About Sam Freney

Sam is married to Kristy, and the father of Elissa. He's a Christian, and works with a local church and a certain Christian publishing house. (Sometimes the latter vocations can happen without the first.) Many people call him a nerd, which he prefers to geek. He's keen on biblical studies, languages, great technology, science fiction, coffee, photography, frisbee, family, jazz, and hats. You could call his tastes eclectic.

A quick note on discussion


One of the things I really value about online publishing is the way that useful and edifying discussion can take place quickly, while the original thoughts are still fresh. Very often the comment threads at The Briefing are like this, and we don’t have any intention of shutting that down.
(Of course, online discussion can be toxic—see YouTube comments as a prime example—but discussion here has very rarely descended to that level, and those who have done so are the extreme minority.) (more…)

Crouching at the door


I sat down to write this editorial the week before the Australian federal election, and there was a controversy raging over the current Prime Minister’s comments about the New Testament, slavery, and same-sex marriage. (more…)

→ 7 arrows for Bible reading


Matt Rogers (via Trevin Wax) shares his 7 arrows for Bible reading, a tool to get people to engage with Scripture as they read it:

There is often a vast disconnect between the awareness of the need for disciple-making and practical tools that actually aid in this work. Three factors are essential: Scripture, relationships, and time. Discipleship happens when the life-changing truth of Scripture is infused into genuine relationships over an extended period of time.

Our desire was to create a simple, reproducible strategy that would facilitate this process. This led us to develop a simply strategy for small clusters (2-3 people) to meet together regularly and talk about the Scriptures and apply them to their lives.

The seven arrows of Bible reading were an attempt at developing a tool for proper hermeneutics to power these relationships. We did not want our people to simply talk about the Bible. We wanted them to understand the Bible and know how to apply it to their lives. Each cluster would read a predetermined passage of Scripture and discuss it using these seven arrows.

Perhaps not quite as memorable, but it’s up there with COMA and the Swedish Method in my opinion.

→ Is Chastity Possible?


Michael Jensen asks whether the Bible’s teaching on human sexuality is even possible to fulfil:

So is Christian teaching on sexual abstinence unreasonable and unachievable? Is it simply nonsensical to tell the young couple in their twenties to wait for marriage to have sex when they can’t keep their hands off each other? Is it unreasonable and unliveable to tell a married man with a sick wife that he needs to be faithful to her, despite his growing awareness of his needs? Is it cruel to tell a single woman in her thirties that waiting for a Christian husband is better than the alternative— even if this means not having a husband at all?

Good to read, particularly on the counterproductive ways the Christian community talks about sexual purity.

→ I’m a Christian and my house just burned down


A great article on the impact of the bush fires currently burning around Sydney on not only property, but theology and community too.

My house just burned down.

There was nothing that anyone could have done to put a halt to the marching wall of flame which devoured so much of the street in which I grew up. The tireless devotion of the ‘firies’ and the unwavering dedication of a legion of volunteers was simply no match for the onslaught which took so many of us off guard and has shaken the very fabric of our community. Beneath the darkening, ash laden skies, my faithful home filled with all of its treasures breathed one last sigh and resigned itself to the flames. Tonight, the interwoven stories of our community are alarmingly coming together with one accord as the fires rage on and the reality of loss becomes an all too familiar motif. Many a tear will be wept before this darkness has passed and no doubt with each tear will come the resounding question ‘Why?’

Don’t make the Reformation history


The Reformation is becoming history.

If “history is written by winners”, secularists are writing our history and materialistic governments, are setting the curriculum. Because such governments are concerned with national peace, harmony and unity, not even the multiculturalists will be able to save the Reformation from the dust and ashes of negligence and ignorance. (more…)

→ Suffering Well


I’m linking to Jean Williams again, this time with a review of Paul Grimmond’s Suffering Well.

Regular readers will know Jean has been writing a series on God’s gifts in suffering. We also published an extract from Paul’s book back in September 2011, and the full copy is available from the Matthias Media store.

Jean’s review, however, is useful in pointing out the strengths of Paul’s book:

Some books grow inside you after you’ve read them. The little book Suffering Well, by Paul Grimmond, is like that.

I finished it a few weeks ago. It’s prodded and poked me ever since, getting under my guard, helping me respond to suffering the way God wants me to. It’s a bit like the Bible – not always easy, but encouraging in the old sense of “giving courage” – and that’s a huge compliment.

→ Deliver us from inconsequential successes


Tim Brister has written a great post about responses churches make to the Great Commission:

When it comes to the Great Commission, there are basically three responses a church can have. A church can do nothing, something, or one thing.


This is where we need to be brutally honest with ourselves. As a church, are we hitting the target? Are we making disciples of Jesus? More pointedly, are we making disciples who make disciples of Jesus? The sobering fact is that I don’t know of a single church who does not struggle with this. The difference is there are those who want to grow through their struggles while there are others who, unfortunately, are happy to substitute some other target other than the Great Commission that is easier to hit. A proper handling, or stewardship, of the struggle means that we deal honestly with our challenges that recognize our dependence on Christ and our determination to keep the main thing the main thing, even when we are not that great at it.

Where do you (and your church) land?

→ Children’s Bibles


Jean Williams has investigated and briefly reviewed a whole host of children’s Bibles over at her blog:

“Of the making of many children’s Bibles there is no end, and much study wearies the body” (Eccles. 12:12, paraphrase). That’s pretty much how I feel after investigating lots of children’s Bibles for this post.

It’s a far cry from my childhood, when the only children’s Bible we had was an enormous tome written in old-fashioned prose. (I suspect it might have beenThe Golden Children’s Bible, still a decent choice for a kids’ Bible.) Apart from that we read adult’s Bibles and discussed them with our parents during family Bible time. I don’t think it did us any harm.

That said, modern parents should be very grateful for the huge number of excellent resources available to us. Obviously we want to expose our kids to the Bible. We want them to get to know the Bible stories. We want to read them Bible stories in a format they can understand and relate to.

She has some recommendations for different age groups, and some personal favourites. It’s really worth reading through.

→ The world’s most liveable city


Pete Sholl, a missionary in Mexico and Latin America, writes a thoughtful piece on the trap that comes with the good things about living in a wonderful city:

The trap is, that living in one of the most liveable cities in the world can lull us into thinking, we’ve got it all. Heaven is here for us now. We’re living in “God’s country.”

That has a lot of implications for us – including where we put our hope and what we think is important. But it also makes it difficult to leave.

Worth reading and pondering the questions he raises.

→ Don’t waste your vote


Geoff Robson has been writing a series on voting as a Christian—a topic particularly relevant for Australians at the moment, but for many of us around the world. He’s concluded the five parts with four ways to vote, and a broader reflection on the role and limitations of government:

Where governments can pass laws to protect people and restrain evil, they can never change the heart. But Jesus can. Jesus changes his people from the inside. He doesn’t just give us an example to follow: by dying to make us his people and pouring out his Spirit, he gives us new hearts so we actually can consider others better than ourselves. We can begin to love God and live for him. We can love our neighbour as ourselves, even using the privilege of our vote for the sake of others.

The whole series is well worth reading. If you missed it, the first post is on how God thinks about government, and is an excellent place to start.

→ When you feel resentful about homemaking


Jean Williams, with 5 reasons she’s identified that leave her feeling about her role as a homemaker, and 6 practical suggestions:

Last week I shared my friend’s question with you:

I was wondering if any of you have any advice, or could recommend a talk or book, that could encourage me in my role as homemaker.

I have been becoming increasingly irritated and resentful about doing all the housework lately (as well as finances, admin, handy man stuff etc). I’m also the one who is training the children to do it. Maybe I need to share it with my husband more, I don’t know.

(My friend has several young children, and every week she has 2 child-free days that theoretically free her up to do housework. She says, “I am hesitant to add more to my husband’s workload when I have ‘extra time’.”) Here’s my response, with a few suggestions from mutual friends scattered through.

→ The Temptation of Jesus Is Not about Your Battle with Sin


This is a great reflection on the temptation of Jesus in the desert by Byron Yawn, and a worked example of how to mis-apply Jesus’ actions to ourselves, and in so doing domesticate them entirely.

Seriously. What’s the assumed application of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness? By assumed I mean – What have we been told (over years of preaching) this event is about? Is it not usually offered as a set of “principles” on how Christians can resist temptation? Or to put that another way, it’s about us. But honestly, is this really what’s happening at this moment? Is Jesus really offering an example how we can personally resist the temptation of the devil? Is this a tutorial for daily living? Of course not! A “how to” on resisting temptation is a secondary application at best if not tertiary. He’s not telling us to do anything. He’s actually doing it for us. There is something much greater under way in this moment. More importantly, do we need to be standing within view of the actual site to realize how misguided our take on it is?

→ The gospel and who to vote for (2)


Geoff Robson is continuing his series on thinking politically as a Christian, following up his original post with part 2 of “The gospel and who to vote for“, and “Don’t waste your vote“.

[Prayer] is probably the most distinctive Christian contribution to the political process. We can vote, act, speak out and protest in much the same way as our non-Christian neighbours. But we can do something they can never do: Pray to the God of the universe. Your most important contribution to the political process happens not when you step into the ballot box, or when you write a letter to your MP, or when you take part in a peaceful protest march. It happens on your knees.

Both posts are a good read, especially the suggestions in the second of how not to vote. The final two parts should be up in a few days’ time.

→ The disgrace of Christian outreach


Chris Little, minister out at Albury Bible Church, writes about the perfect disgrace of our Lord, and what that disgrace means for our evangelism.

The whole Bible shows God’s concern for the whole world.

The first three quarters of the Bible maintain focus on one people: Israel. The final one quarter is where God’s word goes out to all, freely offered to all cultures, languages and people.

Why the difference? And what made the change? A short passage in Hebrews powerfully captures the switch. It tells me that God spent great effort establishing a system of imperfect honour so that he could trump this system with perfect disgrace.

Good stuff. Go read the whole thing.