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

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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

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

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

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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The Secret of Contentment

We all struggle with the constant desire to compare ourselves to others. LIZ ROBSON shows us how to break free of the comparison game and look on ourselves with ‘sober judgment’.

Apples OrangesWe live in an age where the lure of comparison is more enticing than ever before. Facebook tells us what hundreds of people are doing at any given moment.  We have Instagram and Twitter to monitor the world’s every move, and there’s nothing quite like a little bit of Pinterest envy on the side. Now, thanks to Skype, we have to even consider how we present ourselves while making a telephone call! Continue reading

Census delivers few surprises on religion in New Zealand in 2013

New statistics on the spiritual and religious landscape in New Zealand make alarming (yet sadly unsurprising) reading

Graph Arrow DownThis month, Statistics New Zealand has begun releasing key data from the 2013 Census. A wealth of information is already available online, with all the details being rolled out between now and June 2015. I especially enjoyed ‘What if New Zealand were a village of 100 people?

Of course, we all know what they say about lies, damned lies and statistics, and the story of a nation can never be reduced to mere Census figures. But statistics do have their place. As Jed Bartlet once said, “Numbers, Mrs. Landingham. If you want to convince me of something, show me numbers.” 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’.

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