Thursday, 22 December 2011

My plans for 2012

Firstly, given that the Lord may return before 2012 anyway, and given that we have not in any way given up on 2011, and given that we want to be giving thanks for his grace at all times and in all places,

Merry Christmas!

And thanks to God who gives us his grace in so many ways, but most especially through the life, death and resurrection of his son, the Lord Jesus.

However I wanted to let blog and facebook readers know in a bit more detail what my plans are for 2012. They are in order of importance: one, to keep following Jesus as Lord; two, to keep loving my family in word and action; and three… well read on.

Due to family and personal circumstances I decided to take a break from AFES (Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students) work half way through 2010. I’m convinced under God that it was the right thing to do so, with some sadness, I finished up as campus director at the Cumberland campus of Sydney Uni.

There was never any intention to step back from the work of gospel ministry, however. So in the time since then, I’ve looked for opportunities to keep on teaching the Bible and God’s message of forgiveness in Jesus—whether in the family with my dear wife and daughters, or in meeting one-to-one with various people, or in preaching at church and elsewhere, including a series earlier this year on the book of Daniel at Cumberland campus.

As well as that I’ve done some writing, including some articles on the resurrection, and some writing and editing for a Bible course, Faith Under Fire for use in the Australian Defence forces, and drafting a statement of belief for a Christian school.

I’ve also been producing a video featuring broadcaster Kel Richards and evangelist John Chapman, and working with children’s gospel worker Bruce Linton in putting together a website for children’s ministry resources (we haven’t gone live on that one yet).

Together with the joys and responsibilities of family life, and part time work singing and playing the piano, and driving hearses, most weeks have become just as full and busy as any of the work that I was doing on campus!

However in God’s grace, a new possibility has come up for 2012. Having talked again to various friends in AFES, I will be starting work with the Conservatorium of Music (known to all and sundry as the Con, part of the University of Sydney) as soon as I am able to gain sufficient support to begin.

Initially I will be working two days per week, but there is a very good possibility that this will increase down the track once we all get a chance to see how things are going. The basic job will be the same as previously: Bible teaching, meeting with leaders and meeting one-to-one to read the Bible and pray, together with a team of others including some friends from St Andrew’s Cathedral, Andrew Lim and Sarah Cheng.

There’s a lot more to be said, but one of the things I must do before I can start is work on building a team of friends and supporters who will pray for the campus and the progress of the gospel, and possibly be willing to offer financial support as well. If you’re a facebook friend or a friend from other parts of life I may already have contacted you about this already, and thank you very much to those who’ve already said they want to be part of the support network for what I’m affectionately referring to as ‘the Con job’!

I’m already making plans to contact more people to ask if they (you?) would like more information about how to support the work of this ‘Con man’ in 2012. But if you don’t want to wait for my call or message, please let me know that. The best way is to message me on facebook and ask for more information, or you can send me an e-mail at ggordonc AT optusnet DOT com DOT au with the words ‘Con job’ (or something similar) in the subject line.

So that’s the latest, would love to tell you more and no doubt will do so through this blog or other means, but if want to make sure you find out, please make contact with me and let me know that.

UPDATE: You can contribute financially, if you wish, by going to this link and finding my name on the relevant drop-down menu.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Advice please, on lingerie model advertisement

Advice please.

I'm an older man who walks daughters past a lingerie model in the local shopping centre (photo, larger than life size). After school drop-off I went in to complain, saying that in my view the photo was not suitable for public display, and I didn't want said daughters walking past it.

Response from manager was: She was within her legal rights to display, and if the complaint was to be taken further, go to centre management.

She would be ready with her arguments which, in summary, were:

As a Christian, she didn't think the display was

a. provocative

b. immoral

c. illegal.

Different people would offer different opinions on a, and b, but she is correct on c.

What's best next?

Tuesday, 22 November 2011


Going to try these beans.

1 lb fresh green beans (not frozen), stem end trimmed off
1 Tbs dark sesame oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Preheat your oven to 450ºF while you trim off the stem ends of the green beans. Wash and thoroughly dry the beans.

Spread the beans on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet, then toss with the oil, salt, and pepper. Arrange the beans to fit on the baking sheet in a single layer. Cook for 10 minutes, then stir the beans and cook for another 5 to 10 more minutes, or until the skin is wrinkled and beginning to brown in places.

Let cool for a minute, add a dash more dark sesame oil, then commence super-sonic snacking.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Closing my Cumbo blog for a good reason!

Somewhat late, but I am closing my Cumbo blog. You can read the last post here, or you can hear it here. ;-)

The spur to finally closing the Cumbo blog is to avoid any confusion. In the grace of God, I've begun support raising for a new job, hopefully beginning in early 2012, working two days a week with the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students, still at Sydney University but this time with the Conservatorium Christian Group.

Really excited about joining this team in what Fifi and I are already affectionately referring to as 'the Con job'.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Mozart A minor piano sonata

Written about the time of his mother's death.

I've always thought what Grimaud expresses here:

Grimaud opened with Mozart’s Sonata in A Minor, playing it as if she were lashing a carriage down the streets of Salzburg. “It’s Mozart’s only sonata with fortissimo markings,” she says. “I like to think of it as something quite extreme, and that’s how I play it.”

From here.

Listen to her brilliant performance, here.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Halloween again

Here are some thoughts on Halloween I posted about 12 months ago, in the form of a kid's talk at church.

Anyone here scared of spiders?

Hands up who wants to tell me what they're scared of?

I've got a scary joke book here. [visual aid: scary joke book. Read random joke]

I heard a programme on the radio this week where a lady said she was scared of lettuce.

Anyone scared of Pumpkins? [visual aid: Pumpkin]

Anyway it's Halloween time so there are a lot of pumpkins about, I hope you kids are going to be OK and that your parents will make sure that there are no pumpkins in your house or anywhere in the garden.

The Bible talks about scary stuff. Jesus actually met some of the things we're scared about. I can't tell you if he met any pumpkins, maybe after church some of you will be able to let me know about that. But he did meet a lot of other scary stuff. There was the time where he met a man who was full of demons.

(Insert summary of Mark 5:1-20 here. Punchline: 'You see how Jesus is much more powerful than even 2000 scary things?')

I guess if you see something scary today, which is Halloween, especially if something scary dressed like a pumpkin comes to your door, you get a choice of at least two things.

1. You can go out for pizza with your family. The pumpkin won't know where you are and will go to the next house. We do that quite a lot at Halloween, even though we sort of like pumpkins.

2. You can say hello pumpkin, have a lolly. Did you know Jesus is more powerful than any pumpkin, or any powerful thing in the whole world? Happy Halloween.

We may still go out that evening!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

John Chapman on John Chapman and preaching

I'm working to produce a DVD to go with John Chapman's latest book, Making the Most of the Cross. It's an interview between John and Kel Richards.

The first bit of interview between Kel Richards and John Chapman is here, 'On dying'.

The second bit is here, 'And what's the best thing about the Christian life'.

The third bit is here, 'Jesus our Saviour and Substitute'.

This is the last bit, where Chappo talks about himself and preaching. Yes there's more, and if you want it you'll have to wait until the DVD comes out!

Kel: John let’s get to know you a bit. Are you a Sydney boy, were you born in the bush? Where did you come from?

John: Well first of all let me say I’m a five generation Australian and I came from convict stock. My great-many-times-back granny was transported to the colony for passing dud fivers in the Strand. For that she got 10 years. Her husband made the fivers but there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him. He, gallant and all as he was, followed her to the colony. 10 years later and four boys she died.

He was a proper villain; he abandoned the boys and went home to England. The boys were brought up in Governor Macquarie’s NSW boys’ orphanage. They were taught to play cricket and 4 of them represented Australia in cricket. So I—my forebears had a bad beginning but they came good.

Kel: And you have rich blood in your veins—from those people.

John: Well there’s plenty of it. I’m always giving it at Pathology.

Kel: Now your childhood, where was that?

John: I grew up at Oatley and I was schooled there at an intermediate high school at Sutherland and then at Sydney Tech High.

Kel: Now you ended up going into teaching but before you went into teaching you became a Christian.

John: In my last year at high school—in my third year at high school—the boy I sat next to, Dick Tischer, became a Christian, and he began to evangelise me.

I deeply resented that, because he had hardly ever been to church but I’d grown up at church. So I thought—I mean if you go to church all your life you think you are a Christian. It’s nearly impossible to believe you’re not. But I knew nothing about Christianity.

I remember the first time it dawned on me that Christ died for me. It was a terrific shock to the system. I was at church and the guy preaching the sermon said ‘Do you know that Jesus died for you?’ I nearly answered him. And for the life of me I couldn’t work out why he died for me. And then the man said, ‘Do you know why?’ And again I nearly answered him.

And I realized for the first time that Christ had taken the punishment my sins deserved. I remember walking home from church that day and saying ‘Well you don’t have a leg to stand on, because up till now you thought it was about being good’.

But even I could see the stupidity of God saying to me on the day of judgement ‘what are you doing here unforgiven?’ and I say ‘Well I’ve lived a fairly decent life.' Cause He’d say ‘Do you think I’m mad? Why do you think I let my Son die?’

Well that was a big revelation and Dick Tischer was the one who really did that for me. And then I dug my heels in and went on for 12 months knowing I wasn’t Christian but not becoming one, because I didn’t want to have to admit that he was right and I was wrong, which again was stupid.

At 17 I turned to Christ, that was the best decision. I have never regretted that, not for a split second. And it changed the whole course of my life. I personally think for the better.

Kel: John Chapman, young Christian, finished high school, became a teacher. Why a teacher?

John: Neither of my parents had finished their primary education. They were highly intelligent, but badly schooled. They didn’t think they were intelligent but they were.

I made all the decisions about my high school career, because Mum and Dad didn’t know anything about high school. Wasn’t their fault. And so I would ask Dad questions like ‘I’ve got to make a decision about whether I do Ancient History or Mechanics.’

Well Dad would look very wise and then he’d say ‘What do you think would be a good thing mate?’ And I’d say ‘Well I think I ought to do Mechanics’ and he’d say ‘Well seems good to me mate.’

So it took me years before I realized that I’d made all the decisions about my schooling. When I finally matriculated with English, Double Maths, Applied Maths, Physics and Tech Drawing, I wanted to do Ancient History.

Well there was no way anyone was going to pay for me to do Ancient History at a University, with Double Maths, Applied Maths, Physics and Tech Drawing. So I became a Manual Arts teacher, by default. I quite liked that, it was good fun and most of the boys liked it because they—it wasn’t like formal education.

Kel: But you didn’t spend most of your life as a teacher because you switched—still as a young man—to full time ministry. How and why?

John: I—Kel it is an interesting thing but when I left teachers college I decided that if I didn’t do exams I’d never study properly.

So I started doing the ThL course that you did for ordination, simply by reading the textbooks and sitting for the exam. So by the time I went to Moore College I’d 8 of the 10 subjects completed.

It’s not a very good way to teach yourself theology. You don’t learn theology by reading books, you learn theology by talking about it with other people, with other Christians about what the Bible means.

Kel: Discussing and debating...

John: Yeah. That’s the way you really learn. And although I had quite a bit of knowledge I wasn’t well educated theologically. I did some time at Moore College, all too little, and then I was ordained. I worked in the North West, in Armidale Diocese for ten years and then I came back to work in Sydney.

Kel: And you came back to work in Sydney as an evangelist and that’s what you spent most of your life, most of your years doing isn’t it?

John: Yes. When I look back on the Armidale days—I was called a youth director and then I went bald, so they changed the name to the Director of Christian Education. And—but I was really evangelising most of the time. And I came to work in the Department of Evangelism in Sydney, yes.

Kel: I was working for a radio station in Armidale when you were the youth— when you came to speak at our Baptist youth fellowship.

John: Yes.

Kel: And you did an illustrated talk. The drawings were awful but I still remember the talk.

John: Yes, I saw Owen Shelley do work at a children’s mission one afternoon and I came away and I thought to myself, I could do all that. So I started running children’s missions and they ran exactly like Owen Shelley had done that one. He may have done other things on other days but I never did.

Kel: Well you spoke about the conversion of Isaiah being in the temple and the great vision, and his mouth being touched by the hot coals and all the rest, awful pictures but a wonderful story.

John: There you go Kel, and that you can still remember it is highly flattering!

Kel: Now, evangelist for many years, you came to Sydney to be an evangelist.

John: Yes. I pioneered in Sydney a form of evangelism that we’d done in the country in Armidale. We’d ask people to host a meeting in their home, ask some of their non-church-going friends if they’d like to come and talk with me about Christianity. And I would give a short talk and then they would ask questions and I would try and answer them.

Kel: Now your years in the department led you to spend the rest of your life preaching the gospel and teaching the Bible, both here and overseas.

John: Yes. Yes, I had a lot of experience here doing that, and I got some invitations to England and I went to America on a couple of occasions.

Kel: Did university missions, did all kinds of things.

John: Yes.

Kel: When you look back over those years, was that a really rewarding, rich time, having the opportunity to stand in front of that many people and tell them the gospel?

John: It was interesting, when I went to England the first time they put me on a bigger platform than I had ever been on in Sydney.

If you pay for an air ticket to bring somebody half way around the world they have to be good don’t they by definition, so I suddenly became good overnight by definition, and what surprised me was that I could do it. They thought I could do things which I never thought I could do.

Adrian Lane, who is an old friend of mine, was the president of Sydney University’s EU. He said, “We want you to come and mission at Sydney University for us.” I said no, you ought to get a graduate to do that for you. He said, I should have thought I’d get an evangelist.

And I said yes, they’re not mutually exclusive, you know that? And he said, no, but you’ve got to go for the best evangelist; that’s what I’ve done. So there was a long argy-bargy about that. And because I’d never been to a university I thought they were all terribly clever, but they’re just like the fellowship kids at church. They are intelligent but they don’t know much about life. And he said, they’re just like the fellowship kids.

And when I thought about it I said, yeah that’s what they are, I could do that. And so I began with Paul Barnett at Sydney University, then I missioned several times with Phillip [Jensen], the students at Oxford and Cambridge University invited me to give a series of lectures for them, and I suppose in terms of university mission that’s the sort of pinnacle, they are the great universities of England.

Kel: And you’ve invested a lot of your life in teaching other people to preach, haven’t you?

John: I’ve tried to. I’ve tried to set myself as a model that other people could copy. If you take a preacher like Phillip [Jensen], he’s almost unique, isn’t he.

Kel: Yes, only he can do what he does.

John: And when people try to copy what he does, they muck it up nearly every time. He is such a clever communicator. And my dear friend Dick Lucas in London is like that. He breaks all the rules but you remember the sermon, ‘cause he’s good. And he, he can see when people are losing interest, and he changes his tack immediately.

I think I’ve heard Phillip making up illustrations on his feet. And I think, no that’s not one of yours, you’ve made that up for this occasion, you’ve got to be cracking to do that haven’t you? I’ve never been guilty of that in my life. I’ve often thought of a clever thing on the way home in the car. But never on the deck.

Now I thought, I ought to preach sermons which, when I’m gone, they’d say well there wasn’t anything marvellous about that, I could do that.

And I’ve tried to do that all the time. And I remember one day at the Bible college the kids came racing back they said, do you know Rico Tice preached one of your sermons? I said Did he? They said Yeah. I said was it good? They said it’s not the point. I said it is the point! Was it any good? They said, it was great Chappo. Well, I said how’d you know it was mine. They said it’s in the back of Setting Hearts on Fire. I said man, if it’s in the public arena, it’s in the public arena. It belongs to anybody.

What he didn’t know was I’d pinched it from somebody else! And I’m good for a pinched sermon from anywhere, they’re so hard to put together.

Kel: I was struggling to put together a talk once and I came to you and asked, I said, I don’t know how to explain this, and you gave me an illustration. And at the end you said Kel, bear in mind anyone will give you an outline, only a friend will give you an illustration!

John: [Laughs] That’s right! Well Kel I tell you what I was in church at Bingara one morning and I heard my dear friend Peter Chiswell preaching and it was such a good sermon that I repeated it at Inverell in the afternoon, and it was a broadcast service and he heard it.

And he wrote to me next week and said here are three more outlines, and I know you don’t mind pinching them from other people. And I was always glad to get an outline from him, they were always good.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Music Typewriter

Music Typewriter:

Behold the neatest typewriter you'll see today: the Keaton Music Typewriter
that types musical notes on blank sheet music.

The typewriter is so rare that less than a dozen are believed to still
exist (and you can get one for a mere $6K on Etsy): Link
- via Notcot

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Chappo: Jesus our Saviour and Substitute

The first part of these bits of interview between Kel Richards and John Chapman is here, 'On dying'. The second part is here, 'And what's the best thing about the Christian life'.

Kel: John let’s talk about your new book, Making the Most of the Cross.

John: Yes, nobody thinks more highly of my work than I do, brother.

Kel: (Laughs) No-one happier to talk about it than you.

John: No!

Kel: Can I say one of the things that really struck me about the book is that you spend half the book on the cross and half on the resurrection, and you say we shouldn’t think of them as two separate events, they’re two halves of the one event.

John: Yes.

Kel: What do you mean by that?

John: When Jesus dies, there’s a sense in which his death is like everybody else’s. But there’s a sense in which it’s absolutely unique. What Jesus did when he died on the cross, I could not do. That is, I cannot bear the punishment for the sin of the whole world, because I’ve got to bear my own punishment. But Jesus, who is sinless, takes upon himself the sin of the world. OK. So far, so good.

In other parts of the Bible it says, the wages of sin is death. If you sin, you will die. So if your sins are dealt with, shouldn’t we expect the opposite of death, that is, undeath—resurrection. So because Jesus is—in terms of the old prayer book—a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, how do you know that it worked? Because he rose again from the dead.

In fact if he doesn’t do the opposite to death, it didn’t work.

Kel: So when God raises him from the dead, he’s saying, I accept the payment, it has all worked.

John: Yes. That’s exactly right. It says lots of things. Like the death of Jesus says lots of things.

Kel: Well let’s unpack the different things that it says. Talk about the death and then we’ll talk about the resurrection.

John: Yes.

Kel: In the first place, it’s about salvation, and you say in your book, that’s even in his name. Someone said that the name of Jesus, translated out of Greek into Australian would mean something like ‘God to the Rescue’.

John: Yes.

Kel: Does it mean that?

John: Yes. It means exactly that. And, when I became a Christian at the age of 17, which is too far back for me to calculate now, but we used to talk about ‘being saved’.

It’s dropped off the vocabulary of most people, they don’t like it, because it always appears to them to be radical and fundamentalist nonsense. But it’s a good description of what happened to me. It says in the Bible of people who put their trust in Jesus that they were ‘delivered from the coming wrath’. [See 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10] The judgement of God is real, and our age of course never thinks about death. If you want to bring a dinner conversation to a crashing, grinding halt, just whisper to your hostess, have you given any thought to your death lately? See how that goes down.

Kel: (laughing) You won’t be invited back, will you John.

John: You’ll be struck of the Chrissy card list, brother. But you see, the Victorians, they were so close to death, and every Victorian novel’s got a deathbed scene, and then a scene on the wake. Most people are not with their loved ones when they die now.

Kel: It’s all in hospitals, it’s all medicalized.

John: And they’re removed away, you’re in the way as it were.

Kel: Yes.

John: And our age pretends it’s never going to happen. Which is the great fad of everybody trying to look younger.

Kel: So we need to face the fact that there’s something we need to be saved from.

John: Yes. You see, I am not ready to meet God unless I’m forgiven. If I stand in the presence of God unforgiven, and he says, what is this man’s track record like? they say, in terms of loving you and serving you, he was careless.

Now when you are forgiven, and God says, what is his track record like, they say, there’s nothing written against him.

They say, how is that possible?

And Jesus says, I erased the record when I died for him. And there’s a verse in the Bible which says exactly that. [Colossians 2:14 ?]It comes from the root word ‘to wash away’ and it says, the record of our sins are washed away. It’s why we can be right with God. And Kel, it’s very good. It’s good to know that you’re right with God

Kel: Fixed up forever.

John: Yes. I was surfing once in Avoca, and the waves were breaking further out than I normally—I body-surf—you can’t actually see my full extent here.

Kel: I’ll try to imagine it.

John: Well you’ll have no trouble imagining it. I caught one of those brilliant waves, you know you’re rocketing, I was going to say, like a dolphin but I think more like a whale in my case. I’m coming towards the shore, the waves are curling up round my cheeks, and it was just brilliant.

There is no fool like an old fool, is there. I thought I’ll go one more time.

So I swam out. I’d been treading water I suppose for about five minutes, and I looked around and the beach had drifted quite a long way away, and I said to myself, old man, you’d better get closer in to the beach.

So I turned around and I swam carefully for as long as I could; I flipped on my back to catch a breath, and I looked and the beach seemed just a little bit further.

At that stage I looked over my shoulder to see if I could see New Zealand, I didn’t want to waste time going in the wrong direction.

And a head bobbed up in front of me in the surf, he said you alright mate? I said no. He said d’you need a hand? I said yeah. He said, Gimme your hand I’ll drag you in.

And we worked together for a long time and the feet hit the bottom, it’s a lovely feeling. Mind you they’re only there for a split second and the next wave lifts you up, it doesn’t matter.

He said to me, old man, you’re too far out for an old man like you. And I made the understatement of the century I said to him, well actually I wasn’t out that far when I started.

But you see, can you imagine anybody being so stupid as to say, no I don’t need help, I’m alright, I always swim out here.

Kel: So Jesus is that rescuer.

John: Yes

Kel: He’s the ultimate life saver

John: Of course!

Kel: You also say, because there’s a whole lot of things that the cross accomplishes, you also say what’s important it’s that Jesus being a substitute. Talk to us about that for a moment.

John: Yes. Jesus substituted himself in my place.

Tell you what, I was at the doctor’s on Monday, and driving home past the little church at Condell Park there’s a notice up and it says Jesus did a trade. He traded his life for yours.

See, somebody’s got to take the consequences of my sin. I’ve done them. They’re there. Something’s got to be done. And I can take the punishment, or I can accept the gift that Jesus did when he took the punishment.

So you can say, I should’ve been there on the cross, but Jesus is there taking my place.

I often say when I’m teaching little children, say in side your head while I say it out loud, Jesus Christ died for me. Jesus Christ died for me. You’ve got to be an important person if God lets his son die for you. You see and that’s what he did, he substituted himself in place of me.

We’re used to that idea. Parents always substitute themselves for their children, when they’ve committed crimes, by paying their fines. You see, we’re used to that idea.

Kel: You said to me once, that it’s only the star of the movie who has a stand-in to take the risks.

John: Yeah.

Kel: And God has seen us as being that important that he sends his own stand-in.

John: Yeah. And a very good one he is too, I might say.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

And what's the best thing about the Christian life?

This is more of an interview I'm transcribing, between John Chapman and Kel Richards, from a bit earlier this year. Check yesterday's piece of brilliance, On dying.

This starts in on the Christian life and somehow transmutes into a meditation on the possibilities and deep desire for the new creation.

Kel: And what is the best thing about the Christian life?

John: Ah brother, it’s all good. It’s all good. I remember hearing a bloke telling us about becoming a Christian, he was asked that question; he said, the whole box and dice!

See what could be better than to know your sins are forgiven? What could be better to know that you’re friends with God?

When I was a boy my father hardly ever called me by my Christian name. The only time he ever called me John was when I was in deep trouble. And I always went to ground when he called ‘John’. He called me Ned and I would call him George, neither of which were our names, but they were intimate names of affection—

Kel: Friendship names

John: Yes. And it just said ‘I love you’. I care about you.

And I can’t think of anything better than to be able to call God Father. Paul says when we cry ‘Abba Father’, it is the Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God. And to have God as a loving, caring Father—I know that some people have had fathers who aren’t—but ‘Father’ is a big word, it’s not a little word, it means more than ‘my father’, and to have God as Father, oh man, that is really something.

It’s great to know that God keeps guiding you through life, he said ‘I’ve got my hand on you for good. I’m going to see that the best things happen for you’. [See Jeremiah 24:6] Well that’s, nothing wrong with that is there? And the retirement benefits are great.

You see to look forward to the new creation—there’s a lovely poem in Isaiah [Isaiah 11], it says, ‘In the new creation the lion will eat straw with the ox’, that’s very good news for the ox isn’t it? He normally gets eaten by the lion.

And best of all, ‘the child will play at the nest of the viper.’ My observation is that people spend hours seeing that their kids are not in danger. But in the new creation you won’t need to worry, there’ll be nothing’ll hurt them. Nothing’ll destroy them.

This is a wonderful world. I’ve been on the top of Niagara Falls in high spring, on the Canadian side there’re all tulips and two enormous magnolias. The daffodils grow wild on the edge of the fall. And there’s always enough mist blown up for a big rainbow. It’s perfect. It’s just lovely.

I’ve been in the Western plains of New South Wales, where ninety percent of the scenery’s sky, the horizon’s about that far off the ground, and at night time the whole thing’s a blaze of lights. And like a little child I’d say to God ‘Do it again, do it again’, it’s so beautiful.

I was at a performance of the Midsummer Night’s Dream by the Royal Shakespeare Company and I laughed so much I fell out of the chair onto the floor. And I thought, it is so brilliant, people are so clever.

In the aftermath of the opening of the Sydney Opera House I went to a concert where Lorin Maazel and the Cleveland Orchestra played Beethoven, and Kirsten Flagstad, that great soprano, the German soprano, sang ‘Elizabeth’s Greeting’ from Tannhauser. When she came onto the stage she was like a battleship in full dress. And I thought—the orchestra began to play—and I thought, there is nobody who can sing above that din, I’ll never hear her.

And suddenly a voice rang out, like a canon and as clear as a bell, and there followed the most brilliant twenty minutes of music making I’d ever heard. And I was beside myself. I didn’t have enough limbs to clap and stamp with. And the guy in front looked around, I said ‘Shout, shout, she might just do it again!’ And it’s brilliant.

But it is all so mucked up, isn’t it? I saw the other night on television a million Soviet soldiers were killed in the Siege of Leningrad. A million! That’s like one in every twenty Australians! And you say to yourself, Oh, if only I could get rid of that rotten part.

One of the old ladies in this village had her purse snatched, it had five bucks in it! And the damage that’s been done to her is like a million bucks. She’s frightened to go out of the front door, that’s wicked, do that to a poor old thing.

And it’s both breathtaking and horrifying at one and the same time.

And when I think about the new creation, brother, it’s just like the sunset and the rainbow and Kirsten—I know Kirsten Flagstad’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but you’ll have a cup like it. And you say, gee this is a marvellous world.

I remember when I was diagnosed as a diabetic, I was on the brink of going to England and I said to my specialist, I was planning to go overseas. He said, to where? I said to London. He said ‘this may surprise you, they know about diabetes in London.’ And you say to yourself… do you know they’re doing experiments now where they’re activating pigs’ livers to create insulin, I think in a decade there’ll be a cure for it. And you say, isn’t that brilliant? That people put their mind to that?

And I want that world that’s just brilliant without the wretched parts to it. And being a Christian I think has helped me to be a realist. I used to be a romantic, but it’s helped me to be a realist, and say, we have mucked this world up properly. We really have mucked it up. With terrific potential, we use it for terrible evil. Why am I like that?

And Kel it sounds like a sermon coming on doesn’t it?

Kel: A build-up to it certainly

John: Yeah! Quite a good one, I think I’ll make a few notes cause I tend to forget things these days.

Kel: They’ll give you a copy of the tape, then you can jot them…

John: Oh good.

The whole interview links in part to Chappo's new book, Making the Most of the Cross".

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

On dying

Here's part of a conversation between John Chapman and Kel Richards on the subject of growing old and dying.

Kel: John Chapman, I get the impression that getting older, aging and sickness, is not a lot of fun.

John: It depends. If you’re sick, it’s no fun being sick, everybody knows that. And it often is associated with growing old isn’t it. Your parts do start to fall apart. You gather up specialists like some people gather stamps. I always keep saying the next book I’m going to write is called, Another Year, Another Specialist.

But I lost two last year, which you may think is careless.

There are fun things about growing old, because people’s expectations lower. They don’t expect you to do much, and that’s quite nice, because if you don’t want to you don’t have to.

And if you do anything which is out of the ordinary, they’re quite surprised and you feel good about that.

But chronic sickness is no fun whichever way you look at it. And I think you’ve got to be a non-realist to pretend—you know those sort of people who say, ‘my granny got run over by a bus this morning praise the Lord’.

And I want to say, for goodness sake wake up. And if you’re honest, you do spend a lot of time going to your doctor…s, of which you’ve got, you know, many, and a lot of the time of the elderly is spent in just putting all their gear on, to start with.

Kel: If someone said to you, Chappo, I know there are some people who handle chronic sickness well, and some who handle it badly; I want to handle it well, how can I approach chronic sickness and handle it sensibly?

John: Kel, the more I think about growing older, is, it’s hard not to be self-centred, because you do spend a lot of time looking after yourself and getting ready to face the day, and I think it’s hard for your world not to sort of creep in and diminish. You’ve got to work hard at being concerned for other people, I think. And the people who seem to me to handle their sickness well have got an eye out to help other people.

I think it helps to know that you’ve got God with you. I can’t imagine what it’s like to live without the hope that comes for knowing that you’re right with God.

Kel: If someone said to you, Chappo, why is there such sickness in the world, what’s the answer?

John: The Bible’s answer is that when we turned our back on God and said, Leave me be, God said alright. I’ll leave you be. But he keeps warning us that all things are not right. You see, if you lived in a world where nobody got sick and nothing ever went wrong, and it was all Pollyanna-ish and, and —would you worry about God? You wouldn’t. You’d say, I’m in heaven now.

And you would be.

And because I’m not in heaven now, I live in a world that’s just ideal for me, because every now and again it says, ‘Oops! Everything’s not right.’ And if you say, why isn’t it right? Well you say, you turn your back on God, that’s what you ask for. Now we’re all caught up in that bind, so the world in which we live is an ideal environment for people who are not right with God. It keeps saying, all is not well.

Kel: It’s a poke in the ribs to say, ‘Pay attention’.

John: That’s right.

Kel: It’s not working.

John: That’s right. And sometimes it’s a big poke in the ribs. It’s a poke in the eye with a blunt stick. And you say to yourself, you know, did I do something for this to happen? And the answer from the Bible is, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus says neither, but you want to see what I can do? Watch this. And he heals him. [See John 9]

Kel: For those of us who turn from our way to God’s way and give our lives to Jesus Christ, we in effect get the same message Jesus gave to the repentant thief, 'you will be with me in paradise'. [Luke 23:43]

John: Yes.

Kel: As you get older, how important is that hope?

John: One of the things that was interesting to me when I came to live in a retirement village was, I was surrounded by lovely Christian people. They had their trust in Jesus, there was no two ways about that, they’d come to terms with their sins, they’d put their trust in Jesus, they knew what it was to be forgiven. But because nobody had taught them about death and life after death, they weren’t looking forward to dying, and they certainly weren’t looking forward to the new creation. Now when I read the Bible stories about the new creation, they’re so exciting!

One poem in Isaiah says, they will beat their swords into ploughshares, their spears into pruning hooks [Isaiah 2:4]. Imagine a world…you can’t imagine a world without war! For as long as I’ve been alive we’ve been at war with somebody.

And to say there’ll be a time when there’ll be no war—it’s breathtaking.

Kel: And in that world with no war there is also no illness.

John: Well, then you get to the New Testament, He says, no more tears, no more pain, which is good for the elderly I can tell you, no more crying, no more death. You see, death’s a terrible curse isn’t it?

In this village where I live there are people whose spouses have died between selling their house and moving in. Now it’s a big enough trauma to sell your house and move. But to have your partner die on the way, that’s a terrible tragedy isn’t it.

And you would think it was all 'Pollyanna' if it wasn’t for the fact that that’s exactly what Jesus does...

So they’ve had the funeral, they’re carrying the coffin out, the widow’s son of Nain, Jesus says young man I say to you arise and the bloke sits up in his coffin. [Luke 7:11-17]

Now Kel I’ve done hundreds of funerals, and it’s never occurred to me to give that a try, enough trouble at funerals without importing idiots aren’t there.

Can you imagine that?

The bloke sits up in his coffin!

So when Jesus says in the new creation, there’ll be no death, well you say, well he can pull that off, can’t he?

Kel: Well in fact foolish people talk about the fact that, I want to die a good death. Every death is a bad death, every death is a reminder of sin.

John: Oh absolutely, and Kel, we ought to make a distinction between dying, and the process of dying. My observation is that the process of dying can be no fun at all. I mean, I’m a born romantic from ways back. I want to go to bed one night and wake up in heaven. But the chances of that happening are fairly slight, aren’t they.

Kel: So, talk to us about Jesus for a moment, because Jesus actually does our dying for us. What does he do, how does that work?

John: The Bible says that when Jesus died on the cross, he took the punishment which I deserve and you deserve, and Old Uncle Tom Cobbley and all. The sin of the whole world, he took on himself, so that he can give to us the gift of forgiveness.

It’s like as if when you turn to Christ, you get a certificate that says ‘The bearer has borne all his sins’.

And you say, well, where’d you get that from? It was given to me by Jesus. Well that’s OK if he wants to give it to you, he’s certainly earned it. If he wants to give that to you as a gift, that’s his business.

Now you see, to know that I’m right with God is terrifically stabilizing in a world which is changing.

The thing about the elderly is they’re always complaining about the fact that it’s changing. When decimal currency came in I said to my ancient mother, how are you getting on with the decimal currency?

She said, isn’t it a fool of a thing John? Wouldn’t you think they’d have waited until all the old people died before they changed things? Which I think is brilliant.

Kel: She didn’t say she was going to go on using the old money because she liked it?

John: Well she converted everything back to pounds, shillings and pence so she knew how much it was costing.

But you see, to know that you’re right with God, it’s marvellous. And to know that when you get there and you meet him face to face, eyeball to eyeball on the day of judgement, he’s going to say, how good it is to see you old friend. I mean, you can’t think of anything better than that can you?

Kel: No, you can’t indeed. In fact TC Hammond used to say, they said to Hammond, what’ll it be like when you die? And he said oh the moment after I die, I’ll hear Jesus say, Father, this is Tom, I died for him. Hard to think of anything better, isn’t it?

John: Yes!

Kel: Talk to me about old people for a moment. We tend to think that as people get older they will think more about God, they will think more about their relationship with God. Do they or don’t they?

John: Well Kel I used to believe before I was converted that if you were a good person you’d probably be right with God. Now the funny thing was I wasn’t all that good. I laboured under the misapprehension that when I grew old, I’d be ever so terribly good to make up for lost time. That’s stupid. When you get old, you don’t become a different person. You’re the same person who was always there, only it takes you longer to do things. Why I thought I’d be able to catch up I’ve no idea. See, when you become old, you don’t become different.

One of the nice parts about living in this [retirement] village is, collectively, we’ve got an enormous amount of knowledge. If you want to know how to do something, there’s somebody here to teach you. And, that’s the nice part about living with a hundred and twenty, hundred and fifty people. Amongst us all, we’ve got a massive amount of skills. You want to learn to use the computer, the computer club’ll spend time, and they’ve got it, to do with you. If you want to play chess and board games, there’s someone who’ll play with you in the living, in the sitting room.

Kel: So if old age is just like the rest of life, then older people, even though death is approaching, don’t give any extra thought to God.

John: Don Howard used to tell a story of a man he visited in Burwood East. And he urged this man to turn to Christ, he was fit and well. And he said Don I don’t need God.

Don said I visited him in hospital where he was lapsing in and out of consciousness. And Don said you don’t have a lot of time left, you should turn to Christ. And he said you don’t think a fit man like me is about to die do you?

Now you see, if you’ve spent a lifetime of saying no, why would you suddenly say yes? There’s no more new information to have. I’m a sinner; Christ died for me; I need to repent; I need to trust him. If I don’t believe that when I’m seventeen, there’s odds on I won’t believe it at 37.

Kel: Or 77.

John: But at 77 I’ve said no so many times, I hardly need to think about it. And that’s why as you get older, you’ve got to take great care. See it’s possible to have been mistaken. And if you’ve been mistaken for a long time, you really start to want to to dig your heels in and pretend you’re right when you know you’re wrong. But the people I admire are the people who say, I’m stupid, I’ve been wrong.

Kel: So can people do that at any age? Is it possible that at any age to say ‘I’ve got it wrong, I’ve offended God, I want to come back.’?

John: I preached one day at Holy Trinity Adelaide. On the way out a lady said to me, I am 87, and this day I’ve told God I’m going to stop fighting him, and I’m going to put my trust in Him. I said well gee you’ve only just made it sister haven’t you. I said, You were lucky to have stayed alive. She said yes, and I think I’ve been foolish. And I said well, I agree with you. Yeah.

[This is part of an interview that Kel Richards did with John Chapman earlier this year. I'm transcribing it for a DVD. More to come!]

Thursday, 29 September 2011

We're in for trouble on free speech

This is bad news.

When Christians speak against the teaching of Muslims or the teaching of homosexuals, they will end up in similar bother and worse, in the near future.

Here's a word of comfort when that day comes.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Riots in London

They are predictable, but no less shocking or disturbing for the fact that you could have seen them coming twenty, some would say 200, years ago.

... the European model, and the British version of it, certainly include a lavish welfare state, multiculturalism, a high level of economic regulation, the eclipse of any special place for religion (especially Christianity), and political correctness.

That's Greg Sheridan, from here.

Elton Trueblood said that we're living in a cut flower civilization. Everything we love about living in the West comes from the soil of Christianity. But cut the flower from its roots, and it can't be kept alive forever in the vase.

If you were hoping for a similar type of civilization to emerge in your lifetime, assuming you could live 200 years, you'd move first to China, and then contemplate a move to Africa.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The conspiracy theory

For those who want to believe, a word from Doug Wilson:

As Jonathan Kay has observed, one of the basic features of the conspiratorial mindset is a deep belief in the hypercompetence of the evil cabal that runs the world. But the Calvinist believes that the Holy Spirit runs the world, and that the conspiracies that do exist to resist Him are to be considered on a spiritual level with the Keystone Kops. The Lord laughs; He holds them in derision.

He says it here, on his Blog and Mablog blog.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

For those who love Sydney

For those who love Sydney, and want to remember the world as it was 50 years ago, this blog is worth following.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Chicken for five days, cheep

Probably not five days in our house.

But I found this series of recipes for stretching a single large chicken over five days, here.

I'm going to try the first couple at least.

Monday, 13 June 2011

What is idolatry?

Hi all, not dead, just busy with other parts of life.

Wrote a kid's spot on idolatry. It's posted on the Sola Panel, here.

For action on this blog, click through and check the right hand column to see what I've been reading.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Cross and Spiritual Warfare

I took these notes from Peter Jensen's talk just under a week ago, at the Cathedral Easter Convention.

The Cross and Spiritual Warfare
Talk by PFJ
April 22 2011
Reading Col 2:13-23

The name of Christ is not so much written into history as ploughed into history.

Why was PFJ’s dad so quick and confident to assure him that there was no such thing as ghosts? Anyway, it was reassuring to a young boy with nightmares.

PFJ met Nigerian bishop Josiah Fearon who didn’t hesitate to ascribe certain sounds to spirits—though more so in Nigeria than in Sydney! What’s going on?

1. The Spiritual enemies of Man
a. The world
b. The devil
c. The flesh

2. The profile of personal evil
a. The miasma of personal evil
b. The operation of personal evil
c. The grip of personal evil

3. Our champion in the conflict against personal evil
a. In life
b. In death
c. Through forgiveness
d. Through adoption

4. Sharing in his victory
a. After the decisive moment
b. Between the ages
c. Clothed in the gospel
d. Faith and love
e. Trust the Lord; turn from evil

1. The Spiritual enemies of Man

The world, the flesh and the devil are the enemies.

a. The world

The World’s culture and philosophy can convince us of our own and humanity’s unqualified greatness.
Or the World and its culture can convince us of the ultimate value of sensual pleasure, even creating a culture of licentiousness.
Or the World can convince us to fear human power.
So the World and its culture is one of the enemies of man.

b. The devil

There is a spiritual world and it is dangerous. Defection into matters occult is a risk for those who accept the reality of Satan and demons.

c. The flesh

We sin, and become more aware of our personal sin as we grow in our Christian life.

Ephesians 2:1-3 brings these together.

Eph. 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
In the face of this, the cross is the centrepoint of Christ's work in reconciling the world to himself.

Col. 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Not suggesting that all things will acknowledge him willingly or be saved. His enemies will be pacified.

It was the evil powers that conspired to bring about the death of Jesus.

1Cor. 2:6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
What does the cross do for us now? How does it apply in this context?

2. The profile of personal evil

a. The miasma of personal evil

The world, most cultures would agree, is not merely the material things that we can see or touch, but is populated by spirits as well; and the spirit world intersects with the human world. Those spirits are seen by some as ‘gods’—beings a step or three higher than humans who from time to time interfere with human life. Therefore superstition is rampant. Events, particularly bad events, are seen as the operation of an evil spirit, or an evil person (such as a magician or a wizard) controlling the spirits.

The New Testament also gives this sense of a world populated by evil spirits, organized against God—Satan the chief of them.

Gal. 4:3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.
Gal. 4:9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11 I am afraid I may have laboured over you in vain.
‘elementary principles’ (=Gk ta stoicheia); spiritual forces of some sort that Paul here speaks out against.

b. The operation of personal evil

These forces are characterized by deception.

A classic verse about the devil:

John 8:44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

The devil is the father of lies. When people are deceived then Satan has worked. Satan loves to foster lies, because lies break relationship, in particular, relationship with God. Hence in Mark’s gospel:

Mark 4:15 And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them.

2Cor. 4:4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Fear of death:

Heb. 2:14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.


1Pet. 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.


Rev. 12:7 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8 but he was defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world— he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. 12 Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

c. The grip of personal evil

John 12:31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

In these verses Jesus has acknowledged that the world belongs to Satan (but note too that his death breaks Satan’s power). See also:

1John 5:19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

We ought not to be surprised by the existence or power of unbelief.

3. Our champion in the conflict against personal evil

a. In life

In Matthew 4, three times Satan aims darts at the head of Jesus, and he uses shield of faith and sword of the word of God to defeat him. This is not primarily a model for us to follow in our war against Satan, but an encouragement that our champion has not failed. He has beaten the devil on his behalf—like PFJ’s older (by 6 years) brother Ralph coming to help against playground bullies.

In many ways Jesus was tested.

He was tested by attack eg Mark 5 Legion. Jesus takes charge. This, again, is not a model for us in dealing with demons. It is the Lord Jesus who takes charge, not us.

He was tested by slander—people claimed that this was the devil at work through Jesus.

He was tested by temptation to deviate from his God-given mission eg Peter’s denial that Jesus would suffer and die.

b. In death

John 12:30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

Col. 1:13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Through Jesus’ death he brings about forgiveness and adoption

c. Through forgiveness

Col. 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by cancelling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

d. Through adoption

We have been brought, together with the Jews, into a triumphant fellowship in Christ.

Eph. 3:10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. 13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

We have been set free from slavery to religion and rules because we are adopted as sons and daughters of the living God

Gal. 4:1 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

Col. 2:16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

Col. 2:20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 ( referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Thus our relationship with the world is changed. We are in Christ, set free, we don’t fear the evil spirits, the ancestors, the ghosts. Because Christ has broken the power of these things, we are free.

We can’t bless ‘things’ (like wedding rings, or food), for example. We have no warrant to be superstitious in this way.

5. Sharing in his victory

a. After the decisive moment

We live after the decisive moment, the moment when Satan has been defeated. The victory has been won in the cross.

b. Between the ages

We live between the ages. The victory has been won but Christ has not returned yet to judge the world. However, we have the power of the Holy Spirit now, an assurance to us that the victory will be completed.

c. Clothed in the gospel

Ephesians 6.

Eph. 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

We don’t have to buckle the armour on a piece at a time. We are now armoured. We have all these things, and we have them from the moment we became Christians.

Now trust what God has given you in the Scriptures, in the gospel, as you battle against the evil one and the spiritual forces of wickedness. We have prayer and trust in the word of God as our resource, in other words we have the resources of the gospel.

We mustn’t fall back into superstition and magic, eg fear of Freemasonry. Just having a father or grandfather who was a Mason, or happening to own some of the articles associated with freemasonry; is of no spiritual danger to us. Though Freemasonry is wrong, there is no spiritual danger or threat from the ‘objects’ of Freemasonry, or having a family ancestry that includes freemasons. There is nothing in the Bible to support such an idea.

d. Faith and love

We walk instead by faith operating in love. We shouldn’t scorn the superstitious (see the example of freemasonry just above) but lovingly bring them to truth. 1 Cor 8 gives an example of Paul doing and exhorting this in the matter of food offered to idols.

e. Trust the Lord; turn from evil

The real power isn’t occult power like ouija boards. Don’t dabble, but trust the Lord who has broken these things through the blood of Christ.

Rev. 12:10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. 11 And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.

PFJ’s dad was right, in a sense. He was expressing a Christian insight, that Satan is nothing to worry about but has been defeated. This was rediscovered at the time of the Reformation, when magic ceased to have the hold that it did in peoples’ minds. Do not fear!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

The Cross and Human Suffering

I took these notes at the Cathedral 2 days ago, from Phillip Jensen's talk at the Cathedral Easter Convention.

The formatting is all over the place, but what you have here is what was typed on the afternoon. It's the outline, followed by the notes.

The Cross and Human Suffering

April 22, 2011

3 points.

1. Human suffering

a. Normal abnormal
b. Creation and fall
c. Pain
d. General fall
e. Particular and specific suffering

2. Christ and Christian suffering

a. Christ’s suffering
b. Christian suffering
i. Increases our suffering
ii. Reduces the pain
iii. Enabling us to endure with patience and joy.

3. 1 Peter

[Outline ends]

1. Human suffering
a. Normal abnormal

Sickness is quantitatively normal but feels abnormal.

Sickness is abnormal, in that it is a sign of the curse of death given by God.

b. Creation and fall

Gen. 3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
Gen. 3:16 To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.”
Gen. 3:17 And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”

c. Pain

Rom. 8:19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? General fall
This pain will come to an end.

Rev. 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

But for the moment, there is suffering, which is felt as pain. We can medicate it eg strong drink for those who are poor (Prov 31), but even the medicating can cause problems and suffering.

d. General fall

It is the human condition to suffer. Eg John 9. Eg Job’s friends were wrong to suggest a specific sin as the cause of his suffering. Satan is unjust. We are unjust. God is just and fair, but at the moment has given us over to our own foolishness. Rom 1.

e. Particular and specific suffering

God does bring particular suffering upon us.

Is. 45:7 I form light and create darkness,
I make well-being and create calamity,
I am the LORD, who does all these things.

Amos 3:6 Is a trumpet blown in a city,
and the people are not afraid?
Does disaster come to a city,
unless the LORD has done it?
The Bible is not dualist. It has a limited dualism. God is sovereign and Satan is his messenger.

Sometimes suffering comes as a judgement.
Sometimes it comes as a warning.
Sometimes it comes as a judgement and a warning.

1Cor. 10:6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.
Jas 1, Rom 5, Heb 12, a discipline.

There is so much more that could be said because it is on every page of the Bible.

Nearly every page of the Bible deals with the problem of evil and suffering—contra Phillip’s atheist philosophy tutor at UNSW in 1975.

2. Christ and Christian suffering

See Stott, Cross of Christ on this topic.

a. Christ’s suffering

Christ as a human being shared in our suffering. Knew that humans suffer, knew that the Messiah must suffer and repeatedly predicted his suffering and persecution and death, and yet set his face resolutely toward Jerusalem. Great courage and resolution—not that he thought like Socrates that death would be a release. But rather cried out against it in Gethsemane, yet willingly laid down his life under his father’s will.

Phil. 2:5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

His resurrection the final seal of his approval, the sign that his suffering fulfilled its intention. His death was a death for us. Matt 8, he fulfilled Isa 53.

Matt. 8:16 That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.”
Sickness is a result of sin. His atoning death deals with the sin, and so we await

b. Christian suffering

i. Increases our suffering
“All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
We take up our cross and follow Christ. Mk 9
Col. 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church…

“Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” says Paul.

The exact opposite of the prosperity gospel.

ii. reduces the pain

Suffering increases but pain reduces. For our pain is not random meaninglessness, such as atheists believe. Nor is it karma, an endless cycle. In cross we see the personal love of God expressed in Christ, and we see him sharing in our suffering and taking what we deserved.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Rom. 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Eph. 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Eph. 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

1John 4:9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Heb. 2:16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Hos. 11:7 My people are bent on turning away from me,
and though they call out to the Most High,
he shall not raise them up at all.
Hos. 11:8 How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.
9 I will not execute my burning anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and not a man,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath.
Hos. 11:10 They shall go after the LORD;
he will roar like a lion;
when he roars,
his children shall come trembling from the west;
11 they shall come trembling like birds from Egypt,
and like doves from the land of Assyria,
and I will return them to their homes, declares the LORD.

We are not in the hands of an irrational, impersonal force.

1 John 3:1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

Just as we volunteer for pain at the hand of the dentist, so we volunteer to be crucified with Christ—because we trust the one who is at work on us, knowing that the suffering has a good end. God is better than the best of dentists.

iii. enabling us to endure with patience and joy.

Knowing all this enables us to endure with patience and joy.

Acts 5:41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name.

These people can’t be persecuted out of existence. They can’t be imprisoned out of their faith.

Rom. 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

Our Lord’s crucifixion paved the way for our suffering

3. 1 Peter
1 Peter is written to suffering people.

Pet. 1:10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.
Pressure to turn away from the sufferings of the cross; external and internal.

Internal struggle.

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

We must focus on cross and resist internal pressure to sin.

We are called to unjust suffering:

1Pet. 2:18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. 19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
We must follow Christ’s example in going through unjust suffering.

Christ bore not his own sins but ours. Resentment, victimology is no part of the Christian psychology.

That is why we suffer as we do, because we are followers of him.

1Pet. 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And
“If the righteous is scarcely saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
1Pet. 4:19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

1Pet. 5:7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Rom. 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
Rom. 8:37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Blog quietness

Not really as quiet as it appears, but you need to click through to the actual blog and see that just at the moment, most of my thinking is being done in the right hand column. Lots of updates, regularly.

If you haven't already, you can also befriend me on facebook and see lots of links appear to the Beatles, Andrew Klavan, and other odd things.

Good Friday sadness

The Lord of life and glory was nailed to the accursed tree. He died by the act of guilty men. We, by our sins, crucified the Son of God.

We might have expected that, in remembrance of his death, we should have been called to a long, sad, rigorous fast. Do not many men think so even today? See how they observe Good Friday, a sad, sad day to many; yet our Lord has never enjoined our keeping such a day, or bidden us to look back upon his death under such a melancholy aspect.

Instead of that, having passed out from under the old covenant into the new, and resting in our risen Lord, who once was slain, we commemorate his death by a festival most joyous. It came over the Passover, which was a feast of the Jews; but unlike that feast, which was kept by unleavened bread, this feast is brimful of joy and gladness. It is composed of bread and of wine, without a trace of bitter herbs, or anything that suggests sorrow and grief.

The memorial of Christ’s death is a festival, not a funeral; and we are to come to the table with gladsome hearts and go away from it with praises, for “after supper they sang a hymn”. Do not many men think so even today? See how they observe Good Friday, a sad, sad day to many; yet our Lord has never enjoined our keeping such a day, or bidden us to look back upon his death under such a melancholy aspect.

Instead of that, having passed out from under the old covenant into the new, and resting in our risen Lord, who once was slain, we commemorate his death by a festival most joyous. It came over the Passover, which was a feast of the Jews; but unlike that feast, which was kept by unleavened bread, this feast is brimful of joy and gladness. It is composed of bread and of wine, without a trace of bitter herbs, or anything that suggests sorrow and grief. …

The memorial of Christ’s death is a festival, not a funeral; and we are to come to the table with gladsome hearts and go away from it with praises, for “after supper they sang a hymn”

That's Charles Spurgeon, from here. Thanks to my friend David McKay for pointing it out.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Calvin on the gospel

Alistair Begg tonight closed his address with a quote from John Calvin’s preface to Pierre-Robert Olivétan’s 1535 translation of the Bible. “To all those who love Christ and his gospel,” Calvin writes:

Without the gospel

everything is useless and vain;

without the gospel

we are not Christians;

without the gospel

all riches is poverty,

all wisdom, folly before God;

strength is weakness, and

all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God.

But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made

children of God,

brothers of Jesus Christ,

fellow townsmen with the saints,

citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven,

heirs of God with Jesus Christ,

by whom

the poor are made rich,

the weak strong,

the fools wise,

the sinners justified,

the desolate comforted,

the doubting sure, and

slaves free.

The gospel is the Word of life.

(Just a straight copy from Justin Taylor. It's that good.)

Friday, 8 April 2011

I think that God is proud

I think that God is proud of those who bear

A sorrow bravely -- proud indeed of them

Who walk straight through the dark to find Him there

And kneel in faith to touch His garment's hem.

Oh, proud of them who lift their heads to shake

Away the tears from eyes that have grown dim,

Who tighten quivering lips and turn to take

The only road they know that leads to Him.

How proud He must be of them -- He who knows

All sorrow, and how hard grief is to bear!

I think He sees them coming, and He goes

With outstretched arms and hands to meet them there,

And with a look, a touch on hand or head,

Each finds his hurt heart strangely comforted.

-Grace Noll Crowell

Monday, 28 March 2011

Wild nights

Wild Nights! Wild Nights!

Were I with thee,

Wild Nights should be

Our luxury!

Futile the winds

To a heart in port, --

Done with the compass,

Done with the chart!

Rowing in Eden!

Ah! the sea!

Might I but moor

To-night in Thee!

-Emily Dickinson (c. 1861)

The problem is moral not mental

People don't resist the gospel because of intellectual issues; they resist it because they live lives opposed to God and can't stand the idea of change.

So Phillip Jensen highlights the problem with apologetics:

the real problem of apologetics lies in its distorting effect upon Christianity. As we seek to express the Christian gospel in the terms of outsiders we are unwittingly tempted to distort its teaching. Augustine could understand Christianity in Neo-Platonic terms, as Aquinas could in Aristotelian terms. The very activity of apologetics, even aggressive apologetics addresses the gospel to the mind rather than to the conscience. It assumes that people's difficulty with Christianity is mental rather than moral. It easily gives the impression that we are to sit in judgment over God rather than he over us. Thus modern apologetics must attack the lifestyle of the pagan and not just the clever rationalizations that he uses. Giving answer to genuine enquiry is one thing. Treating the rationalization of immorality seriously is another.

I'm editing a course at the moment which is targeted at a particular subsection of Australian society, and I'm very aware of the danger of thinking that once the packaging has been shape-shifted to suit this specific audience, success will follow.

It won't. The success or failure of the message will depend entirely on God's Holy Spirit. What I need to pray is that my packaging won't get in the way too much.

Monday, 21 March 2011

My choir singing Bach

If you want to hear a wonderful piece of Bach, come along!

we're doing the St John Passion on Saturday 23 April.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

A debate on same-sex marriage

There's an unusually respectful yet sharp debate on this subject at the Sola Panel. Usually public debate on this topic is respectful or sharp, or neither. Rarely both, so this one is worth having a look at.

From Peter Bolt (in the comments on the post):

A marriage is simple: a man and a women in a committed sexual union, public, recognised, agreed to, acknowledged.

Biology matters. No matter how many rights we may or may not have as human beings, a man does not have the ‘right’ to say he is a woman. Biology says he is not. (and vice versa)

The strength of a liberal democracy, such as Australia used to be, is that, despite our differences, we are treated equally.

Therefore, in order to maintain equal treatment, we need to ensure that differences are clearly described/defined.

Same-sex unions are not marriages, by definition. If same-sex unions want recognition from Government, fair enough in a liberal democracy. But this recognition should not be from saying there is no difference. But by saying there IS a difference.

The definition of marriage as between a man and a woman, clearly differentiates this from a union between two people of the same gender. This definition of difference must be maintained, so that equality of treatment might be ensured.

Christians believe marriage is between a man and a woman. Biology matters because God created us male and female. As citizens in a liberal democracy we may say it is fine to press for Governmental recognition of same-sex unions, to prevent any disadvantage for our fellow-citizens. But this should not be through saying there is no difference, that all unions are the same. No, true equality of treatment (in a liberal democracy) needs to be on the basis of saying, no, there are genuine differences. Marriage between a man and a woman is never a same-sex union. Both may be, or even should be, recognised at law, but this should not come through changing the definition of marriage. It should come through clarifying the enormous difference, and then ensuring that those who are so vastly different are still treated fairly.

From Mark Baddeley (also in the comments; SSM=Same sex marriage):

I’m not opposed to SSM because I think it is immoral. I think immoral people, criminal people, good people, law abiding people, all should be able to get married. I think thieves, fornicators, murders, paedophiles, bitter people, racists and the like should be able to get married. I think people who aren’t sure if they are going to stay married for life and those who intend to run their marriage as an ‘open marriage’ should be able to get married. I have strong views as to how successful I think some of those marriages are likely to be, but I think there shouldn’t be any legal bars.

I oppose SSM for the same reason why I oppose people marrying their pet, or marrying themselves, or marrying their child (explaining why that one is in that set will take some words, but I can offer them), or marrying the number seven. Or wanting to be ‘married’ to everyone that is their friend on Facebook – it isn’t what marriage really is, and the more that kind of thing is done it weakens our grasp of what the institution is, and so weakens the institution.

For political reasons—that is, because the current government is flailing around without clear purpose, and being dictated to by a minority party—this is a bigger issue than usual in Australia at the moment.