SSM – What will change? What does it mean? How do we respond?

Our God is the same he never changes. Our mission is the same it never changes. We are to make disciples of Jesus proclaiming the truth of the gospel, courageously yet with gentleness and respect.

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Last week, the Australian people’s vote on same-sex marriage was revealed. Of the 12.7 million Australians who took part in the government survey, 61.6% (just under 8 million) voted in in favour of SSM while 38.4% (just under 5 million) voted against. In short, the nation was given an opportunity to make its voice heard and it did so with a rallying cry. So what will change, what does it mean and how should we respond?

 

WHAT WILL CHANGE?

Legislation:

Section 51 of the Constitution stipulates the powers of the federal Parliament. One of those powers is the ability to legislate with respect to marriage:

            Section 51 Legislative Powers of the Parliament

The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to: (xxi) marriage;

The Constitution was written in the 1890’s yet a definition of marriage was not included. It was universally assumed at the time that marriage was between one man and one woman. It wasn’t until 1961 in fact, that federal legislation was created. Before 1961 each state had their own regulating laws for marriage.

Now, this may just freak you out a little bit but in 1942 Tasmania raised the minimum age of marriage from 12 to16 for girls and 14 to 18 for boys. Yeah, that’s right under eighty years ago a 14-year-old boy could marry a 12-year-old girl. The differing State legislation led to complications, as recognised marriages from one state were not recognised in another. Therefore the federal Marriage Act of 1961 was instituted. However again at this time, a definition of marriage was not inserted into this act. It was still assumed that marriage was between one man and one woman. It wasn’t until 2004 that an amendment of the Marriage Amendment Act under the Howard government occurred defining marriage as seen below.

As it currently stands, marriage is defined within the constitution as:

1  Subsection 5(1)

Insert:

marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.

The Federal Government promised it would introduce legislative changes to allow same-sex couples to marry if the nation voted for it. Therefore we can expect this in the very near future. A simple change will occur by removing “a man and a woman” and replacing them with “two people”.

 

Definitions:

This debate has been framed under the idioms of equality, freedom and love. Yet there is a gradual shift in the definition of these terms. For example, the left has promised that no one else’s freedom would be affected by the legislative changes. However, the current proposed bill put together by Senator Dean Smith (Smith Bill – https://goo.gl/f33foA) only provides religious protections in allowing members of the clergy to refuse to solemnize marriages that conflict with their beliefs. While this is a good start, Lyle Shelton, a Christian lobbyist, has strongly sought to highlight the inadequacy of the bill and his concerns regarding freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Senator James Paterson has proposed an alternate bill that in his view would allow same-sex couples to marry while “preserving the freddoms of all Australians (Paterson Bill – https://goo.gl/9WT8yM).

It raises the question as to how freedom will be defined in our culture and more importantly whether it will be consistent? Will Christian and Muslim schools have the freedom to teach their view of marriage? Will parents have the freedom to remove their children from classes that conflict with their values? Will business owners, such as photographers, bakers and florists have the freedom to refuse service to same-sex couples, without facing legal action as has been seen in the United States?

Additionally, what is determined as discriminatory behaviour? Australia already has anti-discrimination legislation in place and these set out the definition of discriminatory behavior (see https://goo.gl/TCLv5M). Yet there remains a significant tension between protecting the rights of a person to freely practice their religion and have the freedom of speech and that of permitting a person to engage in discriminatory conduct. This is equally as important to protect, particularly for minorities that are far more vulnerable to such conduct.

So how will we define these human rights and protect the equal and inviolable rights of all members of the human family?

 

 

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

It means we’re not in Kansas anymore. Nor have we been for quite some time. As a nation, we do not have a grand narrative guiding and leading us to the same destination. This is just the reality. The age of consensus is dead and gone. The age of a moral majority for Christians and the church is over. Australia is a post-Christian nation, a secular nation, and we need to adjust our expectations accordingly. There is a myriad of worldviews within our culture, Christianity is but one, and it no longer has the monopoly. And biblically and historically this has been the norm. The naivety and ignorance of the Christian West are often astounding. Have we forgotten the history of God’s people in exile? Have we not learnt from Daniel, Acts and 1 Peter where God’s people did more than live in a hostile culture in exile, they shone brighter in it? Are we unaware of God’s people in places like China, Sudan and Syria? Most Christians do not exist in the comfortable west, they live in hostile environments under great persecution and yet God and the Gospel continue to advance. In fact, in my estimation, Christianity excels in the margins.

It means the divide is rapidly increasing. This referendum has demonstrated the deep rifts within our culture. The chasm between the left and the right, liberals and conservatives is growing. And what’s left in the middle is confusion and disorientation. As the divide increases love for the other decreases. Additionally, there is an increasing divide between professing Christians and practicing Christians. While 50% of Australians may have ticked, “Christian” on the latest census, the reality is many of these, if not most, are simply theists, or more accurately, agnostic. In fact, the media are quick to inform us that Christianity is dying a slow death in this country. They will point to this latest vote as evidence of that. But the reality is we are seeing a decline in “nominal Christianity”. More and more people raised Catholic or Anglican, are feeling the freedom to acknowledge that they don’t truly believe or practice. A deeper study of the analytics, with clear specifications with regard to genuine Christian practice, tells us that Christianity is not decreasing, rather nominal Christianity is. And this is a good thing. Not because we don’t want to be associated with non-believers, rather it is the opposite. The Roman world was not turned upside down in the first century by nominal Christians. It was turned upside down by genuine believers and followers of Jesus willing to risk it all for the sake of the gospel and to love their neighbour even at great personal cost.

 

HOW DO WE RESPOND?

With the world around us changing, nothing changes for the Christian. We remain called to love God and neighbour as a response to God’s grace, mercy and love towards us. We have an incredible opportunity to model Christian love to heterosexuals and homosexuals, liberals and conservatives and the like. Our God is the same he never changes. Our mission is the same it never changes. We are to make disciples of Jesus proclaiming the truth of the gospel, courageously yet with gentleness and respect.

We are to follow the words of Micah 6:8

“He had told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God”

and Jeremiah 29:7

“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

 

How do we respond? By continuing to love God and our neighbour.

Beauty and Being a Dad – Lessons From Beauty and The Beast

My daughter is longing for this world. Every time she gets a glimpse of it her heart springs forward as for a brief moment as she encounters God’s true kingdom… It’s there in the sunset. It’s there at the dinner table filled with friends and family. It’s there at the park as the breeze whistles through the trees. It’s there when she laughs, when she cries and when she lays down her head to rest at night. God’s kingdom is here and it’s all around her, everyday, in everything and it’s all pointing to her great God that loves her and promises that he’ll bring her into that kingdom with all the colour, with all the life, beauty and joy. On that day her heart will rejoice and behold like no other.

 

I am not a nursery rhyme, fairy tale kind of guy. Don’t ask me why but they just didn’t stick with me from my childhood. I know we grew up with them because my other siblings remember my mum reading us the stories. But for some reason I just don’t remember any of the stories or rhymes. This became apparent after I got married and began having children. My wife would sing the songs and tell the stories and it was like I was hearing them for the first time. She would always look at me with disbelief wondering how it was possible to be an adult with little to no recollection of the stories and characters in the most famous of fairy tales. Maybe I was more interested in other things. I don’t know.

Since having children however fairy tales are commonplace in our home. Children love stories. They never tire of them. There is something about a good story that captures their hearts attention. The more I learn about the power of a story, the more attentive I am to what stories I allow to shape my kids.

Now this is not an over-reactionary Christian blog post about the semi homosexual innuendos portrayed by Lefou. Sometimes my own team disappoint me with their unreasonable expectations of secular culture or their impetuous opinions voiced with a veneer of hypocrisy. While I can sympathise with parents concern over Hollywood’s willingness to continually push the boundaries, I cannot validate their grievance of a homosexual agenda in Hollywood when staring them in the face is an explicit story of a female falling for an animal. We call this bestiality. For me, if you are not offended by this component of the story, you shouldn’t be offended by anything else. Anyway, enough venting on my part.

This post is rather some lessons I learnt from watching this fairy tale for the first time. I took my oldest daughter and for the record I loved it. She gave me running commentary throughout, constantly nudging me, pointing out whom each character was before they had even been properly introduced. Watching her captivated by this story prompted me to consider what it may tell me. Here are 4 things I learnt about my daughter.

 

  1. My daughter is looking for more than just physical provision.

Gaston is attracted to Belle and wants to marry her. Unfortunately for him Belle is not interested in marrying him. Unfortunately for her, this is partly what makes her so attractive to Gaston. Belle knows what she wants and she is unwilling to settle. Gaston approached Belle again attempting to manipulate her into marrying him pointing out his ability to provide for her after her father passes in the future. Belle emphatically assures Gaston that she will never marry him and breaks out into song singing, ‘I want more than physical provision, I want adventure and I want love.’

Sure, Belle is singing about the man she wants to marry but it still applies to me as the first man in my daughter’s life. She wants more than just a roof over her head or food on the table. She wants adventure. She wants to be cherished. She wants to have a man in her life that is aspiring to provide emotionally, relationally and spiritually as well as physically. She wants a man that will pursue her heart and go beyond what Gaston is offering to provide Belle. While I want my daughters to find men like this, the reality is that I set the standard. If I become this type of man for them now, then they’ll have a higher chance to be as Belle was – unwilling to settle.

 

  1. My daughter needs the weapon of hope

At one point in the story, Belle is perplexed as to how the living household objects are able to maintain hope in spite of their dire circumstances. While not having a full comprehension of the situation, Belle empathised with them. In her mind there was no hope. Yet hope shone through. This is the nature of hope. Rick Warren often says, ‘you’ve got to have hope to cope.’ It’s so true. Hope is essential to perseverance.

As a dad this leads me to consider what my kids are putting their hope in. Can it deliver? Will it last? What part do I play in shaping this? I’m not sure I have all the answers to these questions but I do know hope is one of the great weapons for overcoming adversity. In the Christian worldview hope is more than wishful thinking. It is a certainty that is secure in God’s nature. God can’t lie, therefore when God says something will be, it will be. It’s certain, it’s sure. This is the hope I want my daughters to have. A hope that is beyond an imperfect father or future husband and in a perfect unfailing God whose promise is sure and true.

 

  1. My daughter needs a soft heart not a hard heart.

The moral of Beauty and the Beast is that a soft-hearted girl named Belle is able to soften a hard-hearted angry beast. As a dad it’s important to remember that while discipline is necessary in developing my kids, nothing is more important than my heart towards them. If my heart is hard, my discipline will be hard and more likely to produce another hard heart. On the other hand if my heart is soft then the necessary discipline will be in love and able to produce the desired outcome.

Additionally I want my girls to have soft hearts. While I want them to have thick skin and to be secure women, there’s nothing more unattractive than a hard heart. This is where I’m really grateful I have a God that has a perfect heart towards us. God can change my hard heart. God can soften my daughter’s hard heart. This is really good news especially as my heart is often hard.

 

  1. My daughter loves extravagant beauty

There were three scenes in particular that made my daughter and I gape with wonder. The first was when the beast introduced Belle to the library. It was incredible. If you know me, it won’t surprise you that my I was filled with envy. Even my daughter turned to me and said, ‘Dad imagine if that was your library and it was just filled with Bibles.’ She knows me well. It was amazing. The second was the ballroom in which Belle and the Beast first danced. The room, adorned with polished marble floors, lavish crystal chandeliers hanging from the high domed ceiling was exquisite. The third was near the end of the movie after the curse had been removed and everything had been restored to its original beauty. The colour returned, life restored and joy filled the entire kingdom once again.

All three scenes reminded me that we have an innate proclivity towards extravagance. Leaving aside the actuality of the greed and financial disparity within the world we live, I believe our hearts are designed for wonder and beauty. It’s why we gaze; it’s why we esteem; it’s why we treasure; it’s why we behold. There is something within us that is drawn to extravagant beauty. The Bible would tell us that this is the deposit of the eternal placed within each human soul. We are longing for a kingdom not of this world but of another, where colour is returned, life is restored and joy is unending.

My daughter is longing for this world. Every time she gets a glimpse of it her heart springs forward as for a brief moment as she encounters God’s true kingdom. As a Dad I want to help her to see the beauty of God’s kingdom all around her every day. It’s there in the sunset. It’s there at the dinner table filled with friends and family. It’s there at the park as the breeze whistles through the trees. It’s there when she laughs, when she cries and when she lays down her head to rest at night. God’s kingdom is here and it’s all around her, everyday, in everything and it’s all pointing to her great God that loves her and promises that he’ll bring her into that kingdom with all the colour, with all the life, beauty and joy. On that day her heart will rejoice and behold like no other.

 

P.S. Keep an eye out for the upcoming posts from my friends on mental health conditions. I’ve read a few of them and they are going to be really helpful. Thanks for reading. Thanks for sharing.

Living With Mental Health Conditions

However you define it, mental health is paramount to one’s quality of life. When someone suffers with any type of condition and to any degree it has the ability to affect his or her whole life. According to Beyond Blue over 3 million Australians are currently suffering with some form of anxiety or depression. That’s a large number of our fellow countrymen and women struggling with their quality of life.

In the coming weeks a number of my friends have agreed to be guest bloggers and share their stories of dealing with mental health issues. This is something I am personally passionate about as in 2015 I was diagnosed with having post-traumatic anxiety. This has made life more difficult and complicated for me as well as my family. My goal through these series of posts is to help lift the lid of mental health and encourage those that may struggle or have a friend or family member that struggles. I’d love it if you would consider sharing these upcoming posts through your social media with the hope of encouraging as many people as possible through the stories of my brave friends.

In this post I’d like to start the conversation with a general overview of mental health and take a snapshot of different approaches people take in dealing with mental health conditions. In the coming weeks a few of my friends will share their stories and insights in the hope it encourages many.

 

MENTAL HEALTH DEFINED

Mental health is often defined as, ‘a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being.’ Additionally ‘Beyond Blue’ (a mental health support organization) points out on their website (https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/what-is-mental-health),

“According to the World Health Organization, however, mental health is “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”

So rather than being about ‘what’s the problem?’ it’s really about ‘what’s going well? So when speaking of conditions such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and the like, Beyond Blue would categorize these as ‘mental health conditions’. However you define it, mental health is paramount to one’s quality of life. When someone suffers with any type of condition and to any degree it has the ability to affect his or her whole life. According to Beyond Blue over 3 million Australians are currently suffering with some form of anxiety or depression. That’s a large number of our fellow countrymen and women struggling with their quality of life.

 

APPROACHES TO MENTAL HEALTH

Weakness – People with this approach completely dismiss mental health conditions as genuine. Rather they consign them as weakness on the part of the person struggling.

Warrant – People with this approach view mental health conditions as an excuse used by many to avoid dealing with real issues of life or even to escape hard work. Anytime something of significant effort comes up the person claiming mental health conditions throw the, ‘anxiety or depression’ card down.

Whatever – People with this approach may not necessarily look down on someone claiming mental health issues rather they simply wipe their hands of acknowledging its legitimacy due to their lack of understanding. They may not rule out these conditions from the realm of possibility, but have not experienced themselves and therefore they ‘just don’t get it’.

Warmth – People with this approach sympathize while not experiencing mental health conditions first hand. They readily acknowledge the struggle is real and difficult and move towards those struggling with compassion. Often they are close to someone dealing with these conditions or have previously struggled themselves.

Wrestle – People with this approach have been or still are in the heat of the battle. They personally wrestle with these conditions on a day-to-day basis. The wrestle is real.

Regrettably I used to fall into the first approach. While not vocalizing my opinion publically, I definitely thought those that struggled just needed to toughen up mentally. They were just weak. Looking back I can see this came through in my approach when counseling others. My motivation was good, my overly simplistic approach was uninformed and naïve. I’ll leave my personal story for a later post but in short, one day in 2015 everything changed for me as I came crashing down. Hopefully I now sit in the ‘warmth’ approach as I continue to wrestle with my own struggle each and every day.

I guess we call this being humbled 🙂

Up next will be my friends and their stories. I hope this either helps move you towards warmth and compassion to those that struggle or helps you to continue your wrestle with hope.

Christmas – Sacred or Secular?

They began to celebrate what C. S. Lewis calls ‘the grandest miracle of all time’ the incarnation of God, the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas was birthed out of a pagan context but it was not pagan. It was Christian. Christians decided to Redeem a date, 25th of December and honour the birth of our saviour, not Mithras or any other pagan God. Christmas was sacred not secular.

Christmas is one of the great celebrations of the year. Trees go up, ridiculous amounts of money are spent, gifts are shared, food and drink consumed as family and friends gather together in a joyous occasion. There’s so much love and joy in the air that even Michael Buble’ and Mariah Carey are allowed to be played on the open air. However Christmas can also be a time of war. A wave of online debates begins between Christians with regard to the nature of Christmas. Is it a secular or sacred holiday? And should Christians participate in something that has pagan roots? The debate sometimes goes even further as some overly precious Christians feel they have the monopoly on Christmas voicing their displeasure that the secular culture doesn’t put enough Christ in Christmas. So which is it? Is Christmas secular or sacred and how should we interact with it as Christians.

In a previous post on Halloween (http://wp.me/p1gDan-oO) I highlighted a filter we use as a Christian family to help determine how we interact within our secular culture. The same can be used for Christmas. Do we receive it? Do we reject it? Or do we redeem it? I’ll use the same outline for Christmas.

 

REJECT IT!

Those who reject Christmas often do so with a desire towards obedience and devotion to God not culture. They seek to avoid entanglement to the so-called pagan roots of Christmas. This should be commended not ridiculed. Even if you disagree with the premise, the motivation can be right. The argument is made that since the Bible doesn’t instruct us to celebrate Christ’s birth nor is the date of his birth definitive Christians should therefore reject Christmas.

While I sympathise with this position I do not necessarily hold to it. Let me ask a series of questions in order clarify why. What cultural days do you participate in that the Bible doesn’t prescribe? Do you celebrate Australia Day? Anzac Day? Father’s or Mother’s Day? Thanksgiving? Festivus? My guess is you do. Ah but Christmas began as a pagan holiday and we are forbidden in scripture from participating in pagan practices? I’ll show why I believe this claim to be misplaced a little later. But again lets ask some further questions. Do you sing along to secular music? Have you ever attended a Coldplay concert? Are these secular or sacred? So before we reject Christmas entirely because of its so-called pagan roots lets consider what other paganisms we may already be participating in.

I meet people in café’s all the time. I’m yet to meet the Christian who refuses to meet with me on a Thursday because it’s Thor’s Day. In Norse mythology Thor is the deity of thunder and the eldest son of Odin, ruler of the God’s. He had a magic hammer and thunder was supposed to be the sound of the rolling of his chariot. It is called ‘yom chamiyshiy in Ibriy’, meaning “fifth day” or “day five.” What about the other days of the week? Sunday (day of the sun); Monday (day of the moon); Tuesday (Tyr’s Day), named for the Norse god of war; Wednesday (Woden’s day), named to honour Odin, or Woden, chief deity in Norse mythology; Friday (Frigg’s day) is named for Frigg or Frigga the female deity of the sky and wife of Odin, the chief of the deities; Saturday (Saturn’s day). Let’s continue…

What about a wedding ring? The ancient Romans believed that a vein ran from the ‘digitus Annula’ris’ or ring finger to the heart. The ring was a way of putting a chain on one’s heart. Have you ever blown out birthday candles? ‘No don’t tell me.’ Yep. Pagan. Sorry. People would seek a necromancer who could tell one’s fortune from the pattern of smoke after blowing out the candles. Let’s just admit that there are many aspects of the culture in which we find ourselves that has pagan roots. So it’s a little more complicated than just rejecting whatever is pagan.  If you’re going to reject Christmas because of it’s pagan roots then I applaud your devotion and likewise encourage you to be consistent. And maybe the question isn’t what did it mean then, but what does it mean now?

 

 

RECEIVE IT

Those who reject Christmas often make the claim that those who receive it simply do so in ignorance. While this can be true for some it certainly isn’t for everyone. So should we receive Christmas? Well it depends I guess. Which Christmas? We live in a context where there really are two different Christmas’. What was once a largely Christian country is now essentially post-Christian. So while Christmas still exists as a holiday, it doesn’t exist as a purely Christian one. Shock horror it’s secular. This is only a problem for those Christians who expect those non-Christians to act like a Christian. We’ve got to keep Christ in Christmas they say. This is true, but only for the Christian. A non-Christian doesn’t believe in Christ but they do believe in family and friends. They do believe in celebrating. That’s what Christmas is for them and these are good things. Let’s stop expecting those that aren’t Christians to act as such.

As for the Christian there can be two common problems with Christmas. 1) For some, Christmas (and Easter) is the time of year to give Christ a token thought. Then they go on forgetting him the other 363 days of the year 2) for others, Christ just gets replaced. Santa and other secular aspects of Christmas take the prominent focus. Both are errors. For the Christian we should seek to celebrate and worship Christ at every possible opportunity not just couple days a year.

‘I can’t think of anything more pleasing to Christ than the church celebrating His birthday every year…While the New Testament doesn’t require that we celebrate Christmas every year, I certainly see nothing wrong with the church’s entering into this joyous time of celebrating the Incarnation, which is the dividing point of all human history.’ R.C Sproul

 

REDEEM IT

As a family we have chosen to neither reject nor receive Christmas. Rather we seek to redeem it. For us there are some untenable aspects of Christmas in our secular culture. For example we have chosen to reject Santa. We have explained to our children the truth about Santa and ask them to not ruin it for all the other kids. So far so good on this one. We felt that we in good conscience could not lie to our children about Santa (Easter bunny, tooth fairy etc). We also felt that the spirit of Santa is the antithesis of Christ and the gospel, the very heart of Christmas. Unlike Santa, God loves you and gives to you even when you don’t deserve it. Unlike Santa, God isn’t checking his sin list twice over to see if you’ve been naughty or nice. Rather Christ came and lived a perfect life on your behalf because he knew you couldn’t always be nice. Jesus offers you a better gift than Santa ever could in that he offers you forgiveness and true eternal life.

As a whole however we seek to redeem Christmas. We seek to make Christmas as sacred as we can. We put up a tree (secular) and seek to use the tree to remind our children that one day this baby Christ would choose to die on a tree for our transgressions (sacred). We give gifts (secular) with the intention of reflecting God’s nature (sacred) as he gave himself to the world in love (Jn. 3:16). We seek to redeem Christmas because it is the very position from which Christmas arose. When the ‘Rejecters’ state that Christmas has its roots in paganism they are claiming that it is secular and not sacred. But I’m not sure this is exactly accurate.

The 25th of December was the final day of a weeklong celebration within the Roman Empire. During this celebration they worshipped secular and pagan gods such as Mithras. Christians within the Roman Empire were devoted to Christ and in good conscience rejected participation in the festivities. They could not worship their gods. Rather than just reject this celebration outright they chose to redeem the day. Rather than remaining in their homes avoiding the secular culture they decided to celebrate something that was essential to their faith. They began to celebrate what C. S. Lewis calls ‘the grandest miracle of all time’ the incarnation of God, the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas was birthed out of a pagan context but it was not pagan. It was Christian. Christians decided to redeem a date, 25th of December and honour the birth of our saviour, not Mithras or any other pagan God. Christmas was sacred not secular.

Now the Christian Christmas has certainly been overtaken by secularism and consumerism. However we must remember that we live in a secular context. Do we really need to get our nickers in a knot when Westfield put up ‘Happy Holidays’ rather than Merry Christmas? The early Christians within the Roman Empire did not expect the Romans to participate in Christmas as they did. They expected them to continue to celebrate their own way. Rather they chose to lift up Christ and use the celebration as an opportunity to share about Christ being the true and living God-man that came into the world in order to redeem the world. They used Christmas as a means of contrasting Christ with their false gods. As my good friend Adam Ramsey noted in his post (https://adamramsey.org/2013/12/18/3-tips-for-sharing-jesus-with-others-this-christmas/) rather than blowing Santa up why don’t we do the same as the Christians in the secular Roman context and use the opportunity to contrast Santa with Christ.

If you’re not a Christian may I apologise to you for expecting you to act as a Christian. May I also wish you a merry Christmas and encourage you to consider the Christian perspective of Christmas this year. If you are a Christian may I likewise wish you a merry Christmas and encourage you to consider the words of the Spurge!!!

“Remember, young believers, that from the first moment when Christ did lie in the cradle until the time when he ascended up on high, he was at work for his people; and from the moment when he was seen in Mary’s arms, till the instant when in the arms of death he bowed his head and gave up the ghost, he was at work for your salvation and mine…You have as much to thank Christ for living as for dying, and you should be as reverently and devoutly grateful for his spotless life as for his terrible and fearful death.” Charles Spurgeon (A Treasury of Spurgeon on the Life and Work of Our Lord, Volume II, 216).

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!!

Busy is the New Happy – The Solution Part 2

If you don’t prioritise your life someone else will. Your boss, your customers, your kids, your friends. Everyone wants a piece of your life. Every time you say yes to something you say no to something else.

I’ve spoken to many people over the years that state they hate their job. When I ask them what they want to do they either don’t know or they follow it up with why they can’t do it. Many of these are men. They work their job in order to provide for their family. This is honourable and should be highly commended. It doesn’t take away from the fact however that they often live with a sense of discontentment because they’re just not passionate about what they do. I’m sure the same can be said about you whether you’re a man or a women, married or not married, kids or no kids. It’s easy to slip into going through the motions of life just doing what we’re doing. Part of the solution is to ‘Redefine The Why’ as seen previously (http://wp.me/p1gDan-u1). But discontentment is not only cured through purpose but also position. It’s not just why we do something but it’s also what we do that makes a difference.

 

REFOCUS THE WHAT!!!

I am not a handy man. Just ask my wife. She’s far more equipped with a hammer and hacksaw than I am. I don’t feel emasculated by this in any way shape or form. I’m serious it’s a non-issue. It’s nothing really… Ok so maybe a little. But the reality is God has given me other gifts. This is what I tell her anyway. On a serious note though one of the reasons we are distracted and restless in life is simply because we’re not doing something we love and are passionate about. If you’re a young reader of this blog, be encouraged that this can take some time to work out. You may not know what you want to do in life yet. You may not have a sense of purpose. That’s ok. It takes time of trying different things and trusting God. Additionally the pathway towards this is still work. You can’t just sit and wait for the perfect life to fall in your lap. You’ve got to get up and go after it. It doesn’t just happen. The road of delight is often at the end of the road called discipline. If you’re a little less young and you feel stuck. Please be encouraged through this post and consider picking up your ability to dream again. It’s never too late.

Tim Keller rightly notes that ‘freedom is not the absence of restriction, true freedom is found in living within the right restrictions according to our design.’ Keller uses the illustration of a fish. A fish will experience most freedom when it lives within the restriction of water because it’s living according to God’s good design. Likewise God has designed us. The better you understand and live according to his good design the greater the freedom you will experience in your soul. You will be more joyful and fruitful. Restlessness is less about the hours you work and more about what work you do. Every job is stressful. Every job has problems. But not every job is something you were created for.

 

RE-RHYTHM THE WHEN!!!

If you don’t prioritise your life someone else will. Your boss, your customers, your kids, your friends. Everyone wants a piece of your life. Every time you say yes to something you say no to something else. But it’s your life. God gave you this life to live and it will be to God that you give an account. What is most important to you? What often gets squeezed out of your schedule that you need to put back in?

Another problem with the view of balanced living is that we think of balance through the lens of schedule rather than rhythm. Consider the creation account in Genesis 1. Each day God make something and then at the end of the day he celebrated what he had made. STOP! Consider that for a moment. How often do you even rhythm celebration into your day. We don’t even have celebration as a category for a scehdule apart from birthdays and public holidays. God did it everyday.

Consider God’s weekly rhythm. Day 1 – Work/Celebrate; Day 2 – Work/Celebrate; Day 3 – Work/Celebrate; Day 4 – Work/Celebrate; Day 5 – Work/Celebrate; Day 6 – Work/Celebrate; Day 7 – Rest, enjoy, be satisfied.

Now consider your weekly rhythm? What jumps out to you? A few years ago my wife and I evaluated our family rhythms and noticed the lack of celebration and gratitude. So we decided to rhythm into our daily family rhythm what we call our ‘1 Thing’. Essentially after our time of prayer with the kids before bed we all pick ‘1 Thing’ we are grateful for from that day. At first I thought this would be really great for my kids and help them to be grateful. But honestly this one new rhythm has had an immense impact on my life. It simply helps me to finish everyday with joy, no matter what my day held.

What do you need to re-rhythm into your life? Think big rocks first, the most important things first. When will you rhythm holidays? When will you rhythm weekly rest? When will you rhythm gratefulness, satisfaction and recreation. If you’re reading this and you’re a mum, you probably laughed at the notion of recreation. But think about it. You’re a far better mum to your kids when you’re well rested and when your tank is full. So it’s actually better for your entire family for you to get some ‘YOU TIME’ and do something you love and enjoy. It’ll fill up your emotional tank that in turn helps you to mum well. If you’re married with kids and reading this then make some time with each other tonight and find a way to help each other to rhythm this into your life. It’ll be great for your entire family.

 

RECONNECT THE WHO!!!

Funerals have a way of reminding us of what matters in this life. It’s not what you have it’s who you have. What makes life most enjoyable isn’t the work we do, it’s the people we do life with. Who are these people? Who brings joy to your life? Who makes you laugh? Who encourages your soul? Who can you drop your guard with and just be yourself? WHO?

My wife and I are very different. I am highly energised by people. She is highly energised by tasks. So I realise not everyone is the same. But what is absolutely universal is we were created for community. God designed us with a deep need for connection. So regardless of where you are on the energy spectrum you need good people in your life. Who are those people? And how can you Reconnect with them and make that a part of your new life rhythm?

To reconnect to something means you need to disconnect from something else.

Ever get phantom leg twitches and think it’s your phone ringing? You look down and realise your phones not even in your pocket. I bet even after realising this you still go find your phone just in case there’s some type of electrical and chemical connection between your phone and your leg? Yeah you need to disconnect! I’m guilty of this relational crime. Why don’t you try and consider disconnecting for a 24hr period. No social media. No screen in your face. Just be present with whomever it is you love. Family, friends whoever. Turn off your phone. Put away your screen and RECONNECT!!!

In conclusion there are 4 things you need to do to improve your quality of life. Redefine the Why; Refocus the What; Re-Rhythm the When; and Reconnect the Who. These 4 things will help you to work hard and remain restful, fruitful and enjoyable!

NOW GET BACK TO WORK!!!

 

Why Our Christian Family Participates In Halloween

However you and your family decide to participate this weekend. Please prayerfully consider all aspects of the Christian faith and how you can love your neighbour, be a great witness and bring glory to God.

As Christians we believe in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ as an historical event. Due to this event we believe Jesus to be our saviour as well as our Lord. In other words we are not only eternally grateful to have our sins forgiven, but we seek to follow and obey Christ with our lives. This desire for obedience often leaves us as Christians at a crossroad when it comes to cultural practices. When at odds, do we follow the values and practices of our culture or do we follow the values and practices of Christianity found in the Bible? This really is a simple choice when the Bible speaks clearly on a topic like drunkenness, violence, sorcery, gossip, orgies and the like (Gal. 5:19-20). But what about a cultural rhythm like Halloween in which the Bible doesn’t speak to since it wasn’t practiced years ago?

Mark Driscoll once taught 3 ways to prayerfully filter family decisions and practices through. As a family we often think through these before making a prayerful decision.

REJECT – Don’t participate in it. Reject the whole idea or practice outrightly. This is a reasonable approach for a Christian. As Christians we often reject things all-together like pornography or polygamy. We view these as antithetical to the Christian worldview. Halloween has become a social event which associates itself with death, murder, horror, blood, fear and the list goes on. Obviously these traits are not things we as Christians celebrate. “So why would you be participating in such a thing?” Well let me get to that in a bit.

If your family chooses to reject Halloween, which is reasonable, please consider being reasonable in how you do it. The Bible calls us to love our neighbour, even when we disagree. You may not want to get out in the streets as a family but you can still find ways to love your neighbour rather than judge your neighbour for not holding the same values as you do. Our neighbours are simply attempting to have some fun and maybe we as Christians differ on where the line is. So be kind, be loving, be a good neighbour. Reject the party but don’t reject your neighbour.

RECEIVE – Fully participate in it. Go along with it. It’s harmless fun and everyone else is doing it. As Christians we receive many things within our culture as commonly good and not at odds with Christianity. The internet is a good example. It is morally neutral and while it is often used for evil, the internet itself is neither good nor bad and therefore a Christian can freely receive it and use it for good. Those I know who fully participate in Halloween do so with the intention of being a good neighbour and having harmless fun.

Due the values of Christianity that we hold as a family we find it personally difficult to justify fully participating in Halloween.

REDEEM – Participate in it to some degree but with Christian intentionality and purpose. What I mean by this is that one of the great values of Christianity is loving our neighbour. As with those who take the “Receive” approach we would see this as a great opportunity to meet our neighbours and spend time with them as friends. In fact in our neighbourhood this is the one time in the year that lots of people roam the street together. Everyone comes out of their homes and engage as neighbours. This is a great thing and a great opportunity to love our neighbour and be a Christian witness. As with those who take the “Reject” approach we see many things that stand at odds with Christian values. Therefore we seek to participate in it with the intention of enjoying our neighbours and friends while at the same time participating in it in a way that doesn’t contradict our values of life, love, faith with death, hate, fear etc.

What this means for us as a family is that we are slightly the odd family out. We dress up as super heroes and princesses. We don’t do blood; we don’t do horror, we do dress up but it’s on the bright side of things. This makes us stand out a little and we hope it doesn’t offend our neighbours, but we can’t, in good conscience, participate in the same way as others. We give out lollies and we receive lollies. We meet new neighbours and hang with our neighbours for an hour or so building friendships and attempting to be good witnesses. We don’t judge, we don’t expect people with a different worldview than ours to live like we do. Rather we seek to participate in it, in a way we feel reflects Christian values, and we seek to build friendships that give us opportunity to love our neighbours as Christ has called us to do.

We also use it as an opportunity to speak to our children about cultural engagement. As parents we can’t protect our children from everything they are going to face in our culture but we can prepare them. We sit down our children every year and teach them why we participate the way we do. We teach the gospel, talk about Christ’s gift of life and how we as a family seek to redeem the culture in which we live.

However you and your family decide to participate this weekend. Please prayerfully consider all aspects of the Christian faith and how you can love your neighbour, be a great witness and bring glory to God.