A few months ago, I had the privilege of putting together a college-wide prayer and praise night. In the midst of studies and essays and assignments, it was good to set aside an evening to pray, sing, read scripture, and enjoy God’s presence among His gathered people.
The theme of this year’s worship night was “Remember”. We split the night into two halves – in the first hour, we took time to remember God’s mercy to us in Christ. In the second hour, we shifted focus to remember God’s mission for the nations to know Christ.
I really enjoyed worshipping together during the first hour, which was led so well by Ellen, James, Chris and Kristy from the ReachOut 2019 band. It was a treat to move from praise to prayer so seamlessly and freely throughout the first half. We were served by contributions from students and lecturers as each helped us to remember and reflect on different aspects of God’s mercy to us in Jesus.
I led the Badminton Road band for the second hour – our first and last live performance together! A personal highlight was guitaring alongside Rob Smith and Jack Batchen, two incredibly gifted electric guitarists! Thanks to Jeremiah Liew, a friend of ours, we managed to capture some of the night on video as well.
If you’re interested, here’s the setlist from the night, including a Spotify playlist Ellen put together, and some video from the 2nd half.
Part 1 – Remember God’s mercy in Christ
Welcome & Prayer: an invitation to prefer one another and “let all things be done for building up”
You can also see what we did in 2018 as well here. While I won’t be at college in 2020, I hope there’ll continue to be opportunities for the college community to gather and respond to everything they’ve learned in praise and prayer!
It was nearly a year ago when I had the privilege of leading the band for our College Graduation service. Most of us had sung and played before with each other during chapels and conferences. Apart from serving together at college, we’d have not much in common!
But when we ran through this arrangement of “Crown Him With Many Crowns” for the first time, I had a sense that there was something a bit special about this band. In His kindness, since then we’ve had a year of wonderful opportunities to glorify God’s name and encouraging His people as a college band (Badminton Road).
I’m happy to report that we’re releasing an EP next Friday, 22 November – six songs from our Croydon community. You can pre-order/pre-save on BandCamp, iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and other digital platforms soon. And once exams and our last days of College are over (yay!), we’ll get to work on charts, lyric videos, song stories, and other helpful resources.
There’s all kinds of stories we could share of God’s incredible provision to make this EP happen – from last-minute donations, perfectly timed schedules, grace to solve band disagreements, unexpected ability to sing difficult parts, and non-Christians who watched us depend on God again and again. But for now, I thought I’d share three ways working on this project has impacted me.
1. My heart for God’s glory to fill the earth has grown.
The EP title, Among the Nations, comes from Psalm 96:3 –
“Declare His glory among the nations, His marvellous deeds among the peoples, for great is the LORD and most worthy of praise…”
Week after week of meeting workers serving in difficult places, near and far, have shown us that others who live out this passion too. And we wanted to encourage them (and ourselves) to press on and persevere in the unfinished work of proclaiming the gospel.
So when Kim, our lead vocalist, suggested we try a multilingual version of Sovereign Grace Music’s “Behold Our God”, I thought it was a bit too hard! But she was right — it’s turned out to be such a great idea! The words are fantastic: you have the amazing truths of Isaiah 40:12-14, the good news of Christ “humbled to the grave” for our sins and “risen now to reign”, and a chorus inviting us to “behold our God, seated on His throne.” So what better way to celebrate that than to bring together friends from different countries and cultures, and to sing these truths in all of our heart languages!
Each of us have a favourite moment on the EP, but I have several from this song:
The first line in the bridge reminds me of our friends in Central Asia who sing praises to Jesus softly, for fear of neighbours turning them in to the police. It’s a small way of remembering our persecuted brothers and sisters.
We got to feature students from our international community. There’s something amazing about watching your friends praise God in their heart language – whether it’s Japanese, Korean, German, Irish, French Urdu, or even Nepali!
We included a duet in Mandarin and Cantonese. With all the unrest and tension tearing China and Hong Kong supporters apart (even in churches and our families), Veronica and I got to briefly display, in song, a taste unity and harmony that’s possible when we glory in Christ Jesus.
The final chorus, we just sing in our own languages – to remind one other that our future reality in Christ isn’t monolingual, but far better:
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.””
Revelation 7:9-10, NIV
There’s so many other magic moments throughout the EP – I’m so grateful for each singer and instrumentalist who poured their desire for God’s glory to fill the earth into each take, each strum, each line, each sample. May it move us to serve the Lord in whatever way we can to see His Kingdom advance!
2. My appreciation for working in intercultural teams has increased.
It quickly became apparent early on that we weren’t capable enough to do everything on our own. We so needed the Spirit’s help! Thankfully, we’ve had an amazing team of supporters praying for us and encouraging us since the project began. Whether it’s the team from Sovereign Grace (Bob, Bekah, Grace) who have reviewed translations, sorted licensing issues and shared words of encouragement, or the SMBC alumni musician community – Nick Freestone (whose song features on the album), Trevor Hodge, Brian Leung and others, we’ve seen first-hand how any work for Christ can’t happen on one person’s steam.
We saw God’s kindness in our team of contributors too. We were all different people – some introverted, some extroverted; with different communication styles, gifts and preferences. We like different food, have different upbringings. But with this project we got a chance to negotiate differences and serve with what we had in common in mind: our love for the gospel, God’s Word, and our brothers and sisters. We still had our distinctions and disagreements, but they weren’t as important.
3. I’m learning that we serve to be replaced.
It’s humbling and thrilling to think that we’re not the first musicians to have graced the steps of Benson Barnett House. From the barbershop quartets of the 50’s and 60’s, to the Music Conferences in the early 2000s, to worship songwriters such as Rob Smith, Trevor Hodge and Alanna Glover, there have been plenty of graduates singing and writing for the sake of His holy name.
We hope Badminton Road follows this rich heritage by providing a new avenue for creating and sharing music that glorifies God, and encourages our family in Christ in Croydon, Catalonia and beyond. But we don’t want to presume our longevity – God determines when our contributions are helpful, and when it’s time for us to fade away and others to do a better job than us. (Besides, it’s hard to stay together as a band when we’re all leaving for different countries in a few weeks’ time!)
We will declare your glory among the nations We will proclaim your greatness in every land Until the trumpet sounds and all the earth resounds With the praises of the Lamb! We will declare your glory among the nations We will proclaim your mercy from shore to shore ‘Til every knee shall bow and every tongue confess That Jesus Christ is Lord Jesus Christ is Lord
“We Will Declare Your Glory” by Rob Smith
I’m thankful to God for this opportunity to make this album with Rob Smith, Kim Patterson, Jack Batchen, Matt Williams, Jacob Oh, Jotham Booker, Luke Padgett and the many, many others near and far who have contributed their time and treasures. And I’m excited that you’ll all get to hear it in just a week’s time!
Today (19 September 2019) is the LAST day for Kiwis to make a submission regarding the Abortion Legislation Bill currently undergoing Select Committee review. Please consider writing your own submission here – it’s free, you can even just say one sentence, and it’s a great way to be involved in the discussion of what’s literally a life-and-death issue.
Cheryl and I both know and sympathise with the difficulties women (and men) on both sides of the debate face. Our differences centre around balancing care for pregnant women, yet disagreeing on the status and of, and duty of care for the young life inside her.
Our submission is below. We tried not to restate what others have already done so well, but rather just shared some of our personal concerns. I hope it’s a helpful contribution to the discussion.
Abortion Legislation Committee
Item of business:
Abortion Legislation Bill 2019
Concerns about the proposed Bill
Thank you for the opportunity to make a submission.
My wife, Cheryl, and I, do not support the proposed Bill for several reasons:
Removing abortion from the Crimes Act fails to uphold the human rights of the unborn child and protect her or him from harm, whether they are 7 weeks old or 37 weeks old.
The proposed Bill restricts the ability for healthcare professionals to meaningfully express their conscientious objection to performing or providing assistance for women seeking abortion services
No provision is made to protect the unborn child from a coerced abortion, or being the victim of sex-selective or disability-specific abortion.
Finally, I have attached an ultrasound scan of our unborn child at 7 weeks old. Despite his or her small size and stage of development, she or he has a steady fetal heart beat (147bpm), a unique DNA, and all the characteristics of a person. As we seek ways to better support women, it is also children like ours whom we wish to protect from harm.
A well-known Māori proverb states:
He aha te mea nui o te ao. He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata. (What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people , it is people.)
In light of this:
We suggest keeping abortion under the Crimes Act, to reflect the reality that abortion involves the killing of an unborn child
We suggest adding a clause to the Bill that women seeking an abortion be first offered a free ultrasound to confirm the presence of the unborn child, and counselling services to allow the mother time for reflection in order to make an informed choice
We suggest adding a clause to the Bill that, once a fetal heart rate is detectable, any decision regarding offering abortion services must take into account the human rights of the unborn child
We suggest the Government take urgent steps to make open or closed adoption more available for pregnant women who are unable to raise their child, including an national adoption register that makes it easier for mothers to find a long-term caregiver for their unborn child
We suggest that increased Government assistance and funding be offered to mothers who choose to keep their child and deliver them.
How has Year 3 been so far here in Sydney? Good like gelato in the afternoon with our Hebrew class. Peaceful like watching your children sleep soundly after a difficult day. Hard like running the gauntlet through airport security in a creative access city. Deep like the waters of Wisdom Literature. Tiring like writing essays fuelled by midnight adrenaline. Fun like praising Jesus in a recording studio with friends. All the ebb and flow of the past six months are a gracious gift from our good, good Father.
As previously, (Year 1.1, Year 1.2, Year 2.1), I’ve gleaned a few quirky quotes from other lips – nuggets of wisdom, sayings worth sharing. Whether from lectures or chapels, lunchtime conversations, I hope some of these “proverbs” are helpful to you.
“The threat to God’s people was never from the outside. It was always within. Just like Balaam is pictured as the fool, Israel is pictured as the fool for turning to Baal. Because the Moabites have just traded Baal for Yahweh. Yet Israel trades Yahweh for Baal. Whatever we place before God is dumber than a donkey.” – Kit Barker, on Numbers 22-25, 31
“Why did I leave a successful career to go to bible college? Because I realised I was too far ahead as a solicitor. I could help people at the end, but I couldn’t transform their hearts.” – Ben, 1st year student
“Prayer is like tennis with God. It takes persistence, and ongoing conversation.” – Kirk Patston on the Lord’s Prayer
“In Psalm 88, the psalmist’s unrelenting pain is only matched by unrelenting prayer.” – K.B.
“An MBA is nothing without character. A PhD is nothing without faithfulness.” – Jack, 3rd year student
“Success is more dangerous spiritually than failure. We become forgetful. You gifts are operating, but your graces are withering.” – Matt Fuller on Deuteronomy 5
“Dying to yourself is all of the Christian life. It just looks different from season to season.” – Amie
On Mission and Church
“Those making the biggest impact in world missions must be the most secret.” – E.D.W., M to Muslims in the Philippines
“You are always free to share the gospel. Even with a gun to your head, you’ve done the right thing if you share the gospel. Have complete freedom in sharing the gospel, and maximum security in everything else.” – M to East Asia
“Please pray we will be faithful. When you are persecuted, it is easy to become not just underground, but under the ground.”
James*, pastor in Central Asia
“It’s much easier to change churches than to change your church.” – Inner West pastor
“In Christ there is not East or West, no South or North… but one great fellowship that will cover the whole earth.” – Anton Zhang at his Commissioning Service
“What is God’s plan? That the nations praise Him. What is God’s means? The gospel. What is a worthy ambition? To preach where Christ is not known. Paul is saying, ‘Rome has churches. People can hear from you. I am going where no one else is. Because I can’t get Isaiah 52 out of my head: “Those not told will see and understand.”‘” – Dave Burge, preaching on Romans 15:8–21
“Asking for funds is a way of learning humility.” – Albert, missionary to Cameroon.
“The Apostle Paul measured everything by what is best for the advance of the gospel. What does it matter? Christ is being preached!” – Stuart Coulton on Philippians 1:12
“Come if you think there is no better honour than to live for Christ and to die for him.” – CT Studd, missionary to China
On Preaching, Preaching Conference
“What’s good for an essay is bad for a sermon.” – David Cook (critiquing my sermon!)
“Preaching is the one thing you can’t delegate.” – Matt Fuller
“Pastors: your people need your head in the text, and they need your feet to visit them.” – M.F.
“Remember, remember, the LORD who redeemed you,
Without him you’d still be a slave
So share what He gives you with brothers and sisters
You’ll rejoice when you exit the grave.”
Matt Fuller’s summary of Deuteronomy 23-25
“When Israel forgot its past, it forgot its poor.” – M.F.
Cloudless blue skies soar above us. Food and drink – all packed. We turn round the bend, then take a left onto State Highway 1. Two hours of driving towards the Southern Alps awaits. “It’ll be a day trip,” I assured the passengers: an elf queen and three hobbits. Yes – we’re going there and back again.
How to sum up 2018 – our second year in Sydney, our second year raising three kids, our second year digging into the riches of God’s Word? It’s been like a long stretch of gravel road sometimes – bumpy, never-ending, full of surprising potholes.
I learned to schedule important due dates a day or two early, and expect the rest of the time to be filled with unexpected moments. A difficult parenting moment. An impromptu confer and counsel with someone. A daddy date, a playground appointment, a train station excursion. A lecturer wisely pointed out that an essay takes as long as you give it. So this year was spent channelling research and essays into the allocated time. “Turn my eyes away from worthless things!” has been my constant, half-successful mantra this year.
Yet I’m grateful it’s a road others have travelled before us, and alongside us. It’s been amazing how fellow students were so willing to share ideas, resources, notes, and to spur each other on. What a privilege it’s been to learn in community.
“I want to see my name.” Dust billows behind us as we barrel towards our destination: Mount Sunday. Once upon a time, herders on horseback peeled away from their farms to meet on this rocky outcrop beyond the Ashburton Lakes. These drovers would perch on the rock to regale anecdotes of the past week, a tumbleweed-strewn valley before them, snowy peaks surrounding them.
My walk with God has been average this year. Some days were easier. Many days were hard. Is it ironic that I found it easier to parse Hebrew than to pray to the High King? “When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.” (Ps 94:19)
I’ve learned this year to try and give each area of my life full attention rather than attempt to power through multiple areas with partial attention. I’ve had to practice letting go of my need to perfect every assignment at the expense of sleep. It’s been a different rhythm this year: work hard during the day, then clock off and give Cheryl and the kids my full attention. Catch up on studies in the evenings, but be realistic. God will look after the results. And looking back, He really has. My proud self wants to claim credit, but no. It’s a work of God’s grace in me. My part to play remains – I want to keep changing and becoming more like Christ. To prioritise more than just my studies in 2019. I want to enjoy God, love Cheryl, nourish our children, and serve those around me: church and family, friends and neighbours.
We cross the one-lane bridge, and pause in awestruck wonder. At last! Mt Sunday these days is better known as the filming location for Edoras in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien. You first meet Theoden, King of the Rohirrim, here: corrupted by the evil wizard Saruman. Hope seems lost for men, yet when Gandalf the White strides into Meduseld and reveals himself, he drives out the darkness in Theoden and the first ray of hope begins to shine through. Edoras becomes a Rock of Remembrance, where good starts to triumph over evil.
After God provides Israel with an undeserved victory over the Philistines in we read in the Bible that
Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
1 Samuel 7:12
As we look back this year – wow, hasn’t the Lord helped us! So many Ebenezers. So many Rocks of Remembrance. So many moments of God’s faithfulness and kindness. A band of brothers sharing our weakness to a groom-to-be. Nature walks and ant swarms. Games of Crocodile on the lawn. Quietly exchanging verses and prayers while watching children play. Belting out “All Hail, Redeemer, hail!” with a thousand voices. The still small voice of comfort at a spiritual retreat. Children’s birthday parties. Sunday night laughs and tears. Sharing the gospel with a fellow bus passenger, and hearing him trade an addiction for a worship service. “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
“Can we come back to my name?” “I don’t know son. Perhaps one day.”
2019 will bring more adventures, more Ebenezers, more chances to reflect on God’s kindness to us as we sojourn a final year in Sydney.
So here’s to another year of walking by faith, amidst our failures, looking to our Solid Rock.
“Here I raise my Ebenezer, Hither by Thy help I’ve come; And I hope, by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home. Jesus sought me when a stranger, Wandering from the fold of God; He, to rescue me from danger, Interposed His precious blood.”
Robert Robinson, “Come, Thou Fount of Ev’ry Blessing”