Showing posts from 2011

A New Years Thought or Three

So begins a New Year, 2012. 2011 was a tough one for many in NZ, most notably Christchurch residents who experienced the pain of loss and destruction. None of us know what 2012 will hold. That is the thing about life, it is tenuous. As Isaiah says, “the grass withers and the flower fade.” We humans are always a heart-beat from life’s cessation. New Years are great times to pause and reflect. While New Years resolution’s are perhaps not the answer, because they are legalistic and often serve to bring guilt, restating one’s core commitments at the beginning of a new year is not a bad thing.

Perhaps the core question is whether we are living for God? Have other things crept in, things that deflect us from service of the King? The really dangerous things are the idols of the more subtle variety. Usually, they are connected to our strengths. For example, one is a great thinker—so often it is one’s own hubris and love of thought and one’s own ideas (or those of another venerated thinker) …

Remembering "Our" First Christmas, 1814

This is a Christmas message I wrote on behalf of the Auckland Church Leaders which was published in the NZ Herald on pages A6-7 Dec 24 2011. 

A Christmas message from Auckland Church Leaders

Remembering “Our” First Christmas, 1814

Christmas is a unique time. For some it is a time for family and friends, festive cheer, gifts and a good excuse for a holiday. For others, it is a time of sadness as they remember lost loved ones, or face deprivation and abuse. For yet others, it is regarded as just a fairytale. For Christians, Jesus is the reason for the season—a precious time when believers all over the world pause, remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus who we believe to be the saviour of the world.

Not many at the time of Christ’s birth realised its significance or anticipated its impact. The story is set in obscurity far from the seats of ancient power. It is shrouded in mystery with accounts of prophetic predictions, angelic visitations, a pregnant unmarried virgin, a child placed i…

Just Wondering About Asset Sales

NZers are freaking out about asset sales. I can understand why. While we have financial challenges, do we want to sell our assets to get out of trouble?

Yet, at the same time, one of the counter-arguments is that the floating of a portion of the assets is at least to an extent a good thing for NZ, giving NZers something to invest in. This would move investments away from our incessant obsession with investment in property, or off shore. Iwi and others may find this helpful. I find this a good argument to a point. That said, do we need to sell off 49% of an asset at all?

My question then is this, why sell so much of any state owned asset? Why not place a limit on the amount of an asset that we float, say 25% or 33%, and why not limit the amount one investor can own at even lower than 10%, say 5%? We could float far more assets then, retain control, put the money to use to pay down debt to safeguard us against the effects of global recession etc. Then, if the situation permits, we can…

Election 2011: As the Dust Settles

So the dust is settling on another election. The people have spoken, the right rules for another three years. A few things stand out to me.

First, there is the obvious surprise at the success of NZ First, no doubt in no small part due to the Epsom Tea Party which gave him a platform. Winston appeals to the floating voter who wants neither party, cares for the elderly, and is attracted to his style—which is very winsome (Winsome Winston). As a Christian, I have some sympathy, especially for Winston’s concern for the elderly. One sign of the health of a nation is how we look after the elderly. Perhaps the move from 65 to 67 for retirement cost Labour a few votes here. After all, there are other options, like a graded system where you can take retirement earlier, but receive less, or take it later, and receive more. Raising the retirement age works for people like me who sit in an office all day, but it is a tough call for those do manual work. I wonder if this policy is a popular as s…

Election 2011: 4) Which System?

At the election we get a vote on what electoral system we want. We will be asked two questions: 1) Do we want to keep MMP or not? 2) If not, which system: MMP, FPP, PV, STV, SM. 

We all know what MMP is: 120 MPs, 70 electoral MPs we vote in with one vote—the most votes wins; 50 who get in on the list depending on proportion of the vote. This yields coalition government, compromise, moderate consultative governments. It gives room for more voices. It forces NZ politics always to the middle. It has been around now for about twenty years and while we have had some fun and games forming governments, it has yielded stable government and NZ. Its weakness is that the minor parties can wield disproportionate power.

First Past the Post (FPP) is well known to older kiwis, one vote per person, 120 electoral MPs, winner takes all. This tends to polarize politics like the US Republican—Democratic system. The voices at the margins tend to get consumed in the huge party machines. It can get a governme…

Election 2011: 3) What to Think About When Voting

So we come to vote, how to go about it? First, we all need to pray. Christians across the churches should be gathering in these weeks leading to the election and praying that God's will would be done on earth as it is in heaven (esp. 1 Tim 2:1–2). We want the right people in power, that our nation will be well led, safe, protected and provided for. This is a tough time in the world, and it will take some seriously good leadership to get us through the economic and political challenges we face.
Secondly, we need to think in regards to the gospel. Here are some elements:
We get two votes of course and so we need to be strategic with them. Where the local candidate is concerned, I think we should vote on two main fronts: 1) The person, who will be the best local politician and represent the electorate well; 2) The party they represent. That person will get to vote with the government so the policies of their party are critical (see below).
So, get to know your local electorate candidat…

The Madness of Student Loans: Starting Adult Life with a Noose Around Your Neck

It is not easy starting working life. I remember entering the work force as a young teacher back in the day. While it was great to get paid at last, the challenges were many as I came to terms with "real life." As I read today's NZ Herald Article "Hundreds of Students in Debt for $140k-plus" by Elizabeth Binning ( my heart sank. According to the article there are:
270,040 with loans up to $10,000.
209,071 with loans of $10,000–25,000.
110,186 with loans of $25,000–50,000.
29,203 with loans of $50,000–100,000.
1500 with loans of $100,000–120,000.
617 with loans of $120,000–140,000.
541 with loans of $140,000.
That is over half a million NZers, not only starting their working life with the many challenges of finding their way in the workforce, but with a financial noose around their neck. I have always questioned this system. Living in Auckland and going through the struggle of trying to raise eno…

Election 2011: 2) How Can Christians Be Involved in Politics?

In the last blog post I suggested that Christianity is at its essence, in a sense, political.
Life is political in fact, with someone having to run the show across its every part, families, schools, communities, social groups, sports clubs, local governments, churches, cities, nations and international politics. Christianity imagines 'political' rule in all these contexts as being about leaders who take people with them with processes that are collaborative, participative, egalitarian, with decisions made that accord with the values of God seen in the gospel.
So, we are to be 'political' first in those parts of the world we find ourselves having a leadership role. Husbands and wives are to lead well in partnership, mutual service and collaborative decision making. While some define these leadership roles on the basis of gender with the man as the leader, I am not of that view. I think each home should be run based on the call and gifts of the marriage partners. This ha…

Election 2011: 1) Is Christianity Political?

What has Christianity to do with politics? Some Christians see Christianity is apolitical. Some reject Christian engagement in politics. Some imagine that Jesus is about spiritual transformation, not engagement in the messy world of politics. There was a time when I kind of thought this. However, now I see a deeper story.
In Genesis the world was created and humanity given dominion—right from the start, a political idea. They were to fill the world and rule over it (Gen 1:28)—again, political. Of course they were also to care for it as they did as Genesis 2 makes clear—that is, there were limits to political rule, it is not domination and plundering the world—sadly, this is not what has played out. To rule is a political idea.
After the Fall of humanity in Gen 3, as human society formed, it was politically corrupt from the start—even Adam and Eve contended for power in the home. Contention filled God's world with people across its every part contending for power and authority. Thi…

Reflections on the RWC Final

Easily, the greatest day in NZ sports history winning with our fourth choice first five and R. McCaw injured. Has there been a gutsier display from an All Black team. More like the halcyon days of NZ rugby than the airy-fairy recent years of expansive back play. This is real rugby. Fantastic.
The choice to retain Graham Henry and his team was correct. You can't beat experience! I repent of my belief he should have been dumped four years ago. Let's don't forget Wayne Smith and Steve Hansen.
Against my better judgment (as if I would know), Graham Henry's rotation policy was vindicated. Stephen Donald came on and was ready, he knew the calls, he was confident. Same with Cruden a week or so earlier. Without the rotation policy, they would not have been ready.
The AB fitness coach Nick Gill is a legend!
The AB's peaked against Australia which we had to do to get to the final. They looked jaded in the second half. Who cares, one point or one hundred, a win is a win is a …

Does Growth Indicate a Healthy Church?

I was asked the other day by a ministry-colleague whether growth is a necessary sign of health i.e. if a church is healthy, then it is growing? Or again, if a church is growing, does it mean it is necessarily healthy?
This is a great question. First, we have to ask what growth is. Is growth numerical? Is growth something deeper? Well, in biblical terms, both are growth (nice rhyme). Ideally, the church overall and an individual church is adding numbers to it, the growth of the body in quantitative terms—through converts of course, while not losing believers out the back door. Ideally too, a church is growing through the maturation of its people, qualitative growth. Eph 4:11–16 seems to me to speak of both types of growth, as the leaders of the church including pastors, evangelists and others, equip the body which grows to maturity, likely both qualitative and quantitative. So, you could have a church that is really growing qualitatively, but there are no new people coming in. That is,…

Why the World Cup Final is not a Done Deal

My head and heart say we should win. The French have shown little capacity for quality rugby aside from 7 minutes against the All Blacks, and holding out England and Wales. So, all the form books say we win.
But rugby history tells us that this proves nothing with the French. In 1953 (3–0), in 1973 (15–3), in 1977 (18–13), in 1979 on Bastille Day at Eden Park (24–19—totally unexpected), in 1986 (16–3), 1994 twice (22–8 and at Eden Park, 23–20), in 1995 (22–15), in 1999 at the RWC (43–31), in 2000 (42–33), in 2007 at the RWC (20–18), and two years ago at Carisbrook (27–22), where we rarely lose to anyone, they beat us. In all of these, except perhaps 1973 on that ill-fated British tour, in 1986 after the Cavaliers-Baby Blacks etc fiasco, and 2000 after 1999, we were overwhelming favourites.
Of particular interest are their victories over us are victories at times when we appeared dominant. For example, in 1979 we were coming off a Grand Slam tour and had won the first test well. In 2000…

Head Versus Heart, All Blacks Vs Wallabies

My heart says the All Blacks will win this week's RWC semi at Eden Park. My heart can never do anything else, I am Kiwi across every cell of my body. My head however is saying something else. I can't shake off the feeling that the Wallabies have the upper hand. Here's why:
Australian teams are dominant this year over the All Blacks, the Reds winning the Super Fifteen, and the Wallabies caning the All Blacks recently in Brisbane, and last year in Hong Kong (luckily perhaps). There is a sense of 1991 here, with the tide swinging their way.
They are a young side on the up, and while we have some great young players, there are many who are rather long in the tooth. Woodcock, Mealamu, Thorne, A. Williams, McCaw—the heart of the pack, are all old. We clearly need to renew the side, can they hang on for two more games?
Add to that the injuries. First, we have lost Carter our playmaker, and the best player I have ever seen (Murray Deaker and Fred Allen agree with that so I am in go…

Ten Reasons Why A.J. Miller is NOT Jesus!

Note: Forgive me for the long blog, but this one really got me going!
Last Sunday night on TV One's Sunday aired the report A.J. The Messiah. The program was the story of A.J. Miller in Queensland in Australia, who, unlike most of us, genuinely believes that he is Jesus. Miller appears at one level to be a normal Aussie bloke, in his early thirties, longish brown hair, unshaven, good looking, articulate and charismatic. Yet, unlike anyone I know but in the manner of other Messiah-claimants, he says without inhibition, "I am actually Jesus." He claims to remember vividly his former life and death including his experience of crucifixion. The memories supposedly began when he was 2 years old and realised later that he was Jesus around 33. In the program he writes on a white-board, "I am Jesus. Deal with it"—to applause from his congregation. He has disciples, some of whom claim to have been with him 2000 years ago including Mary Magdalene who is his "soul-ma…

What We Now Know About the AB’s 2 Games In

Two games, two easy wins. Three good halves of football, the second against Tonga not so good. What do we know?
We know first that the World Cup will first be decided by the All Blacks intensity, in the front five, but more importantly across the field at the breakdown—intensity. We have the backs (man do we have the backs out wide!), we need good go-forward ball all through the game, every game, for 80 minutes. If we do that, we will have a regular supply of quality ball.
Secondly, we know that to win the Cup, they can't lose Carter! Slade is struggling big time, looks out of his depth. Mind you, if we lose Carter, I suspect they will rush Cruden in, and he will start, or Weepu. I hope they have a message out to him to keep real fit, kick heaps, and spend 80 minutes a week running into people to keep sharp!
Thirdly, we have backs to slay anyone. Kahui has sown up one wing. Some are surprised, I am not. The only thing holding Kahui back has been injuries, he is a great athlete. So…

RWC The First Week, What We Have Learnt.

So, we are nearly a week into the RWC, what have we learnt?
The first thing is not a new thing, but a reinforcement of what we already knew—Auckland's traffic system is a joke. Personally, I don't know why people are upset about the train and bus fiasco last week, we all knew it would happen— this is Auckland after all. What is really surprising is how dumb Aucklanders are; as if things would be different to what they always have been. I mean, why would the Auckland public transport system suddenly be ok on the busiest night of the year? If it ain't fixed, it is broke!
The second thing confirmed, is that the Auckland Council couldn't organise a prayer meeting in a church. Why would a council cobbled together from the previous set of councils, which has historically been rife with disunity, and trying to work with central government and the ARC etc, get things right? Why would they think that something like 200,000 people would come into town for the night? Why would the…

A Glimpse of Heaven – Sort of...

Last night Emma and myself went into the viaduct to enjoy the launch of the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Things went our way. We got to the Constellation Park and Ride and squeezed last onto a bus saving us anything up to an hour. We then squeezed last into the line up to get into Queen's Wharf just before they sorted out the queuing – the name is not Keown (Queuin) for nothing. We got front row seats at the stage and settled for the afternoon – evening. What a blast. We saw the waka come in on the big screen, the hakas. Then Dave Dobbyn performed, he was brilliant. The Finn's followed, and they were even better. Then the opening ceremony was breathtaking, and the fireworks unbelievable. Then we watched the start of the game, the hakas and the singing of the National Anthem. We then headed for the bus because we thought we would never make it home. It was a great decision, we watched the game at home. We got home around 10, absolutely tired out, but buzzing. What a celebration of hum…

‘Death’s Door’ the Documentary: A Response

So it seems that science is getting interested afresh in life-after-death. In last night's doco (4/09/2011), Rod Vaughan did a story on life after death with testimonies, interviews with several scientists studying the phenomenon in NZ and the USA, and with a sceptic (see 'Death's Door.' Rod Vaughan reports on 'A Matter of Life and Death' – Producer Chris Wilks).
He interviewed three people who had experienced similar things. Trevor James, a 71 year old Manawatu man, described 'the experience of his life' in which he 'died', left his body, floated over the bed observing himself, and of seeing his deceased relatives. As he floated, he remembers saying 'there's two of me.' He described hurtling down a tunnel toward a vivid and welcoming light. He says, 'It was so bright. It was brighter than the sun, brighter than an arc welder, yet i…