Posts

Showing posts from 2012

Christine Ha: what an inspiration!

Last week the final of Masterchef USA 2012 aired in NZ. It came down to a cook off between Christine Ha and Josh Marks. Personally I thing Becks should have been in the final with Christine, but I don't get to taste the food. Anyway, the final was close and Christine came out on top. 
Now what made the whole thing so stunning was that Christine is blind. She cooked with a helper but did her own work through and through. Her story is utterly amazing. She is Vietnamese. Her mum died when she was young. She has a bachelor of business administration. She has a masters of fine arts for creative fiction/non fiction. She has been a finalist in various writing competitions. She has a food blog. She is married with a lovely family. She has neuromyelitis optica where her own immune system attacks the optic nerves and spine. She has been blind since 2007. She can see as if "looking through a very foggy mirror." She won the show because of her amazing palate and creativity, not to …

Is the Devil real?

I was reading the temptation account today and it got me thinking about the reality or otherwise of the Devil. It is common among theologians to argue that the Devil is not a being but an ancient explanation or personification for evil. As I read the Temptation,  I read of something that can approach Jesus, talk to him and interact with him. He can memorise Scripture, and use it in argument. He can carry Jesus across time and distance. He can think. He can hear. As I read the remainder of the NT his reslity is assumed. However difficult that may seem, it all sounds real to me.

Now, interestingly the argument for the personhood of the Holy Spirit and his status as a member of the Trinity is not dissimilar. Christians vehemently defend the Spirit is a person of the Trinity. We gain this from reflection on the action of the Spirit across Scripture--He speaks, hears, acts, guides, etc. How can we argue for the reality of the Spirit on the one hand and against the reality of the Devil? I …

Matthew’s Wonderful Christmas Story

Recently I got to write some study notes for the Bible Society and spent a bit of time in Matthew’s advent story. What a joy it was to focus more attention on his version of Christmas. I discovered a whole lot of things I had never noticed before. I thought I would share some of them briefly. I encourage you to read Matthew’s story in light of these and see what else you can find in them. Matthew of course wrote to Jews to demonstrate that Jesus is truly Messiah and the culmination of Israel’s story. There is such depth in it that it is mind-blowing.

First, there is the genealogy. It is patterned on sevens, four times coming to 42 generations. It speaks of Jesus’ true descent from Israel’s father Abraham and the Patriarchs, and from the paradigmatic king, David—he is the new Davidic King, the long awaited Messiah. It is full of people of sinful pasts like Judah who betrayed Joseph and was seduced by Tamar faking that she is a prostitute. There is Solomon born of David’s murder of Uri…

Respectfully—No Bob, It is not Time to Ditch the Anthem

So Bob Jones wants the National Anthem ditched (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10850117).It is great that he lives in a country where he can freely state this opinion without fear of reprisal from the State or someone else with vested interest. I wonder why that is?   

Bob clearly set out to offend when he wrote the article. He begins by slamming the Australian song, claiming that Australia is not “young and free.” His basis is that Australia, NZ etc. are actually old nations in world terms. Well, in strict socio-political terms he may be right, but he misses the point. When one sings an anthem like this, one is not singing the latest pop song expressing how things are now, one sings a song that speaks of the founding principles of a nation, those ideals upon which the nation is built. It expresses the desire and sense of the nation then. It functions as a reminder, a link with history, our forebears giving their all to establish a people and …

Why I Believe Marriage is Essential to Humanity and Christian Faith

At the recent PCANZ General Assembly we discussed marriage and matters of sexual orientation—the latter in regards to the ordination of practising homosexuals, the former in relation to current legislation before Parliament and the church’s theology and role in marriage. As I prepared for the discussion I realised afresh how integral marriage is to the whole Christian story and ongoing Christian life. I spoke on this in the debate, somewhat nervously (such an intimidating place), and want to unpack what I said.
1.Marriage is Integral to Creation and Image Bearing
Marriage is implied in Gen 1:26-28 which is critical to understanding God’s plan for humankind (I see this at the heart of what I call the Great Cosmission, God’s plan to build a world). Humans are made in God’s image, in some senses we are like God. This has a range of ideas in it including relationality and dominion.  In Gen 1:27, both male and female are created in God’s image. In Gen 1:28 they are told to “be fruitful and …

Presbyterian Assembly 2012, Reflections

The 2012 PCANZ General Assembly in Rotorua is done and dusted. The highlight for me was catching up with old friends and making new ones. While the Assembly had its challenges, it is networking and relationships that count. I enjoyed the worship, Malcolm Gordon is very gifted and he and his team led us well. The moderator, Ray Coster did a commendable job leading with grace and respect. The business committee were tireless in their efforts, it is far from easy to run an Assembly with our polity! The tone of the business was positive, especially considering the sensitivities around the debates. The hosts were brilliant, the food was especially great! My friend and former colleague at Laidlaw College Tim Keel was sensational and challenging. I love his fresh contemporary missional perspective. That said, I think it was an almost impossible task for him to speak in the midst of intense debate. I would have loved time to gather in groups to consider the implications of what he said for t…

Reflections on another Hong Kong Adventure

Two years ago I went to Hong Kong to do ministry. I have just got back from another eleven day Hong Kong jaunt, fellowshipping and ministering at the Vine at the invitation of my great friend and ex-Laidlaw student, Andrew (and Christine) Gardener (http://thevine.org.hk/). This one involved two Saturdays lecturing at the Vine Bible School (Manna) on Paul, preaching at the Vine mid-week African, S.E. Asian and Nepalese refugee gatherings, and some time with the Vine staff. Here are some reflections.
First, Hong Kong is relentless. People work long hours (often 10am to 10pm each day). The Christians in ministry are no exception. I sometimes feel busy here in NZ, but it is nothing in comparison. Not only is it busy, but the pace of life is full on. For those at the Vine, when they get to work they have to stay often late at night because public transport is the only real option and some come to work by ferry or long bus trip. It is a corporate material culture, and work is highly valued. …

So Who Owns the Water?

Preliminary Note: Before beginning, let me say that I believe that in light of the Treaty of Waitangi, the Government should consult Māori on major decisions related to NZ’s natural resources. Whether we like it or not, that is part of NZ’s essential bi-culturalism. What I have written below is critiquing the claims to “ownership” of the waters of NZ in the discussion, from a biblical perspective.
NZ is embroiled in a great debate over this question; who owns the water? Māori contesting the asset-sales claim that they own the water. John Key suggests no one owns the water. Well, let me humbly suggest that neither are correct from a Christian biblical point of view; it is simple, God owns the water.

That God owns the waters of the world is clear in such verses as “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, for he founded it on the seas, and established it on the waters” (Ps 24:1). This is quoted by Paul in 1 Cor 10:26 indicating that Christians believed in this. In Gen 1 waters are …

Fresh Evidence Jesus Had a Wife?

The news is reporting that a Coptic papyri scrap has been found which has the words “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…’” and supposedly will “ignite the debate as to whether Jesus had a wife.” I am sorry, but I can’t help laughing as I read such things. The small business card size scrap is late second century at best, written in Coptic and believed to be a translation of a Greek document. This of course is the time of the Gnostic movement, which produced a number of spurious works with the weirdest perspective of Jesus.
Interestingly the words after “My wife” are deleted and so it may not have anything to do with his wife, e.g. “my wife is the one who obeys my word.” Or, “my wife, the church, my beloved bride.” It is hardly anything like “evidence” Jesus had a wife.
The truth is that there is still no evidence of Jesus being married. The NT says nothing of his marrying anyone although he had a lot of female friends and traveling companions. Such things are pure romantic fiction for those …

Another Political Party?

Also Published in Challenge Weekly Sept, 2012.

I had a thought the other day and wonder what you think?—is there a need for one more political party in NZ, a party that upholds a centre-left-wing economic ideology while upholding traditional Christian values? (Not necessarily a Christian party, but a more general party for the wider populace of similar mindset).

Every election I am uncertain who to vote for. On the one hand, I want to vote for those who believe a government should be very concerned for social justice. I am not a hard-core leftie, believing in personal responsibility, incentive and the ownership of personal property, but I do lean left. Romans 13 and Jesus’ teaching in particular lead me to the view that the State is God’s agent to help people who, in an unjust world, are in genuine need, cannot work and are severely disadvantaged. A good government helps people get a hand-up and ensure all can access cheap primary health care, get a good education and feel safe (justice…

Why Lance Armstrong Is Being Unfairly Treated

So you ride for years and are the premier cyclist in the world (even if illegally), you win seven Tour de Frances by the rules at the time, you never fail one of hundreds of drugs and doping blood and urine tests and it seems you about to be condemned and stripped of all your titles on the basis of people saying you did it. Is this just?

On the one hand, it seems fair. The basis for this is a two-year federal investigation begun in February by USADA. They have the testimony of ten former teammates including emails from Floyd Landis (stripped of the 2006 Tour de France title), Tyler Hamilton’s testimony, and people willing to provide data of the cyclist and his teams doping activity. It is claimed that Armstrong used and encouraged others to use EPO, blood transfusion, testosterone and cortisone between 1998 and 2005 and used EPO, testosterone and human growth hormones through 1996. Witnesses also testify that Armstrong encouraged team members to do the same. Further, tests of Armstron…

Evangelical Presbyterians’ Statement On Same Sex Marriage

I am involved in a group called Presbyterian Affirm. It is an evangelical group within the NZ Presbyterian Church which seeks to promote the gospel and the renewal of churches. A group of us under theleadership of Stuart Lange have worked to put together a statement on same-sex marriage. Our hope is that the government will not pass the legislation, believing that the legislation is not necessary and strays from God’s ideals for humanity. Here is the recently released statement. I would appreciate your thoughts on it.

PRESBYTERIAN GROUP OPPOSES SAME-SEX MARRIAGE BILL
Presbyterian AFFIRM, a widely-supported conservative network within the Presbyterian denomination, is speaking out against the Bill which would allow same-sex couples to marry, declaring its views in a “Statement on Marriage” (see below). Presbyterian AFFIRM believes that “marriage is a unique human institution and treasure” which has “alwaysbeen about the pairing of a man and a woman”, and that re-defining marriage to inc…

One Mans Olympic Reflectons

Image
So the Olympics are over. Here are some reflections.
First, ‘way to go’ Kiwis! Awesome job! As an old man indoor-rower, I especially loved watching Cohen, Sullivan, Bond, Murray, Drysdales and the others smash the world. Lisa Carrington’s win was brilliant. While others were disappointed, Valerie Vili remains a superstar with her silver, beaten on the day by a better thrower. Not to mention our sailors Jo Aley and Polly Powrie, Sarah Walker, etc; and of course Mark Todd—what a legend. He gives hope to my generation, although a come-back is only possible if you have already been there! And Nick Willis will always be a hero for me despite not having his best day in the final. We see in these athletes the best of being Kiwi—humility, guts, resilience, overcoming the odds, determination, courage and beating a much bigger world.
Secondly, I am intrigued that all of our golds were won sitting down either in a boat or on a bike. Does that reflect that NZers like sitting on their buttocks? Is t…

Should Funding be Frozen for High Performance Sport?

So the Olympics are over. This means more sleep for us all, but what are we now going to watch?—same old, same old, I suppose—Coronation Street, yawn. Even more than usual, the Kiwis have excelled, with its equal best-ever medal haul, ending up 16th on the medal table. If we adjust this to population, we came in 4th. While there were ups and downs with a couple of athletes not living up to expectations, most excelled.

In the news today is the headline “Olympic Heroes Face Cash Freeze.” Currently high performance sport receives $60m a year and this will be frozen for the next two years. At one level this is highly understandable as times are tough and the NZ government is flatlining most of its budget. Indeed some would say, $60m is far too much anyway. From a Christian social justice point of view, one can certainly argue that there is far more need out there than for high performance sport. It all makes perfect sense at one level. On the other hand, I am not so sure. The Olympics and…

Should Bible in Schools Be Trashed?

Watching Breakfast yesterday I was intrigued to hear the Reverend Clay Nelson of St Matthews-in-the-City come out strongly against Bible in Schools saying that it is should be trashed. He argues that it is “un-Christian to force our faith on other people.” He aligns himself with the Secular Education Network. According to its website, this network is profoundly secular growing out of the rationalist society. It affirms a naturalistic world view rejecting all supernatural explanations. It sees science and religion as opposed explaining the world in fundamentally opposing ways.

The Rev’s position raises all sorts of questions for me. First, why would a Christian minister support an organisation like the Secular Education Network that blatantly opposes Christianity and faith claims? Christianity is premised on a God who created the world, the story of his repeated intervention, and most importantly, the story of Jesus who was imbued with power and performed miracles, rose from the de…

The Radical Call of Tatenda Taibu

Image
I dreamed of being an international cricketer in my younger days. Each year, I played rugby in winter, cricket in summer, and wanted to be one of those double All Blacks who played both codes for NZ. I made it to Premier Club level in both and perhaps might have made it higher if I had stayed in sport. However, once Jesus got a hold of me in my early twenties and called me to preach, it was all over, and I gave away competitive sport to follow Jesus’ call. It was a hard decision at one level, sport was so important to me. At another level, due to my radical experience of conversion and involvement in evangelism and ministry, it was easy because all I wanted to do was to obey Jesus and tell people about him.I still feel the same. While this is not the call of every Christian sportsman, many of whom stay in the sport to play and give witness, it was my call. I have never regretted this decision and am where I am today because I dared to say yes as we should all do, no matter what the ca…