Stumbling Into Adulthood

What makes someone an adult? At what point do you stop being an adolescent, and start being an adult? Is it when you hit a certain age? 16… 18… 21… maybe? Is it when you reach a cultural milestone? Finish school… uni… start full time work… have kids? Or maybe it’s the experiences you collect as you journey through your youth? Friendships… travel… sickness… love… loss? Or are we less concerned than we think and just leave it to teenagers to stumble into adulthood.

In Australian culture we fumble through the transition into being an adult with about as much dignity as my singing. And for those who’ve never heard me sing… lets just say I get sideways glances on a Sunday morning in the pew.

When do you enter adulthood?

In Australia we are legally recognised as an adult when we turn 18. We can vote, pay taxes, drive, get into pubs and clubs and mix alcohol with all of the above. (I dunno how exciting pay taxes and drinking at the same time is… let me know.) In essence, we’re held accountable for our decisions.

And when it comes to a rite of passage into adulthood… what does our culture have? Nothing. Well, to be fair, we have schoolies week. Not much of an initiation into adulthood, unless of course we expect adulthood to be defined as drinking, taking drugs, partying, having casual sex and pursuing hedonism.

We have a 12 month old daughter, and I’ve been thinking about the rituals that we want to have around her as she grows up. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about what rites of passage do we want her to pass through as she develops into a young woman.

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Is there an answer?

While I  certainly don’t have any forgone conclusions, I hope that my wife and I  would help her transition through pivotal moments of her life such as starting primary school, entering puberty, graduating from high school and turning 18 and being recognised as an adult. We want to celebrate her womanhood and we want her to celebrate her identity.

And how would we do this? Well, it’s far too early to say, and hopefully we’d take the time to tailor experiences to our daughter as an individual. I hope to foster opportune moments in my daughter’s life which define her as a woman living in the 21st century. Going on an expedition…. travelling… creating something of worth… attaining sporting or musical achievements… helping others… experiencing poverty… offering hope to others… All based around the values, attitudes and virtues that we’d expect someone in that next maturity bracket to have.

More than all of that, I would hope that as my daughter transitions into adulthood she’d have an understanding of what it means to be a daughter of God. To know that she can experience pure love and ultimate worth at the foot of the cross. And that her life is best lived in light of Jesus’ life which was given to purchase her.

 

 

Lost Art of Community

We live in a time and place where nothing bad really happens. People can go months, years even decades without experiencing anything closely related to trauma. In fact, I’d wager that there’s no shortage of people out there, in their 20’s and 30’s who’ve never experienced abuse, loss or even death. Sure, bad things happen to everyone, but in our western bubble we’ve manged to insulate our daily lives from suffering.

And at first glance, this might look like a great thing, and at one level it is. Safety, security and a dramatic reduction of danger are all a result of affluence. Today we are far more easily able to collect and accumulate personal possessions and wealth then previous generations. In turn, we are far more individualistic then previous generations.

If our society has perfected the art of buffering individuals and groups from harm, why then is this generation one of the worst affected by mental illness? Why is this generation one of the worst affected with behavioural disorders?  We are witnessing a generation rise up who, despite having every comfort, are for the most part the unhappiest generation ever. It is affected with some of the highest rates of depression, schizophrenia, poor health, anxiety and chronic illness in human history. Why, in all our technological advancements in health, security and communication, are we one of the most disconnected and lonely generations of all time? How can we live surrounded in urban environments, some of the densest residential dwellings known to the human race, and yet feel deeply, even dangerously alone?

Maybe, we’ve pursued all these great things and neglected ‘community’ along the way. What if accumulating affluence comes at a cost… What if it decreases our dependence on other people… What if it decreases our motivation to contribute to other people or groups within our society… What if…

What if… humans are built for hardship? What if humans were designed to thrive on it. We live in a time and place where nothing really bad happens. But it comes at the cost of experiencing something of what it means to be human. How do you become a mature adult in a society that doesn’t ask for sacrifice? How do you become a mature adult in a culture that doesn’t demand courage?

We are in the midst of a  generation of ‘adults’ who, for the most part have never been required to sacrifice. A generation that doesn’t know what loss or daily hardships are. So when tragedy strikes, (and it strikes everyone), it’s no wonder that a growing number within our society don’t know how to deal with it. It rapidly escalates and becomes overwhelming, pushing people beyond their limits. It would seem that rather than acting as a buffer, the modernisation of our societies has fostered mental health concerns.

One observation I’d made during my time as a medic in the Army, is that very few soldiers suffered mental health concerns ‘during’ their operational deployment. The soldiers I knew, young men and women, had been thrown into hideous circumstances, exposed to all kinds of traumatic situations, and in the moment, they cope exceptionally well. These young adults, to mention a few things, were dealing with life changing injuries, death, killing, murder, racism, religious extremism, prolonged separation from family and the uncertainty of hidden and indiscriminate enemy explosives. Yet, their health and well-being in the midst of this tribulation was almost always good.

Again, from my observation, there were two primary things that held these soldiers together. The first was a deep sense of comradery amongst the ranks. It was a bond that brought men and women together as brothers and sisters. It was a community that was as close as family. When one person struggled, everyone struggled with them. The second was in that environment everyone had a purpose. There was a obligation to contribute to the collective, and permission to lean on the collective when needed. There was a great honour in being strong, but at the same time there was no shame in moments of weakness. Everyone had a role to play and that role, in the community was meaningful.

But skip forward a few years, and the picture is far more grim. We lost 6 soldiers in combat on our operational deployment, and since then, at last count, we’ve lost 6 more to suicide. There are countless more suffering with ongoing mental health problems such as moral injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and so on. And since returning home, the two things that soldiers relied upon are almost entirely neglected by our affluent society.

Our western culture is highly individualistic. When we get home after work we close the doors and windows and tend to ourselves and our family. The system honours those who work hard and succeed on an individualistic level.

And, as a consequence of heightened individualism, our culture has perfected the art of making people feel unnecessary. People are almost always regarded as indispensable. People aren’t required to contribute to a larger group, and people don’t therefore, have permission to lean upon someone else without feeling a sense of shame.

When a soldier is removed from their tribe-like community, they find themselves overwhelmed by the burden of their experiences because they no longer share it with their peers.

I’m not a mental health professional, and I’m certain that many victims of trauma suffer very real and prolific mental illnesses, but what if sometimes it was less about the trauma itself, and more about the way we as a society prepare, and deal with trauma as a community?

From my own experience, as a Christian, my worldview expects suffering to happen. It gives permission for bad things to take place. The way I look at the world legitimises suffering. I have permission to have good days and bad days, permission to feel lonely and sad. But I also have a hope, that being human isn’t limited to my physical experiences. This way, in the bigger picture, traumatic events don’t undo my entire universe. Sure, for a time they suck, but the fabric that my world is constructed on remains in tact. As a Christian, my suffering has a purpose, even if I can’t see it at the time.

I also found that having deep spiritual and familial connections enabled me to better process the trauma that I’ve experienced. There were nights where I couldn’t sleep as I wrestled with deep injustices that had been committed against innocent people. There were moments were overwhelming sadness came upon me as I wrestled with the concepts of life and death. There’s been times I’ve been was torn to shreds over relationship troubles, but I’ve always found comfort in meeting with like-minded people, allowing them to comfort me and knowing that I was a comfort in return. I found comfort and value in community.

Maybe as a result of all this, we need to be less concerned about immunising ourselves from any risk of suffering, and more concerned about learning how to experience it in a healthy way. Maybe we need to give ourselves permission to struggle and do more to accept others as they struggle.

Talking About The Bible

At our church we are about to release a series we are calling ‘Neighbour 2 Neighbour’. It’s encouraging and equipping members to talk about Jesus to the people the encounter during their day.

Here’s one of the first we’ve put together. What do you think?

What does the world say about the Bible?

Our secular culture does not hold much regard for God’s Word. There are many who would claim that the Bible is outdated, inaccurate, irrelevant, self-contradicting, and even fictional, and that it cannot be supported by logic.

In Western cultures, there has been a rise in a more overt atheism, mobilised to attack the Christian message in many areas, and most namely, the Scriptures. This influence has permeated popular culture. Along with a general decrease in knowledge of the Bible (compared with ages past), modern Australians tend to be suspicious of what the Bible has to say – even to the point of thinking the values it promotes are harmful to the Australian way of life.

What does the Bible say about itself?

The Bible claims to be God’s Word [2 Timothy 3:16]. It is living and active, able to speak to our hearts and change us [Hebrews 4:12]. It is written so that you may believe in Jesus and have life in Him [John 20:31].

The Bible points us to Jesus

Jesus is the fullest revelation of God [Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:1-3]. In Jesus, we see the Word who became one of us, full of grace and truth [John 1:1-18]. Jesus explained that the Old Testament (made up of the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms) pointed to and was fulfilled in Him [Luke 24:27,44]. In Jesus, we see all God’s promises finding their fulfilment [2 Corinthians 1:20].

The Bible claims to be historical

The Old Testament is an historical document containing narrative, cultural poetry, songs, wisdom for life, dialogue with God, and teachings about life with God, and prophecy; including promises about the coming Messiah and His age to come.

The New Testament Gospels claim to be historical biographies of Jesus’ life and ministry. For example, Luke’s opening statement demonstrates the carefulness and accuracy he used in researching who Jesus is and what He did [Luke 1:1-4]. The Gospels each record details about geography, political situations, and architectural descriptions that have been corroborated by centuries of archaeology and historical investigation. The rest of the New Testament documents likewise record real people, places, and events that mean we can read them with great historical confidence.

The Bible is understood by the Holy Spirit

Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to all who believe, and it is only through Him that we may truly know and understand the truth [John 14:17]. The Holy Spirit reveals the truth through the Bible. Even though the Bible makes the most sense of our human experience, it requires the Holy Spirit to overcome the prejudice of human sinfulness that rejects God’s Word.

What can we say about the Bible?

The Bible is Historically Reliable.

There are a variety of archaeological, geographical, and sociological details found in the Bible that have been found to be both accurate and verifiable even today. Especially concerning the New Testament, there are parallel accounts from Roman and Jewish historians that all help to confirm the reliability of details found in the Scriptures.

Discoveries over the past century have contributed enormously in demonstrating its reliability and accuracy in its preservation. This has been seen particularly in the comparison with the Old Testament documents and the Dead Sea Scrolls (discovered in a cave at Qumran in 1947).

The sheer quantity of fulfilled prophecy within the Bible’s pages speak for the reliability of God’s Word itself. God’s promises can be trusted, and His faithfulness is demonstrated page after page.

While we don’t have the original manuscripts that were directly inspired by God, we do have so many historically verifiable copies, that we can have total confidence that what we have today accurately reflects those original manuscripts. In fact, the authenticity of ancient biblical manuscripts surpasses all other ancient literature. The Bible transcends culture and language in such a way that it can be faithfully translated into any language with meaning and accuracy.

Australians desperately need the Bible!

If God really has revealed himself in such a way, then we ought to pay attention to it! Without this knowledge of God, we will never truly understand ourselves. We may be able to see the majesty and power of God through the created world, but we will never know God personally nor his redemption for us apart from His self-revelation in the Bible. Our deepest need is to know our Creator and Redeemer.

Life according to…

Do you compare, compete or both? Do you look upwards or downwards? Do you look upwards from yourself toward people better than yourself, wishing that you had more, could achieve more, were more? Or maybe you look downwards toward those less fortunate than yourself thinking that your better than others. Your thought might be ‘at least I’m not like them’.

At the end of the day we all do it. We all compare and compete. Without over emphasising gender roles, men typically compete, and women typically compare. Men might compete in who is stronger, faster, wealthier. And women might compare physical looks, clothes, families. Of course, gender roles are never absolute… men will compare and likewise women  will compete.

And while gauging where we’re at in life isn’t in and of itself a bad thing, when we base our identity on these competitions and comparisons that we can become unstuck. We can fall into the trap of trying to progress through life by comparing and competing. You need a promotion at work in order to maintain your social status. Or upgrading your boyfriend for a more advanced model will help you improve your own popularity. What about getting a bigger house, or another investment property in order that your social status will increase with your friends. It’s almost like a role playing game where you have to grind and farm enough points to get to the next level. And if you don’t have the best level and stats then you might as well not even play. #shoutout to all the WoW and GW2 gamers. At the end of the day if your doing better than those around you, than life is good. However, if you’re falling behind and everyone else is kicking the goals, then life is bad. We can become slaves to this way of thinking. In fact, chances are you already are, or at least have been in the past.

The real danger for those of us who are Christians, is to start measuring our faith against those around us. When we start to compare our blessings with those around us it becomes a pretty shaky roller coaster ride that isn’t going to end well. ‘God answers his prayers, he must be a better Christian that I am.’ Or. ‘His children are always perfectly behaved, he must be a more godly parent’. Or ‘His church has more newcomers than mine does’. etc.

The Apostle Paul talks about two ways the people generally identify with the world. He uses two weird words. Flesh & Spirit. People are either living according to the flesh, or according to the Spirit.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

Romans 8:5

The first, flesh, is all about people who chase things of this world. They go to all lengths to keep up with the Jones’s. Wear the best clothes, drive the best cars, have the best houses with the best swimming pools. They go to church to keep up appearances, they work hard to have more and more money, and they do all of these things to earn a better status. They indulge in food and drink. They chase whatever makes them feel good, incessantly pursuing self-glorification. At the end of the day, these people, choose to please themselves despite the cost.

The second way to live is according to the Spirit. These people chose to forgo fleshy indulgences and live a life that is selfless and aims to be altruistic (impossible be that it may). To live according to the Spirit means that the Spirit of God dwells within the person and directs them in a right way of living. These people are giving and caring and set their minds on the things that God considers important.

When all is stripped away, those who live according to the flesh are comparing and competing for the next ladder rung on the climb to glory. But those who live according to the Spirit find themselves ‘in Christ’ (Romans 8:1). And when one is in Christ they partake in His glory. Comparing and competing for glory becomes a nonsensical activity because when compared to the glory that comes with being in God the Son, all our own achievements pale in comparison.

Romans 8 is an outstanding scripture to reflect on in the light of comparing and competing as the world does opposed to living in step with the Spirit. Stop, and think about what the Apostle Paul might mean by the phrase ‘The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.’ (Romans 8:7)

You’ve probably heard the popular song, In Christ Alone, but maybe take a moment to listen to is again, and think about what it means to be In Christ Alone. What will it look like in your life to forsake the temptation to compare and compete in the flesh, so that you can truly be In Christ Alone.

#22PUSHUPCHALLENGE

You’ve probably seen your Facebook and Instagram walls plastered with the #22PUSHUPCHALLENGE videos. If you haven’t then Google it. The idea behind it is a good one, and that is, to raise awareness for military veterans who return from war and commit suicide. On average in America, 22 veterans and 1 active service member take their lives each day.

When it comes to killing Australian soldiers, suicide is the number one cause. In the 13 year war in Afghanistan the number of Australian’s killed numbered 42. According to this article in The Australian, in 2016 alone there have been 41 Australian Defence Force suicides. Although unconfirmed, I’ve heard talk of 3 more since that article was written on the 14th August 2016.

In 2010 I deployed to Afghanistan as a medic. On our 9 month rotation 6 soldiers from our battle-group were sent home having been killed in action. Since then a further 6 soldiers from that same group have taken their own lives.

Since East Timor in 1999, some 249 soldiers are known to have committed suicide. That means for Australian Defence Force personnel you’re ~5 times more likely to take your own life than be killed in active combat. capture

In light of these tragic and abhorrent statistics, is ‘awareness raising’ really doing anything of substance? Or does more need to be done? Sure, raising awareness is a step in the right direction, maybe even an essential step on the pathway to reform, but what can we do now? What can you do now?

  1. Educate yourself on this topic. Research and know the statistics. Learn about the struggles that soldiers go through when assimilating back into the Australian culture after being in a combat zone. Teach yourself about PTSD and Moral Injury and find out why they’re so debilitating. Put aside 15 minutes to follow and read some of the links to articles in this blog post.
  2. Prepare yourself to encounter someone who is contemplating suicide.
    What will you do? How will you respond? With mental illness being such a prevalent part of our society it’s more than likely that you’ll be close to someone who struggles in this area.
  3. Check out, and support groups that actively support veterans in this area.
    Soldier On, Mates 4 Mates, and Young Diggers… are a few amongst many. You could also look at and follow the Australian Veterans Suicide Register on Facebook. Better than just checking these groups out, your could offer money or even time to support these groups and the countless numbers of veterans who flock to them.
  4. Finally, if you’re person who prays… pray.
    Pray for the well-being of those who have fought for your well-being. Pray that God would intervene in life threatening situations, creating a path out of distress and despair. Pray that God would rescue broken soldiers to himself in miraculous ways. Pray that God would give you a heart for the hurting and the lost. Pray that God would heal and restore the mental stability that, for many soldiers, was sacrificed for our nation.

 

7 Things Biblical Submission Is Not

The following is an excerpt from a sermon  on 1Peter 3:1-7.
The full audio can be found here!

1. Submission is not only for women.

  • (Ephesians 6:1) Children must obey their parents in the Lord.
  • (Chapter 2:13) – Everyone, both men and women should submit themselves to every human authority.
  • (1Peter 2:18) The slave / master relationship, in modern day terms, is talking about the boss / employee submission.
  • (1Peter 2:21) Jesus humbled himself at multiple points, but washing the feet of his disciples is a great example, which of course foretells of his ultimate subjection to the cross.
  • (1Peter 3:7) It’s really important to see what Peter says about husbands in the passage we are dealing about here. He starts by saying “Husbands, in the same way” … This is a direct link back to Jesus’ example in chapter 2. If you wanted to amplify the wording here, you might say something like “In the same way that Jesus submitted to the Father’s will and suffered wounds for those he loved… so you should be selfless and caring toward your wives, considering her needs of more importance than your own.” Humbling oneself in submission is not just for women… if it was good enough for Jesus, it’s certainly good enough for all of us.
  • (1Peter 3:7) Peter tells husbands to be respectful of their wives. This means to honour and edify. To build up. In fact, the Greek word for respect here is a military word that denotes the honour which belongs to one who holds a position of rank or authority. That honour is granted based on a wife’s position as a co-heir in the gift of life.

2. Submission is not suggesting that the one who submits is in any way of less worth.

  • (1Peter 3:7) Peter tells husbands that their wives are co-heirs in Christ. He is making a very clear statement, that although there are, in general terms, unique physical and emotional features that separate men and women, they’re equally valuable in God’s sight. Men and women have the same worth and value in God’s sight.
    • They are equally elected.
    • Equally called.
    • Equally born-again.
    • Equally Justified.
    • Equally Adopted into God’s family.
    • They are equally made-perfect through Christ.
    • And in heaven they will be equally glorified by the Father’s graces.
  • Although men and women are distinct in their DNA… in their bodies… Peter is confirming what we all believe… that men and women are complete equal in God’s sight…

3. Submission is not being forced to agree on everything

  • (1Peter 3:1) As I already said, the reason Peter spends a bit more time on the role of women here is because she has had the courage to put her HOPE in Jesus Christ and her husband has not. This automatically suggests that submission does not mean you automatically have to forfeit your opinion or beliefs.

4. Submission is not putting the will of others before the will of Christ.

  • If Jesus is the example to follow, He never submitted to any human authority outside of the Father’s will. Submission is not putting the will of others before the will of Christ.
  • In fact, the exact opposite is true, in verse 1, Peter encourages people in submission to use their honorable character as a means of changing others. To win people without words. To convince people that God’s Word is true and worth following.

5. Submission does not mean avoiding the effort to influence or change others.

  • At every point we are to respectfully and faithfully try and be agents of change within our communities. We are to turn our wayward culture back towards the Creator who knows what’s best.

6. Submission is not females submitting to all men.

  • This passage is not talking about women submitting to males in general. It’s not talking about wives submitting to someone else’s husband. It’s not even talking about women submitting to a work boss or church leaders. It is clearly talking about one unique relationship, wives to their OWN HUSBANDS.

7. Submission does not mean acting and living in fear.

  • Look at verse 6. We are encouraged to not give way to fear. We’ll spend a bit of time on this particular point as we have a deeper look at biblical submission. But needless to say that biblical submission is never a fearful response to threats, manipulation or abuse.

Reblog: 7 WAYS CHRISTIANS LOST THE GAY MARRIAGE BATTLE, AND HOW WE SHOULD (NOT) FIGHT THE WAR

By Nathan Campbell on his blog at St-Eutychus

It turns out #lovewins.

If you’re one of my friends, or someone I don’t know, who’s celebrating the changes to the laws in America, and anticipating those changes where you are — I want you to know three things right off the bat, before you set out on reading this post:

  1. God loves you. He shows that love for you in that Jesus dies for you (and for me) even though we didn’t ask him to, or want him to.
  2. I think all people everywhere are equally broken and we all experience a world that is equally broken through equal brokenness, whether this is in our sexuality, gender or anything we build our identity on. I hope this stops me sounding judgmental because it certainly removes any platform I might stand on to judge you (or others) from.
  3. I am hoping that this reflects God’s love for you (and thus, my love for you), and that it isn’t a judgmental, handwringing exercise that makes you feel misunderstood or hated. If you feel either of those things, get in touch. Let me know where I’ve gone wrong. Let’s have a coffee or a beer. I like both.

This post is something like a post-mortem examining where I think Christians got it wrong when we spoke about gay marriage (not all Christians got all these things wrong). It’s a reflection, at times, on what we could have said, should have said, or didn’t say as much as it reflects what I’ve experienced Christians saying, or said myself. Some of it, especially the transgender/intersex stuff towards the end, is new thinking for me. Some isn’t. I’d love to hear other ideas about where things went wrong.

But ultimately, whatever the outcome in the courts and parliaments of this world, I’m not all that worried. Because the hash tag gets it right.

#lovewins.

That’s the good news for Christians who’ve woken up to a sea of rainbows at every turn in the last few days. An iconic and colourful reminder of the victory over the (largely) Christian case for not changing the definition of marriage in the (formerly) Christian west.

The US Supreme Court handed down its judgment this weekend, and I maintain (despite this causing some angst amongst Christian friends previously), that Australia is certain to follow. This isn’t entirely a meek capitulation, I think the fight was lost a long time ago.

Anyway I keep reminding myself #lovewins.

There’s been a lot of handwringing from Christians on the Internet in the fallout to this momentous decision, but I just want to remind my handwringing brothers and sisters, that if you take the Bible seriously, which people against gay marriage typically claim to, then this is how the story of the world ends. #lovewins. It’s already written.

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children — Revelation 21:2-7

#lovewins because it won at the Cross. Life now would be a whole lot easier if we came to grips with that when coming to grapple with politics and life in general. Incidentally there’s some bad news after those verses for the people in this world who don’t think God is all that important. But I’m writing this primarily for those who claim to believe in the God of the Bible and follow his son.

Stop worrying.

#lovewins.

1. WE DIDN’T TREAT PEOPLE THE WAY WE’D LIKE TO BE TREATED

You might feel like the world is against you. The world might well become against you. You might deserve this. I think we’re in for a big dose of our own medicine here, and that’s what terrifies me. Because we Christians deserve what’s coming. Do you know why people think Christians are anti-gay? Do you know why until very recently in most of these countries that are changing the definition of marriage it was illegal to be gay?

CONTINUE READING…