The Student’s Desk

That we may know Christ

The Student’s Desk Newsletter – July 2009

This past semester was quite different from the scholarly grind I’m used to of having to form and present arguments. Instead, I found myself back in a universe where I was either wrong or right, and having to reflect on my own experience rather than what someone else said. It was also a busy semester as I took on some big challenges, and excelled in my objectives.

This semester included two subjects: New Testament Greek and Leadership. It was an odd combination, but I was glad to do a lighter subject along side of Greek.

Greek is a funny sort of a subject. It’s impossible when you don’t know what you’re doing, and a snap when you do. For the first 10 weeks I considered Greek the hardest course of study I had taken on. Particularly when I scraped through one exam with 51%! Then I conceded there are no shortcuts to leaning Greek, and put myself on a daily routine of paradigms (that’s like a times-table for language), translation and vocab. The real stroke of genius (even if I do say so myself) was making my own vocab cards that I could view on my mobile phone. This allowed me to learn my vocab on the train without the fear of hundreds of bits of cardboard ending up on the carriage floor! My Greek improved greatly, and I found the going easy, if monotonous. The rewards are worth the effort. I was recently told the difference between reading the New Testament in English and reading the New Testament in Greek is like the difference between watching TV in black and white and watching TV in colour. Knowing Greek provides so much more depth to the text. So any time I’m in the New Testament, I find myself looking up the Greek. It’s something I’ve really come to enjoy. Though throughout the course I felt sorry for the lecturer. Before he could teach Greek, he had to teach us degree students English! Such is our education system that failed to teach us grammar. Still, I’ve yet to find out how much Greek can a Greek geek speak if a Greek geek only speaks Greek. (Sorry. Just a little vent I came up during the semester to relieve frustration!)

Leadership was the first stage of me becoming officially “Presbyterianised” as I learned about the inner workings of the denomination. I guess it had to happen some time. This also included learning and developing leadership skills generally. For this I organised a seminar on Disability, the Bible, and the Church at my church in Gosford. This was the first time I had organiusd something like this on such a large scale. It was an invaluable experience giving me insight into the demands of leadership, and the type of person and leader I am. Happily, the seminar went off without a hitch. It was well received by those who attended, and enjoyed by those who contributed. Of course, I am extremely thankful to those who contributed and helped out in smaller ways.

Life beyond the theology books…

Church services at the Allambie Heights Spastic Centre are heading in to their 8th year (I think – just where has the time gone?). God is continuing to bless this ministry with consistant numbers which is so encouraging. Also, plenty of people from my church have come forward to assist with the work. This year we finished our series on Daniel, which didn’t work as well as I’d hoped. We are presently working through the miracles of Jesus which is a very interesting study for anyone to do. I certainly have been challenged and corrected in how I think about Jesus as I prepare the talks (with the Greek text in hand of course!), and I certainly hope and pray the discussions leave a similar impression on the people there.

I was also involved in a disability camp as the speaker. This involved using technology which is always a challenge on the day, and talking to a puppet! Never in my theological training did I think I’d be talking to a puppet! Still, this just typified the whole semester – different! What I was encouraged by was the discussions after each talk. For the first time I set discussion questions for the different room groups, and wandered around to each group to hear good, meaty discussions taking place. This worked better than I had hoped.

From the crazy files…

I thought by the time I got to my mid-30s, I’d stop doing so many crazy things. But no. They’re continuing on. Last summer I learned to sail. Perhaps that doesn’t sound all that crazy, but bearing in mind I have cerebral palsy along with the fact I can’t swim, it doesn’t exactly put sailing within the realm of sensibility!

A mate has become really involved in kayaks that can be paddled as normal, peddled with your feet, or sailed. He through me in one of his kayaks to see how I’d coped. I loved it, and it wasn’t too long before I was out-sailing him! The picture on the left is from a trip down to Lion Island in Broken Bay (click on either for a larger image. But, it hasn’t always been plain sailing. (How else can you say it?). There has been some misadventures in some shocking weather conditions. But that’s all part of the fun! The only time I’ve ended up in the water was intentional. That was to see if I could get back in unassisted. What a fun afternoon that was – not! Gladly, I was able to climb back on board! And of course, I always have a life jacket on when on the water.

I am really thankful for these opportunities. This boat really has opened up a part of God’s creation that was closed off to me. There’s also video footage from the same trip.

It’s still uncertain of how long I have still to go in my course. It really depends on how much I want to do and whether I tackle Hebrew as well. At this stage, I dare say I will be studying Hebrew. As difficult as Greek has been, the rewards have been well worth it. I imagine the same will be true for Hebrew.

Getting nearer to the end of my course has not yielded a closer vision of what I’ll be doing after my studies. This is a source of frustration. However, there are many questions I want to pursue and write on as a result of my studies. One way or the other, I will have something to do.

July 14, 2009 Posted by | Newsletters, Site News | Leave a comment

The Student’s Desk Newsletter – December, 2008

I am relieved to get to the end of another year of study. Again, the semester ended in a mad rush to get my final assessments done. Nonetheless my subjects for this semester were among the most enjoyable I have done, though only one of the 6 essays I did was “easy”. That essay was on the Trinity, which might give you an idea of what I was up against.

            As I stated last time, my subjects for this semester include Reformation History and Doctrine of God and the Work of Christ. I also mentioned last time that I regarded the Reformation as a theological bandwagon that everyone jumped on with their political agendas. At least that was the case in Europe. In England the opposite was true – their Reformation was a political bandwagon that everyone jumped on with their theological agendas! I did manage to learn a few other things as well about this important time in history. What really stood out was the extent to which politics and religion were intertwined. They really were one and the same thing. It’s very foreign to modern western thought where every effort is made to keep church and state polls apart. It was interesting watching a documentary recently on the 2005 intelligent design controversy in the U.S.A.. The objection was intelligent design should not be taught in public schools because that would constitute a breach in separation of church and state. We’ve moved way up one end of the spectrum, while 600 years ago, people were way down the other end. It was not possible to be theological without being political, and visa-versa. The Reformation had to be political as much as it was theological. This is a point that needs to be understood when addressing any period of Church History before this time.

            The subject also gave me an opportunity to read Martin Luther’s Bondage of the Will which I consider to be the best book I’ve ever read, besides the Bible of course! Ever since coming to understand the Gospel as I now do I’ve struggled with prayer. Not so much the discipline of prayer, although that is an issue, but how to think about prayer. How does God’s sovereignty, free will and human responsibility work together in prayer? Do we really need to nag God off his throne to get anything done in the universe, even though he’s know about it for all eternity? What a pathetic view of God! And us! I’ve asked all kinds of people, and read a few books, including Calvin, but only this obscure former monk from 500 years ago had a satisfactory answer for me. It was a real blessing to come across. I suppose you want to know what the answer was. Well, you really should read the book, but essentially, Luther perceived that people had free will over human affairs, not God’s affairs, yet human affairs are still overruled by God. So people do have free will in human affairs, yet we can ask God for his intervention in our affairs, and trust in his sovereignty. Now, that’s an understanding that I can pray within, and not feel like I’m nagging God off his throne like an irresponsible pawn! Unfortunately, this is a hard book to get. It’s not just this book, but other books have been difficult to get. While popular Christian bookshops line their shelves with rubbish, gems like Bondage of the Will and other helpful titles are scarce! It’s a disgrace!! Apart from this I soon discovered Luther was more than capable of having his dopey moments. It was a disappointment to see how someone could write such an ingenious work, and yet be so stupid at the Marburg Colloquy where he debated Zwingli over the presence of Christ at the Lord’s Supper. Such is the complexity of human nature, I suppose!

            The Doctrine of God and the work of Christ gave me an opportunity to look at the Trinity. Though I had always embraced the Trinity, I thought it was just a doctrine tact on to the rest of theology to explain some strange occurrences in Scripture. I now understand that the Trinity is integral to theology. If you deny the Trinity, the rest of Christian doctrine falls apart. The subject also gave me an opportunity to explore the work of God in the salvation of individuals. I did a paper on this in relation to people with disabilities and other social issues. Even though my paper hardly answered the essay question, it was interesting to see how the Gospel is applied to people who would appear to be outside the “norm”. Incidentally, the Gospel is applied to people inside the “norm” in exactly the same way. I do wish more theologians would realise this!


The church services at Allambie Heights are still going strong with numbers consistently around 10. Some of the regulars aren’t so regular these days which is sad. I suppose it’s part of getting old. But others have come and have been regular. It was encouraging to see how much some of the people are “owning” the service. This became apparent when one of the people had some family members there. When it came time to begin, they kept saying “Church! Church!” wanting the family members to come to “their church”. I felt sad for them when their family members simply ignored the request and walked off to another part of the complex. I thought for sure they would leave and join their family. But no! They stayed for the entire service as they normally would. It’s pleasing to see that this time is regard with such importance by these people. Praise God!

            After going through the Sermon on the Mount I thought it would be good to talk about how to live a godly life when not everyone recognises the only true and living God. So we started going through Daniel. I’m not sure if this is working as well as I’d hoped. The chapter readings are a bit long, despite me encouraging them to enjoy the readings as a “story”. Yet, they are still doing their best to listen, and seem to be gaining something from it.


In regard to my studies, I’ve still got around 3 years to go. Thank you for your prayers and support. I think I can confidently say your prayers are being answered. At the end of every semester, I’ve looked at my remaining assessments and thought, “how am I going to pull this off??” Yet somehow I manage to come through. Next year I hope to study Greek, though I’m not sure how this will work out. I found 2 days a week at college to be quite taxing. Not just from travelling, but the extra day at college meant 1 less day I’m working on essays. Technically, this means I’ve got 2 less weeks to get my work done. So I’m keen to have 1 day a week where possible. In the meantime, I intend to spend my summer doing everything I haven’t been doing. That’s going to be one busy summer!

December 3, 2008 Posted by | Newsletters, Site News | Leave a comment


Spam, spam, spam, spam,
spamming so much fun.
Send it off to all your freinds,
annoying everyone!

Getting spam is part of the course of running a website. Fortunately, WordPress does a cracker job filtering it all out. Every so often, I scan the spam list just in case its been overzealous. Today, I found this:

Let me begin by saying that i love your site a lot
now.. back on topic hehe
I cant say that i agree with what you typed up… care to explain more?

Is it spam? or is it a genuine comment and question? To answer the question asked in the quote – no, I don’t care to explain more! WHY? Because I don’t know what on God’s good earth I’m suppose to be explaining!

The point to my little rant is this: If people want to ask questions, or let me know they think I’m off the planet, that’s fine! I got no problem with publishing criticism. All to God’s glory! But if you are going to criticise, or ask questions, BE SPECIFIC AND ARTICULATE! Otherwise, I’m going to spam it!

September 18, 2008 Posted by | Site News | , , | Leave a comment

The Student’s Desk Newsletter – July, 2008

I’ve managed to get through another semester at PTC, and as I sit down to write another edition of The Student’s Desk this past semester feels more like a full year. This edition has ended up being longer than normal. Probably because I’m still trying to process all that’s happened! It’s been a very busy time. The fact I picked three of the hardest topics to study and became frustrated with the quality of the work by scholars added to a very long semester.

            As I mentioned last time, this semester’s subject included Isaiah and Westminster Confession of Faith. I really wanted to ‘nail’ Isaiah as I anticipated that the better I understood Isaiah, the better I could understand the New Testament. I was promptly warned at the start by a friend, “You wont nail Isaiah, Isaiah will nail YOU!” I drew no encouragement from our lecturer who also warned us, “You wont get your head around Isaiah. It’s just to big.” He did his doctoral thesis on Isaiah, and he’s saying it’s too big! What chance did I have?? Nonetheless, I did get a firm handle on Isaiah. I wont be so bold to say I nailed it, but I did achieve my objective in gaining a better understanding of the New Testament from Isaiah. For the 2 essays, I looked at the Sign of Immanuel in chapter 7 looking at the weird, whacky, and completely ridiculous suggestions commentators have come up with for the identity of the virgin and her child. Working with what our lecturer had to say helped a long way as I came up with my own ideas. I also looked at the theme of Kingship, and looking back, this wouldn’t have been much different to trying to summarise the whole book in 3,000 words – yah! Nonetheless, I gained an understanding in Isaiah’s agenda.

            As for the Westminster Confession of Faith, hmm. What can I say without causing too much controversy? I should say firstly that there is a place for church tradition and systematic theology. I’m not about to deny the relevance of the doctrinal standards of the Presbyterian Church as expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith, as did happen in the 19th century. Particularly today as any aspect of Christian doctrine can mean anything and everything. It’s helpful for Christians to state what they believe corporately so we at least know what we’re on about as a group. If someone doesn’t subscribe to what is said, then maybe they’d do better to find another ‘ecclesiastical home’. But what concerned me is as I investigated again some of the controversies that have occurred in the Presbyterian denomination, I felt more like a lawyer then a Bible scholar. I found people arguing over the finer points of the Confession, and whether this or that teaching can be accepted on some technicality. Where the Bible was used, it was to provide a proof text, not some much to apply the broad, sweeping themes of Scripture. Mind you, this was at a time when only a minority of clergy believed the Bible had any credibility! I became sensitive to the use of the Bible from studying Isaiah, and being aware of the debates about the person and work of Christ that have raged in other times of Church history. Perhaps if a little more attention had been given to Isaiah, these debates would not have been so necessary. Church tradition and systematic theology have their place, but not as a second Bible! This is one of my objections to Catholicism that regards church tradition as being equally authoritative with the Bible (though in my opinion, Catholicism places the authority of church tradition over the Bible). Protestants must not do the same with our systematic theology. As helpful as systematic theology is to identify our persuasion on various issues, extreme care must be taken not to invest too much authority in it. I do not think that humanity in its fallen state has the capacity to crystallise beyond fault, the entire revelation of the Bible into systematic statements. I have come to the firm conviction that God gave us a Bible, not a systematic text, for very good reasons. I’m not sure what all those reasons are, but we would do well to give much more attention to the Bible than our traditions or systematic theology.

            However, the subject did give me an opportunity to revisit the issue of God’s providence after writing about it in relation to prayer last year. When I thought about what I had written last year, I wasn’t entirely happy with what I came up with. I also chose to write on it again as I had issues with what the Westminster Confession of Faith had to say at this point. This time, I was to consider God’s providence in relation to the problem of evil, and what the Confession has to say on the issue. This was the third difficult topic I chose. I still don’t have a final answer to the problem, and I very much doubt that I ever will. However the faculty would be pleased to know I’m more in line with the Confession on this point these days, though I still have a point of contention. I do know to be wary of people who claim to have a final answer to this issue. My studies showed that such people have a distorted view of reality, or the nature of God, or both. It was during the writing of this essay that frustration began to build. I have in my own library a copy of Erickson’s systematic theology. In it is a section addressing the issue of God’s providence and the problem of evil explaining three different viewpoints. I thought, “Beauty! That’s half my essay written! All I need to do is look up his citations.” Well, one of the references by Clark wasn’t available. But no matter. I found another book by Clark which was sure to say the same thing. To my horror, what Erickson said Clark was saying, Clark wasn’t actually saying! So this left a dirty great whole in my essay, and in any event, I didn’t fully agree with what Clark was saying! Somehow I had to integrate all this into my essay. All I wanted to do was get the essay written in the limited time! Oh, the joys of being an academic. I got the essay done, and I haven’t had my lecturer wanting to talk to me about it, so that has to be a good thing.


Studies aren’t quite the struggle they could be as more technology is being used to aid students. This semester I started using a computer program called End Note. This keeps track of all my references so I no longer need to write the footnotes or bibliographies – the program does it for me. I can also use an online database to import biographical information straight into End Note. This saves time and errors. The database also allows me to search journal articles relevant to the essay I’m working on. Now I think the librarian dreads the days I come through the door. It’s a sure bet I’ll be sending him upstairs with a print out of a dozen journals I want retrieved, if not photocopied. Having the library database online has also helped as I can now see what books the library has and where in the library they are. It means I can go to the library with a print out of the books I want and where they are, pick them off the shelf one by one and spend my library time reading instead of trying to find reference to read! This probably saves 1-2 hours work in the library each time. The internet itself is also becoming more of a valuable resource. Every so often I find myself wanting an obscure book and find if you dig around the internet for long enough, you’ll find a full version of the book on a computer file somewhere, mostly for free! Now I’ve gone from the problem of not having enough references to having too many references. Sufficient to say I’ve become quite good at speed reading.

            Doing both subjects by intensive blocks rather than a few hours each week was quite a different experience as well. I had hoped this would give me more time to get more work done as every week wouldn’t be interrupted by a trip to Sydney. Yet somehow the end of semester still turned out to be a mad rush. This may be due to my own pet projects more than anything else. And after 10 hours of lectures in a couple of days, I wasn’t sure of what planet I was on! Life was also made a little more expensive as I had to drive due to the shear amount of junk I needed to take. Attempts at finding an alternative to driving resulted in a strained neck and shoulder which then went into spasm for 5 days. Hence I kept driving! But I certainly appreciated being accommodated while lectures were on. A 10 minute walk to college was so much more enjoyable than a 2 hour commute.

            As usual I went on college mission just before Easter. This time to South West Rocks. I found this mission to be very different. There were social aspects to the area I wasn’t prepared for, and pretty much took me the whole week to figure out how to handle those aspects. The fact I arrived at mission already tired also didn’t help. For the most part, I had the responsibility of driving the computerised presentation which I don’t have allot of experience in. Before mission, I use to think Microsoft Power Point was a horrible, horrible program. Now I know, I was right!


College isn’t the only thing that’s been keeping me busy. Church services at the Allambie Heights Spastic Centre continue with the same number of people attending. I’m really encouraged by the number of people coming forward to help. I no longer feel I need to stand behind people with a big stick to put their name on the roster. Now, I have people almost fighting over dates when they can come down. It’s fantastic!

            Earlier in the year I decided to go through the story of Moses. All was fine until I got to the Ten Plagues. I was left thinking, “how am I going to teach such a huge slab of Scripture in 10 minutes? And, what’s it all about anyway? Surely it’s more than God giving the Egyptians a good spanking for enslaving his people!” Indeed it was. I spent 2 weeks studying the plagues and the significance they had to the Egyptian culture at the time. What was impressed upon me was the all-sufficiency of God in providing for people. The sum of the situation was the Egyptians lived in an uncertain world, and by observing certain rites and beliefs, they could insure and be assured of some certainty. They took pride in this and failed to recognise God’s provision. What the Egyptians put their hope in, God showed to be a sham through the 10 plagues. He is the one who provided for the Egyptians, not some petty idol. We too live in an uncertain world, and we invest time, money, and energy into things that will make us secure and happy. And all too quickly the things that God has given us to enjoy have become our idols, as we fuss and become anxious about them. We forget God gave us these things to enjoy and use for his purposes. If God provided for us in the first instance, God will always provide. Perhaps not always the same thing, but God will provide. There is no need to be anxious about anything. I achieved my objective in getting through the 10 plagues in 10 minutes by discussing these points with the people.

            Of late I have been going through the Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. I’m finding that a most dangerous piece of Scripture. Just when you think you’ve got the Christian life nailed, you read the Sermon on the Mount. Hmm. But it’s been encouraging as well. I’ve been teaching it as “living life up-side-down” as Jesus inverts worldly standards to show God’s standards. This is good news if you find yourself disabled, and can’t conform to worldly standards. But Jesus doesn’t let you off the hook. The sermon emphasises relationships, and how God is honoured in those relationships. It often means doing things which are least natural for us to do. This presents a challenge for anyone, regardless of ability or lack thereof.


I was also involved in the disability camp in March, and to be quite honest, it feels much further back than that. I was asked to give my testimony, but apart from this, I was free and spent the time encouraging campers and carers alike, which probably does more than anything else.


Before returning to college, I spent the remainder of my holidays building my own website, happily entitled The Students Desk. This was a big job in itself, writing who I am, what I believe, and what I’m about. It mainly serves as an outlet for my writings so people can read at their leisure, and hopefully be encouraged in their faith. The website can be found at . My intent was to post a fortnightly devotion based on what I’m speaking on at the Spastic Centre. Unfortunately, my studies left me too tired to do much else. I’ll have to try and make more of an effort in the future.


Next semester I’m back to the weekly commute, twice a week unfortunately! I’ll be studying the reformation period in church history, and the doctrine of God and the work of Christ (more systematic theology). I’m looking forward to studying the Reformation. I’ve studied it briefly before and concluded that a few people came along with a theological bandwagon which everyone jumped on with their political agendas. I’m looking forward to having my knowledge of this time filled out a bit more. Hopefully the doctrine of God and the work of Christ will lift my view of systematic theology a bit higher,


I’ve also worked out where I’m up to in my course. I have about another 12 subjects to go, and at the rate I’m going, that’ll take another 3 years. So, there’s a fair way to go yet, but I’m getting there. I’m just thankful God doesn’t have deadlines!


Thank you for supporting and praying for me. It’s a big encouragement on a long road with many battles. A road that I don’t even know where it’s going! But, when all the hard work is done, it’s a good road to be on, because I’m learning more and more about Jesus.

July 7, 2008 Posted by | Newsletters, Site News | Leave a comment

Page update – SUBSCRIBE!

The title of this page has been changed to Subscribe by email or reader. If your hesitant about giving your email, but still want to subscribe, see the page for alternative means of subscribing.

February 10, 2008 Posted by | Site News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Wahoo! I just worked out what widgets were – DER!!! It’s all that stuff on the right hand side of the page. Other pages, links, the news. You can even search this site! I think when I’m done writting, that’ll come in pretty handy…

February 7, 2008 Posted by | Site News | , , , | Leave a comment

Official launch of The Student’s Desk website

Yes, I’ve occupied this little corner of cyberspace for over a year, but after a bit of creativity and allot of hard work over my summer break, today marks the official launch of The Student’s Desk website.

The main aim of the website is to provide a written word ministry in teaching the Bible. But it’s also a personal website. So you’ll find a bit of information about me, and a few other bits and pieces, including other ministries that I’m involved with, and updates about my studies.

The Student’s Desk also has facilities so you can subscribe and get notifications via email of updates, and make donations securely if you’re so inclined.

Most of all, I hope this website will provide a source of encouragement and teaching to many.

February 6, 2008 Posted by | Site News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beliefs Page

Page added – Beliefs

Here I outline concisely what my core beliefs are as a Christian so visitors may know the theological framework for my papers.

February 6, 2008 Posted by | Religious, Site News, Theology | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who is Jason Forbes?

Major page update – Who is Jason Forbes? 

I’ve added a whole lot of information about how I’ve ended up where I am today.

February 1, 2008 Posted by | Site News | 1 Comment

Subscription Woes!

It’s a simple idea: Have people enter in their email into a server, then whenever I make a new post, they’re told about it via email. Just try doing it!!!

I did a search in WordPress’s forums and FAQS, and came across Feedburner. Quick, easy to set up, but the updates it churns out… eeww!!!

This is what I got today…

From: Ministries Page « The Student’s Desk [mailto:]
Sent: Saturday, 26 January 2008 12:08 PM
Subject: [The Student’s Desk] Pingback: “Ministries”

 New pingback on your post #77 “Ministries”Website: Ministries Page « The Student’s Desk (IP: ,    : […] […] Ministries […] […] You can see all pingbacks on this post here: Delete it: it: 


It doesn’t exactly say, “visit me now, read me!!!” It says more like “Hi, I’m a piece of spam. DELETE ME!” And there doesn’t appear to be any way to change it.

So, I tried Botablog. Simple, easy to use, and total rubbish. It looked rubbish because it was rubbish! I couldn’t have people signing up on a server that looked like it was designed by a 1st year uni student! (No offence to 1st year uni students!)

So I tried Feedblitz, and it’s a really good server, if only it worked properly! The first task is to swim your way through the PAGES of options without any help or explantion of what they are. If you achieve that mammoth feat, you can then decide what your updates look like, but you’ll never really know what they’ll look like because what you see in the preview and what it sends out are two different things entirely. Oh, and if you happen to be a tight wad, your readers will have to read in between the ads! Nor can it remember what timezone you’re in. Nor is it aware of the email address you’d like to appear in the ‘from’ field even though you’ve told it.

Sufficient to say I am FRUSTRATED!!! Nonetheless, I am sticking with Feedblitz, I’m hoping things will improve. Unless of course someone has a better suggestion.


Since writting this post, I’ve been able to SOMEHOW get the email notifications to the standard I want, and have done a few updates and found the notifications reliable, if a tad slow. It still thinks I live in Canada or US. (I’m in Australia).

January 26, 2008 Posted by | Site News | , , , , , | Leave a comment