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.
The Australian Government currently has a very strong policy to deter people seeking asylum in Australia. This policy has generated huge debate in Australia, both for and against it. Part of this policy is holding asylum seekers in camps in Nauru and Manus Island (part of Papua New Guinea). I can only imagine how hot, uncomfortable and basic these camps are.
Over 250 asylum seekers have been brought from Nauru and Manus Islands to Australia for medical treatment. The Australian Government has mandated these asylum seekers be returned to Nauru or Manus Island on completion of their medical treatment. In response to this, there was a challenge put before the High Court, questioning the constitutional validity for the Australian Government to make laws allowing the return of the asylum seekers to Nauru or Manus Island. The High Court affirmed that these laws were constitutionally valid.
In response to this, the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce (ACRT), an initiative of the National Council of Churches in Australia have offered to open up a number of churches and cathedrals as a ‘sanctuary’ for asylum seekers who are facing deportation back to Nauru. A press release from the ACRT asserts that the concept of ‘sanctuary’ is an ancient principle that goes back to the Old Testament.
The concept of a city of refuge (or sanctuary, as the ACRT dubs it) is not a feel-good ancient principle. It is a very important, very significant part of Jewish law (also called the Torah). The Old Testament references to this can be found in Deuteronomy 4:41 and Numbers 35. This important law relates specifically to an individual who has unintentionally killed another. You see, the family of the killed could legally avenge the death, regardless if it was intentional or carelessly unintentional. The killer could go to a city of refuge and plead his case. If the elders or judges of that city find that the death was carelessly unintentional, then that person would be permitted to live in that city. They could only leave the city once the High Priest had died, and during their stay, they were obligated to learn, study and live the Law. There were serious obligations placed on the city of refuge, and serious obligations placed on the person who had sought refuge. For example, the city couldn’t hold the killer to ransom and demand a price from the family of the killed. The killer similarly would fall outside the protection of the city if they stepped outside the walls of the city. The legal principle of cities of refuge has many very significant implications both physically and spiritually for Jews, and Christians.
History is littered with examples of churches and Christians defying unjust and inequitable laws. History is littered with examples of Christians rallying, protesting and petitioning against unjust and inequitable laws. History is littered with Christians speaking out against injustice. One only needs to look at the likes of William Wilberforce, the English MP who was instrumental in ending the slave trade in Britain. There were countless of Christians during WW2 in Europe who literally risked their lives hiding Jews from Hitler’s evil reach. Martin Luther King Junior was a fearless preacher who stood up against segregation and racism in America.
Without a doubt, the ACRT, along with many fellow Australians, are showing kindness and compassion to asylum seekers. I know of a number of churches and Christians who go about their way quietly supporting newly arrived refugees, supporting them practically, helping with English and being welcoming, kind Australians. There’s no doubt in my mind that places like Manus and Nauru are horrible places at best. Can I understand the rational of the Australian government’s policies? Yes, I can. Is the outworking of these policies harsh? Yes, definitely.
What I don’t understand is why the ACRT is taking a very important, very significant Biblical law that offers legal protection (and obligations) to a killer and truncating it to speak out against the policies of the Australian Government. To me, it’s a complete misrepresentation of the intent of that particular law. I don’t understand why the ACRT is wilfully misrepresenting Biblical law, especially when there are other precepts that relate specifically to ‘strangers’ or ‘aliens’ in the land .
The ACRT have acknowledged that their campaign is against Australian law (which it is). Why doesn’t the ACRT simply say that they are choosing to be kind and compassionate (which they are doing) and elect to defy the law because they think the law is unjust? Why water down and trivialise a significant Biblical law and adapt it to a political cause (however good or proper the cause is?), especially when there are many other more appropriate and specific references that could be used?
Groups like the ACRT play an important part in our democratic process. They play an important part in supporting refugees and asylum seekers. I just wonder why an inappropriate Biblical reference is used to justify breaking the law, when they should just simply breaking a law they believe is unjust and inequitable.
Growing up in a church-going Christian family, I had the privilege of hearing many wonderful stories of people who have had their lives turned around by the saving grace of God. People who turned away from drugs, violence, gangs – all manner of evils. Similarly, I’ve been blessed and inspired by many ‘heros’ of the faith – women and men who have risked it all to take the powerful message of Jesus to people all over the world, even in the face of danger and death.
Probably the worst I’ve ever copped for being a Christian was being called a ‘churchie;, or people giving me their frank and honest opinion on faith, organised religion or their ideas on God. Hardly persecution!
For many ‘Western’ Christians (myself included), it is easy to be two things. Firstly, too comfortable (even caviller) in our faith. The second, there’s a risk to see these great stories of lives turned around, or being bold in the faith as the ‘golden standard’ for living your life. The risk is that a boring, suburban life kind of isn’t cutting it, and that this kind of testimony isn’t as powerful.
I want to say that I truly believe every Christian has a ‘mission field’. It could be overseas, it could be in your own country. None of us are called to ‘hide our light under a bushel’, so I don’t want this to sound like an excuse for sitting on your hands and being a ‘Sunday Christian’. What I’m saying is, for me, certainly in the past, I never really thought my testimony would cut it compared to some of the ‘guts and glory’ ones I heard from the pulpit.
I’ve been blessed to meet people, as I’ve grown, who don’t have a whizz-bang testimony. Men and women who have not gone out and changed the world, who never had a life of vice and crime, who have never influenced thousands towards Jesus. These people, however, have made a profound difference in my life, and the life of those around them. People that have been Jesus to their colleagues, their neighbours, the guys at the pub, the mums at the school drop off, the homeless guy they see on the way to work.
People that faithfully, consistently and lovingly apply their lives to reading the scriptures, praying, practicing being Jesus to the ‘ones’ around them. Loving their family, being dedicated to their spouses and children, being faithful in their employment. These are the people that most inspire me.
People, that, who on the outside are quite unremarkable, but to me, have shown Jesus to me more than any big-name preacher or crime-to-Christ could ever do.
In everyone’s life, there will be times and seasons to be bold. To step out in faith, to take a risk, to put yourself out there. I know I should do it more – much more. What I’m saying, however, is that I’m most inspired, most impressed when I meet men and women that are faithfully committed in the small things, and who are Jesus to the ‘ones’.
Just because your testimony doesn’t include preaching to the masses, turning your life around from crime, from doing amazing work for God, it does not mean your testimony is any less worthy or special. It takes guts to represent Jesus in your family, your work, your community group, even your church. It takes guts to share the good news – even when you’re not facing harsh persecution. It takes commitment, strength and character to read the Word everyday, pray for your loved ones and your enemies and cloak yourself in humility everyday.
So to those fine men and women out there with a boring testimony, I want to honour you. I want to honour faithfulness, your love and your compassion. The difference you make in the ‘ones’ is immeasurable, and I thank you for it.
Many people will agree that being cheated on, is one of the worst betrayals. To break your marriage vows, to be unfaithful, to break the boundaries you have set in your own marriage – simply terrible. I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment – it would be the ultimate betrayal.
As much as being ‘cheated on’ is horrible, I think there is something as equally insidious. That’s being ‘cheated out of’ something. What do I mean by this?
The standard marriage vows go something like:
I, take you to be my wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part
You might not cheat on your partner, but are you cheating them out of a promise? Affection? Financial support? Love? Tenderness? Communication. Warmth. The list could go on. Things, that if a one off, probably aren’t going to ruin a marriage. You have a bad day, you don’t feel like talking and all you can muster is a ‘meh’ and an evening on the couch. But you can cheat your spouse out of the intimacy of knowing you, buy establishing a lifestyle of coming home and basically ignoring them. You could say the same for a range of things – sex, a hug, quality time, proper communication, domestic organisation. Missing or forgetting something important once or twice probably isn’t going to starve your partner, but continued practice will cheat them out of a promise you made to them.
It’s so easy to cheat out of things these days. Clocking into work 5 minutes late. Taking that stationary home from work. Using margarine instead of butter (BIG no no!!).
I’ve found in marriage, there are no shortcuts. You can’t rush intimacy. You cant hit ‘fast forward’ on hard times. You can’t hit rewind after a great evening with your spouse. You can’t mute the everyday and expect to draw closer to your partner.
Cheating on your partner is a pretty deliberate act, and an absolutely rotten thing to do. It’s just as easy, however, to cheat your partner out of your promises. I truly believe both are detrimental to a marriage. Being faithful to the ‘everyday’ promises is what strengthens a marriage – things you are probably doing anyway! It’s being present at the dinner table, chatting with your partner and children. It’s turning off the TV and asking each other how you are going. It’s seeing a job that needs doing around the home and simply doing it, rather than wait for your partner to do it. It’s extending warmth and love to your partner, even if you’re not feeling that way yourself.
I don’t want this to be a depressive post – to the contrary! We all get stale in many areas of our lives – our jobs, families, community work, marriages. The main difference in these, however, is that marriage is an explicit promise. It’s not a contract, like a job. It’s not an expectation, like your family. It’s a promise. A promise to be an active partner in your marriage, not a passive one.
Have a think today about if you’ve let passivity enter your marriage, and perhaps what you can do to deliberately love your partner. Don’t cheat them out of the love you promised – let them know you love them!
Have you found that you’ve unconsciously (or even consciously!) cheated your partner out of a promise? Was there a wake up call? How did it turn out? I’m interested in hearing!
Image from http://www.tacori.com/wedding-bands/
I had to pop out at lunch today to get my birthday present. You see, I work in town, and the only place that sold this particular present was in town, and my wife was in the suburbs and it’s an effort to get into town with two kids to get one present. She called up the store, asked them to wrap it for me and I just went and picked it up.
It’s particularly hot in town today. Very hot, actually, and I’m wearing heavy cotton pants. I wear them because they are good for riding my bike, Sweet Ramona.
So I walked in the heat to this particular shop, noticing a significant build up of sweat in my crotchal region.
I’m thankful for my sweaty crotch. Here’s why:
I’m thankful that today, I had to pop out at lunch to get my present. I’m thankful, because this means I have a job that allows me to pop out at lunch. Do you know that it’s harder to get a job now, almost more than ever? I’m thankful that I have a job.
I’m thankful that today, it was hot enough for my crotch to actually get sweaty. I’m thankful because we’ve had lots of rain lately, and this rain has reached some of the agricultural land in the west. I’m thankful for the rain and the sun, because it helps the farmers, and God knows they need all the help they can get.
I’m thankful today for my sweaty crotch, because it means the weather is delightfully warm, and after work, I can relax in a pair of cool shorts and drink a refreshingly cold drink, and it will seem all the more refreshing and cool after being in the sun.
I’m thankful for my sweaty crotch and my heavy cotton pants, because it means I am blessed to have a wardrobe of clean, fitting clothes (despite my roundish figure!). It means I have been blessed to be able to clothe myself and my family. I’m blessed that in this country, we have a choice on what we can buy or not buy.
I’m thankful for my sweaty crotch which I got from walking into town. I know that it means I’ve been able to walk down the street in the city I live without fear of some crazy nutjob blowing themselves up, drop a bomb on the city or do something terrible to my fellow countrymen. I’m so thankful that, for the most part, I am protected by a wonderful group of dedicated police who are committed to keeping us all safe.
I’m thankful that my crotch is sweaty in these heavy cotton pants, because it means that I have a reliable and cheap form of transport on my bike, Sweet Ramona. I’m thankful that Sweet Ramona takes me to a job I’m thankful for, and home to a family that loves me.
I’m thankful today that my crotch is sweaty in these heavy cotton pants, because I know that if I was not wearing them, I would probably be wearing jeans, and that means I would be catching the bus, and that takes three times as long to get to work and three times as long to get home to the people I love.
I’m thankful that my crotch is sweaty today, because I had to get a present for myself. I’m thankful because it means my wife has taken much time and effort to think of a present for me for my birthday, and I love surprises.
I’m thankful because this also means I’m a year older, and, arguably wiser. I’m thankful that I’ve had another year to love my wife and children. I’m thankful that it’s another year that they have put up with my hijinx and tomfoolery.
I’m thankful because I’ve survived being 32. I’m thankful that, on the current trajectory, I’ll survive 33. Those ‘in the know’ will know that 33 holds special significance for me and I’ve been worried about turning 33 since I was about 6.
I’m thankful not for my sweaty crotch, but thankful for what it represents.
Life is full of small annoyances. Some call them first world problems. Call them what you want, but ultimately, they are blessings in disguise.
Your kids wake up early and wake you up? Annoying, yes, but you can also be thankful that you’ve got kids.
Your work is boring or not rewarding? Tedious, yes, but you can be thankful that you’ve got a job.
The government is making bad decisions or are nincompoops? Frustrating, yes, but be thankful that in our democracy, we can vote them out for a new group of turkeys.
Rounding out 2014, what annoyances are you thankful for? What do these mean in your life?
I recently found myself embroiled in a situation where I felt someone I loved dearly had defiled standards that they set for themselves. I’ve viewed this particular person as a real rock in my life for many, many years and it really, really hurt me seeing them doing things that I thought they’d never do. It left me struggling, in a way, to find a bit of stability.
In the Jewish calendar, we are currently in Hanukkah (or the Festival of Lights). Hanukkah celebrates the victory of the Maccabees over the Greek-Syrian occupiers in Israel at the time. The Maccabees were a band of Jewish fighters who, essentially, had enough of the Hellenization and paganisation of Israel, the Temple and the Jews. They led a pretty crazy campaign against the occupiers, took control of Jerusalem and the Temple and re-dedicated it to God. To the un-initiated, Hanukkah is not just the ‘Jewish Christmas’. It represents a series of very significant events, military battles, the miracle of the Menorah and the re-dedication of a people to the Lord.
Why do I compare these two stories?
I’ve noticed, as I get older, the implicit contradictions of life. Of how we proclaim social justice, yet buy clothing made by sweat-shop labourers or slaves. Of how we ‘ride with you’, yet leave 1400 English girls to be raped. Of how we complain about the price of petrol yet continue to buy bigger cars. Of how we complain about the price of food, but waste it by the ton every year. Of how we want to #bringbackourgirls yet leave countless Indigenous children to be raped and neglected within own communities.
I compare these two stories, because after the abovementioned event, it made me want to reach for the baseline, concrete absolutes of my childhood. If I can say so, I was brought up in a Christian movement that focused on staying away from vice and a relatively strict interpretation of scripture. Whilst some may see these rules as strict and stifling, there is a great security in knowing firm boundaries. I’ve relaxed some of my views as I’ve grown, but fortified others. I guess that’s part of growing up. In the face of the above-mentioned challenge, however, it made me want to re-kindle and re-affirm the ‘absolutes’ I grew up with, like someone drowning, gasping for air.
In times of crisis, our natural reaction is to grasp for something concrete. When I was learning how to ride my motorbike, the instructor told us that if we panic, we’ll likely want to grip onto something strong (i.e. the Earth) to protect ourselves. After these terrible events in Sydney this week, we saw a huge number of people suddenly ‘get religious’, filling churches, offering prayers, seeking comfort in faith – all good things.
What I suspect is that most – if not all humans have is a longing for something real. An unshakable foundation.
The Maccabees (indeed, the whole nation of Israel) were facing the extinction of their homeland, their culture and most importantly, their faith. They saw the desecration of the Temple. They were not content to see all they held dear destroyed. They fought – ruthlessly – for what they believed in. They strove to reclaim the concreteness of their faith and their connection to God.
I’m not saying follow your childhood beliefs in an unquestioning manner – to the contrary! We must all test what we believe. You need to know what you believe and why you believe it, and know what you don’t believe and why you don’t believe it. Permissiveness and passivity has seen the rise in a generation of ‘meh’, unsure of what is truth, willing to follow any trend like long grass blowing in the wind.
It’s easy, as we grow up, to see the contradictions and pain in the things we love, and be jaded by it. It’s easy to be jaded, for example, the Church and all it’s inherent contradictions, but miss the life-changing, liberating message of Jesus.
Is it time you revisited the concretes in your life? Faith, family, liberty? What do you hold dear – do you see it slipping away? Have the events in life made you jaded? Angry? Dismissive?
Like the Maccabees all those years ago, is it time for you to restore those truths you used to hold so dear, no matter what the cost?
Image from http://www.thejerusalemconnection.us/blog/2011/12/21/would-the-maccabees-be-proud.html