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

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.

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

Is God Homophobic? (Spoiler Alert: No, he’s not)

An edited version of a talk delivered on campus at the University of Canterbury in August 2014

I thought I’d begin this article with a worship song – not a worship song about God, the kind that some of us are used to singing at church on Sundays. This is a worship song about something different: sex.

If you pay attention to the content of a lot of music today, it becomes obvious: we are taught to worship sex. And it’s not just music; it’s also TV, movies, and other forms of pop culture. Sex is depicted as an ultimate goal, something to chase after and live for. Not having sex makes you a loser, but having (great) sex makes you a winner. Pursuing sex, at the expense of other things, is a worthy goal. Continue reading

31 Days of Prayer: Day 29 – Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up

Persevere“And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” (Luke 18:1)

Would you be relieved to know that Jesus understood prayer is hard work? Would you be encouraged to know he taught a parable specifically designed for people who were tempted to lose heart when it came to prayer? Me too!

The opening words of the parable in Luke 18 fill me with enormous hope. Jesus knew that prayer would be a struggle, and he told a parable to address this struggle. In this parable, Jesus describes a ‘persistent widow’ coming before a judge – a man who neither fears God nor respects man – to seek justice against her adversary. After initially refusing her request, the unrighteous judge relents, giving her justice so he won’t be beaten down ‘by her continual coming’. Jesus then makes his point: “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:6-8) Continue reading

31 Days of Prayer: Day 27 – Why your ‘shopping list prayers’ are right, and wrong

Shopping List“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil 1:9-11)

Somewhere along the line, some clever Christian came up with the belittling idea of ‘shopping list prayers’. You know the idea – when you want to criticise someone for praying selfish, navel-gazing prayers, just deride it as a ‘shopping list prayer’.

I think the ‘shopping list’ has become a decidedly unhelpful Christian putdown. There’s nothing wrong with bringing all our requests to God. In fact, there’s everything right with it: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil 4:6) “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) There is plenty to be anxious about in the average life, so bring your ‘shopping list’ to God, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

However… Continue reading

31 Days of Prayer: Day 26 – The glories and ironies of the Lord’s Prayer

AUSTRALIA-PARLIAMENTA brief look at the prayer that changed the world

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:9-13)

It’s the most important, precious prayer ever uttered – a lesson in prayer from the master, an intimate guide from the perfect Son on praying to the perfect Father. Just 57 simple words,* but words that have changed the world in untold ways. Continue reading

31 Days of Prayer: Day 19 – If God is sovereign, why do I pray?

Prayer 2“The Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.” (Ex 32:14)

If you’re going to think about prayer, and if you’re reading your Bible carefully, sooner or later there’s an important question that might rub up against you: Does prayer really make a difference to a sovereign God?

It’s hard to read your Bible and come to any conclusion other than God is totally and utterly sovereign. He is in control of all things, everywhere. Moreover, his plan for salvation has been in place since ‘before the foundation of the world’ (Eph 1:4). He’s not sitting up in heaven, nervously wondering if things will turn out okay. Everything proceeds just as he planned. God is not a human being, that he should change his mind (1 Sam 15:29). Continue reading

31 Days of Prayer: Day 18 – Prayer and Anxiety

Stress ManDo not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Phil 4:6)

I find there’s something strangely comforting about getting anxious. When I start to worry about the pressures of life that are weighing on me – relationships, money, workload, whether the Rabbitohs will win the Grand Final – retreating into the safe space of personal anxiety is a cosy little coping mechanism.

But you know what I don’t like to admit but I’ve realised is true? Anxiety isn’t just a coping mechanism or a safe place. Anxiety is sin. Anxiety is sin because anxiety is the opposite of actively trusting in God. Continue reading

31 Days of Prayer: Day 12 – Approaching God as Father

You Can Pray“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven…’ (Matthew 6:9)

If you’ve been a Christian for a while, starting your prayers with the words ‘heavenly Father’ (or some similar variation) may have become so customary that you don’t think about it much. If you’re not a Christian, the idea of referring to the Creator as ‘Father’ may seem bizarre, even wrong. And if you’re a new Christian, maybe you haven’t got your head around this name for God and you’re still defaulting to safer options like ‘Lord’ or just ‘God’.

I guess that covers just about everyone. Calling God ‘Father’ when we pray has the potential to be a strange, confusing, or empty Christian habit. But it should never be any of those things. Instead, we should pause daily and reflect on the mind-blowing idea that we can call the God of the Universe ‘Father’. Continue reading