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?