home > Pastor’s Desk > 2016, January 16th > THE CHAPTERS OF MY LIFE


And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:6

Great story-tellers all do one thing particularly well. Apart from an interesting plot, they introduce us to the story’s characters with just enough narration for us to be both fascinated and curious about them. I consider John Grisham a good example of a master-storyteller for this reason. In his book, The Testament, he paints the background picture of the plot-line by introducing us to the story’s characters. We pull up a chair alongside the narrator and see this story unfold in a way that only God does in reality. As the chapters of the story are laid bare before us the characters of the story become more familiar and fuller to us – particularly the lawyer who is left to find the sole beneficiary of the estate of the now dead billionaire. Grisham, like all good story-tellers, doesn’t tell us too much too soon about each character.

¶ Now these are the generations of Terah. Terah fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran fathered Lot.
Genesis 11:27

If a storyteller reveals too much detail too early about a character it diminishes the romance, the mystery, the fascination of the story. (I think this is why the Great Narrator rarely reveals too much of our own story to us ahead of time.) This is why storytellers carefully use chapters to unfold their story. In this way, good storytellers reflect The Storyteller who also unfolds people’s lives through chapters.

And Abram and Nahor took wives. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah. Now Sarai was barren; she had no child.
Genesis 11:29-30


Now that I am more than half-done in the story of my life I can recognise some of the various chapters in it. One such chapter chapter has just come to an end. Previously in my life I did all I could to keep my positive chapters from ending. I particularly feel this tendency every time I read an F. W. Boreham book. As I get near the end of an FWB book, and although I want to finish it, I am emotionally reluctant to do so because it feels like I saying a final farewell to my much beloved Grandfather. In life we also have certain chapters which come to an end that seem at the time like the end of our story. My nine year old Ruby recently faced this kind of dramatic chapter ending.

Phil Hills-Ebony-RubyFor the first time in her life she’ll be in a class at Primary School (Grade 4) without any of her fellow students have being in a previous class with her. In fact, up until this year, Ruby has been in classes where many of her class-mates started off in Kinder’ with her and have mostly been in each of her classes each year since. I think this will be the first class that Ruby has had in which her childhood friend, Blair, has not been in her class. That’s a pretty big deal for a nine-year old girl who has spent more than half her life-span in school classes with at least one of her childhood friends. That’s why for Ruby it has felt like the end of her world!

I don’t know how many chapters are in the story of my life, but I strongly suspect that I am more than half-way through. Like any good story, the opening chapters of my life were full of promise, dreams, and potential. But like any character in a story, my perspective has not been that of The Narrator. But unlike the characters in a literary story, my realisation of this happened a couple of chapters ago.

¶ Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.
Genesis 12:1-2


Legana Church campThe character in my story started out as a builder, a pioneer, a leader. But I was so embedded in my own story that I didn’t realise that some stories introduce their characters in forms that often resemble something but are actually something else. (Without The Narrator’s perspective it’s too easy to see yourself as “an ugly duckling” when in fact you are a pretty cute swan!) For a long time I tried to be like all the other pastor-ducks but I found myself thinking, acting, praying, dreaming, like something other. The many Conferences that I went to in order to become a better Pastor-Duck encouraged me to quack like CEOs and treat our congregations like corporations. I remember my regularly Sunday morning prayer-walks around Beach Road and Tanner Drive back to our Freshwater Point home where I cried out to God to make me a pastor after His heart. “Father, help me to love these people You’ve put in my charge. Help me to really care. Help me to really help them!”  These are not the prayers of a duckling. I was about to have my “I’m-a-swan-moment.”

¶ So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan,
Genesis 12:4-5


Ridge Road LeganaA new chapter in my life began unnoticed by most but very noticeable to me in early 2007. Ruby was not yet one year old. We had moved into our recently purchased home (which fulfilled a ‘vow’ that Kim had made about this very house in 1995 when we were naïvely deceived by a real estate agent, but that’s another story). No sooner had we moved in when the corner of the house significantly dropped and urgently required under-pinning. I didn’t have the money to afford an under-pinner but fortunately there was someone in our church whose uncle was an under-pinner who was kind enough to advise me how to repair this damage. But it required a lot of work to be done. I had to dig six holes underneath the damaged walls. Each hole had to be two metres deep, one metre wide and one metre long.

As I began to dig each of these holes by hand with my trusty $10 spade from the discount store, I began to complain to God about how unfair this was. “God, it seems like I’m always having to fix problems that other people create! I’m sick of it! We bought this house from people who said there were no problems with it! And now look at all this stupid work I have to do!” Then suddenly, about as clearly as I’ve ever heard from God, the voice of God pierced my dark heart – “I’ve called you to be a leader and particularly gifted you to solve problems, repair the damaged, and heal the broken! Now stop your whining and get on with it!” Perhaps only those familiar with the end of the movie, The Sixth Sense, can appreciate that in the aftermath of this stunning divine rebuke I saw the previous chapters of my life (many of which I had just bemoaned in prayer about to God) flash before my eyes as a “Sixth Sense” moment where I saw my previous efforts to solve, repair, and heal people, marriages, organisations, and churches – not as setbacks in my story, but as the raison dêtre of my story!

¶ After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”  But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?”  And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.”  And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.”
Genesis 15:1-4

I suddenly realised that I was not a duck but was in fact a swan.


My childhood was a chapter. My teen years were a chapter. My twenties was a surprising chapter. My thirties (commencing at 32 to be precise), is better identified as: my Tasmanian Chapter, was the beginning of a delightful chapter. And at the age of 43, my Swan chapter commenced. Although it may look like each of my chapters are quite different, I can see now that they each form a progressive story-line which have all had a consistent theme, plot, and direction. My hunch is that yours has as well – because we both have the same Narrator.

And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”  And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
Genesis 15:5-6

My own storyline has been about my love for The Narrator and His story. My part in His story has been to give myself to His Cause – the local church – not merely as a meeting on a Sunday, or venue, but as one famous pastor always says, the hope of the world. We live in world filled with problems which is incredibly damaged, and  painfully broken. Into this world the local church shines hope. We, the local church work together to solve society’s problems – that’s why we dare to speak up about issues of life, moral decency, marriage, and compassion for refugees. It’s why we have no choice but to be political – not as “the end” but as “the means” to the end of resolving, repairing, and healing our society. The local church is called to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-14) and the upholder of truth and righteousness in society (1 Tim. 3:15). This is the central feature of The Narrator’s story and we are given a glimpse of how it ends in Revelation 7:9. The Narrator expects His people to make Him and His cause their highest priority – more important than our careers, leisure, families, or own pleasures! Each time we assemble on a Sunday or in homes on a Wednesday night as the local church we are not being reminded of The Story which should shape and inform our lives, we are also declaring to the world that The Narrator is seeking to save, heal and deliver, that He is our highest priority! (Matthew 6:33; Romans 12:1) It is just not possible to be fully committed to The Narrator and His Cause yet separated from the local church – the central feature of His Story announcing to a dying world the central Character of His Story as their Saviour. The Apostle Paul explains this as he draws the magnificent explanation of The Narrator’s Story to end in Romans 12:9-21. None of what he says in this passage about truly loving The Narrator is at all possible without a deep commitment to the local church. None.


¶ When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.”
Genesis 17:1-2

Each Sunday and Wednesday my story particularly intersects The Narrator’s as I do all I can to share, explain, and promote the 66 books of His marvellous redemption story. He has called me to be a pastor who leads by resolving the troubled, repairing the damaged, and healing the broken. But I strongly suspect, with good reason for doing so, that He has called us to be a local church that helps make life better in our community and beyond by also helping people to resolve problems they facing, repair the damage they have experienced, and bring healing love and grace to the broken. In this way our vision for the local church goes way beyond our four walls or even our attendance roll. We are each a part of a very grand story far bigger than many of us realise that deals to each of us interesting chapters that mysteriously and gloriously are woven into The Narrator’s story-plan for the whole world. See you Sunday for story-time.

Your Pastor,


Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.


  1. Mike Sladden

    Thanks Andrew. The Bible really is the greatest story ever told, and totally true. Blessings Mike

  2. LYDIA

    This is really a very personal piece of writing Andrew, the narration of one’s life as you wrote. The chapters that for you continue to unfold as those pages of each chapter also turn for us. And, I am truly thankful Pastor, not that I often call you that, but I ‘am’ truly thankful that your love is for the lost, broken and damaged souls who dare to walk thru the open church doors, for these dear souls to be repaired and healed.

    I pray that as long as the Lord gives you breath, that your vow to serve Him and to teach from His Word, that collection of books we call the Bible, that book which is totally true, without error, continues to enrich us all.

    Just as the song goes:
    ‘Where else have we to go for You alone have words of eternal life’ by Emu music. The last verse reads:
    Come all you who labour
    you who are weighed down
    you who thirst and hunger for the right
    There is truth and meaning
    Mercy, rest and hope
    True salvation comes through Jesus Christ

  3. Gladys Parry

    I am so glad that you are our swan Andrew.

    Thank you for your ministry


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Perhaps I was a little unfair to this gentleman though, because it is a well established fact that all men are born with selective hearing (as every wife can testify to) and perhaps this may sometimes spill over into incidents such as the one I just recounted(?). But I also suspect that some women have a similar deficiency.

A few years ago the kids and I were a little concerned about Kim’s hearing difficulties. As it turned out, one day outside a shopping centre that we had just arrived at, there was a government sponsored mobile hearing clinic. We urged the reluctant Kim to go in and have her hearing checked. Much to the utter shock of myself and our children the clinician told Kim that she had “perfect hearing”! This then proved that even women may be able to imitate the innate ability of a man to produce selective hearing 🙂 Therefore, there is a high likelihood that both men and women are equally subject to hearing difficulties.

The problem with any hearing difficulties is that it inevitably leads to the far more serious problem of misunderstanding. Misunderstanding is at the heart of nearly every relationship problem that anyone will ever face. Misunderstandings due to mis-hearing or mis-communication frequently leads to disputes that if not handled correctly, which it is mostly not, is likely to lead to relationship breakdowns. But there is a different – almost secretive – way to deal with misunderstandings. Let me explain by using several pictures that will make my point. 


Mark Lowry is normally comedic. But his now classic Christmas song is no joke! It presents baby Jesus as the eternal God the Son, the creator of heaven and earth, the Saviour of the world, the Redeemer of all humankind who turn to Him, the all-conquering Lamb of God, and the Great Judge of all people, the I AM. The event of His miraculous conception is known as the incarnation (God becoming human). But the incarnation was not Jesus the Christ’s first entrance into our world. In fact, it is as though He felt a divine right to enter our world any time He chose. These various appearances of Jesus prior to His incarnation are referred to as theophanies (appearances of God) or more particularly as Christophanies (appearances of God the Son). I want to highlight one of these in particular…


We have all seen parents abruptly terminate conversations with other adults to keep an eye on their children. Children can wander about easily. They could get involved in acts that are detrimental to themselves. Parental instincts, often reflected more in the mother, is one of those protective gifts that ensures children are kept safe.

THE LORDSHIP OF JESUS CHRIST, Chapter 6 – The deGorified Newborn The ReGlorified Lamb of God

One of my favourite stories of concealed identity hiding in plain sight is from Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel, Les Miserables, where the escaped convict, Jean Valjean, is pursued for years by now retired Inspector Javert. As it turns out Jean Valjean, who had changed his name to M. Madeleine has now become a successful business man and the Mayor of Toulon. Javert arrives in Toulon and is immediately recognised by Valjean. But Javert does not recognise the now clean-shaven, genteel aristocratic Mayor of Toulon as his nemesis. But when he observes the compassion of M. Madeleine he recalls the time in prison when Jean Valjean had also displayed a similar extraordinary compassion for unfortunate fellow prisoners. The more he observed such acts of kindness and generosity from M. Madeleine the more Javert became convinced of the true identity of Madeleine. There is something about this idea of concealed identity that comes from the story of Christ. The prophet Isaiah foretold that when the Servant of the LORD would appear He would be largely unrecognised – there would be no form, no beauty, that we would desire Him (Isa. 53:2). But how on earth was this possible? How in God’s Name  could those who were created by Him in His image not recognise Him for who He was? The answer to this great puzzle lies in one word: the kenosis.


Andrew, on occasions, used to wistfully say, “You know, all I really want is…” then he would say some ephemeral pleasure, like ‘a drink of coke’, or ‘quiet’, or ‘to get something finished’. So, one day I decided to ensure that his greatest desire (‘all I really want’) was met. This time all he ever wanted was a coffee, so I bounced up and brought him the best cup of coffee I could make and added a little yummy treat to compliment it. A few days later he once again said, “All I really want…” and I interrupted to finish his sentence for him … “was the cup of coffee that I was able to make for you the other day. I bet it was the best ever. I’m so glad I could meet that greatest desire you have.” He never said, ‘All I really want’ again!


THE LORDSHIP of JESUS CHRIST, Chapter 5 – He is the Creator of Heaven & Earth and all things Visible and Invisible
While the pagan religions in the days of the patriarchs, judges, and kings of Israel, all conceived of their gods as territorial, the God of Israel, Yeshua, declared that He was the Creator of all things and that He was Lord of Heaven and Earth. And He still is.

Freedom in Christ encompasses Freedom FROM and Freedom FOR

God offers freedom to those who turn to Him in faith, and this, as Pastor Andrew says, deserves a Toyota jump. It is worth celebrating. The freedom the New Testament speaks of is not just any old freedom. In Romans 8:21 Paul speaks of ‘the glorious freedom of God’s children’ (NET). In the same way you might savour a piece of chocolate as it slowly melts in your mouth, allow your spirit to savour the meaning of the freedom that is yours in Christ in all its richness. This single word freedom is densely packed with meaning, and we benefit from taking time to unpack just a little of what it means for believers.


Throughout the Old Testament, God made certain promises to the patriarchs (Abraham, Issac, and Jacob/Israel) that their descendants, the nation of Israel, longed to see fulfilled. These promises centred on having a holy Homeland and a Messiah. Over the centuries that followed their expulsion from their Land which sent them into exile into Babylon initially and then into Persia, the Israelites became known as Jews. Their expectations of how these divine promises would be fulfilled became greatly embellished with powerful military overtones.

THE LORDSHIP OF JESUS CHRIST, Chapter 3 – Before He was Incarnate, He was the Eternal LBefore He was Incarnate, He was the Eternal Lordord

For those unfamiliar with the story of the Bible who may be seeking to remedy that unfamiliarity, I would recommend that they start reading in the New Testament. It is there that they will be introduced immediately to Jesus who is the central character of the whole Bible. For many novice readers of the Bible who then attempt to read the Old Testament of the Bible (its first 39 books), it initially seems like they are reading a completely unrelated story which seems to describe a completely different God. But with a little patience and persistence the reader will begin to suspect that this is not a different story but is in fact the prequel to the New Testament. Then a strange supernatural thing happens as they continue to become acquainted with the lives of the patriarchs, judges, kings and prophets, as these characters interact with enemies, giants, angels, strange heavenly beings, and GOD Himself. The reader begins to see in a similar way to what a photographer could not previously see clearly until his camera’s focus was adjusted to make the picture clear — the GOD who created, acted, spoke and judged, frequently referred to Himself as ‘us’, ‘we’, ‘our’, and at times seemed to have conversations with divine characters identified as ‘the LORD’ and ‘Me’ and ‘His Spirit’ (Isa. 48:16). And this all begins to sound very reminiscent of the GOD described in the New Testament as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. With a growing knowledge of the Bible and hunger to understand it, the follower of Christ discovers that literally for thousands of years prior to this day there have been many many others who have also walked the journey of discovery through the mysterious pages of the Bible and have each made a startling discovery about the human Jesus’ pre-existence throughout the pages of the Old Testament.


The One who spoke the world into existence entered materially into His World and “split time in half”. He came to rescue the world because a great betrayal occurred. One of His chief agents was filled with self-deception and conceited envy and manipulated a serpent to his bidding in destroying the very last and highest of the Lord’s “very good” creation. Disappointingly she fell for it – and her husband who supposed to protect her failed in his most basic of responsibilities. Their fall from innocence and into grace plunged that was momentarily and formerly under their vice-regency. The world had now gone rogue. When the Eternal Son of God submitted to His co-LORD, the Holy Spirit placed Him into a virgin’s womb by uniting his consciousness and sinless essence with the ovum of this young virgin. In doing so, Immanuel relinquished none of His sovereign power or prerogatives but chose to lay aside His glory and become fully human. And for those who came to recognise who He actually was, it ever caused them to fall down at His feet in adoration, or shrink back from Him in terror. The side-effect of those who who adored him was a new ability to sleep. If you have trouble sleeping because of worries, you too can discover how an acquaintance with the Lordship of Jesus the Christ can also help you to sleep better.