Friday, September 27, 2019

Reading the Bible for the first time.

Many people want you to start with a gospel. Fine if you already have even a vaguely Christian life-world, but if not, not a wise idea.

Start with the beginning. Get an idea of what Israel is, then a gospel or two a short letter or two and at least the end of Revelation. Thus:

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

What about.....(what went on at the church planning meeting)

At a recent church planning meeting 'brainstorm' (i.e. no discussion allowed, only 'build on' ideas) the following ideas were floated, with varying degrees of murmured assent:

"why don't we do a 'welcome to country' [actually 'acknowledgement of country'] at our services...we do that at work..." ['acknowledgement of country is an anachronistic farce performed in countries once dogged by tribal occupation where the tribal occupiers are regarded as 'owners' in its modern conception]

> We don't do this because we don't need to ask anyone's permission to join as Christians to celebrate our faith together ('worship' as some term it). We particularly don't need to co-brand with a tribal anamist religion that thinks the ground is a spirit-place.
I would not salute the national flag, fly it on congregational property, recite the national anthem or turn to face a photo of the Queen in a congregational building; nor do I 'swear' on the Bible at court. Our Lord calls us to himself, not to share devotion with pagans, earthly powers or Queens.

"I've got a friend who works on outreach at Liberty Ministries...maybe we should look at an inclusive ministry for people who are same-sex attracted..."

"the city churches are right into this [SSA].. I think Christ Church [St Lawrence - I used to go there]...or something is involved, we should talk to them ..."
> Speaking of queens (attempted humour) while we would regard any person who is facing the challenge of same-sex attraction and its allied perversions (in the sense of 'distortion or corruption of the original course, meaning, or state of something"), as people made in the image of God, as we all are, and would seek to relate to them and represent Christ to them, knowing we all share the shackles of the fall, we must not buy into the  neo-marxist 'LGBTI' political agenda. This intends to marginalise and ultimately destroy the family and cripple its role in the propagation of the faith. Overt LGBTI agenda is to hyper-sexualise life and reduce everyone to a 'sexual identity' making sex their 'god' and subjugate the life of love (agape) to that of lust in its various forms.

"the xyz mosque has an open day...we should do that too...maybe we could go to visit the mosque..."
 If there's anything that embodies the persona of the anti-Christ it is Islam. It is a fake religion from beginning to end that seeks to capture by violent intimidation, subjugate and imprision people in a system of power and ideas that cuts them off from God who is love.

In the mind-set of Islam a church visiting a Mosque on its 'open-day' would be seen by the Imam as the capitulation of Christianity to Islam and further encourage their enslaving ambitions. We might go to debate, or get to know individual adherants, but we should be as wise as serpents when it comes to the Koran's threat of death to those who do not 'submit' to the moon god.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Heaven's closed

I and family attended a concert performed by the Kuringai Philharmonic Orchestra recently.

 One of the pieces was Heaven is Closed by Elena Kats-Chernin.

"...the music knocks on a door, repetitively. If that one doesn't answer, try another -- but they're all closed. Perhaps heaven is full. Or it is closed for business." [The work was composed while a family member of hers was seriously ill:] "Heaven means bliss, and if it is to be found, it must be here and now, in daily being."

Kats-Chernin is attempting to deal with the effects of the cosmic alienation from God brought by our alienation from God (thanks Adam), it apparent randomness, and the threat of inconsequentiality to our lives. It appears she can only do so by shutting up 'heaven' and seeking it in futility here and now.

There is much to be said for the noble life, of bearing up under adversity. In daily being we as Christians, are mindful of being in Christ and worshipping him; and while nobility of spirit is admirable, reflective of our being in God's image, it only has existential meaning if the human spirit is known as given by God and to find its home in his company eternally. Without this it is indeed forlorn.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Its a sad, sad, sad, sad world

Rather than a mad mad mad mad world (a 1963 comedy film). Its a sad, sad, sad, sad world. Job tells us so.

But the message of the Bible, the gospel, is that we are not in this alone; it does not represent our final state, we can work against the 'sad', and we can, in Christ, nevertheless, live, grow and have joy.

And there is no one-to-one correlation between our 'sads' and our actions, but it is a fallen world. Heller in Catch-22 throws this into dark satirical contrast when Yosarrian and Dunbar start discussing the misaligned 'causes' of each other's afflictions, in the actions of other people.

Our sermon this morning was on this theme, and it is one that is rarely part of modern Christian pastoral theology, Christian spiritual formation or practical thought, alas.

Its theology, in the sermon, sprang from Job 42:1-6, amplified by Paul in Romans 11:33-36 and prior.

But one thing was missing: Genesis 1-3 -- God making us in his image (Gen 1:27-28) and for fellowship (3:8-9). But that fellowship broken as we, in Adam, rejected it, casting the world under our stewardship adrift from God's wisdom.

An aspect of the 'adriftness' of the cosmos, the world seems random, as Heller satirises, but we who are in Christ are not adrift in the randomness of a 'natural' world; rather we are in the cosmos created and sustained by God for his purposes and ultimate glory. As a loving creator, his glory will catch us up (in Christ). The cosmos is not a thing separate from God, an independent 'given' but is a thing running amok (compare Luke 13:4), although pervaded by his spirit, broken and fallen as it is. That falleness will not subsume us -- while it does affect us all in various, almost random ways -- because Christ has triumped over the death that ends it and has saved us from it and, sin, its cause.

The Catch-22 quote:

‘I wonder what he did to deserve it,’ the warrant officer with malaria and a mosquito bite on his ass lamented after Nurse Cramer had read her thermometer and discovered that the soldier in white was dead.

‘He went to war,’ the fighter pilot with the golden mustache surmised. ‘We all went to war,’ Dunbar countered.

‘That’s what I mean,’ the warrant officer with malaria continued. ‘Why him? There just doesn’t seem to be any logic to this system of rewards and punishment. Look what happened to me. If I had gotten syphilis or a dose of clap for my five minutes of passion on the beach instead of this damned mosquito bite, I could see justice. But malaria? Malaria? Who can explain malaria as a consequence of fornication?’ The warrant officer shook his head in numb astonishment.

‘What about me?’ Yossarian said. ‘I stepped out of my tent in Marrakech one night to get a bar of candy and caught your dose of clap when that Wac I never even saw before hissed me into the bushes. All I really wanted was a bar of candy, but who could turn it down?’

‘That sounds like my dose of clap, all right,’ the warrant officer agreed. ‘But I’ve still got somebody else’s malaria. Just for once I’d like to see all these things sort of straightened out, with each person getting exactly what he deserves. It might give me some confidence in this universe.’

‘I’ve got somebody else’s three hundred thousand dollars,’ the dashing young fighter captain with the golden mustache admitted. ‘I’ve been goofing off since the day I was born. I cheated my way through prep school and college, and just about all I’ve been doing ever since is shacking up with pretty girls who think I’d make a good husband. I’ve got no ambition at all. The only thing I want to do after the war is marry some girl who’s got more money than I have and shack up with lots more pretty girls. The three hundred thousand bucks was left to me before I was born by a grandfather who made a fortune selling on an international scale. I know I don’t deserve it, but I’ll be damned if I give it back. I wonder who it really belongs to.’

‘Maybe it belongs to my father,’ Dunbar conjectured. ‘He spent a lifetime at hard work and never could make enough money to even send my sister and me through college. He’s dead now, so you might as well keep it.’

‘Now, if we can just find out who my malaria belongs to we’d be all set. It’s not that I’ve got anything against malaria. I’d just as soon goldbrick with malaria as with anything else. It’s only that I feel an injustice has been committed. Why should I have somebody else’s malaria and you have my dose of clap?’

‘I’ve got more than your dose of clap,’ Yossarian told him. ‘I’ve got to keep flying combat missions because of that dose of yours until they kill me.’

‘That makes it even worse. What’s the justice in that?’

‘I had a friend named Clevinger two and a half weeks ago who used to see plenty of justice in it.’ ‘It’s the highest kind of justice of all,’ Clevinger had gloated, clapping his hands with a merry laugh. ‘I can’t help thinking of the Hippolytus of Euripides, where the early licentiousness of Theseus is probably responsible for the asceticism of the son that helps bring about the tragedy that ruins them all. If nothing else, that episode with the Wac should teach you the evil of sexual immorality.’

‘It teaches me the evil of candy.’

‘Can’t you see that you’re not exactly without blame for the predicament you’re in?’ Clevinger had continued with undisguised relish. ‘If you hadn’t been laid up in the hospital with venereal disease for ten days back there in Africa, you might have finished your twenty-five missions in time to be sent home before Colonel Nevers was killed and Colonel Cathcart came to replace him.’

‘And what about you?’ Yossarian had replied. ‘You never got clap in Marrakech and you’re in the same predicament.’

‘I don’t know,’ confessed Clevinger, with a trace of mock concern. ‘I guess I must have done something very bad in my time.’

‘Do you really believe that?’

Clevinger laughed. ‘No, of course not. I just like to kid you along a little.’

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Reading the Bible

A section from a booklet I'm writing for new Christians:

There are two ways of reading the Bible: fast, and slow. Use both.


Most people mostly read the Bible slowly: usually in their daily devotions or as a quiet respite from daily activities.

Devotional reading

Is a practice that is as old as the church. It includes reading a passage of convenient length, prayer, meditation on the text, and sometimes reading of Christian poetry or hymns. Some also keep a journal of their devotions. People might use an historic ‘prayer book’ to aid them and it can be helpful to use a commentary or devotional notes along with the Bible passage to aid understanding.


Studying the Bible differs from devotional reading in that it seeks to understand the text and its application to or effect on our thinking and behaviour. Usually a book of the bible or theme is worked through using various published reference works such as Bible dictionaries or encyclopaedia, commentaries on the book being studied, which are the work of scholars to aid our detailed understanding of the passage and special dictionaries called lexicons, to help our understanding of the words used in the original languages of Greek and Hebrew.
There’s computer software that can be very helpful for studying.


Not much is said in church circles about fast reading. But fast reading is good. This is taking the Bible as one would take any book and reading it, or selected books, as a whole and reasonable quickly. Devotional reading could take years to read the entire Bible. Fast reading could see it read in a couple of months, depending on the time one has.
You are likely to find, reading fast, that the Bible contains some great stories. My own view is that the first five books: the ‘Pentateuch’ or Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus and Deuteronomy are a great ‘saga’ of epic proportions. The OT history books can be just as enthralling.
In the NT the gospels are also great stories, and with four there is likely to be a style that you find particularly attractive. Most of the NT letters can be read in one sitting.
The table below sets out some approaches to the order to read the various books in to quickly give you a grasp of the whole Bible teaching.
Which ever approach, find a translation you like, but also read other translations from time to time to gain some differing perspectives on the text and perhaps your faith.