What do you think of this?

Everyday Ministry, Sola Panel


After a self-imposed period of reflective meditation in the wilderness (i.e. too absolutely flat chat to even think about posting), I’m back. But not, alas, to say anything profound. I’m after some advice.

I’ve been working on the text of a ‘Christmas tract’ that we (i.e. Matthias Media) are hoping to publish by early November. It’s something for congregations to use in Christmas evangelism, to hand out at Christmas services, to use in Christmas letter-box drops, and so on. When we’ve done this in the past (and we’ve done it most years recently), we’ve tended to have a fairly strong Christmas theme to the tract: bouncing off a Christmas carol, or focusing on the birth of babies, and so on.

This time, I’m thinking of trying something a little different. And I’m after some feedback. Do you think it works? More particularly, does it work as something to hand out over the Christmas season when the name ‘Jesus’ creeps back into our popular culture however briefly. Any suggestions on how to improve it? So without further ado …


Forgiveness and repentance (part 6): The pastoral dimension (iv)


(Read parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.)

The time has come to conclude the pastoral dimension of the question of forgiveness being linked to repentance. The final issue is whether we are doing the wrong thing by forgiving someone because then we simply sweep the sin under the carpet and don’t challenge them, thereby removing the opportunity for them to repent. For those who have followed this discussion over the last three posts, you are probably in a position to see what my response is going to be. But we’ll briefly spell it out anyway. (more…)

Deborah: a mother in Israel

Life, Sola Panel


This is the fifth post in Jean’s series on women in the Bible. (Read the first, second, third and fourth.)

Deborah, judge of Israel, is a poster-girl for egalitarianism in Judges 4-5. She’s undoubtedly female, and she’s a leader of God’s people: a judge who delivers God’s rulings, and a prophetess who speaks God’s words. Like the other judges, she’s used by God to deliver his people when they turn from their idolatry and cry to him for rescue from their enemies. Her husband is virtually absent from her story and, if she had any children, they aren’t mentioned. If the New Testament seems to say that women shouldn’t teach or have authority in the church, surely Deborah shows that these restrictions are cultural and can be laid aside in our more enlightened society!


Teaching Scripture: An alternative to door-to-door evangelism?

Everyday Ministry

In these Sola Saturday posts, we’ve been looking at past contributions to the old Briefing ‘People in Ministry’ column, which focused on evangelical ministry worked out in practice. Firstly, David McDonald told us about the impetus behind Canberra Christian Youth Convention. Last week, Ken Simpson talks about ministry to doctors. This week, Michael Blake explains how he uses school Scripture to reach parents:

Forgiveness and repentance (part 4): The pastoral dimension (ii)


(Read parts 1, 2 and 3.)

We’ve been considering the question of whether forgiveness can or should occur without repentance. Last time around, we looked at family life. Let’s turn from the everyday to the extreme. What do we say to the person who is outrageously sinned against? What do we say to the person who was abused as a child, the person who has been raped, the person who survives a murder attempt from a loved one, the person whose spouse commits adultery (and while we’re at it, given that many people think that adultery is not sufficient grounds for divorce, the view that forgiveness can only occur when there has been repentance means that we’re then left with the position that a spouse must not forgive an unrepentant adulterous spouse, but must not divorce them either—a view that people may want to champion, but they should still recognize it is somewhat weird pastoral advice), and the person who has been betrayed by someone close to them? (more…)

Unravelling the timing of truth

Everyday Ministry


This is the sixth post in Peter Bolt’s series on the New Atheists. (Read parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.)

Once upon a time, way back at the beginning, the Christian movement was charged with novelty. Nowadays, it is charged with antiquity. In both cases, its ‘timing’ apparently shows it is wrong.

The message of Jesus’ resurrection was launched into the Graeco-Roman world, in which the antiquity of classical culture was paraded as a demonstration of its truth and a guarantee of the future of the Empire. The Christian message was criticized for being ‘novel’, and so a troublesome threat for the stability of that world. One of the charges levelled at Jesus before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate was that he had misled the Jewish nation by claiming to be a king (Luke 23:2). When Jesus rose from the dead, he was proclaimed far and wide as ‘Lord and Christ’. When this new message about a king other than Caesar came to Thessalonica on its way to Athens, the crowds rioted, saying its preachers had “turned the world upside down” by this novelty (Acts 17:6).


Forgiveness and repentance (part 3): The pastoral dimension (i)


(Read parts 1 and 2.)

In this meta-series, we have been exploring the question of whether we (and God) can or should forgive someone when they have not repented. This time around, we are going to turn our attention to some difficult pastoral situations and ask how they work when we hold that forgiveness can only take place when there has been repentance. (more…)

Sisters for those with no sisters

Life, Sola Panel


I grew up with one brother and no sisters. I love my brother, and never longed for a sister (unlike my daughter, who loves her three brothers, but has always wanted a twin sister). But I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have a sister.


Forgiveness and repentance (part 2): Forgive as Christ in God forgave us


(Read part 1.)

As we head into the issue of whether we should or even can forgive someone who has sinned against us but hasn’t repented, let’s begin with one of the key principles that people raised in our first post—that we forgive others as God in Christ forgave us. As it is stated in Colossians 3:13, we are to put on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility and so on while “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive”. (more…)

Jesus, the marketing specialist

Pastoral Ministry, Sola Panel


Jesus Christ was a marketing specialist. (George Barna1)

Recently, a thoughtful Christian blogger raised the question of why a lot of pastors are so suspicious of marketing and are reluctant to use congregation members with professional skills in the area (whereas we are happy to use the plumbers, IT guys and musos).

I sympathized. In the past, I have been grateful to have graphic designers (some within our congregation) design a good website for our church, as well as brochures and invitations. But to answer the blogger’s question, here is why we are suspicious.


Forgiveness and repentance (part 1): A survey of the landscape


Many moons ago, my wife wrote a post on forgiveness. One of the issues that it raised for people was whether forgiveness could take place in the absence of repentance by the offender. My dear wife kindly semi-promised people that I would one day blog on the topic :). So here we are, with a series of posts designed to unpick why I am convinced that forgiveness must take place in the absence of repentance and that this issue goes to the heart of a Reformed understanding of the biblical gospel. (more…)

John Newton and ‘Amazing Grace’

Life, Sola Panel


It’s well known that John Newton was the captain of a slave trading ship who converted to Christ and eventually became an Anglican minister. Some people condense the whole story romantically by implying the horrific storm at sea that spurred Newton to first turn to God immediately led to a mature and complete repentance from his evil ways—such that he wrote ‘Amazing Grace’ as an expression of his gratefulness for being saved. But for some time after Newton’s storm-driven adoption of Christianity, he continued to make his living from the slave trade.

However, I believe it is accurate to say that soon after his conversion, he did begin to treat his slaves better. Yet it was only 32 years after his conversion—long after he’d given up seafaring and become an Anglican minister, and some years after he wrote ‘Amazing Grace’—that in 1780, Newton began to express regrets about his part in the slave trade. In 1785, he began to fight against slavery by speaking out against it, and he continued to do so until his death in 1807 (the year of the trade’s abolition).


Review: “You are the treasure that I seek” by Grey Dutcher


You are the Treasure that I Seek (But there’s a lot of cool stuff out there, Lord)
Greg Dutcher
Discovery House, Grand Rapids, 2009, 208pp.

Do you have a sinful habit you long to be done with? Do you have a particular sin you keep on confessing to God and others? Do you have a sin that blots your conscience, leaving a stain that fades gradually, only to receive a fresh splotch of guilt the next time you fall prey to it? You hate it, and yet you are caught in it. It seems to be a sin you cannot live with­out. In fact, it feels bigger than that; it feels like a sin that cannot live without you. Perhaps in answering these questions you thought about pride, greed, envy or lust. Did the word ‘idolatry’ come to mind? (more…)