Reflections of a Broken Man

On Being Thankful by StephenMac
April 7, 2009, 7:51 pm
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , , , ,

**Currently listening to Never Take Friendship Personal by Anberlin… oh how I have missed you!**

CS Lewis Song – Brooke Fraser

If I find in myself desires nothing in this world can satisfy,
I can only conclude that I was not made for here
If the flesh that I fight is at best only light and momentary,
then of course I’ll feel nude when to where I’m destined I’m compared

Speak to me in the light of the dawn
Mercy comes with the morning
I will sigh and with all creation groan as I wait for hope to come for me

Am I lost or just less found? On the straight or on the roundabout of the wrong way?
Is this a soul that stirs in me, is it breaking free, wanting to come alive?
‘Cause my comfort would prefer for me to be numb
And avoid the impending birth of who I was born to become

Speak to me in the light of the dawn
Mercy comes with the morning
I will sigh and with all creation groan as I wait for hope to come for me

For we, we are not long here
Our time is but a breath, so we better breathe it
And I, I was made to live, I was made to love, I was made to know you
Hope is coming for me
Hope, He’s coming

Speak to me in the light of the dawn
Mercy comes with the morning
I will sigh and with all creation groan as I wait for hope to come for me

This song was awesomely covered by the guys at the church I was serving at during mission. As I was reflecting on mission, contemplating life the universe and everything, doing your average everyday navel-gazing (as you do), I remembered that I have much to be thankful for. Amanhecer Do dia - dawn of the sun

I am thankful for this life that God has given me: not just this lifestyle or this occupation/pathway, or even this lifetime of opportunities, but for this organic, biological life that exists at his desire as I inhale each breath! Sounds simple, but this is not something that I could have said in my first few years of high-school, nor even in my final years there where I was shown what it meant to be a Christian amidst a torrent of emotions: anger, despair, disappointment, loneliness and melancholy. This is something that I have only come to truly appreciate recently, in understanding that this life is not about me, but about the God who has made me his own.

And I, I was made to live, I was made to love, I was made to know you

I am thankful for the hope that I have been given: again, not just this ethereal or wishful thinking hope that our society pictures, but the hope of life eternal, that imperishable inheritance, that living hope that is only available because God called me. Again, this is not a hope that I have always had, but has been something that has only been recognised recently. This is the hope of Job, who screams out that he knows his Redeemer lives and that in spite of his perceived impending doom, he is still able to see his God knowing that God will vindicate him in the end! I ask you, where else will you find this hope? Nowhere! Not in materialism, not in super-spirituality, not in success or power or money or family or popularity or anything except him who is the living hope.

Speak to me in the light of the dawn
Mercy comes with the morning
I will sigh and with all creation groan as I wait for hope to come for me

What a powerful image that is, the light of the dawn. That God would deign to speak to me of all people, that he would show me mercy and kindness and forgiveness and love, that I may have life, that I may have hope. What else is there to say?

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. Eph 1:3-8

(h/t to sxc for the pic)


Why I Blog by StephenMac
March 24, 2009, 7:07 am
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , , ,

**Currently listening to Define the Great Line by Underoath**

My MarsEdit trial has ended so I am back on Windows Live Writer after I sold my soul and installed Windows on my mac…

There has been a lot of talk recently around the place about a greater “web presence” for our community. I’m all for it: I think that to reach people like my and those in our generation, we need to use the web. But somehow I found this blog as part of the lists of “students who blog”. True enough, but I specifically did not respond to the email because I did not want this blog to be a “college blog”.

I was discussing this with one of my friends, and I was asked why I then blog. Why? What do I hope to achieve? What is the purpose of ROBM? So I thought that I should probably clarify myself…

I think, therefore I blog. For me, blogging is sometimes a way to be able to collate thoughts and have them in text, to be able to better understand what on earth is going on. Hence the Reflections part of the name. But, as she asked, why not simply write things down in a word document? For me, blogging includes a level of openness, of being able to write, to share, to wear my heart on my sleeve to use yet another cliché. It is a chance to get things out there, while maintaining a level of anonymity that otherwise would have made the whole process impossible. And finally, it is a chance to speak to those who have similar tings on their heart, for those who love music and want to know what songs mean, for those who desire more than the superficial from their speakers, but want to be moved, provoked, challenged, by their music. And so I will provide reflections on song lyrics, and should do so more often.

Finally, I end with a postscript of EBHG. It stands for Ever By His Grace, a tag that I picked up off one of my dearest friends, who would sign off his emails with that, reminding me that whatever we do, it is continually by God’s Grace. The ability to blog, to hear the thoughts of others, to share with them my life somewhat, but to eventually tell them that there is real meaning, and real hope, and real life found only in Christ, is purely by the grace of God. These reflections are sometimes an attempt to point you to the reality. They are broken, as the man who writes them is fallen and broken, but the reality they point to is not.

And so I write,

Messes of Men by StephenMac
February 6, 2009, 8:46 am
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , , , ,

*listening to mewithoutYou – Brother, Sister album again, or rather, still*

"I do not exist," we faithfully insist
sailing in our separate ships, and in each tiny caravel-
tiring of trying, there’s a necessary dying
like the horseshoe crab in its proper season sheds its shell
such distance from our friends,
like a scratch across a lens,
made everything look wrong from anywhere we stood
and our paper blew away before we’d left the bay
so half-blind we wrote these songs on sheets of salty wood

You caught me making eyes at the other boatmen’s wives
and heard me laughing louder at the jokes told by their daughters
I’d set my course for land,
but you well understand
it takes a steady hand to navigate adulterous waters
the propeller’s spinning blades held acquaintance with the waves
as there’s mistakes I’ve made no rowing could outrun
the cloth low on the mast like to say I’ve got no past
I’m nonetheless the librarian and secretary’s son
with tarnish on my brass and mildew on my glass
I’d never want someone so crass as to want someone like me
but a few leagues off the shore, I bit a flashing lure
and I assure you, it was not what it expected it to be!
I still taste its kiss, that dull hook in my lip
is a memory as useless as a rod without a reel
to an anchor-ever-dropped-seasick-yet-still-docked
captain spotted napping with his first mate at the wheel
floating forgetfully along, with no need to be strong
we keep our confessions long and when we pray we keep it short
I drank a thimble full of fire and I’m not ever going back

Oh, my God!
"I do not exist," we faithfully insist
while watching sink the heavy ship of everything we knew
if ever you come near I’ll hold up high a mirror
Lord, I could never show you anything as beautiful as you

brothersister Why am I even posting this song?!? It’s about adultery, and by posting it, am I admitting to that? No… thankfully…

There is something about the futility of sin that this song expresses. I’m reading a commentary of Judges for an upcoming Bible study, and the author mentioned the sheer monotony and repetitiveness of the sin of the Israelites. I think this song follows a similar line, in that sin is futile… we do it, but we understand that it doesn’t satisfy:

you caught me making eyes at the other boatmen’s wives
and heard me laughing louder at the jokes told by their daughters

And while there are a few lyrics which I am still trying to get my head around, I must admit to loving the final part:

If ever you come near I’ll hold up high a mirror
Lord, I could never show you anything as beautiful as you

I think that this is the thing I want in my life, that when people see me, they actually see the reflection of the Lord in the mirror that is holding his image. My life should reflect God’s work, God’s person.

Hang on, haven’t I ranted about taking God’s name in vain before? How is this song different? This is not a meaningless or empty use of God’s name… the context shows us that it’s a cry to God…

Oh to be a reflection of the Lord…


“You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” by StephenMac
January 14, 2009, 11:05 am
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , ,

*currently streaming “Riot!” off the Paramore website… We Are Broken is a fantastic song*

“You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Mark 8:33

So I am currently trying to get on top of my sermon for this Sunday, and the more you read a passage, the more it impacts you. Yea, I know… why am I blogging instead of sermonising? I wanted to clarify and share some thoughts…

What do the things of God look like?

34Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? 37Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 38If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

cross copy2

Here is love: here is the care and selflessness that is required of all Christians. The absolute trust to devote everything to the God who provides all. To deny yourself, to stop putting your worries/fears/concerns/priorities first, and start putting God’s there. A harsh rebuke… a challenging application. It hurts: to be able to pray with all conviction and honesty “Yet not as I will, but as You will.

I am preaching this to my congregation, and yet it has to apply to myself first… it hurts.

(h/t CreativeMYK for pic… poorly edited)


Home by StephenMac
January 12, 2009, 10:43 am
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , ,

*currently listening to “Define the Great Line” – Underoath. I think it matches my mood this morning… The Leeland album I recently acquired just doesn’t seem to feel right at this moment*

Yeah I know, it’s been a while since my last post. And the last one was merely the posting of lyrics, so it doesn’t really count as a post either…. I seriously play too much WoW

It became apparent to me these holidays, Christmas/New Year, that I lack love. I’m told to love my neighbour as myself, but what does “love” actually mean? Love is not that soppy bull that society would have us believe. Love is not that lustful crap that magazines and TV shows and movies and games want us to have. Love is care. Taking time out to make sure that you are serving others. Loving your neighbour as yourself means that you are spending your time/resources/etc on other people, just as much as yourself. I was chewed out (and rightfully so) for being unloving.

I did not love my family, becuase I didn’t spend time with them. I did not love my church family, because I would leave my sermons, my leading preparation, my kids talk, to the last minute, forget to turn up on time, and do things really poorly. I did not love because I spent time doing the selfish or mechanical things, and not the selfless and personal things. Like leaving setup for evening service so that I can be welcoming to the new person, who obviously needed someone to talk to. But I didn’t. Because I suck.

I tried this week… I really did. I planned things in advance. I made sure that I set time out to be prepared. And still I screw up. I was not loving, and the evening service reflected a loveless place… Church should not make me feel like crap… and yet…

I feel responsible. But I don’t know what to do. I know there are a million and one things that I could improve. But sometimes I feel that it would require me to put every spare moment I have into it. Maybe I should. But I then feel like I miss out on other things… the fear of burn-out haunts me…

Why do I feel like crap? I think the root cause of it all is my lovelessness. There is just so much that needs to be done. I need an attitude adjustment, but I fear for myself (selfishness).

“When life is in discord, praise Ye, the LORD”


The Calm Before the Storm by StephenMac
September 21, 2008, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: ,

**currently listening to: Oh! Gravity by Switchfoot…. my latest acquisition**

Okies… this is the first of a series of posts done tonight. My apologies to Dave’s Blog for taking up valuable space on his page.

This is the last night before my final term at college – a term of exams, coffee, screaming, Greek and Hebrew woes, and hopefully more Sydney FC wins like last night (*sigh* my cousin invited me to the game… and I turned him down because I wanted to chill at home!!! So very very annoyed – should have been there…what an awesome match).

IMG_0427 Things are exciting atm… church is booming, I have a job for next year with an awesome opportunity to grow and be grown, and college work I think is beginning to pay off. The end of this year is in sight, and I am so very grateful for what has been an awesome year so far. Oh… and spring is freaking awesome too!

On a downer, I am really struggling with dealing with some of the teens in my evening congregation. I haven’t earned their respect, so more often than not I feel like I’m coming across as a rules nazi… I spend most of my time chastising them for stuff – mainly being idiots and rude, and I am seriously struggling with anger, impatience, lack of love, and general frustration. Part of my excitement with next year is a fresh start: while I’ve been with this group for two years, there are a few who have only been there over the last month or three, and because I spend most of my time with the younger members in our youth group/sunday school, I haven’t had the chance to build the rapport with this particular group. And so they treat me like dirt, and I don’t deal much better with them. Next year will be a fresh start hopefully. Please…

On a random tangent, I am already beginning to miss the kiddies that I leave – they may not know it, but for their age, they are a remarkably intelligent and awesome bunch. It is so cool to ask a question in kids church, and have an answer that is truly profound. What a privilege! What a blessing! God has been so great this past year!

Stay tuned for the next few posts

The Shadowlands Revisited by StephenMac
August 30, 2008, 9:53 pm
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , , , ,

**currently listening to: Dusk And Summer – Dashboard Confessional**

Previously on Reflections of a Broken Man: I reflected on whether it was still fair to hold a “Shadowlands” theology that insisted that our current reality is merely a shadow of their true reality that will be found in the new creation at the end. This is a problem because it denies the reality of the now, and therefore could lead to a denial of the goodness and wholeness of this creation.

This week in Chapel, we looked at Colossians 2:16-17.

16  Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.  17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (NIV)

Paul reminds his readers in Colosse to remain in the faith because of the reality of Christ in them, then warns his readers to be aware of criticism by their Jewish contemporaries who might demand that they observe the Jewish dietary laws and calendar. These things were but a shadow, and the reality is found in Christ.

lubomir_bukov_shadows-of-past-bw-frameThis is what struck me, because the language seems very similar to the Platonic Shadowlands theology. We were reminded in the sermon that what is at stake is the distinction between shadow and substance, and that we are to be wary of moving back to the historical shadow, as opposed to remaining in the reality of Christ. Furthermore, the substance is not mutually exclusive from the shadow – you do not achieve the substance simply be being ‘not shadow’. In other words, there is a twofold process of making sure that our Christian life is not built on the shadows – the things that merely point to Jesus (think modern day church ritual as well as OT law) – and that the substance is genuinely there – our theology and practice is tied directly to our personal our relationship with Christ as revealed in his Word.

Yet, how does this then relate to the avoidance of Platonic paradigms? How can we insist that the things that point to Christ, especially OT practices and laws, are mere shadows, if we have already dismissed the idea that this is our current reality – and that our current reality is the reality?

In essence, I think there is a need to distinguish between the types of shadows. Or perhaps shadow is a poor or confusing metaphor… Let me explain:

Hypothesis 1: In the first category of ‘Platonic’ shadows, we are talking about everything on earth being a shadow of a reality in heaven. For example, the sinful broken man is merely a shadow of a true man in heaven (extreme example, I’m sure that there are a multitude of variations on this theme. Specifically, I am thinking about C.S. Lewis’ eschatology which is arguably ‘Platonist’). The second category of ‘Platonic’ shadows are only a certain number of things are shadows in light of a heavenly reality. As such certain things, or maybe certain practices, are a mere shadow.

**Stephen is annoyed at Chris Carrabba’s whining voice in DBC… switching to Stephen Christian and Anberlin… NEW ALBUM – 30/9**

Continuing on… finished being distracted by wikipedia… I think the second category talks about things that are perishable, or perhaps are specific results of sin. So, for example, man in and of itself is not the shadow, but perhaps his physical limitations or his inability to have the world completely subdued as it was in the Garden of Eden (guessing here) are the shadows, but man is still the same (or something).

Hypothesis 2: Closely related to the last idea is that the metaphor is misleading or simply easily confused. May I paraphrase 2:17… “These are but signposts pointing the way; but the destination, however,  is found in Christ.” This is the thrust of the passage I think – don’t be fooled into thinking the signpost is the destination. Don’t be fooled into returning to the things that merely pointed to Christ, and miss out on Christ himself. I’m guessing here, but I think this would tie in more closely with 2:6-8…

Colossians 2:6-8  So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him,  7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.  8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

In this way, shadow does not imply a different reality, but merely the insubstantial connection to that which creates the shadow. Better yet, the OT laws become a signpost pointing to Christ, a ‘sandbox model’ as my Biblical Studies teacher put it in High School, of the way that God would work out his salvation in the world. This doesn’t deny the reality of those events or practices, but places their emphasis in their goal – Jesus Christ.


Goodbye to the Shadowlands… by StephenMac
July 28, 2008, 10:29 pm
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Well, it seems today’s philosophy lecture has ruined this blog…well, not so much the blog as the name and general philosophy behind it (so to speak).

We were looking at Plato, and the idea of the “ideal” reality in which the perfect exists, and our existence is a mere reflection or shadow (to borrow Plato’s metaphor) of that perfect reality. And to my thinking, that made sense – it especially accounted for why certain institutions worked so poorly. Take, for example, basic human relationships. Since the fall, where everything has become tainted by sin, our relationships are not perfect; they are in fact broken. Everything has become dimmed in comparison to their original intent as “seen” in the Garden of Eden.

To my mind, and borrowing from C.S. Lewis’ terminology, sin has affected the human condition so much so that all we see of the original intention is a shadowy reflection. This blog, it’s name and motive stem from what was a belief that our current life is a mere reflection of what will be – of heaven and our new creation. And it is at this point that the metaphor encounters a serious problem according to today’s lecture. Because if we hold that to be true – that our current existence is a shadow or reflection of the true reality of something like heaven or New Eden or the ideal – then we deny the reality of our current existence. And this is a genuine problem. So how do we reconcile the apparent tension: “new creation”, “shadowlands” or “reflections” and “reality”?


A digression for the moment to clarify the term “shadowlands” (correct me if I am sketchy on the details). C.S. Lewis, in his book “The Last Battle”, describes the place of most of the narrative as being the “shadowlands” in comparison to the “real” Narnia which the Lucy, Susan, Peter, Edmund, et. al. finally experience after their deaths. Their entire experience of life has been a reflection of the true reality that they find at the end of time. I think that it is clear that Lewis wants us to see our own eschatology in this same light – that our own “new creation” will be the same as the old, but perfect. And at this point, we can see the blurring of the two ideas.

Let me see if the logic is coherent. We have a triangle. It was created perfect by God, it was good. Adam sins, and we find that the creation that once was good gradually becomes more corrupted by sins effects. Our triangle deteriorates. It’s still a triangle, but it is not longer the perfect triangle that it once was. Now a Platonist would say that this corrupted triangle is now a reflection of the true triangle ideal that God created way back in the Garden of Eden. But is this what Lewis is saying? What is the Bible saying?

We quite clearly must deny the idea that the corrupted triangle is separate from the ideal/perfect triangle: the corrupted triangle in this sense cannot be a mere reflection of the ideal because then the corrupted triangle becomes worthless – why would Jesus die for a copy? No, Jesus died for the real thing. On the other hand, we can quite clearly see that that triangle is not perfect. It holds to the “form” of the triangle, but it is not the ideal triangle. So too today, we know that institutions like marriage are not the ideal relationship that will be in heaven – but does this mean that marriage is a mere reflection or shadow of the heavenly reality?

The passage that immediately jumps to mind is that of 1 Corinthians 13:12:

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

What knowledge we have now is only in part: we see only a reflection of the true glory of God, and we cannot ever hope to have full knowledge (forgive me if I have misappropriated Scripture). Heaven is the true reality of which now we only have glimpses. What does this mean for the idea that the here and now is only a reflection of what will be? Can we compromise, and say that while we are real, the institutions of society and humanity are only reflections of the heavenly reality (is my church only a glimpse, a reflection, of that fantastic host in heaven praising and glorifying God?)?

I leave this for you to ponder…