Preaching – Pole Position

When asked if he thought the contemporary evangelical Christian tends to have a lazy mind, John Stott said he agreed. He continues: I

t has been characteristic of much evangelicalism (but even more of Pentecostalism). There are notable exceptions, and thank God for them. I think we need to encourage each other in the proper use of the mind.

Preachers are still the key people; the church is always a reflection of the preaching it receives.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the low standards of Christian living throughout the world are due more than anything else to the low standards of Christian preaching and teaching.

If we can recover true expository preaching as being not only exegesis but an exposition and application of the Word of God, then congregations will learn it from us preachers and go and do the same thing themselves.

We need to help our congregations to grasp and use the hermeneutical principles that we are using ourselves. We need to be so careful in the development of our evangelical hermeneutic that the congregation says, “Yes, I see it. That is what the text means, and it couldn’t mean anything else.”

The worst kind of preaching allows people to say, “Well, I’m sorry, I don’t agree with you. I think you’re twisting the Scripture.”


Eschewing Emails? Nooooo

Emails were the bane of my previous workplace. They would stream in throughout the day, regardless of the hour. Quite often they would come in late at night and some over-enthusiastic colleagues (including my erstwhile boss) would respond to them pronto.   In fact there was a time I too would be conscientious in responding to them regardless of the urgency. Those were the bad old days.

Nevertheless, emails can be and is still a very useful basic tool. It is the manner we use it which determines if it becomes a bane, pain or a very useful servant. While it can be a blunt tool, discarding it or even using it just sparingly can mean we are short changing ourselves and depriving ourselves of an efficient and effective communication tool.

Firstly, it is a fantastic tool for communicating data with some very quick commentary notes. Whereas I can for example send you a text with my colleague’s phone number, if I want to tell you that this colleague usually doesn’t look at his text message during work hours because he is on the road a lot and only checks his mobile for messages once every few hours and it is therefore better to give yourself at least half a day before expecting a response but if you need a quick response you may wish to call his wife who he calls every half an hour because she is very pregnant I might send you an email instead to convey all that extra bits of information.

I may also want to tell you that this colleague also has some quirks – it would helpful if you sent him that text either closer to noon or closer to the end of the day because that’s when he is most likely to check his mobile and he gets wound up if he checks his mobile and finds a message which is several hours old. Ideally however, this colleague prefers an email instead, which he checks around 6pm every day for sure and at the very least.

All of the above information may also be required by several other people. I know you will want that information straight away but Johnny only needs it later in the morning and Tom, maybe in the arvo. Instead of calling you now I’d send you an email and copy Johnny and Tom in. This way I spend one third of my time compared to if I called you, Johnny and Tom.

I can also forward that email to anyone else who may want to know the best way to contact my colleague. I can do this anytime and to as many people as I like and I can’t catch my intended recipient at a time he or she is available to speak with me – they can retrieve and read that information at their leisure and convenience.  Finally I also have a record of what sent and to whom I sent as well as when I sent them.

We can get a lot done through emails that way. At the very least we keep in touch, rope every relevant person into the loop, maintain a sense of momentum in the line of communications and stay abreast of things. Everyone in the loop share a common platform of information and everyone can expect all in the email loop, to have that common knowledge.  If we continuously provide information and commentary through that channel within that community, that community can become informed, vibrant and communicative.

More on Rob Bell

I was still mulling over whether to get Rob Bell‘s ‘Love Wins” on the Kindle, half thinking Paul’s ethos of becoming “all things to all men so that by all means some may be saved“. Maybe, from the perspective of reaching out to certain demographics, this book may turn out to be a gem. Yet, what is the gospel Paul’s ethos was directed at, and is this the same gospel “Love Wins” seeks to share?  I have read about half a dozen reviews on Amazon, scan through Witherington’s chapter-by-chapter response and I think it is a book I can ignore for now.

Incidentally, the following extract was from one of the Amazon reviews. I think this reviewer summed it up in funny way…

Several times he asks how can we be punished for the mistakes of a relatively short period of time (our life on earth) for all eternity? How can God be loving? How can God be fair? In answering, I’ll point out that the book makes no mention of Original Sin, and I believe that’s his undoing. When you short-change the significance the wholesale betrayal by our ancestors, then yeah, God’s judgement comes off badly. I describe Genesis 3 as spitting in the face of God, open defiance and shameless rebellion (shame followed soon enough) and anyone less merciful and loving and kind that God would simple snap his fingers, type control-z on his cosmic keyboard and undo the 6 days of Creation. No big deal, the Trinity was harmonious before Creation and we’ll be fine without those thankless twerps. Good thing I’m not God. No, God pursues us for bloody, harrowing centuries with steadfast love and his infinitely costly master plan to restore his creation to order.

Rob Bell – A Ear Tickler?

If you view this video by Rob Bell (sort of a promo to his book Love Wins) you’d probably be compelled to either buy his book and read it, or wonder all over again about the universalist view.

I’d just try and forget about it. I feel like I should read the book at some point but I’m also reminded of 2 Tim 4:3

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

I’m sorry but isnt it true to form of a pastor of a mega church to initiate something like that and create all the facade of being communicative and engaging to the young people of today, instead of preaching the word in season and out of season – ie whether it is fashionable or otherwise – as the Scriptures command us to?

He may stir and make people ask questions but he is also bringing disrepute – not glory – to the name of the Lord, at least for now.


Bazza’s Buzz and (Kiddo’s) Whirlwind Weekend



Tress and I had the house to ourselves on Saturday night. Oh, with the Little Black Jedi also, of course. Kiddo had a birthday party and we drove her to birthday girl’s home in Pasco Vale in the north-west of the city. After dropping her off, I made the mistake of thinking we could get into the city for a quick dinner. The usual Saturday crowd turned us off and we drove back to the east and stopped by Box Hill for a bite before returning home. 

The Petaling Street food joint which first opened up in Glen Waverley had branched out to Box Hill. A few weeks ago I was walking around near the office and I saw another one being renovated, this time on Swanston Street. The one in Box Hill was very well run. Staff were hardworking, courteous, alert to diners’ reactions and the food was pretty decent too.

Earlier that day, I had gone to the library to try and catch up with my MST work. Tress and Kiddo were together but Tress had a dental appointment in the arvo. I decided to tidy up the garden and spent the arvo mowing, pruning, sawing off some branches off the pine tree on the front lawn, dusted off some cobwebs and basically tried to keep the place under control. Tress was busy with the laundry and was pottering around getting bits and pieces done, including giving LBJ a bath.

Kiddo’s party was a sleepover so Tress and I just sat and watched tv, basically catching up on the bloodbath of the NSW Labour Party in the state elections. Barry O’Farrell seemed like a well grounded guy but he has lots to do now. Everyone we know in Sydney felt the state has been deteriorating in recent years and our visit there a couple of years ago felt bad too – congested road and rail were the main issues for us. When I travelled there for work a few times, I didn’t feel good either. Hopefully Bazza turns things around. He looked like an ordinary bloke but sounded very determined to “fix things”.

Kiddo left the party the next morning and got on a train to Melbourne University for a history lecture, before returning to Glen Waverley station where we picked her up and dropped her off in church for a meeting of the worship team.

I got home and did some more work on MST stuff. I got to church half way through to pick kiddo up, returned for more work and then went to the Royal Children’s Hospital with Tress, Mel and Jason to visit a church member whose baby was unwell.  We got home around 7, fixed a quick dinner, watched 60 Minutes and I went back to my study for more work before retiring just after 11. I had thoroughly enjoyed the MST work the whole day.



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So Long Punter (Ponting retires)

I will always remember the Boxing Day Test match in the MCG in 2005. Ricky Ponting scored centuries in both innings against South Africa and I was there in the MCG in the first inning. A mate rang to ask I come to his barbie but I said I was at the MCG and wouldnt miss what looked like the Punter’s tonne – my first in the G. I’m glad I hung around for the landmark and it was special.

Thanks for the memories, Punter.

Sarcasm in theological academe

I can’t believe that having enjoyed myself in a deliciously instructive and educational treatise on the imminence of the Kingdom of God, Joel B Green et al (including I. H. Marshall no less) punctuated the discussion with this: “It is not therefore an exaggeration to say that sometimes the parables have a polemical tone in addition to their usage to illustrate the kingdom of God“. I would have thought: “like duh…” but it is nice to have an almost dead pan sarcasm in such work…

If only I could read on all night.

Malkuta di Elaha

That is the Aramaic phrase for “Kingdom of God“. If you know Malay, and bearing in mind Kingdom of God often imports threads of throne of God, doesnt this strike you an amazing web of connections that is language? It also beggars belief why the Malaysian government thinks Allah is an exclusively Islamic word.

Mahkuta di Elaga or malkut shemayim means Kingdom of God, emphasising God’s activity of reigning.

Duck Fest

Last night a bunch of us paid homage to the evergreen classic dish of Peking duck. We were at Simon’s Duck place on Middleborough Road. There were about 20 of us so we were on 2 separate tables. On my table were 6 adults, 3 ravenous teenagers and a 9-year old with a pretty healthy appetite.

I brought along a 2004 Shiraz (Robertson’s Well from Coonawarra). Apparently a Pinot would have been a better match but I didn’t have any at home and it was raining and I didn’t feel like stopping to choose a wine when I had only a very vague idea when it comes to choosing a good Pinot. In any event the wine was superb and went rather well with the meal.

Simon’s has 2 dining sessions – at 5pm and 8pmrespectively. We were at the 8pm one and it was choc a block. We had 3 ducks per table, and since it was very busy, they only carved up the duck in situ for one bird, with the other two arriving ready to serve.

The option with noodles was priced at $63 per duck, which is good for about 15 pieces of the pancake. So 3 ducks for a table of 10 persons give each person 3-4 pieces/servings which were really good.

The duck was cooked perfectly and the meat was soft and moist and the skin while crispy wasn’t dry at all. It didn’t feel too greasy either. The pancake was thin but didn’t tear easily and all it needed was a small sprig of spring onion and a piece of cucumber to round off a perfect roll. Hoisin sauce was smeared on the duck but we really didn’t need it and after the first piece, I had only a touch of the sauce on.

Kiddo enjoyed it immensely and nom’ed all the way home in the car. Auntie Hooi and Uncle Marloney were the experienced diners on our table and they were saying Simon’s Peking Duck is way better than any they have been to, including Old Kingdom. We’ve sampled a few other places as well and we too think that Simon’s is by far a better option. We’d happily bring any overseas visitors there. We strongly recommend the place, especially with a very good 2004 Robertson’s Well Coonawarra Shiraz.


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Zarzis to Lampedusa and Medan to Penang

The distance from the town of Zarzis in Tunisia to Lampedusa in Italy is about 260km. It is just a touch shorter than that between Medan in Indonesia and Penang in Malaysia. The parallel between the two pairs of cities struck me when I was reading an article about young men running away from the current north-African/Arab world chaos and seeking refuge in places like Italy and France.

Young men in North African have for years crept into southern Europe in search of economic freedom and a better life. I think Zinedine Zidane was one of such people – he and his family had left Algeria searching a better life in France. Just as North Africans stole into Europe, Indonesians have gone to Malaysia for years.

The similarity between the Gibraltar and Malacca straits must however, end there surely. When Kiddo was born, Tress and I sought out an Indonesian maid and was referred to an agency in Port Klang. The office was within the office premises of a local UMNO divisional office. UMNO is of course, the dominant ruling party which is the bane of Malaysia. It struck me as curious that a maid agency had its office within the local UMNO premises and I didn’t like it one bit.

About a year after employing the maid, when I wanted to renew the contract and work permit, my worst fears were realised. The maid’s passport was a fake, and all paperwork produced out of that local UMNO office were forgeries. I could not renew the work permit except through the same local UMNO office.

It was a systemic and institutionalised corruption. The local politicians were the local warlords controlling this illegal trafficking of Indonesian women. The machineries of government were exploited to line the coffers of the party and its members and as usual, it is the people – the maids and their employers – who were the victims.

Years down the track and we continue to hear of illegal immigrants from Indonesia going through the borders of Malaysia with little or no impediments. The corruption is systemic and widespread. Indonesians can become naturalised as Malaysians as long as they can pay. They are encouraged and become supporters and voters of the ruling government in return.

Whereas the Italians of Lampedusa accepted the Tunisians from Zarrziz out of humanitarian ground, in Malaysia it was the almighty moolah which drove matters and determined outcomes. The distance between Tunisia and Italy may be similar to the distance between Indonesia and Malaysia but in many other aspects, the difference is probably gaping as the bald patch on Zidane’s head.


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