Saturday, May 25, 2019

Customer survey

In business we use surveys to understand our customers and adjust to better meet their needs.

In church we don't usually do this. At my church we've done a couple, but not regularly.

Every quarter we should do surveys of church services, small groups, Sunday school, youth groups, etc.

They can be quite simple, and for younger people SurveyMonkey can be used: it automates analysis.

Here's a quick example of such a survey:

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Abide with me

Great comment on the hymn:

How blessed I am to hear this many times..I am so blessed and thankful to know that Our Father is always there to listen and to help me and all who believe that He will always Abide with you and me..with the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen

(Wayne Catel)

The young person's guide to prayer

This is for praying out loud, use the same approach to your private prayers, if you like.

There are some good tips here, but I've jotted down some as well.

Prayer to our heavenly Father can be very simple. The shortest prayer in the Bible is:

"Lord, save me!"  uttered by Peter when he started sinking in the water (Matthew 14: 30)

A pattern you might like is:

Father in heaven...

  • thank you for [some good thing -- event, idea, something you've read. etc.]
  • please give me wisdom [in relationships... (think of specific people or activities)]
  • please give me...[ask for some specific help, guidance, change in self or others]

And that's it!

For a public prayer it helps to say "amen" at the end so everyone knows it is finished.

Or, you can say:

"In Christ, amen."

Another way is to follow the pattern of the Lord's Prayer, but use modern words that relate to your life:

"Father in heaven, please bring your kingdom so all is done as you will

Give us our needs for our daily life.

Please forgive our failings and wrongs and help us to be kind and forgive others.

Help us to not follow the wrong way, but keep us from evil

Thank you for your love and power and your eternal kingdom of peace."


How a teenager might read the Bible

I was recently asked by one of the members of our church youth group for some ideas about reading the Bible.

The question was about which books, which order, etc.

Here are my thoughts.

1. Genesis 1-11. Find out where we come from.

2. Mark's gospel. Yeshua (aka Joshua, tr Jesus) about his mission on earth.

3. Joshua: the people of God, escaped from Egyptian captivity moving into the promised land.

4. After Joshua, go on to read Judges: the exploits of the first centuries in the promised land.

5. Colossians: who Christ is.

6. Nehemiah: the re-building of Jerusalem's walls.

7. Philippians: encouragement for the Christian life.

8. Acts: the founding of the Christian church (the body of believers together).

9. James: more on living the Christian life.

10. Exodus: the Jews' escape from Egyptian slavery.

11. Matthew's gospel: a more detailed account of Yeshua's mission.

12. 1 Samuel: the organisation of the kingdom of Israel.

13. Galatians: the theology of God's grace.

14. 2 Samuel: David's reign in Israel.

Then, read through the NT from Matthew to Revelation

Following, read Genesis to Deuteronomy, scan over the bits that interest you less.

All the while, seek to read a Psalm a day or so. Skip the ones that don't attract you.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019


From time to time people wonder how God could create light before the sun.

Here's how:

Light is a synecdoche for the entire electro-magnetic energy field. In physical terms, this would have to be one of the first things created for the rest to 'work'.

If it wasn't created, the stars would merely be large dark blobs.

Perhaps the 'waters' that the Spirit moved over the face of has a similar physical scope. Maybe not 'water' per se, but some large fliud mass: undifferentiated sub-atomic particles?

Monday, May 20, 2019

How you start is how you go.

Recently I attended a previous church with a friend who remains part of that generally excellent congregation.

The sermon took a look at Genesis 1.

Here's my take on it, shared with the minister:

After sermons the service reader often feels the urge to summarise, adding their usually unnecessary two bits worth to the preacher’s work of hours. But I was impressed on Sunday the fifth of May when she added the memorable words: “God created with order and rhythm, you are not random.”

Most sermons I’ve heard on Genesis 1 have concentrated on the exegetical details: we’ve heard about ‘days’ and how long they are (or not), about light being created before the sun, about man looking after the fish (well, no, no one talks about that); but little about the grand theology of this most significant passage.

I was pleased that you looked into this, talking about the God who speaks and by this relates to his creation (reminiscent of the title of Schaeffer’s famous book) with rational effect; whose will causes creation, and I agree, immediately at the motion of his will: at the utterance of his word.

He is God who is love and whose love produces a creation that is consistent with his nature and reflective of his being, ‘ruled’ by creatures to seek his loving objective.

But one could go much further. He is God who creates the place for fellowship: the creation is the first tabernacle in a way, where God and man-in-his-image are in fellowship in a commutative reality made for that purpose: where the substance of fellowship has bidirectional potency with mutuality of personhood and significance.

To effect this the creation account is and has to be embedded in the same reality to which it gives ostensible effect, with its meaningful results cut from the same cloth as the account. And I must disagree; there are not 12, or even 2 creation accounts in the Bible, but one. The other mentions depend upon and illuminate this only recounting of events.

If this were not so, then there would be a profound disjunct between the world we have and the world depicted in the creation account. This would destroy any real link between the account and the world in which it would have congruent meaning (allowing no continuous ontology, if you want a technical phrase) and leave us agnostic as to origin and relations. Its recitation of events would be relegated to impassive myth with no real connection to event or content that the world imposes on us, circumscribing our life-experience and making the context for relationship with God.

The key message of the account, to my mind, builds on the fundamental reality, the ‘first philosophy:’ that God is, and is persons in relationship. Reality is not first material with ‘god’ defined within it, but its the other way; reality is first personal and God defines what is and how it works by the first demonstration of this recounted in Genesis 1 as a constant real-world event sequence. This sequence conducts meaning as it is in the terms of our life in that world.

Thus the message of the timing and sequence of the creation: the days, clearly defined as ‘evening and morning’ type days (so described as the separation of darkness followed the creation of light) and enumerated to drive that point. The further point this makes is important. God is in and makes the reality that we experience. His fellowship is ‘in time’ as well as reaching to us ‘in space’. There is no idealist or Zen occulting veil that obscures relationship.

Our encounters with God are real and engage us in real space-time experiences. We have a certainty of fellowship and a fellowship that is again bi-directionally connected: we in space-time, God the creator of and also actor in that space-time; yet at the same time being beyond, above and before it. The details and their realist import drive the theology.

It is impossible to understate the importance of time in Genesis 1. It is not a decoration, an ordering device or a literary manoeuvre. It is the conduit of the eternal God in fellowship by showing that he acts in the time that constrains us and uses it in exactly the way we use it: to separate events, sequence action and structure order. It is essential in overturning the pagan default that the universe ‘just is’ and the ‘gods’ remote, unloving and impersonal, demonstrating the intimacy of God’s creative action.

For a religion, the Bible uniquely connects the action of God with our action of and experience in that real world; there is no world-denial, no ‘dream-time’ timelessness, no Zen vacuity, and no idealist obfuscation.

It would be a great pity if fantasies such as the much hailed, but completely wrong-headed ‘framework hypothesis’ were allowed to unseat this great and astonishing fact (which properly presented is riveting to non-believers: the world we walk on is the world created in a six-step sequence marked by the time that we mark our days).

Retreat into a paganised liberal-idealism puts ‘god-talk’ in some other undefined reality to which we have no access. It denies the concrete-realism of the Bible as it tells us that God acts in this world that he created in a manner that aligns with our experience of it.

Abandon this and we have no message of hope, because we stand in the same ‘cloud of unknowing’ as the pagan, the gospel severed from what is really real, grasping after what a text that is disconnected from the world is supposed to tell us about the world that it doesn’t describe.

The upshot is, if Genesis 1 is not true to events, then something else happened, and it is that (unknown and unknowable) ‘something else’ which is really real, orients our lives, defines who we are and what the universe is. But we can’t know what this is and can have no confidence that God really did create with order and rhythm if the account is not accurate to events.

Without this confidence we do end up as ‘random’. Materialists have stepped right up to tell us that we are random chemical accidents in a loveless and impersonal universe where the only reality is pathetic pride in its emptiness. Their mission is advanced when we say that the Bible cannot structure the real and is unreliable as to the basis of our fellowship with our creator.

I also referred him to a critique of the Framework Hypothesis by Pipa.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Bush Church Aid

My letter to the Bush Church Aid Society:

We have for many years looked forward to the BCA magazine and prayer news arriving every couple of months. We have visited workers in the bush from time to time and been in parishes that have supported bush churches.

In this most recent issue I was taken by the Aboriginal art work that wove Christian imagery with Aboriginal 'cultural' imagery (presumably the boomerang depictions, but perhaps other things). In itself probably an innocuous gesture, but as I read that it was part of the BCA 'Reconciliation Action Plan' I was shocked.

It is the church that has brought benefit to aboriginals spiritually, practically and politically over about two centuries in Australia. It is Christians who cared when no one else did. It was Christians who studied aboriginal languages and committed them to text when others couldn't be bothered.

Above all it is the gospel by which we know each other as brethren irrespective of complexion, ethnic group, family background and personal circumstances. The very idea of a RAP is yet another empty 'virtue-signalling' gesture by the rich white city folk to assuage their consciences with meaningless posturing. We are above that vanity! The gospel is a transcending higher calling than a RAP, so why does an institution and mission effort as the BCA bother with the conceit of worldly self-aggrandizement?

We are so disappointed that you have placed the church as subservient to a panicked piece of social manipulation that turns brothers and sisters into sub-groups of 'them and us' that I no longer wish to receive your publications.

Please remove us from your mailing list.

Indian industrial relations show

As part of our current series on living the Christian life, last Sunday we had a documentary instead of a sermon. It was on indentured labour (slavery) in India.

What should have been clipped to an interview of about 5 minutes, took over the entire service.

The collective prayer for the speaker was wonderful; but the 90 minute docco was not.

Even some announcements were long-winded.

Some church people when they speak take a lend of the audience. But we have a duty to consider the audience and give them a good experience free of 'ums', 'ahs', and repetitious fillers.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Hymns for Vale

Last year I felt near death: after surgery to remove a tumour I had 6 months of chemotherapy. The surgery was successful, but there was a small risk of a metastatic route being present. Thus the precautionary chemotherapy. From mid-way through the course I felt so sick I felt at death's door.

My mind kept turning to my funeral.

Here are the hymns and readings for it:

Tell out my Soul

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord!
Unnumbered blessings give my spirit voice;
tender to me the promise of his word;
in God my Savior shall my heart rejoice.

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his Name!
Make known his might, the deeds his arm has done;
his mercy sure, from age to age to same;
his holy Name--the Lord, the Mighty One.

Tell out, my soul, the greatness of his might!
Powers and dominions lay their glory by.
Proud hearts and stubborn wills are put to flight,
the hungry fed, the humble lifted high.

Tell out, my soul, the glories of his word!
Firm is his promise, and his mercy sure.
Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord
to children's children and for evermore!

Thine be the Glory

Thine be the Glory, Risen Conquering Son
Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son;
endless is the victory, thou o'er death hast won;
angels in bright raiment rolled the stone away,
kept the folded grave clothes where thy body lay.
Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son,
Endless is the vict'ry, thou o'er death hast won.

Lo! Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb;
Lovingly he greets us, scatters fear and gloom;
let the Church with gladness, hymns of triumph sing;
for her Lord now liveth, death hath lost its sting.
Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son,
Endless is the vict'ry, thou o'er death hast won.

No more we doubt thee, glorious Prince of life;
life is naught without thee; aid us in our strife;
make us more than conquerors, through thy deathless love:
bring us safe through Jordan to thy home above.
Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son,
Endless is the vict'ry, thou o'er death hast won.

Handel's I know that my redeemer liveth from Messiah

(play the recording: good audio gear too, no cheap rubbish, even if it costs a few hundred to hire)
(My mother enjoyed singing this aria)

I know that my redeemer liveth
And that he shall stand
At the latter day, upon the earth
I know that my redeemer liveth
And that he shall stand
At the latter day, upon the earth
Upon the earth
I know that my redeemer liveth
And he shall stand
Stand at the latter day, upon the earth
Upon the earth
And though worms destroy this body
Yet in my flesh shall I see God
Yet in my flesh shall I see God
I know that my redeemer liveth
And though worms destroy this body
Yet in my flesh shall I see God
Yet in my flesh shall I see God
Shall I see God

How Great Thou Art

[we all know this one]
(off his African Sanctus album: must be played loudly!) 
(same request as above regarding good audio)

And Bible readings:

Opening of service:  John 1:1-3; Psalm 91:1-2

Philippians 3:7-12

Colossians 1:13-20

Psalm 16:7-11

End of service: Ps 13:5-6

Then Fanshawe's African Sanctus
(also played loudly as a postlude)

At the wake

Dvorak's New World Symphony (we played part at  my father's funeral)
Bach's Cello suites (Julia and I heard these at one of our first outings together).