Tag Archives: Christianity

A new blog Under The Water

I have started a new blog site called, Under the Water.

I will maintain both sites, but Under the Water will have a more specific and narrow subject as summarised on the About page:

Under the Water is a writing project that I plan to use to tease out some questions about whether a Baptist Church has a place in Australia. Along the way I will deal with practical and theological issues on Baptist beliefs and behaviours. I am writing from the perspective of both a Church Minister (or to use the common Baptist terminology, Pastor) and a potential research student working towards completing a post-graduate theological degree. At some point in the next few years I am planning to write a formal thesis dissertation and the articles on this blog are a way of thinking through that process in smaller, less academic, bite size pieces.

I have kicked things off with a small chat about defining ‘Church‘.

So, add the site to your feedreader or subscription and come along for the ride.

What topics or issues, related to Under the Water, would you like to see or discuss there?



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Posted by on 10/09/2013 in church, Culture, leadership, Theology


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I can’t wait to be patient!

169084857_bd43cb43dcMaybe it will happen one day. But when?! I want to be patient NOW!

During a chat on the fruit of the Spirit, some guys talked about which of the listed characteristics they felt most lacking in their experience. Patience seemed to the be popular choice. All of the men in the discussion were fathers, so all have had their share of frustrating waits.

It wasn’t until the day after, when I was out and needed to do some phone banking to pay for something. My data connection just wasn’t working. I moved about, turned the phone off and on again, took the cover off, tried holding it different ways. Nothing! After about 15 minutes of trying and getting the “unable to connect to the internet” message, I started to get quite cranky. With the phone, the carrier, with the shopping centre for obstructing the signal, even with the other shoppers walking past. Nonsense really. Then the discussion about patience came back. So, it seems a bit of patience would be handy at this point. But, I needed my phone to work immediately!

What is patience? What has it got to do with a Christian characteristic? The word (in Galatians 5:22) is translated from a term that pictures remaining calm even if provoked or in the event of misfortune. It has the idea of enduring without changing demeanour. i.e. getting cranky, or frustrated, taking things into your own hands to bring about a faster (better?) resolution. One dictionary I have says, “to keep your heart from jumping”. That sounds about right – because when I get impatient, my heart rate increases!

To be patient is to accept that the immediate situation or change isn’t going to be rectified by my outburst. That doesn’t mean to be passive. It means, that in the face of something that is out of your control, you are prepared to trust in either a different or a later result. e.g. You go to meet up with someone for lunch. They’re late. You try to call to check if they’re ok and there’s no answer. You check social media to see if they’ve posted something about bad traffic and there’s nothing. You now have a choice. You probably make it in less than a nano second, but you still have a choice. Start to fume, or be patient. Which of the two is going to make your friend arrive earlier? Neither. Which of the two will keep your friendship (and your blood pressure!). Hmm.

In the case of Christian patience. We’re not simply talking about keeping calm when a lunch appointment is 5 minutes behind schedule. Although, that’s probably a wise thing anyway. Patience has a far reaching view into the future promised to those who believe in Jesus. For instance in the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ passage. Paul is talking about how some people were going about trying to improve their relationship with God (and probably their standing before others in the Church community). They had adopted a ‘take charge’ concept of constructing behavioural codes (Including circumcision. Ouch!) to improve the way God accepted them.

Paul explains that nothing you construct on the outside is going to change what is happening on the inside. In fact it will end up being counter productive. Instead those who have trusted in Jesus to do what was promised (make them right before God – provide forgiveness, new life now and in eternity to come) can wait for the hope of righteousness. He uses an agricultural concept, fruit, to explain how this takes place. God says he’ll do it, slowly, the way fruit grows on a tree. It’s an act of his Spirit and it’s eventual outcome is an experience in the fully realised kingdom of God.

Patience, then, waits for God to complete his work and fulfil his promise. Our response is to “keep in step” with him – not run ahead, not fall behind, and not take things into our own hands to build an inferior form of righteousness. Inferior, because it is more concerned with one-upmanship than the love of God and neighbour. Instead be “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

Can you be patient? Now?



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Posted by on 09/08/2013 in discipleship, Hermenutics


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How Christianity Differs from Both Liberalism and Conservatism

In broadly defining both these terms as:

liberal: “contemporary variety of government-driven social reformism.”

conservative: “opposes the contemporary government-driven variety of social reformism in the name of some cherished thing which he finds that it endangers.”

maybe helpful, maybe not. But it’s a starting point. Justin Taylor provides more detail in his summary of J. Budziszewski’s set of articles for First Thingson “The Problem with Liberalism” and “The Problem with Conservatism.”

The important point as a Christian is that I do not assume or co-opt one side or other automatically as my default. This runs afoul of the notion that evangelical Christians are always right-wing conservatives, but if I am true to my allegiance to Jesus then I will often find myself on the “left” side of the table.

How does classical Christianity differ from both? Here are Budziszewski’s comparisons.

Comparing liberalism with Christianity:

  1. Propitiationism: I should do unto others as they want. Christianity: I should do unto others as they need.
  2. Expropiationism: I may take from others to help the needy, giving nothing of my own. Christianity: I should give of my own to help the needy, taking from no one.
  3. Solipsism: Human beings make themselves, belong to themselves, and have value in and of themselves. Christianity: Human beings are made by God, belong to Him, and have value because they are loved by Him and made in His image.
  4. Absolutism: We cannot be blamed when we violate the moral law, either because we cannot help it, because we have no choice, or because it is our choice. Christianity: We must be blamed, because we are morally responsible beings.
  5. Perfectionism: Human effort is adequate to cure human evil. Christianity: Our sin, like our guilt, can be erased only by the grace of God through faith in Christ.
  6. Universalism: The human race forms a harmony whose divisions are ultimately either unreal or unimportant. Christianity: Human harmony has been shattered by sin and cannot be fully healed by any means short of conversion.
  7. Neutralism: The virtue of tolerance requires suspending judgments about good and evil. Christianity: The virtue of tolerance requires making judgments about good and evil.
  8. Collectivism: The state is more important to the child than the family. Christianity: The family is more important to the child than the state.
  9. The Fallacy of Desperate Gestures: “The perfectionist acts, at least in the beginning, from a desire to relieve someone else’s pain. The desperationist acts to relieve his own: the pain of pity, the pain of impotence, the pain of indignation. He is like a man who beats on a foggy television screen with a pipe wrench, not because the wrench will fix the picture but because it is handy and feels good to use.”

Comparing conservatism with Christianity:

  1. Civil Religionism: America is a chosen nation, and its projects are a proper focus of religious aspiration. Christianity: America is but one nation among many, no less loved by God, but no more.
  2. Instrumentalism: Faith should be used for the ends of the state. Christianity: Believers should be good citizens, but faith is not a tool.
  3. Moralism: God’s grace needs the help of the state. Christianity: Merely asks that the state get out of the way.
  4. Caesarism: The laws of man are higher than the laws of God. Christianity: The laws of God are higher than the laws of man.
  5. Traditionalism: What has been done is what should be done. Christianity: Any merely human custom may have to be repented.
  6. Neutralism: Everyone ought to mind his own business, therefore moral and religious judgments should be avoided. Christianity: While one ought to mind his own business, moral and religious judgments can never be avoided.
  7. Mammonism: Wealth is the object of commonwealth, and its continual increase even better. Christianity: Wealth is a snare, and its continual increase even worse.
  8. Meritism: I should do unto others as they deserve. Christianity: I should do unto others not as they deserve, but as they need.

The conclusion? Participate in the political process, remain objective and consider your opportunity to influence and persuade. Don’t bind yourself to one side of the table because that’s the “Christian thing to do” and compromise objectivity and lose relationships that you can nurture.



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Posted by on 02/05/2013 in Culture


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Reading the Bible? You must be out of your mind!

When responding to a proposal to distribute Bibles to school children in the UK as a way of marking the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible translation a couple of years ago, Professor Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist at Oxford, said: “A native speaker of English who has never read a word of the King James Bible is verging on the barbarian.”

Reading the Bible is one thing. Obtaining something valuable as a result of the reading is another. In Dawkins opinion, reading it would “disabuse [the reader] of the pernicious falsehood” that the Bible is a moral book.

I agree with his statement. The Bible is not about morals, nor is it an polemic on how to be more moral. It simply is not so. However, if you have never read it before, it can baffle you considerably. Yet, so many who do read (some of) it, still insist it is a moral story. This ignores the authors intent because the Bible is not a moral book teaching a behavioural code. It is God revealing himself.

as it is written:

“No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. ~ 1 Corinthians 2:9-11

Because he is revealing himself, he is the one that gets to decide the meaning of what he says. Without God setting the agenda for what the Bible means, you become a bit like a sighted person trying to tell a blind person what colour looks like. You have no frame of reference. God gives us his frame of reference in the Bible.

Related Article:

Why words are adequate

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Posted by on 18/02/2013 in Bible, Hermenutics, Reading


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The wasted virtue of self denial


When Oscar Wilde said that “Self-denial is the shining sore on the leprous body of Christianity” he could easily have observed almost any professing Christian in any age or place who mistakenly believe their abstinence was the key that unlocked all the blessings of heaven. In Matthew’s, “proof text” for Christian self-denial there is a preposition that is often overlooked in practice and lifestyle that is responsible for spiritual leprosy.

The preposition Wildes’ lepers have ignored is in Matthew 10:39, “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it“: or “because of me“.

There is no gain or merit in a life of self denial, strict discipline, adherence, stoicism, charitable works and the like outside of Christ. If the sacrifice in possession, place or relationship is done now to manipulate or bargain a greater inheritance in eternity, then it will fail. We cannot merit grace. We cannot earn God’s favor.

Rather, if, in the pursuit of Christ, to gain more of him, to know him, love him, serve him or to, in the John Edwards sense, deepen my affectation for him, by him and to him, I suffer some loss here and now in relationships, recognition or reward that will be to my eternal gain. For though I may have lost those things I gained Christ. He is my exceeding great reward; to know him and to experience the power that was at work in his resurrection in my life; that is a true and elegant sufficiency.

The call is not to suffer for sufferings sake as though by my suffering I repay part of an impossible debt. It is a rejoinder that as you suffer “because of me” you are, in fact, finding your life not losing it. Don’t seek to suffer, but when it comes receive it gladly “because of me” and rejoice in the eternal life that Christ has given. Self denial is a wasted virtue because so many think that through their efforts, they achieve or earn God’s gift. “I have suffered so I deserve better.” When that is your posture you are seeking your life on your terms and you only have loss waiting for you. Write it all off for the sake of Christ and gain everything.

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Posted by on 13/01/2013 in Bible, discipleship, Jesus


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This article, originally by J. C. Ryle, is an excellent and practical approach to reading the Bible.


Originally posted on The J.C. Ryle Archive:

1.Begin reading your Bible this very day. The way to do a thing is to do it; and the way to read the Bible is actually to read it! It is not merely meaning, or wishing, or resolving, or intending, or thinking about it , which will advance you one step. You must positively read. There is no royal road in this matter, any more than in the matter of prayer. If you cannot read yourself, you must persuade somebody else to read it to you. But one way or another, through eyes or ears, the words of Scripture must actually pass before your mind.

2.Read the Bible with an earnest desire to understand it. Do not think for a moment, that the great object is to turn over a certain quantity of printed paper, and that it matters nothing whether you understand it or not. Some ignorant…

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Posted by on 12/08/2012 in General


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Be a better pastor by attending School Career Day

I’ve just got back from a little presentation in my daughter’s primary school class on “People in our Community.” Several parents had come along to the class to tell the children what they did for a job and how they served the community in their job. It was tempting to feel a little sheepish about being a mere Pastor when compared to the Barrister, Doctor, Psychologist and Marine Rescue Officer, however, thankfully my identity does not revolve around my work but my relationship to Christ! As I was listening to each speaker and later spoke with some of them about their work it struck me that Career Day had a lot more to teach me than just what the other parents do for a living.

It is all to easy as a Pastor to become cloistered and cut off from the real world. Spending time in the study preparing for preaching is paramount but those to whom you preach do not have that liberty. When you preach or counsel you need to apply the gospel to where they live. If you know nothing of their world, how will you make that connection? As you invest much time preparing to preach, what good is it, if upon completion of your sermon, the Barrister, Retail Consultant, Stay at Home Mum, Plumber and Doctor shrug their shoulders and say, “So what?!

Likewise if your ministry is addressed to others in ministry, if you can’t show them how to serve their people where they live, then what?

Now, I’m not arguing for a completely pragmatic approach that only responds or reacts to felt needs or anything like that. What I’m saying is that to be precise in your preaching and counselling you need to know something of what people are dealing with. The Foreign Exchange Dealer that is constantly on edge due to the volatility in fiscal markets; the Barrister that is upset at how people view their role as a defence lawyer in a negative light; the Doctor that is exhausted from working ridiculous hours trying to fit in as many patients as possible; the Plumber that hasn’t had a weekend off since starting his apprenticeship and so on. Bearing in mind also, that stress from struggles are not necessarily directly related to the field or industry where someone is working – I’m talking in generics for the sake of this blog post – but that’s something you need to avoid in your preaching and counsel!

How do you serve them? How does the gospel speak into their life and circumstances? Specifically? You won’t find out by playing around on Twitter as you finish reading yet another e-book on the theory of Pentateuch authorship. Things like Career Day give you a chance to learn about the people in your Church and what fills their week. It helps you understand why they do what they do and whether they enjoy it, find it challenging or stressful. How do they deal with some of the harsher elements of their job? e.g. People in medical and service industries are often faced with death and trauma – how do they deal with that?

I had originally gone along to Career Day as a favour to my daughter to make her feel important that Daddy had come to her class. And, I think that happened ;) But, I think the other thing that happened was a great reality check for me in my ministry as a Pastor. I should quickly add, that this is the sort of thing you also find out by visiting the people in your congregation and getting to know them. This is just another way of doing that. What are some other ways you can get to know your congregation and serve them better as their Pastor?

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Posted by on 13/06/2012 in discipleship, ministry, Preaching


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