Young People don’t need Elisha – A plea from all youth workers.

Have you got what we are looking for?

There is this great story in the OT about Elisha really early on in his ministry. Elisha is on a journey up to Bethel and on route a bunch of rowdy young people highlighting his distinct lack of hair suggests that he should, for lack of a better phrasing “disappear”. ‘Get out of here, baldy!’ they keep shouting no doubt with a lot of laughing and pointing at the reflective surface.

But Elisha’s response is, well a little bit harsh to be fair. I imagine him looking up at the lads (who I presume have high ground to be able to see the shiny surface so clearly) and with a grumpy face shouting something like ‘you think you’re funny do you? Huh? Well lets see who has the last laugh…’ and then as the Bears start chasing down the youth I imagine him saying ‘I may not have any hair left, but those Bears I’m commanding look pretty hairy…’

As we all know this story ends badly for the young people and what does Elisha do? He just keeps on walking. Cue the bad boy music and a slow motion gangster walk.

Clearly I have an active mind! But as someone with a similar fate seemingly coming their way, I often find myself wondering how I will respond to young people when that dreaded day finally arrives and I begin to wear hats in the summer. Let’s be honest, the hairs already migrating and the hats are being brought so the question is:

How do you respond to young people being cheeky, or challenging or just fairly random at times?

I ask this because there are many young people needing good role models and we need people who have got what it takes to work with them.

We need those who can commit time to our young people, to encourage, support, work with, invest in and champion them and we need those people now!

This is not a request for everybody, I would not have Elisha in my youth team, no matter how many axe heads he could float. This is an opportunity for those, not of a certain age, or stage in life but who love the Lord, love young people and want to work hard to provide them with the best opportunities to grow in faith, in self and in life!

If that is you, go talk to the Youth Pastor and get involved.

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Persecution should not be ignored

Jean-Léon_Gérôme_-_The_Christian_Martyrs'_Last_Prayer_-_Walters_37113Picture the scene. The first Roman church gathers to read a letter from Pastor Paul. This church, a people who once called the Emperor their ruler, now live under the rule of another, a crucified Jewish prophet who claimed to have defeated death. The way they do life has changed: friends begin to see them as enemies; their discreet gatherings gradually become secret; their hope for a new tomorrow seems somewhat futile under the cruel Emperor Nero, who used Christians as human torches to light his garden parties. It’s into this reality Paul writes these words:

‘…we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.’Romans 5: 1-4

As Paul’s words were uttered into the ears of the first persecuted church I wonder how they felt hearing ‘glory in our sufferings.’ I honestly cannot begin to imagine.

I wonder sometimes if I, a Christian brought up in a Britain where my right to religious freedom is mostly protected, will ever read the words of Paul and truly understand how the first church received this promise of hope. For them suffering was real and persecution a tangible reality that went hand in hand with choosing to follow Jesus. The concept of a persecution-free life doesn’t seem to be present in their story. Yet the truth is, for those of us who chose to follow Jesus today the story hasn’t changed.

I’ve been sitting on this fact for a while now. Uncomfortable with the noise of persecution and yet the silence of the church. Unable to ignore the insanely unjust realities people have been living, most recently in Syria and Iraq; and the incredibly comfortable place I’ve been reading about it from. It makes sense that in this place of conflicting feelings and aparent powerlessness about whether I am doing enough, that I would be asked to write about how to respond and draw the young people into the discussion and make use of the events and resources of projects like International Day of Prayer (IDOP) to do so.

My response is covered in the article written for ‘Threads’  and I invite you to read it. (You can read the article here)

But if you’ve had enough of reading my brain on paper let me leave you with this thought.

You are powerful, you have a voice, it may be quiet but it’s not alone. You are (most likely) safe and free to follow Jesus if you are reading this blog, so take advantage of that freedom and speak up for our Brothers and Sisters. Don’t feel guilty about how much you do, just do something.

Here are some quality charities and resources to get you started…

IDOP (International Day of Prayer)

Open Doors Youth

Barnabas Fund

The Voice of the Martyrs 

 

 

‘A story about two gardens’

Gethsemane-Jesus-PrayingI recently spoke at my church on Mark 14:32-42 ‘Gethsemane’ and I was asked to share it. So I thought I’d resurrect the old blogging days and make it available for any interested.

So here we go:

This is a story that’s really about two gardens.

This garden story is a response to the first ever garden story.
The first garden is where sin came in,
because man gave in.

The second, this garden story,
is the restoration story.
Where the human response to temptation and sin
is ‘not my will but yours come in’.

The first thing we can learn from this passage is that Jesus, like us, understands pain and suffering,
He is not on a cloud of ignorance, but literally sweating out of fear.

‘IF THERE IS ANOTHER WAY, TAKE THIS CUP FROM ME!’

Who has ever said something like that before?

But here is the second lesson and an incredible thing,
Jesus says, ‘not my will, but yours come in’.
In the place of great pain, Jesus submits to the will of the father,
even though he knows what that means,
he is fixed on the path laid before him.

Jesus shows us that we must lean on God,
because without his grace and guidance we are lost.
But to lean on him we must break down our own wall of will and let his in.

See in the first garden, the first people put their will above God’s,
they decided they knew best and there was no cost,
They believed the lie that they could actually do life like God.
Yet the cost didn’t only effect them, it cost us, it cost God.

Choosing their will above the creators, left a crater in nature,
but that’s exactly what sin does, it tricks you into taking something that was never yours at someone else’s cost.
Be it love, be it value, be it ambition
We take the beautiful things of God, and make them grimy and lost

But in the second garden, this garden,
when faced with the same choice,
Jesus chose to submit instead of walk his own way.
This, the second garden is where our salvation was truly sealed,
where a suffering Jesus decided to trust the fathers will.

And in that single act, broke the power of the first gardens crap and showed us that for all our selfishness, God has got our back.

So what can we take away from this?

That Jesus understands suffering, yes.
That we can trust him to understand how we feel when we suffer, yes.

But also that from the first garden to this day,
the biggest problem humanities faced, is our wills fighting to take first place.

The ancient yet ever present battle of
mine verses thine.
Of my way or his way
When deep down we already know who’s way, Yahweh’s

We make this choice everyday, but which will you choose?

The fathers will or yours be done?
Because when we say your kingdom come,
In the small things and in the large,
We must follow it through with his will be done.

A story about two gardens – Audio

Dangerous memes and the attitudes they produce…

Dangerous memes and the attitudes they produce.

I watched a TED talk recently by Dan Dennett on the subject of ‘Dangerous Memes’ – a phrase developed to describe ideas transferred through words, rituals, gestures etc by Richard Dawkins. In the video the lecturer talks of the memes as toxic ideas that are not entirely bad but sometimes can become dangerous ideologies. He even argues that fighting for ‘freedom’ is the result of a meme. I felt his reflections where honest and I would be ignorant to say he didn’t have a good point…

I also recently red an article by Aussie Rugby player David Pocock who speaks of his faith in Jesus and desire to support the oppressed, including those who are ‘sexually oppressed’, as his expression of following Jesus. I felt his article was very honest and after reading it I did the usual ‘check the comments below’. For the record, checking the comments is never a good idea if you are passionate about integrity. People always seem to use the comments box to ‘get one over’ or rant at the writer and the other readers views. It seems that the comment box is helping bring to light what ‘dangerous memes’ are really out there.

I think the comment box has shown that sometimes we just don’t get it. We focus our fight on the wrong things, on making things kosher on paper (or blog), but we do not worry so much about whether it brings life and hope. We are NOT the judge, we are NOT above reproach, we are NOT better then anybody else. Yet it seems we get these ideas in our head, we hear them from other people and they resonate with our fears or stereotypes, and so we call them truth. Loosely link them to verses, abstracted from their contexts and because this idea is fully formed in our minds, to question them, well thats to question scripture, or God.

Did Jesus come to give us a set of ideas that we would retain as information, a sort of knowledge based STD? Or did Jesus show us a way of life that takes away the role of judge from a broken people and gives us all freedom to be like him, Loving God and Loving people, unconditionally? I think it’s the second and I think many would agree, but to be honest, the first is our default position in church. In the video a key example used of a dangerous meme is Islam but I wonder if he only uses Islam to give Christianity a break from being the obvious example of a dangerous meme.

Please don’t  misunderstand here. I still do not know where I stand on any of the issues raised in the video and the article and I am not advocating their opinions as ‘right’ over any others. What I am arguing is that anything good can be hijacked by our fears and become dangerous. If you are passionate about marriage today and struggle with the idea of homosexual marriage how are you going to react to it? Are you going to reject people, take a moral high ground and claim your idea is better, or are you going to love people unconditionally, be honest about your thoughts, but acknowledge them as thoughts and journey together to better understand the thoughts of everyone and their reasons?

This is a little harsh, but would those who have homophobic tendencies be racist in the time of slavery? No you say, but I’m not so sure, if society rejects something, it is easy to reject it, if society accepts something it is easy to live within the the social norm. As followers of Jesus we are called to be the light in the world. The light is not a fire that burns the darkness it is a gentle warmth that eradicates it.

I wonder what you think? Watch the video and read the article and then ask yourself this question: Do I stand for what is right when I fight things or do I have some dangerous memes in my closet?

I know I have some.

Links

Memes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme

Dan Dennet Video: http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_dennett_on_dangerous_memes.html

David Pocock article: http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2011/12/02/3382170.htm

Lunch time snack – Pete Rollins

Hi Friends,

A good mate of mine posted this video on his facebook account and I wanted to share it all with you as I have a lot of time for this philosopher and enjoy his books. So if you have a break, have a watch and have a think.

Pete Rollins at Calvin College

I welcome your comments but please be integral 🙂

‘Absolutism (the idea that something has all the answers) and Relativism (all answers are valid) have one thing in common. They stop us thinking for ourselves’ Rollins

Hell: What the Hell is going on?

At our Youth house group a few weeks back we looked at the subject of hell and tried to get a better understanding of what, as Christians we are really meant to believe and then tell other people. I love it when the young people pick the subject, no sweat ay?!

We asked a few key questions:

  1. What is our perception of hell? (what does it look like?)
  2. Where has this view come from? (who or what was the source?)
  3. What’s the bible say?

What amazed me as a ‘liberal’ (not a very helpful definition) was how clued up these young people were. We discussed Dante and the ‘Divine Comedy’ of which many pictures of Hell have taken there influence and we also took a brief look into medieval life and the use of Hell there too. What I found fascinating was that they were the first to critically break down the myths of the Devil and his pitch fork and a place under the ground where naughty people go, but I wanted them to go deeper, i wasn’t planning on stopping there. So we went straight to question 3 and opened up dialogue about how we read the verses that use Hell for describing and criticizing. We looked at the original Hebrew and Greek words such as Sheol, Gehenna, Hades, etc and the way the people of Jesus’ time would have understood them. Then we unpacked the Context.

Context
The surrounding verses of a verse are what make the verse make sense. A lot of our understanding is taken from what one verse tells us. That’s OK, but it’s settling with half the story. We studied the verse on Hell using 3 simple rules:

  1. Who’s speaking?
  2. Who are they speaking to?
  3. What is the context in which they are speaking?

It is amazing how a verse makes much more sense in context, here’s an example:

Matthew 10:28 NIV

‘Do not be afraid of those kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell.’

Nice and easy going verse ay? lets use our rules:

  1. Jesus is speaking
  2. He is speaking to believers, the 12 followers to be exact.
  3. The context (Verses 1- 42) he is telling them to not be afraid of people who are against them and who can kill them for what they are about to do. He makes the point that God is the one ‘who can destroy both soul and body in hell.’ emphasis on destroy and the use of Hell is Gehenna (physical dumping ground where nothing can inhabit outside Jerusalem) . He also makes it clear that this is not a utopian idea that he is bringing but something that will break through even family ties (It’s pretty heavy stuff).

This is just one example and i’d be shooting myself in the foot if i then said this is our definition of Hell, we don’t need to read any of the other verses. But what this does show is that there are verses (this is among many) that speak of Hell (in this circumstance Gehenna) of which there is no eternal punishment, it just destroys and ends! Shock horror! But what does this mean for our theology on Hell? how does this fit into the bigger picture? Now telling you my opinion takes the wrestling with God away from you which doesn’t help you at all. But I will say this.

More then one word
Hell is more then just one word and it means a variety of things in context and in it’s original wording. If you take one verse out of context and put your own agenda on it, your not bringing the kingdom of God, your making your own religion. We have a collection of scriptures in the Bible that are around 2000 years old, so why do we settle with the images we are given from the middle ages interpretation? God surely still speaks to us right?!

Anyway, Here’s a bit of a challenge i will give you a some of the verses on hell and I want you to read them all using our rules above and without having a prepared answer in your mind from your up bringing that explains what is being described.

Gehenna Verses
Matt 5:21-25
Matt 10:28
Matt 23
Matt 23:33 (Geena – gay’ (Hebrew) – a valley, deep…)

Hades Verses
Luke 16:19
Acts 2

Tataroo Verse
2Peter 2 (Greek Hell)

Every Blessing,

J

Don’t put your ladder on the wrong wall..

Ok so I am not a professional, I have a professional title thanks to a degree but i am not a professional. I say this at the beginning so all those career driven professionals know that I am not speaking from that perspective.

Someone once said they spent their whole life climbing the ladder of success only to discover that their ladder was leaning on the wrong wall! What a profound statement! We live in a culture where we actually believe we are called to make money and write lists…where did that come from?! There are two stories we should look at, 1st is the rich young ruler (Luke 18) and the other is Mary and Martha (Luke 10).

One day a rich man comes up to Jesus and asks him what he has to do to get the ticket into Gods family. Jesus and the Man talk and the mans answers are riddled with self achievement. The rich man thought he had it all sorted. He could tick off the commandments and recite scripture. Yet to Jesus this wasn’t what Jesus was looking for. He asked the rich man to ‘sell everything and give to the poor…’. Now i am not saying that this is a message to all of us…just the gist of it. What God looks for in people is righteous living not self righteous acts. If you have money, that’s amazing, what a blessing…but if your life is structured around it and you make decisions based on your bank account…you have left God out of the equation…Good luck with that.

The Second Story is about two ladies, one who was focused on the party and all that needed to be done and the other on the guest. Martha (Lady 1) was running round sorting stuff out and preoccupied with the practical bits and bobs on her list but her sister Mary (Lady 2) was just spending time with Jesus ignoring all that ‘needed’ to be done. As we know Martha then moans about Mary and Jesus replies to her saying ‘”Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.” (v.41-42)

Our job is to sit at the feet of Jesus and follow his example. The rich man and Martha was of the same kingdom, though they didn’t think it. Both were products of the world and it’s logic sturcturing their lives around achievment, tick boxes and success. Both their ladders were on the wrong wall. What about yours?

See Gods call to the Christian is not to go to church on Sunday, to read your bible everyday, pray prayers or be successful. We often think it is and yeh sure those things are important parts of our life, but they are not the crux. God asked the rich man to look after the poor. Now it would be another blog to look at who the poor are, but in a summary…people in need are the poor and helping them is not donating a few pound a month…it’s making ourselves uncomfotable to help them. It’s giving our socializing money, our time, our comforts…Bit of a challenge ay?

Well this blog is way to long so i’ll just finish now by saying: Are you leaning on the Worlds wall or a Kingdom wall? Do not let your decisions be based on your assets. Base them on Jesus. Don’t make decisions based on the words of the successful but on the homeless, poor, outcasted and those that do not fit the Worlds mould. (hmmm i just described Jesus…funny that)

שלום

Shalom

J