Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Do You Have a Good Marriage?

Andreas Kostenberger has an excellent article on his Biblical Foundations blog answering this question, but also, cheekily telling us it's the wrong question!

In reading what the right question is, I've come to the conclusion that we do have a good marriage, and thank God for this, and for my lovely wife, Joan to whom I have been married for almost 33 years.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

And the Darkness has not overcome it

This story, from Charles Colson's interesting Breakpoint Commmentaries shows the power of Christ today, when Christians follow in his footsteps.

On October 2, Charles Carl Roberts entered a one-room Amish schoolhouse and took ten girls hostage. An hour later, Roberts killed five of his hostages and then killed himself.

From the start, these school killings stood out from other such attacks: The killer, first of all, was an adult, not a student; and then there was the irony of the Amish, a pacifist community that resists what it regards as the contagions of modernity, falling victim to a very modern kind of violence.

Most remarkable is what happened in the schoolhouse itself. Thirteen-year-old Marian Fisher, one of the Amish girls held captive, displayed Christ-like love: She offered to lay her life down for her friends, reportedly telling her would-be killer, “Shoot me and leave the other ones loose!”

And even in the painful aftermath of the shootings, the Amish continued their witness to the love of Christ, reaching out to Roberts’s family, attending Roberts’s funeral, comforting his wife and children, and providing for them through a fund established for Roberts’s victims and their families. One victim’s family even invited the Roberts to their daughter’s funeral. In the most dramatic way, they forgave Roberts.

As I watched the news, it was clear that the media had trouble understanding the kindness and forgiveness extended to Roberts and his family. It wasn’t the first time that Christian grace and charity confused people.

Early Christians, unlike their pagan neighbors, cared for the sick during the periodic epidemics that afflicted the late Roman Empire. The sight of Christians staying while everyone else fled confounded their critics and confused their neighbors.

Many but not all: In its first centuries, Christianity grew at 40 percent per decade. By the time of Constantine, at least 10 percent of the empire was Christian—a remarkable statistic when you recall that to be a Christian at that time was to live with a target painted on your back.

What fueled this explosive growth was the way the early Christians loved one another, were concerned for the weak and marginalized, and were willing to die, if necessary, for their faith. These living epistles were the ultimate witness to the truth of the Gospel and its transformative power.

What was true of Rome is still true today. People can dispute our words, but they have no answer to a demonstration of forgiveness, reconciliation, and charity. Before the shootings, the Amish seemed quaint. Now, they’re extraordinary.

Ironically, they inspire us yet another way. In classrooms across America, students are force-fed Darwinism. They are taught that we are the products of random processes and natural selection—that is, the survival of the fittest. But in the Amish classroom, that thesis is demolished by self-sacrificing love, the one thing Darwin could never explain.

So the Amish have given us a powerful demonstration of the truth of the Biblical worldview and, indeed, of the Light of the world.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Faith, Hope and Love

Hope is a great theme of the bible, but may be easily misunderstood by us, because we use the English word differently from the way the words it translates are used in the bible.

In English, hope implies uncertainty, but in the bible
to hope is to look forward expectantly for God’s future activity. Biblical hope is more than a simple wish; it entails certainty based on God’s demonstration of faithfulness to people in the history of salvation as recorded in the Scriptures and as experienced by the church. Ultimately the Christian’s future hope lies in the promise of Christ’s return and the anticipation of resurrection from the dead.

Hope is a door (Hos 2:15), “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Heb 6:19 NIV) and a helmet (1 Thess 5:8).

Hope is an essential characteristic of the Christian life and a central feature of Paul’s theology. Every statement Paul makes about Christian hope is also a statement about what God has given the believer in Christ. In his letters, especially the letter to the Romans, Paul explores the ground of Christian hope, what it means to live in hope and the Christian hope for the future.

The New Testament concept of hope is rooted in the OT; Christian hope includes trust in God, patient waiting and confidence in God’s future. But the situation of the Christian who hopes is decisively different from that of the OT. Christian hope rests on God’s act of salvation in Christ. Christ’s resurrection marks the beginning of the messianic age, the presence of the Spirit is evidence that the end has begun and Christian hope waits for the complete manifestation of the kingdom of God at the Second Coming.

Ferguson, S. B., & Packer, J. (2000, c1988). New dictionary of theology (electronic ed.) (321). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press
Grenz, S., Guretzki, D., & Nordling, C. F. (1999). Pocket dictionary of theological terms (61). Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.
Ryken, L., Wilhoit, J., Longman, T., Duriez, C., Penney, D., & Reid, D. G. (2000, c1998). Dictionary of biblical imagery (electronic ed.) (399). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Hawthorne, G. F., Martin, R. P., & Reid, D. G. (1997, c1993). Dictionary of Paul and his letters (electronic ed.). Logos Library Systems (415). Downers Grove: InterVarsity.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Desiring God

I have been greatly helped in my Christian walk by the ministry of John Piper and am excited about the rich resources at Desiring God. There are thousands of articles, links to books, full copies of books to download [but you'll be better off with the hard copy, except for some of the smaller ones, I think] and the new Desiring God radio has hundreds of excellent recordings of John Piper's sermons, nicely packaged into half hour segments with short interviews with Pastor Piper, etc.

Travelling 50 kilometres to Orange to teach piano three times a week is a great experience, while I listen to the talks.

Have you read any of Piper's books? I wonder what it would take to bring him to Australia? Interested KCC?

Tagged for a book meme by Craig

I was previously tagged for a book meme by Catez but didn't get what she was on about! Now Craig has tagged me again, so I'd better join in the fun.

1. One book that changed your life:
Desiring God by John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church

2. One book that you’ve read more than once:
The Race Set Before Us by Ardel Caneday and Thomas Schreiner.

To be honest, I have not completed my second read-through, but I have read and re-read this book, and now read the book's blog as well!

3. One book you’d want on a desert island:
My ESV Reformation Study Bible, not because the ESV is my favourite translation, but because this edition has helpful articles, notes and cross references.

4. One book that made you laugh:
Great Housewives of Art by Sally Swain. And it cost me a whole $1

5. One book that made you cry:
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

6. One book that you wish had been written:
Every Single Decision Made For You, by I. M. Trustworthy
Thanks, Craig. That's the one!

7. One book that you wish had never been written:
Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus because I think it's a con.

8. One book you’re currently reading:
Original Sin by Henri Blocher. I discovered the book is an expanded version of a series of Moore College lectures.

9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:
Institutes of the Christian Religion, by John Calvin
Me too, Craig

10. Now tag five people:

Another Neil

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Bible Trumps

Ever played Bible Trumps? It's great fun. You shoot down bible teachings with powerful take-no-prisoners characters or verses.

If your minister is expounding the bible's teaching on the roles of men and women, you can shoot down everything he says with
But what about Deborah?

When someone talks about baptism, or giving generously, or the importance of meeting together with other Christians, smile broadly and ask
What about the thief on the cross?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

bloggledegook: Vern Poythress and Millennial Views

Craig Johnson's delightfully named Bloggledegook is usually worth reading, and has some links to thought-provoking, sensible articles on the Second Coming of Jesus by Vern Poythress, which promote Amillennialism, which is the closest eschatological schema to the bible's own teaching, methinks.

Was it Craig who shared this gem on Yahoo's Theology List [of which I am a Co-moderator]?

Fred: All this talk about eschatology. It isn't really all that important. When all is said and done, it's not the end of the world!

... or words to that effect

Sunday, July 30, 2006


Neil Atwood, Toongabbie Anglican Church minister, always has interesting things to say. This post is pertinent to all who value our freedom to exercise Christian ministry in state schools in New South Wales:

Have your say on church and government
The Australian Democrats are currently building policies that will effectively shut out churches and Christians from many parts of life and community that we have currently have access to.
Things like SRE in schools, hospitals run by Christians or churches, but funded by the State, and so on.

They are inviting input from the public on these issues, and this is a good opportunity for Australian Christians (like everyone else) to express their view on the issues.

You can do that via this online survey on the Democrats website:

God and Government Survey

So if you are an Australian Christian, spend a few minutes now and tell the Democrats what you think!

Thanks for alerting us, Neil.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Praying Beyond Health Concerns

David Powlison's article on praying, found in the latest series of articles available at 9 Marks has helpful guidelines on how to pray for those who are sick (which Powlison says is often our major prayer activity) but also encourages variety in our subjects for prayer, based on the examples of prayers in the Psalms and Paul's Prayers.

I can't pass up the opportunity to recommend Don Carson's terrific book Call to Spiritual Reformation, which is a superb gudie to praying in the light of Paul's prayers.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

More On New Covenant Theology

How does the Old Testament relate to the New Testament? How does the Christian Church relate to Israel? Do Christians have to keep the Old Testament laws?

These are some questions that all Christians ponder. But we don't all come to the same conclusions. Some Christians emphasise the similarities between the Old Testament and the New. This is known as a theology based on Continuity. And other Christians take note of all the changes that we find in the New Testament and favour a theology of Discontinuity.

But, all of us have elements of Continuity and Discontinuity in our theology, because this is forced on us by the bible itself.

The Covenant Theology of Presbyterians and Anglicans tends to emphasise the Continuity between the Old and New Covenants, and it is this favouring of continuity which leads them to teach that infants should be baptised.

The Dispensationalist Theology of others, including some Baptists and some Pentecostals emphasises the differences in the covenants and is part of the reason why they only want to baptise believers.

New Covenant Theology is intended to be a via media between the above 2 systems. It is Reformed, like Covenant Theology, but emphasises differences in Christ's New Covenant not brought out by Presbyterians and Anglicans. Although the terminology is somewhat new, it is close to the teaching of John Bunyan and also the writings of Don Carson and Douglas Moo, who were prepared to write commendations of Zaspel and Wells' book New Covenant Theology, while not wanting their theology to be given this label.

Steve Lehrer's new book New Covenant Theology: questions answered builds on the excellent work done by Fred Zaspel and Tom Wells.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Theology & Evangelism by J.I. Packer

"Evangelism and theology for the most part go separate ways, and the result is great loss for both. When theology is not held on course by the demands of evangelistic communcation, it grows abstract and speculative, wayward in method, theoretical in interest and irresponsible in stance. When evangelism is not fertilized, fed and controlled by theology, it becomes a stylized performance seeking its effect through manipulative skills rather than the power of vision and the force of truth. Both theology and evangelism are then, in one important sense, unreal, false to their own God-given nature; for all true theology has an evangelistic thrust, and all true evangelism is theology in action." - J.I. Packer

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

New Covenant Theology

I don't think New Covenant Theology has been discussed much in Australia.I'm hoping this will change, because I think it is a successful integration of biblical teaching and is an improved, more biblical version of Reformed Theology. Watch this space!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Sermons on the whole bible

Mark Dever's sermon series on the entire bible has got me hooked. I have a copy of his The Message of the New Testament but so far have spent much more time listening to these sermons on every book of the New Testament than reading the manuscripts. I am also enjoying listening to the sermons on each book of the Old Testament. Mark is senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC.

It takes a while downloading all 69 sermons [bonus points if you can figure out why there are 69 and not 66 ...] but I have found the effort worth it, as I have travelled to and fro between Bathurst and Orange this year.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Discussing Theology in a Godly Way

I co-moderate a Theology list. Sometimes things can get a bit heated, especially when people know they are right and the other geezer is wrong.

I know I need Steve Lehrer's wise words, and I think you do, too.

There is a time and place for absolute statements, but these should not be the common fare in theological discussion. The fact that we do not have a hotline to heaven but that we are all growing in our understanding of God’s Word should be evident in the words we use.

Lehrer then says that when he discusses theology, he must do so in language which reflects the fact that he is a "fallible man striving to represent my Lord." He suggests we should use language like this:
“It seems to me that your interpretation does not take into account Scriptures A and B. How do these Scriptures fit with your viewpoint?”

“From my perspective it appears that Scripture X means Y because of context Z, but I could be wrong about the context, what do you think?”

“That does not seem correct given Scriptures A, B, and C, but perhaps I am missing something. Do you see something that I have missed?”

Now it is certainly possible that you can go overboard using these qualifiers, but especially on points of contention it would seem that such careful and qualified language should be the norm.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Responding to Telemarketers

Graeme Philipson's report on his visit to an Indian call centre is well worth reading, but I guess the link won't last forever. During his visit, he watched as Derek (Deepak to his friends) handled dozens of rejections and managed to complete only one of the surveys he was ringing with. He told Graeme that he averaged 3 completed surveys per hundred calls.

The typical Indian telemarketer is a university graduate. The work is complicated and requires skill, and for India, pays quite well.

A new worker in a call centre, armed with a university degree, earns about $300 a month. A programmer will earn about $500. That may not sound like a lot but it goes much further in a country where a good haircut costs a dollar and a new car less than $10,000.
For most people, a job in a call centre is a foot in the door, a starting position in an extremely large and competitive job market. Some of the jobs they do, like one I looked at that involves checking on the advice given by financial advisors to their clients, are very complex and involve months of training.
If someone has succeeded in a call centre for a year or two, they are much more likely to be hired for a more senior position. There is certainly no shortage of applicants.
You and I might regard unsolicited telephone calls from India or elsewhere as a bit of pain. It's certainly an irritation but it's also a massive business employing hundreds of thousands of people.

How should we respond to these calls? We can sign up to a list which tells members of the Australian Direct Marketing Association that we don't want calls, which may reduce the number we are faced with. But we will inevitably still receive some calls.

People love to boast about how they deal with these intrusions, but what is the Christian thing to do? Philipson's advice sounds easy, and he says it is best for the marketers, too. It may seem hilarious to send a very loud signal down the curly cordline, or say Just a minute and leave the poor telemarketer waiting for a caller who never returns, but simply saying I'm not interested, thanks and hanging up gets the intrusion out of your life, and enables the marketer to get on with trying to complete the surveys.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Stronger Church: I Stand Rebuked - Gratefully

Stronger Church: I Stand Rebuked - Gratefully

This terrific blog from Peter Bogert is a great reminder that though we are involved in God's work when we share his message, it is his message, not ours, and he is in charge, not us.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Disciple's Journal: The summer school of missions: Signs that may make you wonder

Disciple's Journal: The summer school of missions: Signs that may make you wonder

Dave Taylor's article is a good follow up to my comments about the importance of supporting Christian missions which go where no Christian has gone before.

After categorising the globe into World A (unevangelized; e.g., Turkey, Iran, Niger), World B (evangelized non-Christian; e.g., Indonesia, India, Chad) and World C (Christian; e.g., US, UK, Kenya, Ukraine), Dave provides us with some sobering statistics from The World Christian Encyclopedia and World Christian Trends.

91% of Christian literature is consumed by, and 96% of all Christian radio and TV programming is aimed at, World C countries. Just 0.1% of Christian literature and radio/TV programming reaches World A countries.

"91% of all Christian outreach/evangelism does not target non-Christians but targets other Christians in World C countries, cities, peoples, populations, or situations." In other words, for every worker in an unreached area, there are nine trying to reach nominal Christians, the backslidden or those who already have access to Christian ministry in some form.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Where No Christian Has Gone Before

It all started with The Internet Monk. Michael Spencer wrote a post about some woefully inadequate well-intentioned, but misguided short-term ministry trips. I can't find the exact post, but this one has some helpful information about the small number of people who get to hear the gospel over and over, and the many who haven't heard, because no one has gone to tell them.

Michael points out that the most effective ministry is being done by organisations like Gospel For Asia, which aim to use locals to evangelise locals.

Until recently I was supporting a young man called David Raj, who is spreading God's Word in his own country of India. Due to a shortfall in finances this year, and now being involved in supporting a minister in my local church, I have had to give up regular support, though I continue to pray for him.

This morning I read the news that the very young man I was supporting has been arrested and imprisoned, along with his wife.

Please pray for David and the others who have been also beaten and treated shamefully, only because they are servants of Jesus Christ. Pray that God will be glorified in their faithfulness and that they will be speedily released so that they can go on presenting the message of God's love to people who have never previously heard it.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Faithful or Relevant?

The most basic practical division among evangelical pastors today may be between those who pursue faithfulness and assume relevance and those who pursue relevance and assume faithfulness.

This is part of Mark Dever's thought-provoking post at Together for the Gospel. Later in the article he cites a conversation with Don Carson, the gist of which was along these lines:
The first generation has the Gospel, the second generation assumes the Gospel, the third generation loses the Gospel.

Dever concludes with:
Consider what you and I will do to the Gospel message in our churches if we continue to change the "presentation" of the Gospel until we begin to get a response.

Pursue faithfulness and relevance. Know that the Gospel is always relevant. NEVER assume the Gospel.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Allthings2all: The Merciful Stripper

Allthings2all: The Merciful Stripper

I enjoy reading Catez' posts at her blog All things2all. This is one of her special ones: outstanding even for Catez.

I came across Cynthia's response to the story before I read the story itself. Makes you think.

Friday, June 16, 2006


A thought-provoking blog from a bible translator in Mozambique. Well worth a visit.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Jerome's Playground Joy

Women Exploited During World Cup

This article in Christianity Today shows that the World Cup is being used as a vehicle for exploitation of women through the sex trade fostered by Germany's legalisation of prostitution in 2003. Although there are already 400,000 prostitutes in Germany, another 40,000 licenses have been issued to allow more women to prostitute themselves during the World Cup.

The World Cup cities are permitting sex huts to be set up around the stadiums like Port-a-loos, fitted out with condoms and snacks.

An enlightening and disturbing article.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Bible software

In 1995, I purchased a PC so that I could use the BibleWorks program. It was a great program then, but it has so much more capability now than it had 11 years ago [partly due to the way computers have developed, but also due ot the painstaking work of Michael Bushell and his team]. The program is not inexpensive, but it is well worth the asking price, due to the excellent aftersales service you get, and the way the program is continually updated and upgraded.

The best free program is e-sword, which has lots of bible versions not available in BibleWorks. It is a great program, especially when you consider it is provided free of charge. It has nothing like the capabilities of BibleWorks, but the price is right! The developer offers the program free of charge, and so far there have been over 3 million downloads of the program. About 1% of these people pay a suggested $15 USD, for which the developer sends them a CD ROM which contains most features of the program. You can download it free of charge, but having a CD can be convenient. I've used the 2 I've purchased so far to give away to spread the word about this great program.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Mere Theology

Mere Theology, Brian Hedges's blog is a great site to visit. At the moment he has a useful annotated guide to commentaries on Ephesians that is worth bookmarking.

Serious Rugby Humour

I love these jokes from David Ould's journal. Please don't think this means I'm a sport fan. I still think a soccer coach has 4 wheels, and I have to say that
Tennis is not my racquet
Piano is more my forte.

Saturday, June 03, 2006


Steve Camp is a faithful gospel musician who writes inspiringly in his blog. I love reading his comments on the church, the music industry and on the state of Christian music.

Forgive me, Steve, but I have not yet heard a note of your music! If it is as good as your blog, I'm missing out!

Australia Says Thanks

Today has been proclaimed as an Aussie national day of thanksgiving. I particularly appreciated our governor general's thanksgiving message in which he urged us to give thanks to God and to one another for those who improve the lives of others in our community.

I'm grateful for
my mother who led me to Christ at the age of 5, enabling me to have a long life of enjoying the riches of being part of God's family

my lovely wife, Joan who has been a terrific companion for over 30 years

my four terrific kids: Daniel, Justin, Cathy and David

a great church
and a brand new minister who arrives today

the wonderful Christian blogging community
and other stuff too numerous to mention!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Groucho Marx on learning Greek in old age

When I was young I was amazed at Plutarch's statement that the elder Cato began at the age of eighty to learn Greek. I am amazed no longer. Old age is ready to undertake tasks that youth shirked because they would take too long.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Thoughts on bible translation

Rodney Decker's What Does a Translator Have To Offer a Reader? has some great quotes about the problems of translating. He includes of course, Traduttore traditore, the Italian proverb Translators are traitors, but also Rabbi Yehuda in the Talmud:
He who translates a verse literally is a liar,
and he who paraphrases is a blasphemer!

He also cites Cicero's words, when attempting to translate Plato from Greek to Latin:
It is hard to preserve in a translation the charm of expressions which in another language are most felicitous...
If I render word for word, the result will sound uncouth, and if compelled by necessity I alter anything in the order or wording, I shall seem to have departed from the function of a translator.