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

Your Pastor,


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We all walk a path in life that is set before us. We start with very little experience and knowledge about the purpose of our life and the world beyond us. All of humanity experiences joy, wisdom, strength, weakness, suffering and hardship, especially those who are “contending for the faith”. Knowing Jesus is a very special part of this life journey.


We can be reasonably certain about many things. In fact, without this certainty about life, none of us could function. We can be certain that tonight the sun will ‘set’. Tomorrow the sun will ‘rise’. After the February 28th it will be February 29th. This year there will be international unrest and much political instability in many parts of the world. In the coming months global warming will be identified by politicians as the source of floods and wildfires. Several high profile international celebrities will die this year. Archaeologists will make a discovery that will require some aspects of history to be rewritten. And you will certainly have one of the most memorable moments in your life in the coming days. You see, there are clearly some things we can be quite certain about. However, there are some aspects about our future that we cannot be certain about, yet in those moments we can be certain about what we should do.


Turn on any TV or radio news lately and there’s bound to be a story about the current “cost of living crisis”. We all feel it. Initially most people accepted the widespread price-rises were caused by 2020-21 pandemic lockdowns. But whatever the reasons for the rapid price hikes over the past two years, every time we go to the supermarket we feel it again. While governments are striving to curb the impact of this cost of living crisis, there remains a way to enjoy low cost living. The key to this is recognising that the most valuable things in life are literally priceless. The path to enjoying low-cost living is to be found in Christ, and what He taught — and it begins with treasure.

How To Know Jesus Better

It’s a scary thought to realise that the Jesus we have been told about and worship may not really be known to us at all. We can ‘know’ about someone or something, but not really know them. In Christian circles it’s often referred to as head knowledge not heart knowledge.

Knowing Christ Better

As a church, this year’s theme is coming closer to Christ by getting to know Him better. I feel that I am “the least qualified person” to tell anyone how this is done — but someone else has already claimed this distinction – the apostle Paul. After decades of hearing directly from Christ, seeing extraordinary miracles, being taken to heaven temporarily, planting churches across the Roman Empire, he could still say I would give anything to really know Christ – even if it meant suffering like He did! (Phil. 3:7-10). Therefore, I could say: If you do this or that, you will then know Christ better – but in my view, it’s not as easy as that! How we develop our relationship with Christ is shaped by several factors including our personality, our life experiences, our physical health and fitness, and our relationships with others (especially our parents and particularly our father). In fact, I believe that there is a relationship between how we have learned to build relationships with others (and notably how we have learned to relate to those who are closest to us) and how we then proceed to have a relationship with God. Even though I have expressed my lack of qualifications in telling anyone how to have a closer relationship with Christ, I still can, like one hungry beggar to another hungry beggar, offer you a few of the morsels of food that I’ve been able to find.


I know of several people with amazing buts. There’s Jo’, Mo’, Sam, Esther, Jerry, and others. Each of these people were gifted by God with an amazing but that changed there life and the course of human history. Sometimes these gifts came with a …then, or …God, or …the LORD. When it comes to the size of things, a but is a relatively small thing (in Greek it can be just two letters: de) but it can have huge implications and enormously great blessings for multitudes. I hope to show you how this was the case with each of the people I have chosen as samples, and then show you how God is your God of buts.


What does the word ‘open’ mean to you? Like language itself, it is like any word in which the meaning only comes from the context in which it is used. I can think of at least 12 different understandings of this word, some of which I will point out, most I will not, and one that I focus on because it is prophetically important for where we are at as a church at this crucial time.


​I’m always amazed at the really cool events I’d organised for my kids to experience, so that they might have happy memories – but now they don’t remember it except the random comment someone made in the car trip on the way there or what snack was eaten. Conversely, if you make a mistake, well that one is remembered! Once I drove Andrew’s car and just lightly hit something so it ended up with an annoying 2cm scratch. The mistake is (still) there in full view to anyone who looks. Is Andrew going to remember this above the years of my devotion to him? (Not likely, but some people do remember the wrong for way too long!) If you had the choice, what one thing would you want to be remembered for? What one thing would you want your family to remember? It’s not often going to be the thing you have in mind.

‘Famous last words’ comes from the hope that you’ll be remembered for them. If you were given the privilege of being able to articulate as the important thing to say, to be remembered by all, what would it be? Would it be a reflection on your love toward someone? Would it be a directive on how to have the best life? Would it be that you wished you had done something? Someone once mused, ‘would your dying words be that you’d wished you’d spent just one more day in the office’? (Not likely.)


This is my last end-of-year Pastor’s Desk post. When the head of our Live-stream ministry, Sari, asked me what I was thankful for this year, my immediate answer was obvious and predictable. But since then, I have considered that I also have eleven other things for which I am grateful to GOD for. In this last ever end-of-year Pastor’s Desk please indulge as I share my heartfelt thanks to God and for those God has used to bless me this year.


The king who reigned over Judea when Jesus was born was Herod the Great. Herod had no legitimate claim to the throne of Israel. He was from an Idumean noble family who supported the Roman occupation of Palestine. As a reward he was appointed by the Roman Senate as the King of Judea. Despite his attempts to curry favour with the Jews, including several major public works programs (including completing the temple reconstruction) he was still largely unpopular among the Jews. Little wonder then that when the Magi arrived in Jerusalem with their large retinue and requested to view the birth of the prophesied King of the Jews, Herod was emotionally threatened by this revelation. Herod immediately ordered an enquiry from the chief priests and religious scribes.