Thursday, 31 December 2020

Welcome to 2021

 Thanks to God that he has carried us this far. May he lift us into eternal glory in Him, through the forgiveness of our sins, only through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Dealing with repeated failure

Consider Peter’s failure in Galatians 2.

11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

We know the apostle Peter’s reputation as the biggest and best disciple, for he shows moments of true greatness. He is the first disciple named in Matthew, Mark and Luke’s gospels. He is the first disciple to clearly understand that he is not worthy of Jesus: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (Luke 5:8)

His absolute moment of greatness comes when he confesses ”You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”. He is the first to recognise who Jesus really is.

Following the crucifixion he is first, after the women, to rush into the cave tomb after the resurrection and realise that Jesus’ body isn’t there.

But just as much as the spectacular successes are the equally spectacular failures.

Peter has a habit of telling Jesus off, beginning with his implied complaint about Jesus telling him where to cast his net (Luke 5:5). Or the time early in Jesus’ ministry where he tells Jesus off for disappearing from public ministry to pray. “Everyone is looking for you”, chides Peter.

Later he tells Jesus he’s not going to die, provoking from Jesus the response “Get behind me Satan”.

And just before Jesus’ crucifixion, he denies Jesus 3 times in the High Priest’s courtyard. “I never knew him”, says Peter.

But then we have this story in Galatians 2. It’s something else again. Peter has been completely rehabilitated, Jesus has restored to him the job of making disciples. In the power of the Holy Spirit, he’s done a heroic and consistent job in the face of fierce opposition. He’s even gone out on a limb and preached to the Gentiles, and seen them become Christians before his own eyes, a fact he will testify to before the Jerusalem council.

Now though, his fellow Jews have put him under pressure, and he has slowly withdrawn himself from table fellowship with the Gentiles, his brothers and sisters in Christ. So much so that Paul, a junior apostle, publicly tears strips off him. It is all the worse because he’s been forgiven and restored from failure so many times  previously. He even possesses God’s Holy Spirit.

Yet even now, the unstoppable love of God continues to be poured out. Later in life, the chastened Peter will joyfully suffer for his Saviour. Tradition says he was crucified upside down for his faith. Likewise, according to tradition, it is Peter who dictates Mark’s gospel; he writes two letters for the encouragement of suffering Jewish Christians. This repeatedly failing shepherd of the sheep is used to feed God’s sheep yet once more.

We too will fail, and fail often, sometimes disastrously. In the mercy of Christ, and by continued trust in him, God restores. God's name can and will be glorified in our darkest moments.

Can we have a personal relationship with God? The Psalmist speaks.

Just for the fun of it I made a list of Psalms which seem to clearly express a close personal relationship with Jesus (setting to one side but not forgetting that they are frequently addressed by the Son to the Father, for example 2:7 "The LORD said to me, 'You are my Son, today I have begotten you'" or 3:3 "But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory and the lifter of my head"). I deliberately excluded any Psalms that didn't explicitly use "I-you" language eg Psalm 1, Psalm 11, or any that seemed borderline eg Psalm 12; arguably this was a mistake.

I found these fit the pattern:

2 3 4 5 6 7 9 10 13 16 17 18 ("I love you, O LORD, my strength") 22 23 25 26 27 28 30 31 32 34 35 38 39 40 41 [42 is excluded only if you do not link it to 43] 44 51 52 56 ("You have kept count of my tossings, put my tears in your bottle.") 57 61 62 63 65 66 69 70 71 73 77 84 86 88 (by speaking of its opposite) 91 (twisted by Satan because he implied that the relationship might *not* be that close) 92 94 101 102 103 ("who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagles." Not 'I-you' but surely deserves inclusion) 109 116 118 119 121 123 130 138 139 ("O LORD, you have searched me and known me!...Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.") 140 141 142 143 145.

It could reasonably be argued that this exercise is of limited value on these grounds:

(1) Every Psalm, even where a personal relationship with God is not spoken of explicitly, assumes the reality or the potential for such relationship. Therefore, the list should include all 150 Psalms.

(2) Every Psalm is intra-Trinitarian in nature, expressing the relationship of the Son to the Father through the Spirit. Therefore, it is not possible for them not to be deeply personal in character, and when we use them for our own, we are expressing this personal relationship 'en Christo', in Christ. Therefore, the list should include all 150 Psalms.

(3) If we note that many of the Psalms are 'of David', then our relationship with God is closer than his, because we are of the New Covenant, and it is impossible to imagine a negative answer to the prayer "take not your Holy Spirit from me" (Psalm 51:12), for this would involve our Lord in teaching his children to pray a prayer that he then refused to honour, which would contradict his promise to us in Luke 11:10-13.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Engaging with Islam in Australia today.

A week ago I attended a talk by Dr John Azumah, lecturer in World Christianity and Islam at Columbia Theological Seminary.

You can find my notes at the CMS Checkpoint Online website, here:

Friday, 23 January 2015

Bruce Linton and I have hung out for a bit talking about children's ministry, and slowly, in various ways and places, some of that material is leaking out

Here's the latest, some video material that a friend put up on the Effective Ministry website. It is great stuff!

Friday, 4 July 2014

Actually, this could be the most useful post on this blog

How about this list of free resources, courtesy of Kevin Halloran?

250+ Free Online Seminary Classes, Courses, Programs, and Book Recommendations

Friday, 11 April 2014

Top commentaries on the Bible.

This could be the most useful post on this blog!

Friday, 21 March 2014

This one is going straight in the sermon illustration file:

The Amazing, True Story Of John Harper
The Last Hero Of The Titanic

"There, alone in the night with two miles of water under me, I cried to Christ to save me. I am John Harper's last convert "
The unsinkable ship. It was April 15, 1912, when HMS Titanic sank beneath the icy waters of the North Atlantic, taking with it 1517 lives. The largest and most luxurious ship at the time was gone, reminding the world of our frailty as human beings. But there is more to the sinking of the Titanic than a historical tragedy. There is a story of courageous heroism and unshakable faith.

Titanic, the "unsinkable ship" did nothing but sink. As the sounds of terror and mayhem continued, Harper focused on his
God-given purpose. Survivors reported seeing him on the upper deck on his knees, surrounded by terrified passengers,
praying for their salvation.

The great ship hits an iceberg

John Harper was aboard the Titanic when she set sail from Southampton, England, on her maiden voyage. An evangelist originally from Glasgow, Scotland, he was well known throughout the United Kingdom as a charismatic, passionate speaker who led many to Christ through his gift of preaching. In 1912, Reverend Harper received an invitation to speak at the Moody Church in Chicago, U.S.A. On April 11, 1912, John Harper boarded the Titanic.
Some of the wealthiest people in the world were aboard. While many passengers spoke of business deals, acquisitions and material desires, John Harper was diligently sharing the love of Christ with others. In the days leading up to the tragedy, survivors reported seeing Harper living like a man of faith, speaking kind words and sharing the love of Christ.
On the evening of April 14, as passengers danced in the ballroom and tried their luck at the card tables, John Harper put his daughter to bed and read his devotions as he did every night. At 11:40pm, the Titanic struck an iceberg. The "unsinkable" ship was doomed. Either in disbelief or unaware at the time, passengers continued about their pleasures. It wasn't until the ship's crew sent up a series of distress flares that passengers realized the seriousness of their situation. Then chaos ensued.
It all happened so fast. But John Harper's response left an historic example of courage and faith. Harper awakened his daughter, picked her up and wrapped her in a blanket before carrying her up to the deck. There he kissed her good-bye and handed her to a crewman who put her into lifeboat 11. Harper knew he would never see his daughter again, His daughter would be left an orphan at six years of age.
Harper then gave his life jacket to a fellow passenger, ending any chance of his own survival. From a survivor we learn that he was calling out, "Women and children and unsaved people into the lifeboats." So he understood that there was a more important thing than surviving that terrible disaster. He understood that there were those who were unprepared to face eternity.
As the sounds of terror and mayhem continued, Harper focused on his God-given purpose. Survivors reported seeing him on the upper deck on his knees, surrounded by terrified passengers, praying for their salvation.
At 2:40am, the Titanic disappeared beneath the North Atlantic, leaving a mushroom-like cloud of smoke and steam above her grave and, tragically, over 1000 people, including Harper, fighting for their lives in the icy water. He managed to find a piece of floating wreckage to hold onto. Quickly he swam to every person he could find, urging those about him to put their faith in Jesus Christ. While death forced others to face the folly of their life's pursuits, John Harper's goal of winning people to Jesus Christ became more vital.
Are you saved?
In the water, John Harper was moving around as best he could, speaking to as many people as possible. His question was, "Are you saved?" And if they weren't saved and if they didn't understand that terminology, then as rapidly as he could he explained the Christian Gospel.
Soon John Harper succumbed to the icy sea. But even in his last moment, this tireless man of undying faith continued his life pursuit of winning lost souls.
One person remembered, "I am a survivor of the Titanic. I was one of only six people out of 1517 to be pulled from the icy waters on that dreadful night. Like hundreds around me, I found myself struggling in the cold, dark waters of the North Atlantic. The wail of the perishing was ringing in my ears when there floated by me a man who called to me, ‘Is your soul saved?' Then I heard him call out to others as he and everyone around me sank beneath the waters. There, alone in the night with two miles of water under me, I cried to Christ to save me. I am John Harper's last convert."
"Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved...and thy house." - Acts 16:31

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Stupid things, in order of occurrence

1. Parked car in Norton St Leichardt, in a hurry but not stupidly.
2. Oh except in too much of a hurry to put money in the parking meter.
3. Disappeared for three hours.
4. Came back to discover car gone. Walked a long way, thinking 'maybe I just forgot where I parked it'. It happens.
5. Walked back [not stupid, nor are the next five steps].
6. Doorknocked and spoke to shop owners about whether they had noticed anything, eg a car being towed away for being parked but not paying for parking.
7. Phoned police to report a stolen car.
8. Walked around corner to see if car had been towed, as suggested by police person over the phone.
9. Phoned police to confirm that car had indeed been stolen.
10. Walked disconsolately back towards Parramatta Rd.
11. Discovered car.
12. &c.

UPDATE TO ADD: Yes it had been there all along. Just 2 blocks before where I thought it was.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

reposting stuff about a daughter.

 She is 10 years old, a musical genius (no great claims, that is a relative statement, and she is not Emily Bear), playing trumpet, french horn, cello and piano, not because we told her she had to but because she wanted to do more. 

Sorry also for sounding like I am boasting, it's one of the many reasons I don't often post personal stuff on facebook. 

She, like all three daughters, sings perfectly in pitch, and my message to her is the same as my message to all three: we will not love you less if you stop playing one of your instruments, we will not love you more if you keep going with what you are doing, we love what you are and who you are and blahdiblahdiblah.

(which rhymes)

Saturday, 20 July 2013

A hymn.

And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (Matthew 26:30)

A 'hymn', ladies and gentlemen. A hymn. Not a praise song with a repeated chorus and a bridge, with an instrumental solo that causes at least 5 people to come in early because you had to guess, and the song 'leader' gave no indication.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Children's ministry principle one

I wrote an article on children's ministry for the Briefing:

Over the course of nearly 20 years in children’s ministry (not including his own childhood), Bruce Linton realized that the establishing principle behind starting a children’s ministry in a church is usually this: noise must be contained so that we, the grown-ups, can get on with church.

Here's the rest. It's part one, so more to come.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

“Look to Jesus” by Charles Spurgeon

“Look to Jesus” by Charles Spurgeon:
“Looking unto Jesus.” –Hebrews 12:2
“It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ.
He insinuates, ‘Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of His children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.’
All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within. But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: He tells us that we are nothing, but that ‘Christ is all in all.’
Remember, therefore, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits.
Therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Jesus, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith.
We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by ‘looking unto Jesus.’
Keep thine eye simply on Him; let His death, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look to Him; when thou liest down at night look to Him.
Oh! let not thy hopes or fears come between thee and Jesus; follow hard after Him, and He will never fail thee.
‘My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesu’s blood and righteousness:
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesu’s name.’”
–Charles Spurgeon, “June 28 –  Morning” in Morning and Evening (Geanies House, Fearn, Scotland, UK: Christian Focus, 1994),  378.
[HT: Nick Gardner]

Monday, 17 June 2013

Char siu pork belly


From SBS.

Char siu pork belly: Char siu pork bellyResting time 10 minutes
Marinating time Overnight

Combine soy sauce, rice vinegar, hoisin sauce, sugar, garlic and five-spice powder in a non-reactive bowl. Add pork belly, toss to coat, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight to marinate.

Preheat oven to 160°C. Drain pork belly pieces, discarding marinade, and place in a deep roasting pan. Season with salt and drizzle with half the honey. Roast for 40 minutes, then turn pork over, season with salt and drizzle over remaining honey. Roast for a further 40 minutes or until pork is cooked through and is sticky and charred. Remove from oven, loosely cover with foil and set aside for 10 minutes to rest. Cut into thick pieces and serve immediately with steamed gai lan and oyster sauce.

SBS cook’s notes
temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection),
reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and
cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals
250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly
packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. |
All eggs are 55–60 g, unless specified.

As seen in Feast magazine, Issue 22, pg 49.

Photography by Chris Chen

useful stuff about mundane important things.

This is from a blog by Eric Barker.

What 3 tricks will get people (including yourself) to do things right?:

do things right

What does it take to get people to do things right?

It’s an important question.
And the answer is not as hard as you might think.
But as you’ll see, a lot of people had to die before someone realized what works.

1) Make a checklist

I’ve posted before about the power of checklists and Atul Gawande’s excellent book on the subject.
We’re all prone to simple errors.
And in some fields these errors are quite costly. In medicine, people can die:
Via The Success Equation: Untangling Skill and Luck in Business, Sports, and Investing:
Peter Pronovost is an anesthesiologist and critical-care specialist at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Pronovost had noticed that about forty thousand people in the United States died each year from infections caused by central line catheters— intravenous tubes placed in patients as part of their treatment. These deaths typically showed up as “complications” from surgery, but were completely preventable. Yet the number of people dying from these infections was equal to the number of women dying from breast cancer each year.
Checklists are powerful for straightforward tasks like this — but only if people use them.
How often did doctors use them after Pronovost put them together?
The compliance rate was only 38%.
Thirty-eight percent.
That’s what happens when you ask very smart people to do something that saves lives.
What hope is there for less intelligent people on average tasks?
So how do you implement a checklist so that people actually use it?

2) Make it easy to comply through preparation

Pronovost put all the required elements for the checklist activities in to one accessible place.
Boom — compliance rose to 70%.
Via The Success Equation: Untangling Skill and Luck in Business, Sports, and Investing:
He quickly realized that a major part of the problem was that the supplies were scattered in different places, requiring doctors and nurses to gather gloves, masks, drapes, and tubes from various locations. He created a “central line cart” so that everything a doctor would need was readily available in one place. Compliance rose to 70 percent…
But 70% isn’t 100% — and in this case we’re talking about human lives.
What does it take to get people to do things right — all the time?

3) Put someone in charge of compliance

You get lazy. You get overconfident in your abilities. Lists can seem demeaning, like you’re second guessing yourself.
So even when there’s a list and it’s easy to use, you can ignore it.
How do you overcome this?
Reminders are powerful.
And something in charge of reminding you — whether it’s a person or an alarm on your phone — can make all the difference.
Via The Success Equation: Untangling Skill and Luck in Business, Sports, and Investing:
He had no doubt that the doctors wanted to take excellent care of their patients and that they could readily enumerate the items on the checklist if asked. The problem was that the physicians simply didn’t focus on the mundane tasks. So Pronovost took the unusual step of placing the nurses in charge of compliance. Hospitals, like many other organizations, are hierarchical, and doctors are at the top of the heap. But Pronovost sat down with the staff and explained what he was trying to achieve and why it was so important. At first, the doctors saw it as an effort to undermine their authority, while the nurses worried that it would open them up to criticism. But Pronovost convinced all parties to try the new approach. Within a year, the rate of infection dropped nearly to zero. 

So what do you do now?

  1. Make a checklist.
  2. Put everything needed to execute it in one place ahead of time.
  3. Make sure you have a reminder — someone or something to bug you.
If it can save lives, it can certainly make a difference in your life.
Join 45K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.
Related posts:
INTERVIEW – The top FBI hostage negotiator teaches you the 5 secrets to getting what you want
What’s the best way to influence others?
The last damn thing you’ll ever need to read about influence, persuasion and negotiation

The post What 3 tricks will get people (including yourself) to do things right? appeared first on Barking Up The Wrong Tree.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Good news

My good friend Macca is a good friend.

Now read on:

Good news:
I’ve been overwhelmed by the encouragement I’ve received over the past couple of days. Since posting about my wonderful scan results I’ve received so many Facebook, email, phone and face to face greetings. So many have expressed their gratitude to God for his kindness.

On Thursday I was able to speak to the Brumbies after they were presented their jerseys at the Captain’s run. They encouraged me with their enthusiasm for my news. Some shared my thanks to God and others simply expressed what @#%! great news it was. Each in their own way!

I also had the privilege of sharing my news at church yesterday morning. One person tearfully hugged me, saying their family had prayed for me every day of the past eighteen months. This is very humbling. I didn’t deserve it, but so many have pleaded with God for my healing. One little boy was so excited to hear my news that he’d told his school principal! Some hugged me so strongly I was worried my weak lung might cave in!

Last night I spoke of my excellent medical outcomes again. I was introduced with the words: ‘Macca has some great news to tell us.’ It hit me that I should share the best news I have. So I did. I spoke of the news that around 2000 years ago, Jesus died by crucifixion and then rose from the dead, so that all who trust him could have hope of new life for eternity. This is by far the greatest news. And then I spoke of my scan results, and people clapped.

Let me remind you that my hope is not ultimately in NED or remission or cure. My hope is beyond cure. It’s in the news that matters most:
Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance : that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:1-4 NIV)

Beach boxes.

Just happiness.

Monday, 27 May 2013

“A spotless, pure, complete, and incomparable righteousness” by Thomas Brooks

This is from the Tolle Lege website. Click on through! It is brilliant.

“A spotless, pure, complete, and incomparable righteousness” by Thomas Brooks:
“A second property of an humble soul is this, He overlooks his own righteousness, and lives upon the righteousness of another, to wit, the Lord Jesus. So the apostle, (Philip. 3:8–10), overlooks his own righteousness, and lives wholly upon the righteousness of Christ: ‘I desire to be found in him,’ saith he, ‘not having mine own righteousness.’
Away with it, it is dross, it is dung, it is dog’s meat! It is a rotten righteousness, an imperfect righteousness, a weak righteousness, ‘which is of the law; but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith,’ that is a spotless righteousness, a pure righteousness, a complete righteousness, an incomparable righteousness; and, therefore, an humble soul overlooks his own righteousness, and lives upon Christ’s righteousness.
Remember this, all the sighing, mourning, sobbing, and complaining in the world, doth not so undeniably evidence a man to be humble, as his overlooking his own righteousness, and living really and purely upon the righteousness of Christ. This is the greatest demonstration of humility that can be shewn by man, (Mat. 6:8).
Men may do much, hear much, pray much, fast much, and give much, &c., and yet be as proud as Lucifer, as you may see in the Scribes, Pharisees, Mat. 23, and those in Isa, 58:3, who in the pride of their hearts made an idol of their own righteousness: ‘Wherefore have we fasted,’ say they, ‘and thou seest it not? wherefore have we afflicted our souls, and thou takest no knowledge?’
Oh! but for a man now to trample upon his own righteousness, and to live wholly upon the righteousness of another, this speaks out a man to be humble indeed. There is nothing that the heart of man stands more averse to than this, of coming off from his own righteousness.
Man is a creature apt to warm himself with the sparks of his own fire, though he doth lie down for it in eternal sorrow, Isa. 50:11. Man is naturally prone to go about to establish his own righteousness, that he might not subject to the righteousness of Christ; he will labour as for life, to lift up his own righteousness, and to make a saviour of it, Rom. 10:4.
Ay, but an humble soul disclaims his own righteousness: ‘All our righteousness is as filthy rags.’ ‘Enter not into judgment with thy servant, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified,’ Ps. 143:2. So Job, ‘Though I were righteous, yet I would not answer, but I would make supplication to my judge,’ Job 9:15.
Proud Pharisees bless themselves in their own righteousness: ‘I thank God I am not as this publican; I fast twice in the week,’ &c., Luke 18:11, 12. Ay, but now a soul truly humbled blushes to see his own righteousness, and glories in this, that he has the righteousness of Christ to live upon.2 Rev. 4:10, 11, the twenty-four elders throw down their crowns at the feet of Christ.
By their crowns you may understand their gifts, their excellencies, their righteousness; they throw down these before Christ’s throne, to note to us, that they did not put confidence in them, and that Christ was the crown of crowns and the top of all their royalty and glory. An humble soul looks upon Christ’s righteousness as his only crown.”
–Thomas Brooks, “The Unsearchable Riches of Christ,” in The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 3, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), 11-12.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Brainstorming: 3 reasons why everything you know is wrong.

a useful article on getting better creative ideas.

Brainstorming: 3 reasons why everything you know is wrong.:
Google Reader is being shut down on July 1st. Sign up for my mailing list to make sure you don't miss anything. Join here.

Brainstorming is broken.

We all know the standard method of brainstorming:
  1. Get a bunch of people together.
  2. Generate lots of ideas.
  3. Don’t be critical.
There’s one problem with this system.
It’s totally wrong.

1) Don’t work in a group

The research consistently shows that individuals who generate ideas on their own and then meet afterward come up with more (and better) ideas.
Via Imagine: How Creativity Works:
There’s just one problem with brainstorming: it doesn’t work. Keith Sawyer, a psychologist at Washington University, summarizes the science: “Decades of research have consistently shown that brainstorming groups think of far fewer ideas than the same number of people who work alone and later pool their ideas.” In fact, the very first empirical test of Osborn’s technique, which was performed at Yale in 1958, soundly refuted the premise. The experiment was simple: Forty-eight male undergraduates were divided into twelve groups and given a series of creative puzzles. The groups were instructed to carefully follow Osborn’s brainstorming guidelines. As a control sample, forty-eight students working by themselves were each given the same puzzles. The results were a sobering refutation of brainstorming. Not only did the solo students come up with twice as many solutions as the brainstorming groups but their solutions were deemed more “feasible” and “effective” by a panel of judges. In other words, brainstorming didn’t unleash the potential of the group. Instead, the technique suppressed it, making each individual less creative.
Performance gets worse as group size increases.
Via Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking:
The results were unambiguous. The men in twenty-three of the twenty-four groups produced more ideas when they worked on their own than when they worked as a group. They also produced ideas of equal or higher quality when working individually. And the advertising executives were no better at group work than the presumably introverted research scientists. Since then, some forty years of research has reached the same startling conclusion. Studies have shown that performance gets worse as group size increases: groups of nine generate fewer and poorer ideas compared to groups of six, which do worse than groups of four. The “evidence from science suggests that business people must be insane to use brainstorming groups,” writes the organizational psychologist Adrian Furnham. “If you have talented and motivated people, they should be encouraged to work alone when creativity or efficiency is the highest priority.”

2) Don’t generate as many ideas as possible.

Don’t write down every idea “no matter how crazy.” Rules help.
Focusing your efforts on being as creative as possible reduces the number of ideas but increases the number of good ideas.
Via Group Genius: The Creative Power of Collaboration:
Researchers next looked for idea-generating rules that would work even better than Osborn’s. They told their subjects: “The more imaginative or creative your ideas, the higher your score will be. Each idea will be scored in terms of (1) how unique or different it is— how much it differs from the common use and (2) how valuable it is— either socially, artistically, economically, etc.” These instructions are very different from those given for classic brainstorming because people are being told to use specific directions in judging which ideas they come up with. Groups working with these instructions have fewer ideas than brainstorming groups, but they have more good ideas. What’s most important is being explicitly told to be imaginative, unique, and valuable; then, it’s okay if your critical faculties are still engaged. Osborn had one thing right: Most people use the wrong criteria to evaluate their ideas; they think about what will work, about what worked before, or about what is familiar to them. This discovery— that when subjects are told they’ll be evaluated for creativity, they’re more creative than when they’re told not to use any criteria at all— has been reproduced repeatedly in the laboratory. When groups are asked to suggest good, creative solutions, they have fewer ideas but those ideas are better than those generated by groups using the brainstorming rules.

3) Be critical and fight.

Don’t be open and accepting. Fight. When people debate, they are more creative.
Via Imagine: How Creativity Works:
Which teams did the best? The results weren’t even close: while the brainstorming groups slightly outperformed the groups given no instructions, people in the debate condition were far more creative. On average, they generated nearly 25 percent more ideas. The most telling part of the study, however, came after the groups had been disbanded. That’s when researchers asked each of the subjects if he or she had any more ideas about traffic that had been triggered by the earlier conversation. While people in the minimal and brainstorming conditions produced, on average, two additional ideas, those in the debate condition produced more than seven. Nemeth summarizes her results: “While the instruction ‘Do not criticize’ is often cited as the [most] important instruction in this appears to be a counterproductive strategy. Our findings show that debate and criticism do not inhibit ideas but, rather, stimulate them relative to every other condition.”
Join 45K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.
Related posts:
Are creative people more likely to be crazy?
What does the most comprehensive study of geniuses tell us about creativity?
5 quick things you can do today to boost your creativity

The post Brainstorming: 3 reasons why everything you know is wrong. appeared first on Barking Up The Wrong Tree.

The Woolwich Killing: "We must fight them as they fight us."

This is from Mark Durie's blog. He looks at the theological reasoning behind the killing of a man in Woolwich:

The Woolwich Killing: "We must fight them as they fight us.": Today in Woolwich, England, a man reported to be a British soldier was cut down by two Anglo-African Muslims wielding knives and a machete.  One of the killers, speaking in a home-grown English accent, is heard (here) to say:
The only reason we have killed this man today is because Muslims are dying daily by British solidiers, and this British soldier is one, is a eye for a eye and a tooth for a tooth. By Allah, we swear by the Almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone. So what if we want to live by the sharia in Muslim lands. Why does that mean you must follow us and chase us and call us extremists and kill us? Rather you are extreme. You the ones.  When you drop a bomb, do you think it hits one person, or rather your bomb wipes out a whole family. This is the reality.  By Allah if I saw your mother today with a buggy I would help her up the stairs.  This is my nature. But we are forced by the Qur'an in Sura at-Tauba [Chapter 9 of the Koran], through many, many ayah [verses] throughout the Koran that [say] we must fight them as they fight us, a eye for a eye and a tooth for a tooth. I apologize that women had to witness this today, but in our land our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your governments.  They don’t care about you. Do you think David Cameron is gonna get caught in the street when we start busting our guns?  Do you think the politicians are going to die? No it's going to be the average guy, like you, and your children. So get rid of them.  Tell them to bring our troops back so we ca.., so you can all live in peace. Leave our lands and you will live in peace. That's all I have to say.  Allah's peace and blessings be upon Muhammad ...
(Earlier versions of this post had less complete transcripts.)

Eyewitnesses said that the victim had been wearing a 'Help for Heroes' t-shirt.  Help for Heroes is a charity to help British soldiers wounded in current conflicts.

Eyewitnesses also reported that the killers attempted to behead the soldier, and that they asked bystanders to call the police, and moved towards the police as if to attack them, as soon as they appeared.

While some said the killers were crazed, the contrary seems to be the case.  They appear to have been acting in accordance with a theologically determined logic which can be understood on the basis of Islamic teachings.  In the midst of perpetrating this carnage, they found time, calmly and clearly, to explain their motivations on camera.

The killer captured on video was referencing passages from Islamic sacred texts. "We must fight them as they fight us" is a phrase found repeatedly in the Koran.  He specifically mentions Sura at-Tauba (chapter 9, i.e. verse 36) and 'many, many' other verses from the Koran, namely:

"fight the polytheists all together as they fight you all together"  (Sura 9:36)
"fight in the cause  of Allah those who fight you ... And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; for fitnah (oppression, persecution) is worse than slaughter; ...  if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith. " (Sura 2:190-9)
"Permission to fight (against disbelievers) is given to those (believers) who are fought against, because they have been wronged and surely, Allah is Able to give them (believers) victory" (Sura 22:39)
The Arabic word for 'fight' used in the Koran in these passages is qātilū which literally means fighting to kill.  (See here for an explanation of the meaning of Sura 2:190-91, a passage used by Muslim jurists to justify killing.)

The reference 'an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth' is also from the Koran (although ultimately borrowed from several passages in the Mosaic law):
And We prescribed for them therein: The life for the life, and the eye for the eye, and the nose for the nose, and the ear for the ear, and the tooth for the tooth, and for wounds retaliation. (Sura 5:45)
The Muslim killers here are invoking a religious ruling that it is permissible to fight and kill people who wage war against Muslims.  As Bin Ladin put it in his letter to the American people:
"It is commanded by our religion and intellect that the oppressed have a right to return the aggression. Do not await anything from us but Jihad, resistance and revenge."
The belief which seems to underly the Woolwich attack is that because the British government is fighting a war against Muslims in Muslim lands, it is therefore legitimate for Muslims to wage jihad against the British.  British people, who voted the government into power, are also considered to be personally culpable, which is why they 'will never be safe' and are told to 'remove your government'.

The killer's language is strikingly reminiscent of Bin Ladin's November 2002 letter to the American people, in which he not only spoke of 'removal' of governments (in Muslim lands), but also explained that it was legitimate to attack American civilians because they are the ones who voted their government into power:
"... the American people are the ones who choose their government by way of their own free will; a choice which stems from their agreement to its policies. ... The American people have the ability and choice to refuse the policies of their Government and even to change it if they want. ... the American army is part of the American people. ... This is why the American people cannot be not innocent of all the crimes committed by the Americans and Jews against us. ... Allah, the Almighty, legislated the permission and the option to take revenge. Thus, if we are attacked, then we have the right to attack back. ...  whoever has killed our civilians, then we have the right to kill theirs.
The phrase 'you people will never be safe' is reminiscent of Muhammad's instruction to his followers to invite non-Muslims to Islam by telling them aslim taslam "Accept Islam and you will be safe" (see here).  The implication is that non-Muslims are not safe because their blood and property can be taken until they convert.  Thus Muhammad said to his cousin Ali, on the eve of the attack against the Jews of Khaibar:
"Fight (qātilū) until they bear testimony to the fact that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger [i.e. until they convert to Islam] and when they do that, then their blood and their riches are inviolable [safe] from your hands." (Sahih Muslim. Book of the Merits of the Companions of the Holy Prophet 4:29:5917).
It seems  the killers desired martyrdom in accordance with their beliefs, because they asked bystanders to call the police and immediately moved to attack the police when they arrived on the scene.

This slaughter on the streets of Woolwich has all the hallmarks of a theologically motivated attack, and keys to understand it can be found in the Qur'an and the teachings of Muhammad.

Whether the views adopted by the killers are 'legitimate' interpretations of the Koran and Muhammad's teachings may be disputed.  What cannot be disputed is the source where they found their inspiration.

Mark Durie is an Anglican vicar in Melbourne, Australia, author of The Third Choice, and an Associate Fellow at the Middle Eastern Forum.
Mark Durie is an Anglican pastor and Associate Fellow at the Middle Eastern Forum.

Subscribe to blog by email.

This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete and accurate information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Gay marriage and conformism

This article by spiked editor Brendan O'Neill is a gold mine of quotes on conformism, and a thoughtful picture of the current gay marriage discussion from a secular liberal perspective.
Here's one of the best:
The fragility of society’s attachment to traditional marriage itself, to the virtue of commitment, has also been key to the formulation of the gay-marriage consensus. Indeed, it is the rubble upon which the gay-marriage edifice is built.
That's a good observation and helps us understand why Christians (and others who think gay marriage is a bad idea) shouldn't shrug their shoulders and assume that a diminished view of heterosexual marriage changes nothing, affects only a few, and won't bring about further unexpected consequences.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Advice for nursing home staff in the dementia ward.

I played 3 nursing home gigs today. They were freebies, but it looks like I will probably get invited back to play and sing for pay. I even got food at one place--an unexpected kindness, thank you. Listen Friedman: there is such a thing as a free lunch!

Enthusiastic nursing staff. A blessing, mostly. Thank you for doing your job, which is difficult, messy, with long hours, often far from home and poorly paid. So thank you. Far better cheerful than grumpy, mean, spiteful, or indifferent.

Just a couple of thoughts though, without at all meaning to be unkind. Clapping along is great, but really, when we get to the bit after As Time Goes By, you know, the Bach Prelude and Fugue in C major, you can stop for a bit, yep, just there. I don't even mind it that much, but I should just tell you so that you know for next time, it's not a mistake that bits of it are slow and thoughtful. Seriously, put your feet up and join in listening. Old people don't need to be geed up into pretending to be excited. If they're excited, they'll cheer and applaud. If they want to listen quietly, they will listen quietly and meditatively. Like that lady, the ex-music teacher who could no longer play anything, but who listened to a few preludes and fugues and told me afterward that her favourite was number 18 in G sharp minor.

And there are old people like that sitting in the audience. Sure, they're not all like that. But you don't need to try to cajole them into singing along to the Fugue. There are no words anyway. They know that. They may have dementia but they're not stupid. If you sat with them peacefully for a bit you would work that out too. Anyway, if you really want to sing to a fugue, humming quietly to yourself will do the trick just fine. They won't complain that you've stopped doing your job, just because you sat with them for a bit.

But hey if you want to get up and dance with them during Maple Leaf Rag, or It had to be You, or Ain't She Sweet, or High on a Hill lived a Lonely Goatherd, or Begin the Beguine, then good on you. Come to think of it, if they want you to dance with them during O Sacred Head Sore Wounded, then dance away, why not? That's something really worth dancing about.

Question for you though. If a nice nursing home person comes and offers you cake as you are singing--I mean, as the words of the song are coming out of your mouth--is that an insult? Or are they just doing their job? I can never tell.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Leading on empty

From my friend macca. Click on through.

Leading on empty:
leading_on_emptyBurnout is a huge issue. It takes a massive toll on individuals, families, organisations and society. Leading experts in stress and burnout have identified church pastors as very high-risk candidates. Most will face these issues in their ministry. Many will face them multiple times. A disturbingly large group have already left their ministries as a result of burnout.
Wayne Cordeiro has written a helpful book on the topic, called Leading on empty: Refilling your tank and renewing your passion. A friend of mine read this book during his stress leave. I’ve since read it a couple of times and passed it on to others facing this issue.
How do you lead when you don’t feel like leading? And how do you sail through the dead waters when the wind has died down and that which was a festival now demands the intentional? When exhilaration turns to perspiration? Like pages torn out of my journal, this book chronicles my collision with burnout and my subsequent journey to a newly defined life.  (p11)
Much of this book details Cordeiro’s experience and what he has found helpful in moving beyond burnout with a renewed passion for ministry. He argues that when the first signs of burnout appear, then it’s time for a break. What are the common signs? Here are a few experienced by Cordeiro:
  • Ministry became more arduous.
  • Daily tasks seemed unending.
  • Decisions—even small ones—seemed to paralyze him.
  • Creativity began to flag and he found it easier to imitate rather than innovate.
  • People he deeply cared about became problems to be avoided.
  • Casting vision no longer stirred his soul.
  • What started as a joy, had become a drain.
His doctor explained what was happening to him physically and emotionally. Cordeiro recounts:
“You have depleted your system. Your serotonin levels are completely exhausted… Serotonin is a chemical like an endorphin. It replenishes during times of rest and then fuels you while you’re working. If, however, you continue to drive yourself without replenishing, your store of serotonin will be depleted. As a substitute your body will be forced to replace serotonin with adrenaline. The problem is that adrenaline is designed for emergency use only.”
“Serotonin can get depleted when you don’t live with a cadence that allows it to be replenished… Depression takes the place of initiative; your indecision and anxiety increases. You begin to feel a greater need for aloneness and isolation.”  (p25-26)
He was told that he needed to replace his serotonin levels. This would need to take place slowly, like trickle charging a battery. He was urged to take off six months to a year, or as long as he could manage. If he didn’t first replenish his system, he was warned to prepare for a crash. He could understand this because his RPMs were above the red line and he was unable to change gears.
Cordeiro needed to learn things the hard way. He was leading a very large, highly ‘successful’ church. His influence was wide and his responsibilities were vast. It wasn’t until he started experiencing anxiety attacks and depression that he woke to the necessity for major change. He was drowning in his feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. His faith and confidence were under attack and he lacked energy and interest in life.
It’s hard to admit to depression when you are a very public leader in ministry. The reality, however, is that it’s widespread and always has been. Such great ones as William Cowper, Charles Spurgeon, Abraham Lincoln, Mother Theresa, and Martin Luther King, all struggled under its dark cloud.
Cordeiro advocates developing an early warning system. If we can see it coming then we have the opportunity to avoid much of the wreckage. Symptoms of depression that he identifies include: a sense of hopelessness; frequent tears; difficulty concentrating; decision making comes hard; irritability; insomnia; lowered activity levels; feeling alone; lack of marital attraction; eating disorders; aches and pains. In another place, he rather humorously suggests the following signs of being in the early stages of burnout or depression:
  1. One year in solitary confinement is sounding more and more like a good option.
  2. Spending time with your mother-in-law begins to be more inviting than going to work.
  3. Your ministry leader calls for the third time wondering where you have been. You consider changing your number and possibly moving.
  4. The site of a ministry volunteer sign-up sheet brings on a severe allergic reaction.
  5. You realize you are in this ministry for life, which is funny, because you feel you no longer have one.  (p65)
Having identified the issues the bulk of the book deals with how to move forward. He needed to take time out and he had to sort through issues. There was no point simply having a break and then jumping headlong into the same chaos and intensity.
A major issue was recognising the difference between a concern and a personal responsibilityConcerns are things we should pray about, and then leave them with God. If we treat them as responsibilities we end up trying to carry the world on our shoulders. Responsibilities are the things that only I can accomplish. They cannot be delegated, ignored, or dumped off onto someone else.
He pushes us to identify the top 5% of life. Cordeiro argues that 85% of what we do, anyone can do. These are the things that don’t require any expertise, and many of them can be easily delegated. 10% of what we do, someone with some training should be able to accomplish. But 5% of what I do, only I can do. This is the most important 5% for me. This 5% will determine the effectiveness of the other 95%. Now we could argue the figures, but the overall point stands. We need to work out what our 5% is, and let this get first priority.
Once we’ve identified the key areas in our 5%, they require a daily investment of our time and heart. The condition of these areas will, to a large extent, determine the state of our life. If these areas are compromised, the consequences will create a domino effect. We often fill our days with the 85% because it’s easy. We then dip into the next 10%. But during the season of burnout, even that becomes draining and we have nothing left for the crucial 5%. Sadly this will often mean that our faith, our marriage, our family, and our health are critical areas that get neglected.
Cordeiro encourages us to do as many things as possible that fill our emotional reservoir. Some activities will fill us more than drain us, and others will drain us more than fill us. We need to know the difference. The danger is the busier we get, the less time we have for activities that replenish us. He didn’t play sports because he had deadlines to meet. He didn’t read books because he had sermons to prepare. He was leading on empty, with more drain than fill.
He encourages us to make a list of the things that drained us and the things that fill us. Include at least six items in each category. Have our spouse do the same, and then share them. Help each other by encouraging each other to do what fills our tanks, and do what we can to remove or change things that drain them.
We probably need to restructure our lives. This is needed if we’re to last for the long haul. This includes changing our behaviours, and most likely also our motivations, habits and subconscious patterns. Cordeiro started making these changes, but he was impatient, and crashed badly. Out of this collapse he draws seven lessons:
Lesson One: Do Not Overproduce
He had to learn that he could say “no” or “come back tomorrow.” He didn’t have to be available 24/7. He could take time to recharge. 
Lesson Two: Steward Your Energy
A leader’s greatest asset is not necessarily time. It is energy and this is not unlimited. A person with energy may be able to accomplish more in four hours than one without energy can in four days.
Lesson Three: Rest Well, My Friend
We are most vulnerable to depression from burnout when we are totally fatigued and overtired. One of the very first steps inreversing depression and regaining a sense of resilience is rest. (p122)
Schedule rests in before your calendar fills up. Rest is not an afterthought; it has to be a primary responsibility. It brings a rhythm back to life and a cadence that makes life sustainable. (p125)
Lead out of a place of rest and you will be able to put your heart into everything God asks of you. Without rest you are leading on empty. (p128)
Cordeiro makes a very helpful suggestion about how we view our days. Think of them beginning the night before. This way you begin each day with rest. Your day starts when you go to sleep. Rest begins your new day, not coffee. (p129)
Lesson Four: Exercise Your Way to Recovery
Exercise is important for both physical and mental health. It can help with recovery from depression. Consistency is more important than how much you do or how hard you work each time.
Lesson Five: Eating Your Way to a Good Life
What you eat is related to how you feel. Dietary changes
can bring chemical as well as physiological changes.
Lesson Six: Recharge Daily
Cordeiro recharges every day during his daily devotions. God’s word and prayer fills his inner tank, so he is able to reserve adequate time and energy for his family and his life.
Lesson Seven: Fight For Your Family
Too many have sacrificed marital harmony and family on the altar of success. It’s not worth it. (p140)
Leading on Empty stresses the importance of living intentionally. The key to living intentionally is to imagine your ideal future and write down. Also write down your most important relationships, that need to remain healthy regardless of how you feel or what happens: your relationship with Christ and your spouse and family. Writing things down gives you something to come back to, and helps keep you from basing your life on how you feel in the moment. It also helps you keep focused on hope for the future.
Living an intentional life requires consistent monitoring and assessment. It requires restructuring our days in order to live intentionally. A healthy life cadence will contribute to being a healthy pastor or leader. Cordeiro suggests a rhythm, or life cadence, that he tries to maintain:
Being at home. He tries to avoid being out three nights in a row, and refuses to be gone four. He also commits to doing some things every day, even if it is a small amount: Devotions, exercise, planning his time, and reading. 

He takes a day off every week, and fills it with things that fill his tank.

He takes a monthly
Personal Retreat Day, to get refocused on God’s agenda. This personal retreat day has proven to be very helpful. It’s a day out of the office where he can get the scattered pieces of his life back in order, and spend some prolonged time with God. It won’t happen if you don’t plan for it and schedule it, so write it down on your calendar! He also makes a priority of renewing relationships by such things as keeping birthdays and holidays special, and celebrating often. 
Seasons of Life
After seven years of ministry, he takes a three month sabbatical to get renewed. Taking a sabbatical, or long service leave, provides the opportunity for a complete break, refreshment, renewal and refocus. The best time to organise this is when you start out and agree to a contract.
The first time I read this book, I needed to. It was just prior to our long service leave and I was feeling the strain of many years in ministry, some tense and difficult times, seeking to mediate and navigate some big tensions between others, working long hours, not looking after my physical health, going without sleep, and more. I found it a breath of fresh air. Interestingly, I caught up with a distant colleague shortly afterwards and discovered that he’d also been reading the same book to help him progress past burnout. This book isn’t the final word on the topic, but I believe it makes a very helpful contribution. Ideally, it will be read early in people’s working lives and ministries, and assist them in establishing good priorities and practises. If not, then it’s not too late to pick it up and read now.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Books I've never read

Except for the Water Babies. A list of unknown classics, here at, pointed out to me by Ben Palmer.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Jesus is first in all things

“Jesus is first in all things” by Richard Sibbes From tolle lege

“We must know that all things are first in Christ, and then in us. God chose Him first, and then He chose us. God singled Him out to be the Saviour, the second Adam, and He calls us in Christ.

Christ, being our surety, took our sins upon Him. We are justified, because He, by His resurrection, quit Himself from the guilt of our sins, as having paid the debt.

Christ is the first fruits of them that rise again (1 Cor. 15:20). We rise again because He is risen. Christ first ascended; we ascend in Christ. Christ is first loved; we are loved in the Beloved.

Christ is first blessed; we are blessed with all spiritual blessings in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:3). So, whatsoever is in us, we have it at the second hand. We have the Spirit in us, but He is first in Christ.

God hath put the Spirit in Christ, as the spring, as the second Adam, as a public person, that should receive the Spirit for us all. He is first in all things; Christ must have the pre-eminence.

He hath the pre-eminence in all, both before time, in time, and after time, in election, in whatsoever is done here in this world, and in glorification.

All is first in Christ, and then in us. He is the elder brother. We must understand this, to give Christ His due honour and respect, and to know whence we have all we have.”

–Richard Sibbes, “A Description of Christ,” in The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, Volume 1, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; W. Robertson, 1862), 18.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

What Does the President of the United States Believe about Infants Born Alive after a Botched Abortion?

The following comes from Justin Taylor. If you're unaware of the name 'Kermit Gosnell', simply put it into your search engine.

What Does the President of the United States Believe about Infants Born Alive after a Botched Abortion?:
As momentum builds for ending the media’s refusal to cover the facts about the horrific Kermit Gosnell abortion-mill case, I think it’s worth remembering that President Obama dealt for several years with the question of whether or not infants should be protected when born alive after a failed abortion. Here is one quote:
[I]f we’re placing a burden on the doctor that says you have to keep alive a previable child as long as possible and give them as much medical attention as—as is necessary to try to keep that child alive, then we’re probably crossing the line in terms of unconstitutionality.
—Senator Barack Obama, March 30, 2001, arguing against the the Born Alive Act before the Illinois General Assembly
Even though as a candidate for president Mr. Obama offered multiple explanations for his consistent votes against the Born Alive Act—explanations which don’t stand up to the historical reality—his record speaks for itself:
IL Senate 2001 (Senate Bill 1095, Born Alive Infant Protection Act)
  • Senator Obama voted “no” in the Senate Judiciary Committee (March 28, 2001)
  • Senator Obama argued against the bill on the IL Senate floor (March 30, 2001) (see pp. 84-90 of this PDF)
  • Senator Obama voted “present” for the bill (March 30, 2001)
IL Senate 2002 (Senate Bill 1662, Born Alive Infant Protection Act)
  • Senator Obama voted “no” vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee (March 6, 2002)
  • Senator Obama argued against the bill on the IL Senate floor (April 4, 2002) (see pp. 28-35 of this PDF)
  • Senator Obama voted “no” for the bill (April 4, 2002)
IL Senate 2003 (Senate Bill 1082, Born Alive Infant Protection Act)
  • Senator Obama, who chaired the Health and Human Services Committee, held the bill from receiving a committee vote and stopped the senate’s sponsor from adding the federal act’s clarification paragraph, which made the bills absolutely identical.
All of this is consistent with recent testimony from Planned Parenthood:

Friday, 12 April 2013

How to Preach without Putting People to Sleep

Some friends wrote a book. I've known Phil Campbell since uni days, he is a good thinker, a Bible teacher and an excellent preacher.

Here's Justin Taylor's take on it, along with a few other well-known people.

How to Preach without Putting People to Sleep:
On the new book, Saving Eutychus: How to Preach God’s Word and Keep People Awake by Gary Millar and Phil Campbell:
“I have read books on how to make sure your sermon is interesting, and I have read books on how to make sure your sermon is faithful to the text, but this book wants your sermon to be both. If I could, I would make this little book mandatory reading for seminarians everywhere, and then urge them to read it a couple more times during the course of their ministry. It avoids cutesy and manipulative suggestions, and makes its practical points while urging integrity, faithfulness, and imagination. Many books on preaching are published every year; this one is a “must.”

—D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
“This book deserves to be included in the ‘must read’ category for preachers. It is readable, which always helps! And, as we would expect, it is biblical and practical. But it is also funny and forthright in a way that made me re-evaluate my preaching and resolve with God’s help to improve. This is a different book from Lloyd-Jones’ Preaching and Preachers and Between Two Worlds by John Stott, but it may prove to be just as influential.”

—Alistair Begg, Senior Pastor, Parkside Church, Cleveland, OH
“Some writing so solemnly exalts the task of preaching, or so heavily complicates the method, it depresses and discourages ordinary mortals like me into thinking we can never really do it and should just give up. Since most preachers feel that every Sunday night anyway, such books don’t really help the cause! This one does. I like it because it is short, (lighthearted but not lightweight), very human, and very much to the point. I am involved in training preachers, but I still have plenty to learn. I am very grateful for a resource that will both help me, and help me in helping others—with enjoyment, encouragement and some fun along the way!”

- William JU Philip, Senior Minister, The Tron Church, Glasgow
“This book teems with ‘plusses’: it is short (as a tome that takes Eutychus as its poster boy must be); it is stretching (the authors force one to deal with longer texts—and leave one asking, “Why can’t I summarize extended passages like that?”); it is specific (they include actual sermons with critique); it is searching (in case you skip the first chapter, ‘pray’ occurs eight times in the conclusion); and stirring (you still want to preach when you’ve finished reading). If you don’t buy the book, don’t cry if Eutychus isn’t saved!”

—Dale Ralph Davis, Bible expositor and author
“Millar and Campbell write with much wit and wisdom for the sake of our listeners. At some point every preacher must decide whether to preach for the regard of one’s peers or for the welfare of Christ’s people. Millar and Campbell have obviously decided for the latter and give much sound advice for the rest of us to do the same.”

—Bryan Chapell, Chancellor, Covenant Theological Seminary
“Two men who would never be deadly boring or dull are Gary Millar and Phil Campbell, and in this book they use their lively wit to help other preachers keep Eutychus awake. More importantly, they are united in their understanding of and commitment to the task of making God’s word known. I pray this book will be of benefit to both preachers and congregations.”

—Phillip D Jensen, Dean of Sydney, St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Sydney, NSW
You can read a sample from the book here.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Pretty Woman: The Perks and Perils of Being Attractive

All sorts of useful articles pop up on LaRae's blog.

Pretty Woman: The Perks and Perils of Being Attractive:

Chivalry is dead. Slapped down for calling a woman in the workplace good-looking, President Obama has stepped into the murky world of women’s rights.

President Obama’s great mistake resides in the fact that he called California Attorney General Kamala Harris the best looking AG in the country. For this insult, he issued an immediate apology. I know quite a few women who put in a lot of effort and invest tons of money to get that kind of attention from a man.
Compliments in the workplace, however, have always been tricky. In my book, Secrets of A Strong Mind, I talk about what it was like to be the only woman on my squad for years. My fellow FBI agents took care to do two things: compliment me on my 1) appearance, and 2) on the good work I was doing. One compliment never came without the other. They wanted me to know they appreciated the effort I took with hair, make-up, and clothes. They also wanted me to know they respected my work ethic. In turn, I frequently complimented them when they looked good—they were flattered and it bolstered their sense of self-worth.
I was never insulted by their compliments. They weren’t meant to be lewd or disrespectful. On the other hand, I never wore 5-inch heels to work or visited plastic surgeons . . . .
Women need to make sure their choices in the way they dress and look are sending the right message to others. Most women want to look feminine without being reduced to a sexual object at the same time (click to tweet). But that is harder than it sounds. Sex is introduced into every decision a woman makes as she prepares to meet the world—seductive eyes or a plain face, sexy heels or sensible shoes, flirty skirts or mannish suits . . . the list goes on.
The worst case scenario is a woman who tries to look and act like one of the guys. As an FBI agent, I’ve seen that happen a lot—female agents who try to hide their femininity as though they’re embarrassed by it.
As leaders, the majority of women I know instinctively understand that appearances are more than vanity or primitive sexual  urges. The real issue is this: studies consistently demonstrate that physical appearance does matter and that people intuitively equate beauty with being smart and successful.
The psychology of physical attractiveness is well documented and used by seasoned marketeers around the world. The way we look and dress is a persuasive non-verbal way to communicate our attractiveness to others.
Here are 7 facts from numerous studies that have been conducted to measure the way in which our bias toward physical beauty influences our behavior.
Physically attractive people:
  1. Trigger the same kinds of brain networks in us that are activated when people become addicted to cocaine and gambling.
  2. Elevate the mood of others and are considered to be more effective than unattractive people.
  3. Give impressions of being smarter, successful, sociable, mentally healthier, and more dominant—whether they are or not. While this ‘beauty is good’ effect is moderately strong, studies show that attractive people are neither more nor less intelligent than less attractive people.
  4. Are considered to be more likable and more social. We are more likely to divulge personal information about ourselves to physically attractive people than we are to less physically attractive people. In addition, we are more likely to help attractive people if they are in trouble.
  5. Receive more lenient jail sentences if convicted of a crime than less attractive defendants.
  6. Less likely to be found guilty than a less attractive person charged with the same crime.
  7. Are considered to be less dangerous than unattractive defendants charged with a crime, independent of grooming or attire.
Research confirms the prevalence of a bias for physical attractiveness. We tend to not only ascribe all sorts of positive traits to beautiful people, we also tend to give them more breaks in life.
What did we learn from President Obama’s mis-step? That it’s not politically correct to admit to this bias and that it’s not OK to admit how much we like attractive people to anyone but researchers.
How have you noticed a bias in physical attractiveness in the workplace?  Are there disadvantages to being physically attractive in the workplace?
You can follow me on Twitter at
Read my book ““Secrets of a Strong Mind,” available now on Amazon.