Friday, July 31, 2009

More on prophecy in the Old Testament

A prophet communicates the word of God to lead the people to God. All mystic elements aside, this is their fundamental role. This is quite a dissatisfying discovery. When I began my study of prophecy I had grand visions of, well, grand visions actually. As well as all other manner of bizarre expectations of what prophecy actually entailed. At it's essence, it appears relatively unspectacular. Sure, there are occurrences where prophecy is associated with some peculiar activities, but to prophesy is simply to communicate the word of God to lead the people to God.

Yet is it really that unexciting? To be a true prophet of God, requires a special relationship with God. If you are the communicator of God's message, God needs to give you that message. And rocking up to God and offering your courier service is easier said than done. Being a messenger of the LORD, of the God of the universe is a spectacular thing. It requires God to choose you as his messenger. This is evidenced in 1 Samuel 10:10. After being anointed as King through God's choosing;
When they came to Gibeah, behold, a group of prophets met him, and the Spirit of God rushed upon him, and he prophesied among them.
or Jeremiah 1:5;
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations."
Yet the reason for prophets was not just God choosing them to be his messengers, but the people realising they were unable to directly approach God. Exodus 20:18-19;
and they (the people of Israel) said to Moses, 'You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die'.
Thus we discover the need for the Holy Spirit. As God's messengers, to receive the word of God and pass it on, requires special relationship with God. This requires and is achieved though the Holy Spirit. To be present before God requires the Holy Spirit. For the sinfulness of humanity means they are unable to approach the holy God. Throughout the Old Testament we see many times this relationship between the Spirit and prophecy played out.
1 Samuel 10:10; and the Spirit of God rushed upon him, and he prophesied
1 Samuel 19:20; the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied.
Or perhaps the clearest part of Scripture that underlines this relationship between the Spirit and prophecy is in Numbers 11. This passage is one of the keys to understanding prophecy. Numbers 11:16-17;
The the LORD said to Moses, "Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it alone.
The people of Israel are complaining again, and are a heavy burden for Moses to bear, but Moses as the Spirit-filled prophet and leader will have some of God's Spirit taken from him and put onto the seventy elders. So Moses gathers the elders. Numbers 11:25;
Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. And as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied.
As God places his Spirit upon the people, the distance of relationship between them is overcome and thus enables them to proclaim his words. Yet here is where things get interesting. A couple of the Spirit-filled elders continue to prophesy in the camp instead of going out, and begin to cause a bit of a ruckus. Numbers 11:27-29;
And a young man ran and told Moses, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp." And Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, "My lord Moses, stop them." But Moses said to him, "Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD's people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!"
Would that all the LORD's people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them. Moses desire for the burdensome people of God is that they would all have God's Spirit, evidenced in them all prophesying. Whereas currently the Spirit is not on all, thus all do not prophesy.

The Spirit in the Old Testament is at work in a small number of God's people to prophesy. Moses longing is that all people would have God's Spirit. It's the longing of God too in Ezekiel 36. And it is prophesied by Joel; that the evidence of this Spirit being poured out on all flesh will be all prophesying. Men and women, slave and free, all-comers filled with the Spirit of God, brimming forth in them speaking the word of God to lead people to God. Joel 2:28-29;
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.
So what does that mean for prophecy today? Ironically, the answer will come tomorrow.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Law... (good God y'all) what is it good for?

Okay, so part of my thinking behind the depth of these last few posts on the Spirit and Prophecy was that Andy had asked me if I could preach in two Sunday's time. The only thing I suggested that I might be able to work up into a sermon in that time was my elective from MYC. My first step was to see if my logic was sound via the blog. If successful I would tell Andy I could do it.

However, as I failed to verbalise any on this, Andy has since asked Matt to preach instead. That's fine. I'm looking forward to it. But it has taken the proverbial wind out of my prophecy sails.

So until the desire returns, we've been preparing to study Exodus this semester at uni Bible Study. As part of this we have been discussing with our student leaders the place of the Law for the Christian. My co-worker in the gospel Gordon Cheng helpfully summarised the reason why Jesus needed to reinterpret the law in Matthew 5:21-22. (I know reinterpret isn't the right word, but you get the gist.)

This is what Jesus says;

You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment...
This is Gordo's summary;

The Pharisee's didn't get the principles behind the law. "I know" they say, "The Law says you shouldn't stab a guy until he bleeds to death. I know. Sure, I stabbed him. And he bled. But he didn't die."

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Prophecy in the Old Testament

I don't have a natural aversion to drawing. However for those who are so inclined, I will attempt to answer all your questions regarding the Spirit and Prophecy with a simple diagram.

For those requiring further explanation, please read on for the remainder of these posts over the next few days.

What is prophecy?
A helpful passage to understanding the role of prophets in the Old Testament is Exodus 7. The context is that Moses is a wimp who would rather not be God's mouthpiece to both Pharaoh and the people. As a consequence God appoints Aaron to be the person who communicates the word from God to the people via Moses. This is how these relationships are described in Exodus 7:1-2;

And the LORD said to Moses, "See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land..."
Moses plays the role of God, speaking the words to an individual while Aaron plays the role of the prophet, communicating that word of God to a wider audience. To boil the role of a prophet down to it's essence is to say a prophet is one who speaks the word of God.

Who can prophesy?
Anyone can be a prophet in the Old Testament. But not everyone can be a true prophet. False prophecy was rife throughout Israel's history. And as the prophet was making a claim to be the messenger of the word of God, the punishment for false prophecies was severe. Deuteronomy 13 describes what is to happen to a false prophet in a situation whereby a prophet or a dreamer of dreams performs a sign or wonder which comes true, but then they lead people to other gods. Deuteronomy 13:5;

But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the LORD your God.
It's amazing how often the more supernatural end of prophecy is diminished in the Bible. Yesterday we saw the first mention of prophecy in the Bible is in the context of dreams, but the dreamer isn't the prophet. Here in Deuteronomy, the truth of a prophecy or the performance of miracles is no sign they are from God. A prophet from God will lead people to the LORD regardless of the signs they perform or their knowledge of the future.

When we think of prophecy, we most likely associate things such as predictions of the future, including if it will rain tomorrow, when am I going to die and what lotto numbers will be drawn next week. Prophecy in the Old Testament certainly at times carries future expectations, but I would contend that a prophet looks back as much as he or she looks forward. Those writings we know as 'the prophets' are full of reflections upon the promises of old. They are often calling the people back to the covenant. Consequently, the yet to be fulfilled promises from God then lead the prophet to speculations and predictions of what this glorious future will look like. These predictions of the future are often quite specific (Isaiah 11:1), yet it remains that the prophets anchor all their future expectations in the promises of old. A prophet is someone who speaks the word of the LORD to lead people to God.

But wait... there's more!
As this is quickly becoming my longest post thus far, I will save more reflections on prophecy in the Old Testament until tomorrow. Yet for those visual learners who will be tossing and turning in bed tonight as you try to make sense of the diagram, I will give you the first piece of the puzzle: Prophecy is present in the Old Testament. But does prophecy exist today? If no, why has it ceased? If yes, how long does prophecy continue in it's original form?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The beginning of prophecy

During the elective I helped run on the Spirit and prophecy, Tracey and I began by asking what questions people came with. The first question both times was;

What is the relationship between dreams and prophecy?
Like everything, I will get to the answer the long way (and perhaps not even venture close to an answer at all).

However, of note to begin with is that the very first mention of prophecy in the Bible comes through a dream. Yet perhaps not in the way you'd expect. This reference to prophecy comes by God in a dream to Abimelech in Genesis 20.

Abraham and Sarah have pulled the old "She's my sister (but really my wife)" trick. And Abimelech after taking Sarah hears this in a dream;

Now then, return the man's wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. (Genesis 20:7)
It's fascinating that God speaks with Abimelech in a dream, but Abimelech isn't the prophet, Abraham is. The next instruction that Abraham will pray for him presupposes the prophet in an intermediary role between God and man. The prophet is one with a special relationship with God.

[Dave, your answer is coming!]

Monday, July 27, 2009

The end of prophecy?

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.
- Ephesians 2:19-20
Who are the prophets in Ephesians?

Our gut reaction (appealing to experience?) is that they are the Old Testament prophets who prophesied about the Christ. What you've most likely been taught (appealing to tradition?) is that your gut is right. My firm conviction is that you are wrong and they are New Testament prophets.

Let me tell you why. Ephesians 3:4-6:

When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
The apostles and prophets upon which the church is built (Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone) are those to whom the mystery of Christ has been revealed. Namely, that the gospel is for the Gentiles who are fellow heirs through the gospel. This is, that which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations. The prophets that predicted the Christ did not have a fully formed view of how their prophecies all fit together. 1 Peter 1:10-11;
Concerning this salvation, the prophets that prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and enquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and his subsequent glories.
There are certainly times when the New Testament uses 'prophets' to speak of the Old Testament prophets. It is even used as shorthand to describe the entire Old Testament such as 2 Peter 3:2

you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets.
Yet it remains my conviction that Ephesians is speaking of New Testament prophets. This is an important piece in the puzzle to understanding the Spirit and prophecy which I shall tease out over the next few days.

It would fit so much better into our theological framework if they weren't. Wouldn't it be great if John was the last prophet...
What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet... Truly, I say to you, among those born of women of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
-Matthew 11:9,11
or even that the prophets ceased with Jesus.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.
- Heb 1:1-2
But prophets continue past Jesus.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.
-Ephesians 4:11

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger...
- Acts 13:1

And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words.
- Acts 15:32
It is clear prophecy continues after Jesus. It is similarly clear they have a significant role in the early church. But what should we make of this?

[For beginning this line of thought, I am indebted to the internationally renowned scholars M.B. Field and T.A. Gowing]

Saturday, July 25, 2009

L is for the way you...

Phillip Jensen on why we have a problem with 1 Corinthians 12-14;
We don't read each of the chapters in relation to each other. We read chapter 12 and think "Paul is talking about spiritual gifts", then we get to chapter 13 and think "What a lovely discussion about love, I might have that at my wedding", then reading chapter 14 and "Paul is talking about speaking in tongues." If we don't understand love, we won't understand the gifts. Love trumps gifts every time.
This clear explanation of why we shouldn't have 1 Corinthians 13 as the Bible reading at weddings has inspired me in the medium of verse;

L is for your language strange to ears
O means God's the only one who hears
V it's very very alienating to me
E is an even bet, that no one understands what you said

Love's the most important thing to do
Speak one at a time, but never two
Two is agitation
If there's no interpretation
Love will serve both me and you

Friday, July 24, 2009

Considering context

Many students of the Bible are aware a text without the context is a con. I have known this phrase for many years, but it wasn't until this week at MYC, that I really understood how this was so integral to formulating our understanding of church.

By far the most vivid thing coming out of MYC on the Holy Spirit was just how far off centre the majority of conversation regarding the Spirit is, especially the Spirit and the Church. We mostly formulate our expectation and understanding of the Spirit and His work primarily from Acts onward. The underlying assumption is that Genesis to John is largely irrelevant.

When you hear that at our conference we were studying the Bible about the Holy Spirit, what's your first thought? If you had one, my guess is that it was probably 1 Corinthians 12-14. Yet here's the importance of context (particularly situational) in reading the Bible. While it would be a mistake to not include 1 Corinthians 12-14 in any robust discussion of the work of the Holy Spirit, it's equally problematic to immediately bring this passage to mind. 1 Corinthians is written to address problems in the worst church gathering in the New Testament. Is this really where we should look to discover our expectation of what church should look like? It's not that many lessons can't be learned from Paul's response. They can. But the danger with studying a corrective is we get a slanted view of what is best. It's the danger of looking at anything in the negative. You might know how not to do things wrongly, but not be that much better off in knowing how to do things right. When flying, would you rather your pilots had studied 'Airline disasters: what went wrong when they went down" or "How to fly a plane." 

As 1 Corinthians was written to address how the Corinthians are getting church wrong, perhaps the better place to go to formulate expectations of what church should be like would be 1 Timothy which was written so that

if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The only thing non-Christians and Christians agree on

We all hate evangelism.

Non-Christian's hate evangelism because we are making a claim that they are wrong. We hate evangelism, because we don't like them hating us making the claim they are wrong.

More explanation via Phillip Jensen when I get home from MYC.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


More gold from Phillip Jensen:

What would Jesus do? Well, he wouldn't wear a silly little thing around his wrist.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Holy Spirit - What is it?

I love provocative post titles. The Holy Spirit is not an 'it' but a 'He'. He is not an impersonal force but a person. Many people (including those who no doubt rubbed their hands with glee upon reading the title post and hopefully have not gone straight to the comments to make a goose of yourself) love to jump down your throat if you slip up occasionally and call the Holy Spirit an 'it' rather than 'He'. I'm convinced you should call him 'he', but it's not as simple as that. In fact, it would be great to insist you must always refer to the Holy Spirit as 'he'. But if you slip up once in a while you have an ally. And perhaps not the person you'd expect. According to John, Jesus called the Holy Spirit 'it'. Unfortunately though you won't find this in your Bible as the translators have let us down by trying to cover for Jesus 'mistake', but I'm reliably informed (via Phillip Jensen) that in the original Greek it is clearly 'it'.

According to Phillip, even though it's not good practice, this proves you can occasionally make the mistake of calling the Holy Spirit an 'it'. Gordon Cheng however has a different interpretation and suggests all this proves is that you can call the Holy Spirit 'it' just once in your ministry.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Adjusting things according(to)ly

The gospel is all about Jesus. Which is why naming each of the gospel accounts primarily in reference to it's author (eg 'Luke's Gospel' or 'John's Gospel') is a misnomer. It is as if we think each writer is speaking of a different gospel rather than THE gospel. I'm reliably informed (read: I heard it somewhere, trusted it, but can't remember where) that for many years the Gospels as we know them didn't exist. I mean the content hasn't been changed, but rather the early church father's would not have known that of which we spoke if we referred to 'Matthew's Gospel'. For it wasn't 'Matthew's Gospel' at all. It was Jesus' gospel. So these gospel accounts were known as "The Gospel according to Matthew" or "The Gospel according to Mark." 

It feels a bit nit-picky but I think we should try to adopt this type of language more.

The gospel is all about Jesus.

[Note to self: In preparation for Bible college, I must work out when to use a capital 'G' in gospel/Gospel. On a similar note, does judgement have an 'e'? Or is it judgment? Grrr. Must fill out application form soon...]

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Knowing when to shut your trap

In my preliminary interview for college I was asked 

What is the gospel?

I answered "In short, Jesus is Lord." Not content with that, I then proceeded to speak about God as the loving ruler and creator of the world, sinful humanity's rebellion, the promise of God to restore his people to right relationship with him, God acting through his Son to bring forgiveness of sin through his death and resurrection on the cross, the application of Jesus atoning sacrifice to the believer through faith, the declaration of Jesus as the ruler of the world. At some point I was stopped mid sentence by my interviewer.
That's enough. I was only really looking for you to mention Jesus. I was once interviewing someone for a children's ministry position and asked what the gospel was and after five minutes they still hadn't mentioned Jesus. My recommendation was not to hire them. I was overruled and they got the job.
In other words, I had him at Jesus is Lord.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Like Father Like Son

I learnt generosity from my Father. That sounds like he's dead. He's not. But it's not something he needs to keep teaching me, because for as long as I can remember I have seen his generosity which comes often at great personal cost. Another way I take after my Dad has only just been discovered: Juicing. Every morning without fail my Dad fires up his juicer to make fresh juice. I never saw the attraction until Sarah recently purchased a juicer herself and I'm hooked. Pear, pineapple, tomato, carrot, celery, apple, orange, banana. Nothing with even a hint of moisture is safe. It's fate is sealed: down the barrel of the juicer.

I also have distinguishing physical features that take after my Dad. Time will tell if they are all handed down. Yet the juicer incident reveals that there's more to fatherhood than just DNA. We all take after our parents in many ways, both good and bad. I heard Don Carson recently on John 8 and he highlighted that in the New Testament period in an agrarian society, this was particularly true. The majority of sons would end up doing vocationally what their dad did. My dad is a builder. I am a shameful son of a builder because the limits of my construction skill is putting together Ikea furniture with an allen key.

The Jewish people of the New Testament made great claim on Abraham being their father. Jesus sees things differently.
If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing what your father did. (John 8:39-41)
In other words, you are nothing like Abraham who you suppose to be your father. Yet the Jewish people protest:

We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father - even God. (John 8:41)
The problem was, they had a view of fatherhood similar to that of 21st century western society. Whoever gave you half your DNA, that person is your father. They thought Jesus was suggesting their mother was maintaining a loose lifestyle. But Jesus is not calling into question their genetic heritage or their racial background. So who is their father, whom Jesus says they are like? Jesus goes on:
If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth. (John 8:42-44)
Jesus calls them children of satan. Sons of the devil. He is not attacking their biological fathers, rather he is showing that sonship is indicated by taking on the family resemblance not just by physical characteristics but by action and demeanour. They seek to murder Jesus and cannot stand to hear his words of truth. They are not of Abraham who trusted God, they are of the devil.

To believe Jesus is from the Father and to hear his words is to take on the family resemblance of God. I love to juice. But I must love even more to take after my heavenly father by believing in Jesus and hearing the word of God.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

MYC #5 - Petri Dish

It's a funny old thing to study the Holy Spirit, which is what we're doing at Mid Year Conference this year. As we examine him, he examines us. It's like looking down a microscope only to discover you're actually the one in the petri dish looking back up the microscope at the examiner. It's a funny old thing to study the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Where would one purchase a dugong skin?

Exodus 25:3-5 says this in relation to getting materials from the people of Israel to build the place where God shall dwell with man.
And this is the contribution that you shall receive from them: gold, silver, and bronze, blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, goats hair, tanned rams skins, goatskins, acacia wood...
The funny thing is that the Hebrew doesn't actually say goatskins. My ESV footnote indicates it is 

Uncertain; possibly dolphin skins, or dugong skins, compare 26:14.
Which raises the question "Where would you get a dugong skin?"

A theory via Gordon via Andrew Barry and Adrian Russell: The Israelites picked them up as they were travelling through the Red Sea.

Not sure if this is possible but the timing seems about right, and what a reminder whenever they looked upon the roof of the tent over the tabernacle of the way the God of Israel had delivered them from slavery.

Plausible? One for the mythbusters among us.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Why does everyone have a movement?

Have you noticed how everyone in Christian ministry wants to re-label their institution as a movement?

Other abused words.

- Pragmatic
- Structure
- Entrepreneur

Monday, July 13, 2009

Manhood and metaphors

This past weekend I got chatting to old friend Travis, who is a leader at an independent evangelical church. They have stopped actively searching for a paid minister after 8 years of trying. So what has Trav and the other elders been doing for the past 8 years? Taking responsibility, that's what. A number of the blokes share the preaching responsibilities and steering the direction of the church. They are still actively doing evangelism and reaching out to their community. What a great picture of what it means to be Christian men.

Providentially I also got the pleasure of hearing one of the lay leaders at my morning church preach yesterday. What a treat. Opening the word of God is not only for the professionals. My new conviction is that in any ministry I am in leadership over, my goal is to be developing the eldership that should I leave, they will be more than adequately equipped to keep persevering. Now this may not be a lightbulb idea for you, but it is for me. How many congregations, were the minister to be hit by a bus, would be able to competently and confidently continue to preach the word publicly and continue organising and equipping the congregation for evangelism?

Now an old exegetical fallacy I spotted in Isaiah 40:25. God says "To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him?" To which he is referring to the idols. But I have heard over and over again, this kind of verse to justify that we are unable to describe God, to attribute attributes to him. There are definite dangers in ascribing human characteristics to God as he is like no other. But it seems a bit silly to say we can't describe God at all. Especially using as justification a verse in the midst of poetry which attempts to describe God. While God is like no other, that doesn't prevent Isaiah using simile and metaphors to describe what he is like.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I blame the wife

There's an old adage common amongst those in paid Christian ministry.

A wife either halves or doubles her husband's ministry.
There's a certain amount of truth to this statement. Rarely is a wife neutral to the effectiveness of her husband's ministry. She may neutralise it, but she is never neutral. Every man I have ever heard utter this comment clearly perceives his own wife as a doubler. I include myself in this category and those who have had the misfortune of witnessing the earlier versions of my current "bumbling idiot" persona wholeheartedly agree.

But the saying is also a misnomer. The tension is not between ministry and not doing ministry. Rather, the tension is between public ministry versus private ministry. If a wife is 'high maintenance' it is a husband's husbandly duty to maintain her. That last sentence didn't come out quite like I expected it to, but you get the idea. If the man's ministry in the home is more demanding of his time, it is no less ministry than that which is done publicly. Furthermore it is his obligation to minister first within his own household, as a yardstick for his suitability to manage the household of God.

So is the saying true? Does a wife either double or halve her husband's ministry? Not really, if we have a right view of marriage as ministry. Will I keep using the saying? Absolutely, because it gives me a chance to boast about my wife!

Friday, July 10, 2009

To cut or not to cut

No this isn't a post on circumcision but rather about our budgerigar Wally. I'm not sure what the ethical considerations are in clipping a birds wings. I mean, I'm sure there are ethical concerns, but surely the question of snipping pales in comparison to that of keeping a flying creature for the most part of his life in a 40cm square cage.

The next question is whether to clip one wing or two. The experts seem to be split in their opinions. If you only clip one wing would he only be able to fly in circles?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Complement or compliment?

As I am convinced of reading the Bible on face value, I'm strictly complementarian. That is, while confirming equality in value, men and women have different roles within the church. This is not to be confused with complimentarianism which is the belief that both sexes should be praised and encouraged.

My beloved co-worker in the gospel Tracey asked me a question the other day;
Have we worked out practically how complementarianism works within small group Bible studies but not as well within the larger Sunday gatherings?
It's a good question. And I think the answer is related to the difference between prophesying and teaching.

As soon as I've worked out exactly what that difference is, I will have an answer for Trace.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Prophecy and teaching

I am leading a seminar at MYC with my co-worker Tracey on 'the Spirit and Prophecy'. The seminar description I have written:
What does the Old Testament say about prophecy? Is there prophecy today? Did prophecy die out with the apostles? All may be revealed.
I don't know if anyone will come. Or even if I'll have anything to teach them but I'm beginning to try and form some definitive statements about prophecy.

Prophecy and teaching have much in common.
Prophecy and teaching are different.

That's all I've got so far. Mainly due to the fact there are prohibitions on teaching that are not attached to prophecy. I am not sure at what point they are different, but they certainly are.

Wrong response: Because it's hard to determine their difference we just take them to be the same thing.
Right response: Work hard to understand the difference, and apply it as we meet.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

MYC #4 - What on earth (or in heaven) is speaking in tongues?

My general position is not to argue with Phillip Jensen. Actually, there are many men and women who have thought much more about the Bible than myself, whom I trust, that I just don't open my mouth if I disagree with them. Experience has taught me they have thought more about the issue than I, and so always hold trumps. However, far above this I will always appeal to a plain reading of Scripture. If the Bible says what it appears to say, and this is in contradiction to that taught by those I trust, I will not hesitate to speak.

Good friend Dave has been chatting with me about what exactly is speaking in tongues. I agree completely with Dave when he says:
Paul doesn't seem to be as hung up on the question of what language he is talking about as we do - our question is it another language, angelic language, spirit language - Paul avoids the question and his refrain throughout is crystal clear, at least it is to me - do what builds up the church. This leads him to say that prophecy builds up more than tongue speaking. Therefore pursue prophecy more than tongues (eagerly desire the greater spiritual gifts) but all this has to be done in love (14:1 Pursue love and all of ch 13 for that matter!)
A heartfelt 'Amen' from me. Yet at the same time i think it is important to challenge what is by far the most prominent evangelical view of what speaking in tongues entails. I have heard it taught over and over again, that speaking in tongues is simply knowing a foreign language. If you studied French in high school (which is perhaps more than just knowing 'creme brulee' and 'deja vu') then you are well on the way to having the gift of tongues.

We often use the word 'tongue' as a way of speaking of languages, for example we speak of 'your mother tongue' being your original language. It seems highly likely from the Biblical examples of speaking in tongues that this is well within the definition - that it is human languages, which probably include those learnt at school.

Yet to me, a plain reading of the Bible suggests that we can't limit this phenomenon to languages studied. I think this because:
1. There is such a thing as the gift of interpretation. (1 Cor 12:10, 12:30, 14:13). Why would one pray for the gift of interpretation if they already had the capacity to speak in the mother tongue of the congregation? I've never met someone who knew two languages that had no capacity to translate what they were saying between the two.

2. People can speak in tongues without any prior knowledge of the language. This phenomenon is seen as a miraculous sign that the gospel is for all nations in Acts 10:44-48. Were this just the culmination of years of language learning it would be tremendously unspectacular. There is nothing really that amazing about foreigners knowing other languages.

Speaking in tongues is in my mind more than learning French. It most certainly must include this, but must also include a sudden ability to speak a foreign language without prior knowledge of it. Dare I say it; a view which limits tongue-speaking to no more than language learning is a convenient way of discounting the miraculous.

Now as Dave will rightfully remind me this should not be where our discussion is focused. So for a summary, please read Dave's quote above.

Monday, July 6, 2009


One of the great things I love about my church is our cultural diversity. I love that people from India, mainland China, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Iran and Australia can meet together in the name of Jesus. One of the benefits is that we learn about each others culture. Recently, I've been trying to learn a few pidgin phrases. Goodbye in Solomon Islands pidgin is 'look-m-you-behind'. I also discovered that the Papua New Guinea pidgin name for a helicopter is 'mix-master-belong-Jesus-Christ'. I'm not quite certain if this is because Christian's were the ones riding in them, or it has some deeper eschatological meaning.

Another side benefit of cultural diversity within churches is the realisation that no single culture has the right to the name 'Christian'. We are all different and we each express our love for God depending on our cultural heritage. Yet there are also sinful aspects of every society - culture just being the name we give to the way a group of people live in rejection of God.

Unfortunately in Australia I've witnessed a tendency to split our churches and congregations along cultural lines. Part of me says this is great; we naturally relate to people like us, so this is a good way of proclaiming the gospel of the Lord Jesus to specific groups of people. But another part of me hates this. It robs me of a chance to serve others, for all to be enriched through learning from each other, for the opportunity to set aside my cultural baggage when it gets in the road of fellowship, for the chance to embody to our community that our unity in Christ and in proclaiming forgiveness of sin through Jesus overcomes all cultural hang-ups.

I understand that when there are language barriers there is great wisdom in preaching the gospel to people in their mother tongue. However I feel wherever possible the goal should be a regular combined gathering of the entire body, regardless of cultural heritage. In fact, regardless of age or gender. We may need to make some adjustments. We might need to turn down the guitar amplifier, sing a few hymns, allow our islander friends to clap to the music. But I believe we would be much better off for it, and much better prepared to welcome all who would come into our fellowship.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Rules of blogging #1

Some of you may have missed a conversation Dave and I have been having in light of one of my MYC posts earlier this week regarding speaking in tongues. One of the things Dave and others that comment have highlighted for me is my bias, and consequently that in the blogging world you virtually determine your own morality and rules. I have assumed these rules thus far so I will make them known as I become aware of them.

Rule #1: I will continue to make generalisations as all generalisations contain some truth.

Friday, July 3, 2009

On opening the Bible

It's a sad fact, that if you've been to church for long enough, you'll have heard sermons which hardly refer to the Bible. If your church likes to undermine the authority of scripture, you'll probably get to the point soon enough where you don't even open the Bible at all. That particular criticism couldn't be leveled at the church in New Zealand my cousin Johnny and his wife Kristy visited last year. They had the privilege of listening to the fourth in a series of sermons on "love". Apparently the preacher had been 

"Really thinking lots, and reading, and really praying, and just thinking what to say... all morning."
But you certainly couldn't accuse them of not having the Bible read. It was. Revelation to be precise. Unfortunately, this was only as part of the preacher quoting at length from John Eldredge's Wild At Heart.

It reminded me of Mark Driscoll speaking at the evangelistic rally, Burn Your Plastic Jesus at the Sydney Entertainment Centre last year. It was a great night. 10,000 people encouraged to consider the real Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible. The gospel was clearly explained (unlike in New Zealand) and the challenge clear. One of my few criticisms of the night (and I always have at least one!) was that the Bible was never opened. Surely this isn't good practice - to not even open the Bible. Driscoll quoted the Bible, held it in his hand, even put his finger in between the pages. He motioned to open it a few times before quoting the verse from memory. But physically the Bible was never opened. (Incidentally, I think Driscoll will eventually change this, as he learns so quickly.)

I'm trying not to be a Pharisee about it, but I believe it's good practice to open the Bible. To visually demonstrate that this is God's word; that this is the word of God to you. I've seen it modeled to me that even if every Bible reference is in a preacher's notes, they will still bring their Bible with them, and open it up to the passage and plonk it down on the lectern. Is this a fair expectation? I believe it is a reflection of our conviction that God will do the work to change people by his Spirit, through his word.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

MYC #3 - The Holy Spirit is personal (Why I love country churches)

As part of my preparation for Mid Year Conference, I have been channeling my early understanding of the Holy Spirit. I can remember a topical sermon on the Holy Spirit at Maclean Presbyterian. With the type of simplistic speech and brutal honesty that you can only get in the country, the elder who was preaching (whose name I remember but I’ve chosen to withhold) made the comment:

The Holy Spirit is not an ‘it’ but a person. And not just a person but a ‘He’.
His line of application was,

… just wait till the women’s libbers get a hold of that one.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Sarah and I have purchased a budgerigar who has blue feathers. His name is Wally. We are hoping to teach him to speak and whistle short tunes. While this is my first bird, Sarah has had previous experience as a bird whisperer. My greatest worry is that his cage is within earshot of our mircrowave, which gives three clear beeps when it’s finished heating. Is it possible that the only sound Wally will ever learn is to imitate our microwave? This could lead to all sorts of confusion.