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Tuesday 25 February 2014

What Do Celebrities and Apes Have in Common?

The Answer: People listen to both Celebrities and Apes. Right now you are thinking something like, “What the? What are you going on about Matt?” Well let me explain.

If you watch news programs like Sunrise and whatever Channel Nines version is called or follow left wing news websites like, or follow many celebrities, you will see that gay marriage is a big issue on many people’s minds. Or at least it appears that way. In reality it is a big issue because celebrity power is driving it to be such. This quote from Howard Bragman, a media expert and vice chairmen of, is telling, “Hollywood gets this is the civil rights issue of our time. They're some of the people who helped make it that way” (in Elber 2014). To be accurate he said this in relation to gay rights in general, but the point still stands, as gay marriage comes under the umbrella of gay rights. Gay rights and gay marriage are only a big issues because celebrities of many forms keep pushing these issues out there (at the encouragement of the gay community of course).  

Celebrities, and Hollywood in general, have been pushing the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) agenda for some time now. Remember shows like Will and Grace, and Dawson’s Creek, both these shows pushed the agenda of homosexuals in their own way. For Will and Grace, it was simply a matter of poking fun at all different kinds of relationships in a light hearted way, indeed for the show homosexuality was just accepted as part of this world, something normal and right. In Dawson’s Creek we had the very handsome and tough letter-jacket-wearing footballer Jack Mcphee come out as gay,, to everyone's surprise. And then we got to watch his family and his friends, and indeed his girlfriend at the time Joey Potter (played by Katie Holmes) all wrestle with the reality that Jack was gay, just deal with it, and move on with life. This was the message: being gay is just the way some people are, accept it and we will have a better world. Oh there are earlier versions of this message being pushed too, the loveable cross-dressing character Klinger from M.A.S.H. comes to mind here. But as I recall, it was really in the nineties that this agenda started getting pushed aggressively. Now it seems every second show that comes out, either has a gay main character or someone has a gay friend, and every celebrity is taking their turn in the sun to either come out as gay or to support the LGTB community, and gay marriage (cf., for example). Hollywood have created a civil rights issue out of the lifestyle of a small percentage of humanity, and many of you did not even realize that a big part of the reason you think homosexuality is normal and gay marriage is ok, is because Hollywood and other media has convinced you that this is so.  

I know this offends some of you, you may be furious at me right now for questioning the right of homosexuals to get married, or for implying that homosexuality is not good, or right, but I don’t care. I am not writing this post to attack gay people, or even the idea of gay marriage, there are far bigger issues facing the world than these; one being the rate of divorce amongst western marriages today. I do not think legalizing gay marriage will destroy society, I already think society is in trouble from the breakdown of traditional families. I don’t support gay marriage and will always vote against it, but I don’t hate gay people either. No, the reason I am writing this blog is to figuratively grab you by the collar and lovingly slap you in the face and make you wake up to the foolishness of listening to celebrities on social issues. I am not saying that they should not have a voice, I am just challenging the status quo: what gives celebrities the authority to make any comments on marriage or relationships in general and be taken seriously? I mean come on people, wake up, celebrities are notorious for sucking at relationships, and it’s no wonder, when their whole existence circles around themselves and how much people love them. We should not be surprised that they suck at the very thing which matters most: healthy, selfless relationships.

Look at some of the names of celebrities who speak out on behalf of homosexuality and gay marriage:

Rhianna…Seriously. People. I wouldn’t take relationship advice from her if there was no one else left on earth to ask. Would you take advice on how to fix your car from a person who has trashed more cars than a party house full of drunk teenagers? The mere fact that your social and relationship views are in line with Rhianna should cause you to seriously evaluate your ability to think rationally.

Madonna. We are not getting any better here people.

Lady Gaga. Hahaha, seriously? If I want any advice from Lady Gaga it will be on how to keep a straight po-po-poker face.

Russel Brand. If his marriage to Katy Perry is an example of his relational fortitude, again why would anyone listen to him? I am not surprised that he supports gay marriage, I would be shocked to find out he didn’t.  

I could go on with an endless list, but here is my point: just because someone is famous does not mean their opinion on marriage is valid or worth hearing. None of these people mentioned has set any good examples of how to stay in a healthy committed long term marriage. And this is true for most celebrities who speak out. You have to rack your brain for ages to even think of a celebrity who has been in a lifelong, healthy marriage – the closest one which comes to mind for me is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 25 year marriage to Maria Shriver, and even that one came to an end recently, sadly. I am not surprised celebrities support gay marriage, because marriage means nothing to most of them, this is evidenced by all the celebrity divorces we hear about in the tabloids. These people are not credible witnesses to the sanctity of marriage; they just don't hold it in high regard.

Now I know there are probably some celebs out there that have good, stable, long term relationships. Fair enough, but my point still stands. Being famous does not make your position on who can get married more significant, I want to hear from people who live normal lives, have been married for years, raised their children successfully, and done the hard yards. I don't want to hear another celebrities view on marriage of any kind. Celebrities are only generally good at building up their own image, making themselves appear good for camera, and promoting themselves. You don’t ask a hairdresser advice on how to structure complex economic systems. Why would we ask a person whose life revolves around themselves what is good for society, it make no sense.

Now Apes, how Matt, do people listen to apes? Well sadly in the same way many people go to celebrities for insight into what is right for humans to do, they also go to apes, specifically the Bonobos ape. Don’t believe me? Here is a quote from Nigel Barber (2009) on the Psychology Today Blog, “Apart from ‘gay genes’ in humans, the main evidence that homosexuality is naturally selected is the fact that gay animals are so common.” He also states, “Bonobo antics provide a fairly compelling argument against anyone who holds that homosexual behavior is ‘against nature.’” To be fair, this argument is made for all kinds of sexual behaviour, not just homosexuality.

Hence, the advice from Cara Santa Maria, in her article, Bonobo Love: Valentine's Advice From Christopher Ryan, on how we can learn from “these magnificent creatures”. So what’s her advice? Well first she argues, more sex equals less conflict. I agree with her in the context an exclusive marriage, more sex is great, relieves tension and is a blessing. Only she does not mean in the context of an exclusive marriage, she is referring to the Bonobos apes’ propensity to sexually give themselves to whomever, whenever in their little societies; free sex in the truly hippy sense. Only we know what actually resulted from the hippie revolution: sexually transmitted infections in never before seen numbers, and a mass breakdown in marriages. Wow, thanks for the great advice Cara.

Also she says, “Jealousy isn't romantic. While Bonobos no-doubt experience unique feelings for one another, they don't seem to worry much about controlling one another's sex lives. Nor do Bonobos seem to gossip much...” I can tell you this for a fact, if I even joked about being with someone other than my wife, this would kill the romance of our marriage. Jealousy isn’t romantic? You tell me girls out there: how many of you want your man to focus on you and you alone? This is called positive jealousy. How many of you find this exclusivity to be the height of romance? Cara were you drunk when writing these words?

Here’s another little nugget of Cara’s ‘wisdom’: “There's promise in promiscuity. All the casual sex among Bonobos is arguably a big part of what has made them among the smartest of all primates.” In my experience it is the dumbest of people who are promiscuous. We have all seen what results from this kind of behaviour. But sure why not... let’s encourage all of our teenagers and uni-students to engage in promiscuity. Oh wait, society already does encourage that and it causes heart break after heart break: pre-mature pregnancies, STI transmissions in ever increasing numbers (cf. ABS statistics). Even just the heartbreak young people, and older people, go through when sexual relationships breakdown should be enough to tell us that this statement is crazy. There's promise in promiscuity? You are drunk, right Cara, please tell me you are, because nothing else explains the insanity of your statements.

It’s insane to even consider basing our sexual behaviour, or social policy on the behaviour of apes. What you don’t believe me that animal behaviour is consulted to inform social policy? Well, “already, cases of animal homosexuality have been cited in successful court cases brought against states like Texas, where gay sex was, until recently, illegal” (Owen, 2004). The same author thankfully presents a note of caution that animals do engage in behaviour humans find reprehensible. But the point still stands, people go to apes, and other animals, notably a couple of gay penguins in New York (Barber, 2009) for sexual advice and to see what is normal and natural. This is crazy, ‘I saw an animal do it therefore it is ok,’ is not how we should live our lives.

I know for some people that this blog will seem to come from left field, but the fact that a society as influential as the United States has rejected God and his Word as an authority and turned to celebrities and Bonobos apes instead, is sad and mind boggling. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, gay or straight, everyone is, and it is my informed opinion that listening to celebrities and Bonobos apes on sexual behaviour is crazy, especially in relation to marriage, as neither celebrities nor Bonobos apes have shown us that they have anything of value to offer in this category. Wake up people, please wake up, hear this challenge from God’s Word and realize that he already told us how the world thinks and what this leads to:

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. (Rom. 1:21-25, NIV).


  1. Elber, Lynn 2014, Russia's Gay Rights Debate Suddenly Lacking Star Quality,
  2. Fusaro, Kim 2013, 39 More Celebs Who Are Super-Psyched About Marriage Equality. Brace Yourselves: There's a LOT of Awesome Up In Here,
  3. Barber, Nigel 2009, The Human Beast: Why we do what we do,
  4. Maria, Cara Santa 2012, Bonobo Love: Valentine's Advice From Christopher Ryan,
  5. Owen, James 2004, Homosexual Activity Among Animals Stirs Debate,

Tuesday 18 February 2014

The Bible Was Not Written To Give You a Word For Today, Every day

The Bible is an incredible book and can be a very beautiful. The Psalms, the Prophecies of Isaiah, the Parables of Jesus, the last few chapters of Revelation and many other parts of the Bible are beautiful and striking in their imagery, power for the imagination, and just beautiful in what they say to us. But let’s face it the Bible can also at times be very difficult.

One modern attitude to the Bible increases this difficulty in an unnecessary way. Many, if not most, western believers have been taught to read the Bible in such a way as to just get their practical word for today, every day, rather than to read it for what it is. Sure, I believe God wants to speak to all of us, that is why he has given us his Word, and yes, most of the Bible is practical and speaks to everyday living, but not all of it. In fact, much of the Bible, at first glance, will cause many people to think something like this: ‘How does this relate to my life?’ Or, ‘This is quite useless for helping me deal with what I am facing today, thanks for nothing.’ This sort of thing comes about because many Christians have been taught wrongly how to handle and read God’s word. I think two things have contributed to this appalling way of handling God’s word: 1) An over use of devotionals, and 2) Churches which place too much weight on the practice of topical preaching.

Firstly, devotionals. Many of you who read this will hate me for saying this, but the truth is devotionals are just spiritual junk food. They are a quick Bible fix, for those who are too lazy (or say they are too busy), or don’t care enough to really dig into God’s word; hence spiritual junk food. We often turn to junk food because it’s convenient or we couldn’t be bothered cooking a real meal, or it just tastes so good that we can’t resist its siren call. Devotionals are exactly this but with God’s word. They are easy to read, often being only a few sentences or a couple of paragraphs, they are often very inspirational, but here is the catch: if over relied upon, they will corrupt your spiritual health in the same way that too much junk food corrupts your physical health.

Those of you who read devotionals more than you read your Bible, let me ask you this: when you do pick up your Bible and read it, instead of your devotional, do you find it hard to be inspired by your daily readings of God’s word? Do you find that you struggle to see how much of God’s word speaks to your everyday life? If so, you are probably suffering from an overdose of spiritual junk food. The Bible, in one way, is just like a food, sometimes you need to put in a bit of effort before you can prepare a nourishing meal, in the case of food for your body, in the case of God’s word, for your soul. We have more Bible study resources at our fingertips than ever before in the history of the world, and yet still I know many Christians who do not take the time and effort needed to understand their Bible’s better. Sometimes, it takes a little bit of effort to apply a passage to your life, and sometimes it takes a bit of background knowledge of the Bible.  

Secondly, topical sermons. Let me just say, I am not against topical sermons in and of themselves. I have preached them, and I have heard some brilliant topical sermons from other preachers, so as a method it is not wrong to preach topically, but as a practice it is dangerous. If you attend or have attended a church where they only ever preach through the Bible topically you may have observed a few things. 1) Seemingly every passage in the Bible which is preached on just jumps out as a teaching with instant practical application to one of the problems, or challenges, or even hopes, you are facing in life, or will face. This may be helpful in the short term, but it skews our view of the Bible in the long term. 2) You will notice if you attend these churches long enough that they cycle through a certain amount of topics, and suddenly you have this picture that the Bible is a guide book for how to do marriage, run a business, perform at work, enjoy sex, succeed at sport, handle finances, have a purposeful life etc., etc.. Sure the Bible speaks to all of these things, and is helpful in so many ways, but the Bible is more than just a handbook for life to go to for a little inspiration and propping up. In reality the Bible is about Christ, and how we live in him.  

It’s likely because of this over-saturation of shallow devotionals and shallow teaching in our Christian culture, and as a preacher feeling the pressure to fit into that stream, that I came to my passage for Sunday nights sermon, and immediately thought, ‘How am I going to make this one practical to everyday living?’ Here’s the passage:

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. (1 Peter 1:10-12).

You can summarize this passage in one sentence: The prophets of old sought to understand when and how the things they said about salvation would come about, as did angels, however, they were serving not themselves but Christians. ‘Ok’, you may think, ‘that is great to know, but how does this help me with my struggling business in this difficult climate?’, ‘How does that make me a better husband?’ ‘How does it help me deal with bullies at my school?’ ‘How does this practically relate to my everyday walk?’ See what’s happened? The average devotional imbibing, topical sermon listening, Christian will come to this passage and immediately want to move on, because it does not say much about their life in today’s world. It is speaking about something from the past, which may be great, but it is not that practical. Now, if you read the verses before and after this passage you will see that they are full of useful practical gospel teaching, but what are we to do with the three verses quoted above?

As a preacher, and especially as a youth pastor, I am always concerned that people get practical biblical advice on how to live the Christian life, so it is tempting to try and turn this passage inside out looking for that little bit of insight to 21st century living. I understand why many preachers avoid preaching through books of the Bible, I really do get it; sometimes it can be hard. The truth is that many Christians do not have a deep love for God’s word and what it says, because they have been fed a deficient diet, with teaching whittled down to a few snack meals, instead of real solid life-giving teaching. Really getting into the Bible tests us, all of us, preachers and listeners alike, and sometimes it is not easy, but it is always worth it. I don’t want to leave you here though, let’s go a little further and seek a biblical application for our passage.

We all know that there are many passages in the Old Testament that speak about the coming of Christ and the salvation which is found in him, which is the topic of our passage. So this could prove a fruitful avenue to go down in seeking to apply this passage to us today. We could go in many different directions to explore some of the passages these ancient prophets ‘searched intently and with the greatest care’, I have chosen to go in the direction of the Servant Songs of Isaiah. There are four servant songs, let me quote just one of them for you, from Isaiah 50:4-9,

The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue,
    to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning,
    wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.
The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears;
    I have not been rebellious,
    I have not turned away.
I offered my back to those who beat me,
    my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
I did not hide my face
    from mocking and spitting.
Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
    I will not be disgraced.
Therefore have I set my face like flint,
    and I know I will not be put to shame.
He who vindicates me is near.
    Who then will bring charges against me?
    Let us face each other!
Who is my accuser?
    Let him confront me!
It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me.
    Who will condemn me?
They will all wear out like a garment;
    the moths will eat them up.

This incredible passage in Isaiah predicts that God’s servant, whom we know is Jesus will be perfect, ‘I have not been rebellious, I have not turned away’, it predicts his harsh beating, his being mocked and that he will be spat on (cf. Mark 14:64-65). What’s incredible is this passages was written over 800 years before it happened (even if you go with the later date of the second half of Isaiah, as some do, it was still written several hundred years beforehand). Wow, isn’t God’s word awesome! No wonder these prophets searched it intently to see when salvation would come. Also, look how accurate it is, God did vindicate his servant, Jesus rose and is no longer in the grave, but all his opponents have worn out, they are dead, but he is risen, and the amazing thing is that the Bible is full of these accurate predictions of Christ, and other things. This is exciting, this means that we can fully trust God’s word, and isn’t that a powerful teaching for all of us who live in the world which is hostile to God?

So, this passage does speak powerfully for us today, all it took was a bit of work, and a bit of back ground knowledge of the Bible, and after digging around we can now see how even this passage applies to us: We are the ones whom the prophets spoke about, when they said stuff like, “The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary.” Are you weary, are you tired? Well because God fulfilled his prophecy to bring salvation through Jesus, you can know that he will keep his promise to bring you rest, even if it is not till heaven, but this is still a sure and perfect promise. The fact that the prophecies of old were fulfilled shows us that like these ancient prophets we can search God’s word intently and read about what is to come and know that it will happen, even if we don’t know when, or exactly how, we still know we can trust God’s word, because it was inspired by God. That’s awesome, and boy was it worth the extra effort.    

Tuesday 4 February 2014

The Only One We Should Look Too

This Sunday night I am going to be introducing our 1 Peter series for our night services. I am really looking forward to opening up the book of 1 Peter and seeing how God is going to speak through this little book into the lives of all of us in those services. What is fascinating though to me, is how Peter begins his letter to these ‘chosen exiles’.

You see in the 1st century paper or writing platforms were really expensive and hard to come by, especially compared to our day, so when an itinerant preacher like Pete, who probably didn’t have a fixed income decided to write to people he really cared about, we can know that what he is writing is important, really important.

Notice what he does not do, he does not start his letter by telling people how awesome they are, he does not begin by pumping them up with false compliments, he does not begin by telling them that he has five keys to success and prosperity. He especially does not begin by pointing people to themselves and telling them that the Bible is about them and how they can unlock the potential in their lives. No Peter does not do any of this. This would be  really confusing for many people today especially if you listen to many (but not all) modern evangelical preachers because that is exactly what they do. They often begin by talking about themselves or their awesome audience, and then they precede to try and show their congregations that the Bible is just a key to unlocking each individuals potential and awesomeness. I can see how many Christians could come to 1 Peter and read the first few verses and say something like, ‘There is nothing in this for me, because it does not speak about me and my potential’ or something like that. I can see that this would happen because many preachers today are not on the same page as Peter, this is sad but vividly real truth about the church today.

Notice what Peter actually does, he points people to the God who chose them, to the God who died for them, and the God who will sanctify them, in other words he begins with an incredible signpost pointing to the God who exists in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the God who has achieved their salvation and the God who will complete their salvation according to his pre-worked out plan. In other words, Peter knows that he may not get another chance anytime soon to speak to this same group of people, so he begins with that which is of first importance: the gospel.

For the people of God, that which saves us, and that which sustains, guides and blesses us in this life, is the gospel of God, the message of salvation. Therefore Peter is pointing these people away from themselves to Jesus the pioneer and perfector of their faith. He is the one we need to look to, not ourselves.

If we think we can sustain our Christian walk in this life by unlocking in ourselves some hidden potential for greatness, or influence or something like this, we will be disappointed, because we cannot save ourselves, and no matter how hard we try we cannot change this world apart from the miraculous power of Christ. Sure God does unlock potential and greatness in his people, Peter is a prime example himself, fisherman turned world-changing fisher of people, but we cannot look to ourselves, we cannot look to our own effort, we can and we should look to Jesus.

Whether you have already trusted in Jesus as saviour or if you have never placed your trust in him, the message is still the same: Jesus died for you, rose again for you, and salvation is only found by trusting in him, and it is only lived out by trusting in him. This is the central message of the Christian church, and this is what Peter wants to remind these people of with his one bit of parchment: look to God, specifically the God who called them, died for them, and by his own Spirit will make them into his holy people.