psalm 110To what extent should an artist need to explain their work?

That’s something I started to think more about this morning. I was showing Gloria one of my recent paintings and pointing out some of its features. She appreciated it much more afterwards, saying that prior to my explanation the painting looked … well I can’t remember her exact words, but they weren’t complimentary.

She now realised that there was purpose behind the painted marks and symbols, she could appreciate they had meaning and she liked the painting a lot more.

Her response raised the question of what viewers expect from art and how many are interested in something more than pretty pictures. How much effort are they willing to put into looking an art work?
In my paintings I try to express ideas related to scripture, using text and symbols. Some of those symbols may seem obscure and the casual viewer may miss their intended significance. It might be easier if a glossary of symbols was displayed next to each painting to explain what everything means, but what room would that leave for the viewer to discover things for themselves? And surely discovery is part of the joy that we can get when viewing art – as long as we are observant, patient, and give the artwork enough respect to SEE it rather than merely glance at it.


Protect Middle Eastern Christians. (article from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem)


At a press conference on Monday (13 Oct 2014) in Jerusalem, prominent leaders of major Jewish and Christian global organizations announced an historic joint initiative calling on world leaders to take urgent, determined actions to halt the brutal persecution of Christians in the Middle East.

“The current plight of Middle East Christians is heart-breaking and even western churches have to do more to bring the suffering of our fellow believers to the forefront worldwide,” … . “But to have a prominent global Jewish leader lend his voice to this moral call for protecting the region’s persecuted Christians is unprecedented in modern times. We welcome all others of goodwill who will take a stand now for these vulnerable ancient Christian communities.”

“Just as Christians defend Jews against anti-Semitism, just as Christians support Israel, we Jews have an obligation to speak out against the growing persecution of Christians in many parts of the world,”.

“Islamist extremists have launched a full-fledged assault on our Western values, on our civilization, and Jews and Christians must work hand in hand to defeat this threat. For too long, the world has remained silent in the face of this evil. We must act before it is too late,”

Complete article here:



The Search for Truth (article from Voice of the Martyrs)

David’s father was the local village Imam and held a strict Muslim regime in the family’s home. Like many young Muslim boys, when David turned 10, his father sent him to the local Islamic school where he was carefully instructed in the Koran and Islamic rituals until he turned 16.

Even at the Islamic school the boys in David’s class were taught that there are three holy books apart from the Koran; the Torah, the Gospel and the Psalms. However, the teachers only taught from the Koran. At 13, David prayed that he might find these other holy books. When he finally finished school, he began his search in earnest.

See complete story here:

truthTowards the end of the article we read that David “discovered that not everyone had the same thirst for meaning and truth as he did”.

I think that is a very significant statement. It explains a lot of what goes on in both the secular and religious worlds.

It also reveals why so many within the church, people who would profess to being Christians, are so easily led into error and so resistant to recognise it.

How much of a thirst for meaning and truth (especially the latter) do we have? I believe that if we DO thirst for truth, if we genuinely desire it, then God will reveal the truth to us.

Many times I’ve heard questions about those who don’t get the opportunity to hear about Jesus and His gospel – is it fair of God to condemn them for something they’ve never been made aware of. I think David’s example and his observation of people’s attitudes to truth provide a potential answer to this question.

God will get the gospel to those who DO thirst for meaning and truth. God will provide a way for all genuine truth seekers to be made aware of Jesus – THE Truth.*


*In scripture we see examples of this including Phillip being directed to the place where he’d meet the Ethiopian eunuch; and Peter’s vision that led him to seek out Cornelius.


The Only Way to the Father (God)?

wayI’m coming across more and more people who are ignoring what scripture clearly says and creating meanings totally different to what is plainly written on the page.

 They will appeal to “Spiritual insight” and present a “prophetic” interpretation of what is written OR they claim some kind of special knowledge gained through tradition/education/cultural awareness. Both cases require the average believer to submit to the understanding presented by those with that special knowledge, because we (apparently) haven’t got a hope of understanding scripture for ourselves when we read it.


Recently I’ve seen some imaginative claims about the following statement from Jesus:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

To me that is a straight forward statement about Jesus and His importance.

 The latter part makes clear the exclusivity of access to the Father (God) through Jesus. And yet the imagination of man can work overtime to reinterpret such a simple statement to make it fit with their own personal theological agenda.

 A few weeks ago I saw video of Oprah Winfrey interviewing Joel Osteen. When Oprah pressed Osteen on the claimed exclusivity of Christianity – Osteen gave a reply something along the lines that Jesus is the only way to God, but there are many ways to Jesus.

In today’s relativist and syncretistic world it’s a popular idea that all religions lead to God, that none has a monopoly on truth (regardless of Jesus’ statement that HE is the Truth).

Osteen tried to put a Christian-friendly spin onto that idea. He made sure he presented Jesus as the sole means of access to God (so he wouldn’t alienate his Christian supporters) but not wanting to distance himself from Oprah, inferred that other religions are merely another way to Jesus.

More recently I’ve seen another approach to Jesus’ claim. Pushing aside what Jesus actually said, a blog commenter (a claimed Messianic Jew) suggested that Jesus REALLY meant that the Torah is the Way the Truth and the Life.

While I find it disturbing that someone would need to make such a claim to support a chosen belief system, (which I don’t think is held by most Messianic Jews), I wasn’t really surprised because I’ve had previous disagreements with him regarding the divinity of Jesus. This example seems to be merely another case of diminishing Jesus’ importance.

 There are clearly MULTIPLE ways of changing the clear and simple message of scripture into something more esoteric and each of those ways takes the “average” believer away from the truth, creating a distance between God’s word and the “average” believer that makes it necessary for an intermediary to bridge the gap.

An intermediary between man and God?

Wait a minute – doesn’t scripture tell Jesus is that intermediary? That HE is the only means of access to the Father? At least it does if we are simple enough to accept scripture at face value instead of looking for reasons why the Bible doesn’t really mean what it says.


ISIS/ISIL/IS: Do Western Politicians Understand?

I think the article below reveals a different picture of the current Iraq/Syria situation than the one being portrayed by our politicians. The standard political stance is that members of ISIS/ISIL/IS are extremists and not representative of Islam. And yet, it’s not only young angry Moslem men who are seeking to join the “cause” – according to the article below there are families and women with children who see this regime as a more valid representation of Islam, where they can raise their families away from the perceived spiritual corruption of their original homelands (even Muslim majority homelands).


This morning I heard a TV interview with the Victorian State Premier, mainly about yesterday’s knife attack on two policemen (which resulted in the attacker being shot dead). The Premier said people needed to see themselves as Victorians and Australians first – implying that any “religious” affiliation should be secondary to State and Nationalist identity. In that remark he not only displayed his own ignorance of the importance of relationship with God; he fails to recognise how strongly others (whatever their religion) consider their faith is of PRIMARY importance in their life – that any State or National allegiance is far less important than their allegiance to their God.


As long as politicians underestimate the religious commitment of others – and see that loyal citizenship within this world ISN’T the defining factor for many people, they will continue to ignore how religious faith is a stronger motivation for those people than any supposed loyalty to secular community.


Are ISIS/ISIL/IS extremists or are they following real Islam more closely than the wider Moslem community? Or is real Islam better reflected by the moderate followers of the religion – those that Western politicians claim (or hope?) are the true representation of a religion they (try to) assure us is peaceful?


Maybe a hinted answer to those questions can be found in the response from “western” Moslem communities. There have been a few moderate voices condemning what is going on in Iraq and Syria; voices that point out that the majority of victims of ISIS/ISIL/IS are in fact Moslems, but there are others who are more interested in condemning the claimed victimising of Moslems whenever action is taken to avert known threats from groups or individuals such as the recent plan to publically behead a random victim in central Sydney.


In reality Islam has various forms, covering varying degrees of commitment and expression, often determined by the type of society in which it is expressed.  Moderates are more likely to be found in Western nations where Islam isn’t the dominant religion, but its been made clear that not all Moslems in the west are “moderate”.

In the wider world today it seems there’s an increasing move to a stricter, less tolerant expression, perhaps more in keeping with the roots of the religion.


As for my personal view , I suggest we get the most accurate picture of Islam by looking to those countries where Islam dominates and Sharia Law is practiced. How tolerant are those nations and how moderate is their treatment of people holding different beliefs? It is in areas under Moslem rule that Christians face the most persecution and suffering.



Turks leave for ‘family-friendly’ IS group


The Islamic State group is run by religious zealots and marked by war, mass killings, crucifixions and beheadings.


But for a growing number of fundamentalist Muslim families, the group’s territory is home.


“Who says children here are unhappy?” said Asiya Ummi Abdullah, a 24-year-old Muslim convert who travelled to the group’s realm with her infant son last month.


She said that living under Shariah, the Islamic legal code, means the boy’s spiritual life is secure.


“He will know God and live under his rules,” she said.


Ummi Adullah’s story, told to The Associated Press in a series of messages exchanged via Facebook, illustrates how, despite the extreme violence which the radical group broadcasts to the world, the territory it controls has turned into a magnet for devout families, many of them Turkish, who have made their way there with children in tow.


Ummi Abduallah said her move to the militant group’s realm was in part to shield her three-year-old from the sex, crime, drugs and alcohol that she sees as rampant in largely secular Turkey.


Full article here:



You can make the Bible say almost anything.

The title of this post “you can make the Bible say almost anything” is a claim I’ve heard several times, most recently in reply to a comment I made on another blog.

In the past I may have said something similar myself, but now I strongly disagree with that statement.

In reality the Bible CAN’T be made to “say almost anything”, but  if we put our trust in commentaries, study bibles with interpretive notes, or church teachers (without addressing scripture for ourselves) we can be made to believe that the Bible says things that it DOESN’T say.

A more accurate claim would be to say that PARTS of  the Bible can be used to support a variety of contradictory ideas. If those parts are used with no consideration of context, if they are used as isolated statements that have no relationship with the rest of scripture, those bible “texts” can be the false teachers most valuable tool.


What Does “Missional” Even Mean? (recommended article from Jeff Weddle)


What Does “Missional” Even Mean? Or, One Reason Why I Dropped Out of Seminary


I’ve been reading a book by an academic theologian lately. Came across this sentence:

Missional presence and activity is nothing more than participation in the missio Dei and that participation is the praxis of atonement.”

First, let me just say, after one reading, I hope you have no idea what that means.

Second, if you do know what that means after one reading, I encourage you to get out with people more often.

Third, although theology is just a bunch of guys trying to talk smart about God, it’s not a bad thing to know how to dissect their statements.

It’s a good exercise to read complicated theology every once in a while. Not too often, but once in a while. It does stretch the brain. Sometimes it stretches boundaries of word definitions as well.

If theologians made theology easy, they’d be out of a job. Theologians spend a lot of time alone with big books. Their only hope of being of use is to turn others into isolationist book readers who talk above others.

There is no office of “theologian” detailed in the Bible for the Church. Ephesians 4, which tells us all the gifted people we need to be mature in Christ, never mentions a theologian. Yes, there are teachers, but the job of a teacher is to make complex things simple, not to make complex things indiscernible

Read complete article here:


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