Friday, 28 December 2012

Reading the Bible in 2013

If you are the sort of person who makes resolutions, then don't go past this.

(If you are not the sort of person who makes resolutions, yay!)

Reading the Bible in 2013:

Do you want to read the whole Bible?
If the average person reads 200 to 250 words per minute, and if there are about 775,000 words in the Bible, then it would take less than 10 minutes a day to read the whole Bible in a year.
Audio Bibles are usually about 75 hours long, so you can listen to it in just over 12 minutes a day.
But a simple resolution to do this is often an insufficient. Most of us need a more proactive plan.
Stephen Witmer explains the weaknesses of typical plans and offers some advice on reading the Bible together with others—as well as offering his own new two-year plan. (“In my opinion, it is better to read the whole Bible through carefully one time in two years than hastily in one year.”) His plan has you read through one book of the Bible at a time (along with a daily reading from the Psalms or Proverbs). At the end of two years you will have read through the Psalms and Proverbs four times and the rest of the Bible once.
The Gospel Coalition’s For the Love of God Blog (which you can subscribe to via email) takes you through the M’Cheyne reading plan, with a meditation each day by D. A. Carson related to one of the readings. M’Cheyne’s plan has you read shorter selections from four different places in the Bible each day.
George Guthrie’s “Read the Bible for Life Chronological Bible Reading Plan” is a semi-chronological plan, placing the prophets and the NT letters in basic chronological order. You read in four different places each day, along with a daily psalm (so you end up reading the Psalter twice in a year). You can also download a printable booklet.
For those who would benefit from a realistic “discipline + grace” approach, consider “The Bible Reading Plan for Shirkers and Slackers.” As Andy Perry explains, it takes away the pressure (and guilt) of “keeping up” with the entire Bible in one year. You get variety within the week by alternating genres by day, but also continuity by sticking with one genre each day. Here’s the basic idea:
Sundays: Poetry

Mondays: Penteteuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy)

Tuesdays: Old Testament history

Wednesdays: Old Testament history

Thursdays: Old Testament prophets

Fridays: New Testament history

Saturdays: New Testament epistles (letters)
There are a number of Reading Plans for ESV Editions. Crossway has made them accessible in multiple formats:
  • web (a new reading each day appears online at the same link)
  • RSS (subscribe to receive by RSS)
  • podcast (subscribe to get your daily reading in audio)
  • iCal (download an iCalendar file)
  • mobile (view a new reading each day on your mobile device)
  • print (download a PDF of the whole plan)
Reading Plan Format

Through the Bible chronologically (from Back to the Bible)
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Daily Light on the Daily Path

Daily Light on the Daily Path – the ESV version of Samuel Bagster’s classic
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Daily Office Lectionary

Daily Psalms, Old Testament, New Testament, and Gospels
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Daily Reading Bible

Daily Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
ESV Study Bible

Daily Psalms or Wisdom Literature; Pentateuch or the History of Israel; Chronicles or Prophets; and Gospels or Epistles
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Every Day in the Word

Daily Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, Proverbs
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Literary Study Bible

Daily Psalms or Wisdom Literature; Pentateuch or the History of Israel; Chronicles or Prophets; and Gospels or Epistles
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
M’Cheyne One-Year Reading Plan

Daily Old Testament, New Testament, and Psalms or Gospels
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email

Daily Old Testament, Psalms, and New Testament
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Outreach New Testament

Daily New Testament. Read through the New Testament in 6 months
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
Through the Bible in a Year

Daily Old Testament and New Testament
RSS iCal Mobile Print Email
You can also access each of these Reading Plans as podcasts:
  • Right-click (Ctrl-click on a Mac) the “RSS” link of the feed you want from the above list.
  • Choose “Copy Link Location” or “Copy Shortcut.”
  • Start iTunes.
  • Under File, choose “Subscribe to Podcast.”
  • Paste the URL into the box.
  • Click OK.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Does a series of things imply sequence? - Rev 12:7 (Monday with Mounce 169)

One of my favourite ever blogs; a continuing series, as you can tell from the title:

Does a series of things imply sequence? - Rev 12:7 (Monday with Mounce 169):
Monday with MounceI was trying to make sense of Revelation 12 yesterday in my quiet time.
John has covered his second cycle of events (chapters 8 – 9) and the Interlude (chapters 10 – 11). Now comes a focused part on Satan, the two beasts, and the destruction they bring (chapters 12 – 14).
In 12:1-6 we see the Messianic community (a woman) giving birth to Jesus, and the appearance of the red dragon. The woman flees to the wilderness where she is protected by God for 1,260 days.
If I could skip our passage, we would come to vv 13 – 17, and the plot continues uninterrupted (which should be a clue). The woman flies to the wilderness. The dragon spews out a river to try and drown the woman, but the earth opens its mouth and swallows the river. The enraged dragon heads off to wage war against the woman’s offspring, “those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus” (NIV).
So what is going on in vv 7 – 12? It feels like it interrupts the sequence, but look how v 7 begins. “Then” (NIV [a change from “and” in the NIV 1984], HCSB, NET, NLT, TEV). Others write, “and” (NASB, KJV, NJB has “and now”), and the RSV/ESV has “now” (changed to “and” in the NRSV”).

The use of “then” requires a sequence, doesn’t it? Even allowing for the nature of apocalyptic literature and how it can give us snapshots of images and events not necessarily connected, the use of “then” requires temporal sequence. And to the English mind, a series of descriptions are read by default as sequential. This makes interpretation more difficult.
Dad, in his commentary, says that the verses depict “an all-out attempt on the part of Satan to regain his position in the presence of God. It does not refer back to the original expulsion of Satan from heaven but is the cosmic prelude to the consummation, an ‘end-time” event’” ( 235). But does this happen after the woman fled (v 6), and before Satan pursued the woman and her “male child” (v 13)? That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
What am I getting at? The Greek phrase the NIV translates as “then” is actually καὶ ἐγένετο. This is a common phrase, and my point is that it does not always indicate strict sequence. That is why “and” or “now” is a better translation.
BDAG comments, “f. καὶ ἐγένετο (ἐγένετο δέ) periphrastic like וַיְהִי with וַ foll. to indicate the progress of the narrative … Mt 9:10; Mk 2:15 v.l.; Lk 2:15; 5:1, 12, 17; 8:1, 22; 14:1.... The phrase is usually omitted in translation; older versions transl. it came to pass.” The latter translation has always been my default translation of the phrase. It simply means that something happened, in both the Greek and the Hebrew. There is no necessary sequence.
Beale comments, “Verses 7–12 are a narration of the defeat of the devil and his angels by Michael and his angels in heavenly combat. The actions described are the heavenly counterpart of earthly events recorded in vv 1–6. Beale’s understanding especially requires us to see that καὶ ἐγένετο does not indicate sequence, since in this case it is depicting events parallel to those in the preceding paragraph. Certainly, John may have seen them sequentially, but their meaning is not sequential.
Connectives can be difficult things to translate, but it is important to not make them say more than they actually do. Satan desires to destroy the church. God is protecting the offspring of the woman, and part of that protection “in the wilderness” is Satan’s heavenly defeat at the hands of Michael. Satan knows his end is near, and his hatred grows as he tries all the harder to destroy that which is so precious to God.
Satan is truly a voracious lion with an insatiable appetite, and no matter how many victories he enjoys in the short term, he is never satisfied and will eventually be destroyed. Come Lord Jesus!

MouncewWilliam D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics at Koinonia. He is the author of numerous books, including the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek, and is the general editor for Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIV. Learn more about Bill at, and visit his other blog on spiritual growth, Life is a Journey, at

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

“Union with Christ” by Constantine Campbell

I'm looking forward to reading this book.

“Union with Christ” by Constantine Campbell:
“Virtually every element of Christ’s work that is of interest to Paul is connected in some way to union with Christ. Salvation, redemption, reconciliation, creation, election, predestination, adoption, sanctification, headship, provision, His death, resurrection, ascension, glorification, self-giving, the gifts of grace, peace, eternal life, the Spirit, spiritual riches and blessings, freedom, and the fulfillment of God’s promises are all related to union with Christ.”
–Constantine Campbell, Paul and Union with Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 331-332.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Stop the Stories (Paul Levy)

Exactly, Yancey!

Stop the Stories (Paul Levy): Today I make a plea to all potential Christian book writers and
publishers........ stop putting very annoying 'real life stories' at the
start of your chapters, as if that really grounds them in reality. You
know what I am talking about. At the start of the chapter is an example
of what the chapter will teach. They are normally very politically
correct, so Kate will be married to Asif and they have two children.
Asif works in a monotonous 9-5 job. Kate works part time in a garage
whilst taking care of the children and household chores. These little
vignettes started to really annoy me in Tim Keller's Reason for God but
since that every Tom, Dick and Harry who writes a Christian book has got
hold of the technique. Just bin it! Most of the stories are pretty
awful and even the true ones we don't believe anymore.

To make my point let me give you a story. There were a group of guys
that didn't really know each other but through the internet and a
bizarre set of coincidences found themselves writing for an online
magazine. The supposed leader of the group was a guy called Del but
nobody sees much of him. He longs for the good old times of the magazine
when Phil and Rick (2 other relics of halycon days) used to get wound up
by Carl, the celebrity of the gang. Carl is a middle aged, short, balding,
marathon runner doing a couple of jobs teaching at a seminary and
running a church. He's the big hitter of the group and the muscle behind
a lot of the right wing reformed movement you see in the US. The third
character, Levy, lots of people don't think exists other than as
a figment of Carl's imagination. The only evidence to the contrary is an
inability to spell or use grammar correctly. He's the real hero of the
band and is trying to raise money for a building project that seems to
have been going on forever but hasn't even started yet. The latest
addition to the gang is Jeremy Walker. He ministers in the 17th Century
and writes hymns from that period. He has never written anything under
10,000 words.

It's annoying isn't it!!!

Cut the stories at the start
of chapters, admittedly for most of you ''Counsellors'' out there that
turns your books into short articles but so be it.

Monday, 10 December 2012

When assisted suicide doesn't work.

John Harrower links to a letter that talks about the non- theoretical dangers in the rush towards assisted suicide.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

I love June Carter, I do

Sweet. From the Letters of Note blog.

I love June Carter, I do:

On March 1st of 1968, Johnny Cash married June Carter. They remained together until her death 35 years later. Below are two notes, both written by Cash — the first to June in 1994 on the occasion of her 65th birthday, and the second shortly after her death in 2003.

Johnny Cash passed away two months later, four months after his wife.

Transcripts follow.

(Source: House of Cash; Image above, via.)


June 23 1994

Odense, Denmark.

Happy Birthday Princess,

We get old and get use to each other. We think alike. We read each others minds. We know what the other wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit. Maybe sometimes take each other for granted.

But once in awhile, like today, I meditate on it and realize how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met. You still fascinate and inspire me. You influence me for the better. You're the object of my desire, the #1 Earthly reason for my existence. I love you very much.

Happy Birthday Princess.



July 11 2003


I love June Carter, I do. Yes I do. I love June Carter I do. And she loves me.

But now she's an angel and I'm not. Now she's an angel and I'm not.

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Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Encouragement: how words change lives

Some kind words from my friend Macca.

Encouragement: how words change lives:

In Gordon Cheng’s book, Encouragement: How Words Change Lives, he advocates speaking the truth in love. In view of this, I feel the need to disclose a few facts. I’ve known Gordon since I began university. I’ve had to put up with his the endless Monty Python recitations, even being roped into performing some skits together in college reviews. We did some of our ministry and theological college training together, before both working in university ministry in different parts of the country. Our wives are both named Fiona and they shared a house together before they were married (to each of us respectively). Most importantly,  I regularly won our push-up competitions.
In all seriousness, I say these things because we often don’t have a clue about the life of an author, and whether they practise what they preach. It’s one thing to write a book about ‘encouraging words’ and quite another to live it out. In my experience, this author walks the talk. Despite the silly banter between us, he’s always aiming to build up rather than tear down. He’s been quick to add encouraging comments to this blog and he’s spent time on the phone encouraging me in the struggles I’ve been going through this year. And he hasn’t offered any cash for comments here!
Encouragement is a word that’s commonly thrown around in Christian circles to mean whatever we want it to mean. This book offers a biblically-shaped definition:
Christian encouragement is speaking the truth in love, with the aim of building Christians up in Christ-likeness, as we wait for the day of judgement. Christian encouragement will likewise involve speaking the truth in love to unbelievers, thus encouraging them to put their trust in Christ for forgiveness and salvation.  (p11)
This definition draws on many parts of Scripture, but is particularly based in Ephesians 4:
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.  (Ephesians 4:11-16)
There are four parts to this definition. Truth and love are both essential for genuine Christian encouragement. Words of ‘truth’ can be used to cause harm – this is not encouragement. The truth can be distorted or lost, with the aim of ‘loving’ another – neither is this encouragement. Notice also, that there are two recipients in view, the Christian and the unbeliever. Truth and love, grounded in the message of Jesus Christ, is what will both build Christians and offer life to those who don’t as yet believe.
The overarching context for Christian encouragement is the coming day of judgement. If, as Hebrews 9:27 says, it’s appointed for all people to die and then to face judgement, then genuine Christian encouragement will be shaped and directed by this reality. How we live, and what we decide and do and say, matters. The reason we can offer encouragement in the face of judgement is because Jesus Christ, the One who was full of love and truth, has already taken the judgement in our place. Jesus’ death and resurrection changes everything, and this is the core message of encouragement we have to share.
In this postmodern world it’s easy to be dismissive of words, as if they’re empty of real significance or power. However, the Bible demonstrates the enormous power of words. God is the one who spoke the universe into existence and who maintains everything by his powerful world. The same word that creates life also brings new life in Jesus. We’re encouraged to draw deeply on God’s powerful word, as we offer hope for life and bring encouragement to others. Soaking ourselves in the Scriptures will help equip us to offer the right words in season. However, we’re not talking about mindless parroting of the Bible here. There’ll be times to speak and times to refrain from speaking. There’ll be occasions to read from God’s word and occasions to apply godly wisdom and common sense. If we lack the ability to choose what to say, and if or when, and how to say it, then we’re urged to pray and ask God for wisdom. In fact, we’d be wise to pray whenever we seek to encourage others, asking God’s Spirit to guide our words, and to apply them, and for them to be well received.
I found Encouragement to be a very encouraging book! It models what it teaches. It’s a joy to read because it’s not fundamentally about tips and techniques. Rather, it points the reader to the greatest source of encouragement, in God himself. In so doing, it inspires me to become an encourager of others. It doesn’t leave me feeling a failure or guilty, but reminds me of God’s grace. This book is gospel-shaped.
There are so many practical suggestions scattered throughout Encouragement. A good example is the chapter on ‘How we say what we say’. The basic message is, consider your motives in speaking. Are you aiming to love and build up? Cheng offers five examples of how ‘speaking the truth in love’ might work out in practice:
  1. Always remember the gospel of grace and repentance
  2. Be specific
  3. Be humble
  4. Deal with important issues
  5. There is a time for silence.  (p86)
The section on grace is pure gold. There is absolutely no place for a rule-based, sickening, dead moralism! Throughout each of the following sections it was apparent how important listening is to being able to find the right words and the right time to speak. We’re often not too good at it because we’re more interested in speaking than we are at listening. But, good encouragers will be good listeners. Listening will help us to choose the specific words, to use them humbly, to focus on what matters most, and to know when words are not the best option.
I’d recommend Encouragement to any Christian who’s wanting to make the most of their days in loving and serving others. It’s not just about how we speak – it’s about how we think and act and speak as God’s children in his world. It’s about living out the implications of the gospel of God’s grace in our lives. It’s about being a loving friend to others. It’s about having a ministry within your church, without needing an invitation, position, or job description. It’s about being wise as we engage with politics, or teach our kids about sex, or care for someone with terminal cancer. It’s about our God-given life. It’s for enthusiastic new Christians and it’s for crusty old Christians!
There is much I liked about this book. It contains some wonderful illustrations and stories of real people. It’s good humoured and gracious while making it’s points very clearly. The message of the Bible has shaped the argument throughout and there are many helpful references included in the text. I especially appreciated the smattering of Proverbs quoted and applied throughout. The author also shows genuine empathy for people who are doing it tough and this is especially helpful in a book on ‘encouragement’.
So I say, get yourself a copy and, while you’re at it, get one for someone else. You could read it together, or catch up and talk about what you’ve read. Perhaps you could use the study/review questions at the back. Help your friend, and get them to help you, become a better encourager of others. Maybe you could introduce this book into your book club. A friend told me last week that he reads out loud from good Christian books as he car-pools to work (and no, the others don’t mind!). This would be an excellent book to use for this purpose. Take it in bite size chunks and learn from it.
At the end of the day, however you might use this book, pray that God will apply his words of encouragement to your heart, in order that you can pass them on to others also.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Polluted Prayers Purified

From Pyromaniac friends. The high point of their blogging, which is very good, is when they quote Charles Spurgeon each week.

Polluted Prayers Purified:
Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume 18, sermon number 1,051, "Golden Vials Full Of Odours."
"In the best prayer that was ever offered by the holiest man that ever lived, there was enough of sin to render it a polluted thing if the Lord had looked upon it by itself." 

When we approach nearest to the throne of grace, we still fall very far short of being where and what we ought to be. The sins of our holy things are alone enough to condemn us. We often come before God in prayer unfit to pray, and spoil the action in the very outset by unpreparedness of heart. At other times, when we are in the midst of devotion, when we are being upborne upon the wings of zeal, pride will intrude, and we congratulate ourselves upon the excellence of our worship. Alas! one dash of that spirit mars all: it is the Pharisaic spirit, and is the bane of devotion. At other times, just as our supplication is closing, we are assailed with suspicions as to the faithfulness of God, doubts as to the success of our pleas, or else some other unhallowed thought pollutes the sacrifice. Alas! how hard it is to begin, continue, and end a prayer in the Spirit. If any one of our prayers were put into the scales of the sanctuary alone, and of itself, the only verdict upon it must be, it is weighed in the balances and found wanting.

No, my brethren, the prayers of the saints of themselves considered would rather be an offense unto divine holiness than a sweet savour unto God. Our consolation lies in this that our beloved intercessor who stands before God for us, even Christ Jesus, possesses such an abundance of precious merit that he puts fragrance into our supplications and imparts a delicious odour to our prayers. He makes our intercessions to be through his merit what they could not have been without it, acceptable before the Majesty of heaven. I think it is Ambrose who uses a very pretty figure concerning believers’ prayers. He says we are like little children who run into the garden to gather flowers to please their father, but we are so ignorant and childish that we pluck as many weeds as flowers, and some of them very noxious, and we would carry this strange mixture in our hands, thinking that such base weeds would be acceptable to him. The mother meets the child at the door, and she says to it, “Little one, thou knowest not what thou hast gathered;” she unbinds this mixture and takes from it all the weeds and leaves only the sweet flowers, and then she takes other flowers sweeter than those which the child has plucked, and inserts them instead of the weeds, and then puts back the perfect posy into the child’s hand, and it runs therewith to its father.

Jesus Christ in more than motherly tenderness thus deals with our supplications. If we could see one of our prayers after Christ Jesus has amended it, we should scarce know it again. He has such skill that even our good flowers grow fairer in his hand; we clumsily tied them into a bundle, but he arranges them into a fair bouquet, where each beauty enhances the charm of its neighbour. If I could see my prayer after the Lord has prayed it, I should miss so much, and I should find so much there that was none of mine, that I am sure its fullest acceptance with God would not cause me a moment’s pride, but rather make me blush with grateful humility before him whose boundless sweetness lent to me and my poor prayer a sweetness not our own. So then, though the prayers of God’s saints are as precious incense, they would never be a sweet smell unto God, were it not that they are accepted in the beloved.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

3rd century blog by Diognetus discovered

By me! Here he is:

Christianity: Where Every Foreign Country Is Fatherland and Every Fatherland Is Foreign:
From the unknown author of The Epistle to Diognetus, Chapter 5, written perhaps between 117 and 225 AD, capturing the paradoxical nature of Christian identity and practice:
For Christians are not distinguished from the rest of humanity by country, language, or custom.
For nowhere do they live in cities of their own, nor do they speak some unusual dialect, nor do they practice an eccentric way of life.
This teaching of theirs has not been discovered by the thought and reflection of ingenious people, nor do they promote any human doctrine, as some do.
But while they live in both Greek and barbarian cities, as each one’s lot was cast, and follow the local customs in dress and food and other aspects of life, at the same time they demonstrate the remarkable and admittedly unusual character of their own citizenship.
They live in their own countries, but only as nonresidents; they participate in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners.
Every foreign country is their fatherland, and every fatherland is foreign.
They marry like everyone else, and have children, but they do not expose their offspring [to kill them].
They share their food but not their wives.
They are in the flesh, but they do not live according to the flesh.
They live on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven.
They obey the established laws; indeed in their private lives they transcend the laws.
They love everyone, and by everyone they are persecuted.
They are unknown, yet they are condemned; they are put to death, yet they are brought to life.
They are poor, yet they make many rich; they are in need of everything, yet they abound in everything.
They are dishonored, yet they are glorified in their dishonor; they are slandered, yet they are vindicated.
They are cursed, yet they bless; they are insulted, yet they offer respect.
When they do good, they are punished as evildoers; when they are punished, they rejoice as though brought to life.
By the Jews they are assaulted as foreigners, and by the Greeks they are persecuted, yet those who hate them are unable to give a reason for their hostility.

Christmas memory creating

Every single post that Jenny Kemp writes is funny in a Homer Simpson kind of way. Got good stuff in it too.

Christmas memory creating:
This is OK
I'm sure I've written about this before but every year I struggle with the pressure to be an uber mum and have some kind of Christmas craft decorating the house.  Instead I end up with a leaning Christmas tree that the kids have decorated themselves (certainly not going to make the cut for a Myer catalogue), with lights that drove the husband to distraction to untangle.

There's a trend (especially in Christian circles) to create family traditions.  And I'm a total believer.  Good, healthy childhood memories and traditions have been shown to be very significant in developing high levels of security and resilience.

But over time the memories/tradition trend seems to have developed into some kind of Pinterest Christmas competition.  No longer is the knitted nativity scene that Aunty Pip bought for us from the Mother's Union stall in 2003 enough.  It needs to be done by me.  And this is how my family will unite, bond and be functional.

The problem is, this time of the year is a shocker with five school age kids.  End of year events for everything they and us have been involved in over the year fill our nights and days.  All wonderful rich events and important to mark the end of the year, but they don't leave much time to do Christmas craft.  Especially when Christmas craft isn't really your thing.

So I started to reflect on the Christmas traditions that we have developed.  We put up our dodgy plastic tree covered in Christmas craft from playgroup/preschool/Sunday school/ school/childcare over the last 14 years.  We look forward to our presents.  We go to lots of church starting with our mega carols extravaganza that involves our lovely community.  We fight  negotiate turns to open the advent calendar.  I wish I could say that we're doing other kinds of wonderful, spiritually enriching things.  But we're not.  And my kids seem to 'get' Christmas.

When I was a little girl I don't remember having Christmas traditions involving vast amounts of craft and cooking and stress by my mother.  I do remember that we'd have chicken - which was special and frankly a big hassle in India where you had to buy the chicken live.  We had a pot plant that we'd hoist up on a coffee table and decorate with shiny things.  Under the pot plant would be all the yellow postpaks that our gifts had come in from Australia (could never actually open the post packs because half the time the wrapping had been ripped open by customs so there would be no surprise).  We'd pose with the yellow post paks for a photo to send back to prove that we'd received the parcels (in itself a miracle).

I feel like these are lovely memories.  A little unusual perhaps (but hey, when it comes to Christmas, what family DOESN'T have a few wacky things going on?) but in the context of a secure family they're ok.

At the end of the day it still goes back to how you all get on and how special those relationships are.  If you're not crafty just get on with the business of loving your family well.  Those memories count the most.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Evangelicalism Goes to Widecombe Fair (Carl Trueman)

From Carl Trueman. True, man.

Evangelicalism Goes to Widecombe Fair (Carl Trueman): As a small footnote to Jeremy's post, it should also be noted that Trevin Wax's claim regarding the Reformers is rather overstated:

Though the Reformers sought to emphasize the assurance we can have
because of God's grace in election and salvation, their descendants
sometimes undercut the beauty of assurance by stressing the fruit of
sanctification more than the fact of justification.

There is some truth to this but unfortunately, it is a lot more complicated than that.  First, the 'Reformers' were not a monolithic phenomenon so claims about what 'they' thought always need to be read against that background.

Second, even if (for the sake of argument) we allow that Luther and Calvin are typical -- and usually it is these two who are primarily in mind when Christians speak of 'the Reformers' -- the situation is complicated.  Luther's understanding of law and gospel certainly left a place - a large place - for introspection and even despair in the ongoing Christian life.   He was no early advocate of radical sonship theology, despite his being used in this way by some Gospel Coalition writers.   If nothing else, the visitation of the late 1520s, the struggles over the catechisms and the debate with Agricola all point both to the complexity of Luther's development and the ongoing importance of what we might today call 'introspection'.  Yes, for Luther this is the work of the law, not gospel -- but it is crucial to understand that the law remains a vital part of the experience of the Christian.

As for Calvin, a focus on the Institutes (or at least certain passages of the Institutes) might well yield a nicely objective assurance.  A study of the sermons -- the place where classroom theology hits the pew, so to speak -- is rather more variegated. 

Moving beyond Luther and Calvin -- to Zwingli, Tyndale, Hooper etc., the picture gets even more complicated and, in some cases, decidedly introspective -- and that before 1550.

Third, we must remember that the Reformation generated new questions.  The fact is that the Reformers pushed for personal assurance against a background of medieval theology where such was simply not an issue.  Reformation theology generated new pastoral questions, questions it was not in its aboriginal form able to answer; that is why later theologians -- for example, the Puritans -- had to speak in different ways, after years of reflecting upon the pastoral impact of Reformation teaching.  They were striving to answer questions which the very theology of the Reformers has raised for the first time.

Finally, on a personal note (and this is not a shot at Trevin Wax but rather at an apparent current trend): perhaps I live in a very different church world to the rest of American Calvinistic evangelicalism -- that would not surprise me at all -- but in the last few months we have had the Puritans whacked for slavery (and I still cannot name a single Westminster Divine who owned a slave - though I can name a few who, in 1662, lost everything through their stand for the truth) and now for introspection.  Yet is it really the case that uncritical appropriation of the Puritans is the, or even a, pressing problem for the church today? Is legalistic introspection really crippling the church? Are there no other, more threatening problems?  Not weakness on Trinitarianism?  Not books advocating sodomy in marriage? Not the new antinomianism?  Not even new Calvinists who are happy to wear sneakers and buy computers made by slave labour in the Majority World?   The last twelve months seem to have thrown up a few more likely candidates for pressing ecclesiastical problems than John Owen, John Bunyan, and Uncle Tom Goodwin and all.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

The Joy of Sects (Carl Trueman)

Thoughts on women bishops from Carl Trueman.

The Joy of Sects (Carl Trueman): The reaction of the British media to the result in the 'women bishops vote' (I hesitate to call it 'bishopsgate' for fear of offending William Taylor) is as predictable as the vote itself was surprising.  The essence of most of the commentary I have read is: the church has voted for oppression of women and has made itself irrelevant; it will no longer have a voice on major cultural, political and economic issues.   That is a sentiment to send shivers down the spine of all the movers and shakers in the engage-the-culture Evangelidrome.

I have no particular interest in the internal politics of the Anglican Church.   Whether she chooses in the future to consecrate women bishops, to make Justin Bieber Archbishop of Canterbury (Lady Gaga is, thankfully, at least five years away from that job, according to the Synod rule book) or to bless the matrimonial union of divorced goldfish, I doubt I will lose any sleep at night.  The reactions of the media, however, are fascinating and offer great insight not only into how the church is perceived but how the world thinks.   As such, these reactions are surely a salutary warning: if you want to answer the questions the world is asking, you may find you rarely, maybe never, arrive at the gospel. 

One of the key failures of the currently trendy Christian cultural engagement movement is that it takes the questions which the culture is asking too seriously.  We often assume that it is the answers which the world gives which are its means of avoiding the truth.   In actual fact, there is no reason to assume that the very questions it asks are not also part of the cover-up.   'Answer my question about women's rights or saving the whale' might simply be another way of saying, 'I don't want you to tell me that my neglect of my wife and children is an offence to God.'

Christianity is doomed to be a sect because not only do we refuse to give the answers to life's questions in terms the world finds comfortable; we also refuse to allow the world to set the terms of the questions.    The sooner we grasp that, the better it will be for all of us.  Our ministers might then spend more time on theology (perhaps even do a bit of reading 'within the tradition' before finding it helpful to 'read outside the tradition'), more time being different to the leaders in the surrounding culture, and much less time worrying about how the world sees us.  Trust me on this: it sees us as a cranky sect. Now keep calm and carry on.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Chappo talks about his conversion

[From the ACL website]

Chappo talks about his conversion:
John Chapman speaks about how he came to Christ – in this 3 minute video recorded a couple of years ago for a day conference at St Mark’s Pennant Hills. Thanks to Craig Schafer for making it available.

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Friday, 16 November 2012

Death of John Chapman

John Chapman has died at the age of 82. A great evangelist, a great man, a faithful servant of the Lord and an encouragement to so many to preach the word of God with passion and clarity.
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord,4 that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

(1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

A verse from Revelation that reminds me of Chappo:
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will give some of othe hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it."

(Revelation 2:17)

I organized an interview between Kel Richards and John Chapman last year. You can find extracts of that interview here.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Obama 2012: Gordon's culture spot

Every few months I get to do a culture spot for the kids at church, so here's my draft for the talk later this morning.

Feel free to rip it off if you find it useful.

It's based on these letters between a 10 year old girl and President Obama, from here

Hi everybody and welcome to Gordon’s Culture Spot.

Now I’ve got a couple of verses from the Bible that I want you to think about:

Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God (Romans 13:1)

I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority (2 Timothy 1:1-2)

?Anyone worked out what we’re going to talk about?

That’s right the US presidential elections! Who’s going to be the President of the US for the next 4 years?

Now I’ve got a letter that a 10 year old girl wrote to President Barack Obama just at the end of October, it’s going to come up on the screen. Let me read a bit to you

Dear Barack Obama,

It's Sophia Bailey Klugh. Your friend who invited you to dinner. You don't remember okay that's fine. But I just wanted to tell you that I am so glad you agree that two men can love each other because I have two dads and they love each other. But at school kids think that it's gross and weird but it really hurts my heart and feelings. So I come to you because you are my hero. If you were me and you had two dads that loved each other, and kids at school teased you about it, what would you do?

Please respond!

I just wanted to say you really inspire me, and I hope you win on being the president. You would totally make the world a better place.

Your friend Sophia

P.S. Please tell your daughters Hi for me!

President Obama wrote back on November 1, that’s 10 days ago, and here’s his letter coming up on the screen in a moment, let me read a little bit of what he said:

In America, no two families look the same. We celebrate this diversity. And we recognize that whether you have two dads or one mom what matters above all is the love we show one another. You are very fortunate to have two parents who care deeply for you. They are lucky to have such an exceptional daughter in you.

[a bit later he says]

A good rule is to treat others the way you hope they will treat you. Remind your friends at school about this rule if they say something that hurts your feelings.

OK so there are a lot of people in the United States, and Australia as well who would say yay because Mr Obama is president again, and there are some who would say boo.

But because we love Jesus we don’t have to say yay or boo.

We might want to say boo because the Bible tells us that the best thing ever is to have your own mum and dad, and to have both of them looking after you is much better than to have no mum or dad, or just having dad or just having mum, or having 2 dads. So it looks like Mr Obama doesn't believe what the Bible says.

We might want to say yay because how great to have your own letter from the President of the United States of America that you could show the kids at school in news time and say see, we shouldn’t tease each other but love each other

But the best thing of all is to do what the Bible says and pray for the President, and let’s get those verses up again from the beginning, notice the second verse again which says

I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority (2 Timothy 1:1-2)

So why don’t we pray for Barack Obama, and seeing as how we’re Australians let’s pray for Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles and Julia Gillard as well.


Friday, 2 November 2012

Quite useful stuff on productivity from David Allen

Worth carving out some time to implement these 'Getting things Done' principles. Not ahead of daily prayer and Bible reading!

TEDx Talk by David Allen:
David Allen’s recent TEDx Talk has generated quite a buzz.
“The art of stress-free productivity is a martial art.”

Click here to view on YouTube.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Pillars Or Rolling Stones?

The reliable Spurgeon.

Pillars Or Rolling Stones?:
Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from "An Address For Sad Times," from the book "Only A Prayer Meeting!" pages 144-145.
"Once, ministers were esteemed for soundness, unction, and experience; but, now, men crave after popularity and cleverness."

All around us there is growing up in tangled masses the ill weed of "modern thought," which is nothing better than an infidelity too cowardly to wear its proper name. There are preachers, in Christian pulpits, who deny the authenticity of various Books of the Bible, and reject plenary inspiration altogether. There is not a doctrine of the Gospel which is not denied by some "thinker" or other, and even the existence of a personal God is by the more advanced regarded as a moot point; yet the churches bear with them, and allow them to pollute the pulpits once occupied by godly preachers of Christ. After having denied the faith, and plunged their daggers into the heart of vital doctrines as best they can, they still claim to be ministers of the Gospel, and ask to be received into union on the ground of some peculiar inward virtue which exists in them apart from all doctrinal belief. Men, who might justly be prosecuted for obtaining property under false pretences by violating the trust-deeds of our churches, may well wish to abolish creeds and articles of faith, because these are perpetual witnesses against their knavery. I would not care what became of the pelf if the churches were saved from error. I see this leaven of unbelief working in all directions, and many are tainted with it, in one point or another; it eateth like a cancer into the very soul of the churches. God deliver us from it!

It is hard to know what to do, for no one wishes to suspect his fellow, and yet a pest seems to be in the very air, so that it penetrates into the best guarded chambers. We hear of this man and then of another broaching strange notions, and those who were thought to be pillars suddenly become rolling stones. Who will go next? And what will happen next? In the midst of this confusion, our heart is apt to be overwhelmed within us. Is there not a cause? It is not our household, it is not our estate, it is not our bodily health which is in danger, or we would bow in silence, and bear it; but it is the household of God, it is the estate and Kingdom of Christ, it is the Church of God on earth, which is thus suffering; and well may those, who love the Lord, and His Christ, and His truth, tremble for the ark, and feel a holy jealousy burning within them. At such a time, the prayer of David is priceless, "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I."

Friday, 26 October 2012

Clean up your digital clutter

Possibly useful.

Clean up your digital clutter:
If you find yourself struggling under mountains of paper piles, you might also be yearning for the day when those piles are replaced by digital files that are easily searchable. That will mean less time sifting through documents and you’ll be able to find what you need quickly.
But, though it may seem that clutter is only attracted to the physical things you own, it can also creep into your computers and make a mess of your digital files. As Leo Babauta put it, “there are costs to such packrattery.” Whether you’re storing lots of photos, music, or documents on your devices, if you don’t have a system for easy retrieval (just like with your paper files), you’ll likely spend more time than necessary looking for the items you need. And, if you have an influx of files that you don’t use anymore, they will take up a lot of space and make your processor seem like it’s running on molasses.
To begin the digital clean up process, start by …

Purging duplicate files

Have you ever bought something only to discover that you already had it? Most likely, you just didn’t see the original or know where to find it, so you went ahead and got another one to replace it. Duplicate files can be like that, too. When you can’t find the file you want, it might seem easier to just download, recreate, purchase or somehow duplicate what you already have. You will then end up with multiple copies of the same thing, which can make using your laptop or PC more complicated than it needs to be. And, like unnecessary multiples of anything, they will consume space that could be put to better use.
Immediate actions:
  • If you find documents with the same name followed by numbers in parenthesis, like XYZ.doc(1) and XYZ.doc(2), they’re likely to be the same document that you’ve downloaded several times. Use Duplicate Cleaner, Easy Duplicate Finder, Double Killer, or Tidy Up (for Mac) to remove multiple copies of the same files.
  • Schedule purging sessions at regular intervals (once/month, once/quarter) to remove your duplicates.
  • Start tagging your files with names that are easy for you to remember, and consider using the same structure (e.g. YearMonthDay_filename.extension, 20121024_digital.jpg). Before downloading or saving a new file, use the search feature on your PC or mobile device to ensure you don’t already have it.

Remove programs on your mobile devices you no longer use

Grab your smart phone or tablet. How many apps are on the home screen? How many do you use on a regular basis? If there are apps that you no longer use or like, it’s time to give them the boot. Keeping them on your device eats up space, may slow down your device, and stop your phone from being backed up. In my case, I had too many pictures (along with some apps I didn’t use anymore) stored on my iPhone and iCloud declined to run the backup. After reducing them, the backups resumed.
Immediate actions:
  • Starting with your home screens, remove your unused apps.
  • After purging, take a few minutes to arrange the apps in a way that makes sense to you.
  • iPhone and Android users (with Apps Organizer) can group similar apps together in one folder (music, finance, games, productivity, etc).

Organize your contacts

Digital contacts, like business cards, can linger around long after they’re useful. This is another area that duplicates can creep in, so look through your contacts list to remove them.
Immediate actions:
  • Delete duplicates and update contacts with current information.
  • When possible, separate your personal and business contacts.
  • Keep your address book organized with programs like Google Goggles or Evernote Hello.
Cleaning up the clutter on all your devices may take a bit of time up front, but once you begin the process, maintenance will be easier. You’ll also immediately notice how much easier it is to locate specific information and you’ll have more room for the programs and files you need.
Like this site? Buy Erin Rooney Doland's Unclutter Your Life in One Week from today.


A blog I look at regularly. Notice the dog. Dachsunds are purposeful, which is why I like them.

Just a few pretty shots I’ve taken lately.  It’s so exquisite here, I walk around holding my breath.  I’m not going to exhale until spring.
By the way, it looks like I have a new bird to care for.  The above image is of the varied thrush I found in the forest today.  He can’t fly and Penelope nearly chomped him.  He seems to have a bite on his back, or a talon puncture, and his flight mechanism is broken.  He is sizeable — much larger than Titus McFlightus was — and has a slightly gamey smell to him!  His chirp is pure warmth and there is intelligence in his eyes.  I hope he recovers in the next day or so.  If not, I’ll have to keep him over the winter months and then bring him back to the Methow Valley to release him as my region of Idaho looks as though it isn’t a natural territory for him.  In the future, I should stop to ponder on how practical it is for me to make little things like this my responsibility but my mind seems to work so much more slowly than my hands and heart.  I just have to scoop these broken critters up and bring them home with me.
Also, I’ve been meaning to tell you of the Titus McFlightus encounter one of the smokejumpers had over at the base!  About a month ago, JT was using a leaf blower behind the para-loft when a grouping of waxwings flew into a nearby tree.  He kept on working and one of the waxwings flew over and landed on his hand while he was using the leaf blower!  JT said this little waxwing was missing the yellow parts of his tail feathers (which Titus also was), and the two of them just strolled all over the base together until JT set Titus down on a tree and the little guy flew away!  SUCCESS!  I was so delighted to hear that Titus had been spotted and that he was flocked up with his own kind and living the good life.  Doesn’t that just warm your heart like hot buttered rum?

Thursday, 18 October 2012

When crisis changes to chronic

Our lives are affected by chronic illness. Our family's had experience of this, probably yours has too. Here's Macca's reflection:

When crisis changes to chronic:
It began with a crisis. Taken to hospital, rushed through Emergency, hooked up to an ECG machine, off for x-rays, back for a CT scan, a massive fluid build up around the lung… looked like there could be a tumour. A whirlwind of people, activity and emotion. Within hours people were visiting, offering help, gathering to pray, preparing meals, picking up cars, contacting children. Within days I’d become the centre of attention, everywhere, it seemed! It was confirmed that I had cancer and the prospects didn’t look good. So many people from so many places turned up to see me. The nurses complained that there were too many people. Letters, cards, Facebook greetings, emails, came in from all over. Meals kept turning up at the right times. A small army of people unpacked our belongings and refurnished our house. Fifteen hundred students gathered in small groups at a conference to pray for me! It was intense! It was life and death in our faces every day.
I’ve seen our family cope pretty well with a crisis. We’ve had a few now! We made some very big decisions very quickly. We put new plans into place. We made the adjustments. We had the tough conversations without too many problems. We just did what we had to… and coped. We enjoyed the support from others. We were conscious of God’s strength and comfort and we prayed a lot.
Things have changed. The pace has slowed. The crisis has gone and left us with the chronic. It’s become three weekly by three weekly, rather than day by day. Life is now shaped by chemo cycles. One week sick, two weeks better. One week sick, two weeks better. On and on. It’s exhausting and we don’t seem to be achieving much else in life. Sometimes we feel like we’re just drifting with the current or stuck in a rut going nowhere. It’s not so much action that’s needed now, but patience and perseverance and gentleness and self-control. And that seems so much harder. It doesn’t come naturally. We absolutely need the help of God’s Spirit.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.  (Galatians 5:22-23)
In many ways the excitement of the crisis has given way to the mundane of the chronic. The daily grind is hard work. Perhaps, even more challenging than the mountain climb. In the crisis I think to pray. In the chronic I’m more tempted to forget. Gratitude easily gets replaced with grumbling. Matters of eternity give way to matters of trivia. Urgency steps aside for complacency. I can forget to number my days and begin again to take for granted my months or even years. Oh, how slow to learn I can be!
I think it’s harder for others also. Initially, people were making every effort to visit, bending over backwards to offer support… as we tend to do in a crisis. But as time goes on it’s harder to sustain the effort. Life fills up, another crisis gets in the way, we have our own lives to look after. We forget to drop in, make the call, check up on each other, see if there is anything we can do.
To be honest, it can be rather lonely having a chronic illness. You feel just as sick and powerless and needy, but you’re pretty much left to manage on your own. There’ve been times when I’ve felt disappointed in people. Why haven’t they called? It wouldn’t be too hard to drop in. It’d be awesome if they’d just ask Fiona if there’s anything they could do to help. I long to hear what’s going on in people’s lives. I’m interested in knowing about work or family or the latest sporting achievement. I’d love to have people offer to come and pray with me, or read the Bible and talk about stuff. Hey, I’d even be up for a regular game of real Scrabble! Even a quick phone call just to say they’re thinking of me!
Do I sound like I’m whinging?! Yes :) Well, I’m trying to be honest. And I’m learning. As I reflect on many years of pastoral ministry, I don’t think I had begun to appreciate what it was like for some people struggling with chronic issues. People with physical or mental disabilities, people with CFS unable to get out of bed for much of the day, women with debilitating pregnancies, people without transport or living in nursing homes. As a pastor, I was always up for putting on my superman cape and dealing with a crisis… but the chronic was often forgotten. Out of sight, out of mind perhaps.
Jesus is the Pastor Supremo. He came to overcome our alienation from God, which is the biggest crisis we will ever face. He did so at enormous personal cost, sacrificing his life on the cross to bring us reconciliation. But we also see Jesus caring for those with chronic disabilities, people who are outcasts and isolated from others. He was willing to hang with lepers, prostitutes, tax cheats, and those despised by the religious leaders of his day. Jesus had a pastoral heart that didn’t overlook the needy and he called those who follow him to have the same attitude.
12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”  (Luke14:12-14)
Here’s a thought. Next time you think of putting on a BBQ, think about people you know who might rarely get invited out. Are there lonely people at work or church who’d love an invitation? Perhaps, there’s someone who’s not well and you can make a special effort to include them. Maybe even offer to take the BBQ to their place if that’d make it easier!
On another occasion Jesus told a parable to describe those who belong to him and those who don’t. They’re challenging words.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  (Matthew 25:34-40)
The mention of brothers and sisters shows that Jesus especially has in mind the way Christians are called to treat each other. If we’re part of the same family, then we’re called to love our siblings. There’s a lesson here for those of us in churches to care for one another in our times of need. It should never be out of sight out of mind. But, I wouldn’t be too quick to say this stops with how Christians should treat each other. We’re called to do good to all, as we have opportunity. Do you know someone needing a place to stay? Is there neighbour down the street who never gets visitors? Is there someone at work going through a difficult divorce? Is there old friend with CFS who’s been doing it tough for so long that they’re embarrassed to even mention it? Do you know a single mum who never gets any time to herself? Would a friend appreciate you doing some shopping, spending time in the garden, running a few errands, taking the kids for a while? Is there someone you should get onto right away, just to check they’re doing okay?
How can you make a difference?