Tag Archives: bible

Create a book for young people


I’ve written before about trying to find creative ways to help young people engage with the Bible.

Yesterday, I was looking through the app store and came across the ibook author.

“Available free on the Mac App Store, iBooks Author is an amazing new app that allows anyone to create beautiful Multi-Touch textbooks — and just about any other kind of book — for iPad. With galleries, video, interactive diagrams, 3D objects, and more, these books bring content to life in ways the printed page never could.”

I don’t have an ipad but I’m interested to see christian youth workers or other christian artists/ writers produce some interactive christian books for young people that might help them engage better with the bible.

anyone up for the challenge?

Please comment or post if you’ve done this already or are presently doing it. I’d love to see the results.

The Bible in Transmedia: A New idea for Youth Ministry?

I was getting my weekly fix of tech news by way of BBC click this morning and I was struck by one of the reports on Transmedia.

Transmedia is the technique of telling stories across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies. This concept is not new as I remember when I was in 6th year at school (a good 12 years ago now) signing up to receive e-mails from Patrick Bateman, the serial killer (or is he?) from the brilliant subversive novel ‘American Psycho‘. I had enjoyed the book so much that I had signed up for this extra feature to continue to feed my Bateman fix.

Things have moved on since then and with the rise of augmented reality, apps and social media, transmedia is going from strength to strength with authors now building on the universe of the novel for those interested in going deeper.

As I watched this, I started thinking to myself, could this be the next big thing in christian youth ministry? Could we start creating transmedia bible stories? Now, I know that the natwivity (the nativity story told through twitter) has been running for a couple of years and this gives ‘twitterers’ the opportunity to see the story in a new perspective but I’d like to see things go further. Because the simple truth is, many young people do not engage with the bible.

We started the ‘beautiful disciplines’ series at our youth fellowship last night and, as part of the introduction, you get everyone to fill out a God Audit (or as a I prefer a Godit). One of the questions asks about where you are in your relationship with God and what you would like to improve on. Almost of the young people said they would like to read the bible more.

Why is it that young people are not engaging with it?

There’s a variety of reasons and this isn’t the blog post to go into that. There are far better blogs out there that wrestle with these questions. The question I am more interested in is how do we change that?

I believe transmedia could be an option. Imagine your young people are studying the story of Jonah. They get to the point where he is swallowed up by the fish and then they go on facebook or twitter and add/ follow Jonah and ask him how he felt about that. Whilst they are waiting for his response, they can read his status updates, stream a video journal of Jonah from inside the fish or be directed to his blog that he wrote whilst inside. Once they’ve digested all this info, they can go back to the bible, finish the story and repeat the steps.

Is this a viable option for youth work? Could this help young people engage with the history stories, the letters of Paul, the prophecies of the prophets, better?

I’m not sure. But it’s an interesting idea and one worth exploring.

Young People and Lying

Is lying okay?

I guess there are a number of ways you can ask the same question.

Is it ever right to lie? Is lying always wrong? Are there situations or circumstances where lying, although not necessarily encouraged or commended, is acceptable?

But it all comes back to the same thing. How do you answer that question? How do your young people answer that question?

Let me tell you what some of the young people I work with thought and we will take it from there.

At our youth house group (15-18 year old) we were playing ‘question jenga’ (I’ll blog about that at some point) and one of the young people got the question, ‘is lying ok?’ and they answered, “in certain circumstances”. This answer started a short discussion on the subject, where young people threw different answers and bible verses around. In the end the majority agreed that lying isn’t good but in certain circumstances it is permissible. Do you agree?

To be honest, before I started looking into things, that’s the view I held. But as someone who values good theological discussion, that answer really didn’t cut it. So, what follows is a brief look at lying and the bible.

Before the Bible

It’s easy to say, “I just do what the bible says” but that really isn’t true. We all read the bible through our own lenses, thoughts, prejudices etc. No one comes to the bible neutral. Someone who lives in Japan will understand a passage very different from someone who lives in the UK. Our background and our culture affect how we interpret what the biblical writers were trying to say and I feel it’s important to start with that and explain a little about where I come from. When it comes to ethics, in most cases I hold the teleological view. Ok let me explain. There are two ways of understanding ethics:

Deontological– Law. A Rule is a rule and you don’t break it. For example, the commandment ‘Do not murder‘ would mean just that. You never murder. Under any circumstance. Check out Kant‘s categorical imperative if you’re interested in it further.

Teleological– The simple way of understanding this would be, ‘the end justifies the means’. The commandment, “Do not murder’ would be a little more loose in this view. In general, it is right not to murder but if by murdering someone, it would save the life of many more, then it would be right to break that rule.

I hold the teleological view in most cases. Not all. But in most.

The Bible

With that little preface out of the way, let’s explore a few verses that are often used when discussing what the bible has to say about lying.

Exodus 20:16

The 9th commandment is frequently quoted around this subject but the fact is, it’s a very specific aspect of lying that God commands us not to do.

“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”

The words used are words that would be said in a court. Don’t lie about what someone has said or done. This verse is not against all forms of lying.   It is not saying, do not lie to ‘your neighbour’. It is saying you should not lie against or about ‘your neighbour’.There is a big difference between the words to and against. That aside, there are verses that are much clearer on this issue.

“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that hurry to run to evil, a lying witness who testifies falsely, and one who sows discord in a family.” (Proverbs 6:16–19)

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)

Here are just two that I have picked. Both, appear, to condemn lying in a more general view. So quoting those two verses (and there are many more) it is clear then that the bible commands us not to lie.


Well…yes and no. In Exodus, Pharaoh commands that all the newborn Jewish boys should be killed. But the midwives disobey this and let them live. When Pharaoh asks them why they are allowing them to live they reply, the Hebrew women … are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them” (Exodus 1:19). They lied to Pharaoh. The passage goes on to say that “God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous.” God blesses the women for what they have done. Lying.

A similar idea is found in Joshua 2 when two men are sent out to spy on Jericho. The king finds out and the two men hide in the house of Rahab. The king’s messengers come to the door and asked Rahab if she has seen them. She replies, “The men came to me, but I did not know where they came from. And when it was time to close the gate at dark, the men went out. Where the men went I do not know. Pursue them quickly, for you can overtake them” (Joshua 2:4–5).

The story goes to on to say that she is spared when the Israelites attack Jericho because she lied to the king about the whereabouts of the men. Her lying is commended.

So, in certain circumstances, it is permissible to lie.  I use the term permissible rather than justifiable as I do not think the bible should be used to justify any action.

We are back to the conclusion the young people at the house group came up with. But is that enough? And in what situations is it permissible to lie? Let’s look at that briefly.

The Greatest Commandment

I do not think it is right to lie. But, I think there are situations when we can do it. When asked what is the greatest commandment of the law, Jesus replied “love God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind [and] love your neighbour as yourself”. (Matthew 22:37-39)

Every other commandment is superseded by these two. Ever other commandment must be seen through the lens of these two commandments. We cannot talk about whether murder, lying or any other  thing is right or wrong until we have discussed the first two.

So, I believe in situations where these two commandments are being broken, then lying may be permissible. I’m reminded of the stories of the people who hid the Jews from the Nazis and when they came searching for Jews, told them that they weren’t hiding any. These people lied but only because the Nazis were not ‘loving their neighbour’.

What this reveals to me is that there cannot be a hard and fast rule about lying. Rather than simply creating a rule for our young people, we have to help guide their values. We should remind them of the words of Jesus and how that should impact all our actions, not just lying.

What do you guys think?

It’s the End of the World as we know it…and I feel fine!

If Harold Camping and Family Radio are to believed, this will be my last blog post. As, according to them, the “rapture” of all those who believe in Jesus will happen tomorrow and the world will be destroyed sometime in October.

There’s many responses I could give to this (and spend five minutes browsing google and you’ll find many people who already have) but I guess I want to focus on one particular bit.

I have no idea how things are going to tie themselves up in the end. The Bible is NOT a play-by-play of how the world is going to end.

In fact, I don’t believe that the world is going to end. Certainly not in the way that Camping and other fundamentalists (or as a like to call crazies) think it will. I don’t for one minute believe that God is going to ‘steal’ us all away to some place called Heaven and leave everyone who doesn’t believe in Him to suffer on earth for the next few months until its destroyed.

That’s a science fiction story. And one with a lot of holes in its plot.

There are things I love in this world. The simple pleasure of feeling the sun on my face on a hot day. standing with my (almost) three year old son watching and and listening to the river and sitting chatting for hours with my wife. I believe God also loves these things. I believe God takes joy in the simplest of pleasures. He probably does so, so much more than me. It’s this belief that makes me question the entire understanding of the ‘rapture’.

Revelation is a hard book to understand and grapple with. It’s written in a form of writing that we do not fully understand. It is burst with imagery, allegory and politics. I think it has very little to do with how the world is going to end.

I believe God loves this world. And that he’s not going to destroy it. I don’t believe that christians (however you understand that term) are going to be whisked off to some other realm. I believe that revelation paints this beautiful image of God coming here. Of God dwelling here with us. I believe that this world will be renewed, not destroyed.

And I believe the fundamental message of Jesus is to to reveal to us how we can participate with God in renewing this world. By celebrating life, by treating each other fairly, by loving one another we will live as if this were Heaven. I believe that’s the point. I believe this is what we should be communicating to the young people we work with. Show them that we are not all going somewhere else.

Show them that God has begun a plan to restore and renew this world. And we get to be part of it.

I believe that Saturday will come and go. And I hope that rather than lose faith (or come up with some silly reason as to why we are all still here on Sunday) that Camping and his followers embrace the message of reconciliation and restoration and start trying to save this world rather than celebrating its demise.

The Life of An Insecure Youth Worker

There are moments when I’m reminded of my insecurities and weaknesses. A few weeks ago I had one of those moments.

During the Easter holidays, a number of the young people from the church went to an SU retreat in Austria for a week. All of them came back ‘high’ from the experience. I remember the intense experience of weekend aways and week long retreats when I was a teenager. Being in a christian environment, surrounded by christians with no ‘worldly distractions’ is always going to have positive moments. It’s easy to be a christian when you’re away from your ordinary life, surrounded by other christian peers.

I heard the similar views of , “why can’t our YF be more intense”, “oh the speakers were incredible, not like we have here” etc etc.

Those kind of comments I can deal with.

But then one of the leaders of the trip away invited all of the young people from the trip to a ‘sort of’ reunion at a youth event in Edinburgh. Nothing wrong with that.

But it’s what he said that made me insecure and angry.

He said that he didn’t want the young people getting complacement in their faith and so wanted to keep them going to other invites to keep that flame lit.

The voice in my head responded with something like “and what do you think I’m trying to do?” “is my work meaningless?”

That was my gut reaction. the voice in my head that craves attention and worth.

“I’m the one working with these young people every week, not you”.

The rants continued in my head. I came home afterwards with a mixture of thoughts in my head. Retreats are good for young people but we have to help them realize that those ‘mountain top’ experiences aren’t everyday occurences. They can’t live their christian life going waiting for the next ‘high’. i remember coming home from trips to soul survivor and being angry with my church. “how can they be so complacement? Where’s their passion? I felt God there but not here”.

Now that I’m a youth worker I see how hard those things are to hear.

But thank God for grace. Thank god that i am not defined by my work. And I pray God would continually break me down every time I forget that.

But that’s not to say that those thoughts should be ignored. We need to find ways to disciple the young people we work with through those experiences. We need to help them practice the presence of God in their daily lives and realize that that God can be found in the small insignificant moments and no just the intense worship experiences. To help them realize how to be a disciple when you don’t feel God’s presence; when things are hard and your friends don’t take about your faith.

I thank God for those events, but I need His grace and vision to help bring the young people back into ‘normal life’.

God and Jigsaw: A Comparative Study


I just finished watching Saw 7. The final chapter in the successful ‘torture porn‘ or ‘gorno’ franchise.

I’m not here to give a review of that film. There’s better people for that. What I do want to do is make a comparison between the serial killer Jigsaw and the Christian God.

Let me say a few things before I delve into it:

1) I believe that is is good to explore and discussion films with young people. I know young people watch the Saw films. Rather than simply saying, “Don’t watch it”, I want to find ways of exploring the themes  and characters of the films and comparing and contrasting them with the themes and characters that we find in the Bible.

2)I’m not saying that God and Jigsaw are the same or that God can even be summed up by a character in a film or story. What I am intending to do is to

make comparisons that help young people explore faith in culture 9and vice versa)

3)These are initial thoughts and have not been critiqued in depth by myself as yet

With those things said, let’s plunge ourselves into the murky and morally bankrupt world of the Saw franchise.

For those unfamiliar with the Saw films and the character of Jigsaw, here is a summarised excerpt from wikipedia:

Tobin Bell, who portrays Jigsaw, has been the ...

Image via Wikipedia

“Jigsaw, introduced in the series as John Kramer,[1] was a civil engineer dying from an inoperable frontal lobe tumor that had developed from colon cancer. After a failed suicide attempt, Kramer experienced a new respect for his own life and set out to force others through deadly trials to help them appreciate their own lives by testing their will to live through self-sacrifice. The tests were typically symbolic of what Jigsaw perceived as a flaw in each person’s moral character or life. The Jigsaw name was given by the media for his practice of cutting puzzle pieces out of the flesh of those who failed their ordeals and perished, symbolic of their missing survival instincts.”

Two comparisons between Jigsaw and the Christian understanding of God

1) Jigsaw offers salvation to his subjects

2)Jigsaw takes risks.

Let’s look at these in a little more detail.

1)Jigsaw offers salvation to his subjects. That is the crux of his plan. He wants people to be like him. To have a new found respect for life. But to do this they must lose something of their self. They must die to their old ways. You can see where I’m going with this.

Now, let me make clear that I’m not saying God is like this. God, as I understand it, does not put us through horrific trials in order for us to find life. He may use these things that happen to us to weave potential good out of them but that is not the same thing.

Jigsaw wants these people to see the errors of their ways and repent. Only by truly repenting, can they do the things that he asking of them and liberate themselves.

At this time, Christians celebrate Easter. The death and resurrection of God. Rather than us going through torture to find salvation, God goes through the torture. God dies that we might have life. Deeply, deeply humbling.

The cross, like Jigsaw’s torture chamber, is a symbol of hope. It symbolizes the possibility of new life.

2) Jigsaw takes risks.  Jigsaws victims might not find salvaation. His efforts may be, in the end, like chasing after the wind. They might not have the strength or the courage to die to themselves. As a result, the Saw films are overflowing with corpses.

It is my belief that God takes risks. He is the ultimate risk taker. On the cross, God gives his life as a ransom for many. His hope is that all will be reconciled to Him through his actions. Whether you hold to universalism, or annihilation or a traditional understanding of Hell, we can all testify to the fact that God took a risk.

And not just on the cross. From the very beginning of time, God has taken risks. the Bible is full of stories of God’s interaction with mankind. It’s full of stories of the risks he takes.

In the end, it is obvious that Jigsaw and the Christian God are not the same. But there are themes in the movie that resonate. That can be explored with young people.

I’m not saying you should get your youth group together and watch a Saw film (although that would be interesting).

But what I am saying is this. Don’t ignore the fact that young people watch these types of film. But on the other hand don’t just say you shouldn’t and leave it at that.

Instead, do what God did and still does. Take a risk. Interact with him. Discuss it with them.

You might be surprised by the results.

Why Should We Always Agree with the Sermon?

On Sunday morning, the pastor spoke about the importance of reading the Bible.

Throughout the service, the sermon was punctuated with lots of ‘amens’ and grunts of approvals from the congregation.

It got me thinking…

The first recorded public sermon of Jesus ended with the congregation trying to throw him off a cliff (Luke 4).

Why aren’t there more sermons like that? When was the last time you disagreed so passionately with a sermon that you wanted to throw the speaker off a cliff? When was the last time a sermon forced you into action?

Is a good sermon really measured by how much we agree with it?

Do we go to a church service just to hear things we agree with? Is that really the point?

Or am I missing something?

Enter the Pitch

There is a christian filmmaking competition called “enter the pitch”.

It involves putting together a 2 minute pitch of a bible story or passage that could be turned into a 20 minute short. the winning pitch gets funding of £20k to make it.

I got a few members of our YF group together and filmed a short trailer for “the fallen”. A dramatic retelling of the David and Saul saga, set in the context of World War 2.

click the link below to check it out. I’ll get a copy embedded on to the blog later.

The fallen

Youtube embed below

I Hate Christian T-shirts: A Rant

That title is maybe a little strong. I don’t hate all christian t-shirts. But I do hate some of them.

especially the ones below that I saw today:

If you will be so kind, let me spell out why I hate these two particular t-shirts.

GOSPEL- God’s only son provides eternal life

Now late me say I have no quarrel with the statement. I believe it. My issue comes with what is says overall. the word gospel means so much more than just Jesus giving us eternal life. the word in greek is euaggelion. It was a a word that existed before the new testament writers used it and they used it for a particular purpose.

‘gospel’ alluded to the birth of a new roman emperor. It forecast a new and prosperous era. It was a political term.

Mark chooses to start his story of Jesus with this line:

1The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

This statement was an ‘up yours’ to the Roman Empire. It was subversive. Mark was saying, “here is the start of a new era. And it’s not brought about by a Roman Emperor. It’s brought about by Jesus. The true son of God. (the term ‘son of god’ was also a political statement as roman emperors referred to themselves as god’s son).

So do you see why I have issue with this statement? The gospel is so much more than Jesus giving us eternal life. It is about the coming of a new era. A new kingdom. It is about liberation. Other wise there is no point in mark including the story of Jesus’ life. It might as well just focus on his death and resurrection. But it doesn’t. it focuses on his life on earth as well. It focuses on his message. The gospel is about the gift of eternal life but to somehow say it is just about that reduces its impact considerably.Now on to the second one…

BIBLE- Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth

In some ways this statement angers me even more as it represents a completely distorted picture of the coming of God’s Kingdom. Jesus did not come to say us somewhere else. In the book of revelation it says:

1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.

The word new is kainos in greek which is better understood as renewed. Our hope is in the fact that the earth will be renewed. It speaks of God coming to dwell on earth. Not us going somewhere else. What is remarkable about the gospel story is that the eternal logos came and took on flesh and lived here. It is the coming together of body and soul.

Revelation speaks of the return of the earth to how it was meant to be. Not its destruction. If we are simply going to go somewhere else why bother about this earth at all? e might as well just speed up its demise. What kind of message is that?

Well my rant is almost over. I could go on to say that reducing the bible to an instruction manual is also ridiculous but I think I’ve said enough.

I don’t hate all christian t-shirts but I DO HATE THESE ONES!

Rant over.

If George Clooney had a conversation with Jonah

In one of the many touching scenes from “Up In the Air”, Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) sits down with Bob (JK Simmons) to tell him he’s been let go. Bob is obviously distraught. Ryan asks him if he believes in fate. Bob replies by telling the story of how he met his wife at a gas station. Ryan suggests to Bob that fate might be trying to tell him something. That maybe this is a time of re-birth. A time to reflect on your life and follow a path that makes him happy. Yes getting fired is horrible but maybe this is happening for a reason.

Let’s think about the story of Jonah. It’s a familiar story and that’s always a problem when it comes to trying to find new meanings in well told bible stories. Jonah was a git. let’s be honest. God tells him to go to Nineveh to help people. To save them. Jonah decides to go the other way. To Tarshish. Rather than help people, he decides to do what pleases him.  Here is God’s representative choosing to care more about himself than other people. Nothing new there. We can all relate to that.

He hires a boat with a crew and sets sail (I’ve found out recently that the phrase ‘paying the fare’ (v.3) could mean that he hired the boat and its crew). Along comes a storm. The gentile crew members do all that they can to save the boat. They throw their precious cargo away (literally throwing away their profits) and pray to every god that they know of. These men care about each other. They care about Jonah.

What’s Jonah doing? He’s sleeping. He doesn’t care about the crew. But then he gets woken up and he finds out what’s going on. He has an epiphany. A change of heart. He chooses to give up his own life in order to save the other men.

Why do I think this?

Jonah’s prayer in the fish is not a new prayer. all the lines taken from the psalms.

There are two types of prayers in the psalms. Prayers of thanksgivings and prayers of lament. The lines from Jonah’s prayers are all taken from psalms of thanksgiving. The writer of Jonah is doing something important here. Jonah isn’t unhappy that he’s in the belly of the fish. He’s thankful. He understands how wrong he has been. He repents. He’s a new man.

Most of the time when crap happens in our life, when we enter into a stormy phase, we ask God for help. We cry out a prayer of lament. But maybe the point isn’t to be saved from the storm. maybe the storm is saving us. The storm saved Jonah. It made him re-evaluate his thinking. It made him re-evaluate what was important. Regardless of how the rest of the story plays out, at that moment, Jonah realized what it meant to be a follower of God. He needed to do the right thing.

Back to Bob in “Up In The Air”. In a roundabout way George Clooney is saying the same thing to him as God was saying to Jonah. Maybe by being fired, Bob is being saved. He gets to re-evaluate his life. His priorities. Maybe God has his hand in Bob’s life.

Maybe just maybe, some storms can be a good thing. Because they save us from following a path that is going to bring more harm than good.

When was the last time you gave a prayer of thanksgiving in the midst of a storm?