John Piper on Game of Thrones and growing in godliness

Watching TVOver the last few months, I’ve written a couple of posts encouraging Christians to think more deeply about their ‘entertainment choices’, especially with reference to shows like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, or films like The Wolf of Wall Street. In my view, it’s an urgent issue facing Christians everywhere. So I was really pleased to come across these reflections from John Piper – 12 Questions to ask before you watch Game of Thrones.

It’s an article packed with great insights and quotable quotes. Among my favourites: “Jesus has blood-bought power in his cross. He died to make us pure. He ‘gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession’ (Titus 2:14). If we choose to endorse or embrace or enjoy or pursue impurity, we take a spear and ram it into Jesus’s side every time we do. He suffered to set us free from impurity.”

And as one who has written about the violence in a show like Breaking Bad, Piper gives me food for thought by noting that, unlike murder or other forms of violence, nudity cannot be faked: “Violence on a screen is make-believe; nobody really gets killed. But nudity is not make-believe. These actresses are really naked in front of the camera, doing exactly what the director says to do with their legs and their hands and their breasts. And they are naked in front of millions of people to see.”

It’s well worth taking five minutes to read the whole article. It may very well help you to grow in godliness.

I Wish I’d Said That (and I’m glad someone else did)

Man writing on the paper in the officeAs a blogger, every now and then I come across a post that leaves me channeling my inner Oscar Wilde and thinking, ‘I wish I’d said that’. Sometimes, though, my feeling is closer to, ‘I’m glad I didn’t have to say that, because someone else has already said it much better than I ever could.’ I have both of those feelings today.

One of the items on my to-do list for the week ahead had been to write an open letter to Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott, addressing their government’s policies on asylum seekers and their appalling treatment of and attitude towards those seeking asylum in my country of birth. But it looks like someone has beaten me to it, and they’ve done a brilliant job. Continue reading

Jesus on healing broken relationships

We should always take the first step to fix our damaged relationships, no matter which side of the breakdown we’re on

Healing RelationshipsThere’s an old cliché in Christian circles – often said half-jokingly, but through quietly gritted teeth: “I love everything about Christian ministry apart from people.” It’s a cliché laced with bitter irony because, of course, so much of the Christian life and ministry is about people and relationships. Yet it acknowledges the painful reality that relationships are always difficult, because people are always flawed and sinful. We all make mistakes. We hurt others, and we get hurt.

The Bible is the most realistic of books, dealing directly and honestly with the reality of our sin. And that means it contains forthright, practical wisdom on handling broken relationships. Continue reading

When Prime Ministers Attack: Faith under (friendly) fire

What can we learn from the Australian Prime Minister throwing his own faith under the bus to win political points?

Screen Shot 2013-09-06 at 2.51.11 PMIn case you haven’t already heard, the Australian election campaign took an interesting turn this week when Prime Minister Kevin Rudd appeared on Q & A (a current affairs interview program in Australia) and was asked a question about ‘same-sex marriage’. Rudd went into full flight, launching a passionate defence of the change of heart that has seen him become a vocal proponent of what he calls ‘marriage equality’.

Continue reading

God and Caesar: On the limitations of government

JFKWe Christians are a strange, motley bunch. Part of the glory of the gospel – and part of the joy and the challenge of life together in this world – is that God draws us together as his people from such diverse backgrounds. When we come together as his people, united as brothers and sisters in Christ, we bring with us an enormous range of quirks and weaknesses, experiences and strengths.

This wonderful diversity in the Christian community also means that we bring with us all kinds of passions and commitments. Sometimes, sadly, trivial matters can become our consuming desire, and yet we might remain coolly indifferent to things that really should put fire in our bellies. Sometimes, however, it’s just a matter of personal preference; the things that excite one person leave the next person unmoved, and that’s okay.

Where does politics fit into that mix?

Continue reading

Don’t Waste Your Vote – Part 2

Badge - 2008 election

Four tips on how to vote

In this series, I’ve been aiming to help you put together the biblical pieces on how God thinks about government, and how Christians should therefore think about and interact with our governments. Last time, we looked at seven ways not to vote. In this post, we’re looking at four ways to vote. Continue reading

Don’t Waste Your Vote – Part 1

Seven tips on how not to vote

Green TickAs I’ve listened to my Australian friends talk about the upcoming Federal Election, one thing has become clear: no election in living memory seems to have inspired so much apathy and disappointment towards the major parties. Without commenting on whether or not this sense of frustration is warranted (which it absolutely is), it’s obvious that many people are feeling disillusioned enough to even question the value of their vote. But is that a healthy way for anyone (let alone Christians) to approach the privilege of casting a ballot? How should Christians approach the God-given opportunity to vote? Continue reading

The Gospel And Who To Vote For – Part 2

Martin Luther KingIn the first of these posts on Christians and government, I began to outline how the Bible describes and understands earthly governments. We saw that governments are God-given authorities, instituted for the good ordering of society and worthy of our respect. So in our second post, it’s time to think more about how Christians should (or can) interact with their governing authorities.

Being good citizens
For starters, Christians should be good citizens. That statement is too general to mean much on its own, so it needs a little unpacking. As we saw in the previous post looking at Romans 13, being a good citizen will mean paying your taxes willingly and honestly. We’ll abide by the law, not just because we don’t want to get punished, but because our conscience tells us that if God has placed an authority over us, we do well to obey that authority. Continue reading

The Gospel And Who To Vote For – Part 1

Part One of a five-part series on how to think biblically about our governments, and about our vote 

DenariusThey do say you’re not supposed to discuss politics or religion in polite company. In this series of posts, I’m going to boldly (or maybe foolishly) attempt to do both at once! And I can guarantee you I feel unqualified to talk about this – at least about the political side of things. Don’t get me wrong, I’m interested in politics and I think it’s vitally important – even if much of what I’ve learnt about it comes from The West Wing. But it’s not my specialty. And who could ever do justice to two areas of thought that are so profound and so varied? Continue reading

“Same-sex Marriage”: What I would have said

As I watched last night’s parliamentary debate, I started pondering what I would say if I were an MP with a chance to address the nation on this historic night. Sam Seaborn or Toby Zeigler I am not, but here’s what I came up with

RingsMr Speaker, as we meet tonight in this chamber, hundreds of thousands of people around the nation are watching and anticipating not just our decision, but our discussion. And so I’d like to address my comments to some of those who are watching tonight. Specifically, I’d like to directly address the members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities for whom tonight is so important. Indirectly, I’m also addressing the countless New Zealanders who share your hope that this bill will pass.

I must begin by saying that I oppose this bill, even though the horse has bolted and, clearly, this bill will pass. Why? Why oppose a bill that many have claimed is all about human rights, freedom and equality? Am I scared? Am I a homophobe, or a bigot? Am I just a bluff old traditionalist? Let me explain where I stand. Continue reading