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

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

Reaping the whirlwind: my two cents’ worth on the US election

gettyimages-621864782My two cents’ worth on the US Presidential election:
1. If you’re looking for reason for optimism today, look at the post-election speeches delivered by President-elect Trump (that was my first go at typing that), Secretary Clinton, and President Obama. All three speeches were gracious and positive, all looked to a peaceful transfer of power, and all give reason for (a limited amount of) hope. If you believe that the right words spoken at the right time can make a real difference, then be thankful for these words. Sure, they’re ‘just words’, but it’s a very positive start. Thank God for America’s Founding Fathers, whose theology led them to reject tyranny and establish a system that would allow for a peaceful transition between leaders, even leaders who oppose and dislike each other. What’s more, thank God for the Founding Fathers who were so opposed to tyranny that they carefully installed checks and balances, and the separation of powers, which we now hope can control (or at least mitigate) Trump during his presidency.

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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

As convention season ends, God announces his nominee for highest office in the land

One Vote MattersIn a low-key announcement intended to reassure nervous voters, God has announced that his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, will once again be his 2016 nominee for Messiah, Saviour of the world, and Ruler and Judge of the universe.

Sources have confirmed that Jesus will once again be the only nominee for the position.

As the only eligible Voter, God announced that he intends to cast his vote early on the morning of November 8th, meaning that Jesus will once again be elected unopposed after receiving 100% of all votes cast.

He is currently serving his 496th consecutive term, and has maintained a 100% approval rating from the Voter during his time in office.

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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

What’s that smell? Burning books, or burning martyr?

bannedA couple of brief thoughts from afar on the book ‘banning’ debacle unfolding in NSW, for what they are worth…

First, it’s kind of amusing but not insignificant that one of the three books is misnamed. It seems like they meant to ban either this one or this one, and it’s genuinely hard to work out which one is intended. (Everyone seems to be forging ahead on the basis that it’s John Dickson’s book.) It makes the DEC’s directive look amateurish, and leaves the impression that the whole thing was hastily cobbled together rather than carefully considered. If I were banning a book, I’d want to at least be clear on the name of the book. Continue reading

Recovering the scandal of amazing grace

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Photo Courtesy: NEWS Ltd

Over the last couple of days, my Facebook newsfeed has been filled with people commenting on the final hours of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran (the convicted drug dealers executed in Indonesia on April 29). In particular, what seems to have caught people’s attention the most is that Chan and Sukumaran went to their deaths praising God, maybe even looking forward to meeting their Maker.

The response to this has provided a fascinating contrast. My Christian friends have celebrated the fact that these men embraced the hope and forgiveness offered by the Christian message about Jesus, even singing Amazing Grace and 10,000 Reasons in their final moments. But for some of my non-Christian friends, these reports obviously seemed strange – perhaps even perverse. I mean, how could anyone be hopeful, how could anyone sing, in the face of such a horrible death? And why would these men, of all people – convicted drug dealers, the scum of the earth – be looking forward to meeting their Maker? Continue reading

Life and Ministry with Peter Jensen

A sweeping conversation with Peter Jensen, former Archbishop of Sydney, about life and ministry – including his favourite book of all-time, how he became a Christian, why he wanted to be a stand-up comedian, why he tries to emulate Billy Graham, and how he has found spiritual refreshment for the last five decades.

Peter JensenGR: Peter, what’s the best way to introduce you?

PJ: Someone recently introduced me by saying that I was the former Archbishop of Sydney, which means I’m dead. But I am the former Archbishop of Sydney, the former Principal of Moore College, an ordained clergyman – but most of all, I’m a son of God.

GR: This may be apocryphal, but I’ve heard it said that if you hadn’t gone into full-time Christian ministry, you would have liked to consider a career as a stand-up comedian… Continue reading