A voice crying in the wilderness

Posts tagged ‘Theology’

A line in the sand

Is there a point where, as a Christian, you can say “I care only this much”? You draw a line in the sand that you do not cross lest you go mad watching people around you willingly, gleefully hurl themselves into destruction.

Though I often recite the mantra “Be in the world, but not of the world” and endeavour to live a life that reflects God’s glory, I often find myself wondering that because I am such a twisted, broken wretch, how can anything I do glorify God? Who can look to me and see Jesus at work? I am as flawed as those around me that I despair for.

Through God’s grace, I have been taught how to stand back from the material world and find now that I generally don’t covet Earthly treasures – I have all that I need, to do what I need to do. Any time I get distracted by new gadgets, I qualify it by asking “How will this enhance my creativity? How will it make me more productive?” If I can’t answer that, I don’t need it – unless my current product need replacing.

Accordingly, working in retail and being impelled to upsell customers to the latest, greatest and most expensive products certainly goes against the grain of what I believe to be a righteous way to live. Worse is when customers get upset and angry over either minor flaws or temporary inconveniences – if you fridge breaks down, it is an urgent matter. You need to keep your food cold and fresh. However, if your dish washer fails, you shouldn’t despair just because you have to wash dishes by hand for a few days. And with the privilege of buying premium products comes the responsibility of performing basic maintenance to keep everything in good working order.

Embracing insomnia

Usually when I start writing an entry, I have notes to refer to written during lunch breaks or on trains – numerous notepads and exercise books lurk around me waiting to capture the nonsense that leaps forth from my mind at the most inconvenient moment. Its not often that I draft something direct into the word processor.

There are times that I have trouble sleeping – I wake up in the middle of the night, tossing and turning trying to get back to sleep. Sometimes I wake up my wife, sometimes I’m lucky enough that she will sleep on through – my habit of getting out of bed in the dark and going into the other side of the house does not meet with approval since she fears I may trip over something and injure myself. I think its more that I sometimes kick an object in the dark and wake her up.

I’ve come to appreciate that quite time; usually between 11:30 and 1:00, sometimes later – I’ve occasionally watched the sun rise before going back to bed for half an hour before the alarm rings. Its a time when everyone else is asleep and I am left alone with my subconscious mind. A time when it is just me and God – and the cat if she is feeling playful.

A time when I can work through ideas and get my thoughts in order.

Some people hate being awake at this time – and fair enough if you’re up for several hours. There can be a number of reasons – anxiety and stress tend to be the biggest players; lifestyle too, if you are prone to going to bed late and sleeping in. Sometimes it can be chemical – caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, sugar or even far more sinister substances. I found that recently I’ve made a number of minor changes – I tend to rise early, go to bed early and read (I try not to use my tablet or ebook reader during the evening), avoid coffee, I’ve cut back on drinking and stopped my cigar smoking habit. Most of all, I trust everything to God – I might sometimes get a glimpse of what God wants me to do, but not an accurate time frame, and can make preparations but a lot of time, I just see what happens on a day to day basis.

One of the areas faith and religion come to friction is how God’s grace is perceived. Religion takes the approach of “I’ve followed all the rules, dotted the Is and crossed the Ts – you owe me now, God” whereas faith follows the line of “God has redeemed me through His mercy and grace so I do good things for His glory, and so others may see His work in me”. Sometimes it works to take a little of each – God is full of grace and mercy but don’t think that means you can take liberties, working on the idea that He will forgive you. You think you may have plenty of time to repent for your misdeed but no one knows for certain what the Father has planned for us – but when we do sin, we can confess and ask for forgiveness.

So whilst I wait for God to reveal His plan, or at least the next stage in His plan for me, I can use my quiet time for contemplation and preparation.

“Be ready,” He says to me, “Be prepared.” For what I don’t know for certain but I want to be able to hit the ground running when I find out.

Learning to keep my mouth shut

Cross posted from Josyf
I have a bad habit of speaking before I think, or perhaps thinking with my mouth. Only once the idea is out in the world and exposed do I realise that it is a stupid idea and I’ve just managed to offend a great number of people.

In the same way, I have a habit of announcing big ideas before I’ve thought them through properly – or that I won’t carry out in any time frame deemed relevant to normal people. Be it a music demo that has been in planning for 21 years now (and is still in “vague concept” stage), drum lessons or a plan to move 400km to be closer to my parents.

I have other ambitious plans but I’m going to keep them a secret so I stop embarrassing myself. Such as opening a hipster café and a small community church.


One idea that has been sitting quietly in the background for the last 7 years is setting up a multimedia company that could permit me to earn a living out of my diverse range of hobbies – my music, writing, photography and even my limited artistic skills. Two years ago I took a break from playing guitar and bass at church in the lead up to my wedding. A change in logistics and increase in volunteers mean that other people took over and my assistance was no longer required when I returned. Consequently, I put my instruments aside and stopped playing altogether until recently. A burst of creativity has inspired me to not just start playing guitar again but also get those drum lessons I’ve been talking about for ages.

I’ve been spending a lot of time writing this year, mainly editorials like this but also working on stories as well. I’m adapting a manga I developed into a novel and am resuming work on another that I was endeavouring to release chapter by chapter but was disappointed by the lack of response after I showed it to my test audience. I feel the need to continue and complete the story now and challenge myself a little. My argument when I stop writing is that I get frustrated because I write like a 12 year old but I still write like a 12 year old because I get frustrated and stop writing. I’m not allowing my style to mature.

Learning to draw again is scarier since after a long break, my style changes – sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Again, its a matter of sitting down and practising, challenging myself again and again. I’ve tried to engage other artists to work on my stories only to have them attempt to hijack the story. All the main characters turned into artist proxies. They’re supposed to be author proxies!

Another small task I’m trying is getting my graphics tablets working under Linux – I bought a couple some ten years ago but they came only with Windows drivers, but there are ways of making them cooperate – sometimes not very elegant or practical ways, but workable. When I started developing an interest in art during my high school years, I became fascinated with surrealist art. I found a certain joy in the abstract style as well. I’m not much of a painter as I don’t have a very good eye for colour so I usually work in pencil alone. Rather than wasting paper and water colours, if I can learn to work with my tablet all I am really wasting is my time.

Maybe on my next day off, I should dig out my paints and revisit some old skills from high school. If the weather is up to the task.

But I’m going to take my time in all these things. I write during my lunch break and during flights, I practice my music when I’m home by myself. I review restaurants and hotels during the evening and practice my photography whenever the opportunity arises. There’s no hurry or pressure.

Its not like I have any other deadline than the one God sets. I work for Him.

God and The Untitled Document

God cannot be explained with logic – at least, not with logic alone. God can only be explained through faith and trust.

Non-Christians want a simple, one size fits all explanation for who or what God is, but if you try to give them one, they will refuse to accept it. How can you give a simple explanation for the most complex and comprehensive being in the Universe. He is the creator of all things. This Universe is of God, God is not of the Universe.

When people try to apply logic to God, they try to compartmentalise Him. They want to break God down into smaller, more manageable pieces, each with its own label and classification. Essentially, its a human trait to try and dismantle something, find out what makes it tick and rob it of its mystery and power. We don’t like the idea that something is unknown and unfathomable. Humans don’t like the idea that something is bigger than us and we certainly don’t like feeling small.

God Incorporated

Once you answer your calling to become a Christian, you are starting a new job. You work for God now. He will typically leave you doing to same task you were doing before, under the same managers but now you have additional duties and are answerable to a higher level supervisor. You might not get a pay rise but your retirement package is going to be amazing.

If you do start getting pay rises, remember not to increase your standard of living, but your standard of giving.

When the pay rises come, there is much temptation to go a little crazy with spending – but remember that Earthly pleasures don’t last and its too easy to get info a habit of spending like they will.

Your new duties will involve evangelising Jesus at ever chance – sometimes with co-workers, sometimes with clients, sometimes with friends, neighbours or strangers.

Each person is given different abilities – some can speak well, knowledgeably and confidently and possess an agile mind that can leap from task to task, overcoming clever counter-arguments with truth rather than twisty logic. Others are great singers who can profess the glory of God’s love. Another may be a skilled writer that can create engaging and convincing prose. But what if you fall between any of these categories? You demonstrate some competence in many areas but have no great talent in any? God has need of any and all abilities, great or small. You are the mortar that joins the bricks together, the mediator between crafts and disciplines. Sometimes all you need to be is an example – people look at you and see Jesus at work. They see the joy that you take in life and the kindness you show others and say to themselves “I want to know what drives this guy!” Take time to learn patience, to cool your temper, to read and reference the bible. You aren’t expected to have a perfect recollection of all the texts, merely to have a basic understanding that you can call on.

Reject false icons

One of the few things that Gorrilaz have said that made any sense

When you choose to pursue an idea or notion, what is it that motivates you? Do you became fixated with an idea because it suits you or your situation, or would you follow it because it enables you to fulfil God’s work?

At the age of nearly 42, I occasionally look to my peers and compare my life with theirs. I’ve seen the successes – the big house, the big car, the big salaries, the fame and notoriety. I’ve seen the failures – the broken marriages, the broken minds, the addictions that have taken their toll. How do I rate myself?

I consider that I am successful, just not on an Earthly scale. I have achieved many of the things that I have set out to do and have more that I wish to do. I’ve seen too many occasions of people who have done everything and now are just passing time until they die.

When you work for God, there will always be more to do.

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”
– Mark 16:15 ESV

Each of us has different callings and different gifts with which to achieve those callings. Sometimes those gifts are something that drives our whole lives, sometimes they are something we indulge in during our spare moments when we aren’t earning our living. God will put us in a position where we can do our work so its important that we make ourselves flexible enough to respond. Its also important that when God has given us a gift, we don’t exploit it to our own ends.

I have heard it said “Live to work – if you work to live, you will always hate your job.” But if you make your Godly work your first priority, all else becomes secondary.

Be fed, clothed, pay your bills and keep a roof over your head but do your best not to be distracted by worldly concerns – eating at the post restaurants, the latest fashions that change weekly etc. Don’t seek out prestige in your home or your possessions, take only what is necessary and give yourself over to serving God by serving others.

How do you present yourself as a Christian?

When you tell people that you are a Christian, you can see their eyes glaze over immediately. People jump on you, calling you judgemental, superior and discriminatory – even people who know you well enough to know better. Even if you try to explain or defend your beliefs, they won’t listen and simply shout you down.

I recall a comic showing people listening to Eastern philosophy or popular commentary and taking it to heart or revering it but when shown similar wisdom from the bible, they instinctively recoiled and rejected. Even though the same person might quote from psalms or proverbs not realising its origin.

But as a Christian, how do people perceive you? Do you come across as smug and superior? Do you present an attitude of “Holier than thou”? Do you take humble to excess? Are you so meek and mild that people look at you and see a whipped puppy? Are you a hypocrite? Saying one thing but doing another? Do you gossip and slander, backbite and speak ill of one another? Christians are human and therefore sinners – we are weak and flawed, the same as everyone else. We are perhaps a little more aware of our shortcomings and strive to keep ourselves disciplined – but we still have our faults and foibles. I have struggled with smoking and alcohol abuse. I experience bouts of depression and my discipline is at its weakest when I am tired. I, too, get angry and say things that offend people with intention or realisation. I know that if I repent and pray, the Lord is kind and forgiving but people sometimes are not so.

The Father is full of grace but that isn’t a “Get out of jail free” card – we are still subject to the laws of man and people still carry grudges.

Who, or what, inspires you?

Whilst driving back from our church bible study group last night, I began to ponder my various creative exercises over the last 25 years and why I came to partake of them.

I started drawing, composing and writing poetry in high school – started with purpose that is, rather than just random scribbles and singing during my childhood. I would go through stages of each, move on to another and then forget about it until years later.

I began to compose music on my computer in late 1991 when I joined a demo group known as “The Solution”, later we were all inducted into Chrome. Though I drew a series of comic strips in high school, I wouldn’t pick up a pencil with any great enthusiasm until 2003. I wrote a lot of song lyrics and poems in high school and again in my college years, but didn’t write again until 2007.


All of these abilities would lay dormant until someone gave me cause to try again. Always it was a woman.

S1 caused me much heartache, alternating regularly between flirtation and rejection, that the only way I could express and release my pain and anguish was through music – she became the inspiration for many a sad, melancholy but often beautiful tune.

S2 inspired me to start drawing again, though I knew she loved a friend of mine – I was not in her league of talent but I had the energy and motivation to start writing stories and comic strips again, many of which were published in a local fanzine and on their website.

L got me into writing poems again – though I knew she was a bad influence, I was quite fascinated by her. She had a Steve Jobs style “reality distortion field” around her – you knew that she was using you and yet you did what she wanted anyway. I was a secret admirer who watched her from the shadows and took inspiration from her actions.

And then there was J, who taught me about blogging, maintaining websites and encouraged me to journal and write essays – this website itself was through her encouragement. Though I had my own site before and wrote articles on a semi-regular basis, all the code was manually updated, untidy and disorganised. With a better system at the back end, I could concentrate on content rather than form.

When all of these relationships and associations ended, for the most part I stopped indulging in these activities. I haven’t drawn anything regularly for ten years, I’ve written only a couple of songs in the last 15, and little poetry has sprouted forth in the last five. Even my blogs stopped appearing for a few years.

Then I met M.

In a way, all these activities and all of these people culminated in bring us together – mutual friends and shared interests. Though M and I spent a lot of time together, it was clear that we only had a future together if I were a Christian. I had considered myself one but I rejected church due to so many unfortunate experiences over the years – elitist “holier than thou” types, corruption in the church and some occasionally terrifying “head in a bucket” displays of ignorance. M made it clear that my concept of faith was misguided, not entirely wrong but close enough, and that I should visit her church to learn more.
In that respect, I was very fortunate – the church she attended was lead by a pastor who taught well, and taught enthusiastically. More importantly, he was extremely well read so could teach us proper historical context, important background information and even address translation errors from the original Greek, Hebrew, Latin and Aramaic texts. I was fascinated.

After church, M and I would often go out to lunch together to discuss what we had learned that morning – I would go home and read my bible afterwards, taking time out every lunch time and bedtime to read more. I started with a disintegrating Good News bible that my brother had from primary school, later investing in an English Standard Version and later a New International Version as I read more.

In time, we grew closer together – later in the year, M and I started dating officially (though many of our friends had thought we had already been dating for a couple of years by this time, we fit together so well). In time, we got engaged and then a year ago, we married. All brought together through our mutual love of Christ.

But what of the creative tasks that I wrote of earlier – where was the inspiration that M brought me?

I wrote only one song during this time, recycling an older tune that I could not think what to do with and wrote some new lyrics about wrestling (of all things). I tried my hand at drawing again, sketching abstract images during the evening services after the congregation had shared a meal together, but after a few attempts, I stopped. Very little poetry came forth, even though M herself was a poet. I still wrote journals and essays from time to time, but only when I was alone.

Was my wife draining all of my creative energy?

Then thinking about it last night, I realised that my wife inspired me in a different fashion – creative energy doesn’t always manifest itself in an outward fashion. Sometimes it motivates you to absorb knowledge, art, music and literature around you to turn it into something new, different or fresh.

Previously, my journal entries were primarily about computers, sometimes about gardening, photography or politics, and sometimes just rants and frustrations – a way of exorcising my demons that instead entrapped them and held them up to remind me of their existence constantly. Many of those older posts are still here but removed from view.

Instead now, I write about Christ – something I had never done before. I write to raise people up rather than putting them down. I write to provoke though and consideration, instead of argument.

In time, my music, my art, my poetry and storytelling, my photography skills will be called on again, but not until God requires them of me. They are on standby until then. Not forgotten or lost, merely resting.

Desire to inspire

There is a temptation for Christians to surround themselves with like-minded friends, be it in life or on social media. If you are a new Christian, looking to make a fresh start, or tired and distressed and looking to avoid temptation, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing but we should make sure that we don’t shut out or turn away non-Christians.

As we grow in our faith and grow strong in our character, it is important that we be a good example to our peers – not all of us are skilled debaters, able to overcome doubts and disbelief with cunning arguments; sometimes the best we can do is demonstrate our faith through the way we live our lives.

If I consider my own friends and peers, some are Christians, some don’t care one way or another, some are militant atheists and some simply have never had the opportunity to come to know Jesus. Whilst there will always be many who reject Jesus for no more reason than following Him is inconvenient – they would rather lead their own lives and not have to accommodate anyone else’s rules – how often have you encountered someone who has no idea who Jesus is, or if they have heard of Him, did not realise that He is a real person? That God came to Earth in the form of a man to take our sins upon Himself, and not just some Christmas decoration like Santa Claus or some cherubic angel?

It is the duty of all Christians to hold up Jesus for everyone to see, not just to live by His teaching but to discuss Him with those around us. He is not some secret, sacred knowledge that we should hold ransom, in order to give us power and influence over other. Jesus gave freely of His time and His knowledge to anyone who would listen.

One good thing that has come out of the last few weeks of having to live under a tight budget is that the perspective of my wife and I has been turned away from eating out at nice restaurants or getting takeaway, and more to having dinner with friends and family. When we invite people to dinner, we have leisure to discuss many subjects in a comfortable environment and without pressure, instead of shouting over background noise and being hustled out of the restaurant for the next round of guests.

If you have the chance, go and say hello to your neighbours and invite them over for coffee and a biscuit and give them a chance to learn about Jesus – you won’t always convince everyone but you might inspire someone who God had called but they didn’t listen, at least first time around.

Who knows, you may even learn something about yourself in the process.

If you know of people who are interested in learning more about our Lord, why not donate a bible to them – secondhand bibles can often be picked up in Op Shops for a couple of dollars, stores like Koorong and Word often have new editions available for under $10. If they have an internet connection, more editions are available by way of Bible Gateway and digital editions are available for Apple iOS and Android smartphones as free apps.

Luke 8:16 to 18
16 “No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 17 For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. 18 Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”

Matthew 12:33 to 37
33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Streamers of Consciousness

There is a time when one feels that they have something important or profound to say but hold back on that thought for fear of appearing foolish or being unable to properly articulate the idea, or simply concerned about offending friends and peers.

Social media is a useful tool for communications and sharing of ideas but too often it is misused to vent about someone who has offended you or simply to post up a photo of a meal you are about to consume.

I found myself considering a variety of ideas during my quiet time driving to and from work, or whilst taking a shower – I tend to do my best or most creative thinking at the most inconvenient moments, I dread to think how many great ideas or compositions have been thought up and lost because I didn’t have an appropriate method of recording them.

One of these thoughts revolved around the topic of salvation.

Although I grew up in Australia, in the Seventies and early Eighties, I found myself surrounded with a lot of very British concepts and television shows. This has affected and influenced much of my character, from my accent (despite spending my entire 40 years on this Earth living in Australia, I still speak with a crisp British ‘received pronunciation’ accent, “BBC English” I call it) to my views on Christianity. There are still clear Catholic and Anglican influences abounding.

One subject that Christians often get confused about is the subject of Grace – certain schools of thought still cling to this idea that salvation is something that we have to earn, that we must perform a certain quota of good works for God in order to get into Heaven. More than a misconception, this idea is flat out wrong. Salvation is gained by accepting Christ as our Saviour, though it isn’t quite as clear cut as that. To accept Christ into our hearts involves a dramatic change – a rebirth, if you will. To be born again. To cast off the old self and put on the new. Christians who perform good deeds only to get into Heaven cheapen their faith – the implication is that such people are driven by selfish motives; to gain the ultimate end of year bonus from The Ultimate Boss. Or worse, to do good to gain respect and admiration from peers.

Such nonsense and motivation should be put aside lest it distract us from our true goals and corrupt our objectives. By all means, perform good deeds to those around you but do so out of gratitude – the Lord has forgiven you your sins and granted you hope, share this love with those who need it. Don’t just tell people about Christ, demonstrate His grace through your actions and lifestyle. Though you may convince some people through clever argument and debate, others you will have to inspire to look to Christ by demonstrating how He has inspired you.

Ephesians 4:22-24
22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Matthew 6:2
2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
– English Standard Version (ESV)