Blog

What makes a life worth living? Four lenses to ponder…

Posted by on Jan 11, 2021 in Blog | 4 comments

Matthew Croasmun directs the Life Worth Living program at the Yale Centre for Faith and Culture, and in a recent podcast suggests there are four levels at which people live, and invites us to examine our life to ask if most of our living takes place at a level of significance. It struck me that the exercise is worth undertaking towards the start of the year, when we might be a little more open to self-reflection and change. While the stages are progressively more stretching, there are benefits and challenges at each. The underlying questions are “what is the shape of a flourishing life”, or...

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How to listen when the preacher doesn’t have anything to say…

Posted by on Dec 18, 2020 in Blog | 4 comments

I always like to be fair, and as my last post was on how to preach when you don’t have anything to say, I thought it only proper to look at the other side of the coin – how to listen when the preacher doesn’t have anything to say. Now don’t misunderstand the motivation behind these posts. I am not anti-preaching, albeit I am not in the camp that believes the world might end if a church service doesn’t include a sermon. I think that preaching can accomplish an enormous amount of good and that the sermon remains the means through which the majority of Christian...

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How to preach when you haven’t got anything to say…

Posted by on Dec 15, 2020 in Blog | 4 comments

Amusing though the title is, let me start with the disclaimer that it isn’t mine, but was the topic given to Mark Oakley when asked to preach at a recent Church Times event. Now Mark Oakley always has something worthwhile to say – so do listen to his podcast on this topic, though other than for the title, I have taken this post in my own direction. Furthermore, lest you think this is for preachers alone, I plan to follow it up with a post: “How to listen when the preacher hasn’t got anything to say…” – so I am trying to make sure there is something...

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Christmas: From “for us” to “with us”…

Posted by on Dec 13, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

Probably like you, I am struggling to believe that Christmas is almost upon us – but facts are facts, and December is galloping away. I have done some Christmas shopping and the family are soon due to see the Christmas lights – so it is definitely that time of the year. As I have been thinking about the significance of Christmas (and Christmas seems especially poignant after this COVID filled year) I have been struck by my favourite name for Jesus, Emmanuel – which means, God is with us. One simple thought has jumped out at me: Until that first Christmas people had a...

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On Praying for Parking Bays: Does God Intervene?

Posted by on Nov 11, 2020 in Blog | 10 comments

Photo Jack Sharp: Unsplash In my new book Why Christianity is Probably True I discuss some experiences where God intervened in my life in such a way that I had no option but to conclude that God is probably real and that Christianity is probably true. It caused a reader to contact me and ask: But how often does God intervene in our lives? Is prayer about changing the course of events, or more about our adapting to our circumstances more constructively? These are good questions, and I thought worth exploring in a post. You have probably heard of the “butterfly effect” (a theory beloved by...

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When Confidence is a Curse..

Posted by on Aug 28, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

Swamped as we are with endless courses aimed at enhancing our self esteem and confidence, it might seem passing strange to suggest that confidence can be a curse. But it can! True, lack of confidence can also be a curse, but for a while ponder the other side of the equation – for although our many self esteem courses might suggest that the absence of a worthy self image is a wide spread problem, the hard evidence suggests otherwise. David Brooks in his book The Road to Character notes that in 1950 when asked if they considered themselves to be a very important person, 12% of high...

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On Quoting Shakespeare and Scripture…

Posted by on Jun 4, 2020 in Blog | 0 comments

A delightful post widely circulated on Facebook highlighted how many English expressions originate from Shakespeare. Here is a taster: “If you bid me good riddance and send me packing, if you wish I was dead as a doornail, if you think I am an eyesore, a laughing stock, the devil incarnate, a stony-hearted villain, bloody-minded or a blinking idiot, then — by Jove! O Lord! Tut, tut! For goodness’ sake! What the dickens! But me no buts — it is all one to me, for you are quoting Shakespeare.” (Bernard Levin) Even Prince Charles has got in on the act, and in this YouTube clip...

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Faithful Improvisation: Following Jesus Today

Posted by on May 20, 2020 in Blog | 1 comment

I’m currently reading the revised edition (2018) of Samuel Wells’ book, Improvisation: The Drama of Christian Ethics. It’s a great read, and tries to answer the question of how we should play our part in the drama of God’s work in the world when we have no closely worded script, and when we are constantly facing new challenges. What follows springboards both from ideas in the book as well as from insights in a Nomad podcast with Samuel Wells on 6 May 2020. Wells draws his key idea from the theatre, and in a similar way to Tom Wright suggests that though we don’t...

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Praying the journey…

Posted by on May 6, 2020 in Blog | 6 comments

My Sabbatical leave is almost over, and what an unusual season it has been. I spent part of it at Carson Newman University in Tennessee, and after seven wonderful weeks close to the Smoky Mountains, Rosemary and I had to dash back to Australia to avoid being locked out, potentially for many months. It did make for an abrupt end, though the major task for my Sabbatical, remained. That was to make significant progress on a book on the formation of spiritual leaders, which is my current writing project. I am now at the two thirds through stage, so am pleased about that. Naturally because I am...

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Is sin passé? David Brooks and The Road to Character

Posted by on Apr 30, 2020 in Blog | 8 comments

I’m surprised at how much I am enjoying reading David Brooks’ motivational book, The Road to Character. Amazon classifies it in the “personal transformation/ self help” category, and knowing how flooded and shallow this market is, I am only reading it on the strong recommendation of someone whose work I respect. First thing to note about this book – don’t think shallow and trite. An easy read, yes, but shallow and trite, no. And while an easy read, it is unsettling and inspiring at the same time. And for a book that makes no claim to be Christian, it is...

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