Have you noticed the world getting louder? That there’s just so much more grabbing for your attention? I’m finding I’m being bombarded almost from the second I wake up, to the moment I go to sleep. There just seems to be so many ‘things’ that want to take from you. Expectations. Things you ‘should’ do. Political messages, religious demands, work pressures, the crush of insatiable capitalism. It’s unrelenting, and it seems to be increasing. I don’t really ‘live online’, and try to keep a low social media profile, however even I’m finding there’s so many things that make my blood boil as soon as I log onto Facebook, or read the news. Things that affront my faith, heresies, wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. Things wanting to tear down. I’ve found there’s a stack of things simply yelling at me. Yelling, assaulting almost every part of my being. Have you found that? Even in my own walk of faith, there seem to have been people and organisations yelling out at me, proclaiming all sorts of things. Yelling out a mish-mash of political messages intertwined with an ‘interesting’ doctrine. Yelling out for me to attend their church, their conference, their course, or read their latest book. Yelling out for me to join their particular political movement, cause or group. These things – they burden. They saddle with distraction, and they crowd out the quiet whisper of truth. Yelling out. Here’s what I’ve also found, in amongst the noise. The quiet whisper of truth. From the get go, this quiet whisper isn’t some zen-like state. It’s not finding mindfulness, or meditating on nothing. It’s not something abstract that distracts you, or promises self-fulfilment, or fills your mind with another distraction. No, this quiet whisper is something completely different. I’m talking specifically in relation to my faith, but I think these principles can probably be applied to most areas of life. You see this yearning for the truth in so many areas. You see it with food, when people seek out the ‘original’ ways of doing things. You see it in some aspects of environmentalism, where people seek ways to live without the noise of everyday, and electing for a sustainable lifestyle. You see it when people restore cars, aiming to get their classic back to ‘original’ condition. You see it when people lose their way in their relationships, and they seek to find the things they first enjoyed about each other. The quiet whisper of truth. Listen to her. This is how she makes herself known to me: She is the quiet whisper guiding me to holiness, when there’s yelling about ’10 things I need to do to improve my life’ She’s the gentle beckoning to repentance, when the seductive siren of lust tries to tempt me She’s the sweet call of righteousness, when the hiss of shadows tries to lure me to corruption She’s the unfailing rock I grasp to, when the tide of popular culture melts beneath my feet She is the wisdom of ages, unchanging, unfailing, unfaultable, when the dross of fancy speakers, loud music and ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ messages turn to dust. This quiet whisper of truth. Heed her call. I’ve found this whisper, this whisper in places seldom sought. I’ve found her in the beautiful Law. I’ve found her in the ancient voice of the prophets. She calls out your name. I’ve found her, not in the flashing lights of the pulpit, but in seeking, and searching the scriptures. This whisper of truth, I have found her in the counsel of men who speak quietly. I have found her in the voices of women refined by fire. Her voice isn’t brash, but her authority is immutable Her call is sweet, but her message is life-affirming Her whisper illuminates the hidden darkness in you, her embrace calls you to repentance, her grace calls you quietly, calls you to the light. I’ve found this quiet whisper of truth makes me squirm, and makes me uncomfortable. Truth will do that, for darkness can’t hide when the light of truth beams down. Let me encourage you to seek this truth. Seek out her quiet whisper, this quiet whisper of truth.
Editors note: If you’re not into preachy, Christian blogs, this one isn’t for you.
An associate posted a thought provoking post the other day dubbed ‘12 Reasons Millennials are OVER Church‘. Have a squiz at it. I read it. I read it again. And again.
My first, second and third impressions is that the author thinks way too highly of himself, is waayyyy to happy to signal his virtues and seems more than happy to blame others.
I read his bio and about him, and my personal opinions of him softened, just a little.
The article ’12 Reasons Millennials are OVER Church’ is, for the most part, is a list that says ‘wa wa wa wa me me me me’. Read it for yourself.
The author though, is onto something – I suspect though he doesn’t know what it is.
He’s rallying against something, in hope for something, but is looking in the wrong spots.
His heart naturally is in the right place, but he’s asking the wrong questions.
Now, I try to avoid preachy things on this blog. Actually, I like to avoid preachy things like the plague, because no one likes preachy things. I don’t even like preachy things. But I’m going to get preachy, because the author is striking a match against every surface, hoping it would light, when only flint will cause the spark.
So lets get down to business.
‘The Church’ has failed Millennials. Big time.
It’s not because ‘the Church’ hasn’t been inclusive
It’s not because ‘the Church’ isn’t giving to the poor
It’s not because ‘the Church’ isn’t accountable for it’s finances
It’s not because ‘the Church’ isn’t mentoring it’s young (although there is a yawning gap here)
The Church has failed Millennials because for the last umpteen years, all that’s been served up is what could be best described as a wishy-washy ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ gospel. The Church has failed miserably to teach basic, fundamental truths.
The Church has absolutely abdicated it’s responsibility on key matters such as repentance, the Sovereignty of the Lord, the authority of the Scriptures.
The Church has really, really made a mess of any type of systematic teaching.
Think about strong cultures. I’ve written about culture before, but just think about it. What makes a culture strong? Systematic teaching. Living the culture. Breathing the culture. Being deliberate in teaching the young the culture. Imparting. Mentoring. Teaching lore and law. Wrestling with it. Wrestling with your place in it.
When was the last time you actually heard a Church talk about it’s doctrinal statements? Explored – and I mean really explored what it means to be a Christian? The author seems to critisise Christians who explore the truth, who delve into their faith, who explore the beautiful Scriptures. Reasons 7 & 9 talk about how Millennials don’t want to be preached at, but want to hear about the controversial issues. I whole heartedly agree that mentorship is lacking in the church, however, preaching – and I mean real systematic preaching and teaching is a wonderful, effective and authoritative way of delivering truth.
It’s telling, that the author seldom talks about biblical truth. About teaching even the very basic fundamentals of faith. There’s no real talk of ‘hey, teach us the truth and let us go and make disciples of Jesus’. There’s no real talk of ‘how can we really be set apart in righteousness’. There’s scant talk of biblical basics such as sin, repentance and forgiveness.
The truth is, the Church has failed Millennials. It’s failed Millennials by not giving them even the most basic tools for understanding biblical authority. For having the confidence to stand of the word of the Lord. For imparting discernment. In a time when the Uniting Church of Australia is scared to mention the name of Jesus in it’s advertising material, I tell you – the Church has failed Millennials.
To quote the X-Files, the truth is out there. Where’s the best place to start? Pick up your Bible. Start reading. Read it with fresh eyes. Ask the Lord to reveal himself to you. Ask him ‘why’. Find him in the story of creation. Find him in the exodus. Find him in the Passover. Find him in beautiful detail in the law. Find his promises in the prophets. Find his fulfilment in his Son. Explore the Gospels. Read, and re-read the letters. Read it for yourself.
There are some great podcasts out there. Don’t find ones that cover the hot topics. Find ones that explore the truth. Find ones that will help you understand the Scriptures as they were intended to be explored. Find ones that will give you the tools to both understand what the Scriptures ment when they were written, and what they mean for you now.
We are living in a time were globally, Christianity is under persecution. I read just earlier this week a church in Cairo was bombed with worshipers inside. ISIS is doing dreadful things to Christians, as well as other Muslims and minorities. Countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia actively make it difficult for Christians. Churches in the Philippians and Malaysia are being burnt down. In ‘the West’, churches aren’t being burned down, but hold up a bible and preach the gospel in a university, and tell me about the warm reception you get.
The things the author desires are good things- charity, mentorship, accountability. These are good things, but they don’t nourish the soul. The sooth, but don’t heal. They wipe tears, but they don’t reconcile the ledger of sin.
The Church has failed Millennials. It’s time now for Millennials to grow up, take responsibility of their own faith and start grappling with their own faith, and not by having a wa wa fest over the ills of the Church.
Have you met anyone who’s been a victim? Of course you have! Almost everyone has been a victim of something. A victim of a crime. A victim of an unjust system. A victim of bad parenting.
You’ve probably met people, that despite being a victim of something, have chosen to forge ahead.
On the flip side, you’ve probably met people that have allowed their victim status to become them. They frame the world in terms of their victimhood and proclaim the ills of the person, system or events that ‘caused’ them to be a victim. You see this often when people have been abused by a church, by a family member or someone that should have been protecting them.
I read an article the other day, that was posted on facebook between two sisters. It essentially talked about being raised by parents who were emotionally unavailable and emotionally illiterate, and the impact this had on the person who wrote the article. One of the daughters discussed very openly on how she believed her parents were emotionally unavailable, unaware and, in her words, ‘brought them up in an environment of rage’.
I’m a parent. Like pretty much most parents I know, I put in a stack of effort in raising my children to become happy, well adapted, engaged, productive adults. I know my parents did this, too.
With the benefit of hindsight, I know my parents made mistakes. They’ll even admit their mistakes. There’s no hurt, malice or anger there – we’ve had some pretty honest conversations and they’ve often said they would of done things differently.
I’m not going to lie. My life probably would have been different if my parents did do things differently. If I learned different skills, was pushed in different directions and had and different focuses during my upbringing.
One of the greatest lies someone can tell themselves is that their life would be better if their parents were better. If their parents were more emotionally in tune, wealthier, kinder, more loving. Your childhood may have been easier and you may be imparted with better skills, but to say your life overall would be better is a falsehood.
It is an unfair, and honestly, wrong assumption to expect your parents to teach you everything. To give you every single tool to become an adult. Some parents will impart financial skills, others emotional, some practical or vocational. I truly believe parents will impart the skills that they have to raise the most well rounded children. Are there abusive and neglecting parents? Of course there are. Do they have an impact on a person’s ability to grow into a well adjusted adult? Without a doubt.
Part of being a grown up is identifying areas where you lack a skill or capability. There may be areas in your childhood where hurts were caused, where you don’t feel your parents gave you the right skills to manage a situation. Guess what? Learn from it. Learn. Grow. Develop into a well rounded human.
You can go around, blaming your parents for whatever slight they caused – real or perceived. You’ll grow into the victim you believe you are, and that victimhood will enslave your whole life.
There are situations when parents have genuinely abused or neglected their children. Genuinely. That’s horrible, it’s wrong and it’s rotten. As trite as it sounds, you can get healing from this – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. This will be a process, but again, you can choose to let healing in, or you can choose to be a victim.
I suspect with many ‘victims’, they’ve allowed themselves to be ensnared in their hurt. They’ve chosen to let the vines of hurt choke the otherwise beautiful garden of happy memories.
It’s unfair to expect your parents to solve all your problems, equip you with every tool to succeed and provide you with an easy life. It’s not going to happen. It’s an unrealistic expectation – unfair to yourself and unfair to them.
There’s nothing wrong with talking to your parents about the joys, disappointments, hurts and happiness of growing up. That’s a pretty mature thing to do, it helps you grow and helps build relationships between people. Focusing a locus of disappointment on your parents for not meeting a particular need, however, is unhealthy and will cause you a lifetime of hurt.
Parents aren’t perfect. You’re not perfect. Your parents probably have disadvantaged you in some way. Guess what? They’ve probably given you a stack of help, too. Don’t let your disappointments enslave you. You’re a grown adult – you’ve got agency about your decisions and choices about your emotions and your life and your wellbeing. You can choose to be a continual victim, or you can choose to learn, grow and adapt.
What choice will you make?
Continuing in the theme of me totally stealing ideas from my Grandparents whilst they are in Israel, I’ve been thinking about the importance of ‘affirming life’.
Without a doubt, Middle East politics is a hotbed of debate at the best of times. It’s been like that for the best part of 4000 years and I expect will continue that way for a while longer. The ongoing conflict in Israel is constantly splashed across the media, with both sides going toe-to-toe for their survival.
During their trip, my grandparents went to a conference where both the Israeli Prime Minister and President were in attendance and gave speeches.
What would you expect these much loathed-and-loved men to talk about? How they are going to crush Hamas perhaps? Ridding the world of the Iranian nuclear threat? Israel’s’ response to ISIS perhaps?
They spoke about the importance of affirming life. Of speaking life. Of living life. Of cherishing life.
This tiny nation of Israel looks at death every day – bombings, kidnappings, missiles and the ongoing propaganda war against them. In looking at death (and responding to it in very forceful ways), these leaders continued their commitment to life. Can you imagine that?
Closer to home, we have the important task of choosing life every day.
There’s something spiritual, something important about what comes out of our mouths. Indeed, the scriptures confirm that ‘death and life is in the power of the tongue’. The Lord commanded the Israelites to affirm his Word to their children every day, as they rise in the morning, as they walk during the day and as they lie down at night.
I think there is two important truths in this – firstly that as parents, we need to talk to our children (and listen!); secondly what we say to our children, and by extension, those around us, needs to be life affirming.
I know as a dad, I’m sometimes guilty of not talking to my children. How strange does that sound? It’s easy to come home from work, get on with the nightly ‘happy hour’ duties, dinner, dishes, read to the children and put them to bed, without too much interaction. For some reason, I think the Lord commands dads to talk to their children – as they wake up, as they travel during the day, as they eat and as they go to sleep. Why? I don’t presume to understand what the Lord intends, however, I suspect that his desire is to see dads and children connect on a real way, to be in constant communication, trust and of course love.
I’m acutely aware of my own failing on not ‘speaking life’ into situations. I enjoy a joke as much as anyone, but sometimes I have to stop and think – does this joke have a sting in its tail? Probably more dramatic is when I get angry and I say things that aren’t life affirming – especially to the ones I love.
As many readers would know, I grew up in and around church and have been blessed to meet many wonderful people. Of those people, I’ve been blessed to spend time with some great ministers – men and women who have taught me much about faith, life and family. Of those, the ones that have impacted me most are the ones that visibly and demonstrably love their family. I was in a Bible-study group once with a minister who I love and revere so deeply – his knowledge and love for the Lord is just amazing. It’s what he does with his family that touches me more. I was at his home one evening, doing a Bible study when one of his children came home from work. He stopped the study, got up off his chair and gave his daughter a warm, loving greeting. He embraced her, told her that he was so happy to see her and asked about her day. She embraced her dad in return, affectionately telling him about her day.
Don’t kid yourself – life isn’t all roses, happy words and good times. To the contrary. I think sometimes it’s easy to get swept away in the tide of negativity. That’s why it’s so important to speak life into those around you.
I’m sure most of you don’t follow a particular faith or believe strongly and I don’t want to sound ‘preachy’. What I do want to impress upon you (and myself) is the importance of speaking life into those around you. Season your conversation with things that will build up. I’m sure we’ve all come across people who have had a lifetime of negative words spoken over them – cruelty from a parent, abuse from a partner and negativity from those around them. Maybe, just maybe, your life affirming word is the only positive thing they’ve heard in a while. How do you think your interactions and relationships would be if you took the first step to affirm life in others?
Speaking life takes practice. Affirming someone isn’t something that comes naturally – certainly not to Aussies, with our culture of ‘taking the piss’. I dare you though to try it –practice giving life. It costs nothing to speak life into someone, but can mean the whole world to the receiver.
Picture from http://realtruth.org/articles/100607-003-family.html
I’ve noticed a trend on social media (especially Facebook) for the current topic of Christian conversation to be about biblical ‘perspectives’ on current issues. You don’t need to spend much time on social media without coming across a myriad of opinions on gay marriage, asylum seekers, the current state of politics in Australia or poverty.
Without a doubt, Christians should have an opinion on these things. Even a cursory read of the Bible will uncover values such as charity, kindness, goodwill, justice, forgiveness and right-living.
I just can’t help think that current western Christian thought has been hijacked by distractions. By current issues. By things that will divide, annoy and frustrate. By things that, to me, don’t define faith or lead towards drawing closer to Christ. I compare what seems to be the western Christian agenda with what is happening through the north of Africa and through the Middle East. I wonder if the Copts are having discussions about gay marriage? What about a secret home-church in China? Are they debating the ‘Churches’ response to climate change, or are they just hungry to get even a bible in their hands? What about the Nigerian Christian, going to church, wondering if his daughters are going to be captured by Boko Harum. Does he argue on Facebook on his opinions of the Big Bang, or does he literally pray for his life every day?
What I’m saying is why don’t western Christians talk about the Bible anymore? Why don’t we see conversations on Facebook or Twitter about a life-changing verse you’ve just read, or a passage that’s recently challenged your faith? At last count, I had a whopping 283 Facebook friends (and probably less after people read this!). Of those, do you know how many write about the Bible? One. Only one (and it’s not me!).
I could read a million posts on some ‘Christian’ perspective on a controversial hot topic and not understand the nature of the Lord one iota. I could read the post by that one and learn more in three minutes of reading than in pages of current dross.
What do you think? Why would Christians rather argue some controversial topic, rather than spend their time in actually reading the Bible? I’m talking to myself here, too.
How would you explain to a persecuted Christian in the Middle East that you’d rather spend your time arguing for marriage equality, rather than reading your Bible?
(like father, like son!)
I was fortunate to take my son on a ‘father – son’ day last Sunday. We went to the Workshops Railway Museum while the gals spent a boring morning at the theatre watching something in the theme of pink.
The day out went fantastically – my boy and I had a great time looking at the old steam and diesel engines, going on various tours, playing in the interactive displays and railway sets and generally just enjoying all things trains.
On our return, Sarah asked something quite strange. Do you know what she asked?
‘Did you talk to Eli (our son)?’
And you know what? I didn’t know how to answer her. Now let’s be honest – the level of conversation a three year old boy provides isn’t exactly intellectually stimulating or has any real depth to it. But he talks on his level. I told Sarah that I couldn’t answer her, and I needed to think about it.
Well two days later I was still thinking about it.
The truth is, I have not talked to my son perhaps half as much as I should. I mean, we talked about what train he liked best and if he was ready for lunch – but did we talk? I don’t know.
Such a simple question really hit me for a six.
A recent Pew research article asserts that married fathers spend about 2.2 hours per week playing with their children. That’s about 20-ish minutes a day. Now the benefits of fathers playing with their children can’t be downplayed and that’s not what I’m trying to do here. What I’m talking about is intentional talking with your children. Asking questions. Exploring the world together. Encouraging them to seek answers, seek truth, challenge what they think and feel. One of thing things the Lord commands fathers to do is:
And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Talking, leading, instructing – the Lord is commanding fathers to teach their children his ways. Building from this, I think it is VERY hard to teach without love or lead without grace. I’ve written before on my thoughts on fathers, but I think this is building on that.
So what am I trying to say? Fathers, talk with your children. Teach them. Challenge them. Lead them. Chat with them. Ask them questions.
I’ve been practicing talking to my son. He comes out with the craziest stuff. I’ve been including him in my ‘morning routine’, talking to him about grooming, deodorant, hair styling, tying a tie and suchlike. I’ve been chatting to him in the evening about his day, about the best bits, about lunch, about what we should do on our next adventure day. You know what? I’ve noticed a change. Maybe an un-locking. He just LOVES to talk – to tell me everything. His sometimes incoherent chattering, I just love it!
Dads, I’m interested. How do you talk to your boys? What successes have you had? What have been your challenges? What do you talk about?
The term ‘soul searching’ seems to be banded about from time to time. The football player who’s been caught on a bender. The cheating polititian. The girl who slagged off her best friend. The bad decision. The missed expectations. As humans, we tend to have this period of ‘soul searching’, especially after experiencing negative emotions. I know I’ve done plenty of soul searching in my time.
Across cultures, times and religions, people have had ways and methods of explaining ‘soul searching’ and explaining what has just happened. We are all familiar with the concept of karma, which I understand essentially is you get what you deserve. The Bible talks about reaping what you sow. Some people say ‘what comes around goes around’, or the term ‘they got their just desserts’ is banded about when bad times fall upon an enemy or foe. I guess soul searching is a combination of both. It’s reaching within for what you could have done, and searching without for an external explanation of what you just did, or a justification of it.
In thinking about soul searching, we often go within ourselves for the answer. Some seek solace in Scriptures, in words of the wise or the council of someone trusted. But here is the catch. Soul searching will only find what you have already put in. I know there are definite cases of ‘devine inspiration’, but I think those are the exception, not the rule.
New Years Resolutions. The hungover promising never to drink again. The abuser swearing in front of the magistrate that they have changed. These people, however well intentioned, often have a period of soul searching, trying to draw on their own strength to get them through, only to find themselves back in the same old destructive patterns. Why? because when you soul search, you only find what you have already put in.
Soul searching is of limited value. You can’t look inside yourself and find something that you have not already put there. I truly believe that we control most of what we put in our minds, in our souls. What we read, listen to, watch all invests in our soul.
The legend goes that a Christian missionary met an American Indian, who had converted to Christianity. The American Indian explained to the missionary that his faith was like two dogs fighting – a black dog and a white one. Curious, the missionary asked the American Indian what he ment. It was explained that his faith is like two dogs, in constant battle. The black dog was his old self, the white his born again self. The missionary asked ‘well, which one is winning?’, to his reply, the Indian explained ‘that’s easy – which ever one I feed more!’
Soul searching is a forgone conclusion if you have not already put in good things to find. Soul searching without the right things to find is just feeling sorry for yourself. So next time you go soul searching, think about what you want to find. If you already know the answer, you’ll need to search elsewhere. Don’t look within yourself. Look outside. Read the positive, the life giving. Ponder on what gives life. Ponder who gives life. Muse and meditate on the source of life, the Creator. There, your soul will find what it is looking for.