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.

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