Why I Believe

YellowSign 002This week I received an email (along with a bunch of other pastors) from an atheist who seemed to be genuinely inquiring about why we believed what we believed. The person explained their reason for getting in contact like this…

I’m really just emailing to ask, what does religion do for you? Does it give you hope? Fulfillment? Purpose? Why is religion a good thing?

What a cool email to get!

Many of my friends and family are in a different place when it comes to these kinds of things. Some are religious, some aren’t. I’ve thought from time to time about why I’ve found faith to be such an attractive thing, so I appreciated the opportunity to talk about it, and I thought it might be helpful to put my response up here.

My reply wasn’t particularly planned, it was just my off-the-cuff response to this person’s question. Maybe that’s more revealing than if I had spent a bunch more time on it.

So, what is it for you that either draws you to faith in God or pushes you away? Here’s my answer… Continue reading

Depression

Depression is something that sometimes has a stigma it shouldn’t have, especially when it comes to ministry. I want to write about my journey with it, in the hope that it might be of value to other people struggling with depression themselves, or supporting someone else who is…

My story

Pastoral ministry involves some incredible highs and some deep lows.

People take significant steps in their faith, they get baptised, and you feel on top of the world. You’re giving your life to something meaningful. People leave the church, or make poor decisions, and it hurts. You go into ministry thinking you’re ready for all of this. You’re emotionally equipped for the highs and the lows. You’re theologically equipped to know you can’t save the world yourself.

This was true for me, until it wasn’t.  Continue reading

Leadership Books for People Who Don’t Like Leadership Books

I don’t like most books about leadership technique. Never have.

Whether it’s the 21 Laws of This or That, or 5 Steps to a Whatever, I find these kinds of books to be mechanical, corporate, and not much use.

However, knowing that this is a personal blind spot, I still try to read at least one book about leadership each year. Over the years I’ve read – believe it or not – some good ones. So, here’s a list of five good books about leadership for people who don’t like books about leadership (in no particular order)… Continue reading

The Great Revealer

There are many political issues which are genuinely complex for Christians.

Tax policy. The role and size of the State, and how that’s balanced with individual responsibility. How best to tackle crime, or education. As a pastor, I want to acknowledge that there are good arguments for leaning left or right on these or any number of other issues. And I don’t just say that because I’m a pastor and I don’t want to offend. I really do believe these things are hugely complex, and good arguments can be made in different directions. Most political issues are not simple.

How we respond to the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow isn’t one of those issues, though.

This is one of the things which, for Christians, is simple. Continue reading

Vocation, Vocation, Vocation

I’ve just finished Tom Wright’s latest book, this one on the topic of the atonement, ‘The Day the Revolution Began’.

I have a recurring experience with Wright’s books. I start them, excited, ready to have my paradigm shifted. About half way through, I think, ‘This is a helpful corrective, but I can’t help but feel he’s overstating things a bit.’ Then, I finish with a feeling of bemusement, grateful to be reminded that there’s more to [insert theological issue here] than some simplistic, popular examples would indicate, but also thinking that Wright seems to regard his proposals as a fair bit more revolutionary (ahem) than they really are.

Still, this was a worthwhile read. There’s so much I could say about it, but I’ll focus on just two things. Continue reading

Christians and Israel

It’s not often that New Zealand gets international political attention, but we certainly did so this week when our government co-sponsored a UN resolution condemning the construction of Israeli settlements.

As expected, my Facebook feed has been lighting up like a busy switchboard as Christians I know react with outrage. That’s because many Christians today see the modern state of Israel as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy. For them, criticism of Israel is like ice cream on a sensitive tooth.

I’m aware that this is a highly controversial topic, but I’ve never bought into that line of thinking myself. I’m also aware that people who hold the above view (let’s call them Christian Zionists) are often unwilling to consider other interpretive options. So, I’m not writing this blog post to convince them. Instead, I want to offer some thoughts for the people who’ve seen or heard Christian Zionism, and felt a bit confused, or uneasy, or overwhelmed.

Here’s some good news: you don’t have to land there. And, here’s some mixed news: there probably aren’t any easy answers. The truth is, this subject, more than most, calls for nuance. So, let me try to offer some…   Continue reading

5 Books for 2016

It’s list-making time, and I never let that opportunity go by. These are the 5 books that impacted me most in 2016.

5. C.S. Lewis: A Life – Alister McGrath

I will never look at Lewis the same way after reading this book. McGrath doesn’t put his subject on a pedestal, and though at times you feel that you are learning more about McGrath’s opinions of Lewis than of Lewis himself, this is still a fascinating and informative read.

4. Reading Revelation Responsibly – Michael Gorman
Simply the most helpful book on Revelation that I’ve ever read. Gorman doesn’t pull his punches, which may not win him friends among dispensationalists. However, this is a book which brings Revelation to life. Far from a dry academic treatment, it caused me to think about how this piece of apocalyptic literature applies to our world today. Continue reading