God’s gifts in suffering (4) Suffering deepens our knowledge of God

Life, Sola Panel, Sola Panel

For I know that the Lord is great,
and that our Lord is above all gods.
Whatever the Lord pleases, he does,
in heaven and on earth,
in the seas and all deeps. (Psalm 135:5,6)

I write this post with a heavy heart, because we are neck-deep in this particular season of suffering. It’s not showing any signs of letting up, at least for now. It’s only bearable because God no longer seems like a stranger.

Of all the effects of suffering, this is one of the most disquieting: the God I meet in suffering is different from the God I thought I knew. It’s as if you turn to a friend and catch an expression on their face that you never expected to see there. Your wife of twenty years does something so completely out of character that you wonder if you really know her. Your father turns out to be fundamentally different to the man you loved and respected all these years. (more…)

Will God answer my prayers?

Life, Sola Panel

Here’s my simple answer to that simple question from a person I know from my local church.

I am sure God answers our prayers, including for you. (more…)

photo | thinkstockphotos.coma.au

Re-creation in the words of Jeremiah


It’s been my privilege in two previous issues to be your tour guide for a quick trip through Jeremiah—more of a scenic flight than a safari. Today our tour ends with the book’s final chapters—but here’s the story so far. (more…)

Live to give


Where should we direct our giving? Surrounded by so many needs and opportunities it’s difficult to know where to start. Is there any priority or principle by which to choose whom to give to?

Giving is the Christian way of living. It involves more than money for we give ourselves to the Lord and to each other as we use the gifts that God has given to us to serve one another. We give our time, energy, interest, concern, prayers and hospitality—anything we have that could be used for the benefit of others. However, it does include giving money and that is what I am writing about. (more…)

Crucifixion Historicity

Thought, Sola Panel

I have heard the claim that Jesus never died on the cross many times over the years, in person, in the press, on the web and via social media. Here is my reply. (more…)

Matthew 5:17

Bible 101

Are Christians free from the law? This age-old question has often been answered in two wrong ways. The error on one side is often described as ‘legalism’—the idea that Christians are bound by some or even most of the Old Testament law. This might mean that Saturday should be our Sabbath (on which no work is done), or that circumcision or other Old-Testament-style rituals are necessary to salvation, or that certain foods or forms of clothing are out for Christians. (more…)

Holiness: the greatest need

Pastoral Ministry, Sola Panel

Perhaps some of the most famous words ever spoken on the topic of holiness by a pastor came from Robert Murray McCheyne. He said,

photo | thinkstockphotos.coma.au

The boat and the anchor

Everyday Ministry

Something really significant is going on beneath the surface of conversations that are properly anchored in Christ. Not just the content is different. Much more significantly, the attitude we bring with us is different as well. You see, if our lives are anchored in Christ then we’re free to respond to hostile questions without either striking back (one of the most common fear responses) or checking out (physically or emotionally). (more…)

Beg to give


Because ministers are the recipients of congregational giving they are hesitant to raise the issue of money. It is a hesitancy felt by both the congregation and the clergy.

Some ministers are concerned about church budget and press the issue too often and too hard. Others feel the apparent self-interest of raising the issue and so avoid it altogether. Some congregations are never taught about giving and others feel bombarded about money every time they come to church.

However, this tension confuses the subject of our giving with the object of our giving—or the gift of giving with the recipient of the gift. It confuses the questions of why, what and how we give with the issue of where best to direct our giving. It is the confusion of the long-term principle of gracious giving with the short-term immediate need for financial assistance. (more…)

God’s gifts in suffering (3) Suffering tests and refines our faith

Life, Sola Panel

I’m no Job. The words I used to sing so blithely, with such theoretical appreciation of their beauty, such bland conviction that I’d sing them whatever came—“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21)—don’t, apparently, spring to my lips when suffering comes. My lips are sealed, silent. (more…)

Exodus 3:14-15

Bible Brief

For most of us, our names have particular significance and meaning, but aren’t all that descriptive. For example, my namesake is the prophet Samuel of the Old Testament, but my parents didn’t call me Sam because of any special divine intervention. My daughter is named after one of our very good friends, but we’re actually not 100% sure what her name means—to us, it’s just her name. (more…)

Time for a tat?

Pastoral Ministry

I’ve been wondering: should I get a tattoo? At this moment, it seems like a pretty important question to me. I’m pretty sure it’s a question for others too. I’m a church pastor, and I’ve just entered my fortieth year of life. And my question is specifically for those who are also pastors (or ministry leaders) and who are at a similar stage: is it time for you to go and get a tat? (more…)

What separates us from the Bible?

Sola Panel, Sola Panel

I was suggesting last week that the Bible is not written from an alien, different world, but addresses the world we live in. But there is something that stands as a divide between us and the Bible; something that prevents us from grasping hold of the Scriptures and applying them rightly to our lives. (more…)

→ Six tips from an atheist on talking with non-Christians


Chris Stedman is an atheist, an ex-evangelical, and an assistant chaplain at Harvard. He’s written some advice to Christians who are wanting to talk constructively with atheists about faith:

As someone who lives in the tension of my evangelical past and atheist present, and as someone who maintains abiding and mutually inspiring relationships with Christians, I understand that many of my Christian friends are trying to discern how to navigate these swiftly changing times. And I definitely empathize with their frustrations over the less productive exchanges that often occur between Christians and non-Christians.

I’d like to humbly suggest six ways Christians might have more constructive conversations with non-Christians.

I’m not with him every step of the way, but it’s a fascinating insight into how these kind of conversations are perceived and how they might proceed. Worth a read.

(h/t Nic Swadling)