Friday, 29 February 2008
But today I got a slightly weepy call from Fifi at the shops, where up until now she had been going with our motor-mouthed Lily Violet and receiving a running commentary on each and every item of shopping and associated activity. Lily Violet, working with the limited vocabulary of a five year old, is usually able to find three things to say about every element of her life. Like a good preacher, she tells you what she is about to say, then she tells you, then she tells you what she just said. It is quite infuriating and one of the most delightful aspects of having her as our daughter.
And now I'm feeling a bit sad too.
In an effort to clear heart and mind, and do a much needed rethink about ministry from a fresh angle, I've been reading Martin Luther's Table Talk in the last few days. The blessing of reading Luther is that he helps us rethink ministry and life itself by pointing back to Scripture. Here he is on one of his favourite Psalms, Psalm 2:
The second Psalm is one of the best Psalms. I love that Psalm with my heart. It strikes and flashes valiantly amongst kings, princes, counsellors, judges, etc. If what this Psalm says be true, then are the allegations and aims of the papists stark lies and folly. If I were as our Lord God, and had committed the government to my son, as he to his Son, and these vile people were as disobedient as they now be, I would knock the world in pieces.
Table Talk, "Of God's Works", CXI.
Typically violent and passionate language from the great German. But where did he get this extreme mode of speech? Read and learn:
2:1 Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”
7 I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.”
10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
How wonderful, too, that we can find refuge (2:12) in this Son with the rod of iron.
Thursday, 28 February 2008
How should God deal with us? Good days we cannot bear, evil we cannot endure. Gives he riches unto us? then are we proud, so that no man can live by us in peace; nay, we will be carried upon heads and shoulders, and will be adored as gods. Gives he poverty unto us? then are we dismayed, impatient, and murmur against him. Therefore, nothing were better for us, than forthwith to be covered over with the shovel.
Covered over with the shovel. The best fate of all for grumbling sinners.
Table Talk, "Of God's works" LXXIV.
Wednesday, 27 February 2008
So, last week I just wandered in with the crowd at the Sydney Philharmonia and looked over someone's shoulder, more or less hoping I'd blend in. But some of these choir dudes are pretty sharp, and anyway Shelley who invited me had introduced me to some of them, so last night I had to audition.
It was not a friendly audition, let me say. Not like auditioning for the Victoria Chorale, where I have only the faintest memory of even having to do it, or for the Melbourne Chamber Choir, where the delightful but slightly dotty Faye Dumont told me what a wonderful sight-reading job I was doing. And although it was not unfriendly either, this was more like being hauled up in front of the judges in one of those 'You've Got Talent' things you see on the telly, except without the audience; in the back room with a small piano. (Do you remember the bit in John Safran vs God where he auditions for the Harlem Gospel Choir?) Short on time, down to business.
I was hoarse, it's been 10 years since I sang in a serious choir, so there I was with my Christian Praise hymn book in hand, slightly nervous. Cheerful hello from Brett the director, "Come through here please." No warm-ups, brisk "what are you going to sing for us?" I launched tentatively into verse one of No. 89, Thou who was rich, beyond all splendour. "Second verse please, this time would you sing out, sing operatically and give us a lot of sostenuto".
Limped through that, and we went straight into some frighteningly atonal sequences of five to eight notes at a time. "I'll play these once, then you sing them please." Half a dozen of those."Sing the bottom note of each of these chords please." Half a dozen of those. Now are there any of these hymns you don't know?—actually that's a leading question isn't it, here's what we're singing tonight, start from there please." I sing. Brett stops playing and stands up "OK, now I'm going to stand next to you, you take the bass line, I'll take the baritone, from here, 3—4—." We sing.
"Good, I'll need to listen to you again. Oh, you're in by the way, what part did you sing last week? OK, you'll need to look on again, make sure you sit at the end of the row."
Polite, to the point, and so I sight-read my way through another evening of choir. It was quite the most intense audition I've ever had. But nothing at all compared to the three young people auditioning for the part of assistant conductor. They had half an hour each, doing Brett's work for him, on some of the most difficult choral music I've seen in a very long time indeed (Poulenc's Stabat Mater).
So now we perform in about three weeks. I got my own copy of the music for the first time at the end of last night's rehearsal. For some reason I'm thinking about the badges I used to get after doing first aid tests in the Air Scouts.
I couldn't be happier!
Oh, and Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour has a glorious statement of the reason for Christ's incarnation in the second verse, so I was happy to sing it out loud and strong:
2. Thou who art God beyond all praising,
All for love's sake becamest man;
Stooping so low, but sinners raising
Heavenwards by thine eternal plan!
Thou who art God beyond all praising,
All for love's sake becamest man.
In fact, check out this artificial heart. For some reason I especially like the bit in that linked article that says "In this article, you will get an in-depth look at how this new artificial heart works, how it's implanted into a patient's chest and who might be a candidate for receiving one of these mechanical hearts. We will also compare the AbioCor heart to the artificial hearts that have failed in the past."
If you had to get one of those suckers, or pumpers, you might as well get the scaled down wireless iPhone equivalent of 5 years from now implanted along with it.
In a short while I would say that my iPhone implant idea will be able to be powered by a person's body movement.
If you can live with expressions like 'peristaltic brio', it's a good article.
All the Christian in the Media people who benefitted from AB and Mrs AB's ministry will surely appreciate the effort he's putting into his blog here. I think it's great that others are able to as well.
Tuesday, 26 February 2008
In five years time, when the technology has advanced to the point where I'm satisfied with it, I'll be surgically implanting the then equivalent of an iPhone into my left forearm, with a wireless connection to the speaker input device implanted subcutaneously in or near my jawbone.
I will still forget things but I won't lose them. Ever.
A. Nobody turns up.
And I often do, whenever I go out in the morning to play with the worm farm and the compost. The ant has all sorts of useful things to teach about time management. In fact here is a time management riddle:
Q. How did the ant eat the elephant?
A. One bite at a time.
There you are, Grasshopper... When you can snatch this wisdom from my hand, it will be time for you to leave.
However, I am a worm and not a man (Ps 22:6), so I am a little frightened of ants. Indeed, a sluggardly worm, so Proverbs 6:6 opens up an abyss of terror, on the other side of which is learning.
THE Federal Government is deeply concerned about faith-based schools ("Faith school boom creates division", The Age, 25/2). And why? Because they do not believe in evolution.
Dear me, how could their students ever become good citizens, responsible parents, capable doctors and helpful shop assistants, or design homes, plan their budgets, get their children to school and write computer programs?
The very idea that life might have a purpose and humans are not merely accidents wandering towards extinction is obviously a profound threat to our collective social cohesion and self-image.
It gets worse: they actually believe (as have, and do, large sections of humanity for millenniums) that in the long run it's healthier for a marriage not to engage in premarital sex.
One could add to this frightful list that these schools often have lower levels of violence, better classroom control, more parent input, and also teach such patently divisive attitudes as showing respect for those with whom you disagree, and loving your neighbour and even your enemy.
Normally, as an expatriate teaching overseas, I'm proud to be Australian. But this is a deeply embarrassing throwback to the Big Brother, Orwellian mentality of the old dyed-in-the-wool, lock-step leftists.
Welcome to the new, improved, non-faith-based Inquisition.
Rikk Watts, Vancouver, Canada
It was the lead letter. Rikk's an interesting man, a lecturer in New Testament at Regent College, Vancouver. I heard him speak for the charismatic Christian group at Melbourne Uni in the '90s, and it was good to hear a man from a different theological perspective working hard at the detail of the text of Acts.
Monday, 25 February 2008
Step in a waltz of red moonbeams
Said he fit an APB,
A robbery nearby
And he go for his wallet
And they thought he was going for a gun
And the cops blew Bird away
Some kids like watching Saturday cartoons
Some girls listen to records all day in their rooms
But what do birds leave behind,
of the wings that they came with
If a son's in a tree building model planes?
It would be good to pray for the man that, as well as being kept physically safe, God will enable him to say worthwhile things publicly about the Lordship of Jesus.
Now where's my wallet? Where's my diary? Where's my laptop? Where are my car keys? Where's my bus ticket? Where's my USB memory device? Who am I? Why are you looking at me in that funny way?
I always appreciate Andrew Barry's infrequent blog posts. In this entry he explains how the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is not about the Law of Moses, but something fundamentally new—Jesus.
Here he explains an important parallel:
He never calls people back to the OT Law. He calls people to obey Him. His implicit message is in line with that of the apostle Paul - 'Don't follow Moses, instead follow me.' Don't follow the morning star when the sun has just risen. His last words to his disciples before his ascension reflect his last words in his sermon.
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:19-20)
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock." (Matthew 7:24)
Had anyone else noticed how Jesus final words in Matthew reflect his final words in the sermon on the Mount? I hadn't. Thanks Andrew.
Sunday, 24 February 2008
I came across as similar suggestion, only this time it was someone arguing that we ought to rip our clothes in church. They point out that there are far more references to this activity in worship than there are to raising your hands, singing, or dancing. And if you do one, you ought to go the whole hog and do all.
Saturday, 23 February 2008
It needs to be fresh, though, and not swimming in a sea of its own leaked liquid.
Fresh, with a hint of saltiness, in large quantities, covered in honey, with crumpet.
Lily Violet still just wanted the weetbix, though.
Mitcho and Helen coming 'round tomorrow night. We've been meaning to have them 'round for about four years, and it's finally happening. Sorry the rest of you who are still waiting for your invitation, we haven't forgotten and if it's not soon it will be in eternity, the heavenly banquet.
Walking up to the shops. And back. And having the handle on one of the three bags break, and not losing any of the contents.
Cheerful people. Speaking of which, we had Greetings on the Green at the school where all three of our girls now go. A band with clarinets and drums, four serious and intent facepainted girls blowing on flutes. Food, wine, friends, and Alan describing the technical details of the operation he'd seen on TV last night, and wondering how a lady in her 70s could lose all her fingers on one hand, but the nailpolish still be intact.
She got the use of her fingers back, but Alan hadn't seen the whole show and we were wondering about the details.
I reckon that lady is pretty happy, well short-term happiness anyway. Oops, sliver of negativity creeping in there. No, she'd have to be happy wouldn't she?
Anyway, lovely late summer evening. And a lovely late summer Saturday stretching out in front of us.
Friday, 22 February 2008
From the article:
Many researchers think forgiveness - a virtue embraced by almost every religious tradition as a balm for the soul - may be medicine for the body. They have shown that "forgiveness interventions" - often just a couple of short sessions in which the wounded are guided towards positive feelings for an offender - can improve cardiovascular function, diminish chronic pain, relieve depression and boost quality of life among the very ill.
Mind you, the article can only argue the benefits from a secular perspective, without giving anything other than personal benefit as the reason for taking the step of forgiving, and what's more, locating the power to forgive in the will of the one forgiving. That's a shaky reed indeed!
Christians struggle to forgive others too. But they know that the source of all power to forgive comes from God, and is based on the overwhelming and infinite grace that God has shown to us in Jesus Christ. The source of our ability to forgive others is our thankfulness and knowledge of what God has done for us.
Col. 3:12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
This is not easy! But without knowledge of God's forgiveness, it is close to impossible, and may even be impossible.
Thursday, 21 February 2008
It was posted on December 4 from Lidcombe in Sydney's inner west, and took 11 weeks to get over here to the Eastern Suburbs.
On Monday just gone Paul Sheehan had an extremely silly article encouraging bored and frustrated middle-aged women to be unfaithful to their husbands.
Today in the Sydney Morning Herald Andrew Cameron, ethics lecturer at Moore College, has a response.
From Andrew's article:
In his clarion call for "middle-aged" women to leave their arid marriages, Paul Sheehan effects the posture of gallant ally to unhappy women in the struggle against "routine, obligation, fear, guilt and the dogma of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religious tradition" ("In praise of desire and infidelity", February 18).
But sexual politics can blind us to the obvious. Put his rhetoric of liberation on hold and consider: what would we have thought if the cardigan-wearing cynic, and the fat slob with the remote, were women? What if men were urged not to pretend they are "middle-aged", and to go forth and renew their sensuality with nubile young things?
In an argument throughout the Gospels, Jesus attacks his contemporaries for their divorces of convenience to remarry young things, and "everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew chapter 5, verse 28). The point is not to amplify male guilt. He wants men to direct their sexual energy toward their wives, as in the ancient proverb "Take pleasure in the wife of your youth … be lost in her love forever."
and other good things!
Tuesday, 19 February 2008
But plans are afoot, and in just over a month (don't hold us to it, things may change!) Matthias Media is going to launch a bigger brighter blog, with all sorts of interesting contributors. Stay tuned on that one.
And for my part, as of now I will be posting to the Matthias Media site at least once a week, possibly more, with material that doesn't appear anywhere else in the whole of creation.
Here's the first attempt, with an absolute corker of a quote dug up by Iain Murray from his book The Puritan Hope. Under the Holy Spirit, I really believe that the quote uncovers the key to how to read Romans (and in fact the whole Bible) with understanding.
The reminder of our future was so important. For a faith in Jesus that only looks back to the cross (Roman Catholicism, for example) and fails to trust also in the resurrection has lost assurance and hope. Most of all, such a faith has no true understanding of the Lordship of Christ.
It's Paul's faith in the resurrection that leads him to declare, in Romans 4:25, that Jesus was "raised for our justification". It's the resurrection that convinced Paul (Acts 9:3-17) that God was both "just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:26). And it's the resurrection that Paul preached when he wanted to persuade Gentiles that they ought to repent. (Acts 17:31).
Monday, 18 February 2008
Up at Men's Katoomba Christian Convention (MKC) we had a very fine session from Baptist speaker Anthony Petterson, who lectures at Morling College (the local Baptist theological college here in Sydney). It was on answering Roman Catholicism, and pointed out how within Roman Catholicism, the basic vocabulary of salvation is distorted. Grace means not so much God's generosity, for example, as a sort of metaphysical infusion of a substance that allows you to choose to do good works. (Anthony used the parallel of a blood transfusion enabling you to get up and get on with life, and it made a lot of sense as an explanation of the Roman Catholic perspective).
As such, even though the claim within Roman Catholicism is that we are saved by grace, in reality this means something quite different from the Bible's teaching that we are rescued by God without any input from ourselves.
For the average Roman Catholic believer, this means that assurance of salvation is impossible and indeed, forbidden by the teaching of the church. Assurance, for Roman Catholics, is the sin of 'presumption'. For how could one be assured of being right with God if good works are necessary to our right-standing with God, as Catholicism teaches? But on the Roman Catholic view, not only is assurance ruled out, but the very idea of salvation is placed under threat, for our good works can never be good enough to gain our entry into heaven.
Roman Catholic doctrine thus undercuts Christ's work on the cross, as his work in dying for sin is no guarantee whatsoever that God will declare us 'not guilty' on the final terrible day of judgement.
Along the way Anthony pointed out that the Roman Catholic church does not believe that non-Roman Catholic churches can lay claim to the title of being genuine Christian churches, and used the current Pope's words to demonstrate that this traditional view hasn't changed at all in recent times:
Christian Communities born out of the Reformation of the sixteenth century... do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called "Churches" in the proper sense."
Find the quote in context here.
Anthony Petterson thought that the current Pope was doing something useful for all Christians by clarifying the difference between Protestant and Catholic beliefs. He certainly is! We mustn't pretend that in essence, all the so-called Christian churches are on about the same thing.
Anthony also gave a good plug for Ray Galea's latest book on the subject, Nothing in my hand I bring. Well worth a read, and before World Catholic Youth Day hits town.
Here's a lovely Old Testament song from Micah 4:1-5
Mic. 4:1 It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the LORD
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and it shall be lifted up above the hills;
and peoples shall flow to it,
2 and many nations shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
3 He shall judge between many peoples,
and shall decide for strong nations afar off;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore;
4 but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree,
and no one shall make them afraid,
for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.
5 For all the peoples walk
each in the name of its god,
but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God
forever and ever.
Loveliness and upbeatness notwithstanding, Kanishka Raffel reminded us at Men's Katoomba Christian Convention (MKC) that this song is a piece of Yahwistic imperialism that makes the American desire to teach democracy to the Middle East seem positively benign by comparison.
Notice how the mountain of the LORD (that's English for 'Yahweh') is the greatest and best mountain of all. That's because your piddling local mountain, where your piddling local deity has set up his, her or its altar, is no mountain at all. Just as Mt Kosciusko is a speed hump when compared to Everest; so the god of your nation, tribe or culture is and will be nothing but roadkill when faced with the towering majesty of the God who revealed himself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
And the reason for the outbreak of peace that the song declares is that the nations have given up the fight, and come instead to learn from the God of the people of Israel.
In fact, the only way you might mistake this for a lovely tune would be if you'd been distracted by the music.
Which, I hasten to add, we weren't.
Sunday, 17 February 2008
Tonight I am thanking God for loving us and rescuing us. Glory to God the Heavenly Father through our Lord Jesus Christ!
Thanks to God for many good friends who organize Katoomba Conventions and work to see that the Bible is faithfully taught there.
Friday, 15 February 2008
I am hoping that the music won't be as good as it was at ENGAGE conference, for reasons previously stated. But I promise not to complain too much if it is.
And very much looking forward to some good Bible teaching and a catch up with other men from church.
Quite a lot before bedtime, really. Our youngest, Lily Violet, went off to school today with her and my current favourite book, Babar the Elephant, in her bag for 'news time'. Trouble was, she didn't want to take it to school. She knew she had to take something, but it definitely wasn't going to be that, and it wasn't going to be the gymshirt, so when I finally decided for her, she burst into tears.
By the time we got to school she'd calmed down and I carried her in while her two sisters ran off to classes. But now she didn't want to go in. This after two weeks of happily heading in to see all her friends, and telling her mum that she could just drop her at the school gate with her 'stisters'. She clung on to me and burst into tears again. Even the lovely Mrs Wilson couldn't persuade her inside.
Then Carina, from her class, came up, gave her a big hug, and brought her into the room while I ran for the door.
The funny bit about this was that last week when Carina was crying, Lily Violet was next to her and Fifi said "Give her a hug". To which Lily Violet responded "No! I don't want to" and got on with her work.
Photo is Ruby on the left, Lily Violet on the right
However I did buy her some birds of paradise this morning, and what's more they WEREN'T ON SPECIAL. (You could buy roses for 60% off, but roses are not our flower of choice).
Thanks Mark C. for pointing out the report to me.
However if you choose the weetbix when your 'stisters' choose the Sultana Bran, you will get the honey spoon for sure, as Lily Violet realised.
David Palmer over on the Sydney Anglicans forum provided the link, and summarizes:
The Climatic Research Institute at the University of East Anglia in conjunction with the UK Met Office Hadley Centre maintains a graph of the combined global and marine surface temperature recorded from 1850 on, annually adjusted. They have recently updated it for 2007 and state that 2007 was only the eight hottest year on record with a sizeable dip compared to the past few years. With another year like 2007 for 2008, the graph which we can now say has turned over will begin to show a clear downward trend.
Come now, David, just because the entire planet was a smidge cooler for one year doesn’t meant it will be cooler next year as well! I mean, it was hotter in parts—that’s got to count for something, doesn’t it?
Maybe we are just getting global warmening in bits, and the fact that we had a cold year is proof positive that things are going to get worse.
Meanwhile in other news, the evil anti-warmening propagandist Tim Blair nonetheless highlights the shocking news that the Loch Ness monster has probably been killed by global warmening.
Glenn Gould. What's not to love? This youtube video goes for three minutes, so it's only short, but make sure you pay attention for the 11 seconds or so from the 1 min 59 mark.
He's one of the best and greatest. Only just made it to his 50th birthday.
Here's his wiki biography.
Thursday, 14 February 2008
Whether you're a fan of small churches or not, if God decides that he's going to convert a few thousand of your hearers in a village on the strength of one sermon, you're going to end up with a big church.
The wikipedia article on Whitefield is pretty good.
Now imagine how many more he could've reached if he'd had a well-rehearsed music team! ;-)
1. Follow God’s leading;
2. Begin on a small scale;
3. Put money in second place because money follows ministry; let prayer, study, and mutual converse precede its collection;
4. Success depends on sending out people of the highest calibre;
5. Depend wholly upon the Spirit of God.
Iain Murray says he found this in History of the C.M.S. by Eugene Stock, Vol 1. p 67.
Fundraising can't just be about asking for dollars, but winning the heart of those who you are asking to support gospel work through you or your organization. Ben's idea of calling it 'heartraising' is nice.
The delay didn't bother me as it gave me a chance to keep reading The Puritan Hope by Iain Murray (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1971), which has some terrific jewels in it, and which I'll do a few posts on both here and at the Matthias Media CHN website.
Oh, by the way, check Tony Payne's excellent post about Psalm 96, and its nyah nyah ni nyah nyah value against foreign nations.
Anyway, when I got to Elizabeth St I realized my bus was accelerating away from the usual stop, so I jumped up over the sandstone retaining wall and cut the corner of Hyde Park to see if I could beat it to the next stop. I was nearly there when I saw that the bus was stopping for passengers. So I slowed down from a back-pack laden run, and made it in time.
When I reached the door I realized that I was the only passenger getting on. The driver had seen me running across the park and stopped just for me.
That's quite nice isn't it! Restores your faith in busly nature.
She's right about Kevin Rudd.
Kevin Rudd, settling snugly into the swivel chair that for 11½ years was the domain of J. Winston Howard, proved to be something of a natural. The air of elevated studiousness that he affected so maddeningly as opposition leader has made a smooth transition to power.
I mean, it was maddening whether you were on his side or not, but probably especially if you weren't. Reminds me of the way Adam Gilchrist tosses the ball into the air when he takes a catch. Must make the opposition batsmen want to give him a quick bop on the nose while he's not looking.
Wednesday, 13 February 2008
Well I got a bad liver and broken heart, yeah,
I drunk me a river since you tore me apart
And I don't have a drinking problem, 'cept when I can't get a drink
And I wish you'd a-known her, we were quite a pair,
She was sharp as a razor and soft as a prayer
So welcome to the continuing saga, she was my better half, and I was just a dog
And so here am I slumped, I've been chipped and I've been chumped on my stool
So buy this fool some spirits and libations, it's these railroad station bars
And all these conductors and porters, and I'm all out of quarters
And this epitaph is the aftermath, yeah I choose my path, hey, come on, Kath,
He's a lawyer, he ain't the one for ya
No, the moon ain't romantic, it's intimidating as hell,
And some guy's trying to sell me a watch
And so I'll meet you at the bottom of a bottle of bargain Scotch
I got me a bottle and a dream, it's so maudlin it seems,
You can name your poison, go on ahead and make some noise
I ain't sentimental, this ain't a purchase, it's a rental, and it's purgatory,
And hey, what's your story, well I don't even care
'Cause I got my own double-cross to bear
And I'll see your Red Label, and I'll raise you one more,
And you can pour me a cab, I just can't drink no more,
'Cause it don't douse the flames that are started by dames,
It ain't like asbestos
It don't do nothing but rest us assured,
And substantiate the rumors that you've heard
Please keep posting though, because there's a ratio thing I'm trying to preserve here, and I need a few people saying seriously dopey things to help preserve it.
If your comment got through, you are doing something right, even though I personally disapprove of it.
If you check Tim C's review by clicking the relevant link, you'll see I've left a comment in which I wonder aloud whether Tim K has allowed his undoubted deep desire for reaching the lost to overwhelm, at times, the shape of the gospel he presents.
Tim Keller has graciously responded in the comments section of this blog. He says:
Your question about the gospel outline in that article is understandable. You are assuming that outline is meant to stand alone as the full evangelistic presentation, but I said in the paper it isn't. Notice that in the article I say that this outline is only the introduction. Its a sandwich--first, you do a very brief presentation of the gospel that gets interest (it doesn't have to be that one, necessarily.) Then secondly, you really go at the 'defeater beliefs'--all the parts of the gospel people today hate, including (it's in the paper) God's anger and wrath. Thirdly, after you go through that and they are at least partially with you, then you go through a fuller gospel presentation.
As I said, I see why you would put the first part of the evangelistic presentation up against something like 2 Ways to Live and find it wanting, but that's a mistake. In the book The Reason for God I actually put that particular narrative in the last chapter, after defending the idea of God's wrath at length earlier.
I thought all this was clear in the paper. It was originally a handout for a training seminar. So it wasn't originally written to posted on a website. I'll look again. It may be easy to misread it. Sorry.
Responding to Tim:
Tim, thankyou for a gracious and prompt response (and for readers who are curious, the article Tim refers to is here and is well worth reading for the many useful ideas in it).
I certainly don't want to go off half-cocked on this, and thanks also for your help in placing what you said in context. I read the paper through a number of times, and especially appreciated the suggestions you make for defeating 'defeater beliefs'. But one of the first questions that came to my mind as I was reading concerns your statement, early on in the paper, that:
The more positive aspect of sharing the gospel is to connect the story of Jesus to the base-line cultural narratives. In short, you have to show in line with the culture's own (best) aspirations, hopes, and convictions that its own cultural story won't be resolved or have 'a happy ending' outside of Christ.
I realize this is a very carefully and thoughtfully worded statement you've made here. My question is, however, whether the depiction of cultural aspirations is ever as positive as the picture you imply. My reading of Romans 1:18-32 suggests that even the very best of creation has become, under our hand, debased—and in particular, that all our aspirations concerning these very good things are, in fact, very evil.
Following on from this, what if my highest and best aspiration, upon analysis, turns out to be a veiled desire to dethrone Christ and place myself in his place? Is there any way that this aspiration—and really, it is fundamental to our sinful flesh—could find a 'happy ending', either inside or outside of Christ?
I will grant that you make a number of statements that are relevant to this question within the article, including on page one your statement that "at some point you must also challenge the sovereignty of individual consciousness. Jesus is Lord, not my personal consciousness."
So perhaps I'm being obtuse, but it seemed to me that there was, at the very least, a tension between this statement and what you subsequently went on to explain.
Enough from me. They are questions only, and possibly quite misguided. As an almost complete neophyte in my knowledge of your thoughts and work, I am only too happy for your correction. And thank you too for your faithful work in preaching the gospel in a difficult city.
My eldest daughter would agree with me on this, or would if I hadn't got to them first.
Update to add: I'm feeling a mite queasy now, but.
Update again to add: Mmm, but I'm feeling pretty good again, and I think will go off to buy some donuts for afternoon tea.
How is it that the new "consensus-style" Government of Kevin Rudd, which has promoted itself as open and listening, got so close to the planned apology without letting the rest of us see the wording?
If community consultation and discussion was ever called for, it was for this. Most of us agree sorry needs to be said, but for sorry to mean anything, we must know what we are saying, and why and how we are doing so. The Government was not just frustrating the Opposition with its delaying tactics, it was snubbing the millions of non-indigenous Australians who also want this momentous occasion to speak for them.
Claire Smith, Chatswood
Very timely too, given that groups in a lot of local churches and campuses are just getting under way for the year, 'round these parts anyway.
Teachers' pay is only a small part of the picture
Karin Wiese's views on teachers (Letters, February 12) reek of snobbery. I have seen good, bad, intelligent and average teachers at every level of the education system. The best and brightest are not in it because they want money or social standing, but because they love children and learning. By all means pay teachers better, but money and social standing cannot buy altruism, and that is what underlies great teaching.
Gordon Cheng, Kingsford
More to be said, of course. Real altruism is a work of the Holy Spirit, but I can't remember when he was allowed to slip into the letters page last.
The letter I'm responding to is the first one here.
I think of gadgets every now and then, for example I invented the upside-down fridge (with the freezer on the bottom), but I never got credit for it. I guess this is not surprising, since I didn't tell anyone until I saw one.
I have also thought of a device for keeping bushwalkers cool using the water they need to carry on the walk anyway, but I can't be bothered explaining it here. Suffice it to say that it involves tubes and a hat.
Tuesday, 12 February 2008
It is certainly a lot better than the last similar promise made in the period of the Judges:
30 And Jephthah made a vow to the LORDand said, “If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, 31 then whatever comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites shall be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering.” 32 So Jephthah crossed over to the Ammonites to fight against them, and the LORD gave them into his hand. 33 And he struck them from Aroer to the neighborhood of Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-keramim, with a great blow. So the Ammonites were subdued before the people of Israel.
34 Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah. And behold, his daughter came out to meet him with tambourines and with dances.
But there is loss involved, as when Samuel is born in answer to this prayer, and because God is faithful, she will only now get to see her child when she visits him at the temple, where he is living with Eli the priest.
I would say that though Hannah's promise is extravagant, it is not foolish. The firstborn, after all, belongs to the LORD (Ex 13:12-13).
And her faithfulness in the face of her husband's other wife's taunts (v 6), her husband's insensitivity (v 8), and Eli's impatient misconstruing of her prayerfulness as drunkenness (v 13) shines out like a beacon in the midst of a dark generation.
This verse is delightful:
Indeed the LORD visited Hannah, and she conceived and bore three sons and two daughters. And the young man Samuel grew in the presence of the LORD.
-1 Sam 2:21
If you need to clear the path to the sink to get to scare off the cockroaches to lift the dirty dishes out of the sink to make space for turning on the tap to get the glass of cold water which is the bare minimum of hospitality*, then life just starts to get difficult.
Well, you may not be bothered by mess when you visit my house, which is very nice of you. But if I have you 'round for a meal (and the New Testament closely links hospitality and food), then beginning with a clean kitchen just makes life easier before, during and after. And we get to talk.
Anyway, you can always tell if life is a bit stressful because I clean the kitchen.
*"And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward." (Mt 10:42)
Sunday, 10 February 2008
This verse reminds us:
For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.
It's from John's first letter, chapter 2 and verse 16. It is a universal compendium of the nature of sin.
One of the things it reminds me of is a good friend Nozi, from Melbourne University days, who was blind. She was told by some theologically charismatic loonie from her home country of Zimbabwe that if she had enough faith she would be healed of her blindness (She was born blind because she was many months premature). But she had very great faith, and one avenue of sin that had been closed off to her, in the providence of God, was 'the desire of the eyes'.
I don't say it was good that she was born blind. Who would? In heaven she will see truth, and her Saviour Jesus, with perfect sight. But she couldn't care less about many of the things that seduce the rest of us.
Friday, 8 February 2008
Well, life is vanity anyway.
Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.
and later in the same chapter
22 What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? 23 For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity.
Thursday, 7 February 2008
They are not hostile people, they are friendly, if you bother to speak to them. Stewart not only bothers to speak to them, he prays for them, and over 20 years has had marvellous conversations and seen many of them come into God's heavenly kingdom, through the Lord Jesus. Why hasn't he been assassinated? Well, most Muslims aren't as crazy as some Australians like to make out. The are lovely, warm people who put our efforts at hospitality to shame.
The religion of Islam is as loopy and ridiculous as Mormonism, but most Muslims realize this in their heart of hearts and are relieved to find someone who will talk to them about truth, but with prayerful compassion.
The global warmenists kept telling me it would be empty by now. Here's climate change guru Tim Flannery in 2005 warning that we would all be rooned, right about now or even a few weeks ago. I am as disappointed as a disappointed thing expecting to be disappointed, and then not.
I really quite like the idea of GAFCON, which continues the eminent evangelical tradition of extremely silly names for moderately important things.
They teach a view of God that makes their underpants turn brown.
And then they sit there, blinded to the truth that rescues them, and turning to Mary for help. Instead of the Lord Jesus who died on the cross to save them from their sins and the judgement of God.
(And the rest of us as well.)
The day of resurrection will cause you problems. And indeed, anyone who is unprepared to meet not only the dead Jesus hanging on a cross, but the risen Lord of glory.
Wednesday, 6 February 2008
Tuesday, 5 February 2008
I think the reasons for non-attendance are the right ones (so that's the answer to your question from 2 posts back, Mike).
Sunday, 3 February 2008
27 things the Sydney Anglican bishops would be better off doing rather than going to Lambeth
1. Watching test cricket.
2. Watching 1 day limited-over internationals.
3. Preaching the gospel to a local congregation.
4. Organizing and helping run a gospel outreach in their local churches.
5. Watching 20-20 cricket.
6. Going to the art gallery.
7. Attending a classical music concert.
8. Having a bit of a sleep-in.
9. Spending time with their families.
10. Attending their local churches.
11. Attending GAFCON.
12. Getting haircuts (except Al Stewart*).
13. Getting fit again (except Al Stewart).
15. Doing a bit of 1-1 evangelism in their local shopping centres.
16. Kicking a few Anglo butts in some of the churches in Muslim areas.
17. Reading Nothing in my hand I bring by Ray Galea (come on you bishops. It's only thin. 2 weeks should be plenty of time to whip through this).
18. Planting a church.
19. Running some evangelistic missions in Newcastle, Melbourne, Perth, or anywhere else where the local bishop is pfaffing around at Lambeth.
20. Catching up on some old episodes of West Wing.
21. Getting celebrity make-overs.
22. Seeing which Syd. bishop is fattest and trying to enter them onto The Biggest Loser.
23. Something social justicey like campaigning about peak oil or threatening to self-immolate outside the Villawood Detention centre.
24. Getting on to facebook and finally figuring it out.
25. That big family holiday to Uluru that they've always been meaning to take.
26. Learning to cook.
27. Making a start on giving up smoking.
Now look, even as I scan my eye down this list I'm thinking of more ideas. But I know you, the gentle reader, can think of more, so away you go and have at it!
<--- *Al ;-)
Saturday, 2 February 2008
Saturday 2nd February 2008
Statement from Archbishop Peter Jensen - speaking after the service of ordination of 48 deacons at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney -
‘With regret, the Archbishop and Bishops of the Diocese of Sydney have decided not to attend the Lambeth Conference in July. They remain fully committed to the Anglican Communion, to which they continue to belong, but sense that attending the Conference at this time will not help heal its divisions. They continue to pray for the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference.’
Friday, 1 February 2008
However it is the business of government, as far as Christians are concerned, to punish evil. As 1 Peter 2:14 says that governors are "sent by [God] to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good." Or as Romans 13:4 says of rulers, "But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer." A good government, whether secular or religious in nature, has a duty under God to make moral decisions and, insofar as it has power, to use the sword to enforce those moral decisions.
So it follows that governments have the right and duty, as they are able, to censor pornography. Whether they in fact do have the power (or even the willpower) to do this is another question. The sword that God has given to them may not reach quite as far as our internet connections, and some in a parliamentary democracy would see advantage in making sure that the sword remains short.
This is not a question that I've spent a lot of time thinking about, but I started thinking about it again because of the proposal currently before our local council to have a brothel built just round the corner from us. The particular question that has started to interest me is the link between pornography and prostitution (and perhaps further, the link between prostitution and human trafficking). Al Mohler's blog had an article about this subject in August 2005, where he mentions the work of Pamela Paul. And I also come across this quote in a 2006 article
The more often men purchased sex, the more they were to view sex as a commodity, and the more often they were to hold false information about prostitutes: most freely choose prostitution, they enjoy their work, they make lots of money, etc. Hughes suggested that if an education campaign debunked such beliefs and gave these men a more realistic view of the life of prostitution, they might be willing to change their behavior.25
Recently commentators in the United States have noted that pornography is becoming more culturally acceptable at the same time that it is becoming more violent and degrading toward women. This problem must be addressed in order to eliminate the demand for sexual trafficking, since researchers have found a link between pornography and prostitution, with men who solicit sex acts to be twice as likely to have viewed pornography as US men in general.
The same article reminds its readers that "Up to 800,000 people are trafficked internationally each year for sexual exploitation and forced labor, 80% of them women or girls."
I might do a bit more digging around on this subject. I found a pdf file of a 2004 article by Dr. Donna Hughes, Best Practices to Address the Demand Side of Sex Trafficking, you can download it here and it makes worthwhile reading.
You could write to the Archbishop of Melbourne, Philip Freier, about this, as my friend Jereth in Melbourne has done. They could do with your prayers, too. Jereth tells me you can write to
The Rev. Dr. Philip Freier,
C/- The Anglican Diocese of Melbourne,
The Anglican Centre,
209 Flinders Lane,
Pray for the Presbyterians down there too. They are the only Victorian denomination of any size that actively support evangelical ministry and church planting.
I worked in Melbourne as an Anglican for 10 years and the state of things down there continues to be a concern, with a few good things happening in some churches, and in the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students on campuses down there.
Nicole has started a series on Christian hospitality on her 168hrs blog. I'm looking forward to reading it.
One of the things I wonder is what the evangelistic impact would be for a church if they cancelled an evangelistic event with a band and a speaker and instead gave out $20 gift vouchers for the local supermarket, Coles or what have you. Not random handing out, mind you, but all part of a thought-out hospitality plan.
So, let's suppose you had been planning to go all out with advertising, band payment, speaker, hire a coffee machine, good PA system etc at a cost of $1500. Instead, you spend the money on the $20 vouchers and end up with 75 vouchers. You then give a voucher to each family in the congregation, along with the weekly church news sheet, and you encourage them to use the evening that they had set aside for your big church shindig inviting a non-church friend or two 'round for dinner.
The $20 wouldn't cover costs but it would help. Some might even donate their $20 voucher to another person in the congregation to help make their hospitality work a bit better. You could have some people who would combine forces and organize a get-together for people in their street, if they were that way inclined.
And in all this, no pressure to download the gospel on the visitors' poor unsuspecting heads would need to happen; no evangelistic conspiracy need be involved. You wouldn't even use it as a sneaky way to advertise the church. Just a real opportunity to show friendship to people you might be too busy to see otherwise, and some help in doing what all Christians should be doing anyway, which is offering hospitality to others.
Where the individuals doing the inviting took this would be entirely up to them. But from the church's point of view, it would be making a powerful statement that you didn't want to eat up all your congregation members' time by putting on church activities, as terrific as they are. Then later in the year, when you run your Simply Christianity course or what have you, and encourage church members to invite friends, they might actually have someone they could ask to come along!
By the way, if there's a hole in this idea that I haven't spotted yet, don't blame Nicole. Any shortcoming in this cunning plan is entirely mine. Her post got me thinking, and if people have ways of improving this concept or have seen something similar in action, don't hesitate to add your comment here.
But I only had to do this job once, and in the process I discovered that four lots of coarse black pepper, three lots of ground pepper, three small bottles of cumin, and three lots of nameless mixed spices appearing to be prototypes for KFC were surplus to requirements. Plus any containers whose use by date was greater than five years old got donated to charity (or something—I'm sure I've heard someone say that missionaries and people in ministry love to receive this kind of stuff...), and suddenly the pantry was looking cleaner in an anti-entropic kind of way. Behold, it was very good.
In other news, Australia gets its first 21 year old chess grandmaster. And euthanasia campaigner Philip Nitschke tries to spread the bad word in NZ.