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.
Look at this foreboding portrait of the Māori prophet and leader known as Te Whiti. It's entitled, "The man of peace and the man of war (Te Whiti and Titokowaru)" and was painted by New Zealand artist, Tony Fomison in 1980. His full name was Erueti Te Whiti Te...read more
This stunning painting was made by the British artist, James Barry, in London in 1820. For nearly a hundred years, it hung in pride of place in the hallowed mahogany-panelled halls of the Church Missionary Society's London headquarters. That was because the...read more
Russia probes, nuclear summits, refugee crises, #MeToo, and more—these days it feels like everything is in flux. How would Jesus respond to the political and social upheaval we’re currently experiencing? Not with acquiescence and passivity. Not by giving in to the...read more
Recently, the church has to learn how to lose with dignity, and we don’t like it. After several self-inflicted losses, as well as a groundswell against the church even having a voice in society, a lot of Christian leaders feel like they're fighting a losing battle for...read more
This week in the Australian parliament a newly minted senator called on the government to stop accepting any immigrants who do not reflect "the historic European Christian composition of Australian society and embrace our language, culture and values as a people.” In...read more
"I hate TED talks. I can’t abide the way presenters pace around the stage, I hate the gravity with which they deliver their message, and being patronised by a smug, overconfident 'thought leader' is pretty intolerable." Julie Bindel is an English writer and...read more
It was recently announced that Franklin Graham, the son of the famous evangelist Billy Graham, will be touring Australia in 2019. He’s coming for the 60th anniversary of Billy Graham’s historic 1959 crusades in Melbourne, Sydney, Hobart, Launceston, Canberra,...read more
Remember the controversy Tony Campolo caused back in the day when he announced that you can’t own a BMW and be a Christian? Well, the recent revelations about Bill Hybels’ treatment of female colleagues raise the question about whether a pastor should ever own a...read more
I am all for a statement that provides a clear, biblical integration of both evangelism and social justice. For most of the 20th century these two aspects of the mission of God’s people were considered to be competing interests in the life of the church. Even still...read more
Are your singers regularly off-key or flat? Do you have musicians who struggle to keep up with chord changes? What about poor sound, poor lighting and a mediocre team running it all? A lame website? A church sign that’s advertizing out of date events? Yep, you got it…...read more
Quite a few years ago, together with my co-author, Alan Hirsch, I proposed a simple formula for church planters that went like this: CHRISTOLOGY (what is the gospel?) shapes MISSIOLOGY (what is the purpose of God and his people?) which in turn shapes ECCLESIOLOGY...read more
Culture & Politics
Last week, President Donald Trump hosted a White House reception for 100 Evangelical leaders, including such figures as Paula White, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr., Darrell Scott, Robert Jeffress, Eric Metaxas, Ralph Reed, and Tony Perkins. The president was...read more
To fiddle while Rome burns (idiomatic) To neglect helping when one’s time is needed most; to ignore the major problem at hand (whilst doing something less important); to be idle, inactive, or uninterested in a time of great need. The Emperor Nero certainly did not...read more
Let’s get a little perspective, people. I’m just getting so tired of all the ire and high dudgeon. It's exhausting. The anti-Trump outrage is at fever pitch at the moment and it’s making my ears ring. The fury and the intensity of the attacks on Donald Trump are...read more
[This is the third in a four-part series on the gifts of Advent. The first post explored BEAUTY and in the second I looked at JUSTICE] Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack in everything That's how the light gets in. ~...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. ~ Tim...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
Art & Popular Culture
Remember that line in Yann Martel's book, Life of Pi, when the protagonist tells his visitor, “I have a story that will make you believe in God.” Can stories really do that? And if they can, shouldn't film have even more chance to convey belief in God, given the...read more
When Wes Anderson’s film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou came out on DVD in 2004, in the extras it included an interview Anderson and co-writer Noah Baumbach did with Italian film critic Antonio Monda. Typically, it’s slightly absurdist, with the odd moment of...read more
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 Trek...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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