Friday, 21 October 2016


The Psalmist once cried out to God for wings so that he could fly away from all his troubles. How many of us have joined the Psalmist in his prayer and added, “And me too Lord!” Yet God didn’t answer his prayer and never answers this for us either. As Francis Thompson found, running away from your problems only unleashes certain hounds who inevitably set off in pursuit and track us down. Wherever a person goes, they are often surprised to find their troubles have gone ahead of them. I think God didn’t give us wings for a reason.
Sir Arthur C. Doyle's telegram to his friends to flee!Legend has it that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle decided to play a joke on five of his friends. He sent a telegram to each of them one night with the message- “All is known. Flee immediately.” That night, all five of friends fled England for France! What secrets do we each hide hoping that we will never be found out? How often do we run from our problems only to find them awaiting for us?
And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest;
Psalm 55:6
We all know that troubles come in two varieties: the ones we create and the ones we didn’t. In both cases it is a test of our character (who we really are) when are confronted by them. Recently I had the painful experience of public humiliation. In that moment, all eyes were on me. I felt the Psalmist’s prayer of Psalm 55 pounding in my heart. I knew that in the next few moments my true character would be revealed to everyone in the room. It’s in moments like this that I am challenged to apply the Apostle Paul’s instructions to the Philippians when he told them to have the mind or attitude of the humiliated Christ-
You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death–even death on a cross!
Philippians 2:5-8
The opening chapters of the Book on human history reveals that mankind’s most natural impulse when confronted by our own failure is to:  i) hide, and if this doesn’t work, then: ii) blame 
And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden… He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
Genesis 3:8, 11-13
The antidote to blame is humility which enables us to accept responsibility. This especially applies to the kind of trouble which we contribute to. It is in this light that Psalms 51 and 32 offer us such hope. The author of these Psalms had failed terribly. It was the kind of failure that today would have not only meant the worst kind of public shaming, but also life in prison. David had resorted to the default human response to terrible failure and tried hide and cover it up. But as usual, this strategy always, always, always, makes the problems from failure far worse. Before he get fall back onto option #2, Nathan the Prophet removed it from him.
¶ Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.
Second Samuel 12:7-9
Nathan-before-DavidI imagine that David’s heart would have been pounding in his chest, his head would have begun to feel hotter, his mind would have been racing. What could he do now? The result of this moment was Psalm 51 where he made confession before God and, since it is a public Psalm, he also made confession before those he had let down. This is God’s remedy for our failure. David would teach this principle to his young son Solomon –
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
Proverbs 28:13
It’s doubtful that Solomon ever truly appreciated the riches of the wisdom that his father gave him in that moment, but then again, Solomon was never blessed with a Nathan in his life (he was the only king of Israel not to have a prophet minister to him).
When David confessed his sin to God, acknowledge the injury he had caused to the Name of God, sought to make restitution to those he had hurt, and surrendered his life afresh to God, he experienced the joy of God’s cleansing forgiveness.
¶ Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
¶ For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
¶ I acknowledged my sin to You,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
Psalm 32:1-5
I mentioned Francis Thompson earlier. He was an extremely bright young man with a very promising future as a medical student. But he stumbled. Something happened. He doesn’t tell us what. But we do know that after Medical School, he moved from Scotland to England and lived on the streets of London where he became an opium addict. In his worst moments his life hung in the balance and he was cared for by a kind-hearted prostitute. In his good moments he was one of English literature’s finest poets. G.K. Chesterton described him as “the greatest poetic energy since Browning.[*]  He wrote a poem called The Hounds Of Heaven. He describes the wayward being pursued by God through His ‘hounds’ (the ministry of the church, the ministrations of our conscience, and the mediation of the Holy Spirit). No matter where the wayward attempts to flee from these troubling hounds, he cannot. Like the hounds of old used then by hunters, God has a way of pursuing and bringing the wayward to their knees and summoning them to experience what King David described as the greatest blessing available to a man – the blessing of having our sins forgiven by God.
The other day I met with such a blessed person. They had stumbled. They had fled and hid. Things only got worse for them. The internal turmoil they had been experiencing had impacted their physical well-being. We spoke. They described their repentance and shared empathy for those they had hurt (a sign of genuine repentance). Many of the troubles they now faced had not vanished, but it was now obvious that they would now be dealing with their various challenges with the strength of a clean heart and the assurance of God’s presence. 
Maybe God has used you as one of His ‘hounds’? The Prophet Nathan was King’s David’s ‘hound’. If you are, chances you yourself were once ‘hounded’ by someone who cared enough to chase you down. The Apostle Paul spoke to the hounds of Galatia and gave them some sombre exhortations which godly hounds today should take careful note of as they seek to clip the wings of their wayward brothers and sisters who would rather fly away from their troubles than deal with them –
¶ Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.
Galatians 6:1-5
While the old saying, “If God wanted man to fly He would have given him wings!” is wrong in so many ways, when it comes to dealing with our failures - especially relationally - it’s very true. You may not be able to fly away from your troubles (Psalm 55), and even though you may want to take the next best alternative (running and hiding, Gen. 3) there is a grace available to you from God that can make you stronger, cleaner, taller (Psalm 32), if you confess, repent, make restitution, and seek restoration (Psalm 51). Interestingly, although we are created in the image of the God who is described as having "wings" which He uses to rescue (Exodus 19:4) and safeguard (Psalm 36:7), I think God didn’t give us wings for a reason.
Ps. Andrew Corbett  

Friday, 14 October 2016


It would be easy to think that the Bible presents an unimaginably glorious picture of God. He is described as being light. His appearance seems radiate the kind of light that not only blinds the viewer but also attracts them as well. The light that God emanates is not the photonic light of this temporal dimension, but the kind of light which only eternity can sustain. It is the kind of light that warms and comforts those who are drawn to it and the kind of light that warns and exposes those who try to run from it. God’s eyes are described as being like fire – they pierce the soul of the onlooker. When He speaks His voice is variously described as being like mighty thunder or the sound of many crashing waters over a gigantic waterfall. When He speaks, whatever He decrees happens. Everyone who is permitted to be in His immediate presence is not only overcome with a sense of their deepest purpose being awoken – to fully worship the Most Glorious Being in the Universe – but also to discover that in so doing, their deepest longings are infinitely satisfied. Thus, every picture of God on His Throne which the Bible reveals to us is a scene of unimaginable worship. But even though it would be easy to think that the Bible presents an unimaginably glorious picture of God, it declares that what we see is actually just a dim view!
And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.
Second Corinthians 12:3-4
The banished Apostle John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, he tells us, when he had the most amazing encounter with God that caused him to fall to the ground ‘as though dead’.
¶ Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. ¶ When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last…”
Revelation 1:12-17
God possesses certain unique glorious qualities including omnipotence (He is all-powerful), omniscience (He knows everything), eternality (He has no beginning or end and always is), and omnipresence (He is everywhere). In attempting to convey the grandeur of God’s omnipresnce, the Prophet declares that the heavens are God’s throne and the earth is His foot-stool.
¶ Thus says the LORD:
“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me,
and what is the place of my rest?
Isaiah 66:1
Yet despite all of these magnificent descriptions of the Exalted Christ, there are some who consider that, since Jesus became incarnate, he no longer possesses all of these divine attributes. This week I received a phone from a troubled believer who had heard a Bible College lecturer during the week declare that because Jesus now has a human body, He was no longer omni-present. One of the supporting Scriptures offered in support of this heterodox idea was Hebrews 12:2 –  
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:2
The argument offered from this verse is that since Jesus is somewhere (the right hand of God) He cannot be everywhere. This teaching is wrong for several reasons. Firstly, Christ’s incarnation did not remove any of His divine attributes, including His attribute of omnipresence. Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Upon meeting Jesus for the first time, Christ said to Nathaniel that He had been watching him (even though this was not physically possible) –
Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
John 1:46-48
Secondly, when Christ ascended, His physical identity (determined by His unique DNA) became eternally His. But since He ‘ascended’ into Heaven (which is perhaps best understood as being translated from this physical dimension into the ultimate dimension of Heaven), a spiritual realm, His physical material would have remained in this realm to await His return to earth. This of course means that Christ’s omnipresence is not depleted in anyway.
Thirdly, embedded into the Great Commission is Christ’s declaration of His omnipresence: “And behold! I am with you until the end of the age!” (Matthew 28:20). This is supremely reassuring for every believer – especially those who pay the highest price to believe! (Christ’s omnipresence is more than a theological theory!)
Fourthly, if the Biblical statement that Christ is seated at the ‘right hand of God (the Father)’ means that He is not omnipresent, then what does it mean for God the Father (since He is at the left hand of God the Son)?
Errors like this heterodox idea (that Christ is no longer omnipresent) highlight that despite the Word of God being so freely and widely available, we still see God dimly. And this is remarkable because even what we can see dimly is so phenomenally glorious. 
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
First Corinthians 13:12
And if what we see of Christ in the Scriptures is a “dim” view – and yet it is so incredibly glorious and wonderful – then heaven only knows what the full picture of Christ will be when we see Him face to face! The next time you feel all alone, remember – even the dim view of Christ which we receive from Scripture tells us that: Christ is with us – even to the end of the Age! Imagine what our worship could be like this Sunday if some us get a closer view of even this dim picture of the risen, glorious, omnipotent, omniscient, eternal, and omnipresent Lord! 
Ps. Andrew Corbett

Saturday, 8 October 2016

The Lessons Of The Barkley Marathon

barkley-marathons-horror-movieKim and I watched a horror movie last night called, The Barkley Marathon. I might be the only one who considers this documentary about a race through Tennessee’s Frozen Head State Park a “horror” movie. But consider things from my point of view: Only 40 contestants each year are accepted into this 200km foot race, which includes 5 laps of a National Park with each lap being different. It involves ascending and descending over mountainous terrain. All the while, each contestant is wearing a backpack – as each lap takes between 10 to 15 hours to complete. Runners stop between laps for just a few minutes for napping and calorie refuelling. To put things in perspective, this race is the equivalent of running the Overland Track from Dove Lake to Lake St. Clair and then running back again, and then turning around at Dove Lake and running to Mount Ossa (with the allowance for the fact that Mt. Ossa is only one third of the ascent of Frozen Head State Park)! Only 14 people have ever completed the Barkley Marathon! And as we were watching this horror movie, one of the contestants said something truly stunning to the Documentary maker!
barkley-marathon-course-washington-postAs I watched these contestants jogging up mountains, through forests, along creeks, via drains, and heard them talk about the discomfort (and eventual agony) they have to deal with, I recalled each of my 5-day-plus hikes and the gruelling pain I experienced doing each of them. But then the horror of these contestants’ feats grew as I realised these people were doing the equivalent 18 days of normal-person mountainous-bush-walking in under two and half days! As the contestants progress through the race, they battle cuts, abrasions, bruises, exhaustion, and the breaking of their wills. Curiously, most of the people who compete in this race, and even more curiously, the only people who ever completed the race are those with advanced Graduate College Degrees (Engineers, Chemists, Physicists and the like). I wasn’t surprised to hear this, and probably neither would anyone with a higher degree. The little known reason for this is that higher degrees aren’t so much about intelligence as they are about endurance.
The Barkley MarathonThe Documentary gave opportunity for those surviving contestants to share their stories. This was when I was a little stunned by what one of them said. He shared the story of how his father had worked hard all his life and saved for his retirement which was to commence with the trip of a life-time. But then, one year before his father was to embark, he suddenly died. This caused his son to reassess his own priorities. He had previously been a keen jogger. One of his jogging buddies mentioned that he had just run his first marathon. He wondered if he was capable of running a marathon. He gave it a go. After completing several marathons, then ultra-marathons, he heard about the Barkley Marathon (considered one of the world’s most difficult ultra-marathons). As he shared his story, it turned out that the loss of his father was not the only pain he had experienced. He had become accustomed to pain – not just the physical affliction type. Somehow, this gave him the mental strength to be able to endure these gruelling running races. As he was talking, the documentary showed him during this Barkley Marathon – cut up, blistered, dehydrated, running in the dark with a small head-lamp, as he trudged up a hill covered in briars. Then he said it.
“Most people could do with more pain in their lives – seriously!”
He went onto say, “Most people don’t know what they’re capable of. Only pain can reveal it to them!” By testing himself with these ultra-marathons, even with all the pain that they caused, he was discovering who he really was and what he was really made of. To get through the pain he had to endure. By enduring, he was becoming a stronger person.
When I heard him say this, I was initially stunned. I didn’t like hearing it. But he said it in such a thoughtful, matter-of-fact way, that it then made me ponder on it the next day. You see, the past year I have lived with pain. Spinal degeneration and a touch of Trigeminal Neuralgia will do that. Everything I have to do now happens a little slower. I have had to learn to endure. Toward the end, completing the F.W. Boreham Documentary became not so much about documentary film-making as it did endurance. I have now completed 7 out of 10 Biblical Greek exams. I’m a year overdue from completing it. When I do, it will not be a measure of my commitment to Biblical scholarship, as much as it will be about endurance. Preaching through the Book of Jeremiah over the past six or so years has not been easy. It has required doggĂȘd endurance. I can’t run, let alone do an ultra-marathon, and you might share my confession, but we all have to endure something in order to become who we are meant to be.
In the TV sci-fi series, Heroes, Claire does not feel pain. Initially, she thinks this is a wonderful gift. But then she grows to despise it. She no longer feels human. To be human is to experience pain.
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Romans 8:22-23
Life requires endurance. Marriage requires endurance. Parenting requires endurance. Business requires endurance. Pastoring requires endurance. In fact, it seems that the formula for achievement reveals that the greater the objective the greater the endurance required to achieve it!
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
First Corinthians 10:13 
barkley1-videoLarge-v2As I think about how we can win our community to Christ and see Christ’s church in Legana grow with the fruit of this quest, I know that this greatest of all quests will require extraordinary endurance. Together, we must endure in prayer, endure in our witness, endure in our observance of the Sunday-Sabbath, endure in our private devotions of Bible reading and prayerful reflection, endure in our sacrificial giving, endure in our prophetic stand for righteousness. And if this formula for achieving great things is correct, we will have to endure through adversity, discomfort and pain. The winner of the Barkley Marathon wins nothing other than the glory, but compared to the cost of our marathon to win lost souls from our community to Christ, the Barkley Marathon is a walk in the park in comparison! 

Ps. Andrew.

Friday, 30 September 2016


IMG_bankruptcyI have discovered that excellence isn’t always expensive, even though it costs more than ‘acceptable‘. I first heard this when I was a teenager. A former bankrupt businessman came to our church in Geelong and shared his story of how his former business partner had cleaned him out and left him with a mountain a debts resulting in him being declared bankrupt. He went through a period of confusion as to why God would have let this happen to him. He had to surrender his home, his cars, his boat and his self-respect. Under the bankruptcy laws, he was only allowed to have a car worth no more than a few thousand dollars. In the depth of the darkness of his despair he came to a major realisation which ended up changing his fortunes and dramatically altering the course of his life.
Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.
Daniel 6:3
Eventually this bankrupt businessman would pay off all of his creditors and then go on to become a millionaire once again. But this might never have happened if he hadn’t realised two important things from Scripture. The first of these realisations was a huge challenge for him. He saw in Scripture that God called for His people to be thankful in all circumstances. Even though he had lost his house, cars, boat, and business – and now lived in a rented house – and was only allowed to drive a meagre car, he realised that he lacked gratitude to God for these things. Although he initially struggled with it, he began to express his thanks to God for what he had and stopped pining over what he didn’t have. 
Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!
Psalm 97:12
Unemployed, broke, and feeling sorry for himself, he sunk to an all-time low and struggled with the Holy Spirit’s conviction to be thankful. But at least he struggled. One of the things that he had learned from business is that difference between those who are successful and those who are not is often a very fine line. That fine line is not always a difference of the quality of the product or service being offered – as competitors can be selling exactly the same product or service – and yet one of them achieves remarkable success while the others don’t. The difference wasn’t the ‘what’ but rather the ‘how’. 
excellentHow involves the ‘spirit’ in which something is done. How do we interact with the customer? How do we go beyond expectations? How timely do we deliver to our customers? How well do we present ourselves when dealing with the customer? How well do we train our staff? The answers to these how questions is determined by how seriously a business is concerned with excellence. What this former bankrupt businessman realised was that if he was going to start over he needed the kind of attitude – spirit – which those few highly successful businesses have. He determined to combine his revelation about being thankful with a determination to do everything he could with excellence.
give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
First Thessalonians 5:18
This new resolve began Saturday. He went to his newly acquired, twenty year-old car and washed it, vacuumed it, and gave it a polish. It might not be much, but he was determined to show God that he was thankful for it. He also wanted the spirit of excellence to begin to permeate every area of his life – including his car, and the place where he now lived. After detailing his car, he mowed his lawns and weeded his front yard. He wanted to be faithful “in the little things” (Matthew 25:21) so that the LORD could entrust him once more with more. He determined that even though he was broke he didn’t have to act like it  –  or look like it! He ironed his shirts, polished his shoes, pressed his suit. He took steps to improve his physical condition. He ate healthy rather than conveniently. He took regular walks and accepted any invitations to try a new sport. 
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.
Ecclesiastes 9:10
God opened a marvellous opportunity for him in sales. This would soon lead to him being able to revoke his bankruptcy and satisfy all his creditors with 100% in the dollar of what was owed. As God prospered him, he maintained his thankfulness and the spirit of excellence in all he did. He became very concerned about his fellow believers and their churches not enjoying this same opportunity to be thankful with a spirit of excellence. This is why he was in Geelong that Sunday many years ago. He was sharing how he was now trying to help churches adopt a spirit of excellence in all they did – which included their devotion to Christ and their generosity toward Kingdom endeavours. As I recall, his visit to our church in Geelong had a profound effect upon many people and raised the level of giving, volunteering, and devotion to Christian disciplines quite dramatically. 
“Customer” ServiceGive the customer what they wantGive the customer some extra value to what they expected
PunctualityTurn up on timeTurn up before the start time and offer to help
GroomingLook decentLook smart and presentable
 Social interaction Be polite to everyone you interact withBe considerate (responsive listening) and attentive with those you interact with

UsheringWatch people find a seat, distribute the Communion elements, help take up the OfferingGreet people as they come past your station, assist newcomers orientate to the where-abouts of the amenities, connect parents to the Kidz Church registry table, and offer to get them a tea/coffee/other at the close of the service; when it comes to the Offering – put one in.
KiDZ Church WorkersPrepare your Kidz Church lesson on the morning you’re rostered on; deliver your lesson.Have your lesson and its material prepared days before (including any photocopying required) and add supplementary thoughtful comments to it; during the combined KiDZ church component set the example to the children by being attentive to the KiDZ Church Leader (don’t talk to other leaders while the KCL is addressing the children; when the KCL leads a song, sing it with passion to set an example to the children; when delivering your lesson to your group of children – manage the group, not the individuals; don’t have long pauses or gaps – keep the pace going; deliver your lesson with passion and expression; engage with their parents to let them know what you’ve done and give them an incentive for the parents to bring them back next week.
Pulpit TeamFulfil your rostered duty within the allocated time for itPrayerfully prepare a thoughtful presentation; practice it; have any supporting media arranged before Sunday; dress appropriately which shows effort; use the English Standard Version of the Bible; know how you’re going to conclude; deliver it with light and shade / appropriate gusto / from your heart as well as your notes.
 Worship TeamPlay your instrument; be at the pre-service rehearsal; have your music ready; attend practice nightsWorship with your instrument; know the music and words to the songs without constantly looking at your music; smile! ; look at those you’re leading ; be attentive to the worship leader – especially between the songs when they addressing the church; dress as if you think this is a Royal Command Performance!

For us as a church to be both thankful and striving for excellence need not cost you. It starts with what you already have – being thankful for it, and treating it with excellence. It means that we look to go the extra-mile, serve one another with joy and cross that fine boundary-line from acceptable into the unexpected excellent. It’s not a great chasm between acceptable and excellent – it’s a fine line
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,  so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:9-11

– Ps. Andrew

Friday, 23 September 2016

It Starts This Sunday

This Sunday, there will be someone coming to church who is looking for something. If someone really knew them, they might describe them as hurt and lonely. But they would never openly admit to that. They’re not quite sure what they’re looking for but they know they haven’t yet found it. They at least know that they crave for someone – anyone – simply to listen to them – to understand them. If someone could just see them, noticethem…care. They pray to God asking Him to help. Perhaps this is why they are giving church a go this Sunday.
remember that you were at that time separated from Christ … having no hope and without God in the world.
Ephesians 2:12
They will come to church this Sunday. They will wonder how God might answer their prayer for someoneanyone, who will give them time – listen to them – care.  The Devil knows he is at risk of losing one of his own if they go into his Enemy’s domain. He also knows he can’t injure the Spirit-filled, Spirit-sensitive, Spirit-led follower of Christ. It frustrates him that these Blood-Bought ones daily arm themselves in prayers of surrender to the One who shed His blood for them, and, that they sharpen their spiritual swords by filling their hearts and minds with the Word of the Lamb. But he can sometimes deceive them. 
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.
Second Corinthians 10:4
If Satan hasn’t been able to deceive the Christ-follower with an excuse to not go to church, then he loves to use another old favourite trick that is nearly as effective: busyness. 
But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”  ¶ But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details!
Luke 10:40-41
This Sunday, someone is coming to church. They’re empty. They’re lonely. They ache and don’t really know why. They are open to God, but don’t know Him. They will watch closely those who do claim to know God. Will they notice them? Will they reach out to them? Will they listen to them. Will they care?
Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2
Will you notice them? Will you reach out to them? Will you listen to them? Will you care? If your prayer is indeed a prayer of surrender to the One who notices everyone, who reaches out to everyone, who listens to everyone, and who cares for everyone, then your prayer will be answered. In fact, someone will be coming to church this Sunday because someone who daily prayerfully surrenders their heart to Christ in private worship has already reached out publicly to them with an invitation to come to the place where Jesus meets with the hurting-hearted. Someone’s life is going to be saved and renewed and it starts this Sunday. 
Ps. Andrew

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Concentrated Christianity

In the movie, The Matrix, the lead female character, Trinity, learns to fly a military helicopter in twenty seconds. In the hit TV series, Heroes, one of the heroes, “Copycat”, can master any skill after watching it just once. And in real life, there are people who can flick through a many-paged book and read it in under a minute. Unfortunately though, most of us don’t live in the movies or TV shows, or have highly developed mental faculties. Instead, most of us have to work really really hard to learn how to fly a military helicopter or to be able to read War And Peace in under a minute. Achievements usually take time, effort, application, and a deal of concentration. And the deeper Christian life is no exception. Perhaps this is why our Enemy will today use multiple means of distractions to tempt the followers of The Conquering Lamb away from the rewards of concentration. This is a call to the Blood-Bought to shake off the bewitching of our Enemy and begin to experience concentrated Christianity
concentration-spans-ruined-by-smart_devicesWhen Abraham Lincoln was campaigning for President of the United States he would  travel from town to town to do ‘town hall meetings’ where the towns-people would fill their town hall as he would give a speech for an hour, his nominated contender would respond with his one hour speech, then each would be given another hour each to give their rebuttal. Their audiences would sit and pay attention to the candidates for the full four hours! Today, according the Statistics Brain Research Institute, in the year 2000 the average adult’s attention span was 12 seconds. That is, in the year 2000, you could hold an adult’s attention for just 12 seconds before they switched off! According to their follow-up research, in 2015 the average adult attention span had dropped by 3.5 seconds to 8.5 seconds! This statistic gets worse when we consider that attention spans decrease dramatically the younger a person is. The average 12 year old has a 4 second attention span and this continues to decrease as the age decreases (just ask any Primary School teacher!). Not only does this present every Christian witness with a serious problem (because the Gospel takes more than 8.5 seconds to be communicated reasonably), it also means that many new believers are never going to discover the awaiting riches of the spiritual life.
When I was growing up in the church I would hear preachers quote the prophet Isaiah to encourage believers to read bits of their Bibles –
For it is precept upon precept, 
precept upon precept, 
line upon line, line upon line, 
here a little, there a little.”
Isaiah 28:10
This verse was used to promote the idea that preachers could more or less surprise their congregations each Sunday by preaching something this Sunday which had little connection to what was preached the previous Sunday. But Isaiah was not commending Israel! The previous verse reveals that he was rebuking them for their spiritual immaturity –
To whom will he teach knowledge,
and to whom will he explain the message?
Those who are weaned from the milk,
those taken from the breast? 
Isaiah 28:9
Israel was being rebuked for only giving God their left-over attention. They had failed to concentrate on God and His Word, and therefore, they had failed to dedicate themselves to God’s will and ways. Treating your relationship with God by only giving Him “here a little, there a little” can never lead to the spiritual strength that can withstand spiritual attacks. In Israel’s case, the prophet says that their lack of concentrating on going deep into God’s Word would mean that they would be susceptible to brokenness, being snared, and being taken captive by the Enemy.
And the word of the LORD will be to them
precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
line upon line, line upon line,
here a little, there a little,
that they may go, and fall backward,
and be broken, and snared, and taken.
Isaiah 28:13
If you’ve made it this far into this article you deserve congratulations because you are better than average (since it would have taken you about 2.5 minutes to get to this point). Concentration requires practice. “Smart” devices (phones, tablets, computers) have all served to undermine our ability to concentrate. Many mature believers have derived great benefit from either fasting technology or returning to paper for a month for their Bible reading. They find that they are able to concentrate and savour God’s Word far better. I hope that despite the Enemy’s attempts to distract God’s people with more and more innovative ways, we can resist these temptations and develop a highly concentrated Christianity, for God’s sake.

Friday, 9 September 2016

The Problem With Doubling

The 2 Ronniescelebrity-stunt-double-brad_pittIn the world of ‘doubles’ we might think of The Two Ronnies, Woodford and Woodbridge, Laurel and Hardy, the Bryan Brothers. We might think of those unsung movie stuntmen who double for the stars in their action movies. We may even imagine the lure of gambling and its enticement to double your money with just one throw of the dice. But none of these are the type of doubling that we must now consider.
Have you ever had so much to do that you’ve found yourself wishing you could be in two places at once? Imagine having the power to double ourselves. Perhaps you might like to have another you – not to be in two places at once – but simply to get through everything on your To-Do List before their deadlines? 
Clark Kent, Daily Planet reporterI have met people who have a double! Despite the alluring appeal of having a double to be in two places at one time or to get twice as much done, these people are cursed by having a double! Initially they welcome the idea of their double, but over time they discover that having a double creates trouble. If you haven’t yet met anyone leading a double life, when you do you may discover just how troublesome it can be. These people are one person to a particular group of people and another person entirely to another group of people. Their trouble begins when they encounter representatives from both groups at the same time. It’s not undercover agents who must carefully manage this. Not that long ago I was indirectly involved in trying to deal with a situation where a pastor had been leading a double-life. One of his lives was spent in Australia where he was married and pastored a missions-minded church. This church welcomed the opportunity to reach out around the globe and take the Gospel to people otherwise ignorant of it. They largely did this by releasing their pastor to travel to these South East Asian countries to undertake teaching and training. The reports of his effectiveness and success bolstered their enthusiasm for further overseas involvement. What they didn’t know was that the pastor led another life. Because living a double-life is so troublesome, trouble has a way of gate-crashing these people’s other lives at the most inconvenient time. And for this pastor it did. And it was ugly. A lot of people were badly hurt.
doubleminded2We can be in “two minds” about something and not be “double-minded”. I’m often in two minds about things when there is a decision to make. This simply means that when things are boiled down to two different directions I can often see merit in both options. But to be “double-minded” is to wilfully choose to believe two incompatible ideas.
he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. . . Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
James 1:8, 4:8

Over the past few years I have quietly helped several people who had been living double lives. This kind of help is built on two things: trust and grace. The trust these people have given me has been the result of consistency, discretion, and honesty. For a double-minded person to be helped requires someone they can trust. Secondly, it requires a broader understanding of the grace of God. Many people only see God’s grace as if it was His turning a blind-eye to their sin. But God’s grace is never that! God’s grace is His enabling and provision for what we could not do or have by our own effort. Understanding God’s grace this way means we can begin to see what the Reformers distinguished as God’s extraordinary grace and God’s common grace. Sometimes God will miraculously intervene into a situation (“extraordinary grace”), but usually God will respond to those who call upon Him for help by enabling them to do what they could not do in their own strength or with their own resources. This is His “common” grace. In every instance of a person who has been living a double life, there are people who have been hurt. While this hurt cannot be undone, there are measures that can be taken to begin to heal it. For the double-lifer this path to healing their hurt ones is called the road to integrity.
May integrity and honesty protect me,  for I put my hope in you. 
Psalm 25:21
living lukewarmIntegrity comes from the word integer. An integer is a whole number (rather than a fraction). To be a person of integrity means to be a whole person (rather than a fraction of one person and a fraction of another). A person of integrity is someone who is who they are no matter who they are with. Who they are in private is who they are in public. A person of integrity knows who they are, what they are good at (and what they are not), how to apologise when they have hurt someone, and how to listen to those who have something to say to them. 
To become who you were created to be and to discover your life’s purposeand the right way to live, is only possible by following Christ and His teaching. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis – A person cannot claim that Christ was a good man and a great teacher and then ignore Him and what He taught! This is one of the worst kind of double-lives! For someone to present themselves as a Christian and yet live as if they are not, is for them, to live a double life. In the words of Jesus, this is living a lukewarm life (Revelation 3:20). And to the Lukewarm, Jesus speaks with tenderness and gravity. His tenderness is heard in His appeal, “I would rather have you be hot.”  Those who live ‘hot’ for Christ are passionate, devoted, committed to Jesus and His Word, ways, and will. This is living the Christian life with integrity. Amazingly, Jesus says He would rather have people be ‘cold’ rather than ‘lukewarm’. Those who are cold toward Christ does not misrepresent Him to the world, but those who are lukewarm do. This is where we hear the gravity of Christ to those who claim to be His followers yet don’t live like it. Jesus warns of a particularly dire eternal consequence for the lukewarm who are living a double life.
Living with one foot in the world and one foot in the Kingdom of Christ is a horrible double life. Such a person can’t truly enjoy the world because they know that sin is not just breaking God’s Law – it’s breaking God’s heart! Neither can such a person enjoy their relationship with Jesus, His people, or His Word. It is my prayer that everyone in our church will find their greatest joy in being with Christ in prayer, worship, Scripture, fellowship, and reflection. The spiritual heat generated by such grace-enabled followers of Christ attracts the cold-hearted to the soul-warming Saviour. And for those who are living spiritually double-lives, especially for those are young, I pray that you might open your heart to God’s love, light, life and lordship to discover for yourself that the Christ-hot life is far more beautiful than the cold or lukewarm double life.