Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Rapping The King James Version

I hope you enjoy Glen Scrivener's clever monologue, in which he uses more than 100 phrases from the King James Bible, which have become part of the English language.

Not all of these expressions originated with that version, but it was instrumental in bringing them into the language, through its wide dissemination.

How ridiculous!

These young men are amazing. And not just with their basketballs.

Keeping it in the family

Three blogs I keep returning to are inter-related, because they are blogs of Trevor Cairney and his daughters Nicole Starling and Louise Blencowe.

Louise is married to Jon, who is the Christian Educator for Bathurst and Kelso High schools. In Life with Beals Louise tells us about their 3 year old daughter Evelyne's rare medical condition, and shares the experiences of others around the world also living with Beals.

In 168 hours Nicole writes about her efforts to work out how to glorify God in everyday life, 168 hours of the week. There are tips about Christian living and lots of great book reviews at her site. That's where I found out about The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and subsequently read it three times and gave out 11 copies (and loaned out my copy. Hint, hint)

At church I have noticed that Jon and Louise's children, Evelyne and Sam, have caught the reading bug. If you want to know where they got it from, you can find out by exploring their grandad's Literacy, Families and Learning blog.

It is always a great source of tips about new children's books, which make a wonderful Christmas gift.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Little Girl Rescues Song from Rubbish Bin

We enjoy singing Michael Baughen's version of Sister Suzanne Toolan's I Am The Bread of Life in our church. In fact, we sang it this morning.

You will notice that Suzanne's words are somewhat different from Michael's. In fact, Michael has added an introductory verse, Come Let Us Worship Christ.

I was interested to read Suzanne's story of how a little girl rescued her song from the "circular filing cabinet."

It was 1966 and Mercy Sister Suzanne Toolan had been asked to write a song for an event in the San Francisco archdiocese. With the deadline looming, she worked on a song in an unoccupied room next to the infirmary in the Catholic girls’ high school where she taught.

“I worked on it, and I tore it up. I thought, ‘This will not do,’ ” Toolan said. “And this little girl came out of the infirmary and said, ‘What was that? That was beautiful!’ I went right back and Scotch-taped it up.”

That schoolgirl saved “I Am the Bread of Life,” one of the most popular hymns of the Second Vatican Council era.

Toolan credits Father John Olivier at a seminary near her convent in Burlingame, California, with helping get the word out about her songs.

“He began to hear some of my things and he took it back to the seminary. And that’s how I think most of my things got out.”

“I Am the Bread of Life” is in many Catholic hymnals, as well as in the official hymnbooks of the Episcopal, Lutheran and Methodist churches. “People keep giving me copies of it when they go to Europe or Asia, even,” Toolan said. “It’s in different languages. It’s thrilling.”

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Population explosion

What was the world’s population when you were born? The older you are, the more you are likely to be amazed by the figure! It wasn’t until 1804 that the first billion was reached, but 123 years later, it had doubled in size. In the 20th century it increased from less than 2 billion to 6 billion and this week, it will reach 7 billion.
It is now increasing at a slower rate, as governments attempt to make our world more sustainable.

But what about Christ’s church? It is hard to say exactly how many of the 2 billion who call themselves Christians are really following Christ. In Australia, the rate of growth of the church is quite slow, but in many countries, throughout the world, the Christian population is outstripping the general population.

Here are a few examples from Operation World:
Somalia, in the Horn of Africa is growing at 2.3%, but the tiny church is increasing by 8%
Belarus, bordered by Russia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, has a shrinking population, but the percentage of Evangelicals is growing by 3% per year.
Bangladesh is growing by 1.5%, but the number of Evangelicals is increasing by 3.6% each year.
Uruguay is only growing by 0.28% yearly, but the tiny Evangelical Church is increasing by 3% per year.
Jesus said I will build my Church, and He is!

Triumphing over cerebral palsy

Today's Sydney Morning Herald has a terrific story in the usually great 2 Of Us section.
Margie and Stavros Kalomiris, who both have cerebral palsy tell their own story of overcoming doubt and disapproval from Disability Services and from their own families to develop a relationship and finally marry.

If you can get your hands on a copy of 29th October, 2011 edition of Fairfax's Good Weekend, [puts on Molly's hat] Do yourself a favour ... and read it

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Worst Christmas Pageant ever?

At first the children think that their annual Christmas pageant is going to be the worst ever, because the worst kids in the school, the Herdman family, have suddenly turned up at Sunday School, and they are mucking everything up, just as they do at school.

But before too long, these rough pagans are teaching everyone about Christmas, as they hear the story for the very first time.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is a fun book that makes you think. It is easy to read. Primary school children should be able to tackle it easily.

I'm on my 3rd read-through and enjoying it just as much as the first time.

It's a great book to give and to read before Christmas, which is what I'm doing.

The author manages to get across many of the points of the Christmas story without preaching.

What are you waiting for?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bringing the Gospel Home

Bringing the Gospel Home is Randy Newman's third book. I've enjoyed all three, beginning with his first book, Questioning Evangelism, which had been recommended by Don Carson.

Bringing the Gospel Home is realistic and encouraging. It does not promise success or provide you with secret formulas for winning your family for Christ. The journey Christians have with their family members is definitely presented like the picture on the right, not the easy-street misleading one on the left.

If you click on this link you'll find that Crossway have generously provided a sample for you.

I highly recommend this book and hope you will enjoy it as much as I have.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The ministry mind-shift that changes everything?

The ministry mind-shift that changes everything is the audacious subtitle which Col Marshall and Tony Payne chose for their 2009 book The Trellis and The Vine. I don't know how other readers reacted to it, but it made me sit up and take notice. It also led me to wonder if they would be able to substantiate their promise.

The story begins with Col telling us about his beautiful, carefully preserved trellis with no vine, and his luxuriant jasmine vine, covering a rather ramshackle, disappearing structure that may once have looked like a trellis.

Throughout the book, the authors develop their theme that churches can be like the two trellises in his garden. Some of them are quite beautiful trellises, but there is no vine to be seen. Others have growth, without any structure, which is still necessary if the vine is to stay alive and grow.

As expected, it wasn't hard to describe the problems that many churches face. All too often we are busy with structures, but we aren't growing Christ's church: just running meetings, keeping the building in good order, collecting and distributing money and doing the many things that are thought to be essential parts of running a church in the twenty first century.

We may also be looking after people by visiting those who are sick or suffering, conducting weddings and funerals and getting the congregation involved in church meetings and small group, but Marshall and Payne point out that this is not our main function, which they say should be making genuine disciple-making disciples of Jesus.

In their view, training people to train others is growing the vine; everything else is trellis-work. Getting people to attend meetings and to be involved in small groups may be creating a useful structure on which the vine will grow, or it may be something which takes over and actually prevents us from growing the vine. We can be so busy doing good things, such as helping in crises, that we are crowded out from doing the essential thing, which is making disciple-makers.

Having described the problems with telling accuracy, they spend the rest of the book outlining their model which they have developed for identifying, recruiting and training co-workers. This has been a key part of their Ministry Training Strategy, in which new Christian workers are apprenticed for two years, before progressing to theological college for formal, academic training.

The case for training people to be disciple-makers is argued persuasively and many valuable suggestions are made for how churches can change from being (in Peter Bolt's words) in maintenance mode to being mission-minded. Marshall and Payne challenge us that if we are serious about building Christ's kingdom, we must be willing to change and even dismantle structures so that we can do the most important thing of all, which is making disciple-makers.

Have they lived up to their cheeky promise, or is this just another book that is being foisted on us, as the way to do Christian ministry? Is it going to turn out to be yet another short-lived fad?

Christian leaders from Chile, South Africa, England, the United States and Australia have written glowing endorsements of the book, which is the distillation of a view of Christian ministry which has been used by Phillip Jensen, dean of St Andrews' Anglican Cathedral, Sydney and Colin Marshall over the past 25 years.

The Ministry Training Strategy has been tested and incorporated into churches in Australia, Canada, Britain, France, the Republic of Ireland, Singapore, New Zealand, Taiwan, Chile and South Africa. (See page 143

Reading this book is confronting, but necessary. It is a superb book for everyone interested in serving Christ whole-heartedly. There would be few Christians and who would not benefit from reading it and changing practices so that their focus shifts to building Christ's kingdom through making disciple-makers.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Last night I finished reading Young Pilgrim's Progress.

Here's my review, published at the above address.

Chris Wright's book is a revised edition of his original version, which is a retelling of Helen Taylor's Little Christian's Pilgrimage and Christiana. And these are revisions of John Bunyan's 17th century classic, Pilgrim's Progress and Christiana.

I have attempted to read the original work and have failed. But Chris Wright kept me interested and I have finished the task in a few days.

There is a lot to like about this version. I like the way that it is written in contemporary language, but not written as if it had happened last week.

The book shows that being a Christian is a lifelong project and is only possible with God's help. It shows that trusting in Christ as Saviour is the first step, but that it must continue. It shows that there are many dangers and distractions that can take us off the path and shows the importance of keeping going, or of getting back into the journey.

Wright (and presumably, Bunyan) presents prayer effectively and keeps reminding us of our need to keep in touch with our heavenly Guide.

I like the way Wright seems to use the charming old-fashioned names that Bunyan used, but also explains the words for modern readers.

After Pilgrim enters the Celestial City, you might feel that any more would be a let-down, but the second book, Christiana (which is included in this book), is well worth your time. I love the way it shows how God cares for us and adapts the journey to the needs of the individual. Everyone must enter the journey through Jesus, but our heavenly Father's compassion for those who doubt themselves or who can't believe God could love them, is winsomely conveyed through the way that the journey is different for Christiana and her fellow pilgrims.

I like the way both parts of the book show that being a Christian is both something we must do individually, whether or not others will join us, and a task best undertaken with guides and fellow travellers.

There are many retellings of Bunyan's tale and I have only read this one. I highly recommend it and hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

more about Young Pilgrim's Progress

One of the things I like about Young Pilgrim's Progress is that it shows that the Christian life is a journey that is not easy, and can only be completed with God's help.

In Chris Wright's version of Bunyan's tale, only a few people are on the journey, and even some of these turn back, because they find it too hard.

I like the way he shows us that it is only the people who complete the journey (with God's help) who end up in the celestial kingdom.

This is quite different from the way the gospel was presented to us as children. We were assured that if we met Jesus at the cross and asked his forgiveness for our sins, the journey was over!

In Bunyan's book, the cross is only the beginning. When Pilgrim sees the cross, and understands Jesus took his place, he loses his burden and knows his sins are forgiven. He is confident that God will keep him safe and lead him to his destination, but he also knows that he has a long way to go and must keep on the path to receive God's promise of life forever with him.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Young Pilgrim's Progress

Have you read John Bunyan's classic book Pilgrim's Progress? Many people have begun it, but I'm guessing few have finished it. It was written over 300 years ago. It is one of the world's best-selling books. So is the Bible. Many of us have read parts of both books, but not the full monty.

If you'd like to read a modern children's version of the book, I think you'll find Chris Wright's Young Pilgrim's Progress enjoyable and much easier to read.

I'm reading it on my Kindle and have read almost a third of it over the past few days and expect that I will be able to see it through.

I wonder if Pilgrim Books has a copy? Karl? Greg?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Altar calls

This article by Thabiti Anyabwile is well worth reading. I love the cartoon, and what he says and cites about altar calls is very close to my own experience.

I think that this great African American pastor's first name is pronounced
ta BEE tee
and am guessing his second name is
an ya BWY lee
but I'm grateful for any help from someone who knows.

Thabiti cites Pastor Ryan Kelly's reasons for not using the altar call method.
1. The altar call is simply and completely absent from the pages of the N.T.

2. The altar call is historically absent until the 19th century, and its use at that time (via Charles Finney) was directly based upon bad theology and a man-centered, manipulative methodology.

3. The altar call very easily confuses the physical act of “coming forward” with the spiritual act of “coming to Christ.” These two can happen simultaneously, but too often people believe that coming to Christ is going forward (and vice-versa).

4. The altar call can easily deceive people about the reality of their spiritual state and the biblical basis for assurance. The Bible never offers us assurance on the ground that we “went forward.”

5. The altar call partially replaces baptism as the means of public profession of faith.

6. The altar call can mislead us to think that salvation (or any official response to God’s Word) happens primarily on Sundays, only at the end of the service, and only “up front.”

7. The altar call can confuse people regarding “sacred” things and “sacred” places, as the name “altar call” suggests.

8. The altar call is not sensitive to our cautious and relational age where most people come to faith over a period of time and often with the interaction of a good friend.

9. The altar call is often seen as “the most important part of the service”, and this de-emphasizes the truly more important parts of corporate worship which God has prescribed (preaching, prayer, fellowship, singing).

10. God is glorified to powerfully bless the things He has prescribed (preaching, prayer, fellowship, singing), not the things we have invented. We should always be leery of adding to God’s prescriptions for His corporate worship.

If this makes you think, please check out the whole article.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A man who kept his promises

In 1990 Robertson McQuilkin resigned his post as president of Columbia Bible College and Graduate School, in order to care for his beloved wife Muriel, who stopped recognizing him in 1993 and went to be with the Lord in 2003 at the age of 81.

He wrote some articles about caring for his wife for the 25 years that she was suffering from Alzheimer's Diesease, which are linked to in this interview which Stan Guthrie conducted shortly after her death.

I like the story of him a hanging a flag in his front garden on the days when Muriel was smiling, to let friends know she was having a good day, which he was enjoying, too.

And I like his comment that she made many sacrifices over the forty years of his student days and working life, which he was now only partially repaying.

I'm sorry that the person who put the video up on Youtube did not do him the honour of spelling his name correctly.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Christmas in February?

When is it too early for a Christmas song? I hope it's never to early to ponder the wonder of God becoming Man.

I love the words of this song, discovered today (and the music).

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Few Helpful Christian Resources

Have you discovered the wealth of great Christian resources available on the internet?

Bible Gateway has over 20 English Bibles and many in other languages, (which some people have found useful when talking to a person whose first language isn't English).

You may be satisfied with the translation you usually use, but it can be helpful to use a variety of translations. If you prefer a translation in simple contemporary English like the CEV (Contemporary English Version) or Good News Bible, it can be enlightening to also read the passage in a more formal version such as the NASB [New American Standard Version) or ESV [English Standard Version).

There is a search facility and link to Bible Gateway on the right of this page.

What is Christianity About?
If you are looking for an explanation of the core message of Christianity, you can't beat Two Ways To Live. The site is easy to navigate and is available in Chinese, Japanese, French, Spanish and there is also a simple version in English for children.

Questions About Christianity
All About God is a site with answers to many questions people ask about Christianity and includes links to other pages if you have even more questions. We are not saying we have read anything on all of these pages, or agree with everything on the pages we have read, but we can say that the site is generally reliable.

Avoiding Distractions
Some useful internet sites are loaded with advertising, and you may find it easier to use the resources if you install a pop-up filter, or ad blocker, or both.

If you use the Firefox browser, Adblock Plus will automatically get rid of a lot of intrusive material for you. There are also ad blockers for Internet Explorer, but they don't seem to work quite as well.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Yesterday began with this disturbing story.
Australian couple fight to choose sex of baby
An Australian couple with three sons who are desperate for a daughter have launched a legal bid to be allowed to choose the sex of their next child, according to a report.

The couple, whose daughter recently died shortly after birth, have already aborted twin boys because they want a girl, they told Melbourne's Herald-Sun newspaper.

It was at the back of my mind all day, and then, shortly before going to bed I saw this beautiful video:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A great man everyone should know

Have you ever heard of Polycarp? This short video tells his story. Some of it may be legendary, but it is certainly true that he was burnt at the stake for his faith in Christ.

Polycarp (70-155) was a disciple of the apostle John, who is said to have appointed him bishop of Smyrna. Late in life he was arrested as the leader of what was mistakenly thought to be a dangerous cult. A Roman proconsul offered to set him free if he would simply say Caesar is Lord and offer a small pinch of incense to Caesar's statue.

Although he knew that refusal would mean torture and death Polycarp responded with this now-famous reply:
Eighty-six years I have served Christ, and He never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?

Polycarp willingly died as a Christian martyr because he was persuaded that Jesus really did rise from the dead and was seen by John and the other apostles Polycarp had met.
Polycarp's life and death provides an inspirational example for all Christians. He gave his earthly life for Christ, and in the midst of his sacrifice, he gained eternal life.

Ruins of Smyrna

Throughout 2011, we will be sharing more stories of great Christians everyone should know. Please come back for our next entry.

Monday, January 3, 2011

More About The Seven Deadly Sins

Someone asked me whether our pastor is speaking about The Seven Deadly Sins so that we can try them all out! I think he is aware that we are all sinners and don't have to be encouraged to experiment.

In a previous post, I shared some links to helpful articles about the historical background to these sins.

Do you prefer to listen to a talk, read the manuscript or do both? Our pastor, Rodney Macready, gives you the choice on our Current Series page.

He has a sense of humour, as can be seen from the two topics he spoke on, immediately after Christmas: gluttony and sloth. This might not make as much sense to our northern friends, but in Australia, after Christmas in a hot country, it is hard to be enthusiastic about work. And we do enjoy our food.

Pastor Macready points out that feasting and celebrating are not wrong in his talk on gluttony and in his talk on sloth, he tells us that there is a place for rest.
I particularly enjoyed the talk on sloth, which reminds us that busyness in the wrong things can be just as slothful as doing nothing at all.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Digging Deeper

In a previous post, I referred to Dug Down Deep by Joshua Harris and shared a fun video of the first few lines of the book and also a link to the first chapter.

This morning I have been enjoying reading the second chapter, provided by Westminster Theological Seminary bookstore. In this extract, he explains how he became interested in theology and why we should be, too.

Joshua has a lot of thought-provoking things to say. I think that the book would be accessible to many people and I hope that lots of young Australian Christians will read it.