The way of nature
and the way of grace
“All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.”
– Flannery O’Connor.
In the film, Tree of Life, one of Terrence Malick’s characters says in voiceover, “The nuns taught us there are two ways through life, the way of Nature and the way of Grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow.”
But choosing is tough. Even when walking the way of grace you do it right alongside the way of nature.
Jesus referred to that as being in the world, but not of the world. And it’s a specialized balancing act, not one we always get right. At least I don’t.
So my musings here will be about that awkward negotiation between nature and grace, knowing that, as Flannery O’Connor said, we are inclined to resist grace because it hurts to be changed. But in the long run, bottom line, Jesus is king and following the way of grace leads us deeper into the world he’s creating for us.
You probably won’t agree with everything I say, but I’m trying to stimulate a positive, generative conversation. And starting conversations is a good thing, if you ask me. Right?
So join me as I share my thoughts, excerpt my upcoming writing, launch debates and generally rabble-rouse, all in a genuine attempt to figure out what the reign of King Jesus looks like in earthy, real terms, right here, right now.
Joseph Campbell once said, “If you want to change the world, change the metaphor.” Maybe if you want to change the church you should change the metaphors you use to describe it too. You’re probably familiar with the church’s use of militaristic imagery to describe its...read more
With all the hullabaloo about the film version of The Shack I find it amusing to read reviews questioning whether the film (and by extension, the book) teaches biblical truth. Twenty years ago, Christians had no problem suggesting that Neo in The Matrix was a Christ...read more
In America and Ireland, the touchstone of public outrage about same-sex marriage seems to have been wedding cake bakers. In Australia, perhaps fittingly, its brewers. Recently, an Australian beer company appeared to sponsor a debate between two politicians arguing for...read more
In my last blog I explored some of the signs that suburbia is dying and warned the church against identifying itself so strongly with suburban culture. There's a cultural shift happening and some cities are catching on quicker than others. In 2000, Austin, Texas,...read more
Whoever marries the spirit of this age will find himself a widower in the next. ~ William Ralph Inge Most Americans grow up in suburbs. Forty-four million people live in America’s 51 major metropolitan areas, while nearly 122 million live in their suburbs. And...read more
The man's name is Juan. He finds the boy hiding in an abandoned apartment and takes him home and feeds him. The boy won't speak. He doesn't speak because no one ever listens to him. Not the other boys who bully him and call him "faggot". Not his crack-addicted mother....read more
I don’t know much about baseball. Because I grew up in a culture without baseball, its appeal eludes me, sadly. Sure, I’ve seen a few movies about the magic of the game (The Natural, Field of Dreams) or the science behind it (Moneyball) or the romance of baseball...read more
Recently, I’ve been blogging about how to “read” your context, to understand your neighborhood and to join God in what is going on there. I've been exploring the work of Michael Mata, professor of Transformational Urban Leadership at Azusa Pacific University in Los...read more
I was chatting to a young(ish) Baptist minister recently who was trying to recruit me to support a particular campaign he was developing (that’s not important right now). What intrigued me was that, as he was pitching his idea to me, he casually mentioned that he just...read more
How do you get to know the city you’re in? In recent posts I’ve been exploring a number of areas every church should examine in order to understand their neighbors better. I’ve referred to it as listening to your city in the same way as a doctor uses a stethoscope to...read more
Recently, I’ve been writing about ways we can listen to our neighborhoods. I’ve been saying we need to lean in closely and hear the deep yearnings of those around us. Only then can we create bespoke ministry responses, not the off-the-shelf, prefabricated religious...read more
In my previous post I encouraged Christian leaders to consider ways they could listen deeply to the yearnings, desires, hopes and disappointments of their community. My reason for encouraging such deep listening is that I believe all mission is contextual. All...read more
The final entry in my series of reflections based on ten of the greatest Christmas artworks of all time. Merry Christmas to you all! 10 THE FLIGHT TO EGYPT Artwork: Rest on the Flight to Egypt - Orazio Gentileschi, Birmingham Art Gallery Reading: Matthew...read more
Ten of the greatest pieces of Christian art ever created. Ten Advent reflections. A bit like the ten stations of the Christmas story. Here's No.9. 9. THE ADORATION OF THE MAGI Artwork: Adoration of the Magi – Sandro Botticelli, Uffizi Gallery, Florence...read more
My Advent devotion series, based on the 10 greatest paintings of the Christmas story ever produced. Look carefully at the painting. Read the Bible text. Read the reflection. Recite the prayer. 8. THE MAGI SEARCH FOR THE CHRIST Artwork: The Procession of the...read more
7 Broken Men Series
We come to the last of our 7 Broken Men and I'm going to take a somewhat more serious tone with this one. Recent blog posts in this series have been presented with a lighter touch as we've noted the way our broken men have been used by God for the greater good. And...read more
So far (if you’ve been following along) we’ve discovered that some of the greatest movements of Christianity – Calvinism, Pentecostalism, the Great Century of missions, the Jesus Revolution, and the Australian Baptist church – were all launched by broken men. Welcome...read more
In this series of posts we’ve been looking at “broken men” – fragile souls, charlatans, jerks and screw-ups who were used by God nonetheless to bring great hope and healing to the world. So far we’ve looked at men who were affected by overbearing fathers, childhood...read more
I’m a 20-year veteran of the academy, but I still don’t call myself an academic. On my immigration forms I write “teacher” in the occupation box.
I’ve taught at Morling College in Sydney that whole time and am currently the head of the missiology department there.
My doctorate examined a mission-shaped approach to being and doing church, and I’ve written a bunch of books in that field. Some of them have even been popular. Thank you if you bought one.
I enjoy music by guys who can’t sing that great (Dylan, Cohen, Cave), hiking the national parks of North America (15, so far), and reading Flannery O’Connor. I’ve seen every film made by the Cohen Brothers and Stanley Kubrick and I still hold out hope that Terrence Malick has one more masterpiece in him.
I helped launch the Small Boat Big Sea community in Manly. I co-founded the Forge mission training network. I have won camel races in Kazakhstan, cliff-diving competitions in Thailand, and chess tournaments at the Kremlin. And I have spoken with Elvis (not all this might be true).
And through it all I have been loved by an amazing woman who has stood by me for over 30 years and whose capacity for endurance seemingly knows no bounds, my wife, Caz (this part is definitely true!).
Books by Mike
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