Houston and Homosexuality in a world of Sound Bites and Tribalism

Brian Houston
Photo Courtesy: Christian Post

I’m not a huge fan of Brian Houston (if you want to know why, ask me about the sermon on Matthew 21 where he encouraged listeners to ‘loose the donkey’ in their life). And I’m not a huge fan of Hillsong, a movement that has welcomed and endorsed people who are “widely recognised as false teachers and deniers of key doctrine”.

Yet over the weekend, I noticed a number of people (including some of my friends) getting very worked up about comments Brian Houston made on the topic of same-sex marriage and homosexuality. You can read a transcript of his comments, a couple of the subsequent reports, and a clarification issued by Hillsong. You can also listen to the audio of the press conference here. Continue reading

Is God Homophobic? (Spoiler Alert: No, he’s not)

An edited version of a talk delivered on campus at the University of Canterbury in August 2014

I thought I’d begin this article with a worship song – not a worship song about God, the kind that some of us are used to singing at church on Sundays. This is a worship song about something different: sex.

If you pay attention to the content of a lot of music today, it becomes obvious: we are taught to worship sex. And it’s not just music; it’s also TV, movies, and other forms of pop culture. Sex is depicted as an ultimate goal, something to chase after and live for. Not having sex makes you a loser, but having (great) sex makes you a winner. Pursuing sex, at the expense of other things, is a worthy goal. Continue reading

Free eBook – Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor

9781433501999Anything by Don Carson is worth reading. His books are always biblically sound, theologically rich, practically relevant, and pastorally insightful. A good many people regard him as the finest New Testament scholar in the world today.

So what could be better than a book by Don Carson? How about a FREE book by Don Carson?!

Carson’s Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor (about his father, Tom Carson) is currently available as a free download from Crossway Books. If you serve in full-time, paid Christian ministry, I’d regard this as almost compulsory (not in a ‘You’re not a real pastor until you read this book’ kind of way, but more in the ‘Why would you not read this book?’ kind of way). Continue reading

Yes, heaven is for real – but we already knew that

Charles Spurgeon is said to have used an illustration about receiving a visit from an angel. The imaginary angel has a message for the great preacher, but Spurgeon says he doesn’t want to hear it. But the angel insists, and delivers his message: “Mr Spurgeon, your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life!” While most of us would rejoice, Spurgeon says he would respond rather differently: “You wicked, wicked angel,” he would reply. “You are tempting me to put my trust in the word of a mere angel, rather than in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for me!”

That story started going around and around my head as I watched the film Heaven Is For Real. It’s the best-selling ‘evangelical’ book of the past decade, with more than seven million copies sold. Not surprisingly, it’s now been made into a major movie, grossing $100 million worldwide at the cinema and reaching number one on the Australian iTunes movie charts this week (the reason I inflicted it on myself and my wife). Continue reading

Why we don’t evangelise – and the simplest way to start

I admit it – starting an article on evangelism with the reasons we Christians don’t evangelise might be a strange tactic.* Why focus on the negative? Shouldn’t we dive in and fire our imaginations with the positive biblical reasons we should evangelise? Wouldn’t you prefer some inspiring stories, or Five Easy Steps To Make You A Better Evangelist Before Tea Time, or maybe just the searing kiss of red-hot guilt to push you back out there on the evangelistic trail?

There are lots of good things (not to mention some really bad things) that motivate Christians to share the gospel of Jesus with their neighbours. Yet I’m convinced that for most of us normal people, acknowledging the obvious challenges is a helpful place to begin. Here, in no particular order, are 12 reasons (you might prefer to call them ‘excuses’) that Christians find it really hard to share the good news of Jesus with the people around us.

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Who I Am, and Why I’m Here

Cartoon Profile PicI have to confess, talking about myself doesn’t come naturally. One of the earliest pieces of advice about Christian ministry I ever received (so early that at the time I didn’t know exactly what it meant or why it mattered so much) was this: ‘The best Christian leaders are the ones who tell you about Jesus, not about themselves.’ That simple tip has stuck with me and, I hope, served me well. I feel like I’m about to break that rule.

Still, I suspect it will help me – and perhaps some of my readers – to be clear on why I actually spend time blogging. And my WordPress blogging tutorial says I’m supposed to do it. So, this is me:

First and foremost, I’m a Christian. This is slightly old-fashioned of me, but I believe the Bible is God’s word to his world. I believe that every word of the Bible is true, and that what it says about Jesus is true – namely, that he is the one and only way that rebels like me (and you) can be reconciled to the God who made us. I believe that through his death in my place, and through his bodily resurrection, Jesus secures the forgiveness I need, he offers a certain hope that transforms my life now, and he has granted me an eternal inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. Wanna know more? Continue reading

31 Days of Prayer: Day 31 – Time to Pray

PrayWe made it – 31 days of prayer, done and dusted. If you’ve been here throughout the month, or if you’ve just dropped in occasionally, thanks for being part of it!

Actually, let’s not kid ourselves. Thirty-one days of blogging about prayer is hardly 31 days of prayer. My lingering suspicion – based largely on my personal experience – is that it’s far, far easier to talk about prayer, read about prayer, or think about prayer than it is to pray. Anyone with me?

So as we finish, let me recommend this short article from Don Carson, ‘Lessons from the School of Prayer’, as a way of helping you take specific action. This originally formed an Appendix to his magisterial book on prayer, A Call to Spiritual Reformation, but has now been reproduced in this abridged form with his permission. Continue reading

31 Days of Prayer: Day 30 – Resources to get us praying

As much as I hope ’31 Days of Prayer’ has helped you grow in your knowledge of prayer and in you prayerfulness, there’s only so much that short, daily reflections like this can achieve. So today, I’m providing a short guide to some of the best books on prayer.

Remember, reading about prayer is not the same thing as praying. If we think highly of prayer but never actually do it, then something is seriously missing. So if you’re going to embark on reading a whole book about prayer, do it thoughtfully and carefully, and with a willingness to change your priorities so you pray more.

That said, all these books will do you good. No doubt there are many others that could be added to this list, but these are the ones I’ve found most helpful (or which people I trust have recommended to me). Why not pick at least one, order a copy, and set a time to read through it?

Prayer and the Voice of God by Phillip D. Jensen & Tony Payne – A wonderfully clear, no-nonsense book on prayer that covers the key biblical material and will answer most people’s biggest questions about prayer. Biblically rich and wonderfully practical. 190 pages  |  Kindle / eBook

A Call to Spiritual Reformation by D.A. Carson – Essential reading. Carson works through the apostle Paul’s prayers, showing how they should transform not just our prayers, but every part of our spiritual lives. A modern classic. 230 pages  |  Kindle

You Can Pray by Tim Chester – I always appreciate Tim Chester’s earthy, insightful approach to the Bible, and this is no exception. It opens with a Trinitarian approach to prayer, then moves on to consider challenges and questions that make praying difficult. 170 pages.

The Valley of Vision – a collection of over 200 prayers from Puritan writers. A brilliant resource that will teach you to pray, and help you to pray biblically when your own words won’t come. 400 pages  | Paperback

Praying by J.I. Packer and Carolyn Nystrom – Typical Packer, this book is thorough and biblically rich. I like his choice of title – selected deliberately to convey the idea that thinking about prayer doesn’t matter nearly as much as actually praying. 320 pages.

Our Father by Richard Coekin – (unread) A guide to ‘enjoying God in prayer’ by working through the Lord’s Prayer. 190 pages  |  Kindle

Praying Backwards by Bryan Chapell – (unread) From the back cover: “Praying Backwards introduces believers to the transforming process of beginning our prayers in Jesus’ name – not by moving a simple phrase, but by understanding and embracing the meaning behind the phrase. To truly pray in Jesus’ name is to reorder our priorities in prayer – and in life – away from ourselves and toward Jesus and his kingdom. It is to pray, “Not my will, but your will be done.” It is to pray boldly, expectantly, and persistently. If you want to revolutionize your prayer life, begin by Praying Backwards.” 210 pages  |  Kindle (on special for just $2 at time of publication)

Prayer by Tim Keller – (released November 2014) If you’re a fan of Tim Keller’s growing body of work, you’ll want to add this to your list.

Other Resources
JC Ryle – Prayer

Don Carson – Lessons from the School of Prayer

 

‘The Chat Room’ on prayer – an enlightening and enjoyable half-hour discussion on biblical prayer

 

 

 

 

 

31 Days of Prayer: Day 29 – Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up

Persevere“And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” (Luke 18:1)

Would you be relieved to know that Jesus understood prayer is hard work? Would you be encouraged to know he taught a parable specifically designed for people who were tempted to lose heart when it came to prayer? Me too!

The opening words of the parable in Luke 18 fill me with enormous hope. Jesus knew that prayer would be a struggle, and he told a parable to address this struggle. In this parable, Jesus describes a ‘persistent widow’ coming before a judge – a man who neither fears God nor respects man – to seek justice against her adversary. After initially refusing her request, the unrighteous judge relents, giving her justice so he won’t be beaten down ‘by her continual coming’. Jesus then makes his point: “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:6-8) Continue reading