Aug 202017

The famous preacher and theologian Don Carson has been in Perth this week and on Tuesday night, along with more than 1000 other people, I heard him speak.  I know some others from our community have also had the opportunity to hear him at one or more of the events he’s spoken at during the week.

On Tuesday night, he started his talk with a cheery statement: “If you live long enough, you’ll get kicked in the teeth.”  He then proceeded to open up Psalm 40 with us, sharing openly from experiences in his own and others’ lives as he did.  He explained that Psalm 40 has two main ideas: David’s joyful praise to God who saves him from the “mud and mire” and a recognition that deliverance from the difficulties doesn’t always happen, and a cry to God for help in those times.

As Don spoke to us about this Psalm, I pondered a few things.

I pondered whether those of us who have experienced God’s deliverance give testimony to that; also, how and when we do it.  One of Don’s statements struck me: “Witnessing to the goodness of God is normal Christianity.  Anything less is sub-normal.”  Are our lives marked by speaking of the goodness of God, or more marked by speaking of the daily (and often very real) struggles of life?  I’m not in any way questioning the importance of sharing the realities of our lives with others; rather, I am wondering whether we ensure that we turn our eyes to God in that.  Yep, “Where’s our focus?” (for those who heard my sermon last week); and whether we witness to the daily reality of God’s goodness in our lives. Of course, this has more power as it’s connected to the very real issues in our lives.  As Don commented, “The testimony of a life that has suffered is often more powerful than cerebral answers.”  I wouldn’t be our Families Minister if my ears didn’t prick up at Don speaking about how that’s not important just because it’s honouring to God but also because it’s vital for forming the next generation in faith.

Giving testimony to the goodness of God and telling of seeking his help in the daily realities of life forms all of the people we are around, not least those children and young people in our lives.  Often we thank God and seek his help privately, which is great.  But how much more are we forming each other when we reveal to each other the need for God in our lives and how we have experienced his goodness.  This week I heard someone who is in significant physical pain speak of how helpful it was to hear another one of our community share what a difference it makes to them when they give praise to God in the midst of their pain.  That was a great example of how the testimony of one person in the midst of the very real struggles of their life can encourage and strengthen another in faith.

I’ve been challenged now to witness more often to the goodness of God in my life.  I wonder where you might have the opportunity to do that this week.  As well, I’m excited by the potential impact – on each other, our children and the world around us – of us all living more fully in this way that is “normal Christianity”.




Aug 132017

It was fantastic to be away last weekend with a group of women from our church – a rich weekend of connection with each other and with God in a gorgeous location.  At one point over the weekend I was struck by how unique it is for that type of cross section of ages to be comfortably together – it’s pretty rare in our society these days.  I was also struck by the desire of the group of women who were there to know Jesus more deeply and to let go of the things that hinder that.  Numerous people, especially Cheryl, contributed to creating this precious environment where people connected and where God was clearly at work.

Here’s what Barb Brans wrote about the weekend:

“Last weekend I took part in the women’s retreat at New Norcia run by Cheryl Potts.

We had wonderful praising songs all weekend, accompanied by Marinda on keyboard or Cheryl with her guitar but the ultimate highlight for me was when Emma burst into song and we all slowly joined in. It was There is a Redeemer, Jesus God’s own Son. There was something about 35 unaccompanied voices and the powerful lyrics that touched my soul.

Of course there were many highlights.  There was the obvious presence of God’s Spirit amongst us, the fellowship and friendship, the love that oozed out of Ellen, even though she was quite ill; she still fussed over us making sure we lacked nothing as she catered for 35 women.

There was the commitment and wisdom of Cheryl as she led her women to a greater understanding of themselves and their relationship to God and how God longs to set us free to receive his pure spiritual water. The teaching was based on Jeremiah 2:13.

“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
    the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
    broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

There was the deep sharing and honesty in the huddles as we confessed our weaknesses and prayed for each other.

There was the pleasure of getting to know familiar faces better and the fun of finding out details we don’t have time to share on Sundays.  There was the love so evident between sisters and friends as they did each other’s hair or massaged backs.

There were the times of devotion led by Sally, oh, Sal, so good!  I thought I could never imagine myself in the Bible story but with your leading it was easy and a very precious time.

There were three wonderful honest, all very different, testimonies.

We even had a birthday, Shirley-Joy.

Of course there was the constant glow and warmth from a wood fire and God’s additional blessing of a fine weekend.

My only regret was that all the women of the parish were not there,  especially my friends from my study group.  Maybe next time.

May God protect us as we continue to work on our broken places and come more into line with His will for our lives.”


Barb x2


Aug 062017

Thank you for the feedback following the talk Cheryl and I gave in church last Sunday.  If you were not there and are interested, jump on St Philips Cottesloe website, press on the Podcast button and you can hear it.

We addressed 1 Peter 3, where Peter says, “Wives submit to your husbands.”  Of course Peter said much more than that and that text of all texts deserves a context, both culturally and for its place within the letter as a whole.

I particularly want to acknowledge and honour the journeys, bits of which have been shared with me, of some folk whose lives have been shaped negatively by the misuse of such texts.  I also want to thank the sharing men and women who have [and do] wrestle together in the shared responsibility of covenant relationship and continue to do the work of fitting in to one another out of reverence for Christ and each other.

And …. I want to mention the passionate warnings of one person who practises in this area and exhorted me to tell women, particularly, that if you think you are in danger, you ARE in danger.  And the only right thing to do is to call anyone who will provide immediate physical safety and get you and your kids out of where you are to that safe place.  My friend went on to say not to worry about things, perceptions, what will come next and so on.  Just get out.  All those things do, invariably, sort themselves out.

My friend explained that there are two support places in Perth that ‘get it’, and you, in that sort of situation and either will help or tell you what to do.  Those places are your local Magistrates Court [better than the police but if you are in imminent physical danger, call the police].  The second is the Women’s Legal Centre.

My friend warned that the first week after leaving is critical and these two resources should be at the top of the list in giving you specific action steps.

My friend also suggested that if someone approaches you saying they are afraid and need protection [even if you know the partner and the partner is a lovely person……blah, blah!], believe them and protect them!  In John 17:11,15 Jesus prays that his Father will protect the disciples.  Protection is so fundamental to wellbeing.  Jesus doesn’t question us, he protects us from all evil.  As confusing as it may seem at the time, be  protectors one of the other.

I have been quietly praying for protection as I pop off to hospital for surgery tomorrow morning.  I want to thank fellow travellers for the generous support, advice and sharing of geriatric toys that seem standard in orthopaedic recovery.  I am pleased to stand with the growing retinue of fellow cyborgs.  Aren’t we just incredibly fortunate to have access to such treatment and remedial care?

Please don’t visit me in hospital.  There are three agendas there – chop, physiotherapy and rest – then they kick you out.  Feel free to visit me at home but give me a week to get over the crisis phase.

It’s been lovely to see God’s gentle and mirthful hand in this.  Paul and Helen turned up at church  last week with an electric Gofer for sale and have lent it to me.  We have never had a Gofer turn up at church before!  Why, the week before I need one?  I’m not supposed to drive a car for six weeks but no one said anything about a Gofer!

Also, Cheryl has struck up a real friendship with a lovely Swiss woman who has been attending St Philips playgroup.  Her hubby is the surgeon who assists my surgeon.  We have had picnics together.  Who would have thought?

God is good . . .  all the time.  Prayers with you as you appropriate his love, truth, grace and presence.

James is the ‘boss’ for the next four weeks. 
If you need to, ask him.




Jul 302017

We’ve had a couple of great weeks of prayer ministry training.  Thanks to Trevor and Liz Parry who have run these times and led the Prayer Ministry team so faithfully.  It’s also been great to see the sense of engagement and momentum at both of these gatherings.  God’s doing something in our midst . . . and it is good! At the first one, we explored what Prayer Ministry looks like at St Philip’s, some of the principles involved and [continue reading…]

Jul 232017

I love our mission statement – “Seeking God and Stepping Out Together.” I believe St Philips is a place that sincerely seeks God.  We seek him through reading and studying the Bible together, praying together, services and participating in communion together, witnessing and participating in baptisms together, playing music and singing together, doing mission together. . . Do we step out together?  Yes, we do.  We have CRE teachers, chaplains, prison ministry, missionaries, food ministries, an art ministry and EcoChurch.  [continue reading…]

Jul 162017

I woke up this morning absolutely exhausted after the sleep of a dead man.  Why was I feeling so tired? The day before I had taken a funeral.  One thing people do not realise when they watch the ‘pros’ do things like funerals is just how challenging we find them.  For me, it is not the grief necessarily, it is the difficult place I find myself in with nominal or secular families, longing that they might know the truth and [continue reading…]

Jul 092017

In the Bible all manner of sacrifices and offerings are recorded. In Scripture, the nature of a sacrifice or offering is normally a religious act belonging to worship in which a material offering is made to God.  Sometimes the item may be destroyed or consumed by the worshippers or given for redistribution for others.  Sacrifices and offerings can come with all manner of motives.  In the Old Testament many of them were to appease or atone for the sin and [continue reading…]

Jul 022017

We are away on holidays for the next few weeks.  In the past our holiday schedule has looked more like work than rest!  When we go back to Victoria to visit family we have to be careful not to just make it a complete social overload.  This month’s bookstore is concentrating on the theme of rest.  I recommend you take the time to check out some of the books Barb and I have chosen.  As it is now the school [continue reading…]

Jun 252017

It’s so good to be part of a community that actively values people of all ages.  It’s precious and rare in our society today – even in the church.  It takes effort and intentionality and it goes against the grain of the norms of our society.  Thanks for the part that you play in making St Philips this kind of church community. More than just valuing people of all ages, we want to see people of all ages coming to [continue reading…]

Jun 182017

The kingdom coming near, heaven touching earth, a falling of the Holy Spirit, the presence of Jesus, an over-realised eschatology – whatever you want to call it, we are experiencing it! Here are some examples: Alpha – Five people have made commitments to follow Jesus. Healings: One of the members admitted that during the healing night at Alpha she was afraid to ask for healing prayer for her knee.  She confessed this week that she felt that a heaviness was [continue reading…]