Recommended reading (21 May)

reading3 Reasons Why You Aren’t Allowed to Be Theologically Dumb by Chris Martin (no, not from Coldplay). Of course, there are many more reasons but this is a good start.

One of the biggest factors in deciding whether to stay at a particular church is friendliness. Thom Rainer’s post Seven things church members should say to guests in a worship service is so simple, yet so very helpful.

Unlike many of my friends who ride bikes, I’m not that experienced in the world of lycra. However, this article gave me some things to consider. What Wearing Lycra Taught Me About Christian Ministry by Peter Ko.

As a preacher, this is an issue I need to come back to again and again. The missing ingredient in many sermons by Erik Raymond is flavour for our spiritual food.

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Recommended reading (19 May)

readingLearning to see by Jean Williams is a beautiful reflection on the way we are, as observed in an everyday glimpse of the creation.

Tim Challies reflects on five lessons he learned from William Zinnser on the art of writing non-fiction. I found much to learn in On Writing Well (5 Big Tips).

Andrew Errington, the author of Can we trust what the Gospels say about Jesus?, has written a helpful article on an important struggle we all face: On Doubt: Ten Thoughts.

If-only discipleship by Brian Rosner reminds us from God’s Word that we don’t need to wait for our circumstances to get ‘better’ before we can grow and serve God.

More practical, good advice from Craig Schafer on Making Meetings Effective: Facilitation Techniques.

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Ministry at Stromlo

This week I attended an encouraging one day conference where we explored how the Cross—the death of Jesus for our sins—shapes life and ministry. There was a live video feed over  the internet for people who were unable to be present on the day. Rather than bore people with a blank screen or video of people having morning tea or lunch, a range of brief interviews punctuated the spaces. I was asked a handful of questions by Dominic Steele from Christians in the Media. Have to love this still shot!

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Worth reading

NIV_blueWe’re not all natural readers, but my experience is that reading brings great reward. I struggle to read the great novels or works of fiction. But I’m a fan of sports biographies, and works on leadership, people, organisations, and new ways of thinking and doing. But hands down the most instructive, life-changing, and liberating book I’ve ever read—and continue to read is the Bible.

Apparently it takes less time to read than Game of Thrones and not all that much more than Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. And while these are great stories, the Bible is so much more. If you’ve never really dipped into the Bible, can I recommend you give it a shot. Grab a modern translation—replace the old King James with a New International Version or the Holman Christian Standard Bible—and give it a read. Maybe start in the second part, the New Testament, and discover the extraordinary account of Jesus. It’s a book of life and hope and, contrary to popular opinion, extraordinary relevance and applicability to life now.

If you’d like to read the Bible with someone else, this can make it easier and more fun. Let me know and I will see if I can arrange a reading buddy or even a reading group.

For those of you who have read the Bible—’have’ being the operative word—and want to dip into it again, here are a few suggested approaches to get you restarted.

  1. Read the whole Bible through in one year. A good option is to get a Bible reading plan and follow it. Such plans are available on line or on smart phone Bible apps.
  2. Listen to the Bible on your mp3 player as you travel to and from work, go on holidays, or exercise.
  3. Use some Bible study guide, such as those produced by Matthias Media, which help you through an entire book of the Bible. These provide some commentary and ask questions to assist your understanding and application of the passage.
  4. Get into a routine Monday to Friday that fits with work and other regularities. Don’t worry if the weekend doesn’t fit the routine – do something different on weekends.
  5. If you know another language then, after you have looked at the passage in English, read through it again in the other language. This with help you give more attention to the meaning.
  6. Read with a friend and discuss what you have learned. Or both of you read on your own and then make contact to discuss it together.
  7. Read the Bible out loud to yourself.
  8. Use Search the Scriptures – a three year Bible reading program. You can take this at whatever pace you desire. Maximum benefit is gained if you take the time to write your answers to the questions.
  9. Follow Don Carson’s For the Love of God to read the Bible over one to four years. Excellent commentary by Carson. Available free on the Gospel Coalition website.
  10. Keep a journal of what you have learned and intend to apply from your reading.
  11. Prepare for sermons and Bible studies by reading over the passages beforehand.
  12. Read a passage with a view to giving a very brief talk which explains it, illustrates it and applies it. Then you can talk to me about finding an opportunity to give it!
  13. Try the S.O.A.P. approach. Read or write out the passage of Scripture. Note your observations and questions of the text. Decide how you are going to apply what you’ve learned. Pray that God will give you understanding and enable you to put it into practice.
  14.  ‘Manuscript Discovery’ is a term given to the study of the text of the Bible without chapters, verses, paragraphs or headings included. This means you have to do more work, with the result that you learn more. You can do this yourself simply by printing out the text of the Bible from Bible Gateway and removing all added numbers and headings.
  15. Commit verses to memory.
  16. Type out the entire Bible.
  17. Come up with your own ideas… share them with others
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Cancer, death, funerals, hope

IMG_0545I’ve been to two funerals in the past eight days.

The first was a man I met through having cancer myself. We were both diagnosed with lung cancer in our forties. We were both concerned for our wives and children. And we both trusted in Jesus for a hope beyond the grave.

My friend’s funeral was a testimony to his faith in God and his hope in resurrection. While the funeral was distinctively Christian, I got the impression that many present did not share my friend’s convictions. I didn’t really know anyone there, having only briefly met his wife on one occasion, but my heart longed for people to know the truth that gave my friend hope that death was not the victor.

Yesterday I attended a family funeral. Fiona’s uncle had passed away after cancer had overrun his body. He left behind a loving wife and daughter, adoring grandchildren, extended family, and many friends. It was a privilege to share in his farewell. Fiona and I came away wishing that we had known him more closely. We heard tributes to a devoted husband and grandfather, a wonderful educator, a hard working farmer, a wise confidant, and much more. We were reminded that he placed his trust in Jesus until his final breaths and that he was confident of being united Jesus in the life ahead.

Ecclesiastes tells us that…

It is better to go to a house of mourning
    than to go to a house of feasting,
for death is the destiny of everyone;
    the living should take this to heart.  (7:2)

This is so true. Funerals focus us deeply on what matters really matter. Both these funerals were times of grieving and tears, but they were not without hope—real hope. They were coloured by the confidence that all is not lost, cancer has not won, death is not the end, and there is an awesome future for all who hope in Christ.

I came away from both funerals wanting everyone to take personally the news that each man went to their death with a strong hope beyond cure. This is far more than wishful thinking, more than a positive outlook to lift everyone’s spirits—it’s a confident hope based on the resurrection of Jesus.

Posted in Investigating Christianity, Journey with Cancer | 2 Comments

ALK+ lung cancer drug now affordable

jayNo, I’m not applauding the government or the PBS. None of us understand why Australia has to lag so far behind much of the world in making advanced cancer treatments available to those who need them. Crizotinib still hasn’t made it onto the PBS despite the recommendation of the PBAC. Until recently needy patients were forced to find around $8000 per month or miss out. Some people have had to sell important assets or spend all their time fund raising just to stay alive.

But I do want to thank Pfizer Pharmaceuticals for making Crizotinib available to those who need it on a special access scheme. Quality health care should be available to all—not only those with very deep pockets. It’s time for the PBS to catch up.

Last week I had the privilege of catching up with Jay, a fellow ALK+ survivor living in Brisbane. Take a look at his video.

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Luther’s Prayer

lutherI have the following prayer by Martin Luther attached to the wall beside my desk. It’s been there for years. I pray it often. It’s no less relevant to me today than it was when I first read it. And I suspect it’s no less relevant to every pastor who’s ever lived since Luther first penned it.

Lord God,

You have made me a pastor in your church.

You see how unfit I am to undertake this great

and difficult responsibility,

and if it were not for your help

I would have ruined it all long ago.

Therefore I cry to you for aid.

I offer my mouth and my heart to your service.

I desire to teach the people,

and, for myself, that I will learn evermore,

and diligently meditate on your word.

Use me as your instrument but never forsake me,

for if I am left alone I will easily bring it all to destruction.


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