Category Archives: Fun

Sermon: The story of Esther

The story of Esther, the poor orphan girl who rises to be Queen of the greatest Empire on earth, is one of my favourites. Many years ago I told it to a youth group at a camp, and since then the dramatisation of the story has been one of my favourite sermons to share. I got the chance to do so last year at our church, and I’ve finally had some time to edit the various video feeds into a single video.

So, here is the story of Esther, preached at my home church. Enjoy.

A Fan’s Best of Christmas Music Lists

I collect Christmas music. I have been doing so since I was a teenager, and it’s become something of an obsession. I now have nearly 300 albums of Christmas music, spanning every musical genre and era.

Choosing the best of the albums and songs is not an easy task – and obviously highly subjective. But I guess I am as qualified as anyone to do so. Here then are my “best of” lists of Christmas music (this is a work in progress – latest update 23 Dec 2016):

To get into these lists the songs and albums need something distinctive, they are musically excellent (even if I don’t particularly like the style), they must not be cheesy (so, no Boney M then), and they must capture the Christmas spirit (festive or reflective). I also favoured variety (so that my list of top albums didn’t dominate the individual songs list too much). The final criteria is that I included not just popular musicians, but Christian artists and worship albums as well – it is Christ-mas, after all.

These lists are going to be updated regularly, and change as I get suggestions and come across new songs and albums (and get slapped down for my initial choices). I’d love to hear your suggestions for these lists, and any songs or albums you think are better than the ones in my lists below.

Please remember that it’s actually impossible to create a “best of” list of Christmas songs. It’s actually better to be clear on what musical styles you prefer, and then get the best Christmas album in those styles. It’s also a good idea to select the best version of each Christmas song you like. That’s what I’ve done below, knowing full well there is not one chance that any list of “best Christmas songs” will ever be satisfactory. There are just too many musical genres competing for attention.

So, add your voice below.

Xmas Baubles
Continue reading A Fan’s Best of Christmas Music Lists

Just for fun (but also serious): 10 Things That Drive Us Crazy at Church… That Probably Shouldn’t

I found this on the ChurchLeaders.com website. It’s really very good. Read the original here, with all the attached multimedia and clips that add to the humour.

10. Loud Music
9. People Using iPads Instead of “Real” Bibles
8. Coffee in the Sanctuary
7. Youth Group Attire
6. Long Sermons
5. Church Parking Lots
4. Pastors Asking for Money
3. Women in Leadership
2. Overly Happy Greeters
1. The Much-Feared Meet-n-Greet

Source: ChurchLeaders.com

By their fruit you shall know them: Ken Ham, young earth creationism, aliens and compassion

In Matthew 7, Jesus told his disciples that they were to beware of false prophets – people who would teach untruths and lead people astray. Jesus then gave a very simple test: no bad tree can produce good fruit, so just look for the “fruits” of their teaching. Elsewhere in Scripture, we are told what spiritual fruits are: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). Where we see a breakdown or lack of love, joy, kindness, etc, we need to be alert to potential false teaching.

I was interested, in this context, to see Ken Ham’s latest pronouncements. Ken Ham is one of the world’s foremost young earth creationists, basing his pseudo-scientific views on a literal interpretation of the Bible’s accounts of creation. Young earth creationism is scientifically indefensible, and in my opinion fits into the “false teaching” category. All truth is God’s truth, and when someone denies plain truths evident in nature, they’re being just as false in their teachings as those who teach false theology.

Last week NASA announced that they expect to find alien life within a few years. Ken Ham and his organisation, Answers in Genesis, released a statement calling on NASA to stop wasting money. There is no alien life, Ham claims, because all life descends from Adam, and Adams sin affected the whole universe. (Stick with me on this ‘logic’:) Since Jesus died on this earth, no aliens would be able to be saved. God wouldn’t do this. Therefore, ipso facto, there can’t be aliens, so NASA is wasting money.

Huffington Post reported on this issue by stating the obvious implication that if aliens exist they will go to hell. Ham denies he said this. But here is what he actually said:

Continue reading By their fruit you shall know them: Ken Ham, young earth creationism, aliens and compassion

How Feminism Hurts Men

Micah J. Murray writes a blog called Redemption Pictures. A recent post was a parody on the way in which some conservative Christians think about the role of women leaders in the church. I thought it was a clever, and funny, take on a very important and serious issue – in the church, and in the world. You can read the original here, or below.

Yesterday somebody on Facebook told me that feminism elevates women at the expense of men, that its agenda to validate women emasculates us guys.

He was right.

For men, the rise of feminism has relegated us to second-class status. Inequality and discrimination have become part of our everyday lives.

Because of feminism, men can no longer walk down the street without fear of being catcalled, harassed, or even sexually assaulted by women. When he is assaulted, the man is blamed – the way he dressed he was “asking for it”.

Because of feminism, there are no major Christian conferences about how to act like men, where thousands of men can celebrate their manliness and Jesus (and perhaps poke fun at female stereotypes).

Because of feminism, church stages and spotlights are often dominated by women. Men are encouraged to just serve in the nursery or kitchen. Sometimes men are even told to stay silent in church.

Continue reading How Feminism Hurts Men

“Just Following the Bible”

BibleI wrote a few days ago about the “Best of Stuff Fundies Like” for 2013. My personal favourite was a very short piece that satirised the way that many conservative Christians approach the Bible. When an issue gets too complicated or too controversial, they will quickly retreat to a position of “well, I just try and read the plain meaning of the Bible without all that fancy interpretation stuff”. If they are a little more trained in Bible interpretation, they may revert to “well, the plain meaning is always the best – your attempts to show alternative interpretations are just playing with words”.

While I hardly ever encounter the staunch KJV-only type Christians this post also satirises, I do encounter people who still cling to young earth creationism on the basis of their “plain reading” of Genesis 1-11, and to people who still restrict women from leadership roles based on their “plain reading” of Paul’s instructions, and, of course, the homosexuality issue is pretty much all about this kind of interaction about what Scripture really means. Whatever you might believe about homosexuality, surely you do have to start the conversation with some humility based on the long history of the church realising that maybe Scripture didn’t mean precisely what Scripture appeared to be saying (I think of everything from flat earths to the Sun at the centre of our galaxy, from slavery to women’s rights to vote, and more recently the causes of HIV/AIDS and apartheid).

Anyway, you can read the original here (and I’d highly recommend taking the time to follow the conversations in the comments), or below:

I just follow the Bible. I just follow the obvious meanings of a 400 year old translation of a document written originally in languages I don’t speak, influenced heavily by cultures I don’t begin to understand, and by people who I assume looked, acted, thought and dressed just like I do.

I just follow the Bible. It’s not only a road map for life and God’s love letter to everybody who isn’t an Amalekite but it also apparently contains an uncanny number of direct statements about how much beat is acceptable in music and how one should pledge to the country’s flag — even though countries didn’t have flags when it was written.

I just follow the Bible. And the Holy Spirit. And my pastor who God sent to tell me what the Holy Spirit says the Bible means. Just last Sunday I learned that Job 31:10 is a seven-thousand year old sermon against twerking.

I just follow the Bible. And my cultural predispositions. And my inherent biases. And my economic expedients. And my filters of time, place, biology, psychology, technology, and personal experience.

I just follow the Bible. You’d better follow me too.

Source: Stuff Fundies Like

The best of 2013: Stuff Fundies Like

This past year a good friend introduced me to the website, Stuff Fundies Like (Fundies, as in American Christian Fundamentalists). The site gives an almost daily insight into the lives, habits and foibles of this group of Christians. It’s a great resource for people like me who were brought up inside of that bubble – I recognise many of the things that are highlighted.

It borders on something dangerous for me, as it could easily lead me to feelings of superiority as I laugh at how fundamentalist Christians go about trying to prop up their faith. But mainly it invokes a combination of sadness, relief (that I am no longer blinded by worldview of ‘certainty seeking faith’) and resolve (to find ways to help these people see how liberating and freeing true Christianity actually is).

Anyway, their final post of the year was a round up of their best posts from the past twelve months. Make yourself a coffee, clear an hour or so in your diary, and check this out.

15 Things Jesus Didn’t Say, by Jim Palmer

I picked this up from my good friend, John Benn, a pastor in Durban. It was originally written by Jim Palmer, an author and part of the Religion-Free Bible Project.

15 things Jesus Didn’t Say:

“For God was so disgusted with the world and you that he gave his one and only Son.”

“I have come to bring you a new religion.”

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have correct theology.”

“If anyone would come after me, let him disparage all other religions and their followers.”

“If you love me, you will regularly attend a church of your choice… within reason.”

“Blessed are the tithers for they shall be called the children of God.”

“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in Heaven after the earth goes up in flames and destroyed.”

“You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor,’ which means the people with whom you attend church and relate to in your Christian sub-culture.”

Continue reading 15 Things Jesus Didn’t Say, by Jim Palmer

God versus the weather

The Bible makes it abundantly clear that God is in control of the weather. God causes rain and drought (see Deut. 11:14-17; 1 Kings 8:35-36; Job 5:10; 37:6; Jer. 14:22; Amos 4:7 and Zech. 14:17 – there are many more examples). God controls the “storehouses” of rain, snow and even the lightning (see Deut. 28:12, 24; Ps. 42:7, 135:7; and Jer. 10:13). It is God who sends storms (see Jonah 1:4), sometimes to punish people (Job 37:13). And, of course, Jesus stopped a storm dead in its tracks (see Mark 4:37-41; also see Ps. 107:29).

So, why are conservative Christians comfortable watching the weather channel, which so clearly uses science to show weather systems and patterns and make predictions based on a Godless scientific view? And why are they comfortable with their children learning about the water cycle in school? This scientific vision of the world’s weather patterns presents a picture of a world in which there is no need for God or God’s agency – the weather just works because it is a complete, integrated system on its own.

Now, obviously, I am being deliberately facetious in asking these questions in this way. Most thinking Christians can quite easily accept that the weather works all on its own, without any miraculous intervention from the Creator (To be fair in my reporting, I must say that some don’t and claim that God does indeed control every weather event – see here for Donald de Young’s book, “Weather and the Bible”). And while they certainly believe that God is capable of intervening in any part of this world, thinking Christians don’t see God’s hand in every storm or lightning bolt or hurricane (or quiet sunset or peaceful afternoon breeze, for that matter). The weather just gets on with it, all on its own.

And we therefore understand the verses I quoted above as being clearly figurative, rather than literal (except, possibly, Jesus’ miracle).

So, why then, are some conservative Christians so uptight about evolution? And why can’t they apply the same logic and hermeneutical approach to the Biblical accounts of Creation as they do to God and the weather?

Yes, this blog post is really about evolution and not about the weather. But it struck me today to be a good analogy. Why aren’t more Creationist Christians uptight about the weather, how it’s presented on TV or taught to their children at school? I’m just interested, that’s all…

Old Testament instructions (and how to apply them selectively)

This is just for fun. Sort of.

I was sent this information by a friend of mine recently. It is laugh out loud funny – at least it was for me. Yet, the underlying issue (of how we interpret the Bible) is serious indeed. But read other entries on this blog for more cerebral engagements with the issue.

A few years ago, an American radio host ranted about homosexuality (and then later retracted her comments and took out full page newspaper adverts to apologise). Dr Laura Schlessinger (“Dr Laura”) broadcasts a 3 hour long, radio program each weekday on a network of over 500 radio stations in the U.S. and Canada and has an estimated audience of 20 million people. She holds a Ph.D. in physiology (not psychology).

In her radio show, Dr Laura had said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance (she said more too about her feelings about homosexuals). The following response was posted on the internet. Its source has been credited to many different people, and is best regarded as an essay clearly meant for a wider audience than just Dr Laura. It is a reminder that many belief systems pick and choose their way through Biblical teachings in determining what is “right” and “wrong”. Authorship remains unconfirmed.

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination… End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them:

Continue reading Old Testament instructions (and how to apply them selectively)