Sunday, 30 November 2008



It doesn't matter if you don't say it very well.

It is probably better if you don't.

For if, in trying to frame words of eloquence

to speak the glory of the Lord

it happens that you

bark like a dog,

or croak like a frog,

philosophers may choose to pass you by.

But the dogs and frogs will understand,

and with one voice glorify

the Lord of all creation.

Friday, 28 November 2008


Despite some fine intentions I have been unable to resist the temptation to pick up and read.

Unfortunately what I picked up was the eminently readable and hot off the press Briefing, so hot off the press that if you click through on that link today it will still be the old issue.

Some seriously uncomfortable words about sin from Tony Payne, reviewing John Owen's book Sin and Temptation. I'm told John Owen is virtually unreadable, and frankly that is what I need right now to stop me from picking stuff up and reading. Thank you John for saving me from that.

Here we go, let's pick up Tony first because he is comprehensible. This is him talking about Owen's unreadable book:

It's a book, in other words, about self-understanding: "The man that understands the evil of his own heart, how vile it is, is the only useful, fruitful, and solid believing and obedient person" says Owen (p. 283)

What's so hard to understand about that, Tony? I hate the message, but it speaks direct to who I am.

OK, here's Owen expanding on the point:

For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other; so that I cannot do the things that I would" (Gal 5:17)...

There are these contrary principles in the hearts of believers. And if they labor not to be spiritually wise, how shall they be able to steer their course aright? Many men live in the dark to themselves these days; whatever else they know, they know not themselves. They know their outward estates, how rich they are, and the condition of their bodies as to health and sickness they are careful to examine; but as to their inward man, and their principles as to God and eternity, they know little or nothing of themselves, Indeed, few labor to grow wise in this matter, few study themselves as they ought, are acquainted with the evils of their own hearts as they ought; on which yet the whole course of their obedience, and consequently of their eternal condition, does depend.

Hmm, OK, there is a bit of work involved there. Not so much at the level of comprehension, though. The idea that we would know how much money we have and how healthy our bodies are, yet remain completely ignorant of our spiritual state, is easy to understand. But it is quite hard to hear.

Anyway I am glad, Tony, that you said it is difficult reading and I will trust your word that it gets a lot more turgid than this.You've given me another good reason for avoiding books that aren't the Bible and getting on with my work. Thank you!

Kid solves puzzle in quick time

TWO years ago a 27-year-old American with a PhD in chemistry set the Guinness World Record for the fastest completion of a sudoku puzzle. His time was two minutes and 8 seconds.

Last week Lucus Yeo, an 11-year-old boy from Castle Hill with a passion for formula one racing, smashed that record.

Isn't that marvellous?

How can you not love stuff like this. Years ago I wanted to be a numbers nerd, but just lacked the commitment and talent. But how wonderful to see others at the top of the game.

"To do it effectively he has to hold those 81 spaces in his head simultaneously," said Mr Mullan.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Inflatable subway animals!

Hey everybody take a look at this short clip Fifi found for me!

It is tres cool.

Inflatable subway animals!

Click through, you won't be disappointed.

Letters to the newspaper

I keep writing! I keep failing!

What's the fuss about choirs singing at St Andrew's Cathedral?

Firstly, they are, and they're doing it regularly.

Secondly, who cares? I sing with the Sydney Philharmonia, and as a supporter of choral music my view is, let people come and hear our choirs sing 'Messiah' this December because they love it, not
because it has been imposed on them by traditionalists.

Yours sincerely,

The Rev. Gordon Cheng

Yet another letter that didn't make it in.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Screwtape letters read by John Cleese


For CS Lewis fans, I heard that this is online.

But for copyright fans, a friend who knows the law expressed some concerns that this breaches certain provisions. So I've removed the link to be on the safe side. (The site in question claims that the recording is copyright free.)

Monday, 24 November 2008

Page 56

Picked this game up from facebook. Give it a go for yourself:


* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.

* Turn to page 56.

* Find the fifth sentence.

* Post that sentence along with these instructions in a note to your wall/blog

* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

"There seems to be something very wrong here."

That is from a book called 21st Century Living...1st century wisdom.

It is in answer to the question "Is it morally outrageous that God inflicted punishment on an innocent victim?"


Will we see war in Iran?

The head of the Israeli defence forces offers an opinion about Mid-East politics:

Military intervention would not be one strike. It needs to be a sustained operation … Any military strike in Iran will be quietly applauded by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf states. It is a misconception to think that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the most important in the Middle-East. The Shiite-Sunni schism is much bigger, the Persian-Arab divide is bigger, the struggle between national regimes and jihadism is much bigger. And I can't imagine the US will want to share power in the Middle East with a nuclear-armed Iran.

-Paul Sheehan in the SMH.

Bike riding

I used to ride the bike in Melbourne all the time. So did Fifi. Negotiating traffic in Sydney, however, is pretty hairy and scary sometimes. Today's SMH has a report.

Here's a statistic from the report:

But one estimate, based on Sydney's Anzac Bridge, showed that by diverting 10 per cent of car occupants to bicycles - or about 730 cyclists an hour - the life of the current bridge would be extended by about eight years, a saving of $46 million based on present-day construction costs

There are huge benefits to both cyclists and car drivers if some people, who would normally be driving cars, are encouraged onto their bikes. That's just one example.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Mr Pernickety

There he is on the left.

Funnily enough, my children have been calling him 'Mr Finickety', which appears to be a portmanteau word made up of 'pernickety' and 'finicky'.

But who could be bothered pointing it out?

Friday, 21 November 2008


Before I did the asparagus, I tied up an interview with Barry Webb on the book of Ruth, which could equally be called the book of Naomi.

Naomi comes back to Israel complaining that she went away full, but now she has returned empty. The only way she can really think like this is if she imagines Ruth to be a liability, which is unkind, to say the least.

By the end of the book Ruth has placed a baby in Naomi's lap. It is left to the women of Bethlehem to bless God. And in so doing, their blessing gently reminds Naomi that she is indeed full. And she is full, because God has made it so. And she is full, with a son who will become the ancestor of David, of Christ.

How good is our redeemer!


So Fifi's out tonight, dinner with friends.

I put the girls in bed, and feel hungry. Boil the water, toss in the pasta, then the asparagus, which is fresh. A quick shower, and by the time I'm out the simmering pasta and asparagus are moved aside. Onto the flame goes the fry pan, half a little jar of anchovies, throw in a few sundried tomatoes, go to look at the computer.

I'm called back by the sound of sizzling, so I tip the boiled water out of the pasta and asparagus, tip the pasta and asparagus into the fry pan, stir it round.

And now I'm eating and typing, and maybe will go to bed in a moment.

A sad story

What a terribly sad story this is.

Shane O'Neill, a 28-year-old butcher who was soon to be married, drowned while trying to save his sons, Riley, 4, and Travis, 15 months, after the boys fell from the wharf at Tathra, near Bega, on Tuesday night.

SMH today.

Violet read

Violet narrated for a play at school today.

Hesitation? Anticipation?

None of the first and some of the second, but both words were negotiated with consummate skill.

A bad book

A friend wrote a bad book.

That is, I'm told it is a bad book, and if it is true, then I am trying to work out whether or not I should read it.

I haven't read it, and I've been avoiding reading it, because if it really is a bad book, I will end up needing to say so, which will cause problems.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Stem cell therapy that works

Here's another stem cell breakthrough—the world's first transplant of a whole human organ (a windpipe) grown from stem cells.

Not, mind you, embryonic stem cells, which involves experimenting on and killing human embryos. In fact, to date there have been no successful medical therapies emerging from embryonic stem cell experimentation. This score card, though now just over 18 months old, remains substantially accurate.

But if this report is right, the need for actual embryonic stem cells is now redundant, as other cells which share the same characteristics can now be produced in significant quantities.

Hillsong Conference 2009

I just received a letter inviting me to Hillsong 2009, telling me that they will be championing the causes of local churches everywhere.

But this is what they told me would happen in 2006, and if they didn't do it then, why should someone expect it to happen this time?

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Prayer and theologizing: Andrew Barry

Andrew Barry has started blogging over at the Sola Panel.

I've only met Andrew once or twice, but ever since I started reading his personal blog I've been hooked on the way he works to connect up his bible reading, his theology, and the way he looks at life. Here's what he says about Job:

Rather than being just a book about the problem of evil, Job contains a sharp and scary message for would-be theologians. These people actually infuriate God with their endless discussions if they are not men and women of prayer (Job 42:7). Perhaps, at least in part, the message of the book of Job is a word of strengthening to people who pray.

How's that? Job: not an erudite experiential theodicy or a chance for further inward spiralling and navel-gazing theology, but a confrontation with God that drives us to our knees in prayer.

Long may you blog, Andrew.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Living sacrifice

The expression "living sacrifice" is from Paul's letter to the Romans, chapter 12, verse one, which says:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

"Living sacrifice" is a paradox, because sacrifices are dead.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Water or Goo?

This book was quite good. I liked the bit were the toilet at Emily's house exploded. I don't really get it when Daniel was on the TV screen, Dad got angry. It was good how in the end Shanti and her village got water that was clean, and it had a bible verse to it. Thanks Penny, for writing this book!

Matilda Cheng :-)

[aged 9. blogged with permission]

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Peer reviewed scientific publications

Letter in SMH.

The system of peer review in science has become corrupted, with rorts such as rampant cross-authoring (putting names of non-contributing colleagues on papers to build their CVs) and "coffee time" agreements to approve each other's works.

Almost all grants, funding, pay, promotions and accolades are as a result of numbers of papers published. A far more useful statistic would be the number of citations, a measure of the work's usefulness.

As stunning as it is that most published papers are found to be false within five years, two other statistics are even more blunt: 50 per cent of publications are never read by anyone, and 95 per cent of peer-reviewed science is never cited, other than by the authors themselves.

In other words, most peer-reviewed published science is useless rubbish.

Jon Jenkins, Bogangar

I've often suspected that the quality of peer-reviewed science publications suffer from a 'you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours' arrangement.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Gillard bats away

"Ms Gillard greeted her inquisitors with the quietly confident air of a $10,000-an-hour alimony lawyer arriving at her first bout with Eddie Murphy."

-Annabel Crabb

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Hear Messiah

Our choir is singing Handel's Messiah for our next concert, December 4, 6, 7.

Let me know if you want discount tickets, through facebook or through the comments (mark 'Not for Publication' if you don't want it to appear)


There's plenty of it about, and lots of good advice for coping with the problems it creates.

But I am often surprised at how the advice Christians give completely overlooks grace. I was talking to Mike yesterday and he reminded me of Titus 2:11-14.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Yes, the world is full of good, practical suggestions that good, practical people make and good, practical people will take up.

But if you haven't got grace, you got nothin'. The grace of God in Jesus Christ is not just an initial infusion of righteousness that then leaves you doing the best you can, giving the Lord a hand. That grace is the powerful Holy Spirit, changing us into the likeness of Christ. See the note on the Spirit's work in Titus 3:5.

I find it distressing to see Christians compartmentalizing their lives away from their doctrine of God's saving grace, and it seems to me that lust is one area in which such legalism reigns supreme at the moment. And legalism is a far worse problem for Christians, because it strikes at the root of faith.

Christmas comes

Another image from Michael Leunig.

Click through, there's a Christmas poem!

Con Campbell and Greek stuff

Con Campbell says that "Perfective aspect is like a reporter who describes a street parade from a helicopter."


He applies his understanding to this verse.

"For while we were still weak, Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6)

Some commentators write that because an aorist is used here, Romans 5:6 proves that Christ’s death was a once-off event, never to be repeated, and therefore Christ could not be reoffered time and time again in the Roman mass. While not wanting to deny the once-for-all nature of Christ’s death (cf. 1 Peter 3:18), the aorist in Romans 5:6 does not prove the point at all. If we look ahead a few verses, we come to 5:14 (see above), where we see an aorist that plainly depicts death reigning from the time of Adam to Moses. To reiterate, this is not a once-off action. It is not punctiliar.

So all you Hellenophiles of the koine variety, head on over to this blog and be helped further.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Barth: smoke and mirrors

I suspect that he has confused many, like a squid with ink in clear water.

Check out the Sola Panel for some selected quotes by some evangelical theologians.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Cricket writing

Good cricket writing can be as absorbing as the game itself.

They betray the profound confusion that has pervaded cricket since India's triumph in the Twenty20 World Championship set in motion the juggernaut of the Indian Premier League.

This is a shame because the two days were among the most involving and absorbing of recent memory.

Saturday's first session contained only 46 runs, but once the Indian tactics and Australian response were clear, each ball was loaded. A wicket or two would change everything. On the stroke of lunch, a reverse-swinging yorker from a toiling fast bowler in the eighth over of a persevering spell; an hour later, an acrobatic save and return by a tyro on his Test debut.

For the rest of the afternoon Australia's batsmen were like all the king's horses and men after Humpty-Dumpty's fall.

For the media to complain about the entertainment value on the basis of the runs scored was like a complaint against Picasso for using too few brush-strokes.

From Gideon Haigh.

Monday, 10 November 2008

What is ethics?

This is what Rick Creighton thinks:

“Being what we were created to be” is a pretty good summary of what ethics should be all about.

And here's where he says it.

I'm sorry, I can't read that

Occasionally he changed a diaper, emptied the dishwasher, or even vacuumed, but usually with a remark to Debbie about hiring a maid, to which she responded with a gigantic roll of her ocean-blue eyes.

No, I'm sorry, you've lost me right there. After a sentence like that I'm going to need a couple of days off work, and even then I guarantee nothing.

Friday, 7 November 2008


My goodness I have a lot on my plate today.

The biggest thing is I had to fix the barbecue, and I'm hopeless at that.

I just cooked some stuff on it just now, a bit of salami and some leftover pasta, as a sort of a test.

It worked, and that's good, and it's better than it was. But the true test remains. A really large piece of meat.


Obama's new dawn

The headline in the online Australian.

I put it to you that on the grounds that Obama is only a politician, there is no dawn associated with his election.

A big wave

A picture and an article, here.

Art and Morality

Hugh Mackay writes in today's SMH

Sydney is endowed with a rich artistic life. Writers, painters, poets, photographers, singers, dancers, actors, architects and designers thrive here. From the beginning, serious attention has been paid to theatres, galleries, concert halls - as well as public art - for the delight and stimulation of the populace.

Yet Sydney continues to suffer from the social ills that plague most large cities. Our enthusiastic attendance at galleries, theatres and concert halls doesn't appear to subdue our anger, relieve our stress, or incline us to become friendlier to each other. Those of us who love the arts like to believe we are "improved" in an almost mystical way by our exposure to various art forms. But where is the evidence that theatre or concert goers are better citizens - more attentive, say, to the needs of the marginalised or disadvantaged - than non-attenders?

In her modern classic, Everyday Ecstasy (1985), the English writer Marghanita Laski examined whether the ecstatic response to art is translated into enthusiasm for, say, charitable works designed to alleviate the suffering of those who may never experience such ecstasy. Is that how it benefits society, by making us more sensitive or compassionate? Her reluctant answer was no.

Art is for enjoyment. We shouldn't confuse it with something that's doing good to art consumers.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Kingsford bags

I love shopping at the Kingsford IGA. The plastic bags are so...capacious.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008


I wrote a book on Encouragement which is being distributed as a freebie at this conference.

A preacher's blog

It's here.

I'll be reading it regularly, hoping for help.

Sydney Phil reviewed

Harriet Cunningham's review of the concert Saturday:

NEXT year Sydney Philharmonia Choirs will present a concert entitled Amadeus, and Mozart's Requiem will no doubt feature prominently as a key work in the mysterious (and probably apocryphal) tale of the rivalry between Mozart and contemporary composer Salieri. This year, however, the Symphony Chorus is presenting Mozart's Requiem straight, and a very fine performance it is too.

On Saturday the 50-strong choir sang from memory and, with no score in between them and the audience, the music came through with huge immediacy. Furthermore, without a book to hide behind, all attention was focused on the conductor, Brett Weymark, who led them through the work with rock-like reliability and discreet flashes of brilliance.

In the SMH. If you are in Sydney and free this Thursday it's worth trying to get along.

Monday, 3 November 2008

McCain v Obama

A good summary.

Bots on the Ground

For all you sci-fi fans and lovers of Star Plot:

No less an authority than Bill Gates, in a recent Scientific American article titled "A Robot in Every Home," announces that the next big technological wave sweeping the world is robots. He compares their rise to the PC revolution he helped lead.

-from Joel Garreau's article in the Washington Post.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Pyros post again

Good to see the Pyromaniacs posting again after a month's break.

It's another fine Spurgeon quote entitled Unity at all costs?, and here's an extract:

The largest charity towards those who are loyal to the Lord Jesus, and yet do not see with us on secondary matters, is the duty of all true Christians. But how are we to act towards those who deny his vicarious sacrifice, and ridicule the great truth of justification by his righteousness? These are not mistaken friends, but enemies of the cross of Christ. There is no use in employing circumlocutions and polite terms of expression:—where Christ is not received as to the cleansing power of his blood and the justifying merit of his righteousness, he is not received at all.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

50 marathons in 50 days

Here's an article about the man who did it, Dean Karnazes. I don't know whether this is good, as amazing as parts of the story are. His life was out of control when he started, it's out of control now.