The blessing of unanswered prayer

Life, Sola Panel


I hate unanswered prayer. This is not just because I want what I pray for—although that would be nice!—but because my unbelieving heart takes unanswered prayer as an opportunity to doubt God. Here are some examples:

I pray for my son’s only close friend, whom we’ve lost contact with, to call. He doesn’t.

I pray that I’ll be able to find my car keys so I can get the kids to school on time. They’re late.

I pray that my husband will get over his illness; after all, he needs to teach the Bible and care for our family. He stays sick.

I pray that my excited, expectant three-year-old will see a kangaroo on the way home. There’s no wildlife to be seen.

I pray that my mood will lift. I stay discouraged.

These are all trivial prayers, and I could give you much bigger examples. But, oddly, I find it easier to trust God with the bigger things. It’s the small prayers that trip me up.


Alex Ferguson and ministry success

Pastoral Ministry, Sola Panel


I played and refereed soccer as a kid, but I prefer to watch Rugby League. So apart from the World Cup, I don’t watch much soccer these days.

That means I was unaware of the full extent of Alex Ferguson’s achievements as Manager of Manchester United, until I noticed that their 0-0 draw with Arsenal last week to win the English Premier League had seen their club draw equal with Liverpool as record holders for the greatest number of titles.

Under Ferguson’s stewardship, Man U have won eleven English Championships. Eleven! In addition, there were two European Champions Leagues, and five FA Cups among 25 trophies in all. Ferguson is the most successful manager in British football history.

But what’s any of that got to do with ministry?


Wesley, charms and church planting (Part II)

Everyday Ministry


According my trusty Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus, the following are synonyms for ‘pedant’: dogmatist, purist, formalist, quibbler, hair-splitter, casuist, sophist and nitpicker. Given that theologians study dogmatics, doesn’t that tend them towards pedantry? And if so, how could I say in my last post that church planters need to be theologians in order to contextualize the gospel?

Theologians are as risk-averse as actuaries, so how can they contextualize the gospel successfully?


The double cure

Thought, Sola Panel


Grimmo’s post on changes to the words of Wesley’s famous hymn put me in mind of another equally significant change to an equally famous hymn.

In the first verse of ‘Rock of Ages’, we are used to singing:

Be of sin the double cure: cleanse me from its guilt and power.

But this is not what Augustus Toplady wrote.


Where are we looking for rest?



The coincidence of approaching summer holidays (we’re in the northern hemisphere!), living in a ‘lifestyle-focused’ culture, and reading Nehemiah has got me thinking about the topic of rest. It’s not a particularly recent thought for me, or for humanity in general; since ancient times, rest has been a great concern for people—perhaps another indication that we are indeed created in the image of our creator, who is himself a God who rests (Gen 2:2).


Gen Blank

Life, Sola Panel


I’ve just wandered upstairs to my desk, leaving the teenagers in front of a new inter-generational quiz show that pits the Baby Boomers against Gen X and Gen Y. It seems like harmless enough fun. Hey look, 3D movies were big in the 50s! Roller blading was the 90s! Who can do the robot?

But the programme brought back to the surface a subversive thought that I’ve been harbouring for some time. Is it just me, or does anyone else out there suspect that the broad generalizations that are flung around about the supposed characteristics of Gen X and Gen Y are basically vacuous?


Wesley, charms and church planting

Pastoral Ministry


For some reason (now lost in the fog that descends regularly on my neural pathways), I was reading the words of Wesley’s ‘O for a thousand tongues’ the other day. I don’t remember why I was reading, but I do remember being struck by what I read: “Jesus, the name that calms our fears …” I was sure that it wasn’t quite right. Sure enough, it wasn’t; Wesley actually penned “Jesus, the name that charms our fears”.

I thought to myself, there’s a church planting lesson in that.


The Bible doesn’t say

Thought, Sola Panel

A few weeks ago, Bobby died. It happened quite quickly. On Thursday, he was sitting merrily on his perch. On Friday, he was shivering and looking pretty unimpressed with life. On Saturday morning, he was standing on the floor of the cage with his eyes half open, rocking back and forth. At lunchtime, when the kids and I took him to the vet, he had decided it would be best to have a little lie down. The vet was kind but decisive.

We took Bobby home in a very small plastic bag. There were tears. My wife’s former history teacher (that’s a whole other story) dug a hole in the backyard, and another friend of ours found a little mournful-looking stone dog to act as headstone. Family, friends and the former history teacher prayed together that God would comfort us in our loss.

Then came the inevitable question from the 6-year-old: “Is Bobby in heaven now?” Hmm. I know that there will be a new, physical creation (Isa 65:17), and it seems like the new creation will contain, at the very least, contented wolves, baby sheep, lions, cattle and humiliated snakes (Isa 65:25). But will there be a spiritual continuity of identity between the Bobby we knew and a particular budgie in the hereafter? There didn’t seem to be enough biblical data to form a meaningful answer. So I answered as I only could: “The Bible doesn’t say”.


The worst role model in history?

Life, Sola Panel


The [incident] involving rugby league personality Matthew Johns was predatory, degrading and offensive, federal Sports Minister Kate Ellis says … “I think that’s offensive and inappropriate for our sporting role models.”

But where does that leave the Apostle Paul?


Women and the Bible (Reflections on reading the Bible with my kids part II)



We read the Bible as a family each night after dinner. On this particular night, the story is the feeding of the 5000. Well, more specifically, the feeding of the five thousand men.

My daughter’s face told a story that her question confirmed: “Dad, why did they only count the men? Didn’t they care about women back then? Were women less important?”

What’s a dad to say to that?


Wrong reasoning for maternity leave

Life, Sola Panel


Australia’s federal government is seeking to introduce a nation paid maternity leave scheme in this year’s budget.

I not sure whether I’m for or against the policy itself. But I know I’m against the reasons being advanced for the policy!

Basically the reasoning being advanced implies that (i) motherhood is unproductive and (ii) it gives aid to the now established dogma that the two incomes needed to pay off the mortgage are more important than quality and quantity time with the kids.


Hit me with a Psalm!

Everyday Ministry


Psalm 53, to be precise.

Psalm 53:5, to be preciser.

Okay, so if you really wanted to connect the gospel with the people in the community, you just know intuitively that telling them that they’re under judgement is marketing suicide. It’s a bit like selling your medicine by asking people to come along to a discussion group so that they can share about their favourite disease.

Christians who believe judgement is real often respond, therefore, by hiding the information about God’s wrath inside the fine print of their mind. After all, they reason, the Bible reserves its worst words of judgement for religious insiders.


The power of Columbo

Everyday Ministry, Sola Panel


I loved Jean’s post on the tongue-tied Christian who struggles with the snappy response to evangelistic opportunities that open up in conversations. I guess I recognized myself in the mirror.

By providence, I’d just begun reading a book on evangelism and apologetics by Greg Koukl called Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing your Christian Convictions.

Although he talks about “controlling conversations” in a way I’m not quite comfortable with, so far, there’s stacks that’s helpful.


Jesus changed heaven forever



I’ve never been one for thinking about angels much. Nor have I thought much about how Jesus changed life in heaven. I mean, I’m sure it’s all very interesting; it’s just not very practical really.