Thursday, November 18, 2010

Authors never wrote their most famous quotes?

Michael Thompson points out in the post linked above that Luther probably never said these beloved words:
If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved. To be steady on all battle fronts besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.

And Voltaire never said:
I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Francis never said:
Preach the gospel. If necessary, use words
and never prayed
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace

And worst of all, Bach never wrote his two most famous minuets in G, nor his lovely musette!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Why study biblical languages?

"We may not be able to retain the gospel without the knowledge of the languages in which it was written. For they are the scabbard in which this sword of the spirit is sheathed.... Indeed, should we overlook all this, and (which God forbid...!) let go our hold on the languages, then we would ... lose the gospel."
- Martin Luther

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

ESV Trusted By Leaders from Crossway on Vimeo.

Somebody said that the blokes in this video missed an opportunity to do a new version of Bohemian Rhapsody!

I find the way the ESV is promoted in this video and the way the ESV is generally promoted to be a little scary.

The video seems to imply that the ESV is so reliable, it is the only version you need.

I really like the ESV and have read it through completely twice, but I don't think that it is so reliable that we don't need the other popular Bible versions also.

It comes close to asking us to put our faith in the ESV version rather than in God and his Word, I think.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel--
This is Galatians 1:6 in NIV2011
It is the most interesting change from the NIV/TNIV which I have seen so far. It is also different from other translations I have available.

Is it an accurate rendering?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

NIV 2011

The new NIV looks good. I think that Douglas Moo and Bill Mounce being on the
committee would have had quite a bit to do with the way it has turned out.


If you already use this site, it may default to your preferred setting, so to
get to the new NIV, you could start here.

NIV 2011 [which will be known simply as NIV] has removed soem of the things that
have bugged people about it, including "sinful nature" for SARX, and now it
mostly has the old-fashioned word "flesh."

It does use inclusive language in some instances [such as frequently rendering
ADELFOI as "brothers and sisters" where the context shows the writer is
referring to men and women, e g Romans 1:13].

It is 95% the same as the 1984 NIV, but has been updated to reflect contemporary
conservative scholarship.

I think it's looking good and hope there won't be as many whinges as there were
about the TNIV.

I assume it is also about 95% the same as the TNIV, but I haven't read any stats
on that yet.

The translators notes, available at Bible Gateway at the above url [and you
should download the whole shebang and not just read the snippet] are very
interesting and worth reading in full.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Envoi, from the 1928 Church of England Prayer Book

Ben Crick, veteran Church of England minister in Birchington, Kent posted this prayer that is said in farewell to those dying. I think it is wonderful.

Go forth upon your journey from this world, Christian soul:
in the name of God the Father almighty who created you;
in the name of Jesus Christ who suffered for you;
in the name of the Holy Spirit who strengthens you:
in communion with the blessed saints,
and aided by angels and archangels, and all the armies of the heavenly host. Amen. May your portion this day be in peace,
and your dwelling in the heavenly Jerusalem. Amen.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Special memories

This article on the Focus on the Family website reminded me of a story my tax agent's wife told me one day.
Do you ever wonder what memories your children will treasure when they become adults? Down the road, you may be surprised by what they recall.

Picture this scene: It is your daughter's 10th birthday. You want to make her party extra special. After all, she has told you every day for the past month that she is finally in the double digits and "no longer a child." You have plotted a surprise birthday party for weeks. You've invited her friends, bought snacks, hung pink and purple streamers, blown up balloons, spent hours meticulously decorating the cake and hired Sparkles the Clown. The guests arrive, and the party is a huge success.

Years later, as the two of you swap your favorite memories, your daughter mentions her 10th birthday. You assume she will rave about the beautiful cake and Sparkles' funny balloon animals, but instead she recalls how much fun it was to ride in the van with you to pick up doughnuts for breakfast. Not only were doughnuts a special treat, but the one-on-one time she had with you was also priceless. You sit dumbfounded and wonder what other simple memories she holds dear that you do not even remember.

We were idly chatting about the drizzling rain one day, when Mrs M told me what she and Mr M used to do when living in a small house with kids getting under their feet on a miserable day. She and Mr M would get them decked out in their wet weather gear, and take them out for a walk in the rain.

Years later the kids told her that these walks were one of the special times of their childhood. What Mr and Mrs M did in desperation was something to treasure!

When Writing About Those With Whom You Disagree

I got this from Ardel Caneday, who got it from Ken Keathley. I think it is something we all need to learn, especially me.

What Are The Best Ways To Engage In A Debate?
1. Describe your opponent's position in such a way that he can recognise it.
2. Know your opponent's position well enough that you could argue it for him.
3. Write as if your opponent and you were going to dinner together after you finish.
Keathley concludes, "Have I followed all three rules in all of my writings? I must confess that I have not. But I want to. And by God’s grace I hope to 'love my neighbor as myself' even when I’m disagreeing with him."

Capetown 2010

Are you taking the opportunity to participate in the Third Congress on
Evangelism and World Mission being held now in Capetown?

For those of us who can't be there, there are podcasts [audio and video, but so
far I have only found vodcasts] available on iTunes and also at Youtube and from
The Capetown 2010 website.

This is the first time that such a worldwide conference can be available to so
many people around the world.

I'm downloading and watching the vodcasts and hoping to interest folk in my
church in doing this also.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pledge to be ON WATCH for Persecuted Christians

Is this something you could commit to?

My eyes are open.

I see that persecution is real.

I acknowledge the basic human right to religious freedom.

I commit to help open the eyes of others.

I am on watch for persecuted Christians.

Friday, July 30, 2010

I went out to find a friend
but could not find one there...

I went out to be a friend

and friends were everywhere!

[unless you've made other arrangements]

Rowland Croucher

Gleason Archer quote on Progressive Revelation

On page 15 of this interesting article on the imprecatory psalms, there is a useful quote from Gleason Archer on Progressive Revelation.
Progressive revelation is ‘not to be thought of as a progress from error to
truth, but rather as a progress from the partial to the obscure to the complete and

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Tough stuff

If you look over on the right, you will see some links in my shared items to articles by Denise Day Spencer. Denise has been through an incredibly hard time as she has watched her beloved husband, Michael, aka The Internet Monk succumb to cancer and die, at the age of 53, just before his first book was published.

Her writings on the subject are helpful because of their frankness and honesty.

 These are things most of us will be confronted with one day. It is sensible to think about them now.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Don’t pay for an over-priced book again

This is another of Steve Kryger's great posts.
I used to be able to send the link to this blog, via Gontroppo's Shared Items, but you will notice that that is a heading with no content.
Dunno why.

Don’t pay for an over-priced book again: "

Recently I wrote ‘Don’t buy another (bad) Christian book‘, with some sites to discover book reviews to avoid wasting money on a disaster. I received some helpful feedback that it can be useful to read ‘outside the camp’ – I try to do this as well, but I don’t want to waste money on something that’s just going to make me angry!

Once you’ve worked out which books you’d like to purchase, here’s a simple 4-step process for finding the cheapest store to purchase your book/s from.

Step 1. Visit Booko.”Booko is a site with a very simple goal – to find the cheapest place to buy books & DVDs in Australia.” My friend Dave put me onto it.

Step 2. Type in the name of the book you’re looking for. In this case, I’m looking for ‘You Can Change’ by Tim Chester.

Step 3. (This isn’t really a step, but more of a stage in the proces!) Booko will now list all the places online where you can purchase a book, and list the prices, in Australian dollars, including delivery:

Step 4. Select the store you would like to purchase from. The Book Depository is a favourite (at least among the Bible college students I’ve spoken to!) because the shipping to Australia (from their stores in the US and UK) is free.

I can purchase the book for $11.92 including delivery. At the time of writing, the same book was $12.95 from Koorong (plus $5.95 for shipping), and $14.95 from Moore Books (I’m unsure about shipping costs/availbility). From $1.03 to $3.03 per book (without any of the costs of travel to and from the bookshop), that’s a significant saving.

Copyright 2010 Steven Kryger.

Post from: Communicate Jesus. Follow Communicate Jesus on Twitter.

Don’t pay for an over-priced book again


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Reconciling Contemporary Science and The Bible

Is it possible to reconcile contemporary science and the Bible?

It seems to me that many Christians today begin with modern scientific presuppositions and then attempt to squeeze the Bible into those presuppositions. But doing so seems to be giving too much away.

Others begin with the Bible and then try to squeeze science into the Scriptures. I think that they then make the Bible to be saying more than it really is.

James Anderson has written a thoughtful review of a book by one of the former, entitled I Love Jesus and I Accept Evolution .

And he gave me the link to this most interesting summation by continuing Presbyterians [PCA] called  Creation Report .

It is well worth reading, though it may not convince many.

Monday, May 31, 2010

current reading projects

I'm continuing to plow through The Contemporary English Version. Today I completed Deuteronomy, and thus The Pentateuch. It is enjoyable to read through such a simple version quickly, having been taking the slow road in the ESV Study Bible for over a year.

At times the CEV is disappointing, because it sometimes takes a rather peculiar line and often it knocks off the edges of the biblical language, in an effort to make it contemporary and comprehensible.

I am also reading through John Sailhamer's The Meaning of the Pentateuch and am pleased to have reached the half-way mark. It is a great book, though longer than it needs to be and very repetitive. But it is a stimulating book to ponder.

And a few days ago I began Robert Culver's Systematic Theology. This is worth reading, but over 1100 pages. I am aiming to read about 20 per day, so that I can get through it in about 4 months. I haven't been good at keeping up such projects previously, though I am on my 9th read-through of Holy Scripture.

Friday, May 28, 2010

New arrival

This is my new granddaughter, Hilary. We now have three sons and a daughter, and three grandsons and a granddaughter.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Theology books

What theological books do you recommend, folks?

I've just purchased Robert Culver's Systematic Theology. I've read bits and pieces of books on theology, but have not read through a whole systematic theology, though I've read a good portion of Wayne Grudem's book.

What I like about Grudem is that his basic outlook seems biblical, but also he writes in a style that is easy to read. For some reason, writers of theology often write in technical language, seemingly of their own invention.

I did read Book One of Calvin's Institutes having intended to read the whole shebang, but ended up foundering in his discussion of the law in Book 2.

Years ago I read Berkhof's Summary of Christian Doctrine and T C Hammond's "In Understanding Be Men." [The very title sounds outmoded now.]

I also read Bruce Milne's "Know the Truth."

The internet can be a trap. I tend to surf and read bits and pieces here and there, and read less of books. But I'm aiming to change that and at the moment I'm wading through John Sailhamer's The Meaning of the Pentateuch. It is well worth reading, but I think the 600 pages could have been compressed to about 300 or maybe even 200. It is extremely repetitive, but what he has to say makes you think about how the Bible was put together, the meaning of the Old Testament and the Pentateuch in particular and many other things.

A Reader's Digest condensed version would be appreciated and could be done without taking away at all from what he says.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Last night I watched a discussion on the SBS Insight program about Scripture in Schools versus the new Ethics classes which are being trialled as an alternative to Special Religious Education [the proper name for Scripture].

Part of the program showed some children in an ethics class talking about why people lie. They were given some interesting scenarios, but nobody admitted to the main reason that I lie. I'm wondering if I'm different from other people, or just an especially bad person.

The children talked about lying so that you wouldn't hurt someone else's feelings.

The main reasons I lie are to get myself out of trouble and because I'm trying to avoid feeling uncomfortable by saying something that another person or myself may find confronting.

Is anybody else like this?

I previously posted an article about lying, in which David Field adapts an article by John Frame.

Unfortunately the article was copied badly and the Bible references went widdershins. I hope to rectify this shortly.

In that article, it was argued that lying is sometimes the lesser of two evils and sometimes necessary.

But in a most interesting article in the ESV Study Bible, it is argued that since the Bible teaches us that God cannot lie, and that Jesus was sinless, we cannot imagine that he ever told a lie.

If Jesus was tempted in every way as we are, yet he didn't sin, it is unthinkable that he would have lied. If this is so, it is not right to argue that it is sometimes acceptable for Christians to lie.

Even if you accept the argument of the Field-Frame article, the reasons we usually lie [I think] are less than noble and it is usually done to save our own skin. [Unless of course I'm a one-off in this area. Some would argue I'm a one-off in many areas...]

Sunday, May 23, 2010

from Michael Kellahan

Upon a life I did not live
Upon a death I did not die
Another's life, another's death
On this I stake my whole eternity
Horatius Bonar

Why Do People Whinge At Work?

In Saturday's My Career [which I read in the Sydney Morning Herald], Marcella Bidinost reminds us that how our work colleagues act upon their feelings can affect our own moods. Even if some people have a spark, it can be washed out if the rest of the group is negative.

One of the most interesting points in the article is about research into why people whinge so much at work.

Bidinost cites resilience expert, Michael Licenblat's observation that
People ultimately want to belong. We often unite in pain, misery and struggle. People create whinge centres to achieve a sense of belonging

But we can also unite around what we do enjoy about the place where we work. Licenblat suggests that
If you notice you're being negative, focus on the things that are working.
If you or others are complaining a lot, introduce a complaint-free phase.
Set a time, even for an hour each day, when you consciously choose not to find fault.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Gospel versus Religion

Tim Keller gives these helpful contrasts between the message of Jesus and religion.
It comes from his new DVD and book gospel in life: Grace Changes Everything


* Religion: “I obey; therefore, I’m accepted.”
* Gospel: “I’m accepted; therefore, I obey.”


* Religion: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity.
* Gospel: Motivation is based on grateful joy.


* Religion: I obey God in order to get things from God.
* Gospel: I obey God to get God – to delight in and resemble him.


* Religion: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or myself, since I believe that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life.

* Gospel: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle, but I know my punishment fell on Jesus and that while God may allow this for my training, he will exercise his Fatherly love within my trial.


* Religion: When I am criticized, I am furious or devastated because it is critical that I think of myself as a “good person.”
Threats to self-image must be destroyed at all costs.

* Gospel: When I am criticized, I struggle, but it is not essential for me to think of myself as a “good person.”
My identity is not built on my record or my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ.


* Religion: My prayer life consists largely of petition, and it only heats up when I am in a time of need. My main purpose in prayer is control of the environment.

* Gospel: My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration.
My main purpose is fellowship with God.


* Religion: My self-view swings things between two poles.
If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people.
If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel humble but not confident – I feel like a failure.

* Gospel: My self-view is not based on my moral achievement.
In Christ I am simul iustus et peccator –simultaneously sinful and lost, yet accepted in Christ.
I am so bad that he had to die for me, and I am so loved that he was glad to die for me.
This leads me to deep humility and confidence at the same time.


* Religion: My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work, or how moral I am – and so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral.

* Gospel: My identity and self worth are centered on the One who died for me.
I am saved by sheer grace and I can’t look down on those who believe or practise something different from me.
Only by grace am I what I am.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Jerome and Me

This is a photo of me with my first grandchild, Jerome, born 6th May, 2005.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Meaning of The Pentateuch

I'm reading through John Sailhamer's The Meaning of the Pentateuch, after
reading so many good comments about it. It is every bit as good as I had been
told. The author has spent a lifetime thinking and writing about the Old
Testament and the Pentateuch in particular.

I assume that the Google Books link will include some of the book, but probably not all. The cheapest place I've found for the book [after buying it for $50 Australian from my local Christian bookstore, where I was able to have a good look at it] is The Book Depository, which lists it for $33 Australian.

Sailhamer deals with a lot more than the meaning of the pentateuch in his book, and writes in an easy style that gets me intrigued.

Warmly recommended.

David McKay

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I have just read through The Book of Job for the 9th time, this time in the Contemporary English Version. My copy is supposed to be an Australian edition and was published by The Indonesian Bible Society. Here and there, the language sounds American, not Australian, though.

I always puzzle over Elihu and read some interesting stuff this morning in The New Dictionary of Biblical Theology and also in The New Bible Commentary.

Clines, who wrote the NBC article, says that Elihu's words in Job 32:2 should read, with the New English Bible, New Living Translation and Contemporary English Version that Job was making himself out to be more righteous than God, and not that he was justifying himself rather than God, as appears in the KJV, NIV, TNIV and ESV.

Sounds like the supposedly looser translations are closer to the truth here than the supposedly more literal translations ... again.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Run To Win The Prize

For several years I have recommended Schreiner and Caneday's The Race Set Before Us as the best treatment of the Bible's teaching on assurance and perseverance.

Contrary to what others say, I don't think it is an easy topic to come to grips
with, if we are going to be faithful to all the Bible's data.

Some Christians emphasise that God promises salvation to all who believe, but do not account for the many passages which urge us to persevere, threatening us with God's judgment if we don't.

Other Christians notice all the passages that say that only those who endure to
the end will be saved, and that God will judge us according to our works, and so
emphasise continuing to follow Christ, but do not account for the many glorious promises that when we believe in Christ, our salvation is certain.

A few Christians try to factor both in, and so teach that our salvation is
certain AND that we must persevere.

I thought the best treatment of this was in Caneday and Schreiner's The Race Set Before Us, but it is rather long and unfortunately I'm not so sure that everyone will endure to the end of it!

But now, Tom Schreiner has produced Run To Win The Prize, a shorter, more popular treatment of the topic, in which he responds to concerns of those who read the earlier book and seeks to provide a fresh and different angle to the questions explored.

I've already ordered my copy and look forward to being able to share this shorter book more enthusiastically with others.

Reading The Bible With The Dead

John Thompson's intriguing title got me perusing and then buying this book yesterday. I later discovered it could be purchased for a considerably cheaper price through the terrific Book Depository. But I don't think it's fair to use the local bookstore to choose a book and then purchase it elsewhere; at least, not fair when the shop is struggling and has to use volunteers to keep afloat.

You will also notice that the title links you to Google Books, which gives you a generous amount of the book free of charge! But I think I will read more of the book with a codex to handle, rather than squinting at the computer screen.

Thompson has provided us with a book about how the church has handled important but difficult parts of the Bible. I'm not endorsing Thompson's conclusions, but I do applaud his advice about getting to know what earlier Christians thought and did.
We aren't the first people to be shocked by the story of Jephtha sacrificing his only daughter, he says. How did others deal with this difficult story?

The Bible is better read and preached when the legacy of traditional interpretation is taken into account, so that the faithful interpreters of the past can guide and challenge readers and hearers today.

If you would like to dip into what he says in his book, you may find that this website will whet your appetite.

Friday, May 07, 2010

2011 Trust

I've been enjoying the great resources at 2011 Trust this morning.

These include Patricia Routledge doing a magnificent rendition of John 20, in which she captures every nuance, Richard Dawkins speaking about why he supports the King James Bible 2011 project and also reading from Song of Songs chapter 2 [and can't resist making his own commentary ...]

You are invited to join in and read a chapter, bung it on Youtube and then maybe be selected to be one of the 1189 chapters in the 2011 trust's Youtube Bible. I hope to have a crack. Will you?

I don't think you'd ever find The 2011 Youtube channel without knowing its url, because Youtube has so many hits on "KJV Bible." And a lot of garbage!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

The future of books

Mark Meynell's review of John Stott's The Radical Disciple is an excellent summary and shows the high regard Mark has for Uncle John, as I see we are now calling him.

But I wanted to post here Stott's observations about the future of books:
John Stott, Christian statesman, writes at the conclusion of his 51st book, in a poignant farewell note to his readers:

Looking ahead, none of us of course knows what the future of printing and publishing may be.

But I myself am confident that the future of books is assured and that, though they will be complemented, they will never be altogether replaced.

For there is something unique about books. Our favourite books become very precious to us and we even develop with them an almost living and affectionate relationship.

So let me urge you to keep reading, and encourage your relatives and friends to do the same. For this is a much-neglected means of grace.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Reading through the Bible.

Which versions of the Bible have you read?

Over the past 5 years, I have enjoyed reading through the TNIV [twice, which includes "The Books of the Bible: a presentation of Today's New International Version"], the Zondervan NIV Archaeological Study Bible, the New Living Translation [2nd edition], The ESV Reformation Study Bible, The Good News Bible, Australian edition [which is so far the one with the most typos], the New Jerusalem Bible [I began reading the study notes, but they were so liberal, I quit the notes] and the ESV Study Bible [completed yesterday].

Today I've commenced reading through the Contemporary English Version, Australian edition.

This usually takes me about 5 months, but the last one was a massive undertaking, due to all the articles, introductions and notes. I began reading the ESVSB on 3rd Jan 09, and was going quite slowly for a while.

It is a great blessing to be able to read through and get an overview fairly quickly. You can do this by reading a psalm a day, anotehr 4 chapters of the Old Testament and 2 chapters of the New Testament, to keep things proportional.

This all started when a man in our church brought us a guide to reading through the New Testament in 91 days, which was intended to get folk reading through the New Testament before Christmas.

Only a few people took up the offer, but I got hooked!

Do you think it is too much to expect the average Christian to read through the Bible? Not many people of my acquaintance seem to do it. We read the Bible, but we read the same passages over and over. We read soem of the New Testament, some of the Psalms and not much of the rest of the Old Testament.

Do you think God should have got J K Rowling to write the text to make it an easier read?

Thursday, April 29, 2010


This morning I finished my read-through of the ESV Study Bible, which I began on 3rd January, 2009. It is a thick book, with over 250 pages of articles, in addition to the introductions and notes on the 39 Old Testament books and the 27 in the New Testament.

I have enjoyed using a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to track my progress, and to keep my reading of the Old Testament, Psalms and the New Testament proportional. I found that I needed to read 4 chapters of the Old Testament [including a psalm] for every chapter of the New Testament, because the Old Testament has 929 chapters, there are 150 psalms, but only 260 chapters in the NT.

It has been a wonderful journey and would be richly rewarding to anyone who is willing to allocate the time. I did it by reading for half an hour to an hour for most mornings of the past 15 months.

The highlight [of many] has been Jack Collins stimulating introduction and notes on the Psalms.

For my next project, which I've already begun, I am reading through Psalms in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek. Don't take this to mean I can understand it all, but I can understand some and find that reading is a great way of improving my feeble grasp of the Bible languages.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Kevin has won me over

We're not talking Kevin 07. Kevin DeYoung, I mean. His article, Tis Mystery All, the Immortal Dies: Why the Gospel of Christ’s Suffering is More Glorious Because God Does Not Suffer, has convinced me that [mutter, mutter ... wash my mouth out with soap] impassibility is biblical. But I wish there were another word.

There really isn't an appropriate synonym and the word is so easily misunderstood.

DeYoung says it means that God
cannot suffer and is incapable of being acted upon by an external force.

This teaching is based on the Bible's assertion that God is unchangeable and sovereign.

DeYoung carefully articulates it so that it doesn't make God out to be passive, uncaring or unresponsive to our needs.

Although the idea that God suffers is popular today, he points out that if God is changeable, this means that he is not dependable and can't be trusted.

It is well worth reading the whole article, typos and all, to appreciate the point and value of this teaching. Phil Johnson's article God without mood swings is also worth chewing over.

I found it hard to swallow this teaching at first, because those who were arguing for it presented little Scripture in support and seemed to be explaining away large tracts of Scripture that didn't fit with the teaching. But DeYoung doesn't do that.

Thanks for helping me to understand what everyone else was going on about, Kev.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Vale, Internet Monk

For the whole time that I have been online, I have enjoyed reading Michael Spencer's interesting and thought-provoking posts. This is about 14 years. Michael called himself The Internet Monk. He wrote about all kinds of issues. He was honest and rubbed some folk the wrong way. But you always knew his heart was in the right place.

I don't know why it has taken so long to find out about his passing on 5th April. I saw it in a brief statement by Frank Turk, which he had posted on 6th April, but which I only just spotted.

Michael had a battle with cancer and from 22nd February was unable to continue his internet ministry.

Some folk had silly fights with Michael when he didn't dot all the required "i"s and cross the requisite number of "t"s. Almost all of those squabbles were completely unnecessary.

I miss Michael very much.

It is good to see that his site is going to be maintained. It's well worth checking it out.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Great Omission

Thom Rainer says that if we want people to come to faith in Christ, we need evangelists in our churches. What is an evangelist like? He says they have seven characteristics:
1. They are people of prayer. They realize that only God can convict and convert, and they are totally dependent upon Him in prayer. Most of the highly evangelistic Christians spend at least an hour in prayer each day.

2. They have a theology that compels them to evangelize. They believe in the urgency of the gospel message. They believe that Christ is the only way of salvation. They believe that anyone without Christ is doomed for a literal hell.

3. They are people who spend time in the Word. The more time they spend in the Bible, the more likely they are to see the lostness of humanity and the love of God in Christ to save those who are lost.

4. They are compassionate people. Their hearts break for those who don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They have learned to love the world by becoming more like Christ who has the greatest love for the world.

5. They love the communities where God has placed them. They are immersed in the culture because they desire for the light of Christ to shine through them in their communities.

6. They are intentional about evangelism. They pray for opportunities to share the gospel. They look for those opportunities. And they see many so-called casual encounters as appointments set by God.

7. They are accountable to someone for their evangelistic activities. They know that many good activities can replace Great Commission activities if they are not careful. Good can replace the best. So they make certain that someone holds them accountable each week, either formally or informally, for their evangelistic efforts.

Which means I've got a long way to go. How about you?

Friday, April 09, 2010

Do You Hear What I Hear?

This article shows how little we know and how much there is to do in reaching deaf people with the gospel.
The deaf are virtually an 'unreached people group,' but an Illinois ministry is remedying that one video at a time.

Highly recommended.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The downside

Every other student in the class seemed to get the idea, but when the quite intelligent Harold handed in his assignment, he hadn't done what I had asked, so I sent him home to do the music assignment again.

He returned with it next week, but his essay still wasn't answering the question. I felt sorry for him and, in talking with him, felt sure that he knew what was required and couldn't figure out why he wasn't showing that he understood in what he was handing in.

But, third time lucky! At last!

A few days later, I think I found out why it took Harold three times to do an assignment that everyone else did properly the first time. Because when I went to the local library, there were Harold and his sister and mother. Mum was seated at a table with a collection of books, looking very serious. Every so often, she would send Harold and Jemima off to the shelves to get some more books. She looked like she was working hard at doing some library research.

I surmised that the kids would take their homework to Mum, who would supervise them very closely, if not actually do the assignments herself.

Harold was every bit as smart as I had thought. He always took things seriously in class, contributed to discussions and was up with the rest of the class. But when he went home, Mum would take over. She would tell him how to do the assignments and he would have to comply.

Having Mum in charge of the homework might often produce a good result, but there is sometimes a downside ...

I fall down - but I get up again

Two really good articles in today's Sydney Morning Herald stress the importance of allowing children to make their own mistakes.

In her article Helicopter Parents Not Doing Enough To Let Children Fail, Anna Patty refers to Rod Kefford, headmaster of Barker College's comment that
In some ways self-esteem has been the most damaging educational concept that has ever been conceived.
It is only through our failings in the learning process that we learn anything.
He said schools needed to give children the confidence to risk failure to encourage more creative thinking.

In the other article, Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University, says Making mistakes and having them gently corrected is one of the best ways to learn.

Twenge, who co-wrote The Narcissism Epidemic, says parents should tell their children that they love them instead of saying you're special and you can be anything you want to be.

Feeling special often means the expectation of special treatment. Your parents might think you're special, but the rest of the world might not. This can be a difficult adjustment, especially in the workplace.

In my second stint as a classroom teacher, [from 1983-99] I noticed that parents were now doing their kids' homework. Students were coming to school with intricate models of cathedrals that they could not possibly have made themselves.

This bothered me, because I knew that if I ever felt the inclination to do my kids' homework [and I never did], I would not measure up. I also wondered why history students were making models and not reading and writing [which was what attracted me to being a Modern History student in my days at school].

I also discovered that even Christians felt it was ethical to do their children's home work for them. In one case, a parent who was also a church worker, would sit at the computer and write the assignment, but every so often, allow his daughter to make a suggestion!

Strange days! Most peculiar, Momma!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Like father, like son

This is our youngest grandson, Reggie. He is the son of our first child Daniel and his wife Louise.

Reggie "went beserk" for this ukulele today, we're told. He didn't put it down for a whole hour. He got Mummy to play it and Daddy, too.

Our children all love Music as we do, and their children seem to be loving Music, too.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dawkins preaches to the deluded against the divine

I like this observation by Melanie Phillips:
For someone who has made a career out of telling everyone how much more tolerant the world would be if only religion were obliterated from the human psyche, Dawkins manages to appear remarkably intolerant towards anyone who disagrees with him.

She goes on to say that Dawkins has become
the apostle of scientism, the ideology that says everything in the universe has a materialist explanation and must answer to the rules of empirical scientific evidence; to believe anything else is irrational.

A second's thought tells one this is absurd. Love, law and philosophy are not scientific yet they are not irrational. So it is scientism that seems to be irrational.

As for Dawkins's claim that religion is responsible for the ills of the world, this is demonstrably a wild distortion. Some of the worst horrors in human history - the French revolutionary terror, Nazism, communism - have been atheist creeds. And although terrible things indeed have been done in the name of religion, the fact remains that Christianity and the Hebrew Bible form the foundation stone of Western civilisation and its great cause of human equality and freedom.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mini guide to faithful living

I like this comment from Tim Keller's blog, in which he says that Proverbs chapter 3, verses 3 to 12 is a kind of mini guide to faithful living.

He says
There are five things that comprise a wise, godly life. They function both as means to becoming wise and godly as well as signs that you are growing into such a life:
1. Put your heart's deepest trust in God and his grace. Every day remind yourself of his unconditioned, covenantal love for you. Do not instead put your hopes in idols or in your own performance.

2. Submit your whole mind to the Scripture. Don't think you know better than God's word. Bring it to bear on every area of life. Become a person under authority.

3. Be humble and teachable toward others. Be forgiving and understanding when you want to be critical of them; be ready to learn from others when they come to be critical of you.

4. Be generous with all your possessions, and passionate about justice. Share your time, talent, and treasure with those who have less.

5. Accept and learn from difficulties and suffering. Through the gospel, recognize them as not punishment, but a way of refining you.

He goes on to say that these characteristics are exemplified by Jesus himself:
a) he showed the ultimate trust and faithfulness to God and to us by going to the cross,
b) he was saturated with and shaped by Scripture,
c) he was meek and lowly in heart (Mt. 11:28-30),
d) he, though rich, became poor for us,
e) and he bore his suffering, for us, without complaint.

We can only grow in these five areas if you know you are saved by costly grace. That keeps you from idols, from self-sufficiency and pride, from selfishness with your things, and from crumbling under troubles. Jesus is wisdom personified, and believing his gospel brings these character qualities into your life.

How's your Hebrew?

I'm coming to the end of my project of reading through the ESV Study Bible. I've now read about 86% of Psalms, the OT and the NT. I try to keep it proportional as I read.

I've enjoyed George Somsel's Lenten Greek reading plan for reading through Luke and have even finished it early. I'm not sure if it is naughty to read the sections intended for Good Friday and Easter Sunday beforehand, but I did.

When I say "read," I am reading some with understanding, and other bits with considerably less.

It was so enjoyable doing this that I have embarked on a project to read through the New Testament in Greek and the Psalms in Hebrew.

My Hebrew is weak, which is immediately evident when I try to follow Abraham Schmuelof's wonderful readings in my Soncino Psalms. But I think I'm making a tiny amount of progress. I don't suppose there is anyone in Bathurst who would want to join in.

I notice that it is much easier to read 2 and 3 John than Luke. I wonder if this will always be the case? Is it too much to hoep that I may be able to complete this project by the end of this year, and the end of the first decade of the Twenty-First Century?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Trying to be happy is like trying to be taller, says Michael Duffy

Life's journey is a myth-busting affair, Michael Duffy's piece in today's Sydney Morning Herald, reports on the new book Fifty Great Myths of Popular Psychology, by Scott Lilienfeld, Steven Jay Lynn, John Ruscio and Barry Beyerstein.

Duffy argues that the idea that we can make ourselves happier is a myth. He also points out that being unhappy sometimes is a part of life, and is not necessarily a bad thing.

One of the myths the book deals with is the idea that men and women are extremely different. The authors suggest that John Gray's book title should be changed to Men Are From North Dakota, Women Are From South Dakota!

Here is the list of 50 ideas the authors claim are all myths, or at least, more untrue than they are true:
1 Brain Power
Myths about the Brain and Perception
#1 Most People Use Only 10% of Their Brain Power
#2 Some People Are Left-Brained, Others Are Right-Brained
#3 Extrasensory Perception Is a Well-Established Scientific Phenomenon
#4 Visual Perceptions Are Accompanied by Tiny Emissions from the Eyes
#5 Subliminal Messages Can Persuade People to Purchase Products

2 From Womb to Tomb
Myths about Development and Aging
#6 Playing Mozart’s Music to Infants Boosts Their Intelligence
#7 Adolescence Is Inevitably a Time of Psychological Turmoil
#8 Most People Experience a Midlife Crisis in Their 40s or Early 50s
#9 Old Age Is Typically Associated with Increased Dissatisfaction and Senility
#10 When Dying, People Pass through a Universal Series of Psychological Stages

3 A Remembrance of Things Past
Myths about Memory
#11 Human Memory Works like a Tape Recorder or Video Camera, and Accurately Records the Events
We’ve Experienced
#12 Hypnosis is Useful for Retrieving Memories of Forgotten Events
#13 Individuals Commonly Repress the Memories of Traumatic Experiences
#14 Most People with Amnesia Forget All Details of Their Earlier Lives

4 Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks
Myths about Intelligence and Learning
#15 Intelligence Tests Are Biased against Certain Groups of People
#16 If You’re Unsure of Your Answer When Taking a Test, It’s Best to Stick with Your Initial Hunch
#17 The Defining Feature of Dyslexia Is Reversing Letters
#18 Students Learn Best When Teaching Styles Are Matched to Their Learning Styles

5 Altered States
Myths about Consciousness
#19 Hypnosis Is a Unique “Trance” State that Differs in Kind from Wakefulness
#20 Researchers Have Demonstrated that Dreams Possess Symbolic Meaning
#21 Individuals Can Learn Information, like New anguages, while Asleep
#22 During “Out-of-Body” Experiences, People’s Consciousness Leaves Their Bodies

6 I’ve Got a Feeling
Myths about Emotion and Motivation
#23 The Polygraph (“Lie Detector”) Test Is an Accurate Means of Detecting Dishonesty
#24 Happiness Is Determined Mostly by Our External Circumstances
#25 Ulcers Are Caused Primarily or Entirely by Stress
#26 A Positive Attitude Can Stave off Cancer

7 The Social Animal
Myths about Interpersonal Behavior
#27 Opposites Attract: We Are Most Romantically Attracted to People Who Differ from Us
#28 There’s Safety in Numbers: The More People Present at an Emergency, the Greater the Chance that Someone Will Intervene
#29 Men and Women Communicate in Completely Different Ways
#30 It’s Better to Express Anger to Others than to Hold It in

8 Know Thyself
Myths about Personality
#31 Raising Children Similarly Leads to Similarities in Their Adult Personalities
#32 The Fact that a Trait Is Heritable Means We Can’t Change It
#33 Low Self-Esteem Is a Major Cause of Psychological Problems
#34 Most People Who Were Sexually Abused in Childhood Develop Severe Personality
Disturbances in Adulthood
#35 People’s Responses to Inkblots Tell Us a Great Deal about Their Personalities
#36 Our Handwriting Reveals Our Personality Traits

9 Sad, Mad, and Bad
Myths about Mental Illness
#37 Psychiatric Labels Cause Harm by Stigmatizing People
#38 Only Deeply Depressed People Commit Suicide
#39 People with Schizophrenia Have Multiple Personalities
#40 Adult Children of Alcoholics Display a Distinct Profile of Symptoms
#41 There’s Recently Been a Massive Epidemic of Infantile Autism
#42 Psychiatric Hospital Admissions and Crimes Increase during Full Moons

10 Disorder in the Court
Myths about Psychology and the Law
#43 Most Mentally Ill People Are Violent
#44 Criminal Profiling Is Helpful in Solving Cases
#45 A Large Proportion Of Criminals Successfully Use the Insanity Defense
#46 Virtually All People Who Confess to a Crime Are Guilty of It

11 Skills and Pills
Myths about Psychological Treatment
#47 Expert Judgment and Intuition Are the Best Means of Making Clinical Decisions
#48 Abstinence Is the Only Realistic Treatment Goal for Alcoholics
#49 All Effective Psychotherapies Force People to Confront the “Root” Causes of Their Problems in Childhood
#50 Electroconvulsive (“Shock”) Therapy Is a Physically Dangerous and Brutal Treatment

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A man, a plan, a cat, a ham, a yak, a yam, a hat, a canal – Panama!

Don't you love palindromes? Beats farce, anyday, Stephen!

Here are a few of my favourites:
Retteb, si flahd noces eht tub,
but the second half is better.

Doctor Reubenstein was shocked and dismayed when he answered the ringing telephone, only to hear a strange, metallic, alien voice say,
"Yasec iovn eilacilla temeg! Nartsa raehoty lnoenoh pelet gnig, nirehtde rewsnaehn ehw. Deya! Msid! Dnadek cohssaw nietsne buerro, tcod?"

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Ahhhhhhh ....yes!

This morning I read Psalm 121 in the ESV Study Bible. I don't ever remember being told previously the whole point of the passage!
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?

2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;

4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;

6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;

8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore. [TNIV ...aren't I naughty!]

We're en route to Jerusalem. This is one of the songs of ascent, which the Jews sang as they made their way to Jerusalem to worship.

It is not that God is going to help me fulfil all my plans or make me a rich person. He's not going to keep me safe so that I can continue to live a life in rebellion against him.

God is going to keep us and preserve us, so that we will arrive safely in the heavenly Jerusalem.

We can only get there by his grace, but we will certainly get there safely. Whoo hoo!

Reminds me of the great hymn about marching to Zion. This is close to the original version

Come, we that love the Lord,
And let our joys be known;
Join in a song with sweet accord,
Join in a song with sweet accord
And thus surround the throne,
And thus surround the throne.


We’re marching to Zion,
Beautiful, beautiful Zion;
We’re marching upward to Zion,
The beautiful city of God.

The sorrows of the mind
Be banished from the place;
Religion never was designed
Religion never was designed,
To make our pleasures less,
To make our pleasures less.


Let those refuse to sing,
Who never knew our God;
But favorites of the heavenly King,
But favorites of the heavenly King
May speak their joys abroad,
May speak their joys abroad.


The God that rules on high,
And thunders when He please,
Who rides upon the stormy sky,
Who rides upon the stormy sky,
And manages the seas,
And manages the seas.


This awful God is ours,
Our Father and our Love;
He will send down his heav’nly powers,
He will send down his heav’nly powers,
To carry us above,
To carry us above.


There we shall see His face,
And never, never sin!
There, from the rivers of His grace,
There, from the rivers of His grace,
Drink endless pleasures in,
Drink endless pleasures in.


Yea, and before we rise,
To that immortal state,
The thoughts of such amazing bliss,
The thoughts of such amazing bliss,
Should constant joys create,
Should constant joys create.


The men of grace have found,
Glory begun below.
Celestial fruits on earthly ground
Celestial fruits on earthly ground
From faith and hope may grow,
From faith and hope may grow.


The hill of Zion yields
A thousand sacred sweets
Before we reach the heav’nly fields,
Before we reach the heav’nly fields,
Or walk the golden streets,
Or walk the golden streets.


Then let our songs abound,
And every tear be dry;
We’re marching through Immanuel’s ground,
We’re marching through Immanuel’s ground,
To fairer worlds on high,
To fairer worlds on high.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

A New Kind of Christianity?

I like this quote from Scot McKnight's review of Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christianity:
Reading the Bible through the lens of Jesus Christ is indeed the way to go. But to use Jesus against the God of Israel he worshiped and prayed to and loved and obeyed pits us against what Jesus himself is doing.

And he ends his article with this:
The flow of the Bible is not neat. It doesn't fit into an evolutionary scheme. There are as many mercy passages in the Old Testament as there are grace-and-love passages in the New. What's more, passages about God's grace stand side-by-side with passages about God's wrath (e.g., Hosea 1-3; Matt. 23-25). The evolutionary approach doesn't work because that's not how Scripture's narrative works. There is wrath in Revelation and there is covenant love in Genesis. And Jesus talks more about Abba and hell than does the rest of the Bible combined.

Unfortunately, this book lacks the "generosity" of genuine orthodoxy and, frankly, I find little space in it for orthodoxy itself. Orthodoxy for too many today means little more than the absence of denying what's in the creeds. But a robust orthodoxy means that orthodoxy itself is the lens through which we see theology. One thing about this book is clear: Orthodoxy is not central.

Alas, A New Kind of Christianity shows us that Brian, though he is now thinking more systemically, has fallen for an old school of thought. I read this book carefully, and I found nothing new. It may be new for Brian, but it's a rehash of ideas that grew into fruition with Adolf von Harnack and now find iterations in folks like Harvey Cox and Marcus Borg. For me, Brian's new kind of Christianity is quite old. And the problem is that it's not old enough.

Sometimes when I read McKnight himself, such as his Blue Parakeet], it appears he is straying from the bounds of orthodoxy, but in this article he shows which side he is on. He certainly nails his colours to the right mast.

Friday, February 26, 2010

A different perspective

Some thought-provoking letters related to the failed home insulation scheme from today's Sydney Morning Herald. [26th February, 2010]
Don't overlook the jobs Garrett's scheme created

More than enough has been said about the merits and deficiencies of the government's home insulation scheme. But now that just this one scheme has been stopped, 6000 people are out of a job and wanting assistance. Surely this starkly illustrates how many people would have been unemployed throughout all industries if the government had not introduced its economic stimulus measures following the global financial crisis.

Allan Thomas Lochinvar

Please could the Herald print data quoting industrial deaths and house fires in the roof insulation industry before the government's rebate scheme. Tragic as the recent deaths and house fires are, it is hard to believe there were no accidents in the industry before.

Lorna Denham Cardiff Heights

It broke my heart to see on ABC news the crocodile tears from a small-business owner laying off staff who had been employed for three or four years ''because the home insulation scheme has been scrapped''. The scheme ran for less than a year. Presumably most of those longer term workers were earning their keep before it started.

Some of these small businesses were responsible for at least a quarter of home insulations having serious defects. They paid no heed to building regulations, provided inadequate training for their staff and ignored the health and safety of their workers and customers - happily raking in government subsidies the while.

I hope Kevin Rudd's generous retrenchment offer will not be used by small-business owners to avoid unfair dismissal legislation and get rid of staff they are keen to see the back of. Only reputable companies will be able to resume government subsidised work before a new scheme starts in June. Shonky businesses are more likely to opt for bankruptcy to avoid paying their debts.

Linda Stewart Lane Cove

With the lessons from the St James Ethics Centre becoming an alternative to religious education, perhaps Simon Longstaff would suggest that Jesus's ministerial responsibility for his Department of Disciples meant that Judas's actions required Jesus to resign (''Garrett must accept harsh necessities of our constitution'', February 25).

Peter Oliver Adamstown Heights

Got two years available?

I don't mean to be boring, because I've said all this before, but the ESV Study Bible is an amazing resource. I am now 78% of the way through it and have read
Genesis-2 Samuel
Luke-1 Corinthians

I appreciate the individual articles, introductions and study notes, but also the way they interrelate. The editors have done a terrific job.

Jack Collins' introduction and notes on Psalms are particularly outstanding.

Again and again the contributors show how important Deuteronomy and Exodus 34:6-7 are in the plan of the Old Testament and to the Bible as a whole.

I think every Christian person should be involved in getting to know God's Word, firstly through reading it without comments. An excellent way to do this is to read The Books of the Bible: a presentation of Today's New International Version, which removes chapters, verses and headings, rearranges the text to be partly chronological and partly thematic.

Then, when you have some familiarity with the Bible and have read the whole of it through, I can't think of a better guide than the ESV Study Bible. I'm finding it thrilling, though hard-going too, at times.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Email to the Premier

Open email to our Premier, Kristina Keneally
G'day Ms Keneally.
I enjoyed the article in today's Sydney magazine. You are presenting yourself very well and I think you are in with a chance for the next election, unless the Liberals wheel out Malcolm Turnbull, if it were possible to get him installed in such a short time.

The only reason that the electorate would vote Liberal with the current leader [I think] would be because they are not the stinking NSW Labor Party, which is certainly on the nose. But the Libs don't seem to have much that is positive to offer as an alternative. I'm not saying that because of animosity towards Mr O'Farrell, but because he and his party do not seem to be a credible alternative currently.

I was interested in your motto. Micah 6:8 is a wonderful part of holy scripture, but you left out the key part which is Yahweh. Surely this verse harks back [as so many do] to Exodus 34:6-7 where God proclaims his loving, merciful, just and faithful character to Moses.

I think Micah is saying we must be just because Yahweh our God is just; tenderly compassionate because he is compassionate, and walk humbly with him because he is our Yahweh, our God.

To leave him out is to completely misunderstand what Micah was saying.

I pray that you will restore him to his rightful place next time you cite this verse.

I wish you well in the extremely difficult job you have been given.

We regularly [though not regularly enough] pray for our leaders, including you, in our little church in Bathurst.

David McKay

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Christians promoting blood and gore fights?

Three letter writers in today's Sydney Morning Herald have perfectly expressed my views on The Ultimate Fighting Championship.
I am appalled that Mark Driscoll could support such sickening thuggery and that others are sucked in by it, too.

Driscoll has some good qualities, but his penchant for turning Christian boys into men unfortunately sometimes leads to an excessive desire for men to be brutes. So unlike their Lord and Master.

Grow up, Mark and grow up, Craig.

I'm so sorry that commenting is no longer allowed at the site cited in the heading.
Please, no more of the roar for gore

The Ultimate Fighting Championship is a disgusting, sickening spectacle of the worst of human nature ('''Smell the blood!' The sickening roar for gore'', February 22). There is something wrong with people who want to hurt people. There is more wrong with people who want to watch.

Don't give me rubbish about the participants being highly trained and skilled athletes. There is no honour in skill and strength when used for violence and the purpose of injuring someone to the extent they submit or cannot continue.

There is enough news of people being brutally beaten for no reason on Sydney streets. The spectacle of a man continuously punching another while he is on the ground with blood flowing will only encourage the animals on the streets to do more of the same.

The Herald should be ashamed for covering this garbage.

Glenn Newton Broulee

We have banned cockfighting and dogfighting on the grounds of excessive cruelty but there is no such restriction on manfighting, as Peter FitzSimons has discovered.

If this spectacle is to continue, I suggest the proceeds be taxed at 99 per cent and put into general revenue. That way we would all win. Pity about the mangled loser but one can't have everything.

John Warren Annandale

Ultimate fighting and cage fighting, with thousands flocking to see the brutality and gore, takes from us any claim to be a civilised society.
George Cotis Port Hacking

Monday, February 15, 2010

Retranslating, for the sake of argument

Isn't it frustrating when people argue from their own translation of Scripture, or from a non-standard rendering of Scripture, to prove a point!

I think we would all want to say Amen to that when someone else is doing it, but might want to support doing this in our own individual case!

Discussion can be tricky if your opponent only accepts one translation as authoritative, such as the King James Version or New World Translation, for example.

On Sunday, our minister preached a terrific message from 1 Samuel 17, the story of David and Goliath. He made the point that the whole passage is about Goliath and the Philistines defying God and that the Hebrew word translated defy, or a word related to it, occurs over and over in the passage.

Sometimes the word was translated with a different English word in most English versions [though, interestingly the New Living Translation used the word defiance in 1 Sam 17:26, where most other well-known versions don't].

In this case, it was helpful to be told what the original said, even though it didn't show up in our NIVs [or even, whisper, whisper ESVs].

But I think it is a fair point that if you have to retranslate a passage to make your point, you should think about making it from another passage which you don't have to retranslate.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

You and I and Me

I often notice that people don't say You and Me any more, but always say You and I. A sexagenarian told me that it is always wrong to say You and Me.

But I do have to admit that it is tricky and I can see why we have settled on always saying You and I.

Today I watched We Are The World 25 For Haiti. I would have loved an annotated copy, like the one someone has kindly done of the original version.

I couldn't help noticing these words:
It's true we'll make a better day
Just you and me

I was pleased to hear people singing You and Me, but disappointed that it was incorrect, and that they should have sung You and I.

I think that in this couplet You and Me is being used as a parallel to We, so that you would say "You and I will make a better day" not
"You and ME will make a better day."

How disappointing!

And I have to admit that when I say "You and Me," even when it appears to be correct grammar, it is starting to sound odd. Ain't that a shame!

Friday, February 12, 2010

A gem from Ray Ortlund

My dad used to say to me, when I was a kid, “Listen, son. Half-hearted Christians are the most miserable people of all. They know enough to feel guilty, but they haven’t gone far enough with Christ to be happy. Be wholehearted for him!”

I used to roll my eyes when you said that. I don’t any more.

Deep Church

DEEP CHURCH by Jim Belcher
I bought this book last time I visited the store, and was pleased to meet the head sherang, Karl Grice, at the same time.

The title is a quote from a 1952 C S Lewis letter to the Church Times in which he said that instead of being either Low Church or High Church, perhaps Christians who believe in God's supernatural intervention in the world should be called Deep Church, or in Richard Baxter's terminology Mere Christians.

Belcher is one of the pastors of the Redeemer Presbyterian Churches founded by Tim Keller. He has researched the Emerging Church movement extensively by meeting its leaders, attending meetings and reading their literature and blogs.

He says that traditional Christians and Emerging folk are suspicious of one another and need to get to know and learn from this interaction. He believes there is a way of combining the best of both worlds into a new Deep Church, while still being cautious about unhelpful aspects of both groups.

The book is well worth reading. You might also find Darrell Bock's article at bock's blog to be something to chew over.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Interesting comments by Dr Megan Best, Palliative Care doctor
I have always found striking the discrepancy between the public support for euthanasia (among those who are healthy) and my patients’ desire for continued life. I was informed of a recent poll which claimed that 87 per cent of Australians support legalisation of euthanasia.

Research done on palliative care populations, however, tells a different story. A study done some years ago in Sydney found that less than one per cent of those referred to a palliative care service made persistent requests for euthanasia.

My own observation is that things haven’t changed much since then. Why the disparity?

I think there are many reasons why this is the case. The absence of death in everyday life no doubt contributes - it is a remote event often occurring in hospitals, and many of us base our understanding of what really happens on hearsay. And hearsay, especially from the distant past, has some horrifying stories to tell.

Yet I think the main reason why our community voices such strong support for euthanasia is because it has been confused about some accepted end-of-life practices which are already legal, but poorly understood. These include withdrawal of life-prolonging treatment and symptom control.

Another palliative care doctor featured on Australian ABC TV's Four Corners program on Monday night said something similar

Tominthebox news network

Tominthebox news network has me chuckling from time to time. The past few items are great fun.

I like the Russian elderly protesting over the new facebook layout and also love the one about the kids who are counting up to 490 times that they have to forgive one another [and the boy doesn't have to forgive his sister, because it only says, in the ESV, for example, that you have to forgive your brother], and I also love the news that the Episcopal Church is about to permit opposite sex couples to marry.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

But You Don't Know Kerry

The original was called But you don't know Harry and was written by a woman for women, but it impacted me when I read it about 30 years ago, and I think it applies to all of us.

The title of the book means

I'd like to be obedient to Jesus and be nice to my wife, but my wife, Kerry is impossible!

I'd love to put in an honest day's work, but my boss, Kerry is a mean person and doesn't deserve to be treated kindly.

If we're honest, I reckon we all have piles of these excuses. And that's all they are, aren't they!

Monday, February 08, 2010

True leadership

On Sunday, our minister preached a terrific message on 1 Samuel 15 and 16, where God rejects Saul as king, and appoints David as the new leader of Israel.

Here's the conclusion of the talk, but the whole thing is well worth reading:
What's the most important thing to look for in a leader? God says:
• It's someone who'll hear my word and do it.
• It's someone whose heart wants what I want.
• It's someone who's more interested in pleasing Me than in looking good before the people.
What delights
God is the person who hears His word and does it – the person who comes to His King and submits to Him. Is that you? If not, what will you do about it?

I am praying that our elected leaders who claim to be Christians would be people who truly submit to God's Word, however unpopular that may be.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Having a whinge

I'd just like to whinge about the lack of an E in the usual way people spell WHINGEING

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Shack

When we lived in South Australia, well-heeled folk used to talk about their holiday house as The Shack. I am guessing that these places were considerably more luxurious than anything we have ever lived in. It took a while before we realised that these shacks were nothing like Old Jack's shack that really was a shack. [Old Jack was a man who hobbled up and down Floraville Road, Belmont with a wheelbarrow. He was sort of the Lake Macquarie version of Old Steptoe, though he was a lot quieter.]

But I'm talking about that notorious novel that seems to have Christians divided about whether it is worth reading. I should point out that I have not yet read The Shack. I'm not even sure if I will. But I certainly find the reviews interesting!

Katherine Jeffrey's article, I am not who you think I am, queries Eugene Peterson's enthusiastic comparison of it with Pilgrim's Progress. And Tim Keller's blog tells us that
the book is a noble effort -- to help modern people understand why God allows suffering.

However, [says Keller] sprinkled throughout the book, Young's story undermines a number of traditional Christian doctrines. Many have gotten involved in debates about Young's theological beliefs, and I have my own strong concerns. But here is my main problem with the book. Anyone who is strongly influenced by the imaginative world of The Shack will be totally unprepared for the far more multi-dimensional and complex God that you actually meet when you read the Bible.

In the prophets the reader will find a God who is constantly condemning and vowing judgment on his enemies, while the Persons of the Triune-God of The Shack repeatedly deny that sin is any offense to them. The reader of Psalm 119 is filled with delight at God's statutes, decrees, and laws, yet the God of The Shack insists that he doesn't give us any rules or even have any expectations of human beings. All he wants is relationship.

The reader of the lives of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and Isaiah will learn that the holiness of God makes his immediate presence dangerous or fatal to us. Someone may counter (as Young seems to do, on p.192) that because of Jesus, God is now only a God of love, making all talk of holiness, wrath, and law obsolete. But when John, one of Jesus' closest friends, long after the crucifixion sees the risen Christ in person on the isle of Patmos, John 'fell at his feet as dead.' (Rev.1:17.) The Shack effectively deconstructs the holiness and transcendence of God. It is simply not there. In its place is unconditional love, period. The God of The Shack has none of the balance and complexity of the Biblical God. Half a God is not God at all.

Wouldn't it be great if people would read the Word of God as eagerly as they have lapped up Young's story?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

An IDEA whose time has come

From Kevin DeYoung:
When you come to a passage there are four things you can do: illustrate, defend, explain, apply. I rearranged the order from seminary class so the four points make a convenient acronym: IDEA. Most young preachers, and probably most preachers in general, gravitate toward "explain." We do best at studying the text and communicating what we learned to others. If the passage is especially obscure or controversial, it makes sense to land heavy on the E. But sometimes the passage is relatively simple. In this case, don't spin your wheels on endless word studies that basically repeat with synonyms what everyone can see immediately in the text.

"Illustrate" and "apply" are the hardest to do well. It requires a different part of your brain. You need to think creatively. You need to imagine what your people are or might be going through. You need to avoid the temptation to offer quick sermony points of application like "Don't let money be your idol" or "Some of you need to trust God with your time." Probe deeper. Use one good, personal illustration or one concrete point of application rather than firing application-buckshot with little imagination.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tribute to Herb Alpert

This is an interesting article about Herb Alpert, though his name is messpelled as AlBert several times in the course of the article.

We had a Tijuana Brass LP back in about 1974 and loved it. Our baby boy used to love singing along to it.

Here a few snippets:
It’s tough to imagine a bigger name in the music world than trumpet player Herb Alpert. He’s won eight Grammys. He’s cut 14 albums that went platinum, 15 that went gold.

He’s the “A” in A&M Records. He discovered the Carpenters. He’s made millions of dollars as an entertainer and artist and given millions of dollars away to support the arts.

Albert grew up in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles, a Jewish neighborhood; his father was a Jewish immigrant from Russia and his mother a Californian.

His father played mandolin by ear, and young Herb picked up music quite naturally. He went to the University of Southern California, where he was in the Trojan marching band, and did a stint in the Army before returning to Los Angeles to work in the music industry.

Early on, he was fascinated by recording technology. His first audio recorder was a WebCor wire recorder. (For the uninitiated, wire recorders used a hair-thin strand of wire running rapidly between reels to record magnetic pulses.)

“That really dates me,” Alpert laughed. “Don’t put that in there!”

He soon moved onto magnetic tape. “And then when I heard Les Paul overdubbing his guitar several times. I tried that on the horn, just out of curiosity and came up with this sound I thought was interesting.”

That was the sound of the Tijuana Brass.

A little known fact: The Tijuana Brass never existed as a band until after its album “Whipped Cream and Other Delights” came out in 1965. The early TJB was all Herb Alpert and his tape recorder.

But after “Whipped Cream” skyrocketed on the charts, people wanted to book the band for concerts. Alpert started hiring musicians to play the music he already had laid down on tape.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


I'm trying to become a better listener. And, if the quotes Tim Challies has given are correct, I will have a lot of explaining to do, one day about all the times I didn't listen to my minister well.

Do Christians have to give account of every idle word, every sin as well as non-Christians? How does this relate to having no fear on judgment day, because Jesus has taken our punishment?

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Jeremiah is the second longest book in the Bible and one of the hardest to read. [It is longer than Isaiah, though it does not contain as many chapters.]

It is probably the second last book of the Old Testament that I read all the way through, but I am now on my 9th journey, having read it through first in the New Living Translation and then seven more times in a complete read-through of the Bible.

It contains a lot of messages of God's judgment and at first, this put me off. But when you read the whole thing, you realise that this makes the many promises it also contains all the more special!

I am loving my 8th journey through the whole Bible, led by the team of terrific teachers who wrote the introductions, articles and study notes in the ESV Study Bible. One of the treasures of this Bible is Jack Collins' helpful articles and his terrific introduction and study notes to Psalms.

But Paul House's introduction to Jeremiah is also very special. Here are a couple of highlights:
Did you know that Jeremiah laboured faithfully for 40 years, largely to people who wouldn't listen to what he had to say?
Kings would ask for his advice and then steadfastly ignore it!
There are only two recorded converts: Baruch, who acted as Jeremiah's secretary, writing down the messages, and Ebed-melech, an Ethiopian eunuch. Imagine if he was a contemporary evangelist - he would get the sack for lack of results. God couldn't have called you, says his campaign manager, or you would be getting better results!
Jeremiah called people to repent over a hundred times, but almost nobody did!

Because of his capacity to keep on keeping on [as the Berger Paints advertisement runs, as frequently cited by my father], House suggests he should be called The Persevering Prophet.

I've only read the introduction and chapter one so far, but I'm looking forward to the journey.


If you look at my shared items, you'll see two links to articles about legalism which I've found helpful.

I like the point about three kinds of legalism, from R C Sproul, Jnr, as reported by Stacy McDonald.
Legalism is a loaded word; but, as far as I can tell, there are three ways it is used, two are legitimate usages and one is just handy for shutting someone down. All Fred has to do when losing a debate on a biblical topic is accuse you of legalism and the conversation is closed. With fear and trembling, many back off—and Fred is the winner. Or is he?

Still, true legalism is a thing to detest. The two following definitions are what I would call the real McCoy:

Grace Plus Nothing
The first form of legalism is the ugliest because it attempts to usurp the very Grace of God. Most of us will agree on this one. Anything that adds works to our salvation is legalism. There is nothing we can do to earn God’s favor. Without Christ we are totally depraved, totally helpless, and totally in need of a Savior. Our “good works” are as filthy rags and we can’t do anything to earn our salvation—He did it all. I didn’t find Jesus; He found me, kicking and screaming.

Holier Than Jesus
The second form of legalism has to do with adding rules to God’s laws (Col. 2:20-22). I have found this to be what most people are referring to when they talk about legalism. Sometimes this type of legalism is simply a matter of misinterpreting the Scriptures. Other times it is an issue of pride. Usually, it’s a poor attempt at holiness—trying to do things in our own strength and in our own wisdom, rather than in God’s.

There are indeed precious souls who are bound up in false teachings that keep them from living the full life that God intended. But will we ever all agree on what is legalism and what is part of living a godly life? I doubt it.

John doesn’t believe in celebrating Christmas, but he enjoys a glass of wine with dinner. His friend, Carl, believes alcohol consumption, even in moderation is wrong, but he has the most beautiful Christmas tree you’ve ever seen.

Jennifer believes in adhering to Old Testament dietary restrictions, but feels the freedom to wear modest pants. Her sister-in-law would never put on a pair or pants, but she thinks Jennifer is being legalistic about not eating pork.

Depending upon who you talk to, any of these things (and plenty more) may be labeled as legalistic.

All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being. (1 Corinthians 10:23-24)

It’s that “putting others first” thing again. Discussing, studying, and sharing our various ideas and views is healthy and good. Iron sharpens iron as we are all learning and growing, but we must be so careful of the way we treat one another—being forbearing with one another’s weaknesses and faults.

The False “Legalist” Label
The third form of legalism is imaginary. If you believe in living according to God’s Word, you better be prepared for false accusations of legalism from someone, somewhere, at some time. Growing Antinomianism (anti-law) in our culture has escalated such accusations.

"Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution." (2 Timothy 3:12)

Even when you seek to obey God in faith because you love Him (not because you’re attempting to earn his favor) those looking in from the outside may make assumptions about you—especially if they are convicted by your lifestyle and unwilling to evaluate their own lives.

Calling others legalistic based on outward appearance is itself legalistic and hypocritical. Some of those who say that they have left legalism have really just exchanged one form for another and are still judging the spirituality of others based on how they are perceived by the ex-legalist.

Our works don’t save us – our faith in Jesus does. But if we are in Christ, we must walk in those good works (prepared ahead of time by Him) for the glory of God. It's what we were created for.

Interesting comment on progress in Bible translation

I like this comment from the Better Bibles Blog:
In the (paraphrased) words of Robert Alter, the problem with the KJV is its shaky sense of Hebrew; the problem with more recent versions is their shaky sense of English.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Beyond the Bible?

Last year I read and was disturbed by I Howard Marshall's Beyond the Bible: Moving from Scripture to Theology. In this short book, Professor Marshall attempts to offer guidance for the task of applying scriptural insight to contemporary issues.

What I found disturbing, though, was that the book seems to give us a hermeneutic which allows us to reinterpret the teaching of Scripture so that at times it says something far different from what it originally said and meant.

The reinterpretation seems to allow us to say what Jesus or Paul would have said, or should have said, had they lived today. What a shame that they were not free to say what God had intended!

Some time before I had read William Webb's Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis,which also seems to allow us a way of avoiding some of what the Bible teaches by envisioning where it was leading.

So I was interested to read Four Views on Moving Beyond the Bible to Theology, which interacts with Marshall's book and includes chapters by William Webb, Walter Kaiser, Daniel Doriani and Kevin Vanhoozer. I haven't finished this book yet, but again find Webb's contributions unsatisfying. Kaiser's principlizing model does seem also give modern readers an out whereby we can find the principle behind what Scripture says, but deny the apparent original force of its teaching.

Kaiser may use this method to rewrite what the Bible appears to teach on the roles of men and women and women's ministry, but others could easily take it further to white out other teachings which are found objectionable by Twenty-first Century folk.

Daniel Doriani's chapter is refreshing and encouraging and shows how we can "go beyond the Bible" without departing from its teachings: we can find principles for living today which were not originally addressed in the Bible, but which do not contradict the old book, but can be shown to be in harmony with it.

Dr Doriani points out that we can learn from narrative in the Bible, as well as from commands, promises and warnings. It has often been said that we shouldn't make doctrine out of narrative. Yet, the Bible is a narrative.

He says that the characters in the Bible and the stories are intended teach us what to do and what not to do. Sometimes the narrator tells us whether the character or story is intended as a good or bad example.

Where the narrator does not tell us, we can compare the passage with the rest of what the writer presents as positive or negative, or go further by reading what the rest of Holy Scripture has to say.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

One point stuck in my mind

Jean Williams' blog is always encouraging and always worth reading.
One point stuck in my mind in her article about learning to love your marriage partner. It was all good, as the young people say, but this is the bit that got me thinking tonight:
Find friends who support your marriage.

What a sensible suggestion.

A few years ago a young married woman commented to me that in her place of work the other women spent all day tearing strips off their husbands and continually berating them. How important it is to have friends who will remind us of the good qualities of our and their marriage partners.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

New Testament yes, Old Testament no, no, no!

Tackling the New Testament is much easier than successfully getting through the Old.
It's more familiar
It's shorter [NT: 260 chapters versus OT: 969!]
But, as Bible translator, Doming Lucasi observed,
Having the New Testament without the Old Testament is like having a sword without a handle.
If you want to come to grips with that handle, here are some tips that helped me.
1. Nobody said you had to read the Old Testament through from beginning to end.
2. Nobody ever said you had to read the Old Testament before the New Testament.
3. Nobody ever said that every part of the Bible is equally important: it is not wrong to spend more time reading the stories than all those genealogies
Ever noticed that although every sin, any sin will keep you out of God's coming kingdom, not all sins are equal?
Similarly, each part of the Bible is important and has something to teach you, but it is more important to know that you are a sinner who needs Jesus to save you, than it is to know all of the 613 laws in the Old Testament!

Suggestions for making the task easier:
1. Read part of the Old Testament and part of the New Testament each time you work on your project of reading through the whole Old Testament.
2. For a balanced read-through, try reading 4 chapters of the Old Testament for every one chapter you read of the New. One way of doing this is to read 3 chapters of the part of the Old you are currently tackling, one psalm and one chapter of the New Testament.
3. Read a short book or two between tackling the longer ones, to break it up and to give you a sense of achievement. It's fun to be able to say
I've read five books of the Old Testament
even if these include
Genesis - 50 chapters
Ruth - 4 chapters
Obadiah -1 chapter
Haggai - 2 chapters
Lamentations - 5 chapters.
4. Don't spend a long time over the long genealogical lists. You can always go back to these on a later read-through. But the goal now is to read it through once.
5. In a rapid read-through, don't stop to ponder the many curious and strange things you encounter, because this will prevent you from completing your task.
It is important to think through the many problems you encounter, but you don't have to do it all at once, and often, keeping going will explain a problem you met earlier. Scripture explains Scripture.

For more help, please read my earlier post It's that time of year again.

Friday, January 01, 2010

It's that time of year

At this time of year, many Christians' thoughts turn again to reading through the Bible. Most of us have read some of it over and over, but many of us have never succeeded in reading the whole shebang.

Do you remember Rocky and Bullwinkle? Rocky comments: That trick never works and Bullwinkle retorts This time for sure. I think that is how many of us feel in trying to read through the Bible. Even though we believe that it is inspired by God and is good for us, all too often it can feel like eating broccoli, which, we are also told, mostly by our mothers, is good for us.

[Don't tell anyone I said this, but do you know the difference between snot and broccoli?
Kids won't eat broccoli!]

What can we do to succeed this time? Here are a few myths to be knocked out of the way:
1. Nobody said that you have to start on 1st January!
2. Nobody said that you have to do it every day, and that if you miss a day, you've failed.
3. Nobody said that you should start at the beginning, keep going till you get to the end, then stop. That wasn't God, that was the Queen of Hearts in Through the Looking Glass!
4. Nobody said that you should complete the project in a year, or this year.
Here are a few suggestions that may work:
1. Read the Bible like you eat an elephant.
How do you eat a whole elephant?
One bite at a time.
2. Set smaller goals. Don't plan to read all 1189 chapters if you haven't yet read through any of the longer books, such as Isaiah, which has 66 chapters, Jeremiah, which has 52 chapters [and is even longer than Isaiah, because there are several really long chapters] or the book of Psalms, which has 150 individual psalms, one of which has 176 verses, divided into 22 sections.
3. Start with something more manageable, such as reading through some of the little books. If you were to read through all 26 little books, although you would only have read about 10% of the whole, you would have quite a good overview of what the Bible is saying.[Wasn't that thoughtful of our heavenly Father!]
4. Use charts which you can tick off as you go. I like doing this! It gives me a sense of having accomplished something.
5. After reading through all the little books, have a crack at tackling a gospel - Mark is the shortest.
6. Read the Bible itself, at first, without looking up commentaries or study notes. These can be very helpful, but they aren't the Word of God, but merely aids to help you read God's Word.
If you are a Christian [which means you have given up trying to be good enough for God, and are trusting in Jesus alone to save you], God has promised to help you to read and understand his Word - and to do what it says!
When we begin living for Christ, instead of for ourselves, God's Holy Spirit comes to live in us, and guides us. The same Spirit who inspired the writers is with us today to help us to understand what He [and they] wrote.

Nearly forgot.
It is much easier to read a version that is written in the language people speak today, rather than one that is very formal.
The Good News Bible or The New Living Translation are much easier to read than some other popular versions, which may be more useful for later, in depth study.