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My favourite song from the new CityAlight album

New CityAlight album “Yours Alone”, from St Pauls Castle Hill in Sydney, Australia.

Last Sunday saw the launch of the new album from the music ministry (“CityAlight”) of St Paul’s Castle Hill, “Yours Alone” (available here).

This album features 10 brand new songs written by the team at St Pauls, and 1 energetic rearrangement of a classic hymn, ‘Nothing But the Blood’. The songs have been sung and loved by the folk at St Pauls over the last 18 months, and it is a delight to record them and make them available to the wider world. A huge thank you to all of the music and production team that worked so hard to turn a dream into a reality that will serve the wider church!

I really like all of the songs that were recorded live at St Paul’s, but I do have a favourite.

My favourite is ‘Praise the Saviour’, and if you look at the lyrics below, you might see why.

Jonny Robinson

All my sin was so contagious
All my failing so outrageous
Says the Saviour, “I will pay this!”
Praise the Saviour, Jesus

I was lost once, full of hate then
If He left us who could blame him?
Says the Saviour, “I will claim them!”
Praise the Saviour, Jesus

Such a freedom! Who could earn this?
Who could pay for this forgiveness?
Says the Saviour, “It is finished!”
Praise the Saviour, Jesus

Praise the Saviour, praise the King
This our song, our song shall be! (x3)

Praise the Saviour, praise the King

Now, the Treasure of my whole life
I will stand soon by Your own side,
Says the Saviour, “Welcome home child!”
Praise the Saviour, Jesus

© 2014 CityAlight Music
CCLI # 6429010

This song combines 3 things that make the classic old timeless hymns so great, and hopefully makes this a classic being sung in 50 years time across the world as well:

1. Great theology.

2. Wonderful poetic expression of that great theology.

3. A powerful, easily singable melody.

The last verse in particular is incredibly moving, and a timely reminder of the hope that Christians have in the face of a world that forgets the eternal in favour of the here and now.

Do yourself a favour and check out this song, and all the songs (here), and may they bless you and your church.

[All the lyrics and charts are available for free on the website as well]

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Does God change his mind?

I am speaking on Amos 7 this Sunday at church. At the beginning of Amos 7, God is described as ‘relenting’ (or ‘repenting’ in some translations) when Amos prays (Amos 7:3,6).

Does this mean God changes his mind when we pray?

Alec Motyer’s commentary on Amos is very helpful at this point:

“Under this expression (‘The LORD repented’) Amos is saying that the will of God is no harsh, unfeeling fate but is rather to be thought of as His loving concern for His frail and needy people.

The revelation of the locusts and fire is a statement of deserving – now and always. Equally, it represents a perpetual element in the divine nature: God’s ceaseless wrath against sin. We must not think that suddenly God’s anger got the better of Him and flared out against his people bu that, happily, Amos was on hand to pray Him into a better mind.

The wrath of God is perpetual: the automatic reaction of a holy nature faced with rebellion and unholiness. But equally eternal is His determination to take, save and keep a people for Himself. This is what the Scripture means when it speaks of Jesus as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8, 1 Pet 1:19,20) and of Christians as chosen in Him before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4).

It is because we cannot unify these two revealed strands of the divine nature that the Lord graciously accommodated the truth to our powers of expression and speaks of Himself as ‘repenting’. He represents Himself as hearing prayer and turning from wrath to mercy in order that we may thus understand something of what is involved in His love for us and how great is that love when He beholds us in all our need.

On the one hand, there must be that is His love which satisfies and soothes His wrath: for the exercise of the one attribute cannot bludgeon the other out of existence, else there were war and not harmony in the divine nature. It has been revealed to us that it is the blood of Jesus, the great divine gift of love, which satisfies the divine wrath (Rom 3:25). On the other hand, when the Lord look upon his people mercy triumphs over wrath.

All this is very humanly expressed. We wrestle with the unity and unanimity of the divine nature and the subject outstrips our poor logic. Yet He who knows all allows us to see that for us, His wretched, wrath-deserving helpless people, His love wins the day, and in that love we are safe.”

Alec Motyer, The Message of Amos (Leicester: IVP, 1974), 156-7.


[The only piece I would quibble with is his description of the believer, whom in God’s eyes, clothed in Christ’s grace, is not ‘wretched’ but a beloved child of God (1 John 3:1) – however, his point still stands.]


Here are some other resources which get at the question of God ‘changing his mind’:

Essay on ‘Does God Repent’ (looking at Exodus 32)

John Piper on the Sovereignty of God and Prayer

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Vision Sunday 2013 at St Paul’s


Yesterday was Vision Sunday at spch.org.au. What a great day!

It was the culmination of a preaching series on ‘Persevering Faith’, which toured Matthew, Habbakuk, Romans and Hebrews.

It was a day when we celebrated the Persevering Faith of previous generations at SPCH, that led them to relocate from a small 100 building to our current site which seats and parks up to 650.

It was a day when we called all our people to commit their God-given time, talents and treasures to the task God has called us all to do.

It was a day when people from all 4 of our Sunday gatherings wrote their names on the board to say ‘I’m in”.


Even our little one got in on the act! (Look closely…)


Our communications people served us very very well to make things clear and to help make it as easy as possible to commit – thanks!

Praise God for his goodness in Jesus, and for the blessing of Vision Sunday. Lets see what will happen in 2014!

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The Bible, The Forest and The Trees

forest and trees

I’m teaching a ‘Bible Overview Morning’ today at St Paul’s. Our goal is to see how the Bible fits together, and how we can read it as Christian Scripture today. It’s ambitious…foolish? But I think it will be fun.

Here’s the handouts for those who are coming, in case they want to make notes on their iPad.

Handout 1

Handout 2

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Was Jesus born in a barn?

A Christmas play

No, probably not.

The popular imagining of the first Christmas, with innkeepers putting up ‘house full’ signs and finally pointing Joseph and Mary to an animal shed out the back, is unlikely to be the way it all happened.

Dr Lynn Cohick, Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, spoke at St Paul’s last Sunday, and pointed out 3 reasons why that popular view of the first Christmas is unlikely:

1. In Middle Eastern culture, there is no way that a town would have not looked after one of their own, let alone a couple expecting a baby. The residents of the town would have done everything they could to accommodate the couple, out of hospitality, and for the honour of their town.

2. Bethlehem did not have hotels as we understand them. Instead, those who could afford them would build a ‘guest room’. The word in Luke’s gospel translated ‘inn’ (katalyma) is elsewhere translated in Luke as ‘upper room’- it was all of these ‘guest rooms’ that were full in the Christmas narrative.

3. Homes in Bethlehem were divided into 2 rooms: one for living/ cooing/ sleeping, and another for the animals. This is similar to modern day Masai homes which have a similar design. Animals were kept inside at night for their welfare and for security.

1st century Middle Eastern middle eastern floor plan, as per Kenneth Bailey (I don’t think it’s his Lego, though…)

So what happened?

Joseph and Mary stayed with another peasant family, who had no room in their normal living quarters or guests space, but accommodated them under the same roof in the best way they could.

Dr Cohick’s observations drew from Kenneth Bailey’s work on understanding Jesus through aide Eastern eyes – you can read some of his work on the Luke Christmas passages here.


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