12/31/2010 09:55:00 pm

Home Alone

Posted by Tom French |

It's New Year's Eve.

And where am I?

I'm at home.

And I'm happy.

No, really, I am.


I spent a lot of time trying to work out what to do this evening. I had a few options. Parties, gatherings, fireworks. The problem with New Years Eve is that it's always so full of expectation of having an excellent night. And sometimes it is excellent but sometimes it's a real disappointment. Usually though, it has to do with expectations. If things go better than you expect, your NYE rocks. If they don't, it doesn't. If you want a quiet one and it's not quiet enough, or it's too quiet, your NYE sucks. If you want an awesome night out at a party or on the harbour but your friends are less fun than you hoped or your friends are having heaps of fun but they are somewhere else, you're let down.

Tomorrow my house mates come home. I've had the house to myself the past few days and it's been great. I've done a lot of sitting around, watching DVDs, sleeping and playing Xbox. I figured, I can just do more of that tonight. And it'll probably be exactly what I expect. The company probably won't do anything surprising, and I really do love having the house to myself. Expectations won't let me down.

So that's what I'm doing. I've watched a DVD, eaten butter chicken, read my Bible and prayed. Now I'm blogging (obviously), I might read soon, watch a DVD, who knows. I know it all sounds old and dull but so far it's been fun. I'm on holidays, so I'm gonna do what I want, and this is great.

On Wednesday I was talking to Lesley about what she was doing and she said she might just stay home. At the time the idea sounded appalling. However, it grew on me. Not that I don't like going out. But I don't like being let down, and for a night so full of expectation as NYE, I'm going to expect nothing, do not much, and probably come out on top. On the other hand, the flat could burn down, I could have a terrible accident and have my arm amputated by the DVD player and then the New Year's Eve will be a let down. So far, however, it's going well. Thanks Lesley.

Introverts unite (alone)!

12/31/2010 06:43:00 pm

Opened

Posted by Tom French |

Opening HSC.jpg

Opening my HSC with my Dad - Photo by Helen, stolen from Facebook

In the year 2000, I did my HSC. When I did it, I vowed not to open my HSC for 10 years.

17th December 2010 was exactly 10 years after my results came out. So I had a party.

I had been planning to have a party for, well, 10 years. Everytime I told someone that I hadn't opened my HSC and I was opening them in December 2010 people said "Oh can I come to your party?" If everyone who said that came to my party, there'd be thousands of people there. So I booked the Entertainment Centre.

Unfortunately that fell through so I had to book somewhere smaller.

We ended up at the Asquith Community Centre, which was an excellent venue even if we were double booked with the Zumba crew.

The night was good fun, I had 81 of my closest friends there. I was also missing about about 514 of my other closest friends according to Facebook, but that's ok, I had fun anyway.

There was a guessing competition for people to enter and see what I got. Your entry cost the amount that you thought I got. So if you thought I got 45.65 you had to pay $45.65. All the money raised went to World Vision's education projects.

People were very generous. They gave $2209 on the night. I have very wonderful, big hearted, deep pocked friends and family. My uncle had the highest guess of 98.6, which was silly, but very kind of him.

When it came to opening time, I had hoped my old year advisor would do it but failed to appear on the night. So I got my Dad up to do it. My grandfather, Dad's dad, had been the person most interested in what I got. So I got my Dad to get up as a representative, being his eldest son and my father I thought it was fitting. I know my Grandfather wouldn't have really approved of the whole silly event, but still wanted to give him a not. Plus, I found it pretty special doing it with my Dad, just cause I love my Dad.

Once we announced the mark, Howie won the guessing competition with a guess .15 off what I got, which people found suspicious. However he won a whole bunch of stuff he won't use, so I think it's safe to say he didn't rig it.

We finished off the night with The Outback Hippies, who played their old school rock and roll late into the night. We danced, and sang and had excellent times. At times they made everyone dance with or sing to me, which was embarrassing and unnecessary, but I guess I am an excellent dancer, so it's understandable.


What's been interesting is that since the party I've had heaps of people congratulating me on my mark. They come and ask what I got, and then say "Well done". Then they'll talk about what they got, or what their brother or sister, or son or daughter got. Suddenly 10 years after doing my HSC, everyone cares about what I got.

The whole point was that what I got doesn't matter - you are not your mark. And for 10 years my mark has meant nothing. Now that its out people are talking about it like it matters. It doesn't. It's as significant known as it was when it was unknown, there is no congratulations necessary.

Plus I feel bad being congratulated on my mark, because I didn't put any work in and I feel bad because I beat some people who worked hard. Had I worked hard, maybe a "Good work" 10 years ago wouldn't have gone astray, whatever I got. Seeing as a I didn't "You're a lazy bum" would have been appropriate, then and now.

However I am happy that I did what I set out to do, I showed that you are not your mark, and you can do fine in life without it. You can get work, live a happy life, get a degree and not be a homeless alcoholic all without your HSC mark. In some ways I wish I never opened it because then it still wouldn't matter what I got. But I guess if I have to put up with a bit of congratulation and silliness but people around the world get $2000 worth of better education, then it's worth it.

And the party was pretty pretty awesome too. Thanks friends.


If you're wondering, I got 63.15, which makes no difference to anything. Unless your Howie. Well done, Howie. Congratulations.

12/28/2010 11:51:00 pm

Heartbreak

Posted by Tom French |

Natalie-Portman 1.jpg

I found out today that your friend and mine, Natalie Portman is engaged and pregnant.

While I wish her all the best, it's hard when all the people you've been holding a flame for fall for other people, and get on with life. First it was Winnie from The Wonder Years and now Natalie.

What's a man to do?

It's times like this when we need James Blunt to sing for our hearts. Sing it for me tonight Blunty:

12/28/2010 11:25:00 pm

Tron Legacy

Posted by Tom French |

Tron Legacy.jpg

I went to see Tron Legacy today with my Auntie. It was pretty awesome. It looked great. The 3D was as good as or better than Avatar. It wasn't obtrusive at all.

The opening credits were almost worth the price of the ticket along. But I love good opening credits. And what totally was worth the price of the ticket was the music by Daft Punk. It was great. The film could be an extended Daft Punk film clip. Plus it was nice to see their cameo.

The story was pretty silly. But it wasn't pretentious (unlike Avatar), it was just trying to be a whole lot of fun with a lot of cool stuff. And that it was.

You should probably go see Tron.

12/21/2010 12:22:00 am

Sin?

Posted by Tom French |

Here's my theological question for the week:

If Jesus decided not to die on the cross, would it have been a sin?

Someone on camp asked me and I'm still thinking it through.

12/20/2010 01:08:00 pm

I'm off a boat

Posted by Tom French |

Last year I went on Sailing Camp and if you believe the revisionist history I'm currently revisionising, I became an expert sailor.

This year I went to speak on the same camp again. And despite my brilliant skills of sailing, I didn't manage to sail once. Which seems a little like going to Africa and not going on safari, which I also did. I did want to go sailing, but things got in the way. Like on the first day I canoed because there wasn't enough room on the boats. The second day I was doing canoeing again, but then a kid cut his finger on an oyster. I was tasked with ambulance driving, so another leader and I spent 4 hours in Wyong hospital with him. In the end he didn't even get a stitch, it was a little disappointing. We did get to eat McDonalds though, so we'll call it even.

The next day I took a girl to the medical centre to get a tetanus shot after she was also attacked by an oyster, which meant I didn't sail that day either. On the last two days of sailing, I stayed on land because they needed extra leaders there. So the lack of sailing was a little sad, I enjoy sitting out on those boats. Especially on the hot days.

Despite the lack of nautical adventures, I did have a pretty good camp. There were almost 70 kids on the camp which made it almost at capacity. I had trouble getting to meet all the kids. Still they all met me. One of the things about being speaker is that everyone feels like they know you better than you feel like you know them and it's probably true. So hopefully people felt like I had interacted with them even if I hadn't got to do it much face to face.

Best of all about the camp was that there were 12 kids who put up their hands to say they became Christians after the talks. I'm pretty sure it was a worthwhile camp.

Next year though, if I'm there, "I'm on a boat!"

12/20/2010 12:53:00 am

Awkward

Posted by Tom French |

So when I said I'd elaborate tomorrow, I may have been a little over ambitious.

I will however begin the elaboration.

One of the places I preached in the last two weeks was at a work function for a bunch of different organisations that do similar ministry to my work. My boss and some colleagues were there. I was doing an extended version of my sermon from Romans 8. Anyway I start off with some dodgy preaching about how God works everything for good. So losing a job means getting a new and better one. Having a car break down, means getting a new and better one. Divorcing a spouse means getting a new and better one. And if we are more than conquerors we can beat sickness, and financial hardship and even death!

And then I pause to say "I hope some of you are getting a little uncomfortable."

Except I paused and someone in the audience shouted "Woohoo!"

It was a little awkward, seeing as I was about to explain how everything I had just said was wrong.

Still I moved on and did what I needed to do. Hopefully the person didn't feel too jipped that I tricked them into woohooing.

12/18/2010 11:18:00 pm

Home

Posted by Tom French |

The past two weeks have been massive. I've done 10 different talks, been on a camp, hung out in a hospital, helped do some house moving, had a party, opened my HSC results and seen 12 people become Christians. Awesome, but huge.

I'll elaborate more tomorrow. But for now, just thought I'd check in.

12/08/2010 06:25:00 pm

I's a man of many learnings

Posted by Tom French |

I came home today and found a B.Th. in the post with my name on it. So I had a graduation ceremony at 5:58pm. Here's a photo:

Graduation.jpg

I wore the cardboard on my head to identify with poor students in the developing world who can't afford a mortar board.

From now on you'll call me Thomas French B.Th. Just in time to open my HSC results.

12/06/2010 11:24:00 pm

Questions

Posted by Tom French |

In Bible study tonight, while looking at Colossians 2:4 ("I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments"), we made a list of the all the different types of teachings and "fine sounding arguments" that might lead the church astray.

Of the ones I can remember, they were:

  • Jesus is not the only way to God
  • The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are three separate gods
  • How can a good God exist when there is so much suffering the world?
  • Jesus is not God, God does not exist, Jesus was just a good man
  • Jesus didn't physically rise from the dead
  • God did not create the world, a big bang did
  • There is no absolute truth
  • The Bible is a book written in a specific culture and therefore not eternally relevant
  • The Bible is not God's revelation, it is not inerrant, it is just a book
  • God is unknowable
  • Religion has been the cause of too much evil in the world
  • Jesus was not the messiah
  • You can be saved through being good

We were then asked which ones we struggled with, or had struggled with. I don't know about the answers of the rest of the group, but my answer was all of them. At some stage or another I've wrestled with all of them. If I'm honest, some of them pop up regularly. I can't even say I've satisfactorally solved them all for myself. Jesus, however, is consistantly greater than any question.

If you asked me what questions I regularly ask, it'd be these:

Does God actually exist?

Was Jesus actually God?

Would God really reveal himself through the Bible?

Is Christianity the only true faith?


The rest are just sometimes questions.


What questions do you ask? How often do you find yourself asking questions? What answers have you found?

12/06/2010 11:01:00 pm

Perfect Church

Posted by Tom French |

There are many things I love about my church. But perhaps the sign that I go to the perfect church is that my church has a continuing love affair with Hornsby's most delicious eatery, Chef's Lucky Noodle.

12/06/2010 12:22:00 am

U2 and all that

Posted by Tom French |

The last that you all heard, I was on my way down to Melbourne to watch U2. I was going because I'm on camp in a week which is when U2 is in Sydney and I love U2 so much I didn't want to miss them.

It was also an excellent opportunity to hang out with David and Andreana. I was especially looking forward to hanging out with Andreana because I feel like I don't know her very well. And seeing as she's marrying one of my oldest friends, I reckon like I should at least know a little of who she is. I learnt that she works in a uni and quite likes rain coats, so I feel it was a successful fact finding mission.

I was worried it would be rainy, and Melbourne did its best to meet expectations. I arrived in wet Melbourne after a reasonably normal plane flight. I did sit next to a girl on the plane and I thought "Maybe we will have a conversation and fall in love", but then I found out she lived in Melbourne and wasn't that keen on U2 - two strikes, she's out.

I met David once I hopped off the airport bus, we checked the line at Etihad Stadium and decided it'd be too hard to sneak Andreana in, plus we'd get wet and miserable, so we left to watch a movie. We watched Due Date which was funny, but not amazing. It won't change your life.

Soon it was time to get Andreana from her work that the cathedral of learnings, so we bought some creepy $9 raincoats and went and found her.

We lined up at the stadium for about 45 minutes I reckon, and then we were let in. It was pretty easy. Once in, we got ourselves a spot about 10 meters from the stage's second catwalk. Not bad for turning up at 4:30pm. I reckon it was around then the rain let up, and we were dry for the rest of the night.

Bored at U2 360.jpg

Bored at U2 in our dooby $9 raincoats

Inside the stadium there was just a lot more waiting to be done. Eventually we were given a countdown till Jay-Z, the support act. That was a nice touch. Everyone loves an over sized clock.

Jay-Z was superb. I've never been a big fan, but I always knew he had talent. Watching him and his band was pretty awesome. His band were tight, and brought the funk, and he knew how to engage the crowd. He was massively better than Kanye supporting U2 in '06. I reckon I might even get an album. If you're going to see U2 in Sydney, get his best of before you go, you'll thank yourself.

Once he was done it was back to more waiting.

360 Countdown.jpg

Counting down

Finally the second countdown clock we were shown dramatically fell apart, Bowie got piped though the stadium and U2 arrived on stage to masses of sound and lights. The stage is huge. They call it the claw. It is quite impressive. It's looking a little tired, like it's been around the world, which it has. But they utilise the space well, every part of it plays a function throughout the show. Lights, smoke, tv, everywhere. Special.

U2 Start.jpg

The band were in good form. Although, I am such a fan, I'd probably always think they played well. They did many of the classics you'd expect from a U2 concert. Until the End of the World was fantastic, with it's usual sense of theatrics, which also made me wonder about whether or not U2 think Judas was saved. They did a fantastic rearrangement of I'll go Crazy if I don't go Crazy Tonight. Plenty of drums and bass. Jay-z was brought out for Sunday Bloody Sunday, who added a nice rap interlude, but meant that we couldn't pump out fists and shout "No more!". Bono did talk to us about AIDS and Burma but the show was pretty light on for politics, compared to say, the Vertigo tour.

Adam and Larry 360.jpg

I think my favourite moment of the night was I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. People have often said going to a U2 concert is a spiritual experience, and it is. In this song I had one of the most significant musical worship moments I've had this year, certainly the most significant I've ever had at a concert. I was there, arm outstretched, eyes closed, singing loud. It feels a little odd singing a gospel song with thousands of others knowing that most people are not singing to Jesus, but it still feels good. I was quite happily then more in awe of Jesus than I was of any rock band, even if I was watching the greatest rock band in the world.

It certainly was a concert worth going to. And going to Melbourne and hanging out with David and Andreana was a trip worth doing. Hooray for being rich and being able to enjoy these many undeserved blessings.

City of Blinding Lights.jpg

I believe in the kingdom come
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
Well yes I'm still running

You broke the bonds and you
Loosed the chains
Carried the cross
Of my shame
Of my shame
You know I believed it

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for

12/01/2010 06:35:00 am

Wet

Posted by Tom French |

I'm about to get on a plane to go to Melbourne to see U2. Who goes to an outdoor concert in Melbourne? Seriously. I'm gonna be wet as.

Still, who goes to an outdoor concert in Sydney this December? All I've seen of it is rain so far.

Woot for U2 though!



It did just occur to me that we're going to see U2 on World AIDS Day. I can't see Bono letting us get out of that too easily.

11/29/2010 11:54:00 pm

We're Back

Posted by Tom French |

For all those of you who were fans of Podcasting with Howie and Tom, we'll be back. But live on the computer screen. Streaming video right to your computer.

8pm AEST, 25th December 2010. Right here: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/howie-and-tom-live

It'll be better than all your crap presents, but not nearly as good as your good ones.

11/28/2010 11:27:00 pm

Me and my Salvation

Posted by Tom French |

Samuel and the fire.jpg

I was doing my Bible reading this morning, and I'm currently going through 1 Samuel because we're doing it in youth group. Today I read 1 Samuel 12 where Samuel gives his farewell speech. And it's not what you'd expect - "It's been so good leading you all, I love you lots, God bless" - Samuel lays into them and gives them a history their sin, right up until they choose a king and rejected God as their king. Samuel then says God is going to send a storm to prove they have done evil, and he does, which is a pretty awesome endorsement of your speech if you're Samuel.

Israel feels pretty convicted by the thunder and lightning and says: "Pray to the LORD your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king." (12:19)

And Samuel replies with, "Do not be afraid. You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless. For the sake of his great name the LORD will not reject his people, because the LORD was pleased to make you his own." (12:20-22)

That struck me. Firstly because I feel like I regularly get confronted with my sin. And I think "Oh goodness, now I've done this, on top of all my other sins." So I know how the Israelites feel.

But then Samuel gives this great reply. He doesn't say "Oh don't worry about it, it's nothing. God will forgive you." And he doesn't say "Sucks to be you, God is going smash you guys so hard!"

He says "You have done all this evil". He doesn't pull punches. But having done evil their response should be to try and escape his wrath, to get away from him. But Samuel counsels them by saying "Do not be afraid" and "Do not turn away from the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart." Just when they should be running away he says come closer. Serve God. Do not be afraid. Why?

"For the sake of his great name the LORD will not reject his people, because the LORD was pleased to make you his own."

God is going to forgive and not destroy the Israelites because God's name is made great when he forgives sinful people and when he looks after his family. It's not because Israel is amazing, or God is fond of their cuteness, or they'll make it up to God. Israel are safe from God and God will forgive them because it glorifies him. For God saving and forgiving is all about glorifying himself.

And that gives me great comfort. I know I have done evil. And I'm not sure why God would want to forgive me. But God doesn't forgive me because there is anything particularly special about me, he forgives me for the sake of his great name. And there is no point where God will give up on me, not because God can't live without me, but for the sake of his great name. I am saved for God's glory. And I am safe for God's glory. Which means, it's not about me.

In my self-centredness I can get all caught up on why would God save me? I'm not good enough, maybe God will stop loving me if I keep letting him down, how much longer will he put up with me? I should work harder to please God. And really it's not about me. But God's not saving me because of how good or bad I am. He's not getting me in his kingdom because I'm a great asset with all my Christian skills, or because he saw me and thought "That guy really needs help." God has saved me, and keeps me saved, because it's an expression of his character and a testament to his greatness. God's not going to stop loving me, or drop me from the team, because I'm here to glorify him. Saving me, and sanctifying me and making me his child, that glorifies which is the primary reason I am saved. My salvation is not about me, it not reliant on me at all, it's not predicated on how good or bad I am, it's about God, who is love, doing what God does best.

It's not about me.

I was an object of wrath, I am a trophy of grace, because I am the glory of God and the glory of God wins every time.

Hallelujah.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. - Ephesians 1:3-6

11/27/2010 10:32:00 pm

Sailing

Posted by Tom French |

I'm speaking on a sailing camp again in about two weeks. It's the same camp I did this time last year.

Today they had a sailing training day and I thought I'd go because I don't know anything about sailing and I feel dumb sitting in boat not being able to help. Today my plan was to feel less dumb. I may have succeeded.

It was a lovely day for sailing. At least the sun was out and hot. But the wind was up which was fun but made beginners sailing not so good.

I started the day in a small boat with a guy who taught me a few things about sailing. Like a rope attached to a sail is a sheet. That seems a little odd, you'd think the sail would be the sheet, but it seems not. He told me lots of stuff about sailing into the wind and luffing jibs and halyards, but I didn't really understand it all. I was given the job of steering and he'd tell me when it was time to tack or jibe and I'd do what I was meant to do and inevitably stuff it up because you have to steer the boat, watch where you're going, swap sides and try not to get hit in the head by the boom. It's too many things to do at once. I find parking my car a complex manoeuvre so doing all these sailing things is too hard for me.

After lunch I was put on a catamaran with a different guy. The wind had picked up a bit more by this stage and my only job was pulling on a rope. We went pretty fast and it was good fun. At one point he let me steer and I capsized the boat. Oops.

We spent a bit of time trying to not drown and right the boat, and after that it was time to come in.

It was a fun day, but I'm pretty sure I won't be leading sailing expeditions any time too soon.

11/26/2010 11:54:00 pm

Lasers

Posted by Tom French |

I went to laser tag again tonight with my youth group guys. But because they're boys, we invited our friend Dan along, because he works for a secret government organisation (unless you watch Border Patrol) to teach the boys a few things about how to clear a room. Seeing as the stuff he teaches for work is classified, he said he couldn't teach us that. But still the boys had fun learning how to work as a team two or three and enter a room without getting shot by a laser gun. I'm guessing they don't show you the lasers on Border Patrol because they're classified.

As training, we got them to clear the downstairs of the church. I think all groups but one died. I got to play a bad guy hiding in the girls' toilets. I'm pretty sure I was terrorist.

Once we had completed basic training we took them to laser tag where they forgot to use any of what they'd been taught, and got totally whipped by the leaders. But then again, winning is understandable because we had Dan on our team and he works for secret government organisation, teaching people how to take down complex space stations filled with masses of young boys armed with laser guns. Australia is in safe hands.

11/25/2010 11:55:00 pm

Mo

Posted by Tom French |

I love Movember. I love seedy mos. One day I hope to participate and scare young children for 31 days of late spring.

But I can't help but think that Movember is more about men loving having the chance to look dirty for a month more than it is men making some great sacrifice for men's health. I rekcon you could have Movember raising money for bottle-nosed hampsters and men would still be up for it. I don't know how many man spend a lot of time worrying about men's depression and testicular cancer. I rekcon there are a lot of men who think often about getting a tash happening. There is something attractive about being able to look disgusting and get away with it. Much more attractive than rasing money for men's issues is.

But if you love the mo more than you love the cause does it really matter?

11/24/2010 10:51:00 pm

Jesus Pooped

Posted by Tom French |

My current talk at primary schools is a Christmas talk because every primary group wants to talk about Christmas. So today I was doing the talk and I said "Jesus was just like any other baby. He did all the same things normal babies do. He slept, ate, and cried."

And then some kid in year 1 called out, "And pooped!"

It was awesome.

That kid has his incarnational theology right. Jesus pooped.

11/23/2010 10:45:00 pm

Dead God

Posted by Tom French |

"Here’s how it is declared in Colossians 3:5, “Greed is idolatry.” Is that clear? Greed is idolatry. And see, a lot of people right now, they’ve not dealt with a greed problem. That’s why they’re grieving. See, we worship as a collective people, the god mammon. Jesus calls money “mammon”, a false god. We worship mammon. Now mammon has died. And people are grieving, “Our god died. I lost my equity, my retirement’s down. My portfolio is not as good as it used to be. I’m getting ready to graduate and I can’t make as much money as I would have five years ago. I can’t even find a job that is what I was hoping for. Argh! I’m so grieved! My god has died!” And everyone is secretly waiting for a resurrection. “When will our god be back? When will our god be back? Are home prices on the rise? Is unemployment down? Is our god stirring yet?” Greed is idolatry. You don’t need more wealth. You need more wisdom. You don’t need your idol to come back from death. You need God to be the object of your affections."

- Mark Driscoll, speaking on the Parable of the Rich Fool

11/22/2010 11:02:00 pm

Hello Again

Posted by Tom French |

I'm aware that my blogging efforts of late have been rather poor. I have reasonable excuses. But my promise to you is this. I will blog every day between now and next Monday. If I don't, I will take you all out to dinner. A dinner of rice. And you may only get a few grains, but it'll be rice none the less.

Tonight I probably won't say anymore I have stuff to do.

But while we're waiting, on a question that came up at Bible study tonight, do you believe in the physical resurrection of Christ? Why or why not?

11/17/2010 12:02:00 am

(Almost) Typing Fail

Posted by Tom French |

I was writing an email to the Dad of a girl from youth today. His daughter had been part of the group we took to Tumbarumba on the weekend. I wanted to write "It was great to have her along". Unfortunately I wrote "It was great to have her alone". I only picked it up in the second read through. I don't always proof read well (as you would know dear readers) so I'm very pleased I did this time because that typo could have got me a very angry father.

11/12/2010 12:14:00 pm

Firework

Posted by Tom French |

This video is really disturbing. All those poor young people spontaneously combusting everywhere. I worry for their safety.

"Baby, you're a firework..."

11/12/2010 12:13:00 am

Gay Old Mess

Posted by Tom French |

I just started following this Ivanhoe Grammar thing.

The story goes Hannah Williams at Ivanhoe Girls Grammar invited her girlfriend, Savannah Supski, to the year 11 formal. Unfortunately Hannah was told she couldn't take Savannah, but she could bring a boy. This made Hannah angry. She told her friends, her parents, and the Equal Opportunity Commission. Somehow this made it to the papers, and now it's a big thing. Unfortunately for the school, they've kinda stuffed up their PR on this one.

The school principal, Heather Schnagl, said in defense of the school's decision: "I don't think it's appropriate they feel discriminated against, and I'm very upset they feel that... If we opened it up and said girls could bring another female they would all bring females; the policy is trying to create an event where boys are invited. We are a school that has an all-girls environment, and they are meant to invite guests, not partners."

She then goes on to give a second reason for not letting the girl take her girl, "It's an event for year 11s and the student's guest was in year 10."

This is an absurd thing to say.

From what I know of teenage girls, if given the opportunity to have a dinner dance event and they're told they can bring a partner, I cannot think there is any group except perhaps the Teenage Lesbians Alliance (if one exists) where all the girls would bring girls instead of guys. And I'm sure the girls who opted to bring no one were not told they must bring someone as they would throw out the girl:boy ratio.

The other issue is that the school also wants to say the problem is the students age, year 10s are not allowed at the year 11 event. This is a much better argument and the one the school should have stuck with the whole time, because age discrimination is encouraged and necessary in a school. And Savannah's age has nothing to do with her gender or sexual preference. Unfortunately for the school they didn't stick to that argument or to that rule, and they allowed boys at the event who were in year 10.

What is interesting is that same-sex couples are allowed at the year 12 formal, which means that the school's argument for not allowing a same sex couple to attend a year 11 formal holds even less water, unless the event really is for the girls to meet boys. This does seem terribly old fashioned as if girls at all girls schools have no way of finding boys. Girls and boys know how to find each other. I'm pretty sure they don't need a school to help them, but it's nice that the school would try.

I'm not sure but there may be something going on here with the faith of the school. The school doesn't seem to have said it publicly but it may be that because it is a school built upon Christian foundations (according to the website) that's why they don't allow the gay couple to attend. But I have no idea how Christian the school is. Probably not very.

Whatever is going on, this feels to me like a case of teenage outrage (which is a fact of life when you're a teenager, I encounter small scale teenage outrage on a regular basis) exacerbated by a school unable to find (or at least articulate) a good reason not to allow a same sex couple to a dance.

Oh, and now a whole lot of fuel has been added to the fire by the media's love of all things gay, especially lesbians, especially, especially pretty, teenage lesbians. Freakin' SMH.

Whatever the case it got me thinking about what I would do. If I was the school principal, I'd probably allow the couple to attend. If my only real reason for not allowing the student to attend was because she was a girl, I'd let it slide. If I hadn't been consistent in enforcing the rules I was referring to I'd know I didn't really have a leg to stand on, so I'd have to allow them to go together.

If there was a lesbian couple who wanted to attend my youth group, I reckon I'd let them. If my youth group was having a formal (as youth groups do from time to time) and a girl who attended youth group wanted to bring her female partner, I'd probably let her. If the girl said she was a Christian, then I reckon there'd be other conversations to be had first which were bigger than whether or not she could bring her girlfriend along.

I know this isn't what the story is about but it gets me thinking about the church. I'm sure that over the next 10 years Christian organisations are only going to face more and more issues with discrimination of people with a same sex preference. The Church is going to have to find the best way forward to be loving and welcoming without compromising on it's beliefs. But even then it'll probably still get hammered.

The recent issue with the Brethren campsite that didn't allow a gay support group to meet on its site is probably indicative of what's to come. The problem was that the Christian organisation didn't want to have its facilities used for the promotion of something that they felt was immoral. Unfortunately the Brethren were running a corporation, which is legally obliged to provide the same services to anyone regardless of their sexual preference. And so they lost the case on anti-discrimination grounds, despite the fact that they are clearly Christian.

People seem to feel like whenever Christians express a view about homosexuality that it's motivated by bigotry and homophopia. Except that for many Christians it's not an issue of bigotry and homophobia*. How they feel about homosexuality comes from a respect for and desire to obey the Bible. Christians aren't out to make the life of gay people hard, they're out to live their lives as an act of worship in obedience to the God they see revealed in the Bible. Rightly or wrongly the choice to do that has to be as acceptable in society as being gay.

It feels like the bias at the moment is leaning towards legally forcing Christian organisations to let all people do everything. But I'd say forcing the Church to be endorsing homosexuality as a valid lifestyle choice is as discriminatory as forcing gay people to believe that following Jesus is the only valid lifestyle choice.

I guess what I'm saying is that freedom of religious expression should be just as valid a right as freedom of sexual expression. And just as we should allow people people the right to have whatever sexual lifestyle they choose (within the context of non-abusive, consensual behaviour) and the right to advocate for that lifestyle, I also think Christians should have the right to hold different views, to publicly state those views and expect a certain type behaviour from those who want to work within the structures of the Christian community. If the Christian community wants to waive that right, so be it, but it should be their choice not one forced upon them by those who hold different values and beliefs.

*Of course sometimes it is and I ain't down with that.

Update: I accidentally deleated a paragraph before posting about bigotry and homophobia. I have added a sentence because I can't remember the paragraph, just to make sense of the paragraph a little better.

11/10/2010 10:24:00 pm

Organisation Nation

Posted by Tom French |

On the weekend I'm leading a group of 15 fifteen people on a trip to Tumbarumba (where I went this time last year). 9 of them are youth in my youth group.

This has meant I've been sending mountains of emails, making phone calls, planning time tables, organising who's doing what while we're away, talking to parents, writing a drama, planning a youth ministry seminar, and somewhere in there, sleeping.

At the same time I'm trying to get my HSC Opening Party organised, but that's going rather slowly.

And then add to that planning and writing talks, emailing chaplains, organising schedules, doing invoices and writing resources, which I do while at work, I feel like my whole life is administration at the moment.

What is good though is that, at least as far as the mission trip goes I'm feeling relatively on top of it. I feel like the years of being a youth minister is coming into play. I may also be getting mildly gifted in administration. I don't know. Not majorly gifted. I'm still organising a bunch of stuff at the last minute, but things are coming together.

I bagz having the gift of relaxing. How about right now! Yes. I'm going to bed.

In other news, I put my finger in someone else's pus today. Not good.

11/06/2010 12:57:00 am

Things I've Learnt from Footballers this Week

Posted by Tom French |

Don't pretend to have sex with your colleague's dog. It'll only end in tears.


That's a contrast to the last post.

11/06/2010 12:48:00 am

NIV 2011

Posted by Tom French |

For those of us who use the NIV on Bible Gateway, it quietly changed itself up a few days ago.

The new translation of the NIV (the NNIV perhaps?) has been dubbed NIV 2011, but it'll probably just be called the NIV. It won't be out in print till next year but on Tuesday it quietly arrived online. The first I noticed was when I was working on my sermon on Wednesday night and was surprised by the gender inclusive language. It said "brothers and sisters" instead of just "brothers". I thought that perhaps that was just a abnormal translation for this verse that I'd never noticed, and thought nothing more.

But then I found out that it's a new translation. It's odd because it's the NIV but then suddenly it slips a word in your weren't ready for. For instance in youth group tonight we were doing Philippians 2:1-11 and when I was expecting the boys to read this:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
- Phil 2:5-6 (NIV 1984)

But instead they read this:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
- Phil 2:5-6 (NIV 2010)

I think it's a better translation, but it jars the ears because you're expecting NIV but you get NNIV. And especially there it jars because you want to sing "Highest Place", that song with too many words per bar, in your head, but you just get thrown out. I'm so used to the NIV and now it's not the NIV and nobody warned me.

I assume they did it to compete with the ESV. Just like Coke brought out New Coke in 1985 to compete with Pepsi. But while you can't improve on Coke's formula, you can always get a better translation.

Anyway as far as I can tell it's a better translation. The language seems more accurate and less clunky. The gender inclusive language is good, and it saves people from having to add it themselves. And as far as I can tell, the translation from the greek is more accurate, but I'm no expert on that.

The NNIV is set to replace both the NIV and the tNIV next year. And it won't be called the NNIV, that's just me being stupid.

If you're interested 60.55% of the NNIV's verses are the same as the NIV. While 8.25% of the NNIV has something completely new from the NIV. If you want to track all the changes you can go here. It's pretty interesting if you're a bible nerd.

11/04/2010 05:42:00 pm

Be Here Now

Posted by Tom French |



If this wasn't an ad for a phone and it was just a public service announcement, it'd probably be perfect.

11/02/2010 12:50:00 am

Melbourne Cup Pick

Posted by Tom French |

As is my sometimes tradition, let me tell you my pick for the Melbourne Cup. I think I might be in staff meeting tomorrow during the Cup. Perhaps we'll stop for the race that stops the nation. Or maybe we'll ignore it. Perhaps I'll suggest we pay attention as a matter of OH&S. I found out today that at every staff meeting there should be a time set aside for OH&S, I'm pretty sure that's the time for watching a horse race.

Anyway, I'm getting distracted.

This year I recommend: Shocking

I know everyone's believing in So You Think, but Shocking is gonna bring it home for trainer Michael Rodd. In my view Rodds having an excellent year, and So You Think's recent form leaves me questioning whether there's anything left for a Cup victory. The smart money goes with Shocking.

You just watch. I'm an expert. I know what I'm talking about.

10/27/2010 12:03:00 am

Stick Around

Posted by Tom French |

Family Stickers.jpg

I saw a car with these stickers on it today. And usually when I see these stickers they annoy me. I think because I get this feeling the family is going "Oh look we're a family". And it reduces your family to a statement like "Hands off our hospitals", "Real Aussies drive Utes" and "I'd rather push my Holden than drive your Ford".

But I hadn't really explored that feeling, it was just this gut response that I didn't like it.

Today I thought about it a little more and decided I liked it. If you're a family with young kids, the young kids are going to feel pretty awesome having thier own sticker on the back of the car. And it's actually nice for a family to make a statement, "We're a family and proud to be a family."

The only problem I see is that if the parents split you've got this embarrassing sticker representation of you family on your car. People should really think that through. Perhaps the stickers have kept families together. You know, couples sticking it out for the sake of stickers. That'd be nice.

As a single man, my sticker collection would be quite small. But I am thinking about perhaps getting something like this on my car:

toms family.jpg

I'm pretty sure that suits my image.

10/24/2010 11:50:00 pm

Waters Cover the Sea

Posted by Tom French |

We sang a song at church tonight which I can't remember. But there was a line in it that said something about "as the waters cover the sea". And I thought to myself "Bah, another dumb lyric. Why are worship songs always full of dumb lyrics? Of course the waters cover the sea. A sea needs water to exist as sea. If there was no water there would be no sea. It'd be just a valley. I'm going go home and blog about that."

Except I got home and realised that that dumb lyric is from Habakkuk 2:14 which says: "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea." I'm not so sure I feel ready to criticise God's lyrics yet.

Still, if I ever remember when we're hanging out in the new creation, I may politely ask what his definition of sea is, and if it's possible to have sea without water? And if it is not possible to have a sea without water, then why Habbakkuk 2:14? But I'll do all this very respectfully, and I shall probably only get around to it after I've finished asking him about creation, predestination, angels, miracles, babies that die, the virgin birth, who made God, dating, Harold Holt and what would happen, hypothetically, if Jesus was an identical twin.

To live is Christ, to die is to pwn Wikipedia.

10/21/2010 03:42:00 pm

Work and Laziness Potificated

Posted by Tom French |

The talk I blogged about writing, is now up. You can go here to read about it or you can just listen to it here. Alternatively you can go search for Tom French in iTunes and subscribe to the podcast. Or you could do nothing at all. The options are yours people.

10/19/2010 11:28:00 pm

The Youth Ministry Blogger Elites

Posted by Tom French |

I've been reading a few youth ministry blogs lately, and I've noticed that I'm not enjoying most of them very much. I think it's because almost every post is full of advice: "10 Ways to Be an Awesome Youth Pastor", "4 Things Which You Don't Know About Youth Culture but I Do", "15 Mistakes that People less Good at Ministry than Me Make". I think I get sick of hearing from these "experts", because I know I do youth ministry and I can blog too but that doesn't make me an expert. I guess I just don't trust them, because they sound so sure of themselves and I don't even know if they have any idea what they're doing.

I think this might be a cultural thing though, because all these blogs are American and I've heard Americans love to give advice. Then again, I've heard Americans all carry guns and think Obama is a Muslim and the anti-Christ, and obviously that's not true, unless there are a whole bunch of people in the US who actually want the anti-Christ running their country and that's why they voted him in.

That said (the blog bit, not the Obama bit), they're not all bad. I've been enjoying nailscars.com. It's not very preachy and it's got some good thoughts on it.* I really like his 10 Confessions post because I identify with most of them. However I keep wondering why the blog would be named Nails Cars. Perhaps he's called Nail and selling cars is his tent making ministry (haw haw).

I recently found out that I'm probably going to be put in charge of doing a schools ministry blog at work. It'll be about giving advice to lunch time group leaders and school chaplains. I'm planning on using it to berate all the school chaplains and student leaders about why they're not as awesome as me, especially since I've never been a school chaplain, so I have never failed at it, which a zero failure rate makes me pretty qualified. I have failed at student leadership. I was a leader at my lunch time Christian group at high school, but I think I just turned up and at the Tim Tams.

What I am pleased about is that all my many years of blogging will now pay off in the professional world of para-church ministry. And it'll mean I can spend more time at work legitimately reading blogs and going on Facebook. Life is awesome.

Now I should angle to be in charge of jumping castles research at work too. I could spend my days travelling the state testing jumping castles. It's important gospel ministry.

Anyway, if you ever find that my blogging ever becomes too preachy because I think I'm too awesome, feel free to tell me I'm not all that. I'll ignore you, but you can appreciate you made the effort, and my past (current?) self will thank you, even if my future self resents you.


*I have to say that though because I just commented on the blog and I'm worried Mr Nailscars will come and read my blog and see me complaining about American blogs and he'll take it personally and hate me and I couldn't handle that.

10/19/2010 07:44:00 pm

Even Stevphen

Posted by Tom French |

10/14/2010 06:26:00 pm

Four Legs Good - Eight Legs Bad

Posted by Tom French |

Last night I was out to dinner with the Ma, Pa, and the step-Grandma, and I ordered a steak. The gave it to me with a soft-shelled crab on top. The legs were all floppy. It felt like I was eating a spider. I didn't like it. I thought it might hurt me.

Spiders suck, even when they're actually crabs.

10/11/2010 11:30:00 pm

Things I've Learnt from the Commonwealth Games

Posted by Tom French |

- Australia dominates colonies and the mother land, proving that criminals make the best athletes.
- Making fun of Indians is still rather acceptable, just don't call them monkeys.
- Robert De Castella has gotten fat, and good on him, he deserves it.
- Empty stadiums make me sad.
- Sally Pearson has a disqualification, a gold medal, and quite the set of abs.

10/11/2010 05:19:00 pm

Reached or Inoculated?

Posted by Tom French |

My friend Graham Baldock blogs. And because famous bloggers sometimes guest blog on each other's blogs, we thought we'd do it too.

So here is his special guestage (if you want to read mine go here):


The school chaplains should have beaten me to death with the chairs they were sitting on. They were plunging daggers into me with their eyes.

Why?

I simply wondered aloud “Why don’t you just do Chapel services that don’t suck?”

Was it gentle and showered in grace? No. Was it amazingly blunt and cringe worthy to reminisce about publicly? Yes.

As a Youth Pastor I’ve wondered about religious schools a bit (my church is heavily connected to one). I wonder if they actually do more long-term harm than good.

Disclaimer (every outlandish statement must be followed up with a disclaimer): Those who work in schools are folks who genuinely love Jesus, want to see the Kingdom of God advance, work really hard and are phenomenal people.

AND if done well, as I have seen it done, it is an amazing opportunity. Weekly, kids are presented the life-changing message of Christ.

But, if it is not done well, does it place the youth in a worse position to respond to the gospel? Do they become deadened to the message? Are they hardened by mediocrity?

The same question can be asked for scripture in schools, children’s and youth ministry. Is crappy kids’ stuff on a Sunday morning really better than no kids program? Can we say that bad ministry experiences early in life make it harder for people to respond later on?

Bottom line… Do we think we are reaching kids with the gospel when we are actually inoculating them against it?

10/09/2010 05:36:00 pm

Grandmaster

Posted by Tom French |

Wargames [WIN]
Thank you Failbook

10/07/2010 07:44:00 pm

Original Sin

Posted by Tom French |

apple.jpg

Last month Andreana wrote a piece on her blog about how the doctrine of original sin makes people feel terrible about themselves. Then last week I was talking to one of my friends who told me they felt pretty much the same way. They didn’t like that there is this central belief within Christianity that you are basically evil. It’s bad for self-esteem and locks people into seeing themselves only as terrible people, incapable of good.

So I’ve been thinking about this for a while and had some thoughts. What follows is kinda the extended edition of a comment I left on Andreana’s blog.

I guess firstly any discussion of original sin needs a definition, so I’ll tell you what I know. Original sin is the doctrine that through the actions of Adam all humanity have inherited a sinful nature. In conservative evangelical thought, this means that humanity, as descendants of Adam, are born under judgement for Adam’s sin and with a built in predisposition for sin.

Probably the main reason why I believe in original sin is because I think it's biblical.

Obviously the biblical texts are open to interpretation, and need to be understood in the context of the literature, but as far as original sin goes I think there is biblical evidence for it, particularly in Romans 5:12-19. I am unclear as to what extent all people are guilty in Adam or how that works, I am sure that all of us have inherited our sinful nature, and are unable to live righteous lives without the direct intervention of God.

Perhaps the other lesser reason I am inclined to believe in original sin is that I see it in humanity. Kids aren’t taught to sin, they seem to have it built in. No one teaches a kid to snatch, punch, bite, kick, yet they all seem to figure it out for themselves. And if you watch kids interact, they are pretty horrid creatures. Sure they’re cute and precious, and funny, and fun. But they’re also mean, and selfish, and childish. If an adult behaved like a child we wouldn’t say “Oh how innocent they are” we’d say “Oh how horrible they are.” I think we learn civility because we learn that our deviant ways don’t get us what we want.

So I think I’m happy to see humanity as essentially sinful, both from what I read in the Bible and what I see in the world. I’m not saying that humanity is entirely sinful, or that babies, kids or adults are incapable of good, or love, just that I think that all people have a predisposition towards sin. I think sinfulness is built in since the fall, it’s not learned.

Obviously this isn’t a particularly cheery doctrine. I understand if a person accepts this on its own it certainly doesn’t give a person cause to feel excited about being a human or hopeful that they will be able to achieve anything more than evil, or hope that they will be able to move beyond their sin. However if they accept it, it should drive them to Christ. And if it drives them to Christ and they are willing to accept Christ’s work for them on the cross, then they no longer need to worry about their sinfulness, because in Christ they have been given all the righteousness of Christ. They are sinless before God. And they have the Holy Spirit living in them who enables them to live good, loving, godly lives, every day becoming more like Jesus.

The book of Romans seems to be a meditation on this idea. After spending many chapters thinking about the plight of humanity and the grace of God, Paul writes his famous segment in chapter 7 lamenting his inability to live the way he wants to and get rid of his sinful life. He climaxes the chapter with the cry “I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:23-24). It’s certainly a feeling that knowing that you are unable to escape sin’s effects or influence would bring about in you.

But Paul doesn’t stop there. He knows that this feeling shouldn’t drive him to despair, but to Jesus. He goes on to say this: “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do... God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.” (Romans 7:25-8:3)

Paul is saying that his need to sin forces him to turn to Jesus. Only because of Jesus’ death, in our place, for our sins, do we get saved. And what a glorious rescue it is. If there was not original sin, if we did not have an awareness of our own love of evil, would we really feel like we needed Jesus?

Original sin may not make us feel good, but it makes the love of God all the more sweeter, because we know that in that is everything we need, and the only thing we can hope in.

So if I was to sum up my thoughts I’d say this, the issue with original sin making people feel crappy is not that it goes too far, but that it doesn’t go far enough. The gospel focused Christian should not let their friend wallow in their own guilt, but they should point them to the fact they are in fact guiltless. Our sinfulness is not an end point for how we understand ourselves, it’s a starting point; Jesus is the end point.

If you believe in original sin, you should also believe that through faith a person becomes a new creation in Jesus, and so all the effects of the fall are taken care of, either now, or at the resurrection. Anyone who teaches original sin without teaching redemption through Christ teaches an unbiblical message. And anyone who encourages guilt instead of encouraging people to turn to Jesus for forgiveness and new life, forgets that the gospel is not about the sin of humanity but the glory of God.

And those are my thoughts on original sin.

10/06/2010 11:14:00 pm

Sexy Married Time

Posted by Tom French |

mad-men-don-betty.jpg

So I've been thinking, after reading a question in some Christian youth publication, what movies can you think of where you see a married couple having sex? I'm not asking because I'm looking for raunchy sex scenes, only because almost all sex scenes are between couples who are not married.

But actually now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure that's not because Hollywood says married sex is not sexy, but that when sex is generally shown in a film is either because it's a significant moment in a characters journey or it's a bit of character exposition and within married sex isn't generally significant for either of these.

For instance, if there is a sex scene often it's the culmination of a relationship. When two characters have sex they have reached a particular high or low point in their relationship. From there things either plateau or bottom out, depending on whether the sex is seen as a good thing or a bad thing. I'd name some examples but it's in almost every movie. For a married couple this is going to be rare, because sex is going to be a given. The thing which gets commented on will be a couple's lack of sex, which of course cannot be shown through a sex scene (American Beauty may be an exception).

If on the other hand the sex is about character development it's almost always bad or neutral. It says "this character likes sleeping around" (eg the early hot tub scene in Charlie Wilson's War telling us the Mr Wilson has rather loose morals) or "this character has sex" (Havoc's early sex scene perhaps), or "this character has sex and is about to die" (any horror movie in the 80s which was perhaps Hollywood's sex-ed for teens regarding the AIDS crisis).

TV shows on the other hand tend to use sex a little differently. I think you're more likely to have implied sex (eg the pre-sex flirt) between a married couple, usually to show the resolution of whatever issue was between them in that particular story. But they still use sex in much the same way as movies both in plot points and character exposition/development.

From what I can tell in all this Hollywood isn't out to undermine married sex, they are out to tell a story, and show stories that we're interested in. Sex between a married couple just isn't vital enough to story or character in Hollywood to give it screen time. Sex outside of marriage is rarely frowned upon, unless it's adultery but even that is often glamourised. The sin of Hollywood, in my view, is not that it sets out to promote bad sexual behaviour, it just gives us what we want. And we, the public, want interesting sex and married sex just isn't good enough.

That said, some movies and TV shows that I can think of which have married sex as a plot point:

300 - Leonidas and his wife make love before he goes out to battle.
Mad Men - Don and Betty sometimes make love, although we're pretty much always aware that Don is cheating on Betty so it's never a really positive moment.
Friday Night Lights - Coach Taylor and Tami often talk about it and flirt with each other and it's always positive. On the flipside there is a whole episode in season one about their daughter Julie not losing her virginity. It's quite the morally conscious show.

That's all I can think of. But to tell you the truth, I generally try and avoid the films which have heaps of sex in them, and the ones I do see with sex in them, I tend to forget the sex, so I'm sure there are much better examples out there.

Can you think of others?

10/05/2010 12:36:00 am

Waiting Faithfully

Posted by Tom French |

It's been a big week or so for preaching. 2 sermons and 4 kids talks in 8 days.

The first sermon I did was last Sunday. I did it back at my old church. If you want to read about the actual sermon you can read about it here and you can download the sermon here.

It was fun to be back at my old church. I do always enjoy being back. It was my first time in the morning service, and I had a little bit of trouble remembering names of some of the older memebers of the congregation, which was embarrassing. But I got there in the end. Or just mumbled my way through.

I met my old Year Advisor at church. He'd started going to church there about 6 months after I left. It was a little odd, but he's a good guy. I'm pretty sure my year got the best year advisor in the school. In fact I think I would have quite liked having him at church when I was there. Although I may have been more self concious about all my sermon illustrations about school.

One of the families from the church had me over to lunch afterwards and invited some of the youth and young adults around to join us. It was really nice. I do love that bunch. In some ways it's a bit sad catching up with that crew, especially people who were in my youth group, because their life goes on and I don't get to be a part of it anymore.

On the other hand my life goes on too, and there is much richness here. Saying "Yes" to one thing is saying "No" to another, that's what they say. If only we weren't finite. Or we were just ever expanding like the universe.

Maybe we are ever expanding like the universe but so is everything else at the same rate, so we'd never know.

I should think about that some more.

9/29/2010 08:59:00 pm

Sirens and Bright Light

Posted by Tom French |

I was driving home from Bible Study on Monday night with my new British friend, Ant, and as we drove past a telegraph pole in Hornsby, I looked up and saw a bright light. I said to Ant "Look there's someone welding, on top of the pole, all by themselves." I thought it was odd that there would be a person on top of a telegraph pole at 10:30pm doing some welding. But then when I looked further, I saw there was no person up there, just the bright light. I realised that this was electricity, burning brightly where it shouldn't be burning brightly, coming out of the top of a telegraph pole.

This was an exciting discovery for me, this meant it was an emergency. So I said dramatically "We're going to have to call emergency services!" I put on my hazards and did a u-turn to get a better look, used my iPhone GPS to figure out exactly where it was, then dialed triple-0. I reported that there was a telegraph pole on fire, and I think the lady on the other end was happy to have taken such an pivotal call in the safety of the nation and our fight against terrorism and stuff.

Once that was done we parked and wandered a little closer to watch this sparking electrical brilliance. At times is grew very bright, bright like a thousand suns (minus 999.9999 of them) and made a noise some what resembling battle involving multiple lightsabers. We didn't stand too close, as we thought it might explode. That was certainly my hope.

The Fireys and the Cops arrived about 3 minutes after I called. They parked right opposite the sparking thing, so it seemed they weren't too worried about explosions.

I was then hoping to see some action as the fireys set about putting it out but everyone just stood around staring at it. They informed us that you can't really put the fire out, you just have to turn off the electricity.

So it was less exciting than I'd hoped. But still more exciting than a normal drive home.

As it turned out, one of the fire fighters was my friend Wayne who I used to think was awesome when I was a kid, and who I got lost in a canyon with when we all went canyoning with Keith. It was a nice moment.

When we realised nothing more was going to happen, we left. Our work was done, Hornsby was safe in the hands of the NSW Fire Brigade.

9/29/2010 12:03:00 am

Hotness

Posted by Tom French |

I am Australia's Next Top Model!

No... wait... sorry... hold on... I'm feeling a bit sick about this... actually, it's Amanda.

Damn it.

9/22/2010 02:02:00 pm

Lament

Posted by Tom French |

Sometimes I wish I had a girlfriend so we could share our Google Calendars.

9/19/2010 10:58:00 pm

Sleep Don't Weep

Posted by Tom French |

Do what you must do to find yourself
Wear another shoe

Paint my shelf



- Damien Rice

9/19/2010 05:13:00 pm

We Went Running

Posted by Tom French |

After the City 2 Surf Jem, Gem and I got all excited to run the Bridge Run, a 9km run across the Harbour Bridge. I was going to train hard and be awesome.

Alas...

I ran once, a few days after the City 2 Surf and didn't run again. Gem and Jem run only once too.

Today was race day, and we ran. None of us died. In fact we all found it way too easy.

We've decided to do the half marathon.

We're going to train hard and be awesome.

9/17/2010 02:30:00 pm

Why plant a Church? Isn't that arrogance?

Posted by Tom French |

church.jpg

A few days ago Howie blogged about not seeing the need for church plants (i.e. starting new churches). I wrote a comment that was probably longer than anyone bothered to read, but I was glad I did, because it's something that I've been meaning to blog about. As I've written this though, I think it may need to be a two parter. So I guess this is part one of two.

Ever since I told the world that I'm planning on planting a church, people have constantly asked me "Why do we need another church?" The implication being we already have plenty of churches, and most of them aren't full, so why start a new church. While not everyone is down on the idea, I certainly don't have overwhelming support from all quarters, especially from many close friends and family. I'm not offended, and would prefer they told me their misgiving than say nothing at all, or support me to my face, but rip on the idea behind my back. I feel privileged to have friends and family who love me enough to let me know when they aren't all that keen on the idea.

What follows is not a rebuke of those people who disagree with my decision to plant, but rather my thoughts on why people tend to object to the idea of church planting. And they're just my thoughts so obviously I may not even be right.

Whatever the state of the Australian church I think the response to church planting from many people would be the same. Were the Australian church going great guns, I suspect people would say "There are plenty of churches doing a great job, why do we need someone else doing the same thing?" and if the church was doing poorly people would say "Why not build up existing churches rather than start something new?"

For whatever other misgivings people have about church planting I suspect that much of the discomfort with the idea of church planting comes not primarily from a concern for the established churches, but from a concern with the attitude of the plant and the planters. I think the idea of planting a church, especially an independent one, brings with it a certain air of arrogance. Planting a church has the perceived message of "The established church isn't good enough, I'm going to do it better." Add to this that planting a church necessitates a level of entrepreneurialism, which requires the planter/planters to possess a level of self-belief that says "I have what it takes to make this happen." Then add to this that to plant a church you will almost certainly be taking strong Christians out of the local church they are serving in, to start something new, and you're now saying "The church isn't good enough, I have what it takes to make something better, and I'm going to make other churches weaker to do it." That is arrogance, and if there is anything Australians don't like, it's arrogance.

In the US I think church plants are more easily accepted, because they value, as a nation, the idea that someone can make themselves into something. Anyone can be President, anyone can earn a million dollars. If you believe in yourself it's not pride or arrogance, it's confidence. They are a nation born from people wanting to build something out of nothing, and they've done it. A bunch of pilgrims on boats becomes, in around 400 years, the most powerful nation in the history of the world. And so church planters are more readily accepted (though it would be silly of me to think they're all accepted all the time) because they embody, to some extent, the outworking of the American entrepreneurial spirit.

In Australia however we come from different stock. We're convicts or soldiers, sent by the government to colonise a foreign land. We're not here because of someone's dreams to build something great. We're here because the powers that be decided it'd be that way and we were forced to build a nation. And build a nation we did. We were not a nation that was founded by great men, we were a nation that had greatness thrust upon it. And as a result we value hard work, mateship, and equality. We don't like people trying to be boss, we value the boss being like the common person. We don't say "Let the best man win", we say "Lend your mate a hand".

Our heroes are not great people who led our nation in times of turbulent change and trouble, the are common people who rose to a challenge. We don't have an Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jnr, or Winston Churchill. We love Simpson and his donkey, we love the members of the Rural Fire Service, and the Surf Life Savers. We don't love Anthony Mundine, we love Stephen Bradbury and we love Cathy Freeman.

And so when someone says "I'm going to do something great" we say "Get back in your place".

I may have missed the mark, and I'm sure I have simplified and generalised the American and Australian character*, but these are factors that I suspect feed into our distrust of confidence and our distaste for arrogance which is playing out in the current interest and discussion regarding church planting in Australia.

Now I'm not saying that people are thinking about all this when they have misgivings about church planting. I am saying I think a lot of the people who have issues with church planting, will at some level, be interacting with the perceived arrogance of church planting.

And the arrogance of church planters is not always a misapplied characterisation. I remember talking to one church planter who told me that to some extent or another you need to be ego driven to plant a church. And certainly the line between self-belief and arrogance is a fine one, which is probably often crossed by church planters, especially those of us who haven't planted yet and haven't been broken by the process yet.

For my part I am fully aware of the arrogance of saying "I'm going to start a church." I know what kind of message independent church planting seems to send to the established churches.

I am someone who gels more with the character of leading when leadership is necessitated rather than seeking out positions of leadership. I am never someone who has sort to take on great tasks of leadership. Probably partly to avoid responsibility, but also to maintain an image of humility. God forbid that I should step forward and ask to lead lest people think I am arrogant.

The great thing about youth ministry is that while I led, I was never in it to be a leader, I was in it to be with the youth. And I could very comfortably have been a youth minister for many more years. Youth ministers always have someone over them, they don't have to aspire to greatness, and the buck never stops with them.

But now I'm church planting and I'm very uncomfortable with the idea of me stepping forward and saying "I can lead a church. I can build a church from scratch. I have what it takes."

The truth is I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm pretty sure I don't have what it takes. I don't think I know how to do church better than other churches. I don't want to start something new. I'm scared my plans of having three senior pastors is just a way of avoiding being in charge. If I could do anything I'd be a youth minister again, and I'd do that forever.

But I have been called. I am sure that God has called me to church plant. And so my job is obedience. While I would prefer to take the path of least resistance and I know that church planting will cost me dearly, my greater pleasure is to serve my Lord. So my first, and most foundational answer to the question of "Why plant a church?" is "God has told me to." In greatness or failure, arrogance or humility, church planting is what I'm doing. And I could have got that wrong but right now that's the only obedience I know how to do.



That's part one. Tune in next time for "Why plant a Church? Don't we have enough churches?"


*I'm also aware that, particularly in the case of Australia, I have ignored the non-Anglo heritage of Australia, particularly the Aboriginal history of the country. I do this only because I am concerned with our response to entrepreneurialism, rather than out of any desire to ignore other important parts of our history.

Photo by: PhillipC

9/15/2010 02:24:00 pm

Waiting

Posted by Tom French |

I'm sitting in a school staff room, in between chapels. I finished talking about The Prodigal Son an hour ago. It feels strange giving that talk. I think I originally wrote it 6 years ago, but I'm still trotting it out.
 
I acidentally made the mistake of saying, in one if my illustrations talking about the last night of a camp, "I found everyone sharing beds and sharing doonas." For a bunch of year 7 and 8s this was just an invitation to giggle about the supposed mass orgie I had discovered. I tried to recover but gave up and moved on. For the record I should have said "sitting on each other's beds and sharing doonas".

In about 10 minutes I talking about Jesus and superheros to the primary school, so I should go focus on that.

9/11/2010 02:08:00 pm

Watermelons and Pride

Posted by Tom French |

Last night at youth group I was speaking on Evangelism as a value for our youth group. I talked about our need to share the good news of Jesus. This gave me the perfect opportunity to talk about our love of sharing dumb videos and to show two of the most watched videos on YouTube this week.

Seeing as I love YouTube, this was perfect.

First I showed this one, because I think it's brilliant:



Then I showed this one because it seemed to have been the biggest thing on YouTube in the previous 24 hours. I'm not normally a fan of people getting hurt videos. Actually I am, but I try not to be. But I showed this not to laugh but to make a point about the uselessness of the things we share. Still, I may have laughed a bit:



Anyway, the talk itself seemed to go ok. I gave the kids an opportunity to become Christians and what was great is that two of them indicated that they wanted to become Christians! So in hindsight, the talk went brilliantly.

But despite the kingdom success I didn't feel all that good about the talk. I came home thinking I spoke too long, that it wasn't interesting enough and it was a bit of a mess. One of the leaders told me they found my gospel presentation "interesting". They clarified that it wasn't wrong or heretical, just interesting. I didn't quite know what this meant, so I worried then about my presentation of the gospel too.

So I came home feeling a little depressed. Which is highly dumb. I'm sure it was partly due to the fact that I was coming off the back of another big week of Bible talk preparing and giving, so I wasn't feeling real happy.

Still, it was dumb. Here I am, two kids have believed the Gospel for the first time and prayed to become a Christian, and I'm worrying about whether my talk was good enough. How full of pride I am that my primary response after my talk is not "How amazing God is that people gave their life to Jesus!" but "Oh dear, I don't think my talk was good/funny/interesting/short enough."

Less of me. More of Him.

9/11/2010 12:24:00 pm

Question

Posted by Tom French |

If you had to choose between being a dophin who could talk, or a mute human with flippers for arms who could swim like a dolphin what would you choose?

9/08/2010 05:31:00 pm

Work and Laziness

Posted by Tom French |

I'm writing a talk at the moment on work and laziness in the book of Proverbs. It's for a school. I was asked to do it. I didn't realise I could have picked another topic. This is a shame because work and laziness are not very exciting ideas. I'm not passionate about people working hard. I especially don't want to be the guy who turns up to school and says "Work hard and you'll achieve stuff", I hated those speeches at school. And the "Don't waste your education" speeches, I hated them too. I don't want to be that guy. I want to stand there and say "Don't open your HSC. Don't stress. Go out late at night. Only do the homework you want to do. You are not your education." Though I'm pretty sure I wouldn't get invited back.

I might try and find the middle way. I might tell them all to become plumbers, cause plumbers are awesome.

9/07/2010 11:09:00 pm

Sov Grace

Posted by Tom French |

I went to the launch of the Sovereign Grace Sydney on Sunday. I was there because both my housemates are part of the core planting team and I wanted to cheer them on. I also wanted to see how it'd all go down. I've never been to a church launch before.

It was a very enjoyable experience. The service was smooth (except perhaps for the tempremental keyboard at the end). The music was good. The preaching engaging. The people welcoming. It was a well executed first service. It felt very much like they'd been preparing for months and now they finally got the chance to pull it off, which I guess was the case.

Dave Taylor, the pastor, gave a good message on keeping the gospel central. He was passionate, Jesus focused, and he had the ability to keep everyone engaged for the whole message. Most importantly it moved me to love Jesus more.

I did really enjoy the sung worship. We spent half an hour singing four songs. It was the kind of charismatic-esque worship I don't get to do much of these days.

At one point I was sitting there thinking, "If I was a little more flaky, I'd quit my church and come here." Not because I don't like my church, I love my church, but because they did everything really well in a way I really liked. My guess it's not too hard to do everything well. They're the first plant in Australia from a large, successful US based ministry. They can pick a quality pastor from their worldwide network to come out and plant the church, and then, because of their reputation they can attract a good core of people for their core team, and they can pick a bunch of the most talented, highly functional Christians to do the plant with. If they weren't doing things well there'd be something wrong.

Anyway, none of this is a bad thing. I was impressed, and tempted toward church lust. I wonder if it's a similar feeling that married men get when they see a young, hot lady pass by and know they can't have her. That said, I'm not dissatisfied with my church, but I know the issues of my church, I don't know the issues of Sov Grace, all I see is the shiny, alluring, first day, launch specialness. If we're still going with the marriage metaphor, Sov Grace had on it's wedding night lingerie on Sunday while I'm pretty sure I'm at the stage with my church where they're not embarrassed to wear the grandma undies in front of me.

Hmmm, I should probably end this metaphor now.

All this to say, I'm sure Sov Grace will grow quickly and I pray they do and they fill up with people meeting Jesus for the first time and people coming back to Jesus after some "time off". They're going to be a good gospel witness in Sydney. I'm not going to quit my church for them, but I will cheer them on from the sideline. For my church I'll pray that we'll also can be a good gospel witness and that we too can look hot in some ecclesiastical lingerie.

9/07/2010 06:34:00 pm

It's Done

Posted by Tom French |

Well I'm pretty pleased we have a government now. That was, however, a very enjoyable 17 days.

I think Rob Oakeshott is a bit of a dude.

I was amused that right after Oakeshott and Windsor announced their intentions my Facebook feed filled up with people proclaiming the imminent ruin of Australia. I'm pretty sure, whoever they sided with, Australia wouldn't get ruined. As far as I can tell neither Labor or the Liberals would set about turning Australia into a police state, or legislating forced abortions, euthanasia and gay marriage. Neither of them are going start burning books or merging Australia with North Korea. They're just going to plod along making good decisions and bad decisions none of which will immediately send Australia into Zimbabwean territory. We're rather blessed to live in a country where we can survive in a country where we have no government for 17 days and there are no riots, no military coups, no assassinations, we just keep going on our way and make amusing websites.

I was similarly amused by the article on SMH that said that Rob Oakeshott "held Australia hostage" because he took 15 minutes to tell the press conference that he was siding with Labor. Giving the man 15 minutes after he's spent the last 17 days trying to sort out the next three years of Australian government for the country is a small ask. I'm very thankful for the diligence and care that Katter, Windsor and Oakeshott put into their decision. I don't think anyone should accuse them of taking their role lightly, though I'm sure they will.

What has interested me in all this is the vast difference of opinion that Christians can have in politics. You can get a bunch of Christians together who all have basically the same views on the Bible, on persona morality, on their theology - but then you get them to talk about politics, and they'll be people all over the political spectrum.

In my house there are three of us, we are all pretty much of the same view of things in our faith, we all believe in the authority of the Bible, we're all pretty much reformed in our theology, as far as the churches practice and message goes we probably all have the same view on abortion, gay marriage, care for the poor, etc. But I think we each voted Liberal, Labor and Greens or maybe one of them should be changed to Family First. This makes me happy. I love that loving Jesus doesn't make you vote one way or the other. And I love that it's rare that people will question your faith just because of who you choose to vote for.

I'm thankful for democracy. I'm thankful for politics. And I'm still thankful for Mike Kelly's moustache.

9/05/2010 11:55:00 pm

Guess Who?

Posted by Tom French |

Yesterday I had a work event on and there was a guy there who I went on camp with last year. I was the speaker and he was on of the leaders, he came up to me to say "Hello" but I couldn't for the life of me remember his name. It was the old "Hey Tom, how you going?" "Heeeyyyy, not too bad, how are you?"

I thought he must have been one of the directors of the camp because there was a camp directors' weekend on there at the time. As we talked I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what his name was and what else I knew about him. Then I remembered that both the directors were studying medicine, or were doctors or something. I thought, "Great, I'll ask how that's going and it'll be clear from the question that I remember who he is" and that could make up for the obvious fact that I completely forgot his name.

So I said "How's your studies?"

And he replied "I finished last year, I'm working now."

Me: "Oh so are you saving people's lives?"

Him: "I'm not sure you save many lives in the media."

Damn! Now it's freakin' obvious you have no idea who he is, dig up! Dig up!

Me: "Well... you know... Jack Bauer, he saves people's lives, and he's in the media, sort of, well, he's a fictional character, portrayed in the media, who's saving people's lives... actually he kinda kills more people...yeah..."

Idiot!

9/03/2010 05:20:00 pm

Love You Love Me

Posted by Tom French |

I sometimes worry that my acts of love and kindness are motivated not by love and kindness but rather by pride. I'm not so concerned for other people, as I am that other people will think I'm a loving, kind person. I do good so that people will think I'm good. And I don't do bad, because I want people to think I'm good.

This isn't so good.

8/28/2010 06:52:00 pm

Update

Posted by Tom French |

A lot of people have been asking me how the video went down so I thought I should share.

The teachers liked it and the students seemed to warm to it. I showed it at the beginning of the talk and the students looked like that couldn't figure out what to make of it for the first minute or so. But after that they started laughing a bit. Which is probably about as much as you can hope for from a high school group. High school doesn't generally make teenagers enthusiastic and excited about anything coming from the front.

At very least, it wasn't an major disaster, so I'm thankful for that.

8/24/2010 11:26:00 pm

Spiritual Gifts

Posted by Tom French |

I'm speaking at a school on Thursday in a series they're doing called "Life According to YouTube". This is an excellent idea. They asked me to speak on spiritual gifts, and I couldn't find any videos on YouTube that would work, so I decided to make my own. I'm really hoping the 200 high school students get the joke.

Special thanks to Howie for being Director of Photography and lending all his technical equipment to the cause.

8/21/2010 09:20:00 pm

Hung

Posted by Tom French |

I'm really looking forward to a hung parliament. That would be the perfect outcome. Two good election results in row. I hope so.

8/21/2010 07:23:00 pm

Mo Kelly

Posted by Tom French |

kelly-200x250.jpg

Mike Kelly has an awesome moustache. If only I could have voted for him.

8/21/2010 07:13:00 pm

Now It Gets Exciting

Posted by Tom French |

I had a really good time voting today. I almost numbered 1-84 below the line for the Senate, but I wasn't inspired enough this year. I went with Gem and Jem. We voted at the RSL so rewarded ourselves with lunch. We met Lesley in the line to vote so she joined us for the celebratory lunch.

Now I'm settling in now for a night of election coverage with Jem and Lesley with Gem joining us latert. From what's been a pretty unimpressive election lead up from both major parties, it means that the election will be close. I'm excited because I like a close election. I may be unhappy with both the major parties, but I'm quite happy to watch a battle of the mediocres. Plus I'm hoping for something new to happen, like a hung Parliament, or perhaps the Greens to take Government by some freak voting event. I'd love a freak voting event. Maybe even the Sex Party will hold the balance of power in the Senate. I really doubt it, but wouldn't that be good for a laugh?

I love elections.

8/19/2010 05:19:00 pm

Dysfunctional and Loving It

Posted by Tom French |



I'm kinda enjoying this song at the moment. Perhaps enjoying is not the word. I'm glad there's a song on the radio that's about more than sex. Plus it is a good song.

What worries me however is that girls in dysfunctional relationships will hear it, it'll resonate and they'll think "Yeah, that's my life" but guys in dysfunctional relationships will hear it and say "Yeah if she ever does try and leave me again I will tie her to the bed and set the house on fire. Good idea, thanks Eminem." I'd really like the song to end with Eminem saying "If you beat up on your girlfriend, you suck" or something equally non-ambiguous. But I guess there's a difference between art and social service announcements. I just hope people who suck understand art.

8/18/2010 11:07:00 pm

Wednesday Nights are Election Nights

Posted by Tom French |

I love Wednesday nights. It's all politics on the ABC, and one of the programs is even funny (Thank you Gruen Nation). It's good because this election has been pretty dull. Since my last post on the election the only really interesting thing that has happened is the Libs absurd broadband plan. Actually it's not totally absurd, it's just mediocraty, spun as a good idea. "Our answer to a high quality but expensive plan, is a low quality but cheap plan." It's like everyone was thinking we were going to get a new car and now the Liberals want us to get excited about 1984 Datsun.

Not that I'm too worried, because I don't think the Libs will win, and even if they did I don't think their broadband plan is sustainable in the long term, it'll only be viable for a little while before Australia is forced to catch to the rest of the developed world.

And I really enjoyed seeing Tony Abbott getting schooled by Kerry O'Brian on the 730 Report.

Other than that I guess Latham has been mildly entertaining but he hasn't really been part of the campaign, just part of the side show. And I did enjoy seeing Julia getting asked lots if questions from loyal Kevinists at the People's Forum in Brisband tonight even if her answers were as dull as concrete. Actually duller than concrete, sorry Dad.

I still don't know who to vote for. I have noticed that if I donkey vote in my electorate Joe Hockey will get my vote and I'd like to avoid that. Maybe I'll do a reverse donkey. That sounds vaguely rude, but it's not, you've all just got dirty minds.

8/18/2010 07:20:00 pm

Gruen Youth Ministry Brilliance

Posted by Tom French |

I think I heard what could be the greatest youth group advertisment ever today. I was at a school speaking in their chapel and this plucky little year 6 girl got up to do an announcement and proceed to tell us everything about her youth group. I found out that year fives aren't allowed to attend but year 6, 7 and 8 are. Year 7 and 8 should attend because they need some fun in their life, they always look so bored in chapel. I found out that at youth group the girls have dance parties, go bowling and go to the movies and the boys just eat chips and wrestle. I found out that there's no food at youth group because the boys would eat it all. I found out that the boys always win Minute to Win It, except last week the girls won because girls are the best (at this point she commanded the girls to scream, which one half-heartedly did). Last week they played throwing ping pong balls at toast covered in peanut butter. They got to eat the toast afterwards. I also found out the name of every female youth leader in the youth group, but none of the male leaders (presumably because, as I also found out, boys suck). I found out that the youth group runs across the road from the Bi-Lo. The end.

Like I said, probably the greatest youth group ad ever.

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