Friday, 8 December 2017

Hope For Diana Prince

HOPE IS LOOKING UP
Diana-PrinceThis week I went to see the movie, League Of Justice. It’s generally received bad reviews, and if the producers ever give me a call, I’ll tell them why. But, in the midst of a jumbled story-line and confused worldview, there were a couple of really profound lines in the movie about hope. As I recall it, the movie opens up with a line about the world is only ever truly dark when there is no hope of light. This line almost sounds spiritual – indeed, it almost comes directly out of the pages of the New Testament in a round about way. Shortly after this, the aptly named, Diana, enters a terrorist plot (where the gloating agents of evil have just skited that due to their reign of terror around the world, there are now “no believers” left) and announces: “I’m a believer!” The movie closes with the book-end statement about hope, “If you want to find hope, you have to look up!” This was one of the few times throughout the movie where I could say, “Amen!”
I agree with Diana Prince. Too many people have lost hope. They need to look up. And while many do, they still need to lift their vision, and like the Psalmist, they suffer disappointment.
¶ I look up toward the hills.
From where does my help come?
Psalm 121:1 NET
If you only look up as high as the hills you’ll soon be disappointed. Hill-sized hope is no where near high enough. Hill-sized hope is the limit of people. If we look to people to solve our problems, cure our souls, or be the source of our happiness, we may find fleeting relief, but we’ll exchange it rapidly for disappointment. 
Do not trust in princes,
or in human beings, who cannot deliver!
Psalm 146:3
But the Psalmist discovered that if he lifted his vision higher he could find the unlimited Source of hope.
My help comes from the LORD,
the Creator of heaven and earth!
Psalm 121:2
Kalel family's symbol which mean "hope"What Diana Prince didn’t say – but should have said – was, “Hope comes from looking up to God!” Curiously, the central plot of the movie Justice League is the pursuit of hope. The hero of the movie is briefly introduced in the opening scenes explaining to some children that the symbol on his chest means “hope”. He coincidentally shares a remarkable set of similarities to Christ. His name in Hebrew means “The Voice of God”. He is invincible. He dies to save the world. He is raised to life. He defeats the great enemy. He gives the world hope. And in this latest DC instalment, the world is desperately looking for hope. And so is our world. And just as in this DC world, everywhere the world looks for hope it is disappointed. This is not surprising considering that the world refuses to look up to the Source and Fountain of hope and has instead – to their own on going disappointment – looked down to the empty cisterns they have hewn for themselves. 
for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken Me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.
Jeremiah 2:13
No matter what you’re going through, God invites you to look up to Him.
“Look to Me, and be saved,
All you ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
Isaiah 45:22 NKJV
Looking up to God involves turning to Him in a prayer for help. It involves surrendering to Him – despite what you’re going through – and despite whose fault it is. It involves trusting Him even when He doesn’t help you the way you asked or would like. Looking up to God involves praising and worshiping Him even when it’s a sacrifice. In the days to come, we won’t have to be living in a DC Comics world to find people everywhere looking for hope because we will be surrounded by them in ours. I trust that as we look up to God and draw our hope from Him it will be increasingly obvious to those in the world who are looking down into their empty cisterns of shallow relationships, momentary eroticism, numbing medication, inebriating beverages, and still feeling unloved, unwanted, purposeless, and tired, that true hope is attainable if they would just look up to its Unlimited Source. I hope that when they ask us for a reason for this hope that we have we will be ready to help them look up.
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,
First Peter 3:14-15
Pastor Andrew
Video Player

Friday, 1 December 2017

BIASED TO BELIEVE

BIASED TO BELIEVE
jean-paul-sartre
French Philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre
Why do we believe what we believe? Richard Dawkins has stated that belief in God is due entirely to having been raised by religious parents. Of course, this may be true for some or even for most, but it is a far too sweeping over-generalisation to be true for everybody. One wonders of course whether atheists such as Dawkins recognise that their own upbringing may have led them to believe atheism is true? After all, atheism is not the lack of belief in something, but is rather a belief system itself. For example, Jean-Paul Sartre was a French Philosopher who fought with the French Resistance during World War 2 and ended up becoming a prisoner of war. After the War he became an outspoken atheist. One wonders how much influence on his belief in atheism the horrors of war which he witnessed (and experienced) played in shaping his atheism? It seems we may all be biased in one way or another about what we will be more inclined to believe.
Hitchens brothers' contrary books Christopher and Peter Hitchens both grew up in a church-going home. But then something happened in their childhoods which deeply affected them both in different ways. The tragedy is that it involved a moral failure by a Christian which resulted in the disruption of their home-life. Older brother Christopher ended up despising God and went on to become a celebrated journalist and writer. He used his popularity and platform to espouse atheism. His resultant book, GOD IS NOT GREAT (How Religion Poisons Everything) became a best-seller. He was famously noted for saying at his debates and public talks, “There is no God and I hate Him!” Miraculously though, his brother Peter became an ardent apologist for Christianity and wrote a contrary book to his brother’s, THE RAGE AGAINST GOD (How Atheism Led Me To Faith). Both brothers had the same upbringing yet eventually viewed God and religion quite differently. Upbringing and circumstances therefore do not always correspond to someone becoming, or not becoming, a Christian. 
If Christopher was louche, hedonistic and iconoclastic, (Peter) Hitchens would be fastidious, puritanical and Christian.
The Guardian, October 22nd, 2012
  Peter-and-Christopher-Hitchens 
Christopher and Peter Hitchens together in 1999. Christopher Hitchens died in 2011.

CIRCUMSTANTIAL BELIEFS

Yet there is little doubt that our circumstances do play a role shaping how we believe. I have mentioned Jean-Paul Sartre’s outlook of despair and eventual atheism being shaped by the trauma he endured as a World War Two prisoner of war. 
“For Sartre, the individual stands as a tragic and lonely specimen of humanity. We must look to ourselves, because there is no God and no purpose or meaning in the universe”
Living Issues In Philosophy, 1995, p. 338
Christopher Hitchens was clearly shaped the moral failure of a Christian leader who should have been a model of godliness and character. In the nineteenth century, German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, was turned off God by the cold harshness of his Christian father and grandfathers who all Lutheran ministers. His father died when he was quite young and he was raised by his mother, sister, grandmother, and two maiden aunts (“Living Issues In Philosophy”, Titus, page 332). He attacked Christianity and coined the phrase, “God is dead”. He taught that humanity must be unshackled from the restrictions of Christian morality and eliminate the weak from society to produce a society of “übermensch” (‘supermen’). At the age of 45 he had a complete mental breakdown and died in a mental asylum 11 years later. Nietzsche was sadly shaped in a very negative way by his circumstances.
Even Christians are subject to our theological beliefs about God and the Bible being shaped by our circumstances as well. During the 1500s, and on, the Reformers (Luther, Calvin, Knox, Zwingli, etc.) were revolted by the spiritual and moral degradation of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church. They wrote pamphlets and published books decrying the Pope and the Roman Church as the fulfilment of what the Book of Revelation forecast as ‘the Harlot of Babylon’ (Revelation 18). The authors of the Westminster Confession even declared the Pope to be the ‘Antichrist’. Despite this being exegetically impossible, their circumstances had shaped how they had interpretted the Scriptures.
ARTICLE 25:VI. There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ.[13] Nor can the Pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalts himself, in the Church, against Christ and all that is called God.[14]The Westminster Confession of Faith
 As recently as the 1960s and 70s many mainline denominational church leaders were critical of Pentecostalism and what was being called the Charismatic Renewal where many Christians were claiming that they had received an experience with the Holy Spirit whereby they were able to pray in tongues and exercise certain spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, interpreting tongues, prophesying, exercising words of knowledge and wisdom, healing the sick and casting out demons. Conservative mainline denominational church leaders had been erroneously led to believe that such gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased when the New Testament Canon was completed. (This was based on an exegetically impossible understanding of “when that which is perfect has come, these things will be done away with” [1Cor. 13:8-10].) But then a funny thing happened to many of these mainline denominational church leaders – they themselves were baptised with the Holy Spirit and began to pray in tongues and exercise the very gifts of the Holy Spirit they had just been protesting were done away with! It is estimated now that there are millions upon millions of Pentecostal Christians around the world who all testify to having been baptised with the Holy Spirit subsequent to having been born-again by the Holy Spirit – and I am one of them.

CIRCUMSTANTIAL CARE

We need to be very careful that we do not allow our circumstances to blind us to the truth. Just because your circumstances tell you that because you have not heard God, it does not mean that God does not speak today. Just because your circumstances tell you that because you have not been blessed, it does not mean that God does not bless people. Just because your circumstances tell you that because you have not been healed, it does not mean that God does not heal today. Just because your circumstances tell you that because your prayers have not been answered it does not mean that God does not answer prayers today. Just because your circumstances tell you that because you have not been delivered from your sin it does not mean that God no longer saves and delivers people from sin’s bondage. Just because your circumstances tell you that because you have not been baptised with the Holy Spirit so that you have been enabled to pray in tongues and exercise the gifts of the Spirit it does not mean that God no longer baptises believers with the Holy Spirit so that they can. 
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
Luke 11:13
Our circumstances change, but truth never does. God’s Word is true, but our interpretations of it are sometimes more circumstantial than true.
Amen.
Pastor Andrew

Friday, 24 November 2017

COMFORTING COMPLEX GRIEVERS

wishing-well
wishing-well1
I have just spent some time with a grieving father. It’s been seven years. But he still hurts. Sadder still, he is still being hurt by those innocently wishing him well. Of course, wishing wells come in three varieties. There’s the one where you toss a coin in to make a wish. The other one can either be done poorly or well. And then there’s how we convey support for someone (when we wish them well). I’m sure all three have their place, but I am particularly interested in the last two of the three, and am most particularly interested in the last variety because it affects people like my friend, the grieving father. If you want to truly comfort those grieving a tragic loss, then consider this advice on wishing well.  

THE SPIRITUAL ART OF WISHING

Wishing is Biblical. The most common form of “wish” in the Bible (Greek word, ‘thelo’) means to will, desirewant. We use wish in this sense when we say things like, “I wish it would stop raining.” There are other uses of wish in the Bible which seem to go further than this and mean- to have a deep longing for. For example, the Apostle Paul had a deep longing and wish for his countrymen to come to know Christ and be saved from their sin.
¶ Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.
Romans 10:1
God’s wish and deep longing goes further and is toward all people to be saved –
The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
Second Peter 3:9
Thus, wishing has a spiritual element.

THE LIMITS OF WISHING

Even though we wish for certain things to be different or to be changed, there are some things which no amount of wishing could ever change, such as, changing the past – especially a past where there was the loss of a loved one. Wishing works best when focussed on the future.
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,
Philippians 3:13

WISHING WELL

What should we say to someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one? I’m sure that most of us would want to wish them well. However, this intention sometimes fails in its delivery. For example, “You’ll get over this” might be true, but it can sound like a lack of compassion and sympathy (as if the life of the lost can easily be forgotten). “God has a reason“, can sound like God had just smitten a person with His wrath because they were particularly wicked. Well meaning people can say well meaning things that sound cruel to the griever and become unintentionally hurtful.   
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
Proverbs 12:18
How should we comfort those grieving the loss of a loved one who has taken their own life? Therapists call this kind of grief ‘complex grief’ because grief normally involves sadness and a measure of anger toward the cause of the death. This is made complex when the loved one is the cause. 
Counselors call this kind of grief a complicated grief or a complicated bereavement because grievers are actually dealing with two realities: grief and trauma. The grief of losing a loved one is normal and expected, but with suicide comes trauma. In processing a suicide, there is no easy path to peace and the grief journey cycles through all sorts of different feelings and emotions.
Christianity Today, October 20 2017
The kind of mental anguish that causes so much pain that it leads someone to take their own life is hard to understand. But I think that we as Christians should make every effort to try. Too many of us are too busy. It takes time and great patience to convey the kind of empathy the mentally ill could benefit from. In talking with my friend today, I asked him what was it that people said that really didn’t help? He gave me a list. Among that list were these things that he said should never be said to someone grieving the passing a loved one who has taken their own life.
“I know exactly what you’re going through.”
“How did they take their life?”
“How are you?”
It was difficult for my friend to share with me. He did said that the best thing anyone ever did in his grieving was to show their support by just being there but saying nothing. Don’t assume you can give someone a hug. They may not want anyone to touch them.
Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down,
but a good word makes him glad.
Proverbs 12:25
To be wishing well those who are in grief or anguish, we need not be afraid of the various helps available. 
The church should not be afraid of psychology or medicine. Sometimes Christians think, Oh, that’s unspiritual. If we just believe or pray more, then we’d be able to heal this. But, no, these are ways that the church can minister to one another. God gave us people who are researchers and understand medicine, brain chemistry, and neuroscience. The better we understand these things, the better we can help one another. Just as we would not think it unspiritual to medically heal somebody for cancer or leukemia, it’s okay to provide treatment for depression and mental illness.
Christianity Today, October 20 2017
By being sensitive to those in anguish and learning how to support them appropriately, we can be a safe, healing, hope-imparting church. Such a church is surely better than any wishing well.
Pastor Andrew Corbett

Thursday, 16 November 2017

NOT WELCOME AT OUR CHURCH!

NOT WELCOME HERE

Who is welcome to church? We could glibly answer, “Everyone!” But we all know that’s not true. There is a group of people who will never be welcome to our church! This group consists of perfect people. Our church will never be for perfect people! We already have people who have done things they are ashamed of. We have former thieves in our church. We have former liars in our church. We have men who have betrayed their wives. We have wives who have betrayed their husbands. We have young people who have lost their innocence. We have business people who have cheated. We have formerly religious people who have perpetrated the most vile hypocrisies. Each of these people have found redemption after they were warmly welcomed to our church.  
The kind of church Jesus described to His original disciples was made up of people who were either reluctant to come to church, or worst still, unaware of its existence. Yet when these reluctant souls did come in, Jesus foretold, they would find love, acceptance, and forgiveness. 
But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
Luke 14:16-17

JESUS NEVER DESCRIBED HIS CHURCH AS ‘NICE’

In this story, the Christ tells how those who might be described as ‘good’ or ‘nice’ were initially invited to the banquet. This is a picture of God the Father inviting people to His eternal heavenly banquet. But this lavishly generous invite met with an unappreciative response.
But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’
Luke 14:18-20
These were the invited guests who thought that the banquet was about food. The best banquets are never just about the food on offer. We see this same confusion today with those who think that the Father’s invite is an invitation to become religious. God does not invite people to become religious – He freely invites people to become to His heirs! C.S. Lewis once described this invite as being like someone who is offered a holiday at a beautiful beachside resort and upon arriving there they find the nearest mud puddle to plonk themselves down in and begin playing with the mud for the remainder of their holiday time, when just a few yards past the obscuring fence, is a beautiful beach to enjoy! The Father’s offer to enjoy eternal satisfaction is often rejected by those who think that nothing could be better than the mud-puddle they are sitting in presently!
The Host of the banquet then turns his attention to those who do not deserve his favour and instructs his servants to invite a different kind of people-
So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”
Luke 14:21-24

JESUS DESCRIBED HIS CHURCH AS ONCE ‘BLIND & CRIPPLED’

The poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame accepted the banquet invitation with gratitude. None of these people had to be convinced of their woeful condition. It takes humility to acknowledge when we are poor, crippled, blind or lame. The guests to this sumptuous banquet discovered not only delectable food, but that their host had the power to cancel their debts, open their eyes, restore their withered limbs, and enable them to enjoy a dignity they had previously had no hope of. As outstanding as all this was, their Host was to do something else for them that far outweighed these acts of grace. Each one of these unloved orphans was made a member of His family and given the full rights and privileges of now being made a member of the royal family! 
Each Sunday as we gather, we are ‘shadow banqueting’. Our church service faintly reflects the Royal Heavenly Banquet which awaits us. We have each received with gladness the offer to come to that Banquet. Thus, each Sunday, we hobble, limp, and stumble along to the shadow-banquet. Our church is not comprised of perfect people. And neither was the early church. The apostle Paul described the church at Corinth, in Greece, as being comprised of formerly –  ‘sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, men who practice homosexuality, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, swindlers’ (1Cor. 6:9-10). He then reminds them of their adoption into God’s Royal family and their new identities-
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 6:11
Who is welcome to come to our church? Imperfect, flawed, broken, hurting, lost, lonely, confused, people – that’s who! Help me this Sunday to extend a welcome to people who don’t know any better than playing in life’s mud puddles. As this welcome sign in the entrance of Coventry Cathedral states, these people may look like they have it all together, or they may look like their life has fallen apart. It doesn’t matter. As the servant reported back to the banquet host, “There is still room for more!
Cathedral_Welcome

Pastor Andrew

Friday, 10 November 2017

My 5c Worth Of Leadership Advice

shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;
First Peter 5:2
What makes a good leader? At our last monthly leadership training night we explored this question. The answer is more critical than ever for any church. While many churches are facing all kinds of problems, the solution to them is bound up in the answer to our question
We could summarise this answer with 5 C words.

Character

Character is invisible but eventually evident to all. It is what constitutes a person. A person of refined character strength is someone who can handle criticism and correction sweetly and well. It enables a person to endure when the opposition is fierce but the cause is right. It motivates a person to do long hours of preparation in private what is necessary in order to be done in minutes in the public. 

Competence

Sincerity is a beautiful leadership trait, but sincere leaders can inadvertently hurt people. Sincerity alone is not enough. Good leaders must also be competent which means that they have undergone training, evaluation, correction, and have gained supervised experience appropriate for their duties.

Chemistry

Lone leaders are limited. For any leader to increase their leadership capacity they must be able to work with other leaders. This requires a certain chemistry. It takes good chemistry for a leader to know how to deal with another leader who may be irritable or under stress. It takes good leadership chemistry to work with a shy discouraged fragile leader.   

Connection

Someone has said that you can tell if someone is a leader if they have people following them. Conversely, if someone claims to be a leader and there is no one following them, they aren’t leading, they are just going for a walk! Good leaders build connection with those they are leading. They spend time with them. They grow to understand them. And importantly, they build trust with those they are responsible for. Good connection involves good communication. (This skill is critically important for any leader called upon to preach. While a preacher’s sermon content is important, it is all for nothing if the preacher has no connection with their hearers.)   

Calling

In churches, we often list calling first as the prime quality required for good leading. But being called by God is not the final stage in the making of a good leader. And while it may take place ‘before the foundation of the world’ in God’s sovereign scheme, it is often a sense which grows in the realisation of the called. Experience tells us that God often equips the called over many years with – trials and testsincredible problemspeople who irritate uspeople who stretch us and bring the best out of us.   
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
Christ deserves the best we can offer Him. This includes how we look after His Church. Of course these leadership qualities also apply in other arenas of life such as parenting and business management. If you have surrendered yourself to God then chances are pretty good that He is already at work in your life to develop these 5 Cs.
Pastor Andrew

Friday, 3 November 2017

Pray And

pray-and 

¶ Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
Colossians 4:2-4
paul-the-apostleWe are sometimes told, “All we can do in moments like these is pray.” I guess there are probably times when that might be true. There are certainly times when I feel that it’s true. But it rarely is. What could the imprisoned Apostle do locked up in his dingy prison cell? What could the Colossians do so far away from their beloved Apostle? And what on earth, in circumstances like these, did either of them have to be thankful for? Yet from the Apostle’s perspective, there was no time to waste! “Make the best use of your time!” (Col. 4:5) This epistle is testament to that. Rather than wallowing in despair and self-pity, he prayed. But praying wasn’t all he could do and neither was it all that he did. He prayed and.
 For all the Colossians who were battling heresies on several fronts (which is mainly why the Apostle wrote to them) there was much to do besides praying. Pray and.

 S
ometimes life’s circumstances come at the most inconvenient times. They catch us off guard. It’s as if they wait for when we are least able to deal with them – when we are already caught up with other things – when we are emotionally drained, financially struggling, or spiritually faltering. It is in these times that we must pray. We should pray – for strength, God’s help, and for the mind of Christ.
paul_jailPrayer can be a dedicated daily routine.
Routine is our friend, especially spiritually.
Prayer can be spontaneous.
Pray now.
Prayer can be systematic.
Pray through a list.
Prayer can be our constant communion.
Pray as you work, travel, sit, or doing nothing.
Prayers can be spoken or silent.
God knows the desires of our heart.
Prayer can be solitary.
Pray alone.
Prayer can be corporate.
Pray together.
 Paul’s circumstances were depressing, but he was not depressed. Activity and worship have long been known remedies for such maladies of the soul. Paul was active while in his prison chains. He wroteseveral epistles. I wonder if he understood that his letters would be read by billions of people around the world over thousands of years? Having a perspective beyond your own four walls of time, locale, and circumstances helps prison chains to vanish.
prosthetic limbFWB-hospital-as-a-boy This is one of the things that I admire most about F.W. Boreham. At the age of 15 he was involved in an horrific accident involving a train where he teetered at death’s door for nine months and left him with just one leg. It was when doctors told his mother to prepare for the worst that she went to her church and prayed for God to spare her son. “If You will, I will give him to You!” she prayed and, within the hour news arrived that her son had just made a miraculous recovery. With just one leg, F.W. Boreham could no longer play his beloved cricket. But maintained a love for the game and when he moved to Tasmania he soon became President of the Hobart Cricket Club and upon moving to Melbourne he became a member of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The pain that he would suffer throughout his life due to the primitive amputation techniques of the day would be made all the worse by the breaking of his partial leg another three times and the shattering of his nerve as a result. Yet, within a year or so of his life-changing tragedy he surrendered his life to Christ and would go on to do everything in his power to be the finest preacher he could be – which included honing his usage of words through writing. 
F.W. Boreham as a boy Boreham’s first pastorate was a small town just outside of Dunedin, New Zealand. He cut his teeth as preacher in Mosgiel. He loved to pray. But he had learned from the likes of Spurgeon that the best praying is added to. Pray and. Not a soul in that South Island ever knew that F.W. Boreham only had one leg. He never mentioned it, or the accident, in any of his sermons or articles. Instead, he began to focus on the immensities of God, the infinities of His wonder, and the eternity awaiting the redeemed to enjoy Him. This was increasingly reflected in his writings (for which he is best known today) and even more so during the last half of World War 1, and the entire Second World War. Instead, Boreham got busy writing and preaching about things much bigger than wars, and much grander in scale than the world of his day. For this he was sharply criticised. But the result today is that we have some of the most eloquent essays on topics that touch us all. These essays have now been, and continue to be, read by tens of millions of people from all across the globe, decades and decades after F.W. Boreham’s passing in 1959. Lifting your vision beyond your own painful circumstances makes even the chains of amputation vanish. FWB prayed and.
The Apostle firstly urged the Colossian believers to pray and to pray steadfastly. This is the kind of praying that keeps going when everybody else gives us. But the Colossians weren’t just urged to pray. They were to pray, and – give thanks. It’s too easy to let the weight of our chains deceive us into ingratitude. 
¶ Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!
Psalm 105:1
 Pray, give thanks, and. “At the same time,” entreaty the Apostle, “pray also for us“. It’s too easy to let the chains of life’s circumstances blind us to the plight of others. ‘Pray steadfastly, give thanks, and pray for us.’  But how? Not for his release from prison! Not for his captors to have a change of heart and let them go! No! “Pray for us also.” But not for a change in circumstances. No! But “that God may open to us a door for the Word.” Pray that God might grant them an open door for the Gospel to be preached! When we pray and, we can certainly pray for our own needs, but “at the same time” we can pray for others and the cause of Christ to advance. We can steadfastly pray, and give thanks, and at the same time pray for others, and also pray that those who take the Gospel to others will be effective in doing so. Pray and.       
 What ails you? Pray and. If you’re troubled by the chains of your physical condition, pray and. Pray for God to give you the strength and determination to take a daily walk and take a daily walk. If you’re troubles by the chains of a relationship gone sour, pray and. Pray for God to give you the wisdom and humility to reconcile and restore and initiate contact with them. If you’re troubled by the chains of your financial predicament, pray and. Pray that God will increase your income and decrease your expenses and stop using credit cards. If you’re troubled by the chains of mental fog and anguish, pray and

¶ Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
Colossians 4:2-4
Amen.
Pastor Andrew

Friday, 27 October 2017

The 500th Anniversary Of The Reformation

LUTHER’S LEGACY

October 31st is Reformation Day. This year’s Reformation Day is doubly significant for those who identify themselves as ‘Evangelical’ because it marks the 500th anniversary of what was to become the moment when the Reformation began. This was when a German monk and Professor of Theology, Martin Luther, nailed 95 objections (called ‘Theses’) to the door of the University of Wittenberg in the customary manner for commencing an academic dialogue. But that nail into the door of Wittenberg’s academy did much more than start a debate among academics and priests. It was quite literally the moment that changed the world.  
The first of many biographical sermons which F.W. Boreham preached in his 126 sermon series (and later published in the five volume series Texts That Made History), was on the life of Martin Luther and the text of Scripture which changed his soul. He notes-
Carlyle has a stirring and dramatic chapter in which he shows that every nation under heaven stood or fell according to the attitude that it assumed towards Martin Luther, ‘I call this Luther a true Great Man,’ he exclaims. ‘He is great in intellect, great in courage, great in affection and integrity; one of our most lovable and gracious men. He is great, not as a hewn obelisk is great, but as an Alpine mountain is great ; so simple, honest, spontaneous; not setting himself up to be great, but there for quite another purpose than the purpose of being great!’ ‘A mighty man,’ he says again; what were all emperors, popes and potentates in comparison? His light was to flame as a beacon over long centuries and epochs of the world ; the whole world and its history was waiting for this man !’
F.W. Boreham, ‘Martin Luther’s Text‘, “A BUNCH OF EVERLASTINGS“, Epworth Press, 1920 
Martin Luther preaching
Martin Luther preaching against the false teaching that salvation could be bought with money and that salvation was only attainable by faith in Christ and His finished work on the Cross.
Martin Luther became aware that the Roman Catholic Church was teaching something about salvation which directly and violently contradicted the Scriptures. He objected to the superstitious and unbiblical practice of Roman Catholic priests selling ‘indulgences’ to deliver dead family members out of ‘Purgatory’ (a place where dead souls went to be purged from their sins and thereby become fit for heaven). Indulgences were certificates issued by the Catholic Church granting release from Purgatory. In reality, these certificates were a pathetic attempt by the Pope to elicit vast sums of money, largely from those least able to afford it and least in a position to know otherwise! Luther confronted the central teaching of the Roman Catholic Church head on – that salvation from sin is only available through the ministrations of the Roman Catholic Church, with the Biblical truth – that salvation from sin is only available through faith in Christ and His substitutionary and atoning death on the Cross
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Galatians 2:20
Martin Luther objected to this obscene notion of Purgatory and the sale of Indulgences. He taught what the Scriptures taught about the sufficiency of Christ and His work for our salvation. 
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9
Martin LutherLittle wonder those inspired by Luther became known as ‘Protestants’. Martin Luther had protested against the teaching of the Roman Church that salvation could be merited by adoration of relics (supposed artefacts of dead holy people). In fact, Luther protested against any teaching which taught that salvation could be derived from any means other than Christ and Christ alone. Later, those supportive of Luther would coin the ‘Five Solas’ (the Reformation’s foundational statements of belief), with Sola Fidé – ‘Faith Alone’, Sola Scriptura – ‘Scripture alone’, Solus Christus  – ‘Christ alone’, Sola Gratia – ‘Grace alone’, Soli Deo Gloria – ‘Glory to God alone’.
Martin LutherOriginally, Luther and the original Protestants became known as ‘Gospellers’ or Evangelicals (the Greek word for ‘Gospel’ is transliterated into English as, evangel). His attempt to reform the Church failed, but the result of his efforts was a newly formed church, or a re-formed church. This movement of churches would be founded on the Five Solas. It would soon give rise to several gifted Protestant leaders who led Protestants from all over Europe into various communities of Christians which would become known as denominations – which perhaps in the wisdom of God has prevented a repeat of the abuses of another ‘Universal’ Church. These Reformers helped to organise and structure the church communities they led in different ways. But each were committed to the Biblical revelation that Christ is the Head – not any man appointed by men – and the only ‘Vicar’ (vicar means ‘substitute’) of the true Catholic (“universal”) Church. 
Thus, to be a ‘Reformed’ church is to be a church of Christ-followers committed to the Gospel of Christ which declares that God alone saves sinners by the merit of Christ alone. This Reformation Day, a day when some are pre-occupied with tricking or treating, spare a thought for Martin Luther and his legacy – a legacy which we are a part of.  
Pastor Andrew