Why did God require such strange things to be offered to Him?

straws--straw_19-126743I was reading the other day in the Old Testament about some of the offerings the Israelites were required to bring before God. Not just animals, but bread and olive oil and incense and all sorts of seemingly trivial things. I found myself wondering: ‘Why on earth did God want them to bring bread with olive oil?’

I’m sure there’s a deep theological answer about its significance and symbolism, but just as I was pondering it I was suddenly hit by something profound: it’s not that hard to make bread.

God had many reasons for instituting the sacrificial system. The minute details that had to be executed with perfection emphasized God’s holiness, but I also found within his decrees an amazing degree of grace. His requirements were detailed, but they were all doable.

It didn’t require great skill or wisdom. You didn’t have to be the smartest or the bravest, you just had to obey and be faithful.

God could have required his followers to scale the highest mountain or walk through fire to demonstrate their devotion to Him, but he’s not that kind of God.

He’s the kind of God who sees that we are dust, but wants us anyway. He does not require more than we can give, and He sacrificed himself because He knew that the blood of bulls and goats would never be enough.

He is full of grace, right down to the bread and oil.

How ‘gay’ is killing creativity

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A while back I was horrified when one of my female students yelled across the classroom to one of the boys, ‘You should be gay!’ The boy, somewhat taken aback, asked her why.

‘Because you’re into music stuff and choir and all that,’ was her response, and a part of me cried inside for the ignorance and judgmental nature of teenagers.

A big part of my grief was this: that our incessant need to label people and define them by their sexuality is killing creativity in boys. Things that were praised in bygone eras, acting, music, composing and self expression through writing and poetry, have become defining symbol’s of a man’s sexuality. So many talented boys, growing into men, are afraid to express themselves lest their sexuality be called into question.

It is a tragedy for the arts, and a tragedy for humanity.

We’re reading To Kill a Mockingbird in year 11 at the moment, and Scout’s comment is really resonating with me: ‘I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.’

We need to stop defining people by their sexuality, and even more, we need to stop using these labels as a derogatory way to cut people down.

As Australians, we’re not great at celebrating talent, but we need to change that. Let’s start with letting boys be creative, lest we kill the passion of our future Mozarts, Shakespeares and Da Vincis.

No offense… but I’m about to say something really offensive

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Do you get nervous when someone starts their sentence with ‘no offense?’ I do. It’s like the perfect guilt-free segue into something truly offensive.

It was rife when I was a teenager, and I cringe to hear that it’s still around.

No offense, but that jumper looks way better on her.

No offense, but your life is pretty boring

No offense, but it’s not like you’re that smart

Woah, you probably shouldn’t be eating that… but, like, no offense

No offense, but I don’t think he’d go for you. Sorry, just saying…

Well maybe just don’t say. Because your ‘sorry not sorry’ isn’t working for me. Or for anyone for that matter.

So, before you throw out a casual ‘no offense,’ think about what you’re actually saying: “I want to say whatever horrible thing comes into my mind, but before I feel bad about it, I’ll qualify it and erase my guilt. Cos, I mean, it’s not my fault if you got offended when I told you not to!”

 Honey, we all want you to know something: You’re offensive. And your attempts at masking it aren’t working.

As if you yourselves were suffering

1623617_10152579606750590_2673355775065316097_nThe world has been looking on in horror at the atrocities being committed against Christians in Iraq.

The blatant arrogance of IS has shocked us as they’ve flaunted their brutality through the media.

As Christians we can feel helpless. We want to show our support, but beyond changing our profile pictures to the ‘N’ symbol, or donating money to humanitarian aid, there’s little we can do. Except pray. We can pray.

Times like this remind me of Hebrews 13:3, a verse that never fails to challenge me.

“Continue to remember those in prison [for the sake of Jesus] as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”

We should be praying for them, as if it were us suffering along with them. As if we were there. Suddenly my sense of urgency increases.

It can be hard to know what to pray, but a friend of mine the other day prayed something that really struck me. We can (and should) pray for these horrors to stop; for the Christians’ safety and protection, but we can also pray for something else:

That they would stand strong to the end, and that they would die with honour, in a way befitting their Lord. That they would glorify their Redeemer in their last breath, confident that they will pass straight into His presence.

I could have rescued one more

IMG_20140804_182030Last night, I sat in church, listening to the story of a man who had been saved from poverty after years on the brink of starvation. His name was Richmond Wandera and he was a Compassion child. Today he has a bachelor’s degree in accounting, and travels the world as an advocate for those children who are still in his home community in Uganda. He speaks of how they play, as he did, on sewer-flooded streets, hoping daily to escape the threat of malaria as the beast of hunger lurks, ever in the shadows.

 Now he sponsors a child, and works tirelessly to find sponsors for those who still remain, trapped, with a lid on their potential, until someone moves to release them. He challenged us to live simply, so that others may simply live.

 I thought of my sponsor child in India, and I felt the battle in my heart: Surely I’m doing enough? But in the back of my mind was a gnawing quote from Oskar Schindler: “I could have gotten one more person… and I didn’t!”

 I do not want to get to the end of my life, and lament that I could have freed one more. It is a temporary sacrifice, for an eternal impact.

 I’m no hero. So far from it! I choose myself over others far more often than not, but I pray that God will continually convict my selfish heart and give me the means and the strength for ‘one more.’

This post is for my new ‘sponsor son’ Cristian. I do not know him, but I pray that God will unleash his potential, and use him mightily in the Kingdom.
If you would like to help free a child from poverty in Jesus name, please visit http://www.compassion.com

What not to do when you travel to another country

10435070_10152346014383143_5684411763653682514_nA couple of weeks ago I was in Mataranka, a tiny town south of Darwin famous for its hot springs. Tourist spots like this draw people from all around the world and it’s not wonder with the clear, warm water and natural foliage draped overhead.

As we swam, I overheard a Swiss couple, probably in their mid sixties, speaking in German. Knowing that one of the greatest things about travelling is the opportunity to speak to people from all around the world, I struck up a conversation with them in German. My Aussie/German friend Nelly soon joined in, and we heard all about their trip around Australia.

Perhaps they felt comfortable with us, speaking their own language, but it wasn’t long before they were expressing some strong opinions about what they’d seen. Our country quickly came under attack as they expressed their disgust at the living conditions, treatment and segregation of our Indigenous people. They capped it off with a stinging assessment: They’d travelled all over the world, and never seen anything as bad as what they’d seen here.

Having just driven across the country feeling these same concerns myself, I felt chastised and ashamed but also annoyed at their condescension.

Despite all they may have seen, they had not walked a mile in our shoes. I was challenged to recognise the privilege it is to be welcomed in to a country that is not my own, and to accept what it offers, without handing out my judgements and criticisms.

Wondering if I really know my country at all.

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I’ve just returned from a road trip with three girlfriends. We drove all the way across Australia, from one coast to the other, south to north.

On our first day of driving, as we left our city and drove through the countryside, I felt an almost umbilical connection to this land. My love for my country and my sense of pride in it runs deep. It’s what I know, it’s my home, and it’s been good to me.

By the end of my trip, however, I began to wonder how much I know my country at all.

The face of Australia is so multi-faceted, that I began to realize how vastly different my experience of ‘home’ is to other people’s. Outside the cities we drove through rural farmland; country towns that have a lifestyle and culture of their own.

Beyond that, things change even more. Decades of bush lifestyle have been carved out in remote regions, where a run down roadhouse is the central social hub and isolation is a way of life.

Further on we came to Aboriginal lands; where children roam the dusty streets with vicious looking dogs in the middle of the day.

And I wondered about school.

And I realized how much I don’t understand.

And we discussed and debated what should be done, and realized that we don’t have the answers.

And we wondered if anyone does.

And I thought of the bright lights of Sydney…

…and it felt like another world.

Rubbish Christians Post on Facebook

UntitledI came across this the other day. I honestly can’t remember who posted it, (if it was you, I’m sorry) and I have no doubt the person meant well, but I really believe this stuff has got to stop.

It seems that Christians get far too caught up in liking and re-posting things that sound good, with little thought to whether or not they are true. Under the illusion that we are making a stand for what we believe in, we find ourselves merely propagating the idea that our faith is a house of straw that will be blown down with the first winds of reason.

As Christians, we are in possession of the greatest, deepest and purest redemptive truth the world has ever seen, and yet somehow we manage to reduce it to this sickening fluff.

How is it that the epic triumph of Jesus over evil can become glorified chain mail with a caricature devil and a spiritualised guilt trip?

Before you let yourself be guilted into ‘passing it on,’ ask yourself this: Does it do our saviour justice, and is it scriptural truth?

Because I can guarantee you this, the true army of God has the Word of God as its sword, and not some feel-good anecdote.