A house divided

Word Watch

Over the centuries, the Bible has contributed many familiar, everyday expressions to the English language—far more than most 21st-century unbelievers would be prepared to credit. For example, there’s the expression ‘a house divided’. In 1858, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech at the Republican State Convention in Illinois in which he said, (more…)

One Land, One Saviour

One Land, One Saviour: Seeing Aboriginal lives transformed by Christ

Peter Carroll and Steve Etherington (eds.)

Church Missionary Society, (www.cms.org.au)
Sydney, 2008, 246 pp. (more…)

Bus evangelism

Up front

I couldn’t help but eavesdrop. The speaker was a tall, retired man in a suit, addressing a younger bearded man who may or may not have had some religious interest, but who had a great deal to say about the Pope, the Roman Catholic church, and the recent Roman Catholic World Youth Day (WYD). They were talking about the re-enactment of the route to Jesus’ crucifixion that happened as part of the WYD celebrations. The older man, who spoke broken English with a heavy Armenian accent, had this to say about it: “Jesus say after he die, three days later he wake up. I say, ‘Why you no show the wake-up?’” (more…)

Is God boring?

Up front

I was struck the other week when a friend spoke to me about the hard time he was having drumming up interest in a sermon series on God. It seems it is so much easier to grab people’s interest if the sermons are recognizably about us in some way or other. This is, of course, simply another form of the age-old concern about relevance. In a consumer-oriented age, those who listen to sermons want to know the cash value up front. (more…)

Where’s your ministry ‘AT’?

Up front

Christians and soldiers have a lot in common, or at least they should (2 Tim 2:3-4). Firstly, they both know that submission equals survival. The wise infantryman always awaits the order to advance—especially when the machine gunner next to him is laying down cover fire. Secondly, both Christians and soldiers know that suffering is par for the course (2 Tim 3:12). Members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF), on exercises in the outback, don’t get up in the morning, stretch and declare, “Man, I really miss my flannel pyjamas”. (more…)

The duties of parents (Part 2)

Read Part 1.

7. Train them to habits of diligence and regularity about public means of grace

Tell them of the duty and privilege of going to the house of God and joining in the prayers of the congregation. Tell them that wherever the Lord’s people are gathered together, there the Lord Jesus is present in an especial manner, and that those who absent themselves must expect, like the Apostle Thomas, to miss a blessing. Tell them of the importance of hearing the Word preached, and that it is God’s ordinance for converting, sanctifying and building up the souls of men. Tell them how the Apostle Paul enjoins us not “to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is” (Heb 10:25), but to exhort one another, to stir one another up to it, and so much the more as we see the day approaching.


Spurgeon for the sick and afflicted

Up front

I’ve appreciated reading the sermons of 19th-century Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon over the years, and have quoted him on my blog a number of times. So when I came down with the flu and found myself in bed for three days straight, I thought it would be encouraging to pick up Arnold Dallimore’s short, well-researched biography of the man. Sick Calvinists of the world, unite! Spurgeon, so it happens, was a lot sicker than me for most of his life. He was seriously, often cripplingly ill—both mentally (with depression) and physically—from his mid-30s until his death at age 57. His wife Susannah also suffered from chronic illness which meant she was unable to attend meetings where he preached.
However, despite many ailments, Spurgeon’s life was full of the service of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here are a few examples.
• He was known in London for his pastoral visits to the houses of people dying during the cholera epidemic of the 1850s (cholera being, at the time, untreatable, and of unknown cause).
• He had a weekly time set aside to meet individually with people who wanted to become church members because they had become Christians. In this way, he came to know at least 6000 church members by name, as well as how they were converted.
• He began and ran a pastor’s college offering a two-year course. (For a sample of what he taught them, see Lectures to My Students.)
• By 1866, his trainees had begun 18 new churches in London alone.
• He began a door-to-door book-and-tract-sellers (colporteurs) organization to sell Bibles, as well as books, magazines and tracts produced by him. In the year 1878 alone, 94 colporteurs made 926,290 home visits. Their aim was not merely to sell books, but to talk about spiritual questions with the people they met.
Most weeks, Spurgeon wrote, delivered and published a weekly sermon; looked after an orphanage, a pastor’s college and an almshouse; read and responded personally to 500 letters; and preached up to 10 times in churches that he had started.
• Spurgeon began and maintained 65 different institutions, ranging from welfare organizations through to mission organizations, preacher training colleges, and organizations for the distribution of literature.
Contrary to appearances however, Dallimore’s biography is not a hagiography: it records with disappointment Spurgeon’s moderate drinking, smoking, and use of a church fete to raise money for the completion (debt free) of the Metropolitan Tabernacle.
I trust that, in God’s providence, this was the right book for me to read while I was sick in bed. But let me say that Spurgeon’s attitude to his own labours do not fit easily with our recommendations in Going the Distance, which is aimed at helping those in long-term ministry. Spurgeon wrote in 1876,

A baby in a bottle

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the great abortion battle that ended in the great pro-life defeat in Western Australia in May 1998. Do you know how it all began? (more…)

Nowist Left and Right

Up front, Sola Panel

After reading Lionel Windor’s excellent little article on ‘nowism’ (the insidious Christian tendency to live for this world rather than the next) in last month’s Briefing,1 I couldn’t help noticing this fascinating snippet from Ross Douhat at The Atlantic Monthly. (more…)

Translation and the atonement


One feature which must override all others in biblical translation is accuracy. Since the RV appeared, all its successors (apart from the NASV) seem to contain one common error: Mark 10:45 reads “… to give his life as a ransom for many”. Linguistically, the word ‘as’ does not appear in any original manuscript; theologically, it introduces a note of ambiguity and is therefore dubious. Bishop Donald Robinson, who has advised me on this, points out that Tyndale’s 1534 edition reads “to give his life for the redemption of many”, a permissible interpretation in the light of the two main Hebrew words underlying the Greek ‘lutron’.