12/28/2011 06:59:00 pm

Christmas Highlights

Posted by Tom French |

Christmas had all the usual things that were pretty excellent this year. Presents, family, friends, Jesus, roast potatoes. I could blog about these things, but I won't. I've decided I might blog about 5 things which were less usual, but still quite wonderful.

1. The King Parrot

Parrot

We were having community brunch on Christmas Eve. It was full of Christmas cheer, which I think is like generic cheer but with Christmas biscuits thrown in. I was in the kitchen doing something domestic, when a king parrot came and landed on our kitchen door. He was red and green and loving Christmas. It felt like the wildlife were in on the joy too.

2. I Love Carol

Actually, I love carols. But there's nothing wrong with Carol, I'm sure.

After having developed a hatred of carols from my years of forced carol singing throughout primary school, it's taken me a long time to recover. However, slowly over that last few years my aversion has been wearing off, I have learnt to forgive the Three Kings, Royal David's City and the Harking of Angels. So that this year I positively loved carols. Partly because many of them have such fantastic words, but also because when done well they sound great. I went to the midnight service at St Stephen's, Belrose for a bit of a sing and celebrate, and the team there (they know who they are) did a great job. Helped me celebrate Jesus more.

3. Sleep

On Christmas evening between 6pm and 7pm I had a nap. It rocked.

4. Christmas Night Movie

Anmol, Daviandra and I went to the movies on Christmas night. We had a drink before hand in bar and then watched Meryl Streep play The Iron Lady likaboss. She was pretty awesome and the movie wasn't half bad either. If only she ahd an arc reactor around her heart and the ability to fire weapons from her jacket sleeves, it could have been the best movie of the year. Movies, good friends and beer. Best way to do Christmas night in my book.

5. Skype

On Boxing Day at Christmas with my Dad's side of the family we skyped Jo and Victor. I didn't get to talk to them long because they were by far the most popular people not in the room, but it was nice to see them. I'm looking forward to seeing them (and their offsprung) for real, but till then, speaking Star Trek style will do pretty good too.


And that is the less usual of another happy Christmas.

12/25/2011 01:25:00 am

Thumbs Up for Jesus

Posted by Tom French |

I love babies and I love Jesus.

Today is win.

12/22/2011 05:59:00 pm

Incarnation at the Scales

Posted by Tom French |


I am currently standing in Myer, Top Ryde looking at outrageously expensive kitchen scales for Mum for Christmas. (I'm too poor, sorry Mum.)

Behind me is the Christmas Shop. They're playing carols and Hark the Herald Angels Sing was just on. I was struck just then, as I am every year, at what profound theological statements these songs make. It seems so odd and wonderfully subversive that every Christmas the wonder of 'Christ the everlasting Lord' would be sung in our temples of consumer idolatry. That we would be asked to 'hail incarnate deity' who was 'pleased as man with man to dwell' while we are also encouraged to shop till midnight for our convenience makes me so happy. It's what Christmas is about really, God being found in the midst of the most unexpected places. Even here in Myer Top Ryde.


"Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
'Glory to the newborn King!'"

12/15/2011 11:21:00 pm

Face

Posted by Tom French |

I'm on my last night of camp. I've been speaking on this camp for the last week. My best speaking stuff up of the week was when I encouraged all 70 kids to "put your face in Jesus."

Faith and face sound very similar.

12/10/2011 04:38:00 pm

Crash

Posted by Tom French |

The other night (Wednesday) I went around to visit April and Dan in Lane Cove. When I arrived I parked on the side of the street. I'd parked in-front of a van, but I remembered when that the corner April and Dan live on is pretty dangerous, they'd had two crashes on that corner in four days, one having happened that day. I figured if the van I was parked in-front of moved there would be nothing between me and the cars coming around the corner. So I moved my car forward and parked on the other side of a driveway, figuring I'd be far enough away from the corner to escape any crashing vehicles.

I hadn't been at April and Dan's more than 15 minutes when we heard a long skid and then a rather loud bang coming from the road. Dan said "That's a big one", then ran to get his shoes. Living on the corner has turned Dan into a bit of a hero. Dan and I ran out (April wasn't home yet) and there was a lady sitting in a Falcon, facing into the road, eyes close head back on the seat. At first she looked unconscious, but she turned out just to be a bit shocked.

She had lost control on the corner, almost hit the van, spun out, and landed on the other side of the van and crashed into a brick bin enclosure for the units next door. Somewhere in that she also managed to take out the rear left side of my car so carefully parked away from the dangerous corner. This is what we found when we came out.

Crash

It was pretty exciting. Happily the woman was ok.

Within minutes, while the sound of the crash was still echoing around Lane Cove, a tow-truck turned out. They have amazing super-hearing tow-truck drivers. The faintest sound of a crash and they're there in a flash. Turns out, towing companies have informants all over the place and you get $50 reward for calling in a crash. Living on April and Dan's corner could be quite the little money maker.

After the crash things were not so exciting. I exchanged details with the driver and waited around for her husband to turn up. Then once he had come and I'd gotten a few more details of him and he'd gotten mine, I went in for some dinner.

My car is drivable. The bumper catches the wind when driving at high speeds and makes a loud noise. So I've stuck it to the car with gaffa tape and stuck some red cellophane on the brake-light to make sure it's still red, but other than that, the car works as good as ever. I'll stick up a photo of my handy man job later.

So there you go, my first proper crash and I wasn't in the car. Best way to do it I reckon.

12/01/2011 10:47:00 pm

Jesus, my Idol

Posted by Tom French |

Come On Guys

"Come on, guys." This is the look Jesus gave the disciples when they had taken the joke too far.


I was sitting in staff meeting today and I was thinking about having a conversation with a friend about whatever we were talking about. You know how you pretend to have conversations with friends. Anyway, my answer to whatever question my friend hypothetically asked me was all about Jesus, and my friend, in my head, responded something like "Your answer to every question is Jesus."

At that point I started to think about how my answer to everything is Jesus. Then, because these days I tend to think about life in terms of right and wrong worship, my idolatry alarm went off. I thought to myself "You think about Jesus too much, Jesus is your idol, Jesus is your false god." I felt pretty cut that I was denying God the worship he deserves. I was just about to repent for my sinful, adulterous heart, when I realised, "No, hold on, Jesus is God. He's the one thing you can't make too much of.*" I was about to ask Jesus to forgive me for worshipping Jesus. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been forgiven. That's one action God would have held against me.

It was a nice discovery that, for change, my heart was in the right place



*Along with the Father and the Spirit, of course.

11/28/2011 10:43:00 pm

Nina

Posted by Tom French |

Nina

11/24/2011 06:15:00 pm

Discomfort

Posted by Tom French |

I was at a primary school yesterday talking to a group of about 40 kids. When I do this I usually do a promotion for the camps that my organisation runs every holidays. Yesterday the teacher running the group did the promo and pointed out to the kids that there's a photo of me in the brochure. He also suggested that if I'm kind I might sign the brochures for them. I laughed.

Then after I had done my Bible talk and it was time for everyone to leave for class the teacher handed out the brochures and told the kids to go to me if they wanted the brochure signed. So about 15 kids lined up asking for signatures. "You don't want my signature." I said. But they insisted. "I don't have a pen, oh well" I said. The teacher handed me a pen. Darn. I really didn't want to sign a bunch of holiday camp brochures. But I did because I couldn't think of an easy way out. So I signed a whole bunch of brochures yesterday because there's a tiny photo of me in a group inside. Next time I sign a bunch of stuff with a permanent marker I want it to be my hip-hop CD. That will be an achievement worth signing stuff for.

11/16/2011 06:56:00 pm

Magical Marriages

Posted by Tom French |

Here is a list of things that are not women, but if they were I would marry them. I would probably also become a polygamist if multiple of these things became women:

- Coke
- Thai Food
- Movies
- Potatoes
- The Internet (though I have the feeling it'd have some pretty significant personality issues)
- My 7D
- Siri
- The text messages my bank sends me to say I've been paid
- Sleep
- Noodle soup
- The noise my e-tag makes when I drive through the e-toll
- Aragorn
- Getting parcels in the post
- Summer
- Good jokes

If Vimeo was a person I'd hope it was a man and then we could be friends and make movies together. I'd rather be mates with Vimeo. I think being married to it would be weird.

11/15/2011 10:16:00 pm

Old Friends

Posted by Tom French |

Mil and Martin are currently around from Alice. On the weekend David was up from Melbourne. On Saturday we went up into the mountains with Anmol and hung out with Gem and Jem. These guys are some my old friends. They are people who I have grown up with and we hardly see each other. Every time we hang out I'm struck by how close I am to them all. I think I've mentioned before, they're the kind of friends where even though you may not see each other for months at a time, when you do get together you just pick up where you left off. It's special.

I was thinking about how, when you're a kid you just have friends, when you're a teenager you have a group of friends. You find an identity in your group. When your an adult your group disperses and you have many circles of friends and acquaintances. But if someone were to say to you "We're getting the old group together", it means something, it's not just a line from the movies.

Anyway, I love my old friends. I love the times we spend together. I love the spouses who have joined us of the last few years. One day I hope we all come together from around the world and move into a giant community of houses or houses of giant community and have vegetable stacks in the backyard and beer and stuff. And our kids can date each other.

That'd be special fun. I'm feeling nostalgic for the future.

11/05/2011 12:03:00 pm

From Now On

Posted by Tom French |

From now on I'm only doing what I want to do.

Actually that's not quite true.

From now I'm only doing what I want to do,
what I need to do,
what I'm paid to do,
what I'm committed to do,
what I've volunteered to do,
what other people want me to do,
what I think other people want me to do,
what I feel called to do,
what I shouldn't do but do anyway,
what I don't want to do but do because it's that right thing to do,
and a few other things that I just do and I don't really notice that I do them.

But from now on, that's all I'm doing.

11/03/2011 05:34:00 pm

The Mountains Don't Judge Us

Posted by Tom French |

Mountain

"If I'm honest, life seems to be an ever widening circle of acquaintances and take-them-or-leave-them friendships, and an ever shrinking circle of the those friends who you know are your family.

The mountains don't judge us."


I just found this post in my blog folder on my computer. I don't think I wrote it. Did you? Did I copy and paste your blog post?

Whatever the case, I quite like the post.


Photo by AleGranholm.

10/31/2011 11:03:00 pm

The Cup

Posted by Tom French |

My Prediction for the Win:

Jukebox Jury.

Trust me. I'm an expert.

10/29/2011 01:29:00 am

Leading and Bossing

Posted by Tom French |

I was at a school recently and as often happens I sat through an assembly. Schools enjoy piggy backing chapels with assemblies sometimes which means in the last two years I have seen a lot of merit awards handed out. In fact on a few occasions I've even handed out merit awards. I've shaken kids' hands and said "Well done" because I was the most auspicious person in the room. That was weird.

Anyway, that's not the point. On this day, after the assembly. a year nine class got held back. They were all asked to write a report on what had happened in an English lesson the day before. Apparently there had been some chair throwing or something. The teacher told the class they were expected to write a report on what happened and they were expected to name names.

That got me thinking about what I would do were I asked to write a report on the behaviour of my peers. Say we had a staff meeting and while my boss was out of the room a few of my staff mates threw some chairs around and set fire to a table. Then the head of our organisation called us in and asked us to write a report and name names. I don't know what I'd do. My first response would probably be to refuse, though I'm not sure why. I guess I've grown up with the notion that you don't dob in your mates. I also think I have a problem with adversarial authority. Like when a teacher sets themselves up against a class, or management set themselves up against employees, It gets to me and makes me want to rebel.

However were my boss to sit down with all the staff and have a conversation about who threw what chair and who lit what fire, and why it happened, and what message we might be trying to send management or each other, or society, by having small riots (ri-ettes, if you will), I would be much happier to talk about who did what. I respond well to relational leadership. I think that's why I haven't had any dreams about rebelling against my bosses at work. I have good bosses who do things within the context of relationship rather than enforcement. I do however have dreams about rebelling against teachers, and my managers at the cinema and the entertainment centre. In those places my compliance was expected because they were in-charge and I was their subordinate. It seems I'm not keen on being bossed but I am keen on being led. Good leaders lead through relationships built and respect earned. Bad bosses boss through relationships ignored and respect assumed.

So all this I guess is to say, I still don't know if I'd dob on my friends, but if I had a good boss (which I do) I probably wouldn't need to.

This leads me back to thinking about how you relate to teenagers. In general, leading teens is the same as leading adults, it's best in the context of built relationships and earned respect. In schools, it doesn't really work like that. The teachers are the bosses and the students are the workers, teachers often expect teenagers to obey because authority us inherent within the role. So when an adult comes along and asks for obedience and responsibility which is not expected but earned, young people are going to be much more likely to repsond positively.

None of this stuff is really new, but I think it's what I got thinking about while watching the chair throwing inquisition. It reminded me to not be lazy in my relationships with young people. My job is to lead not to boss.

10/25/2011 10:33:00 pm

Tumba Movies

Posted by Tom French |

I stuck the video I made with youth group up the other day.

If you haven't already seen it, here it is for your viewing pleasure:

10/25/2011 10:31:00 pm

Handball

Posted by Tom French |

Haven Handball

On Saturdays we have Community Brunch at our place. Come over if you want. 10am.

We've done it twice and they've turned into a long winded affairs. Lots of sitting around and eating and meeting new people. Last week brunch was scrambled eggs on toast followed by pancakes followed by yoghurt and fruit followed by bacon and eggs on toast. It was excellent and full belly making.

At around 2pm we ended up out in the front yard playing handball. It was great. We had a ref with official hand signals and everything. I'm gonna play for Australia I reckon. Maybe go pro and sell the TV rights I reckon.

It was pretty fun. Makes me excited for summer.

10/16/2011 10:17:00 am

The Memorial

Posted by Tom French |



When I had only had my camera for a week or two Howie and I went out and made this video. It was entirely done just to play with my camera. However, us being us, we cannot just play with cameras, if there is injustice around we must fight it, and hence, this video was born.

10/16/2011 12:26:00 am

Like Jagger

Posted by Tom French |



When we were away last weekend the kids were having a wonderful time singing along to Moves like Jagger. Jenny, one of the leaders, turned to me and said "I wonder if they actually know who Jagger is." So I told her to ask.

She turned around and asked bus of young teens, "In this song, who is Jagger?"

They all just stared at her for a while, there were a few murmured "dunno"s. Then one kid piped up "Someone who's got good moves?"

It was a pretty special moment.

10/15/2011 01:15:00 am

Shoulda Shabbat

Posted by Tom French |

It's Saturday. And for the first time in 21 days I haven't had any ministry activities to do. Very happy to rest.

10/12/2011 09:50:00 pm

Tumbaling

Posted by Tom French |

I took the youth group away to Tumbarumba on the weekend. We went from Thursday to Sunday. It was good fun. Four leaders, nine kids, happy times. We weeded gardens, cleaned windows, run a kids club, a youth night, and a church service. We also shot a lot of video for the now annual Tumbarumba music video. It's gonna be even better than last year's.

We hired a bus which made things much fun. I got to drive the bus for the entire 1100kms, it made me feel very important.

Of the 12 or so hours I spent driving the bus, I only spent about a second of them driving the bus into a fence post. Unfortunately you can do a large amount of damage in a short amount of time. About $600 worth of damage it turns out.

I was a little bit concerned about the bus and the money when I did it. I was most concerned about telling the guy who we rented the bus off, because when we'd picked up the bus he'd spent a long time telling me to look after the bus and about how it was brand new. I did the crashing on Saturday and plucked up the courage to call him on Sunday. When I told the guy I told him I was sorry and he said "I'm sorry too, that was a new bus." Poor guy.

Still when I took the bus back, while he was upset as I was leaving he excitedly bonded with me over the fact that I had the same air conditioning in my car as in the bus. So I'm glad he cheered up in the end.

Despite the bus damage, I think it was a trip worth doing. The kids had a lot of fun, the leaders were excellent, and everyone got in and served. Fence posts can't cancel out that goodness.

10/10/2011 11:35:00 pm

Good Lives

Posted by Tom French |

This is good. You should watch it.

10/06/2011 12:02:00 am

Crazy Stupid Love

Posted by Tom French |

Crazy Stupid Love

I went and saw Crazy Stupid Love the other day after work. I didn't really go in expecting much at all. I only remembered the bit from the trailer about the Ryan Gosling having photoshopped abs. That didn't really seem like much to base a judgment of a film on.

Turns out the film, is smart, funny and honest. The film is, funnily enough, all about love. It's about marriage, divorce, crushes, soul-mates, casual sex, sexting and family. In the opening scene of the film Cal (Steve Carell) finds out while out to dinner with his wife that she wants a divorce. In the car on the way home he is silent about the divorce, until he can't handle it any more so he jumps out of the car. It's a fitting image of a man who no longer works at wooing his wife and isn't willing to fight for her. Throughout the rest of the film he learns to fight for his wife. I heard Matt Chandler say something in a talk recently about how the Godly man never stop pursing his wife. I think it's a good image of God who never stops pursuing his church.

So the film had a lot of stuff I agreed with.

I found it interesting to note how much porn influenced the film. Having recently heard Melinda Tankard Reist talk about how pornified our society is, I definitely noticed it in the film. The film wasn't pornographic at all, but there were references made. The playboy of the film talked about how the internet has changed the landscape for sleeping with women, the mother of the film just assumed her son was looked at porn and it was the done thing, and one of the girls gave a guy who had a crush on him nude photos of herself which was meant to be a really sweet gesture. That wasn't one of the bits I agreed with. But I did find it interesting.

Aside from that, I liked the film a lot. I love a good marriage film. And I like funny films. So Crazy Stupid Love was a winner.



10/03/2011 12:16:00 am

Quick Happy Poll

Posted by Tom French |

I'm doing a Bible Study on Homosexuality in Bible study tonight (Monday).

Would you be so kind as to let me know:

a) If you believe that a monogamous homosexual relationship is a valid lifestyle for a Christian
b) If you think that gay marriage should be allowed
and
c) Any biblical support you have for your position.

I understand you're probably all off doing long weekends, so don't stress. But if you feel like giving me some opinion, that'd be awesome.

Thanks friends, readers and friendly readers.

9/26/2011 11:34:00 pm

Hard Day Out of the Office

Posted by Tom French |

I've been at a conference today for work. It's a chaplains conference.

I wasn't sure what to expect. I thought I would have to do a lot of networking, which isn't really my strong suit. I hadn't put any thought into the sessions.

Turns out the sessions have been pretty good. Good for the head, hard on the heart, important for the soul.

The first keynote speaker we had (we have five keynote speakers, which could be a record for keynotes) was John Dickson speaking about humility. He said a lot of good stuff but what struck me most was something he didn't really talk much about but is something I've been thinking about and that's seeking criticism. I never go out of my way to have people tell me what I'm doing wrong. I never look to have anyone tell me of my sin. I just hope the people close to me are kind enough to tell me my faults, and I'm humble enough to listen.

I've been thinking maybe I need to figure out a way to listen to people criticisms of me, and to help people to feel safe to tell me where they think I have room for improvement. But until I figure out a way to do that, feel free to just tell me, or email me, or comment on my Facebook, and I'll try and humbly listen and change.

We had a talk about burn out and stress, which was nice, because I feel like I'm doing ok with that one.

Tonight we had a talk about the pornification of our culture and the sexulisation young girls from Melinda Tankard Reist. It was pretty horrid content but quite important. Very emotionally taxing. I feel like there's probably a whole other post in it, so I might leave it till I get to it.

In summary, this conference has been harder and easier than I expected. The networking has been pretty low key and easy. The sessions have been demanding, but good.

Maybe tomorrow will be easier.


9/25/2011 11:51:00 pm

Provision

Posted by Tom French |

I woke up this morning and was trying to work out what to have for breakfast. There was no milk. I didn't want just toast.

Then I found a can of spaghetti in my room. It was like manna from heaven except it was spaghetti from the floor.

I went downstairs to find a can opener. I couldn't find one. So I went to the shops to buy one. I bought some milk, some Coke and some Doritos. The essentials.

When I came home Johnny had returned from church and his home group was on their way over with a giant lunch feast, which I was most welcome to join. Breakfast provided, again.

I ate and it was good.

I still have a can of spaghetti, in case of a rainy day, the end of the world and/or another lack of milk. A milkocalypse if you will.

I think in terms of food, today I won.

9/25/2011 01:04:00 am

Crashers

Posted by Tom French |

I went to April's birthday party today. She turned thirty. It was fun.

A few hours in three teenage guys walked into the hall in an attempt to crash the party. They were quickly shown the door. However, the party must have looked like so much fun they kept trying to get back in.

It was pretty amusing. It seems to me that, no offence April, but, aside from a retirement village's Christmas party and perhaps a Mosman ladies' Tupperware party, a dry, 30th birthday party in the middle of the afternoon in East Lindfield is probably the least exciting party around to crash for a bunch of 15 year-old boys. Still what else is there to do in Lindfield to do on a rainy afternoon?

9/22/2011 12:04:00 am

Free Speech

Posted by Tom French |

I really enjoyed this article. It is quite good at showing the absurdities of some current political correctness/free speech issues. I don't know who the guy who wrote it is. He's probably some right wing scary person who I'd disagree with on almost everything. However, I liked this article. I'm pretty on board with freedom of speech. Even if someone wants to say terrible things about my back hair, my faith or my family, I'll be sad, and hurt, but I don't think the government should tell us what we can and cannot say. And I don't think people should get in trouble from the law for the things they say which are offensive. I don't want people to say things that offend me or my friends but I want the right to say things which offend them.

So I say, let's all speak freely and offend liberally. Except perhaps politicians and the political correctness thought police, I think we can all agree those guys should shut up, they've said enough.

9/14/2011 08:21:00 am

Worst Day in History

Posted by Tom French |

After 9-11


"On 9/11 I thought, For the most powerful, militarized nation in the world also to think of itself as an innocent victim is deadly. It was a rare prophetic moment for me, considering Presidents Bush and Obama have spent billions asking the military to rectify the crime of a small band of lawless individuals, destroying a couple of nations who had little to do with it, in the costliest, longest series of wars in the history of the United States. The silence of most Christians and the giddy enthusiasm of a few, as well as the ubiquity of flags and patriotic extravaganzas in allegedly evangelical churches, says to me that American Christians may look back on our response to 9/11 as our greatest Christological defeat. It was shattering to admit that we had lost the theological means to distinguish between the United States and the kingdom of God. The criminals who perpetrated 9/11 and the flag-waving boosters of our almost exclusively martial response were of one mind: that the non-violent way of Jesus is stupid. All of us preachers share the shame; when our people felt very vulnerable, they reached for the flag, not the Cross. September 11 has changed me. I’m going to preach as never before about Christ crucified as the answer to the question of what’s wrong with the world. I have also resolved to relentlessly reiterate from the pulpit that the worst day in history was not a Tuesday in New York, but a Friday in Jerusalem when a consortium of clergy and politicians colluded to run the world on their own terms by crucifying the Son of God.” - Bishop Will Willamon

From here.

9/13/2011 11:21:00 pm

Whose fault? Whose glory?

Posted by Tom French |

We had a discussion at work the other day about why it is we say sorry to God for our sins, but then we thank God when we do something good. We take responsibility for the bad stuff we do and we say that God is responsible for the good things we do. It seems a little odd to me, either we're responsible for our actions or God is.

I know the correct answer to this, and I agree with it. But that doesn't mean I can't have an unorthodox thought every once in a while.

9/10/2011 02:33:00 pm

New Digs

Posted by Tom French |

Outside House

Hello from my new home in St Ives!

I'm so freakin' St Ives now, I'm changing my last name to Goldstein.

Johnny, Curt and I are moving in this weekend, though I'm the only one free enough to move in properly. Johnny and I are going to be doing most of our moving tonight and tomorrow afternoon.

I'm sitting in an empty lounge room. Well empty except for some empty Nandos and a cable modem. I've dealt with the big things first. Hello internets!

I also went shopping today and bought many things for the house none of us housemates have, like fridge, washing machine, vacuum and the all important 40" LCD TV. I'm not loaded we're sharing the buying. The only things we're missing now is the Xbox and some plugs for the sink. Oh and we might need chairs, but that's pretty minor compared to the need for the internet connected TV.

What's also cool about this house that is has a bar downstairs. I'm really excited about the possibilities of recreating famous bar scenes from films in there. I also plan to sell moonshine to the locals. It's going to be great.

It's pretty special to have somewhere to live now. I'm very thankful to my parents for letting me stay with them for so long after moving out of my last place. I'm very thankful to God that I'm moving in with some great guys and we have some good dreams for our home. Things like community, movie watching and household film making fun. Yeah.

Come visit some time.

9/06/2011 04:16:00 pm

Wounds

Posted by Tom French |

"He whom God would use mightily, he wounds deeply." - Matt Chandler (misquoting Tozer and attributing it to Luther)

9/05/2011 11:17:00 pm

Court Out

Posted by Tom French |

I was happy that the High Court told the Government they couldn't do offshore processing. If it drives them into the arms of the Libs so they can legalise more inhumain ways of dealing with asylum seekers, I'm not so pleased. If only the High Court was able to rule on the morality of the issue and not just the legality. I don't really what the High Court ruling on the morality of things. But just this once it would have been nice.

9/05/2011 11:10:00 pm

Pipester

Posted by Tom French |

I may not have been blown away by John Piper during the conference, but I keep thinking about things he said. One of the biggest things has been working at asking God to give me the joy to the things I don't want to do but I'm going to do because they're the right thing to do. That wasn't one of his big things, but it's stuck with me.

9/01/2011 11:13:00 pm

Porn Star

Posted by Tom French |

I was looking at my Vimeo statistics tonight. They're not very impressive. I did notice though that one of my videos has had few loads on a blog about top porn stars. Now I haven't checked out the blog. I'm pretty sure my accountability software would have a field day telling on me. But I am flattered to think that one of my videos might be considered "top porn". Or perhaps Matt, Andrew or I are considered top quality porn stars. We are pretty impressive. They say that 30% of the internet is porn, but if that includes any of my videos, porn connoisseurs are going to be pretty disappointed.

8/31/2011 11:06:00 pm

My Sister is Awesome

Posted by Tom French |

Click for large.

Hannah One

Hannah Two

Hannah Three

8/31/2011 08:13:00 pm

Half a Week with the Johns

Posted by Tom French |

I've been at a conference this week for work. It was called Oxygen. John Piper and John Lennox were speaking.

I wasn't all that excited about the conference going in. Mainly because I hadn't heard much John Lennox and I tend to find Piper boring. I think he has great things to say, I just don't tend to hear them because I spend most of my time tuned out.

It turns out I did spend a lot of time struggling to pay attention. I also fell asleep a lot. This is not a sign of the boringness of the speakers just the mild narcolepsy I seem to suffer. I fall asleep in the cinema and going to the movies is my favourite thing to do so preachers should not be offended.

Still, when I was paying attention, I did learn and was challenged by some stuff.

Piper's big thing is that we need to seek God's glory in everything because God seeks his glory in everything. The way to seek his glory is to live in obedience and worship of him. To seek all your satisfaction in him. His catchphrase is "God is most glorified when you are most satisfied in him." He spent most of the conference explaining what that meant.

The challenge I found, was to make everything about seeking to be satisfied in God. I'm not really sure what that means. Piper doesn't seem to be great on practical application. But I think he's right. I guess I'll try and figure out how to do it.

Lennox is way too smart. He spends his time debating the leading atheists in the world. So when he was on his apologetics stuff, I was hooked.

Today he talked about Psalm 69, among other things and mentioned verse 6:

Lord, the LORD Almighty,
may those who hope in you
not be disgraced because of me;
God of Israel,
may those who seek you
not be put to shame because of me.


I've never thought a lot about that verse before, but certainly struck a chord with me. I have often felt like the weak link in the chain. I desperately want people to meet Jesus and grow in their love of him. I don't want to be the guy who let's them down, who makes God seem less wonderful than he is through my lack of faithfulness. I probably won't make this my regular prayer because it's pretty negative. But it's nice to see David saying something I feel.

And those are just two things I've picked up. There are lots more. I seem to be getting little snippets of Piper popping up in my brain as I got through the day. I'm hoping I can make much of God, since he as made much of me. The conference has spurred me on to be doing that.

8/18/2011 11:03:00 pm

Wedding Videos

Posted by Tom French |

If I could make wedding videos like this, I would make wedding videos.

8/18/2011 12:53:00 am

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Posted by Tom French |

I saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes on Monday. It was pretty fantastic.

I thought it was going to be dumb from the trailers. But it turns out you can make a "Apes take over the world" movie and do it well. You loved and cared for the apes. You didn't generally like the humans. In fact the human you like the most in the film causes the destruction of human civilisation. That's a bit of a downer for him.

It's odd to watch a film made by humans that's so anti-human. I haven't seen any films made by dogs that are anti-dog. Or by apes that are anti-ape. I guess species shame is a uniquely human trait. Although, perhaps dogs are so ashamed to be dogs that they can't even be face making films about how ashamed they are because it'll draw attention to them as dogs and they hate being dogs. Someone should look into that.

All that said, it was a good film. Good effects. As plausible a plot as you can get with intelligent apes taking over the world, and it had a nice inevitability about the end of human civilisation. I think it was the kind of film Rise of the Machines should have been. Although that female terminator was a lot hotter than any of the apes. At least, hotter to me. Were I an ape I think I would have hoped she had more hair and more opposable toes.

So the conclusion is, despite it's anti-human agenda (probably driven by our primate overlords) and the distinct lack of hot apes, Rise is a damn good film.

8/16/2011 11:29:00 pm

Talking Right

Posted by Tom French |

I've been enjoying reading Don Miller's blog lately.

I just read this post where he stuck up a video of Bill Hybels announcing that Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, had pulled out of the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. Schultz pulled out of the event because of an online protest threatening to boycott Starbucks because Willow Creek is perceived to be anti-gay.

I really appreciated the way Hybels was so gracious to Mr Schultz and even to the people who had started the petition. I also appreciated that he stated Willow Creek's view on homosexuality positively and without judgement.



In contrast to Hybels' comments I saw this on ABC news today. And while obviously biased and heavily edited, I wish Christians didn't say dumb stuff like this in public. (Also see if you can notice Richard Dreyfus sitting next to Bob Katter.)



I hope when people let me down and misrepresent me I can be as gracious as Hybels.

8/15/2011 11:54:00 pm

The Centrality of the Cross: Part Two - Practice

Posted by Tom French |

Here is Part Two of my series on the centrality of the cross. Part One is here

Ok. So the cross is central, someone might say, but if you keep mentioning the Cross all the time, what’s to stop it becoming formulaic and just the magic words to keep a service orthodox? Isn't mentioning the cross just religion?

The truth is that anything you want to keep as a defining principle or event, can be mentioned only out of compulsion, or habit but it is not inevitable. I think the trick is to keep asking throughout the life of the church “How does the cross impact on this?” In major times of teaching we must be clearly showing how the cross makes a difference. Let me show you how this works for three different topics, dealing with evil, relating to people of other faiths and responding to the poor.

The Cross and Responding to Evil

In this world we are constantly faced with the reality of evil. We are confronted with war and terrorism on a global scale, violence, rape and neglect in our communities and anger, hurt and abuse in our own lives. The church, if it is truly going to engage with world needs to know how to respond to evil.

Biblically the church will be calling its people to a ministry of reconciliation, of love for enemies and forgiveness. It will also hold firmly to the principle of justice and the fight against evil.

When the church teaches these things without the cross then it either becomes too hard, too soft or the preacher of two irreconcilable ideals.

If the church preaches forgiveness and love without the cross then evil becomes tolerated and the victim’s suffering gets dismissed. Forgiveness comes free and costs nothing. The suffering victim is told to love their enemy and forgive because that’s what Christ taught we should do. The evil doer escapes punishment and the victim must carry the burden of someone else’s sin.

Any justice achieved now will be unsatisfactory. How do you make a people group adequately pay for the acts of genocide they committed against their neighbours? How do you make the rapist adequately pay for violence they committed against someone created in God’s image? How do you make the mother who neglects and verbally abuses her children adequately pay for all the pain they inflict and the future damage they cause? You don’t because you can’t. We are a church that worships a holy God who hates sin. This means that no punishment and vengeance dolled out by earthly authorities will ever make up for the sins committed.

The end point in the fight against evil must be the destruction of the source of evil. If a church preaches justice and the fight against evil without the cross it must fight a battle that it cannot win with a God who is uninvolved. The reality is that all of us are participants in evil, and if we pursue evil to its end, we will pursue it not to the ends of the earth, but to the centre of our hearts. If we are to destroy evil, we must destroy others and we must destroy ourselves. If we were ever to whole-heartedly fight evil outside of the cross we too would just join in the cycle of violence.

In the history of the Church whenever it has been in charge of the state it has almost without fail ended up punishing sin with an iron fist.* Death for the adulterer, the homosexual, the witch and the disobedient child. And in the churches’ pursuit of justice it becomes the committer of evil.

Yet when we face evil in the light of the cross we see a God who hates sin, who punishes sin, who never trivialises suffering, who puts the wicked to death and gives life to the righteous.

At the cross Jesus takes all the wrath of his father heaped upon him. He, the sinless one, has the sins of humanity placed upon him. There on the cross, beaten and naked, he goes through hell and we see just how much God hates sin, that he would kill even his own Son.

He does this so that through him God would be able to forgive the wicked. Here at the cross we see God’s justice as he punishes evil, rebellion and sin. And we see God’s mercy upon the sinner as he offers his grace and forgiveness.

So when the church preaches forgiveness and reconciliation to the victim in light of the cross it does so knowing that God has already forgiven us. We are all perpetrators of evil and the one who we have done evil to, first and foremost, is God. Yet God forgives us and takes all the wrath we deserve upon himself.

When we call on each other to forgive those who sin against us, we do so in the knowledge that God has already forgiven us. But not only that, one way or another, the sin that has been committed against the victim will be dealt with. Either God has punished it at the cross or he will punish it at the end of time. No evil escapes the hand of God. Justice will be done.

At the cross we see how seriously God takes evil. He doesn’t trivialise suffering but shows that it is so serious that only the life of his beloved Son will pay for it. Jesus takes the wicked, gives them a new heart and a righteousness that is his own. The destruction of wickedness need not mean the destruction of the wicked if it is Christ who makes them righteous. Or to put it another way the wicked person is put to death, as they die to sin, and are born again, a new creation in Christ.

The cross shows us our King who is not dead but will one day come to right the world. What he began on the cross he will finish on that last day. The wicked will be judged and the righteous will be vindicated. Judgement will come and it will be great and terrible just as it was at the cross, yet no more will the innocent suffer for sins they did not commit. We will celebrate because we know that the right response to evil is the wrath of a righteous God.

The church can rest assured. The churches’ fight against evil and for justice can march on knowing that the true judge of the world has come and is coming again. The church fights knowing that we do not, and the systems of this world do not, need to be the final reckoning for sin. When we strive for justice we know that because Jesus is taking care of punishment we must strive for fairness and equality; More than that, we strive for love. As the cross shows us love, love becomes our modus operandi. Because of the example and power of the cross we see that our greatest weapon against injustice is love, and we work so that all people might be changed by love, ultimately to have their evil nature put to death, and to be given new life in Christ. Only that power comes through the cross.

When the church centres it’s response to evil in the cross it finds a response that is more compassionate to the sinner and to those who have been sinned against than could be imagined and harder on evil than is thought possible.


The Cross and Interacting with Other Religions

In Australia we are blessed to live in a multicultural society. This means that one of the great challenges to the church in our country will be how we interact with other faiths.

This is even more important given that we, the people of earth, have a history of fighting over religion more than anything else.

For the church to engage in fruitful dialogue with people of other faiths it must hold the cross at the centre of its thinking and its speaking because the cross gives Christianity it’s greatest distinctive, it clearly sets us apart from every other faith.

Often interfaith dialogue seeks to show the similarities between multiple faiths and find areas of commonality so as to build mutual respect because “we are just like you.” This can end up with people praying to the same God, in the same religious services, under the ridiculous notion that all roads lead to the same God. We flush out all the distinctives in an effort to forge better relations with other faiths.

Unfortunately this insults all involved. Dialogue is vitally important, but dialogue never has to mean acquiescing vital tenets of faith in the name of tolerance.

When the church talks to and about other faiths, it must keep the cross front and centre, otherwise how will we know who we are, and how will they know who we are?

No other religion has a God who is so foolish as to let himself be killed by those who he created. No other faith solves the problem of the human heart purely through divine initiative. No other God has saved its people purely out of his own goodness and through no merit of the people.

This being the case the cross gives the Christian, no right to boast. Knowing that salvation comes only through the death and resurrection of a loving God rather than our own goodness, means that we cannot in any way look down upon people of other faiths. The difference between the Christian and the non-Christian is not that the Christian is smarter, better, more special or more moral. The difference is only Jesus, and the faith that he gives.

So as we relate to those of other faiths, the cross will lead us to love them because, just like us, they too need Jesus. As Luther (or someone) said “We are all mere beggars trying to show other beggars where to find bread.” The cross will lead us not to acquiesce the uniqueness of our faith in the spirit of unity and tolerance but to humbly share with people of other faiths a vision of a God of ultimate love and ultimate mercy. Then they will see Christianity clearly, and true inter-faith dialogue can happen. But until we embrace the cross we insult our God who died for us because we hide away his greatest act of love, because of it’s offensive nature, and we insult those we speak to about our faith, because we think they cannot handle the most distinctive part of our faith.


The Cross and the Poor

People will often feel the church should be focusing on sharing Jesus’ love through deeds of justice and mercy. The church has a responsibility to be loving the poor and marginalised. If the church is to stay true to its mission we will be loving the poor.

This emphasis can be seen as being in tension with preaching the cross. We can spend our time in church talking about Jesus or we can spend our time in the community loving like Jesus. It’s a choice between words and actions. If you follow this thinking to its most extreme the only time we should be talking about Jesus we should be talking about him in relation to how we care for the poor.

But the truth is that the best and true motivation for our love for the poor has to come out of the cross. A proper understanding of the cross has to lead to a changed response to the poor.

Without the cross our care for the poor and marginalised becomes about obeying the rules set forth by our teacher, it becomes an exercise in changing our hearts through our actions. The more we love the poor, the more we will be conformed to the likeness of Jesus, and our hearts will be changed and the more we will love the poor. The more we achieve this, the more we will be living in the will of Christ and worthy of his love and honour. It’s a religion of work with ourselves at the centre. We are at the centre because we try and please God with our own goodness and adherence to his values. We are at the centre because we are doing the work that changes our hearts, and hoping this will please God.

But the cross turns that on its head. The cross says that for our sake Christ became poor (2 Cor 8:9). He came, the most rich becoming the most poor. And he poured himself out for a wretched and sinful people, saving them from their own self-imposed, spiritual poverty, making them children of God and giving them, in himself, every spiritual blessing.

The cross shows us a God who has saved us in the greatest act of generosity ever to brighten the universe. Our life comes from a God who has saved us out of his heart, a heart inclined towards the undeserving poor.

Christ has risen to new life giving us a new heart and his power through the Holy Spirit.

We now have a responsibility to be loving the poor and marginalised because we know that we are the recipients of Christ’s love when we were poor. We know that we are only who we are because God had mercy on us when we had nothing.

As a result we live out the teachings of Christ not to change our hearts, or to please our Lord, but because he has given us a new heart and through the power of his Spirit he changes us to be like him and live out his love. We love because we have been loved and received his love. We love the poor out of grace. We love the poor who are undeserving because we are undeserving. We reach out to the lowest, seek out the most lost and go into the places that are darkest because he came searching for us when we were lower, more lost and in greater darkness, and now he empowers us to search and love like him.

Any church that spends all its time talking about the cross but does not see justice and mercy as an outworking of the cross hasn’t really understood the cross. And any church that forgets the cross when talking about the need for loving the poor and marginalised has forgotten where the true locus of power lies in Christianity.



So there are three ways where the cross is played out in giving meaning to the everyday issues Christians face. Jesus Christ, known and preached as our Lord who came, lived, died and rose again for us, must be at the centre of all we do. Without him and his saving work done at the cross through his death and resurrection, we are to be pitied more than all people. I’ll let John Stott bring it home: “To encounter Christ is to touch reality and experience transcendence. He gives us a sense of self-worth or personal significance, because He assures us of God's love for us. He sets us free from guilt because He died for us and from paralysing fear because He reigns. He gives meaning to marriage and home, work and leisure, personhood and citizenship.”


* I haven’t actually done my research and looked up every time the there has been a Christian theocracy in the past two millennia and examined their penal system. But I can think of plenty of examples of the Church gone feral when given the reigns to power.

8/08/2011 10:06:00 pm

Singleness

Posted by Tom French |

I preached on singleness in church the other night. I'll upload the sermon soon. Maybe nowish. But here is the video I showed at the beginning of the sermon. I realised I left off my phone number. Oops.

Enjoy.



Update: The sermon is now available here on my preaching blog.

8/04/2011 12:04:00 am

Authenticity

Posted by Tom French |

Today I told a chapel of about 200 year 5-8 students about the Bieber experience. It was difficult.

I originally had an illustration about unrequited love (surprise, surprise) but realised that probably the year 5 kids wouldn't really connect with it (it's difficult to like a girl for 4 years when you would have had to start your crush when you were 6). So I decided to tell them all about watching Bieber and crying. It was a risky move. I thought I might win friends with my self-depreciating humour. I think however, I may have just made myself look dumb. Except for the girls who loved Bieber. Maybe today they really heard the gospel for the first time because cried in his movie. Maybe now there's one less lonely girl, cause she found her saviour.

Or maybe I just looked strange.

I was shooting for authentic.

Oh well.

7/31/2011 10:41:00 pm

Women in Church Leadership

Posted by Tom French |

So over the next few weeks, among other things, I've decided to spend time thinking about women in ministry and what roles are open to women in the church. I've heard a lot of the arguments that are against female eldership in the church. I'm really keen to hear arguments for female eldership.

I know there are a bunch of you readers and friends who think women should be allowed to do everything. I really want to agree with you. I'm finding it difficult to justify biblically.

So convince me. If you use biblical arguments you'll be more convincing.

Right now, if I had to plant a church, I wouldn't have the highest levels of leadership open to women. Should I really rule out half the population?

7/30/2011 11:35:00 pm

Machette

Posted by Tom French |

I watched Machette. It was awesome.

That's all I need to say.

7/29/2011 11:20:00 pm

Father God

Posted by Tom French |

I was leaving for work this morning. And as I was walking out of the door I said to my father "Bye God." I can't remember what I was thinking about before that but I'm pretty sure it must have been God. Dad felt that I may have overestimated his role in my life.

Frued would have been pleased.

"The mechanic says, 'If you’re male and you’re Christian and living in America, your father is your model for God. And if you never know your father, if your father bails out or dies or is never at home, what do you believe about God?'" - Chuck Palahniuk, "Fight Club"

I'm happy I both my dads are good. However one is better than the other and would certainly win in a fight.

7/28/2011 11:54:00 pm

John Stott - 1921-2011

Posted by Tom French |

Light Cross

“The modern world detests authority but worships relevance. Our Christian conviction is that the Bible has both authority and relevance, and that the secret of both is Jesus Christ.” - John Stott


I heard today that John Stott died. It's sad news. John Stott was one of my heros. Over the last ten years I've loved reading his books and listening to his preaching. He has been probably my favourite writer, preacher and theologian since I was introduced to his work in early 2002.

It was reading Evangelical Truth before starting bible college that I realised there were other people who believed in Jesus the same way I did. What Stott described in the book described how I felt about faith. He spoke about a faith that loved Jesus and held firmly to the Bible. A faith that was real and vibrant and tied to God's personal revelation to us through his Son and his word. I read the book and felt like I had found home.

While I never met him, John Stott always struck me as a man who I would like to be like. By all accounts he was humble, gentle and caring. I heard a story once from someone who met him at a conference that at meal times he would only take small amounts. He did this because he knew there were people in the world who didn't have enough to eat, so he would not take more than he needed in solidarity with them.

He had a great heart for the poor and was so influential in the evangelical world in showing that biblical faith is faith that loves the poor and works for justice. He showed that you did not have to sacrifice orthodoxy for justice and mercy.

Most of all he loved Jesus, and that shone through in everything he he wrote and said. He loved to show us Jesus as he showed us his word.

He also loved birds.

I am very thankful for the life and ministry of John Stott. I'm sad that he's no longer here. I very happy for him that there is no where now he'd rather be.


Quote and photo from this blog.

7/27/2011 11:33:00 pm

The Centrality of the Cross: Part One - Church

Posted by Tom French |

Light Cross

I started writing this in February last year. It wasn't meant to be huge. Then it evolved into a monster and I didn't touch it for over a year. Still I didn't want all that typing to go to waste, and I still agree with myself. So I've touched it up a bit and here is part one of my two part series on the centrality of the cross.


When I made my Hillsong post a while ago I mentioned that I thought that it was important that the Cross is mentioned in every church service. In the comments, not one person agreed with me. While this sent me into an apoplectic rage in which I blocked the IP addresses of everyone who disagreed with me and then sent letter bombs to their houses, it also got me thinking about whether or not I was just being a superstitious legalist, as if saying a particular formula of words will make a church service orthodox and pleasing to God. I went to church the next Sunday watching to see if we mentioned the cross. Happily we sung about it, and the Pastor talked about it in his sermon.

But what if it hadn't been mentioned? Would I need to start wondering if my church was a church of heresy? Would I need to sit down with my Pastor and ask him to make sure the church was preaching Jesus?

After thinking about it for a while, I'm still of the view that the cross needs to be talked about and that it should be talked about every week.

I think perhaps what I said about needing to mention the cross in every service in the Hillsong post, needs elaboration. I reckon I need to elaborate for myself, if nothing else.

For starters I want to make clear that when I say the Cross, I mean the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It's short hand for the historical event where Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who is God incarnate, was put to death through crucifixion on a Roman cross, only to be physically resurrected on the third day after his death.

This event was a universe shifting occurrence. It's through of this momentous act of God that he makes peace between humanity and himself, by taking the punishment for sin upon himself. And it is out of this act that God draws his children to himself, Christ wins a bride for himself, and the Church is born.

The question is, why do I feel like this needs to be mentioned in church every time we meet together? Is this a requirement of a good church, or just an ideal to be aimed for?

To put it as simply as possible, I think it is out of the Cross that the church finds its identity, and so it needs to be regularly talked about.

But, you might say, I find my identity in where I was born, who my family is, what has happened to me, who my friends are, what job I do, what hobbies I have, what pain I have had to endure, and more. It’s not like I have to mention this every day to remain being who I am. Why should the church have to talk about its defining event every time it meets to retain its identity? Whether you mention defining events or not, they are part of you, nothing will change that.

I guess the difference is between mere history and fact and what you actually value. For instance, the fact that I was once robbed in the street when I was younger, for years had an affect on how I felt in public, and it probably still, to some degree, has an affect on how I respond in situations where I feel threatened. It is an event that is part of who I am. But that said, it’s not an event that I feel particularly attached to, and it not one that I hold on to so it can keep forming who I am.

On the other hand, when I was 18 God called me into full time ministry to young people. This too is a defining event, it has changed the course of my life. Unlike being robbed however, I want this to keep defining who I am. As soon as I forget that call, I forget why I do what I do. When I doubt why I am where I am, and if I really should be living the life I am, I go back to that event and am reminded that “Yes” this is what God called me to. It’s an event I need to keep central because it is important to my identity.

Similarly the cross is a defining event for the church. We need to keep going back to it because it informs who we are and where we’ve come from. For individuals it is important to remain vigilant in telling ourselves the stories that we want to form and inform our identity. For the church it must be doing the same thing. But more so, because a person is only one person only they, the individual, has to decide what events to draw life from, the church is made up of many individuals and all of them have the chance to speak into what should define the church. Deliberately talking about the cross regularly will help everyone in the church remember what is central to who we are. It is our story of value and identity.

Some people will ask, however, why always talk about the cross? There is more to Jesus than the cross. Similarly there is more to the church than the cross. The church needs to be focusing on Jesus rather than just the cross.

My response would be, as I think I responded in the comments, while there is certainly more to Jesus than the cross, there is never less to Jesus than the cross.

Jesus’ teaching is vital for the Christian to know how to live. His miracles point us to the marvellous kingdom that is breaking into this world. His practical love for all people gives us the example we need to go and practically love just like him.

However, it is the death and resurrection of Jesus that sets him apart from all other holy men and wise teachers who have walked the earth. It is the death and resurrection of Christ that sets God apart from the pantheon of gods who are worshiped every day all over the world.

If Jesus did not die and rise again, then his claims of divinity were misguided, and foolish. If he didn’t die and rise again, his assertion that he is the judge of the whole earth is positively foolish. If Jesus didn’t die and rise again, then the life that he calls us to becomes an impossible burden. It is only through the power of the cross that we can live as followers of Christ.

If Jesus didn’t die and rise again, then God has not come to be with us in human form, he has not fully suffered as one of us, and he has not beaten death on our behalf. If Jesus didn’t die and rise again, then God has not graciously taken our sins upon himself, and he is still holding our sins against us, storing up his wrath. He is not a loving and gracious God but an angry or unconcerned God.

There is more to Jesus than the cross, but there is never less to Jesus than the cross. Take out the cross and you have no Christ.

It’s the reason the writers of the New Testament keep coming back to the cross. It’s why Paul says: “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” – 1 Corinthians 2:2

It’s why Peter says: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.” – 1 Peter 1:18-21

It’s why the writer to the Hebrews says: “Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant… he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” – Hebrews 9:15, 26-28

The cross is central, it defines our faith, it defines us. It puts us in our rightful place and God in his. It shows us the depths our sin and the greatness of his love. The writers of the New Testament kept coming back to the cross because they understood that there is nothing greater and nothing that helps us see who God is more clearly.

With this in mind we see that the cross is the central point in the defining narrative of the church. Out of the cross the church gains it's existence and identity. Just as any intentional community needs to remember it's defining stories, and reasons for existence, whenever it meets the church needs to be pointing itself back to its point of definition – the cross of Christ.

If we want to teach Jesus clearly, if we want to preach him faithfully, if we want churches that are centred on Jesus, then we need to always centre ourselves on the event that the Bible is centred on and on which Jesus centred himself on; his world changing, life bringing, glory radiating, sacrificial death and resurrection.


In part two I’ll look at how you keep the cross central to your teaching, using the examples of teaching on evil, dealing with other faiths, and care for the poor.

Photo by djking

7/26/2011 11:02:00 pm

Winning Strategies

Posted by Tom French |

I'm having a debate with another single guy at church at the moment about who has the better strategy for getting into a relationship.

His strategy is to wait until a woman comes to him and let's him know how much she loves him, and then they'll go out, get married and live together happily forever.

My strategy has been a little more proactive. Asking girls on dates, getting set up, going on dates, stuff like that.

The two strategies basically boil down to do nothing vs do something.

I took a poll of some single and married people last night and they all said that my strategy is better than his.

His comeback was "But look you're single and I'm single, so obviously your strategy is as effective as mine."

He has a point there.

So judging by our scientific observation of our lives, those options don't work, the answer has to lie outside of our two approaches. I wonder if there's a third strategy something that is neither doing something nor doing nothing. Therein, lies the secret to true love, I'm sure of it.

7/26/2011 10:50:00 pm

Database

Posted by Tom French |

We'll y'all seem pretty excited by the idea of me going to a database meeting. But sadly, I didn't go. I was home sick today with a case of the poos.

The silver lining to the brown cloud was that I could lie around at home and watch DVDs and stuff. And that I did. I watched Layer Cake, Hollywoodland, Q&A and two and half episodes of Friday Night Lights. I also couldn't resist spending a few hours doing work too, so I sent a whole bunch of emails. Oh and I slept on the couch and ate mashed potato. So apart from being sick, it was a pretty good day.

I went to the chemist and bought medication for my ailment, in case I was need to perform on stage at short notice this evening (turns out I didn't, funnily enough), and I decided not to become friends with the pharmacy sales assistant because poo pills are a bad foundation for friendship.

And that's the story of my day.

7/25/2011 11:34:00 pm

Social Media Lovin

Posted by Tom French |

We had a talk today at work about how we should use social media to promote work. So I decided today to have another week of blogging. This actually has nothing to do with work and doesn't promote it at all. But I was reminded that I have some social media to attend to. I'm terribly bad these days. I think it's partly because I've been spending a lot of time working in the office which doesn't give much food for blogging. I do still watch a lot of YouTube and my new friends, Vimeo. But I don't want to just post videos all the time. Anyway, I promise to blog every day this week.

I won't give you anything if I don't. You can give me grief.

Tomorrow I have nothing on my work agenda except a meeting about a database. I pretty sure it'll be awesome and I'll want to blog about it. I may even promote my workplace. "Let us minister to you, we're getting a database that's so awesome we'll know more about you than Facebook, Google and spam mailers put together!"

But just before I go, while I am blogging about blogging and videos and stuff, this video is pretty rockin'. Violent, but rockin'.

7/25/2011 12:38:00 am

Not that I know of

Posted by Tom French |

I meet a lot of new people. Often in the context of somes sort of Christian ministry. And they often ask me, "Are you married, do you have any kids?"

I almost always say, "No wife and no kids... at least, not that I know of." I always think it's funny, then I realise it's more awkward than funny for the other person and then I get awkward.

But then I forget and I say it again next time I meet someone.

7/18/2011 12:56:00 am

How to Meet the Queen

Posted by Tom French |

I've been doing more video making. This time with Bevis. We filmed last Wednesday. I finished editing today. It was all for work.

So here you go my lovely blog readers, How to Meet the Queen parts one and two. (Yeah, cop that Harry Potter, I bring out both parts on the same day!)

Part One:



Part Two:



I hope you've found it helpful.

7/16/2011 10:42:00 pm

Trolling Saruman

Posted by Tom French |

Just one more reason to love the internets:

7/14/2011 12:35:00 am

Deathly Hallows

Posted by Tom French |

Harry Potter

***Spoilers contained within***

I went and saw the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 tonight.

It was a fittingly awesome. Very dark. Very serious. It looked spectacular. Ron, Hermione and Harry are competent actors now. And the story is great.

I think one of the things I enjoyed most about this film was the pace. Generally the Harry Potter films have been about cramming as much of the story in as possible. This film they really took their time. Yates allowed for there to be plenty of silence between lines. People didn't spend heaps of time explaining things. We could take time just to watch magical visual effects and the battle of Hogwarts. It made the whole thing feel grander.

One of the things that Harry Knowles pointed out about Transformers 3 is that it takes people 3 seconds to process a shot. Which means that Michael Bay had to slow down his editing in the action sequences so that we didn't get lost. That totally changed up how Bay did action, and it made Transformers' action sequences a whole lot more fluid and comprehendible. I think it made them the best action sequences in the francise.

For Potter, I think it may have had a similar effect. The whole film felt like you could just take your time to absorb everything. It was quite special. I good way to say goodbye.

I must say, I think I may have mentioned it before, but Harry Potter is quite the Christ figure. I came out thinking "Goodness me, JK Rowling has to be a Christian."

And it turns out, she is. She said this after the last book came out "To me, the religious parallels have always been obvious, but I never wanted to talk too openly about it because I thought it might show people who just wanted the story where we were going." I guess I missed that piece of news.

About her faith she said "It's something I wrestle with a lot. It preoccupies me a lot, and I think that's very obvious within the books." (From here).

It is tempting, as a Christian who works with young people to exploit Harry Potter's obvious Christ connection. And perhaps I will. But that always seems a bit lazy to me. I'd rather be inspired to create art that points people to Jesus and appreciate art that is inspired by Jesus than just use other people's art where Jesus makes a cameo appearance.

I guess, thinking back to where Harry started to where he's come to, it's nice. I remember someone telling me back in 2003 that when Harry Potter ends, he's going to encourage everyone worship Satan. Instead Harry Potter ends by defeating evil through sacrificial love, and not by killing his enemy through being more powerful, but by dying himself. Love wins. And as Lesley pointed out, when Harry dies, where does he end up? Kings Cross. That's pretty spectacular for a book encouraging kids to worship Satan.

Someone must have written an interesting academic thesis on it. I'd like to read it.

Anyway, it's a pretty awesome movie. It ended well. Go see it.

7/11/2011 11:10:00 pm

It's the right thing to do

Posted by Tom French |

I like the carbon tax.

I'm happy to pay more for my pollution, though I might end up ahead because of this scheme.

I'm excited about the innovation into clean energy that this should promote.

I wish we weren't so selfish and the questions weren't "How much will this cost me?" but "How can we do the right thing?"

I think Julia did well on Qanda tonight. Especially the last 10 minutes, though I think perhaps that may have been set up the the producers. Letting the last question come from that kid who is "the future", pure political gold. But she still did well, and I enjoy a big finish anyway.

I think I might eat less meat.

I'm also planning on catching the train to work tomorrow. But that might be because I enjoy the sleep in the train gives me.

7/04/2011 04:49:00 pm

Too Late Hours

Posted by Tom French |

I must secure more time for private devotions. I have been living far too public for me. The shortening of devotions starves the soul, it grows lean and faint. I have been keeping too late hours. - William Wilberforce

7/03/2011 01:33:00 am

Fancy Schmancy

Posted by Tom French |

So I bought myself a Canon 7D last Saturday. I have been thinking about buying one for about a year now. Finally I actually got around to getting it.

It's a very nice camera. Too nice for someone as unskilled as me. I got it for it's video capabilities, which are pretty sweet for a camera of it's price range. It's a DSLR camera so it's not primarily designed for video stuff. But it does do very good stuff.

When I was in the shop the woman showed me everything I needed to buy. Thousands of dollars worth of camera, lens, bags and filters. She said "Is there anything else you need?"

"I just need to know whether to buy it today or not." I said.

"Tell you what, if you buy it today I'll throw in a free dvd."

So I bought it. Who can resist a free dvd?

I went and played with it on Sunday. Me and one of the kids in the youth group made a video. I pretty much shot the video with the settings on straight out of the box. It's not a very good video but I learned a few things. Firstly I need to work on my focusing skills. Secondly, colour correction, better dynamic range and getting a good ISO is also important. But I'm looking forward to improving, which I'm sure I will.

Anyway, this is what we made.



This morning I was waiting to get picked up by Dan and April and spied some good mist, so I went and photographed it. This was one of the better ones I think. I still have a lot to learn, but I'm pretty happy with the camera.

Morning Mist

6/30/2011 11:38:00 pm

Singing Cat

Posted by Tom French |

I know the last few posts have been about church planting. Just so you feel like this blog is still part of the internet, and not Jesus-church-brain land, here's a video of a singing cat:

6/30/2011 11:20:00 pm

Why plant a Church? Don't we have enough?

Posted by Tom French |

This is part two of a series I started back in September. Go here to see part one.

The most common objection that I get to church planting goes something like this “We have plenty of empty and struggling churches, why not help them grow, rather than use all these resources to start a new one?” or more succinctly “We have plenty of churches, why do we need new ones?”

This is a perfectly reasonable assumption to make. If it ain’t broke why fix it? Or perhaps, if it’s repairable why replace it? Making new churches seems to be an indictment of current churches and just abandoning them to their fate.

All that in mind, I obviously feel like there are good answers to these objections. So I’ll go through a few reasons why I think it’s a good idea to plant new churches even though there are plenty of churches around already.

Evangelism

The first and most important reason, in my mind, is evangelism. New churches are one of the best ways of doing evangelism around. In fact if you do any reading about church planting you’ll soon come across this quote by missiologist C Peter Wagner: “Planting new churches is the most effective evangelistic methodology known under heaven” (Keller quotes him here). Now I don’t really know who C Peter Wager is but everyone quotes him, so I figure he probably knows what he's talking about.

It is my firm belief that one of the central roles of the church is to be bringing people to a saving knowledge of Jesus so they might become his committed disciples (e.g. Matt 28:18-19) . Anything that helps the church do that, is good. Church planting is effective in this mission.

The NCLS (including everyone’s favourite NCLSer Keith Castle) did a study on church planting in Australia in 2003. They found that church plants had an average of 16% of their congregation who were newcomers as opposed to normal churches which had an average of 10% newcomers.

To quote Castle and his friend Bellamy, “Church plants tend to have above average levels of vitality, including higher percentages of attenders valuing the outreach emphasis of the church, higher percentages of attenders inviting others to church, and higher levels of belonging and commitment to the vision and directions of the church.” (You can read the whole thing here.)

Church plants are better for evangelism. I think this is because a church plant has to do evangelism to survive. I also think it’s because church plants, when formed for the right reasons, exist to evangelise, they are started so that people meet Jesus, and they haven’t had a chance to go off mission yet.

Established churches, from what I can see, often suffer from the need to tend to their current attendees rather than those outside the church. Churches, if they aren’t careful, default to work to serve the needs and desires of those who attend rather than those who are beyond it's walls.

A church plant is able to avoid this, at least in it’s early days, because it has no congregation, no tradition, no established way of doing things, and no institutions to uphold. A church plant, if it wants to, can focus its energies on the great commission of Jesus.

Now that’s not to say that an existing church can’t do the same. And there are plenty of churches that are doing that, though most of them aren’t the empty, struggling churches. And if you want to get a struggling church to reorient its energies towards evangelism, it’s going to take a whole lot more work than starting a new church. It’s harder to turn a stationary ship, than launch a stationary row boat.

Church plants evangelise, so I’m keen to plant a church.

Population Growth

“We have enough churches already.” It seems like a far enough statement, so why start a new church?

However if we have enough churches this year, if we don’t start new churches, then we won’t have enough churches next year.

Australia’s population is currently growing at about 2% per year. In the 2001 NCLS they surveyed 7000 churches. Now I’m assuming there are more churches than that in Australia because they didn’t all participate. But lets just say that there are 7000 churches in Australia right now. If the church keeps up with population growth of Australia, then next year we should have 7140 churches. And the year after 7,282 churches. In ten years we should have 8,532 churches. Now no one is expecting that to happen. There aren’t going to be 1,500 churches planted in Australia in the next 10 years. There’s a chance the rate that we are planting churches won’t even keep up with the rate that we are closing churches. Which means that not only are we not keeping up with population growth, we may not even be maintaining our current size.

If we didn’t plant new churches, ideally churches in Australia would grow by 2% a year, but church attendance isn’t growing in Australia, it’s shrinking. So current churches aren’t keeping up. If church plants are better at evangelism and are more likely to be growing than established churches, then why not plant new churches?

Ideally we wouldn’t be content to just keep up with population growth. If we really do believe that Jesus is the hope of the world, and that he is calling all people to himself, then we’ll not only be planting churches for 2% growth rate we’ll be planting churches and seeking to reach unreached people until all of Australia has put their trust in Jesus. And that eventuality is probably a long way off.

Bad Use of Resources

“There are so many empty seats in current churches, why not try and fill them?”

The thinking behind this statement seems to be saying, there are so many resources in the established church not being used, we should be using them, not just making more seats to fill.

The problem I see with this thinking, is that it seems to assume that it’s more important to put people in empty churches than to be finding the best way to bring people to Jesus. If the best way to bring people to Jesus is to fill empty churches, then we should do it. But chances are, it’s not. The great tragedy of the empty church is not the unused resources, but the unreached people.

Now I would love to see empty churches full. I would love to see them full of people who love Jesus, who love the people around them and love the world they live in. And while I go to a church with empty seats in it (and there are plenty of empty seats in my church) I’ll do my best to fill them with people meeting Jesus, and people loving Jesus. But wherever I am, I’m going work to help people meet Jesus rather than get people to fill seats.

I’d rather waste a million dollars to save one person, than save a million dollars and lose one person.

Perhaps people aren’t concerned about the churches resources, but that’s what I hear when people start talking about empty seats and empty buildings.

New Churches Means New Ways of Doing Church

Starting a new church means they can do whatever they want to reach people with the gospel. There are lots of people who will not interact with established churches, they won’t step into a church building, and they see the church as completely irrelevant to them.

However, there may be a church planter out there who is planning exactly the kind of church that will speak to their needs and present the gospel in a way that is meaningful to them.

During the summit I heard about and met people who were doing church in all sorts of ways. Church in the pub, cafes that are churches, church that happens over a meal, church that happens with 6 people and church that happens with 600, church for artists, church for families, church for professionals, church for shift workers, church for retirees. People were thinking about all sorts of different ways to bring the gospel to people who haven’t yet heard it or responded to it. How many people will these churches reach who would never have been reached by churches that currently exist? It’s worth doing our best to reach whoever we can, whatever way we can.

New Churches Invigorate Old Churches

When new churches start, it’s good for the established churches. When a church gets to send people out to start a new church they get to participate in the mission of bringing people to Jesus. I may have said that it’s hard for established churches to be doing evangelism, but if churches plant churches, they’re doing evangelism. What better way for a church to reach more people than to send out people to reach more people? When a church plants churches, if done right, it can fill the church with energy and purpose. When a church exists to make more churches people can clearly see how they are growing and changing lives. They get to do evangelism in their church and support evangelism in the churches they’ve planted. It’s a double blessing! When people leave a church to start a new one, it allows the planting church to fill their place with more people who can be supporting the church plant and with more people who can one day go out and plant their own church. Church plants shouldn’t threaten established churches, but excite them as a chance to support new gospel work.

I'm thankful that my current churches leadership feels just this way about planting churches. They're keen and I'm keen.

Church planting is good for the gospel and good for the established church.


So there are my reasons for planting churches even though we currently have lots of churches.

Having said all that, I want to stress, I don’t think established churches are a lost cause. They’re not by any means. I love the established church. I’ve spent all my life in established churches. I don’t think established churches are ineffective. I’ve seen people saved, lives changed, and much love given and received in established churches. The vast majority of the ministry I’ve done in my life is in the context of established churches.

In the end for me, the reason for starting a new church isn’t really about any of the above arguments (though they all help), but it’s about obedience. Like I said before, I’ve been called to plant a new church, and so I will. Were I called to go to a big, vibrant, growing church, I would. Were I called to go to a small, struggling church, I would. God can work, will work, and is working in all kinds of churches, young, old, big, small, growing, shrinking, conservative, liberal and everything in between. So I’m trusting God to work in this church I’m planting, and I’m trusting him to work in yours. He’s a good God and he’ll reach all kinds of people in all kinds of ways. And that’s pretty good.

Finally I think it’s worth saying that all churches were once church plants. If you go to church, there was a point in time where someone said about your church “I’m going to plant a church.” And chances are there was someone who said to that person “What do we need a new church for, we already have enough churches.” But they did it anyway. And now your life has been changed because they saw the need for more churches. The churches that are planted today will be the established churches tomorrow and people will leave them to plant new ones. It’s my hope that the church that I have the privilege of planting with a whole bunch wonderful people, will be sending people out to keep planting churches and keep finding new ways to bring the love of Jesus to bear in this world that desperately needs him.

6/30/2011 12:33:00 am

Under-Qualified: Part 2

Posted by Tom French |

Well I’m back from the Summit (thanks Liz).

It was good to get away for a few days and think about church planting constantly.

It felt like a really productive time. Like we’ve moved forward a few conversations, which is really what the majority of the early stages of planting seem to be about, conversations.

We (another of the people who are keen to plant this church and I) met with the dude who’s planting in the area we have been thinking about going to. He’s doing pretty much what we would have done, and he seems to be reaching pretty much the exact same people we would have sought to reach. And he’s probably doing a better job than we would do.

When we talked about us going to the same area as him, he said “the more churches the better”, which was generous of him. I loved that he just wanted people to be doing kingdom work, rather than wanted to protect his empire. He didn’t seem threatened by us at all. Maybe we’re just not that threatening.

That said, it seems a bit silly to us to go to the suburb he’s in to do what he’s doing. So unless we feel called to do something really different to him, we’ll probably go somewhere else.

It’s kinda disappointing because it was feeling exciting for a while there to have a place we could start thinking and dreaming about. Somewhere to invite people to. Now we have to go back to the drawing board. We haven’t totally ruled the old place out, but it’s looking a whole lot less likely.

So while I’m here, let me ask you dear readers, if there is anywhere in Sydney, and any group of people in Sydney, that needs a church, where do you think it is and why? (That is if you think anywhere needs a church.)

Aside from all that, how am I feeling?

Inadequate. Spending a few days thinking about planting and hanging out with planters has just made me realise what a huge task it is and how ill equipped I am for it. There were so many people at this summit who are much better people to be planting churches, more faithful and faith-filled, better leaders, and better do-ers, better with plans and better with people. It makes me think I should just go work in a church somewhere.

I guess it’s an appropriate way to feel, but it’s not how I want to feel. Confident and excited would be much better in my opinion.

But maybe I’m just tired. Perhaps I’ll feel better in the morning.

All that said, I still think it’s important. I’ll go plant because I’m called. And I’ll go because I love Jesus and I would love other people to meet him too. And if I fail, a least I’ve failed at something important.

6/27/2011 10:49:00 pm

Under-Qualified

Posted by Tom French |

I’m currently at a church planting conference.

Actually I’m not sure this is a conference I am at. It could just be a church planters gathering, I’m not sure. Either way I feel a little under qualified to be here. I’m not really a church planter, a church planting aspirational hobbyist, perhaps.

I always feel a little bit under-qualified to be at these things. I’m here with all these people who are in the midst of planting churches and have planted churches. I’m just a bloke with some ideas and a few people who are hanging out with me and having ideas with me. But I guess I’m a whole lot further down the path than I was this time last year.

I met a pastor of a church plant today who has planted in the place we’ve been thinking about planting in. He’s really encouraging, genuine and friendly. I reckon he leads a good, Jesus-loving church too. I was hoping when I met him he’d be kinda evil and obviously a terrible leader. It’d make planting decisions easier. On the other hand, if I care about people meeting Jesus more than I care about where I plant a church, which I think I do, then I’m really happy this guy is in the area.

He’s gonna sit down and have a chat with us tomorrow. I’m looking forward to it.

I just remembered that I never made post about why plant a church. Maybe I’ll do that while I’m here. I might get inspired.

We’ll see. I don’t wanna make promises I can’t keep.

Anyway, I’ll let you know how this conference/gathering goes. I’ll see if I can have my hobbies affirmed.

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