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

961653-63da4b34-a606-11e4-b988-694a6302ad1f
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

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.

Continue reading