Stop following your heart, start leading your heart

 

Red-Broken-Heart-IllustrationAs the parents of young children, my wife and I are always on the lookout for ‘safe’ entertainment options: movies, books or music that the kids can enjoy without being hit by F-bombs, explosions or sexual innuendo. With a little research, and a little faith in the Netflix ‘Kids’ option, we can keep them fairly well protected. But we’ve come to realise that parental supervision needs to go deeper than online filters and G-ratings. In fact, the real danger might not be the stuff that hits you over the head. It might be the subtle messages that are embedded in our ‘safe’ entertainment options, the worldview that lies underneath everything and shapes how we think. And there’s one phrase that sums up the gospel according to Hollywood and captures our culture’s prevailing worldview: Follow Your Heart.

It seems like everywhere you look, someone is urging you to “follow your heart”. Film, TV, music, literature—you name it. “Go with your gut.” “Trust your intuition.” “Do what’s right for you.” “Pursue your dreams.” “Believe in yourself.” It all amounts to pretty much the same thing: “Follow your heart.” Anyone who faces an important decision can’t possibly go wrong, it seems, if only they’d just follow their heart. Continue reading

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Why I (almost completely) quit Facebook, and why you probably should too

FacebookTrashHaving recently hit the big 4-0, I’m starting to have more and more days where I embrace my inner grouchy old curmudgeon. Picture me with arms flailing wildly as I yell at pesky kids to get offa my lawn. Moaning about the noisy students next door, wondering whether 9.30 is too early to call the Council to complain about the music, and wishing at least they’d play some Springsteen or U2 instead of the endless doof-doof. But every now and then I catch myself thinking that way and wonder, ‘When did this happen? How did this happen?’ I’d rather hoped to stave off being a cantankerous middle-aged git for a few more years yet. And I’d rather hoped to avoid slightly stuffy old man expressions like ‘I’d rather hoped’.

In the fight to stay young, one effective strategy to assure yourself that you’re still hip, still with it (whatever the heck ‘it’ is these days), is to embrace the newest technology. Today, that obviously means embracing social media. Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, the Twitter, Snapcrap – being relevant seems to require being plugged into it all. Shouldn’t a Christian be leveraging these technologies to spread the gospel just a little bit further? Shouldn’t a normal, caring citizen of the world in 2017 be keeping up with people via his ‘socials’ in as many ways as possible? At the very least, don’t go posting something on your blog where you rail about the evils of technology. That’s the surest way to cement your reputation as an out-of-touch killjoy. Continue reading

The pain and glory of unanswered prayer

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me…”

alluaudia-procera-spice-plant-branch-38282Few things can be more confusing or frustrating for Christians than unanswered prayer, especially when we’re sure there are good, obvious reasons for God to grant our requests.

Recently I spoke to a good friend, a young man in (what should be) the prime of his life. Sadly, he’s afflicted with mysterious and chronic back pain. He’s tried every kind of medical treatment under the sun, and has persistently and faithfully prayed for relief. Yet his debilitating pain persists—unseen by most people, yet severe enough to prevent any real exercise and make everything in life difficult and uncomfortable.

My friend told me that he recently accepted an invitation to attend a large healing service. As the meeting went on and as many people appeared to be miraculously healed right before his eyes, my friend started to hope for a miracle of his own. “Maybe tonight’s the night,” he thought. “Maybe my suffering comes to an end—right here, right now.” Continue reading

Coming home: A letter to my adoptive daughter

 

I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. (1 Samuel 1:27)

Mother Holding Child's HandDearest Zoë,

You are my beautiful girl, my daughter, the apple of my eye. I’m your daddy. Everything I have is yours, and I will always be there for you.

We just haven’t met yet.

I guess that’s part of life as an adoptive family.

I’m writing this during our family’s ‘living in limbo’ phase. We’ve been matched together as adoptive family, and we’re desperate to meet in person and be together as soon as possible. It’s a strange, unsatisfying time – a little like the ‘now-but-not-yet’ of the Christian life (don’t worry, I’ll explain that to you one day). But I guess this in-between period gives us time for some reflection. What might our life together look like? What blessings and challenges will our new-look family bring? And why are we doing this? Continue reading

A short manifesto on arguing well

I hate arguing.

I really don’t enjoy confrontation (it gives me this weird sinking feeling in my stomach). I don’t like being wrong, and sometimes I take too much delight in being right. I care too much what other people think of me, and the idea that I may have offended someone makes me squirm. I think I’m a wimp at heart.

But the reality is that being a Bible teacher (or any Christian who cares about the truth of God’s word) sometimes requires you to argue. A certain amount of conflict just goes with the territory. Of course we should be known primarily for what we’re for, not what we’re against, but sometimes saying yes to one thing means saying no to others. And the Bible is explicit that there is a time and a place for refuting error (eg: Titus 1:9).  Continue reading

Giving up on Jesus

14329298961_da63af3bfc_bI have a great job. I work for the Christian Union at the University of Canterbury (in Christchurch), teaching the Bible to students, talking to people about Jesus, and discipling and training young Christians. I love it. But sometimes ministry hurts. Sometimes, Christian ministry leaves you feeling like you’ve been kicked in the teeth.

Among the (relatively few) negative things about being a full-time, vocational gospel worker, there is one thing that, for my money, is far and away the worst: seeing one-time followers of Jesus give up on their faith and give up on Jesus. It just sucks.

Part of the reason I say this is that I once tried it myself. Continue reading

Our Sovereign Saviour: Media from Relay 2015

Last month, Christian Union held its annual leadership training conference, Relay. This year’s conference was called ‘Our Sovereign Saviour: How the doctrine of Predestination shapes our approach to ministry.’ Over the course of the weekend, I gave five talks (as well as leading interactive discussion time) to help shape our understanding of this topic. You can listen to (or download) those talks here. You can also download the conference booklet, which contains material for the interactive sessions.

Download: Talk 1 – God’s Sovereignty Over All Things

Download: Talk 2 – God’s Sovereignty And Our Salvation

Download: Talk 3 – God’s Sovereignty And God’s Glory

Download: Talk 4 – God’s Sovereignty And Human Responsibility

Download: Talk 5 – Q & A, God’s Sovereignty And Our Priorities

PDF Booklet For Conference Participants

Marriage in the Trenches

Old HandsOver the years, in my roles as a Christian pastor and university staff worker, I’ve helped to prepare a lot of young couples for marriage. When it comes time to do formal ‘marriage preparation’, I usually ask the couple to complete an online questionnaire. Once they finish, we sit in my lounge room to discuss the results and share some real talk about what it’s really like to be married. It’s a fun, important and sometimes eye-opening way to help people get ready for marriage.

But over the last few months, I’ve seen the limitations of this process. You see, there’s only so much marriage preparation you can do by sitting on the couch with a cup of tea, a bikky, and a series of coloured charts that claim to capture your mutual strengths and ‘growth areas’ (we’re not supposed to call them weaknesses).

Sometimes, I think the best way to prepare a couple for marriage would be to drive them to a local hospital. I’d take them inside, find a quiet spot out of the way, and ask them to watch silently as an elderly wife spoon-feeds her dying husband. Continue reading

To Sin By Silence: The danger of enabling spiritual abuse

Cover Eyes“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” (Ephesians 5:11)

Last month, when I wrote about the massive issue of spiritual abuse and what’s happened with Mark Driscoll, I expected a decent number of people to read the article. Driscoll is a high profile guy, and spiritual abuse and bullying within churches is a really big issue.

It certainly seems like lots of people have read it, and that’s good. If the aim of that piece was to shine light on an often-hidden and widely misunderstood issue, more people reading it can only help. Continue reading

Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill, and the very real sin of spiritual abuse

Mark DriscollMaybe part of the good to come from the Mars Hill disaster will be exposing the reality of spiritual abuse, a sin that usually lurks in the darkness and is misunderstood by many  

Everything that’s happened with Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church in Seattle is great fodder for the blogosphere, and a profound tragedy for the thousands of real people involved.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, congratulations on avoiding the whole sorry saga. But the short story is that Driscoll – poster boy for the ‘New Calvinism’ (and I hate that phrase as much as you do) – recently resigned from his role as Pastor at Mars Hill Church, the Seattle-based mega-church he founded 18 years ago. While some congregations will continue, Mars Hill as an entity will cease to exist. Continue reading