The predictable surprise of suffering


If we have read our Bibles, we know that suffering is not surprising. It is part of life in this world. Yet, for some reason, we still find it shocking. If we are going to suffer well, we need to explore again the biblical promises about suffering. (more…)

What is Jesus doing now?


How important is it for us to think about what Jesus is doing now? Is it just something to merely satisfy our curiosity? After all, surely it is more important to concentrate on what Jesus did in the past—his incarnation, his life, his death, his resurrection—or to think about his future return from heaven. Right? (more…)

Why aren’t we growing?

Pastoral Ministry

Tim Sims, a businessman and corporate strategist, has applied his analytical skills to the Anglican Diocese of Sydney, and asked why churches have been growing no better than the population as a whole. Tony Payne outlines and engages with his research. (more…)

Does the future have a church?

Pastoral Ministry

Tim Thornborough offers here a rough guide to where Protestantism is in the UK, and a look at some particular indicators that suggest several major strategic directions that we need to consider for the future. (more…)

Dividing walls of teenage hostility

Everyday Ministry

“Who am I? … I don’t know. I guess I have a lot of things to ponder.”

-Derek Zoolander, speaking to his reflection in a puddle, in Zoolander.

In an interesting twist on the Narcissus fable, the really ridiculously good-looking Zoolander neatly sums up one of the main pressures of the adolescent years: the search for identity. Teenagers have a lot of things to ponder! (more…)

Pet food, pornography, and the law

Life, Sola Panel

One lazy afternoon in 1999, travel writer Bill Bryson discovered a shop that sold pet supplies and pornography.1 It was at the far end of the main street of an unassuming Australian country town called Young. (more…)

It’s all connected


I recently asked a group of young Christians to write a brief summary of the Christian gospel in a sentence or two. I called it ‘the crashing airplane’ conversation: you’re on a plane, it’s about to crash, and your neighbour leans over and says, “I saw you reading your Bible earlier… help!” (more…)

Learning God is there

Resource Talk

The Birthday Party coverI have a nephew about to turn two, and a week ago I went to visit for the first time in a few months. The last time I’d seen him, the only word I was certain he understood was ‘no’ (even if understanding didn’t always result in the desired outcome). This time I stepped off the train to find him saying ‘tain’ and ‘toot-toot!’, all the while looking at me with admiration for having actually ridden on the object of his affections. When he beamed at me and chirped “Hi!”, I was as smitten as when he was first born. (more…)

Joined-up life


Joined-up Life coverJoined-up Life

Andrew Cameron

Inter-Varsity Press, Nottingham, 2011. 336 pp.

Ethics may be the reason I’m still a Christian. Each time I find my way of seeing the world challenged—and it is challenged—by atheism, by the claims of other religions, by my own doubts and questions about issues like the reliability of the Bible, I seem to be won over again and again by Jesus. When I hear his teaching in the gospels, and realize how he truly lived out his preaching of loving even enemies when he died for me, it just seems so right and good. (more…)

Believing the deceiver

Life, Sola Panel

Days like this only come along once in a while. On this sun-drenched morning, there’s a cool breeze and the air is clear. Every dancing shadow is sharp-etched, every leaf suffused with a deeper meaning, every branch lifts a multitude of tiny twigs in praise. The world seems fair and unspoiled, as if it was made new this morning just for me. It’s a small taste of how Adam and Eve must have seen the world, in all its shining newness, when they walked with God on the morning of creation, and discovered its beauties for the first time through eyes unmarred by sin, doubt and sorrow. (more…)

Disproving God

Everyday Ministry, Sola Panel

I’ve been thinking about the problem of evil. Not so much the very pressing and existential problem of my own evil, but the classic three-part gotcha argument that every half-baked neo-atheist trots out these days with a smug smile. It usually goes like this:

Majority report

Life, Sola Panel

Like Lionel, I take the time to read Carl Trueman. In fact, he’s one of my favourite authors. Perhaps it’s because I speak as an American (and not as an Australian), but I think his book Minority Report: Unpopular Thoughts on Everything from Ancient Christianity to Zen Calvinism could be a pastor’s lone source of zingers and quotes for sermon prep for several years. As I sat down to consider what to write about for this re-introductory issue of the Briefing, I could not help but think of the book, especially the title. Trueman’s allure is not only his willingness to construct and air his sometimes less-than-popular opinions—thoughts in the minority. What makes him so interesting (and helpful) is that he is a witty Englishman (or Welshman? It’s all the same to us insensitive Americans) who lives, works, and ministers here in the United States. What a valuable minority perspective. (more…)

Jedi masters and the body of Christ

Everyday Ministry, Sola Panel

I’m about to use Yoda as a model for Christian love. If you haven’t seen the Star Wars movies, you’ll probably be mystified by what I’m about to say. This is not the article you’re looking for. (more…)

In praise of holiness

Life, Sola Panel

I’ve just read an article that I agree with, but can’t relate to. The article, by Carl Trueman, is about the problems with hagiographies (a hagiography is a ‘saint-biography’: an account of somebody’s life that treats them as a hero of holiness and leaves out the naughty bits).1 He argues that hagiographies are bad for multiple reasons: they’re not good history, they promote an unhelpful black-and-white view of the world, and they make readers feel depressed and inadequate when they don’t measure up. I think he’s right. But I just don’t feel his pain. (more…)