The Last Word

Ecclesiastes 5:1-2  Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.


Words – there are far too many of them now days. They are often used without thought, or to fill space, or to make us feel better, or someone else worse. There are some people or media platforms or “voices” that you would rather not hear because of their lack of substance, constant dribble or hurtful or unfiltered commentary. Similarly there are those people or “voices” that you pay attention to every time they use words because you know it will be wisdom that is thought out and worth listening to. We note in Scripture the crowds hung on Jesus every word.

When we speak to God I wonder how he views us sometimes? Are we hasty in our prayers and words before him, pouring out ill-thought questions and requests and demands or comments? Don’t get me wrong, God loves us to pour out our heart to him, but the writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that when we come to God we should come to listen more than to speak. We should not be hasty in our utterances, and that we should look at our “steps” or examine our hearts when we engage him in conversation or in worship.

Listening is an art that doesn’t always come naturally to us. For me and I am sure many others, it was something that had to be learned and still needs to be refined and thought about regularly. The art of listening needs to be developed and grown and valued. It is a gift to the “other” and also the way to know God better and to hear his still small voice. Yet in our culture everyone wants to have the last word, as if somehow that makes what they have said “right” or that by having the last word they have somehow “won” the argument or discussion. This is clearly seen in debates, panels on TV, social media, online conversations and in our own daily relationships. It is a scourge and it is a false narrative.

Having the last word is not a Godly character. A much better posture is one of listening, to others and to God. God always has the last word anyway and we will be much more effective in ministry and relationships if we spent more time listening than trying to ensure we have the last word – in anything. So don’t be quick with your mouth, but be quick with your ears. And resist trying to have the last word either with people or with God.

First Nations Christians

The first week in January I travelled to Port Augusta with a team from Adelaide to run the kids program at the National Aboriginal Evangelical Fellowship Congress. This congress is run every two years and gathers Aboriginal Christians from all over Australia. Every morning we ran a kids program from 9:30-12:30 and had about 30-40 kids attend each day. In the evenings, we joined the whole congress for worship and to hear various speakers. It was a great experience and an honour so serve our Aboriginal brothers and sisters in Christ. Our team was a pretty “rag tag” bunch from many nationalities and we all were imperfect people. It reminded me of Jesus disciples who were also a pretty mixed bunch that you would not necessarily think would be the best selection for a team!

A few things stood out to me from sharing with our Aboriginal church communities. Firstly they love Jesus and understand probably much better than we do that they are made in God’s image and are deeply connected to the land and to creation. Secondly, they do community much better than we do and talking to each other is more important than running a slick and “polished” program. Thirdly, they do carry deep scars relating to our shared history and we need to listen to them and support them firstly as fellow Christians over and above as “fellow Australians”.

Their art and the way they portray God and the gospel through their art is incredible and very powerful. Several decades ago there was a revival that started at Elcho Island and spread around Australia. My hope and sense is that for God to reconcile the deep hurts in our national psyche relating to our first nation people, it should come through and be led by our Aboriginal Christian brothers and sisters. We have all been reconciled to Christ and it is only through him that true reconciliation can happen between white and black. There is something truly significant in our first nation peoples gathering from across the land to worship God and pray for his Spirit to be at work in this land – their land, our land.

As an extra treat, we also got to baptise one of our team members from Westcare Baptist under the Port Augusta bridge toward the end of the week. That was an extra bonus to see God at work in her life over those few days. Let’s continue to pray for the work of God among our Aboriginal communities and may that work flow over into our nation through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Grace and Peace - Garry

Being Formed

I read recently that the best artists whom we hold as the most “talented” are actually the ones who often work the hardest and have crafted their skill over many years. They may have talent, but to refine that and harness it takes hard work and dedication. Painting a masterpiece or carving a piece of furniture or creating a beautiful score of music takes hours of training and dedication. An artist was asked “how long” it took him to paint a particular piece or work that someone was admiring. His answer was “sixty years” because that is how long he had been learning his craft which led to him being able to paint this recent piece.

God also is the business of shaping and crafting and forming people into his image and the fullness of all we were created to be. Yet this formation takes time and there are no short cuts. Most of us lead unremarkable lives that have seemingly little impact of any real significance, yet God is shaping or wanting to shape us uniquely for his glory and purposes. However, we often want to race to the end or shortcut the process and get to the “glory” bit (often our glory) without going through the formation.

Many people in the Bible took years to be formed by God. Moses (40), David (at least 13), Joseph (2-5 years as a slave and imprisoned).. That doesn’t mean God doesn’t use us in the formation process, but sometimes we down play the formation and just want to be at the end when we look back and make sense of it all. But God is the potter and we are the clay. We need to allow ourselves to be softened in his hands and trust that the pressure that is applied to shape us is done in love. We can trust the pressure and direction of his hands because they hold nail scars that tell us he loves us and he is forming each of us as he sees best to be used in the unique purpose he has, no matter how unremarkable that might seem to us or others.

So being formed and shaped by God through the ups and downs of life is vital to becoming the person he wants us to be. But we must remain soft and not hard hearted toward him and we must trust that he knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows whether we should be a “plate” or a “jug” or a “bowl” and how he wants to use us in his Kingdom work on earth. Don’t look at someone else and wish to be like them, just be open and allow God to form you.

Grace and Peace - Garry

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Bored with the Bible?

I have been reading Eugene Peterson’s book on his journey as a pastor (second time through) and was struck by his view of the Bible growing up as it was somewhat similar to my own. For me being in a Christian family and missionary environments, I was always surrounded by Scripture in one way or another. Yet often it seemed people used it to contest their factions or push their views. It seemed to often be reduced to rules and principles and a guide book that was there to ensure I avoided terrible moral potholes that others kept telling me about in hushed and stern terms. It could also be simplified into clichés and various slogans or sayings about sentimental god talk that was intended to motivate others but mostly had the opposite effect.

But the Bible is so much more than this – it is a collection of stories of how God encountered people and radically changed their lives and their persons and their world view. These were normal everyday people like you and me who were bumbling along trying to do their best and were surprised by God when they encountered him. They wrote their stories to try and communicate their encounters so that other people would be able to engage with this same God who had met them.

The Bible is a series of books written by humans for humans but conveying deep truths about God and directed by his Holy Spirit. Reading it is a bit like reading a newspaper in that there are many parts. There are the front page headlines, the feel good stories, the horror stories, the poetry and arts section, the funnies. Each of these needs to be read appropriately and cannot be boiled down to boring clichés and moral slogans. God is so much more real and connected and engaged in the worlds mess than my experience of him growing up.

So next time you pick up the Bible ask God to encounter you as you read the way he encountered the people of old and reveal more to you about this amazing life and kingdom that he has saved us into. This transformed way of living that reconciles us to God and us to each other. Once we truly understand it the Bible becomes anything but boring!

Grace and Peace - Garry

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Every faith has some form of prayer. Even communism in Russia in the 1950’s told people if they were struggling or doubting or tired then they should think of Stalin, and work would go well and they would find strength. That is a form of prayer and meditation. Prayer is often entered into by those struggling; the word “prayer” comes from the Latin root precarius – a linguistic cousin to “precarious.”

Thomas Merton said “prayer is an expression of who we are… We are living incompleteness. We are a gap, an emptiness that calls for fulfilment.” But in much of our Postmodern world, scepticism taints prayer and we live in an atmosphere of doubt. The need for prayer (precariousness) is also diluted by prosperity and time pressures and in “busyness” crowd out the slowing down that prayer seems to require.

Prayer is also somewhat confusing and a wrestle in my experience. Martyn Lloyd-Jones sums up this confusion in this way: “Of all the activities in which the Christian engages, and which are part of the Christian life, there is surely none which causes so much perplexity, and raises so many problems, as the activity which we call prayer.”

And so as like Philip Yancey states in his book on prayer, I come to this practice as a fellow pilgrim rather than an expert or guru. We have many questions. Is God listening? Why would God care about me? If God knows everything, why should we pray? Why do answers to prayer seem so inconsistent and random? If more people pray about an issue, does it increase the chances for the prayer to be answered? Does prayer change God or does prayer change me?

And yet despite all this prayer is vitally important in our relationship with God and partnering with him in building his kingdom in the world. Prayer is the place where God and human beings meet. It has many features in common with all other important relationships. These include dullness, ecstasy, distraction, acute concentration, joy, irritation, doubt and great faith. In this mix, God meets with us and we encounter him in the way that he reveals himself.

Philip Yancey says two of the important wrestles of life are: why doesn’t God act the way I want him to, and why don’t I act the way God wants me to? Prayer is the place where these two great themes converge. Let us pray without ceasing.

Grace and Peace - Garry


The Weeping Prophet

Are you finding life a bit of a struggle of late? Feeling down or overwhelmed and a bit frustrated with God? Reading through Jeremiah recently highlighted how tough a life he had and how difficult the task was the God called him too. He didn’t want to speak out, his message was not well received, and he often complained to God about his calling and the difficulty of the task. Yet God was unrelenting in his command for Jeremiah to be his mouthpiece and told him not to marry or have children to add to his burden.

Although at times reading the story it seems really unfair, God did protect Jeremiah physically and he preserved is life both through is preaching and also after the invasion of the Babylonians. God cared for him personally but Jeremiah also had to come to accept and make peace with the fact that God was using him in much bigger story that involved nation’s not just individuals. I am glad Jeremiah was faithful and that we have his writings in the Bible to draw from today. But I am glad I didn’t have to be Jeremiah and I stand from afar and hold him in very high regard as a faithful witness over decades of turmoil and hardship.

Sometimes God calls us or just allows us to go through really tough situations in which we might not be able to make sense of what is happening. Unlike Jeremiah we might not see the bigger picture or see any good out of what is happening to us or those around us. Like Jeremiah we can openly talk to God and even grumble in a “holy respectful” way at such times. But we should also remember that God is on about more than our personal happiness and that his call to us is one of trust and obedience and faithful living as his people.

We can draw hope from Jeremiah’s experience that God will never abandon us nor does go out of his way to make our life hard like some mean schoolyard bully. We have his Holy Spirit in us and Jesus stands before the Father as our advocate who has been “tested” in every way as we have and understands our struggles and weaknesses. So if life is hard, press into God, pour out your heart to him and hold on in faith to him with everything you have. He will see you through.

Grace and Peace - Garry

The Day God Washed My Feet

I will always remember that night, not just because of what happened in the hours after when my world shattered and I acted so shamefully, but because of what happened at that meal. Looking back, we really had no idea of the significance of what was going on. In fact, some of us were stupidly arguing which of us was the greatest! I mean can you believe that! We were like kids in the school yard- actually worse than that because we were adults and because we had been with him for 3 years and seen and heard so much. How thick and stupid we were.

But that was the reality of what happened, I can’t sugar coat it or pretend it was different. Then he got up, took off his outer clothes, wrapped a towel around his waist, and collected some water in a basin. He began to move around the group and to wash our dirty feet. He, our rabbi and our leader began to do what the slaves and servants do. This quickly put an end to our petty discussion about who was greatest and made me feel very ashamed – a feeling that would come back to me even more strongly in a few short hours.

When he came to me, perhaps out of shame or even out of pride wanting to be more “holy” than the others; I loudly declared he would never wash my feet. His reply sat me back on my pants pretty smartly – unless I wash you, you have no part in me! In my shock, I blurted out another of my “shoot from the hip” comments about him washing all of me.

His explanation of his actions stood so starkly against our discussion about greatness. He said that as our teacher and Lord, he had chosen to wash our feet and take on the role of a servant. In addition, that we were no greater than he and should serve and wash others feet, even those who were “below” us. After his death and resurrection the term “wash you” took on even more significance as we understood what he meant but declaring that his blood would be poured out for us. So God washed my feet – an act I can never really get my head around. But then he told me to go and do the same for others, and that I can get me head around!


In my Bible in a Year reading, I have been going through proverbs and the sayings of King Solomon, supposedly the wisest man who ever lived. Wisdom literature is a big part of many ancient cultures and is seemingly one of the things that has been abandoned in our postmodern, post-truth relativistic society.

Yet wisdom is so important and ultimately comes from God. When we ignore it and live by our own rules or intelligence then we can run into trouble very quickly. Here are some of the profound statements that have stood out to me in my readings.

The Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.

The person of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.

When words are many sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.

Wealth is worthless in the day of judgement, but righteousness delivers from death.

Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil.

All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart.

Like one who seizes a stray dog by the ears is a passer-by who meddles in a quarrel not his own.

As twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife.


To gain wisdom spend time in God’s word, reflect on your heart attitudes and guard your heart and your lips. No one else can guard your heart, only you can do that. And no one else can teach you wisdom and the fear of the Lord unless you are open to learn and obey.

Even Solomon in his old age acted foolishly and neglected the very wisdom he wrote down. He didn’t guard his heart and he loved his foreign wives and their gods more than the Lord, though supposedly he was the wisest man on the earth. That should be a warning to us who feel secure; wisdom can be gained but our hearts can always be turned away from God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning and end of all wisdom.

Grace and Peace - Garry

Heart for God

We are starting our new sermon series in 1 Samuel this week and as I have been reading through the book I have been reflecting on the person of King David who is a key player in the narrative. The Bible portrays David as being a “man after God’s own heart” which is a pretty amazing statement. Yet when you look closely at his life David was far from perfect and there are many other characters you would thing would be more worthy of that title. David after all was an adulterer and a murderer!

Yet it seems there was something about him and his heart that God loved despite his terrible behaviour at times. Reflecting on this raised some interesting things. Firstly I am so grateful that God forgives people like David and me when we let him down so badly (there were consequences for David though), secondly what was it about David’s heart that God loved and what is the state of my own heart towards God? Do I have a heart that is after his?

Despite his flaws David had some outstanding characteristics that we should all aspire to which I think reflect the heart of God and were some of the things that God loved about him. He readily admitted his guilt with no excuses. He constantly threw himself on the mercy of God when he was in danger, down, found out, or just dry and worn out. He worshiped God passionately and was not afraid to show that publicly or to lead the people in worship himself, even though his own wife thought him undignified. He penned dozens of psalms pouring out his soul to God and also great songs of praise and adoration. He often sought God’s will and was obedient when God commanded him to do certain things.

So having a heart after God doesn’t mean you have to be perfect! Thank goodness for that! But when we look at our heart, our own agendas, where we put our trust and what we worship, are we like David? Despite his failings I would love to be more like David. I would love to pray this prayer with him. “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me”.

Grace and Peace – Garry Parker


As we head into Easter and reflect on Jesus death, one of the main elements of the whole sacrifice motif is the element of faith on the part of the one to be cleansed. Right throughout the Old Testament and into Jesus ministry, those who encounter God and are forgiven or healed or transformed all exhibit faith. When God called Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, he had faith that God would raise him from the dead. When the Israelites in Egypt enacted Passover, they had faith that by putting the blood on the door posts the angel of death would pass over. When people offered sacrifices in Jerusalem they had faith that the shed blood would cleanse them from their sin and restore their relationship with God. When Jesus encountered people it was their faith that enabled them to be healed.

The Bible says that faith in Jesus as our Passover lamb leads to salvation for us now. So what is faith? Hebrews 11 tells us that “faith is be sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”. Jesus said that all we need is faith the size of a mustard seed – so it is very powerful when exercised. Yet it can still be hard to grasp and hold on to. The key element of faith is not purely the action but the person or thing in which you put your faith in. Sometimes I seen on car windows stickers that say “Just Believe”, or “Magic Happens”. So you could say that is faith, but I would say it is useless faith because the object is non-existant or powerless. We can put our faith in Jesus because he has demonstrated through his life, death and resurrection that he is the author of life and able to forgive and cleanse once and for all.

So the power comes from the object of our faith, yet there is a need for us to put into action our faith as an act of obedience and trust. When we do that then the mystery of salvation occurs. God’s power is released and we encounter him, and the Holy Spirit changes us from the inside out. We are set free, forgiven, restored, and we become children of God and heirs of the promise of salvation both now and yet to come. May Jesus increase our faith in him.

Grace and Peace - Garry

Spiritual Gifts

Ephesians 4 - But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.…..It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up

We choose very little about ourselves. For example our sex, family, natural abilities, looks, whether we are introverted or extroverted, our skin colour, our nationality, the time in history we were born. But the Bible tells us that we are God’s “craftsmanship” created to do good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do. God made each of us unique, but he also have given us gifts to use to build up the church. Sometimes we refer to these as “Spiritual Gifts” but as spiritual beings, all our abilities no matter how practical are holy and “spiritual” if used for the kingdom of God.

Some basics about “Spiritual Gifts”

1 – You don’t get to choose your gifts but the Bible does say we should desire different gifts

2 – The “fruit of the Spirit” rather than spiritual gifts reveal the heart and character of a person

3 – Don’t project your gift(s) on to others and expect everyone to be like you

4 – Don’t cop out of some gifts; for example not everyone has the gift of evangelism but everyone should tell others about Jesus and the work of God in your life when you opportunity

5 – Unity is not uniformity, there is diversity within unity

6 – Spiritual gifts can be abused

We can also chose to bury our gifts or not use them. Things that inhibit us using our gifts include doubt, fear, shame arising from failure or being judged, and limited opportunity. If you are unsure about your gifts take some time to think about what resonates with you or what needs burden you. Or ask a trusted friend or family member what they see in you. Sometimes others see gifts in us and call them out even when we don’t see them in ourselves. Jesus is the gift giver and the Holy Spirit empowers us as we exercise our gifts to bring glory to the Father. So let me encourage you to use your gifts, be intentional about them and exercise them so they can grow and build up the body of Christ.

Grace and Peace - Garry


As I have been reading through Philippians I have had cause to think about what it means to be truly humble. In chapter 2 we read these words about Jesus:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


Humility is not about putting yourself down so that others might praise you and lift you up. Neither is it about being a doormat and allowing people to walk all over you. But there is something in this passage about submission, the question is to who? Jesus as an equal part of the Trinity humbled himself in becoming human because of his love for and in the joint will of the Father and the Spirit. Because of what he did the Father glorified and honoured him. Jesus could humble himself fully in this healthy way because he was secure fully in who he was in the Father.

So similarly, we can serve others and look to the interests of others not by being a doormat, but because we also can be secure in our identity and who we are in the Father and now in Christ. We submit ourselves to serving the church and the world because we love God and that is what he has asked us to do. So do a heart check from time to time. What are your motives? Are they selfish, are they appeasing guilt? Or are you looking to the interests of others around you in a healthy way because you are fully secure in who you are in God? God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

Grace and Peace - Garry


Mission vs. model

Most people don’t like change; perhaps it is a human trait that has some connection to a protective element deep in our psyche. But one of the only certainties in life ironically is change! It happens all around us and it happens even if we ignore it or chose to avoid it. I recently attended a training session where the speaker discussed the difference between mission and model in relation to churches and change. We often mix the two up, and when we do churches can get stuck in a time warp and yet somehow still feel they are being faithful to the great commission.

Mission is the heart of the church, its DNA if you like, and this should always remain the same no matter what part of the world we live in or what century or decade we belong to. That is to live as followers of Jesus and be obedient to all he taught us to do and to live by the values and actions of the Kingdom of God. To love God with all our hearts, to love our neighbours, to seek justice, to care for the poor, to be a community that reflects the love of Jesus in the way we worship and serve each other and those around us. I could go on but I think you get the picture!

...the mission and core DNA of the church never changes, and always remains counter cultural.

The model on the other had is how we do the mission at any particular point in time, but this has, will, and should change as the world and culture changes around us. Before you get your hackles up let me explain. For example, I now often read my Bible on my smart phone in church rather than carrying a big heavy leather Bible. We use the web and social media to communicate in very different ways than we did 10 or 20 years ago. The world is much more global and connected which affects our identity and connection. We sing songs that are different and play different instruments than we did in the early 20th century. Youth ministry and kids church looks very different compared to a few years ago, and all of these things are ok. In fact, the model has to change or the church suffers and gets out of touch with the people it is trying to reach. But the mission and core DNA of the church never changes and always remains counter cultural throughout all ages. However, if we get mission and model confused and think that our current “model” of church is the mission and DNA of the church, then we run into real problems.

In this season of change at Parkside let us hold firmly to our mission, to our core DNA, to the values that are central to being a Jesus centred community. But may we also embrace change and new ways and expressions of faith that breathe life into us and create space for people who join our community to help us to form a new model that might be a bit different to what we have done in the past. I am expectant about what God has in store for us moving forward!

Grace and Peace – Garry

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Follow me

This month we are celebrating seven baptisms among our young people for which we give praise and thanks to God. Seven young people who are committing their lives to follow Jesus and are making that public declaration through the waters of baptism. We are also fare-welling Riley and Naomi who are similarly committing to follow Jesus by responding to his call to go and serve his people down at Victor Harbor Baptist Church. Riley has invested much in those seven young people being baptised, but they are not being baptised to follow Riley. They are committing to follow Jesus who gave his life for them. Pondering all these events has reminded me that each of us, no matter how far along the journey of faith we are, have to choose each day to follow Jesus. Whether we have just been baptised, or like Laurel who is still following Jesus well into her 90’s, we must choose each day to live our lives for him. Relationships are never static and each day is a day of new engagement with Jesus just as it is with each of our friends or spouses or family.

Jesus call continues to be “follow me” whether we are young or old, new in the faith or seasoned travellers. To be a disciple means to be a follower and that is a lifelong calling. But every relationship can grow cold and even long term friendships and marriages can rely too much on the past rather than the present. Even as a Senior Pastor I have to choose to follow Jesus each day and to be present to him and make spending time with him a priority while working in a church! In fact, at times serving the church can get in the way of my relationship with Jesus in a weird sort of way. I can be a busy Christian and Pastor who is actually not daily following Jesus and listening to him.

I can be a busy Christian and pastor who is actually not following Jesus daily and listening to him.

So we celebrate and rejoice as our young people declare through the waters of baptism that they are committing their lives to follow Jesus. And we celebrate and rejoice (with some sadness) as Riley and Naomi follow Jesus call to Victor Harbor. But we also need to choose, each and every one of us, to daily say yes to following Jesus. Yes to following him whole heartedly. Yes to being available to him each and every day. Yes to being ready to share our story with those who are seeking. Yes to serving people around us and loving them as part of our love for God. The call of Jesus to the first disciples washing their nets on the sea of Galilee is exactly the same call he gives to you and I – Follow me!

Grace and peace - Garry

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Spiritual posers

Andrea and I read about a woman in our daily devotion who really struggled to go to the gym because how bad she felt around all the fit and chiselled bodies working out. She felt so awkward and uncomfortable looking at her own body around the muscular and toned gym users. So the place that this woman needed to be and could really help her became a place that actually drove her away and was very unhelpful. Gyms should be places for people trying to lose weight and they should be places where they feel comfortable and welcomed and accepted. Just like hospitals should be places where sick people feel they will get the help they need rather than being embarrassed because their appendix burst.

Jesus came for the sick, not the healthy...

It got me thinking about our spiritual “fitness” and how church should not be a place where broken people or “unspiritual” people feel uncomfortable around “buff” super spiritual Christians who have everything together. Jesus said that he came for the sick not the healthy and he spent time with unpretentious sinners with messed up lives. That is not to say we don’t want people to become spiritually mature, but rather we want to be supporting and encouraging people who are seeking God to feel they belong and are welcome at Parkside Baptist Church. Being broken and a bit messed up is a very good reason to come to God among his people. Anyone who thinks they are spiritually together or superior and comes to do some “spiritual posing” is on dangerous ground. Jesus made that very clear to the religious leaders in his day. He also preached the sermon on the mount where he talked about how blessed those are who are struggling with life. So echoing that teaching we say:

Blessed are those who are stressed – find your rest in Jesus.

Blessed are those who are anxious – find your peace in Jesus.

Blessed are those who feel unworthy – you are deeply loved by God.

Blessed are those who barely make it to church – you are welcome and we are so glad you made it!

Blessed are those who feel fragmented – Jesus wants to gently restore you.

So if you feel “spiritually unfit” but you want to grow closer to God, then you are in exactly the right place and very welcome in the courts of our Saviour and King, who opens wide his nail scarred hands with a smile on his face.

Grace and Peace – Garry

Tithes and offerings

In the OT when God formed the nation of Israel and called his people out of Egypt, the significant event was the Passover. God destroyed the first born of Egypt yet “passed over” the houses of the Hebrews where they had blood over the door post. Following that event, the firstborn or first fruits of everything was always dedicated to God in remembrance of his salvation. Not only that, the first fruits or first born had to be the very best of their flocks and herds and fields. God stipulated that 10% of their produce along with the first born should be given to him as an act of worship and thanksgiving – a tithe from which we derive our practice of church offerings each week.

Ever since I started working and earning money I have tithed 10% to God, and Andrea and I continue to do that now as part of our weekly budgeting irrespective of other circumstances in our lives. Our church and I personally don’t dictate what you should give to God financially, but I think the Biblical principle is there and should be taken seriously. The principle at its heart is this; give to God your best not your leftovers because he has given his best for you. The first thing we should offer God is ourselves over and above our finances or time in service. Jesus said the most important commandment is to love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, and then to love your neighbour as yourself. But we should also give out of the abundance of wealth and provision that each of us has been entrusted with.

Give to God your best, not your leftovers, because he has given his best for you.

In this season of change at PBC we will be restructuring our staff and looking at new mission opportunities, and as such I encourage you to donate regularly as God moves your heart. Practically working out our church budget is no different to running our household budgets and we want to be good stewards of our resources. A great way to keep on top of this is to set up regular EFT transactions as your tithe. We now have a new church bank account. When you change your details if you give via EFT it is a great opportunity to assess your giving and set up a regular transaction so we can budget reliably and accordingly as a church. This is not a hard sell for you to increase your giving; that is between you and God. But we would like our offerings to be regular so that we can budget our staffing and mission and maintenance costs going forward. The details of the account are available in Signpost or the weekly email. If God moves you to give, then give cheerfully and not out of guilt!

Grace and Peace – Garry

tithes and offerings

All paths lead to God – or do they?

Tolerance and diversity are buzz words that are used a lot in our culture, especially when it comes to religious belief or otherwise. Pluralism says that we should accept all religions and live in harmony because all roads lead to the same God; we are all on the journey up the mountain but just on different paths. Agreed we must love each other, however, there are some fundamental problems with this nice sounding approach that need serious consideration before we all share a group hug. Firstly, the portraits of God, Jesus and ultimate reality offered in the different sacred writings of the various religions are so contradictory. Unless God is not altogether truthful, it is not possible to argue for pure pluralism. Secondly, pluralism claims to have discovered a higher truth than all other religions; that is that we are all a bit deluded and in fact all religions are the same. This claim of a higher reality or enlightenment assumes an intellectual high ground that exceeds any of the claims of the world religions. Yet if asked to define clearly what this higher reality actually is, pluralists are remarkably vague and incoherent in their description of this God or greater reality.

I think pluralism is attractive, not because it offers a clearer and new perspective of a personal universal God that is some combination of all world religions. But its foundation is that it cannot tolerate the claims of the different religions, especially Christianity and Islam. The idea of judgment and consequences for people’s actions and choices is not palatable. Neither is the idea that any one of the major religions might be right and hold the ultimate truth. So therefore there must be a different reality, but one that they cannot clearly define. They know what they don’t like but they struggle to articulate clearly the reality that they claim is the higher and superior knowledge. To put it another way, pluralists like some of what Jesus say but not all of what Jesus says.

Tolerance comes from the Latin word tolerare, meaning “to bear” something harmful or contrary. To gently bear another in love is truly tolerant, not to embrace all of their views into yours or agree on everything. True tolerance does not involve accepting every view point as true and valid; it involves treating with love and humility someone who holds to different opinions and values without being untrue to yourself.

True tolerance does not involve accepting every view point as true and valid

Pluralism I believe delivers much less than it promises. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life – no one comes to the father but through me”. Does that mean that people who have never heard of Jesus won’t be in heaven? No. But does that mean all paths lead to God? No. If God has revealed himself and Jesus is the Son of God, then we have to submit our will to his no matter how intolerant the world tells us we are. But we must do all things in love; love for God and love for others.

Grace and Peace – Garry

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Growing up in our faith

A couple of weeks ago my two sisters and brother and I visited my parents for a special family catch up. As we sat around the living room we realised that this was the first time in 25 years that we had been together, just as a core family without spouses or grandkids or friends. It felt a bit odd with just us kids and mum and dad again after nearly a quarter of a century. However things were different now. We were adults who had lived a lot of life and no longer self-centred teenagers who treated home something like a free B&B. As we reflected and talked I realised that we all appreciated mum and dad a lot more and that our relationships with them and each other were much more mature and adult. It was different but in a good way.

As another year has passed and we reflect on our journey with God I hope that we can look back and see that we have also grown in our relationship with him as our heavenly Father. As each year passes and we grow in our faith and spiritual maturity, God wants us to move from being “infants” as Paul describes, to sons and daughters who have a deeper and more mature relationship with Him. I have been a Christian for about 30 years now and don’t treat God like I used to when I was younger. My relationship with him is deeper and more thankful, despite the struggles and trials of life that have come my way. Yes there are more “shades of grey”, but there are also more vibrant colours as I have learned to walk with Him. I no longer expect things of him that are motivated by my own selfish desires. I understand the value of suffering and know that God uses difficult times to grow me and bring me closer to himself if I will allow him.

The longer and deeper the relationship, the greater the trust and love grows as we share experiences, both difficult and joyful.

The longer and deeper the relationship, the greater the trust and love that grows as we share experiences, both difficult and joyful. We need to be “bigger on the inside” than we are on the outside. As we grow in our relationship with God then he can fill us more with his Spirit, and out of that flow to others around us who need his love. This year my prayer is that individually and as a community we will grow into a greater maturity of faith as we walk with Jesus. That we might grow bigger on the inside and be filled more and more with the Holy Spirit. Not only that we might be blessed but that God might overflow through us to a needy and hurting world.

Grace and Peace – Garry

Growing up in our faith

Remember the 'dots'

A couple of years ago we put up a map of greater Adelaide on the wall of the church and got everyone to put a red dot on the map where they spent most of their time during the week. This highlighted the “reach” and “footprint” of PBC between our weekly Sunday gatherings – and the spread was huge. We also did a map of the world and looked at all the places PBC has people serving! Many of us don’t live near the church but it was encouraging to see how much of Adelaide (and the globe) had someone from PBC in it most days.  So although we are limited a bit in “local mission” we have this massive opportunity to be missional every week across our city and beyond. Starting more “programs” may not be the most effective thing we can do. Rather if each of us were open to God using us and actively praying for him to use us in the places we spend most of our time, I believe that would be extremely missional and dynamic. If Sunday is a time where we get “fed” or “grown” in our faith, then that surely should overflow and be worked out in the places we find ourselves each day.

If Sunday is a time where we get ‘fed’ or ‘grown’ in our faith, then that surely should overflow and be worked out in the places we find ourselves each day.

This doesn’t and shouldn’t be hard work! Rather it should be a natural thing where everything we do and all the relationships we have are a place and opportunity for God to be at work. Even in the most mundane and boring tasks of life. Our lives, our choices, and the way we go about our tasks should stand out in a culture that is often self-consumed and materialistic. We only have one life to live and our church mission statement exhorts us to live that life wholeheartedly for Jesus. That does not mean we have to be cheery and happy little Christians who never have problems. But even the way we deal with suffering and hardship can be an amazing testimony to those around us of Gods amazing grace and love. Our dependence on God to get us through can speak volumes.

I believe if we start the day offering a short prayer of availability to God and genuinely mean it, then he will take that and open up conversations with people in the most unexpected places. I think the Holy Spirit wants to partner with us where we are every day and all he needs is an invitation from us to say we are ready and willing to be used. So where is your “dot” and how can God be at work in and through PBC Monday to Saturday? Because the “dots” matter!

Grace and Peace – Garry

Remember the dots