Friday, 14 December 2018

THE REAL GOOD DOCTOR

THE REAL GOOD DOCTOR
UMURAGE: Dr Denis Mukwege
UMURAGE: Dr Denis Mukwege
Denis Mukwege was born in 1955 in a modest-sized town, Bukavu, in east ‘Congo. Little could anyone have imagined that this son of a Pentecostal pastor would grow up to be considered the most influential African of the 20th century, and one of the most influential 100 people in human history. His list of achievements, honours, and international awards, literally fills a two sheets of paper. His life is characterised by constant goodness. He is the epitome of a good man. It all began when as a young boy he accompanied his father as they visited the sick, ill, and injured people of their town where his father would pray for their healing. Young Denis was struck by the dire lack of physical resources to help these poor people, especially at the Lemera Hospital. It was then that he committed his life to God to be a doctor of goodness.
Christmas-2-Its-Good-07
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
Romans 12:17
Denis developed a love for biochemistry in high school which he graduated from in 1974. Despite his desire to go to university to study medicine, the State only gave him the choice of studying engineering at the University of Kinshasa. He endured two years there until 1976, before the Swedish Pentecostal Mission funded him to attend medical school in Burundi. Six years later, 1982, he graduated and returned to Bukava to work in the Lemera Hospital as a paediatrician. But it was the plight of the mothers of the children that touched his heart. Many of them died during childbirth. More died after childbirth. Many were permanently damaged from childbirth. He wanted to help and sought to be trained as a gynaecologist (and obstetrics). He was awarded a post-graduate scholarship to study and train at University of Angers in France. During his studies in France he co-founded a charity – Association Esther Solidarit√© France/Kivu to help his hometown. Despite tempting offers of employment in France, he returned in 1989 to continue work at Lemera Hospital, in South Kivu, where he started a brand new gynaecological wing and later became the hospital’s director.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Romans 12:18
Everything changed though in 1996 when the Congo war erupted engulfing neighbouring Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. The Lemera Hospital was attacked by rebels who murdered all of its patients – including pregnant women and other patients too ill to flee – and most of the medical staff. Medical supplies were looted, the buildings – medical wings and housing – burned down. Dr Denis Mukwege, who was amongst the few who miraculously survived the attack. He and his family fled the country and for refuge in Kenya.
Christmas-2-Its-Good-09The now 41 year old doctor with a strong commitment to Christ, now safe in Kenya, could not abandon his country, or his people. He sought support to go back to his country to care for the hundreds of victims of this war which would require building a new hospital. His national church movement and the Swedish Pentecostal Mission once again helped and a hospital was built in Bukavu, instead of Lemera, and called the Panzi Hospital (after the name of the district) in 1999. The Congolese war would continue for another 22 years!
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Romans 12:19
Not longer after the opening of the hospital, Dr Mukwege was called upon to treat a woman who had been gang raped! This type of case was something Dr Mukwege had never seen before – especially on a girl so young. After that operation to save her life in September 1999, the hospital started receiving an increasing number of female victims of war crimes. He estimated that he and his team operated on 45 women just in the first three months.
“I had the impression that this was an enormous number, because I’d been in the region for a few years, and I’d never seen this before. It wasn’t until 2000 that I understood that this was normal, and I began to call on the international community.”
-Dr. Denis Mukwege

Over the next 20 years, the Panzi Hospital would treat more than 85 000 patients, most of whom were victims of sexual crimes.

He decided to specialise in the care of women victims of sexual violence. The hospital expanded its mission to provide legal and psycho-social services to their patients. While many consider rampant evil to be an argument against the existence of God, people like Dr. Mukwege demonstrate God’s heart for the victims of such evil by being His representatives in the thick of it.
¶ Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
Romans 12:9

In 2011, the UN estimated that roughly 48 women are victim of sexual assault every hour in the Congo.

Dr Mukwege began speaking out on behalf of the abused women he met daily – trying to bring to the international community the hideous evils being committed as a result of this war against women and children.
Mukwege-patient1
He became known as ‘the man who repairs women’. He was soon invited to speak before the UN General Assembly first in 2006 and the second time six years later in 2012. He paid tribute to the courage of the half a million women who had been raped in Congo over the past 16 years and went on to denounce the international community, including his own government, for not putting an end to this evil.

“I would have liked to also say, ‘I have the honour of being part of the international community that you represent here,’ but I cannot say that. How can I say this to you – representatives of the international community – when the international community has shown fear and a lack of courage during these 16 years in the Democratic Republic of the Congo?”
-Dr. Denis Mukwege

In October 2012, Denis and his wife and children survived an assassination attempt at their home in Bukavu. He took his family to safety in Europe and returned to his hospital a few months later in January 2013 – more determined than ever. Traditionally, Christians have run into the fray – not away from it!
To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Romans 12:20
The Congo war is said to be the longest humanitarian crisis in history and the deadliest conflict worldwide since World War II with more than 6 million deaths and countless victims of sexual crimes, including children. In his autobiography, ‘Plea for Life’ (‘Plaidoyer pour la vie’), released in 2016, he explained how distressing it is for him to have the war continue on so long as he was now operating the daughters of some of his earlier patients!
Christmas-2-Its-Good-11In 2008, he received the United Nations Human Rights Prize, the Daily Trust African of the Year Award, and the Olof Palme Prize of Sweden. In 2011, he received the Clinton Global Citizen Award for Leadership in Civil Society, an award created by the former US President Bill Clinton to recognize extraordinary individuals who have demonstrated visionary leadership in solving pressing global challenges. In 2013, he was awarded the Right Livelihood Award and in 2014, the prestigious European Union Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, which honours individuals and groups of people who have dedicated their lives to the defence of human rights and freedom of thought. His honorary degrees include, an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the University of Winnipeg in 2014, in recognition of his role as an international voice for victims of sexual violence and his dedication to improving the lives and status of women; an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Harvard University in 2015; and an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Medicine from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland in 2017. In 2016, he won the Seoul Peace Prize; his name was included on the list of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the world; and in 2018 was the co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. He really is the real-life good doctor! But more importantly, he continues a very long Christian tradition of running into the evil not hiding from it. 
Christmas-2-Its-Good-14
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:21
While we see evil growing all around us, it is my prayer that God will raise up young men and women who will enter in politics, academia, the arts, journalism, and business, to make a difference for Christ. Rather than seeking to have a  life ease and bliss, I pray that these young people will fearlessly, courageously, wisely, and winsomely, learn how to live like Daniel in Babylon – and sometimes even in the occasional lions’ den!
Your pastor,
Andrew

Friday, 7 December 2018

NOT YOUR AVERAGE FOOL


Not-Your-Average-Fool-header

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

-Jim Elliot, martyred missionary to Ecuador

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Not many 26 year old young men are unanimously decried globally by the world’s media as a – ‘fool hardy adventurer’ ‘an arrogant evangelical’ ‘a tyrannical colonialist’ ‘an international law-breaker’ within hours of their death. But John Allen Chau was after he was tragically murdered by a Sentinelese islander on November 17th 2018.

John Allen Chau - missionary and martyr
¶ “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!
Luke 6:22
In this increasingly hostile-toward-Christianity-world it’s understandable that the unregenerate do not appreciate why a young man, who from the age of about 12 (when he first heard about the unreached Sentinel Islander people) wanted to be a missionary to the Sentinel Island which is in the Bay of Bengal off the coast of India. But when those who should know better, those who profess faith in the God of the Bible, and trust Jesus of Nazareth as the Lord and Saviour, also denounce such missionary endeavours, the disappointment is overwhelming!
And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Matthew 4:19
The follower of Christ who does nothing about the eternal plight of the lost can not truly claim to be following Christ! Christ’s “mission” was to “seek (out) and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). If anyone follows after Christ they are walking in the footsteps of a missionary Saviour! The original disciples of Christ each heard the beckoning resurrected Christ summon them to go as missionaries (Matt. 28:19-20). Each of them paid a high price to follow Christ. Thomas went to India, and died a cruel martyr’s death. Andrew preached in Turkey, Russia, and Greece where he was eventually crucified. Philip preached in Egypt and was executed by the Roman Proconsul there. Matthew preached in Ethiopia where was eventually stabbed to death. James, the son of Alpheus, was stoned to death. Peter was crucified upside down. Paul was beheaded. While John Allen Chau has attracted global media attention as if he is something unusual, the fact is that more Christians are being martyred today than at any other time in history!

“During this century, we have documented cases in excess of 26 million martyrs. From AD 33 to 1900, we have documented 14 million martyrs.”
Justin D. Long

John_Allen_Chau-missionary7
¶ Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.
First Corinthians 3:18
The apostle Paul reflected to the Corinthians that world considered Christians for being ‘fools’. You might think the Corinthian non-believers considered these Christians to be ‘fools’ because of what they believed about Jesus. But designation of them of ‘fools’ probably had more to do with their moral standards than their beliefs. After all, Greeks believed in gods (without any evidence or proof). They worshiped their kings and their emperors as ‘gods’. They believed in an after-life. Therefore, accepting what Christians believed was not so much of a stretch for them. But the Corinthians were famous for engaging in unbounded promiscuous sexuality. Even still, the power of the gospel set many of them free from their false and unsatisfying identities by transforming them into followers of Christ (note the “And such were some of you” in Paul’s statement about this to them) –
¶ Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
First Corinthians 6:9-11
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The New Testament teaches us that when we try to please the world by compromising what Christ expects of us, we then become true fools.
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
James 4:4
Some of the criticisms which John Chau received were completely misinformed and flat-out wrong. Someone who knew him, Matt Staver, has written a piece for Charisma Magazine called, The Truth About John Allen Chau. He counters much of this mis-information peddled by the mainstream media about Mr. Chau. It turns out that John Allen Chau was relatively highly trained as a missionary in linguistics, survival skills, social interaction, and emergency medicine. Far from being illegally on this island, he had every right to be there under current Indian law. But the way the world has responded to this episode is very revealing for where we are now at as a Western culture.
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“TOTO, I DON’T THINK WE’RE IN KANSAS ANYMORE!”

One of the points that missiologist Justin Long makes about the number of martyrs today is about the number of Christians alive today. While more Christians have been martyred in the last century than the previous twenty centuries combined, he reminds readers that this also has to do with sheer number of Christians alive today as well. Christianity is growing exponentially in many parts of the world. There are more muslims converting to Christianity  today than at any other time as well. In some parts of the world, the conversion rate of people becoming Christians is out-performing the birth-rate! Even in Australia, where many Christians have considered the average Aussies too hard for Christianity to ever grip them, we are seeing churches of extraordinary sizes growing around our nation. Most people know of Hillsong and its Sydney congregation of 30,000 members, but there are other significant churches in each major city of Australia such as the 20,000 member Planet Shakers church in Melbourne, the 12,000 member Crossroads church in Burwood, Margaret Court’s church of thousands in Perth, and of course our own in Legana, Tasmania. But despite this, as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz said to her pet dog, “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore!” No Dorothy, I think we’re in Babylon!

TAKING ADVANTAGE OF WHAT WE STILL HAVE 

John_Allen_Chau-missionary
¶ “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Matthew 5:11
We currently have some extraordinary privileges as Christians. We can openly share our faith in Christ as the Saviour without fear of criminal charges. This is not the case in many parts of the world! We can publicly hold gathering whereby we invite people to hear and receive the Saviour and His message. This is not the case in many parts of the world! We currently enjoy tax-exempt status as a church which enables us to be able function on a shoe-string budget. We have access to Christian media outlets with whom we can broadcast our messages to tens of thousands of listeners across northern Tasmania and potentially hundreds of thousands around the world via Soundcloud
I believe God has ordained all of this at this precise time, and brought you and I together also at this precise time, for such a time as this! Rather than seeing John Allen Chau as a reckless fool, we should honour him as a martyr who sincerely cared about seeing people from every tribe, nation, and tongue brought to Christ. And so should we!! In fact, over these next two weeks we have some enormous advantages which can improve our chances of seeing someone we invite accept our invitation to come to a church event (Children’s Christmas Play – this Sunday, Carols By Candle Light – next Friday, our Carols Sunday on December 16th, and our 9AM Christmas Day Service). In addition to this there is BBQ/hospitality outreach that we can each engage freely in (either as a host or guest). Let’s take advantage of the freedoms and privileges that we all currently have and not give God any reason to decide we now longer deserve them!  
¶ After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Revelation 7:9-10
Your pastor,
Andrew.
John Allen Chau chatting someone he met on a hikeR.I.P. John Allen Chau

Friday, 30 November 2018

THE DAY IT WON'T MATTER

THE DAY IT WON’T MATTER

busy-city
Perhaps more so around this time of year, life seems to get busy. There are time pressures, the financial pressures of Christmas, the relationship pressures of catching up with family we haven’t seen enough of through the year, the shopping that needs to be done, the deadlines, and the disciplines that fall through these cracks. But it doesn’t just have to be the end of year silly season when we get distracted and even a little disorientated. But if what Christ said was right, there is coming a day when none of this will matter anymore. 
 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up on the last day.
John 6:39
busy-peopleJesus talked about a last day. This will be the day when everyone’s distractions from what ultimately matters will be over. It will be the day when those who have fought through the distractions of life’s pressures and invested their lives into eternity, will be welcomed into eternal bliss with the One who fills it. 
For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
John 6:40
Jesus also described this present time as being a series of devastating distractions which can ‘choke’ the life out of a person. 
As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.
Matthew 13:22
crowded_streetAccording to Jesus, life’s goal was not the accumulation of stuff, the attainment of achievements, the biggest bank balance, the highest acclaim. Rather, life’s point was to know and enjoy God. 
And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
John 17:3
After Saul of Tarsus went from being religious to encountering Christ and becoming His follower, he wrote to the Philippians that he now made it his life goal to know Christ – not just in an intellectual way, but in a deeply intimate way. 
that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death,
Philippians 3:10
This pursuit by Paul had already cost him dearly. He tells the Corinthians that he had been whipped, beaten, flogged, slandered, and humiliated in the course of his pursuit of following Christ. Why was Paul prepared to endure this? Because a day was coming when none of these difficulties and distractions would matter anymore.
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14
What enabled Paul to forget what he had gone through and look forward to what lay ahead? Precisely what lay ahead for him! When the last day arrives, and all of humanity stands before the royally seated Christ, eternal judgment will begin. On that last day, those who have followed Christ into eternity will all appear before Him and be eternally rewarded, they will come to know Christ and the Father with the fulness of human satisfaction for all eternity. In that day, the things that caused us worry in this life will not even rate a moment’s reflection!
But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
First Corinthians 2:9
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Revelation 21:4
But for those who reject the Father’s offer of Christ’s sacrificial forgiveness, that day will be like an eternal ‘Ground Hog’ daywhere they will be given what they want – an eternal life without God – and the anguish that comes from the bitter regret of wasting their days on earth on things that ultimately didn’t matter for eternity.
The one who rejects Me and does not receive My words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.
John 12:48
The next time you’re feeling flustered and life’s distractions have caused you to ignore the spiritual disciplines that build your eternal reward, remember, a day is coming when none of these distractions, deadlines, or detours will matter anymore.  This is why taking time out with your family each Sunday to come together as the church is an investment of your time and heart which reaps dividends for your soul now, but especially for eternity.
¶ “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:19-21 
Andrew Corbett

Thursday, 22 November 2018

A BROADER, FURTHER, BRIGHTER, HIGHER VISION FOR A MATURE CHURCH AND MINISTRY


BROADER-FURTHER-BRIGHTER-HIGHER
So David set out, and the six hundred men who were with him, and they came to the brook Besor, where those who were left behind stayed. But David pursued, he and four hundred men. Two hundred stayed behind, who were too exhausted to cross the brook Besor.
First Samuel 30:9-10
How do you see the role of our church? For many, church is a place where worship, reflection, teaching, and prayers happen each Sunday morning. For some, church is a community of people who share common beliefs and values. For others, church is a mission from which resources are collected and stewarded to evangelise. Sadly, for a great many people, church is seen as an outdated irrelevant institution made up largely of elderly people who have not been scientifically enlightened – or worse still – an institution of hypocrites who abuse their positions to hurt others. Whatever your view of the role of our church, I want to present to you a compelling vision of a church that is broader, further, brighter, and higher.

A YOUTHFUL VISION OF A CHURCH

I was in my early teens when I sensed a call to be a preacher. I was 18, in my final year of High School, when I approached my pastor, Joe Bowes, and shared with him that I sensed the call to full-time ministry. His sage advice to me was to get a job, experience what working with others was like, and begin studying for ministry at the same time. This I did. After Kim and I were married, I was credentialed by the Assemblies of God as a Youth Pastor while continuing to work a day job. I was then appointed as an assistant pastor. I then had the opportunity to go and pioneer a church not far from the CBD of Melbourne.
At the time, I was one of hundreds of church planters within the Assemblies of God. Our mission was relatively simple. Gather a community of disciples who could make disciples largely by conducting Sunday meetings which would be attractive. In this context, ministry and serving was what happened on a Sunday in the church meeting. It any pioneer pastor’s hope that as many of their fledgling congregation as possible will get involved in helping make the Sunday services work. If you ever ask a pioneer pastor what their ‘vision’ is, they will tell you (and I should know) it is about what their church will do and become. This is what I consider to be a youthful vision for a church. It’s youthful because it reflects the focus and enthusiasm of the pastor, and ‘youthful’ is a good description of a fledgling church.

HOW DOES A CHURCH GROW UP?

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Ephesians 4:15-16
tantrum-toddlerIt is every parent’s hope that their children will not just age, but grow up. Often it’s the very thing needed for this to happen that many parents today want to prevent their children from experiencing. I’d heard of ‘helicopter parenting’ where a parent will ‘hover’ close by their children to rescue them from any trouble or problems they might encounter, but I hadn’t until recently heard of ‘lawnmower parenting’ where the parent tries to remove any trouble or problem from their child’s life before they encounter it. But guess what helps a child to grow up? It’s the same thing that helped you to grow up. Yes, that’s right. It’s having to deal with troubles and problems!
Last Sunday night during our testimonies time, Ross shared about a season of pain that he and his wife had experienced. If I could paraphrase what he said as I heard him testify that this pain deepened their relationship and obviously gave them great empathy for others, I might put it this way- Pain can be a gift from God
Over the years I’ve been surprised by who has also said something similar. I’ve heard it from people who have experienced loss, cancer, betrayal, divorce, and trauma. Each of these people have experienced something redemptive (“God brings good out of something bad”) from their pain.
20thcs_lewis“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
C.S. Lewis

As a child learns that pain is an inevitable part of life, and they learn to deal with it – and even eventually see it as a gift from God, they grow and mature. I suspect that it is much the same for a church to grow and mature. It too has to experience pain. It too has to learn how to deal with pain. Only then can a church truly have the kind of compassion for those who are hurting and are in pain. Or, to put it the way the Apostle Paul put it, if we want to comfort the hurting we must have experienced God’s comfort in the midst of our affliction.
¶ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.
Second Corinthians 1:3-6

The church that goes into denial about its pain, loss, betrayal, will be hard pressed to comfort the hurting, help the distressed, heal the broken or save the lost. The church that avoids the pain of conflict and necessary confrontation is the church that will be hard pressed to help those it is ministering to whose relationships have broken down.
There’s something else that every parent also wants for their children so that they can grow up. When children are little, they need discipline from their parents. This discipline forms within them their guiding principles for how they treat others, how they carry responsibility, and how life’s choices have consequences. As the child accepts this discipline as good and right they begin to adopt it as part of their self-discipline. This means that even when no-one is telling them to bear their responsibilities, they tell themselves! It also means that when given the choice to do wrong, they tell themselves to avoid the wrong and do the right thing – even when no-one is watching.
Similarly, the church that seeks to grow up is going to be the church that is disciplined and self-disciplined.
.

A BROADER, FURTHER, BRIGHTER, HIGHER VISION

My opening text of Scripture beautifully illustrates the difference between childish and mature. David, a young man in his twenties, has just returned from an arduous battle to find that the Amalekites have kidnapped the women and children of his men who have just fought along side him. They are already exhausted. Some of these warriors are so exhausted they cannot ride into the night to fight another battle – even to rescue their own wives and children. The men are tired and now vying for David’s head because they hold him responsible! 
In an episode that could have gone horribly wrong, David shows great maturity and exhibits the very traits that we have just been discussing that transition a child into an adult. David appeals to his men to come with him into the night on this rescue mission to get their wives and children (and bounty) returned. Some of his warriors ride on with him. Some stay with the baggage they leave behind. David’s mission was eventually successful. But some of the men who returned with him scorned the men who stayed behind with the baggage.
David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken, and David rescued his two wives. Nothing was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that had been taken. David brought back all. David also captured all the flocks and herds, and the people drove the livestock before him, and said, “This is David’s spoil.”
¶ Then David came to the two hundred men who had been too exhausted to follow David, and who had been left at the brook Besor. And they went out to meet David and to meet the people who were with him. And when David came near to the people he greeted them. Then all the wicked and worthless fellows among the men who had gone with David said, “Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except that each man may lead away his wife and children, and depart.” But David said, “You shall not do so, my brothers, with what the LORD has given us. He has preserved us and given into our hand the band that came against us. Who would listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down into the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage. They shall share alike.” And he made it a statute and a rule for Israel from that day forward to this day.
First Samuel 30:18-25

What the men who returned from rescuing their families may not have appreciated is that these two hundred men who remained behind with their baggage were the very men who had fought alongside them in their last battle – and quite possibly helped to preserve their lives. Secondly, by leaving their additional baggage behind to go off after the Amalekites their lighter load meant they were quicker and more agile – which would have contributed to their decisive victory.
There is a principle here for a mature church. God calls some people into the front-lines where the battle is fiercest, and some He calls to ‘mind their baggage’. 

WHAT CAN HAPPEN WHEN A CHURCH BEHAVES LIKE A GROWN UP

A grown-up church has a broader, bigger, brighter, further, higher vision of life and ministry. In this kind of church there will be those whose ministry has demanded that they ‘battle’ from Monday to Friday. They come into church on Sunday battle-weary. They are tired. Their responsibilities through the week are a heavy burden. Their self-disciplines require of them great concentration. The kinds of challenges they face are challenges that very few share. They are leaders of industry, commerce, education, media, justice, government, the arts, and health-care. They come to a grown-up church not to be a ‘pew-warmer’ but to be refreshed, renewed, revitalised for the continuing of the battle Monday morning. For these ministers (and this is how a grown-up church views them) this is their time and space to be restored.
¶ The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness or his name’s sake.
¶ Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
¶ You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
forever.
Psalm 23:1-6
A grown-up church is better equipped to minister to the hurting, lost, lonely, confused, and broken. It does this each Sunday directly by ministering to such people – but it also does it indirectly by ministering strength, inspiration, encouragement, is far wider than ours on a Sunday. Therefore, each Sunday we want to welcome the hurting, lost, lonely, confused, ill, and broken into our church family – but we also want to make welcome the healers, the leaders, the employers, the entrepreneurs, the innovators, the teachers, the mothers and the fathers – whom Christ has called to minister – who are each a part of the solution our city desperately needs!
Pastor Andrew Corbett

Thursday, 15 November 2018

BECKONING TO BE REDEEMED


Beckoning-to-be-redeemed
F.W. Boreham once famously wrote about the grand statue of the beckoning Christ towering over the landscape of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Boreham’s deep appreciation for art allowed him to see things that weren’t always obvious to most others. After he moved from Hobart to Melbourne, he would visit the National Art Gallery of Victoria and admire paintings and sculptures for hours. Many of these prolonged moments of admiration resulted in profound essays about things most of us never notice. The recently constructed towering statue of the Christ over Rio moved FWB deeply. For Dr. Boreham, its significance lay primarily in its placement. It is set atop Mount Cocovada. For those in Rio to observe it, they have to look up. For Boreham this was a reminder that we all too often get caught up in our here and now and fail to see that there is a greater world beyond our little worlds.
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F.W. Boreham also reflected on how this statue beckons people to come to him – but not just to the top of Cocovada – but to follow Christ beyond the Mountain! 
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:19-20
Down through the ages, many people have done just that. Christ’s beckoning has led them to go where the language was unfamiliar, the food was strange, the customs were foreign, and the fashion was uncomfortable. Consequently, they have had to learn a new language, acquire new tastes, adopt a new wardrobe, and try to learn the unwritten rules of being polite that every culture takes for granted and considers normal
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The statue overlooking Rio, which measures thirty metres in height, and spans twenty-eight metres across its outstretched arms, is called ‘Christ The Redeemer‘. While the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit Mount Cocovada to behold this artistic marvel read the large sign at the entrance detailing that the enormous statue was begun in 1922 and completed in 1931 and was the collaborative effort of three Brazilian artists, I wonder how many consider the enormity of its name? I guess for many the name sounds like a familiar church or just another one of those meaningless religious phrases? If this is the case, it is a tragic loss for these spectating visitors!
The LORD redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
Psalm 34:22

THE REDEEMER

A redeemer rescues. A redeemer set captives free. A redeemer helps those who cannot help themselves. A redeemer pays back the debts of another. A redeemer defeats the adversaries who oppress others. A redeemer pays a price to redeem and asks nothing in return. And Christ is the Redeemer! 
¶ “You have taken up my cause, O Lord;
You have redeemed my life.
Lamentations 3:58
In a world where so many people are lost, hurting, trapped in lifestyles they hate, suffering abuses, being unfairly treated and taken advantage of, couldn’t this world do with some redeeming?
¶ You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.
Second Timothy 3:10-11
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YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO TO RIO

Of course, you don’t have to go to Rio to get a sense for the beckoning heart of Christ to people beyond our comfort zone. All you have to do now is go out your front door! It seems that the people missionaries who once had to spend years preparing to go to in learning their languages, cultures and histories are being brought right to our front doors – or at least next door. Even in our church on any given Sunday, we are seeming people to Christ’s outstretched arms have beckoned us to embrace. These are not just the people from far-flung lands who look and speak so different to us, it is also the people who look and sound just like us and yet their lives are broken and hurting and betrayed. These are the people who all too often have found momentary glimpses of relief and escape from a tablet, a needle, a bottle or a bed.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Matthew 9:36

THIS SUNDAY

Christ-the-Redeemer5-over-Rio_de_JaneiroThis Sunday, don’t be fooled by how many people come through our doors who look like they don’t need a Redeemer. And while we enter into worship, we might like to take a moment to lift our eyes up beyond the distractions of our own worlds and catch a glimpse of the actual Christ The Redeemer beckoning us to look beyond where we usually devote most of our attention, and to realise that those outstretched arms of His –  which so warmly embrace us and fill us with deep love, security, and acceptance – are the same arms that also beckon us to come up and look beyond where we’re at.
Pastor Andrew