Nov 102019

From Hamo’s Blog Post
Pastor, Quinns Rocks Baptist Church.

“Did you know there are twins in New Zealand and their parents named them ‘Fish & Chips’? True story.

Another family have 3 kids – Faith, Hope and… yeah, you guessed it… Kevin! Not surprisingly, ‘Fish & Chips’ have been banned as a names in NZ, along with other choice names like ‘Robocop’ (Mexico), ‘Circumcision’ (also Mexico) and a host of others.

Names matter.  In the ancient world names carried weight and significance. They spoke to our very identity.

So when Jacob [Gen 27-32] was given his name – meaning ‘deceiver’ or ‘supplanter’ – it spoke to who he was and how his life would be lived.  Jacob deceived both his twin brother Esau and his father Isaac and took what was rightfully Esau’s. Not cool. And not surprising that Esau wanted to kill him.

After a significant time apart, Jacob believes he needs to go home and see Esau again. He is on his way when he hears Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men – which only serves to confirm his worst fears. Anticipating the worst, Jacob splits his family in half and sends them off in opposite directions and then stops for a while on his own. Then follows the most bizarre but transformative encounter.

Verse 24 says: ‘So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.’ 
I’ve done a lot of camping, but never have I had someone approach me and ask for a wrestle! And the idea of fighting through the entire night seems equally weird. The ‘man’ (who Jacob later realises is a representative of God) couldn’t ‘overpower him’, which I sense means he couldn’t get him to tap – to quit. Clearly the ‘man’ was able to end the fight as the eventual touch on the hip suggests, but he couldn’t get Jacob to quit.

Just before this encounter was Jacob’s dream – a beautiful, grace-filled moment when God reaffirmed his covenant to him. God chose to use a betrayer and deceiver as the father of the nation he would call his own…

And now in this moment Jacob boldly says to the ‘man’, ‘You can’t go unless you bless me.’ He receives that blessing, along with a new name. God changes his name from Jacob to Israel – from deceiver to ‘struggler with God’.

The people of Israel are those who will struggle with God.

As I read that story again recently, I was reminded that as the church – the ‘new Israel’ – we inherit that identity and we too are those who struggle with God. The choice is how we will struggle. We can struggle well – honestly engaging with God, grappling with our expectations and disappointments – or we can struggle badly. We can disengage – give up the fight – or just live forever in anger and fury at a God who didn’t do all we had hoped. Or again we can live in denial – we can parade the ‘victorious Christian life’ to those who look on – we can speak the lingo, look the part – all the while disintegrating internally because our experience does not match our rhetoric.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘struggling well’.

So many of us struggle.  Correction, we all struggle – it’s in our DNA – to wrestle with God in some way. But often, when we speak of ‘those who struggle’, we do it in pejorative terms, as if they were our ‘bench players’, or our liabilities.

Nothing could be further from the truth.”

An extract, with amendments, from Hamo’s blog.  Just interesting that we are sharing the same thoughts together.


Nov 032019

What is known as ‘peak experiences’ is one of the things that has been found to be a key factor in young people continuing on with their faith. One of the influential places for these ‘peak experiences’ in people’s faith journeys is in the context of the temporary community that camps provide. Many of our community can testify to their experience of that over the years, including things like the men’s and women’s retreats in the life of our church.

Temporary community, especially Christian camps, have been key in my faith journey. This was especially true in my youth and young adult years. As a leader of my Christian group at school, I attended the week-long leadership conferences run by both Scripture Union and Crusaders (the CRUWest equivalent) in my last three years of high school.  These were the foundation of my Christian formation, enhanced by some of my youth group leaders also being leaders on these camps, by the investment of people in my church and elsewhere, as well as by our youth group and church camps. Then, into my young adult years, I was part of leading and running equivalent camps (in a different state) which continued  my faith development and cemented my understanding of the usefulness of camping in the faith development of young people.

During the week, as part of the Growing Young process we held a ‘focus group’ with young adults from other churches whose faith is thriving – a great gift of time and investment from these young people from other church communities! Not surprisingly, one of the things that came up was the benefit of temporary Christian community in their faith development. This included going on Beach Mission with their family, Scripture Union camps and youth group camps. Investment by leaders, Bible-based teaching, and training and fun with peers were all things that God had used in their faith journey.

(As a side note: It felt timely to me that the particular Scripture Union camp that was mentioned at the focus group was Canoemup, which some people currently in our church community have invested deeply in over the years, especially Graham Dowley!)

So it’s with this backdrop that I’m thankful that most of our young people have had an experience of Christian camps in recent years, with many of them planning on being on a camp in the upcoming summer holidays. It also reinforces Kieran’s and my strong encouragement of our young people’s participation in the CRUWest Spring Leadership Camp when they are in Years 9-11. (This camp is like the ones I went on as a teenager.)

Also, it’s why we request your prayers for our youth group camp next weekend (8th-10th November). Please partner with us in praying that the young people in our church and their friends will have the kind of transformative experiences I’ve described above.  Pray that these young people grasp the good news found in Jesus and grow in their relationship with Him.


Oct 272019

Today, we are acknowledging what has become known as the Protestant Reformation, one of the cataclysmic changes in Christian understanding that reshaped the world as we know it.

A trip to Israel illustrates and reminds us that the greatest reformation by far came in the person of Jesus Christ, a relative nobody, a tradesman from an inconsequential village in the upper reaches of the outback of Palestine.

Just one little Jesus tidbit from 10 days ago:

We were in Nazareth, a bustling Palestinian town today, largely Muslim, under which the 1st-century village of Jesus lies hidden.  When new buildings are constructed and ancient things found, there is a legal compulsion to stop so excavation can happen.  A recent find includes a 10th-century Crusader church on top of a 4th-century Byzantine chapel, on top of a 1st-century house with a magnificent tomb cut in the rock under the house.

This fits exactly with the description in the trip notes of Aculf, a German pilgrim to Nazareth in the 7th century.  He describes a Byzantine church over a house with a tomb dedicated to “the righteous man” inside it, which is exactly what we see today. 

That succession of churches indicates a line of tradition and a physical providence of the importance of the place.  Aculf seals this and attributes the tomb.

Nazareth was a Jewish village.  Tombs were always outside the city.  There were only two exceptions – tombs for kings and tombs for particularly holy or righteous people.  Since there were no kings in Nazareth, who might be “righteous” enough to have a tomb inside the town?

(Now everything from here on is pure conjecture.)

The term “righteous man” is not used lightly or casually.  Remember Joseph of Arimathea who buried Jesus?  He was “a good and righteous man”.  Was there a righteous man in Nazareth?  Well, in Matthew 1:19 we read, “Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man ……”  This was after the betrothal to Mary but before the wedding.  Joseph had the designation “righteous”.

Were we standing in the home of Joseph, husband to Mary, a “righteous man” so highly regarded that he was deemed worthy of burial inside the city?

If that was a possibility, who cut the tomb – the very carefully cut, beautiful tomb?

Jesus was a carpenter.  Wasn’t he?  Actually, yes and no.  Jesus was a “tekton”, a builder.  One visit to Nazareth makes it instantly clear that there is way more rock than wood.  Builders may have finished in wood but they built in stone.  Jesus was a stonemason!

Were we standing outside the tomb Jesus cut for his father, village elder, an honourable and righteous man?

Who knows? But it does make your spine tingle.

Good to be back,

Oct 202019

Rightnow Media: Top Five Visiting is a bit like trying to climb Mt Everest – there is so much to get through! Today I want to give you some of my top recommendations. Some of the authors I can ‘vouch’ for are Matt Chandler, John Piper and Francis Chan. If you have a commute to work, why not download the audio for one of their sermon series? Did you know that (a) you can download material onto your phone [continue reading…]

Oct 132019

When I travelled to Sudan 12 years ago, the experience was both profound and enduring. It sparked in me an enthusiasm to alleviate the suffering amongst the folk I had met who had been long displaced from their homeland, and left languishing for decades in distant places, without any hope for their future. Nine years later that spark had almost extinguished when the Lord came calling again through one of His faithful servants, Samuel Ojulu, founder of the new church [continue reading…]

Oct 062019

As I write this, I’ve just got home from a night of studying 1 Corinthians with some St Philips women. We’ve been doing an online study put together by Ridley College and finding it useful, not only for helping us understand 1 Corinthians but also for shaping us in how we read Scripture more generally. In this study,  they maintain the importance of three concepts in reading the Bible: Mind the Gap – the need to understand the context of [continue reading…]

Sep 292019

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints(Colossians 1:3-4). Today I want to give you a few reasons to give thanks to God. Youth Group When I first arrived at St Philips, our average youth group attendance was 5, but now, only 18 months on, it is closer to 15! Our record [continue reading…]

Sep 222019

It’s a big weekend at St Philips! This afternoon at 3pm, Dr Simon Towler will be joining us to explain the proposed Voluntary Assisted Dying legislation currently under discussion in the Western Australian Upper House of Parliament.  This is a very emotive issue.  I have been reading and studying it at some length this week and I am feeling emotional about it. The purpose of this time is to glean information and facts.  It is not to champion a position, [continue reading…]

Sep 152019

It was a remarkable bible study last week with Kieran.  We have been working our way through Roman chapter 8 and Kieran recited the whole chapter to a captive audience.  Wow!  The Word of God was so alive and meaningful. This also made me think of how passionate our leadership team feels about our youth group and bringing young people at many local schools into a relationship with Jesus. When I was at school (more than 50 years ago), we [continue reading…]

Sep 082019

As I write this, we are in the midst of a week of Growing Young focus groups. One of the things that struck me in the first focus group was their impact of mentors on the lives of some of our current parents when they were teenagers. Many of these were informal relationships, not necessarily even things that the teenagers at the time would have been able to identify as particularly significant.  However, looking back, they recognized that  these people [continue reading…]