Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Podcasting sermons for free

OK, have just gone through setting up a podcast for our church without having to set up a new upload section and without having to pay for anything. So, for those who are trying to do the same, and with huge kudos to this article from Bukisa, here's what I did.

Setting up:

  1. Open an account with Fileden where you will upload your mp3 (and other formats) files to.
  2. Open an account with Blogger and create a blog which will provide your podcast entries.
  3. Go to the "Settings" tab for the blog and set "Show Link fields" to "Yes".
  4. Create a 300x300 pixel image for your blog's entry on iTunes. (And you can create a separate image for Feedburner's feed if you like.)
  5. Upload the images to the web somewhere. (eg. Fileden if you like.)
  6. Open an account with Feedburner and create a feed for your Blogger blog (it will even let you submit the podcast to iTunes). This will be your podcast feed.
  7. Go back to your blog on Blogger, click "Settings" and choose "Site Feed" then paste your Feedburner feed URL into "Post Feed Redirect URL".

Posting podcasts:

  1. Create a fully tagged mp3 or m4a (or both in our case).
  2. Upload it/them to Fileden and record the direct link.
  3. Create a post in Blogger. The title should be the name of that particular podcast.
  4. Enter the description of the post as the body of the blog post, bearing in mind that all carriage returns will be trimmed out.
  5. Leave the "Link" field empty.
  6. Click "Show enclosure links" and enter the URL for the uploaded file.
  7. Post the blog entry.

Perfects in Hebrews 12

Well, I noted how naturally an aspectual approach accounts for the perfects in Hebrews 11. But the ones I'm particularly interested in are those in Hebrews 12:18 and 22.

Why the interest? Because in my experience these verses are used to emphasise the present reality of having already entered into the heavenly assembly of God through his gathering us together. It particularly plays a crucial role in the theology of church-as-gathering in the theological circles that have been formative for me.

However, if the perfect only encodes heightened proximity aspectually, then it seems to me the more natural reading is to see this as emphatic, rather than as portraying the coming as a past event with present implications. Thus I would almost render 12:22 as "But we are immanent to Mount Zion...". Such a reading makes more sense of the letter's recurrent call to "draw near". Particularly in chapters like 3–4 and 11 the picture is of a certain promise that must still be laid hold of by the individual. An emphatic verb form is used because the once-for-all sacrifice has already been made by the great high priest, Jesus. But the book is a warning not to abandon the covenantal relationship that he has established. It is our only genuine means of approaching God's presence.

But having made these observations, I think there is little other support scripturally for the gathering of God's people in heaven being an eschatological event that is already realised in us. Rather, Christ stands in God's presence and, though our union with him (our being "in Christ"), we have total confidence to draw near ourselves knowing our future is assured. (In Paul's language, we are so identified with Christ that we have already died and our future life is that of Christ's—Colossians 3:3–4). Christ is the eschatologically realised gathering. We remain to participate.

Can someone tell me where I'm getting this wrong? Thanks.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Taking contemporary worship to its logical conclusion?

Explaining a recent CD released by Vineyard Music Group, its director of public relations explained,

People aren't content with yesterday's level of closeness. They want something more. We feel this album gives them that.

The result? A CD with titles including "My Lover, My God," "Touch Me All Over," "Naked Before You," "I'll Do Anything You Want," "Deeper" and "You Make Me Hot with Desire." It's not that surprising Walmart felt the need to refuse to stock the CDs.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Reason to lose your job??

Apologies for my long silence. I have comments to reply to and emails to send and I'm not in that position yet. But I needed to share this.

In Scotland's Presbyterian church (which is probably more like our Anglican church in that historically it had strong social and political ownership) there is currently debate over whether it should receive as a minister a man who is living in a homosexual relationship. Some disagree and have signed a petition. What surprised me is that William Philip, who formed the petition, has noted,

Several who have signed up have been intimidated into removing their signatures because employers have threatened discipline just for someone daring to express their support for the orthodox Christian position on human sexuality. Some chaplains from the hospital or prison service have been threatened with discipline and perhaps even dismissal. So we are called narrow and intolerant, simply for asking that church leaders observe what the church has always believed and stood for

I'm not clear if the only people threatened with losing their job have been chaplains. I dearly hope people in other fields haven't been threatened. But even for these chaplains the implication is worrying. Can you only act with loving concern for someone if you think what they're doing isn't a sin? Are the two mutually exclusive?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Are Christians or non-Christians more moral?

One of the interesting conversations I had in the last week while we were visiting Rockhampton was with a few guys that were suggesting that the good things I do is less genuinely good than when they do good things because I do them because I'm a Christian. If I understood them correctly, they're saying that they do things simply because they're the right things to do, whereas I do them only because God says to do them. While I had heard similar comments before, I hadn't thought about it recently and only now have I had a chance to reflect on their comments.

My first reflection is that I do things because they're the right thing to do, as well as because God says to do them. That is, it's not like I object to doing the good things that these guys were talking about. I'm no different in that respect. I love helping friends. I'm moved with compassion when I see people having a rough time. And I think it's great that they want to do good things. It seems only natural. I live in this world where I have a natural desire to seek to do the good. It works. It makes the world a better place. It expresses love that I genuinely feel. Speaking as a Christian, God's made the world to work that way. Loving God's world doesn't mean blindly obeying his commands. It means obeying his commands with my eyes wide open—responding to the world in a way that "fits".

Second, do non-Christians really have no other motivation than that it's the right thing to do? I do the right thing because it benefits others, it pleases me and it pleases God. Don't non-Christians do the right thing because it benefits others and it pleases them? How long would people do the right thing if it always didn't benefit them? How long would it seem the right thing? Altruism is satisfying. I enjoy it, as I say. There's nothing wrong with that. But doesn't it taint our altruism? And shouldn't we stop and consider how long we'd be altruistic if it wasn't pleasing to us?

But third, the question of whether a Christian or non-Christian is more moral depends on whether you believe there's a God. If there isn't a God, it does seem more moral to act without the need of extrinsic motivation. But if the God of the Bible is there, then the good we do is a gift from him. And to do that good without acknowledging the gift is, well, a form of pride. So I appreciate these guys arguments. I can see that in their worldview, they seem more moral than I do. But I hope they're also willing to see how it looks to God if he actually is 'the giver of every good thing'.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Perfects in Hebrews 11

I've been working through Hebrews preparing to preach it later in the year, and I'm in the midst of chapter 11. At the same time, I've been following several discussions on B-Greek about Con Campbell's explanation of aspect. I get the impression that some are cautious about the theory of aspect in general and that most find his explanation of the perfect unsatisfying. Frankly, I've been fairly persuaded and have been moving more towards a temporal understanding of tense.

But then I've encountered 11:17 and 28. Here the perfect doesn't have a clear "past event with present consequences" meaning. Apparently Gundrie argues the perfect emphasises the events' abiding impact, but I just don't see that contributing anything to the broader argument. My best reading? The perfects emphasise the climactic events in the authors two most extensive accounts of lives of faith (Abraham and Moses). The perfects are emphatic, not temporal, and so Con's "heightened proximity" approach gives a good account at this point. I'll pull out Porter and think through what a stative account could mean, but it's not immediately obvious to me.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Reasons Queenslanders stayed Presbyterian

Like Kamal, I'll be presenting at the combined Presbyterian colleges' conference, Descendi Studio next week. I think I'll be on Wednesday. However, I must confess I'm not presenting on Calvin. Neither am I presenting on my project from last year looking at Doctrines of Scripture in Islam and Evangelicalism.

Rather, I'll be looking at why Queensland Presbyterians who chose to remain presbyterian did so during the formation of the Uniting Church in Australia (ie. back in the '70's). It was an essay I did for Church history last year and probably of interest to many attending the conference.

What will it be about? It doesn't claim to be comprehensive, but I question some claims I found about that people remained Presbyterian solely (yes, some historians went that far) because of their cultural backgrounds. Instead, I'll be suggesting that at least in Queensland, doctrinal issues—especially the question of Scripture—were significant to many who chose to "continue Presbyterian".

Why do I care? Well, I'm not historically Presbyterian, but I'm training to work with them. So I wanted to know about a defining event in the life of this denomination in recent years. I think it's impact is still felt both practically (eg. why some regions don't have churches, why there's a sudden need for ministers in the denomination) and theologically (eg. why has Queensland Presbyterianism been so theologically conservative post-union, when might we be seen as betraying what people at that time were fighting for, when are we not). I want be unpacking all that in my presentation, but I hope that's what I started to learn last year doing the research.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The faith of evolution

Do we treat the incarnation as CGI?

Some interesting thoughts suggesting that we undermine the comfort of the incarnation when we emphasise the its miraculous nature. It's a salutary reminder. The great news is that God can be approached by us in Christ, not that the unknowable God has come even closer. Yet, is there any real comfort is John's 'symbolic portrait of Jesus' is little more than a 'full blow[n] CGI presentation' of the gospel? There is a danger that '[b]y fixating on the imagery, the underlying plot is lost.'

But what if the plot itself is supposed to show that 'God [...] fills the gap where human actors could not possibly succeed'? What if the only way God could become as approachable as John portrays was for God to come in the flesh and die for our sins? In that case, we're not dealing with CGI. This is old school filmatography where someone needs to get in the car and drive through the flaming building. And it's the Bruce Lee/Jacky Chan school of acting where there are no stunt doubles.

It's true we can learn a lot about the human condition from The X-men. But the historical factuality of Schindlers List should be a lot more sobering.

The parables show Jesus looked to the future

I love Singing in the Reign. These Catholic scholars make such great observations, particularly pointing to strong evidence against some sort of deep divide between the teaching of Jesus and the community of believers that formed after his death (and resurrection).

Their most recent post points to Jesus' parables as evidence that he was expecting a delayed realisation of God's Kingdom, not an immanent one as often promoted in the footsteps of Schweizer.

The other reason I'm keen about the post is because I've always wanted to refer to a work by Snodgrass (apparently an excellent consideration of the importance of Jesus' parables). I just love that name.

Concerning moves in the international rights debate

According to Christopher Hitchens, some legislation is before the UN that is seeking to criminalise criticism of religions (particularly Islam) by suggesting that ideas, not just individuals, have rights. It's a worrying prospect.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Must Christians marry Christians?

Heaps of young Christians struggle with this question. (And even more so older Christians who are or become single.) The hard thing is that (a) it's often quite hard to find someone to marry. This is especially the case for women. There are just not enough godly Christian blokes about in many churches. And (b) many argue there's no one clear verse that says Christians must marry other Christians. It's a big problem and not one to be tackled lightly.

Sadly, I'm not in a position to help with the first problem. (Although my goal as a minister will be to build up as many solid young men, and women, as I can so I guess I'm trying to help.) But with the second I encountered a verse today that I'd often overlooked. It's 1 Corinthians 9:5.

Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?

Paul here is interacting with the Corinthians' assumption that they have "rights" that they should be free to exercise. (I'm reading these chapters this morning for a lecture where we'll be discussing how Roman society viewed these "rights"/ἐξουσίας) In chapter 9 he lists out a bunch of "rights" that he has.

But what struck me was this one. Paul has a right to get married, and to take her along on his journeys. But can he marry just anyone? Apparently not. He has a right to marry a believing wife.

OK, so it's still not an explicit command to all Christians that they should marry Christians. But it's another piece in the puzzle. And it's a significant one. The apostle Paul didn't have the right to marry just anyone. He had to marry a believing sister. I hope that's some encouragement and help to those looking to marry.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Blogging on my iPod

Well, my palm m550 finally gave it in. After a lot of internal debate I opted for an iPod touch as it's replacement. You don't get many PDAs available these days and the touch does the task very well.

And for those wondering: no, I still don't want a mobile phone.

Taking the cross out of Christianity?

Apparently a vicar in West Sussex has removed the crucifix from the front of his church because,

The crucifix expressed suffering, torment, pain and anguish. It was a scary image, particularly for children.

[...]

It wasn't a suitable image for the outside of a church wanting to welcome worshippers. In fact, it was a real put-off.

We're all about hope, encouragement and the joy of the Christian faith. We want to communicate good news, not bad news, so we need a more uplifting and inspiring symbol than execution on a cross.

A part of me broke down in laughter while the other part was horrified to think that anyone owning the name Christian could possibly think the cross had no place in welcoming people to Christ. Granted, I'm no fan of crucifixes per se (call me an iconoclast if you must), but it's devestating to think someone responsible for God's sheep could possibly ignore the wisdom of God in the cross.

1 Corinthians 1:18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. [...] 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Is Biblical faith frustrated with God?

John Hobbins suggests that "someone who is not on occasion perfectly aggravated by what God does and does not do, is bereft of biblical faith." I'm not 100% convinced by his argument. It's true that the Bible often expresses confusion and consternation at God's actions. But I think it does offer a real explanation. Not in the opaque determinations of God's divine wisdom, but in the rebelliousness of humanity and the resultant rift between us and God.

I found this particularly studying Ecclesiastes recently. It seems to me that while the author is resigned to life being fleeting and frustrating, he holds hope of a final reconciliation. I know the experience of—at some of my lowest moments—simply wondering if God's really got it together. But it's seeing people persevere through those moments, because of God's kindness in holding on to them when they'd rather reject him, that I would call evidence of "biblical faith".

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Great definition of Biblical Narrative

Liked this definition from Biblical Preaching (which is actually quoting Jeffrey Archer's Preaching with Variety.

Biblical narrative can be defined as a historically accurate, artistically sophisticated account of persons and actions in a setting designed to reveal God and edify the reader.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Emotions and Christians

Another blog I follow referred me to Gospel Reminders. I thought the following was a fantastic quote by William E. Sangster.

The man who screams at a football game, but is distressed when he hears of a sinner weeping at the cross, and murmurs about the dangers of emotionalism, hardly merits intelligent respect.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Update

Have been quiet for a few months. Having finished college in Sydney, we're now part way through a move to Queensland to work for the Presbyterian Church of Queensland. We're looking for a place in Arundel where I'll be a student minister at Arundel Presbyterian while I study at the Queensland Theological College. So my thoughts haven't been that straight, especially with the stress of trying to find a house to rent during the Christmas-New Year chaos. (Will try and post about that experience at some stage.)

So what will we be doing at Arundel? Initially, just getting to know people and taking on leadership of the Youth Group. But long term, we're aiming under God's hand to start up a congregation that specifically serves University students well. Will try and post my lessons along the way. I also owe a few posts with highlights from my project comparing Christian and Islamic doctrines of Scripture and my issues paper on eschtaological Sabbath Rest. But not today. Until then, please forgive my relative silence.