Welcome to My BlogHere is a basic blog layout with a right sidebar
When I was in Bible College there was a big emphasis on the importance of taking a Sabbath. We were taught, three days for college, three days for church/work, one day of rest. I wasn’t a great student, but I did get that sabbath thing down. Probably did sabbath more than recommended, to the detriment of my studies, which I don’t think was the intended outcome. But if Sabbath was a subject it would have been on track to be one of my best.
Since college I’ve remained pretty good at taking a day off, making sure there is at least one day a week where I’m not doing anything that might be considered work. On those days I don’t do paid work, I don’t do talk prep, I don’t write my books or blog posts. I take a day off.
The problem I have found is that while I am pretty good at the negative aspects of Sabbath (things that I don’t do), I’m not so good at the positive (things to do). I don’t quite know the best things to do to replace the things I’m not doing. I think it’s probably because I’m not thinking about what a sabbath is, only what it is not. I definitely have room to grow in my sabbathing.
One of the things I have always found helpful and important about Sabbath is that it teaches us trust. By not working we’re saying it’s not us who is our provider but God. We’re saying we are not vital to our own provision or success, and we are not vital to whatever goal or institution we serve. “Unless the Lord builds the house the builders labour in vain.” (Psalm 127:1) Sabbath says that we trust God as our provider and builder. If done right, it frees us from slavery to work, and idolisation of busyness.
But as I have realised, Sabbath needs to be a positive experience, an is, rather than just an is not. Sabbath has to be about enjoying God and his creation. God built sabbath rest into the scheme of his very good creation. It’s isn’t about just not working, but actively resting. Resting in God and his provision. It’s about the enjoyment of God, his world, and his people. I haven’t been so good at that. Spending your life working for God, it’s hard to take a rest and just enjoy God.
I was talking about this with Em and we both acknowledged that we were not sabbathing in the way we’d like. So we have decided that we will start taking a sabbath together. Not just not working, but actively resting so that we might enjoy time with God and others. Let me tell you our plan. Then I’ll check in again in a few months to let you know how we’re going. (Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for people, not people for the sabbath, so I suspect if we get it right, it’ll be good news).
The Guidelines (not rules):
We are going to take a what I call Jewish Sabbath (I’m not sure if there that’s the technical term) where you rest from sundown on one day to sundown the following day. That’s as opposed to a calendar Sabbath (also not probably not a technical term), from midnight to midnight for one calendar day. Generally, this will be Saturday evening to Sunday evening, but we can be flexible.
Rest from work and study
We’re not going to do money-earning activities or uni study activities. Anything which we may consider pressing, everyday work. However if we find our neighbour’s donkey in a ditch, or someone needing medical attention, we will help them.
Rest from social media
This isn’t because social media is a sin, but it is a distraction, and it stops us from noticing much of the world around us. So goodbye FB, Insta, Bebo, and Tinder.
Rest from TV
TV is our default rest activity. Not turning straight to Netflix to relax will help us be more intentional in how we rest. Probably we’ll just nap. Note that a rest from TV is not a rest from the cinema. I made sure we were clear on that!
Eating with others
We want to make sure that we Sabbath with others. So in our Sabbath rest we will endeavour to find time to have a meal with others. We can enjoy the gifts of God together.
Spending time with God
Obviously, this is important. While we try and make time to spend with God regularly throughout the day, we can have a longer, more relaxed time with God.
Reflecting on God’s word together
Seeing as we’re both trying to Sabbath together, we thought it might be good to make sure we’re reflecting on God’s word together. This might mean that we read our way through a book of the Bible. Perhaps we will read a Christian book. Maybe we’ll watch some Vegetales.
So that’s the plan for Sabbath. These are just guidelines, they’re not rules, and we’re not making moral judgements one way or the other. We’re just hoping to better participate in the rhythms that God made for us and enjoy the rest Christ won for us. We’ll let you know how it goes.
But before I go, do you sabbath? What does Sabbath look like for you? Help me out, we might steal your ideas.
For almost eighteen months now I’ve had a draft post sitting in my blog folder titled “Saying Yes to Jesus Isn’t Always Fun”. I keep trying to write it and then getting stuck, giving up for a few weeks, coming back to it, trying again, and getting stuck.
The problem I’m trying to write about is that we seem to have a skewed way of making decisions about obedience to Jesus. As a youth pastor when youth leaders decided to stop youth leading they would generally give me a reason why they were pulling out. Most of the time it was a good reason, but sometimes I felt like they were copping out. The reason that got on my nerves the most was when a youth leader would say “I just feel like God is calling me to something else, so I’m just going to leave myself open to whatever it is that God wants from me.”
The thing that annoyed me about this is that when someone pulls out the “God said” card there’s no way to discuss that. You can’t say “No God didn’t say that.” How do I know what God did and didn’t say to them specifically? But often I suspected the reason they were pulling out had less to do with God “calling them into a new season” and more to do with them wanting their Friday nights back. The sacrifice of youth ministry just wasn’t worth whatever they were missing out on. But how do you have that discussion? When someone dresses up selfish motives as God speaking they shut down any opportunities for discussion and challenge, and reinforce for themselves the lie that God’s ultimate desire for them is to be happy.
I’m not suggesting that the youth leaders were deliberately lying. I think they confused their desires with the voice of God. Because youth ministry felt too tough, they decided it must be God speaking to them.
Now, this thinking doesn’t just manifest itself in making decisions about ministry, it manifests itself all over the place. We seem to spend a lot of time equating feelings with the will of God. If something feels right, how can it be wrong? If we’re true to our heart how can we be disobeying God?
But Jesus points out that our hearts aren’t really that reliable when it comes to making decisions about what’s right and wrong. In Mark 7:20-23 he makes it clear that our hearts are not the source of our deepest truth, but the source of our rebellion and evil.
This is why, when trying to discern the will of God, we often teach people to go to the Bible and to seek wise counsel before going to our own hearts. Of course, the Holy Spirit can speak directly to our hearts, but I suspect when “God” tells us exactly what we want to hear we should treat those words with a certain amount of suspicion, just in case we’ve gotten a bit confused. I’ve spent a lot of time listening to Tom and passing it off as God to avoid costly obedience.
On the other hand, not everything we do needs to have God’s explicit tick of approval. There are a lot of things I want to do (most of them involve eating potato) which I can make my own decisions on, I don’t have to try and fit them into the express will of God. Tim Keller talks about how as you mature as a Christian often the choices we make aren’t between right and wrong but between good and better*. I also think sometimes the choice is between good and good. God has given us brains and wisdom, I’m pretty sure he wants us to use them. What this means is, when you make a decision to do something, say, if you eat that bowl of hot chips, don’t try and pass it off as God’s will. Just own it as your choice, you just like hot chips, you don’t need to over-spiritualise it.
How wonderful that we’re free to choose the thing we want to do. We can eat that potato dish, we can take a break from youth ministry, we can decide to have a nap, we can choose all sorts of things. Sometimes we’ll make a bad choice, sometimes it’ll be a good choice, sometimes it’ll be the best one, but whatever it was, it was us exercising our freedom of choice. We can’t pretend it was costly obedience, and we can’t make God responsible for our decisions.
But with all that in mind, I think we often need to be explicitly called to hard things because we aren’t going to choose them for ourselves. We can’t let feelings be our guide, and we can’t always just do what we want because often what we want to do is not what God has called us to. The truth is, saying “Yes” to Jesus isn’t always fun, there is a reason why the road is narrow. We’re not always going to feel like doing what God asks us to do. And we’re definitely not going feel like being obedient day-in-day-out, week-in-week-out, year-in-year-out. Faithfulness to the call of God isn’t often fun. But it is my experience, the times when by God’s grace I have managed it, that while obedience may not be fun, it produces a much deeper, greater joy; the joy of knowing you’re right where you should be, you’re right in the will of God. When we look at Jesus we see this clearly. He didn’t live a fun-filled life, but his life was one of joy. And it was “for the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
There is joy in obedience. Isn’t that what we really want? More than fun, we want joy and we want contentment. We don’t get there by doing what our heart desires, we get there by doing what God desires. That’s better even than potatoes.
*At least I think Tim Keller said that, or maybe just my false memories of Keller said it.
“Weird, Crude, Funny, and Nude” has been out for a month now, and I’ve had a number of people asking if certain things are in the book. Generally, I can say “Yes, Ezekiel 23:20 is in the book. And what a glorious passage it is.” But there are some parts of the Bible that didn’t make it in, they may be weird, crude, funny, or nude, but for one reason or another, I didn’t write about them. But so they don’t feel left out, I’ll talk about them here and tell you why they didn’t make the cut.
Song of Songs
This is probably the part of the Bible that people ask me about the most that I haven’t included in the book. Obviously, Song of Songs is the go-to nudity book for any immature person (i.e. me). Nowhere in the Bible are there more references to boobs than in this book. It has more references to boobs in this one book than in the entire New Testament combined! Not only that but it’s full of euphemisms. When the woman says “Let my beloved come into his garden and taste its choice fruits” (Song of Songs 4:16) she’s not actually inviting her man to do a produce inspection, unless it’s a “produce inspection” if you know what I mean.
Or there is this great verse which needs no explanation at all: “I said, “I will climb the palm tree; I will take hold of its fruit.” May your breasts be like clusters of grapes on the vine, the fragrance of your breath like apples,” (Song of Songs 7:8).
So why didn’t I write about this most giggle-worthy of books? Because while sex can be funny, it’s not funny in and of itself. I find sex jokes are generally pretty lazy (the previous two paragraphs being no exception) and if I wrote about Song of Songs I’d really just be writing a chapter on sex and there are enough Christian books for teens about sex. It’s about 90% of the Christian youth book market.
In Genesis 19:5 it says “They called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.’” As a kid I thought this was funny, mainly because it says “sex”. But since I’m a grown up I now know the context: there are two men visiting Lot, and the men of Lot’s town come to his house demanding that they be allowed to gang-rape his visitors. Gang-rape is clearly not funny and I don’t want to make jokes about it.
But I do enjoy the end of the story where the visiting men turn out to be angels and strike the would-be rapists blind. That’s pretty good.
Isaiah’s Nude Preaching
Isaiah 20:1-4 says “In the year that the supreme commander, sent by Sargon king of Assyria, came to Ashdod and attacked and captured it— at that time the Lord spoke through Isaiah son of Amoz. He said to him, “Take off the sackcloth from your body and the sandals from your feet.” And he did so, going around stripped and barefoot.
Then the Lord said, “Just as my servant Isaiah has gone stripped and barefoot for three years, as a sign and portent against Egypt and Cush, so the king of Assyria will lead away stripped and barefoot the Egyptian captives and Cushite exiles, young and old, with buttocks bared—to Egypt’s shame.
Basically, it seems that Isaiah spent three years preaching in the nude. Considering Christians have spent years wondering what kind of dress is appropriate for church or daily life, I don’t know why this passage is so rarely referenced. If Isaiah did this today there could be some excellent church sign puns to advertise the guest preacher: “This Sunday we’ve got willy good preaching”, “Our preacher is all about turning the other cheeks” or “Sermon guaranteed to be a bummer.”
So why didn’t I include a chapter on Isaiah’s pantsless preaching? To be honest I just forgot that passage was in there. If I had remembered there is a high chance it would have a gotten a look-in. Perhaps if I do a new edition one day, I’ll add it in, just so all my mega-fans can buy a whole new book just for that one new chapter. That’s how cynical marketing works right?
1 Corinthians 1:14-16: “I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius,15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.”
I considered writing about this because Paul can’t remember everyone he baptised, then I realised that Paul’s forgetfulness only really rates a small laugh through the nose. That’s definitely too low on the laugh meter for my standards.
Paul’s Poop Reference
In Philippians 3:8 Paul writes: “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ”
Many Bible people say that the word that Paul uses for rubbish is actually closer to poop, and is in fact a vulgar term for poop, which I will not write here because I’m too polite. Let’s just say is a level 2 swear. With level 1 being the least bad and level 6 being the worst.
As great as it is that Paul says a dung swear, I don’t know how much more humour there is in this passage. Once we’ve giggled over the fact that Paul said “poo” I couldn’t figure out what else to do to fill a whole chapter. So I considered that idea garbage.
Beautiful Out of Context Verses
There was a small temptation to write about a bunch of out-of-context Bible verses. There are definitely some good ones like “Then David slept with his fathers” (1 Kings 2:10)*, “May there be leftovers” (Psalm 17:4) or “Aaron waved the breasts and the right thigh before the Lord” (Leviticus 9:21). These are of course funny, and you could spend a while writing about the exegetical possibilities, but only really if you ignore their context. As soon as you put them in context they lose any hilarity, and to make those kinds of jokes felt like it could be bordering on mockery. Plus the whole point of the book was to put the strange parts of the Bible in their context so the chapters would have been pretty short if all I had to do was include more of the Bible for things to become clear.
Still, I continue to hold on to “May there be leftovers” as one of my regular prayers. It is important to pray the psalms and I endeavour to pray this one often in the hopes that God may bless me indeed. Name it and claim it, folks.
So there are some of the weird, crude, funny, and nude bits that didn’t make it into my book. Do you have any suggestions for what I should have included?
*Thanks Dan for pointing this one out to me.
The other night Chris Pratt won the MTV Generation award. I don’t know what that is but I assume it’s got something to do with being good at stuff. Probably for a generation.
When Pratt received his award his excellent acceptance speech included nine tips for life (you can watch them in the video if you want. You should, they’re good). These included such gems as “Don’t be a turd”, a lesson on how to poop at parties, and tips on feeding medicine to a dog. That tip was “When giving a dog medicine, put the medicine in a little piece of hamburger and they won’t even know they’re eating medicine.”
Taking a bit of his own advice, Chris also slipped a bit of spirit-medicine in on his listeners.
Tip six was “God is real. God loves you. God wants the best for you. Believe that. I do.”
Tip eight: “Learn to pray. It’s easy and it’s so good for your soul.”
And tip nine, the corker, “Nobody is perfect. People are going to tell you you’re perfect just the way you are—you’re not! You are imperfect. You always will be. But, there is a powerful force that designed you that way. And if you’re willing to accept that, you will have grace. And grace is a gift. And like the freedom we enjoy in this country, that grace was paid for with someone else’s blood. Do not forget it. Do not take it for granted.”
Now I’m sure there will be angry reformed people on the internet who have just recovered from being angry about Bishop Curry and are now gearing up to tell us why Chris Pratt is promoting moralistic therapeutic deism and mixing his patriotism with his theology, but I’ll leave those debates to those people.
I think there is one very important thing that Chris Pratt does in his speech that anyone who is communicating with young people can apply. And here it is:
He talks about poop.
This is what he said:
“If you have to poop at a party, or you’re embarrassed because you’re going to stink up the bathroom, just do what I do: lock the door, sit down, get all the pee out first. And then, when all the pee’s done, poop, flush. Boom. You minimize the amount of time the poop is touching the air, because if you poop first it takes you longer to pee then you’re peeing on top of it and the poop particles create a cloud that goes out and then everyone at the party will know that you pooped. Just trust me! It’s science.”
Why is that so important? Let me tell you.
1. You can’t take yourself too seriously when talking about poop
Young people are not interested in listening to people who talk down to them. Talking about poop proves to everyone that Pratt poops like the rest of us. And that he’s anxious, just like the rest of us, about other people smelling his poop. (Or most of the rest of us, those people who don’t care, who just bomb and run, are monsters.) Telling poop stories instantly puts you on the same level as your listeners.
2. Truth and comedy are not opposites
Chris Pratt had something to say, he wanted to encourage his listeners to love others (“Don’t be a turd”) and put their faith in a gracious God. But to get there he needed us to welcome the message. Making jokes helps your listeners to relax. When those jokes are self-deprecating and not mean-spirited, it’s a kind of generosity that invites your listeners to trust you.
3. Have fun
When speaking to teenagers you don’t actually have to talk about poop, but having fun is important. Young people are, more often than not, wired to have fun. If you’re having fun, and they’re having fun, everyone will be more willing to hear you when you tell them the most fun fact: that God loves them.
So if you’re talking to teenagers, feel free to make fun of yourself, talk about poop, and let people know that God loves them. You’ve learnt it from the school of Pratt.
Thanks to Em and a guy on Facebook who inspired me to write this post.
There is a lot of terrible stuff happening in the world today. A lot of division and aggression, violence and terror. We would all do well to take some time out and consider some simple things that we can be happy about. Here are just five things that you can rejoice in.
Your superior opinions
What makes you better than everyone else is that you actually have things figured out. There are a lot of wrong people in the world, and all of them are not you. Sometimes people will try and tell you their wrong opinion on the internet. This is a good place to tell them why they are wrong. Sometimes people will try and tell you their wrong opinions in real life, you should say nothing, and then go write about it on the internet why they are wrong.
Your time and place of birth
Believe it or not, you have been born in the best place in the best time. If you hadn’t had the foresight to be born when you were, where you were, you would be living in a time and place where everyone believes even more wrong things than they do now. Your superior opinion would be wasted. Imagine being born in Mexico in 2000 BC? Who would even comprehend your nuanced understanding of science, gender theory, climate, medicine, art, censorship, politics, religion, technology, online gaming strategy, etc? You would be stuck with a bunch of luddites who seem to only be concerned with farming and ancient Aztec religious ideas that only conspiracy theorists on the internet care about these days. Good job on choosing to be alive in the 21st Century, the correct century.
You are justified
It’s true that sometimes you do make mistakes, but that’s ok. These aren’t wrong, they’re just choices. And when you do something that in hindsight is wrong, it wasn’t you that was wrong it was your upbringing or other people’s incompetence. Either way, you can be happy that whatever you do, whatever the outcome, you were right to do it.
Your sins are the least worst of all the sins
Even though, as we have established, you are justified in everything you do, you have the humility to admit that it’s possible that you might sometimes sin. But you can be pleased that even though you do from time to time fall short of the ideal, at least your sins are understandable and not really hurting anyone. There are plenty of people destroying the world with their lifestyle choices, blatant disregard for others, their pride and arrogance, but you, on the other hand, sometimes commit well-meaning boo-boos that when considered carefully don’t actually cause any damage to anyone.
The Sun is Shining
Sunshine is pretty good. Well done you for appreciating the little things in life even while you are comprehending even the greatest of challenges. While everyone else is busy thinking wrong thoughts and sinning, you’re just thankful that the sun is out. While you’re at it give yourself a pat on the back of noticing the birds, the trees, and the joy of afternoon naps. You are truly balanced.
Take some time out today to do some self-care and congratulate yourself for your excellence. You deserve it.
As you probably know, because I’ve been talking about it non-stop, I’ve just published my book Weird, Crude, Funny, and Nude: The Bible Exposed. Doing this has shown me that there are actually many gaps in the publishing world where there are books crying out to be written. All they need is someone to sit down and type them out. Some of these are so good they’ll write themselves, they’re sure to be bestsellers.
Gardening Through Praise: Harness the power of praise to grow your plants
A study by Ikea has shown that if you bully a plant it doesn’t grow very well. Studies by the author of this book will show that the most powerful fertilizer is actually praise and worship. This book will include thirty chapters full of tips on how to achieve horticultural success through making a joyful song to God. It will cover key topics like “Hillsong or Bethel – Which is better for bulb flowers?”, “Reading the imprecatory psalms to deciduous plants”, “Turnip the Sound – best youth worship albums for vegetable growing”, and “A Guide to Using Good Good Father to repel pests.”
The Genealogy Love Story Series
There are a lot of Christian romance books out there. If you haven’t got into them, you really should. They’re amazing. But what every writer wants these days is a good series that will keep you coming back. Luckily, the Bible has romance series’ hidden in the most unlikely of places, the genealogies. Each genealogy contains generation after generation of fathers and their sons (with a few women thrown in here and there). Every generation is a love story just waiting to be written. For instance in 1 Chronicles 1:41 we read of Dishon who had four sons, Hemdan, Eshban, Ithran and Keran. Who was Dishon’s wife? My bet is that she was a slave girl who had been stolen from her family at a young age. After seeing her at the marketplace while she was buying spices for her evil masters she is rescued in a daring raid by Dishon who has amazing abs. After her rescue they fall in love, get married and have children, only to have Dishon’s wife die at a young age of a mysterious illness where she coughs a bit while still looking as pretty as the day Dishon first laid eyes her. What a love story! Just think, there are hundreds of stories just like this waiting to be told straight from the verses of Genesis, 1 Chronicles, Matthew, and Luke. Whoever writes this series is going to be rich!
Using Social Media for Spiritual Warfare
We all know the spiritual power that can be unlocked by typing “Amen” on a photo of a sick kid on Facebook, but this is only the beginning of the power social media holds to bring down Satan’s strongholds. This book will teach readers how to build a hedge of protection using likes and the prayer emoji, how to rebuke demons using only offended comments and angry reacts, how to harness the power of the retweet for the most effective prayers, and how to use inspirational Instagram quotes to sow and reap financial freedom. Prepare for breakthrough with this book.
The Prayer of Samson
Sampson, the great hero of the faith, only prays once in the entire story of his life, and it is this prayer: “Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” (Judges 16:28)
Taking a leaf out of the book of that early millennium bestseller “The Prayer of Jabez”, “The Prayer of Samson” will teach you how to pray this prayer and literally kill your enemies for the wrong they have done to you – get revenge on that kid who bullied you in year seven, destroy the person who cut you off in traffic, tear down and kill everyone inside the headquarters of the internet service provider who overcharged you in July and September last year. The prayer of Samson will change your life and end many others.
The Definitive Guide to Everything Not in the Bible
I saw someone on the internet arguing that they aren’t vaccinating their kids because vaccines aren’t in the Bible. Someone else responded with a few other things that also aren’t in the Bible, like tomatoes and the internet. While I think they were joking, the point is valid. There are a lot of things that aren’t in the Bible and therefore need to be deemed as evil. This book would be a handy alphabetised encyclopaedia of all those things so that we might be able to tell what is and isn’t evil. Here are just some things that are on that list and therefore evil:
– Hot Chips
– Getting stuck in traffic
– The United States of America
– The printing press
– Plastic surgery
– The Bible
While the book would be quite long it is important to know what is and isn’t in the Bible so that we all might know what we can safely interact with as Christians.
So there you have it, folks, five books that need to be written write now. If you would like to write one, I will let you, you just owe me 10% of your royalties for the idea. What Christian books do you think need to be written?