Friday, 6 August 2010

DCYC Questions and Answers

So recently I was away at Junior Mixed camp in Devon with loads of young people aged 11-15 asking loads of great questions.  As promised, here's the questions plus my answers to each of them.  Feel free to add your own answers and thoughts (leaders and campers) by commenting on this post for us!

I've done this before and there's lots of questions and answers in my 'Hot Potato Questions and Answers' post so you may want to check that out too while you're at it or use the search feature on the right of my page to search for specific things.

Some of the questions deal with some gritty and painful personal issues (anonymously of course) and so I would remind us all that we each need people we can go to for personal support, advice, encouragement and prayer and not just one each!  Let's make sure we've got lots of people around us helping us grow.  That's one reason God has given us each other!

I'm not finished yet but I'll add more as I get to it!  Here's what I've done for now...

Have you ever done drugs?
Personally no.  I can see why some people might (peer pressure, seeking some experience, escaping, etc) but I just don't think it's a good thing to allow something with no sense of right and wrong to have any degree of control over our thinking.  Plus there's also the fact that much drug use/abuse results in harm to our bodies and that seems blatantly negative to me too.  And yes, I'd say the same for smoking and excessive drinking.  Excitement, truth, purpose and peace can be best achieved without these things since they come ultimately from God.  Ephesians 5:18, Proverbs 23:25-29.

Did you believe God when you were little?
I did.  I think most (maybe even all) children instinctively know 'God' is real until they learn otherwise.  Ecclesiastes 3:11.  More: Email from an Atheist.

What's your view on sex before marriage?
First of all I think we need to realise that sex is a much bigger deal than people seem to think it is in our culture.  Sex is great but it's also powerful and joins people together more than we often appreciate.  The Bible says it makes 2 people 1, whether they realise it or not (1 Corinthians 6:16).  This is why I think God has given us a clear order of things (for our own good) in Genesis in the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2:24.  To put it bluntly, it's 'leave home' ('leave his mother and father'), 'get married' ('be united to his wife') and then 'have sex' ('become one flesh').  Great intimacy demands great commitment and that's one reason why God invented marriage.  Any other kind of sex simply isn't as good because it falls short of God's best for us.

How old were you when you felt like you were in love?
About 13 probably.  But was I really?  I'm not sure.  Probably not.  Someone once said 'love is an action more than a feeling so if you want to feel love - choose to love and be patient!' and I think they're right.  'Feeling in love' is not as powerful or lasting as 'choosing to love'.  1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 1 John 4:10.  I do know that I feel more in love now than at any other point in my life and that's because my wife and I are absolutely committed to each other, even on our worst days.

Is abortion wrong?
First of all, having had friends who have made difficult decisions to terminate a pregnancy, I have to say that whatever our moral views on this, it's important that we keep loving and supporting our friends, even when we don't agree with their decisions.  People who protest complete strangers at abortion clinics only do damage and harm as far as I can tell and I'm sure God hates this.  God keeps loving us even when we do things against him and we should follow his example (Matthew 5:43-48).  So I do think that abortion is wrong and whilst I can appreciate some of the reasons people consider it as an option, I still believe it's an option that God opposes.  Psalm 139:14-17 makes it clear that life begins earlier than we can imagine and that God has plans for every life even before conception.  Have a look at these videos by 'Priests for Life' that simply describe the methods used: Suction Abortion (1st trimester), Dismemberment Abortion (2nd trimester).  Again I would remind people about absolute forgiveness and peace available from God (1 John 1:9) and I would urge us all to be faithful to each other in our relationships even when we don't agree but yes - I think abortion is wrong.

Is it ok to be gay?
God speaks against 'practising homosexuality' (1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:9-10) and he hates the act of same-sex sex and commands his people not to do it (Leviticus 18:22, 20:13).   So basically if a person believes they're gay and they want to live God's way then it should probably mean staying single and enjoying love within fantastic deep friendships with others.  Just as it's possible to be straight, single and happy, it's also possible to be gay, single and happy.  Self-control doesn't mean 'denial of who we are' - it's about not letting our sexuality control us.  That's what gets people into trouble every day in our culture regardless of whether they're straight or gay.  God expects more.

What will heaven be like and will we have gender/a human body?
Revelation 21:1-4 gives a good description of what heaven will be like.  It's what God always wanted for us - a perfect relationship with him and no sin or suffering in sight.  Not sure about gender but Jesus certainly taught that the only marriage in heaven would be between Jesus and his bride (us) and that we would be like the angels rather than marrying each other (Matthew 22:23-33).  I think earthly marriages at their best are just a taster of the ultimate marriage in heaven anyway so we won't be missing out on anything - far from it!

Should I take everything in Bible literally?
Short answer: no.  The Bible is a collection of books  and they're all different.  Some of it is written as a historical record of events (to be taken literally), whereas other parts of the Bible are poetical (not necessarily to be taken literally).  When we read the Bible, we should ask ourselves what kind of writing it is and also think about what we're reading in the context of the whole Bible. 

What if the Christian God isn't the real one and one of the other religions is right?
I love this question because it's got one thing right: there IS such a thing as right and wrong (or true and false) when it comes to God.  If one person says God is a banana and someone else says he's a monkey then someone has to be wrong because he can't be both.  Reality is at stake here.  We can't just attribute any old nonsense to God and say it's true just because we say so.  We can't make God in our image - it's the other way round or he's not God at all.  With this said, we are free to explore evidence for knowable things about God.  We should make our minds up based on the evidence and not simply on how we feel.  What gives me massive confidence that Jesus was and is the Son of God who really did die and rise again from the dead is that there is tons of excellent solid evidence for all of it.  But it's not just information - it's transformation.  God has changed my life in a miraculous way and whilst the evidence has to stack up, I also have the experience of a personal relationship with God that I can't really deny either.  Jesus claimed to be the only way to God (John 14:6) and we'd do well to check the evidence for this before we rule him out.  The following articles may be helpful:
Should we watch 'bad things' on TV?
Rubbish in - rubbish out.  What we feed our minds will probably come out somewhere somehow, whether it's good or bad so we need to take care of what we allow in and how we filter it so we get the best from it.  Philippians 4:8, Matthew 6:22-23, Matthew 12:35.

Who did you vote for in the election?
I'm not expert but whenever I have the opportunity to vote, I try to make the most of it and evaluate the parties as far as I can.  It matters who runs our country and we do have a say.  Shame to waste it.  For me at the moment it's the Green Party that impresses me the most, not least because they seem to recognise the duty of care we have to other poorer countries as (despite our problems) we remain one of the richest countries in the world.  It's not about staying rich (and regardless of what people may say about our economy, as long as we can buy things like iPads and laptops - we're rich!) but it's about helping other countries grow strong, even if it means sacrificing standards of living here a bit!

How often do you pray?
These days I pray mostly when I feel like it but increasingly I feel like praying a lot more than I used to.  I used to benefit from making myself pray each day and now it comes naturally.  It's not about doing our chores for God but about hanging out with him.  When Jesus taught his disciples what we now call 'The Lord's Prayer', he wasn't teaching them 'a prayer' - he was teaching them 'to pray' (Matthew 6:5-15).  It wasn't a pattern to be repeated but an example of how to not pray like the local hypocrites who rambled on religiously but didn't mean a thing they said.  It's a relationship with God, not a task to perform. 

Have you ever had a vision that seriously affected your life?
One of the clearest times I remember God speaking to me that has had perhaps the biggest affect on my life is when he told me to pursue a life of youth work rather than a career in architecture!  Over the space of about a week, I was confronted 4 times with Matthew 5:13-16 where Jesus talks about shining our light to everyone rather than hiding away and I was challenged about what I should do with my life.  This was no small coincidence and I believe it was God who was prodding me to change my mind about applying for Moorlands Bible College where I would eventually get my training in Theology and Youth Work.  I soon stopped thinking about my future on earth in financial terms and began seriously planning for a life living for God's purposes.  It was a steep learning curve (and it still is in many ways) but I don't regret it at all.

Should I go to parties where there's drugs and alcohol?
If you're a Christian, you'll want to live for God but this doesn't mean living in a safe Christian bubble (they're not always that safe anyway as it happens).  Quite the opposite - living as Christian means being in the thick of it wherever people are and leading them to know Jesus for themselves more at every opportunity.  Jesus prayed for us about this (John 17:6-26).  So if you can represent Jesus well at parties where there's drugs and alcohol then go for it!  But (and this is important), if you can't, then don't!  Ask yourself what the stronger witness will be: going or not going? 

What are the best ways to resist lust and temptation?
Lust is one of the biggest and most common temptations people face, so it's no surprise that it's mentioned specifically here.  We can learn a lot from the way that Jesus faced and defeated temptation.  In Matthew 4:1-11 we see Jesus responding to temptation by quoting scripture he'd memorised (this is a great habit for any Christian).  Internalising God's word can help in lots of situations where we need to remember what God says (Psalm 119:11).

We learn the importance prayer plays in facing temptation when we see Jesus at his lowest moment as he has the inner battle about whether or not to go through with his Father's plan for him to die on the cross and take the weight of the world's sin on his shoulders (Luke 29:39-46).  When Jesus was struggling so much that he sweat drops of blood, his response is to talk to his Father in heaven and draw strength from him.  We should do the same.

Accountability is also important.  Prayer triplets (where 3 Christian mates pray together), home groups and mentoring can be a huge help in sharing our struggles and receiving support (James 5:13-20).

Why is God a boy?
He's not but I know what you mean.  In English we say 'he/him' when referring to God because we don't have a gender-neutral term - only 'he' or 'she'.  God is neither a male nor female but the best of both come from him.  He made men and women in his image (Genesis 1:27).  When we say 'he' for God, we shouldn't think that he's male.  He's God - not human (Numbers 23:19).