Fiery and sharp images of hell


The Bible is full of horrifying and lurid images of what divine judgement will be like. So Psalm 21, for example, begins innocuously enough. If, like me, you are a Psalm skimmer-overer, you will have skimmed this one many times without noticing it properly, lying as it does in the rainshadow of the majestic Psalm 22 and the world-famous Psalm 23 (“The Lord is my Shepherd”). The Psalmist writes:

The comfort of fear

Life, Sola Panel

I find myself drawn back to 1 Corinthians 4 like a moth to flame. I’m like a small child watching the scary parts of the movie from behind his mother’s skirts, afraid to look, but unable to look away. (more…)

Creating the right question

Pastoral Ministry

I’ve heard it said that, in terms of relating the gospel to culture, the mistake that traditionalists make is that they give the right answers to the wrong questions; they’re answering questions that no-one is asking anymore. They’re tackling issues and fighting fights that belong to a previous generation. (more…)

Lies, damned lies, and … (#2)


At the end of my previous piece about empiricism and ethics, I suggested that there were a number of implications that needed to be drawn out—the most important of which, for my money, involving the way we present the truth of the gospel (both inside and outside of Christian circles). (more…)

Stranger evangelism

Everyday Ministry, Sola Panel

I believe in stranger evangelism.

Over the course of 2009, my own denomination in this part of the world is mounting a concerted campaign to make meaningful, relational connections with everyone in our area, and thus help them to come into a relationship with God through his word. For me personally, this has involved (often tough) deliberate decisions to do less internal church-based activities so that I can slow down and hang around chatting with parents at our local school, talking to the neighbours in our street, and considering how we can connect meaningfully with the huge numbers of ‘unreached’ people who live within a few kilometres of our church building. It’s been a joy for us to start to get to know people in our area—to have barbeques with neighbouring families, to share with them the joys and challenges of life and parenthood, and so on. I trust and pray that, when we eventually give them a copy of Luke’s gospel and offer to talk about it with them, this evangelistic effort will be understood as a natural outflow of the friendships we’ve developed. (more…)

Fallen short


Psalm 19 is famous and rightly so:

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.


Regulative or normative?

Pastoral Ministry, Sola Panel

The discussion following my last post on church meandered around to the question of how Scripture should shape our congregational meetings. This question has often been cast as a debate between the Normative Principle and the Regulative Principle. Putting it very simply, the Normative Principle says “You’re allowed to do this thing in church so long as Scripture doesn’t forbid it”, whereas the Regulative Principle says “Only do this thing in church if Scripture gives clear warrant to do so”. (more…)

Lies, damned lies, and … (#1)


Okay, so I wanted to write about statistics, and I’m hopelessly unoriginal (I’m sure some people will be able to suggest a better title). This is one of those posts that started out as a rant inspired by one of my pet peeves, but hopefully it ends with some helpful reflections. We shall see!

Appreciating access


Last year Cathy and I had the opportunity to go and see Australian Idol filmed live. (To tell you the truth, I’m not into the whole thing, but she is.) But whether you’re into it or not, I have to admit that it was kind of fun. We didn’t just go as part of the crowd, but as VIPs. We have a friend who works for one of the corporate sponsors of the series, and she got us the tickets. When we arrived, there were two lines to gain access to the studio—the long line for the plebs and the short line for the corporate sponsors. So while hundreds of people stood lined up behind the barricades, we ambled leisurely along the red carpet and were ushered straight to our seats while everyone else was kept standing outside. It’s funny how the human heart works: we weren’t special—there was no particular reason for us to be there, except we had a friend; but I could really get used to being treated like that. It’s fun to feel important. (more…)

This is not a real church

Thought, Sola Panel

Some years ago, an elderly relative visited our church. She was a churchgoer herself—of a rather traditional kind. Afterwards, I asked her whether she had enjoyed church that morning—at which point, she looked straight at me and said with characteristic bluntness, “This is not a real church”. (more…)

Responding to the fires

Life, Sola Panel

Every morning I wake up and it’s okay—until, with a dull thud, it comes back to me: image after image of people who died in the fires; rows of army tents with homeless people staying in them; entire communities that have been wiped out; my friend whose parents lost their house; a family known to me who died in their car in their driveway; a 12-year-old girl, badly burned, whose parents and sister died. (more…)

Love and the cost of change


There’s a saying in corporate life that goes “change will only happen if the perceived benefit is greater than the perceived cost”. Like most sayings, it makes sense; you’ll only do something new if you think the effort is worth it. (more…)

The power of example


My old mentor and colleague Col Marshall, who was instrumental in forming the Ministry Training Strategy, taught me more about the importance of personal ministry than anyone I know. He sent me this little piece recently about the way Puritan minister Richard Baxter trained people in ministering the gospel of Jesus. It was a great reminder of the importance of the gospel and the significance of sharing your life. I hope it will encourage you to keep reflecting on the power of personal example. Who are you sharing your life with in order to encourage them on in their faith?

Jesus and the Piranha brothers

I realize now that I should have known better. I should have remembered that when it comes to Christian discourse, all forms of dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos, puns, parody, litotes and satire are to be left to the Piranha brothers.


The healthy teaching pyramid

Have you ever seen the healthy eating pyramid on the wall of your local doctor? If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, the healthy eating pyramid is a simple diagram created by nutritionists to help us achieve a balanced diet. The idea is that to maintain a good diet, you need to eat some types of food more than others. The foods to be eaten most (such as vegetables and cereals) are at the bottom of the pyramid, foods to be eaten moderately (such as meat and dairy) are in the middle, while foods to be eaten least (such as fats and sugars) are at the top. See, for example, the pyramid published by Nutrition Australia.