Adam Hince

The musings of Syndal Baptist Church's Gen Y and Beyond Pastor

My Story and Gods Story…

Posted on | March 22, 2010 | 1 Comment

Last night at Syndal Baptist Church – I shared about how it is that both people and God have lives that “tell a story”. The best story for my life to tell, would be the story of God… as if I lived that – I’m most likely to be fulfilled, I’m most helped when the story doesn’t go to plan, and I’m most hopeful about the future.

I shared some insights from four characters in the bible. I’ve listed below the passage of the bible from which I drew the ideas, and the insights that I shared as part of the message. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you were there!

The first person we looked at was Mary, the mother of Jesus – especially the story of her finding out from the angel Gabriel what it was that God’s story for her would be… you can read it in Luke 1:26-38. I think her story teaches us these things about God’s vision for our lives ::  It is often more significant than we expect, Its often richly connected to His vision for others, and most importantly it will play a significant part in what His plans for the world are.

The second person was Nehemiah, a leader in his time who had proven himself worthy of the trust of his King. He heard a story about the condition of the home of Gods people (you can read about it in Nehemiah 1 & 2), and his dissatisfaction and sadness became a catalyst for him leading people towards changing that situation and rebuilding the walls. I think Nehemiah’s story teaches us these things about God’s vision for our lives :: Gods vision often springs from dissatisfaction and discontent. Its often a next step, re-creation or growth movement. It will sometimes start out as a good idea, but must progress to become a conviction.

The third story was the story of Esther – a beautiful woman who become a Queen. Other peoples choices directed her life, and she found herself in a good and safe place despite the dangers of the time. In a difficult time for her people, a friend shared with her the possibility that all the choices others had made, and all the circumstances she had found herself in were perhaps purely for a “time such as this” (you can read the story in Esther 4). I think her story teaches us these things about God’s vision for our lives ::  Gods vision may only be for a season, and will be for more than just “you”.  We are in many respects always already where we are meant to be… but need his eyes to see why. It will often involve risk, require courage and faith to fulfil.

The final story we looked at was the story of Balaam, which you can read in Numbers 22:21-41. Balaam was a godly man, with a tendancy to do what God wanted him to do when it was of benefit to him. God asked him to do something that didn’t fit that category – and so he tried to avoid it. But God stood in his way – and spoke to him through his donkey! I think this story teaches us these things about God’s vision for our lives ::  Gods vision can take you by surprise, and his ways of speaking too. Our happiness is not always the goal of Gods vision, sometimes its just the right thing to do. We must pay attention even to the donkeys in our lives… because they might be speaking for God!

There are lots of other stories that could be told! Those four had lots in them.

The key to whole thing was that in their own ways – their submission to the person of Jesus, and the will of God was their own choice. The challenge for those of us today who want to know “Gods Will” for our lives, is to ask ourselves how willing we are to do what He asks.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Syndal Young Adults :: 2010 Vision

Posted on | February 5, 2010 | 4 Comments

I realise that not all who read this blog are “Young Adults”, neither do you all attend Syndal Baptist Church… but for those who fall into those categories… there are some exciting things that I would love to share with you!

I’ve just started my forth year here at Syndal. In that time – we’ve tried many things, some of which have worked, others of which have been less successful! What I have sensed that we lack is a sense of vision.

I’ve observed that there are a LOT of Young Adults who call SBC their home. More than 200 people aged between 18 and 35 connect either at a Sunday service, a small group, or a chance to serve. That is a BIG group! Yet – I hear often that people feel we are small and declining. I would challenge that perception by saying that I feel we lack Unity… not size.

I’ve been asking God to isolate His vision for the Young Adults of Syndal down to a single word. Its something I’m doing in lots of areas of my life at the moment and I highly recomend it. I tend to be a bit of a wordsmith – meaning that most things come in threes and I take great delight in finding strategies that either rhyme or all start with the same letter! The “one word vision” challenge I’ve been pursing is helping to clarify lots of things. I’m learning that vision is seasonal, vision leaks, and that visions need to be fulfilled in some way.

The vision for “Unity” amongst Young Adults at SBC came firstly from frustration – I literally lay awake at night worrying about how many 18-25s we lose from the church. I can handle them leaving SBC, even leaving “the church” more generally to an extent … but I have observed too many times, too many young adults for whom leaving church also represents “leaving” Jesus Christ. Too many young adults at SBC feel isolated, disconnected and unsatisfied with their experience of community here.

The vision for “Unity” came secondly from me repeatedly reading about the importance of Unity in the bible. I’ve known this for years… but sometimes when random readings all point in the same direction – I sense a reason for it. 1 John, Joshua, Acts and John 17 have been the books \ chapters I’ve read over the past three months that have spoken into this.

The third source of this vision for me, is that our generation has enormous potential and a responsibility that I feel we are not fulfilling as well as we could be. Around 125 different young adults are “involved” in ministry at SBC – either leading Tribe, Fuel, Creative Arts \ Music, being part of the Host Teams or helping at Foodbank. This is amazing – and worth celebrating in an era where many bemoan the Gen Y for being self focused. However – I feel that serving together can become even more fulfilling and effective if we raise the bar on Unity even further.

I’ve asked some wise people about this Unity vision I have – and they’ve raised some good questions about it. Its true that Unity is more the product of pursing a shared vision than a vision in itself (read Alan Hirsch’s book “The Forgotten Ways” and you’ll get what I mean). BUT … For a season, sometimes you need to focus on the means and not the goal. For this season – everything we do for Young Adults at Syndal Baptist church will have the goal of increasing our Unity.

My vision is that every Young Adult feels both welcome and invited to be a part of the community here… and as if they matter to it.

My vision is that every Young Adult feel a part of something that is amazing, and much bigger than themselves. Churches are meant to be the BEST experience of community that a person could experience – yet, I’m not silly enough to think its the reality for all.

My vision is that every Young Adult be active, not just “involved at church” (although I think that is a key way to feel like you belong) but by living every second of their lives like it, and the people they encounter…  matter.

My vision is that our Unity becomes so attractive, that we grow simply through people feeling connected well – and thus feeling confident about introducing others and inviting them along.

There is more I see… but that might do for now!

I’d love to hear from you if you’ve read this… especially SBC Young Adults and hear more of your vision for our generation here at SBC.

Posted on | February 1, 2010 | No Comments

Vision  –  What and Why??

 Last week I saw the film “Invictus” … which if you haven’t seen it, is a film I really enjoyed. It tells a small part of the story behind the early years of Nelson Mandela’s time as President of South Africa. In a time where the nation was divided, fearful and struggling – he had a vision that the nations Rugby team could play a part in bringing Unity. Check out the trailer for a taste of it… and go and see it!

 The film reminded me of the power of vision.

 This is a term that is defined lots of ways… and plenty of the world wide web is devoted to thought about it, and suggestions for it!! A simple definition that I’m sitting with at the moment says this….

 “Vision is a picture of the future that generates a passionate pursuit”.

 Now I’m no business leader, nor am I the pastor of some massive church – so forgive the limits of my definition! But, as I think about my own “vision” – it’s a meaning of the word that fits. Last night, I shared some of this with the people at the 6pm service of Syndal Baptist Church … and if interested, you can download the message and have a listen.

 How would others define it?

 The bible speaks about vision – in Proverbs 29:18 it says “Where there is no vision, people perish. Blessed are those who keep the law.” If you have access to or just happen to have a stack of different bibles laying around – you’ll easily notice that there are as many as 10 different ways that this verse is translated. The reason for that is that the Hebrew words originally used don’t have a simple match in English. In Hebrew – the word in the place of “vision” is “Chazown” which is pronounced “quazown” in our language. It’s a word used to describe a dream, foresight, revelation, goal or vision that is seen through the eyes of God. Its kind of like seeing you, your future and your potential through His eyes.

 How clear is your vision? Do you have one?

 Andy Stanley (a favourite write and communicator of mine) says that “Vision is a mental picture of what could be, fuelled by a passion that this should be, and a conviction that this would be IF….”

 I think his way of seeing it is a really helpful way of figuring out what your vision might be, if you don’t know that already. If you’d like to think about it some more… have a look at these questions ::

 What COULD my life count for?

(Think about possibilities, opportunities and yourself through the eyes of God)

What SHOULD my life stand for?

(Think about responsibilities, commitments and yourself  through the eyes of God)

What WOULD my life be like?

(Think about the consequences of your current choices, and consider the effect

  of changes you could make with the help of God).

Throughout this week – I’ll be posting more about this … I’d love to hear what you think and more than that … I’d love to hear what your vision is like!

Syndal Baptist 6pm service

Posted on | January 18, 2010 | 1 Comment

These are the notes from the message shared by Darsh Ayton on January 17.  All the work is hers, so don’t credit me with any of it! With her permission I’ve posted it here for those who like to have a closer look.


Syndal Baptist Church :: 6pm Service, January 17, 2010

 Philippians Chapter 3

 Message Preached by Darshini Ayton

 Culture is a strange and wondrous thing. We live in a multicultural society. And I really understand this because my parents are Sri Lankan, however from the time I was three I have lived in Australia. So two cultures have influenced my life – the Sri Lankan culture and the Australian culture. I feel like I’m in a unique position because I can adopt what I like from both, and disregard what I don’t like. One cultural thing with Australians is they like the great outdoors – and often experience this through camping. Scott’s family spent a large part of their summer holidays camping on the banks of the Murray river – it was time they treasured, they would swim in the river, go water skiing, have bbq’s every night, sleep in caravans and tents for weeks and not shower for days. I could not think of anything worse. And the whole time we have been together he has not convinced me to participate in this Australian cultural norm.

 Scott on the other hand has been adaptive in adopting the Sri Lankan culture. For example, Sri Lankans eat curries with their fingers – it is a technique and a cultural norm. It didn’t take much persuasion to get Scott to eat with his fingers. The thing is, Scott has always wanted to eat with his fingers, but Australian culture said you eat with a knife and fork. So when given the excuse of conforming to Sri Lankan culture and giving in to his lifelong desire to eat with his fingers, Scott was a happy man. The thing is my relatives consider Scott as very cultured when he eats with his fingers and think it’s great that he participates in Sri Lankan culture so well…but really he is just a grub at heart and is just looking for any excuse to not use cutlery.

 Tonight we are looking at a Chapter in Philippians where Paul is addressing culture and how we should redefine this around Jesus. This chapter is amazing – understand what this chapter is saying and it will give you freedom as well as leaving us with a great challenge. So let’s get it into it.

 We are in week 3 of a series on Philippians. Chapter 3 starts with a warning.

 Whatever happens, dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord give you joy. I never get tired of telling you this. I am doing this for your own good. Watch out for those dogs, those wicked men and their evil deeds, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. For we who worship God in the Spirit are the only ones who are truly circumcised. We put no confidence in human effort. Instead, we boast about what Christ Jesus has done for us.

 May the Lord give you joy…Philippians has been described as book of joy. The first part of Philippians Paul encourages us with the fact that even when life isn’t going well, we can still rejoice because we know Jesus Christ. Paul was writing this letter while he was in prison – not the best circumstance to be in however he saw it as an opportunity – in the midst of suffering to talk about Jesus. His faith in Jesus and his ability to share it bought him joy. In chapter 3 though – he is warning the church of Philippi that there are people who are trying to steal their joy. Who are these people?? It is most likely that they were teachers of legalism – they believed that salvation required both faith in Jesus and also Jewish traditions and customs such as circumcision. The joy of Christianity is removed and is replaced by a merciless, rule keeping faith. Jesus’ death it seems is not enough, their faith was ultimately defined by adherence to Jewish culture.

 They were saying, you are not saved and we will not accept you as truly part of us if you don’t follow our traditions. You need faith in Christ, and more.  So try to imagine how you would feel as a Gentile in Philippi – so you weren’t Jewish – you believed in Jesus Christ yet these teachers of legalism were saying because you weren’t snipped down there you weren’t saved. It is so easy to belittle the achievement of the cross and hold it hostage to our culture and agenda. Here some Jewish people say to truly be a Christian you needed to have faith; but you also needed to look and act like them.

 Today in church we don’t talk about circumcision as a means to be saved or as an identity of someone who follows Christ. But we do have other customs and traditions that we may use as an indicator if someone is truly a Christian.  They do not seem so obvious and defined to us, we are not going around asking all the boys to be circumcised. But one of the hardest things to understand about culture is what your own culture looks like.  An individual understands their culture only by how it is different to other cultures. We are good at picking apart other cultures and sub cultures and condemning them.  We may think that people in that denomination are not truly Christian, because their worship is different to ours. Or that the group of people who sit in that part of the church aren’t truly one of us, look at what they wear. Or  people of that generation aren’t really Christians because they are so boring and conservative. Or maybe the people of the younger generation aren’t really worshipping God  the music is so superficial and loud and they use smoke machines. We have standards of what we expect of a Christian, and sometimes if someone or a group of people aren’t adhering to our standards we either think that they shouldn’t be at church or that they are not  “saved” or aren’t likely to be “saved”. It is important however that we as Christians, as Baptists and people who call Syndal Baptist their home church, are aware of the culture that we have here.

 For example – for our church the cultural norm for a Sunday is to come to church, to sing songs as worship, listen to some announcements, the Syndal news and to listen to a sermon. That is the structure of what is typical. Worship for us at a church service – is singing worship songs. And we have an amazing music and worship team who lead us in doing this. And while we may define worship as more than singing – on a Sunday at church – worship is emphasised through singing. This isn’t bad but it is something to be aware of. Because say you have someone who doesn’t really get into music, who doesn’t like to sing, who feels quite awkward with the whole “worship” component of a church service. It may be easy for them to think that they are not worshipping God because this isn’t something that they naturally participate in.  It could be easy for those of us who do like singing to think that someone isn’t getting into worship because they aren’t singing.  Music and singing is one of the cultural ways we worship and praise God. But because we do it every week at church we could think it is the way to worship God or the best way to worship God. But it has not been documented that Jesus ever worshiped God through music.  Be careful to be aware of what is cultural and what we have embraced as Christian culture. Sometimes it’s easier to allow our Christian culture to define what is Christian rather than allowing Jesus to define what is Christian.

 Our culture surrounds us and it’s sometimes hard to identify it. We use it to make judgement, to define what is normal or not normal, acceptable not acceptable. I want to pose some questions to you:

 What if someone came to our church, and later on you found out they were a smoker – would you still consider them a true Christian? Many would not. We are defining who we think are Christians based on our Christian culture – which is a bit ridiculous when you consider that in Australia the number of people diagnosed with lung cancer is similar to the number of people diagnosed with skin cancer. But it is not within our Christian culture to think that someone who sunbakes may not be a true Christian. It isn’t common for us to talk about how hanging out in the sun is bad and not godly behaviour. And we wouldn’t use that as a point of difference between each other. Our culture has defined smoking to be sinful and sunbaking to be a past time.

 What other things do we use from our culture to define what it is to be a true Christian?

Like the teachers of Legalism that Paul was talking about? For example

 – Would you consider someone who drinks a few glasses of wine on a Friday night a true Christian?

– Would you consider someone who lives in a nice expensive house as a true Christian?

– Would you consider someone who believes in evolution a true Christian?

Last week Adam spoke about how humility is the key to unity. It is difficult to be unified if we let Christian culture divide us. And if we let our Christian culture divide us, we are not being humble. We may have the camp of Christians who believe in evolution sitting over there – the camp that believe in creation over there – we may have the group that have a drink or two sitting over there while those who believe that Christians shouldn’t drink at all sitting over there.

 When are we going to look past our Christian culture and recognise that what matters is faith in Christ? When are we going to look past the wall of culture that we surround our faith in and proclaim and embody that you are one of us if you believe that what Christ did was enough. Faith in Christ. It is saying that I am not even going to try and save myself because I believe that Jesus’ death was sufficient. It is risky, all or nothing and radical. It is saying I believe that I can do nothing because Christ has done everything, and I will not require that of anyone else.  I will call you a Christian if you believe the same, not only if you look like me, worship like me, understand like me, dress like me, act like me, be “sinless” like me, don’t swear like me, abstain from alcohol like me, don’t smoke like me, don’t take drugs like me, be sexually pure like me.  Believe it – Christ’s death is enough and nothing else comes close.

 Paul goes on to write…. For we who worship God in the Spirit are the only ones who are truly circumcised. We put no confidence in human effort. Instead, we boast about what Christ Jesus has done for us. He is talking about human effort in the sense of pride in our actions. Our pride in our how we pray or how much we pray, our pride in how we come to church and are involved in ministries, our pride in singing songs, our pride in reading the bible.  Paul knew all about pride in human effort – he goes on to say:

 Yet I could have confidence in myself if anyone could. If others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more! For I was circumcised when I was eight days old, having been born into a pure-blooded Jewish family that is a branch of the tribe of Benjamin. So I am a real Jew if there ever was one! What’s more, I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. And zealous? Yes, in fact, I harshly persecuted the church. And I obeyed the Jewish law so carefully that I was never accused of any fault.

 Two things – Paul had the ancestry – he could trace his family back to the tribe of Benjamin which for a Jew is a big deal. He also had the Jewish customs and society – he was circumcised on the 8th day – he was a strict Pharisee – he persecuted the church. He was faultless! A perfect Jew. He was a good guy, he kept the rules, he lived the Jewish life. Today what would that look like? Paul had every reason to boast. Many of us have reason to boast – we are trying very hard to live a good Christian life. However even though Paul used to boast in these things – he now considers them worthless.

 I once thought all these things so very important, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability to obey God’s law, but I trust Christ to save me. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. As a result, I can really know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I can learn what it means to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that, somehow, I can experience the resurrection from the dead!

 He is using this change in perspective to illustrate that despite being an amazingly good Jew, this was all worthless compared to what Christ has done. Christ’s death has triumphed over all his works. Even if he was a really bad Jew, this is meaningless in light of Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection. In the same way whether we are a good or bad Christian – Christ has triumphed. Are you struggling with some behaviour that you know is not right, are you finding it hard to pray, spend time with God, can you be bothered coming to church, did you accidentally swear on Christmas day, did you drink too much at New Years – Did you have a cigarette after church? Christ’s death has triumphed over all of it. Believe it if you dare. You can’t out sin God and there is no room for guilt. By the actions of Jesus, God gives us grace not guilt.

 Or have you been doing hours of choir practice, music practice, spent your last week writing bible study notes for the next term of your life group, have you been volunteering at the soup kitchen, evangelising on the train, have you spent your whole summer on different mission trips – all of it is worthless compared to what Christ has done. Don’t think that this human effort is what has saved you. Don’t get me wrong – it is not that this behaviour is bad or that it isn’t worthwhile – but it’s important to realise the magnificence of the actions of our messiah. Our salvation is found in Jesus Christ, not in our human effort or lack of human effort. Are we basing our salvation status on our Christian culture, on what we consider to be the best expression of faith? Or do we live knowing our salvation is assured through our faith in Christ – do we accept His grace and his grace alone?

 In terms of Christian culture I’ve experienced it. As someone who has grown up in the church I was helping out in church and being a good Christian most of life. I was a youth group leader here for 6 years. However, if my salvation was based on my ability to be a youth group leader, then there would have been many times that I would have doubted my salvation. Many times when the study fell flat, many times when the conversations with my youth group girls were in monosyllables, many times when the clinker game just did not work! If a night at youth group went badly and I felt that my human effort wasn’t great, then did that mean my salvation was not assured? It is easy to think that way sometimes without even knowing it. Nothing you do for the church or in ministry should be because you are trying to earn your salvation.

 The thing is, for someone like me, and potentially for someone like you – we like to have control over our destiny. We like to have faith in our ability. And so to be told that we can’t do anything to earn it, to earn brownie points in regard to our salvation – makes us feel uncomfortable. It is a risk to let go of our human effort and trust in Jesus.

 As Paul says: ‘I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability to obey God’s law, but I trust Christ to save me. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. That is all we need – faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 However Paul does not say that acknowledging Jesus as your Lord and Saviour is the end of the story. The first part of this chapter Paul is emphasising that belief in Jesus Christ is enough – belief in Jesus Christ leads to salvation – you do not need anything else, you cannot do anything else. We should not be judging someone’s salvation status on anything else but their proclamation of their belief in Christ. However, the rest of this chapter has a different focus – when one believes in Christ, they make a commitment to follow Him. And that is what the second part of Chapter 3 is about:

 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Jesus Christ saved me for and wants me to be. No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling from heaven.

 Firstly to understand this – the prize – the goal of the “race” is not heaven. It is so tempting to casually read this and think that when Paul is talking about a prize, he must be talking about heaven. But Paul has spent the entire first part of this chapter saying heaven cannot be achieved by anything we do, the goal of salvation cannot be achieved by us as it was already given to us.. The goal cannot be simply heaven, it must be something different.

 The second section of Chapter 3 is summarised in this one line: “I keep working toward the day when I will finally be all that Jesus Christ saved me for and wants me to be” This is his occupation, this is his goal, this is his prize… he is working towards it, running towards it….being everything that Jesus Christ saved him for and wants him to be.  His goal is being everything that Jesus Christ saved him for and wanted him to be. And as people who believe in Jesus Christ it needs to be our occupation as well. What has Jesus saved us for and what does he want us to be. From this chapter – it is one thing

 Paul concludes this chapter by saying: “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives”.

 Jesus wants us to live as citizens of heaven.

 What does it mean to be a citizen of heaven? When I was a kid I would often wonder what would happen if someone did whatever they liked their whole life, and then when they were on their death bed they prayed the ‘prayer’ and became a Christian so that they would end up in heaven. I would often think this when I found living a Christian life hard. I thought it wouldn’t matter if you waited til the last minute to give your life to Christ so that you could live in heaven. But that is not what Paul means when he writes about being citizens of heaven. It’s not about what happens when you die.

 The people of Philippi would have understood this letter because it is related to the context in which they were living. You see Philippi was a Roman colony and was located just across the sea from Rome in Northern Greece. The Philippians were proud to be Roman and therefore did their best to make sure that their society matched that of Rome. If someone in Philippi was to say “I am a citizen of Rome” they did not mean that they lived in Rome or were looking forward to living in Rome. A colony does not work that way. It was not about Roman citizens in Philippi packing up and moving to Rome. The task of the Roman citizen in Philippi was to bring Roman culture and rule to Philippi – to expand Roman influence there.

 Jesus has called us to live as citizens of heaven. Not living waiting to go to heaven but to live as a colony of heaven on earth. It is our task to bring the culture of heaven to earth, to bring the rule of heaven to earth, to bring the influence of heaven to earth. Do we get that? Do we actually understand that? We are a colony of heaven on earth. And everything that we believe of what heaven is – is what we need to be doing here on earth. A place of peace – be bringers of peace, a place of grace and mercy – be givers of grace and mercy, a place of joy, a place where those who are poor, unfortunate, not quite right, the depressed, the lonely, the perfectionist, the unemployed, everyone – is loved and treasured.

 If we continue with Paul’s analogy of running the race – we have already qualified for the games – we have already qualified for the race because we believe in Jesus – Because we believe in Jesus we are on the running track – and now our life should be focused on running that race. Paul says that he is focused on running the race, because this is the reason why Jesus saved him and what he wants him to do. Remember, don’t put your efforts in qualifying for the race, salvation has been assured by Jesus. Put your efforts in running.  With all your efforts, and with desperation, live as a citizen of heaven in a foreign colony of earth. 

Our society thinks it understands Christianity. It thinks it understands Jesus. They have written it off as a system of rules to get into heaven. But for so many they do not believe in heaven and they do not see the need for Christianity. They haven’t seen heaven and so therefore they don’t believe it. For some of them, and I’ve met them and tried this…you can talk about Jesus and how he loves them until you are blue in the face…but they don’t want to hear it, they do not want to be part of it. So what do we do….as citizens of heaven? Let us show them heaven. Let us not show them a religion, or a culture of Christianity which dictates that we should look, dress, behave a certain way. For those who do not know Christ let us not show them Christian culture, let us show them heaven. Even for us – let our goal not be to conform to Christian culture, let it be to live a life that reflects Jesus and heaven.

 How do we do this and what does this look like.  You may have heard this preached before – look after the widow, the orphan and the poor, advocate for those who have no voice, be there for the lonely. We are called to show heaven to those for who life on earth is hard and miserable. Not as a token effort, or when you get the chance, or if the opportunity presents itself. Seek out those who are hurting and bring comfort. Seek out those who are lonely and befriend them. Seek out those who no-one loves and offer friendship. Seek out those who are the have nots, and give as generously as you would a family member.

 But also as a colony of heaven – this is reflected in the way we treat the other citizens of heaven. Let us reflect heaven in the way we love each other – that will speak louder than any words we may preach to those who don’t believe. Let us love each other, let us not judge each other’s salvation status or spirituality, let us be involved in discipleship, let us be disciples, let us encourage and challenge each other to bring the influence of heaven to our communities, let us be a colony that is united in their belief in Jesus. Let us centre, once again our salvation on Jesus and not our culture. Let us not be known as a colony of people who gossip, judge or argue – because then how are we different to the society we live in. Let us be known as people who live and love in such a radically different way that people want to be part of it – because they see the difference of living with the influence, rule and culture of heaven. And maybe then it will be something they want to be part of.

 We don’t do this for salvation sake because that has already been granted – we do this for heavens sake and for the sake of earth.

“Christian Culture” … what is it?

Posted on | January 18, 2010 | No Comments

Last night – at the 6pm service at Syndal Baptist Church, one of our Young Adults, Darsh Ayton,  shared a message that was really challenging and rich for those who were there.  I will make available her notes from that message in a serparate post.

The part of the bible from which Darsh shared is a really rich one – and many who have had the chance to read Philippians chapter three have found it to be one that is really motivating for them. I particularly love it where the writer (Paul) says …

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working towards that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be. No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all that I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing : forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven”.

I love it because it stirs me up… reminds me of some of favourite speaches from films like “Braveheart” or “Any Given Sunday” where someone stirs up a group of people towards a goal!

Sometimes – we make the mistake of reading the bible or hearing a message shared at church and look only at what it says to us as individuals… when most of the time, we also need to ask ourselves what it says to us as a group. If you’re a part of SBC – imagine the kind of church services we would have, if they increasingly became the kind of environment where everyone was pursuing, sharing about their pursuit and being encouraged in their pursuit of the SAME GOAL… that goal perhaps being our realising of Jesus vision for each of us, both individually and as a crowd!

Have a read of the message from last night – or tune in to the podcast here , its a good one – I’d be keen to hear your thoughts about some of its challenges.



Posted on | January 11, 2010 | 2 Comments

Something very powerful happens when a group of people come together as one. Most of the time – we only truly experience this when we face a crisis, when we grieve the loss of someone or when we share a stressful experience. Its as if we need to be pushed into being “one”…despite the fact that once we experience it we realise its an amazing experience!

 “Oneness” can also be described as “UNITY”. One dictionary defines this as “a bringing together of people who would otherwise be separate, into a single body”. My experience has been that the experts are right – the most intense experiences of “oneness” that I have had, have been in the context of stress, crisis or grief.

 The bible teaches about unity in a different way… it’s presented as a vision, a goal – something for people to crave, seek and strive for. Its not meant to be an accident, nor is something that just “happens” – rather it is an aspiration and objective that is for everyone to pursue.

 On Sunday night at Syndal Baptist Church – I shared from Philippians chapter 2, which teaches about unity. Its an uncomfortable part of the bible, that is meant to provoke a response from people.

 The core lesson we looked at was this :: “Humility is the key to Unity”.

 Its true that sometimes we gather around a cause, a vision or a task and we experience that “oneness” that real unity is about. But I would argue that the kind of community that Jesus invites people to be a part of is not just a series of one-off experiences or crisis driven moments… His invitation is to experience Unity for the long haul.

 If you read Philippians 2 – you’ll see just what humility really looks like. You’ll see that it’s a choice, that is costs, and that it is rewarded. I’ll expand on those in coming days. The real challenge I faced in preparing to share about it, and the challenge that I left with people who were listening was this….   “How humble am I??”

 In a competitive, status driven world… am I truly willing to choose to adopt a lower position? Am I willing to consistently place the interests of others above myself? Am I secure enough in who I am to not worry about how others might perceive me and simply be “me”?

 Mark Driscoll preached on this theme and this text. You can listen to his message HERE . Driscoll is a preacher I listen to often – I don’t agree with all that he says – but that doesn’t mean I don’t learn from him. This message is particularly good, and if you were at the 6pm service at Syndal Baptist Church last night – I recommend having a listen if you have time.

 In that message, Driscoll shared a kind of “Humility Test” that I adapted a bit.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about it… do you think its right? Do you think its missing anything?

 A “humility test” …

 Humble people are more interested in others, than they are themselves

 Humble people ask questions … they seek feedback (good and bad), they seek information and they seek truth. They listen, and they learn.

 Humble people are honest … they repent quickly and thoroughly, they are genuine in their own love and care for people, and they know that even though they are “known” they are loved. They don’t waste time pretending to be something they are not.

 Humble people are genuinely happy when others succeed … Its more important to them that others do well than it is for them to be better than everyone.

 Humble people laugh at themselves … they realise they have and will fail, that they have and will develop flaws and that mistakes will happen.

 Humble people trust their saviour … they put their lives into His hands – sometimes not easily – and quietly trust Him to have His way.


What do you think?

The most risky New Years resolution ever!!

Posted on | January 6, 2010 | No Comments

I was reading the news paper on Sunday – both of the major Melbourne ones actually – and both had feature articles about celebrities and the resolutions they have made for 2010. It was a fascinating read… at least initially!


In The Age, there was also an article that spoke of the amount of money spent in this month on steps towards the fulfilment of those resolutions – the figures were enormous… gymnasiums, weight loss programs, and self help books sell more in January than they do any other month of the year. It seems that this is a season where all people want to at least try to change.


I was challenged by this myself…

What are my hopes and dreams for 2010?

Do I have any “resolutions”?

Do I even believe in them?


The truth is – my hopes are simple – I simply hope 2010 is a year where I can be more focused. 2009 was a year of reacting and adapting for me – changes at my work, sad times for dear friends, a beautiful baby girl and a growing son, lots of  “projects”  that didn’t quite go to plan… I got used to thinking on the run. To be honest – it was an easy way to operate! I didn’t have to think a whole lot about purpose, about vision or about direction – I just did what needed to be done on a given day. I find myself now free of crises and significant change for the first time in ages … and almost find it scary – “what do I do now?”


On Sunday night at my church – Syndal Baptist Church – I shared with the people there, from a part of the bible written to people in times not unlike ours. They had pressures, they had doubts, they had changes – and as God tends to do, rather than just watching how we go with such things, He speaks into such circumstances.


To a group of faithful people about 1950 years ago – the Apostle Paul wrote (as inspired by God) these words  “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Philippians 1:6).


As I thought about those words through the week, it became really clear to me that Jesus Christ HAS been, IS, and always WILL BE at work in, around and through my life. Regardless of the season around me, the season within me and regardless of my own plans, dreams and resolutions… He is busily doing “His thing”.


I felt grateful for all He had been doing.

Stopping to reflect even on just the year gone

reminded me that I had a lot to be grateful for.


I felt a need to listen and look for Him more in the “now”.

To be more “attentive” and aware of Him.


I felt a need to be more ready, a need to assume that He will be at work.

Even if I can’t see where or how… He will be doing something.


More than anything – I realised the that most powerful, life changing resolution

I could make for 2010 was to simply say to Jesus Christ …

“I will do my best, to play my part in what you are doing in,

  around and through me in 2010”.


I’ve been daring people to say that to Jesus – my Christian and non-Christian friends alike! Even if only as an experiment! It might be cheaper than a gym membership or weight loss program… but I’m guessing it will have more influence!


What do you think?

“Real Christmas Joy is found when you slow down…”

Posted on | December 16, 2009 | 1 Comment

Most of you who read this will know that I preach regularly at my church – Syndal Baptist. Those of you who know me through my Chaplaincy to Cricket Victoria or other circles might not! Last Sunday morning – I shared with the folks here at Syndal on Sunday morning some words that Jesus said to His closest friends, just before his death. With passion in His voice, purpose in His eyes, grace in His tone and conviction in His heart – He implored each of them (and each of us) to “Remain in Him”.

To “remain” was often translated to “abide” or to “live” … sometimes it meant to stand steadfast, sometimes it meant to pursue, sometimes it meant to wait and be patient and other times it meant to “sojourn” or simply relax and “be” in the presence of someone. The common thread between all its meanings is that it is about being in close proximity with something or someone… in this case – Jesus Himself. For followers of Jesus – and His invite to those who aren’t yet – this old idea of “remaining” remains the most crucial thing for us to be active in doing, becasue more than anything else – it has the capacity to influence everything else that we might do in life.

 My social justice friends tell me that the most important thing for me to do is care for the poor, speak up for the oppressed, be as generous as I can be and look out for the broken and wounded of this world.

My evangelist friends tell me that the most important thing for me to do is “preach Jesus” … in words, character and in lifestyle doing my best to let people know what I know to be true of Jesus Christ.

My smarter freinds tell me that the most important thing for me to do is to know the “truth”, and know it well.

My closer freinds are always reminding me that the most important thing for me to do is be a great husband and father.

My more compassionate friends will tell me that the most important thing for me to do is care lots for and about people.

My more boring freinds tell me that the most important thing is to be well organised!! (sorry if you feel that is you!)

In a clear sense – each group of my friends is absolutely right. Good arguments can be made for each of those things being in the “most important” category. I would argue – however – that Jesus call to “remain in Him” ought to be the most important thing for me, because it is THE most significant influence on any and all of those things that I might classify as “important” in my life.

The questions I’m asking myself about this are ::

– Do I keep the most important things, the most important things most of the time?

– Amongst all I do as someone who works at a church – is “remaining” in Jesus enough of a priority for me? Does my diary reflect that?

– Does my character exhibit the kind of things that someone who is “remaining” in Jesus ought to exhibit?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!


The Sealed Sessions :: Our panel answers your questions!

Posted on | November 23, 2009 | No Comments

At the 6pm service of Syndal Baptist on Nov 22 – 8 brave souls took to the stage to answer a number of questions posted by listeners over the past three weeks.

To watch the video of their answers click here and to download the podcast click here .

Over the next week – I’ll post a few of the questions each day… I’d love to hear your answers to them, or to hear from you any perspectives that you think we missed on Sunday night!

Here are the first few ::

  1. If God created us to desire the opposite sex, or romantic love, and it is essentially a good thing, why would he allow an ever-increasing imbalance of women to men occur in the church?  And how should a single person respond? How can I help my single friends without helping them too much? 

  2. I hear often that the first year of marriage is really hard.  What kind of things are a challenge in a marriage?

             Where can you find help? 

 3.  If you’re not married yet… why is it often such a challenge to stay “pure”… and what sort of things help you to stay “pure” until you are married? 

 I’ll post some more thoughts tomorrow – I’d love to hear back from you!

“The One” :: Finding them, choosing them, keeping them, changing them.

Posted on | November 16, 2009 | No Comments

For the month of November – the 6pm congregation at Syndal Baptist Church are doing a series called “The Sealed Sessions” were we explore issues related to love, sexuality and relationships and some of what the bible has to say about them.

The video of last nights message is available here and the podcast can be listened to here.

Next Sunday night will feature a panel of people who’ll be answering questions submitted over the past couple of weeks. It should be a really fun and interesting night!!

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