Dec 082019

Some of you will be aware that I love reading – in fact, some good reading time is one of the things I am most looking forward in our abiding time in January. My list of possible books is rather long and I expect it will end up being a mix of theology/ministry, novels, biographies and social research. Stay tuned for some reviews in the new year!

You too might have some more space for reading during January so, with that in mind, I thought I’d take the opportunity to remind you of the bookstall that we have at St Philips. We switch the books over every four to six weeks and aim to get a range of books each time.

Here are some of the types of books on there at the moment:

1. Yearly Devotionals: The New Year is a natural time to choose a new rhythm of Bible reading, or to begin one. There are some books that might help guide your Bible reading on the bookstall. In particular, those by Tim Keller are ones that numerous people in our congregation have found beneficial. As well, there are some family devotional books and a book to guide your prayers for your children.

2. Books about Bible Reading and Prayer: How to read the Bible for all it’s worth or Eat this Book might take your Bible reading deeper. Prayer by Tim Keller is one of the best books on prayer I’ve read and A Praying Life is a book several friends have recommended and is on my summer reading list.

3. Books about Pain and Lament: A good friend has recently found Deep Clouds, Deep Mercy really helpful in, as the subtitle says, discovering the grace of lament.  The Problem of Pain by CS Lewis is an old classic.

4. Books to Give to People who are Exploring the Christian Faith: John Dickson’s books Jesus: A Short Life and A Doubter’s Guide to the Bible might be useful for a friend exploring Christianity; likewise Tim Keller’s The Reason for God or The Prodigal God. Of course, it’s always worth having a read of such books yourself before passing them on to a friend.

5. Autobiographies: Peter Elliott was a Fremantle boy and has been a Bible college lecturer amongst other things. Having been on a board with him, I’m looking forward to reading his new book Rambling towards Jerusalem. Some classics like The Hiding Place and Surprised by Joy are on there, as is Even in our Darkness, Jack Deere’s autobiography which so many of us have enjoyed over the last couple of years.

6. Books for Kids and Youth: Kids’ books always go fast on our bookstall at this time of year and this year is no exception. There are some great picture books and some kids’ Bible story books still available. Also some books that some of the slightly older young people in your lives might find useful.


Dec 012019

We have been thinking about where God might be when things don’t seem to make much sense.

Nothing could have brought this home this week like sitting in hospital with Trevor and David Parry and Paul Manley while a kind, gracious medical registrar explained the damage caused to Liz’s brain by a bang to the head at home.  To learn that the damage was catastrophic and nothing could be done medically for Liz was for us all the epitome of awe-ful.

Yet, as we supported one another and prayed together, the God of all comfort was there.

Later, I was driving slowly along the Cottesloe beachfront: the day clear and warm, the beach white and water smooth, with gentle lapping waves and hues of blue that defy description. Stunning beauty and creative glory.  And God was there too, big and authoring, unfussed and majestic.

Later that day I was chairing a board meeting of YouthCARE, the body responsible for the 381 chaplains in state government schools.  The discussion was strategic and tactical, passionate and respectful, filled with integrity and intelligence.  Above all it was yearning for the wellbeing of the young people of this state. 

And God was there, in these wonderful bruised reeds, giving of themselves that God’s Kingdom would come and remain in our schools.

The next morning I received a phone call, early, from my youngest daughter.  “How are you Dad?” she asked, with a sincerity that is unique to her.  And that was enough – enough words to carry the power of love one for the other, a daughter to her Dad.  And God was there, the God who weeps for his friends and embraces the lost and embattled.

In his book When God’s Ways Make No Sense, Larry Crabb talks about two types of longing in our quest to understand.  The consolable longing he defines as, “… a longing to persevere through every good time or bad with an undiminshed, growing capacity and desire to love both God and others.”

But there is another type of longing that is inconsolable, that is for “… everything to be as it should be in a loving, holy, sovereign God’s universe.”  And so this life leaves us groaning and grieving inwardly with unsatisfied desire as we wait longingly, even eagerly, for the perfect to come in the new creation.  C. S. Lewis reflected that if you can imagine a reality that is not present in your experience now, it indicates that what you can imagine does exist but somewhere else outside your present experience.  Our consolable longing is a call to faithfully endure all that is wrong in ourselves and the world until all is made right.

Larry Crabb ponders, “Is this the longing Jesus  had in mind when He promised to answer prayer?”


P.S.  Liz Parry died peacefully in Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital at about 10:30am on Thursday 28th November 2019.  Prayers for the family during this time would be appreciated.  

Nov 242019

Though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature (Hebrews 5:12-14).

Think about the difference between milk and solid food. Milk is actually pre-digested food (ie. mum eats solid food, digests it and makes it accessible to her baby). Solid food, however, is in its original form and takes some digesting (ie. energy and effort) before it is accessible to others.

The passage above suggests there are two types of people in church.

  1. Those on milk, who are dependent on others to ‘pre-digest’ God’s Word to make it accessible to them.
  2. Those on solid food, who can go straight to the source (ie. the Bible) who feed themselves and, very importantly, who can feed others.

A flock of lambs (ie. on milk) is limited by the number of sheep there are on solid food.  If there aren’t enough sheep on solid food, the lambs will starve and possibly even die.

However, with more sheep on solid food, the flock is able to grow! The lambs will be strong, fit and healthy. They might even be able to bring their friends along for a good feed!

The Growing Young team has done a lot of listening to people at St Philips in 2019.  Now we are asking three important questions:

(1) Where are we?
(2) Where are we going?
(3) How are we going to get there?

You’ll get an update in a few weeks but here’s a tiny taster.  One of the key weaknesses we identified was “a shortage of leaders”. In other words, we desperately want to grow the flock but we need more leaders who are ‘on solid food’. That said, there is a strong sense that we are feeding the younger flock well with the shepherds we have.

Please join me in . . .

(a) thanking God for the ‘shepherds’ He has so richly provided;

(b) asking God to raise up more shepherds to “feed My sheep” (John 21:17).

Also ask yourself these important questions: Am I on milk or solid food? Who am I feeding?

Finally, some of the more ‘meaty’ sets of Bible studies on RightNow Media are produced by Eternity Bible College. One that looks particularly interesting to me, and would benefit our flock immensely, is the one called Mentoring in the Church.


Nov 172019

What a great time we had last weekend at our St Philips Youth Camp. God continued to work in the lives of our young people through this temporary community experience. Ten young people with five leaders attended for a weekend of fun, faith and friendship.  Research has shown that a peak experience of this kind is one of the factors that helps young people stay connected to church and their faith. Time together is so valuable – we all know [continue reading…]

Nov 102019

From Hamo’s Blog PostPastor, 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 [continue reading…]

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. [continue reading…]

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, [continue reading…]

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…]