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.
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
Take a walk through a forest and it seems the trees stand still like silent sentinels . A tree is the ultimate individualist, right? Each one appears totally independent of the others. That is, until you realize that trees talk to each other. Yep. They talk to each...read more
Bishop Will Willimon of the United Methodist Church recently participated in a political demonstration in his home state of North Carolina. He even managed to drag several of his conservative parishioners along too. They were standing up to the Governor’s recent...read more
I recently came across these two photographs on social media. They both depict elderly protesters at recent anti-Trump rallies in the United States. The photo on the left is of a woman named Shirley, attending her first protest rally at the ripe old age of 93. I found...read more
Remember the days when we used to suppose that Western society pretty much held to values drawn from Christianity? In those days the church used to rail against such social ills as drugs and booze, and marital infidelity, and gambling, all the while assuming that...read more
This is the seventh in a series of ten reflections looking at the Christmas story through the eyes of some of the greatest artists in history. 7. THE ADORATION OF THE SHEPHERDS Artwork: The Adoration of the Shepherds - Giorgione, National Gallery of Art,...read more
From Bruegel and Botticelli to Fra Angelico and Giorgione, I’m writing a series of devotions based on the greatest Christmas art of all time. Each devotion includes a picture, a Bible reading, a reflection and a prayer. Take your time. Look deeply. Breathe....read more
This Advent, I’m writing a series of devotions, based on ten of the most beautiful paintings of the Christmas story ever created. Take some time to look carefully at the painting above. Read the Bible text. Read the reflection. Recite the prayer. 5. THE BIRTH OF...read more
7 Broken Men Series
My 7 Broken Men series continues. Check out the other entries in the blog section of this site to see the previous inductees into my hall of shame. Our fourth entry is nothing if not the most flamboyant of our seven, the Scottish-born Australian evangelist, Alexander...read more
This is the third in my series 7 Broken Men, looking at how God has worked through even the most deeply flawed individuals throughout history. You can read the first two here and here. John Calvin was born Jean Cauvin in 1509 in Noyon, France. His father Gérard Cauvin...read more
If you liked Eric Metaxas' 2013 book 7 Men, you're probably not gonna care for my current series, 7 Broken Men, about the fragile and unlikely people God has used to glorify himself. You can find my first post in the series here. But if you are up for it, put on your...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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