More Precious Than Gold: Reading God’s Word in 2016

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. (Psalm 119:105)

It’s that time of year – time to realise how you should have devoted more time to reading the Bible in 2015, to admit that you’ve been foolish for neglecting the treasures of God’s holy word, and to resolve that 2016 will be different.

Or wait, is that just me…?

Anyway, if you’re interested in reading the whole Bible in a year, or at least finding something to give you a kickstart, there are lots of plans to help you do it. Over the last couple of years, I developed a couple of my own to suit my own preferences:

This plan (which I’m hoping to use in 2016) allows you to get stuck into one book of the Bible at a time, rather than jumping around. It also gives you days off to catch up, and it has pretty colour-coding.

This one gives you a different part of the Bible to read each day of the week. It also gets you through the New Testament twice in the year (which means it only offers a few days off).

If you find the whole thing a bit overwhelming or you have questions about why you should bother with the Bible, you could check out my book. Ligonier Ministries has also gathered a mountain of other reading plans.

By the way, there’s nothing that says you have to read the Bible. If you’d rather listen to it (while commuting or exercising, for instance), why not invest in an NIV audio Bible or an ESV audio Bible?

Whether you choose to use a plan or not, my prayer is that you and I will both spend more time mining the riches of God’s word in 2016, so that we will know, love and serve the God of the Bible with our whole lives.

The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous.
They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:7-10)

Our Sovereign Saviour: Media from Relay 2015

Last month, Christian Union held its annual leadership training conference, Relay. This year’s conference was called ‘Our Sovereign Saviour: How the doctrine of Predestination shapes our approach to ministry.’ Over the course of the weekend, I gave five talks (as well as leading interactive discussion time) to help shape our understanding of this topic. You can listen to (or download) those talks here. You can also download the conference booklet, which contains material for the interactive sessions.

Download: Talk 1 – God’s Sovereignty Over All Things

Download: Talk 2 – God’s Sovereignty And Our Salvation

Download: Talk 3 – God’s Sovereignty And God’s Glory

Download: Talk 4 – God’s Sovereignty And Human Responsibility

Download: Talk 5 – Q & A, God’s Sovereignty And Our Priorities

PDF Booklet For Conference Participants

Marriage in the Trenches

Old HandsOver the years, in my roles as a Christian pastor and university staff worker, I’ve helped to prepare a lot of young couples for marriage. When it comes time to do formal ‘marriage preparation’, I usually ask the couple to complete an online questionnaire. Once they finish, we sit in my lounge room to discuss the results and share some real talk about what it’s really like to be married. It’s a fun, important and sometimes eye-opening way to help people get ready for marriage.

But over the last few months, I’ve seen the limitations of this process. You see, there’s only so much marriage preparation you can do by sitting on the couch with a cup of tea, a bikky, and a series of coloured charts that claim to capture your mutual strengths and ‘growth areas’ (we’re not supposed to call them weaknesses).

Sometimes, I think the best way to prepare a couple for marriage would be to drive them to a local hospital. I’d take them inside, find a quiet spot out of the way, and ask them to watch silently as an elderly wife spoon-feeds her dying husband. Continue reading

What’s that smell? Burning books, or burning martyr?

bannedA couple of brief thoughts from afar on the book ‘banning’ debacle unfolding in NSW, for what they are worth…

First, it’s kind of amusing but not insignificant that one of the three books is misnamed. It seems like they meant to ban either this one or this one, and it’s genuinely hard to work out which one is intended. (Everyone seems to be forging ahead on the basis that it’s John Dickson’s book.) It makes the DEC’s directive look amateurish, and leaves the impression that the whole thing was hastily cobbled together rather than carefully considered. If I were banning a book, I’d want to at least be clear on the name of the book. Continue reading

Recovering the scandal of amazing grace

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Photo Courtesy: NEWS Ltd

Over the last couple of days, my Facebook newsfeed has been filled with people commenting on the final hours of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran (the convicted drug dealers executed in Indonesia on April 29). In particular, what seems to have caught people’s attention the most is that Chan and Sukumaran went to their deaths praising God, maybe even looking forward to meeting their Maker.

The response to this has provided a fascinating contrast. My Christian friends have celebrated the fact that these men embraced the hope and forgiveness offered by the Christian message about Jesus, even singing Amazing Grace and 10,000 Reasons in their final moments. But for some of my non-Christian friends, these reports obviously seemed strange – perhaps even perverse. I mean, how could anyone be hopeful, how could anyone sing, in the face of such a horrible death? And why would these men, of all people – convicted drug dealers, the scum of the earth – be looking forward to meeting their Maker? Continue reading

To Sin By Silence: The danger of enabling spiritual abuse

Cover Eyes“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” (Ephesians 5:11)

Last month, when I wrote about the massive issue of spiritual abuse and what’s happened with Mark Driscoll, I expected a decent number of people to read the article. Driscoll is a high profile guy, and spiritual abuse and bullying within churches is a really big issue.

It certainly seems like lots of people have read it, and that’s good. If the aim of that piece was to shine light on an often-hidden and widely misunderstood issue, more people reading it can only help. Continue reading

Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill, and the very real sin of spiritual abuse

Mark DriscollMaybe part of the good to come from the Mars Hill disaster will be exposing the reality of spiritual abuse, a sin that usually lurks in the darkness and is misunderstood by many  

Everything that’s happened with Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church in Seattle is great fodder for the blogosphere, and a profound tragedy for the thousands of real people involved.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, congratulations on avoiding the whole sorry saga. But the short story is that Driscoll – poster boy for the ‘New Calvinism’ (and I hate that phrase as much as you do) – recently resigned from his role as Pastor at Mars Hill Church, the Seattle-based mega-church he founded 18 years ago. While some congregations will continue, Mars Hill as an entity will cease to exist. Continue reading

Life and Ministry with Peter Jensen

A sweeping conversation with Peter Jensen, former Archbishop of Sydney, about life and ministry – including his favourite book of all-time, how he became a Christian, why he wanted to be a stand-up comedian, why he tries to emulate Billy Graham, and how he has found spiritual refreshment for the last five decades.

Peter JensenGR: Peter, what’s the best way to introduce you?

PJ: Someone recently introduced me by saying that I was the former Archbishop of Sydney, which means I’m dead. But I am the former Archbishop of Sydney, the former Principal of Moore College, an ordained clergyman – but most of all, I’m a son of God.

GR: This may be apocryphal, but I’ve heard it said that if you hadn’t gone into full-time Christian ministry, you would have liked to consider a career as a stand-up comedian… Continue reading

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