I’m pretty much just going to write stuff on my tumblr thingy now.

http://mattjacobs.tumblr.com/

bye bye wordpress. thanks for the fun.

EDIT: non-Tumblr users can comment on my tumblr site now, via a nifty thing called Disqus.

imagine moving to a different country, that had no history of youth ministry at all. No 70′s & 80′s versions of youth group that produced a lot of the books that fed youth ministry in the 90′s. no history whatsoever. you’d be starting with a clean slate, and you’d be setting the youth ministry scene for decades to come.

how would you do things? what ‘cultural baggage’ (e.g., “there must be games and they must be fun”) from Australian youth ministry would you let go of? what are the positives from australian youth ministry that you’d be keen to translate into this different culture?

I’m hoping to spend a bit more time this year working more closely with other youth ministry people in the Ryde area. I reckon that working together is much better (on so many levels) than working alone.

I’ve been watching the Soul Revival Jesus Movement with great interest; my ‘home’ Church (Cronulla Presbyterian) has joined the network, and some brilliant stuff has been going on in the last few weeks: one week devoted to prayer for the Shire, and one week devoted to mission/outreach/gospel preaching. No bells and whistles, no amazing technology … just prayer and preaching. It sounds like it’s been reasonably successful too!

I’ve been watching with interest, because I guess I have a few questions to figure out this year:

  • Should our little network in the Ryde/Epping/Eastwood area join in the SRJM?
  • What would joining the movement mean for us on a practical level?
  • Do we continue as our own network, develop our own name and identity, and act as a partner/friendship network to the SRJM?

It’s also been really interesting thinking about why we should even bother working together. At a recent conference, someone posed the question, “Is there any theological agenda for working together?” No answers were immediately given, though I have a couple of ideas to explore.

On the ‘theological’ level:

  • The nature of local churches in the NT times. Paul didn’t write to something equating to Colosse Anglican Church … he wrote to the churches in the Colosse region, with the intention that his letter would be circulated, and shared with the churches in Laodicea (Colossians 4:15-16)
  • All the stuff in Ephesians 2, especially the second half that speaks so strongly of being one in Christ; not just on the local, individual church level, but seemingly in the heavenly realms level. Especially when you get to Eph 3:10 which talks about the church (which I take to mean ‘all of God’s people’) displaying God’s manifold wisdom.
  • Tribes. I wonder if the OT, pre-Jesus thing about God’s people being a whole bunch of tribes, but one nation under God has anything to do with anything.

That doesn’t mean I’m all for ecumenism. We need to be heaps careful about who we combine with, and that when we combine, we combine on common ground (the gospel).

There’s also a stack of practical reasons for working together, especially for the youth:

  • They see that God’s work in the world is bigger than just what is going on in our church.
  • It kills off any sense of pride in who we are as an individual church, and teaches them to celebrate what God is doing in other churches.
  • They meet other Christian young people.
  • For young people who aren’t Christians, it shows them that Christianity is bigger than what they’ve experienced so far.
  • and on and on…

I haven’t blogged in ages.

There’s been a lot of stuff going on …

  1. Abby started pre-school today. She loved it so much that she didn’t want to go home.
  2. We moved our annual Youth Camp to the last week of the January School Holidays. Apart from the stinking heat, it was sensational. Snowy (Mike Snowdon) did a stellar job of opening the text of Ephesians for our teenagers.
  3. God has raised up an awesome team of youth leaders for our Youth Group. Serving with them is going to be a blast.
  4. I’ll be doing a little bit of study at Youthworks College this year; learning about Leadership & Management, and Pastoral Care stuff. Should be really interesting.

Lastly, I probably won’t put much time into this blog, because basically I’m too lazy to. Tumblr seems quick and easy for me, and as you’ll see on my tumblr page, I tend to just post photos and few words occasionally.

Maybe when college kicks in, I’ll have something more substantial to say here.

10 days ago, I wrote about some struggles I was facing in trying to do my daily readings through 1 & 2 Chronicles. I think the standard quiet time method (pray-read a chapter-think-pray) doesn’t really work that well, especially for books like these!

A week before starting 1 & 2 Chronicles, I’d also decided to read about 10 Psalms a day. Not as a super-spiritual thing, I just wanted to go on a whirlwind tour through the Psalms. I hadn’t read them for a while and didn’t really feel like spending 150 days reading them.

Something really interesting happened: I noticed some really similar things going on. It turns out that the major focus of Chronicles is the temple and Israel’s worship of God. The Psalms fill out that picture: it’s the prayers and songs that were a big part of that worship. A phrase keeps occurring in both Chronicles and Psalms:

He is good; his love endures forever. 2 Chronicles 7:3

His love endures forever. Psalm 136, every verse.

Wow. Such a strong, consistent reminder of God’s love! Especially considering that Chronicles was written after the exodus and return to Israel, perhaps with the intent of telling the newly returned Israelites how good things were in days gone by. To inspire a bit of Jewish Nationalism, and get them motivated to rebuild the temple and restore the right worship of God. After all of their sin, all of the punishment of exile, the journey back home … His love endures forever.

The thing is, I think we expect too much from our quiet times. We expect that for every chapter I read, a fresh, new insight into something of God will become clear to us. But I just don’t see the Old Testament working that way. It seems to me that as I get the drift of a whole book, the main ‘lesson’ becomes clear. But only as we read in big chunks. For me, that’s meant about 12-13 chapters (10 Psalms, 2-3 chapters of Chronicles) a day. I’ve probably over-done it with the amount of Psalms, so perhaps this is how quiet times in Chronicles could work:

  1. Pray for insight, understanding.
  2. Read 2-3 chapters of Chronicles. Look for when one ‘episode’ ends and another begins. 1 Chronicles has a lot of names and lists. Skim read the names, but pay attention to their roles.
  3. Read about 5 Psalms, especially around ‘Books II and III’ – Psalms 42-89. Think of them as the things being prayed and sung as the events of Chronicles are unfolding. Pay attention to the opening remarks of each Psalm, such as ‘A psalm of Asaph.’ He’s in the Chronicles.
  4. Think about how the Psalms fill out the picture of Chronicles. Try to put yourself in the shoes of one of God’s people in that time at that place, and then as one of God’s people after the exile. Be inspired by what God did at the heights of your history with David and Solomon.
  5. Listen to the big theme: even though things are not like that now, God is good; his love endures forever.
  6. Pray. Thank him for his love expressed completely in Jesus. Thank him for his love through all the time that’s passed since then. Thank him for the hope of an even better future.

I went to an art-show last night! A couple of HSC students from my church had their major work on display at school, so a bunch of us went up to Cheltenham Girls, to check out their work, and to support them.

Hannah Power's Major Work. Major 'whoa!' moment for Keren and I.

Keren and I both had the same reaction: “whoa, this is awesome!”

It’s got me thinking about how we use art in Christian circles. Years ago I read a book called Addicted to Mediocrity by Franky Shaeffer (son of Francis Shaeffer). He basically slammed Christians for shunning art, and turning instead to tacky ‘Smile: Jesus Loves You’ pencils and daggy Thomas Kinkade paintings. He was pretty harsh in his criticism, and compared the church in the 20th century to the church in ages gone by, where some of the huge impressive artworks were sponsored by the church, told Bible stories and adorned church buildings. Example: St Peter’s Basilica.

I think the church has moved on a bit since the 80′s. Jim LePage’s impressive Word series is a great example of Christian art, even if some of it is tongue-in-cheek.

I was thinking today, that the Church can use art in at least three ways:

  1. Promotion. For our fliers for youth groups, I like to produce a postcard type thing with an image on one side that ties in with a major theme of the book we’re looking at. At Crusaders (school group at Arden), we’ve been looking at Psalms, so I’ve got this sketched looking tree thing that reminds me of the bit in Psalm 1, talking about the righteous person being like a tree planted by streams of water. Imagery can capture themes of Biblical books really well, and can evoke all the right feelings that these themes should raise.
  2. Decoration. I’m not saying we go all Eastern Orthodox and use images as prompts or tools of worship, but I think a tasteful image as a backdrop to a service or youth group can enhance the teaching element, and help the visual learners. eg: a talk about Poverty and what the Bible says can be really good if the talk is well packaged. Put a well packaged and prepared talk together with some images of extreme poverty (whether photographs or artistic representations), and the impact can be huge. Decoration can also be more light-hearted. Hannah showed me a picture of a room divider she made: themed like a city-scape with coloured lights, little windows and all kinds of cool stuff.
  3. Expression. Here’s where I want to do more thinking. We’ve got a handful of really creative people in our group at All Saints, and I want them to feel encouraged to use their God-given gifts in art. I don’t want to place many restrictions on that expression, but I think that expressing stuff that’s somehow related to what we’re teaching at Youth Group is a good idea. So for example, a series on hope in the book of Romans … how cool would it be to have some sort of artwork (a painting? a sculpture? a video?) that expresses the sure hope of salvation in Jesus, despite our failure as sinful people. It could also be used as a decoration thing, that reminds people about the stuff we’ve learnt. I wonder if Hannah Power’s awesome major work highlighting issues facing teenagers could lead into and complement a series on hope? Or if Gen Repko’s impressive water/friendship themed artwork could complement a series on relationships?

Probably the only issue I can think to be aware of is maintaining the primacy of the Word. God has spoken to us through Jesus, and it’s all been recorded in words for us to read. We don’t worship God through images (there’s a commandment about that…), but I don’t think that means we cut off art all together. How can art shed light on, or serve the Word?

And that’s my brain done for now. If you know of any good books on Christians and art, I’m not very arty and would love to read more!

… for books like 1 & 2 Chronicles. It starts with at least 10 chapters of Genealogies! I discovered that the hard way, when I decided to read through it for my daily reading last night. I’d only ever flipped through it for study, I’d never actually sat down and read it chapter by chapter.

So advising people to just have a go, read a chapter a day and think about what God is saying doesn’t always work. Teaching them some basic exegetical skills probably won’t help much either. At best, readers will skim read or skip those chapters and get to the good bits about the Warriors and fights and stuff. At worst, readers will be discouraged by 10 chapters/10 days of reading endless unpronounceable names, they’ll give up and go read something easier, never to return again.

But if our conviction and belief is that the whole Bible is God’s word, and we have the expectation that God speaks to us through the Bible, then I reckon we need to work out what a quiet time in these sorts of passages will look like.

I don’t have any answers yet!

But one thought occurred to me; if the Jews started off one of their major scrolls about the Kings by tracing the family line from Adam, through to Abraham and on to David, then it becomes really clear that Matthew’s intention in chapter 1 is to make a very rhetorically powerful statement to Jewish readers, about Jesus being the fulfilment of the promise to David, that one of his descendants would be king forever. So reading 1 & 2 Chronicles has illuminated Matthew’s gospel for me a bit. But from there, I’m stumped.

In a couple of years, I’ll be working on a special interest project at Youthworks College, so I’m keen to get cracking now with some of the background thinking that will go into that.

The topic I’m keen to think through is Prophecy. Starting with getting a solid understanding of the role of the Prophets in the Old Testament (I like Fee & Stuart’s description: ‘covenant enforcers’), then working out what prophecy looks like in the early church/New Testament, and then thinking through what Prophecy might look like today, if it’s still meant to be a gift that Christians can have today.

And then, if it is a gift that Christians are meant to have today, what should that look like in our churches?

My initial thoughts (without having read much on the topic) are:

  1. that prophecy doesn’t exist anymore in the sense of revealing anything new. I believe the canon is closed. I’m not even 100% sure that ‘new revelations’ was a major role of the Old Testament prophets, apart from adding flesh and using a bit of inspired creative license to the promises and warnings spelt out in the Torah/Law. We should be wary of anyone who is claiming to have received fresh revelations from God.
  2. prophecy probably could exist in the sense of being a covenant enforcer; pointing out sin and calling believers back into faithfulness to the covenant, reminding them of the warnings and promises spelt out in the covenant. I need to do a lot more reading and thinking here. I’ve skimmed Grudem’s section on prophecy in the early church in Systematic Theology, but wasn’t entirely convinced.
  3. this could potentially have a lot to say about the way we do preaching.

Nick Barnett!

Still to come: year 12 girls talking about prayer, year 12 guys @ sweat, our awesome Bible Study group.

Annabelle and Rachel are in year 9, and they go to Night Church.

Nick Barnett’s video will be done soon. We had a slight change of plans and haven’t been able to re-film them.

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