It’s Friday – but Sunday’s coming!

It’s Friday
Jesus is praying
Peter’s a sleeping
Judas is betraying
But Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
Pilate’s struggling
The council is conspiring
The crowd is vilifying
They don’t even know
That Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
The disciples are running
Like sheep without a shepherd
Mary’s crying
Peter is denying
But they don’t know
That Sunday’s a comin’

It’s Friday
The Romans beat my Jesus
They robe him in scarlet
They crown him with thorns
But they don’t know
That Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
See Jesus walking to Calvary
His blood dripping
His body stumbling
And his spirit’s burdened
But you see, it’s only Friday
Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
The world’s winning
People are sinning
And evil’s grinning

It’s Friday
The soldiers nail my Savior’s hands
To the cross
They nail my Savior’s feet
To the cross
And then they raise him up
Next to criminals

It’s Friday
But let me tell you something
Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
The disciples are questioning
What has happened to their King
And the Pharisees are celebrating
That their scheming
Has been achieved
But they don’t know
It’s only Friday
Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
He’s hanging on the cross
Feeling forsaken by his Father
Left alone and dying
Can nobody save him?
It’s Friday
But Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
The earth trembles
The sky grows dark
My King yields his spirit

It’s Friday
Hope is lost
Death has won
Sin has conquered
and Satan’s just a laughin’

It’s Friday
Jesus is buried
A soldier stands guard
And a rock is rolled into place
But it’s Friday
It is only Friday
Sunday is a comin’!

11 year old atheists

The following is a reflection by Sam DonahueChildren’s Ministry Adviser for Diocese of London (and co-Editor of the soon-to-be-released ChildrensWork Magazine) reproduced from their latest Children’s Ministry Newsletter with permission (full credit below):

I was reading a book by James Fowler on how faith develops in children and within it he comments on the something they noticed during their research interviews; a group of eleven year olds who had rejected the idea of God. On the face of it this seems an odd stage in life to expect to find this group, odder still when you consider that they came from faith communities, so what was happening to cause this effect?

Fowler’s theory was that at this stage children are beginning to sort stories into those which should be retained as truth and those that are made up and the God ends up sitting on the rejects bench together with the tooth fairy and Father Christmas. They are all dismissed as things that they liked the idea of as children but have rejected now they realise are not true. It’s easy to see what happened to Mr Claus and his fairy friend but why did God suffer the same fate?

For Fowler the explanation is simple; the God the children were taught about doesn’t exist and by eleven they were old enough to work that out. They had been taught about a God who solves all their problems, stops bad things happening, answers all their prayers and arrives at the last minute to save the day if the situation gets really hopeless. To be fair they are right, that God doesn’t exist. Brilliantly Fowler leaves it at this and doesn’t offer any solutions! So I think I will try and think of some as this is all rather depressing right now!

  1. Be real about your experience of being a Christian. It’s not a matter of everything being lovely all the time and we should resist the urge to try and ‘protect children’ from this. Life is messy and things go wrong and we learn that God is there with us through all of this not just the good bits. So don’t be afraid to tell stories, either Bible stories or stories from you own life where things go wrong.
  2. Don’t spin the Bible. I’ve said before that the Bible doesn’t need us to ‘spin it’ so that children only see the highlights package. The stories of the Bible are supposed to be a resource to help and support us through good times and bad. It we only give children the good bits the Bible fails them when they need it most as there is no resource for the bad times.
  3. If it looks like a fairy story it probably is a fairy story. In our efforts to make the Bible more accessible to children we often lose the grit and reality of the stories and make them feel more like fluffy fairy stories and less like things that actually happened. Next time you look at the story of the Exodus why not get a map out and show the children the journey or use some pictures from the Holy Land to illustrate where Jesus was when he was telling his stories. Doing this helps to imbed the stories in the real world and not the fantasy world.
  4. Beware miracles. I’m not sure how I feel about this but there is a school of thought that says that if we major on miracles understand them to be about magic and then they fall into the fairy tale trap. It is suggested that a more healthy emphasis would be on the motivation for the miracle than the miracle it’s self. For example, rather than concentrating on Jesus’ power to heal focus instead on Jesus’ compassion towards the sick.

Credit: Sam Donoghue is the Children’s Ministry Adviser of the Diocese of London. You can read more from him here.

Sign up to receive the Diocese of London Children’s Ministry Newsletter by email.

Lent vs Social Media

It’s traditional to give something up for the period of Lent. Many people do so – even those without any personal religious conviction or understanding of the significance, which puzzles me a little. I usually struggle to know what to give up (if I should bother at all) and many of the things I’ve given up previously I’ve not ‘taken up’ again – mostly notably sugar in tea/coffee.

A number of people suggested that I give up Twitter for Lent. I told them I thought it was a preposterous idea, but they didn’t understand why. In response I suggested that perhaps they’d give up using the telephone for Lent and they didn’t quite grasp what I was getting at. My point was that for me Twitter is more than a frivolous pastime, but rather a tool & a method of communication. I would no more choose to give up Twitter than I could choose to give up email for Lent – both are a core part of my work/ministry tool kit, and my social make-up. I have made some great friends through Twitter (and other social media) many of whom I’ve met subsequently in person; I have received support from (and been able to offer support to) fellow youth workers & ministers in difficult circumstances; I’ve received news, information & resources I might otherwise have missed; I’ve been able to pray for people I don’t know (and request prayer from others too); I’ve been inspired by the work of others; I’ve been challenged by quotes posted by others; I’ve become aware of pastoral situations I needed to respond to that otherwise would have remained unknown to me. The list could go on…

I have to admit though, that my use of Twitter is not entirely without frivolity. My use of Twitter sometimes gets in the way of face-to-face encounters and other worthwhile activities, as I discovered as I took a step back and analysed my practice. But that is due to the slightly OCD (obsessive-compulsive) side of my personality. I currently follow 342 people/organisations/projects on Twitter – which means that when they post an update it appears in my timeline for me to read. Due to my OCD tendencies I found it very difficult to simply let these updates pass me by without at least skim-reading them. When I was following 20 or 50 accounts this was less of a problem, but as that number increased so did the time it took to read them. And so the problem grew…

Having realised this, and recognising that some accounts have a higher signal-to-noise ratio than others, I decided to try to focus my Twitter use during Lent. I didn’t want to unfollow lots of users, so I decided to set-up a list on Twitter of the people I felt offered the most value, were most challenging, or were ‘necessary’ for my job (young people, colleagues, organisations, etc which I need to keep in touch with). I set an arbitrary limit of 100 for the list, but actually only added 80 accounts. I then updated the Twitter app on my phone & my PCs to only monitor the new list. This list would only limit the accounts I was following/reading, and I decided that I’d still engage with people who weren’t on the list if they started a conversation with me (as it would be rude not to respond). [I should say that I intended to use the time I wrestled back from Twitter to engage in something which would develop my spirituality, but that’s for a separate post.]

We’re almost at the end of Lent so I thought I’d reflect on how things have been going…

Reflections:

The most surprising realisation is just how much of a chore catching up with Twitter had become. I can only see it now, but it had become something that I felt compelled to do (due to my OCD tendencies) but which often seemingly had little value or reward. If I’d had a particularly busy day, when I eventually came to ‘check in’ with Twitter, it would take a large chunk of time to catch up, and if by the end I felt there was little value to it, it’s hard to see how this constitutes a wise use of my time (Ephesians 5:15-16). With the increase in people/organisations I was following came the requirement for an increased investment of time, but seemingly with reduced value/rewards.

I had intended to use the time I ‘reclaimed’ from Twitter to engage in some reading which would be of spiritual benefit to me. I started to read Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, which is a fascinating exploration of spiritual disciplines. The run-up to this Easter has been a particularly busy time (as it is each year) and so my ‘reclaimed’ time has been spent on keeping up with the to-do list & the ‘day job’, so I’ve not read as much as I’d have liked. But what I have read has been really inspiring and massively challenging, and I look forward to continuing the journey.

Not all the people/organisations I follow provide an entirely wholesome experience. There’s nothing wrong with entertainment & a bit of light relief, but I’m reminded of the words of Paul to the Philippians (4:8): ‘keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise.’ {emphasis mine}

The least positive outcome of the way I’ve changed my Twitter use has been that of reduced conversation. As mentioned previously, a lot of my Twitter contacts have become friends over recent months & years; some of whom I’ve met in person, others I’ve spoken to via phone/Skype, and others only via Twitter. In addition, there is an amazingly supportive & creative community of Youth Workers & Ministers on Twitter who utilise the hashtag #ywchat to engage with one another & the wider community (as it would be almost impossible to follow each of them). Throughout Lent I have felt that I’ve neglected some friendships which I’ve come to value (although many made it to my reduced list) and have certainly been unable to properly (perhaps usefully) engage with my colleagues in the #ywchat community. [I hope to rectify this shortly at #coffeeshopcrawl3 – a series of ‘real-life’ #ywchat get-togethers…]

On a purely technical note, one frustration with my use of a Twitter List for Lent has been that the list function doesn’t include native retweets from the people on the list, only their original tweets. So I’ve missed out on a lot of resources, quotes, & challenges which I’d otherwise hoped to receive. However, this has led to extra time being available – so it’s a mixed blessing. Also, due to the software/apps I use, by following a list rather than a general Twitter stream I appear to have lost some of the conversational functionality. As this is a big part of my Twitter use, I’ve felt this loss keenly (but not wanted to invest additional time in finding an alternative).

Response:

I’m still trying to decide on the best way to engage with Twitter once Lent has ended. Clearly I need to reduce the amount of time I had been spending on it previously, but not in a way which diminishes the level of engagement with people . I’ve considered the use of subject-related lists (pastoral, geographical, organisations, resources, etc), but I don’t wish to diminish the level of interaction with people, and I fear that will be the case.

The biggest issue I face is overcoming (or more likely, managing) my OCD tendencies and getting better at allowing things to pass me by.

I expect that my eventual solution will be a combination of unfollowing a large number of accounts, and employing the list-based system outlined above.

Challenge:

  • What strategies have you employed to cope with increased ?
  • Do you have any tips to share?

Post your thoughts in the comments below…

Heaven’s Gates Swing Wide

Last Friday as  I was doing an 8k training run I was listening to ‘Awakening: Live from Chicago’ by Jesus Culture. The track ‘Break Every Chain’ has a fantastic chorus:

All sufficient sacrifice
So freely given
Such a price
Bought our redemption
Heaven’s gates swing wide

 
The last two lines stuck in my head as the run continued. When I got home I posted the follow on Twitter & Facebook:

 
Over the weekend my brother posted a great, simple question: ‘what does that mean?

I guess it was a bit too abstract to stand on its own. So, in short it means that: redemption is available to all & that the gates of heaven are ready to welcome any & all who have been redeemed.

I know, that needs a bit of explaining too. So here goes, stick with it…

When you’re given a voucher for your birthday for your preferred shop the voucher you’re given is inherently worthless: it’s a piece of plastic & ink with a magnetic strip (remember when they were just paper?). It’s probably worth about 25p max. But when you hand it over the shop will honour the promise which has been made previously (when the voucher was purchased) and will exchange the worthless voucher for something of value.

Think of redemption as the exchange of something which is worthless for something which is expensive (priceless even!).

Sinful man (Romans 3:23) was separated from God (Genesis 3) but God made a way for the relationship to be fully restored (John 3:16 & 1 Peter 3:18). The way was open to everyone to return to a full & rich relationship with God forever (Romans 10:9 & John 3:36)

To massively over-simplify for the sake of brevity: God exchanged His Son, Jesus, to pay for the voucher which anyone can claim for themselves, and which will buy their place in heaven.

Something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. [source unknown]

Jesus sacrificed His life through excruciating death on a cross in order that you (yes you) could receive the gift of eternal life, at no cost to yourself.

So you will be saved, if you honestly say, “Jesus is Lord,” and if you believe with all your heart that God raised him from death. [Romans 10:9]

Here’s the full song from Jesus Culture:

Check out these two Gospel presentations if you want to know more:

Holiness

“Holiness is consecrated closeness to God. Holiness is in essence obeying God, living to God and for God, imitating God, keeping His law, taking His side against sin, doing righteousness, performing good works, following Christ’s teaching and example, worshipping God in the Spirit, loving and serving God and men out of reverence for Christ. In relation to God, holiness takes the form of a single-minded passion to please by love and loyalty, devotion and praise. In relation to sin, it takes the form of a resistance movement, a discipline of not gratifying the desires of the flesh, but of putting to death the deeds of the body. Holiness is, in a word, God-taught, Spirit-wrought Christ-likeness, the sum and substance of committed discipleship, the demonstration of faith working by love, the responsive outflow in righteousness of supernatural life from the hearts of those who are born again.” J. I. Packer

Trinity Analogies

Yesterday was Trinity Sunday, the day when preachers cower and hide away from the challenge of trying to explain the Trinity (God: Father, Son & Holy Spirit).

I felt challenged by a few updates on Twitter yesterday. The first read:

Well, I’ve been invited to preach at a local church next Sunday and as they didn’t have a Trinity service yesterday, and because I’m feeling brave (or stupid), I’m going to preach on the Trinity.

The other tweets read as follows:

If you’ve been going to church for a while I’m sure you’ll have heard some of the many analogies used to help explain the Holy Spirit. Here’s my incomplete list – just from memory:

  • Egg: shell/White/yolk
  • Water: ice/steam/liquid
  • Jaffa Cake: sponge/chocolate/orange jelly
  • Man: worker/husband/father
  • Apple: skin/core/pulp
  • Human: body/soul/spirit
  • Three blade propeller
  • Three leaf clover

So:

  1. How would you critique these analogies?
  2. Would you add any other analogies to the list?

But my main question is this:

Is it helpful to use these analogies, even knowing that they are imperfect representations of the Trinity?

Discuss…

#LoveMonday

you are lovely...

Source: Becca Dean

Have you ever felt discouraged? Like life is tough and there’s little support around? Or perhaps you’ve felt that life is just a bit dull and ‘samey’ sometimes, but it starts to get you down. I’m sure we’ve all be there.

But have you ever been encouraged? I mean actively encouraged. Not just that something has gone well or life is good for a while and it feels good, but that someone has taken the time and effort to speak to you or do something for you to lift your spirit. Have you experienced that? Doesn’t it make a difference?!

There’s a guy in the New Testament called Joseph (a good Biblical name if ever I heard one!) but Jesus’ apostles called him Barnabas which means ‘son of encouragement’ (one who encourages others) after he sold some land and gave them the proceeds to support their work/ministry. He also encouraged the Apostle Paul whilst everyone else was still (rightly) suspicious of him, encouraged the Church in Antioch and stood up for the young disciple John Mark when Paul was critical of him. He’s the kind of guy you’d want to count among your friends; he made a huge difference to the people around him.

How much like Barnabas are you? I wonder if your friends consider you a ‘son/daughter of encouragement’… Why not take the opportunity to encourage a friend, colleague or family member and brighten someone’s day?

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.1 Thessalonians 5:11

There’s a small but steady ‘movement’ on Twitter to use Mondays as a specific opportunity to encourage others. It’s called #loveMonday and it works like this. You send an encouraging message (public or private) to three other Twitter users, and invite them to encourage three of their friends/contacts/followers. Don’t forget to include #loveMonday in the message. Simple. Of course, it doesn’t have to just be via Twitter. Feel free to do the same but on Facebook, via email, or even offline (send a postcard, leave a message scrawled on a post-it note, etc.).

Imagine for a minute that I encourage three people, and they each encourage three people, and so on. That’s twelve people encouraged (and we know what Jesus was able to do with just twelve people!). If that continues for another five cycles, that would result in almost three thousand people who have been encouraged (assuming none of the encouragers were then encouraged by the encouragees – are you still with me?!). What a difference that could make!

If you want to join the revolution movement, you know what you have to do: choose three people to encourage, do it and encourage them to do the same.

If that Monday feeling has got to you, you’re feeling a bit grumpy and not in the mood to encourage others (yet!), check out some of the ways that others have been encouraged today and have your faith in humanity restored. Go on – I dare ya!

Hat tips: @martinsaunders, @stevecampion & @beccadean
Image Credit: beccaislearning.com

Easter Live: a critical view

I’m a big fan of Easter. No really, I am. But this year I’m feeling a bit grumpy about it. It all started about two weeks ago, and has been building since then. Let me try to explain why:

I’m also a big fan of Twitter. I find it an incredibly useful tool for connecting with people who have shared interests and discussing said interests. I use it to learn from others, to reflect with them, and to interact on a whole number of things. This year Easter & Twitter have aligned – or perhaps collided.

Easter(LIVE) 2011 is a project run by ShareCreative & the Evangelical Alliance and a number of other partners. It aims to encourage people to retell the Easter story in their own words:

It’s Passover week in 1st Century Jerusalem. A bustling throng of Jewish pilgrims have gathered in the city. But this year a preacher/carpenter from Nazareth is set to turn the tables of history – right before their eyes. This is the Easter story and this is your cue.

By Tweeting your story, the Easter(LIVE) website allows you to showcase your very own Passion Play. Be it a historical and Biblical account or a poetic, visual, musical or creative retelling – it’s up to you. It’s a chance to explore, to learn and be creative. Give it your personal stamp, bring it to life and share it with everyone.

So they’re encouraging people to send out their own version of the Easter story, using Twitter as the underlying tool, and collating the tweets into a user profile on the Easter(LIVE) website. Last year they took a slightly different approach which I encouraged our Church to support, and I found very helpful & valuable. Everyone was encouraged to follow the @easterlive account on Twitter, and they published a retelling of the story to anyone who was following. I thought this was a fantastic idea, and was well executed (similar to the Christmas story being told through the Natwivity project).

There’s a lot about this project which I love

  • anything which gets people hearing & talking about the Gospel has to be a good thing
  • I love that the story is being retold from different perspectives – some people will be writing their account with their own friends, family, community, context in mind which is really important
  • it is encouraging people to reflect on an “old” story in a new way
  • and as a recovering techie, I love the fact that they’re making great use of an existing & popular tool (Twitter)

But I have number of issues with it too:

One gripe is that a number of the people I follow on Twitter have signed up to the project. So they’ve been busy developing the characters through whom the story will be told, and carefully crafting their updates, waiting for the launch today (Palm Sunday). When I read about the project I quickly realised that this was going to have an impact on my Twitter feed. With approx 10-15 of the people I follow having signed up, and with one or two of them having mentioned that they have 120-160 updates “ready to go” during Holy Week, I was bracing myself to be inundated with Easter(LIVE) tweets. Since midday approximately 70% of the tweets in my Twitter feed have been #EasterLive updates (of course, that represents a great success my the project’s organisers to get people involved). Initially I feared that my general use and experience of Twitter would be negatively impacted by an abundance of EasterLive updates. It’s still less than a day into the project, but so far, that fear has been realised. That’s a bit of a selfish gripe though – who am I to moan if my experience of Twitter is impacted, when potentially thousands of people will hear the Gospel message?

I may also sound like a bit of a hypocrite as I’ve said it must be a good thing to tell the Gospel story in a new way and encourage people to reflect on it (some for the first time). But I want to question just how useful it will be for people to hear the Gospel told from multiple perspectives, in multiple styles, and each of them crossing over the other. How easy will it be for someone to follow the story for the first time? How helpful will it be at helping someone reflect on the story in a new way, when it’s actually presented in a number of new perspectives all at once? Only time will tell.

Personally I haven’t signed up to join the EasterLive project, not out of protest, but due to a lack of creativity (and time) on my part. Instead, I’ve signed up to a project called “The Passion Experience” which is using a similar approach to that of EasterLive 2010. It is also a retelling of the Easter story, and uses Twitter as it’s underlying vehicle. For me it seems to involve most of the positive aspects of Easter(LIVE) without the negatives.

What do you think?

  • Am I being selfish?
  • Is it confusing to retell the same story from multiple perspectives at the same time confusing?
  • Do you feel the approach taken by Easter(LIVE) this year is effectively spamming Twitter?