Five years… many reasons

There’s a bit of soppiness ahead – if that’s not your thing – and sloppiness is… check out this elephant flinging poo at a zoo visitor.

I’ve been married to Robyn for five years today. Time flies. I still love her, she still loves me. It’s a privilege being married to someone who, in the immortal words of Jerry Maguire, “completes me” in so many ways.

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I do a lot of stuff, I couldn’t do half of it if Robyn wasn’t organising me, encouraging me, sustaining me, or keeping me humble. She also does lots of clever, surprisingly creative, and other person centred stuff every day.

I’ll never forget a moment at National Training Event a few years back, when, after I’d asked Phillip Jensen what sort of cures for arrogance he could recommend for arrogant young men, he said “get married” (before saying go to the foot of the cross daily) – it’s a slow working cure. But I trust it’s working.

I’ve particularly enjoyed watching Robyn flourish as a mother this year.

So, because blogging is the love language I most naturally speak (though it is not the love language she most naturally hears) – indulge me just one moment with this gushy stuff, where I address Robyn directly…

Thank you, I love you, I look forward to many more years of being married to you.

They say that behind every great man there’s a great woman – I’m not claiming to be great, but if ever I decide I want to be I’ve got that ingredient sorted.

11 Exciting things (studying at) Queensland Theological College has taught me

There’s something nice about looking back over your old essays and realising that you’ve developed – for me this is true both in terms of my writing, and my thinking.

In a haze of essay induced insomnia the other night I started writing a list of things that College has made me more sure of, or taught me, that I think will be useful for the rest of my life.

1. The gospel is the lordship of Jesus – This means it first functions corporately, and individual salvation, where Jesus deals with sin, is a result. This effects the way I articulate the gospel. It’s not about me. Or you. It’s about him. I was convinced of this in first year, partly from a “word study” – which is a pretty poor basis for making decisions by itself, but partly because it’s a really cohesive summary of both the Old Testament expectations of a coming king, and the New Testament presentation of Jesus. Individualism is a relatively new animal. The word study – the Greek word we translate as gospel was already used in Roman culture as the word for when a herald announced a new king.

2. The Gospel should be proclaimed with wisdom, grace, winsomeness, clarity – and this means understanding the world around you. – What I love about the wisdom literature, Paul, Augustine, and Luther, is that they provide a model for engaging with the best thinking the world has to offer – and using it, or rejecting it – to proclaim Jesus. They also provide a model for using the best methods available to communicate.

3. Biblical Theology as the key for holding the Bible together and understanding anything – spending time reading German scholars who are either deists, or functional atheists, who bring this presupposition to the Biblical text and emphasise its humanity (which is an important aspect) over its divinity (which is the most important aspect) is depressing. The Bible makes the most sense if you allow for some divinely inspired intertextuality between the 66 books that were put together in our one book. Biblical theology makes doctrine possible.

4. The fundamental hermeneutical importance of purpose – I’m increasingly convinced that each book of the Bible is written for a purpose, or two, or three – otherwise, why write them. Often the purpose is explicit, sometimes it’s clearly implicit, other times its a product of its context which is revealed by other books (like reading Psalms against the history of Israel). Any “big idea” of a passage should somehow relate to the big idea of the book – or you run the risk of communicating something the author isn’t.

5. The book as hermeneutical unit. As a corollary to the last point, this means that if each book is a coherent piece of literature, of varying genres, then you’re expected to, by the second reading, know how the book ends, and appreciate how the particular passage you’re looking at helps the author communicate his purpose. This also assumes that the Bible is meant to be dwelt on and read more than once. This means textuality is the first step before intertextuality – so, for example, the best way to understand what function Matthew is having the Pharisees play early in the gospel is by seeing how they develop by the end of the gospel, not how John treats Nicodemus, or even, necessarily, how the Pharisees were actually perceived in history – though these are important.

6. Mission (making the gospel known to people) is worship, and includes being, saying, and doing. I’m not yet ready to argue that mission=worship, but I’m sure it’s a subset. Most passages where Paul talks about evangelism involve the sacrificial use of one’s gifts to serve the body, and reach others. How we do corporate worship is to be intelligible, and should result in visiting unbelievers converting.

7. Systematic theology is a product of biblical theology – creation and new creation are profoundly important. The Bible is the best method for understanding God’s revelation because it points to how he is revealed in Christ. It teaches us about God. It teaches us about us. It does this best when you figure out how different passages relate to us through Jesus and the narrative of salvation history (how God worked out his plan over time). The new creation is the telos for most aspects of systematic theology, creation supplies us with the tools to figure out the nature of things sans sin. Sin obviously messes things up – so much that it gets its own point below. But understanding what we were meant to be, and how we will be, is important.

8. The incredible significance of the fall – bad theology, bad ethics, a weak understanding of Scripture, and too positive an anthropology (understanding of humanity) flow from playing down the effect of sin. Sin breaks everything. So much that God sent Jesus to die to atone for it to not just move us past our initial anthropology when we are united to him, but move us towards our future anthropology. Sin especially breaks our ability to think, and particularly our ability to know God and ourselves. All the problems in contemporary theology, and in public debate, stem from failing to understand how sin has affected humanity.

9. Ethics is a product of Biblical Theology, Systematic Theology, the fall, mission, and eschatology. This is the conclusion of 6, 7, and 8. How we lived is framed by the theological realities, who God is, who Jesus is, who we are, and where we’re going.

10.Integrating ideas is important. I feel like I’ve got a better, more nuanced grasp of things I knew before college, partly because I’ve put time into reading, not just people I agree with, but critically reading people I don’t, and figuring out – with help from brilliant and ministry minded lecturers – how things fit together. I complain a lot about the stress of college, and the workload, but there’s no doubt when I read stuff I wrote a few years ago my thinking has developed – and the beauty of a well thought out college curriculum is that it has developed through integrating multiple streams of thought and data into one or two big ideas. I’m convinced that if you have an anaemic view of one thing, the flow on effect to all other things is more significant than you might think (except Greek). So if your doctrine of Scripture is wonky, everything else is wonky – this is true for most doctrinal points.

11. Practice makes better – especially with writing. I’ve produced, after culling things back to their word limit, 30,000+ words a semester of essay, that’s 150,000 words so far. My essays now are much easier to read, and their arguments much more cohesive, than in first year, and I’m producing them in significantly less time. Having something that forces you to produce work, and assesses it, is great for honing a craft.

I certainly slept better after thinking about why I was spending so much time on an essay.

*Disclaimer – these thoughts are my own, and not necessarily representative of anything the QTC faculty teaches or believes if they don’t want to teach or believe said things…

Happy Farter’s Day

I really enjoyed my first father’s day yesterday, but I’m mindful of the exclusivity that days like it engender, and the pain and anxiety it causes men who would like nothing more than to be dads, and children who would like nothing more than to have a dad.

So I propose a new, more inclusive, day for the first day after Father’s Day.

Farters Day

To be celebrated in whatever manner you deem most appropriate.

A grand day for my archives

I’ve occupied this corner of the internet, or one very much like it, for quite a while now. And it’s always surprised me which posts get traffic and which ones don’t. I’ve just had a fun moment looking at my all time stats (well, for as long as I’ve had google analytics installed).

This is fun – to this date my most controversial post “Five things that would make atheists seem nicer” has been my most read post of all time. It got hammered in three days, and took down my server. This week sometime that post will be eclipsed by my “longest tail” post  – “How to make Sizzler’s cheese toast.” This is pretty satisfying to me. You should be part of getting it over the line (especially now that it has just been updated with a slight change to the recipe secured via the Sizzler website).

That is all.

Book spine poetry (and theology)

So ages and ages ago, Ali tagged me in a meme. I liked the meme. I wanted to participate. And then Andrew participated, and one thing led to another…

I made some poems, that felt a little more like prose. I’ll write out the titles below each picture so that you

Like this attempt to capture the Zombie Apocalypse.

Revelation Unravelled
An Outbreak Of Darkness
Gridlock
The Summons
Newspaper Blackout
To The Burning City
World War Z
A Furious Hunger
Serious Eats
Backyard Ballistics
One Last Kill

And these…

The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies Of The Apocalypse
Meltdown
A Furious Hunger
Help Lord The Devil Wants Me Fat

How To Be A Man
The Idiot
The Big Idea
Absinthe And Flamethrowers
Fools Die

How To Have A No. 1 Hit Single
Songs Of The Humpback Whale
An Outbreak Of Darkness
Backwards Masking Unmasked
The Whole Truth

Just Do Something
One Day At A Time
Jogging With Jesus
Run Baby Run
Slim For Him

And then I made some theology. This is pretty much the narrative arc of the whole Bible, though it’s also a summary of Genesis and then the solution to the problem of Genesis…

How To Read Genesis
What Is History?
The Origin Of The Species
Utopia
Picture Perfect
Calls To Worship
The Tipping Point
Help Lord, The Devil Wants Me Fat
Adams v God
Weasel Words
The Collaborator
Cry, The Beloved Country
Requiem
The Promise Of The Future

Deliver Us from Evil
Emperor: The Death of Kings
Divine Justice
The Great Exchange
Paradise City
This Other Eden

Blogging v Writing

I love this quote from a Daring Fireball post a couple of years ago.

“The entire quote-unquote “pro blogging” industry — which exists as the sort of pimply teenage brother to the shirt-and-tie SEO industry — is predicated on the notion that blogging is a meaningful verb. It is not. The verb is writing. The format and medium are new, but the craft is ancient.”

Other than the YouTube videos that keep my post count ticking over (or in the case of HeySoph.com are the entire content strategy) – this represents how I conceive of my sites these days. A place to write.

I’ve found my longer “essay style” posts actually get better traction and traffic than short form blog fodder so I’ve pretty much moved away from posts like this one, or posts about what I’m doing from day to day. I do occasionally miss having an avenue for that sort of thing, but that feeling is fleeting and is well and truly overcome by the satisfaction of trying to piece together a cogent 1,000+ word rant.

I read the Daring Fireball post because its a blog that celebrated its tenth anniversary today. That’s impressive.

I guess what I want to ask you, dear reader, is have you noticed the change? Do you care? Do you miss anything?

Introducing: Dave Bailey’s Blog

My friend, colleague, and personal Yoda, Dave Bailey, has a new blog. Well. It’s the resurrection of an old blog.

This is an artist’s rendition of Dave’s face. It’s the closest we could get, because he is very shy.

He’s kept at it for about three weeks longer than he did last time, and there’s some gold there. Including these reflections from a recent visit to Hillsong.

I wrote an eBook: 5 Steps to Better Coffee

Friends, countrymen, lend me your ears, your eyes, your wallets, and then give me $5. And in return, I’ll give you an eBook that I like to call 5 Steps to Better Coffee.

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Seriously – at $5 this is a bargain. It contains way more than $5 worth of valuable information that you will find nowhere else except the internet. Buy one. Tell your friends. It’ll change your life.

I learned some fun things about eBooks in the process of putting this together. Here are some of my reflections.

1. Amazon’s self publishing thing doesn’t really like PDFs, especially those with text boxes and pictures.
2. You can make pretty nice (free) 3D covers using 3D Box Maker.
3. There’s a really easy way to sell files if you’ve got a PayPal business account – it’s called UploadnSell.com. I looked for all sorts of ways to deliver files to people automatically when they gave me money. They were all difficult. This was easy.
4. Pricing eBooks is hard. It’s hard figuring out what something intangible is worth. If you go too cheap people will think it’s rubbish, too expensive and people won’t buy it… I went for $5 because that’s $1 a step (as people have now pointed out both on Facebook and Twitter).

I’ve got a few other little eBook ideas up my sleeves. So watch this space.

What do you reckon – is $5 a fair price for a 25 page eBook? What would you charge?

Introducing “Resources”: Some content housekeeping

I’ve been working at pulling together some streams of content and sporadic bursts of related content into something that is less “blog” and more “website”…

So I’ve gathered together a few streams of resources, and you can find a nice little drop down menu on the top of the page.

I’ve got:

I’ll be updating these over time, but hopefully this will provide a better return on investment for me content production wise, and be of cal

Holiday book reviews

These days, when I go on holidays, I ask for book recommendations on Facebook, download some novels to my iPad, and then spend my holidays discovering the 50 unread books on my Kindle that I bought on a whim, or a recommendation, and haven’t bothered reading yet. Our most recent holiday was a bit like that. I spent some of the weekend reading about the decline of Christianity in America (unChristian), and also about the historical development of American Christianity up to the present (Bad Religion) – both books are analogously useful in Australia (though our Christian heritage is very different to theirs), both have something to say about the way people who want to follow Jesus can operate in a post-Christian world, but I haven’t finished either of them.

I did finish possibly my favourite “How To” book of all time, How to Sharpen Pencils.

How to Sharpen Pencils

Brilliant.

Then, in a possibly award winning attempt to “relax” and “chill out”… I spent most of the weekend reading books about social media and being a better citizen of the internet.

I’m going to post some reviews to these – with some helpful tips and things I’ve gleaned from them, as applied to figuring out how social media can support church and mission in some upcoming posts, but here are the books I read, they range from the practical, to the theoretical, to the technical.

Holiday snaps

So I’ve been absent from blogworld for a few days. What’d I miss?

In the real world our little family were taking our first family holiday – we had been planning to go to the Gold Coast hinterlands, right up until the car was packed, and I was printing out our wotif booking. Only to discover that some idiot had booked the accommodation for the wrong weekend. After a mad scramble around the interwebs we booked three nights in Stanthorpe at the Sommerville Valley Resort.

Soph was a bit excited en route.

Here’s the view from the balcony.

Here’s the view from the lounge room.

We saw the pyramids. Well, a slightly lamer Australian version…

Went to a fun jam shop where Soph charmed the storekeepers. Which was lucky.

Soph, in turn, was charmed by an ornamental peacock in our room. She couldn’t get enough of it.

We added a bit to the trip with a Tour De France style experience on the way home.

And now, the craziness of college begins for another semester.

Holidays!

Wow. What a semester. Luckily I’ve only got to do this three more times…

Sadly, my “break” is shaping up to be almost busier than the semester. Plenty of deadlines to meet. PR work to do. Sermons to preach. Coffee to roast (and make). Cafes to check out.

Hopefully we’ll get away somewhere for some days so if there are a few days of radio silence maintained here – that’s why.

In the meantime, I’ve got a backlog of things to post here that will hopefully keep you amused. No doubt I’ll find some semi-serious things to write about… In the mean time, here’s a cute photo of my baby girl – who is now just shy of half a year old.

I’m looking forward to spending some time with my girls in the next couple of weeks.