home >Pastor’s Desk>2016>January 8th>No Going Back



¶ After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”  He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
Genesis 22:1-2

A little over a month ago my world nearly collapsed. I was sitting in the doctor’s surgery hearing him explain to me my immediate peril. I had just been diagnosed with a degenerative spine that could suffer permanent damage if I strained it too much. Not only was tennis out of the question, I was warned that even loading a dish-washer could be irreparably debilitating. I had one more tennis coaching commitment to fulfil which I did quite gingerly and left the court that afternoon thinking that this was my last time hitting a tennis ball on a tennis court. For something that had been a huge part of my life, it was a rather flat moment for me.

So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.
Genesis 22:3

From about the age of 11, tennis was my life. Even though I had been a regular church goer all my life I became a follower of Christ at the age of 15. It wasn’t long before I was convicted by the Holy Spirit to lay tennis down on the altar of surrender to God. Initially I didn’t. I played on, travelling around Victoria to the various tournaments on the circuit. But then strange things began to happen on the tennis court as I increasingly sensed God’s call on my life to be a preacher and similarly felt that tennis was an idol in my life. This culminated for me when playing in the Victorian Junior Open. Pat Cash was playing on a court behind me. My new Fischer racquet cracked in my hand mid-game. Fortunately, I had a second racquet. But within moments of this I felt a strange burning in my abdomen followed by sharp pain. I then began coughing blood. This was not a good tournament for me.

¶ “You shall have no other gods before me.”
Deuteronomy 5:7

That was my last elite tournament. I laid tennis down on the altar of full surrender to God.

Sixteen years later we arrived in Tasmania. That was nearly 21 years ago. It would be two years before I walked onto a tennis court after sensing God’s approval. But this time it wasn’t to play but to volunteer to coach children in the community. I have since coached hundreds of children. Some went on to represent Tasmania interstate. And a few weeks I once again laid this aspect of my life down in worshipful surrender of the God Who Knows Best.

Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”
Genesis 22:5

Letting go of things has a certain grieving associated with it.

When God told Abraham to lay down his only son Isaac on the altar of full surrender, he must have experienced at least a small measure of grieving. For some its a lifestyle change where they too must lay down something they love but which the Holy Spirit considers to be an idol. Sport, alcohol, computer games, types of food or an inappropriate relationship, can all be or become idols in our lives. Whatever our sacrifices are, once we lay them down, we can never go back to them. Altar fires make going back to past sources of comfort (idols) impossible. Whatever or whoever you turn to for comfort in times of discomfort reveals what or who you really worship. Our worship reveals our God.

When you lay something down on the altar of surrender to God, you cannot go back to it.

After I left the doctor’s surgery and then finishing up my tennis commitments, I began to feel even more fragile. I was aware that my deteriorated spine could give way any moment and I could collapse in agony and find myself embarrassed to be invalid again. Everything I do now takes a little more time. I cannot sit for as long as I used to. I don’t sleep so well anymore. Yet my worship of God has deepened.

¶ I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Romans 12:1

One of the greatest blessings in my life has become an even greater blessing throughout this episode. I love my church congregation. I love the way they embrace visitors, new attenders and our new members. I love how they love each other. And I love how they have loved me as their pastor and friend. Several men in my church, starting with Ronny Darby, asked to lay hands on me and pray for my healing. After four weeks of such prayers, I was sent to have an MRI before seeing the Specialist.

Whenever we let go of something in obedience to God, God always fills our lives with something far better!

Throughout this episode of my life I have wondered what God was doing. I have never at any stage though doubted His goodness. In fact, apart from developing a greater compassion for people with chronic pain, several things have become clearer to me. Firstly, our physical well-being has a bearing on our spiritual well-being. Secondly, in times of physical inconvenience it is often required to be even more intentional about certain spiritual disciplines including Scripture reading, prayer, church attendance and personal witnessing. Thirdly, life’s circumstances sometimes, if not often, require of us that we lay down certain pleasures and loves. Abraham discovered this.

And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”
Genesis 22:7

What we lay down reveals what we worship. Worship is adoration, devotion, surrender. It engages our heart, our mind, our effort. Abraham had longed for a son. God blessed him with Isaac. But it seems that Isaac might have been more to Abraham than just his son. God wanted to expose Abraham’s heart and called upon him to lay down his son on the altar of worship of God. Abraham did – and God intervened just in time to ensure Isaac was spared. Abraham was the beneficiary though. By submitting to God, even though he didn’t understand why, Abraham was obedient to God (obedience is the evidence of true God-worship). His willingness to sacrifice what he loved in devotion to God demonstrated his trust in God (the ignition of true worship). Because he worshiped God he received the blessing of God.

¶ When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
Genesis 22:9-12

My visit to Spinal Specialist was curious. He confirmed that my spine was degenerated. But, he said, much of what the CT scan had revealed was no longer evident in the MRI. I regard this as a documented answer to prayer. He also said that my spine will only get worse, but that the best thing I could do in the meantime was to build up my core strength to better support my spine. This would not only enable me to get back on a tennis court, getting back on a tennis court will actually help to strengthen the muscles which support my spine. While I may never be able to play competitively again, I can use whatever skills I have on a tennis court to help young children in our community to be active and hopefully be a light for the One who alone is worthy of worship.

My love for God has meant that I have been willing to lay down whatever was – or could be – an idol in my life. I have never lacked, never suffered loss, never been worse off, when I have obeyed God and laid down anything the Holy Spirit has shed His convicting light on. It is my hope that we can be the type of Christ-followers who worship God in Spirit and in truth and find our comfort in Him in our times of loneliness, distress, pain, or inconvenience so that the world can clearly see the difference that Christ makes in a person’s life.

¶ And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies
Genesis 22:15-17

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The most basic form of investing was described by Christ in the parable of the talents where He described it as putting money with the money-lenders to earn interest. Albert Einstein stated that ‘compound interest’ is the eighth wonder of the world! When some people hear the word ‘investing’ they might think that it only involves money. Investing involves thinking about present action and the future consequences of those actions. And then acting in a way that sacrifices present income to invest in a richer future. Understood in a much broader sense, investing can and should mean thinking about much more than just money. It can involve investing time, effort, wisdom, training, and prayer. Investing done well results in increased wealth and riches which is not just limited to financial rewards. It is exemplified in the biblical promise, “You reap what you sow.” Each generation is responsible to steward the resources that are at its disposal. These resources are managed by individuals, families, communities, states, nations and the Church. Church leaders have a duty to invest well into the spiritual resources that shape culture to the glory of God so that a tree is planted for the next generations will be the ones who enjoy its shade.


Anyone who has attended a large event such as the recent Will Graham Outreach event that was held at the Launceston Silverdome would be familiar with the varying levels of access that are provided to staff and volunteers associated with this type of event. The security system used included identification in the form of different coloured shirts, prayer volunteer cards, and all access cards that permitted access to the entire venue with no questions asked by security personnel. This is like the access level that God has to our lives. Being omnipresent, He has unhindered access to every aspect of our lives. He knows our innermost thoughts, sees all that we do, hears all that we say. God has the ultimate ‘all access’ card.


How can we determine whether a claim is true or false? Some people think there are different kinds of truth — my truth, their truth, and your truth. But how do they know that their assessment of truth is true? After all, their assessment – that there is my/their/your truth might just be based on their truth rather than the truth. Truth has certain qualities that distinguishes it from what is false-
 Truth corresponds to reality.
 Truth is verifiable (that is, if it is true, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is falsifiable (that is, if it is false, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is sometimes testable (that is, claims that are experiential can be tested by experience – including scientific claims, historic claims, and existential claims).
We have good reasons for the believing that the Bible is true because it is the divinely inspired, reliable and authoritative Word of God which has been superintendedly preserved by the Holy Spirit (read more about this).


Parents, Kids Church leaders, and Christian school teachers should be intentional about shaping children to be fully devoted followers of Christ who have reasons for believing Christianity is true – which shapes them into virtuous contributors to society and to find their role in God’s Kingdom. This will be one of the necessary and indispensable means for the Church to fulfil the Great Commission of Christ.


We live in a fast paced world. We expect things to happen quickly. None of us like to be kept waiting. Even when we order something online we expect it delivered straight away. Some of us having to work two or even three jobs just to be able to pay the bills. We describe ourselves as time-poor. Yet, we all get twenty-four-hours in a day. Sixty-minutes in an hour. And sixty-seconds in a minute. Most of us need to adjust how we see, understand, and treat our time. This will involve, what will be for some, adopting a foreign and largely unaccustomed view of time that involves worship, sabbath, and deepening relationships. From this biblical perspective we will come to see time as a gift from God, not a curse, or source of frustration. Within this gift of time God teaches us how to worship in those times when it is difficult to do so. Rather than thinking this divine gift of time is ours to do with what ever we want, God uses this gift to teach us that we should gift it back to Him beginning with (but not limited to) treating Sunday as a sabbath to come together to recommit our hearts, voices, minds, and presence with God’s people, back to God. God gives us passing time to learn to deepen relationships – especially with our kin, and our friends. Time is meant for relationship building. 


One of the greatest lies that the would-be enemy of all our souls attempts to perpetuate is that we are what we are and we can never change. This lie is whispered into the ears of many people’s invisible ears so imperceptibly that they actually think it originated with them. “You were born this way – and you can never change”, “This is who you really are – and you can never change”, “There’s no hope of anything ever changing for better – so you might as well just kill yourself” and so on. But these sly alien voices inside the heads of the vulnerable are lies. People can change. People do change. Some circumstances were always going to be temporary and were always going to change. I know this is true because I am living proof. I am who I am but I am not who I used to be and I am not yet who I will be.


It may well still be the best-selling book of all time – and continues year-by-year to be so – but certainly is not the best-read of our current times! If there was ever any doubt about this, the events this week in Hobart, at St. Mary’s (Catholic) College Girl’s School, should remove all doubt! A furore erupted over the news that the prescribed Scripture reading for the year-end graduation celebration, which incorporated a Mass, was “Wives submit to your husbands” taken from Ephesians. Callers into ABC radio’s breakfast program decried this assault against women – especially young, vulnerable girls. One caller, responding to the news that the text being used was a citation from Ephesians, denounced Ephesians and apparently demanded, “Just who does this Ephesians bloke think he is?!” Another caller stated, “Why are they quoting ancient Roman philosophers in the twenty-first century?!” And yet another caller somehow linked all religious wars to passages like this one in the Bible! He remarked, “I’m an atheist. All wars are started by those who are religious! No war was ever started by atheists!” (Perhaps he had never heard of Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Vladimir Putin, who were collectively responsible for the deaths of over 20,000,000?) This furore led to the Archbishop conceding that the Ephesians passage did not have to be used at the graduation ceremony. But this furore has highlighted just how unaware many Tasmanians are about what the Bible is, what is actually says, and why it says it. And I am now about to correct this deficiency.  


Of the many tributes paid to her majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, was the often noted reflection that during her reign the world underwent a series of rapid changes that were dramatic and unprecedented in human history. There were technological inventions that revolutionised the way people could access international travel options enabling them to be virtually anywhere in the world within a matter of hours. New forms of communication emerged with the development of a global satellite communications network enabling people to watch Neil Armstrong take his one giant leap Live on their black-and-white TV screens (as I did in the corridors of Corio Primary School in 1969). Space exploration, the stuff previously just in the realm of science fiction writers, became a reality with manned and unmanned voyages to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. But the past one hundred years have also been a time of great upheaval with empires crumbling, governments toppled, wars waged, genocides committed, pandemics raging, nations birthed, rulers assassinated, and massive refugee movements from oppressive Islamic and Communist regimes. Added to this has been the demise of professional journalism and the rise of internet-citizen-journalism where it is now common for TV News reports to feature footage taken from someone’s cell-phone which was posted on social media rather than the more expensive option of sending their own film crew there. And while we’re mentioning the internet, let’s not forget to mention – the internet. This alone has possibly been the most monumental change in the way people communicate, work, learn, and shop. But while it was noted that the Queen had witnessed all of these many changes, it was also noted that the Queen herself was an unchanging constant during all these upheavals who brought about a sense of stability, peace and reassurance. To millions of people around the world, she was their rock in a world of turmoil and change. Yet this was only possible because she herself had an immovable, dependable rock upon which she had built her life.


home > Pastor's Desk > 2022 > October 7th > Who Builds A City On A HillFor those who don’t know, I was born in Geelong, and have always been fan of the Geelong Football Club. But I’m not just a fan, I’m a paid-up member of the Club. In fact, I’m a student...


This is not for everyone. If you are already a parent, this is not for you. Instead of reading this I suggest you read one of my other more abstract Pastor’s Desk articles. If you are not a parent and have no intention of ever being a parent, this is not for you. Instead of reading this I suggest you read one of my more weighty articles on FindingTruthMatters.org. If you are not yet a parent and one day hope to become a parent, this is for you. Find a quiet place, take the next six minutes thirteen seconds and use the reading of this article as an investment into your future parenting strategies. I did not invent these guidelines. Like many parents who have also discovered the value of these guidelines, once discovered, they seem obvious. These successful parents probably grew up with own parents who inculcated these guidelines almost intuitively. However, my suspicion is that this is becoming increasingly rarer. As with all true guidelines they are adaptable, flexible, and are not a guarantee of parental success — but if ignored they become the point in the mathematical problem solving where you can see you made an error in your working out. In other words, while these guidelines may not guarantee success, if ignored their neglect almost certainly leads to frustration and disappointment. Here are five indispensable guidelines for every prospective new parent.