Blog

Articles, thoughts, essays, and content from Brian as well as students – our budding theologians.

Thinking about preaching: What to learn from Jeff Manion

Posted by on Jun 20, 2017 in Blog, Budding Theologians | 0 comments

I’ve recently finished teaching a unit in preaching at Vose Seminary, and one of the assignments was to assess the preaching of a well known pastor whom the student could select, evaluating both the strengths and weaknesses of the approach, and asking what we could learn about preaching from this person. Several excellent essays resulted, but I was especially impressed by this one from Yvette Cherry, a Vose student who also serves on the staff at Riverton Baptist Church. In addition to being an excellent student, she is a gifted...

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Managing Monday with Philip Yancey

Posted by on Jun 19, 2017 in Blog | 1 comment

Philip Yancey’s (1949) books have sold over 14 million copies, making him one of the most widely read contemporary Christian authors. I always enjoy his work, but What’s so Amazing about Grace and The Jesus I Never Knew, are particular favourites. Managing Monday will spend a few weeks highlighting some of his gems… Christians get very angry towards Christians who sin differently than they do – Philip Yancey The solution to sin is not to impose an ever stricter code of behaviour. It is to know God – Philip Yancey...

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Is God unfair?

Posted by on Jun 13, 2017 in Blog | 4 comments

I was speaking at the Slavic Baptist Church this Sunday, and with the help of an excellent Russian interpreter tackled the ever perplexing question of why good people often suffer, and the question which arises from this, “Is God unfair?” I was interacting with some of the views explored by Philip Yancey in his excellent book Disappointment with God, and the response to the message made me think that what was said would be worth sharing with a wider readership. So with a few minor edits, here is what I said… I have been a...

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Managing Monday with Eugene Peterson – take 3

Posted by on Jun 12, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Say the name Eugene Peterson (1932- ) and many things might spring to mind. There is his refreshing paraphrase of the Bible, The Message, or it could be one of the thirty plus books he has written, or more likely it might be one of the many gems of wisdom you have remembered from one of those books. This is the final of the three post where we look at some of his striking insights… Waiting in prayer is a disciplined refusal to act before God acts – Eugene Peterson The silence that makes it possible to hear God speak also makes it...

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Signs of the Spirit’s Presence…

Posted by on Jun 6, 2017 in Blog | 6 comments

I was with the good folk of Mt Hawthorn Community Church this Pentecost Sunday, and being Pentecost, thought it would be helpful to ask if there are signs we can look for that indicate that the Spirit is at work. One of the lovely features of Mt Hawthorn is that they have a Q and A after the message, and it provoked lots and lots of discussion, making me think it would be worth posting my notes on the blog. So with a very light editing, here they are… A number of year ago noted evangelist Leighton Ford asked this question: “If God were...

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Managing Monday with Eugene Peterson – take 2

Posted by on Jun 5, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Say the name Eugene Peterson (1932- ) and many things might spring to mind. There is his refreshing paraphrase of the Bible, The Message, or it could be one of the thirty plus books he has written, or more likely it might be one of the many gems of wisdom you have remembered from one of those books. This is the second of the three post where we look at some of his striking insights… You are defined by what you embrace, not what you resist – Eugene Peterson One way to define spiritual life is getting so tired and fed up...

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Managing Monday with Eugene Peterson

Posted by on May 29, 2017 in Blog | 2 comments

Say the name Eugene Peterson (1932- ) and many things might spring to mind. There is his refreshing paraphrase of the Bible, The Message, or it could be one of the thirty plus books he has written, or more likely it might be one of the many gems of wisdom you have remembered from one of those books. We’ll spend three weeks looking at some of his striking insights… Worship is the strategy by which we interrupt our preoccupation with ourselves and attend to the presence of God – Eugene Peterson No life of faith can be lived...

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Managing Monday with Abraham Kuyper – take 2

Posted by on May 22, 2017 in Blog | 2 comments

This is the second and final post on Abraham Kuyper. To refresh you memory on who Kuyper is, here is the introductory paragraph from the previous post, with a fresh set of quotes then added… The relationship between Christianity and politics is vexed, and for many (regardless if they know it or not) has been shaped by the thinking of Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) who served as the 20th Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1901-1905. A journalist, neo-Calvinist theologian and statesman, his political and theological views continue to be...

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Managing Monday with Abraham Kuyper

Posted by on May 15, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

The relationship between Christianity and politics is vexed, and for many (regardless if they know it or not) has been shaped by the thinking of Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) who served as the 20th Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1901-1905. A journalist, neo-Calvinist theologian and statesman, his political and theological views continue to be influential, especially in Reformed circles, and his thinking has impacted the views of Francis Schaeffer, Cornelius van Til, Alvin Plantinga, Nicholas Wolterstorff, Chuck Colson and Tim Keller...

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Andrew Murray (take 2)

Posted by on May 8, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Here is the second (and final) set of quotes from Andrew Murray (1828-1917), a key figure in the South African revival of 1860. Murray is remembered as an author, pastor and champion of mission. He is sometimes considered one of the forerunners of the Pentecostal movement because of his emphasis on faith healing and the continuation of the spiritual gifts. He also placed special emphasis on prayer. I recently read one of his classics – Humility: The Beauty of Holiness, and thought that a few insights from this and some of his others books...

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Managing Monday with Andrew Murray

Posted by on May 1, 2017 in Blog | 1 comment

Andrew Murray (1828-1917), a key figure in the South African revival of 1860, is remembered as an author, pastor and champion of mission. He is sometimes considered one of the forerunners of the Pentecostal movement because of his emphasis on faith healing and the continuation of the spiritual gifts. He also placed special emphasis on prayer. I recently read one of his classics – Humility: The Beauty of Holiness, and thought that a few insights from this and some of his others books were worth a few Managing Monday posts. Humility is...

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Managing Monday with Evelyn Underhill (take 2)

Posted by on Apr 24, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

This week we continue looking at some insights from Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941) who is remembered as a pacifist and for her writing on Christian mysticism, her best known book being Mysticism (1911). An Anglo-Catholic, she was doubtful of state religion and placed great store on the heart and experience. She led many spiritual retreats for the Anglican Church, was an active proponent of contemplative prayer, and served as a spiritual director to hundreds of people. If God were small enough to be understood, He would not be big enough to be...

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On the death of a brother-in-law

Posted by on Apr 22, 2017 in Blog | 6 comments

My brother-in-law, Milner McPherson, died last night, the 21 April 2017. He had been in a deep coma for a few weeks, so was unable to anticipate what was about to occur, but if that had not been the case, he would have approached his departure cheerfully and indeed, enthusiastically. For some death comes as the enemy – for others, death is the friend. After years of poor health (cancer leading to the amputation of his right leg below the knee; brain tumour; Parkinsons; dementia), this 77 year old father of two and grandfather of five,...

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Managing Monday with Evelyn Underhill

Posted by on Apr 17, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941) is remembered as a pacifist and for her writing on Christian mysticism, her best known book being Mysticism (1911). An Anglo-Catholic, she was doubtful of state religion and placed great store on the heart and experience. She led many spiritual retreats for the Anglican Church, was an active proponent of contemplative prayer, and served as a spiritual director to hundreds of people. Beauty is simply reality seen with the eyes of love – Evelyn Underhill For lack of attention a thousand forms of loveliness...

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Easter: With head and heart…

Posted by on Apr 13, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Here are some Easter musings from my book Could this be God? Bumping into God in the Everyday. This entry is called Easter: With head and heart… I was a guest preacher last night (well, no longer last night by the time you read this), and had been asked to speak on what Jesus accomplished at the Cross. So how do you fit that into 20 minutes? I went a pretty traditional route, unpacked the reason for our creation (relationship with God), followed it up with the problem of our alienation from God and then explored how and why the Cross...

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Managing Monday with Charles Wesley

Posted by on Apr 10, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

After a few weeks of John Wesley quotes, it only seems fair to give a voice to his brother, Charles Wesley (1707-1788), also a leader of the Methodist movement, and best know as the writer of over 6000 hymns, many of which continue to be sung. Keep us little and unknown, prized and loved by God alone – Charles Wesley Amazing love how can it be that Thou my God shouldst die for me – Charles Wesley Faith, mighty faith, the promise sees, And looks to God alone; Laughs at impossibilities, And cries it shall be done – Charles...

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Managing Monday with John Wesley (take 3)

Posted by on Apr 3, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Here are a final batch of John Wesley (1703-1791) insights – well, final for a while. Wesley was an Anglican minister who founded the Methodist church. His theology has a particular focus on holiness, though as you will see from the quotes, the scope of his interest was wide. When you do what you can, you do enough – John Wesley Earn all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can – John Wesley Once in seven years I burn all my sermons; for it is a shame, if I cannot write better sermons now that I did seven year ago –...

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When “darkness is my closest friend”: Reflections on Psalm 88

Posted by on Mar 31, 2017 in Blog | 2 comments

I was in a meeting a while back where a man said that he and his family had been living in Psalm 88 for a fair while – especially in v18b. Naturally I had to look it up. The tone of his comment had alerted me to expect something that fell a long way short of cheerful, and my instinct was right. The psalm is hauntingly sad. While it starts hopefully (“you are the God who saves me” – v1), it finishes in a very different place, speaking about abandonment, rejection and suffering, before finishing with the sobering...

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Managing Monday with John Wesley (take 2)

Posted by on Mar 26, 2017 in Blog | 1 comment

Here are a second batch of Wesley insights. It was always only a matter of time until I included some John Wesley (1703-1791) quotes on Managing Monday. Wesley was an Anglican minister who founded the Methodist church. His theology has a particular focus on holiness, though as you will see from the quotes, the scope of his interest was wide. We should be rigorous in judging ourselves and gracious in judging others – John Wesley Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. To all...

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Managing Monday with John Wesley

Posted by on Mar 20, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

It was always only a matter of time until I included some John Wesley (1703-1791) quotes. Wesley was an Anglican minister who founded the Methodist church. His theology has a particular focus on holiness, though as you will see from the quotes, the scope of his interest was wide. What one generation tolerates, the next will embrace – John Wesley Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you who can be against you? – John Wesley, in his last letter...

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Managing Monday with Charles Spurgeon: Take three

Posted by on Mar 13, 2017 in Blog | 1 comment

This week we conclude our short series of Spurgeon quotes. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) was known as the “Prince of Preachers, and it’s not hard to understand why when you read through his penetrating sermons. He pastored London’s Metropolitan Tabernacle (formerly the New Park Street Chapel) for 38 years, a megachurch of the time, and indeed, during Spurgeon’s time, the largest congregation in the world. Ponder these Spurgeon insights… I have learned to kiss the wave that slams me into the rock of ages...

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Every Brilliant Thing… Reflections on a movie

Posted by on Mar 10, 2017 in Blog | 5 comments

On a recent flight back to Perth, I watched a HBO documentary, “Every Brilliant Thing”. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the brief blurb about it said “Adapted from the hit Broadway-show, and balancing sobering loss with cathartic laughter, this deeply poignant film recounts a life lived in the shadow of suicide.”  I guess it’s a comment on the other options that I decided to watch, but it turned out to be one of those rare instances where low expectations had to be dramatically recalibrated and I sat...

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Managing Monday with Charles Spurgeon: Take two

Posted by on Mar 6, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) was known as the “Prince of Preachers, and it’s not hard to understand why when you read through his penetrating sermons. He pastored London’s Metropolitan Tabernacle (formerly the New Park Street Chapel) for 38 years, a megachurch of the time, and indeed, during Spurgeon’s time, the largest congregation in the world. This week we continue to reflect on some of his memorable insights… The Gospel is like a caged lion. It does not need to be defended. It simply needs to be let...

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Managing Monday with Charles Spurgeon

Posted by on Feb 27, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) was known as the “Prince of Preachers, and it’s not hard to understand why when you read through his penetrating sermons. He pastored London’s Metropolitan Tabernacle (formerly the New Park Street Chapel) for 38 years, a megachurch of the time, and indeed, during Spurgeon’s time, the largest congregation in the world. Here are some memorable Spurgeon quotes… There is nothing in the law of God that will rob you of happiness: it only denies you that which would cost you sorrow...

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Why Grenz matters…

Posted by on Feb 24, 2017 in Blog | 2 comments

You may or may not know (and may or may not care) that I did my PhD on the theological method of Stanley J Grenz. “Why?” I hear you ask. Without trying to reproduce my PhD (which can be downloaded for free from the University of Auckland’s research site), let me give you a simple explanation for why I think Grenz is an important theologian, and my reasons for arguing that his work continues to be relevant and worthy of study. A committed evangelical, American born but Canadian based Grenz (1950-2005), sensed that the...

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Managing Monday with Viktor E. Frankl – take 3

Posted by on Feb 20, 2017 in Blog | 2 comments

Today we finish our exploration of some insights from Austrian Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl (1905-1997), who is probably best know for his book Man’s Search for Meaning. He was also the founder of logotherapy – a form of existential analysis that suggests that the greatest existential stress is meaninglessness. Frankl’s own conclusion from the extreme suffering in the concentration camps was that even in the most dehumanizing situations life continues to have potential meaning – and that...

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Managing Monday with Viktor E. Frankl – Take 2

Posted by on Feb 13, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Today we continue to explore some insights from Austrian Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl (1905-1997), who is probably best know for his book Man’s Search for Meaning. He was also the founder of logotherapy – a form of existential analysis that suggests that the greatest existential stress is meaninglessness. Frankl’s own conclusion from the extreme suffering in the concentration camps was that even in the most dehumanizing situations life continues to have potential meaning – and that suffering can...

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Managing Monday with Viktor E. Frankl

Posted by on Feb 6, 2017 in Blog | 2 comments

Austrian Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl (1905-1997) is probably best know for his book Man’s Search for Meaning. He was also the founder of logotherapy – a form of existential analysis which suggests that the greatest existential stress is meaninglessness. Frankl’s own conclusion from the extreme suffering in the concentration camps was that even in the most dehumanizing situations life continues to have potential meaning – and that suffering can actually contribute to this. His PhD dissertation,...

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About a holiday…

Posted by on Feb 3, 2017 in Blog | 3 comments

I recently returned from a wonderful family holiday in Japan. The selection of Japan was based largely on its amazing ski fields (a really important factor for my oldest son Nic) and that it would be culturally enriching while still being a country where you can get by with English – albeit that the occasional misunderstanding occurs. So what are my reflections from this time? First, holidays really matter, and it’s worth scrimping and saving a little during the year to ensure that you can have one. They also need to be long...

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Managing Monday with Pope Francis (take 2)

Posted by on Jan 30, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Pope Francis is the 266th and current pope, his papacy having begun on 13 March 2013. He has said many memorable things, often about the importance of care of the poor and of faith being expressed in tangible actions. Last week we noted some of his insights, and this week round them out with a few more… You pray for the hungry. Then you feed them. This is how prayer works – Pope Francis Having faith does not mean having no difficulties, but having the strength to face them, knowing we are not alone – Pope Francis Sometimes...

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Managing Monday with Pope Francis…

Posted by on Jan 23, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Pope Francis is the 266th and current pope, his papacy having begun on 13 March 2013. He has said many memorable things, often about the importance of care of the poor and of faith being expressed in tangible actions. Here are a few of his insights… To ignore the poor is to despise God – Pope Francis The crucifix does not signify defeat or failure. It reveals to us the love that overcomes evil and sin – Pope Francis I prefer wrinkled families with wounds, with scars, but that continue going forward because these wounds,...

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Managing Monday with Thomas Merton – Take 2

Posted by on Jan 16, 2017 in Blog | 2 comments

Last week we reflected upon a few Thomas Merton quotes – and here are some more. Merton (1915-1968) was a Trappist monk and mystic. For a brief period he was a Communist. He is largely remembered for his work as a civil rights activist, poet, writer and student of comparative religion. When ambition ends, happiness begins – Thomas Merton The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture...

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Tradition and traditioning…

Posted by on Jan 10, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

I grant you that most people don’t spend lots of time wondering about tradition and particularly the tradition of the Church, and if they are being true to it or not. But if you have ever had a bright idea of yours shut down with a “It’s not going to happen. We’ve never done it that way before”, or if on the opposite end of the spectum you’ve felt a little uneasy that you might be about to embrace something that humans have only really been doing for the last 5 minutes of their existence, and which...

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Managing Monday with Thomas Merton

Posted by on Jan 9, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

I recently started reading Thomas Merton’s Contemplation in a World of Action and it has led me to track down some of his quotes and insights. Merton (1915-1968) was a Trappist monk and mystic. For a brief period he was a Communist. He is largely remembered for his work as a civil rights activist, poet, writer and student of comparative religion. To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that Love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character....

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Et Teneo, Et Teneor – holding and held…

Posted by on Jan 6, 2017 in Blog | 2 comments

Most of us aren’t into Latin, but once in a while you come across a phrase that captures your imagination. At any rate, et teneo, et teneor captures mine. Translated it means, I hold and am held. It serves as the motto embedded in the crest of Spurgeon’s College, Spurgeon probably having first heard it from the hymnwriter Dora Greenwell, who had adopted it as her life motif. In the crest, a hand holds the cross of Christ, and it can be interpreted as both holding out the cross to others, and holding onto the cross. Holding and...

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Managing Monday: Quotes for the start of a new year…

Posted by on Jan 2, 2017 in Blog | 4 comments

As we start a new year, here are some wise insights to reflect upon… Do something today that your future self will thank you for – Anon Speak in such a way that others love to listen to you. Listen in such a way that others love to speak to you – Anon The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new – Socrates And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” And he replied: “Go out...

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Managing Monday: Quotes as the New Year approaches…

Posted by on Dec 26, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

As 2016 enters its final few days, here are a few quotes worth thinking about… There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind – C.S.Lewis What feels like the end is often the beginning – Anon You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine – Jessica Gordon Ryan There comes a day when you realize turning the page is the best feeling in the world, because you realize there is so much more to the book than the page you were...

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If Christmas hadn’t happened…

Posted by on Dec 23, 2016 in Blog | 1 comment

As Christmas approaches, I have reproduced a piece I wrote for Christmas a few year ago and which appears in my latest book Could this be God? Bumping into God in the Everyday. Hope you enjoy it – and I do hope that Christmas provides a chance for you to connect more closely with the One who assuredly entered our world as a little baby thing… If Christmas hadn’t happened A rather harassed looking student popped into my office a few days back, claiming a mental block whilst doing an assignment. For some, that’s a permanent...

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Managing Monday: Some quotes for Christmas…

Posted by on Dec 19, 2016 in Blog | 2 comments

With Christmas around the corner, I sifted through a hundred or so Christmas quotes on Pinterest, and discovered a few I thought worth pondering… Advent is synonymous with hope, not the vain waiting for a faceless god, but concrete and certain trust in the return of him who has already visited us. – Pope John Paul II Look for Christ and you will find Him. And with Him, everything else. – C.S.Lewis Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else...

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When family fails…

Posted by on Dec 13, 2016 in Blog | 1 comment

At Carey we recently finished a preaching series on the life of David – author of so many of the Psalms, and Israel’s most successful king. One of my topics was the family life of David – notable largely for its failure. As a fair few people found my reflections on the topic helpful, I decided to post my sermon notes on the blog. Perhaps the messiness of David’s situation might, in some round about way, be helpful for you… Don’t know if you had any imaginative dreams during your childhood. In my fantasy moments I...

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Borrowed Spaces: A Meditation for Advent

Posted by on Dec 10, 2016 in Blog | 1 comment

Audrey Francis has contributed to this blog on a few occasions. Recently she sent me this meditation for advent ‘Borrowed Spaces’ – allowing me to use it on the blog and also to give you permission to use and reuse it as you see fit, so long as you credit her as the author. Audrey recently completed her studies at Vose Seminary, and has a lifetime of service behind her, including a period as a missionary nurse in Africa. Borrowed Spaces A Meditation for Advent Her time was near, time to give birth to her first- born. She...

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Why the angels sang…

Posted by on Dec 2, 2016 in Blog | 4 comments

With the Advent season officially upon us, I thought it would be worth turning our thoughts towards Christmas. In an Advent message a few years ago I asked the question if the angels were right to sing a song of joy the night Jesus was born. Would a dirge not have been more appropriate given the shameful response Jesus met with? Here are some of the things I said… When at high school I was the chairman of the school debating team. I quickly learnt that there were two sides to just about any argument, and that it didn’t really matter if...

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Managing Monday with C.S.Lewis – Take 4

Posted by on Nov 28, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

C.S.Lewis is one of the most oft quoted people. His insights are pithy and effortlessly and clearly get to the heart of each matter he addresses. A few weeks ago I posted on C.S.Lewis as apologist, and so it seemed appropriate to follow up with some of his wisdom in selected quotes for Managing Monday. This is the last of this short series from Lewis (well, for a while…) In our own case we accept excuses too easily; in other people’s, we do not accept them easily enough (from The Weight of Glory) If God forgives us we must forgive...

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Debating Dawkins: Confronting the New Atheists…

Posted by on Nov 23, 2016 in Blog | 2 comments

I recently finished teaching a paper on apologetics at Vose Seminary where I serve as principal. I am currently finishing off marking the assignments that resulted, and while I would be the first to admit that marking is my least favourite part of the job, every now and then a student writes an essay that reverses that, and I am reminded again of why I teach. A few days ago I read Vose student Robert Barthurst’s essay Debating Dawkins. The class had been asked to imagine that they had to debate one of the New Atheists – and could...

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Managing Monday with C.S.Lewis – Take 3

Posted by on Nov 21, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Recently this blog explored C.S.Lewis as apologist. You find Lewis sayings everywhere – indeed, he is apparently one of the most oft quoted people on Twitter. Here are some of his memorable insights from a selection of his works… Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see (from God in the Dock) What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are (from The...

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Managing Monday with C.S.Lewis – Take 2

Posted by on Nov 14, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Recently this blog explored C.S.Lewis as apologist. You find Lewis sayings everywhere – indeed, he is one of the most oft quoted people on Twitter. Here are some of his memorable insights from a selection of his works… Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different (from Prince Caspian) It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to (from The Problem of Pain) Forgiveness does not mean excusing (from Fern Seed and Elephants) All...

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When wrestling with God: Jacob’s struggle, and ours…

Posted by on Nov 12, 2016 in Blog | 3 comments

Sometimes life does not go to plan, and you find yourself in a battle with what seems to be everyone and everything. In the midst of those seasons, it is easy to lose perspective and to succumb to the destructive trio of bitterness, cynicism and despair. Given that for most people it is not a question of if those seasons will come, but when they come, are there any biblical narratives that can provides some guidance and strength? Personally, I often go back to the account of Jacob wrestling with God. You find it in Genesis 32, from vrs 22...

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Managing Monday with C.S.Lewis…

Posted by on Nov 7, 2016 in Blog | 2 comments

With the recent post on C.S. Lewis as apologist, I thought it only sensible to spend a few Managing Monday’s on citing some of Lewis’s insights… Joy is the serious business of heaven (from Letters to Malcolm) It’s so much easier to pray for a bore than to go and see one (from Letters to Malcolm) Everything is good when it looks to Him and bad when it turns from Him (from The Great Divorce) No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear (from A Grief Observed) The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles...

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C S Lewis as apologist…

Posted by on Nov 5, 2016 in Blog | 1 comment

You are probably aware of the work of C S Lewis. His Narnia series transformed more than a few childhoods, and while exploring Narnia’s imaginary fortunes, Lewis provides a narrative that interprets the main contours of the Christian faith in a way that is both accessible and meaningful. It is a remarkable feat. While Narnia forms its own kind of apologetic for the Christian faith, Lewis was also a systematic defender of Christianity. I’ve recently completed teaching a unit in apologetics at Vose Seminary (where I serve as...

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Managing Monday with Henri Nouwen: Take 4

Posted by on Oct 31, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Today we come to the end of our short series looking at some quotes from Henri Nouwen (1932-1996), who was a Dutch born Roman Catholic priest, academic, author and theologian. Nouwen reached the top of the academic ladder with posts at Notre Dame, Yale and Harvard, but made the surprising (although liberating) decision to leave academia and to work with physically and mentally handicapped people at the L’Arche Daybreak community in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Here are some of his thoughts… The hard truth is that all people love...

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On a High School Graduation…

Posted by on Oct 27, 2016 in Blog | 2 comments

This week I spoke at the year 12 graduation and awards evening of Carey Baptist College. Many of the graduating students have been part of Carey for over a decade, and they’ve been a close knit and supportive cohort. For teachers such evenings are bitter sweet… great to see students equipped and ready to move on, but it’s sad to say goodbye. The graduation is one last chance for the school to say what it hopes each pupil will remember, so it was an honour to have been asked to do this. Given that these evenings are long...

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Managing Monday with Henri Nouwen: Take 3

Posted by on Oct 24, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) was a Dutch born Roman Catholic priest, academic, author and theologian. Nouwen reached the top of the academic ladder with posts at Notre Dame, Yale and Harvard, but made the surprising decision to leave academia and to work with physically and mentally handicapped people at the L’Arche Daybreak community in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Here are some of his thoughts… You don’t think your way into a new kind of living. You live your way into a new kind of thinking – Henri Nouwen Each step of love is...

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Some changes to the blog…

Posted by on Oct 18, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Thanks for reading this blog. For the last year I have been posting on Monday, Tuesday and Friday morning, and have been happy with the response – almost 20 000 page views this calendar year. But the frequency of posting is eating into my time a little too much – more particularly, it is slowing the progress on the 3 new book projects that a spoke about a few posts ago. This is to alert you that while the blog will continue to operate (this is definitely not a closure notice), posts in the foreseeable future, won’t be as...

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Managing Monday with Henri Nouwen: Take 2

Posted by on Oct 17, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) was a Dutch born Roman Catholic priest, academic, author and theologian. Nouwen reached the top of the academic ladder with posts at Notre Dame, Yale and Harvard, but made the surprising decision to leave academia and to work with physically and mentally handicapped people at the L’Arche Daybreak community in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Here are some of his thoughts… Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the ‘beloved’...

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Extrinsic, Intrinsic and Quest forms of faith…

Posted by on Oct 14, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

OK, so this topic might not sound compelling. What’s this about extrinsic, intrinsic and quest forms of faith, and does it have any relevance? Actually, I think it does. It helps to explain why faith works it way out one way in some people, and so very differently in others. But let me be a little more systematic. It’s a topic I explore in my recently published book When Faith Turns Ugly (Paternoster, 2016). I start by talking about some of the pioneering work done by Gordon Allport in the field of personality theory, and do so in...

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Politics and the race to the bottom…

Posted by on Oct 11, 2016 in Blog | 1 comment

The American presidential election has become so bizarre that it has provoked me to move out of my ‘minimal political comment’ zone. At so many levels it is deeply disturbing. The selection of candidates who have such obvious character flaws, is worrying. If we accept this, will it become the new normal for the future? Almost as distressing has been the insistence of many (far too many) evangelical leaders to back Trump, come what may. Now I don’t doubt that they have their reasons, and clearly expect a political return in...

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Managing Monday with Henri Nouwen

Posted by on Oct 10, 2016 in Blog | 2 comments

Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) was a Dutch born Roman Catholic priest, academic, author and theologian. Nouwen reached the top of the academic ladder with posts at Notre Dame, Yale and Harvard, but made the surprising (though liberating) decision to leave academia and to work with physically and mentally handicapped people at the L’Arche Daybreak community in Richmond Hill, Ontario. He introduced the concept of The Wounded Healer with his book of that title, and some of his other significant works (which have been published in more than 30...

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When mental health is the issue…

Posted by on Oct 7, 2016 in Blog | 2 comments

Most of us are sympathetic when family or friends face an obvious physical ailment. We are often a lot less certain how to respond when it is a mental health issue. Yet all the statistics indicate that large numbers of people struggle in this realm. It’s something we talk about too little. Pleasingly, and going against the trend of silence, the latest edition of the Advocate is devoted to exploring issues of mental health. For those not familiar with the Advocate, it is an award winning Perth based Christian newspaper produced on a...

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Managing Monday with Jean Vanier – take 4

Posted by on Oct 3, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Today we finish our focus on the insights of  Jean Vanier (1928- ), founder of the L’Arche communities for people with developmental disabilities. Vanier is a theologian, philosopher and author. A champion for the rights of people with intellectual disabilities, Vanier has done the truly remarkable – he has demonstrated the value and beauty of imperfection. A community that is growing rich and seeks only to defend its goods and its reputation is dying. It has ceased to grow in love. A community is alive when it is poor and its...

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It’s Out: Could this be God…

Posted by on Sep 30, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

This has been my publishing year – two books out within a few months of each other. My latest book Could this be God: Bumping into God in the Everyday has now been released and is available from all major suppliers and on Kindle. Here are some of the key links: A hard copy is currently cheapest at Book Depository – (A$14.03) and this includes free postage to anywhere in the world. If you prefer the electronic kindle version, Amazon is the best place to go – though Australian buyers are likely to be redirected to the...

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The 10 Commandments: Gary Player’s take…

Posted by on Sep 27, 2016 in Blog | 1 comment

Though I am not a golfer, I was struck by the death of golfing great Arnold Palmer. It set me thinking about the other golfing great I heard about constantly during my childhood, Gary Player, and I wondered if he was still alive. The answer is yes, and he seems to be thriving and continuing with a great deal of charitable work around the world – his foundation having donated over $50 million. I found that out by visiting his website, and was struck when on it by his 10 commandments, which I have reproduced here. Player is of course a...

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Managing Monday with Jean Vanier – take 3

Posted by on Sep 26, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Jean Vanier (1928- ), founder of the L’Arche communities for people with developmental disabilities, is a theologian, philosopher and author. A champion for the rights of people with intellectual disabilities, Vanier has done the truly remarkable – he has demonstrated the value and beauty of imperfection. Here are some of his insights… Growth begins when we start to accept our own weakness – Jean Vanier All of us have a secret desire to be seen as saints, heroes, martyrs. We are afraid to be children, to be ourselves...

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Church: A snapshot of one congregation…

Posted by on Sep 23, 2016 in Blog | 4 comments

Rosemary and I were in the UK recently and finding ourselves free on the Sunday morning, decided to attend the Church of England service taking place across the road from our hotel. Struggle one was finding the entrance,  though once spotted, it was clear enough. There were about 60 in the congregation, and we had gathered for the sung Eucharist – the only service being held that day. I know nothing about the congregation, but several things struck me… There was a warmth of welcome that was very reassuring. An elderly man at the...

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Sex, Wealth, Power and Self: Identifying the Idols of our Time

Posted by on Sep 20, 2016 in Blog | 1 comment

The Bible says a great deal about idols and idol worship. They are non-threatening passages to read, largely because they seem to have little to do with us, and we can therefore quietly smile at long gone eras who found the pull to bow the knee to idols of silver, gold and brass, irresistible. It is of course startling that the ancient Israelites would dance around a golden calf, when they had experienced Yahweh’s help and provision time and time again… But that was the Israelites for you. You could never depend on their ongoing...

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Managing Monday with Jean Vanier – take 2

Posted by on Sep 19, 2016 in Blog | 1 comment

Jean Vanier (1928-) is a theologian and philosopher, known for transforming the way we think about intellectual disability. His work is deeply humane and challenging. Here are some of his thoughts… I am struck by how sharing our weaknesses and vulnerabilities is more nourishing to others that sharing our qualities and successes – Jean Vanier A society which discards those who are weak and non-productive risks exaggerating the development of reason, organisation, aggression and the desire to dominate. It becomes a society without a...

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Practicing the presence of people…

Posted by on Sep 13, 2016 in Blog | 4 comments

You might well be familiar with Brother Lawrence’s classic The Practice of the Presence of God – a wonderful text on becoming aware of God in the everyday. But what do you think about practicing the presence of people.  At my home church (Carey Baptist) we are currently working through Peter Scazzero’s Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, and on Sunday it was my turn to speak, the topic springing from chapter 9 of the book, ‘Growing into a mature adult: Learning new skills to love well.’ It is in this chapter that...

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Managing Monday with Jean Vanier

Posted by on Sep 12, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Jean Vanier (1928- ), founder of the L’Arche communities for people with developmental disabilities, is a theologian, philosopher and author. A champion for the rights of people with intellectual disabilities, Vanier has done the truly remarkable – he has demonstrated the value and beauty of imperfection. We will consider some of his insights over the next few Mondays… In the end, the most important thing is not to do things for people who are poor and in distress, but to enter into relationship with them, to be with them...

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Redeeming Emotions…

Posted by on Sep 9, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Most studies of  emotion suggest that there are seven basic human emotions, and that in one way or another, all emotions fit within the categories of anger, anxiety, surprise, trust, grief, fear and love – well that’s Diane Raymond’s list. Humintell suggests they are anger, contempt, fear, disgust, happiness, sadness, and surprise – so there is some overlap, although they are hardly identical lists. Apparently a combination of basic emotions leads to secondary emotions. Thus another site (which suggests there are six...

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Is there a place for denominations?

Posted by on Sep 6, 2016 in Blog | 2 comments

It has become common to declare that we live in a post-denominational era. Increasingly church attenders are indifferent to the label a particular congregation might carry… Presbyterian, Baptist, Vineyard, Church of Christ… whatever. Indeed, many churches declare to the public that they are simply the local community church, sometimes using a verb to describe their ministry (Impact Church, Encounter Church, Dreambuilders Church…). Often these churches have a denominational allegiance, but prefer to downplay this, mentioning...

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Managing Monday with G.K.Chesterton, take 4

Posted by on Sep 5, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

This is the fourth and (for now) final Managing Monday post on G.K.Chesterton. Noted for his ability to highlight the paradoxical, Chesterton was one of the intellectual giants of the 20th century. A significant Christian apologist, he often used his skills to defend the Roman Catholic Church. His love for the church comes across in his fictional detective-priest, Father Brown. Being our final Chesterton post, I have thrown in a few bonus quotes… The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and...

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What about other religions? In conversation with Lloyd Porter

Posted by on Aug 30, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

In my latest book, When Faith Turns Ugly one of the topics discussed is that of other religions. It is clearly a controversial subject, and some who oppose Christianity, and indeed any form of religion, often point to inter-faith conflict and see it as the source of much of the world’s division. They are consequently suspicious of anything that is seen as missionary activity or the attempt to convert people to faith – be it a conversion to the Christian faith or any other. Chapter 2 of When Faith Turns Ugly explores both...

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Managing Monday with G.K.Chesterton, take 3

Posted by on Aug 29, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

We continue to enjoy some pithy insights from the great English novelist and Christian apologist, Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936), who authored the Father Brown novels. The worst moment for an atheist is when he feels a profound sense of gratitude and has no one to thank – G.K.Chesterton Psychoanalysis is confession without absolution – G.K.Chesterton When men stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing; they believe in anything – G.K.Chesterton Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love...

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On opening a new building…

Posted by on Aug 26, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Four years ago Vose Seminary, where I serve as principal, decided to embark on a building program. It has been a faith stretching time. Last night saw the official opening of our new conference centre and lecture rooms, the John Olley Centre – named after our second principal, Dr John Olley. As I prepared my talk for the opening, it struck me that others might be interested in what was said and why we embarked on this project… So here is the talk…  Thanks so much for joining us on this wonderful occasion – the opening of the...

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Is narcissism becoming a virtue – or whatever happened to humility?

Posted by on Aug 23, 2016 in Blog | 2 comments

Yesterday I led a professional development day for staff at Grace Christian School, in Bunbury. One of the topics we explored was the rise of narcissism, and ways Christian schools can help provide a corrective for it. Of course there might be some readers who wonder if a corrective is necessary. After all, pendulum’s tend to swing back and forth, and the current wave of self love has followed hot on the heals of too long an era where the need of the individual was always seen to be subservient to the needs of the group, and when any...

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Managing Monday with G.K.Chesterton, take 2

Posted by on Aug 22, 2016 in Blog | 1 comment

We continue to enjoy the insights of English poet, novelist and Christian apologist Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936), who amongst his many achievements could list authoring the Father Brown novels – currently enjoying a renaissance thanks to the TV series based on them. A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it – G.K.Chesterton Courage is almost a contradiction. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die – G.K.Chesterton Art is born when the temporary...

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Olympic Glory…

Posted by on Aug 19, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Since the start of the Olympics I have noticed that there has been a drop in the number of page views of this blog. Sigh… Such muddled priorities. But then, as they say, if you can’t beat them, join them. So here is a post on the Olympics… Actually, you’ll quickly note that it was written during the 2012 London Games – and is about to appear as one of the readings in my latest book (which comes out next month, and is already available for pre-order) – Could this be God? Bumping into God in the Everyday (BRF, 2016). This book is a little...

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When weak is strong…

Posted by on Aug 16, 2016 in Blog | 2 comments

At Carey we are running a series on emotionally healthy spirituality based on Peter Scazzero’s book of that title. It was my turn to speak this week, and I looked at his chapter on hitting the wall. The message was based on 2Cor 12:1-10 and focused on the Pauline paradox in 2 Cor 12:10 For when I am weak, then I am strong. Clearly this flies in the face of conventional wisdom. Here are the notes I spoke from…  You’ve probably heard the Mae West quip: “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.” How would you complete this...

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Managing Monday, with G.K.Chesterton

Posted by on Aug 15, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

G.K.Chesterton (1874-1936) was a noted English poet, novelist, orator, literary critic, journalist and Christian apologist. He is also remembered for creating the fictional priest-detective, Father Brown. We will dive into some of his wisdom over the next 4 weeks. If there were no God, there would be no atheists – G.K.Chesteron Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions – G.K. Chesterton We are all in the same boat, in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty – G.K.Chesterton There is...

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A New Kind of Apologist…

Posted by on Aug 12, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

I’m currently teaching a unit on apologetics at Vose, and as part of my background work have been reading through a collection of essays edited by Sean McDowell entitled A New Kind of Apologist (Harvest House, 2016). Apologetics explores the reasonable basis for the Christian faith, and addresses the common objections that people have to Christianity. Some of the articles in this book are really excellent – a few less so – but my intention is to highlight the helpful. Noting C.S.Lewis’s comment that all Christians are...

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Redeeming Work: Job, career, or calling?

Posted by on Aug 9, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

A significant portion of our life is engaged in ensuring that we have a roof over our head and food on the table. Some of us are able to work in such a way that life’s basic needs are just taken care of, for others it’s a pathway to wealth. But how do you view the work you do? Is it a job, a career or a calling? The answer given is a likely indicator of how satisfying you find Monday to Friday – or whatever days you dedicate to earning your keep. If you say ‘job’ it is probable that you are acutely aware of how many...

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Managing Monday with Ravi Zacharias – take 2

Posted by on Aug 8, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Last week we looked at some insights from noted Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias. Here are a few more… Having the answers is not essential to living. What is essential is the sense of God’s presence during dark seasons of questioning – Ravi Zacharias We must learn to find the back door to people’s hearts because the front door is heavily guarded – Ravi Zacharias You’ll never get to a person’s soul until you understand their hurts – Ravi Zacharias Beginning well is a momentary thing: finishing...

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Three challenges facing Christians…

Posted by on Aug 5, 2016 in Blog | 5 comments

Those of us who are embedded in healthy church communities sometimes wonder why there are so many who are not. Put differently, at a time when it is so easy to track down information about Jesus and to learn about his teaching, why are so many deciding that following him has little appeal. A fair amount of the negative response can probably be put down to the negative publicity surrounding the church, with people thinking, ‘well, if that’s the community he founded, count me out.’ But it is not just that. If you ask me what I think the three...

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Truth, Kevin Rudd and the UN…

Posted by on Aug 2, 2016 in Blog | 6 comments

Those who keep up with Australian politics will know of the debate surrounding the government’s decisions not to formally nominate former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to be appointed as the secretary-general of the United Nations. There are those who see it as sheer vindictiveness (‘petty, partisan, vindictive’ to use the words of a former Labor foreign minister Gareth Jones)- the current government unwilling to back a fellow Australian simply because he has been on the other side of politics. They also see it as a serious...

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Managing Monday with Ravi Zacharias

Posted by on Aug 1, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

I’m currently teaching a unit in apologetics at Vose, and naturally that brings me into a fair amount of contact with the thought of noted Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias. This Monday and next, we will focus on some of his insights… We have a right to believe whatever we want, but not everything we believe is right – Ravi Zacharias Before the truth can set you free you need to recognize which lie is holding you hostage – Ravi Zacharias I am absolutely convinced that meaninglessness does not come from being weary of...

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Faith and mental health…

Posted by on Jul 29, 2016 in Blog | 1 comment

One of the issues explored in my latest book When Faith Turns Ugly: Understanding Toxic Faith and How to Avoid It is the impact of faith on mental health. Predictably it’s a discussion where nuance is needed, and sweeping generalizations are best avoided. Some forms are faith are linked to positive mental health, others are likely to negatively impact it – and it is important to differentiate between them. Chapter 4 of the book asks the question if, as Freud alleges, faith is essentially an illusion, adopted to help us avoid some...

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Why do we preach? And should we…

Posted by on Jul 26, 2016 in Blog | 3 comments

My home church is Carey Baptist in Perth, and at present our night time service is asking some questions about basic church practices – like why we preach, take communion, worship, and others. I got to kick the series off by trying to answer the question, “why do we preach?” and it did feel a little strange to give a sermon about giving sermons. But overall it was a good experience and even seemed to mean something to some, so here the notes are. Hope it answers some of your questions, and if not, do post them… It is...

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Managing Monday with Mother Teresa – take 3

Posted by on Jul 25, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

A final set of quotes from Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997). Founder of the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation working amongst the poorest of the poor, her life continues to inspire. Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless. Mother Teresa God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer. Mother Teresa Every time you smile at someone it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing. Mother Teresa The problem with our world is...

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Becoming whole and holy…

Posted by on Jul 22, 2016 in Blog | 2 comments

I am currently enjoying reading a book on spiritual formation published under the title Becoming Whole and Holy: An Integrative Conversation about Christian Formation. It is essentially a gentle conversation between the three authors (Jeannine K. Brown, Carla M.Dahl and Wendy Corbin Reuschling) on questions of human being and becoming (or formation). They each bring a different field of specialization to the discussion (biblical hermeneutics, the social sciences and ethics) – which leads to a refreshingly broad and integrative...

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When God writes straight with crooked lines…

Posted by on Jul 19, 2016 in Blog | 2 comments

Ever heard someone’s story, scratched your head and thought – ‘that doesn’t make sense. Surely this story is not over yet’? Sometimes you get to hear the sequel, sometimes not. When it’s not, you simply have to trust that God is fully competent, and makes God sized decisions based on significantly fuller knowledge than you or I will ever have access to. But on those occasions when you do get a glimpse into the next chapter, it helps you to trust a little more. In my recently released book When Faith Turns...

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Managing Monday with Mother Teresa – take 2

Posted by on Jul 18, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Last week we started reflecting on some of the wisdom of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. A champion of the poor, here are a few more of her profound insights. If you judge people, you have no time to love them. Mother Teresa I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. Mother Teresa Poverty is not made by God, it is created by you and I when we don’t share what we have. Mother Teresa Hope this is a special week for...

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On turning 59…

Posted by on Jul 15, 2016 in Blog | 8 comments

I turned 59 on Wednesday. It’s an awkward kind of a birthday 59 – it feels like an unspecified space. When you turn 39 or 49 people joke, ‘almost 40’ or ‘almost 50’. But 59 is different. People politely say, ‘I would never have guessed it’ – as though you are about to enter territory too sad to fully acknowledge. Whatever, I had a ball on Wednesday, and am feeling remarkably positive about life. As I look back on 59 years, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude and delight… life...

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For an audience of one…

Posted by on Jul 12, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

After a busy little spell, and with a very full semester looming, I took some time off to pray and to reflect on what lies ahead. As is usually my practice on such days, I found a quiet spot by the beach, the soothing rhythm of the waves a wonderful backdrop to my thinking. At one stage I went for a walk along the beach – true, I am still limping somewhat, but it was good to feel the breeze and to watch wave after wave make its way towards the shore, and though my pace was slower than usual, my pedometer approved of my progress. For...

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Managing Monday with Mother Teresa…

Posted by on Jul 11, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997) is one of the most loved and respected figures of the 20th century. Winner of the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, her extraordinary life continues to inspire us, as does the wisdom of her many sayings. We will reflect on a few of them over the next few Mondays… If you are humble, nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are. Mother Teresa In the end dear friend, it is always between us and God, not between us and them. Mother Teresa I used to believe that prayer changes...

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When Psalm 1 doesn’t work: Where questions and answers come from…

Posted by on Jul 8, 2016 in Blog | 1 comment

What do you do when Psalm 1 doesn’t work? Do you know the dilemma. Psalm 1 promises an orderly life that makes sense. Do the right thing, meditate on the Scriptures, keep the right company, love God, and in due season your life will flourish. It’s perfectly logical, and it works most of the time… probably 95% of the time. But what happens when you land up in the 5% territory – when nothing makes sense, and when you identify more with Asaph in Ps 74:1 who asks “Why have you rejected us forever, O God? Why does...

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On walking with a limp…

Posted by on Jul 5, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

The title of today’s post is not figurative. After excessive zeal at the gym, I have landed up with tendonitis. My physio advised some exercises to help settle it, the key of which involved standing on a step and lowering my heal to stretch the tendon – all good until I overdid that and slipped off the step, twisting my ankle in the process. If it hadn’t been so painful, it would have been funny. And painful it was. It was so bad I was convinced I had broken something, but have been assured this is not the case. However, it...

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Managing Monday with Nelson Mandela – take 4

Posted by on Jul 4, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Many of you have commented to me how much you have enjoyed the quotes from Nelson Mandela. Today we draw them to a close (well, for a little while at any rate). Nobel Peace Prize winner, first black president of South Africa, and extraordinary leader… Mandela has so much to teach us. “As I walked out the door towards my freedom, I knew that if I did not leave all the anger, hatred and bitterness behind, that I would still be in prison.” – Nelson Mandela “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are...

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Business as Mission: A New Way of Thinking…

Posted by on Jul 1, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

One of the great delights in my role as principal at Vose Seminary is that I get to see students grapple with fresh ways to live out the Christian faith in both the church and the world. One area that is now receiving an increasing amount of thought is the way in which business can be a vehicle of mission. A related issue is that of the hybrid church, where churches not only engage in classically ‘spiritual’  activities, but also run activities that might operate at a surplus, helping to fund other areas of mission, or which might...

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Another book: Could this be God?

Posted by on Jun 28, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

It has been an exciting few weeks for me on the publication front. My book When Faith Turns Ugly has been out for about 2 weeks, and I have now received the final proofs for my next book, Could this be God? Bumping into God in the Everyday which British publisher Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF) are releasing on 23 September. It is fairly different from my other books – a series of 90 short pieces written for a wide audience and with an intentionally laid back but devotional style. In spite of its light touch, the publisher latched onto...

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Managing Monday with Nelson Mandela – take 3

Posted by on Jun 27, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

This week we again dive into the wisdom of one of the inspirational leaders of our time, Nelson Mandela. “As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” – Nelson Mandela “When a deep injury is done to us, we never heal until we forgive.” – Nelson Mandela “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love...

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Developing a personal plan: Reeb’s From Success to Significance

Posted by on Jun 24, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

It’s the marking time of the year – oh joy. Actually sometimes it is a joyous occasion, when a student greatly exceeds my expectations or highlights something I have not thought about before. True, it can take a fair few essays before I read one in that category, but it happens just often enough to keep me hopeful… perhaps this time. Today I was marking the personal formation plans that students in my ministry formation class have drawn up, and I’ve gotta say, there were a fair few heartening moments. Some of them used...

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Transformation Down Under: Dallas Willard’s views on Spiritual Growth

Posted by on Jun 21, 2016 in Blog | 1 comment

I’m delighted to post a piece written by Jules Birt, on Dallas Willard’s golden triangle of spiritual growth. It is well worth reading. Jules teaches Beliefs and Values at Carey Baptist College, Perth, where he also oversees a number of voluntary pod groups helping to disciple well over a hundred students from the school. Just as it’s a common pastime to hold a cold drink and watch another person work hard, I recently found myself watching a few documentaries about the selection process for some of Australia’s elite...

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Managing Monday with Nelson Mandela – take 2

Posted by on Jun 20, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Nelson Mandela was one of the giants of our time. Managing Monday is currently looking at some of his profound insights. “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived, it is the difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” – Nelson Mandela “Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings.” – Nelson Mandela “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your...

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Orlando and Singing: Insights from other blogs…

Posted by on Jun 17, 2016 in Blog | 5 comments

You have heard enough of my voice in recent posts, so I thought I would do a cut and paste from two other blogs to vary the diet. The first is a brief response to the Orlando tragedy, the second asks why people aren’t singing in church anymore (and do you agree with that sentiment? Are people singing at your church?) Hope you find them helpful. On the Orlando Massacre (Jesus Creed) From Archbishop Justin Welby: In the wake of the appalling attack in Orlando, I’ve released this joint statement with the Archbishop of York John Sentamu: “After...

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Gender Dysphoria: Tentative Theological Reflections on the Transgender Question

Posted by on Jun 14, 2016 in Blog | 7 comments

A few weeks ago I was the theological consultant on a panel looking at gender dysphoria at a conference in Canberra. It was a helpful gathering and I think we all learnt a lot. I am presently working on an article on the topic and will post on it in more detail at a later stage but thought I would make a tentative start in this post. Your comments and pushback will help me to clarify some of my own thinking. What theological tools can we draw upon to guide us when we consider the issue of gender dysphoria? First we need to be sure what we are...

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Managing Monday with Nelson Mandela…

Posted by on Jun 13, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Nelson Mandela’s legacy continues to inspire. It is not only the events of his life, but the wisdom he imparted as he reflected upon that life that moves and motivates us. For the next few Mondays we will savour some of his insights. “There is no passion to be found in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” – Nelson Mandela. “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” – Nelson Mandela...

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It’s out! When Faith Turns Ugly…

Posted by on Jun 10, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

After a few hiccups at the publisher (the book was due out in April) my latest book When Faith Turns Ugly: Understanding Toxic Faith and How to Avoid It is now available – well the Kindle version at any rate. I am assured that the paperback version is just days away. If you enjoy reading on Kindle (and I have long been a convert) here is the link to Amazon Australia and this is the link for those outside Australia. So what do the people who reviewed the book prior to publication say about it? Scot McKnight, Julius R. Mantey Professor of...

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Faith, Forgetting and Fruitfulness: Reflections on Genesis 41

Posted by on Jun 7, 2016 in Blog | 2 comments

I was preaching on Genesis 41 yesterday. As I don’t expect you to be able to rattle off what that chapter is about, let me refresh your memory. Genesis 37 tells us that a 17 year old Joseph had a dream in which he saw his brothers bowing down to him. Offended by the arrogance of this dream, and by Joseph’s status as his father Jacob’s favourite son, his brothers have him sold into slavery in Egypt. Purchased By Potiphar, he impresses in his new status and is left in charge of Potiphar’s household. For a while things...

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Managing Monday with John Calvin – Take 4

Posted by on Jun 6, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

For the last few weeks the Managing Monday post has explored some of the wisdom of French theologian John Calvin (1509-1564). Calvin’s influence is almost impossible to overstate – so we will probably return to him in the future, but for now here are a few concluding insights as revealed in these memorable quotes… Unbelief is the mother of anxiety – John Calvin Whatever a person may be like, we must still love them because we love God – John Calvin Men are undoubtedly more in danger from prosperity than from...

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The Numbers Game…

Posted by on Jun 3, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

It’s that time of the year. The budget for the next financial year is being finalised, marking is getting done and I’m monitoring student enrolments for semester 2. My life for the last few weeks has revolved around numbers. Astonishing how a small number can make a large difference. An extra zero added at the end of a donation and the year’s budget can be met! In my role as moderator I have to visit the scripts of all borderline students. A decision to add a mark or shave a few off makes the difference between euphoria and despair. In...

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A second and third Reformation…

Posted by on May 31, 2016 in Blog | 4 comments

Just over a decade ago Rick Warren called for a second Reformation. Making a stirring plea at both the Baptist World Alliance Conference and the Willowcreek Leadership Summit, he suggested that whereas the first Reformation was of doctrine, the second needs to be a Reformation of deeds. It was challenging stuff, and a decade later we can see its prophetic power. As we approach the 500th anniversary of Luther’s Reformation (usually dated as 1517), it seems appropriate to join the growing tide of conversations about needed reformations....

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Managing Monday with John Calvin – Take 3

Posted by on May 30, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

We continue to look at some of the insights of the hugely influential French theologian, John Calvin (1509-1564). The apostle does not say that Christ was sent to help us obtain righteousness, but to be our righteousness – John Calvin Christ is much more powerful to save than Adam was to destroy – John Calvin We ought to read the Scriptures with the express design of finding Christ in them – John Calvin and why not a bonus quote… The sun is no less bright because men do not perceive its light – John...

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The Listening Life… About conversations in our head

Posted by on May 27, 2016 in Blog | 3 comments

I’ve been reading Adam McHugh’s newish (2015) book The Listening Life. McHugh is well know for his book Introverts in the Church and in this new book, turns his attention to the importance of ’embracing attentiveness in a world of distraction’ – to cite the books sub title. In exploring attentiveness he looks at, amongst other areas, listening to God, to Scripture, Creation, Others, People in Pain and Your Life, before finishing the book with a chapter on The Society of Reverse Listening where he poses the...

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What makes a sermon bad?

Posted by on May 24, 2016 in Blog | 3 comments

While by instinct I prefer to focus on things that are positive, given that I posted on what makes a sermon good, it is only appropriate that we look at what makes a sermon bad. While it might be tempting to look at the earlier post and say, ‘everything that’s the opposite of the seven good points’, that is just a cop out. So what makes a sermon bad? Here are my thoughts, and as always, feel free to add your own. A bad sermon misinforms about God. It can do that in many ways. It can be unbiblical. It can present a partial...

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Managing Monday with John Calvin – Take 2

Posted by on May 23, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

We continue to look at some insights from prominent French theologian, John Calvin (1509-1564) – after whom Calvinism is named. The whole life of man until he is converted to Christ is a ruinous labyrinth of wanderings – John Calvin Repentance is not merely the start of the Christian life. It is the Christian life – John Calvin The tongue exists to reveal our hearts – John Calvin and why not one more There is not one blade of grass, there is no colour in the world that is not intended to make us rejoice – John...

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What makes a sermon good?

Posted by on May 20, 2016 in Blog | 4 comments

The last post asked if preaching has a future. I guess many would answer – ‘depends on the preaching. There is no future for shabby preaching, but good preaching, bring it on.’ Fair enough, but what is a ‘good’ sermon? I came up with these seven ideas (I like the ‘one for each day of the week’ concept) – and am interested in others that you would add to the list (perhaps we’ll get to one for each day of the year!) Lest you think, ‘but I am not a preacher, so have nothing to say on...

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Does Preaching have a Future?

Posted by on May 17, 2016 in Blog | 2 comments

What do you feel when the preacher steps up to preach… a surge of enthusiasm? a sense of expectancy? a bit of a sigh and an inner comment ‘hope this doesn’t last too long’? In a twitter age, do 30 minute monologues have a future? I wrote this article in 2013, and it has been published both in Ministry Today and in the book that marked the 50th anniversary of Vose Seminary Vose Seminary at 50: From ‘Preach the Word to ‘Come, Grow’. I’d be interested in your thoughts, and depending on response, I...

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Managing Monday with John Calvin

Posted by on May 16, 2016 in Blog | 3 comments

French theologian John Calvin (1509-1564) is one of the most influential theologians of all time, and the key figure in the system of Christian theology known as Calvinism. His thinking continues to fuel numerous theological debates… you can’t really be a theologian without bumping into his views. We will enjoy some pithy insights from him over the next few Mondays… Although the stars do not speak, even in being silent they cry out – John Calvin We should ask God to increase our hope when it is small, awaken it when it...

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Pentecost Sunday: Happy Birthday Church…

Posted by on May 15, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Vose student Audrey Francis has contributed to this blog a few times. She wrote this prayer for Pentecost Sunday, which I share with you… A Prayer at Pentecost Lord of the cross and empty tomb,   Surround us afresh with the power of your Holy Spirit that we may be bold to risk your way.   Surround us afresh with the fire of your Holy Spirit that the desire to communicate your Gospel may burn within us.   Surround us afresh with the wind of your Holy Spirit that we may show the abundant and joyful life you have given us....

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Evangelism and attentiveness…

Posted by on May 13, 2016 in Blog | 3 comments

On the weekend I led a seminar on evangelism for the good folk at Kingsway Methodist Church. It has been a little while since I have led a seminar on this topic, and I decided to think through some issues in a slightly different way. After reflecting on the importance of pre evangelism, and the many obstacles that prevent people from making a meaningful response to Jesus, I asked those present to think of 5 people they knew who haven’t yet said ‘yes’ to Jesus, and to write their names down. I thought this was important, as...

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What spurs us into action? Reflections on Lamdin’s book, Finding Your Leadership Style

Posted by on May 10, 2016 in Blog | 4 comments

I’ve recently been grading some student reviews of Keith Lamdin’s 2012 book, Finding Your Leadership Style: A Guide for Ministers. In spite of the sub title (a guide for ministers) I think Lamdin’s work has a wider relevance, and  thought it worth highlighting some of his key insights. After defining leadership as ‘one humans capacity to influence another’, Lamdin suggests that three factors are usually at work before we spring into leadership action: discontent, vision and courage. The first ingredient,...

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Managing Monday with Paul Tournier: Take 2

Posted by on May 9, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Last week we looked at a few key quotes from noted Swiss physician Paul Tournier (1898-1986), who significantly impacted the way we think about the relationship between psychosocial, spiritual and physical health. His books continue to be used in pastoral care courses. Here are a few more Tournier quotes… Acceptance of one’s life has nothing to do with resignation; it does not mean running away from the struggle. On the contrary, it means accepting it as it comes, with all the handicaps of heredity, of  suffering, of psychological...

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On the shoulders of giants: A tribute to Noel Vose

Posted by on May 6, 2016 in Blog | 2 comments

Vose Seminary has had only three principals in its fifty plus year history, Brian Harris since 2004, John Olley from 1991-2003 and its founding principal, after whom the seminary is named, Noel Vose, from 1963-1991. This Monday May 2nd, in the early hours of the morning, Noel slipped into the presence of Jesus – an event he had been looking forward to for more than a little while. He was 94 years of age – and what a 94 years he lived. The old saying goes that we are dwarfs who stand on the shoulders of giants. If what we do in the...

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What does a healthy church look like?

Posted by on May 3, 2016 in Blog | 6 comments

We’ve had a few posts on churchless faith and the journey towards becoming de-churched. Underneath has been the assumption that the church has in some way disappointed and failed to be what she should be. And in most cases if you ask those who have given up on the church ‘why?’ they would cite a litany of errors and flaws. Perhaps we should ask what it would take for people to give an approving nod, and to say, ‘well if church is like that, count me in’. Or to put it differently, what does a healthy church look like? I’ll list a dozen...

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Managing Monday with Paul Tournier

Posted by on May 2, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Paul Tournier (1898-1986) was a Swiss physician and author whose books significantly impacted the way we think about pastoral care. It has been claimed that he was the most famous Christian physician of the twentieth century, and his work continues to influence the way spiritual and psychosocial aspects of patient care are considered. Some of his better known books include: The Healing of Persons Escape from Loneliness The Meaning of Persons The Strong and the Weak Guilt and Grace To Understand Each Other A Place for You The Naming of Persons...

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Genesis 3 in the Light of the Cross

Posted by on Apr 29, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Our last post looked at the devastating consequences that resulted from the fall of humanity, described in Genesis 3. If Genesis 3 stood alone, it could only be read as a tragic passage – a bad news story from start to finish. But because of Jesus, all biblical passages should now be read in the light of the Cross – in the light of Jesus’ death and resurrection. This impacts the way in which we read every passage – but it is probably true to say that there is no passage more impacted by the Cross than Genesis 3....

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Did the Fall Really Matter? Reflections on Genesis 3

Posted by on Apr 26, 2016 in Blog | 2 comments

If you have ever been impacted by the pain of life (and is there anyone who has not?) you might well have asked the ‘why’ question. Why is life so difficult? Why is it so hurtful? Why can it be delightfully enjoyable one moment, and then swing around and devastate us the next? While there are no easy answers, the story of the fall found in Genesis 3 is usually cited by theologians as representing a key building block of any explanation. We are busy with a mini series on Genesis 3, and in the first post looked at 4 views of why...

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Managing Monday… with Karl Barth (take 4)

Posted by on Apr 25, 2016 in Blog | 1 comment

Our Managing Monday quotes in April have looked at some notable Karl Barth (1886-1968) quotes. Being our last week with Barth, I have thrown in a bonus quote – so four for our final Monday in April. “The gospel is not a truth among other truths. Rather it sets a question mark against all truths.” Karl Barth “Religion is the possibility of the removal of every ground of confidence except confidence in God alone.” Karl Barth “The person who knows only his side of the argument knows little of that.” Karl...

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Why was it wrong to eat the forbidden fruit? Four Views…

Posted by on Apr 19, 2016 in Blog | 4 comments

Ever asked, ‘so what was so bad about Adam and Eve eating from the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden?’ Do you remember the account in Genesis 3? A serpent persuades Eve (who in turn persuades Adam) that God’s instruction that they refrain from eating from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was misguided, and would not result in their death, but rather in their being like God, and thus having the ability to differentiate good from evil. Adam and Eve find the argument persuasive, eat from the tree, and...

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Managing Monday… with Karl Barth (take 3)

Posted by on Apr 18, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Our Managing Monday posts in April have been diving into some of the wisdom of Karl Barth (1886-1968), probably the most influential theologian of the 20th century. “The goal of human life is not death, but resurrection.” Karl Barth “Prayer without study would be empty. Study without prayer would be blind.” Karl Barth “Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.” Karl Barth Hope your Monday is filled with gratitude…

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When Faith Turns Ugly… An interview

Posted by on Apr 15, 2016 in Blog | 8 comments

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will know that my next book When Faith Turns Ugly: Toxic Faith and How to Avoid It (Paternoster, 2016) is due out in a few weeks. As with several of my other books, each chapter finishes with an interview which tries to earth some of what the chapter has been speaking about. I think each interview greatly enhances the book, and as you read this interview with Deborah Hurn, you will probably understand why. Her experience is poignant and raises more than a few unsettling questions. I am grateful to...

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Reflections on being made in the Image of God…

Posted by on Apr 12, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

In addition to my role as principal at Vose Seminary, I serve as pastor at large for the Carey group, and this Sunday I preached the treble there (twice at Harrisdale, once at Forrestdale). We are working on a series from Genesis, and my task was to explore how  Gen 1:26-31 and 2:19-25 help us to understand what it means to be made in the image of God. Here are the notes I preached from… One of the most basic questions we ask ourselves in life is ‘who am I?’ When we are children, we try to get a sense of what group we belong to…...

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Managing Monday… with Karl Barth

Posted by on Apr 11, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

We continue our Managing Monday insights with more quotes from the person usually rated as the greatest theologian of the 20th century, Karl Barth (1886-1968). “When we are at our wits end for an answer then the Holy Spirit can give us an answer. But how can he give us an answer when we are still well supplied with all sorts of answers of our own?” Karl Barth “In the church of Jesus Christ there can and should be no non-theologians.” Karl Barth “The theologian who labours without joy is not a theologian at all....

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Colliding Truths: Living with Paradox

Posted by on Apr 8, 2016 in Blog | 3 comments

Back in 2006 I published an article Colliding Truths: Embracing Paradox in Ministry in the British journal Ministry Today. Ten years later, I think that most of the points remain relevant, so here, with just a few minor changes and updates, is that essay. While the focus is on how pastors deal with colliding truths and paradox, I think that the relevance is far wider than for those who are pastors, and am sure that with just a little imagination you will be able to transfer the insights to your setting. I can still remember him saying it. It...

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When Faith Turns Ugly… A new book

Posted by on Apr 5, 2016 in Blog | 1 comment

My next book, When Faith Turns Ugly: Understanding Toxic Faith and How to Avoid It, is due out in a few weeks. Rather than write about it and tell you why I think it is important, I will let the preface speak for itself. Hopefully it will whet your appetite for more (and the book is available for pre-order from Koorong and Authentic Media). Here is a taster from the preface… It was an unexpected encounter at an art gallery and it left me unsettled and concerned. Rosemary and I had been admiring the entries for the Mandorla Art Award,...

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Managing Monday… with Karl Barth

Posted by on Apr 4, 2016 in Blog | 1 comment

Ask who the greatest theologian of the 20th century was, and the consensus is likely to settle on Karl Barth (1886-1968). Over the next few weeks we ponder a few significant Barth quotes. Here are three to help manage this Monday… “Jesus does not give recipes that show the way to God as other teachers of religion do. He is Himself the way.” Karl Barth “God has not revealed himself in any religion, including Christianity. He has revealed Himself in his Son. In Jesus Christ, God has spoken for himself, and we must hear...

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Is grey the new green?

Posted by on Apr 1, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

On my flight back from New Zealand I got to watch The Intern. To be honest it is largely forgettable, but in my opinion it did have one memorable line – ‘grey is the new green’ – that in explanation of the companies decision to employ elderly interns as a gesture of social responsibility and as a way of recycling former abilities. What do you think? Is grey the new green? It is becoming an issue in the political landscape. A few radio talkback programmes this week explored the question of the employability of seniors,...

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Ka Mua, Ka Muri – Walking backwards into the future

Posted by on Mar 29, 2016 in Blog | 6 comments

I am back in Perth after a wonderful week catching up with friends from our New Zealand days and lecturing at Auckland’s Laidlaw College. We attended the Good Friday service at Mt Roskill Baptist Church where I once was pastor, and the recently arrived Senior Pastor of the church Ed Karlsen reminded us of the Maori proverb, Ka mua, Ka muri – we walk into the future backwards. There are many thought provoking Maori proverbs and sentiments – the one I find most meaningful probably being that we are guardians (kiatiaki) of the earth which we...

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Quotes for Easter Monday

Posted by on Mar 28, 2016 in Blog | 1 comment

Some quotes to ponder this Easter Monday… Let all that I am wait patiently before God, for my hope is in Him – Psalm 62:5 (NLT) The resurrection of Christ is the most important article of our faith, and without it the hope of eternal life is extinguished – John Calvin One who has hope lives differently – Pope Benedict XVI The practice of resurrection is an intentional, deliberate decision to believe and participate in resurrection life, life out of death, life that trumps death, life that is the last word, Jesus life...

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A post for Good Friday…

Posted by on Mar 25, 2016 in Blog | 2 comments

Not the day for lengthy ponderous thoughts… just a day to wonder at the depth of God’s love – demonstrated and proved so dramatically at Calvary. Why not read the biblical accounts of the crucifixion, and then perhaps add to them the words of this once greatly loved but now not so often sung hymn, When I survey the Wonderous Cross (Isaac Watts, 1707) When I survey the wondrous cross On which the Prince of glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride. Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,...

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Grand Bassam: On a Terrorist Attack…

Posted by on Mar 22, 2016 in Blog | 1 comment

I wonder what you felt when (and if) you read of the terrorist attack in the coastal town of Grand Bassam, Republic of the Ivory Coast, last week. Perhaps you shrugged your shoulders and asked in despair ‘What is the world coming to? So much violence.’ Or in your impatience to get to the sports page, perhaps you paid this bad news item no attention. For Audrey Francis, a student at Vose Seminary who served with her husband as a missionary in the Ivory Coast for 10 years, this was not a news item she could simply shrug off. She has...

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Managing Monday with Bonhoeffer – take two…

Posted by on Mar 21, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Last week I posted three quotes from notable German theologian, and victim of the Nazi regime, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Here are a few more… five actually. One a day until Good Friday… Silence in the face of evil is itself evil – Bonhoeffer If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the opposite direction – Bonhoeffer The blessedness of waiting is lost on those who cannot wait, and the fulfilment of promise is never theirs. They want quick answers to the deepest questions of life and miss the...

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Evangelicals and the Bible

Posted by on Mar 18, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Rosemary and I set off for Auckland tonight, where I will be teaching a graduate course in Evangelical Theology at Laidlaw College. It will be good to be back on our old home territory. I have often said to people that we feel enormously privileged to consider 3 countries as home, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and whenever we have not been able to get to one for a while, it feels as though something is wrong. It has been a couple of years since we were last in New Zealand, so a visit is overdue. While we will do our best to catch...

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Graduation Reflections…

Posted by on Mar 15, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

You probably know that I serve as the principal of Vose Seminary. Last night was our graduation ceremony. I always find it a bitter sweet event. On the one hand, students start their studies with the hope of graduation in mind. The evening is about ‘mission accomplished’. Of course it is something to celebrate. And celebrate we do. Ours are not dry and dusty graduations. We delight in God’s presence and we raucously and cheerfully acknowledge each student’s success. But it is also about saying goodbye. We’ve had...

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Managing Monday, with Bonhoeffer

Posted by on Mar 14, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

While most theologians from the 20th century are quietly fading off the radar, Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one whose work is gaining greater and greater appreciation. Not only was he a great thinker and theologian, he lived out his beliefs, even as he agonised over them, and struggled to find an appropriate path forward in the nightmare of the Nazi regime in Germany. Most would know that he participated in the unsuccessful plot to assassinate Hitler, which saw him being hung to death just two weeks before the end of World War 2. We will look at...

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Dementia… Forgetting or Forgotten?

Posted by on Mar 11, 2016 in Blog | 10 comments

Discussions on dementia are rightly becoming more frequent. It is a pertinent topic, and one which deserves careful theological and pastoral reflection. Someone wonderfully qualified to do this is Kerryn Monger, a graduate of Vose Seminary, currently studying a master’s degree in Ageing and Pastoral Studies at Charles Sturt University. She is a chaplain in residential aged care with Bethanie with a passion for ministry with seniors. I am grateful to her for this excellent article written specifically for this blog. I have wonderful memories...

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Retirement musings…

Posted by on Mar 8, 2016 in Blog | 4 comments

No, I don’t have plans to retire any time soon (how could you even think it?), but I recently attended a function to celebrate the retirement of two colleagues. One, Peter Lu, had worked for the Baptist Union of Western Australia for over 20 years, and the other, Terry Hicks, for 17 years. A lot of intellectual capital was finishing up that day, and there were naturally mixed emotions in the room. Both men have served the denomination with great loyalty and enthusiasm and leave it in a significantly stronger position than it was when...

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Managing Monday… Some Tillich Quotes

Posted by on Mar 7, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Last month we introduced ‘Managing Monday’ with 3 quotes each week from the great theologian of the church, Augustine. We will carry on with the three quotes each week format, but from different thinkers each week. Here are three quotes from American/German existentialist theologian from the last century, Paul Tillich (1886-1965). While he had many notable insights (though theologically I differ from him on many, many points), these are the three most frequently cited Tillich quotes… Enjoy… The first duty of love is to...

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Fanning into Flame the Gift God has Given You

Posted by on Mar 4, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

I serve as principal at Vose Seminary, and our new academic year got underway this week. With a record enrolment of students, things are looking really positive, and you could sense the energy and optimism in the room at our opening chapel service. I spoke at it, looking at 2 Timothy 1:6-7 where Paul instructs Timothy to fan into flame the gift within him. I explored what this might mean for our students as they begin their journey with us, and after speaking it struck me that what I said would be relevant for the majority of those who read...

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Can bitterness be beaten? Redeeming Emotions (4)

Posted by on Mar 1, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

You’ve probably been in the company of someone who is bitter as the result of significant hurt or disappointment in the past. It could be that the company is your own – and that try as you might, you can’t keep your mind from replaying scenes which cause you anger and emotional pain. That smouldering resentment becomes a deeper and deeper bed of bitterness. So what is bitterness? Gregory Popcak has suggested that ‘Bitterness is unforgiveness fermented’ – and I think that is richly suggestive. Perhaps the...

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Managing Monday: Some final (for a while) Augustine quotes…

Posted by on Feb 29, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

February is drawing to a close all too quickly. Here are a final set (well, for a while) of three Augustine of Hippo (354-430) quotes to help us manage Monday. Faith is to believe what we do not see; and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe.   People travel to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean; and they pass by themselves without wondering.   Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by...

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Is it possible to forgive? Redeeming emotions (3)

Posted by on Feb 26, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

We all know that we are supposed to forgive others. Provided the offence against us has been minor, it might be relatively easy to do. ‘We all make mistakes,’ we’d say philosophically, and let the matter drop. But sometimes it is not so easy. Not all offences fit into the trifling category. Some will impact us until our dying day. Is forgiveness then possible? We started this redeeming emotions series with two posts on anger. Today we shift our focus to the question of forgiveness, and the healing of emotions that might need...

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Anger for the rest of us… Redeeming Emotions (2)

Posted by on Feb 23, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

The first post in our redeeming emotions series looked at the anger of Jesus, and the way he used it redemptively. I imagine many who read it thought – ‘all very well for Jesus. But what about anger for the rest of us? Is there any way that it can move from the deficit side of the ledger to being a positive in our life?’ It is a pertinent question. We live in an angry age. It may show itself in very obvious ways – family violence, warfare, bullying. Other forms are more subtle – sarcasm, cynicism, depression...

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Managing Monday: Insights from Augustine

Posted by on Feb 22, 2016 in Blog | 2 comments

Each Monday in February we are looking at 3 different Augustine of Hippo (354-430) quotes. Hope this weeks selection speaks to you… Trust the past to God’s mercy, the present to God’s love, and the future to God’s providence.   The truth is like a lion. You don’t have to defend it. Let it loose. It will defend itself.   In my deepest wound I saw your glory and it dazzled me.  

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An Angry Jesus? Redeeming Emotions (1)

Posted by on Feb 19, 2016 in Blog | 1 comment

Not sure which emotions you would rank as the most destructive. I suspect that hate would be right up there, as would jealousy, bitterness and yes, I imagine, anger. It is not hard to see why we would include anger in the list. It wears out our bodies, being linked to hypertension, heart disease and strokes – but it is not just about what it does to us. Being in the orbit of an angry person is at best uncomfortable, and in some circumstances can be terrifying. Which forces us to ask the question, ‘What are we to make of the...

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How to change the world… The Greenpeace formula

Posted by on Feb 16, 2016 in Blog | 2 comments

I was flying back from the National Council Meeting of Christian Schools Australia on Friday, and after a full day of discussions, felt entitled to relax by watching a movie on my way home to Perth. The Qantas fare on offer was a tad disappointing, so it was with little enthusiasm that I clicked onto the Greeenpeace documentary, How to Change the World. Now truth to tell, even though I am about to write a post on this film, it is not going to go down as my favourite movie of the decade (or year, or month) – but it was interesting, and...

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Managing Monday: With some help from Augustine

Posted by on Feb 15, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

This February we have been trying to manage Monday with some insights from Augustine of Hippo (354-430) – perhaps the churches greatest theologian. Here are three more quotes. My advice (for what it is worth…), don’t gobble them too quickly – taste one at a time and let the import sink in… There is no saint without a past, no sinner without a future   Beware of despairing about yourself; you are commanded to place your trust in God, and not in yourself.   The church is the traveller’s inn where...

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When singleness is a gift…

Posted by on Feb 12, 2016 in Blog | 7 comments

With Valentine’s day falling on a Sunday this year, many churches will use it as an opportunity to celebrate love, marriage and relationships. And fair enough. But in this post I would like to be a little counter intuitive and invite us to think about the singles in our midst. For some, Valentines day can feel like anything but a celebration. Not that we should fall into the trap of thinking that every single person would prefer to be in a relationship. Many are happily and intentionally single – and really wouldn’t want it...

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Messy church, messy mission…

Posted by on Feb 9, 2016 in Blog | 11 comments

You might know that in addition to my role as principal of Vose Seminary, I serve as the pastor at large and chair of the board at Carey – a school and church planting movement which by providing excellent community services wins the right to speak into the lives of thousands of people who would otherwise have no church contact. Sunday was our annual commissioning service – a wonderfully celebratory event, especially as the staff from our newly opened Forrestdale School were present, as were many of the staff from our fairly...

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Managing Monday: A little extra Augustine…

Posted by on Feb 8, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Last week we had a taster of 3 Augustine of Hippo (354-430) quotes. Here are the next 3. Hope they help you manage Monday… From Augustine… Patience is the companion of wisdom   What does love look like? It has hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.   Take care of your body as if you were going to live forever: and take care of your soul as if you were going to die...

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Adam raised a Cain: When our children break our heart…

Posted by on Feb 5, 2016 in Blog | 8 comments

Don’t know if you are familiar with the Bruce Springsteen classic, Adam Raised a Cain, with its haunting closing lines, ‘Lost but not forgotten, from the dark heart of a dream, Adam raised a Cain.’ For those less familiar with the biblical story behind these lyrics, the song explains it in these words, In the Bible Cain slew Abel And East of Eden he was cast, You’re born into this life paying, for the sins of somebody else’s past. They are tough lines… Sin enters the world through Adam. It impacts his...

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On being the body of Christ – all 2.2 billion of us…

Posted by on Feb 2, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Don’t know if you are into Dr Seuss, but if so you might remember the poem, My Many Coloured Days Some days are yellow. Some are blue. On different days I’m different too… On Bright Red Days how good it feels To be a horse and kick my heels!… On Purple Days I’m sad. I groan. I drag my tail. I walk alone… Then comes a Mixed-Up Day. And WHAM! I don’t know who or what I am! But it all turns out all right, you see. And I go back to being… me. –  Dr Seuss, My Many Coloured Days (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1966) Catharine Thompson...

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Managing Monday: Some quotes from Augustine

Posted by on Feb 1, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Most people find Monday the most difficult day of the week. Weekend over, and with five work days looming, managing Monday can be a challenge. So I thought I would try to help by starting a regular ‘Managing Monday’ post. The format will be really simple – just 3 quotes from a notable person. Some weeks, all from the same person, other weeks, a mixture. Quotes will be brief (this is, after all, Monday) – but hopefully they will give a thoughtful start to the work week. For the academics amongst us – I have not...

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I’m part of a church because…

Posted by on Jan 29, 2016 in Blog | 2 comments

We started this short series on the church by looking at the growing phenomena of churchless faith, where people who still hold to the Christian faith choose to continue in the faith whilst not being actively involved in any Christian church. In spite of the growth of churchless faith, overall church attendances are not faring too badly. The haemorrhaging of church membership in the so called Western world appears to have past the peak it reached in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, and while still worrying, might be levelling. So...

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Of tall poppies, mateship and pragmatism: Spirituality in the Australasian Context

Posted by on Jan 26, 2016 in Blog | 4 comments

Australians today celebrate Australia Day. To mark the day I thought I would reproduce a paper on Spirituality in the Australasian Context (I focus on Australia and New Zealand) which I initially presented at a workshop of the Baptist World Alliance, held in Mexico City in July 2006. It was later published in Stimulus – a New Zealand Journal (vol 16, issue 3, 2008). Though a decade has past, I think the insights are essentially valid, and are hopefully helpful. See what you think… 1) By way of an introduction In some ways it feels...

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Church: A messy, risky but still powerful ideal (Part 2 of So what is church?)

Posted by on Jan 22, 2016 in Blog | 3 comments

Part 1 of this post set about answering the question, ‘So what is church?’ suggesting that church is a simple, but powerful idea. It did so in response to the earlier post on churchless faith – a growing phenomena that often sees people, in spite of their faith commitment, simply shrug and say, ‘Church – too difficult, too painful, too boring, too political, too time consuming, too compromised, too controlling, too irrelevant’ – or something comparable. They then quietly (or not so quietly) withdraw...

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So what is church? Part 1 Church, a simple but powerful idea…

Posted by on Jan 19, 2016 in Blog | 1 comment

We kicked off this short series on the church by looking at the relatively new but rapidly growing phenomena of churchless faith. I wanted to start with that post because the word church increasingly has a lot of emotional baggage attached to it. For many it smacks of control, abuse of power, manipulation, politics and thought control – a rather alarming set of associations. For others it conjures up images of boring Sundays, or of irrelevance or perhaps of sectarian squabbling. Much more positively, for large numbers the images are of...

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Churchless Faith

Posted by on Jan 15, 2016 in Blog | 12 comments

I am about to embark on a short series on the church – and what it might mean to be church in the third millennium. This opening post looks at the increasing phenomena of what is being called ‘churchless faith’. I briefly touched on the topic in a post which proved popular, Churched, Unchurched and Dechurched, and I’d like to explore it a little more today, as very close to the surface it raises a multitude of questions of what it means to be church (and part of the capital C universal Church). So what is churchless...

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And every step an arrival… On the gift of the present moment

Posted by on Jan 12, 2016 in Blog | 4 comments

I am presently reading Eugene Peterson’s wonderful biography The Pastor which has on its front cover Rilke’s memorable line ‘every step an arrival’. It reflects Peterson’s own conviction that when all is said and done, the work of a pastor is not primarily to get things done or to be surrounded by a flurry of activity, but to pay attention and call attention “to ‘what is going on right now’ between men and women, with each other and with God.” What is going on right now. Spotting God in...

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Some great posts…

Posted by on Jan 10, 2016 in Blog | 2 comments

From time to time I like to refer our readers to some great posts on other sites… though always hoping that they will still keep looking at this site. So what are some recent posts that I have enjoyed? Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed blog recently ranked this post on being on the wrong side of history as their post of the year. Now there are some great posts on that site, and I wouldn’t necessarily have rated this as number 1, but it is an intriguing read and argues back strongly against the emotional manipulation present in...

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Blog Reflections: Most and least successful posts and all that…

Posted by on Jan 8, 2016 in Blog | 2 comments

With the new year moving along steadily, I thought it as well to write up some reflections on the life of this blog in 2015. For most of the year it lay dormant – an idea brewing and developing. Starting it was on my list of goals for 2015, and with the help of Ben O’Reilly, a domain name and basic site had been built early in the year. True, the domain name was not my initial choice – but the trouble with a name as common as Brian Harris is that more obvious choices like brianharris.com and brianharrisblog.com were already...

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Fireproof and Crazy Stupid Love: Comparisons and Contrasts from a Christian Worldview Perspective – By John Mayne

Posted by on Jan 7, 2016 in Budding Theologians | 1 comment

The relationship between Christianity and the arts is fascinating. The arts were once a sphere dominated by the church, but they now often seem to be a ‘God free’ zone. However, underlying assumptions about the world and reality drive most artistic portrayals, and should be examined and discussed. John Mayne does this very helpfully in his comparison and contrast of two films, Fireproof (written with an explicitly Christian script) and Crazy, Stupid, Love – which while without a clear Christian mandate, often resonates with...

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Gratitude and Giving Back: A theme for the New Year

Posted by on Jan 5, 2016 in Blog | 4 comments

Given that if you aim at nothing, you invariably achieve it, it is probably wise to set some goals for the New Year. In the past I have worked away at detailed plans, trying to set precise markers that will help me assess if the year can be classified a success or otherwise. But this year I have opted for an alternate strategy. Rather than great specificity (like lose 5kg, publish 2 articles, see Vose enrolment grow 7%) I am hoping to follow through on a theme, and to see where it leads. I have a gentle conviction (in other words, not a...

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Hannah and Mary: Having the faith to let go… by Audrey Francis

Posted by on Jan 3, 2016 in Blog | 1 comment

I was shopping at Coles yesterday and noticed that they already have Easter hot cross buns on sale. Christmas has only been over for week, and we are already being rushed away from it. But it is better to ponder Christmas a little longer. Audrey Francis, a student at Vose Seminary who has contributed to this blog before, helps us to do so in this message she preached on Sunday 27 Dec 2015 at Rockingham Uniting Church.  It is built around 1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26 and Luke 2: 41-52, comparing the sacrifice made by Samuel’s mother Hannah, and...

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Reflections on a two funeral week…

Posted by on Jan 1, 2016 in Blog | 2 comments

Over recent years I’ve become fairly settled in my end of year routine. Vose Seminary, where I am principal, closes for the week between Christmas and New Year, so when I finish preaching the Christmas day message, I am off for the remainder of the year and for the first few days of the new one. Once Christmas feasting is over, the obligatory maintenance on the home gets undertaken – very poorly to be sure – but nevertheless all paving gets water blasted, our decking gets re oiled, and any other tasks I have been unable to...

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Post Christmas Pondering…

Posted by on Dec 29, 2015 in Blog | 2 comments

It is unfortunate that New Year rushes in so quickly after Christmas. No sooner have we finished singing the final bars of ‘O Come, all ye faithful’ than our thoughts gallop forward to the promise of the year ahead. Worthy resolutions quickly spring to mind, and the babe of Bethlehem is tucked away for another year. The basic problem is that we are catapulted into thinking about what we are going to do, rather than being encouraged to spend time thinking about what God has done. Perhaps on this one we should join Orthodox...

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A somewhat sobering Christmas…

Posted by on Dec 25, 2015 in Blog | 6 comments

This is not the Christmas post I planned to write. In my mind, it was going to be jovial, generous, and filled with hope. Indeed, Christmassy. Perhaps I will manage the hope part. Sometimes things change quiet suddenly – like today. I am writing on the 23rd, with Christmas two days out. I set out into the day with gentle confidence and a lightness in my step. My must do list had been reduced to manageable proportions, and I knew that after speaking at our Christmas services on the 24th and 25th, I could contemplate 10 days off. The...

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If Christmas hadn’t happened

Posted by on Dec 22, 2015 in Blog | 3 comments

A rather harassed looking student popped into my office a while back, claiming a mental block whilst doing an assignment. For some, that’s a permanent condition, but this student is usually pretty diligent, so I was indulgent. I asked what the assignment was about. ‘We’ve got to discuss the relevance of John 1,’ he said, as though it was a remarkable task. Now while I’m not able to recite all Scripture by heart, this is a familiar passage (‘In the beginning was the word…’ for those of you who never won any prizes for Bible memorization). As...

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Prince of Peace? Really…

Posted by on Dec 18, 2015 in Blog | 2 comments

Last year I was part of a group finalizing a Christmas preaching series. We decided on the theme ‘Call Him’ and planned to look at a range of names given to Jesus. You know the ones I mean? He shall be called wonderful, counsellor, mighty God, Prince of Peace, Emmanuel and so on. Great names, they rightly inspire and motivate us. I landed up with the ‘Prince of Peace’ title, and dutifully set about planning a message on that topic. It turned out to be stretching. Of course the new atheists would snigger, ‘Jesus. Prince of...

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Is there a place for quiet leaders?

Posted by on Dec 15, 2015 in Blog | 2 comments

In 2013 Paternoster published my book, The Tortoise Usually Wins. It works from the simple thesis that while we often assume that leaders need to be larger than life charismatic figures, the reality often turns out to be different. There is a place for those who are quiet leaders. Sometimes they approach the task of leadership hesitantly, even reluctantly. But they often go on to make a significant difference. Many people have found the book helpful and it has now had a second print run and has also been translated into Indonesian. Here is...

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Journaling: A 4 H approach…

Posted by on Dec 8, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Most of us want to grow spiritually, but aren’t always sure how. One path many find helpful is journaling. I have been using it to varying degrees for over 30 years. My journals have become trusted friends, reminding me of insights I have gleaned, things I have been challenged about, and ways in which God has broken through to me when things seemed bleak. You probably agree that journalling about your journey with God is worth doing, but might be feeling, ‘great idea, but in practice how do I go about doing this?’ First the basics. To...

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About teaching and learning…

Posted by on Dec 4, 2015 in Blog | 2 comments

Perhaps you wonder why you are reading this post. ‘I’m not a teacher,’ you say, ‘so teaching and learning really doesn’t have anything to do with me.’ But most of us are teachers of one form or another. We might be raising our children – then, regardless of if we want to be or not, we definitely are teachers. Or we might be responsible for supervising someone in the workplace. Or perhaps we lead a home group, or… you get the point. Teaching does not only take place in those formal settings...

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So what to do? The question of guidance…

Posted by on Dec 1, 2015 in Blog | 7 comments

I once vowed that I would never preach a sermon on guidance. It was an understandable  promise at that time, as my own life seemed complicated and I felt that I had made one poor decision after another. But time marches along, and I realise that while there are no easy answers, it is important to think about the way in which God guides and leads us. So I preached a sermon on guidance a few years ago… nothing earth shattering – just a simple exploration of some tried and trusted principles that have helped guide God’s people...

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Mirroring God: Implications of the Imago Dei for Pastoral Care

Posted by on Nov 29, 2015 in Budding Theologians | 3 comments

I recently finished teaching an introduction to Pastoral Care course at Vose Seminary. It was a great class, and many thoughtful projects and case studies emerged. One that especially struck me was this essay by Alycia Randell on the implications of our being made in the image of God, for the provision of pastoral care. Alycia is drawing towards the end of a combined BMin/BTh degree at Vose, and together with her husband Peter is engaged in pastoral ministry in Mandurah. I thought that this fine essay more than justified Alycia being...

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Miscellaneous thoughts after a holiday in Europe…

Posted by on Nov 27, 2015 in Blog | 7 comments

All good things do indeed come to an end, and I am now back at work after four weeks of holiday, most of them spent on a river cruise through 5 countries in Europe. Lest you think that is the lifestyle to which I am accustomed, think again, but it was wonderful to be in a make believe kind of world for a while. Here are a few miscellaneous thoughts that came to me in the course of the trip. Seasons are real. In the first instance, that’s a statement about geography. Our trip took place during a Northern Hemisphere Autumn, in...

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About church buildings…

Posted by on Nov 24, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

A common question of tourists is ‘So what did you see today?’ If they are touring Europe (as Rosemary and I have just done), you are likely to hear the reply,  ‘abc’. Lest you have not heard the quip, abc stands for ‘another bloody church’. It is a little ironic that the worlds most secular continent is filled with church buildings – and not just any church buildings, stupendously splendid buildings, buildings that literally take your breath away with their beauty, history and heritage. On our recent...

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Churched, Un-churched or De-churched

Posted by on Nov 20, 2015 in Blog | 5 comments

A shorter post than usual today, but it poses some pertinent questions about those who are de-churched… Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. If you’re up with the discussions on the future of the church you’ll know that commentators distinguish between people who are un-churched (as in never had any significant contact with a church) and those who are de-churched (as in once were involved, but no more thank you very much). While the church has always worried about those who are unchurched (they’re the reason for the...

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On passing a trainload of Syrian refugees…

Posted by on Nov 17, 2015 in Blog | 1 comment

Our river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest had many extra bonuses, each designed to keep us coming back again and again. And let’s face it – river cruising is a lifestyle that has a lot going for it. Take the extra special trip from Linz to Salzburg on the Majestic Imperator – the imperial train used by Emperors of the once great Holy Roman Empire when Austria was at the height of its power. We were in the carriage where the Emperor had once sat, and it was renovated to all its previous glory. Whilst on that day trip to...

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10 reasons why silence is golden…

Posted by on Nov 10, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

We live in such a noisy world. Getting ourselves heard can be a real problem. With everyone else so busy talking, no one really seems to want to listen to what we would like to say. Should we care? Here are 10 reasons why silence and being silent can be a virtue… 1) The Psalmist advises: Be still and know that I am God. When we speak too much we often start to think that we are God. Silence reminds us that we are not. 2) When we are silent, we often really hear what the other person is saying, and sometimes even begin to understand why...

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So what is an evangelical, and should we care?

Posted by on Nov 6, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

This is a lightly edited version of an article I published in Perth’s The Advocate, in 2012. It in turn was a more radically summarized version of a much longer article on the topic which I published in Churchman in Autumn 2008. With around 2 billion people claiming allegiance to Christianity, it is not surprising to discover that it comes in a wide range of flavours. Those in the know point to the Great Schism of 1054 when the church divided into the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Church. The latter divided again after the...

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Is there a case for a Christian University?

Posted by on Nov 3, 2015 in Blog | 6 comments

A few groups are working to form an evangelical Christian university in Australia. Is this wise, or is it a case of misguided zeal? Our last post explored the drift from a soft to a hard secularism. In this post I argue that the formation of a Christian university could help to change the missiological climate in which we are currently located. This is an updated version of an article of mine that was originally published in Perth’s Advocate newspaper in 2012. While we could argue as to what constitute the major missiological blocks to...

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From Deo Volente to Digital Video: The Flight to Secularism

Posted by on Oct 30, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

To keep the blog going while Rosemary and I are on holiday, I have drawn on some articles I wrote for Perth’s Advocate newspaper. This one originally appeared in 2012, and I have now updated it slightly.  We all sense that the climate in which we practice our faith is changing. This post examines the shift from a soft to a hard secularism. Though at times a little tongue in cheek, the underlying issues are of great significance. Hope you enjoy it… My mother-in-law is a wonderful human being who has almost adjusted to life in the...

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Friendships that inspire…

Posted by on Oct 27, 2015 in Blog | 2 comments

Perhaps you have come across Gordon MacDonald’s classic, Restoring your Spiritual Passion. It originally came out in 1986, and is memorable on many counts, but perhaps the one that first springs to mind is MacDonald’s description of 5 kinds of people that you come across in ministry (and indeed, not just in ministry, but in all walks of life) and the impact they have upon your spiritual passion and zeal. The MacDonald taxonomy describes each of the five types with 3 letters and then pithily summarizes their likely impact on your...

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About the blog and a holiday…

Posted by on Oct 25, 2015 in Blog | 2 comments

Thanks for your continued support and interest in this blog. I have been really encouraged by the warm response of so many of you. There have now been well over 6000 visits to the site – it has significantly exceeded my expectations. More importantly, several people have contacted me to ask me if they can use material from the site in church newsletters or in sermons or as resource in a unit they are teaching. My answer is always the same: YES – that is why I write, and I can’t tell you the pleasure it gives me to think that...

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The Spirit that gives life: Audrey’s story

Posted by on Oct 23, 2015 in Blog | 2 comments

It is possible that at 75 years of age Audrey Francis is the oldest student at Vose – I am not sure. What I am sure of is that she is one of our most engaged and engaging students, and that her life speaks of the reality of God, or of the Spirit that gives life, which was the theme of her recent chapel talk at Vose where she shared her life story. I found it both inspiring and encouraging, and am confident you will too. As you read it, imagine it being spoken in Audrey’s gentle Irish voice. Perhaps as you do, you will hear the...

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About a book: Could it be God?

Posted by on Oct 22, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Yesterday I received the rather exciting news that a British publishing house, Bible Reading Fellowship, are offering me a contract to publish a collection of my articles from Perth’s Advocate newspaper. I have been producing a monthly article for the Advocate for over 10 years now, and they have selected their 90 favourite columns and will bundle them up into a book entitled Could it be God? The blurb about the book reads: In a series of pithy, poignant and profound readings, this book explores the intersection of faith and life....

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Conducting a Spiritual Audit: A First Fifteen of Questions…

Posted by on Oct 20, 2015 in Blog | 8 comments

Have you ever asked, “so how do you measure spiritual growth?” Sermon after sermon challenges us to commit to grow spiritually, or to become more like Jesus, but how do we know if we are getting there? Are there any signs we can spot that reassure us that we are heading in the right direction? Back in 1998 Fred Smith wrote a wonderfully insightful and oft quoted article on conducting a spiritual audit. In it he poses 12 questions we should ask. It is probably because I am writing this as rugby world cup fever heats up, and with...

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On being sure we are not the problem…

Posted by on Oct 18, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

I spoke at the Baptist Union of Western Australia’s Annual Assembly yesterday, and thought you might be interested to read the text of my address. You’ll notice that I picked up on a few of the themes we have looked at on the blog in recent weeks. We had a computer virus hit our network at Vose this week. As we called the staff together to look at what had happened and to outline the plan to get it sorted, the natural question that was asked was, ‘So how did this happen?’ As the IT guru outlined it for us, and explained how...

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Why Theodosius vs Ambrose really matters…

Posted by on Oct 16, 2015 in Blog | 3 comments

Heard about the dispute between the Roman Emperor Theodosius and Bishop Ambrose of Milan back in 390? I thought not… Before you yawn a little too obviously and quote Henry Ford’s ‘history is bunk’, let me assure you that this case finds its way onto the pages of this blog because in my judgment it is one of those critical turning points in history – a little ah ha moment after which we all understand some aspects of faith more clearly. For those who are at the ‘Theodosius who?’ stage, he was the Roman Emperor famously (or not so...

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10 insights on losing 10 kilograms…

Posted by on Oct 15, 2015 in Blog | 3 comments

OK, so this is a bit of brag post. I’ve just succeeded in losing 10kg, and mercifully that’s not the result of some dreaded disease, but a bit of a change in eating habits. Here are my 10 insights on losing 10 kg… I don’t ever want to get into a position where I need to lose 10 kg again. Sugar is addictive. Its highs are illusionary, and they always let you down. Eat off a plate and with a knife and fork. It helps limit binging. Eat slowly, and ask yourself, ‘so what is it that I am eating and am I enjoying...

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The refugee, my housemate: On opening our hearts…

Posted by on Oct 13, 2015 in Blog | 1 comment

Vose student Alan McGrechan recently shared something of his story at a chapel service… And what a story it is – of cultural readjustment to Australia after his time in Mozambique, of loss of purpose and confidence, and then of finding new challenge and meaning in opening his heart and life to others, others who in this case were Afghani asylum seekers. I find it inspiring, and I am sure you will to… It fits seamlessly into our current series on ethics, ‘Deciding what’s right…’ Currently I live in...

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Some blogs worth looking at…

Posted by on Oct 11, 2015 in Blog | 1 comment

I had a preaching free Sunday, so no sermon notes today, but instead I thought I would point you to some blogs I think are worth looking at. In my opinion, the gold standard is undoubtedly Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed. Most often there are 4 posts per day (no idea how he manages that – though he is not the sole author), and whilst topics are largely theological in nature, the overall coverage is broad and always interesting. At times it is fairly specialized, but most are accessible to anyone ready for a theology 101 course....

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To Strive for Great Things: Is Ambition OK?

Posted by on Oct 9, 2015 in Blog | 2 comments

J. Oswald Sanders starts his classic book Spiritual Leadership by contrasting 1 Tim 3:1 To aspire to leadership is an honourable ambition with Jeremiah 45:5 Are you seeking great things for yourself? Seek them not. There is a creative tension between the two sentiments. Is there a place in the life of a Christ follower for ambition? If you listen to some worship songs, or pay attention to the names of many Christian groups, ambition seems the new norm. We are going to be planet shakers and kingdom builders and our lives are going to count...

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The Blog: Some Notes and News…

Posted by on Oct 8, 2015 in Blog | 2 comments

It has been great to see the increase in traffic to the blog. Each week it has been hitting new highs. It’s been going a little over a month and is currently just short of 5 000 page visits from more than 2500 visitors from 58 countries – a few of which I had never heard of before and have had to look up on the map. Wherever you are from, welcome. Some bits and pieces First, why the blog? I’d like to help further a thoughtful Christian faith. Roughly a thousand years ago St Anselm spoke of ‘faith seeking...

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Same Sex Marriage: Ethical and Pastoral Reflections

Posted by on Oct 6, 2015 in Blog | 21 comments

A few weeks ago I participated in a forum looking at Sexuality and the Church. A particular focus of the day was on same sex marriage and the ethical and pastoral implications that it invites us to consider. I’ve had more than a few requests for the paper I presented, and have been asked to repeat the talk a number of times (twice in this week alone). So I thought I would share it on the blog as well. Please feel free to post comments – and they certainly don’t have to be in agreement with what I have said – or with...

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The Reason for the ‘Go…’: Reflections on Matt 28:16-20

Posted by on Oct 4, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Several people said they found the sermon notes from last week  Is Cross Carrying Passe helpful. So I thought I’d post this weeks notes as well. This is the message I preached at Carey Baptist Church, Perth, today. As always, feel free to use them any way you find helpful. If you pass them on, it is always nice if you credit the source as brianharrisauthor.com In this series we have been asking the question, ‘Why Jesus?’ – but now we finish on a slightly different note. ‘If it is Jesus – so what? What difference should that make in my...

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For better, but not worse: Marriage and Divorce in the 21st century

Posted by on Oct 2, 2015 in Blog | 10 comments

I still remember the day. A woman had moved into the town where I was pastor, and on arriving at the church, announced that she was trying to build a new life for herself. She and her husband had separated after 30 years of marriage. He was now living with a much younger woman, and she doubted he would ever return to her – though she would be happy if she was wrong. She wasn’t. After 18 months of agonising and of all attempts at reconciliation failing, she filed for divorce. On the day her case was to be heard in court, she asked...

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3 Ways to Decide: Some Models to Navigate Ethical Dilemmas

Posted by on Sep 29, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Ever been in the position where you scratch your head and ask, ‘So what should I do now?’ And as you ask, your thinking is not only moving along the track of what might work, but you are also wondering, ‘regardless of what works, what is the right thing to do?’ The right thing is invariably defined by a cluster of factors such as our faith, upbringing and cultural background. We may or may not be aware of how these impact our decision making. But enough pontificating. In real life situations, how do we go about making...

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Is Cross Carrying Passé?

Posted by on Sep 27, 2015 in Blog | 7 comments

After preaching I am often asked for a copy of my notes, so I thought I would place them on the blog – well some, at any rate. Here is the text of the message I preached at Carey today. It is part of a series on the portrait of Jesus that emerges from Matthew’s gospel, and this sermon is based on Matt 10, focusing on verses 34-42. As always feel free to use it in any way you like, though if you do reproduce it in some form, it would be nice if you would credit the source as brianharrisauthor.com Hope it’s helpful… Is...

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Remembering what Matters: Ethics and Exodus 1

Posted by on Sep 25, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

In 2011 I was asked to deliver the TB Maston lecture on ethics at Carson Newman University in Tennessee, USA. I spoke on the ethical dilemmas inherent in Exodus 1 in a talk entitled ‘Remembering what Matters: Ethics and Exodus 1’. If you want the full text of that talk you can access it here. It starts on page 91 of the journal. What follows is an edited version of that talk. As we start to think into the field of ethics, I want to underline (and emphatically underline) that we should not think in terms of trite and easy answers...

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Deciding what’s right: Introducing a new series…

Posted by on Sep 22, 2015 in Blog | 2 comments

I hope you enjoyed the ‘Why believe?’ series, which was a 101 introduction to apologetics. Lest you missed it, the posts are still readily accessible. We covered ‘Why believe: A sort of apologetics 101’; ‘Theism and all that’ which explored some of the basic arguments for the existence of God; ‘The Bible: Bloodthirsty Text or Solid Witness?’; ‘The Church: Hazard or Witness?’; ‘A World Minus Jesus’; ‘Easter cancelled. They’ve found the body’ (not);...

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Why Christian Teachers and Schools Matter…

Posted by on Sep 20, 2015 in Blog | 4 comments

Last night I spoke at the 25th anniversary celebration of Grace Christian School in Bunbury. I don’t know what you think of the missional potential of Christian schools, but my assessment is that it is enormous. I am not sure if this is true in all parts of the world, but am convinced that it is in Australia where a favourable funding regime and a willingness to enrol students of any or no faith (while holding a strong line on only employing Christian staff, who carry the mission) sees Christian schooling as the most rapidly growing...

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Resurrection, Pannenberg and Aaron Chidgzey

Posted by on Sep 18, 2015 in Blog | 5 comments

Aaron Chidgzey, a Vose Seminary graduate, is currently a PhD student at Murdoch University where he is engaged in research that compares the views on the resurrection of German theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg and NT Wright. Pannenberg died in Sept 2014, having been one of the theological giants of the 20th century. He is well known for his conviction that faith is reasonable – indeed, that it is more reasonable to believe than not to believe. He places special emphasis on the resurrection. I asked Aaron about his research, and thought...

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Another day, another Prime Minister…

Posted by on Sep 15, 2015 in Blog | 1 comment

I was born in South Africa, am a New Zealand citizen, and live in Australia. Though living in the latter country for 12 years, its politics remain a mystery to me. On a day by day basis, life here is a little like paradise. Australia truly is a glorious country, with an indulgently comfortable standard of living. Yet we’ve  just changed our Prime Minister. Again. The 5th in 5 years. Being a schoolkid here has just got a whole lot more stressful. Who can possibly remember the names of all Australian Prime Ministers? I was in two minds...

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Miracles, maths and mystery…

Posted by on Sep 15, 2015 in Blog | 2 comments

I can still remember the sneer from one of the panelists at an evangelistic atheist site. Desperate to convert others to her newly found atheism she declared: ‘Christians are really, really bad at maths. When doctors say your cancer is incurable, what they mean is that there is only a 1 in a 1000 chance that it won’t prove terminal. When it doesn’t, religious nutters happily proclaim, “a miracle”. No it’s not. It is the 1 in a 1000 cases which comes around, on average, once every thousand cases. Low odds...

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Sugar, fat and all that…

Posted by on Sep 13, 2015 in Blog | 4 comments

I publish a monthly article in Perth’s Advocate newspaper, and as most readers of this blog don’t see it, I thought I would reproduce it here. September’s title was ‘Sugar, fat and all that.’ It comes as a bonus blog. The current ‘Why believe?’ series continues on Tuesday with a post ‘Miracles, maths and mystery.’ Sugar, Fat and all that… Due to a recent flight’s disappointing movie choice, I was reduced to watching Damon Gameau’s That Sugar Film which pontificates on the...

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Easter Cancelled. They’ve found the body…

Posted by on Sep 11, 2015 in Blog | 2 comments

Graffiti was an art form during my university days. It adorned three of the walls of every toilet cubicle. One wall was devoted to political comment, another to the smutty, the third to the witty and clever. By and large contributors conformed to this unwritten guideline, and a few days before a now long past Easter the headline ‘Easter has been cancelled. They’ve found the body!’ appeared on the third wall. It has stuck with me through the years. In its own way, it is deeply insightful. Produce the body of Jesus, and whilst...

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A world minus Jesus…

Posted by on Sep 8, 2015 in Blog | 0 comments

Ever imagined a world minus Jesus? There would be some obvious differences. The date for example. I’m writing in 2015 – 2015 since what? And though we might not have got the year of Jesus’ birth completely right, there is no doubt that our calendar has been structured to convey the conviction that the date of his arrival marked the turning point of all history. That’s to be more than a little famous. So what earned Jesus such accolades. The most striking is the claim that he conquered death and that his resurrection...

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About the blog…

Posted by on Sep 6, 2015 in Blog | 2 comments

I’m recently back from preaching at a special Fathers’ Day service at Katanning. For those not familiar with Western Australia, it is a three hour drive south of Perth – and what a stunning drive it was today. The countryside was ablaze with colour. This is one of the best times of the year in WA. The blog has now been operational for two weeks, and lest you are interested, I thought I would give you a quick update on where it is at. So far 549 people have visited the site from 39 countries viewing pages 1205 times viewers...

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The Bible: Bloodthirsty Text or Solid Witness?

Posted by on Sep 1, 2015 in Blog | 5 comments

In this ‘Why Believe?’ series we’ve been engaged in a little exercise of cumulative case apologetics – not trying to demonstrate that everything that Christianity stands for is proved with one knockout blow, but cumulatively building a case for belief, one piece at a time. The role of the Bible in building or detracting from this case is important. While arguments for theism establish that belief in a god or gods is reasonable, at some point we have to give content to the character and nature of the god believed in....

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