Honouring our local JP’s

heroI’m going to admit it – I’m not very knowledgeable about JP’s (Justice of the Peace).  I don’t know much about them or what they do. All I know is when you have an official document that needs signing, they are the ones you call. So needless to say, when one of our church members (a local JP himself) invited his colleagues to our service last Sunday, it was time to do some homework.

First of all, there are quite a few of them around.  We have 7000 JP’s in New Zealand, spread out around the place with 29 regional associations.

Secondly, they are there to serve the community for no reward. They can’t charge. Their services are completely free.

Thirdly, their functions fall into two categories, referred to as ministerial duties and judicial duties.  All JP’s are required to carry out ministerial duties but further training must be undertaken by JP’s before they may provide judicial duties.  Ministerial duties include:

  • Taking oaths and declarations
  • Witnessing signatures
  • Certifying copies

Judicial duties would include:

  • Hearing summary offences
  • Presiding over preliminary hearings
  • Conducting traffic courts
  • Hearing bail applications and requests for remands and adjournments

Lest I bore you with any more of those details I want to tell you what we did to honour these individuals at our service. (If you wondering why they were there, our local association of JP’s attends a church service once a year in our community.  We had the privilege of being their hosts this particular year).

We began our service by honouring their presence. We wanted them to feel part of the family. Then we gave praise to God in song as we always do, choosing one or two songs they might be more familiar with. Then their President, Terry Byrne, addressed our congregation with some background to JP’s in our country and explained something about who they are and what they do.

Unfortunately for Terry, just as he got up to speak, one of the little tots in the front row decided to start making a fuss.  The fussing increased to a crying and then a full-out wailing. If that wasn’t bad enough, his little brother (or sister) decided to chime in with him. So there they were: two toddlers wailing in perfect harmony (or should I say, disharmony), while this very articulate and gracious man battled on with his speech.  He actually didn’t miss a beat. I thought this was a remarkable feat, considering the circumstances.

Then I came forward to pray.  For me, this was the most important part in the service. I did some preparation because I wanted to pray meaningfully and biblically.  I didn’t want to pray something off-the-cuff that would be shallow, superficial and worst of all – untrue. I wanted them to know that prayer is a great privilege for God’s people and is only possible because of what Jesus has accomplished for us. I wanted them also to know that they are not in their role by accident, but are God’s servants doing God’s work for mankind.

This is what I prayed (verse references were left out):

Heavenly Father,

We thank you for the awesome privilege of coming before you, as your people, to pray. We thank you that your Son Jesus made this possible by his perfect sacrifice on the cross.  And so we come before in his Name and trusting alone in his work.

We thank you Father that we live in a society where there is justice and peace and order.  We recognize that this is from you, for “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; faithful love and truth go before You.” (Psalm 89:14)

We recognize also that the keepers of justice – the Judges and law makers and Police offices are established by you, for your Word tells us there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God (Romans 13:1).  They are your servants, doing your work for the good of our society and the glory of your Name.

So we thank you for these servants who are here today – members of the Justice of the Peace, who help and aid in this important work.  Thank you for their dedication and commitment to serve their community.

Give them wisdom in carrying out their work. May they act with utmost integrity, treating all individuals fairly and justly so that they can defend the cause of the oppressed and needy (Proverbs 31:9).

We know they do this work voluntarily; thank for that Father. May you honour them for that.  May they sense that their work is part of something bigger than what they see; that they are in fact serving you. And most importantly of all, we pray Father that when they one day meet you, they will be on good terms with you, having found peace with you through your Son and the great message of salvation, which has gone to the ends of the earth.

We ask these things in Jesus name and for his glory,


My desire is that they left our church feeling they were welcomed and appreciated in a deep and meaningful way.  My prayer  is when they heard the preaching of the Word of God they tasted something of the goodness and grace of God that might move them one step closer to knowing Jesus personally (if they don’t already). And my hope is that one or two of them, perhaps, may even decide to come back.

Sight for the blind

dc3b98fbd35622dc92860651bb771abaHave you ever tried looking for something and you can’t find it while the whole time it’s right there in front of you? It happens to me often and I find it really frustrating (especially when someone is right there to point it out!). For some people however, it’s a real problem. They have a condition called scotoma.  A scotoma is a blind spot in your vision. The spot may be in the centre, or it may be around the edges of your vision. It is caused by a problem in your brain, a problem in your eye, or a problem in your optic nerve.

But there’s another form of scotoma and it’s related to our belief system. Beliefs are powerful. They limit what we can see and what we can’t see. They filter our perceptions. For example, my wife is always seeing strange spots on my body. That’s because I’ve got skin cancer in my family and she is always looking for a reason for me to go and get it checked. I, on the other hand don’t like taking unnecessary visits to the doctor so I tend not to see anything. And so we both have “seeing” issues. She often sees what’s not there and I don’t see what might actually be there.

Well in this story we are looking at today, we find some people with various problems with seeing. A wonderful miracle is performed in their midst – a blind man receives his sight. But those who are watching have difficulty believing what they see. There’s nothing wrong with their eyes. The problem lies with their hearts – their belief system. At the end of the story it’s all reversed: the blind man is able to see (physically as well as spiritually) while those who claim to see remain in spiritual darkness. So let’s have a little look at this story.

The blind man receives his sight

On the way out of the temple Jesus sees a man – a blind man, on the side of the road. The disciples see him also and they say, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). You see the disciples had this view – which was very common in their day, that all suffering was a direct result of sin. As one of the Rabbis of their day put it, “There is no death without sin; and there is no suffering without iniquity.” The man who was born blind has suffered from birth, so therefore some sin must lie at the back of it. They want to know who’s sin it was.

Jesus however makes it very clear here that this mans’ suffering is not because of some specific sin. Rather it is an opportunity for God’s mercy:

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” Jesus answered. “This came about so that God’s works might be displayed in him.” (v.3)

Interesting. There’s a man who can’t see. The disciples look at him one way while Jesus looks at him entirely differently. The disciples saw the man as the subject of a theological discussion. Jesus saw the man as an object of mercy. They want to talk about his sin. Jesus wants to meet the man’s need.

 There are people in this world with great needs. There are people who have special needs – disabilities, not of their own doing. You pass by them every day. Do you see them? How do you see them? Do you see them as objects of curiosity, or do you see them as Jesus sees them – real people whom God wants us to notice and love and minister to? The question is not, “Why is this person that way?” but rather, “How can God be glorified through this situation?” God did not cause this man’s blindness, but he has a purpose for it. Jesus said He wants to display his glory through it.

What happened next is amazing. Jesus spits on the ground, works with his fingers to make some mud from his saliva, and then spreads the mud over the man’s eyes. Then he said, “Go, and wash in the pool of Siloam” (v.7). So the man went and washed. And he came back seeing.

The blind man receives a hearing

Well it didn’t take long for word to get out that something very remarkable had happened to this man. The first one’s to notice the change were his neighbours. They react in the same way you would react if someone reported they saw me driving a Ferrari down the main street of Richmond. “Are you sure that was Peter? It can’t be him – he must just look like him.” Then you see on your Facebook page with a picture of me in a Ferrari, parked outside Richmond Mall with the caption, “Like my new car?” All doubt is removed.

They ask him, “How then were your eyes opened?” Now I like the guy’s answer, because it’s very much like that of a new Christian. He just tells it how it is. No embellishment; no fancy spiritual lingo. He says the man called Jesus made mud, spread it on my eyes and told me to go to the pool and wash. So that’s what I did and I received my sight. “Where is he?” they ask. He replies, “I don’t know.”

They think to themselves – this is not getting us anywhere. We need to verify what has happened here. So they take the man to the Pharisees – the ones who were experts in accessing things of God. The Pharisees look at the man. They ask him, “How did you receive your sight?” The man answers, “He put mud in my eyes, I washed and now I can see.” Their conclusion?

 “This man is not from God, for He doesn’t keep the Sabbath!” (v.16)

Brilliant! (not). That’s makes perfect sense – right? Well not all of the Pharisees necessarily agree with this. And let me tell you why. The Pharisees who made this statement – they are using what is called syllogistic reasoning. We all know what a syllogism is, even if we don’t use that term. A syllogism is a deductive argument with two premises and a conclusion. Here’s how it works:

All cars are machines (first premise)
All machines wear out (second premise)
Therefore, all cars wear out (conclusion)

Are you happy with that? That’s good deductive syllogism. Here’s another one:

All politicians are terrible liars
Donald Trump is a politician
Therefore, Donald Trump is a terrible liar

That’s bad syllogism. Why? Because the first premise is wrong: not all politicians are terrible liars. Some of them are very good liars. So that doesn’t work.

So here’s what the Pharisees are saying: all people who are of God keep the Sabbath (major premise). This this man Jesus does not keep the Sabbath (minor premise). Conclusion: this man is not from God. Now that would be a sound argument if the premises were true, but unfortunately the premises are not true. And the reason they are not true is while all people who were pleasing to God kept the Sabbath at that time, what they mean is keep the Sabbath as they understand the Sabbath is to be kept. And one of the things they said was that a man could not be healed on the Sabbath day. God never said that.

A couple of Pharisees pipe up: “Wait a minute, “If he’s not from God and he’s a sinner, how can he perform such signs?” Well now they’re stuck, you see. In frustration they turn to the blind man. “What do you say about him?” Without any hesitation he answers, “He’s a prophet.”

Well this answer was completely unacceptable. Perhaps the parents can shed some light on the matter. So they call in the parents. The parents stay very tight-lipped. And John tells us why: they were afraid. Because if anyone confessed Jesus to be the Messiah they would be put out of the synagogue. Removed. Excommunicated. Expelled.

Now you have to understand back then that is a serious thing. It’s not like getting thrown out of a church today. You can simply go down the road and find another one. When you’re put out of the synagogue you are also put out of the community. That’s spiritual disaster.  You lose your job. You wouldn’t be able to make money. That’s financial disaster. You lose your family and friends. That’s social disaster. This is exactly, by the way, what happens when many Muslims convert today. It’s a serious thing. And for many of them, they risk their very lives to do it.

So these Parents answer very carefully. They acknowledge the man is their son and that he had been born blind. But as to who healed him and how it all happened, they would not conjecture. If they wanted to know more, they could ask him, since he was old enough to speak for himself. In other words, they pass the buck.

So the Pharisees summon the man a second time. They say to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner!” They can’t deny the miracle – they realize that now. But what they can do is get the man to deny that Jesus is the one who did it.

Now when you think about it, the man could have weaselled out of this. He could have said to himself – well I know Jesus did this but I’ll just ascribe the glory to God. I can stay in the synagogue, I won’t be disgraced, I’ll be accepted by everybody. But he doesn’t do that.  He tenaciously holds to the facts. He won’t be controlled or manipulated. Whatever the Pharisees decided to do with him, these were the facts.

The Pharisees won’t give up. They are like a dog on a bone. They keep pushing and questioning. Finally, in exasperation the man turns to them and says,

“I already told you, and you didn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again? You don’t want to become His disciples too, do you?” (v.27)

He exposing these guys for what they were. They weren’t seeking the truth. They just wanted to discredit Jesus. So they hurl insults at him. You imbecile. You moron. You idiot. What do you know?

He answers: “Well isn’t this an amazing thing – you are the religious authorities of the land, you know everything there is to know about spiritual things, and you know how to interpret God’s Word but you don’t know where this man is from. And he’s opened my eyes. You guys like your syllogisms; I’ll give you a little syllogism of my own:

First premise: God does not hear sinners.
God has listened to this man, because he’s healed me.  Second premise: God heard this man.
Conclusion: this man is not a sinner

I like this guy, I really do. God doesn’t hear sinners. God heard this man. Therefore, he can’t be a sinner. Beautiful.

“You were born entirely in sin,” they replied, “and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out.” (v.34)

On the outside this may look bad. Disastrous. He’s just been cut off – socially, financially, and spiritually. He has no home. He has no family. He has no friends. But as we are going to see, he does have Jesus.

The blind sees and the seeing are blind

When Jesus heard that they had thrown out, he went looking for him. And when he finds him Jesus says to him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” “Son of Man” is a Messianic title.  It is the title for the Promised One, the descendant of David who will bring about the restoration of all things.

“Who is He, Sir, that I may believe in Him?” he asked.

Jesus answered, “You have seen Him; in fact, He is the One speaking with you.”

“I believe, Lord!” he said, and he worshiped Him.” (vv.36–38)

Jesus then concludes with these words:

“I came into this world for judgment, in order that those who do not see will see and those who do see will become blind.” (v.39)

Some of the Pharisees hear these words and respond by saying,

“We aren’t blind too, are we?”

“If you were blind,” Jesus told them, “you wouldn’t have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see’—your sin remains.” (v.41)

In other words, “If you were honest with yourselves and understand your own spiritual blindness (and thereby seeing your need for Me), you wouldn’t have sin because it would be forgiven. But since you claim that you can see and have no need of Me, your sin remains.”


We cannot escape the impact of this can we? We must either confess our blindness – that we are in spiritual darkness and humbly seek for understanding, or we must embrace the light that has already been given to us and respond in faith by walking in it. But sadly what many of us do is hear the truth and even acknowledge the truth in some degree, but make no real response to the truth in our hearts. We remain in darkness.

I don’t know your spiritual condition. I don’t know where you are at. My only concern is that you respond to the light that is given in the word of God concerning Jesus. He passed by that blind man. He saw him. He found that blind man after he was cast out of the synagogue. He opened his eyes. He brought him to the place where he had no sin. That’s the same love that sought Adam in the Garden of Eden after the fall.

It’s the same Saviour who seeks to save those that are lost and who through the preaching of the gospel seeks to provide an opportunity for men and women to respond to that message.

Do you see?



friendsTaking photos is a hobby of mine. I’m not a professional photographer. I haven’t taken any classes (though I probably should do at some stage).  I just love capturing memories – of people and life and events. I love scenes of nature and the beauty of God’s creation.  Sometimes I’m just looking for a scene that catches my eye. I’m not sure what will come of it – I just have a sense there is something special about it. Here is one of those scenes.

I was initially looking at the man with the dog in his jacket. He was having a little conversation. It was kind of cute.  Then he started pointing to things across the water and telling his dog about it. There’ s a shot, I thought. I was only when I looked through the lens of my phone that I saw the two friends having a conversation on the other side of the boat. Now here’s a real shot. I got it in the nick of time. One fraction of a second too late and I would have missed it.


The same scene a millisecond after I took the shot

I think this may be one of the best photos I’ve ever taken. Let me tell you why.

First, it tells story. It’s a story about friendship – a man and his dog and two teen-age girls (my daughter and her best friend). Both are fully engaged in their friendship, speaking close into the ear of their companion, over the noise of the boat engines. But they don’t notice each other. They are in their own little worlds, yet on the same boat (so to speak). Second, there is symmetry. Notice how both scenes are perfectly and evenly divided by the boat wake trailing in the background, with the two lifebuoys either side. And then third, there is a hidden element. There is a woman in the background, seated behind the girls who is gazing into the horizon. That happens to be my wife.

If you’d like to comment on this photo I’d be interested in your thoughts (especially if you’ve had any training or have an artist’s eye). I don’t mind you telling me it’s over-rated. I don’t get offended easily. I just enjoy taking pictures and telling stories.


Riding the Craigieburn Trails


I stumbled across the Craigieburn Forest almost by accident, while driving the Arthur’s Pass between the West Coast and Christchurch earlier this year. Signs on the side of the road flashed by: “Mountain Bike Trails”. I immediately depressed the brake pedal. “Come on,” I said to Francelle, “We have our bikes on the back. Let’s have a look.” The landscape was Stunning. We jumped on a trail not far from the road and were soon weaving through dense beech forest and along tussock-covered hills, all beneath a 270-degree vista of snow-capped mountain peaks. I only wished we had more time. I knew that one day I’d be back.

mankymap1That day came last weekend, at my sister’s book launch in Oxford, Canterbury. I’ve learned the best plan is to map out your ride in your head before you leave, otherwise you get easily disoriented and lost (with no phone data connection). The trails are well set out on a number of different internet sites (see here and here). One of them caught my eye – the Craigieburn Edge trail. Here’s a description:

“Best suited to intermediate to advanced riders… Riders’ nerves are tested from the start as the Craigieburn Edge trail cuts across a steep scree slope before dropping into beech forest for a thrilling descent.”

Excellent! Sounds like a bit of me. I strapped the bike on the back of the car and set off. The trail starts at the end of Craigieburn Ski Field Rd, which is about a 700m climb from the main West Coast Rd. It was off-road stuff, one lane only with fords. It’s places like these where 4-wheel-drive vehicles come in handy.cbt-1

cbt-2When I reached the top there was a car park and a ski village, but no sign of any bike trail. That’s a pain, I thought. While I was wondering what to do next a Double Cab full of bikes and bikers turned up. This looks promising. I asked them if they knew where the Craigieburn Edge Trail was. “We’re heading there now,” they said. “You can follow us.” Perfect.

Well I was glad they arrived because I would have NEVER found the beginning of the trail. We traipsed with our bikes through the last of the winter snow to the bottom of the ski lift and there, very evident, was the Edge Trail.cbt-3


After taking a few pics of each other we mounted our “steeds” and headed off.cbt-5The trail was a bit tricky and you had to navigate through the shale and pieces of rock that had slid down the mountain. Every now and then the path disappeared altogether and you had to stop, pick up your bike and walk over the rock. But the view was stunning (as you can see).cbt-6

Here’s a couple of more pics on the same track I leached from :beer-045c1090


Less than 10 minutes into my ride I came around a corner and my front wheel hit a rock which spun my handlebars violently to the right and sent me flying full speed into the rock face. It was the hardest fall I’ve had yet. I felt a sharp pain in my right arm – really deep at the bone level. I looked down and saw a bunch of skin missing and quite a bit of blood coming out. Fortunately, I hadn’t broken anything. But it was a close call. I probably should have sat down and taken it easy for a few minutes. But, like most bikers, I got back up, straightened up the handlebars, and took off (I paid for this later).

It was only early afternoon and I had a few hours left.  Even with my sore and bloodied arm I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to investigate one or two more trails.  There was one I wanted to re-visit, when I was with my wife earlier on in the year: the Dracophyllum Flat Track.  It’s a beautiful ride along a plateau that weaves through tussock while you have an almost 360 degree view of mountains.

The pictures I took just didn’t do it credit so I grabbed a couple from the web to give you an idea: beer-053img_0684I just love places like this. I love the beauty, the ruggedness and the remoteness of it all.  It’s time where I can unwind, unplug work devices and breathe in the mountain air. I not only see the beauty of God’s creation; I experience it.

Reflecting once again on all this, Psalm 104 came to mind. It beautifully describes the creative power of God in forming the earth. I’ll leave with a few verses:

He established the earth on its foundations;
it will never be shaken.
You covered it with the deep
as if it were a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
At Your rebuke the waters fled;
at the sound of Your thunder they hurried away —
mountains rose and valleys sank —
to the place You established for them.
You set a boundary they cannot cross;
they will never cover the earth again.
He causes the springs to gush into the valleys;
they flow between the mountains.
They supply water for every wild beast;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
The birds of the sky live beside the springs;
they sing among the foliage.
He waters the mountains from His palace;
the earth is satisfied by the fruit of Your labor.
Psalm 104:5–13 (HCSB)

The truth will set you free

brokenchainOne of the benefits of living in a democracy is we get to enjoy a lot of freedoms. Take the New Zealand Bill of Rights – it’s a public document – you can look it up online. Under the section “Democratic and civil rights” you’ll find this:

nz-bill-of-rights13 Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief, including the right to adopt and to hold opinions without interference.

14 Freedom of expression
Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.

15 Manifestation of religion and belief
Every person has the right to manifest that person’s religion or belief in worship, observance, practice, or teaching, either individually or in community with others, and either in public or in private.

16 Freedom of peaceful assembly
Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

17 Freedom of association
Everyone has the right to freedom of association.

But for many in our society, when they hear the word “freedom”, they are not thinking civil rights. They are not thinking freedom of speech and religion. They are thinking from all moral restraints.  “Real freedom,” they say, “means doing whatever I want, whenever I want, without anyone stopping me.”  And we all know where that kind of freedom takes us – don’t we?

Remember the story of the Prodigal Son. He wanted to leave home. He didn’t like living under his Father’s restraints. So he demands his inheritance and goes off to live a life of self-indulgence and instant gratification.  But it doesn’t take long before he realizes it’s another form of slavery. Thomas Huxley – a famous atheist was right. “A man’s worst difficulties begin when he is able to do as he likes.”

If we are to be truly liberated or truly free, that liberation must take place deep within. That’s where Jesus comes in. According to Jesus, there is a special kind of freedom that only HE – the Son, can give us.

In John 8:31-32 Jesus speaks these most profound words,

“If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

The Jews respond in the next verse:

“We are descendants of Abraham,” they answered Him, “and we have never been enslaved to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will become free’?”

Well this is a very interesting response isn’t it, considering their history. They were slaves of the Egyptians. They were in bondage to the Assyrians and Babylonians, and then the Medo-Persians and the Grecians. And now they’re in bondage to the Romans.

Jesus replies with these words:

 “I assure you: Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin.” (John 8:34)

Now this would have hit them like a slap in the face, and it does the same for us.  Jesus is telling us something here about our true problem. It is sin. And sin, Jesus says, is not just something bad we do but a power deep within us that makes us do those things.  We sin because we are sinners.  We are in bondage.  And the more we repeat an act of sin, the more that bondage grips us.

We know this to be true – don’t we?  You remember the first time as a child that you stole something –  perhaps it was some money from your mother’s purse. You felt terrible doing that.  You lay on your bed that night crushed by guilt.  A day later you take some more.  And then some days later, some more. Each time it is less of a struggle. Some weeks later it comes normally.  You have been overtaken by that sin.  You are now completely enslaved.  It’s the new normal.

This is how addictions develop. Take the man addicted to pornography. He begins by looking at one or two pictures.  Just a little bit, I’m just curious, he says. The image flashes and his heart races – he gives him a high. Then he needs a little bit more – something more explicit; more exciting, more lewd. As time goes on his craving increases as his satisfaction level decreases.  He’s on the way to prison. He’s enslaved.

John Calvin mentions this when he says, “The greater the mass of vices anyone is burdened under and buried under, the more fiercely and bombastically does he extol his free will. Isn’t that interesting? The more we are overcome by sin, the more we are inclined to say we are free.

It is from this bondage and this misery that Jesus gives us hope.  He says in verse 35:

“A slave does not remain in the household forever, but a son does remain forever. Therefore, if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.” (John 8:35–36)

A slave’s position in a house is tenuous, shaky and fragile. A slave could be sold, or traded or simply got rid of.  But not the Son.  The remains in the house forever.  The Son has the authority to liberate a slave and change his status. If the Son sets you free, you are completely free.  This is what Jesus, the Son of God, can do for us.

Spurgeon calls this text the “The great liberator.” That’s who Jesus is – He is the great Liberator. Can He free me from guilt? Yes, He can free you from guilt. Can he free me from the punishment that I deserve because of my sin? Yes, he can free you from that too.  Can he free me from the power of sin in my life?  Yes, he can free you from sin’s power. Can he free me from the fear of death? Yes he can, for he has taken the sting out of death and death is no longer an enemy.

So we now see our problem.  Our problem is slavery.  We are in bondage to sin.  And we have seen Jesus’ promise that he can set us free from that bondage.  The only question we are left with now is HOW?  Go back to the beginning. Look again at verses 31-32:

 “If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Note the chain reaction.  It begins with BELIEF.  That’s the first step. You look closely at the person called Jesus.  You listen to what he says. You hear his claims. And you make a conscious decision: “This man is the real thing. This is the Son of God. He came to take away my sin.” And you put your faith in him.

But that’s only the first step. You can’t stop there. You must CONTINUE IN HIS WORD.  This is the Greek word meno.  It means to stay or abide.  You don’t just visit God’s Word as an occasional guest. You move in and live there. You wake up with the Word and you return there every night.  The word begins to have a deep effect on you. It changes your worldview. It governs and guides your thinking, your attitudes, your speech and your behaviour. There isn’t any area of your life that not influenced by the Word in some way.

And then, what is the result of continuing in his word?  YOU WILL KNOW THE TRUTH. He’s not talking about rational or logical truth. He’s not saying you’ll know that 2 + 2 = 4. Jesus is talking about spiritual truth. Truth about God and man and sin and man’s need for redemption.  Truth about why we are here and where we are going after we die. Truth about life and death, heaven and hell.  Truth about how sin enslaves and how we can be free, you see.  That’s the truth he’s talking about.

When we know that truth, Jesus says, THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE.  Really free.  Truly free.  I like how John Piper puts it: Free is the sense that you have the desire, the ability and the opportunity to do what makes you happy – not just for today, not just for a week from now, but 10,000 years from now.  A freedom that leaves you with no regrets forever. That’s the kind of freedom Jesus promises.

It’s a terrible thing to live in bondage to sin, while all the while thinking you are free. I lived that way for the first 20 years of my life. I looked at Christians and thought to myself, “those poor people – look what they’re missing out on in life!  All that Jesus stuff – studying their bibles and going to church. How boring!  How dull!”  And so I continued to enjoy my life of sin – my so-called “freedom.”  But there was something about those Christians that bothered me.  They had a joy and an inner I didn’t have.

Then one day I started to investigate Jesus for myself.  I read through the New Testament.  And I came one day to these words, “If the Son sets you free, you really will be free.” And I said to myself, I want that freedom. I want that peace and joy those followers of Jesus have. And so I surrendered my heart and life to Jesus. I began to study His Word.  I began to understand spiritual truth.  And that truth has set me free.

Do you also want to be free?  Then recognize your true condition. Believe the wonderful message of Jesus – that he died and rose again for us, to set us free. Come to Him.  Put your trust in Him. Have him break the chains of sin give you true freedom.

For if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.






One year on


August 1, 2016 marked the first anniversary of our son’s accident. A year ago, on a clear Saturday morning Mark was making a routine ride on his motorcycle from Pasadena to his accommodation in Palmdale, Los Angeles. Instead of taking the freeway Mark took the shortcut through the Angeles National Forest, an area notorious for accidents.  Exactly what happened next no one knows but his bike went down on a curve and he slid into a roadside barrier.lhvrpd5ha85nqvqowih6vi67dbii-wt_rifhjqcd7cm-2 His left leg was completely severed on impact above the knee and his right leg was partially severed off and pulverized beyond recognition.  Through what can only be called a miraculous series of events Mark was picked up by a specialized helicopter crew (with paramedics on board) from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and flown to Huntington Hospital where he underwent a series of operations to try to save what was left of his right leg.  Mark returned to New Zealand in November 2015 where he underwent further hospital treatment before arriving at his parents’ home in Nelson. Knowing this was an important occasion, we (his parents) prepared a special dinner and wrote him a letter which we read out to him after our meal. This is what we said.


Well here we are, 12 months down the track from an incident that has changed your life forever. A moments inattention or hesitation or over-reaction (or whatever it was) on the road and look at the result. No one is blaming you or pointing the finger, because we’ve all done it – whether it’s reaching for the cell phone or falling asleep at the wheel. And we’re not the ones who had to endure the pain, the agony, the surgeries and sleepless nights as well as who-knows-how-many weeks in a hospital bed. Nor are we left stumbling around on one leg.

We all feel for you Mark, we really do.

It was unbearable for your mother and I to be so far away from you while the surgeons were working on you, refilling your body with blood while they tried to patch together what used to be two perfectly shaped legs. One of them was a lost cause – they could see that. But there was hope for the other one… maybe.

It’s difficult to describe the feeling we both had as we drew nearer to the hospital in LA. We didn’t know what we were going to see. We didn’t even know if you’d be alive. So you can imagine the relief we experienced when we saw you lying there so peacefully, sleeping as if nothing had really happened.

But a lot did happen. It took some days before we could piece the story together. You came as close to death as any man could – or should. It was only due to an incredible combination of circumstances – the perfect storm, the SEB guys called it – a woman stops, a fire ranger makes a call, a helicopter crew decides to dispatch, paramedics apply tourniquets, a critical care team at a hospital prepares. And then you arrive – on time. JUST.

Some call it luck. Others call it quick response. We call it divine intervention. Somebody was watching you Mark. And he has your days numbered. Fortunately for you (and us), your number aint up.

I know you probably think your life stinks right now. And in many ways it does. But, as a wise king once said, “a live dog is better than a dead lion” (Ecclesiastes 9:4).  In other words, it doesn’t matter how low or despicable life gets, life is still life and it’s better than being dead. Your future from here on is to a large degree determined by your choices. You can make a real go of it – in the body you’ve got, and make an awesome contribution to this world, or you could waste and squander it.

You can guess which life we are praying for you.

Love you heaps,

Mum and Dad.



Remember Your Creator (a message for the young)

sunset-925995_960_720Most young people look forward to being older but not being old. Getting old is something no one really wants but it’s something that happens to us all, whether we like it or not (trust me, I know). And the Bible has a lot of wisdom to offer on the matter of growing old. Here’s one of them:

“So remember your Creator in the days of your youth: Before the days of adversity come, and the years approach when you will say, “I have no delight in them”” (Ecclesiastes 12:1)

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth. Why? That’s a strange kind of thing for Solomon to say isn’t it? Shouldn’t he be saying “Remember your Creator in the days of your old age.” I mean, that’s when you need to think about God the most isn’t it – when you’re close to death?

No, says Solomon. That’s the mistake many people make. You need to remember God now, while you’re young.

Now why is this? I want to give you a few reasons.

1. You need to remember God in your youth because if you don’t, you are not likely to remember Him when you are older.

Believe me, I’ve been at a lot of death beds. I’ve watched a lot of people die, and I can tell you if they’ve managed to live their whole life not wanting God, why should they die wanting God?  They’ve done without Him OK until now, why change anything?

You can look at the statistics yourself. Most people come to Christ when they are relatively young.

  • 85% become Christians before age 14
  • 10% become Christians between 15 – 30
  • 4% become Christians after the age of 30

You see one of the signs of old age is an unwillingness to change. You get stayed in your ways. You get used to a certain way of doing something and it just stays that way. Look at your parents – when was the last time your dad grew all his hair out? Have you ever seen your parents change their music tastes? Or movie tastes? No, they are not going to change.  Why?  Because change gets harder as you grow older.

  • If you choose to live without God now, it’s likely stay that way
  • If Jesus isn’t part of your life right now, He isn’t likely to be a part later on
  • The longer you wait to follow God, the less likely it will be you will ever do so

That’s why you need to remember God now, in your youth.

2. You need to remember God in your youth because much of the direction of your life is determined while you are young. 

Picture4Before you hit 18 you will have made up your mind about where you are heading in life, whether you like National or Labour (or in my case, neither), what music tastes you like, what kind of friends you’ll have, and what kind of man or woman you’ll want to marry (or partner with, if that’s where you’re heading). And most of your habits – good and bad, will have already been formed. If God has not been a part of you deciding any of these things, you’re in for a very tough time of it.

If you don’t believe me, ask Solomon. Initially, Solomon loved God. He was the son of David and the builder of the temple. He asked for wisdom above any other gift. He started well but got off track. He eventually refused to remember his Creator in the days of his youth. Gradually, over the course of time, he made little compromises that became bigger compromises that in the end, caused disaster. He cultivated relationships with ungodly women and these ungodly women led him into idolatry. Even though he had everything this world has to offer (i.e., wine, wealth, wisdom, women, and work), he was miserable.

I came to Christ when I was 19 – all my habits, tastes, lifestyle was already set. And it was all heading in the opposite direction to what God wanted. So it all had to change. It was like starting over. It was hard. But not as hard as it would be if I was 40 or 50. By following and obeying God now, you can prevent yourself from experiencing a lot of pain.

3. You need to remember God in your youth, because as you get older your life becomes more difficult to manage.

The most difficult thing you have to face right now is getting up in the morning and remembering to rinse your breakfast dishes before you go to school. You don’t have anything to worry about. Your parents do all the worrying for you!

Later, as you get older, it isn’t going to be like that. There is coming a day when you will have to pay for yourself. You will have to pay for rend and food and petrol and phone and internet bills as well as a hundred other things. Right now you’re thinking about what to do with all the spare time you have. But later you’ll be thinking about things you’d like to do but you have neither the time nor the money.

Picture5“What?” you say to yourself, “no time and no money?”  That’s right – just like your parents.  Instead of getting exciting about going out, you’ll be excited to get an early night – because these kids of yours wear you out. You will go from one week to the next; one paycheck to the next. It will be a fight to survive.  As the pressures grow and the weariness of life grows, you will find you will need God more and more every day.

But if you don’t live for God now, why should He help you later?  Have you ever thought of that? He might say – “You’ve had your chance, and you snubbed your nose at me.”

Learn to live and trust God now and it will pay dividends later in life. Jesus will help you through the worst of trials.

4. You need to remember God in your youth, because you might not ever reach old age.

Have you ever thought of that? There’s no guarantee for any of you here, that you will reach old age. There are young boys, young teens, and young men dying every day. They die from accidents, they die from cancer, they die from war (they are dying in the Middle East right as I speak) and they are dying on our roads.

If you are thinking to yourself, “It’s OK, I’m going to follow Jesus when I get older” you are thinking very unwisely.  You might not get much older.

So therefore choose to follow Jesus now, while you can, while the door is open.


I’m sure that many of you here have great plans for your lives. You may have plans for a great career where you are earning lots of money. You may have plans to travel the world and see all the sights. You may have plans to compete in some sport at an international level, like the Olympics. You may have plans to get married and have children of your own. But those plans don’t include living seriously as a Christian. Those plans don’t include Jesus. And so Jesus warned those who put other things ahead of God.  He said,

“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it.” (Luke 9:24)

Now is the time to set the direction for your life. Now is the time align your priorities. Don’t leave it until later. Don’t leave it until you are 30 or 40 or 50. For then it may be too late. You’ll become stuck in your ways and less open to God. Make time for God now. There is NOTHING more important in life than being in a right relationship with God through his Son. Everything else is lesser. And without God, it’s all absolutely meaningless.

Have a great life.

NB: This post is based on a message I preached recently at an ELEVATE Youth Service at our church