Coming home: A letter to my adoptive daughter

 

I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. (1 Samuel 1:27)

Mother Holding Child's HandDearest Zoë,

You are my beautiful girl, my daughter, the apple of my eye. I’m your daddy. Everything I have is yours, and I will always be there for you.

We just haven’t met yet.

I guess that’s part of life as an adoptive family.

I’m writing this during our family’s ‘living in limbo’ phase. We’ve been matched together as adoptive family, and we’re desperate to meet in person and be together as soon as possible. It’s a strange, unsatisfying time – a little like the ‘now-but-not-yet’ of the Christian life (don’t worry, I’ll explain that to you one day). But I guess this in-between period gives us time for some reflection. What might our life together look like? What blessings and challenges will our new-look family bring? And why are we doing this? Continue reading

Reaping the whirlwind: my two cents’ worth on the US election

gettyimages-621864782My two cents’ worth on the US Presidential election:
1. If you’re looking for reason for optimism today, look at the post-election speeches delivered by President-elect Trump (that was my first go at typing that), Secretary Clinton, and President Obama. All three speeches were gracious and positive, all looked to a peaceful transfer of power, and all give reason for (a limited amount of) hope. If you believe that the right words spoken at the right time can make a real difference, then be thankful for these words. Sure, they’re ‘just words’, but it’s a very positive start. Thank God for America’s Founding Fathers, whose theology led them to reject tyranny and establish a system that would allow for a peaceful transition between leaders, even leaders who oppose and dislike each other. What’s more, thank God for the Founding Fathers who were so opposed to tyranny that they carefully installed checks and balances, and the separation of powers, which we now hope can control (or at least mitigate) Trump during his presidency.

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A short manifesto on arguing well

I hate arguing.

I really don’t enjoy confrontation (it gives me this weird sinking feeling in my stomach). I don’t like being wrong, and sometimes I take too much delight in being right. I care too much what other people think of me, and the idea that I may have offended someone makes me squirm. I think I’m a wimp at heart.

But the reality is that being a Bible teacher (or any Christian who cares about the truth of God’s word) sometimes requires you to argue. A certain amount of conflict just goes with the territory. Of course we should be known primarily for what we’re for, not what we’re against, but sometimes saying yes to one thing means saying no to others. And the Bible is explicit that there is a time and a place for refuting error (eg: Titus 1:9).  Continue reading

As convention season ends, God announces his nominee for highest office in the land

One Vote MattersIn a low-key announcement intended to reassure nervous voters, God has announced that his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, will once again be his 2016 nominee for Messiah, Saviour of the world, and Ruler and Judge of the universe.

Sources have confirmed that Jesus will once again be the only nominee for the position.

As the only eligible Voter, God announced that he intends to cast his vote early on the morning of November 8th, meaning that Jesus will once again be elected unopposed after receiving 100% of all votes cast.

He is currently serving his 496th consecutive term, and has maintained a 100% approval rating from the Voter during his time in office.

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The double standard of non-discrimination

032416-NBA-Charlotte-Hornets-2017-All-Star-Michael-Jordan-PI.vadapt.664.high.63
Photo Courtesy: NBA

The NBA, which I love, has just made a big decision. It has announced that it’s moving its 2017 All Star Game from Charlotte, North Carolina, as a direct, specific response to North Carolina enacting law HB2. Known as the ‘bathroom bill’, HB2 says people must use the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate. The NBA regards this law as discriminatory, and is taking a stand by removing its showpiece event from the state. The NBA is being widely praised for this move; key figures have described the decision as ‘[a] stand for inclusion and respect’ and ‘extremely poignant’. Continue reading

America crowns first ever Preaching Idol

Golden MicrophoneLouisville, Kentucky – In an enthralling finale watched by more than 24 million viewers, Chicago native Nathaniel Adams has been crowned the winner of the inaugural season of Preaching Idol, receiving the honour in front of a raucous crowd of more than 17,000 preaching fans gathered at the KFC Yum! Center.

Adams triumphed over Boston’s Dallas Brown in what host David Mathis called “just an incredibly close public vote, in the providence of God”. Continue reading

Giving up on Jesus

14329298961_da63af3bfc_bI have a great job. I work for the Christian Union at the University of Canterbury (in Christchurch), teaching the Bible to students, talking to people about Jesus, and discipling and training young Christians. I love it. But sometimes ministry hurts. Sometimes, Christian ministry leaves you feeling like you’ve been kicked in the teeth.

Among the (relatively few) negative things about being a full-time, vocational gospel worker, there is one thing that, for my money, is far and away the worst: seeing one-time followers of Jesus give up on their faith and give up on Jesus. It just sucks.

Part of the reason I say this is that I once tried it myself. Continue reading

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