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.
Recently I posted this on Facebook: Why, why, why did the most inspirational and groundbreaking cinema event of the decade have to be a stoopid Marvel movie?!!? Yeah, it’s true I don’t like Marvel (or DC) films. And I’m not that fond of Star Wars or Star...read more
In Martin McDonagh’s hugely successful film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, a grieving mother, frustrated by police inaction in solving her daughter’s murder, erects three signs goading the local police chief to do something. Mildred Hayes (Frances...read more
It’s nearly Ash Wednesday, the traditional commencement of the Christian season of Lent, a time of fasting and repentance in readiness for Easter. I’m occasionally asked why not all Protestants observe Lenten fasts and I explain it’s basically about freedom from...read more
Should we be helping other Christians before we help non-Christians in greater need? This question came into even sharper focus recently when the Trump administration announced that its nominee to become director general of the United Nations’ International...read more
When I was a kid there were all sorts of shops that don’t exist today. And I don’t mean a few local stores went out of business. I mean those kinds of shops hardly exist any longer. Our town had a little local hardware shop and a plant nursery, both of which were...read more
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” – Inigo Montoya In recent years, even the most non-liturgical branches of the church, those who usually recoil against anything that even smacks of ritualism, have discovered the...read more
Some people have to preach; they can’t last without preaching. Some leaders, when they leave the pastorate for a non-pastoral leadership role, almost feel an emptiness when they are not preaching. ~ Ed Stetzer This quote comes from Ed Stetzer’s recent...read more
Recently, I was teaching a class on missional church when, in a moment of unguarded clarity, one of my students said, "I like hearing about all these new ways of doing church, but I don't know if I could do them because I've grown up in church and I love it." The...read more
In 2005 Australia had its own version of Charlottesville when race riots and mob violence broke out in the southern Sydney suburb of Cronulla. It happened on a hot Sunday in summer when around 5000 people gathered to protest the presence of Middle Easterners in their...read more
It started with the sparking of a faulty fridge-freezer in a fourth-floor flat. But the speed with which the fire consumed the 124 apartments was breathtaking. We couldn’t believe our eyes as we watched it on our screens. The inferno that erupted in the 24-story...read more
She was elderly and wore a lavender cardigan. She gripped my arm more firmly than I thought she could. She said she had something she wanted to tell me. I had just preached a Pentecost Sunday sermon about how the Holy Spirit commissions us all as missionaries, or sent...read more
Dear moderate, peace-loving Muslims, I know every time there is a major Islamic-inspired terrorist incident you're called on by angry radio hosts and newscasters to renounce all violence and condemn the perpetrators. And every time this happens your imams and muftis...read more
Culture & Politics
"To change the date of Australia Day would be to deny the complexity of our national story and seek to remodel our national identity on an overly simplistic narrative of shame that denies all that we have achieved together throughout our history". – Owen Laffin ...read more
It's common to refer to contemporary Australian society as post-Christian, and while shifting moral values, church attendance, as well as the lack of interest in statements by church authorities, would bear that out, it's not like some switch got pulled at the turn of...read more
It’s patriarchy that says men are stupid and monolithic and unchanging and incapable. It’s patriarchy that says men have animalistic instincts and just can’t stop themselves from harassing and assaulting. It’s patriarchy that says men can only be attracted by certain...read more
[This is the second in a four-part series looking at the gifts given to us in the coming of Jesus. The first gift I explored was BEAUTY. You can read it here.] One of the most powerful ways to show people the truth of Christianity is to serve the common good. ~...read more
Beauty – Katrina Lambert Beauty lives In the hollow of the itch you can’t reach. Its first gift is a jolt of recognition - A reflection of something Deep and hidden within us. Beauty lies In the stitched line of the horizon. Its second gift is the joy of communion -...read more
Why is it that the people most likely to demand that we “keep Christ in Christmas” seem to know so little about the historical birth of Jesus! If they did, they would have no sentimental attachment to traditional nativity scenes and they definitely wouldn’t want to...read more
Art & Popular Culture
Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist. - Pablo Picasso Vincent Van Gogh is widely known today as a typically eccentric artist. He might not have invented Impressionism, but he was the first to paint stars swirling uncontrollably in...read more
When I first saw a photo of the Fearless Girl defying the rampaging bull of Wall Street I loved it! There she stands – feet apart, back arched, hands on hips – boldly staring down the ultimate symbol of out-of-control capitalism. Viewed from behind it looks as if...read more
It has the imposing title, The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection. More often than not it's just referred to by the shortened form, The Disciples or Les Disciples. You won't find it in the Louvre or the Met or the...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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