The Student’s Desk

That we may know Christ

Newsletter – December 2015

2015 proved to be a very challenging year for me, and I’m pleased the year has ended. This is not to say their were highlights and great blessings along the way.

The year began at Jindabyne, and I thoroughly enjoyed cycling through the Australian alps (what us Aussies call ‘alps’ anyway!). Soon afterwards, I was on a plane to California to attend the Global Access Conference – a gathering of one thousand disability ministry leaders and likeminded people from around the world. The conference was organised by Joni and Friends. This provided an excellent opportunity to reflect upon God’s desire for his church concerning people with disabilities. It was also an opportunity to hear what God is doing through his people around the world in relation to people with disabilities.

This was my first long haul flight, and therefore my first experience of significant amounts of jet lag. Seeing two sunrises within 24hrs, and having a 2nd breakfast really messed with my mind. I had been going for 24hrs when Jeff took me out to breakfast. Here, I was met by a very exuberant waitress with a broad American accent asking me, “Howya doin’?” In hindsight, I would’ve liked to answered, “I’m half past dead… How y’ol doin’?” 15hrs in an airborne tin can, and I’m not as quick as I usually am!

This was also my first time in the U.S., and the difference in culture came as quite a shock. Especially when I went venturing off in an RV. I have to say, most people were hospitable, and would do anything to help you out. There also seemed to be a greater awareness of the needs of people with disabilities. However, other things like having to prepay for petrol, or just finding food that hadn’t been processed to within an inch of  its life added a lot of frustration. My choice of method to go sight-seeing was to hire an RV. I had hired camper vans in New Zealand, and a great old time. So I just figured what works in New Zealand would work in the U.S.. This proved to be untrue. Campsites were few and far between, and were typically around the $US40 mark. Then there was the RV itself – 25ft long, 12ft high, 10ft wide weighing in at 5.5tonne. In Australia, I would’ve needed a medium-rigid license to drive it! I have no interest in driving something of that size on public roads again. I would have been better off in a car and staying in hotels – lesson learned!

I have to also say I’m very thankful to Jeff and Kathi McNair who opened their home to me, and let me hang around when things weren’t going to plan. This provided me with the opportunity to see Yosemite National Park and the Grand Canyon, two of the most amazing places I have been to. Especially the Grand Canyon where the rim was laden with snow. It provided such a contrast with the desolate canyon below.

All this took place while I was in the middle of writing a thesis. Late 2014 I began discussing with my college the possibility of doing a research masters. As I didn’t yet have a enough credit points, I agreed to write a Hebrew Exegesis paper on Genesis 3:16-19 discussing whether or not disability was a direct result of The Fall. Despite the rushed job at the end, I managed to obtain a distinction. I was most pleased with this result as I did not do Hebrew exegesis as part of my degree. I had only studied the language. The result was also impressive as I was challenging some long held theological assumptions. So in 2016 I plan to commence my research masters looking at the place of disability in salvation history. This should keep me going for a few years.

Work has also been challenging as I have done a lot of work looking at the place of disability in society. It’s not pretty! I’ve researched the issue of young people with disabilities living in aged care facilities which exposed me to a host of issues I was previously unaware of. I have also written book reviews on Megan Best’s book, “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made” which, in part, looked at the impact reproductive technologies are having in relation to disability; and Michael Oliver’s book, “The New Politics of Disablement” which looks at where our modern concept of disability has come from, and where it is going. Late in the year, I had the opportunity to think about and prepare a paper on “Church Leadership, Disability, and the Glory of God” which has served to demonstrate how the inclusion of disability requires robust theology, and the willingness to apply it. The publication of these works are still pending.

Church Services at Allambie Heights Cerebral Palsy Alliance continue, although not as frequently with me being overseas, and writing my thesis. Nonetheless, we have managed to look at King David in the Old Testament, and the kind of faith he had, and the Miracles of Jesus, and what they have to tell us about him. It was also a shock to learn of Pat’s sudden death this year. Pat had been coming from the beginning, and had always made her presence known in one way or another. She is missed.

My cycling renascence continues to be a blessing, and a great release for my frustrations. As I said at my 40th birthday party, I’m glad to be 40 years old, and still able to act half my age. There was an addition to my trike collection this year with an Ice Full Fat trike which I’ve dubbed, “The Monster”. With 26×4” tires on all 3 wheels, it’s not hard to see why. As much as I’ve been impressed with the versatility of the trike, it’s been an ongoing project to achieve the purpose for which it was bought – to go off road. It is designed for this, but again, I need to go and push the limits as I do!

I’m certain 2016 will shape up to be a very interesting year, filled with it’s frustrations and blessings. I’m very much looking forward to delving deep into Scripture yet again, and coming up with insights from a disability perspective.

January 4, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Christmas – the greatest adventure of all time…

Based on: Philippians 2:1-11

Most of us enjoy a good adventure story. Whether it’s ‘Ice Age’, ‘Madagascar’, ‘Despicable Me’, ‘Frozen’, ‘Toy Story’, ‘Star Wars’, ‘Lord of the Rings’ or one of many others. There’s something about leaving behind what we know and love, what is familiar to us, to venture off into the wild blue yonder to discover whatever there is to discover. Adventure means going to new places, and being in different circumstances that will need different responses. So adventure stories fill us with excitement and wonder.

When I was growing up, I enjoyed watching the Indianna Jones movies – some of the best adventure stories of all time. It was thrilling to watch Indianna Jones get himself into all kinds of trouble, then to see him get back out of trouble, always with the girl of course. These days, adventure movies aren’t enough for me, and I need to have my own adventures. Last year I went to New Zealand, and it was so exciting some of the most amazing places I’ll ever see. But adventures don’t always go to plan. This year, I went to America. I rented a motorhome, and managed to lock the keys inside. So here was I, on the night before my 40th birthday, on the other side of the planet, in the middle of an American desert, at night, climbing through the side window of a rented motorhome. As I was rolling around on the dinning table, I couldn’t help but wonder, what happened for my life to get to this point? I mean, Indianna Jones never climbed through the window of a rented motorhome. Had I known what I was in for, I might never have gone! Climbing through that window was a long way from my quiet, comfortable life I know in Australia.

We all have our adventures, whether good all bad, and it’s good to remember our adventures. At Christmas, we remember the beginning of the greatest adventure of all time. What am I talking about? I’m talking about the birth of Jesus, his life, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven.

What makes this adventure so great? Remember I said adventure is about leaving behind what we know, and going somewhere else. Well, Jesus left behind what he knew. Jesus left his home in heaven, to be born like one of us. We can’t get our heads around what this means! Jesus had been with his father for eternity! Yet Jesus swapped the majesty of heaven, for the filth of an animal shelter, to be born as a baby. He swapped eternal royalty for being despised on earth, and eventually crucified. Jesus went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. Unlike me, Jesus knew exactly what he was in for. But he came anyway. And he came because of you.

Here’s where it becomes really radical. Jesus was completely and utterly sinless. He never did anything wrong, not against God, or anyone else. Yet Jesus swapped his sinlessness for our sinfulness. Everything we have done wrong, absolutely everything with nothing left behind. Jesus sees our sin and says, “I will have that!” Then he took our punishment for the sin we have done by dying on the cross. Instead of us being punished for our sin, Jesus was punished instead so we could be forgiven. This is massive. But it doesn’t end there. Jesus also rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. So now, Jesus says anyone who believes in him can have his sinlessness. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine, for example, giving away your nice new car, or your home? You just wouldn’t do it, would you? If you did, you’d want it to be someone who really deserved it. Well, Jesus gives away his sinlessness to people who don’t deserve it. This is why we can now have forgiveness and eternal life. Jesus left behind eternity to enter a sinful world to take our sinfulness so we can have his sinlessness. Christmas really is the start of the greatest adventure of all time.

But Christmas also the start of our adventure. What am I talking about? Remember I said adventure is about leaving behind what we know, and venturing off into different circumstances that require different responses. Well, by dying for our sins so we can be forgiven, Jesus has enabled us to leave behind the things we know. To leave behind the way we normally do things. We have left behind the world of sin, and we now stand in God’s Kingdom. So now we live with entirely new circumstances. Jesus has placed use in a right relationship with God – for eternity! We are now motivated and encouraged by Jesus, because we want to honour him. We are now comforted by Jesus when things aren’t going our way. We are part of what God is doing in the world through his Spirit. We are now the subject of Jesus’ affection and compassion. And these different circumstances require a different response. Instead of competing with one another and trying to out do each other, we’re to have the same understanding and same love. Rather than thinking that we’re better than others, we’re to have a servant’s attitude, always looking to the interests of others. Not because we should, but because this is precisely what Jesus has done for us. By doing these things we show what Jesus has done for us.

In a very real sense, we as Christians are on the greatest adventure of all time. Greater than any adventure movie. It began with Jesus leaving behind his home in heaven to be born as a baby. It continues with us as we leave behind what we want, and going after what God wants. This is the adventure that should fill us with excitement. This is the adventure that should fill us with wonder. This is the adventure of eternity.

December 16, 2015 Posted by | Bible, Sermons | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Zealand – travelogue entry 4

Well, my time with the world’s angriest sewing machine has come to an end, much to my disappointment and I’m now at home nice and warm. I must admit, though, I did take great delight in laying down on my bed last night without having to assemble it first. Right after having to dismantle the dinning set. Civility is a good thing.

All in all, 18 days and around 3,300km added up to 1 fantastic holiday that ended far too soon. I’ve taken to think of New Zealand as like a box of chocolates – it’s best to leave some for later. Certainly when I’ve had more than my fair share of Kiwi adventure. And all this in a van that looked as though it couldn’t get to the end of a driveway – even if it was down hill!

On my way to Mt. Cook, I did some impromptu bushwalking trying to get into some waterfalls. I was successful for 1 of the 3 walks. Stairs are bad! It turned out to be a good thing that I didn’t hang around. About an hour later, it appeared a weather front had moved in, and it looked very dark from  a distance.

It was a long drive towards Mt. Cook. Especially when I had to come off the go pedal yet again for strong cross winds. I stopped for the night at a tiny town called Omarara where I found a warm welcome at the holiday park. Again, I’m astounded at how little attention Kiwis pay to my disability and just take me as they find me. The woman at the holiday park commented it was good I was getting around on my own. I responded by saying that no one is mad enough to come with me. She laughed with a manner of understanding. I find this very perplexing after visiting the disabled community in New Zealand – and I use that term deliberately, and politically. Listening to people’s experiences outside the disabled community gives the impression that the wider New Zealand community is full is discrimination. I have found that discriminatory attitudes are far less in New Zealand than what they are in Australia. I can only think of 3 explanations for this disconnect: 1) monogamous groups emphasis minor elements outside the group to justify remaining inside the group; 2) the accounts of discrimination I have heard are given within a church context, and if the philosophical presuppositions of pentecostalism are shared among other Christian traditions, this could bare some explanation. It would be interesting to survey the theological landscape of New Zealand some more; or 3) the way I present invariably blows apart any presuppositions of disability people may have, and I don’t cop the same discrimination. That is, I’m on my own, in a rented van, visiting from Australia. Not exactly what you’d expect of a ‘disabled person’. More thinking required.

Me on an Argo - scary!

Me on an Argo – scary!

Mt. Cook was an interesting experience. I went to the Sir Edmund Hillary Museum, and learned about his life. I also learned more about Mt. Cook. I joined an Argo tour in the hope of getting up close to a glacier. An Argo is an 8-wheeled ATV that can also go in the water. (See attached photo. Just when you thought I couldn’t get anymore dangerous, I have the controls! I didn’t get to drive it. It was just a pose). Before I booked, I asked about walking. I was told the track was steep, but the guide would be able to help me up. The woman said nothing about a vertical goat track! The guide was up for the challenge, but 10 steps up the track, I said, “Nah. This isn’t gonna work!” And he helped me back down. Sensing my disappointment, he made sure I got a refund on the basis of wrong information. I don’t think those who know how to get me into difficult places would not have got me up this track. It was a shocker! So, still no glacier…

A snowy evening at Mt. Cook

A snowy evening at Mt. Cook

But Mt. Cook had a special treat for me that night. As I was about to start preparing dinner, it began snowing – proper snow! Not saga snow, not sleet, SNOW! I hadn’t seen snow fall before, so this was special. To think I had thoughts of staying in the hotel instead of camping. I would’ve missed out on this. Staying warm wasn’t a problem. I went to bed with up to 4 layers on, plus my sleeping bag and a duvet over the top. I slept soundly, provided I kept all body parts inside my sleeping bag. The next morning, I woke to find the van covered in snow and ice. A totally awesome experience. To think 36 hours later, I was going to land in Sydney with the temperature in the mid 30s. What a contrast.

The drive out to Akaroa

The drive out to Akaroa

After Mt. Cook, I headed for Akaroa for the night and to have a quick look around. This provided a short drive for the flight out the next day. I got the impression that Akaroa is where the Christchurch yuppies hang out, and is not for the budget conscious traveller. Still, I would like to come back here, and have a good look around. Just not staying in Akaroa.

This has been an awesome, and yes, I’m going to make a big call, this has been my best holiday yet. Yes, I complained allot about the world’s angriest sewing machine, and the driving experience was compromised far more that what I had preferred. But it did provide an excellent camping experience. I put this down to the table being small and light, so it was easy to put up and pull back down. And the cushions for the bed were lighter than what was in the van I had last year. This made things so much easier. Eventually, I did get use to the noise, and driving like a grandpa. In it’s own way, the van added to the adventure. It certainly wouldn’t have been the same without it!

 

November 15, 2014 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

New Zealand – travelogue entry 3

Slope Point

Slope Point

I have traveled south til I can go no further – at least not without getting very wet! I have attached a photo of myself at Slope Point – the southern most point of mainland New Zealand. It was a bit of a hike to get there as well. But at least it was over a couple of paddocks, so it was an easy walk. (If the photo appears to be at a strange angle, I had my iPad on the ground, propped up by my backpack to take the shot.) So now I start the long journey back to Christchurch to fly out on Friday. But I’ll be going via Mt. Cook.

Thunder Creek Falls

Thunder Creek Falls

I returned towards Haaste from Wanaka, and the day did not start well. I was on the foreshore at Wanaka in the van on compacted gravel, and saw a good spot to take a photo. Except the gravel there wasn’t as compacted. In actual fact, it was a gravel beach. Fortunately, one of the locals was happier enough to drag me out – on the third attempt. Note to self: this is not a Delica.

After all that wind and rain, New Zealand really turned on the sunshine, and I enjoyed a splendid day of photography. But the day ended as it began, stuck! This time for reasons not my doing. The Haaste Pass is having roadworks done, and at some point in the afternoon the road is closed completely for the night. I didn’t know what the times were, and became stuck on the Haaste side of the range, and spent a second night at Pleasant Flat. I was a bit disappointed. I was hoping to

Haast River

Haast River

spend the night at Cameron Flat. That valley would be spectacular to see in the first and last light of the day.

After further delays due to the road still being closed, it was on to Queenstown. I took a less traversed route from Wanaka that climbed over a range with the road summit at 1081m above sea level. I could just about eyeball the passengers on the planes coming in to land at Queenstown airport. If there was ever a time I wanted my trike, it was then. The road down to the other side was full of sharp elbows and hairpin bends. And I was in one of the worst handling vehicles. Oh the injustice of it all!!! I still had fun.

Crown Range Pass

Crown Range Pass

Queenstown was a buzz with activity, and there was nothing to encourage me to hang around. I camped just out of town and met a couple with the same van. So I took the opportunity to compare notes. Their van wasn’t in much better condition as mine. I think I won ‘my camper rules’ in that department. Although, mine had a working table – what a bonus! I felt much better about my van, and seeing they had come to the same conclusions as me – yes, it’s a bucket of rusty bolts, but it’s doing the job, so enjoy. It’s just how it is with this rental company. The next day, I was even happier when I got my music going. At least I can now add some variety to the monotonous noise of the world’s angriest sewing machine (more widely known as the Toyota Diesel engine).

Lake Te Anua

Lake Te Anua

From Queenstown, it was on to Milford Sound. What a mysterious corner of the world that is! Again, New Zealand really turned on the sunshine, and I enjoyed a full day of bushwalking and photography. I didn’t get to cover the whole area that day, and finally arrived in Milford Sound the next day when New Zealand well and truly had turned off the sunshine, and the snow capped mountains were once again enveloped in cloud and rain. I was very disappointed. I could have pushed on the day before, but I like to call it a day when I’m feeling tired, and make camp for the night. I tend to enjoy things more when I’m not tired. I didn’t envisage the weather hampering my enjoyment. Even still, I was able to appreciate just how unique this place is. I don’t imagine they’d be too many places in the world where you can stand on the edge of the sea, and be immediately surrounded by snow capped mountains in spring.

Eglington Valley

Eglington Valley

By the time I had driven back to Te Anua for my cruise, the sun was back out again in full force. I could only wonder what it was like back at Milford Sound. At 2 hours drive up the road, I wasn’t that interested in finding out. The cruise took me to a glow worm cave on the other side of the lake. This involved a 200m walk into the cave on a raised platforms by guided tour. Walking in I managed to bang my head on some very low overhangs a couple of times. Not recommended. And if anyone is wondering, no, it didn’t knock any sense into me. The cave had a river rushing through it at a rate of 300l/min. It also had a waterfall! The tour went another 50m into the cave by boat. From what I could see in the low light, the boat looked like a big aluminium bath tub. Our guide stood on the side, and dragged the boat along by chains bolted to the cave walls. Not for the faint hearted. It was pitch black. The only light came from the glow worms themselves. It was an awesome experience.

Fiordland National Park

Fiordland National Park

From Te Anua, I’ve spent a few days rounding the south coast, which I must say is a bit boring after Milford Sound and Mount Aspiring National Park. But it was still very scenic. Today ended in a bit of frustration when I tried to get into McLean Falls. It was a very well formed track, but 700m in I came to some steps with no handrail, and I didn’t feel steady enough to take them on. So, disappointed, I turned back. I did get to see some very nice rainforest though.

Humboldt Falls

Humboldt Falls

I’m looking forward to returning to the mountains, and hopefully, I can get up close to a glacier on a guided tour. This really has been a fantastic trip.

November 15, 2014 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

New Zealand – travelogue entry 2

I’m now in the southern parts of the South Island where rivers flow vertically and rain falls horizontally. I expect some folk down here wouldn’t know what summer is. It’s very cold.

IMG_0804

Lake Wanaka

I have arrived at a little town named Wanaka, and for some reason it’s rather taken my fancy. It’s a tidy little town, with friendly people, but very busy, out in the middle of nowhere. Yet surrounded by new housing estates. People here seem to build their houses any way they want, which has given the local architecture great variety. It’s refreshing to see a whole community take pride and pleasure in their residents. And to complete the scene, the town is surrounded by snow-capped mountains – big ones! It’s a little surreal for me to see so much snow in late spring. I was so pleased to find this little town. It meant I could re supply without having to drive another 100km to Queenstown. Waking up here has been like waking up in a postcard.

The word's angriest sewing machine - a Toyota Hiace Campervan

The word’s angriest sewing machine – a Toyota Hiace Campervan

The van – oh boy! I knew this wasn’t going to be good from the moment I clapped eyes on it. This was straight out of the bargain bin and further discounted… Scratches and surface rust bumper to bumper. The interior not fairing any better. All but one of the plastic nobs is missing from the ventilation controls, exposing the metal lever and making it very hard (and painful) to adjust. When I hit the air conditioner button, the light comes on, and that’s about it! There’s no change in engine idle speed, I can’t hear or feel the compressor clutch engaging or disengaging. And given it takes a very long time to demist the windscreen, I think the air conditioner isn’t working at all. I just about need a crowbar to open the side door. Obviously it has been around NZ several times with 349,000km on the clock. So if I don’t know where I’m going, it will!

I’ve never driven a vehicle with that many kms! But the really good thing is, if something does happen to the van (and something has happened! More in a minute) the hire company will never be able to tell!

The kitchen. The WHOLE kitchen.

The kitchen. The WHOLE kitchen.

Then there’s driving it. I was pleased to learn it was diesel, since diesel over here is so much cheaper than petrol. So I get it out on the road, and my first thoughts were, “OK… clearly this diesel isn’t turbocharged…” (My delica is). And, it sounds like I’m sitting on top of a very angry sewing machine. For what it achieves, the noise is just not warranted. But, I have worked out how to get the most out of the engine without overworking it by ignoring the speedo, and let it ‘torque’ its way up hills. I’m consoled by the fact it’s still quicker than walking. I’m not sure if it’s quicker than cycling, though. It will do 100km/h, provided I find a high enough cliff. Fortunately there are plenty of those around. Also, the slightest puff of wind is enough to push it off line at speed, and there’s lots of wind noise. It’s cost me around $1,700 to hire for 18 days. That’s about what I’d be prepared to pay buying it outright… I expected the van to be a bit rough around the edges being 9-15 years old, and paying much less than the common rate for this level of equipment for this time of year, but WOW!

Still, I am impressed what you can do in such a small space! It’s just a regular Toyota Hiace with a raised fibreglass roof, and someone has jammed in here a toilet and shower, a kitchen, and a dinning set which converts to a double bed, complete with running hot (part time) and cold water. And everything is usable! I’m not sure how 2 people could comfortably travel in here. But for one person (minus their recumbent trike) it’s perfect!

Kiwi’s do have a habit of doing the strange and the bizarre. Having reached the S6 – the main road along the west coast, I found myself negotiating a roundabout with the main train line going through the middle of it. But that was just the appetiser. Not too far up the road going into Greymouth, I was driving ON the main rail line! Oh yes… Kiwi’s often find that half a bridge is enough of a bridge. This bridge is single lane, with oncoming traffic giving way both sides, and it also services the main rail line. So, when a train does come, traffic comes to a halt. I guess we don’t build bridges like that in Australia any more – OH&S wouldn’t allow it! With the mountains so close to the sea, there’s plenty of steams, creeks and rivers to cross. I’ve seen river beds before in the Hunter Valley, and they’re kind of cute. But some of these stretch for several hundred meters across. It’s incredible to see.

As you might expect, weather has been a big factor. On Thursday morning, I woke up on the main range with frost on the ground. That was kind of cute. But that was not to be compared to Sunday. I knew something was up when the daylight looked like late afternoon, and it was only coming up to midday. 2 hours later, I stopped at Haast to refuel, and the wind ripped the drivers door from my hand and tried wrapping it around the front of the van. Thankfully it failed. But the van now has a new noise every time you open the door. The door still works, and that’s all that matters…

I sheltered in a nearby pub for a later lunch. After which the storm was still raging. I pressed on hoping if I came far enough inland, the mountains would shelter one of the valleys from the wind. At times, I had to slow to 60km/h just to keep the van from being blown off the road! The next day, I heard an unofficial report of a camper van on the Mt. Cook road being blown onto its side. I can well believe it, especially if the driver had not slowed down. Happily, my hopes were fulfilled, and I found a sheltered spot for the night at Pleasant flat. Now I know why the west coast is known as the ‘Wild West’… When visiting NZ, you expect a bit of wind and rain. But even by NZ standards, this was wild!

The next day saw plenty of rain, hail, and wind. Which was frustrating given I was passing over the main range again through some very scenic country. Pending weather conditions, I’ll retrace today’s route tomorrow. Receiving advice from a local Department of Conservation officer (what we call National Parks and Wildlife Service) confirmed my decision.

Franz Joseph Glacier

Franz Joseph Glacier

I’ve also been visiting some of the natural attractions. I visited Frans Josef Glacier on Saturday which involved a 5.3km return walk. I was thinking the last time I knowingly walked this distance, I was 8 years younger! But then, I’m now 8 times fitter. So hopefully I’ll be ok. Thankfully the fitness won out, and to my surprise, I easily covered the distance. Although I was very tired when I returned to the van, and I knew about it the next day. But the day after, it was as though nothing had happened – I was fine! Much to my disappointment, I didn’t get to the end. Toward the end, the track became very steep. I stood there for 5 mins watching other people gingerly negotiating the section. I thought all it would take is a momentary loss of balance, and the next thing for me to grab was the ground. I had a long walk back to the van, and my wrist was still sore from having rolled my trike two weeks ago. I thought conservation was the order of the day and turned back. I was still able to get a nice short of the glacier a bit further back. The other issue I had was much of the walk was on the river bed, and I could feel every rock through my joggers. After

a while, this became quite uncomfortable. I must do something about hiking shoes…

The walk into Franz Joseph Glacier

The walk into Franz Joseph Glacier

The next day I wanted to visit Fox glacier. This was only a 2km return walk. But I was still hurting from the effort the day before. I could sense the weather changing for the worst, so I didn’t go. There was a road going up to a viewing point. At the bottom of the road, there was a sign advising the road was unsuitable for camper vans. It was wrong. Seriously though, I think the sign is there just to keep out the big campers, and I wouldn’t want to take one of them up there.

So tomorrow I head back from whence I came to see what I missed out on today. Then I’ll press on to Queenstown and Milford Sound over there next few days.

November 3, 2014 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

New Zealand – travelogue entry 1

Hello from the land of the long white cloud. Having said that, I realise not many of you would know I’m currently in NZ. And I’ve just realised I don’t have my short emailing list with me, so I’m having to use my regular emailing list.

I have just completed the first part of my trip, this being the national disability Christian camp where something in the order of 300 people attend. It was quite an experience, and I’ve received enough Pentecostalism to last me many years to come…

I presented twice during the camp. I held a workshop discussing God’s grace being demonstrated through weakness – which was one of the themes of my thesis. We had a really good discussion – much to my relief. I was slightly my concerned about giving my testimony having identified the positive semi-Pelagius philosophy that drives much of Pentecostalism, and how it differs from my conservatism, which focusses on the value of suffering. Anyway, enough with the big words. I need not have worried. My testimony was well received. Even still, it was quite an experience. I had expect people to be vocalising there endorsement throughout my talk. What I didn’t expect was, at the end of my third last paragraph where I had applied the gospel to my own circumstance, I had to come to a complete stop to let the clapping and cheering subside. In a way, this was a good thing as it gave me a moment to compose myself before applying the gospel to them. Perhaps I’m more cut out as a Pentecostal preacher!! Oh my…

Jokes aside, I was pleased to revisit Pentecostalism to think about the philosophies behind it, the reasons for it, and why people find Pentecostalism attractive, and how those needs can be acknowledged and ministered to in a conservative context.

Apart from that, I had a great time catching up with old friends, and having a good laugh with new ones. I was quite shocked to see how many people I actually know in NZ.

tomorrow I fly to Christchurch to pick up a camper van and tour the South Island for 18 days. I’m very much looking forward to having some downtime. Especially after this theologically and philosophically provoking weekends.

October 27, 2014 Posted by | Travel | | Leave a comment

The Minister’s Desk Newsletter – December 2013

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So, where was this all leading? That was the question being asked for many years as I studied. My exit thesis was accepted on the second submission and came back with a distinction. Subsequently I was licensed to preach on the 17th March – an acknowledgment that I had completed my training. Yet the question remained, “Where was this all leading?” It wasn’t until mid March that any prospects of employment began to take shape.

The newly appointed CEO of Presbyterian Social Services asked the question I’ve long been waiting for, “Jason, what do you want to do?” Around 3 weeks later after further correspondence, I was appointed as the Disability Advocate for the NSW Presbyterian Church for 14hrs/week. The task: to educate the church on matters of disability and to equip the church to respond to the needs of people with disabilities and their carers – no small task for anyone! But there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. Consequently, 2013 was very much a whirlwind of a year.

Prior to taking the position, I had agreed to co-author a conference paper with Lindsey Gale (CBM, Melbourne) for the ‘Disability, Theology, and the People of God’ conference at Carey Bible College, Auckland in July. Happily, all this was considered part of my new position as research and development. This was a compilation of my exit thesis “The Role of the Holy Spirit in a person with a Disability and their relationship with the Church”, and Lindsey’s research into the results of the National Church Life Survey in regard to disability in the church. It was a mammoth project. Somehow, I think I had the easy end of the deal! All I had to do was come up with the theology – most of which I had already written. I just had to “de-nerd” my thesis by taking out all the Greek, which grated me… Anyway! Once upon a time, I didn’t know Greek either. I have since learned our paper has been accepted by the publisher for the conference book which is great news – and a relief!

So, this meant some travelling. In April I went to Melbourne to begin co-authoring the paper. This also provided an opportunity to catch up with friends, and share my faith at one of the schools. I also went to Auckland for the conference. Last time I was in New Zealand, I didn’t take the opportunity to have a look around after my training placement. This time, I was determined to take the opportunity! With the OK from work, I hired a motorhome for 10 days and toured parts of the North Island. It’s certainly one of the best holidays I’ve had. Some of the highlights were the Coromandel Peninsula, Hobbiton (Lord of the Rings movie set), and Rotorua. I really enjoyed learning about Maori culture as well. The geothermal areas were a freaky but intriguing place to be. I was really blessed with the weather. Of course, it rained. But it didn’t affect my activities. Hobbiton was well timed. Just as I was leaving, it began to rain – YES!! I found their winter isn’t that much colder than their summer, so staying warm and confortable wasn’t that much of an issue.

Apart from higher academic works, I’ve also had articles published in the Presbyterian NSW state magazine, ‘The Pulse’, and the National Magazine, ‘Australian Presbyterian’. I’ve been visiting churches and Presbyteries promoting Luke14 – the education initiative developed by CMB. Highlights have been to visit Mittagong Presbyterian who have an active ministry to include people with disabilities, and to visit Toukley Presbyterian on 2 occasions. Never had I received a reception to one of my sermons such as I did at Toukley. It was very encouraging. Much of the work is done at home, such as reviewing Scripture teaching material for children with intellectual disabilities, and continuing research into theological developments and current affairs in the area of disability.

A big blessing has been to have my church on board with my work. Gosford Presbyterian agreed to host all 5 Luke14 workshops dispersed throughout the year. This is giving me the opportunity to get a feel for the workshops and find out what works, and what doesn’t work. It’s been great to have a team of people supporting me as I run these workshops. So far, I’ve run two workshops, with the next one on Kids and Teens on the 9th March, 2014. I’m continually praying that churches will recognise the need, and make a decision to take positive action.

It was thrilling, then, to formalise this work with my ordination into the Presbyterian Church as a minister on the 20th October – something I was wondering if it would ever happen at the start of the year! To hear Dr. Ian Smith open God’s word, and have so many of my friends and family there was such a blessing. A few of my friends came from deep in the woodwork. This was an encouragement and a surprise. Being ordained and appointed to my position now means I have a say in what happens in the denomination the same as other ministers. I think this is a very good thing for the NSW Presbyterian Church, and not just for me.

So work is only 14hrs/week – what do I do the rest of the time? Again, I taught year 2 Scripture at Wyoming public this year. This is still a challenging exercise reinventing the lessons so I can deliver them with my limitations. I expect to be doing this again next year. I’m still running church services at Allambie Heights’ Cerebral Palsy Alliance. This year, we finished the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ series. We went through 1 John – which worked remarkably well. Now we’re half way through the ‘I am’ statements of Jesus in John’s Gospel. It’s been particularly encouraging this year to see these people affirming the Gospel. I’m also giving pastoral support in my own time, and leading my Bible Study group when required. I’m still involved with disability camps at Springwood, largely helping out with the teaching side of things So, life is full, and I have found myself some weeks with my head in 4 different parts of the Bible, in more than one language. I’ve enjoyed the interaction I have online discussing points of theology, and nuances in the Greek.

I have also made a point of bike ridding and exercise – not that it’s happened as much as I wanted. But I have grown acutely aware that the fitter I am, the more I can do. If I’m to keep up this work rate, along with looking after myself, I need to be fit! So I’m thankful that my work is only 14hrs/week with all the flexibility that I need.

Apart from tripping around in a Kiwi motorhome, I’ve also had opportunity to take shorter breaks. I took the opportunity to end a 12 year absence of attending Katoomba Easter Convention – a weekend of Christian teaching by international speakers. It was very refreshing. And I had a few days relaxing at Jervis Bay with friends this past spring.

So, where is this all heading? No idea! But God knows, and I very much look forward to the adventure. God had brought me thus far, doing what no one has been able to perceive. And I’m thankful to have your prayers and support along the way. College might be over (for now), but the hard work has only just begun.

In case anyone is wondering, I’ll still be writing under the title The Student’s Desk. “The Minister’s Desk” is only a celebratory title. I may no longer be at college, but I still consider myself as a student of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. That’s what the word ‘disciple’ means – student. If I’m not a disciple, then it’s high time I resign from the ministry! Evidently, I’m intent on remaining a disciple. Then there’s the prospect of a research master’s… one day.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

December 23, 2013 Posted by | Newsletters, Site News | 1 Comment

Dear Prime Minister, Jesus Christ is Lord: A response to Rudd’s comments on Q&A 2nd September, 2013.

In response to a Pastor insisting on a biblical view on marriage from Jesus’ words “ a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (quoting Genesis 2:24), the PM said,

 “Well, mate, if I was going to have that view, the Bible also says that slavery is a natural condition. Because St Paul said in the New Testament, “Slaves be obedient to your masters.” And, therefore, we should have all fought for the Confederacy in the US war.”

A number of Christian commentators have already made responses. I want to make two comments I haven’t seen made yet: A historical comment, and a redemptive comment.

The PM’s citation of the Bible comes from two places: Ephesians 6:5, and Colossians 3:22. Firstly, at a historical level, what was this ‘slavery’ that Paul was referring to? Are we really to imagine African chain gangs labouring away under a hot sun in the southern parts of the United States of America? 

Slavery in the Roman Empire was an integral part of life. And no doubt it could be brutal. Slaves from the north and west of the empire were often given the most difficult tasks, and worked in chain gangs. But this was not always the case. The preference was for slaves from the east, who would go on to be household servants, teachers, librarians, accountants, and estate managers. It’s estimated that 85-90% of the population of Rome and the Italian peninsula were slaves. These slaves were granted many rights. Slaves were able marry, and accumulate money to purchase their freedom and start their own business. Slaves also held other prominent positions in the community such as artisans, architects, physicians, administrators, philosophers, and grammarians. To equate Roman slavery with the American slave-trade is to be irresponsible with history.

Secondly, at a redemptive level, why does Paul even raise the issue of slavery. By these words, is Paul endorsing the ownership of human beings by other human beings? In 1 Corinthians 7:21, Paul seems to be encouraging slaves to gain there freedom. Presumably, this means to buy their freedom, as we also have Paul sending a slave back to his master with letters of commendation (Philemon 1:8-19). Paul can’t be endorsing slavery as we might imagine it. So what is Paul endorsing? Paul is endorsing a gospel-shaped life – a Jesus-centered life. Paul lists a number of positions in life including wives, husbands, children, and fathers that are to comply to such a life. The thing to take away from this passage is Jesus Christ is Lord no matter what your life situation is. Jesus Christ is Lord whether you’re a slave or a free capitalist. Jesus Christ is Lord whether you’re a part of a democracy or under a dictatorship. Jesus Christ is Lord whether you’re an employee or an employer. Jesus Christ is Lord whether you’re straight or gay. Jesus Christ is Lord whether you’re young, old, sick, healthy, disabled, able, educated, uneducated, married, single, whatever!! Even if you’re a historically irresponsible, Bible-twisting public servant, Jesus Christ is Lord.

There is one other position Paul mentions that I have deliberately left out until now. And how disappointing it is that those who wish to disparage the Bible can’t even be bothered reading a few more lines on to appreciate just how radically different the Jesus-centered life is. “And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.” (Ephesians 6:5). The Bible never accepts the brutality that comes with slavery, but seeks to transform it, as surely as it seeks to transform any life situation. This doesn’t mean the Bible endorses slavery, but it does seek to minimise it’s impact.

The concern here is, wherever we are in life, we are to respond to the grace God has lavished upon us. Firstly, as general providence as God gives us food to eat, clothes to wear, places to stay, and things to enjoy. Secondly, as a special providence in saving us by the forgiveness of our sins through the death and resurrection of His only son, and our Lord, Jesus Christ. 

THAT, Prime Minister, is the fundamental point of the Bible.

September 4, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How to create a group mailing list on an iPad

I worked this out when trialing a group email app, and quickly worked out what it did. It so simple, it’s stupid!

  1. Create a contact and in the name field, type your group name – i.e. ‘family’
  2. In the email field, type in all the emails address for your group. The email field will accept multiple email address.
  3. Click/tap [Done] when all the email address are entered
  4. Compose email.
  5. Insert the name of the group in the ‘To’, ‘CC’, or ‘BCC’ field. The group name should appear as you’re typing. Only the name of the group will appear, but it will contain all the email address.
  6. Type your email.
  7. Click/tap [Send]. Everyone in your group  should receive you’re email.

For existing group mailing lists on your Mac or PC, conversion is quite simple.

  1. Compose a new email.
  2. In the ‘To’, ‘CC’, or ‘BCC’ field, type the name of your group. The name and possibly the email of each individual will now appear.
  3. Select all the contacts (Mac: [COMMAND] + [A]. PC: [CONTROL] + [A])
  4. Copy the contacts (Mac: [COMMAND] + [C]. PC: [CONTROL] + [C])
  5. Create a contact and in the name field, type your group name – i.e. ‘family’
  6. In the email field, paste all the emails address for your group (Mac: [COMMAND] + [C]. PC: [CONTROL] + [C]). The email field will accept multiple email address.
  7. Click/tap [Done] when all the email address are entered.
  8. You can now compose your email as per the first set of instructions.

I told you it was simple!

May 28, 2013 Posted by | Web Bits | | Leave a comment

Being led by the Spirit – John 16:12-15

John 16:12-15

This sermon was preached at Wesley Church, 26th May 2013. A fuller text of the sermon is provided below.

In a news article I read recently, a mother and her daughter in North Carolina were found walking down the street naked. When stopped by police, the mother informed them they were walking down the street naked because God had told them to.[1]

In another article, a South Boston made was charged with disorderly conduct for ‘train surfing’. He later informed police that God told him to do anything he wanted.[2]

In a much more disturbing article, a mother accidently suffocated  to death her 3 year old daughter believing her daughter had a demon, and that God had told her to exorcise the demon. She was committed to a state mental health institution for six months.[3]

News articles like theses may well see us asking: what does it mean to be led by God, or by his Holy Spirit?

As Christians, we have experiences which we may describe as being led by the Holy Spirit. We may particularly seek out guidance by the Holy Spirit when buying a house or a car. Or searching for a job. Or considering a marriage partner, or whether to marry at all. And I don’t wish to put the legitimacy of those experiences into doubt. Even I, myself, sought the guidance of the Holy Spirit as to which passage I should preach on today. I was given a choice of 4 passages by this church, and I felt led to preach on John 16:12-15.

But these experiences do not define the norm for what it means to be led by the Holy Spirit. For if we keep pushing this kind of thinking, we will end up seeking the Holy Spirit over which breakfast cereal we should eat – which is just ridiculous. For if that is how we think of the Holy Spirit’s guidance, there’s not much, if anything, that separates us from those in the news. So, we are still left asking: what does it mean to be led by the Holy Spirit?

Can I say from the outset, that the work of the Holy Spirit is not to diminish our responsibility, but to enhance our responsibility as followers of Jesus. To understand how the Holy Spirit does this, we must understand who the Holy Spirit is, where he and his authority comes from, and what he actually does. Once we have done this, we’ll be in a much better position to know what it means to be lead by the Holy Spirit.

Before answering those questions, we may wonder why is the Holy Spirit needed? In John 16:12, we find the disciples suffering a bit of ‘information overload’. When you consider that this is one of the longest single discourses of Jesus we have recorded, it’s understandable. But this is not the main cause of the information overload. It starts way back in chapter 12 with the celebration of the Passover.  In 14:8, the discourse takes on a sharp focus with Phillip’s request for Jesus to show them the Father. In other words, Phillip is asking Jesus for a fuller, richer experience of what it means to be his disciple. They’re about to receive that experience in 1 week’s time when they witness Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. But they’re not going to understand it. That’s why they can’t bear what Jesus is saying to them now. Their eyes are glazed over, and nothing Jesus is saying is going in. How are they to continue on in the absence of Jesus, especially when they’re so thick?

The answer is the Holy Spirit referred to as ‘Spirit of Truth’ in v13. It’s not the first time he’s been mention in this discourse. So to find out more about him, and how he solves the problem, we’re going to look at other parts of this discourse.

So, who is he?

In 14:17, he is again referred to as the ‘Spirit of Truth’. There, we learn he is not of this world. He does not blend into this world. He cannot be received or recognised by the world. Why? I suggest it’s because his agenda is different to the world’s agenda. He does not entertain worldly passions. Do you want the Holy Spirit to lead you to that nice sports car, or that luxury yacht because your workmate has one? I suggest it’s not going to happen. The Holy Spirit’s concern is different from the world’s concerns.

In 14:6, 26 and 16:7, the Greek word used to refer to him is paracletos, and is usually translated as ‘helper’ or ‘counsellor’. I suggest another helpful word might be ‘coach’. He coaches us in our relationship with God. A sports coach doesn’t play the game for you, nor tell you what to do at every single point in the game. But he does point you in the right direction, and equips you to play the game well. Don’t expect the Holy Spirit to do your decision making for you. But look to him so you do make good decisions.

Where does the Holy Spirit and his authority come from?

In 14:26 we learn that the Holy Spirit comes from the Father in Jesus’ name. He is sent by the Divine Father who has been revealed by the Divine Son. This should give us a clue as to why he is not of this world, and cannot be engaged by the world. Because he is of God, and is God he is engaged in God’s work. His concerns are God’s concerns.

That’s why in 16:13, we learn that he has no authority is not his own. He takes what is God’s and what belongs to Jesus, and makes it know to us. So if you find the spirit is saying one thing, and the Jesus is saying another in the Bible, I suggest to you whatever spirit your listening to is not the Holy Spirit. Because the Holy Spirit does not speak of his own authority, but only the authority of the Father and the Son. And we know what the Father and the Son have said, because it’s been recorded for us in the Bible. There’s no guess work for us!

So, what does the Holy Spirit do?

In 14:26 we learn that the Holy Spirit reminds and teaches us what Jesus said. In 16:7 we learn that the ministry of the Holy Spirit is in direct relation to Jesus’ ministry. Jesus’˜ ministry was to make atonement for sin in his death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit applies that ministry to us. That’s why Jesus says in 16:7, “if I don’t go, he wont come”. Jesus was going to make atonement for sin, and unless that happened, they’d be no atonement for the Holy Spirit to apply. And if there’s no atonement to apply, there’s no work for the Holy Spirit to do. Follow??

In 16:13, we learn that the Holy Spirit guides us in all truth. Does this mean that Christians don’t need to study for exams? I can’t see any of my former lectures at Bible College being convinced of that kind of thinking! The force of what is said here is that the Holy Spirit will immerse us in everything Jesus has said. The disciples hardly understood anything Jesus said to them. But it was still truth. It was still relevant. The disciples needed to be immersed in that truth by the Holy Spirit so they could understand it with their minds, and have it seep into their hearts, and out through their bodies as they lived out that truth.

We also learn that the Holy Spirit declares the things that are to come. Does that mean that there’s more revelation to come? For us, no. For the disciples, yes. Remember, in 1 week’s time, they will see their beloved Lord crucified, buried and resurrected, and though they may believe, they will not understand. In 20:8-9, Peter believed but didn’t understand. In v13, Mary Magdalene thought someone had moved Jesus’ body. And in v25, poor old doubting Thomas needed physical proof!

It wasn’t until the Holy Spirit came that they understood why Jesus had died, and was resurrected. The Holy Spirit reminded them of everything Jesus had taught, and made known to them the meaning of his death and resurrection. That when he died, he was taking their punishment, in their place, for their sins against a Holy and Righteous God. That they were no longer their own to do as they pleased, but they now belonged to God, PURCHASED by the precious and pure blood of Jesus for eternity. That they no longer belonged to this world with all of its selfishness, all of its lust, and all of its greed. But they now belonged to a new order, a heavenly order, where the good of the other is sought in love, and God the Father and his Son Jesus are worshipped alone, and are made known.

The same is true for us. We need to be immersed in that glorious truth by the Holy Spirit. The truth that we have been PURCHASED. We no longer belong to this world, so why on earth do we insist on living like it? We belong to God, and we live according to a heavenly order. The Holy Spirit guides us and enables us to do that. We owe Jesus praise and worship, big time!

It’s no wonder, then, that in 16:14 we learn the Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus. The Holy Spirit keeps pointing back to Jesus. There is nothing more to know about God apart from Jesus. Jesus says, “Everything the Father has is mine…” Everything! … Everything concerning God, who he is, what he’s doing, what he will do, it’s all found in Jesus. All that the Holy Spirit talks about is Jesus. This is why Jesus says in v15, “… he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

Are you starting to notice a pattern here? Being led by the Holy Spirit is not about our activity, and God responding to our small-time ideas. It’s about God’s saving activity in Jesus, and us responding to God’s ideas for eternity!

Being led by the Holy Spirit is about Jesus. Knowing Jesus and glorifying Jesus. There is nothing else to know or to be revealed apart from Jesus, because everything concerning God has been given to Jesus.

Therefore, being led by the Holy Spirit involves much more than our decisions. It involves our thoughts and our attitudes. We are to look for ways where we can be immersed in the truth about Jesus, growing in our knowledge of him, and glorifying him.

So, when it comes to buying a house, or a car, ask yourself, “How will this glorify Jesus?” When looking for a job, or a marriage partner, ask yourself, “Will this help me grow in my knowledge of Jesus, or is it a distraction?”

And if you really can’t make up your mind between Cornflakes and Cocoa Pops, there’s a very easy solution – have both! God gave us food to enjoy. Don’t make it any more complicated than what it has to be!

Being led by the Holy Spirit means growing in the knowledge of Jesus, and glorifying him in all we do.

(c) The Student’s Desk, 2013


May 26, 2013 Posted by | Bible, Sermons | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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