Engaging with Culture in 1 Peter

I’ve been preaching through 1 Peter at church this term. One of the challenges has been the huge emphasis on suffering for the sake of the Gospel. How do you apply this in a situation where we face very little suffering for our faith?

I think Peter gives two useful principles for Christians interacting with wider culture – regardless of how hostile that culture is.

1. Do everything you can to live in a way that commends the gospel to your culture.
1Peter 2:12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

2. Do good, even if that is ridiculed by your culture.
1Peter 3:17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

Posted in Exegesis, Theology | 4 Comments

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield


Read and enjoyed this book last week. It certainly is an unlikely conversion story, honestly told, and particularly relevant in the midst of our culture’s changing approach to sexuality.
Easy read on your Kindle device or app: http://www.amazon.com/The-Secret-Thoughts-Unlikely-Convert/dp/1884527388

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Bible Reading Resources

I recently compiled a short list of Bible reading resources and so I thought I’d share them here with a few comments

1. This first link is just another collection of links to online Bible reading plans. One thing that you might find useful is that you can subscribe to many of them and have the readings delivered to your email or google reader account each day. I find this a helpful prompt to do the readings. The other nice thing is they are free.

Personal Bible Reading Plans for 2012

2. If you actually want a short guided Bible Study to assist you with your Bible reading, these explore studies look interesting. I haven’t used them myself but the sample looks good and the list of contributors also promises some insightful studies.

Explore Daily Bible Studies

3. The Discipleship Journal Bible reading plan is a read the Bible in a year plan where you read some OT, some wisdom literature, some Gospel and some Epistle each day. It’s also arranged in groups of 25 monthly readings which gives you a chance to catch up if you miss a few days. You can download a printable version from the list in the first link above, but if you’re a bit of a phone nerd like me then you can get an app on your phone. It’s simple, clean and easy to use, and it’s what I’m using for my Bible reading this year. Too bad if you’re an iphone user – as far as I could see this one is only for Android (and it’s free)

Discipleship Journal Bible Reading app for your Android Phone

4. Explore daily Bible Reading app for
iphone Android



5. As our kids get older this becomes a bit more challenging in that they have already read all the Bible stories and so you need to go a bit further in discussing what they’re all about. I’ve used a couple of these table talk studies, and I think they provide a good place to start if you’ve got older primary kids

Reading the Bible with your family

6. I’m encouraging people at church to consider reading the Bible regularly with someone else. For some people this is a bit daunting, especially if you’ve never done it before. This little book from Matthias Media goes through the basics. It’s not rocket science, but it tells you everything you need to know.

One to One Bible Reading: a simlple guide for every Christian

7. One thing I find challenging with one to one ministry is deciding what to read. Since our Bible Study groups already look at the sermon passage for the week, it seems overkill to look at it again in one to one. But then it’s difficult to keep track of lots of other readings. This little booklet is an interesting approach that gives a very simple starting point for discussion on (literally) an A-Z of Biblical topics. I have to admit I like the concept more than the actual execution – sometimes the topic seems A LOT BIGGER than the one verse you’re reading. But if you’re looking for something to do 1-1 you should still give these a look.

Short steps for long gains 1-1 studies

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Changing Presbyterian Light Bulbs

You’ve probably heard the old one about how many Presbyterians it takes to change a light-bulb – ‘Change! we don’t change anything.’ Well I’m about to put that theory to the test. I and a couple of other guys have been asked to look at the time and the format of our PCQ state assembly and bring any recommendations for how it could be improved.

I have two immediate goals which I’m keen to pursue. The first is to change the time so that more lay elders are able to be involved. Currently, because the assembly meets during the day on Monday-Thursday, it pretty much rules out younger working elders and means all the lay members are older and retired. It’s fine to have the wisdom of grey hair, but it would be fantastic to have the gifts and enthusiasm of the new generation of younger elders that is springing up around the denomination. My initial thought is that a Thursday night-Saturday night might work. That would require only one day off work, or people could miss the Friday daytime session. Obviously this will also require some streamlining of the current program, but I think that is possible.

The second goal I have is for the assembly to actually enthuse people and promote a vision for ministry around the state. This is difficult in the Presbyterian system. There’s no archbishop to make a stirring speech and lead the agenda. We do however have a body called the commission of assembly that has a limited leadership and supervision role l between the annual general assembly, and might be able to foster a sense of direction and vision.

Anyway, the task will not only be to come up with concrete workable ideas, but to sell them. Believe it or not, I have a sense that the denomination is ready for some well thought through changes.

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Speaking Freely

Good to see Tony Payne spelling out the Bible’s opposition to homosexual sex and other related issues over at The Briefing. Seems to me that an important way to keep free speech open on this issue is to keep speaking freely but respectfully.

I look forward to the rest of the series.

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More on the sky falling in

So, to give a specific example of the kind of worried reaction to the Andrew Bolt conviction by some Christians. I received a forwarded email from the Saltshakers organisation who had this to say:

The Judgement returned in the Andrew Bolt case, which found he had breached the Racial Discrimination Act (RDA) because of his comments about some aborigines, highlights the immense DANGER of the Federal law, which allows anyone who feels they have been ‘offended, insulted, humiliated or intimidated’ on the basis of their race or ethnic identity to take a case in the Federal Court.

It is true that a racial descrimination act opens the door for vexatious claims of offence by people who simply don’t like what someone else is saying. However to suggest that this is an IMMENSE DANGER is to seriously overstate the problem. In particular, in this case the judge made it very clear that it wasn’t just a case of  someone’s feelings being hurt, but rather that any reasonable person would be offended, humiliated and intimidated both by  what Bolt wrote and how he wrote it. I have to say it feels a little like Saltshakers is talking up the problem here to give themselves a reason to exist.

Of greater concern than the exaggeration of free speech though, is where the letter heads next. It seems that saltshakers not only thinks that Andrew Bolt has a right to say what he said, they actually agree with what he said.

…the dangerous principle now established largely arises because one group of people are able to claim special ‘rights’ based on a small link to aboriginality…

….Australia should treat ALL its citizens equally. Our nation provides support for people who are in special circumstances, such as unemployment, poverty, disability and so on. However, this support should be based on well-established criteria that includes all Australians. All people should be treated equally – not just those of certain ethnic, religious or cultural identities.

These paragraphs seems to completely missunderstand the case. The whole point was that the judge found that those who brought the case did not have a ‘small link’ to Aboriginality, they had a deep and unavoidable link to their Aboriginal identity.

Further, I can’t see how this case in any way undermines the equality of Australians. Surely we all deserve protection from powerful voices who want to humiliate us and intimidate us into changing our identity or our culture with false and deliberate mockery.

As I said earlier I would have thought that Christians would be rejoicing that we have a law that protects the weak and the vulnerable from the scorn and mockery of the powerful, and it concerns me that Saltshakers is so worried about theoretical danger to our rights as Christians that it is willing to jump into bed with the Bolts and Newscorps of this world.

Posted in Politics, Theology | 3 Comments

The sky is not falling…

There’s been a lot of handwringing from many Christians about the recent conviction of Andrew Bolt on racial discrimination charges. There seems to be a fear that the sky is falling in and all christians are now going to be thrown into jail for disagreeing with anyone about anything.

It is true that Andrew Bolt got into trouble for being offensive, however you are actually allowed to be offend people as long as you are conducting reasonable debate in good faith. This is where Bolt got into trouble. The judge found that:

I have not been satisfied that the offensive conduct that I have found occurred, is exempted from unlawfulness by section 18D. The reasons for that conclusion have to do with the manner in which the articles were written, including that they contained errors of fact, distortions of the truth and inflammatory and provocative language.

I for one am happy to be held accountable for conducting my debate in a way that avoids errors, distortions of the truth and inflammatory and provocative language. Surely any Christian would be happy to conduct debate in this way. This doesn’t limit my free speech, it just means that if I want to say things that will offend people I need to make sure I get my facts straight and not be needlessly inflammatory.

The fact that Bolt has been publishing a steady stream of articles restating his original points, minus the errors of fact, shows just how little free speech has been curtailed.

Finally, as Christians surely there is a much bigger issue at stake than some vague fears about free speech. It is a consistent theme in the Bible that laws should we should protect the ‘fatherless and the widow’ and provide justice for the powerless. We should be giving thanks that we have such laws in Australia.  It’s actually fantasticly Biblical that a poor and powerless minority group can have their grievances heard and win a case against a representative of the most powerful publishing company in the world.

The sky is really not falling…

Posted in Politics, Theology | 1 Comment

Australian Church Growth Research

This video is an interview with the guy who conducted the research I have been discussing in my previous posts on Why aren’t we growing. Fascinating stuff. I especially appreciate his comment that pretty much all one hundred church growth books he read were based on anecdote rather than research. Doesn’t make them completely useless, but certainly means they need to be approached with care.

Tims Sims on Church Growth Research from Mark Earngey on Vimeo.

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Psalm 119 Prezi

Preached on Psalm 119 Yesterday. Don’t think it was a fantastic talk overall, but I do think that a Wordle is an awesome way to get your head around the meaning of this psalm. I think it’s a few key ideas repeated in many different ways.

This is the prezi I did for the talk

Psalm 119 on Prezi

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The Lord’s Prayer

Preached on Matthew 6:1-18 on Sunday which includes the Lord’s Prayer. One thing I hadn’t noticed before is how closely linked the prayer is to the Beatitudes.

Our Father in Heaven… Your Kingdom Come Blessed are the poor in Spirit/persecuted for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth
Give us this day our daily bread Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
Forgive our debts as we forgive those who Blessed are the Merciful…
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil Blessed are the pure in heart

It confirms that the Lord’s prayer is particularly tailored for members of Jesus’ new Kingdom. It also raises the question of whether ‘daily bread’ is to be understood exclusively as a request for physical needs, or whether there is an element of the bread of the word of God in the request too.

Posted in Exegesis | 1 Comment