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Foolproof Guides To Writing Fiction (via Joel Stickley/How To Write Badly Well)

Amusing guides to generate genre fiction from How To Write Badly Well.
Take the guides, roll the suggested die, insert the chosen plot element.
eg. This story is a disturbing tale of adventure and regret. The protagonist is sarcastic and optimistic; as the story unfolds, he/she will be forced to return home in unexpected circumstances. By the end you will be weeping hot tears of grief.

First (as seen above): The Amazing Random Blurb Roller
Second: The Incredible Random Folktale Roller
Third: The Fantastic Random SF Roller
Most recently: The Stupendous Random Historical Romance Roller
Add something to each one about faith and you’d fill the fiction aisles at Koorong.
Add vampires and you’d fill the fiction section at your local secular book store.

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Avengers Movie Poster

These posts are part of a public service announcement, so people know where I’ll be on the day the Avengers movie opens.
Here’s the poster.
It’s not altogether obvious why Captain America seems to be 24 foot tall, though.
That’s Giant Man’s schtick.

Here’s a trailer.


Your Conscience Can Only Tell You The Bad News, Not The Good News (via Ed Welch)

The problem with ‘And always let your conscience be your guide’ is that the human conscience may be able to tell you you’re doing the wrong thing, but it can’t tell you what the right thing is.
Ed Welch points out that in addition to an informed conscience you also need an objective source of guidance.

Feeling guilty is natural. Be human, feel guilty. You don’t need any particular ability to feel guilty. It’s called the conscience, and it comes standard. H. L. Mencken said it is “the mother-in-law whose visit never ends.”

The conscience is a fine thing, but has limitations

The conscience is a fine thing. It reminds us that we live before the God who judges the living and the dead (2 Tim. 4:1). It is that spark of light that is nearly impossible to extinguish. It is a little island of sanity in a world of relativism. Three cheers for the conscience and its willingness to make moral judgments.

The conscience does have its limitations though, and they are significant. For one, it can only make you feel bad. Every once in while you might have a clear conscience—meaning that there is nothing you have to hide—but it only lasts for a moment. That’s just the conscience being the conscience. It has the power to make us feel guilty but not innocent. It has the power to say “don’t do that” but not the power to keep us from doing it.

Here is the problem. The conscience, when it is our only source of information, will end with some form of penance or self-salvation strategy. Deny yourself, punish yourself, try harder, and so on. It is good for what it was intended to do and only for what it was intended to do. It is not able to give direction on how to be right with God. The conscience is a natural ability, not an enlightened one. The conscience is a valuable asset, but you can’t get to any place good from there.

We need a new way of seeing

The conscience must give way to a new way of seeing. We call this faith, and it is different in every way. One looks inward for truth, the other looks outward. One sees judgment, the other tender mercies. One sees us naked and alone before the judge, the other sees Jesus.

Have you ever made yourself cross-eyed by staring at a Magic Eye picture? With your normal way of seeing, the picture looks like a two-dimensional array of random designs. Now look more deeply. Focus farther away. Keep looking. Don’t give up until you see a completely different scene. Refocus until you can see the world in three-dimensions. Once you see it, enjoy it.

The next time you pick up the Magic Eye book you will need a little less time to find this new world. With practice, you will see it even more quickly.

In the same way, to be able to see the new world of grace and faith you must access it in a very different way. It is unnatural and counterintuitive; you need your spiritual eyes. There is nothing natural inside us that will lead us to discover the wonderful exchange in which “Christ takes away all evil that our conscience tells us we have, and gives us every good thing that our conscience tells us we lack.”[1]

To get from the guilt-producing conscience to the ‘every good thing’ you must switch from one system to the other. Two-dimensions to three.

You feel guilty – that is the easy part.

Now, use your spiritual eyes.  Don’t stop until you can see the good stuff.

[1] Randall C. Zachman, The Assurance of Faith (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 162.

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Look At The Cross Before You Write Your Church-Shopping List (via Matt Viney)

Brilliant post by Matt Viney.
Reprint this everywhere, I say.
Have a read and then pop over and tell Matt you liked it.

The Great Omission: ‘church shopping’ in Australia

PERSON (A): “Hi everyone. I have a friend who is moving to xxxxx. Can you recommend a good church for them to go to? Thanks.”
PERSON (B): “Yes. I know of a good church. It’s a xxxxx church. They have a good vibe. Great music.”
PERSON (C): “They could also check out xxxxx church. The teaching’s top class, and the music is also pretty good.”
PERSON (A): “Thanks guys. I’ll let them know.”

This little conversation is a modified version of an online exchange I was privy to recently. On the face of it, there’s nothing intrinsically worrying about what was said. It was simply people trying to find a person a nice church to join. Nothing wrong with that. Right? Over the years I have seen many people trying to find the “right church for them”. It never used to bother me, but lately I’ve been a bit disturbed by the way that Christians ‘shop’ for churches. Here’s my beef, straight up: all too often, the Christian’s choice of church is inherently self-focused and consumerist.
Here’s a list of the sorts of things people look for in a church. I’m not saying these are bad. And I’m not saying every single person wants every single one of these. But in my experience they are fairly indicative of what most protestant ‘church shoppers’ are seeking:
I want a church that has . .  .

1. Great music
2. A happy, vibrant ‘vibe’
3. A warm welcome, but not too warm
4. Good teaching
5. A contemporary and relaxed service
6. Nice facilities – nothing too daggy
7. A great range of age-specific ministries, especially for school-aged children
8. Dynamic and engaging Bible teaching
9. Good coffee and morning tea/supper supplied
10. Air-conditioning
11. A cool website
12. Comfortable seating
13. A particular doctrinal standpoint

I completely understand people having many, if not most of the above criteria. After all, no one wants to go to a church where the seating is uncomfortable and the music is amateurish. Let alone if the teaching is poor and the overall vibe of the church is clicky and cold. I get it. However, as time goes by I have noticed it’s very rare that you see a ‘church shopper’ with a list like this:
I want a church that has . . .

1. People I can encourage and serve
2. A shortage of people on rosters
3. A struggling financial position that I can assist with
4. An ailing morale that I can inject some enthusiasm into
5. A small children’s ministry that I can bring my family to
6. A music ministry that I could assist with

Interesting isn’t it? The New Testament unanimously promotes the Christian life as one of self-sacrifice, thinking of others first, serving, generosity, and a desire to glorify God over self. But all too often, that’s not reflected in our choice of church.
Providing the teaching isn’t unbiblical, the focus should be more on what an individual could bring to the table. Not what they can ‘gain’, or ‘feel good’ about. From my experience, too many church shoppers have a long, unknowingly self-focused list of comforts and conveniences they require before they’ll commit. And not just that – the church they choose had better keep them happy, otherwise they’ll take their business elsewhere. Where is the sense of spiritual discipline? Where is the long-suffering patience of God reflected in our choices? Where is the commitment to love others unconditionally, warts and all (sometimes, literally warts and all)?
I am not trying to be ‘holier-than-thou’. I know all about this because I used to have my own arm-long list of criteria. In a world of iTunes, smartphones and opinion polls, it’s easy to think it’s all about us.

So here’s a message to all church shoppers: look at the cross before you write your list. Please stop importing self-focused consumerism into the church. I think we all need a regular reminder that “the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Those who take up the name of Christ on their lips should also take up the cross upon their backs, and seek to make their local church a better place. In doing that, they’ll find a sense of joy and peace they couldn’t get with just ticking some boxes on their shopping list.


A Tool To Assist Theological Discourse – The Luther Insult Generator

Next time you don’t know what to say in theological debate go to this site and toss in one of these classics from Martin Luther.
UPDATE: The site has a new online home, links have been updated.

I don’t know who Latomus is, but he certainly got pwned by Doctor Martin.

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I Think I’ve Figured Out Mark Arbib’s New Career

Mystery surrounds the sudden resignation of Mark Arbib from the Senate of the Australian Parliament yesterday.
But I think this picture from his press conference gives us a clue as to his next career step.

Clearly he’s going to take up this

He only needs a little more practice.

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OK, This Is A Pulpit I Could Work In

Actually I’d preach in pretty much any pulpit where I got an invite.
I don’t know where people get the idea I’m against them.
But last night I was watching an episode of Songs Of Praise from the Sinclair Seaman’s Presbyterian Church in Belfast, Ireland, which features a nautical theme inside the building, complete with ship’s prow pulpit.
Get a load of this bad boy.
Sinclair Seamen's Presbyterian Church in the Belfast Docks area identifies with the Shipbuilding Industry with a pulpit in the shape of a ship.
Take a virtual tour here.
The episode finished with a cracking rendition of Will Your Anchor Hold?