Saturday, September 29, 2012

The ladies you can cry over

Whilst at a wedding my wife and I attended last night I was reminded that there are three women in every blokes life who should be able to make him cry.

His Mum.
His wife.
His daughter.

And, if you are talking about any of the above mentioned ladies it should be no shame if you shed a tear.

Your Mum should be the woman who has always loved you unconditionally and not only shaped you, but the kind of women you are attracted to.

Your wife should be the woman you love, who supports you and, when together, makes you a better person then when were alone.

Finally your daughter (and I'm still only new at this one!) should show you a depth of love which you previously through impossible whom you deeply desire she grows up to be like the two aforementioned women.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Yesterday I wrote about Christian suffering being different from suffering for being a dickhead (can you tell I'm enjoying using that word?). But I've been meaning to write a post using the term for a while.

Yesterday's wasn't the intended topic.
The original post has to do with the point of salvation.

For I feel that, for some, the aim of following Jesus is about being a good bloke. For some, the Aussie gospel is that there will be no dickheads in heaven.

The truth is that Christianity isn't primarily about being a better bloke. Instead, it is about healing the division between you, me and a perfect God. It is about finding purpose and meaning within the Kingdom of God and the unfolding of salvation history.

And whilst the following-Jesus-will-make-you-a-better-bloke should happen to some degree this isn't the main point we should be pushing.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Suffering for being a d**khead is not the calling

On Monday I used the word dickhead during a lecture at college.
We were having a discussion about Christians, suffering and if martyrdom was an effective means of spreading the gospel.

I made the point that there are two types of suffering which believers sometimes get confused.
Suffering due to the message of Christ crucified and
Suffering because you are a dickhead.

I remember one young chap who was complaining about being picked on because of his faith. Now, whilst this might have been a minor cause, the major contributor was the attitude this kid had and the way he treated others.

During the lecture a bloke made an astute comment about suffering. Nowhere in the New Testament were the early church told to do anything anarchist. They weren't told to burn down pagan shrines nor "kill the infidels".

They were told to be good citizens.
They were told to obey the laws of the land.
They were told to respect and pray for their leaders.

The only reason Christan's were being persecuted was for the message they preached and the way they radically lived it out.

As they taught and lived a life "in the light," those within the "darkness" reacted adversely.

They weren't thrown in jail or put to death for being a dickhead.

Monday, September 24, 2012

"How long...?" ministry

Today on Tiny Bible Bits I wrote...

Mark 9:20-21 – So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered.
I imagine a lot of people avoided the family of the possessed boy. Jesus doesn’t.

Instead Jesus engages the father by asking an
important question… How long? How long have you been suffering?
How long have you been shunned?
How long has you heart been breaking for your child?

Can you think of people you encounter who are avoided by others?
Can you think of people would love it if someone showed concern for them?

Follow the example of Christ and resist the urge to turn away from people. Instead, come alongside them and ask “How long?” This should be a marker of God’s people.
Two things I want to note...
First, if this is true for the Christian life, how much more should it be evident for those in ministry?
And second, Tiny Bible Bits celebrates it's first anniversary tomorrow. It's amazing that this small, simple idea, now reaches 163 people three times a week. When I first wrote about this a year ago I had no clue it would see out the month, let alone be alive and kicking after 12...

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Do you have the equivalent?

There will me many Australians who'll have no idea who Tim Tebow is or that it's possible to Tebow.
There would be plenty of Aussies who will never seen The Hills and thus be ignorant of the life and trials of Heidi Montag.

But I assume many people outside Australia will have no idea who Jason Stevens is or the book he wrote.
Thankfully, very (very!) few people outside New South Wales will have ever endured an episode of The Shire or Being Lara Bingle.

Yet, depending which country you live, you can make the same point by interchanging the American version for the Australian equivalent.

In fact, I've sat in numerous conferences where a local equivalent exists for the point they are trying to make, but the speaker has stuck with their familiar line of thought.

So, who is a fault, the host or the speaker???

In some cases there's a fairly easy remedy which the speaker has overlooked. If the speaker knows that they are going to use a personality who is culturally specific, and will thus need to be explained, then I feel it is up to the speaker to enquire if there is an equivalent which the audience will be familiar.

But, if the person who has invited the speaker is aware of the general gist of the talk (like if they are speaking about a book), then I also think a degree of responsibly falls into their lap. If the host is fairly certain that the speaker will refer to Tim Tebow in front of an Australian audience, then they might want to helpfully suggest a fitting alternative.

So... who is at fault?
Depending on the situation, potentially both the host and the speaker.

Either way, it is the audience who can be the losers.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

You may now kiss the Messiah???

I thought we dealt with this when The DaVinci Code come out. Apparently not.

Again, there are reports that Jesus was married in the news (you can read some here, here and here).

Frankly, I find the whole discussion strange.

It is odd because of the "evidence" unearthed and the weight which is being given to it. Included in the 33 words of the fourth-century fragment is the phrase... "Jesus said to them 'my wife'..." with the rest of the sentence lost.

Now this sentence could have taken any number of turns which wouldn't result in Jesus having tied the knot. For example 'my wife is anyone who is devoted to God.' Additionally, we have no clue of the genre of this document. Could "Jesus" have been speaking poetically or using a metaphor? We can't tell since we have no context provided.

More so, I thought we made up our minds about historical figures from documents which were the closest to the actually events, not just the most recently discovered. Furthermore, don't we decide upon what was historically reliable based upon general consistency within the sources? The gospels, the epistles (all written within a generation of Jesus) and the early church fathers mentioned nothing, as far as I'm aware, about Jesus having a spouse.

But would it cause a giant uproar if they did?
I don't think so.

Marriage is not sinful. It is spoken of highly throughout both the Old and New Testaments. In fact, in first century Jewish culture, it was expected that blokes would get married. The bible tells us that Peter was married (Matthew 8:14 & 1 Corinthians 9:5) as were prominent early converts to the message Paul preached like Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:2).

I wouldn't be offended if it "somehow come out" that Jesus had a wife.

But it would certainly be puzzling...

With no stigma attached to marriage why would the biblical authors be silent that Jesus has a wife? It doesn't make sense. You think she would have popped up somewhere if she were travelling alongside him.

It makes even less sense when you take into account that the epistles write about the topic of marriage, and being a husband, on numerous occasions (like Ephesians 5, Colossians 3 & 1 Peter 3) but never mention that JESUS HAD A WIFE. You would have thought that was the first thing they would have mentioned! The passages should have instructed believing husbands to reflect the way Jesus treated His missus. 

Are we to believe that the authors inconveniently forgot about Jesus' marital status?

John Dickson seems to handle the topic well here. Speaking of, I like the quote which was attributed to him yesterday...

"...basic rule of history: When you have multiple first century sources, you don't rely on one from centuries later."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I saw your formal dress yesterday... but I'm not a stalker!

I noticed your formal photos.
I know it was your birthday on Tuesday.
I heard that your science exam kinda sucked.
I saw that you broke up.
It's very exciting that you got a new car or passed your L''s exam yesterday.

If I said these things to a teenager a decade ago I would've been accused of stalking.

Now the info comes to me via Facebook.
I don't even have to chase for it to interrupt my world.

The trouble is, if you share something which has popped up on your Facebook wall, the impression received is that you're a stalker (especially for a parent).

I wonder how that don't-make-it-appear-like-your-stalking-me feeling works for a for-something-to-be-genuine-I-must-post-this-immediately generation and their family.

Perhaps, if they didn't share every snippet of their life or were more discerning with either a) the people they "friend" or b) the privacy settings of their page,  this would be less of an issue.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Whenever one gender is gathered in my name you will chat about...

Today my mind dug up a random memory from college.

Once a year (?) the evening discussion divided into male/female and, while sitting around a fire, a guy uttered the fateful question...

"So... I guess we have to talk about porn eh?"

Inevitably, whenever Christian groups are split along gender lines, their discussion must wander down two paths.

Only have a bunch of blokes? Chat about porn and masturbation.
And for the ladies? Have a frank conversation about body image and the appropriateness of wearing a bikini.

I don't want to send the message that these subjects aren't important or that they shouldn't be appropriately discussed (chatting about them in a mono-gender setting is certainly beneficial), but it is a curious thing that we sometimes feel we MUST talk about these topics.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The story in the spotlight

Joseph is not a set in the Wild West... Nor was the story of Moses...
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did not wear baseball hats...
Goliath was not a giant pickle...
The town of Jericho was not full of peas...
Gideon did not play the tuba...
Samson did not have a missing hairbrush or Noah an umbrella...
The parable of the Prodigal Son has little to do with the Wizard of Oz...

I know, you're probably thinking, that I'm stating the incredibly obvious. But you're not a five year old.

And this is not a dig at Veggie Tales.

This is a dig at those who use stories to teach kids and forget a really, REALLY, important point.

Whenever we use an adaptation of a biblical story we need to be crystal clear in explaining where this story comes from. We need to tell those who are watching/listening that these stories is not actually about Larry the Cucumber.

We need to remember which story in meant to be in the spotlight and which is meant to be in the background.

Sometimes, even if it is by accident, I wonder if we get the order mixed up...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Beyond a good story

My final storytelling nugget of wisdom, following on from "don't be the expert" and "engage the mind's vocabulary," is this...

Remember that the point of the story is not just a good yarn.

Sometimes we fall into the trap that a rip fantastic story is the finish line.

I know I've been guilty of it.

I've finished a scripture lesson, having done an incredible song-and-dance... but ran out of time for the "God bit" which made the story so important.
I've given a powerful, moving, humorous sermon illustration... for it to be the only part of the sermon remembered the next day.

We need to keep the REASON BEHIND the story at the forefront of our minds so it doesn't overshadow the communication mechanism.

Actually... that reminds me of something I heard about Veggie Tales... But I'll share that in my next post.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Engaging the mind's vocabulary

I said yesterday that I've picked up three nuggets about storytelling lately. The first was to "not being the expert." The second one is...

Go beyond the visual.

Last week I was stuck by someone telling a story and I assumed they were going to invite us to shut our eyes and "become a part of the story."

Often we will want those listening to imagine themselves in the shoes of someone in the story. We want them to visualise what a character looked like or did next.

We do this because we want to stimulate the mind's eye.

What struck me was the invitation to not only SEE the person, but use two words to describe them.

It made the "imagining" process much more powerful for me.

The reason was simple. It engaged a part of my brain which I feel much more comfortable with. I value words over pictures, so the invitation to use my vocabulary was a far superior connector then just "picturing it in my mind."

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Don't be the expert storyteller

Over the last few weeks I've picked up three nuggets of wisdom about storytelling.

My first chunk of wisdom has to do with stories/illustrations which involve a subject that you're not an expert in.

Sometimes, at least if you're like me, you'll share a story or illustration and need to insert an important disclaimer.

"I'm not an expert in the following but..."

On some occasions we can falsely project our expertise when, in fact, what we mean to say is...

I'm not an expert in the subject of xyz...
But I found this out this week...
But I found this fascinating...
But I think this makes the point really well...

For the other two nuggets, you'll need to stay tuned.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


Why are adolescents so angry?
Why do they lash out emotionally and physically?
Why do they take stupid risks?

At one time, for the vast majority of human civilisation, the transition between being a child and adulthood was quite abrupt. When you could work like an adult then you were treated like one. One you passed through a milestone event in the eyes of the community then you were a fully functioning adult with all the attached responsibilities.

As a product of industrialisation, adolescence is meant to be a time of preparation. The years between being a child and being an adult are meant to be a period of growth, strengthening and formation. 

One of the reasons young people are frustrated is that they're told they are not "ready" despite their body screaming the opposite message.

Adolescents, as a sweeping generalisation, are unsatisfied because society has extended not-yet-an-adult-hood, stripping them of the power which they would've previously been entitled to.

Ironically, as a society, we live in the consequences we ourselves devised and happily allow to continue.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The fresh perspective evaporates

A few weeks ago, due to the funding of my position immanently running out and the expansions of my family (when a church hires someone part-time then it's unusual that they will retain someone beyond one changed life stage), it was announced to my church that I will be moving on at the end of the year. 

Including my current position, I've worked at three churches. The first was my home church, but the other two were new frontiers. 

Come next year, I'll (hopefully) be at another church doing paid youth ministry.

And when I arrive the countdown will be on...

For, when you arrive at a new place, you arrive with a new set of eyes. You are an outsider. Everything, including the long-held traditions, are foreign.

But, eventually, you cease being an outsider and start to become an insider.

And then, before you know it, you lose that fresh perspective...

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Once we've done all the planning...

Once I speak to that one last family.
Once I've read one more book on the subject.
Once the holidays are over and my timetable is freed up.
Once I've finished this current project.
Once we set up another meeting.
Once we form a sub-committee.
Once we get the results back from the survey.

Once I've... WHATEVER... Then we can go ahead.

All too often we plan to plan and then get stuck in the endless cycle of the planning phase.

I've sure done it.

But eventually, you just need to actually DO something instead of continuing to plan.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The coming out announcement

I never remember coming out to my friends and family. I gather people just worked out the change via osmosis.

No. I'm not gay. But there was a time when I wasn't a Christian. I don't know when the exact date was, but there was certainly a time I wasn't a believer and eventually a time when I was.

And I don't remember coming out about my conversion.

I wonder, if I converted a at my current age, would I have to make a public announcement beyond changing my Facebook profile?

If I had a blog, about... whatever I did to pass my atheistic time, would I have to put up a post like this one.

And, flowing on from the above link, at what stage would I need to be at before I was required to make a similar post about my de-conversion???

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Church adjusting for the expected crowd

Yesterday I was asked, in response to my post about attracting additional families for our Father's Day Fry Up... Did we adjust 'church' since we expectated more families?

And honestly... as far as I know… the answer is... Not really (if we did I wasn't in on the change of plans!).

Addmittedly, I was out preparing breakfast with the kids all morning so I may have missed the many Father's Day slanted elements of the service, but there (to my knowledge) wasn't a great deal of additional, family focused, preperation for the service.
The querry made me realise the blind spot which many ministers have; they are oblivious to the stuff which happens in the next neighbourhood to "their patch.
Youth ministers aren't alert to the kids or young adult ministry.
The youth minister doesn't avoid clashes with what the local school ministeries are doing.
The family worker doesn't seek to forge strong connections with the youth ministry.
I'll admit, I now wish I was more aware of what was going on "on the edges" of my activity. Maybe they I would have asked the same question about adjusting 'church'.
I must have been distracted by the thought of bacon...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Bacon and church attendance

Today I discovered the secret to getting families, especially fathers, to attend church in the morning.


This morning we had a Father's Day breakfast and one of the promised ingredients was bacon. Glorious bacon.

And, unsurprisingly, more families then usual turned up to church.

Personally, it made for a good first Father's Day.

This morning reminded me of something I heard during the week.

If families were challenged to create healthy time margins in their life, would church attendance make the cut?
If, for example, a family sat down and (probably wisely) decided they were to trim 1/3 of their non-school/work activities, would church survive?

As I heard the unfortunate story of a family "cutting back on church" because their family "we're just too busy" I wondered how many families would have church attendance in the bottom third of their priorities...