Category: The Briefing

  • God, the universe and all that: Part 3

    From the Sola Panel: This is the third instalment of a five-part series (read parts 1 and 2.) We’ve been looking at Psalm 8 and have discovered that stargazing should make us wonder why God the creator should have anything to do with us. At this point, if you were sceptical about the existence of […]

  • God, the universe and all that: Part 2

    From the Sola Panel In the second instalment of a five-part series, I contemplate the extent of our significance in the universe. (Read Part 1.) We’ve been looking at Psalm 8, and we’ve discovered that stargazing helps us to see how insignificant we really are. Just think about the size of space for a moment. […]

  • God, the universe and all that: Part 1

    On the Sola Panel: In the first instalment of a five-part series, I’m pondering what astronomy has to teach us. I’m a fan of space. I don’t actually know much about the details of astronomy or cosmology or astrophysics; I just think that the space is really cool. If there are any real scientists reading […]

  • Be careful what you promise

    On the Sola Panel: Do you know for sure that you are going to be with God in Heaven? If God were to ask you, “Why should I let you into My Heaven?” what would you say? Have you ever used these questions (or a variation on them) to talk about the impact of the […]

  • The Gospel and Ageing

    From the Sola Panel What is the most polite way to refer to an old person? Have you noticed how the words we collectively use to refer to old people in the media and in private conversation keep changing? It’s a strange process. We start using a word or phrase, for example, ‘old man’, ‘old […]

  • So you think you can serve?

    From the Sola Panel: I’ve just read through the Apostle Paul’s letters and noted all the words he uses to describe his ministry. It’s a fascinating and humbling list. Paul calls himself: apostle, servant, minister, preacher, master builder, from the tribe of Benjamin, prisoner, teacher, Hebrew, aroma, Jew, Israelite, temple servant, from the circumcision, manager, […]

  • Silence about the Spirit

    From the Sola Panel: I’ve been enjoying Paul’s series on lousy arguments. At the risk of stealing Paul’s thunder, I’ve got another argument to add to the mix: the Argument from Silence. The Argument from Silence is rather simple, often wrong, but sometimes spot-on. The Argument from Silence happens when you listen to a speaker, […]

  • Admitting our sins

    On the Sola Panel: I’d like to admit something to you. My admission isn’t particularly juicy or scandalous, but it’s an admission, nonetheless. The admission is this: I’m not honest enough with people when it comes to my sins. I don’t admit my sins to others often enough. The reason I don’t do it is […]

  • The Syrophoenician woman

    From the Sola Panel: One of Jesus’ most jarring statements occurs in the story of the Syrophoenician woman, Mark 7:24-27: And from there [Jesus] arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. But immediately […]

  • The community gospel part 2

    On the Sola Panel: In my previous post, I mentioned a powerful and dangerous combination: A need in the world + an implication of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This formula is like dynamite. Used properly, it has the power to move mountains. But unless it is handled with care, there is the potential for […]

  • The community gospel part 1: A powerful and dangerous formula

    From the Sola Panel: On 7 May, 1867, a man called Alfred Nobel obtained patents for a very powerful and potentially very dangerous formula: 3 parts nitroglycerin—C3H5(NO3)3 + one part diatomaceous earth + a small admixture of sodium carbonate—Na2CO3 This is the classic formula for dynamite. Used properly, it can move mountains. But unless it […]

  • Is Anyone Righteous?

    From the Sola Panel: This is a postscript to my biblical word power series, responding to an excellent question from a bloke at my previous church: Ecclesiastes 7:20 states that there is not a righteous man on earth. Psalm 14 states that there is no one righteous. So why does the Bible say that Noah, […]

  • Improve your theological word power: Imputation

    On the Sola Panel: Today we are going to conclude our series on biblical word power with something slightly different: a brief introduction to imputation. ‘Imputation’ is not actually a word used in the Bible. Nevertheless, imputation is still a very important word, because it can help us to plumb the depths of the issues […]

  • Using your biblical word power: Justification through Atonement

    From the Sola Panel: Today we’re continuing the series on biblical word power. This time we will seek to use what we have learned about the meaning of some important biblical words, so that we can come to grips with a very significant story told by Jesus. Definitions To recap our key biblical definitions: Righteousness […]

  • Improve your biblical word power 4: Atonement

    From the Sola Panel: This post is the fourth in a series designed to help you to get to know and love some of the important words used in the Bible. Today we’ll learn the basic meaning of the word ‘atonement’. Atonement: a definition Let’s start with a definition of the word ‘atonement’: Atonement = […]

  • Improve your biblical word power 3: Justification

    On the Sola Panel: This post is the third in a series designed to help you to get to know and love some of the important words used in the Bible. Today we’ll learn the basic meaning of the word ‘justification’. To recap In the first post, we saw that, Righteousness = being in line […]

  • Improve your biblical word power 2: Forensic righteousness

    From the Sola Panel: This post is the second in a series designed to help you to get to know and love some of the important words used in the Bible. Today we’ll clarify the meaning of ‘forensic’, and then look at what ‘righteousness’ means in the forensic setting. To recap This post assumes that […]

  • Improve your biblical word power 1: Righteousness

    From the Sola Panel: This post is the first in a series designed to help you to get to know and love some of the important words used in the Bible so that you can be more precise as you seek to know God and talk about him. Comments A couple of initial comments about […]

  • Watch your language

    On the Sola Panel: I was recently reminded of my approaching middle age while teaching a Scripture class to a bunch of 12-year-olds. We were learning about the kings of Israel and Judah. At one point in the lesson, I told them that many of these kings were wicked, and therefore God’s judgement came upon […]

  • The Bible doesn’t say

    A few weeks ago, Bobby died. It happened quite quickly. On Thursday, he was sitting merrily on his perch. On Friday, he was shivering and looking pretty unimpressed with life. On Saturday morning, he was standing on the floor of the cage with his eyes half open, rocking back and forth. At lunchtime, when the kids and I took him to the vet, he had decided it would be best to have a little lie down. The vet was kind but decisive. We took Bobby home in a very small plastic bag. There were tears. My wife’s former history teacher (that’s a whole other story) dug a hole in the backyard, and another friend of ours found a little mournful-looking stone dog to act as headstone. Family, friends and the former history teacher prayed together that God would comfort us in our loss. Then came the inevitable question from the 6-year-old: “Is Bobby in heaven now?” Hmm. I know that there will be a new, physical creation (Isa 65:17), and it seems like the new creation will contain, at the very least, contented wolves, baby sheep, lions, cattle and humiliated snakes (Isa 65:25). But will there be a spiritual continuity of identity between the Bobby we knew and a particular budgie in the hereafter? There didn’t seem to be enough biblical data to form a meaningful answer. So I answered as I only could: “The Bible doesn’t say”.

  • The worst role model in history?

    My post on the Sola Panel yesterday: The [incident] involving rugby league personality Matthew Johns was predatory, degrading and offensive, federal Sports Minister Kate Ellis says … “I think that’s offensive and inappropriate for our sporting role models.” But where does that leave the Apostle Paul? The comment quoted above is typical of the huge […]

  • What is a tree for?

    A tree is good (Gen 1:12). A tree is beautiful (Gen 2:9). A tree is for food (Gen 1:29). A tree is a blessing from God for his creation, even in those wild places where no human being has set foot (Job 40:20-22). A tree is for birds (Ps 104:16-17). A tree is for war—to […]

  • Investing in bookshops

    A personal theological library is a vital tool for anyone serious about serving the gospel. It is important to invest in good Christian books. But have you ever considered the importance of investing in good Christian bookshops? It’s a fact that Christian publishing is big business. This is not entirely negative: the unprecedented array of Christian […]

  • Stranger evangelism

    I believe in stranger evangelism. Over the course of 2009, my own denomination in this part of the world is mounting a concerted campaign to make meaningful, relational connections with everyone in our area, thus helping them to come into a relationship with God through his word. For me personally, this has involved (often tough) […]

  • The healthy teaching pyramid

    The healthy teaching pyramid

    Have you ever seen the healthy eating pyramid on the wall of your local doctor? If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, the healthy eating pyramid is a simple diagram created by nutritionists to help us achieve a balanced diet. The idea is that to maintain a good diet, you need to eat some […]