Writers are trained in so many individual ways that it is not for us to prescribe. Scripture itself is not systematic; the New Testament shows the greatest variety. God has shown us that he can use any instrument. Balaam’s ass, you remember, preached a very effective sermon in the midst of his ‘hee-haws.’


Lewis: There is a character in one of my children’s stories named Aslan, who says, ‘I never tell anyone any story except his own.’ I cannot speak for the way God deals with others; I only know how he deals with me personally


Wirt: Do you believe that the Holy Spirit can speak to the world through Christian writers today?

Lewis: “I prefer to make no judgment concerning a writer’s direct ‘illumination’ by the Holy Spirit. I have no way of knowing whether what is written is from heaven or not. I do believe that God is the Father of lights -- natural lights as well as spiritual lights (James 1:17). That is, God is not interested only in Christian writers as such. He is concerned with all kinds of writing. In the same way a sacred calling is not limited to ecclesiastical functions. The man who is weeding a field of turnips is also serving God.”

Prayer in Parliament

I was checking out TVNZ's live Parliament video feed the other day, and was taken aback by the beautiful words of the prayer uttered when Parliament begins:

Almighty God, humbly acknowledging our need for thy guidance in all things, and laying aside all private and personal interests, we beseech thee to grant that we may conduct the affairs of this House and of our country to the glory of thy holy name, the maintenance of true religion and justice, the honour of the Queen and the public welfare, peace and tranquillity of New Zealand, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Wouldn't that be a fantastic prayer to pray, if people meant it?

I was also surprised at the explicit reference to Jesus Christ. This is a deity-specific prayer, as opposed to the usual "Oh my God" you may hear sometimes.

Apparently, there's a move afoot to remove Christ's name from the prayer, and predictably there's opposition, as this article details.

It's an interview with David Major, who's had a lot of influence in the political world. A quote:
In the 1990s Mr. Major was chief executive of the National Party under Prime Ministers Jim Bolger and Jenny Shipley. He said saying grace was a regular feature of dinner parties at Premier House, whereas now grace was not even said at a state banquet.

“All that’s come to a halt, and we’ve let it happen.”
I'm concerned at this attitude. As Christians, shouldn't we be more concerned that the prayer is being spoken and assented to by people who mostly don't have any relationship with God? Isn't that taking the Lord's name in vain?

So if there's a move to take Christ's name out of the official prayer, I would support it. Sadly, because the ideal is that everyone may know Christ for who He really is. But sadly, I suspect all this prayer will remind people of is New Zealand's historical roots, and a religion that used to make sense.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Lessons from my cat

Millie's a boy with a girl's name. Long story.

But he teaches us a lot about God.

I used to read the Psalms and hear songs where it says, "I seek your face, O God."

It was one of those phrases that just washes over you unless you think about it.

Until one cold night, when Millie wanted to cuddle up in bed. He literally sought my face, tickling my nose with his whiskers in the process.

Why does he like my face? It's probably not as warm as my armpit, or as soft as my belly. But Millie seems to understand how I'm feeling when he looks at my face.

Communicative creature, isn't he?

And I guess that's what we're all about too. Communication. Connection. I've even written about it today on my other blog.

But how often do I forget that my relationship with God is a relationship? Because I deal with information all the time, sometimes I feel the answer to my spiritual needs comes from more information. It's not so.

Just relaxing and realising that I am always in the presence of a Friend is all it takes.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Capes Fear

(Not a misprint; I'm talking in plural, like the womens).

For Marie's psycho studies, we had to analyse several films and get some psychological themes from them.

An ideal assignment! I was glad to offer my two cents with this.

First one was Finding Forrester, the next one was Martin Scorcese's 1991 remake of Cape Fear (1962).

Both of these movies are so well-made, and Scorcese's version (or let's say writer Wesley Strick's version) so deeply layered, that it was very disappointing for me to feel that the story is ultimately unprofitable on a philosophical or personal level.

I guess that's a roundabout way of saying that both Marie and I felt a bit like we'd wasted two good hours after watching this. It was certainly exciting, terrifying, plumbed the depths of the human psyche, but ultimately it had nothing to redeem it, not even a protagonist we can sympathise with.

In the behind-the-scenes featurette, Nick Nolte says that it's about stripping away the masks we wear, and sometimes violent suffering is the only way to do that. I guess so, Nick, but I'd prefer to get that message from a film like Sideways, which does it in a much gentler but still powerful way.

Strick's version of Cape Fear is achingly empty of hope. Danielle's voiceover at the end is a message of stoicism, a message of just pressing on.

From a how-to-make-a-movie department, there were some great touches. Layering the Max Cady character as a psychotic, Bible-quoting avenging angel was an interesting touch that made his character really, really scary, as well as his superhuman strength.

Using the original music from 1962 was inspired, but also made the movie idiosyncratic, perhaps too much for mainstream audiences in 1991. However, Scorcese says it was the movie that earned him the most money of all his films.

Psychological themes aplenty here, though:
  • Fear
  • Obsession
  • Sexuality
  • Repression
  • Deception
  • Dysfunctional families
That's just a few.

Because we were so dissatisfied with the remake, we thought we'd check out the original. What a difference 30 years makes!

Not that we really liked the original that much, but it's very telling about the acceptable standards of culture at the time. The original can't even say the word "rape", yet the remake shows some pretty gruesome verbal and visual violence (nothing explicit though, except Robert de Niro taking a bite out of Illeana Douglas' cheek).

The original was much simpler and more straightforward than the remake, but the acting was top notch. Robert Mitchum especially is such a great actor. Was, rather. Shame.

However, again with this one I wondered why? It's another entertaining, terrifying wild ride, but at the end the only message I get out of it is that some people are so bad they should be locked in a cage forever. What's so great about that?

Maybe I should stop looking for the transcendent or the uplifting in every movie, and just see how well they've designed their roller-coaster ride. However, knowing a tiny bit about how hard it is to make a movie, I really wonder what's in some people's heads who just go crazy over this sort of story.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Politics and Christians

I don't understand why so-called liberal people, who would no doubt like to be thought of as open-minded, have only one category for evangelical Christians: people like George W Bush.

Over on the Journz email list that I'm part of, the conversation steered towards the current debate in NZ schools about religion vs. spirituality. It didn't take long before the discussion turned towards state religion, and fear and loathing of evangelicals.

On the one hand, they have a point. Christians have a bad track record when you give us power. Point taken.

On the other hand, I asked people to explain their fear and loathing of Christians - particularly ones who take the Bible literally, particularly if they come from America.

It makes me mad - but that's not likely to help.

My theory is, most of these people - and I'm generalising here - have some form of Christian background. May have been Sunday School lessons as a child, or a Christian grandparent, or whatever.

Whatever their exposure to cultural Christianity, they feel it is a thorough enough exploration of the faith and therefore warrants no further investigation. Their early experiences - often unpleasant - effectively immunises them against the true gospel.

What's the true Gospel? How long have you got?

Seriously, though, I've come to realise that while doctrine is fairly important here, what's most important is to see the message incarnated. Lived out by a real person. Otherwise it makes very little sense.

I'm helped in understanding this emergent viewpoint by What's So Amazing About Grace, particularly its chapter on Christians in politics. Some quotes:

"The church... is not the master or servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool."
Martin Luther King, Jr.

"A coziness between church and state is good for the state and bad for the church."
So my sense of mission this week - every week - is to seek opportunities to courageously live out my faith, choosing actions that will be backed up by the words of God.

Christianity & Islam - religions of peace?

I often hear people - Muslim and non-Muslim - saying that Islam should not be judged by its extremists like Osama bin Laden, any more than Christians should be judged by the Crusades, the Inquisitions or even the current US Government.

Is that a fair comparison? This article in Christianity Today draws on primarily Islamic scholarship to contrast the two belief systems' approach to war.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Sex-crazed culture

Breasts are wonderful things. But the main street of Auckland's largest city is not really an appropriate place for them.

What's strange is the overwhelmingly good publicity the mainstream media has given the "Boobs on Bikes" parade. From the NZ Herald to Newstalk ZB, the coverage has been nominally neutral, but has made opposition to the parade sound hypocritical. This interview with city councillor Noeleen Raffils makes her sound stupid (although she didn't help much by citing an anecdote that seemed irrelevant), and then a follow-up interview with parade organiser Steve Crow is on very friendly terms.

People talked about the parade as if it weren't linked into the Erotica Lifestyles Expo, a promotional tool for the porn industry. Steve Crow is full of it when he talks about freedom of speech. Porn is not about freedom of choice any more than smoking is about freedom of choice. You choose to get in, and it's a very hard choice to get out.

Instead of championing the Larry Flynts and Steve Crows of this world, let's recognise them for what they are: misled people misleading others to indulge their desires and fulfil their needs in an inappropriate way. Their attempts to normalise porn makes a mockery of the sacredness of sex and sexuality. Why don't we see this?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Who says no one goes to church?

Who says no one goes to church? - an interesting article from Challenge Weekly.

Particularly sad and interesting was this quote:

"Wayne Kirkland, of Signpost Communications, says there is little doubt that people are responding to Jesus’ invitation to be his disciples.

“However, for every one of these new disciples, perhaps six or seven others have either failed to become established or have dropped out after some time. Regardless of how many of these ‘dropouts’ were ‘genuinely converted’ in the first place, we have a tragedy of major proportions.

“Thousands of New Zealanders are tasting something of Christianity and rejecting it. Thus, thousands are becoming inoculated against genuine attempts to reach them in the future.”

That's echoing the thoughts going through my head about how many people don't get a chance to really know what the Gospel is really about; instead, they get exposed to something that is close enough to fool an outside observer, but lacks the credibility which the 1st century Gospel had.

It's not because the Gospel's changed, it's just that its proponents - people like me - have not lived out the Message in all its fulness.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

What is Worldview?

I recently bought a copy of Chuck Colson and Nancy Pearsey's How Now Shall We Live? It's all about worldview, a term I used to hear frequently during my time in Christian radio. I never gave it much thought back then, because I was working with people whose worldview is similar to mine.

In recent years as I got more philosophical in my thinking, I resisted the idea of learning a "Christian worldview". It sounded like brainwashing, sort of, "you can't think for yourself, let us tell you what The Church thinks about this, and don't bother thinking for yourself."

But that's an easy caricature to paint, and one that plays into the hands of a secular humanistic worldview, which is often just as dogmatic.

Instead, I've discovered a need, a hunger in myself to know what a Biblical worldview is. Why can't I just read the Bible and figure it out for myself? Well, I could, but it might take my whole life. Why not stand on the shoulders of others, and get a bigger picture?

For me, worldview is about connecting the dots. I know where I stand on issues like abortion, marriage and homosexuality. But how about the areas I regularly write about for a living, like marketing, technology and business?

I can form my own opinions, but reading on worldview helps guide my thinking. It's not about dictating, but it is about presenting the evidence so I can decide.

I haven't started the book yet; I'll let you know how it goes!

Monday, July 31, 2006

Let's talk about sex

Our sexuality is central to who we are, so it's no wonder that the media and advertising uses it so much to get our attention.

Well, Christians are no different from the rest of the world in that respect, and I was part of a packed house at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Saturday to talk about sex - specifically healing from sexual brokenness - at a meeting organised by Living Waters NZ.

It's so encouraging that there are many people willing to discuss this whole issue at the core of who we are, openly.

More later on this, but I was really really challenged by the words of Tony Dolph-something (my apologies, can't find his name and I didn't write it down properly).

He said we buy into the world's way of thinking when we seek happiness as the highest good. God never calls us to happiness necessarily, but to a relationship with Him.

When I put it like that it seems very bald and unattractive, but at the time it was very compelling. And still is; I just struggle to explain what a profound change of my thinking this represents.

Like I say, more on this later.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

So someone reads this!

I got an email from someone who actually reads this! Wow. And not just someone, the editor of NZ Netguide, Nige Horrocks.

Made my day, and encouraged me to post again. But what to write about...?

It's not like there's not a lot going on on the spiritual front - in fact God's very busy doing stuff in me... but where to start?

I'll start with what I'm reading right now: What's so amazing about grace?

It's a classic. When I was working at Rhema many years ago I heard about it all the time, yet I haven't read it. Until now.

It's good, very good. Re-emphasising the lessons on God's grace - which is a word in danger of losing its meaning, because when you understand grace, it is crazy. It is amazing.

That's it for now, tune in next time for more...

Monday, July 10, 2006

Thoughts on truth

I recently finished partly reading Why Truth Matters, an exhausting philosophical look at why our society urgently needs objective truth.

What puzzled me was that I was reading familiar arguments for absolute objective truth, from a secular humanistic point of view.

Tres strange!

In particular this quote caught my attention:

"...[E]nquiry, curiosity, interest, investigation, explanation-seeking, are hugely important components of human happiness. This doesn't seem to be a terribly popular thought right now. Public rhetoric tends to aim much lower, for some reason. It seems to see us all as hunkered down, and settling. Settling for minimal, parochial, almost biological satisfactions - family, safety, money. But that underestimates us. We want more than that. We want to ask questions, we want to learn, we want to understand. That's a very human taste and pleasure. ... It seems a waste not to use human capacities and abilities. Anyone can settle for just survival and reproduction and comfort, but we can do more. That's a privilege - and it seems a kind of sacrilege not to use it."

They're facing the same problem faced by philosophers in the 19th century. Remove God from the equation, you can do that with your head, but your heart still wants something sacred. And if you're removed the source of all sacredness, all you have are more questions. And questions only get you so far.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Truth or lack thereof

I sat in a room at the top of the building with a woman yesterday.

Well, actually it was three women - well, two women, one girl - and a man.

The room was one of the Disputes Tribunal rooms at Auckland District Court. The man was a referee, or arbiter, or I don't actually know his title.

One woman was my mum, witness to the event that brought us there.

The other woman was Brenda, driver of "the other car". The girl was her daughter, witness to her side of the story.

It was an interesting experience.

I said Brenda's car hit mine. She said my car hit hers.

It made me think ... how do I deal with people of different belief systems from my own?

My family members, my wife, my friends at church, my work colleagues... all believe some things at odds with what I believe.

Most times, those beliefs are not that important.

But in this case, the belief had consequences. My belief meant I shouldn't pay for the damage (her car was undamaged). Her belief meant I should.

I wanted to get along with her, be on the same page, etc. But I could not accept her truth.

How about the many people I come across every day whose opinions differ from mine on key issues, like:
  • whether God exists
  • whether Jesus is the messiah
  • whether Jesus is God
  • whether Jesus rose from the dead
  • whether there is an objective Truth or just many truths
  • a whole host of other stuff coming out of that...

I'm learning the difference between communicating in an understanding way... and agreeing with, celebrating or championing the beliefs of the other.

Understanding is a whole lot different from agreement.

Many of my fellow Christians need to learn the understanding side; too often I've heard people who appear good arguers but that's only because they don't really hear what the other side is saying. They pick holes and technicalities and win the war of words, but not of hearts.

I'm kind of coming from the other end of the spectrum.

I'm learning to be steadfast in my own beliefs, still seeking to understand, but not violating my beliefs by leaving assumptions unchallenged.

Monday, May 15, 2006


That book says Constantine is the mastermind behind what we know as orthodox Christianity. Here's a brief bio:

Christian History - Constantine - 131 Christians Everyone Should Know

Another theme that's coming up with all the DVC discussion is who cares if Jesus got married?

Good point. I know it does matter, and I'm going to do some thinking about that and post some stuff here.

Another Da Vinci resource

The Da Vinci Code: A Biblical Response --

What's great about this is the at-a-glance refutation of points made in the book.

I am so renting this movie when it comes out on DVD. I'm not going to bother going to the cinema to see it though.

The da Vinci-ing continues...

Christians crack | Movies | Breaking News 24/7 - (15-05-2006)

In the above story, the last quote says it all...

Adds Lutzer of Chicago's Moody Church: "There is a huge battle going on today on who has the best telling of the Christian story.

"People want to believe the Da Vinci Code so badly because they want a Christ who is manageable, a Jesus that is not going to challenge you or threaten your lifestyle."

Ain't that the truth!

Friday, May 12, 2006

The inevitable da Vinci code post

I haven't read the book, I haven't seen the movie (obviously, since it hasn't come out yet!) ... but it's pretty much impossible to avoid the da Vinci Code....

On the one hand there are those who claim to be open minded, insisting Christians should see it - what do we have to fear?

Then there are Christians saying we should see it so we're informed of what's going on.

Then there are Christians saying don't support it, it's not worth it!

Here's what I posted to an email discussion group recently:

"The da Vinci Code is compelling because who wouldn't want to challenge the authority figures that have dominated western european history? But the history behind it to my understanding is very flimsy.

No I haven't read Holy Blood, Holy Grail, and yes I am a born again Christian, so I am probably biased.

But I'd also contend that many of those who really love the idea behind dVC are also biased against traditional Christianity, and relishing a chance to "get back" at it, feeling threatened by the perceived danger of "the Christian right".

What's great though is that it has got many people on all levels communicating about the subject matter. There's a whole smattering of Christian websites that have come up since the movie was announced, including:

Hopefully people who fear all evangelical Christians are rabid proselytes who can't handle a bit of digging for the truth, will see that not all Christians are fanatics and are, in fact, quite human. "

Thursday, May 11, 2006

News story: Woman dies of starvation trying to emulate Christ

Woman dies of starvation trying to emulate Christ - 11 May 2006 - World News

An example of a sensationalist headline that makes Christians sound and look like weirdos.

When I actually read the story I discovered:

* They haven't determined the cause of death - so it's not certain that starvation was the reason
* She comes from a family who encouraged her in her faith, didn't see fasting as unusual
* She sounds like a normal, well-adjusted person: "she was a 'bubbly' person, who always dressed fashionably and was good with children."

Strange things to point out, but proof that Rosaline Gilbert was not a kook, nevertheless.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

starving jesus

starving jesus

I'm kinda liking this!

Nice verse in a rocky chapter

There are some Bible chapters that are quite rough because they ... well, they disagree with me.

Quite a problem, I know. You get this view of how life should be, and then along comes a chapter like Acts 20.

Here I am with my paradigm of what our calling should be like - kinda warm and fuzzy, and fun, lots of fun.

Then here's the apostle Paul telling a group of his friends that he has served them with "humility" and "tears". That he's looking forward to "prison" and "hardships". That he'll "never see" his friends again.

It's a bit grim, to say the least.

But in the midst of it, there's a gem. Paul blesses his friends, and I want to grab this verse and ask God for the same kind of blessing today:
Now I'm turning you over to God, our marvelous God whose gracious Word can make you into what he wants you to be and give you everything you could possibly need in this community of holy friends.
There's a phrase I've heard twice in the last week: "If it's to be, it's up to me." This is only half true. I'm on a journey of knowing the real God - the God who can make me into what he wants me to be.

It's less comfortable than the mere idea of God, but I'd rather have the genuine article than a cheap copy any day.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

God is a multi-dimensional character

Excellent musing from Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) about how God is not a flat character, but sometimes we would like him to be. Particularly of interest to me because of my learnings in filmmaking and drama.


"A flat character merely exists to embody a particular quality or personify and abstract idea. These are the characters that serve as plot devices or provide a foil to the round characters. The very best writing includes very few flat characters.

I believe that one of the reasons many readers are puzzled by the actions of God portrayed in the Bible is that they really expect God to be a flat character rather than a round one. Many of us consider the existence of God to be a logical necessity, but this does not mean that God is an impersonal "first cause." It can be easy to think of God as the abstract sum of his attributes, but the Scriptures portray Him as having emotions and motivations."

Read more

Monday, April 24, 2006


Blogger seems to be acting up.

Brands: The new faith?

On B&T Sally Robertson is talking about brands being the new version of religious faith.

It's not the first time I've thought of this. There's definitely a crossover between the general secularisation of society, and businesses trying to fill the gap left behind.

That's why movies like Kingdom of Heaven didn't do well. They're trying to make something epic, something transcendental, yet the core value of that movie is secularism. Honour without God. It just doesn't work - even for viewers who agree in their heads.

I was talking with a new friend on the weekend about my time of questioning and searching in the past few years. I told him a philosophy of agnosticism is attractive because you don't have to worry about whether God exists, what he requires, how he communicates and which holy book is the truth. You just figure out what works for you, and let everyone get on with their lives.

It's so appealing, and so simple. But it's not founded in reality. Truth is, I couldn't stay in that space. I still knew God existed, and it's rude to ignore someone when you know they're right there in the room with you.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Happy Belated Easter!

(I've never been much for keeping dates and times... just as well Colossians says "do not let anyone judge you ... with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day"!)

Easter weekend was good. Friday - Good Friday - was a day spent in deep discussion with Marie about our hopes, dreams and goals.

Saturday night we went to church. Because theSanctuary meets in a church building that's shared by multiple congregations, they couldn't do a Good Friday or Easter Sunday service, so Saturday was everything rolled into one.

There was supposed to be an Easter message, but circumstances beyond our control etc. meant that it was just an extended worship service.

What am I saying... there's no such thing as 'just' a worship service these days.

It was an interactive worship service, with the symbols out, and us being encouraged to go and contemplate the stations of the cross.

My mum came with us - she'd been wanting to come along for a long time, but struggles with her energy levels. She really enjoyed it.

It was interesting how all this activity not only propelled us closer to our relationship with God, it also made us aware of each other. I think that's what God's trying to do. Take the blinkers off, and learn how to live in community.

Should be fun! :-0

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Interview with an Iranian Christian playwright, filmmaker

Y'know, I just yesterday had the idea of an Iraqui Christian refugee as a character in a film. Not that Iraquis and Iranians are the same, any more than Kiwis or Aussies. Just interesting though.


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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Noted Iranian playwright, noted poet and filmmaker, Ata Servati, discusses all three of these topics

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

TARZANA, CA (ANS) -- The Iranian New Year celebration called Norooz is symbolic of representations of two ancient concepts - the End and the Rebirth; or Good and Evil.

Ata Servati being interviewed at his home by Dan Wooding

The number of Iranian-Americans now living in the United States tops some 2,000,000 and one of them, noted Iranian playwright, poet and filmmaker, Ata Servati, invited me to his home in Tarzana, California, which is in the San Fernando Valley, to take part in the celebration and also talk about a number of topics.

He began by talking about the new year’s "Norooz" and also a second celebration. “We celebrate twice,” said Ata. “This one is called Norooz which is the beginning of spring and the other is at the start of the fall which is called Mehregan and marks the first day of the ‘cold’ year (autumn and winter). We celebrate both because it means new – the nature is new – both inside and outside. Everything is new. It is a time for us to be happy, not sad.”

Despite this being a time to be happy, Ata, who had to leave Iran, confessed to being saddened with reports that he had heard about that it would be good to bomb Iran.

Ata Servati took a deep breath and then told me, “I didn’t really want to comment about something like this when we are celebrating our New Year, but some people are suggesting that the USA should bomb Iran and kill and destroy the people there. I believe that making such comments is as radical as what the Iranian president [Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] said about Israel.

“I hope all those who are thinking of killing people and destroying a nation, will stop for a second and think about another course of action -- following the path of peace and love that Jesus Christ talked about; the path that Gandhi and Mother Teresa also followed. Killing and destroying the people of Iran doesn’t resolve anything. It will make it worse.

“Therefore, I believe that we have to have a philosophy of love and respect and only then can we get something out of this situation. But killing and bombing the Iranian people is not going to resolve anything. So I believe that the media has to be responsible when tackling this situation.”

He then singled out another American media personality, Oprah Winfrey, for praise. “I have to take my hat off to her,” he said. “I really respect her for how she has made it in the media. I consider her to be a responsible entertainer and as somebody who can change live in a good way. And she does. We, as entertainers, have to believe in peace and love and we have to do something nice and good for the people. We should help them to be happy and make difference in their lives to become better and more peace human beings. Oprah Winfrey is my hero in this case.”

I then asked Ata what he would like people around the world to know about his people back home.

“The Iranians were from the beginning peaceful and spiritual people,” he said. “We are peaceful people. We really love to love people and also be loved. We don’t like war and my people do not want a nuclear program. Forget about what you see in the media.

“Recently there was a survey in Iran, and over 75 percent of Iranians said that they love America and only 10 percent said they followed the Mullahs who have taken over 90% of the Iranian people hostage and do not represent the majority of the Iranian people. To remove such a headache, the answer is not to bomb Iran and kill everyone. If the international community really wants to do something important, it is very easy; they should not allow the relatives of the rulers or Iran live in their countries and bring out the wealth of Iran and invest it there, especially while over 90% of the Iranian people are suffering of hunger and lack of medical services.”

He then spoke about his new book called “In Search of Heaven” which tells the story of the American missionary, Howard Conklin Baskerville, who in 1907 went to Iran, and the following year sacrificed himself for Iranian freedom, after the Russians had bombed and destroyed the Iranian parliament and killed all it representatives.

“He is known as ‘The son of Iranian freedom.’ I really wanted to say ‘thank you’ to this man and I want him to also be ‘the son of American and world freedom as well. I want him to be a symbol for living with honor,’” he said.

He said that he hoped those who have suggested that Iran must be bombed would read the book. “I would like them to look at the life of Mr. Baskerville. He was a Christian man and he decided that he had to help people that he didn’t even know. He went and sacrificed his life in 1908 for the people who some people seem to want to bomb and kill.

“Howard Baskerville believed that God has given the right for freedom that the Iranian people needed to have. When I heard about his story, I felt that I had to let people know about him and his bravery and heroism. He is a hero to me. Thinking about what he did is really beyond my imagination. His heart was full of love, just like Jesus was also full of love for the people of the world.

“I have to say thank you to this man, and I want the people back in Iran, particularly the youth, to understand what he did for their country. I believe by remembering what Howard did at that time, they will possibly rise up and get their God-given freedom back from the religious radicals that are in power right now. We know that these men are not representative of the Iranian people. But Dan, I must say, this is an internal problem for the Iranian people who will and will take care of their own affairs and will bring freedom to their nation. But without bloodshed. It will be a peaceful change.

“At the front of this change will be the brave women of Iran and as well by the younger generation who have more anger and passion. You know it seems when you pass over 35 your anger and passion will replace with greed and power hungry.”

“You know, the Los Angeles-based Iranian Cable TV ‘Channel One’ has suggested a few points that the international community must follow to help Iranians take their government and freedom back. They were great suggestions and are being mass emailed and faxed to the White House and the international community. Maybe you should print them too.”

Ata Servati concluded by recounting an extraordinary event that took place in his homeland hours after the terrible attack on America by the Al Qaeda terrorists.

“On September 11, 2001, many of the Iranian people came into the streets and held candlelight vigils for those that had died,” he said. “They did so under the threat of guns from the government. They also came to the street on the anniversary of September 11; despite knowing they are going to be batten up by the government forces. And they were. Some were jailed, and tortured. Some disappeared. I call that also bravery by Iranian people. People in no other country that I know of outside of America, did that. That was a very brave and radical statement for these people to make. It shows that they love the American people. And these are the people that some are suggesting to be bombed and killed.”

With the interview over, Ata rejoined his American and Iranian friends to continue with the New Year’s party!

Dan Wooding is an award winning British journalist now living in Southern California with his wife Norma. He is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS). He was, for ten years, a commentator, on the UPI Radio Network in Washington, DC. Wooding is the author of some 42 books, the latest of which is his autobiography, "From Tabloid to Truth", which is published by Theatron Books. To order a copy, go to (Ata Servati makes a point during the interview)

** You may republish this story with proper attribution.
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ASSIST News Service is brought to you in part by Gospel for Asia (GFA). Gospel for Asia's passion is to plant churches among the world's most unreached peoples - those who have never heard a Gospel message. More than 15,000 native missionaries are now on the field with more than 29,000 churches planted in 10 Asian nations. You can help sponsor a native missionary for less than a dollar a day. Gospel for Asia is currently working to relieve the poverty and hopelessness of the Dalit communities by reaching out to Dalit children with food, clothing, and an education - all through the love of Jesus Christ. To learn more about GFA and their work among the Dalits (Untouchables) of India please go to their website at or in North America call 1-800-WIN-ASIA.
ASSIST News Service is brought to you free of charge and is supported by friends like yourself. If you would like to make a donation (tax-deductible in the US) to help us continue this service around the world, you can do so by logging onto our website -- -- and making the donation by credit card or by sending a check to ASSIST, PO Box 609, Lake Forest, CA 92609-0609 USA .
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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Prayer meeting

We walked into absolute silence, my jandals making the loudest echo in the wooden cathedral. I slipped them off, thinking of Moses in front of the burning bush.

The silence continued as we joined the group - some seated, some kneeling, some prostrate on their faces - at the front. Eventually someone spoke. She read a passage of Scripture where Jesus is greeted by a crowd. "What would you do if Jesus walked in the door tonight?"

Long, slightly uncomfortable pause as we realised this would take real thought, and the courage to express what was in our hearts as individuals. There were no rules here. Real dangerous territory.

Gradually the responses came. A song, a phrase. One person ran towards the door, thanking Jesus and bowing down to him.

For me, my response was shock and awe. Words would be so cheap if the creator of the universe walked in the door. I just gave him the biggest smile I could, and thanked him quietly.

Later on, if anyone had a message from the Lord to share, they were encouraged to share it. One person felt that not only did Jesus want to come in and be with us, he also wanted to bring gifts.

Then - this is funny - Luke, the pastor, picked up a plastic bag and started handing fruit out. Their neighbours had given them this big bag of fruit, and this is what it was for. What a brilliant moment. God has such a cool sense of humour. I got an apple.

It's funny; we'd resisted going along to these Tuesday night prayer meetings because we felt we needed something more like a homegroup, something with community. But here we found such wonderful, real, vulnerable community. Sometimes we don't appreciate what's right in front of us.

Do you know Jesus?

Do you know Jesus?

For her humility and small size, Grace is an amazing woman.

We first heard about her in a church newsletter last year; she was on a missionary trip to Hawaii and then Japan. Not knowing much more about her, we prayed that God would bless her trip.

Fast forward to last Sunday. Marie's mum, going through some struggles of her own, goes to Christian Life Centre, meets Grace out of the blue, and takes her home for lunch.

Lunch turns into dinner, dinner turns into the spare room for the night, and so on until today. Freeloader? No! Blessing? Yes!

Not only has Grace helped Marie's mum with some of the areas she was struggling with, she also advised Marie on her studies, having come from a very similar background herself. That was something only God could arrange.

Grace has this question she asks people - Do you know Jesus? It's a real cut-through-the-crap sort of question. People usually answer "I'm not religious" or "I used to go to church" but she points out that's not what she asks. Then she tells them Jesus loves them and that's it. No pressure, no hassle.

It's really nice to have some simplicity in your life sometimes. Maybe one day I'll learn how to be that simple.

Is Ministry Leadership Different? - Leader's Insight: Is Ministry Leadership Different?

Interesting article featuring comments from Pastor Andy Stanley and Jim Collins, author of Good to Great.

I'm a fan of Collins' words on leadership, but definitely not a fan of the corporate mega-church fad.

In the article, Andy Stanley says:

"One of the criticisms I get is 'Your church is so corporate...' And I say, 'Ok, you're right. Now why is that a bad model?"

Here's why:

* Church is not business. They have fundamentally different purposes: business exists primarily to make money; churches exist to reflect the character of God. Sure, they overlap - you can have a business that also reflects aspects of God's character if it's run well, and you can have a prosperous church, but it's harmful to confuse the primary purpose of the two.

* People are crying out for a church that supports them in doing what God has called them to do - being salt of the earth, wherever they find themselves - rather than being cajoled, pushed and pulled into various administrative positions to maintain the machinery that is 'church', while making those who aren't 'serving the Lord in full time ministry' feel less spiritual.

* Businesses of necessity have to have a strong brand identity to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. A church should be very careful about their own brand. Nothing should be more important to us than our Lord Jesus. He's the one that gives us our identity, we don't have to go creating our own religious brand.

* Businesses are goal-oriented, both short-term and long-term. People are paid to work in businesses toward these goals. I believe churches should not be goal-oriented. Yes that's right; I know that flies in the face of much current teaching but I have thought about this over many years. Churches should aim not to do but to be - to be a facilitator for the fantastic potential God has given individuals and groups of people within the church. Trying to channel everything through 'church' leads to wasted resources and burnout among the leadership.

So what am I saying? It's not that churches can't learn anything from the business world, but they have to have a relevant, contemporary AND biblical understanding of what church is for. And I believe that is to equip God's people for works of service - and releasing them into it. So that means flatter management structures, looser structures altogether, and a laser-sharp focus on the church's reason for being.

On the one hand this should take the pressure off pastors, I mean elders. They don't have to do everything or be some visionary who's going to change the world.

On the other hand it introduces different pressures for ministers. They have to be very emotionally aware of their people, and available to them. I guess what I'm talking about is the old idea of a vicar.

I see true pastoring in our pastors at theSanctuary, Luke and Marieta. I've never heard them talk about Vision with a capital V, or going out and changing the world. Instead, their actions speak very loudly when they recognise us laggards, who only attend once every three months, and still welcome us with open arms. When they know their people by name and always have an encouraging word that's not generic, but specific to that person.

Sad to say, this is the first time in my life I've seen genuine pastors like that. May there be more in our time, Lord.

Monday, March 27, 2006

One of my hobby horses

...Churches treating businesspeople as ATMs, that is. Ministry happens as often - in fact, oftener - outside the walls of a church as inside them.

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

CEO says the only thing anyone ever seems to want from businessmen in the churches is money

By Lavinia Ngatoko, in Challenge Weekly, New Zealand
Special to ASSIST News Service

OUTSIDER: Dick Brunton outside his Takapuna office ... “It would have felt really great if sometimes pastors said ‘right we’re going to pray for an anointing on businesspeople.’”

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND (ANS) -- Dick Brunton, co-founder and chairman of New Zealand’s leading market research company, Colmar Brunton, wants to see the Church provide more support for businesspeople.

In an interview with Challenge Weekly, Mr. Brunton revealed a deep hurt at what he said was the Church not recognizing and ministering to the needs of businessmen.

Mr. Brunton has been at the helm of the company since it was established in 1981. It is now the largest independent, employee-owned market research company in Australasia.

But for this highly successful businessman, who in April will turn 59, life can get very lonely at the top.

He recalls how in early 1984 God worked in his life overnight.

Although as a teenager he had felt quite moved when he received his first communion at a Presbyterian Church in Hawkes Bay, when he went to university he fell into a bad way of life, which would last for many years.

Then one night in February, 1984, suffering from an addiction that he would prefer not to talk about, he asked God for help.

“I’d been able to give up other things like smoking and drinking, but this particular thing I couldn’t. I was at a low ebb and I sat on my bed one night and I said: ‘God, if you’re for real, please show me.’

“I looked back down my life and realized that I’d been in charge of it, and that I’d totally screwed it up ... The next morning when I woke up everything was new. The addiction had gone and that was a great miracle in itself.

“But on top of that I felt this love and this peace and a great hunger to read the Bible. I don’t even know if I had one, but I got one somewhere. And I began to read it wherever I went - what a staggering thing.”

Mr. Brunton says, however, that although he had managed to through his new-found faith overcome most of his demons, he began to question his role in life.

“Because it was such a dramatic change, I thought I was the only person that had gone through this. I thought ‘gosh people need to know about this, and here I am working away on business - I really should be an evangelist.

“For years I labored under the idea that I was really in the wrong place. God did show me in a quiet sort of way that I was in fact an evangelist but it was in the marketplace.”

Although he knew that in his head, he did not feel it in his heart.

“And I think this aggrieved me without ever really realizing it. I read a book that addresses this very point and I do think that Christians are hated by the devil – hated with a vengeance and attacked with a vengeance in their marriages; their businesses, everything and it can be a truly lonely place sometimes.

“If you’re the CEO of a business, you’re the boss and you can’t really wear your heart on your sleeve with the staff. It can be a lonely place.

“It would have felt really great if sometimes pastors said ‘right we’re going to pray for an anointing on businesspeople, for wisdom, or for all the things that business people need and to honor them that way.’

“It’s the evangelists, the helpers, the missionaries who seem to get honored and prayed for and blessed and sent forth and the only thing anyone ever seems to want from businessmen is money.”

Mr. Brunton said it was significant that a Massey University survey done not long ago had revealed that one person in two said that business was a necessary evil.

“Now that means that probably one church person in two, or one pastor in two, feels that business is a necessary evil.”

But his faith in the Lord, he points out, has never wavered and he has pieces of Scripture, especially Psalm 91, that he feels God has given him.

“I treasure them as little letters that God has written to me, if you like. One rock in my life is the love of God and I can tune into that anytime I want and I almost feel the anointing come over me very quickly - it’s beautiful.

“Sometimes I’ve just been working away doing little things and I get a ‘divine cuddle.’ It might last for about five minutes and then it goes away.”

Mr. Brunton says his plans for the company at the moment are for it to be much more customer-focused. He is open to exploring other options in his life now and although is committed to being with the company for another two years as part of his contract, is thinking of cutting down his hours.

“I’ve been a very goal-oriented person most of my life. But I think God’s going to let me have some fun, and a lot of love. I think one can be too earnest and too serious.

“I do feel that a door is going to open up for me and then I think it will be made clear to me how I’m going to be fruitful in my latter years, because it’s not clear now.”


Lavinia Ngatoko reports for Challenge Weekly, New Zealand’s independent and non-denominational Christian newspaper.

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ASSIST News Service is brought to you in part by Gospel for Asia (GFA). Gospel for Asia's passion is to plant churches among the world's most unreached peoples - those who have never heard a Gospel message. More than 15,000 native missionaries are now on the field with more than 29,000 churches planted in 10 Asian nations. You can help sponsor a native missionary for less than a dollar a day. Gospel for Asia is currently working to relieve the poverty and hopelessness of the Dalit communities by reaching out to Dalit children with food, clothing, and an education - all through the love of Jesus Christ. To learn more about GFA and their work among the Dalits (Untouchables) of India please go to their website at or in North America call 1-800-WIN-ASIA.
ASSIST News Service is brought to you free of charge and is supported by friends like yourself. If you would like to make a donation (tax-deductible in the US) to help us continue this service around the world, you can do so by logging onto our website -- -- and making the donation by credit card or by sending a check to ASSIST, PO Box 609, Lake Forest, CA 92609-0609 USA .
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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Fantastic words from an advertising wizard

I suspected it long before it was confirmed; Roy H Williams, the Wizard of Ads, is a Christian. It sneaks through in his writing from time to time; I admire how his faith is just a natural part of his business. Perhaps America is an easier place to do that... who knows. Anyway, this from his latest newsletter:

The Origin of Creativity

I like to think God said, "Let there be…" and then paused to think for a moment. Suddenly it came to him, "Light!"

If you accept the book of Genesis, then God is a creator by nature. And he created us in his image, little miniatures of himself. That means we're creators by nature, too. Creativity is our heritage. It's in our DNA. When we create, we're being Godlike. We're doing what we're supposed to do. Musicians, inventors, landscapers, cooks, beauticians and actors and writers of books are just following the call of a creative plan and fulfilling the destiny of a thing called Man.

What do you create?

In the fifty-fifth chapter of his book, Isaiah reports God as saying, "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."

Now back to the nature of God for a moment. When he said, "Let there be light," we can be sure he didn't use vocal cords to create vibrations that traveled through air. The fourth part of the letter to the Hebrews tells us "the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."

Did you catch that first part, about how God's statements are "living," alive?

John's gospel skips Bethlehem and the begats. John takes us back to the big bang, "Let there be… Light!" Here's how he puts it: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him [the Word,] and without Him nothing was made that was made… and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us."

Writers, like God, speak worlds into existence. Likewise, every artist takes visitors to a world that isn't there. Photographers take us to long-ago moments by freezing a frame in this filmstrip we call the space-time continuum. Painters take us to places we've never been. Actors introduce us to people that don't exist. Landscapers create moods and feelings we didn't have before, as do musicians and interior decorators. Video games create emotion in us by allowing us to star in our very own movie. They are an art form like every other.

What is the form of your art? Into what moist clay are you leaving your fingerprints? Are you molding the minds of young men and women? Are you, like Alberto Mendieta, causing buildings to rise from piles of materials? Are you able to swing his hammer?

Please don't insult God by telling me you aren't creative. You are creative. And every creative effort brings a rich reward.

Read the first chapter of Genesis. And then create something. Do it so the thing will exist. Fling it into existence from the fingertips of your mind.

And then watch what happens.

Roy H. Williams

Monday, March 13, 2006

What kind of a protagonist is Jesus?

Last week I was on a screenwriting workshop with Paul Margolis from LA. One of the many, many things we discussed was the need for a fascinating hero - someone with something missing.

I thought about my personal hero, Jesus. Does he have anything missing? Not obviously. He's perfect - and you can't say that about anyone else.

But does perfect equal boring? Or is Jesus fascinating despite it all.

After mulling it over for a while, the thought came to me that Jesus is in fact missing something. Us. The human race. He feels the need and the longing for us like we can't even imagine. That is love. That is the grand drama.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Great Fast Company quote

This just in from Fast Company's First Impression daily quote email thing:

"If you have a belief, you espouse your belief. If you don't act on it, your belief is moot."

Dave Ulrich, management consultant

Read the article

Upon skimming the article, Dave Ulrich is a mormon, so it's not surprising he would quote something virtually direct from the Bible, but still, it's great to read something like that in a non-religious context.

Along the same lines, this morning when Marie and I were praying, I was just going through the concepts, not the words, of the Lord's Prayer ... Marie said it was good to do that, because we easily forget the meaning behind the words.

Friday, March 03, 2006

FUEL e-newsletter - metrospirituals?

In the latest FUEL e-newsletter (about marketing), they're talking about "metrospirituals":

Metrospirituals include everyone from celebrities (Gwyneth Paltrow, Richard Gere and Angelina Jolie, to name a few) to average office workers looking to add meaning to their lives. What they all aspire to, both in themselves and in the products they buy, is a socially conscious combination of style and substance.


"Just because you're spiritual does not mean you can't be a rabid consumer," notes Sharon Lee, co-founder of the youth trend forecasting firm Look-Look, which has been tracking the rise of metrospirituals among the 14-35 age group for the past six years.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Consider The Rewards Of Working - Christian Business

Consider The Rewards Of Working - Christian Business

Wonderful advice for 6am! I love it when I read something that so neatly dovetails with my own thoughts lately - sometimes it seems a little weird to enjoy work so much, but it's good to read something like this that affirms the intrinsic value of work.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Thank You God


Thanks for letting me know that I am your Child


Even when I behave like a son of satan...

Thanks for never acting like I'm invisible,

Even when I do the same to You ...

...which is ridiculous considering our respective influence and importance. Yikes!

Thank you for your amazing

Monday, February 06, 2006

"As if he was going to pass them by..."

"About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them..." Mark 6:48

Reading this passage last night, Marie asked, "why was He going to pass by?" It's one of those neat questions that don't really have a definite answer, but you can learn something just thinking about it.

Was Jesus so focused on his journey that He just ignored His disciples? Not likely, because in the first part of the verse I've quoted, it says He saw they were straining against the wind.

Was He waiting for them to notice Him? Perhaps that's closer to the truth.

I've been really enjoying the podcast of Michael Card, a man who's music I've enjoyed for many years because he's a teacher as much as a musician.

The latest podcast had a special guest, Dr. John Piper, talking about how God is the Gospel. Sure, you get your sins forgiven, you feel at peace, but the main thing is being reconnected to your Creator.

They talked about, what if you could have anything you want - total material and sensual gratification - without God. That's a scary question for someone who says they love God, because it challenges our assumption that, of course we love God more than anything else.

Then Dr Piper asked, why did God make all these wonderful material things - sunsets, babies, pizza, etc. - that could become idols? His answer was so good I had to write it down:

"We wouldn't know Him for all that He is, if we didn't see Him in and through all that He made."
Now there's something to help me enjoy this day to the absolute maximum!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Way of Friendship - Christian History

The Way of Friendship - Christian History

This is my way of bookmarking - I must read this but can't right now.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Hulk

Saw the Hulk yesterday and it was very good.

Best scene: where Betty walks with Bruce through the house he grew up in. It's scary for her, but she's also sure he needs to confront the demons of his past, and this house is the place to do it.

It made me think how Jesus isn't afraid to walk with us through our dark places. Even if we turn green and huge, or whatever our version of turning toxic is, He can cope with it, while others can't.


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Monday, January 23, 2006


By Sam Cruickshank in Challenge Weekly, New Zealand
Special to ASSIST News Service

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND (ANS) -- Although film producer Lisa Abbott is proud to be known as a Christian housewife and mother, she is not your “typical” New Zealand housewife.

The Abbott family, from left Olivia, David, Brooke, Lisa, Austin and Tessa, at the premiere of Meet Me in Miami at the International Latino Film Festival in Los Angeles.

The past few months have seen Lisa walking the red carpet of Hollywood, mixing with Hollywood movie stars and wheeling and dealing with Hollywood industry players. Her movie Meet Me in Miami recently premiered at the prestigious Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood to rave audience reviews at the Loa Angeles International Latino Film Festival.

It is rare that a romantic comedy movie is invited to premiere at big film festivals, let alone receive such a good audience response. But when you meet Lisa such a result is not surprising - miracles seem to follow her wherever she goes.

Although filmmaking has become Lisa’s recent passion, as in her romantic comedy film Meet Me in Miami her own life reads like a love story of international, epic proportions. How she came to live in New Zealand is nothing short of a miracle.

Lisa says that her “love story” with God that first brought her to New Zealand began on March 28, 1982, at 4.30pm at San Diego airport.

She was in her 20s and someone had challenged her to read the Bible, starting from the book of John, and to pray in the name of Jesus. Being young and adventurous, she was up for the challenge.

Reading the book for the third time in the airport lounge, Lisa says that it was “like being caught up in a movie”, in which she saw the events occurring in the Bible so vividly and clearly. It was so real to her.

Until that point in her life Lisa had been a career-focused woman flying across the US managing a property investment portfolio and 4000 apartments. She had been raised with no religious faith as a child.

As a career-driven woman, the last thing Lisa had ever wanted to be was a “born-again” Christian. But her life changed in San Diego airport when she prayed her infamous first “Jesus” prayer.

She says that in that moment she saw the incredible face of Jesus and her life was completely and miraculously transformed. She still can’t fully explain it, except that it was “a miracle”.

This miracle in an airport lounge was the first of many for Lisa. Soon after she met someone who invited her to attend a ball for Prince Charles, Princess Diana and the Queen. Although she initially thought this person was crazy, when the ball invitation arrived for her in gold lettering she knew God wanted her to go.

Lisa found herself jet-setting the world and going to similar balls and functions for three years where she met some of the world’s most “powerful” people. For her, they were all people who needed to know God.

Lisa says this whole “surreal” period of her life was another “little miracle”, and the experience was an excellent training ground with a diverse range of people for later on in life.

In 1989, in the midst of a jet-setting lifestyle, Lisa awoke one day with a really strong feeling that she had to go to New Zealand. She found a world map and chose Christchurch as her destination.

“I was a young Christian and the name ‘Christchurch’ looked like a good place to go and visit,” she said smiling.

Bravely turning up in Christchurch on her own was just the beginning of an amazing New Zealand adventure with God. She took in the beautiful scenery of New Zealand’s Garden City, then began to wonder what it was she was meant to be doing there.

Little did she know that a miracle of romantic joy lay just around the corner - one that would alter the course of her life forever.

She needed a place to live and it was a real estate agent who introduced her to her husband-t- be, a young Kiwi jeweler named David Abbott. From the moment they met, David and Lisa both knew they were destined to spend the rest of their lives together.

”Who can find a virtuous woman? For her worth is above rubies,” is an ancient adage penned in the book of Proverbs. But when David laid eyes on Lisa he had already crafted her engagement ring 10 years before out of a rare deep-pink tourmaline stone that he had bought from Germany.

David knew that the special ring was meant for a special person and he knew that was Lisa from the moment he met her. Lisa is a firm believer that God does the groundwork for His children and that we have to be open to listen to His voice and His leading.

“Where He leads He feeds, where He guides He provides,” Lisa calmly states. ”When I looked at the ring that David had so lovingly crafted for his wife-to-be 10 years earlier, I knew that the man who had hand-crafted this beautiful stone and had put so much love into his work, had faith to believe that God would bring the right woman all the way down to beautiful New Zealand for him - even though it did take 10 years to happen,” she says with laughter and a contented smile.

Thirty days after they first met, Lisa and David married. And 16 years on they have four children, Tessa aged 15, Brooke, 13, Austin, 12, and Olivia, 10, who all provide her with a lot of joy.

However, over the years while the kids were at school all day, Lisa discovered that God had a special work cut out for her.

Her first foray into the world of film took place in 1993. Lisa awoke in the middle of the night clearly hearing God speak to her, asking her to do something for Him. This period of her life she refers to as “the Jesus film” because, in the night, she heard God telling her to organize a showing of the Jesus film at a theatre in Christchurch on Christmas Eve.

Realizing that no one goes out on Christmas Eve to the movies, Lisa was fully aware this would look absurd to most people, but she obeyed and ordered a print of the Jesus film starring Brian Deacon as Jesus and released in 1979. Lisa paid for it on her credit card and the print arrived five days later.

”I approached the local Hoyt¹s cinema with the idea and the manager thought I was insane,” she says with good humor. But on Christmas Eve when the theatre was entirely sold out for the Jesus film he changed his mind.

To him this event was a miracle; to Lisa it was normal.

The Jesus film was so successful that it had repeat screenings in movie theatres all over the country. Lisa had to get five more prints made to keep up with the demand. Then the distribution of the film went into other countries, with her phone ringing red hot. Lisa’s career in the film industry had begun.

She started a company called Family Films, a distribution company with the aim of distributing films that are pure and wholesome. Lisa felt this was important because as a mother she was struggling to find movies without profanity to take her children to.

In 2003 she undertook a great exploit to make the leap of faith as a movie producer. Originally called “The Gardener”, Meet Me in Miami was a film that Lisa’s young daughter, Brooke, had won a part it. Being a parent-support on the set of the film in the US, she was alarmed when the Italian-backed movie ran into financial difficulty.

Because of her background in investment management, she was asked to consider producing the film. In true Abbott style, she said she’d pray about it. She felt that God had presented her with a challenge that He wanted her to say “yes” to.

”God chooses the most unlikely people to do the most impossible things,” says the lively and radiant Lisa. “If it was possible for them to do it all by themselves, then it wouldn¹t be a ‘God thing’. I really want to be involved in things that God is totally the greater part of, because that is exciting and adventurous to me. I think that’s why He chose me.”

Being a Kiwi now, Lisa moved the entire production from its intended Italian set down to New Zealand. This was another exploit she knew was just meant to be as she felt it would be good for both the movie and the picaresque moviemaking location Down Under.

Lisa says she has gone through all the struggles other producer¹s have had to endure in getting their films made, but the difference is that her faith in God has equipped her to rise up and overcome any obstacles that stood in her way.

”What I love most about it is that because I am perceived as being ‘the boss’, I can say to people, ‘Let¹s pray about this’ before any major decision is made,” she laughs.

So far she has had a great response, and has even managed to get entertainment guru Gabriel Reyes, who manages international celebrities like J-Lo and the Desperate Housewives cast’s media publicity, to be open enough to be led into God’s presence and pray with her.

”I feel that this opportunity to be a film producer allows me to share my faith, joy and hope in God with others. Making films is just the vehicle,” she says.

Who Lisa gets to meet and work with along the way is part of her joy relationship with the Producer and Director of her faith and the journey so far has been fun. She believes that all things happen for a reason and she can move boldly forward because there is a greater hand that guides her.

The Christchurch housewife will once again be walking the red carpet, in New Zealand this time, with some of the biggest names in New Zealand film-making when Meet Me in Miami has its New Zealand premiere on Valentine’s Day next month.

Lisa’s next adventure will be making a film about Rachel Scott, a Columbine High School massacre victim who was a committed Christian. In her personal diaries, Rachael predicted her own death before it happened and was ready to meet her Maker. Lisa finds this young woman¹s story of joy and hope amid tragedy breathtakingly incredible.

Sam Cruickshank works in strategic communications for Chambers PR in Christchurch. His parents, Graham and Tui Cruickshank, are the senior pastors at Christian Renewal Fellowship Church in Whangarei, New Zealand.
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