Learning to Love Those You Disagree With Theologically (even Heretics!)

Recently, I was listening to a podcast by Bad Christian and was struck by the conversation they were having. They had recently done an interview they with Jay Bakker, a liberal pastor with the emergant church who doesn’t agree with inerrancy, hell or that Jesus is the only way to heaven. Jay Bakker isn’t the first, nor will he be the last self-identified Christian to land outside of what most Christians believe.

This is on the back of listening to several interviews with notable Christians who have found themselves in theological storms over the last couple of years, such as Michael Gungor, Mark Driscoll Brian Houston and Rob Bell along the more typical ones thrown up like Joel Osteen, TD Jakes & Joyce Meyer.

Firstly, it made the think about the typical ‘Christian’ response to all these type of things: ‘You’re a heretic, enjoy burning in hell!’ but secondly,  how much I hate that response.

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Here is why:

The very first Christian heretic was Peter, the rock that Jesus built the church on. He denied Jesus three times and that was his best friend – a guy he saw do miracle, after miracle, after miracle. The apostle Paul was a mass murderer of the early Christians, scattering them all across the Middle East and Europe. Do you remember Jesus saying that to either of them?

Think of the shame and guilt Peter had to live with when he not only denied even knowing one of his very best friends, let alone when he later realized that he was the Christ. Think of the burden that Saul carried with him because of his past . The question has to be whether they showed repentence first, or whether they were overwhelmed by love and grace.

In all honesty, maybe guys like Jay who don’t know whether Jesus is the only way or TD Jakes who isn’t on-board with the Trinity or Joel Osteen who preaches the prosperity gospel, well maybe they are lost. Maybe they are going to hell. Maybe their eternity is on the line.

Is our response then to condemn them, or to overwhelm them with prayer, love and grace? Think of how powerful Jesus’ love was to release Peter from his denial. Think of how much grace the earliest Christians showed Paul when only weeks earlier he was hunting them down like diseased dogs.

When Paul recounts his past in 2nd Corinthians, what set him free? I am the least of the apostles, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace towards me was not in vain. Or how about later in Ephesians, It is the grace of God which has set us free. 

If you know, watch, listen or speak to someone you think lies outside of orthodoxy, drop the hate and condemnation and lead with love and grace. Pray for them, often and consistently. If you refuse to pray for someone, or don’t pray for God to open your eyes to your own inconsistencies, then I would go as far to say that you give up your rights to call out anyone on their sin. You never had any ambitions to love them from the very start. 

The grand story of scripture is saturated with sinners becoming saints through grace, foes becoming friends through forgiveness. Why should we be any different? Love them, give them grace, send them an email and tell them you love them before you ever drop the heretic bomb. By all means, tell them that you think they are wrong and call them to repentance but do so in a loving way. Downplaying truth isn’t loving, but neither is acting without grace. I’m not talking about cheap grace either, I’m talking about real, biblical grace that starts with the knowledge that apart from what Jesus has done, we are all nothing. If anything, that should motivate us to act in humility and love more than anything else, when we consider how God treated us, messed up and all.

Jesus spoke truth perfectly, but he led with love and grace. Both are important, and one is incomplete without the other. If you focus on truth at the price of love, you will very quickly lose your platform, friends and surround yourself in an increasingly smaller Christian enclave. We are called to be a city on a hill, bringing truth and love to weary travelers who desperately need it. Do not ignore some of the most profound truth in the bible. Your truth is worthless without love.

Let us be a people known for leading with love and grace in truth over everything else. 

Honesty vs. Orthodoxy in Prayer

I’ve wrestled with something big time over the last weeks and months.

Does God care about us being real with him, or is it more important being right in what we say to him?

 Honesty vs. Orthodoxy in Prayer

‘God, where are you?
Why are you so far from saving me, when I am doubled up with pain
God, I cry all day and night but find no rest in you” (Psalm 22, the MSG)

This thought hasn’t left me since I listened to a sermon called ‘Approaching the Divine’ by Matt Chandler. Talking about this idea of whether God prefers us being real or theologically right when we talk to him, he wrestled with how God would have responded to some of David’s prayers, such as above, because they are so incredibly untrue. 

“Actually David, I don’t forget stuff. I’m God. Therefore, your prayer’s a lie, and I must leave you in the desert. I’m out. Good luck out there. It’s brutal.”No He doesn’t, but here’s the truth. That’s an absolutely false prayer. “How long, O Lord, will You forget me?” “Forget you? Are you kidding Me? Do you remember Goliath? Do you remember My mercy in the Bathsheba situation? Forget you?”

This is actually really important, because when I look back at some of my prayers and thoughts they are pretty much lies.  In my darkest times, the times where I have been miserable and upset and angry and frustrated, I have just quoted back scripture to God. Almost none of it was theologically correct, just rantings of someone who was pretty upset.

God, where are you. In Romans it says that nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus, but I honestly feel separated. Where the hell are you? In Revelation, it says that you will wipe away every tear, but what about these – Don’t you care now? In Ecclesiastes, it says that there is a time for everything but I don’t get your timing man. Don’t you remember that time when you said that You would never leave me and forsake me? No, I know you can’t forget. I just wanted to remind you God. because I didn’t know what else to do.

To be honest, there is so much I don’t understand about this world. Most of the time, I revert back to the prayers I’ve heard other people pray who were most likely saying things that they heard other people pray and in the end, no-one is being all that honest with God.

I am so done with that.

If I was being honest with God more often, I’d probably ask questions like this:

  • If we can only be satisfied in Jesus, why do so many of us feel unsatisfied?
  • Why do Christians have a reputation as assholes? If we have the HS, and keep being sanctified why do so many people outside the church see us as jerks? Also, why am I the worst at this?
  • Where are all the miracles?
  • Why don’t people fear you anymore? 

Don’t get me wrong, I will praise God through thick and thin. I have never been more satisfied than I have been in Christ, and my entire life is built around him. I trust him with all these answers.

I just think that God prefers honesty when we talk to him.

What would you ask God if you were being honest? 

Karma vs. Grace

Australia is overwhelmingly a spiritual nation – 70% of Australians consider themselves spiritual in some sense. If you had to have a guess at the leading spiritual belief, what would it be though? Christianity? Islam? Buddism?

In my experience and opinion, it is none of the major world religions which has captured Australia’s attention but the spiritual belief of functional karma.

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I do not mean karma in the sense of the Buddhist and Hindu construct of causality. I mean the western knockoff version – cheap, functional karma. Karma with a little k.

Functional karma shows itself in our language: ‘You get what you deserve, what goes around comes around’, or as one ad put it recently, ‘you deserve to be rewarded for your hard work’. Essentially, life is what you make it – work hard, be a good person and the forces that be will treat you well.

Bono, from U2 describes all of this perfectly:

“You see, at the centre of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you; an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics – in physical laws – every action is met by an equal or opposite one.  Its clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe.  I’m absolutely sure of it”.

On the surface level, this idea of cheap karma is one of the greatest ideas that has worked itself into our cultural consciousness. I mean, when it comes down to it, who doesn’t want to sign up for this? The idea that good behavior will lead to a good life, that evil deeds will always find their comeuppance and that good will be repaid for good is genius in its simplicity and so many of us have subscribed.

It’s only the deeper inspection that raises real questions. Functional karma has a deep-seated flaw – it requires nothing less than perfection for us to confidently reap its rewards. You can work hard, be a ‘good’ person and have a positive impact – but how hard do you have to work for life to work in your favor, how good do you have to be?

Functional karma, at the end of the day will leave anyone trying to end on the positive side of the ledger exhausted. Look around, doesn’t that describe us as a people? The average person today has the same level of anxiety as a mental patient in the 1960’s. We are exhausted.

So we make short-cuts and sidesteps. We make ‘good’ and ‘bad’ subjective, so that anyone can be either as long as they believe it to be true. It doesn’t really matter whether you are a good person, as long as you believe it right?

Here is my issue though. I can’t believe it anymore, I’m not a good person, not even a little bit. On the surface I look one – traveled the world, married young and a friend to many – but when it comes down to it, I am not ‘good’.

I know who I am.

If I have to rely on my own excellence, my own goodness than I am done. I will spend my entire life trying to live up to expectations that I will not meet and will leave myself exhausted – bitter, twisted and alone. If good things happen to good people, then good things will not happen to me.

If you are anything like me, exhausted from trying to live up to impossible standards then Grace is the most freeing word you will ever hear.

Bono, again:

Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.

That’s between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep shit. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.

The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled….its not our own good works that get through the gates of heaven…

If you are exhausted from functional karma, from the endless effort of being good then this is the best news you will ever receive. Grace is the good news you have been looking for.

I am holding out for grace.

I’m holding out that when my time is done, I will not be judged not on my achievements but the perfect life of Jesus.

Unless God sends his Son into this broken, messed up world to set it free then this world will be shackled to functional karma – a never-ending merry-go-round of work harder, do more, be better that leaves us well short of where we need to be.

Jesus was sent into the world to set people free – to break the chains of everyone enslaved and that is good news. Jesus simply says: “whoever believes in my name will be saved”. Not our efforts, not our excellence, not our attempts to be good – because we’re not. It’s all up to him.

When it comes down to it, I am holding out for Grace because I know exactly who I am.

I’m holding out for Grace because I have no other choice.

I’m holding out for Grace because I am not ‘good’.

Nor will I ever be.

An Honest Letter To Parents From a Youth Pastor

Hey parents,

Have I told you that I love your kids? So much.

I love watching them growing up and starting to come out of their shell. I love watching them start to take risks and dream big. I especially love them when they stumble and screw up. It’s a pretty cool honor to be walking alongside them as they grow up.

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You know what else I love? Watching how much you love them as well.

I see all the little things you do that go unappreciated. I see how hard you work in providing and caring for your family, making sure they get a good education and a good start. You don’t want them to go through some of the things that you did when you grew up. I get that, my parents were without work for four years when I was a teenager. It sucked.

I know that everything you do, you do so that you can give your family the best foundation for life. I know that, because I talk to you and I hear those exact words coming out of your moth. I also see that you are quickly becoming incredibly time-poor. Between work, home, sports, schooling and all the extra stuff you do as a mum or a dad, it gets exhausting. You scramble from thing to thing and it’s burning you out. It’s like running a marathon without a finish line some days.

Can I ask you one more thing though?

Please, build a real, ongoing relationship with your children. More than all the things that you can give them like good schooling, a nice house and the latest gadgets, they honestly want you the most.

The average amount of time a dad will spend talking to his kids in meaningful conversation per week is 5 minutes.  For moms, it’s still only 25 minutes. That really sucks! I think if both parents were able to engage in meaningful conversations for even 30 minutes each a week, it would be a game-changer for our young people.

I totally get it. You under so much stress from all angles. You’re working longer hours than ever before and you take the stress home with you, and now your kids are growing up and they are weird and distant. It’s really hard work to have a conversation with them some daysIt’s totally alright to admit that it is difficult.

When they were smaller, it was so much easier. You could play with them, and they loved you almost unreservedly. They mostly forgot all the times that you came home late from work, or missed a game but now they are growing up and they don’t want to play with you anymore. They seem to want something called space, all the time and it doesn’t include you.

Here’s what I’m seeing on the ground though. I see that we are currently raising one of the loneliest generations that has ever existed. I’m seeing one of the most anxious, stressed and depressed generations (statistically) grow up before my eyes. I’m seeing more openly broken relationships between young kids and their parents than ever before, despite the fact that many of them have the latest things, a beautiful house and all the activities they could ever want. The kids I work with who are the most well-adjusted, often have healthy and growing relationships with their parents.

My intention isn’t to condemn you or to beat you over the head with it, I only want to speak the truth in love. Consider this an on-the-ground report from someone who loves your kids, thinks about them a lot, talks to them a lot and prays for them a lot. I want them to grow up to be world-changing, emotionally and spiritually mature adults and I’m really concerned about them.

Please, please, please make building a good relationship with your kids a priority in your life.

I’ve seen too many moms and dads who thought that having a nice house and the latest things would lead to harmony in the family. It never has, because kids don’t want things, they want you. Don’t be that mum or dad who works so hard to give everything that they trade it for a relationship with their kids. Everybody loses.

You might be busting a hump trying to get them into a nice private school, where someone can educate them. The lessons they learn at school will get them to university, but the lessons they learn from you will affect every major decision they will ever make in their life, positively or negatively. They need more than education, they need to be shown what is right and wrong, how to be married well, how to treat men or women with honor and respect and many other things.

Tell them your stories as often as you can. All of them. The funny ones where you tried to chug a full litre of milk and threw up, the ones where you were the hero and saved the day, but especially the ones where you fell short and stuffed up. They love it when you can be honest with them. They know you’re not perfect, but they want you to be able to say it as well.

Spend time with them one on one. Take them out for dinner and ask them questions about what they think. Go camping, even if it’s a bit weird. Have discussions where you build them up and encourage them but also conversations where you let them hope and dream.

Eat dinner as a family, every night. On a real table, without the television on. Ask them about their day, and what they think about things and what they believe about the world and their friends and how you can love them. Always be asking them how you can love them.

20 OF THE MOST AWESOME C.S. LEWIS QUOTES

C.S. Lewis is one of the most inspirational and quote-worthy authors in the last 100 years.

There are some books I want to read again as soon as I have finished, because they fill me with hope and good feelings. Lewis has written many of them. Most will have heard of the Narnia Chronicles, but to leave Lewis’ influence at Aslan would be to sell him short. Surprised by Joy, Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters are just some of the books I’ve read multiple times.

He is a man whom I find infinite amounts of joy reading and I find myself using lines he wrote almost daily.

LewisCollage 20 OF THE MOST AWESOME C.S. LEWIS QUOTES

TWENTY AWESOME C.S LEWIS QUOTES

1. The Four Loves

“Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

2. God in the Dock

“One must keep on pointing out that Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and, if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

3. Mere Christianity

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell.

You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

4. The Voyage of the Dawntreader

“It isn’t Narnia, you know,” sobbed Lucy. “It’s you. We shan’t meet you there. And how can we live, never meeting you?”

“But you shall meet me, dear one,” said Aslan.

“Are -are you there too, Sir?” said Edmund.

“I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

5. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”

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6. Narnia: The Last Battle

“All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

7. Prince Caspian

“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different”

8. Mere Christianity

“God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”

9. God in the Dock

“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”

10. The Four Loves

“Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one”

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11. On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature

“Those who say that children must not be frightened may mean two things. They may mean (1) that we must not do anything likely to give the child those haunting, disabling, pathological fears against which ordinary courage is helpless: in fact, phobias. His mind must, if possible, be kept clear of things he can’t bear to think of. Or they may mean (2) that we must try to keep out of his mind the knowledge that he is born into a world of death, violence, wounds, adventure, heroism and cowardice, good and evil.

If they mean the first I agree with them: but not if they mean the second. The second would indeed be to give children a false impression and feed them on escapism in the bad sense. There is something ludicrous in the idea of so educating a generation which is born to the Ogpu [State Police in the USSR] and the atomic bomb. Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.

12. On Three Ways of Writing for Children

“When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

13. The Screwtape Letters

“Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

14. The Abolition of Man

“We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

15. Prince Caspian

“Aslan: “You doubt your value. Don’t run from who you are”

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16. The Weight of Glory

“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

17. Surprised by Joy

Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again… I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then Joy is never in our power and Pleasure often is.” 

18. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

19. Prince Caspian

“You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,” said Aslan. “And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth.”

20. The Weight of Glory

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

What is your favorite C.S. Lewis Quote? Post it below

The Problem With Everything

Why does everything seem broken?

Look around you and the world looks totally messed up.

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I hear stories about broken hearts, broken homes and broken people almost every day from the young people I know and love. I’m someone who loves stories but these are hard to hear. For sure, there are also lots of wins in our conversation, but it seems that struggles and suffering are surface problems.

This leads to one of the most common questions that I hear when I sit down with young people: “Why do people suffer? Doesn’t God care about me?”

It’s such a good question because it’s simple, powerful and something most people can empathize with.

If God is real, what’s the deal with suffering?

The reason I find it’s a good question is because it’s also personal to me.

Tim Keller, philosopher and pastor noted that before we address the philosophical problem of suffering we must enter into the local, personal problem of suffering.

My family is one that has suffered: especially my mum. I look up to my mum a lot, she hasn’t had an easy life but because of that she is an inspiration to me.

At the age of 25, a doctor told my mum that she would never walk again after being in a serious car-accident. She was not at fault. She was taking home a young girl from a girls guides event, a driver ran through a round-about without stopping and the mini-bus that she was driving was hit, flipped over several times and the force of the accident threw mum out of her seat and severely injured her spine, almost killing her in the process.

My mum has done nothing to deserve that kind of suffering. Someone made a bad decision which affected the rest of her life, including her marriage and parenting. She has lost friendships, opportunities and work. What the hell has she done to deserve that? 

Broken People do Broken Things

Around a month ago, we did an activity with some young people I know where they listed everything that was wrong with the world that we live in. They wrote down things like:

  • Sexism
  • Depression
  • Bullying
  • Death
  • Broken Homes
  • Parents who don’t love their kids
  • Physical and Sexual abuse
  • Disease

This is by no means an exhaustive list, or even a full representation of what they came up with, but it shows that there is plenty that is wrong with the world that we live in. Why?

Almost all societies over time have given meaning to suffering, but I think that the Christian account of evil and death is both the most logical, and most loving that I can conceive.

The book of Genesis begins with an account of how evil and death came into the world. Tim Keller writes that ‘Genesis 3 confirms in great details the origin of the worlds darkness, and how it unfolded out of our refusal to let God be King. When we turned from God and we lost that relationship, all other relationships fell apart. Because we rejected his authority, everything about the world – our hearts, emotions, bodies, our relationships with other people and our relationship with nature itself – it stopped working as it should”.

I think this is an incredibly nuanced, and insightful account of why we see so much suffering around us. Everything about us has stopped working as it should because of evil, death and sin.  The reason that we suffer is because we are broken.

Broken people do broken things to each other. The reason that people suffer is because the world is filled with broken people.  My mum didn’t deserve to be in an accident, but it happened because some person made a terrible decision which changed her life forever.

Where is God in all of this suffering?

Walking alongside young people, the quick response to this explanation is:

“If God loved me, he would do something about my suffering. The fact that he does not points to either God not loving me, or God not existing”.  This is a fair comment, especially from someone who has experienced suffering and is crying out ‘God, where the hell are you?’

God could act as a shield for everyone who believes in him, making sure that no suffering, no toil, no evil or death comes close to his people but it wouldn’t actually deal with the problem. At best, it would be a cosmic band-aid.

If broken people do broken things to each other (resulting in even more brokenness), then what actually needs to change is our brokenness, not our situation.

The great news is that God has done something about our brokenness.

Ed Stetzer writes that:

“God is determined to turn evil and suffering that we have caused into good.  God implements a master plan for redeeming his world and rescuing fallen sinners. In the person of Jesus Christ, God himself comes to renew the world and restore his people. The grand narrative climaxes with the death and resurrection of Jesus”.

God saves his people by dealing with their biggest problem.

What is the alternative?

Cultures answer to most suffering caused by people at the moment is education.

When something awful happens, the immediate answer from most corners is that the perpetrator needs to be educated. This is a good thing.

When someone is physically assaulted, the person will either go to jail so that he can either know the pain he has caused, or think about what he has done.

When Brian Taylor makes multiple gay slurs on live, national television, the immediate response is that he will undertake education to better inform himself and to stop him from unknowingly hurting anyone else.

When someone runs a red light, runs into a car and changes someones life, the response is either that they need driver education or reform through a jail sentence or a fine.

When Elliot Rodgers goes on a misogynistic murderous rampage, one of the major responses was #yesallwomen which raised awareness of sexism that women experience, often from people they know. 

Here is the huge problem though.  Education will not save, change or help people’s real problem – their brokenness. 

I sit down, every single week with one of the brightest, most intelligent, most educated[iii] generations that has ever existed and I see so much brokenness. Depression, anxiety and social disorders are rising.

The average individual in today’s society has the same average level of anxiety as the average mental institution patient in 1940. Anecdotally, I talk to primary and high-school teachers who know that more than half of their classroom is seeing a psychologist, councilor or equivalent.

Education has enormous potential to change people’s minds, but it won’t change peoples hearts. The #yesallwomen tag will educate men and women about sexism, and I pray that it changes their actions, but it needs to change their hearts to last.

Let me say this again, we are the most educated generation that has ever existed.  In your opinion, is society getting better or worse?

I truly don’t think that anything will ever really change until our hearts do.

Atheist scholars, such as John Gray admit this:

“In comparison with the Genesis story, the modern myth in which humanity is marching to a better future is superstition. As the Genesis story teaches, knowledge cannot save us from ourselves. If we know more than before, it means only that we have greater scope to enact our fantasies.  The message of Genesis is that in the most vital area of human life there can be no progress, only an unending struggle with our own nature.”

When it all boils down, people suffer because they are broken due to sin. God has dealt with the problem through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

What we need isn’t more education.

We need more Jesus. 


[i]  Timothy Keller, Walking with God through Pain & Suffering (2013), p114

[ii] http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2012/november/big-story-of-scripture-creation-fall-redemption.html?paging=off

[iii] http://education.qld.gov.au/projects/educationviews/talking-point/2012/nov/gen-z-21112.html

[iv] Keller,  Walking with God through Pain & Suffering (2013), p123

3 Stories Every Christian Should Share (Right Now)

What’s your favorite story of all time?

I bet a couple came straight into your head.  Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Remember the Titans and The Power of One are some of my favorites stories. I re-read them all the time.

storytelling sharing 3 Stories Every Christian Should Share (Right Now)

Stories are really important, and stories that we tell other people are really important. It shows what kind of things happen to us, what we think is important and what we believe about the world.

Stories are especially important for people who believe in Jesus.

For one thing, Christianity is a story which has been passed down over thousands of years, shared from person to person through re-tellings, writings and illustrations. Christians are a storytelling community.

The ability to share your story has never been more important. We live in a very post-modern world where people distrust grand, all-encompassing stories and they like personal, mini-narratives. We like to talk about what is happening to specific people, rather than what is happening to everyone.  That’s one of the reasons reality television has exploded, because there are so many personal, specific mini-narratives.

One of my favorite things to do is to sit and listen to people telling their story. Christians have heaps of stories to share, but for whatever reason we sometimes find it really hard to talk about them. I think that’s a shame, because our story is really God’s story.

I would really, really love to hear your story.

Here are three really awesome ways that Christians can share their stories.

THREE IMPORTANT STORIES TO KNOW AND SHARE

WHERE HAVE I COME FROM? [STORY]

One of the best stories you can share with people is where you have come from. My favorite stories about my parents and my friends are when they share about where they grew up, or funny things that happened to them. I especially love it when they open up and share about some struggles they had when they were a teenager or a young adult.

It really encourages me to see that they were experiencing the same emotions, experiences and expectations that I went through as a teenager. Jon Acuff has a great quote here:

“Your parents and mentors have been to the future, and if you ask they will tell you about it”

When you talk about your past, you might be describing someones future. You might be explaining someones present situation and how you were able to get to where you are.  Show people the path that you have taken to get to where you are.

Where have you come from to be who you are today?

What are some key moments that happened in my past to make me, me?

What is my family’s story? Am I the first Christian in my family?

WHY DO I FOLLOW JESUS + HOW WAS I SAVED [SAVED]

I love hearing how God saved people.

There is very few things as encouraging and uplifting as hearing how people have been saved. Unfortunately, some people feel like their testimony is not exciting or interesting but a bit boring.

I really like what Dave Miers says about this:

There’s no such thing as a boring Jesus Story because Jesus is the exciting bit! 

Whatever was good news for you in the Good News, could be good news for someone else as well.

God didn’t give us a personal story of how he saved us so that we could make it mysterious and vague. It’s something that should be talked about often. It doesn’t need to be a big testimony in front of a whole church, but we should share how God saved us all the time.

Talk about why you personally believe in Jesus, include it in your everyday conversations.

Why do I follow Jesus? How was I saved? What was I saved from?

Why do I go to church?

How has Jesus changed me?

HOW DO I SEE GOD WORKING IN MY LIFE [SANCTIFICATION]

The awesome thing is that God isn’t distant, but he really cares about us right here and now. It’s all well and good being able to use big theological words, but what I really wanna hear is HOW God is working in your life right now?

I get that sometimes it’s hard for people to see how God is working, but we rarely stop to talk about it.

Rick Warren, suggests to keep a notebook of journal of how you see God working in your life. Write down the insights and life lesson God teaches you about himself,  about yourself, about life, relationships and everything. Record these and tell other people!

How do I see God working?

What is God teaching me at the moment? 

Where is God leading me?

I would really, really love to hear your stories.  I’m going to write my story in the first comment below, how about your share yours as well?

Youth Ministry: 10 Conversations We Need To Have

My main passion in life is working with young people and telling them about Jesus.

aaa Youth Ministry: 10 Conversations  We Need To Have

Youth Ministry in Australia has a long and awesome history, but I am so excited about the new phase that it is heading into. I feel like we are on the cusp of changes that will completely change youth culture in Australia.

Last year, I wrote an essay about my concern for Youth Ministry in Australia. I still feel that Youth Ministry has to have some hard conversations and debates, but I am so much more encouraged than this time last year.

One of the reasons for this is the reflection that is going on throughout Youth Ministry in Australia.  It encourages me to see so many people asking questions about everything and people going out on a limb and trying new things. At the end of the day, every youth minister wants to see young people following Jesus.

I think part of the reflection needs to be public debates, opinions and discussions about aspects of Youth Ministry. Many people have experience, wisdom and insight into this matter that should be shared. I can only humbly offer some of my own reflections, questions and discussion to continue the reflection and debate.

Here is a list of 10 discussions I would love to hear, see or read about Youth Ministry.

  • What is the future of Friday night youth ministry: Pro vs. Con?
  • How to have a youth community that transforms lives
  • How to preach the gospel to a generation that doesn’t believe sin exists.
  • How to be more like Jesus in Australia: Discipleship in a post-christian culture.
  • Parents, youth ministry and secondary adults: How do we involve families and older adults in youth ministry?
  • What are the  developmental needs of teenagers in youth ministry and how do we help them become well-adjusted adults?
  • Networking: How can youth ministries help each other out?
  • Experiencing God in a culture that see’s him as distant
  • Time Poor: How to encourage and equip leaders who have no time
  • Taking the Gospel to the world: Breaking christian bubbles

One of my great dreams is to have contributors and guest-posters on this site.  If any of these topics take your fancy, comment or email me and let’s set something up.

What conversation do you think Youth Ministry needs to have? 

Don’t Make Success Your Everything

The week before playing in the grand final for my junior hockey team, my coach asked the team the question:  “Why do you play?”

One of the lads quickly replied: “We play to have fun, coach’.

I’ll never forget what my coach said: “No, you play to win. You have fun by winning”.

Oscars 2014 41162 Dont Make Success Your Everything

That conversation has shaped me far more than others.

It has turned into the guiding principle for much of what I do. The reason that you do things is to win at them, if you don’t win, that makes you a loser. Losers don’t have fun and losers aren’t worth much. 

Lots of people want success, but it means comparing yourself to someone else.  You can only be successful if you look at other people and think  to yourself, ‘I’m so much better than that guy’.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

We think success will make us happy, and whole, and worthy of other people’s love. And it doesn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being successful, wanting success, or chasing success. Many of the principles of being successful have kept me sane.  It just can’t be everything.

When I was fourteen, I was told that I wouldn’t finish high school , carry out any of my dreams or passions and wouldn’t be able to have a family because of a chronic health condition.  I talk about it here

I fought, and fought, and fought some more and eventually I finished high school, I accomplished most of my dreams, followed my passions and last December, I got married.  I must be the most satisfied twenty-four year old out there.

I have not told the truth to anyone , but chasing success has left me feeling old, tired and more than anything else, isolated from people I care about. When you chase success, you need to have some degree of fight and fortitude, but when all you do is chase success it wears you down.

The truth is I feel old.

Jon Acuff writes perfectly what I am experiencing:

Want to see someone sad? Find a person who got everything they ever wanted and then realized it wasn’t enough. It’s crushing to reach the peak of a mountain only to discover there’s another one behind it. And another one. And another one.

I’m sick and tired of climbing mountains and bearing the cost of the climb, without feeling happy, worthy or loved because theirs another mountain left to climb.

EVERY CLIMB HAS A COST

Everyone talks about what to do when you fail. No-one talks about what you do when you’re successful. I wish more people had talked to me about the cost of chasing success, because chasing success has cost me big time.

For me, being truthfully honest, it has probably cost me friendship.

I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I am not a very good friend.  I’m completely at ease when my friends ask me for help, or to share some advice, or when I’m asked for an opinion. When I have to share myself though .. no chance.

I know lots about my friends, but they know very little about me. Friendship is about sharing both success and struggles, but I don’t ever talk about mine.  If I was more at ease with who I was, I wouldn’t have to prove myself in conversations with you. If I didn’t feel the need to have it all worked out, then I would be able to share my struggles along with my success.

I am so, incredibly sorry for not offering true friendship to you.

I’m sorry for replacing it with a cheap imitation.

I’m sorry for pretending to have it all together and making you feel like perhaps that you don’t.

I feel like I have cheated many of you for a long time. 

On behalf of everyone who looks like they have it all together, please tell us we don’t.

Give us the room and the safety to be ok with not winning, or being successful. Tell us that being worthwhile isn’t tied to your performance. Ask me questions about what I am feeling, or what is going on behind the scenes.  Ask me to really, really be your friend.

Don’t ever let me get away with saying I’m fine, or not much

Most of all, tell me that being successful isn’t everything.

It’s not. 

The Rebels Guide To Eternal Happiness

Confession: I haven’t met a truly happy, satisfied person this year. 

happiness balloons The Rebels Guide To Eternal Happiness

I think if there is one journey that a lot of people are taking at the moment, it’s trying to find a slice of lasting happiness. Not just a fleeting sight of it for a night, or a weekend, but the kind that doesn’t leave in a hurry. Something more lasting, something a bit more eternal. 

Where do you look for something like happiness though? 

If you’re anything like most people, it comes down to three things:

  • Sex
  • Success
  • Stories

Popular culture says that you’ll find happiness when you find that hot girl or boy to spend a night with (or more), when you get promoted at work or get some respect on your personal project, or by being able to tell wild stories about getting wasted and the shenanigans that followed. Even more prevalent is people going overseas to find themselves, making that their path to happiness.

You can even combine all three, and tell crazy stories about having sex with successful people whilst wasted in Japan.

Does it make you happy?

“I hope everybody could get rich and famous and have everything they ever dreamed of, so they will know that it is not the answer” – Jim Carrey

It’s incredibly sad that a culture like ours which prizes lasting happiness and satisfaction so highly is so unbelievably unhappy.

Every single year, it seems more people come out as battling depression. I was one of them.  One in four women and one in six men will have a major depressive episode at some point in their life. Suicide is the leading cause of death in people under the age of 30.  People are looking for lasting happiness and finding one night stands in its place.

Maybe that sounds like you.

I can empathize with everyone feeling like that and I can only share my experience. I looked everywhere for the kind of satisfaction and happiness that culture talks about.

One of my favorite writers, C.S. Lewis hits the nail on the head:

“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. (C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, pp. 1-2.)”

Lewis had a similar experience to mine. He looked far and wide and found himself unsatisfied.  The happiness that he talks about here is not the kind that you can find in sex, success or even wild stories. It can only come from the hope in something lasting, eternal and most importantly secure. 

The reason that we can’t get happy because at the heart of it all, we’re all sort of broken. French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote that ‘there is a God shaped hole in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, it can only be filled by God, the creator’.

Culture has it that faith and happiness do not make happy bedfellows. You can’t have both, so pick one.   Sex, success and stories are far more influential and eternal in securing happiness, right? 

In our day and age, chasing after happiness through sex, success and stories is the common story and it’s still seen as rebellious. But, if everyone is doing it,  you’re not rebellious, you’re conforming to the standard. You’re just a conformist if you’re drunk and naked, riding around on a motorcycle with a cigar in your right hand.

Be a rebel and look for something more. I’ve looked for happiness in every place I could think of and come up empty, the only place I found true lasting happiness, eternal satisfaction was when I decided to follow Jesus Christ. I’m not talking about dead religion that most people have found on a Sunday with its rule, rites and rituals and no relation to what’s going on.

I’m talking about a real, dynamic friendship with the creator of the universe.I’m talking about following a man who has inspired the world’s greatest thinkers, social activists, leaders, scientists and artists  to action.I’m talking about feeling unconditional love, grace and acceptance for the first time.

I’m talking about being part of a faith which has endured every kind of persecution and finds itself filled with joy.

Do you want true happiness?

Be a rebel. Follow Jesus and find true, eternal happiness.