Thursday, December 25, 2008

Jesus is still human

Justin Taylor points out so many good net articles, and I'm pleased to see his latest link to three articles on Desiring God articulating the doctrine of the incarnation. Desiring God have not indexed this three part series very well, and I'm glad Justin gave us links to all three parts.
1. Biblical Foundations
2. Church History
3. Contemporary Articulations

Isn't it great that our Lord Jesus is GOD and Man ...forever?

Did Luther teach the priesthood of all believers?

In this stimulating Lutheran Timothy Wengert argues that Luther nowhere taught the priesthood of all believers. He also says that the term occurs nowhere in his writings, nor in the writings of the early Reformers.

Worth reading and pondering.

Christmas joke I hadn't heard

I thought I'd heard 'em all, but Kevin Goddard set me right:
Good King Wenceslas: Hello, is that Domino's Pizzas? I'd like my usual, please:
deep pan, crisp and even

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Colin the Saviour?

My 3 year old grandson, Jerome loves watching and listening to Colin Buchanan. But he thought that the CD Follow the Saviour was called Colin, the Saviour

Mr B soon put him right [though in the nicest possible way].

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Giving is from God

Sam Storms' article contains nothing startling, but is a well-written biblical theology of giving, which I'm posting here, hoping I'll be able to find it again:
This article is adapted from a sermon Sam Storms gave on November 30, 2008.

The biblical fact of the matter is that, ultimately speaking, God has no need of us.

I know this cuts deeply into our sense of self-importance, but look closely at what the apostle Paul said to the Athenian philosophers: "He is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything" (Acts 17:25). In another text, Paul extols God precisely because "from him and through him and to him are all things" (Rom. 11:36). If God already owns everything and is in himself perfectly complete, what do we think we could possibly add to his already immeasurably sufficient being? The truth is that the God of the Bible is the kind of God whose greatest delight comes not from making demands but from meeting needs.

Yet, tragically, many Christians exhaust themselves in trying to shore up what they think are deficiencies in God. Their approach to the Christian life is to give to God what they evidently think he lacks. But God is most honored not when we strive to bolster what we mistakenly think is his diminishing supply, but when we come to him humbly to receive from his mercy and goodness what only he can provide. Contrary to what some have said about Christian Hedonism, that in all its talk of seeking pleasure and happiness it is man-centered, it is actually profoundly theocentric. Here's how.

Consider the description of the spiritual dynamics involved when David undertook what may have been the largest building program in history. In 1 Chronicles 29:6-20, we read of the wealth that was raised for the construction of the temple. From a purely human perspective, it would appear that David and the Israelites are to be congratulated for giving so generously to the work of the Lord. But we must look beyond what can be seen and discern the hand of God at work.

It's truly a remarkable story. "With all my ability" (29:2) and "in all my delight" (29:3), says David, "I have provided for the house of my God." The people likewise "offered willingly" (29:6) and "with a whole heart" (29:9) to supply the resources necessary for this massive undertaking. Again, "in the uprightness" of his heart David "willingly" (29:17) offered all these things. No one gave under compulsion or out of fear or guilt. They rejoiced in the freedom and opportunity to participate.

But there is more to this story than meets the eye. In order that we might see what the naked eye cannot see, the Holy Spirit has inscripturated for us David's prayer. Behind the scenes of glad, willing, happy human endeavor is the hand of an all-sufficient God who overflows in abundance to his people.

We first see it in the fact that David immediately blesses God (29:10). His response to this tremendous influx of earthly wealth and riches is to bless God, not men or women. This blessing takes the form of a dozen affirmations concerning who God is and what he does, all of which are revealed in the willingness of his people to give so much to the building of the temple.

In verse 11, David states that "all that is in the heavens and the earth" belongs to God. This is why giving is all about God: He already owns everything. He owns your clothes and your car and your bank account and your body and your house and your books and your jewelry and your television set(s) — he owns it all. He owns your mind and your emotions and your spirit and your eyes and your ears and your hair and your blood and your toenails. He has graciously and freely given us these things to use and enjoy for his glory, and he may take them back anytime he wishes. We are trustees or stewards of what God possesses. He also owns every dime (or sheckel) that we might willingly and joyfully choose to give him.

The ninth of these twelve declarations is no less stunning in its ramifications. In verse 12, David says of God that "both riches and honor come from you." God is no usurper of things that are not rightfully his. From a purely human point of view, the money and wealth given for the building of the temple seem to come from the work and energy and savings and investments of the people. Perhaps some of them had profited from shrewd business transactions. Perhaps a few had turned an incredible profit on the sale of some land. But no matter, David says that all riches come from God. Whatever anyone worked for, earned, invested, sold, and then gave, they first got it from God.

Again in verse 12, David asserts that it lies in God's hand "to make great and to give strength to all." Whatever energy or accomplishments may be traceable to the people that accounted for what and why they gave, all of it ultimately came from God. Power, influence, ingenuity, success, commitment, whatever it might be, are the result of the gracious and kind operation of a benevolent and giving God working in and through his people for their welfare and his own glory.

The eleventh thing David says comes in the form of a question: "But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this?" This is David's way of saying that God is the one who enables us to do what we do not deserve help to do. Who are we, asks David, that we should receive the help of God that would mobilize us to produce this wealth and then stir our hearts to give it away? We are sinners. We deserve nothing but judgment.

Perhaps the most instructive thing David says comes next in verse 14. "For all things come from you, and of your own we have given you" (or, in the NASB translation, "from thy hand we have given thee"). He doesn't say "to thy hand," as if it originated with us and ended with God. Rather, it is "from thy hand." In other words, whatever they gave, they first received. He says much the same thing in verse 16: "O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided to build thee a house for thy holy name, comes from your hand and is all your own." We do not offer to God what he lacks. In giving we do not add to his resources or increase the balance of his bank account. How can you increase the wealth of someone who already owns it all? Our giving is but a reflex of God's giving.

Twelfth, and finally, David prays that God would "keep [preserve] this forever in the intentions of the heart of thy people, and direct their hearts toward you, and give to my son Solomon a whole heart to keep your commandments" (verse 18). God's enabling in this matter is not simply that he makes it possible for us to work hard, not simply that he bestows riches on whomever he pleases, but that he actually gives us the willingness to give. Yes, the people did the giving (verse 9). They gave willingly, of their own accord, and with joy. It was genuine giving, freely chosen, joyfully engaged. They made decisions. Real decisions. Sacrificial decisions. Decisions that make a difference. Decisions without which the temple would not have been built. But mysteriously, in ways that you and I will never fully understand, beneath and behind these choices was the gracious, enabling work of God.

What all this means is that our God is a God of infinite, immeasurable wealth. He owns everything that is. He does not stand in need of gifts or offerings or contributions as if he were poor and helpless and dependent. We are the poor, the helpless, the dependent ones. God is always the giver. We are always the getters. We simply must understand this if we are to progress in growth in our Christian lives and in our pursuit of holiness.
From Chronicles to Corinth

Let's take a leap of several centuries from 1 Chronicles to 2 Corinthians and note that the service of God on behalf of his people doesn't diminish with time (or with the change of testaments).

Paul's passionate appeal in 2 Corinthians 8-9 to give generously grew out of the poverty of the church in Jerusalem (see 1 Cor. 16:1-4; Rom. 15:25-27). The reasons for this crisis are numerous: in addition to overpopulation, there was social and economic ostracism, disinheritance following conversion, disruption of family ties, persecution, and the lingering effects of the famine of A.D. 46 (cf. Acts 11:27-30). Paul's efforts to raise money to help the saints in Jerusalem were obviously justified. This was a concrete expression of his resolve as stated in Galatians 2:10: "They only asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I also was eager to do." By pointing to the example of sacrificial giving set by the Macedonians (the Christians in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea), Paul hopes to stimulate the Corinthians to complete their efforts at contributing to their poverty-stricken brethren in Jerusalem (cf. 2 Cor. 8:10-11).

Yes, Paul appeals to what believers in Macedonia had done. But like David in 1 Chronicles, he is quick to acknowledge that what they did in serving their brethren is the fruit of what God had done in serving them. If the Macedonians "gave themselves to the Lord" in this ministry (verse 5), it is because God had first "given his grace" (verse 1) to them. Whatever achievement on their part is praised, it is ultimately attributed to the prior activity of divine grace. Here we see the harmony between the antecedent presence of divine grace and the moral accountability of human decisions. In verse 3, Paul says they gave "of their own free will," while in verse 1 their willingness is traced to a gift of God: grace. The same principle is found in verses 16 and 17, where Paul says God put "earnestness" in Titus's heart, who in turn went to the Corinthians "of his own accord."

They didn't give because God had prospered them financially. He hadn't. Financial blessing didn't lead to joy. Rather, joy led to a financial blessing (for the saints in Jerusalem). Their joy, therefore, was not in money, but in God and the experience of his grace. John Piper explains:

How did such countercultural and counter-natural behavior come about? How were the Christians freed from the natural love of money and comfort? Part of the answer in verse 2 is that their abundance of joy overflowed. Joy in something else had severed the root of joy in money. They had been freed by joy to give to the poor. But where did this powerful, unearthly joy come from? The answer is that it came from the grace of God. … What the Corinthians (as well as you and I) are supposed to learn from this story is that the same grace that was given in Macedonia is available now in Corinth (and in whatever city you live, in whatever church you call home).

Don't miss the spiritual dynamic at work here: Grace comes down, joy rises up, generosity flows out. It is because of divine grace that they experienced joy, and because they experienced such joy in grace that they gave so generously.

As they looked at their ability to give, they no doubt took into consideration both their present situation and their future needs and obligations. Having done so, they then showed total disregard for both. This is not because they were foolish. Undoubtedly they knew the consequences for themselves and willingly embraced them. In all likelihood, they first determined what they could reasonably give and then went above and beyond that amount. They were able to take this approach because grace was operative in their hearts. God was serving them so that they could gladly serve others. That alone can account for this remarkable demonstration of love and earnestness on their part.

And again, this in no way diminishes the moral value of what was done, for Paul insists that they gave not because they felt compelled or coerced but of their own accord — freely and voluntarily (verse 3). They didn't give out of greed (thinking that by giving they would eventually get back more in return), guilt, fear, in response to an apostolic command, or any such reason. In fact, Paul refused to ask them for money for the collection, knowing full well their financial condition. They were forced to urgently plead, indeed, beg Paul for the opportunity to participate in this ministry. Amazing. Most people beg to get money; the Macedonians beg to give money. Again, from Piper:

When poverty-stricken Macedonians beg Paul for the privilege of giving money to other poor saints, we may assume that this is what they want to do, not just ought to do, or have to do, but really long to do. It is their joy — an extension of their joy in God. To be sure, they are 'denying themselves' whatever pleasures or comforts they could have from the money they give away, but the joy of extending God's grace to others is a far better reward than anything money could buy. The Macedonians have discovered the labor of Christian Hedonism: love. It is the overflow of joy in God which gladly meets the needs of others.

Paul puts all this in perspective in chapter nine with two statements that are relevant to our discussion. First, he declares that "God loves a cheerful giver" (verse 7). Needless to say, if God loves a cheerful giver, he is displeased when people give but don't do it gladly, even if their giving is generous in terms of quantity. Piper writes, "When people don't find pleasure (Paul's word is cheer.) in their acts of service, God doesn't find pleasure in them." Does that mean if we don't have joy we shouldn't give at all? No. "Though joyless love is not our aim, nevertheless it is better to do a joyless duty than not to do it, provided there is a spirit of repentance for the deadness of our heart."

Then note also the promise of abundance in verses 8 through 11, a passage that has been sorely abused by many who advocate a crass form of prosperity gospel. In effect, God says to those who gladly and generously give: "Okay, I see that you're going to take this seriously. Good. You mean business. Well, so do I. I'm going to make a promise to you. As long as you are willing to give (a willingness that we saw in both 1 Chronicles and 2 Corinthians 8 flows first from God's antecedent activity of gracious enablement), I will never leave you without the resources to do it. I will never let you give yourself into poverty. That's a promise."

Clearly, God promises to supply abundantly those who give generously. Paul wants the Corinthians to be free from the fear that generous giving will leave them impoverished. But for what purpose or with what goal in mind does God cause the generous Christian steward to abound? Why does God promise financial abundance to those who cheerfully and freely give to others?

Before I answer that, did you see Paul's unapologetic use of universals in verse 8? "God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed." You'd almost think he was trying to make a point.

Now for the answer to the question: God promises to continue serving you financially in order that "you may abound in every good work" (9:8b). Again, it is in order that he might "multiply your seed for sowing" (9:10). Finally, it is in order that you might be enriched in everything "for all generosity" (9:11). Paul's point is that God will never stir your heart to give and then fail to supply you with resources to do so. But the idea that we should give so that God will then enrich us personally with a view to increasing our comfort and convenience and purchasing power is foreign to Paul's teaching. Personal wealth is here viewed, not as an end in itself, but as a means to a yet higher goal: generosity to those in need.

Finally, verses 12 and 13, remove any vestiges of doubt as to whether this entire scenario is the result of God's serving his people. There Paul says that this ministry of giving evokes gratitude to God, for all giving has its source in his grace (verse 12b). Then again in verse 13, as they contemplate your giving, says Paul, they will be prompted to glorify God (verse 13a), something that makes sense only if it is God who is ultimately serving us by supplying the resources to give.

Sam Storms is pastor of Bridgeway Church and head of Enjoying God Ministries in Kansas City. He was previously a theology professor at Wheaton College.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Who are we to believe?

I thought I'd already posted this, for future reference. But I can't find it, so here it is again, for the first time[?]

Queen Mary: "Ye interpret the Scriptures in one manner, and they in another. Whom shall I believe? Who shall be judge?"

John Knox: "Ye shall believe God that plainly speaketh in His Word; and further than the Word teacheth you, ye shall believe neither the one nor the other. The Word of God is plain in itself. If there appear any obscurity in one place, the Holy Ghost, which is never contrarious to Himself, explaineth the same more clearly in other places; so that there can remain no doubt, but unto such as obstinately will remain ignorant"

Quotations from Stories of the Reformation, Copyright Review and Herald Publishing Assoc., Washington, D.C., 1944

Monday, December 01, 2008

What to do about Santa

This article, by Anglican Youthworks lecturers and a couple of grown up children is well worth pondering.

Do you tell your kids about Santa? Eventually, you cannot ignore that fat bloke. Other people won't let you.

I have to admit that I was against telling the kids about Father Christmas, until I was offered a job as Father Christmas!

This gave me the opportunity to provide for my family over the long summer vacation when people are not interested in music lessons!

Roger Wall, one of my fellow theological college students at Kenmore Christian College, had been Santa in the Kenmore, Queensland shopping centre [in those days there was only one; I bet there are more than one, now], offered me the job when he was leaving college.

I was a bit of a countercultural Santa, because I used to try to get the kids to think about giving, and de-emphasize the receiving angle. I wonder what the shopping centre would have thought of that?

There was also an electronic organ in the same spot as Santa's throne, so I used to play Christmas carols, but tried to play and sing ones which shared the message of Jesus' birth.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


When I was a kid, ministers used to say
We will now sing the doxology and we would respond by singing
Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise him, all creatures here below
Praise him above, ye heavenly host
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost
Praise God for our new grandson. A firstborn for Daniel and Louise and a cousin for Jerome and Hamish.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Speaking of the Old Testament ...

If you would like some input on how Christians should read the Old Testament, you will find Christopher Wright's Old Testament Ethics for the People of God a great stimulus to your thinking.

The link gives you the table of contents, the introduction, the first chapter and a some extras and should whet your appetite.

I have read the first three chapters and am looking forward to the rest. Well worth your time.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Our home group has been listening to Phillip Jensen's five talks on Christian Prayer. We thoroughly enjoyed listening and discussing this topic and found the talks a great encouragement to pray.

During the five talks, Dean Jensen emphasised that Christian prayer is talking to God and asking him for things. He said that we should always pray with thanksgiving, but that thanking God is not prayer, because to pray is to ask.

He repeatedly urged us to pray because God can do everything and is interested in us, in both the big things and small things of our lives.

The Lord's Prayer and other parts of the Bible show us that we should pray for things which God has promised to give, but should also share all our concerns with God, even if they are not mentioned in the Bible and are not specifically promised.

We should pray about the things God tells us he wants to do [God's aspirations] and also about our problems [our anxieties].

One of the things I pondered from listening to the talks was these words in James chapter 4:
You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
They reminded me of the short and painful time when I was a pastor. It was short and painful because some in the church decided that they needed me like a fish needs a bicycle!

Although it was pretty painful for me and my family, I guess it might have been worse for the congregation!

Once, one of the leaders of the congregation told me that he would have done all kinds of things for the church if only I'd asked. I got the feeling that he was saying that he would have done wonders, if I'd only pushed the right buttons.

I'm assuming he was saying he would have put in money for projects and maybe that he would have given assistance in getting them up and running.

Now I'm hoping that this is not what James is saying when he says
James 4:2-3 You do not have, because you do not ask.
I'm assuming he means that we ignore God and try to be self-sufficient and wonder why we fall down in a screaming heap and make such a mess of things.
I'm assuming he is not saying that God will only do things if we ask, because this has not been my experience with our generous God.
But I think he is encouraging us, as Dean Jensen was, to ask and not to be embarrassed to ask because what we ask is so trifling or such a big thing.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Reading Ecclesiasticus

Ecclesiasticus sounds like a word someone made up as a joke, like Colin Buchanan's jargonisationismacality in the evangelistic training dvd Just Start Talking. But it is the title of a long book of wisdom in Roman Catholic Bibles. Protestants don't need to be afraid of those books, which Christians have always believed to be worth reading, though Protestant Christians do not believe them to be holy writ.

There is some great stuff in Sirach [another name for Ecclesiasticus], which begins with a prologue by the author's grandson. I'd like to think that one day one of my grandsons would want to edit some of my ramblings!

Take chapters 22 and 23 for example. This morning I read this interesting observation on swearing, which I take to mean making an oath, in my read-through of the New Jerusalem Bible.
Sirach 23: 9 Do not get into the habit of swearing, do not make a habit of naming the Holy One; 10 for just as a slave who is constantly overseen will never be without bruises, so someone who is always swearing and uttering the Name will not be exempt from sin. 11 A man for ever swearing is full of iniquity, and the scourge will not depart from his house. If he offends, his sin will be on him, if he did it unheedingly, he has doubly sinned; if he swears a false oath, he will not be treated as innocent, for his house will be filled with calamities.

This may reflect part of the reason for substituting LORD for YAHWEH in the Septuagint, I suppose.

There was also some great advice for those who fear other people [such as myself, I admit]:
Sirach 23:18-19 ... the man who sins against the marriage bed and says to himself, 'Who can see me? There is darkness all round me, the walls hide me, no one can see me, why should I worry? The Most High will not remember my sins.' What he fears are human eyes, he does not realise that the eyes of the Lord are ten thousand times brighter than the sun, observing every aspect of human behaviour, seeing into the most secret corners.

But the words at the beginning of my reading today surely cannot be from God:
Sirach 22:3 It is a disgrace to have fathered a badly brought-up son, but the birth of any daughter is a loss
Some accuse the Bible of sexism, but I have not encountered anything like that comment in the canonical Scriptures.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Reading the Old Testament in the light of the New

It is good to read the Old Testament on its own terms, but Christians can't help but read it also in the light of its fulfilment in Christ and in the light of the way the New Testament teaches us to read it.

The Gospel according to the Old Testament series aims to help us to do this and looks promising. It is written at a less academic level than some Bible expositions, and is often focussing on a character rather than on a Bible book.

So far I have only been reading Crying Out for Vindication on Job, but am thoroughly enjoying David Jackson's book, apart from my caveat above about singling out the NIV for condemnation unfairly.

Back to front?

I read recently that the Roman Catholic Church has decreed that Christians should not use the name Yahweh in liturgy, but should substitute Lord or God as is common in many English Bibles, which follow the practice of the Septuagint, the very first translation of the Old Testament into Greek. This is, of course, the practice of orthodox Jews.

But this morning I read Exodus 23 in the New Jerusalem Bible, a Roman Catholic Bible and came across this command in verse 13:
Do not mention the name of any other god: let none ever be heard from your lips.
It is odd that the Bible seems to command the opposite, don't you think!

The NJB itself is one of the few Bibles which does use Yahweh, rather than LORD or Lord GOD. Nothing is said in the article about the reading of this translation, which has the church's official blessing. I wonder if those who read in church will have to remember to substitute those words when reading?

I am enjoying reading through the New Jerusalem Bible, including reading the extra books and bits that are in Roman Catholic Bibles, partly because the translators did not consciously try to keep to the wording of the King James Version where possible, as translations such as the American Standard Version [a Bible which uses Jehovah for the tetragrammaton],Revised Standard Version, New Revised Standard Version, New King James Version, New International Version and Today's New International Version do.

There is a welcome freshness in approach, which makes you think through the Scriptures again, and which also makes you stumble when reading, because your brain makes you say the old familiar words!

However, the study notes are not so welcome, as they reflect a low view of the Scriptures and regurgitate the discredited Documentary Hypothesis and liberal views of authorship. It is strange that these get the Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat of the Roman Catholic Church, whose catechism and offical statements take a high view of the Scriptures.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

NIV bashing

I've been reading David Jackson's Crying Out for Vindication, which is part of The Gospel According to the Old Testament series.

It is an interesting, insightful book which I warmly recommend, but I was sorry to see this statement on page 50, commenting on translating Job 3:24.
The New International Version gives us a tame and euphemistic translation of the words Job uses here. Roaring and bellowing would seem to be closer to the meaning of the text.

But most translations do seem to render verse 24 pretty similarly:
For sighing comes to me instead of food; my groans pour out like water. NIV
For my sighing cometh before I eat, And my groanings are poured out like water. American Standard Version
For my sighing comes as my bread, and my groanings are poured out like water.RSV
For my sighing comes like my bread, and my groanings are poured out like water.
For my sighing comes instead of my bread, and my groanings are poured out like water.
For my sighing comes before I eat, And my groanings pour out like water. NKJV
For my sighing comes in place of my food, and my groanings flow forth like water. New English Translation [NET]
My only food is sighs, and my groans pour out like water. New Jerusalem Bible
I cannot eat for sighing; my groans pour out like water. New Living Translation, 2nd edition
When my food is in front of me, I sigh. I pour out my groaning like water. God's Word to the Nations

The only translations I can find which differ are the King James Version
For my sighing cometh before I eat, and my roarings are poured out like the waters.
and the New American Standard Version
For my groaning comes at the sight of my food, And my cries pour out like water.

The translators of the NIV have many that agree with them and are certainly not standing out from the crowd in the way they rendered this verse [which they continued to do in the TNIV].

Jackson goes on to cite other places in Scripture where the words come out more forcefully in English and makes a fair case for a stronger rendering in Job 3.

Do you think there was a conspiracy between the translators, or do you think they had good reasons for not speaking of a man as roaring?

In drawing attention to this bit of NIV-bashing, I'm not aiming to make you wary of David Jackson or his book, because I think it is a valuable one which I hope you will read and ponder, but I'm merely commenting that it is worth checking whether a rendering in one version has also been adopted in others, and if so, allowing the translators some credit for their reasons for their decision.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A de-versified Bible

This is a helpful article about the advantages of a Bible that doesn't look like a reference manual.
Why is the Bible so hard to read? For all the energies Bible publishers spend on manipulating the look and feel so that the Bible will go down easy, part of the problem is, well, the look and feel.

Over the last few centuries, we’ve come to believe that the key to better Bible reading is to add more and more stuff to the text. Modern Bibles are cut into two columns and laced with chapters and verses, cross references, footnotes, section headings, commentary and all manner of what-not and hooha. We’ve split books that were originally whole and severed natural connections within big sections. Our Bibles are a complicated mess.

Bible additives like these left philosopher John Locke complaining that the scriptures “are so chop’d and minc’d, and as they are now Printed, stand so broken and divided, that...the Common People take the Verses usually for distinct Aphorisms,” and “even Men of more advanc’d Knowledge in reading them, lose very much of the strength and force of the Coherence, and the Light that depends on it.” In other words: we’ve adapted the Bible to the point that it’s nearly impossible to understand.

Locke was right. The modern form of the Bible has compelled us to read it in bits and pieces. But the Bible is not made up of these bits and pieces. It’s really a collection of whole books. There are lots of books in the Bible and they are quite different from each other. There are letters and short stories, historical narratives and apocalyptic visions. Collections of song lyrics are included alongside prophetic oracles. The Bible’s wisdom literature includes books of short, pithy sayings as well as longer, ponderous explorations of life’s quandaries.

All in all, the Bible is a remarkable gathering of ancient writings combining many literary forms. These things are actual books! Who knew?

Today, readers who want to encounter Bible books as they were intended have work against our fancy formatting. It turns out that fewer people are making that effort. The research tells us that biblical literacy is low across our land. Apparently folks do not willingly, eagerly dive into giant reference books, holy or otherwise, for times of extended reading.

The time has come to reverse the old “Let’s add more!” approach. It’s time for an additive-free, organic Bible.

What would happen if Bible publishers acted on the belief that less is more? Bible formats have not been mandated by early creeds, church councils or denominational boards. Publishers are free to lead the way here. If they will do so, the Bible could be simplified, its text rediscovered.

Some attempts have already been made in this direction. Probably the most far-reaching is The Books of The Bible, a project I’ve been a part of for the last five years. Here’s what we decided to do in our attempt to uncover the books hidden by centuries of accumulated additives:

• Ditch the inserted chapter and verse numbers along with the artificial divisions they create, and look for natural literary breaks instead;
• Scrap the multiple columns which typically ruin the literary flow;
• Take all the footnotes, cross-references, section headings and commentary off the page of scripture text;
• Restore divided books to their original wholeness;
• Arrange the books in an order that makes more sense for literary type and historical order.
It’s pretty simple, really. It is pure text. This is a Bible that is simple, and remarkably (and unfamiliarly) readable. This returns it to a collection of unique, literary writings. As one reader told us, “Not having the clutter of chapters, verses and headings means I’m no longer conscious of ‘getting my Bible reading done.’ I just read and enjoy the book, and tend to read more." Welcome to the Good Books!

What about the objection that, minus the modern navigation equipment, no one will be able to find their way around? Well, that shows just how much our grasp of Bible “reading” (to use the term lightly) is tied to Bible additives. One especially sorry consequence of this is verse-jacking, the yanking of selected words out of their natural context to make them mean things they manifestly don’t mean.

Secondly, the belief that modern additives are essential to Bible interaction shows a lack of historical awareness of the church’s history with the Bible. The church has read, studied, taught and preached a Bible without all the numbers for much longer than the modern version has been in existence. Plus, the “additives are necessary” objection reveals a disturbing lack of interest in recovering older, different practices, or for imagining new ways to use and reference the Bible in more holistic and contextual ways.

It is not impossible to use a Bible like this. We are simply out of practice. For all the helps and tools brought to us by Bible publishers, we don’t know our Bibles well enough to actually know how to read them.

Eugene Peterson warns us that “[t]he form in which language comes to us is as important as its content. If we mistake its form, we will almost certainly respond wrongly to its content.” The modern Bible forces its literature into unnatural contortions, making it easier for us to mistake the form of the language and thus misinterpret the content. For the sake of the Bible, for the sake of our own reading, let’s go organic and learn again how to read whole books.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Making sense of the warnings and promises

Making sense of all the data on salvation and assurance is a challenge. Most systems do not factor in all the data.

Some folk focus on the warnings and point out that the New Testament teaches we must persevere to be saved [and therefore, we may lose our salvation].

Others focus on the many promises that God will keep us safe [and therefore we cannot lose our salvation].

But a few folk put these warnings and promises together and come up with this:
1. Salvation is assured to those who trust in Christ alone. Consider Romans 8:28-39 among many passages in the New Testament.
2. But we are warned that only those who persevere to the end will be saved. Hebrews chapters 6 and 10 for example.
3. However God in his mercy ensures that we will persevere through giving us these threats and promises to keep us on the path. But this perseverance itself is God's doing. I think Philippians 2:12-13 and many other passages teach this.

Many Calvinist and Puritan authors have taught the above.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Alexander Pope quotes

In preparing for a U3A program on Handel's Semele, written in 1743 to a William Congreve 1708 libretto, supplemented by contributions by Alexander Pope, I came across this page of quotes, and would like to share these ones which tickled my fancy:
To err is human; to forgive, divine.
There is a certain majesty in simplicity which is far above all the quaintness of wit.
Amusement is the happiness of those who cannot think.
It is with our judgments as with our watches; no two go just alike, yet each believes his own.
One who is too wise an observer of the business of others, like one who is too curious in observing the labor of bees, will often be stung for his curiosity.
Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night. God said, "Let Newton be!" and all was light.
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring

Thursday, November 06, 2008

More gems from Charles Simeon

My endeavour is to bring out of Scripture what is there, and not to thrust in what I think might be there. I have a great jealousy on this head: never to speak more or less than I believe to be the mind of the Spirit in the passage I am expounding
This one comes from Scott Mackay, involved in university student ministry in New Zealand.

Coincidentally, my dad, Stanley McKay, was always known as Scot.

Charles Simeon (1759 - 1836) was converted to faith in Christ while he was a student at Cambridge University. He became the minister of Holy Trinity, Cambridge, where he overcame resentment and prejudice to exercise an influential evangelical ministry.

Simeon’s approach to preaching has been discussed by J.I. Packer in an essay entitled ‘Expository Preaching: Charles Simeon and Ourselves’. This was first published in Churchman in 1960, is reprinted in Packer’s Collected Shorter Works (Vol 3), and is available online here.

Simeon’s preaching, asserts Packer, was truly expository, even though he usually preached from short texts. Expository preaching, Packer says, is not to be defined according to length of text but according to the relationship between the text and the sermon. If the principle aim of the preacher is to speak authoritatively from God to the people by bringing out of the inspired text what is really there (rather than, say, using it as a motto, or a peg upon which to hang ‘holy thoughts’), then his preaching is expository.

The example of Simeon, as evidenced in the 2,536 sermon outlines he has left, suggests a number of lessons:-

1. An expository sermon should follow the ordinary basic rules of sermon construction. An expository sermon is not merely a running commentary on the text. Simeon insisted that it must have ‘unity in the design, perspicuity in the arrangement, and simplicity in the diction’. And, since a sermon is meant to instruct, it must not be longer nor more difficult than the hearers can tolerate.

Then again, even though a sermon is meant to instruct, it is not a lecture. The mind must be informed in a manner that affects the heart - comforting the hearers, or leading them to acts of piety, repentance, and holiness.

2. An expository sermon should be textual in character. The substance of the sermon should come out of the passage, and not be imposed on it. “I never preach,” said Simeon, “unless I feel satisfied that I have the mind of God as regards the sense of the passage.” He objected to the tendency in his day for both Calvinstic and Arminian preachers to read their respective systems into the text. Although he preached from short texts, rather than from the longer passages favoured by many expository preachers, he insisted that the text should make complete sense: preaching from just one or two words would be impertinent and foolish. As Packer says, ‘the prime secret of freedom
and authority in preaching, as Simeon was well aware, is the knowledge that what you are saying is exactly what your text says, so that your words have a proper claim to be received as the Word of God.’

3. The expository sermon must have a doctrinal substructure. Even though, as just noted, Simeon strongly objected to the artificial imposition of any doctrinal system on to the text, and even though a sermon should not be turned into a doctrinal lecture, or be overloaded with theological terminology, nevertheless the expositor should know his doctrine, and be able to open up his text in the light of the more general truths and principles revealed by God. An individual text is to be expounded in the light of the analogy of faith, ‘i.e., in terms of the broad framework of doctrinal truth which the Bible embodies.’ Simeon’s sermons abound in formulations of the great doctrines of the Christian faith - God, creation, sin, the plan of salvation, atonement, the church, and so on.

4. The expository sermon must have evangelical content. It will set forth the gospel as both a revelation and a remedy. In continually seeking to cast light on the twin themes of sin and grace expository preaching will seek to humble the sinner, exalt Christ, and promote holiness. For Simeon, as for Paul, Christ crucified was the sum and substance of the message. ‘The preacher is not handling his texts biblically, Simeon would say, unless he is seeing and setting them in their proper relation to Christ. If the expositor finds himself out of sight of Calvary, that shows that he has lost his way.’

5. The expository sermon must have a theocentric perspective. The real subject of Scripture is not man and his religion, but God and his glory. We tend to preach about man - his needs, problems and responsibilities. Consequently, our thoughts of God are small and sentimental. But Simeon would tell us that we cannot hope for God to honour our preaching unless we honour him by giving him his rightful place.

Let the preacher conscientiously observe these five things in his preparation. And let him be in earnest about the need to glorify God and seek his grace. This earnestness will come, not from correct methodology, but from the preacher’s walk with his God. As Donald Coggan wrote of Simeon:-

“The quality of his preaching was but a reflection of the quality of the man himself. And there can be little doubt that the man himself was largely made in the early morning hours which he devoted to private prayer and the devotional study of the Scriptures. It was his custom to rise at 4 a.m., light his own fire, and then devote the first four hours of the day to communion with God. Such costly self-discipline made the preacher. That was primary. The making of the sermon was secondary and derivative.”
from JEMblog
Charles Simeon (1759-1836)


Charles Simeon was born on September 24, 1759. He attended school at Eton and enrolled at King's College, Cambridge, in 1779. Although baptized as an infant, his family was not particularly religious and neither was Charles, until an experience during his first few months at university.

All Cambridge students were required to receive communion at least three times each year during their time in university. After arriving at Cambridge, in January, and learning of this requirement, Simeon wrote in his diary:

"Satan himself was as fit to attend as I; and that if I must attend, [and to receive Holy Communion] I must prepare for my attendance there. Without a moment�s loss of time, I bought the old Whole Duty of Man, (the only religious book that I had ever heard of) and began to read it with great diligence; at the same time calling my ways to remembrance, and crying to God for mercy; and so earnest was I in these exercises, that within the three weeks I made myself quite ill with reading, fasting, and prayer�" (Memoirs, p.6)
Although Simeon made his January Communion, he continued to feel he was unworthy. He reflected, concerning his former sins, that he was "so greatly oppressed with the weight of them, that I frequently looked upon the dogs with envy." He found he had so many sins, that he despaired of ever fully making restitution for them.

During Holy Week, Simeon was reading "Bishop Wilson's" book, which was speaking of the Jewish sacrifices in the Old Testament, and of the sacrifice whereby the sins of the people were laid upon the head of the goat (scapegoat) that was brought as an offering. Simeon experienced a revelation:

"What! may I transfer all my guilt to another? From that moment on I sought to lay my sins on the sacred head of Jesus, and on the Wednesday began to have a hope of mercy; and on the Thursday that hope increased; and on Friday and Saturday it became more strong; and on the Sunday (Easter Day, April 4, 1779) I awoke early with those words upon my heart and lips, �Jesus Christ is risen to-day; Hallelujah! Hallelujah! From that hour peace flowed in rich abundance into my soul; and at the Lord�s Table in our chapel I had the sweetest access to God through my blessed Saviour." (Memoirs, p.9)
The 1770s were difficult time to be an evangelical Christian in a university. The Anglican Church was in the midst of dealing with the new Methodist movement. The universities were, simultaneously, bastions of the established Church of England and seedbeds of Enlightenment rationalism, neither of which made them sympathetic to religious fervor. A few years before Simeon's arrival at Cambridge, a group of students at Oxford had met on Sunday evenings for extemporaneous prayer and mutual encouragement. When a professor complained of "certain Enthusiasts in that Society, who talked of regeneration, inspiration, and drawing nigh unto God," the students were expelled.

Simeon recalls in his memoirs that after his conversion, "for 3 years I knew not any religious person [at the university]." Despite the difficulty, Simeon believed he was called to ordained ministry, and he was ordained shortly after graduation by the Bishop of Petersborough.

At this point something happened that would affect the remainder of Simeon's life: The vicar of Trinity Church, Cambridge, died in October, 1782, just as Charles Simeon, now a graduate, was preparing to leave Cambridge. Simeon had often walked by the church and said to himself, 'How should I rejoice if God were to give me that church, that I might preach the Gospel there and be a herald for Him in the University.' His dream came true when the Bishop appointed him 'curate-in-charge' (being only ordained a deacon at the time). He preached his first sermon there on 10th November 1782.

The lonliness as a Christian that Simeon experienced as a college student was replaced by the active opposition of his new parisioners. The congregation did not care for Simeon's biblical preaching and would have preferred the assistant, Mr. Hammond, to become rector of the parish. They showed their displeasure toward Simeon by not attending and locking the small doors of their pews (which most churches had at the time). At times, they even locked the doors of the church to prevent Simeon from holding additional services. Simeon persevered, however, and remained rector of the parish for 54 years, gradually winning over his parishioners and making a great impact that reached well beyond Cambridge.

In April, 1831, Charles Simeon was 71 years old. He had been the rector of Trinity Church, Cambridge, England, for 49 years. He was asked one afternoon by his friend, Joseph Gurney, how he had surmounted persecution and outlasted all the great prejudice against him in his 49-year ministry. He said to Gurney, "My dear brother, we must not mind a little suffering for Christ's sake. When I am getting through a hedge, if my head and shoulders are safely through, I can bear the pricking of my legs. Let us rejoice in the remembrance that our holy Head has surmounted all His suffering and triumphed over death. Let us follow Him patiently; we shall soon be partakers of His victory" (H.C.G. Moule, Charles Simeon, London: InterVarsity, 1948, 155f.).

Author and pastor John Piper, relates the following incident from Simeon's life:

In 1807, after twenty-five years of ministry, Simeon's health failed suddenly. His voice gave way so that preaching was very difficult and at times he could only speak in a whisper. He remarked that after a sermon he would feel "more like one dead than alive." This condition lasted for thirteen years, until he was sixty years old. In all this time Simeon pressed on in his work. The way this weakness came to an end is remarkable and shows the amazing hand of God on Simeon's life. He tells the story that in 1819 he was on his last visit to Scotland. As he crossed the border he says he was "almost as perceptibly revived in strength as the woman was after she had touched the hem of our Lord's garment." His interpretation of God's providence in this begins back before his weakness. Up till then he had promised himself a very active life up to age sixty, and then a 'Sabbath evening.' Now he seemed to hear his Master saying:
I laid you aside, because you entertained with satisfaction the thought of resting from your labour; but now you have arrived at the very period when you had promised yourself that satisfaction, and have determined instead to spend your strength for me to the latest hour of your life, I have doubled, trebled, quadrupled your strength, that you may execute your desire on a more extended plan.
So, at sixty years old, Simeon renewed his commitment to his pulpit and the mission of the church and preached vigorously for seventeen more years until two months before his death on November 12, 1836.
Simeon's is best known as a great Bible expositor, and example revitalized preaching in the Church of England and set a standard for generations down to the present day. His magnum opus is his twenty-one volume Horae Homiletica— a collection of expanded, sermon outlines from all sixty-six books of the Bible.

Among the many people influenced by Simeon was the Evangelical leader, Henry Martyn (1781-1812), who, inspired by Simeon, abandoned his intention of going into law and instead devoted his life and his considerable talents to preaching the Gospel as a missionary in India and Persia. The great British statesman William Wilberforce (1759 - 1833), also influenced by Simeon, became the most prominent figure in the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire.

Another part of Simeon's legacy is the founding of the Church Missionary Society in England, and the University and College Christian Fellowship, which, in turn, led to the founding of the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship in the United States and Canada, and the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, with branches in many countries. Though he was a faithful pastor and preacher who spent his whole ministry in one parish in Cambridge, England, his influence extended throughout the Anglican and Evangelical Christian world.
from The Anglican Library

Charles Simeon on preaching

Charles Simeon in the preface to Horae Homileticae wrote that three questions should be asked of a prepared sermon: “Does it uniformly tend TO HUMBLE THE SINNER? TO EXALT THE SAVIOUR? TO PROMOTE HOLINESS? If in any one instance it loses sight of any of these points, let it be condemned without mercy”
Thanks to Andrew Groves for this timely reminder.

Perry Mason

My wife and I are enjoying watching the first series of Perry Mason. We like the corny 50s ambience, the corny plots and the fact that the series always features the same few characters, who quickly become familiar. When there is nothing worth watching on TV, we slip in a dvd and have a smile. One thing that puzzles us is that Perry Mason and co appear to be, like Inspector Gadget, always on dooty.

People call him up, often late at night and find him working in his office. But tonight, on the 4th of the dvds, we finally find him asleep and later in the episode, he wakes up his private investigator assistant, Paul Drake.

Every other time, they have all been at work late into the night and available every time someone calls them.

I guess that lawyers, secretaries, policeman and district attorneys would have chuckled at this wonderful 24 hour service.

Another thing that strikes me is that many of the roads they travel on look quite rough. I wonder if this was because they wanted to make them look like they were in out-of-the-way locations, or if the roads really were as poor, back in the 50s. They look similar on the old 50s episodes of Superman, too.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Big Chart

If you have 20 minutes, I think The Big Chart is worth your time.

It is amusing and thought-provoking.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Reformation Polka

This Reformation Polka is a pretty good summary of events in the life of Luther and a reminder of our Protestant heritage.

Running from your problems?

Gordon Cheng linked to this amazing story about Dean Karnazes, a mad marathon runner.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

How many books in the Bible?

Protestants and Roman Catholics share the whole of the New Testament and 39 books of the Old Testament, though Esther and Daniel have a few additions in the Roman Catholic Bible, and their Bible includes 6 extra books
and First and Second Maccabees

The Catholic Encyclopedia says that they have 45 books in the Old Testament and 27 in the New, making a total of 72 books.

Protestants will tell you that we have 66 books in our Bibles: the same 27 in our New Testaments and 39 in our Old Testament.
But several of these books should really be grouped together. Exodus-Numbers is really one continuous narrative, Samuel-Kings is really one book [and divided in illogical places in our Bibles], Chronicles is also one book, as are Ezra and Nehemiah. So our Old Testament is really a collection of 31 books. The Books of the Bible: a presentation of Today's New International Version also joins Chronicles with Ezra-Nehemiah, but this is not done in the Tenach [the Jewish Old Testament].

There is also one modification to make in the New Testament, because Luke-Acts is really one work in two volumes, thus reducing the New Testament to 26 books, giving us a total of 57 books in a Protestant Bible.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Is Richard Dawkins still evolving?

This is a most interesting article in The Spectator by Melanie Phillips. Richard Dawkins makes some telling admissions in his most recent debate.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Great Aussie blogs

There are some fabulous Australian blogs that have been very helpful to me. Jean Williams' one, to which I have linked, is called in all honesty and helps me to get some insight into a woman's point of view, and also has terrific thoughts on living as a Christian and also about teaching aspects of Christian truth.
I guess most of Jean's readers are sheilas, but I reckon the blokes are missing out if they don't read and consider what she has to say.

Five ways to pray the Psalms

Another helpful article on prayer by Ben Patterson, in Christianity Today.His five points?
1. Say them out loud.
2. Festoon them, as you would a Christmas tree. Add your prayers to them.
3. Paraphrase them.
4. Learn them by heart. Come to understand them so well you can recite them — by inflection and tone — as though you had written them yourself. This is by far the best way I know to learn to pray the Psalms. I can think of no more powerful way to allow the Word of God to change who you are and how you think. Over the years, the prayers of the Psalms have offered incomparable comfort and clarity in desperate, murky, and confusing situations, when I didn't have a worthwhile word of my own to say—when I quite literally didn't have a prayer.
5. Marinate in them. Some people use the Bible like they use spice to liven up the taste of food—a little Tabasco here, some salt and pepper and oregano there; a particular psalm to read when you are (check one) sad or glad or afraid or lonely or struggling with doubt. But it's better to use the Psalms as you would a marinade. A spice touches only the surface of the food; a marinade changes its character. The soul should marinate in Scripture by repeated, thoughtful, slow, comprehensive, and Spirit-enlightened reading.

Learning to pray

Our Bible study group has begun to study Prayer, using passages in the Bible about praying, talks by Phillip Jensen and a Matthias Media booklet called Bold I Approach.
Jensen's first talk on Psalm 115 was very helpful.

I also appreciate what I have read in the linked article from Christianity Today. Here is a little of what the author, Ben Patterson had to say
... prayer is more than a means to get God to give us what we want. It is a means he uses to teach us to want what he wants. Holy Scripture in general, and the Psalms in particular, teach us who God is and what he wants to give.

When the members of his synagogue complained that the words of the liturgy did not express what they felt, Abraham Heschel, the great philosopher of religion, replied wisely and very biblically. He told them that the liturgy wasn't supposed to express what they felt; they were supposed to feel what the liturgy expressed. To be taught by the Bible to pray is to learn to want and feel what the Bible expresses.

Those who practice this kind of prayer over time make a surprising discovery: As they learn to feel what the Psalms express, their hearts and desires are enlarged. They find that what they once regarded as strong desires were actually weak, puerile little wishes, debased inklings of what is good. Of course! Would not the God who made us in his own image understand better than we ever could what we really need? And shouldn't we ask him for it? As C. S. Lewis put it in "The Weight of Glory":

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

We are part of the church nearest to our house ...

I love this cartoon and love the important exceptions for why we cross town to go to church.

Learning grammar

It has been reported that the teaching of grammar in English lessons is back on the agenda in Australian schools.
In the 60s, we were taught grammar in primary school by some teachers, and by a few in high school, but not all.
I found it much easier to understand when I studied French in high school and later Hebrew and Greek in theological college.
It was much easier to come to grips with when I had another language to compare and contrast English grammar with.
But I understand that more and more languages are being taught to fewer students these days.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

End of one project, beginning of a new

Yesterday I completed my project of reading through the Bible in the innovative The Books of the Bible - a presentation of Today's New International Version, which is a Bible without chapters, verses or headings, organised more logically than the standard form in which Protestant Bibles are printed.

I found the introductions to books very helpful, and the lack of references and footnotes enticing, and completed this project faster than my previous read-throughs.

I've now begun reading The New Jerusalem Bible using a plan called Read the Bible and the Catechism in a Year, which I got from Felix Just's Ways of Reading the Bible webpage.

As always, I am adapting the chart to my own purposes. I'm not planning to read the catechism at this stage, but may do so later. This morning I read the first chapters of Genesis, Matthew, Proverbs and Tobit, as well as reading two Psalms and 1 Thessalonians.

One thing I've noticed so far is that God has three different names in the first four chapters of Genesis. In Genesis 1 he is God, Genesis 2 and 3 he is Yahweh God and in Genesis 4 he is Yahweh.

I also noticed that the NJB translates wrath as retribution.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Origin of Prayer of St Francis?

Belle prière à faire pendant la messe
Seigneur, faites de moi un instrument de votre paix.
Là où il y a de la haine, que je mette l'amour.
Là où il y a l'offense, que je mette le pardon.
Là où il y a la discorde, que je mette l'union.
Là où il y a l'erreur, que je mette la vérité.
Là où il y a le doute, que je mette la foi.
Là où il y a le désespoir, que je mette l'espérance.
Là où il y a les ténèbres, que je mette votre lumière.
Là où il y a la tristesse, que je mette la joie.

Ô Maître, que je ne cherche pas tant à être consolé qu'à consoler, à être compris qu'à comprendre, à être aimé qu'à aimer, car c'est en donnant qu'on reçoit, c'est en s'oubliant qu'on trouve, c'est en pardonnant qu'on est pardonné, c'est en mourant qu'on ressuscite à l'éternelle vie.

First attributed falsely to St Francis in 1927 by French Protestants, it may well be a Twentieth Century creation, though some blame William the Norman for it.
I like it, but some friends tell me it is dodgy theology.
This site gives you the good oil on its origins.

I reckon if you base all of your theology on it, you're in trouble, but if you squeeze it back into biblical theology, it certainly reminds us to think of others before ourselves, which Jesus taught us to do. You need to look elsewhere [like the Bible] for your Christology and soteriology, etc.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

What Does It MeanTo Deny Yourself?

Michael Mckinley cites John Stott's perceptive words in The Cross of Christ, regarding Jesus' statement in Mark 8:34:
To deny ourselves is to behave towards ourselves as Peter did towards Jesus when he denied him three times. The verb is the same (aparneomai). He disowned him, repudiated him, turned his back on him. Self-denial is not denying to ourselves luxuries such as chocolates, cakes, cigarettes and cocktails (although it might include this); it is actually denying or disowning ourselves, renouncing our supposed right to go our own way. ‘To deny oneself is… to turn from the idolatry of self-centeredness.’

Then Mark posted these words by Bonhoeffer:
The disciple must say to himself the same words Peter said of Christ when he denied him: “I know not this man.”

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Photos of Bible Lands Places

Have you seen Craig Koester's terrific Cities of Revelation pages?

Well worth a visit, as is The latter is a site aiming to get you to purchase what looks to be a great CD ROM, but there's stacks of great stuff to view at the site free of charge

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Phillip on Mark

Phillip Jensen has made some very sensible and helpful comments on Mark Driscoll's ministry:
Mark Driscoll
Posted by Phillip Jensen on Sep 26 2008 at 2:20 PM
From The Dean >>
Recently Sydney has had the pleasure of hearing an American preacher, Pastor Mark Driscoll. In a two-week period he spoke in many venues, including the Cathedral.

In the Cathedral he twice addressed a packed gathering of Christian workers. His second address was a challenge to our evangelistic ministry of the gospel in this city. He lovingly told us of eighteen problems that he saw we had. It was an address that has caused some considerable discussion amongst Sydney's evangelical community.

Since that address I have been approached by many people wanting my opinion on Mark Driscoll and in particular on his critique of Sydney's evangelism. As one of those who invited Mark to speak to us, I am keen to keep the conversation going and to ride the enthusiasm that he has engendered amongst the next generation of Christian leaders.

I hope to look at the eighteen points in subsequent articles but before doing that I think it is important to make some general observations about listening to criticism.

Mark Driscoll is a fine Christian man, gifted and blessed by God to undertake a great ministry in his home city, Seattle. He loves the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour and Lord. He upholds the great Reformation doctrines of grace and seeks to teach the Bible as he reaches the lost with the Gospel. His gifts in oratory and communication are enormous. He is a great evangelist: able to communicate with his generation, making the gospel clear and its claims compelling.

His address to us in the Cathedral was more that of a prophetic preacher than an expositor of the Bible. He spoke as a Christian friend about the problems he sees we have. As such, it is important that we weigh what he says (1 Corinthians 14:29).

There are three obvious mistakes that we can make concerning such a message and messenger.

The first mistake is that of reactionary defensiveness. He was hard-hitting and critical. He said things that can make us feel very uncomfortable. He said them with force and vigour. He was calling upon us to change our ways. All of this can create defensiveness within us. We want to argue with him and explain ourselves.

There are many ways that we can defend ourselves. We can find fault with his manner or his choice of words. We can look for holes in the logic or point out the minor errors of fact especially about Sydney. We can qualify what he has said to the point where we have domesticated his main points. Or we can complain about what he failed to address (e.g. some find fault in his attack on young men because he did not speak to young women - as if he was supposed to say everything).

Some people are unhappy with his rhetorical use of hyperbole, generalisations, stark contrasts, lack of nuanced discussion - but in all this he is not dissimilar to Jesus' preaching. He is a man who confronted us with hard questions - we must be very wary of our own defensiveness.

The second mistake is to become a sycophantic follower. Mark is a remarkable man with many clear and great insights but he is not the only one, nor is he always right about everything, nor would he want people to follow him instead of Jesus.

The prophet is without honour in his own country but has great honour overseas. It is humorous to hear of the respect that our preachers have overseas, and the honour that overseas speakers have in Australia.

We have had many compelling preachers come through our city over the years. Each arouses a new generation of enthusiastic followers. Over time we get used to the arrivals and departures of the John Stott, Dick Lucas, Billy Graham, Bill Hybells and Rick Warren. We have been blessed over the years by books and tapes from Francis Schaeffer, Tim Keller and John Piper. America is full of great preachers and leaders who influence Australian Christianity. Mark is not the only voice to listen to and learn from. It is immature to think that any single person is the answer to all our problems.

Mark Driscoll's challenge to us is timely and helpful. But his criticisms may be more helpful than his solutions. The gulf in church life between a denominational church in Sydney and an independent church in Seattle is quite enormous. Our theological perspective on church and ministry is also quite different.

This is not to say we have nothing to learn from him or that we should not change what we are doing in the light of his challenge. But just as defensiveness is wrong, so is slavish sycophancy.

The third error is to do nothing.

It is manifest that if we are going to reach our community we must change. Mark has challenged us to change and I believe he is right. Much of what he said is already in the Diocesan Mission statements. But having them in mission statements and putting them into practice are two different things.

I was glad to host Mark speaking to us because he is challenging us to change in the very direction that we want to change. But it is all too possible to spend time weighing what he said rather than doing anything about it. He has caused a real movement in the camp - it is important that we capitalise on his visit and bring in change.

Those who are defensive will oppose any change. Those who are sycophantic will wait till Mark returns to tell us what to do. Both errors we have to avoid. If Mark never returns it will be a shame and our loss. But it will be an irrelevance to his message - for his challenge to us was to get moving, to take initiative, not to wait around to be told what to do next.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Iemma's bravery

I know Morris Iemma was the man everybody loved to hate, but he had an incredibly tough job, one he hadn't sought, and bravely held on through immense difficulties.

I admire his tenacity.

And his challenge today showed that he knew when to assert his leadership or quit, I think.

Reading through "The Books of the Bible"

I'm now about 70% of the way through The Books of the Bible: a presentation of Today's New International Version which is not the snappiest title for a Bible, is it?

I'm finding it easier and more motivating than my other read-throughs, in other versions and formats, thus far.

It is interesting to read something from the First Testament History, something from the Prophets, something from the Writings and something from the New Testament each day, as I've been attempting to do.

This Bible version omits chapters, verses and headings, but does use spacing helpfully. It is intended to be more-or-less chronological, and so the Prophets are grouped by century of writing, mostly, and Paul's letters are also presented in one possible chronological order.

When you read a few pages from several different parts of the Bible each day interesting connections appear. Reading through Jeremiah and Psalms, for example shows how much of what Jeremiah wrote harmonises beautifully with the concerns of the various psalmists.

And reading Jeremiah through for the sixth or seventh time now is beginning to open up that great book for me. It may be one of the hardest Bible books to read, especially if you haven't engaged with the Bible's teaching about God's holiness, wrath and justice.

But when you embrace these, God's love, grace, forgiveness and mercy are all the sweeter.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Baptism according to an Anglican

A good book is a baptism, a soaking, a swim. You immerse yourself in the mind of a writer, listening to his story or following his argument, and emerge out the other side dripping.

Well, actually, Tony was writing about books, in the latest issue of The Briefing, but I love his choice of illustration.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Name Voyager

This Baby Name Wizard, which tracks names from 1880 till the present, though unfortunately only in the US, is a lot of fun.

Is your name one of the top thousand? Would you feel luckier if it weren't or if it were?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Why not every scientist worships at Darwin's feet

This is an excellent piece in today's SMH.

The writer is John Lennox, who is a visiting scholar of The Centre for Public Christianity.

I thought his last three paragraphs were particularly good:
One scientist views images captured by the Hubble telescope of the unimaginably large scale of the universe and remains convinced of the random nature of a godless existence. Another stares through a scanning tunnelling microscope at the unimaginably small and complex entities of molecular biology and feels compelled to worship the creator. It isn't the science itself that is definitive for the question of the divine.

The late evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould wrote that science simply cannot "adjudicate the issue of God's possible superintendence of nature". For Gould, it was a mistake to apply scientific principles to questions of metaphysics.

In 2009, when the champagne is uncorked in celebration of Darwin's legacy, we might pause to consider the presuppositions we bring to the question of what his theory tells us about God. There are essentially only two options. Either the wonder of human intelligence ultimately owes its origin to mindless matter; or there is a creator. It remains a mystery to me why some people claim it is their intelligence that leads them to prefer the first to the second.

I also thought this was worth reporting:
Scattered among the world's top scientists are those who do believe in a conscious intention behind nature's processes. I think of people such as Francis Collins, director of the Human Genome Project, and Professor Bill Phillips, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1997.

Indeed, the fact that there are brilliant scientists who believe in God and brilliant scientists who don't makes it clear that the conflict is not a simplistic one between science and religion, but between opposing world views - naturalism and theism.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Tricked again

If you take a look at the link, you will note that the blogservant is Cathy McKay. I got there, via an interesting post she wrote at The Sola Panel, which is a ministry of Matthias Media.

Now my daughter Cathy has been married to Philip Krimmer for nine years, but I still get tricked by the fact that she came into the world as a McKay. So when I recently gave her a gift, guess who I wrote the cheque out to? And when I saw a post by Cathy McKay at The Sola Panel, you will know who I thought wrote it.

But I'm glad this got me thinking, because it also prompted me to look at Cathy's blog, which she calls The Best Book Co-op.

There's lots of great stuff there, but I especially like her lovely comments about her husband. How's this for a birthday greeting:
God has given me the best man in the world to be my husband.

Some years ago my Cathy told me that in one place she worked, the women spent all day running their husbands down, so it is great to see one who thinks God gave her a great deal.

But I also really like the other Cathy's comments on motherhood:
I am trying to remember that being a mum is the most significant evangelistic and discipleship enterprise that I will ever be involved in. There are no other common 'one on one' gospel opportunities that I can think of, that are so intense (every waking hour) for so long (years on end). Motherhood is a tremendous missionary responsibility. And it is a wonderful one!

Imagine what great things would happen in the world if other Christians had this attitude to the person they're married to and the children God has given them!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Young Christians slightly worse than young non-Christians?

In his book, Forbidden Fruit: Sex & Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers, sociology professor Mark Regnerus says evangelical teens are slightly more sexually active than their non-evangelical peers. Non-evangelical teens have sex for the first time at age 16.7, versus 16.3 for evangelicals. Worse, 13.7 percent of evangelical teens have had three or more sex partners, versus 8.9 percent of their non-evangelical peers.

World Magazine reports 80 percent of U.S. teens claiming to be born-again agree that sex outside of marriage is morally wrong, yet 66 percent violate their own beliefs. "Evangelical teens don't have sex less than their non-evangelical friends; they just feel guiltier about it." He credits the clash of cultures in the evangelical youth experience: urged to drink deeply from the waters of American individualism and its self-focused pleasure ethic, yet asked to value time-honored religious traditions like family and chastity. "Who can serve two masters? Teens need a pure community of true believers who teach the truth about sex, including its beauty in marriage." (OneNewsNow 3/29/08, via Church Leaders Intelligence Report)

Monday, July 28, 2008

My letter from John Howard

It was an unexpected pleasure to receive a letter today from the previous prime minister of Australia, John Howard.

When you write to politicians they often seem more interested in replying when an election is looming, but on this occasion there was no political gain to be made by replying to my letter thanking him for his service to Australia as our prime minister.

I'm not a Liberal voter, and I'm pleased that the Labor Party finally took over, but I also acknowledge that Mr Howard did plenty of good things while he was in office.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Reading Calvin's Institutes

Jim Beale, of the
so many books
so little time
T shirt and I have set up a Yahoo group for people who want to read and discuss John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. This has been prompted by the fact that next year is the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

I'm hoping to complete the project by the end of next year. I am guessing that it may be harder to keep at this task than it has been to read through the Bible and I'm hoping that doing this together in a group will help me to persevere.

So far I have read a mere 4 chapters, and have discovered that the puzzling title [to me, anyway] can mean
a digest of the elements of a subject, especially jurisprudence
but also that the original title was singular and probably means
Instruction in the Christian Religion.

The opening of the book reminds me very much of the second half of Romans chapter one. So Calvin seems to begin explaining the gospel where Paul began, by telling us that everyone knows there is a God and that everyone suppresses and distorts this knowledge, without God's gracious intervention.

Monday, July 14, 2008

My Bible journey, over 50 years

I was brought up on the King James Version, and quite a few verses and many passages are permanently in my head from that version.

In 1965, when I turned 13, my mother gave me a copy of Living Letters, which was the first instalment of The Living Bible. It had a profound effect on me, because I began to understand things I had not grapsed in the 17th Century English of the KJV. I was pretty angry after reading Romans 9, and it took many years before I embraced God's sovereignty, so clearly taught there.

In 1972 my brother Malcolm gave me a copy of the full Living Bible, with which I had a love/hate relationship. It seemed very loose in places, but it also made the Bible clearer and put it into the language we speak.

In 1973, we were given a white, unadorned wedding edition of the Revised Standard Version.

Over the years I have enjoyed many Bibles, and had the opportunity to study biblical languages for four years while training for the Christian ministry [in which I lasted a whole two and a half years].

In 2005, a member of our church encouraged us to read through the New Testament, which I did using my new TNIV. This spurred me on to also read the Old Testament in that version, and then to read through the Bible in a variety of translations.

Over the past four years I have read the whole Bible through using
The NIV Archaeological Study Bible
The ESV Reformation Study Bible
The New Living Translation, second edition [which is a significant improvement over the first edition, which was a great upgrade of The Living Bible]
The Good News Bible, Australian Edition

I'm now reading through The Books of the Bible, a presentation of Today's New International Version, which gets rid of verses, chapters, headings and footnotes [they have been converted into endnotes, which I'm not bothering to consult], but does use spacing to enhance readability. It also rearranges the books into a more logical and chronological order.

Reading each of these Bibles has been a great blessing and I have learnt much more reading the Bible through than I've ever learnt from commentaries and Bible dictionaries, helpful as they are.

I have found Michael Coley's chart for reading through the Bible very helpful, though I always adapt it to my own needs.

I have the TNIV as my base Bible, but also have the KJV, the NLT [both editions] and the ESV on my Palm Zire 22 and find each of them helpful

Sunday, July 13, 2008

How life goes on when you strike it rich

My Career, in Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald, has an interesting article by Anne Fawcett, which is unfortunately not on line.

The teaser on the cover of the careers liftout reads
Dream ticket
How life goes on when you strike it rich

Inside, it is headed
Life after lotto

The article would be worth reading for anyone who wants to think through the good points about work. Great illustrative sermon material, I think.

It includes discussion with John Vineburg, communications manager for NSW lotteries, who points out that while the lottery is sometimes advertised with pictures of people saying goodbye to the boss, most big winners choose to keep working.

I remember some years back that a Lebanese family won a huge sum in a lottery and decided that they enjoyed their life of getting up early, and working till all hours in their kebab shop. So they gave all of the money to charity and continued in the life that they loved.

Vineburg says that the majority of winners continue in the same job and the same house, but may buy a nicer car and do a bit more travel than others may be able to.

One person who won 4.3 million dollars in Lotto invested some of his winnings in the factory he worked in, in order to keep the business afloat. He shouted his co-workers secure jobs for Christmas.

One winner who had retired early after pocketing a million dollars returned to work within twelve months out of sheer boredom.

Professor Robert Pryor, director of the Vocational Capacity Centre cited these benefits of work:
Social contact which often leads to lifelong friendships
Physical and mental stimulation
It gives you an identity. People tend to identify us by the kind of work we do.
Structured time
Goals beyond yourself. Work gives you a purpose and makes you focus on something beyond yourself.

Psychologist Joanne Earl made this interesting point [not her exact words]
If you are still years away from retirement and find yourself whingeing about work, you could benefit from pretending you have won ten million dollars and then deciding how you would live if you had all that money.

Instead of thinking about spending it, think about what gives you most satisfaction in the work you do. This might lead you to switch jobs or keep right on doing what you’ve been doing ... with less whingeing.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Two Phases of the Christian Life

Dan Phillips short, pithy post is worth pondering. The comments are also helpful, including Dan's own explanation of what he wrote.
Stage One: Lots of fire, not much wood.

Stage Two: Lots of wood, not much fire.
Note: descriptive, not prescriptive.


Olan Strickland made this comment:
DJP: Stage One: Lots of fire, not much wood.
Head over hills in love with the Lord but not very deep theologically.

DJP: Stage Two: Lots of wood, not much fire.
Able to discern between good and evil, between true ministers and false ministers, but fallen from first love.

Kinda like the church at Ephesus in the second chapter of Revelation.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Honouring God in Grey Areas

This is another helpful article from Pulpit Magazine. Many of these articles are written by John MacArthur, as is the one I’m including below.
If the issue you are wondering about is not specifically addressed in the Bible, then it’s helpful to ask these questions from 1 Corinthians to help you in deciding what to do. Asking these questions (and others like them) will help you make a wise decision based on sound biblical principles.

1. Will it benefit me spiritually? First Corinthians 10:23 says, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify.”

2. Will it put me in bondage? First Corinthians 6:12 says, “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” Any questionable practice that can be habit‑forming is not wise to pursue.

3. Will it defile God’s temple? First Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” We should not do anything with our bodies that would dishonor the Lord.

4. Will it cause others to stumble? First Corinthians 8:8‑9 says, “Food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. But take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” One should refrain from using his freedom in an area which might cause others to sin. For “by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore,” Paul said, “if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, that I might not cause my brother to stumble.”

5. Will it help the cause of evangelism? First Corinthians 10:32-33 says, “Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved.” We must think of the effect any practice might have on our testimony to the lost.

6. Will it violate my conscience? First Corinthians 10:25‑29 contains three references to abstaining from a certain practice “for conscience’ sake.” And Romans 14:23 says, “He who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin.” If we are not sure whether an action is pleasing to God, we should not do it. That way our conscience will remain clear and our relationship to God will not be hindered.

7. Will it bring glory to God? First Corinthians 10:31 summarizes all these principles by saying, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Prayer and might-not-have-beens

Dan Phillips has posted at least two very helpful posts on prayer. The one linked to above, and What prayer is and isn't.

In What Prayer is and isn't, Dan makes the point that prayer is talking to God and that it is not a conversation. He shows this very clearly from the Scriptures.

The article linked to above is all good stuff, but particularly worth taking away is his 4 point conclusion:
1. God gives believers' prayers a significant place in His plans.
2. We should never downplay the importance of approaching God in prayer, Biblically understood.
3. It is the height of folly to let circumstance or human reasoning discourage us from bringing our petitions to God. In other words...
4. Let God say "No, I have a better plan," rather than, "Since you did not ask (James 4:2b)...."

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Wounds of a Friend

These two articles from Christianity Today are well written and fairly present the issues in the discussion over the roles of men and women, I think. In each one, the writer critiques those from their own camp, which may be why the cases are presented more exactly thqan is sometimes the case. Sarah Sumner argues that Egalitarians should rely more on careful exegesis and less on political ideologies, while John Koessler says that Complementarians need to recover a fully biblical view of women — and of handling theological disagreement.

Oh for more discussion such as is found in these two opinion pieces.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Jesus and Buddha on happiness

Another great post from the Desiring God blog.
I've always liked Buddha's order at the hot dog stand
Make me one with everything
But seriously, Jesus has so much more to offer. Is it free, or does it cost everything you've got?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

And not a Bruce to be found

I finished reading through the Australian edition of the Good News Bible this morning. I had previously heard that all the disciples are called Bruce in this edition, but can't say I met any in the 1189 chapters.

My edition is a cheap version I bought in the 1990s. I hope later ones are better edited, because I found several errors as I read through. Mostly these were words accidentally joined together or separated.

The Good News Bible is easy to read and was worth going through. I've enjoyed each of these versions I have read through:

The TNIV Bible
The NIV Archaeological Study Bible
The ESV Reformation Study Bible
The New Living Translation, second edition
and now
The Good News Bible, Australian edition

Reading through Revelation yesterday and today was a great joy, as it always is. Reading it in large chunks over a short period of time is so much better than getting bogged down in the blood as high as horses bridles, or spending too much time on one of the many symbols, before you have surveyed the whole book. Thinking about the individual parts is certainly valuable, but only in the context of the whole book, read within the context of the whole Bible.

Future projects?
As God gives me strength I hope to read through The Books of the Bible: a presentation of Today's New International Version and also the New Jerusalem Bible [including, shock! horror!, the apocryphal books].

Monday, June 16, 2008

Tips for self-discipline

I'm posting this list from John MacArthur because I need it and hope it will help me to find it again. And I've already started trying it out, and hope to be self-discipined enough to see a difference as time goes by.

Practically speaking, how can a person develop self-discipline in his or her life?

Here are some things that have helped me through the years:

1. Start Small. Start with your room. Clean it, then keep it clean. When something is out of place, train yourself to put it where it belongs. Then extend the discipline of neatness to the rest of your home.

2. Be on time. That may not seem very spiritual, but it’s important. If you’re supposed to be somewhere at a specific time, be there on time. Develop the ability to discipline your desires, activities, and demands so that you can arrive on time.

3. Do the hardest job first. When you do that, you will find it easier to do the simpler tasks.

4. Organize your life. Plan the use of your time; don’t just react to circumstances. Use a calendar and make a daily list of things you need to accomplish. If you don’t control your time, everything else will.

5. Accept correction. Correction helps make you more disciplined because it shows you what you need to avoid. Don’t avoid criticism; accept it gladly.

6. Practice self-denial. Learn to say no to your feelings. Learn to do what you know to be right even if you don’t feel like doing it. Sometimes it’s even beneficial to deny yourself things that are acceptable to have, like a doughnut in the morning or dessert after dinner. Exercising such self-restraint helps you develop the habit of keeping other things under control. Cultivating discipline in the physical realm will help you become disciplined in your spiritual life.

7. Welcome responsibility. When you have an opportunity to do something that needs to be done, volunteer for it if you have talent in that area. Accepting responsibility can force you to organize yourself.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Dad's diary, part two

What I find amazing in reading my Dad's diary is how hard he worked, from the age of 55 until he was 84, and no longer in good health. He did not retire until the age of 65, but he did a huge amount of stuff at home, in addition to all the work for the NSW Dept of Public Works on various dredges, working as a marine engineer.

And every night he would sit down after dinner and read a few verses of his Bible and write his diary. At first I thought that he never missed, but have later discovered the odd entry written post facto, and sometimes crossed out and corrected because he had made a mistake about the particular day something had happened. But in the five diaries we have here, this is very rare.

The diaries also correct misapprehensions of mine, such as my incorrect memory of the day I was baptised. For years I have thought it was 13th February, 1966, and when I looked up that date could not understand why Dad, a good Baptist, did not refer to it. But in reading through, I found that I was in fact baptised on Sunday, 23rd January, but at least it was in 1966.

Dad's diary

In 1964, when I was in sixth class, my brothers and sisters and I gave Dad a five year diary for Christmas. Dad began writing a daily diary at the age of 55 (my age, now) on 1st January, 1965, and kept this up through six diaries, until Tuesday, 15th February, 1994. On Wednesday, 16th February Mum began writing the entries, which began with Dad collapsing at the breakfast table and being taken to hospital by ambulance. The rest of the year is a document of Dad's decline, until on 7th December, 1994 Dad again went to hospital by ambulance, and Mum later wrote on the top of the page
Scot left home for last time!

My wife, Joan and I have been fascinated to read through all of Dad's diaries which we have available to read. My brother Christopher has the fifth diary (1985-89) which I hope we will one day be able to borrow and read through. As children we thought that Dad's entries were awfully boring, because his first entry is quite typical of most of them:
At home. Cleaned under bonnet of car, went to Caves Beach with Mac and children. Friday.
Dad mostly wrote about the weather, what he had done during the day, what he had growing in the garden, his state of health (but only if he was feeling "off" and unable to work)and always made a record of people he had written to or phoned.

But as we read them now, we find them interesting, partly because he reminds us of what happened in our family from 1965 to 1994, and partly because we enjoy it when he breaks his pattern and writes something personal, such as
Wednesday, 18th January, 1967
"Wm J McKell" 7 am-3 pm
Worked on second half of trellis
Note:- David is staying with a friend at Valentine, house quiet