Category Archives: Fun

Our 16th Anniversary, but a First

It is particularly easy for me to remember how many years we’ve been married since we were married in the year 2000. Yep, it’s been 16 years.

On January 8th 2000 we stood before God, family, and many friends and made our vows. I remember being asked the morning of our wedding by a friend, “how do you know for sure Mandy is ‘the one’?” (Keep in mind we had only known each other four months before our wedding.) I remember saying something like, “I don’t. I’m pretty sure. We’ve sought godly counsel, we’ve desired to honour the Lord in our choice of a spouse, but anything could still happen to keep us from getting married later today. However, when we say ‘I do’ that’s it. She’s the one.”

Tim Keller says the following:

“Wedding vows are not a declaration of present love but a mutually binding promise of future love. A wedding should not be primarily a celebration of how loving you feel now—that can safely be assumed. Rather, in a wedding you stand up before God, your family, and all the main institutions of society, and you promise to be loving, faithful, and true to the other person in the future, regardless of undulating internal feelings or external circumstances. What can keep marriages together during the rough patches? The vows. When I married my wife, I had hardly a smidgen of sense for what I was getting into with her. How could I know how much she would change over 25 years? How could I know how much I would change? My wife has lived with at least five different men since we were wed—and each of the five has been me. When you first fall in love, you think you love the person, but you don’t really. You can’t know who the person is right away. That takes years. You actually love your idea of the person—and that is always, at first, one-dimensional and somewhat mistaken. When over the years someone has seen you at your worst, and knows you with all your strengths and flaws, yet commits him- or herself to you wholly, it is a consummate experience. To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretence, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us. Passion may lead you to make a wedding promise, but then that promise over the years makes the passion richer and deeper. We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary problem is . . . learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married. In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love seem to dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of a marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. This means we must say to ourselves something like this: “Well, when Jesus looked down from the cross, he didn’t think, ‘I am giving myself to you because you are so attractive to me.’ No, he was in agony, and he looked down at us—denying him, abandoning him, and betraying him—and in the greatest act of love in history, he stayed. He said, ‘Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.’ He loved us, not because we were lovely to him, but to make us lovely. That is why I am going to love my spouse.” Speak to your heart like that, and then fulfil the promises you made on your wedding day.” (Keller, Timothy J., and Kathy Keller. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. New York: Dutton, 2011.)

I am so thankful for the amazing, sustaining grace of God in our lives. There is no way we would still be married today if not for His grace. Marriage is not easy. It is the most difficult, most confronting, most painful relationship I have ever been in. Not because of who I married, but because of who I have discovered myself to be in our marriage. So where is God’s grace?

  1. In the wonderful privilege we both had to receive solid, biblical teaching on marriage from our pastors and churches even before we knew each other.
  2. In His kind providence to lead us into each others lives and to propel us into marriage in a short period of time. We had godly people in our lives who guided us in understanding the purpose of the marriage covenant was far more sustaining than “ensuring we had found our ‘soul mate’.”
  3. In using our marriage to reveal my selfishness and sin more than anything else in my experience. Marriage has been and continues to be a most sanctifying thing in my life.
  4. In giving us the desire to and enabling us to keep our vows through periods of pain and joy.
  5. In showering us with undeserved kindness such that we can declare that as the years go by our marriage has truly become sweeter than we could have ever imagined.

For the past several years we’ve celebrated our anniversary while attending an annual camp/conference together as a family. Not exactly intimate but fun… This year though, is a first.

I woke up this morning on our wedding anniversary without my wife by my side. The children and I are at the camp/conference while Mandy has been enjoying a much deserved week at home for R&R. I am very thankful for the opportunity this week has provided for her. At the same time, I miss her terribly and feel the “wrongness” of not being together on such a morning.

Again, Keller has written:

“So, what do you need to make marriage work? You need to know the secret, the gospel, and how it gives you both the power and pattern for your marriage. On the one hand, the experience of marriage will unveil the beauty and depths of the gospel to you. It will drive you further into reliance on it. On the other hand, a greater understanding of the gospel will help you experience deeper and deeper union with each other as the years go on. There, then, is the message of this book — that through marriage the mystery of the gospel is unveiled. Marriage is a major vehicle for the gospel’s remaking of your heart from the inside out and your life from the ground up. The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us. Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace. The hard times of marriage drive us to experience more of this transforming love of God. But a good marriage will also be a place where we experience more of this kind of transforming love at a human level. The gospel can fill our hearts with God’s love so that you can handle it when your spouse fails to love you as he or she should. That frees us to see our spouse’s sins and flaws to the bottom — and speak of them — and yet still love and accept our spouse fully. And when, by the power of the gospel, our spouse experiences that same kind of truthful yet committed love, it enables our spouses to show us that same kind of transforming love when the time comes for it. This is the great secret! Through the gospel, we get both the power and the pattern for the journey of marriage.”

I am convinced more now than ever that I married the right girl. I look forward to the years ahead and the joy of spending the rest of my life with her.

Lord willing next year, since our anniversary will be on a Sunday, we will wake up in the morning together!


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Posted by on 08/01/2016 in Family, Fun, Marriage


Happy 40th Birthday Mandy!

15 August 1999 a date I will always remember…

It was a Sunday and I had only been two weeks living in Lansdale, Pennsylvania, where I had moved to attend seminary.

On my second Sunday at, what was to be my new church, I met Amanda Lynn Birtchet. It was her 24th birthday.

We exchanged greetings and general pleasantries. I left thinking, “I’m going to find a way to get to know her better”!

I did… We did… We married 4 ½ months later. She was 24. I was 27. We were young; life seemed like an open book ahead of us.

Today marks 16 years since the day we met. It’s Mandy’s birthday. Her 40th. Wow! How did that happen? I’m nearly 43, my bride is 40. We have a 14 (as of tomorrow), 12 & 10 year old.

Proverbs 18:22 He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favour from the LORD.

40 isn’t that old, neither is 42 for that matter. But 40’s aren’t 20’s. We really had no idea what we were getting into 16 years ago.

I’ll never forget (I hope) our first date (and the many that followed in rapid succession). We just talked and talked. It seemed like the future was wide open before us. We were going to follow Christ wherever and take on the world.

We had no idea that before our 5th wedding anniversary and before Mandy was even 30 we would see Mandy’s Mum pass away, have two miscarriages, and she would give birth to our three children.

In the same period of time, I would change jobs three times, be out of work for several months, and complete my courses towards two graduate degrees.

That was only the beginning…

Proverbs 5:18 …rejoice in the wife of your youth…

I am so thankful that phrase is in the Bible. We’ve been married another 10 years. On each of Mandy’s birthdays I have the opportunity to reflect on how much our lives have changed and how virtually nothing is as we imagined life would be 16 years ago on that day when we met.

We’re older now… We’ve gone through more moves, changes in ministry, family tragedies, normal and abnormal illnesses, periods of intensely demanding schedules… We get tireder quicker now…

Proverbs 12:4 An excellent wife is the crown of her husband…

I’m so thankful you were born on this day. I am so thankful we met on this day sixteen years ago.

I’m so very thankful you are the wife of my youth but even more thankful you are my wife today and will be until the Lord returns or death separates us.

Happy 40th my dear! I hope I’m here to say happy 80th as I continue to rise up and call you blessed…

Proverbs 31 – 28 Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 29 “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”


Posted by on 15/08/2015 in Family, Fun, Marriage


2015 January – Cass Lagoon Tramp

Gavin & I had the most fantastic opportunity to go on a four day tramp with Wide Open Spaces.


We were four days and three nights on the Cass Lagoon Track near Arthur’s Pass.

Cass Lagoon Map

This was the most difficult physical activity Gavin had ever done in his life and in 20 years for me. It was very, very hard. We were pushed beyond our limits in almost every way.

IMG_4925  IMG_5061

Yet, we had the most priceless and amazing opportunity to experience this together as father and son. I would do it again in a heartbeat (well, after I recover from this one).

I can’t speak highly enough for the crew of Wide Open Spaces. They were tremendous guides, well equipped, patient, & knowledgeable.

A full album of our tramp is on FaceBook.

For these tramps all of the necessary equipment, including food, is provided by Wide Open Spaces. All you need to bring is your clothes and even then they will provide jackets, thermals, etc. if needed.

Everyone involved are Christians and the tramp is purposefully focused on Scriptures and Biblical principles. This included evening devotionals together as father/son as well as purposeful chats along the track attempting to direct our attention to God’s glory in creation and from the Scriptures.

Gavin & I had never attempted even a full day’s tramp with a pack, let alone a overnighter, and certainly not a full four day tramp. We jumped into the deep end on this one.

It was the best father/son activity we have ever done! We will certainly look to do it again!

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Posted by on 19/01/2015 in Family, Fun, New Zealand


Star Wars Trailers

The official Theatrical Trailer for Star Wars VII has been released. I am suspicious and concerned about Disney’s ability to perpetuate the story with the same quality (and lets admit right here Episodes IV-VI are superior to Episodes I-III already), but I am also curious as these movies will, forever, be some of my most favourite ever made!

So, in honour of the release of the new trailer, I thought I would collect all of the original trailers here in one place – just for fun! 🙂

{From the opening of this trailer with the Disney feature (which makes me nauseous!), to the very end it looks so incredibly disappointing! Why couldn’t they leave a good thing alone??}


But then, there is this one…

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Posted by on 29/11/2014 in Family, Fun


Our Final Seniors’ Morning Tea at Howick Baptist Church

For the past 3 1/2 years we have enjoyed Morning Tea with the senior members of Howick Baptist Church quarterly. A number of ladies serve faithfully in preparing the food and decorations. It is always a great time of fellowship. One of our family’s more enjoyable activities in the church.

For many of these our children have been privileged to play their instruments for a bit of a concert. It has been one of the most encouraging opportunities for our children to practice their instruments.

Here are the videos from Wednesday’s Morning Tea. The kids have really come along way in their music ability over these years.

Tabitha on Piano 1 – 090714

Mekaela on Bassoon 1 – 090714

Mekaela Bassoon 2 – 090714

Tabitha on Piano 2 – 090714

Gavin on Piano 1 – 090714

Tabitha on Clarinet 1 – 090714

Mekaela on Piano 1 – 090714

Mekaela on Piano 2 – 090714

Tabitha on Clarinet 2 – 090714

Gavin on Violin 1 – 090714

Gavin on Violin 2 – 090714

Mekaela on Violin 1 – 090714

Mekaela on Violin 2 – 090714



2014 Equip Conference Reflections

This year marked #5 for me spending my first week of the year with a bunch of great Christian folks in Christchurch from all over New Zealand. Up until this year, this conference has been known as YLC (Youth Leadership Conference). This year it became known as Equip Conference.

This was the third year for the whole family to attend. This alone is a true blessing.

For two years my wife and I have be privileged to lead a Strand #1 group where we have helped a small group (approx. 10) work through the principles of Bible study and interpretation for a New Testament passage. This year my wife did this with a group of young girls as I was occupied elsewhere.

Our children have come to look forward to this week more than Christmas! They have the time of their life running around camp with heaps of friends and learning from the great leaders who oversee the children’s program.

The week is truly a blessing for us as a family. It must be said that our attendance to this each year is only possible due to the generosity of God’s people. It generally costs us about $2,000.00 as a family to attend and each year the Lord has provided for this through the kindness of His people in specific giving. We are very thankful.

This year, in addition to leading a Strand #1 group, Mandy also played piano for the morning sessions. Though this involved practices, etc. it was a great opportunity to serve God’s people with an ability He has given her.

This year also marked our third year to “celebrate” our wedding anniversary while at conference! The way the dates have fallen the past three years the conference occurs in the week of our anniversary. So, this year on Wednesday, we enjoyed celebrating 14 years of marriage with about 200 other people!

(By way of full disclosure, this was the first year I can remember when I woke up not remembering it was our anniversary! I remembered when I went to bed the night before, but it had evaporated out of my head by morning! In addition, one of our children fell ill on Wednesday, so Mandy spent part of the day at the doctor. Yes, for those who don’t know, every year one of our children has ended up sick and we’ve been either up all night, in hospital or the doctor!)

A big difference this year, for me, was that I served as one of the main speakers. I was given the opportunity to preach four sermons from John’s Gospel Monday – Thursday morning.

You can download the message here:

Equip Kaiapoi 2014 
New Beginning, Same Old Story?
Peter Adam on Ezra and Joe Fleener on John

The Incarnation of the Everlasting Son Play Download

Jesus: The True Temple Play Download

Jesus: The Saviour of All Those Who Believe Play Download

Jesus: The Promised Redeemer, A Friend to Sinners Play Download

Being a main speaker changed the “dynamic” of the conference week for me in ways I hadn’t expected:

  1. I was made to answer questions regarding my wife in front of everyone the morning of our anniversary to see if I would give the same answers as she after 14 years! I think I only scored 50%.
  2. More seriously, the opportunities to interact with attendees were fewer. As a Strand leader you are spending significant amounts of time each day with a small group of people. As a main speaker you are in front of everyone but are more limited when it comes to personal interaction. It took to about Wednesday afternoon before I was really connecting with people like I had in previous years from day #1.
  3. I was able to enjoy one-on-one time with the other speaker which I have not generally been able to do in previous years. This was actually a highlight for me as Peter Adam is one of my heroes. I benefited from his wisdom and counsel.

Find Peter’s five messages from Ezra here:

Trust the powerful word of God Play   Download

Receive God’s grace promised in his word Play   Download

Face opposition to God’s word Play   Download

Set your hearts to study, do and teach God’s word Play   Download

Repent of your sins because of God’s word Play   Download

I also serve on the Board of The Gospel Training Trust which oversees equip along with serving as part of the team planning to start a North Island version of this conference at the end of 2014. As a result a good bit of my “free” time is spent in various meetings and planning discussions.

Personally I am thankful for this year’s conference:

  1. In preparing for my four sermons from John’s Gospel I was able to spend extended time thinking hard about the person and work of Jesus Christ. As I, once again, thought carefully about the gospel and its implications to my life, I was convicted of my own sin and captivated by the majesty of Christ.
  2. I had never preached from John’s Gospel before (other than an occasional “one-off”). I found preaching through Mark’s Gospel a couple of years ago very challenging, so this was a great growing opportunity for me as a preacher.
  3. I was particularly challenged as I sat under Peter Adam’s preaching from Ezra to examine my own heart in considering how I face opposition, my desires as I study the Word, and the ongoing need for repentance in my own life.
  4. I was very encouraged to see my wife serving so capably and enjoying every opportunity to serve others.
  5. We were very blessed to see some old, dear friends from other places around New Zealand. Some we only see this one week each year. Others we haven’t seen in several years. The fellowship was precious.
  6. My children have made and continue to make some wonderful friends through this conference. For this I am very grateful.
  7. As the conference progressed I was so encouraged in engage in conversations with folks who truly desire to know God through His Word by accurately handling His Word, apply it to their lives through the lifelong process of repentance and faith, and to teach others what they have learned!

I say it each year. This conference is unlike any I have ever attended. I cannot recommend it enough.

You can find a large photo collection from the conference on FaceBook here.


2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 19,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Posted by on 31/12/2013 in Current Issues, Fun

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