Saturday, 25 March 2017

Life's Growth Moments Are Often Unrecognisable At The Time

growth-of-a-leader 
It’s how we handle the little moments which prepare us for the big ones. And it’s the littlemoments which tend to shape us more profoundly – for better or for worse. Being shaped for better by life’s moments means that we become more confident about dealing with life’s difficulties. It means we become more resilient to life’s setbacks. It means that we are less wasteful and therefore able to build more reserves in life consisting of finances, strength, time, and knowledge. Conversely, when life’s moments are allowed to shape us into someone worse, we become prickly, withdrawn, hard to get along with, discontent, and always in need. Perhaps if we could only recognise these little moments for what they are, we might respond to them quite differently.

1. Say “Yes” more often.

Life’s most profound moments occur when it presents us with opportunities. How many times have you been presented with an opportunity to do something you have never done before and you nearly said, “No.”? Perhaps, even reluctantly, you said “Yes” and then afterwards you were sooo glad that you did! This might have been to go on a journey somewhere, see a movie with friends, try a new cafe or restaurant. These kind of opportunity moments shape us either into open people, or closed people. Once I was asked if I would go to a professional development seminar in the place of someone who had booked in but could no longer go. I didn’t want to. I was more than reluctant. But I said “Yes.” That one day professional development seminar changed my life. I had another moment about 30 years ago when an academic mentor of mine, Richard Winter, asked me if I would like to get involved in a student group at Deakin University in Geelong, called, Overseas Christian Fellowship. Despite my reluctance, I said “Yes” and the ultimate result of that “Yes” was that I met a young lady by the name of Kim (who became my wife). 
Sometimes God presents us with opportunities by showing us a need. By saying “Yes” with our willingness to meet that need, we are being shaped into better, bigger, stronger, more admirable people.
¶ “ ‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.
Revelation 3:8
Dr. Henry Cloud says that if more singles said “Yes” they have a greater chance of finding, as the title of his book indicates, a date worth keeping. Some moments need a “Yes” in order to clear your path to your destiny.

2. Cooperate more often.

Committees get a lot of bad press. I can understand why maverick (highly individual) leaders find it difficult to work with committees. Committees require working with people who have different ideas and viewpoints. They require listening, negotiating, disagreeing, compromising, and patience. This can be difficult for any strong-minded, gifted, driven, inflexible leader to work with. But, if a leader can learn to cooperate with others more often they will be all the richer for it. Of course, this growth principle of cooperation doesn’t just apply to leaders, it applies in the workplace, the sporting field, the classroom, and the home. 
¶ Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Second Corinthians 13:11

 

3. Give away what you want.

It’s one of life’s counter-intuitives. The generous always seem to have enough and the stingy never do. 
One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;
another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
Proverbs 11:24
The best way to keep somethings is with an open-hand. Most of us want more affirmation and encouragement. There are moments in life when others are looking to you for an affirming look or word. Don’t miss these moments. People who take these moments and share an encouragement with others tend to grow in their own self-confidence and emotional security. If you want more encouragement and affirmation look for those moments throughout your day when God brings those who need it more across your path.

4. Start throwing a rock rather than pebbles into the puddle.

There will come a moment when you are already busy but you will be presented with a need which you have the ability to meet. Not everyone is offered such a moment. Your immediate response may be to reject this request. Before you do, consider whether you are being asked to throw another pebble into the pond, or just a slightly bigger rock. That is, before thinking you have to spend just as much time again on this new responsibility, consider whether this is extra responsibility might actually fit your life’s mission. If it does, then just maybe, all you have to do is throw a bigger rock into the puddle rather than picking up more pebbles. That is, it might be more efficient – when it comes to making a bigger splash in the puddle – to throw a rock rather than some pebbles. To put it another way, when we know what our lives should focus on we may find that what looks to others as if we are doing many things, is actually just one thing which makes a splash the equivalent of many pebbles landing in the pond.  
Dr. F.W. Boreham found in the early days of his pastoral ministry that his preaching was too dry dry, too theoretical, too disconnected from his hearers. He discovered that if he wrote his sermon out word-for-word before he preached it, he was better prepared in the pulpit because he had already selected the precise word to convey his message. He would preach the message without these notes, then go back and re-write those parts of it which needed adjusting. He then submitted these notes as an article to newspapers (both Christian and secular). Once a collection of these articles had been published he would select a group of them to be put into a book. Thus, it looked like he was throwing a pebble of sermon preparation, another pebble of preaching, another pebble of newspaper articling, and another pebble of book authoring. But in actuality, he was simply making a bigger splash with one rock rather than a handful of pebbles. Dr. Boreham was committed to reaching as many people for the Saviour as possible. His writing and preaching was his main means for accomplishing this mission. But over the years his rock got bigger as encompassed taking responsibilities as the Chairman of the Australian Baptist Foreign Missions, serving on the committee of the Victorian Baptist Union, and promoting the establishment of a Baptist Ministers and Missionaries training college. Again, these looked like he was throwing more pebbles into the puddle to make more splashes, but in reality he was throwing just one larger rock!
Jesus was on a single mission and had a clear focus. He “set His face to go to Jerusalem”. This was His rock. On the way to the Cross, the culmination of His mission, he healed the sick, raised the dead, preached to thousands, and trained His disciples.
¶ When the days drew near for Him to be taken up, He set His face to go to Jerusalem…But the people did not receive Him, because His face was set toward Jerusalem.
Luke 9:5153

5. See your sacrifices as investments.

¶ I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Romans 12:1
There will come moments when you must pay a price in life. You go from being a single to forming a relationship. This involves a price. You go from being a couple to becoming parents. This involves a price. You go from being served to serving. This involves a price. 
In these moments you can consider that price an expense or an investment. Ask any financial advisor and they will tell you that there is a world of difference between expenses and investments! Expenses make you poorer. Investments make you richer. One of the best investments you can make is time with people. This is one of the reasons why pastors are so rich in many respects. The time invested into people seeing them helped, trained, and developed, pays huge dividends. The time you invest in others may feel like a sacrifice but it’s probably an investment.
John Maxwell tells of how he grew his leadership training company by regarding sacrificing as investing. He needed another staff member, but the company didn’t have the finances to do employ someone. He decided that he needed to sacrifice his salary in order to employ their next staff member. Within a relatively short time of doing this the company was enabled to grow and take on more clients to point where it was able to pay both salaries. Dr Maxwell says that he went on to do this same kind sacrificing several more times – each time giving up his salary in order to hire a new staff member. He says, it was in these moments that both he and his company was able to grow and reap the dividend of his investment/sacrifice.
Leadership calibre is not measured by how many you lead. It is at least measured by your mission effectiveness. If your mission is to be a Christlike ambassador to those around you so that they might be drawn to the Saviour, then you are a leader.  All followers of Christ are leaders. Parents are leaders. Husbands are leaders. Managers are leaders. And if you want to grow as a leader you must recognise those moments when growth can occur. 
It seems that God is committed to helping each of us grow toward maturity and be the best influencers on others that we can. The above growth moments might be summarised in the diagram below. Perhaps this might help you to realise how significant life’s seemingly fleeting moments are and help you to recognise what most don’t.
The-Growth-Moments-of-a-Leader  

Ps. Andrew

Friday, 17 March 2017

The Beautiful Re-Prefix Of Christianity

The Beautiful Prefix Of Christianity
While it’s true that Christianity is best spelt – D O N E, it is best described with words which use its beautiful prefix: re. These re-words are both a powerful set of descriptions and a set of glorious reminders about what Christ has done for us.
The Gospel has given the world a graphic and richer meaning to its uniquely used words: graceloveeternalmercy. But the Gospel is captured with re-prefixed words.
Your-New-Chapter1-26
We should never take for granted just how beautiful the Gospel is. For those who have failed, it is the hope of a fresh start. For those who have lost their way, it is a light, a map, and a compass, to get them back on the strait and narrow path. For those who have been broken, hurt and damaged, by a world that treats people as things, it is the Owner’s Manual description of a person of infinite value to a God who loves them infinitely. For those who have lived their life without regard to God, His Word, His ways, or His will, it is the guarantee of His forgiveness and debt cancellation. For those who feel abandoned, alone, and rejected, it is the legal document informing them that the wealthiest Person in the Universe has personally sought them out and begun legal proceedings to adopt them and make them His heir! 
Your-New-Chapter1-19Each of these aspects of the Father’s love revealed through His Son, Jesus The Christ, might be told with re-prefixed words.
For a person to receive God’s offer of forgiveness from their sins and eternal life with Him in Paradise, they must have the Holy Spirit help them to realise their true condition of guilt and shame before God. They must have the Holy Spirit enable them to repent of their sins. They must return to the Lord. In doing what the Holy Spirit empowers them to do they are regenerated (born-again). They are simultaneously reconciled to God the Father by Christ. They are also redeemed by Christ and adopted by the Father. 
This is what makes Christianity unique from all other ‘religions’. It offers people the hope of not only a fresh start, but the power to change, and become a new person. I am not who I was a few years ago. I will not be who I am in a few years. The Gospel is changing me. It is enabling me to become who I long to be and who Christ is wanting me to be. Because, in it I am enabled to behold Christ. And as I do, I am changed, transformed. This is why God has ordained for the Gospel to be preached each Sunday to His people so that they can behold Christ and undergo its transforming grace. 
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Second Corinthians 3:18
It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, or what’s been to you, you can be reconciled to the Father, redeemed by Christ, and regenerated by the Holy Spirit. By beholding Christ in the Sixty-Six Books of the Gospel you are given a new start, a new beginning, a chance to start over, but more than that: you begin to become a new person.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Second Corinthians 5:17
You are never “a million miles” from God. You are always just one prayer away. 
Pastor Andrew

THE THREE KEY Re WORDS OF THE GOSPEL TABLED

RECONCILED
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
Romans 5:10
The Gospel reveals the truth about our standing before an infinitely holy God: enemies. In John 3:19 Jesus declared this truth by stating that without being reconciled to God, we all hate God and love the darkness (deeds of rebellion toward God). We need to be reconciled by a Mediator.
and through him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.
Colossians 1:20
Jesus Christ has reconciled those who put their trust in Him by paying our debt to God on the Cross with His own blood!
 REDEEMED
In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
Galatians 4:3-5
In the days of slave markets, when family members were sold off to pay a family debt, another family member could attend the slave auction and ‘redeem’ the auctioned family member by ‘purchasing’ them to cancel the debt. This is the imagery behind the Apostle Paul’s language in Galatians 4 when he describes us as being enslaved with Christ coming to redeem us and then adopting us God’s children. 
Becoming a Christian doesn’t just save us from an eternity in Hell, it changes our status from orphan to adopted heir with Christ! (Rom. 8:17)
 REGENERATED
He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
Titus 3:5

Biblically, “death” is not the end. Neither is it ceasing to exist. Rather, it means separation. James tells us that the body without the spirit is dead. When a soul is separated from God because of sin, it is dead. “We who were dead in trespasses and sins have now been made alive in Christ” writes Paul to the Ephesians in chapter 2. When a dead soul is brought to faith in Christ by being reconciled by Christ when they are redeemed by Christ, they are regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Jesus told Nicodemus that this was like being born again (John 3:3).

Friday, 10 March 2017

The Pain Caused By Unreasonable Blaming

the-pain-of-unreasonable-blame
impression-managementWe’ve all experienced the pain that comes from being blamed for something. Probably because I make more mistakes than most, I get blamed more than most. But for the most part, I deserve it – because, well, I actually am to blame. As a pastor it is a part of my ministry to those in my care to minister healing to their souls which have been wounded with invisible pain. Most of the time these wounded souls wear an impression mask to hide their true pain from others. But in those precious moments of trust, they will take their masks down and let you see into their wounded hearts. But in all my years of pastoral therapy and support for wounded souls, rarely is their a pain that hurts so many so much as unreasonable blame.
Even in laughter the heart may ache, 
and the end of joy may be grief.
Proverbs 14:13
Perhaps the single most disturbing and shocking example of this was when a young lady came and saw me from another church. She told of how, from the age of 5 or so, she had been molested and raped each week by an elder in the church in her family home. The Youth Minister reported her accusation to the Senior Pastor. Neither of them believed her because they considered the elder to be of impeccable character. What followed from her call for help still boggles and outrages me to this day. The Senior Pastor called her and the elder to his church office. He told the girl that she was a liar and needed to apologise to the elder standing in the Pastor’s office with her. The Senior pastor then left his office and closed the door so that she could apologise to the elder! Her allegations were later found to be true, but not before she had had to go into years of psychiatric care. She experienced some of the worst unreasonable blame I have ever dealt with and her unbelievable pain was both understandable and outrageous at the same time due to its grossly unjust nature.  
Bloodthirsty men hate one who is blameless
and seek the life of the upright.
Proverbs 29:10
careful-thats-a-blame-throwerWe live in a world were abusers unreasonably blame their victims. A woman is raped and the rapist blames the woman for being out at night, or wearing what he considered to be a revealing dress. A patient dies and their family blames their doctor for it because he was on his annual leave at the time. Parents lose one of their children while on a camping trip only to find them days later when Search And Rescue discovered their body at the bottom of a cliff. The parents then blame their other child  for not keeping a close enough eye on their sibling. A natural disaster hits a community and dozens of people lose their homes and the electorate blames their political leaders. Unreasonable blame hurts like nothing else and this world is rife with it.

UNJUST BLAMING IS DUE TO OUR SIN NATURE
Unreasonable and unjust blaming began immediately when sin entered into the human race. 
Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. ¶ 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. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 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.”
Genesis 3:7-12
Commonly, those who most liberally dispense unreasonable blame and the ones who are battling the most with unresolved guilt. Watch out for the constantly critical person! Chances are they are masking their own guilt and failure by constantly unreasonably blaming others for being inadequate failures. When God held Adam to account, the guilty progenitor of the human race immediately dished out unreasonable and unjustified blame onto his wife. Eve, refusing take this blame, redirected this blame onto the serpent, and the serpent of course didn’t have a leg to stand on.

ACCEPTING APPROPRIATE BLAME  IS ESSENTIAL TO ACCOUNTABILITY
I hate failing. I hate being wrong. But what I hate even more is being blamed when I am. But it is deserved blame. Unless I can accept blame when it is deserved, I cannot be held accountable. If I cannot be held accountable, I cannot become who God wants me to be. Correction from wrong doing or wrong being can only occur when I admit, confess, and repent. As difficult as it is, it requires the core and essential Christian trait – humility –  to do so.
Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
First Peter 5:5

THE KIND-HEARTED ARE SOFT TARGETS FOR UNREASONABLE BLAME
Why do our own family often say the most hurtful things to us? Usually it’s because fellow family members are the softest targets for another member’s frustrations. A ‘soft’ target is a non-moving target and therefore easiest to hit. It doesn’t retaliate. Given the choice between venting our frustration toward someone who has strong, clear unmistakeable boundaries who will not tolerate inappropriate behaviour, and a soft target (someone close to us who unconditionally loves us despite our bad behaviour), we are all more included to take aim at the soft target. 
its-not-my-responsibilityThe challenge then for the kind-hearted, soft target, is to establish clear boundaries with those who seek to expel unreasonable blame on them. The bigger challenge is to get these kind-hearted souls to realise that when they take their stand and refuse to accept this unreasonable blame that they are still being kind-hearted. Clear boundaries often test and reveal the true levels of respect within a relationship. 
Hurt people hurt people.
Guilt-ridden people are highly-critical people.
When parents continually and unreasonably blame one of their children for the plight of their other child, they may actually be admitting to feeling that they have failed to parent their children well enough. In an instance like this, the child who blames their parents or their sibling for their plight is the instigator of this unreasonable blame and is in reality admitting their own failure to take and accept responsibility for their own lives, choices and actions. For as long as they do this, they will remain emotionally, socially, and intellectually stunted. Whenever a family member who is serving as the family’s “soft target” remains reluctant to establish clear boundaries (which nearly always result in a temporary breakdown of their fellowship with their blamers) they perpetuate their own pain, and further the stunting of their fellow family members maturing.
Of course this kind of pain doesn’t just occur within families. It occurs within organisations, churches, work-places, schools, and neighbourhoods. But the principles of remedy are the same. There comes a point when you have establish your boundaries which resemble: I’m prepared to accept blame for those things for which I am truly responsible – but, I cannot, will not, and should not be unreasonably blamed for something that the person primarily responsible for is not prepared to accept responsibility for! In rare occasions this boundary-setting leaves the relationship unhindered. Perhaps this is why it is so difficult for the kind-hearted to set such boundaries. 
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Romans 12:18

A CLOSING WORD TO UNREASONABLE BLAMERS
In my experience, those who unreasonably blame others who cannot reasonably be held responsible, are hurting people. It is human nature to look for someone to blame. Blame can be constructive. I have already mentioned that it is an essential component of accountability. But unreasonable blame is unwarranted blame. It is unfair. It is hurtful. 
It would be my pastoral hope that those who have engaged in unreasonable blaming will find this brief article to be something of a mirror which might help them to recognise the angst they have been causing others. In this hope is the aspiration that just perhaps, the beauty of humility (leading to repentance and seeking forgiveness) will be so attractive that it will then expose the ugliness of toxic and unhelpful judgmentalism. 

healed-heartMay God give you, the unreasonably blamed, the grace to stand within appropriate boundaries. And may God give you, the unreasonably blaming, the grace to walk in humility and seek the forgiveness He offers and of those you have caused unjust pain too. And finally, for those of you who have been emotionally, relationally, and socially stunted, by your reluctance to take responsibility for your own choices, actions, and outcomes, may God heal your hearts, fill you with His peace, overwhelm you with contentment, transform your critical heart into an intercessor’s heart, and turn your mourning into dancing (Psalm 30:11).
In love,
Ps. Andrew

Saturday, 4 March 2017

HOW TO BE A BETTER LOVER

One of the most curious things about the greatest lover of all time, is that there is no record of him ever saying the words, I love you. In fact, it’s beyond curious. In reality, it’s not even startling: it’s amazing that He didn’t need to!
There can be no doubt that Jesus loved people. Even His enemies knew Him to be a person of love for others.
¶ Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
John 11:5
So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
John 11:36
Dr Gary Chapman wrote a best-selling book a few years called, The 5 Love Languages. Perhaps the reason it sold so well was that we all really want to know how to love those we care about. Dr. Chapman identified 5 general ways that people like to show and receive love. He asserted that sometimes our actions are misunderstood or unappreciated because we may not have realised that someone was showing us love in a “language” because they were using a love-language we were not familiar with. Conversely, sometimes we attempt to show love to someone without appreciating that this person needed to have it expressed in a way they felt loved. For example, Dr. Chapman identified words of affirmation as some people’s primary love language. Thus, when a person whose primary love language was quality time spent the day with that person, they were surprised that the other person felt smothered and that the person spending time with them hadn’t been considerate of their dire lack of time. 

Learning someone’s primary love language takes time and testing.

Somehow, Jesus just seemed to demonstrate love perfectly to everyone. He dispensed all of Dr Chapman’s five love language prodigiously. He served others. He gave gifts to others. He spoke words of affirmation to others. He spent quality time with others. And He appropriately used affection as He touched people. 
Christ also demonstrated the fruit of love to others – forgiveness and acceptance. This was seen by how spoke of and to those who despised Him. While railing against the hypocritical Scribes and Pharisees, Jesus loved them. Many of them were deeply touched by this love. One of them, Nicodemus, even sought out a private meeting with The Christ and received one of the greatest acts of love any teacher could receive when Jesus gave him what has become the most famous verse in the Bible. Another member of the Sanhedrin, Joseph of Arimathea, declared his appreciation for The Christ who had shown him such great love, by offering over his tomb for the body of Jesus to be laid there. Even though we read of Christ railing against the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23, His tone, His manner and His motive, were loving
¶ “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.
Matthew 23:13
In laying the foundation for His Church, Christ gave just one commandment for how His followers were to treat each other: love one another!
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13:24-25
The kind of love which Christ conveyed to people was so foreign, incomprehensible, and unheard of, that when the Apostle Paul wrote some twenty years later to the licentious Corinthians about their confusion of love with sexuality and grace with unconditional forgiveness he was directed by the Holy Spirit to spell out in some detail exactly what this kind of love was.
¶ Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant
or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
First Corinthians 13:4-7
And when he expounded to the Romans what the Gospel was and then its implications, he spelled out that once a believer had surrendered their life Christ (Rom. 12:1) there were to-
¶ Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Romans 12:9-10
He then went on to tell the Romans, and thereby tell you and me, that this looks like-
Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
¶ Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
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.”
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.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:13-21
If you want to be a better lover, take note of Dr. Chapman’s advice on speaking the right language, but particularly take note of how Christ loved, then consider Paul’s detailed description of loving imperatives, and by heeding each of these, you will be a better lover.

Ps Andrew Corbett

Friday, 17 February 2017

THE LIFE AND DEATH CONSEQUENCES BETWEEN BELIEF AND TRUSTING


some-things-you-trust


This week I had the occasion to speak to three individuals about the difference between Christianity and other religions. While all religions have certain beliefs which generally qualify a person to be an adherent of that religion, Christianity is starkly different. Of course there are some essential beliefs that define Christianity, but simply believing that these things are true is not what qualifies a person as a Christian. The reason is that belief is often confused with faith. And unlike all other religions, which are built on their Creed (set of beliefs), Christianity is a Faith with a Creed, not just a Creed. This distinction is not insignificant. It literally has eternal consequences. The three individuals whom I shared this with this week were each at a point in their life-journey where perhaps for the first time in their lives they could appreciate the gravity of the distinction. You see, each one had recently been confronted with the frailty of their own humanity. One of them had been told by doctors that they had only weeks left to live. The other had an incurable disease. The third had just come out of critical care. Here’s what I told them. 

I WANT TO HELP YOU DIE WELL
After listening a bit to the first person’s story and having them tell me that they only had weeks left, I gently told them, “I want to help you to die well.” 
“Thank you” they replied, “I am a Christian, but I’m not one of those church-going Christians.”
“Many believe what Christianity teaches to be true,” I responded, “but they often confuse their understanding of three key words – belieffaith, and trust.”
I explained that a belief was simply an acknowledgement that something was true. Faith was being persuaded by the reasons that a claim was true and had implications for the believer. Trust was the result of that implication.
“For example,” I said, “one may believe that a plane can fly. You can even have good reasons to have faith that a plane can fly. But trust is boarding the plane to fly!”  
This was, I explained, how Christianity was different from all other religions. While religions have sets of beliefs, common to all of them – except Christianity – is the belief that if a person does enough good they can outweigh the bad and qualify to enter Heaven after they die. Reaching for one of the Legana Passports, which will be used in our KiDS Church over the next three Sundays, I drew the analogy that each time we did something wrong it was like receiving a blemish stamp in our life passport. No matter how many merit stamps we may get in our “life passport”, they could never cancel out the blemish stamps. It was like a convicted murderer being shuttled to the court for sentencing when on the way there a school bus laden with children falls over the edge of the bridge. Somehow, the convicted murderer breaks free from his chains and escapes to dive off the bridge and begin rescuing all twenty-eight school children from drowning. After saving their lives, Police once again secure him into the back of the van and take him to court. The Judge declares that this murderer has been found guilty and should be sentenced to the severest punishment. But the convicted man interrupts and says, “Not so fast your Honour! On the way here this morning I rescued twenty-eight lives, so I think we’re even now – in fact, I think you owe me!” As noble as the man’s actions were in rescuing those doomed children, no fair-minded judge is going to be persuaded by this appeal because when the man violently took the life an innocent human being it was a crime with capital (life-long) consequences. How much more then are we guilty when we sin against an eternal and infinitely good God?
Reaching for the other Legana Passport on my desk I continued.
“Imagine if when we die we stand before God with our blemished life-passport and have Him examine it. We cannot bear to look up into the face of God because our guilt and failure is obvious and undeniable. In that moment we know and accept that as the Judge of the Universe we are about to be sentenced and condemned for eternity” I told them. “But then Jesus comes over to us and offers us His perfectly unblemished Passport and tells us that with this Passport we have unfettered access to the best that Heaven offers. He then offers it to us. What would your response be?” I asked.
“Thank you” they replied.
“Precisely. And this is exactly what Jesus Christ did on the first Easter when He died as our Substitute on the Cross.” 
 “This is why” I went on, “we spell ‘religion’ as D, O, – it’s all about what you do. And it’s why we spell ‘Christianity’ as D, O, N, E, – it’s all been done for us by Christ.”
The question now is, I offered, whether you will move from belief to trust and get on the plane (Jesus)?
I had a colleague tell me that he had a man who had come to him and say that despite attending his church for over three decades he felt that something was missing in his life. The pastor listened to his story and then startled the man with, “I don’t think you’ve ever truly become a Christian – because what you are describing is someone who believes it to be true but has never actually put their trust in Jesus as their Saviour.” The man’s response to this was equally startling. “Thank God then, because if this was true Christianity I don’t want it because all I feel is empty!” The Pastor led the man to put his faith into action and to trust in the Saviour. The difference from that point was also startling! 
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!  ¶ And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.
Second Corinthians 5:17-18
Ps. Andrew

Friday, 10 February 2017

Launching Out Into The Deep


launching-out-into-the-deep


One of the stipulated conditions for being allowed to marry Kim, as I was to later discover, was that I had to learn how to sail. So serious was this stipulation, that my father-inlaw paid for me to do a sailing course at the Royal Melbourne Yacht Club. Upon completion of the course, I was duly entrusted with the family yacht. Fortunately, we lived right near Williamstown, Melbourne, which meant that mooring and regularly sailing the yacht was relatively practicable. But, alas, my entire sailing experience was confined to Port Phillip Bay. Other experienced sailors would talk with excitement about “sailing green” (through rough ocean) and negotiating ten to fifteen metre waves! I was content to limit my sailing to a very light shade of blue!  I do, however, have the utmost respect for sailors who venture out into the untamed green waters of the world and return as conquerors. But not all do. Going out into the deep has its rewards, but it also has its risks.
And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
Luke 5:4
“Launching out into the deep” in life involves combatting weariness, overcoming past failures, dealing with unresolved hurts, and trying to forget some possible bad memories. It can be done – but needs some mighty awkward hurdles to be negotiated first! When Jesus told Peter to launch out into the deep after he and his co-workers had toiled all night and caught nothing, Peter also had to get over his previous negative experiences.
And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”
Luke 5:5
where-fishing-boats
crab-fishermen-bering-straitSailing vessels are always safe when secured in a harbour. But sailing vessels were never intended to remain within the safety of a harbour. Your life is like a ship and your journey through life is like navigating seas and oceans. Certain fishing boats, such as the Crab fishermen of the Bering Strait, up near Alaska, have to venture way out into some of the roughest seas on the planet. This Crab season only lasts a few weeks. Each season, several of these fishermen die. For those Crab fishermen who survive and make it back at the end of the season, the financial rewards are significant. They can earn up to a year’s wages in just a few weeks. 
Crab_Fishing_boat_Bering_Sea_AlaskaFishing on the Bering Sea is one of the most hazardous professions on the planet. Days spent lugging around heavy equipment amid giant swells and icy blasts of sea-soaked air — it’s not for the faint of heart. The isolation of those remote waters, the winter months shrouded in darkness and prone to stormy skies, the high winds and ice-covered decks — all stack the deck for hypothermia, drowning and other life-threatening accidents. Despite the danger, there’s still a good bit of money to be made as a fisherman on the Bering Sea — provided you’re willing to pay your dues and work your way up.
Discovery Channel
Millions of dollars are made by these Crab fishers in just one season. But it is only possible if they launch out into the deep. 
And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.
Luke 5:6
Spiritually the same principle seems to apply. The more we are prepared to step out of our comfort zone, obey Christ, and venture deep, the greater the reward. In just over a week, we as a church will be doing just this. Many of us have been planning, building, organising, training, investing, into this Journey campaign. One of our KiDS Church workers has spent the last three weeks building the material which will resemble the inside of a jumbo jet. This has also involved painting and shaping the various boxes now dressed up as pieces of luggage, for the luggage of life game the children will be playing. All of this effort for what will effectively be for less than sixty minutes of usage. Then it will be taken down and disposed of forever. This is launching deep. It is in this deep where we hope to catch the kind of young fish that Jesus spoke about.
And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”
Mark 1:17
This kind of deep fishing involves leg-work and knee-work. Some of us can do the leg-work, some of can do the knee-work. When a church launches out into the deep there is always a lot of leg-work to be done (advertising, catering, volunteer-coordination, multi-media presentations to produce, VIPs to be invited, d├ęcor to be updated, music to be learned/practised/rehearsed, leaflets to be delivered, sets to be made, curriculums to be written, social-media to be updated, and so on), and there is an even greater amount of knee-work to be done (prayer for appropriate weather, prayer for visitors to turn up and for God to open their hearts, prayer for the volunteers to be refreshed and ready, prayer for the musicians and singers to be prepared and able to perform with confidence, prayer for the children invited to join in, prayer for the children’s workers to well-preprared and able to hold the attention of the assembled children, prayer for our sound-team and media team to work in harmony, prayer for those involved in the catering to be well organised and in good health, and prayer for the preacher to have God’s anointing).  
Some of us may feel like we’ve already toiled all night and caught nothing. Even the thought of launching out into the deep is frightening. But in order for us to reach the precious catch which Christ summons us to fish for, we have to set sail and head for deep waters. On Sunday February 19th at Legana, you may feel as if you are out of your depth, but as these Bering Strait Crab-fishermen constantly remind themselves, it’s only for a season and the rewards are extraordinary. But as any of these Crab fishermen will tell you, it’s not a one man job – we all need to help each other out. If you can’t do some of the leg-work which needs doing, then we need you on your knees helping out with the knee-work. On Sunday February 19th, let’s all give 100% and truly make it a One Hundred Percent Sunday 
Deeply yours,
Ps. Andrew