Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sensible article on a biblical view of homosexuality

David Field's article is careful, thoughtful and logically argued. If you believe that the Bible is authoritative and that you must follow its teachings, even if you don't like them, you will get a lot out of David's article. If you don't really care what the Bible teaches, and/or have already made your mind up on this subject, it may still be worth reading, but I don't think you will find it convincing. However, sometimes the good Lord has a way of changing our minds.

And maybe by posting this, I may be able to find his article again when I want to refer to it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The emptiness of Christmas without Christ

Christmas celebrations always bewilder me. You go to a community carols ceremony and the host commends the hundreds of people there for their belief in Santa Claus and Christmas. Very few people join in the singing, and when the minister of a local church gets up for a very brief talk, it appears everybody is politely waiting until the commercial is over. Or else not listening at all.

What are most people celebrating at Christmas? It doesn't seem to me that it is connected at all with the birth of Christ.

But without Jesus, Christmas seems pointless and empty to me. I know I'm not a little kid looking forward to presents, but even then, there was a strange empty feeling after opening your presents, and not only because the neighbours had just come over, played with them and broken them for you.

This year, however, I do have some thing to celebrate, because fifty years ago, on Christmas Day 1957 the message about God sending his Son into the world to be born as a baby and grow up as a boy and man and then die for my sins was explained to me by my mother, and by God's grace it became real to me that very night.

I would love to see Christmas have that special meaning for other people too this year.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

What we can learn from Wesley

Craig Johnson has the best title for a blog ever, don't you think: Bloggledegook!

And this interesting post in which he quotes Iain Murray's comments on Wesley's flexible approach to minister was worth reading today.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

New Testament Use of the Old Testament

It is challenging to understand how the NT writers use the Old Testament. At times it seems they may be using it in a completely different context from the way it was understood by the Old Testament writers.

And in Hebrews at least, the writer will cite something as applying to Christ which the OT says of God. You can see this repeatedly in Hebrews 1.

I found this interesting comment on Calvin’s understanding of this issue in Five Views on Law and Gospel in Willem vanGemeren’s chapter, pages 51-52, in which he is citing John Hesselink:

What is said of God in the Old Testament can without any twisting, manipulating or allegorising be applied to Christ in the New Testament, because when God is referred to in the bible, Christ is presupposed.

I’m looking forward to Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, edited by Greg Beale and Don Carson, said to be available in the US in November.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Chris Langham's Shame

Chris Langham is one of my favourite comedians. I have not yet seen Help, but thoroughly enjoyed People Like Us, and also his work with Caroline Quentin.

I am so sorry to hear that he has been involved in downloading live video of children being sexually abused.

I see he used the same excuse as Pete Townshend [note that H, by the way]: it was for research purposes.

If a person were genuinely researching child pornography, he would have to do it in a controlled environment, with supervision, wouldn't you think?

His sentence of 10 months does sound very low when you compare it with people being gaoled for over a year for putting graffiti in a public place.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Honouring our parents in the faith

This is one of many helpful blogs from Mandy. It's prompted me to reflect on people who have helped me in my Christian walk.

Almost 50 years ago, my mother [who turned 90 on 12th September] led me to faith in Christ by answering my question about why we have Christmas, on Christmas Day, 1957.

Mum was good at talking about her faith, but my dad wasn't. However, he was very good at living it. Dad was never able to get a word in edgeways, as he himself often said, but he was a kind, hard-working, methodical man who took promises seriously. When he made the Christian Endeavour pledge at the age of 14, he kept it. He promised to pray and read the bible every day, so he did, until he was unable to read any more.

He kept a diary every day for almost 30 years, after we gave him a 5 year diary for Christmas in 1964. Every 5 years, we'd buy him another one. They don't seem to sell them any more, so last year I began one of my own, by ruling up a big diary with one page for each day.

He used to read his bible and fill in his diary each evening. The diary is not very exciting and he never once referred to what he had been reading in the Scriptures, but I know that he did read them every day.

Our Sunday School superintendent, Ces Williams, made me think through my faith, as did Tom Mascord, our faithful Sunday School teacher for many years.

By God's grace I was able to thank them for what the did for me a few years back. I couldn't do it now, because they are both with Christ. Have you thanked your parents in the faith?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Your earliest memory?

What is your earliest memory? Is it really something you remember, or is it something you have been told about yourself as a child?

I know that on Christmas Day, 1957 I asked my mother what Christmas is all about, because she has told me this. I know that she told me about Jesus' death for us, and that by God's grace I accepted his death in my place, then and there, all those years ago.

But I don't really remember it. I don't think this matters, because the result of being in Christ can be seen through God's subsequent holding on to me for the past almost 50 years.

On Thursday, 5th July, I inadvertently drove through a Give Way sign, and my Toyota Camry was hit by a Toyota Landcruiser, resulting in my car being substantially damaged, but in me having a bruise on my substantial chest [my wife has not yet carried out her threat to buy me a bra, but you get the drift] which you can't see, and a bluey-yellow bruise on my left arm, which is my trophy of my foolishness.

This reminded me of a genuine earliest memory, which is of the only other serious car accident in which I've been involved. There are 600,000 car accidents in Australia every year, of which 200,000 result in injury and about 2 thousand of those who are injured do not survive the experience.

I think the accident which I remember happened when I was about three years old, and involved a collision between our Austin A40 car and a semitrailer. I was seated behind my father, the driver, and had been asleep. I can still remember the sensation of suddenly discovering that I had strange chunks of an unusual lolly in my mouth, which turned out to be bits of glass from the window.

But my earliest memory of hearing the Christian message is of my Aunty Ruth telling me the story of Peter being miraculously released from gaol [please note the spelling and pass it on to any Sydney Morning Herald subeditors you encounter].
She was looking after me, while my mother was out somewhere, I'm guessing, and she told the story dramatically. We were sitting on the floor, and when she came to the part where Peter knocks on the door of the house where the believers are praying for him to be released, she rapped on the floor, or the table nearby, and I nearly jumped out of my skin!

So it was wonderful to be able to visit my Aunty Ruth in Devonport, Tasmania this week and to see that at the age of 97 she can still read the newspaper, understand what she is reading and can still feed herself.

I wanted to share our Christian faith and asked her if she had a favourite bible verse, and she began to recite the names of the books of the Old Testament, but it was ironic that she got through these names and then stopped:

I asked her what the next book was called, but she said she couldn't remember, and so we talked a little about the book of RUTH!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Sirach 38:1-15 Honor physicians for their services, for the Lord created them; 2 for their gift of healing comes from the Most High, and they are rewarded by the king. 3 The skill of physicians makes them distinguished, and in the presence of the great they are admired.
4 The Lord created medicines out of the earth, and the sensible will not despise them. 5 Was not water made sweet with a tree in order that its power might be known? 6 And he gave skill to human beings that he might be glorified in his marvelous works. 7 By them the physician heals and takes away pain; 8 the pharmacist makes a mixture from them. God's works will never be finished; and from him health spreads over all the earth.
9 My child, when you are ill, do not delay, but pray to the Lord, and he will heal you. 10 Give up your faults and direct your hands rightly, and cleanse your heart from all sin. 11 Offer a sweet-smelling sacrifice, and a memorial portion of choice flour, and pour oil on your offering, as much as you can afford.
12 Then give the physician his place, for the Lord created him; do not let him leave you, for you need him. 13 There may come a time when recovery lies in the hands of physicians, 14 for they too pray to the Lord that he grant them success in diagnosis and in healing, for the sake of preserving life.
15 He who sins against his Maker, will be defiant toward the physician.
People have looked up to doctors for a long time, as this passage from Ecclesiasticus [or Sirach] reveals.

So I was pretty disturbed today when I heard that some of those would-be bombers in the UK are doctors, and a Brisbane, Australia doctor has also been apprehended in connection with this terrorist plot. Can you imagine a person who is pledged to save life being involved in bombing others?

Then, I read about a great Aussie doctor, RAG Holmes, in This Life, the Sydney Morning Herald obituary column, who was also a great musician.

And then, during my trip home from Penrith, to visit my daughter and my two grandsons, I heard a minister who used to be a doctor [which reminds me of the joke about the plumber who used to be a doctor] talking about how in his former occupation, he was often frustrated that people wouldn't change their behaviour. Now he is a minister, this still bothers him. He said that there is a lot of talk about topical preaching and expository preaching.
He said he would like to introduce a new genre: suppository preaching. Preaching that leads to movement!

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Great old narrations

Last week in our church, Warren used the old story about the man playing cards at the back of the church to remind us of some great Christian truths.

Warren did this well. It was not too long, and it gave some variety to the beginning of the service. It reminded me of my parents' 78 rpm gramophone record of Tex Ritter [I think] reciting The Touch of the Master's Hand on one side and If Jesus Came To Your House on the other.

I don't like the latter. It sounds too much like the green plaque my parents had on the kitchen wall. I know people mean well, but
Christ is the Head of this House
The Unseen Guest at Every Meal
The Silent Listener to Every Conversation

gives me chills. While I believe it to be true, I prefer the more encouraging
Only one earth life
Soon it will pass
Only what's done for Jesus will last

I think other people have "Christ" where I recall this having "Jesus" in the last line.

But I love The Touch of the Master's Hand. I don't think I could recite it myself, because I choke up when I try. The parts that make me cry are the lines about the person who is rejected by other people, and who has walked away from God, and the lines which tell of how God values us differently and can bring hope and new life.
The Touch Of The Master's Hand

'Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer
Thought it scarcely worth his while
To waste much time on the old violin,
But held it up with a smile.
"What am I bidden, good folks," he cried,
"Who'll start the bidding for me?"
"A dollar, a dollar. Then two! Only two?
Two dollars, and who'll make it three?"

"Three dollars, once; three dollars, twice;
Going for three..." But no,
From the room, far back, a grey-haired man
Came forward and picked up the bow;
Then wiping the dust from the old violin,
And tightening the loosened strings,
He played a melody pure and sweet,
As a caroling angel sings.

The music ceased, and the auctioneer,
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said: "What am I bid for the old violin?"
And he held it up with the bow.
"A thousand dollars, and who'll make it two?
Two thousand! And who'll make it three?
Three thousand, once; three thousand, twice,
And going and gone," said he.

The people cheered, but some of them cried,
"We do not quite understand.
What changed its worth?" Swift came the reply:
"The touch of the Master's hand."
And many a man with life out of tune,
And battered and scarred with sin,
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd
Much like the old violin.

A "mess of pottage," a glass of wine,
A game -- and he travels on.
He is "going" once, and "going" twice,
He's "going" and almost "gone."
But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd
Never can quite understand
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
By the touch of the Master's hand.

-- Myra Brooks Welch

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Words that make me cringe, part 12

David McKay
My name is very common. In the 1950s it was the most common name in Scotland, I'm told. During the past 50 years or so, I've discovered that there was an Australian racing car driver with my name and that John Farnham's first record producer was a David Mackay [who also composed the theme music for the British TV series Bread, and arranged As Time Goes By for the Judi Dench-Geoffrey Palmer TV series].

On coming to Bathurst, I saw that one of the ophthalmologists at the sickeyeatrist place we go to was called David McKay, though he now practised in Orange. Then, when I went for a consultation, the eye doctor had a dairy farmer's notes and not mine, beause he also shared my name. One morning, he and I were both at the eye place at the same time, and when I thought my name was being called out, another man jumped up and went into the room with the eye doc. Didn't get to meet him, but.

And we called our youngest son, David, fulfilling my wife Joan's desire to have a little redhead called David. [Justin mised out on this, because he was born with dark hair and didn't meet that criterion.]

I can't copyright the name, and I have to live with the above geezers sharing it. But what makes me cringe is the American bloke who lives in Australia who founded the Jesus Christians, who specialise in donating kidneys. I think donating kidneys is a great idea, but to make it a condition of being a Christian is wacko.

And I think it is quite different from a person choosing to give a kidney to someone they know, because in that situation it is done out of love and not some misguided religious duty.

At least this David likes to be called Dave, which I eschew. However, unlike the other geezers above [excepting of course, our Nug, aka David] he pronounces it the same way I do, whereas most people make it rhyme with sky.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Words that make me cringe, part 11

(See additional lyrics)

Is there anything worse than printing the subsequent verses of a song away from the musical notation and in a little box on the last page of the printed copy?

How are we supposed to sing and play?

Words that make me cringe, part 10

Math [singular] when spoken by Aussies, such as local high school girls. The same girls talk about going to the bathroom, whereas Aussies say Maths and do not refer to the toilet as the bathroom, but as the toilet, the loo, etc.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Words that make me cringe, part 9

Literal and also literally

Because they don't usually get used accurately.

Frequently heard: The air conditioning was turned up so high, I literally froze to death ...[but lived to tell the tale].

I also think literal is used to describe a bible translation if it is awkward-sounding, or merely because it is not the NIV or TNIV. But every rendering of the bible into another language almost always involves changing the word order, and putting the text into the idioms and syntax of the new language.

The result always sounds different from the original, even Young's Literal Translation [which sounds almost nothing like English].

People say they interpret the bible literally, but sometimes this means that they think we can bypass interpretation and restate what the Scriptures say in its own words.

And literal is used sometimes by preachers to stupefy thir congregations with their brilliance. In my experience, so often what is said is misleading, and often completely wrong.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Words that make me cringe, part 8

I know I'm naughty, but I always listen carefully when this word is uttered, because I assume it has been used as if it were singular again. Usually it is.

This one's for Gordon:
Wrongly used: That's no criteria

Rightly used: There are several criteria that determine if a piece of music is worth listening to.

It derives from a Greek word, whose singular is [in English transliteration] criterion. The plural in Greek, transliterated into English is our friend criteria.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Words that make me cringe, part 7

Gives me the heebie-jeebies for lots of reasons.
The old song that says
Lotsa folk talkin' 'bout heaven ain't-a goin' there
could be altered to read [though not as tastefully]
Lotsa people flippantly referring to hell repeatedly
Could be headin' there

The idea of hell makes me cringe, but I think that's a good thing. I don't think Jesus talked about it to make us feel warm and cuddly, but to warn us that it is waiting for all who turn their backs on God and who break his righteous laws.

The word frightens me, because I know I ought to be sent there, because I am one of those rebels. It also sobers my thinking, because the people I see every day, who have no regard for God, are en route.

This could be one reason I can never sing along with the AC/DC anthem. Why ever did they compose it? Did they believe it, or were they shaking their fists in God's face, who any moment could quickly give them the biggest reality check they had ever known?

But I think that I ought to be revolted by hell, because there is none of God's kindness, mercy and patience there, balancing his holiness, justice and hatred of our sin and of sinful people.

Have you seriously considered God's wonderful way of escape from your own rebellion and the consequences of it, through the death of his Son, Jesus Christ? This year, I'm celebrating 50 Christmases since I embraced this gift, by God's grace.

Moron you and I

I said my post was about words that make me cringe, but then gave two examples which don't make me cringe!

For Gordon, here is one which does make me cringe.

My mother-in-law [who never makes me cringe ... ask her] gave a Mozart CD to Joan and I.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Words that make me cringe, part 6

I. To be more precise, you and I. It is almost always used wrongly now, because mostly, the correct expression is you and me.

When I was at school, we were taught to strip away the you and and see if the personal pronoun sounded correct on its own.

Technically, I is nominative and me is objective. If you bung you and in front of it, you must still use I when it is the subject and me when it is the object.

Here are some examples:
You and I have been living in Bathurst for over seven years now.
It's very important to you and me.
But I fear that you and I is going to completely replace you and me.

Public speakers, including preachers, use it wrongly all the time. The only Christian minister I hear using it correctly is Peter O'Brien, research professor at Moore College.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Words that make me cringe, part 5

Ontology and ontological always irritate me, even when used in excellent books, such as Graeme Goldsworthy's Gospel-Centred Hermeneutics.
Most sentences in which these words are used make perfect sense without them.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Words that make me cringe, part 4

Assembly required. These words strike fear in my heart! I have had so many disasters. I bought a table that needed to have the legs screwed on, and made a hole right through the table in attempting the task, even though I had called the neighbours in to show me how to do it.

The treadmill manual is mainly assembly instructions and looks horrendously difficult. We were so pleased the one we bought was already set up and ready for use.

I'm not at all a Do-It-Yourself man. The only time I would use the phrase is if I was asked to do one of those handyman tasks and it would be a retort, I can tell you!

The treadmill of life

I have thought for many years that home exercise equipment inevitably becomes a dusty item in the corner somewhere, with stuff piled all over it.

That's my observation as I visit people's houses, and so I thought that it would not be sensible to buy such equipment ourselves. I do little exercise, but this year I have been walking to and from work and around Bathurst more than ever before, as I try to multi-task and rehearse the book of Hebrews, or part thereof, as I walk.

But ... it's getting cold, and I have only been walking about once a week. And, my weight is creeping up. It is disturbing to look at the first year of my multi-year diary and compare today with 365 days ago.

My wife, Joan decided she needed to get herself active again and we went looking at exercise bikes and treadmills. She wasn't keen on bikes, but preferred treadmills, but I favoured the price of the bikes: they're about half the price!

But we had a go on a treadmill at a local Sport store and were attracted to buying a particular one, because the manager was going to deliver it already assembled. [See Words that make me cringe, part 4.] We have only had it a week, but in that time I have managed to lower my pulse as I walk from about 150 to about 130, and have also increased the speed I can do to about 6 kilometres per hour. So far, I can only manage about 10 minutes at a time, in which I am able to burn about 30 calories and travel about 1 kilometre. I'm pleased with my progress.

But, will it eventually be gathering dust in our playroom/musicroom/birdroom? We hope not.

Words that make me cringe, part 3

Limited atonement is another of my pet hates. It was presumably coined by those who believe that Christ died for the people whom God has chosen, and only them, but it is a most unfortunate term, beloved of those who would like to shoot this teaching down!

Particular Redemption, or my preferred term, Definite Atonement, convey the sense much better, but don't fit the flowery acronym TULIP.

In fact, those who deny the teaching that Christ died for those and only those he came to save have a much more limited atonement, because Christ only potentially died for people: maybe no one will choose to accept it!

A fascinating afternoon

Here is how I spent my time this arvo. Some would see it as a waste of time, but I'm pleased I had the time available to do it. From time to time, I read Mandy's Musings, having got there via a post from Mandy at Your Sydney Anglicans forum.
This afternoon, I took the bait, and clicked through to Mandy's self-described controversial post on Definite Atonement, and the 130 replies, which is an exchange between Moore College students and Oak Hill College, who are divided over whether Christ's death was for all [mainly Moore], but only effective for those whom God has chosen, or whether it was intended only for those for whom Christ died [mainly Oak Hill].

There was some valuable discussion in this long list of posts, which I have not yet finished.

It seems to me that most Christians are firstly Arminians, as Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon remarked more than a century ago. This means that they believe that Christ died for all, but not specifically for any particular people. So it is possible that no one will be saved, as it is entirely up to us to choose to accept God's offer.

This is the view I was taught in the Baptist Church I grew up in, and would appear to be the majority view of Christians today. There are many bible verses that could be cited in support of it, such as
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
But, if you read the whole bible, and read bible passages, not just isolated verses, I don't see how you can hold this view for long.

Throughout the bible we read about God choosing people and rejecting others. We read that all of us deserve to suffer God's anger for turning away from him, but that God in his mercy, has chosen to
save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:21

At many times the bible speaks of Christ as having died for the sins of the whole world. I don't think I need to cite those verses. But at many other times we are told Jesus died for those God has chosen. For example
we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. 1 Timothy 4:10

And in John we are told
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day... All whom the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. John 6:37-39,44.
So Jesus welcomes everyone who comes to him, but because of our sin, we can only come to him by God's gracious enabling.

It seems clear from reading through the whole bible that Jesus died for those God gave to him, and only them. His death is sufficient for all, and everyone is called to turn from living for themselves, and to give their lives in service to God. But we don't want to do this, because of our own evil natures.

So God chooses people whom he will save through Jesus' death. They are not chosen on the basis of their own goodness, because we are all wicked and deserving God's anger and punishment forever.

The discussion between the Moore and Oak Hill people was over whether Christ's death is potentially for all, but eventually for those whom God has chosen [known as Amyraldianism], or whether Jesus died for the specific people whom God has chosen, and only them [properly called Definite Atonement. The latter view is an aspect of Reformed theology which may sound harsh, but does seem to be clearly taught in the bible: I don't understand why minds much greater than mine don't see it.

In coming to an acceptance of Reformed Theology, many people seem to firstly be Amyraldians, but later realise that belief in Definite Atonement is more consistent with the whoel of the bible's teaching.

Well-spent arvo, or waste of time? Gotta admit, I had other jobs to do!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The importance of the wrath of God

More helpful stuff from The Shepherd's Scrapbook. If you are like me, the topic of God's wrath [which English people and Aussies should pronounce to rhyme with broth, please] is not something you like to think about. Tony reminds us of how much it is a part of the bible's message for us. Please read his timely article.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Understanding Legalism

Tony Reinke's Shepherd's Scrapbook is worth bookmarking, or grabbing an rss feed. His musing on legalism is a good example of his writing. It is influenced by C J Mahaney's Living the Cross-Centred Life, which is an expanded version of a similarly titled book that I've found very helpful. I'm no Caro, but I sure like C J!

So ... am I legalistic? Are you?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

How to read the bible: is there a right way?

I think that there definitely are helpful and unhelpful ways of reading the bible.

I recently read a little book called Dig Deeper: tools to unearth the bible's treasure. It is authored by two British writers: Nigel Beynon and Andrew Sach. It has heaps of good advice, and would indeed give a person tools for a greater understanding of the bible, but ... there's something missing.

Graeme Goldsworthy's Gospel-Centred Hermeneutics is a much larger book and harder to read. [I'd like to see the word "ontology" and its relations cast into outer darkness, and I assure you there'd be no weeping and gnashing of teeth here in my home in Bathurst.]

But Goldsworthy includes the element that I thought was missing from Dig Deeper. I'm thoroughly enjoying reading a few pages each day.

What Beynon and Sach fail to say and Goldsworthy says over and over is that the bible is about Jesus Christ and his saving life, death, resurrection and ascension for us. [Some people are not sure about the life, though.]

I think it is reasonable for people who have read the whole bible to point out to those who are beginning to read it that they must realise that the whole book is written to tell us about God and who he is and what he requires of us and what he has done for us and that this is mediated to us through Jesus Christ.

When we read the bible there are a lot of helpful tools to use, but the most essential of all is to read it in relation to its central message about Jesus. Miss that, and you've missed the boat.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Words that make me cringe, part 2

αγάπη love [agape love] is another expression which gives me the horrors, because it shows a misunderstanding of the way language works, and it sounds like a parading of misinformation.

A simple study of the Greek words for love in the bible shows they are often used interchangeably. Sometimes one word is used with widely differing connotations, just as we do with the word love in English.

Some of the best stuff written debunking the idea that the bible's Greek has a special word for each concept has been done by Don Carson in his Commentary on John, his book The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God and in his book Exegetical Fallacies.

Of course there is such a thing as a whole-hearted devotion to God, and there is such a thing as God's special love for Christ and for those he has chosen as Christ's bride, but the bible plainly uses a variety of words for this, including αγάπη [agape] but also many others, often compounds of a completely different word.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Is Christianity good for the world?

is the title of an online debate being published by Christianity Today, between atheist Christopher Hitchens and Christian Douglas Wilson. There have been two exchanges published so far, with the promise of more over the next month.

I have appreciated reading Douglas Wilson's online contributions in his Blog and Mablog and in Credenda Agenda, as well as reading Easy Chairs Hard Words, his stimulating imaginary conversation between a Calvinist pastor and a thoughtful Arminian who currently attends another church.

Concerning the topic's question, it seems to me that while Christians have, along with non-Christians, created much evil in the world, they have also done a lot of good. The few atheists I have encountered do not seem interested in healing the sick, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, etc, though they are eager to spread their message.

While Christians are most certainly intent on spreading their message, which they believe to be the best and worst news the world will ever hear, they don't seem to be able to stop themselves alleviating poverty, preventing and curing sickness and speaking up for the down-trodden. Throughout the past two thousand years of Christian history they have been so active in this, that at times they have forgotten to tell their story, which has the unfortunate consequence of making people comfortable on the road to destruction (if their message is the truth they believe it to be).

Where atheists have been involved in supporting charitable causes, they have often been of the nature of fighting for human rights, or civil liberties, which sometimes have been really organisations that have been founded to stamp out the spread of religion or the freedom to teach it.

Friday, May 11, 2007

12 ways to love your wayward child

This article is written by Abraham Piper, who was once John Piper's wayward boy. The whole article is a treasure and is well worth your time.

Many parents are brokenhearted and completely baffled by their unbelieving son or daughter. They have no clue why the child they raised well is making such awful, destructive decisions. I’ve never been one of these parents, but I have been one of these sons. Reflecting back on that experience, I offer these suggestions to help you reach out to your wayward child.

In summary:

1. Point them to Christ.
2. Pray.
3. Acknowledge that something is wrong.
4. Don’t expect them to be Christ-like.
5. Welcome them home.
6. Plead with them more than you rebuke them.
7. Connect them to believers who have better access to them.
8. Respect their friends.
9. Email them.
10. Take them to lunch.
11. Take an interest in their pursuits.
12. Point them to Christ. (reprise)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Words that make me cringe, part 1

There's nothing wrong with the word. I like it. But it makes me cringe when it is devalued to mean the person I currently sleep with or the person I'm somewhat committed to. Sometimes it seems to be used to equate a same-sex sexual relationship with marriage. Another misuse.

My wife is most certainly my partner. By God's grace we intend for our partnership to last for the rest of one of our lives, though we wish it were for both.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

What did Jesus do?

I've always thought What did Jesus do? was a much better question than the hypothetical What would Jesus do? and it seems Mike Fleischmann agrees. His article in Today's Christian, published by Christianity Today, is well worth reading in its entirety.

Fleischmann lists 7 priorities, gleaned from his reading of the four Gospels which he believes guided Jesus' earthly life:
1. He sought the Father.
Forty-five times in the Gospels we are told Jesus went away alone to pray.
2. He embraced the outcasts.
Jesus embraced the sinful and sickly, the unseemly and unimportant.
3. He restored broken lives.
He cast out demons, healed broken bodies, raised the dead, forgave the sins of the guilty and even provided for people's financial needs. He showed that God's power is sufficient to meet every need.
4. He confronted hypocrisy.
Jesus demonstrated the heart of God by standing against lifeless religion. He openly confronted religious hypocrisy, inciting great opposition that ultimately led to his execution. Jesus repeatedly rebuked religious people who buried the true heart of God in their manmade traditions He cleansed the temple because people were using God's house for their own gain.
What would Jesus do? He would go on record against people who act in the name of God to hurt others. He'd stand up against crusaders parading with signs that venomously attack and label others. And he'd speak out against those who profit from the oppressed but who claim their God is full of compassion.
5. He taught God's Word.
He was always helping people discover his Father. Although he was the incarnate Word, he often directed people back to God's written Word.
You don't need to be a minister of Sunday School teacher to do this. Teaching simply requires being so filled with God's Word that it naturally overflows from our lives into the lives of those around us.
6.He served.
Sometimes we feel we're so busy doing God's work that we don't have time for people. But God's work is people! His business is helping a homeless couple find shelter before nightfall. His business is praying with a child for her sick kitty and reading the Bible with a new Christian. His business is pushing a stalled car through the intersection and taking that midnight phone call from a struggling friend.
7.He equipped leaders.
Besides sharing God's love with others, Jesus trained a future generation to continue his mission mission and change the world after his departure.

These seven priorities should drive us back to the gospels to take a fresh look at how Jesus lived. The fad phase of WWJD may be over, but we need to hold on to those bracelets and keep asking ourselves—What would Jesus do? It's a great question. But remember: If we're not sure what Jesus actually did in his life, then we're just guessing at what he might do in ours.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Should I give money to people on the street who ask for it?

Michael Spencer, The Internet Monk, writes lots of worthwhile posts. I don't know how he manages to keep it up, day after day. Especially as he has a demanding school chaplain's job to do.

I thought this particular post was the best thing I have read on the subject. He has given some good practical advice, which has been supported by Scripture.

We are in your debt, Michael.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Origins of 5 solas

Terry Gallagher, a fellow contributor to the always interesting Sydney Anglicans community forums has translated the 5 solas and also tracked down their Reformation origins.
(Neither Terry nor I are Anglicans, by the way.)
Sola Scriptura => Scripture Alone OR By Scripture Alone

Solo Christo => By Christ Alone
Solus Christus => Christ Alone

Sola Gratia => By Grace Alone OR Grace Alone

Sola Fide => By Faith Alone

Soli Deo Gloria => Glory to God Alone
He points out that Soli Deo Gloria is an abbreviated form of soli Deo honor et gloria from 1 Timothy 1:17 in the Vulgate.

The Formula of Concord, from 1576 in German and 1584 in Latin, is a highly respected confessional document in the Lutheran Churches. The Epitome (short version) of the Formula of Concord contains four of the five phrases or a grammatical variation of them:

sola gratia : 3 times

sola fide : 3 times

soli Christo : once (a different grammatical case)
Christus solus: once

sola Sacra Scriptura : once (= by Holy Scripture alone)

Plus, as I said before, soli deo gloria is based on 1 Timothy 1:17

I should also add that sola fide was supposedly in the writings of Luther himself around 1520, but I havent found the direct reference.

All five of the solas are certainly there as specific written phrases in the Reformation period.....just waiting for someone to turn them into slogans later. Terry Gallagher

Terry later posted more information about sola fide
sola fide is used in Luther's 1520 work in Latin
De captivitate babylonica ecclesiae ;
the title in English is "On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church"

sola fide is also used in Luther's 1520 work, published in both Latin and German,
De libertate Christiana ;
the title in English is "Concerning Christian Liberty"

An English translation of this one can be found here.

The following is a relevant extract from Luther's "Concerning Christian Liberty":

Martin Luther wrote:
But you will ask:—“What is this word, and by what means is it to be used, since there are so many words of God?” I answer, the Apostle Paul (Rom. i.) explains what it is, namely, the Gospel of God, concerning His Son, incarnate, suffering, risen, and glorified through the Spirit, the sanctifier. To preach Christ is to feed the soul, to justify it, to set it free, and to save it, if it believes the preaching. For faith alone, and the efficacious use of the word of God, bring salvation. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” (Rom. x. 9.) And again: “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom. x. 4); and “The just shall live by faith.” (Rom. i. 17.) For the word of God cannot be received and honoured by any works, but by faith alone. Hence it is clear that, as the soul needs the word alone for life and justification, so it is justified by faith alone and not by any works. For if it could be justified by any other means, it would have no need of the word, nor consequently of faith.

I'm putting this here, in the hope that I will be able to find it again one day.

Monday, April 23, 2007

5 solas

Where did the 5 solas originate?

Yes, I know it comes from the Reformation, but where does this particular way of articulating Reformation principles come from?

I've read quite a bit about the 5 solas, even a whole book. There's stacks of stuff on the internet, though some sites are a bit dodgy, especially the Hypercalvinist ones that think missionary activity is highly overrated.

The solas are

Sola Scriptura - Scripture Alone

Solo Christo
[sometimes Solus Christus] - Christ Alone
[sounds like a good title for a song!]

Sola Gratia - Grace Alone

Sola Fide - By Faith Alone

Soli Deo Gloria - The Glory of God Alone

I think this set of slogans is terrific, and, properly explained, is also biblical.

But, in all of the stuff I've read, you get told these are Reformation principles, but never who put them together. I'm wondering how old this systematization is, because it seems to be later than Luther and Calvin, and I've never read it put this way in the few things I've read from the Reformation writers.

Does anyone know who put it together, or is like TULIP [not the 5 points, which came from the Synod of Dordt] but the actual organising of it in that flowery way, which would appear to be a 20th century thing, and may have been invented by Loraine Boettner, or others of his era.

Also, it seems clear that Luther's version of Sola Scriptura is different from the way it is taught today, because he made rude comments about Esther and Ecclesiastes in the OT, and James, Jude, Revelation and Hebrews in the NT and clearly had a little canon within a canon.

I'm not saying I agree with Roman Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong's take on Protestantism, but I am guessing that his references to Luther's comments about Scripture are accurate.

Any takers?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The water of life?

I enjoyed reading this quote from Luther today:
'The Jews drink out of the original spring,
The Greeks drink out of the stream flowing out of the stream,
The Latins, however, out of the puddle
So what are we English speakers and readers drinking from? I shudder to think!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Perseverance: essential for salvation

How might we speak about the perseverance of the saints in a way which neither compromises God's sovereignty in salvation or human accountability?
Now, how is that for a fantastic essay question? Just saw it here.

In a lot of churches, perseverance is an embarrassment, because it sounds like earning your salvation. How different is our little theology from the big, big theology of the bible!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Encouraging One Another

Do you know how hugely encouraging your enthusiastic participation at church is? Do you know how terrific it is when you bring your visitors to church with you?

Yesterday, Easter Sunday, several families from our small congregation were going to be away, and I was expecting we would only have a few people sharing in our worship service.

The geezer who puts together the service sheet [me] decided to make less copies because so many people were going to be away.

Silly me.

We had former congregation members visiting, people visiting because of the baptisms at the murky Macquarie River after the service, congregation members who didn't end up going away, family members visiting because it was someone's birthday, etc, etc.

And fifty people down by the river. [That's a lot for us!]

And, our ever reliable minister, preached a terrific resurrection sermon, which our Christian and non-Christian visitors got to hear and be encouraged and challenged by.

And, forgive me if I make a request: if you are able to organise your travelling so that you are at church on Sunday [and I include Christmas and Easter in this], it is wonderful for those who are there at church.

[Disclaimer: We are usually at church on Sundays, but owing to work commitments, and needing to visit our Mums during the school holidays, which is usually the only time we see them, next Sunday we will be travelling and visiting. Must be honest.]

Saturday, March 31, 2007

My story

Tim Challies has pointed out that many bloggers have never published the story of their Christian journey. I'm one of them, and am putting this right immediately.

I was born into a Christian family, which is surely almost the greatest blessing a person can have. Even tops being born an Aussie.

My marine engineer father was a methodical man who read the bible every day, and who also daily filled in a diary for the last 30 years of his life. In 1951, at the age of 42 he was travelling by ship to South India to see his sister Trixie, who was a nurse with The Leprosy Mission. He soon met the 34 year old Beatrice Walker, who was returning to Kalimpong, West Bengal for her 4th term working as a house mother in Dr Graham's Homes. Nine days later they were engaged. They married in India, but returned to Australia, where I was born less than a year after their marriage.

In answer to my question Why do we have Christmas?, my mother told me about Jesus coming into the world for our salvation, and by God's grace, on Christmas Day, 1957 I was born again. Raised in a Baptist Church, I was baptised by immersion on 13th February, 1966.

As a child, I embraced the teaching I received about God and His Word, but as I grew older I continued to study God's Word for myself, and eventually came to appreciate the bible's teachings about God's sovereignty, predestination and perseverance.

In 1973, I married a wonderful young fellow student at Newcastle Conservatorium of Music called Joan Sims, whom I had led to Christ. We have been married for 33 years now, and have 4 children and one grandchild, with another to be born at the end of this month.

God has been gracious to us and has enabled me to study his Word at Kenmore Christian College [a Churches of Christ college in Queensland] and pastor a church for a couple of years, though my main occupation has been as a music teacher, both in the crowd control variety [class teaching] and in teaching private piano students. [Guess which one I prefer?]

In recent years, we have enjoyed serving Christ in a small independent evangelical church in Bathurst, 3 hours west of Sydney. I have also come to enjoy New Covenant Theology, which I believe to be a more biblical, and Baptist version of Reformed theology.

One of the greatest joys I've experienced in serving Christ in Bathurst Evangelical Church has been discovering through Ron, a fellow elder, the blessings of reading the whole of God's Word through quickly, and also memorising portions of it, which inevitably means reading it slowly and thoughtfully.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Honouring your father

My father's birthday is 28th February. I think of him a lot, but especially on that day. I have been blessed by reading John Piper's loving words at his father's funeral. He had a father worth honouring!
In the link at Desiring God, there is also a great tribute Piper preached on his father's 80th birthday.

I hope reading these articles encourages you, as it has encouraged me, and I hope you will honour your father, and tell him you love him, if you are fortunate enough to still have him. My dad died in 1995, so I can thank God, but not dad himself.

If your father is highly flawed, is there anything good you could say about him? Is there anything you could thank God for? You don't have to lie about his faults, to express gratitude for his good points.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Upgrading my organiser

Yesterday I got a belated Christmas present, which is my own dithering fault. But it is worth the wait. I have been using a Palm Zire [cheapest one available] for 3 years. It is very helpful being able to put my contacts, daily schedule, favourite quotes, information that I need and thoughts in one place.

And I like being able to store the information on my computer and retrieve it. So yesterday, I again bought the cheapest Palm Pilot available, which is called a Palm Z22 handheld.

The old one had 2 megs onboard, and there was no room for downloading any programs, but this one has 32 megs, and I have been able to install a Sudoku game and some great bible software from which includes the My Bible program and a Daily Reader program, which allows you to read e-books that are divided up for handy daily reading.

You can read more about the programs I put on my organiser at my What I'm Reading blog.

The new Zire has a colour screen and a light, making it much more easy to use, though I can't see the screen very well when I'm outside.

It has successfully caught all my stuff from my first one, but ...
it has not kept my categories, so I have about 300 memos I have to sort into financial, quotes, and student timetables, etc!

Fortunately the addresses are still in their groups.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Better Bibles Blog

I find the Better Bibles Blog challenging and interesting. Many people will find something to disagree with here. But it is well worth your time, and I hope you won't write the site off too quickly. Complementarians will find their hackles raising with regularity and those who favour so-called literal bibles will hear heresy bells ringing every time they pop in!

Some Christians will think the folk who post here are too conservative in their theology, while others will be thinking the posters are not nearly conservative enough.

I have found the current posts concerning .Mark Driscoll's comments on why his church uses the ESV translation well worth my time. If you are a card-carrying ESV translation enthusiast, you will find plenty to disturb you, but it is worth engaging with the arguments made, even if you still come away disagreeing.

The posts are usually written by bible translators, and you may find their views somewhat different from those of people you meet at church. Some of those who write are experts in the English language, while others are consultants who facilitate the translation of the bible by indigenous translators.

There is much to learn here, and much to go away and think about. At times I have to stay away and think a while before dipping my toe in the water again, but I always come back.

Help for Chronic Fatigue Sufferers

I enjoy reading John Armstrong's stuff, but was unaware that he suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. He has written a very helpful, sensible article that provides useful information about living with this disease.