Thursday, 31 December 2009

OUR PRIORITY OF PURPOSE

The Church, says the Apostle Paul, was God's secret (read: "mystery") plan from the foundation of the world (Romans 16:25). Paul taught this. He promoted this. He preached it. He wrote about it. He called the local church the revelation of God's mystery (Eph. 3:3) and will according to His purpose "in Christ" (Eph. 1:6).
Ephesians 5:32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 
God's purpose in the earth today relates to the local church. The local church is, to paraphrase the Apostle, God's Plan A. God loves the local church! He wants us to love the local church as well (Col. 2:2).


Having ministered in over 20 local churches this year on three continents, I have been blessed to see the differing expressions of God's purpose through the local church. Some of these churches were large. Some were quite small. Some were in cities. Some were in remote areas. Some were literate. Some met in homes. Some were well established while some were church-plants. It's hard not to be impressed from a casual reading of the New Testament that the local church is God's purpose and the hope of the world. Everywhere the apostles went they preached the Gospel and gathered the converts into an organised, structured community called "churches".
Acts 14:21-23 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
We can see from the New Testament that the will of God for all people is that they receive Christ through the preaching of the Gospel and become a member of a local church. This is why being a part of a church community is not an option for the Christian. And being "a part of" should be read as: "serving with my gifts and abilities" in the local church. A Christian is a servant. Being a servant is developed within the local church. For some people this might mean handing out newsletters in the foyer. For others it might mean the high position of leading a small group such as a Bible Study Group. For some this serving might mean a ministry of special financial support as God blesses and prospers their life. Perhaps for some it means gathering with a few others to pray together regularly for the needs of the group and the church. We should all be serving in the church in order to be a part of the church. When we serve within a church it causes our attitude toward our church to be sweeter (Romans 12).


WHAT CONSTITUTES A LOCAL CHURCH? 
Some people hate the local church. These people despise the New Testament notion of an ordered community being led by a God-ordained authority who lovingly lead, feed and care for the church. Some of these people who reject what the New Testament prescribes for the local church distort Scripture to justify either abstaining from being a part of a sanctioned church or develop such a critical, independent spirit that they reduce "church" to them + their bible + their lounge room. While there are some Christians living for Christ in countries which are hostile to Christ, where there are no other believers, the normative practice for any Christian is to be a part of a local church. This raises the question then- what constitutes a legitimate local church? The local church is legitimate, said the Reformers, when-

1. It is an ordered assembly of God's people who gather for the Word of God to be proclaimed.
2. It is sanctioned through the ordination of a minister to conduct the sacraments of the Lord's Supper, Water Baptism and Marriage.
3. It exercises godly discipline (both positive and negative, that is, through encouragement it disciples people into Christlikeness and corrects people when they stray into error).
Since we are all required to be in a local church, it is also imperative that we understand what Christ's purpose for the local church is.


THE PURPOSES OF THE LOCAL CHURCH 
Based on the Great Command and the Great Commission we can see four foundational purposes for every local church.
1. To gather together for collective worship of God - "to love the Lord your God with all your heart..."
2. To gather together for the Word of God to be taught - "teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you"
3. To gather together as a witness for God - "preach the Gospel"
4. To gather together for fellowship - "love your neighbour as yourself"

There are different ways to state these four purposes- "Up, In, Out", "Praising, Preaching, Proclaiming, Partnering", "Worship, Teaching, Evangelism, Fellowship", for example, but at Legana we put it this way: To Enthrone, To Empower, To Engage and To Encourage. While each purpose is important, there does seem to be a priority of purpose. This priority is clearer once we realise we can continue in three of these purposes once we are in Heaven, but one of our purposes can only be carried out in this life. Therefore, we must prioritise evangelism. We should pray for the lost to come to faith in Christ. We should live questionable lives to provoke the lost to consider the power of the Gospel to convert a sinner into a child of God. We should invite lost souls to our homes and events. As a church we currently cast the seed of the Gospel out into our community through our radio program, TV ads, church events, youth activities and in 2010 we will be introducing other vehicles for increasing our evangelism effectiveness. Thank God that this year we have baptised a tremendous number of people subsequent to their conversion to Christ! May we see more people publicly committing their lives to Christ in the coming year.


YOUR PURPOSE, YOUR CHURCH 
Psalm 92:12-13The righteous flourish like the palm tree
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. 
They are planted in the house of the LORD; 
they flourish in the courts of our God.


God's purpose for your life is intimately linked to the local church. This is the place where we are taught (read: "strengthened"). The local church is also the place where we not only are taught, but more importantly, where we learn. We learn to get along with others. We learn to serve. We learn to forgive. We learn to share. We learn to pray together. We learn to care. This takes place within the community of the church (our small groups). There is enormous spiritual benefit to being a part of the congregation of a church, but there is even greater spiritual benefit when a believer is a part of the congregation and the community (a small group) of the church. It is in a small group of the church (that meets to discuss Scripture and to pray and share together) that transformational discipleship happens. And this is God's purpose for your life- to be transformed into the likeness of Christ within the community of a local church.

Please join with me in prayer that we will be a part of building a strong, vibrant, healthy, Biblical local church that glorifies Christ and effectively reaches out together to see people reached with the Gospel.
Colossians 2:19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
I pray that we will continue to grow as a church. I pray that we will grow in number. That we will continue to see new people come to our church. That they will be welcomed and that those who don't know you personally will be challenged and will accept you as saviour. I pray we will continue to grow in knowledge. I pray we will be a disciplined people in reading your word. In committing your word to memory. To have wisdom in recalling the words we have read appropriately when speaking to our friends and family. I pray for those who speak and teachi in this church to be looking to you and your word for inspiration. That we who hear will know the truth when we hear it and likewise will be able to discern any untruths and know how to respond. I pray that indeed it is your word that is spoken from the pulpit and that people will be confronted with your word and your truth each week. I pray we will grow in love for our fellow man. I pray that we will be the good Samaritan of the new testament. We will show compassion and love for those around us. When we see others in need we will reach out. We will go beyond the norm in caring for others. We will be active in our good deeds. With our words we will uplift and encourage. With our actions we will help and support. We will continually lift others in prayer. Your love in us will be obvious to those around us and will lead to discussion and opportunity to witness. I pray we will grow in strength and boldness. We will have confidence in our salvation and speak out against those intent on tearing down the moral fabric of our society. When we see something wrong we will have the courage to speak out. When we see something wrong we will have the words to speak and the clearness of thought to act accordingly. Help us Lord to be true to your word. Help us to see things that prevent us from doing your work. Help us to recognise sin in our lives and help us to give it to you for forgiveness. May we seek a fresh touch by your Spirit to see your will accomplished in our lives. May our hearts capacity for you increase that we can compliment your work in this community. We love you and we love your people Lord. Amen
[Prayer submitted by Stephen Hill, Elder at Legana Christian Church]

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Revealing A Big Secret

Want to know a secret? It's the secret to achievement and success. Those who know it are very reluctant to share it with others (for reasons that will become obvious shortly). Once you understand the enormous power of this secret your potential to fulfil your life's dreams and goals and help the most number of people can be realised. But this secret is not for the faint-hearted. In fact, some people become aware of this powerful secret and put their fingers in their ears and start "La, la, la" -ing, because it is a secret that comes at a great cost. But it's not one of these New-Age fluffy notions. This is a secret that has been known by the great for millennia. Once you hear this secret you'll probably dismiss it with a wave of your hand and a "Oh that's not a secret - everyone knows that!"

Here's the big secret to success and fulfilment in life: bouncing back. The difference between people who achieve their goals, grow, and succeed and those who do not often comes down to resilience (the ability to bounce-back).

The Christian Gospel is perhaps the greatest bounce-back story ever told. Consider Jesus. He came to be King and Messiah. But, He was rejected, despised and scorned by those He came to help. Eventually He was put to death by those who should have accepted Him. But He resurrected! The Ultimate bounce-back! Then He consider His lead-apostle, Peter. He denied Christ three times before the cock crowed then met the searing eyes of His Master staring deep into his. His failure was rebuked without a word! He felt the pain of his mistake and privately wept "bitterly". But within a few weeks he stood before an entire city of pilgrims and boldly preached so that 3,000 were converted. He bounced back! But within a few years he publicly failed again. He cowered undered pressure from radical Jewish Christians who insisted on a two-staged conversion for Gentiles. This led to a publicly embarrassing rebuke from the novice apostle Paul. But Peter learned from his mistakes and bounced back. He would see out the rest of his days as one of the greatest preachers and church planters that the world has ever seen.

I remember hearing about the recruitment of a captain for the Titanic. The captain of the California was considered. He had a lot of experience crossing the Atlantic. He had sailed various types of ships. He was renowned for his leadership of crews. He was known to be a level-headed man. But...he was rejected because he had captained a ship that had hit an iceberg and sunk. Instead, the owners of the Titanic went with a captain who had never lost a ship. Of course we all now know that the Titanic did indeed sink on its first crossing. Ironically, surviving passengers were rescued by the California which raced to its rescue (it was slightly delayed because the captained had sailed so far around the icebergs that were known to be perilously interferng with the general shipping route). The captain of the California was a man who had learned to bounce-back.


HOW TO BOUNCE YOUR WAY TO SUCCESS... 
Proverbs 24:16 for the righteous falls seven times and rises again,
The first step to bouncing back is making mistakes.

The second step is to get some rest. Pondering things when they still hurt and we are run down emotionally and physically will not help us to process them well. (In fact, when we are tired and idle and we then mull over things we are likely to become very emotionally unwell.)

The third step is to go through the pain and learn from what went wrong. This involves the language of hope- "Next time I do this, I'm not going to do it this way, instead I'll..." or "If I'd been more prepared this would never have happened. I'm going to make sure that I'm more prepared next time..." We need to regard our mistakes as practice. If you told a 10 year old child, "Try and jump over that two metre wide hole", you are saying something different than- "Practice doing a two metre long jump". "Try" and "Practice" carry different ideas. "Try" carries little room for error and an immediate expectation of success. "Practice" on the other hand carries abundant room for not getting it right and no immediate expectation of success.
Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. 
The fourth step is to turn your critics into your consultants. This requires a different type of hearing. Most of us become defensive when we are criticised. This prevents us from learning how to do things better. But we have to hear criticism as "I want you to do better next time" rather than- "You're utterly hopeless!" By the way, the more people you want to help, the bigger the leader you'll need to become and the more criticism you'll receive! I'm not yet as big a leader as I want to be yet, but I already receive my fair share of criticism. When I grew up I had a pastor who repeatedly said that The person who never makes mistakes never makes anything! I also grew up hearing the TV pastor, Robert Schuller, say Turn your scars into stars. All great people have had to learn this fourth step in order to bounce back. As a kid I played a lot of tennis. Sometimes up to six hours a day. When I couldn't get someone to hit with I would take a bucket of balls down to the tennis courts and hit them by myself often just setting up targets to hit. I played in lots of tournaments and there was one other kid that also played in some of these tournaments- Kel. But Kel was not very good. He lacked basic skills. He didn't even seem to enjoy playing that much either. And did I mention that he was over-weight? Whenever my brother and I were drawn to play Kel we sighed a huge sigh of relief because we knew it would be an easy win for us. Kel was ridiculed by the regular circuit players. But then a strange thing happened...Kel disappeared. We didn't see him for about two years or so. Then he suddenly reappeared. He was leaner, using top equipment, and could now hit a ball. The transformation was remarkable. I later found out that Kel went to a Tennis Academy in the USA and underwent radical fitness training. He had bounced back! Everytime his coach helped him it must have sounded like criticism, but Kel was able to turn this criticism into help.

The fifth step to bouncing back is to face your giants. Your giant might be the person you offended or let down and need to apologise to. Your giant might be an audience you flopped in front of. Your giant might be a project you that you previously failed to complete for some reason. Your giant might also be some unrepented of sin (in which case your giant is actually God). Facing this giant may involve apologising, publically asking for forgiveness, completing a task or project even though you no longer have to, or even repenting.

Perhaps two of the greatest examples of bouncing back are Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill. Both men publicly failed and were humiliated. Both men suffered great loss. But they went through the process of bouncing back and became two of the greatest leaders the world has ever seen. Every preacher knows what I'm talking about! We all preach messages that flop. I recently had one of our young people within the church share a dream with me where I was preaching and sending people to sleep. The problem was that in the congregation were some of my greatest preaching and teaching heroes who were all sound asleep from a message that dragged on for several hours and bored everyone to sleep. What I didn't tell the young person was that I have similar nightmares like this which serve to keep me on my toes. But I actually don't need nightmares to remind me that I can preach duds! I have memories!!!! It's these memories and the resultant humiliations that now cause me to preach "with a limp" (Gen. 32:31). I'm sure we each have some painful memories that have the potential power to keep us from bouncing back. But if we confront these giants we can bounce-back and achieve the success we are truly looking for.

As a church as we might look back over the past year and think that for every two steps forward we took one back. But if we can commit to bouncing back we can learn from our mistakes and grow as a result.
Proverbs 12:1To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction. (NLT)

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

CHANGING


We've seen some major changes this year. As a church we have several new people who have joined our church. We have made some physical changes around our church grounds - none the least the development of our Children's Education Centre. And personally we have changed our home quite markedly, special thanks to our builder- Geoff Hill, for doing such a stand-out job on our house.

Change will always happen even though we are reluctant to participate in it. Our bodies change and even do so despite our best efforts to prevent it. Our friends change. Our fashions change. Our expenses change. Our toys change. Our cars change. Change remains unchanging.

POSITIVE CHANGE IS CALLED... 
Ephesians 4:15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,
Positive change is called growth. Positive change is intentional change. We consider where we are and then consider where we want to be. The gap is called change. At the start of the year, Kim and I looked at our 2.5 bedroom house and our 4.0 children and decided that we needed to urgently extend our house. By the way, we purchased our home not for what it was but for what we saw it had the potential of becoming. Shortly after buying our house, the back corner dropped leaving major cracks in the wall. I couldn't afford the thousands of dollars needed to do the necessary underpinning repairs, so I did most of it myself with a shovel and pick. As I was digging away I was complaining to the Lord about how unfair all this was. I then felt the rebuke of the Holy Spirit and reproving words- Leaders solve problems. I've called you to be a leader who solves problems now stop you're complaining! We had a choice to see our house as a continual series of problems and to throw our hands in the air and say that it was just all too hard, or we could look for the solutions to the problems and begin to start implementing the solutions one by one. In one sense, the solution to our house problem was a "big" solution. But in another sense it was really a lot of little solutions which made up the overall solution. Sometimes we can see how things must change but we can only see the "big" solution not the series of small solutions that make up the big solution.

I look at my own life and consider where I am at now compared to where I want to be. My gap is very big. I have a lot of changing to do. I have to grow in my consideration for others. I have to grow in my knowledge of God, His Word, and the collective thoughts of His teachers who have written great books (2Tim 4:13). I have to grow in wisdom. I have to grow in physical fitness and endurance. I have to grow professionally as a pastor, writer, speaker and steward. I have to grow as a husband and father, provider and protector. I have to grow in my ability to grow the church and all those who are partnering with us.
Ephesians 4:16 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. 

FORCED CHANGE IS... 

Ultimately we know that God directs our growth (change). He not only allows what we consider "negative" change, He ordains it! He causes us to have to change. Circumstances constrain us to make sometimes sudden changes. My father in-law was a refugee. He was forced to flee communist Hungary. This change was forced upon him. And thank God that he did because it meant that he would eventually come to Australia with his new bride and have a drop-dead gorgeous you-gotta-be-kidding-she's-so-pretty daughter who would become my wife. Throughout history, it seems that like a mother eagle who forces her comfortable eaglets out of the security of their cliff-top nest, that God sometimes forced change upon people as well. Martin Luther was forced to change because he saw abuses that he could no longer tolerate. This change brought out the Reformation and the dawn of the Enlightenment era. Abraham Lincoln was forced to change the way African-Americans were being treated, and this resulted in the formation of the modern United States of America.

As we conclude 2009 and prepare for 2010 we can expect change- even unforeseen changes. But perhaps we need to embrace positive change where we take deliberate steps to change what needs changing.
Colossians 2:19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
Father, please help us to grow as a church. Give us the grace to change individually as we must. Sanctify us in this life so that we are continually changed to the likeness of Christ in both our hearts, attitudes, and responses toward others. Grant us the willingness to be conformed to Your will, even when we are most resistent to it. May we each see clearly how we must change and also be blessed with the vision to see each smaller component change that we must make. Give us increasing love for each other. Cause us to delight ourselves in repentance and prayerful surrender to You.
Amen.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

THE MODEL CHAPLAIN


When I first arrived in Tasmania with my wife and (at that time) two small children, I didn’t know anyone. I had just taken up the pastorate of a very small semi-rural church of mainly elderly people. To support myself, I applied for a job with Australia Post (I had worked for Australia Post for several years in Melbourne while pioneering churches). Again, I didn’t know anyone in this new workplace of several hundred employees.

I had never seen a chaplain. I knew that the Australian military forces had commissioned chaplains who were regarded as Officers and served as a vital component in the emotional and spiritual well being of our troops, but I was largely unaware of any other context for chaplains. Then one day into the Delivery Centre walked the Chaplain. I had no idea who this well dressed man was. Charlie, a very rough veteran postie, lent across to me and said in an usually polite tone, that’s the chaplain…if you’ve got any problems you can talk to him…This chaplain clearly had the respect of Charlie (which, if you knew Charlie, you would know why his comments so surprised me).

When the chaplain approached our delivery team he was smiling and went out of his way to greet and talk with every worker. As he came to me he realised that I was new. He then took some extra time to enquire how I was settling in. He made no offer to be of assistance. He listened. At the meal break he came back over to me and talked more. He referred me to a resource centre, which I otherwise would never have known anything about. I followed through on his tip, and it proved to be of great help.

Over the ensuing months I talked more with Peter Pinder, the Australia Post chaplain, not because I had problems, but because he genuinely seemed interested. Even after I moved on from Australia Post I continued to have occasional talks with him. This connection lasted for 12 years and culminated when I was invited by the family to conduct his funeral at the Perth Baptist Church in 2007.

To me, Peter Pinder was the model chaplain. He was disciplined. He was educated. He was sensitive. He took initiative to reach out to others even when they didn’t immediately show their appreciation or make it easy for him. He never talked about his problems (it wasn’t until many years later that I realised that he had any problems). Although he was never paid well for his services, he managed his money very well and never complained about his pay- he obviously didn’t do what he did for the money.


My family was privileged to visit with Peter and Isobel when he took up a pastorate in Scotland. Even then, although Peter was dealing with his own issues he took an acute interest in what I was up to. He already knew that I was a collector of FW Boreham books and prior to departing for Scotland had given me an FW Boreham book out of his own library. Several boxes of his belongings from Scotland arrived in Tasmania after his funeral. Among those boxes were three very rare FW Boreham books that Peter had tracked down in Scottish second-hand books, which he had marked For Andrew Corbett. Even in the midst of his own difficulties he was still exhibiting the prime quality of a chaplain: care and consideration.

Now when I think of a chaplain, I think of the Rev. Peter Pinder. I remember a man who was highly professional (he had a Master’s degree in religious education, which he rarely told anyone). He dressed like a professional- you could tell when he was on the job! He communicated well within his own sponsoring organisation (ITIM), with the management of the various industrial workplaces where he ministered, and with the frontline troops: the workers. He made time for everyone- even those who gave him a cold response.

His written communication reflected his intellectual rigour. He understood the difference between “their”, “there” and “they’re”. He knew how to use an apostrophe- that “Gods” is totally different to “God’s” as “Schools” is totally different to “School’s”. He wrote what he meant. He didn’t present his readers with ambiguous abbreviations such as “etc”. He was discreet and knew how to keep confidences.

With fewer members of the general population attending churches regularly, there is less opportunity for some people to benefit from the pastoral care these churches provide. This is perhaps the irony of our age. General church attendance has decreased but spiritual hunger has skyrocketed.

I think everyone needs a pastor. But the next best thing to a pastor is a chaplain: someone who takes an interest in you; listens; helps you to find meaning in the midst of your pain; promotes thankfulness in the good times; offers resources for navigating life better; and, assists you to make sense of the world and your place in it in a spiritually coherent fashion. Of course, not everyone is going to recognise their need for a chaplain. But even the staunchest atheists have been surprised by the help of a chaplain: a listening ear, a caring prayer, or a supportive program.

With the growth of chaplaincy in sporting clubs, schools, hospitals and industry, I hope that this new breed of chaplains are baptised in the “Peter Pinder Anointing”. I hope that they above all see themselves as professionals who are fulfilling a vocation- not just doing a job. (A professional fulfils a role. An unskilled worker exchanges hours for dollars.) I hope that these chaplains become more educated and learn to be craftsmen in care, communication, and confidences. I hope that chaplains exhibit a servant spirit to the management team of their workplace and learn what their hosts expect of them. I hope that chaplains become a part of the “soul” of their workplace through interacting in social functions, extra-curricular activities, and representing their school/hospital/club to the wider community.

The ministry of Peter Pinder lives on even though he has been promoted to his reward. And if I can encourage other Tasmanian chaplains to reflect his example, his ministry will live on even longer.

Andrew Corbett
19th August 2008
Pastor of Legana Christian Church and President of ICI Theological College Australia
www.andrewcorbett.net | www.legana.org | www.icicollege.com.au

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

JUST A REMINDER

Prof Mortimer J. Adler
I've been reading the classic book by one of the world's all time great educators (Prof. Mortimer J, Adler) called How To Read A Book. It was first published in 1939. It is an amazing book. I'm impressed by what Professor Adler has written, but I'm particularly impressed with the way he has said it. Reading the book, you may not notice what I notice. But I am desperately keen to learn all I can about the best way to help others learn. Therefore, when I am in the presence of greatness I have my learning receptors maxed out. What I noticed was this: Professor Adler continually reminds his readers. Whenever he introduces a new thought about the subject at had, he will explain it, illustrate it, restate it, then show how to use it. When he has finished he helps his readers to take note of the main point about what he has just said. By the time I got to the 349th page of his book I realised that he subtley, continually, inconspicuously, reminded his readers about the main points of what he was saying. As a teacher, he had obviously learnt some profound things about how people best learn: they need reminding. Upon reflection, it seems to me that the best teachers are the ones who introduce something then in a number of ways remind their students about it. We are creatures who relish reminding.
Romans 15:15 But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God

If you've ever had the thrill and blessing of organising an event, you will have discovered the surest way to guarantee its success is: reminding. One of the most frustrating things I encountered as a Youth Pastor was getting the phone calls from youth about half an hour before an event to find out what was happening that night. Although, now that I think about it, it may have been more frustrating organising, promoting, hosting an event, only to have youth forget that it was on(?). Kim and I soon learned that we had to phone each of the kids just prior to the event to remind them that it was on in order to get them there. Organisers who refuse to remind will soon become former organisers!

Reminding can be tedious. Last week I met with a seasoned politician who gave me some advice. "If you think people heard you the first time, you're wrong. If you think they heard you after you told them six times- you're wrong! It's at that point when you think that you have repeated yourself so many times that no one could possibly have missed what you said that people are probably now just starting to listen." Just a reminder. No, not just reminder, but a powerful appeal to the very thing that somehow defines who we are. We all need reminding.
Psalm 71:16 With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come;
I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.

Have you ever noticed how often the Bible both repeats itself and orders that certain things (ceremonies, stories, rituals) be repeated? Being reminded helps us to stay focussed and therefore purposeful. Eugene Peterson says that the Sunday church service is largely about coming together to be reminded. He says this reminding is actually calibrating. That is, it helps us to bring back into focus that which has gone hazey. We celebrate a Holy Communion ritual to remind us. We sing songs that remind us of God's redemptive acts and greatness. We give financially to remind ourselves that God is our Provider. We pray to remind ourselves that God is our loving heavenly Father. We give heed to the Word preached to be reminded of what God has said. We meet together to be reminded that we are not alone in our struggle against the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Numbers 10:10 On the day of your gladness also, and at your appointed feasts and at the beginnings of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings. They shall be a reminder of you before your God: I am the LORD your God.

In the Old Testament parents were told to continually remind their children of God's Word. Most usually, when God sent prophets to Israel before they prophesied they reminded. Nearly all of the Old Testament prophets were historians- ministers of reminders. It seems that God ordained the Seven Feasts of Israel as reminders of not only what He had done, but even more startlingly, what He was going to do. Today under the New Covenant we celebrate some of the residual of these feasts but we are now reminded of what God has already done. Added to this, the Church has introduced cultural reminders, such as Christmas and birthdays to celebrate God's miracles. As we approach this Advent (the "appearing" of our Great God and Saviour, Titus 2:13) Season, we are both reminded and reminding. We are reminded of the greatest miracle the world has ever known, that God became a man and dwelt among us, and we are reminding the world of this shocking and morally confronting truth. I only say all of this by way of reminder.
1Corinthians 15:1Now I would remind you, brothers,* of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand,

    Father, we are reminded of your great faithfulness in Your Book of Reminders, the Scriptures. We are reminded of times past in our own lives when you have blessed, rescued, and healed us. Help us to be reminded more often of who You are and what You have done for us. Forgive us for forgetting the wrong things and remembering the wrong things. Help us to forget well the things You tell us to ignore, and help us to remember well the things You want us to be reminded of. Make us all ministers of reminding to a world that has largely forgotten. Amen.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Climate Change Questions

The earth is warming up. This is referred to as Climate Change. This apparently is a catastrophic problem because it melts the ice caps which causes sea level rises which causes the loss of some islands. It is also catastrophic because it seems to be caused by a change in our atmosphere- namely, increased CO2 emmissions - which makes our air dirtier. It is a problem. But as the events of the past week in Canberra have shown, it has divided opinion among Australians like little else has done. On the hand there are the Climate-Change-Advocates (read: Priests) who warn of cataclysmic disaster and a global catastrophe if something is not done nearly immediately to reverse these trends. On the other hand are the Climate-Change-Skeptics who deny that global warming is even happening. (It's interesting that the language being used is religious. See an interesting article by Chuck Colson about this.) Dr Jay Richards of the Acton Institute suggests that 4 ("tough") questions need to be adequately answered before we decide which camp we will join.
    (1) Is the planet warming?
    (2) If the planet is warming, is human activity (like CO2 emissions) causing it?
    (3) If the planet is warming, is it bad overall?
    (4) If the planet is warming, we’re causing it, and it’s bad, would the policies commonly advocated (e.g., the Kyoto Protocol, legislative restrictions on CO2 emissions) make any difference and, if so, would their cost exceed their benefit?

Jay goes on to say that these questions can only be answered by science, not Scripture. However, what he says Scripture does say, which should guide how we continue to respond to this problem is: God has appointed us as stewards of this planet. In his other writings, Dr Richards reminds Christians that the worldview of many "climate-change alarmists" is a-theistic ("a"=no + "theistic"=God). That is, they regard this world as the result of a rather random, chaotic, sequence of uncaused events that somehow is governed by the illusion of "laws" (gravity, planetary rotations and orbits, the empirical laws of mathematics and physics). As such, Dr Richards points out, they suspect the earth is extremely fragile and that mankind is actually an accidental intruder who is really just messing things up (this is my summary of what he said in an interview with Hank Hanegraaff on the Bible Answer Man program). Jay Richards reminds believers that the Bible says that the earth is the Lord's and that He sustains it (Psalm 24:1). The earth, according to Dr Richards, is extremely resilient, because it has been designed that way by an all-wise Creator.

There are many Christians who would agree with Dr Jay Wesley Richards, but for different reasons. These believers are climate-change skeptics because they reject, not just the science, but the scientific data. This is because they have a way of reading the Bible that restricts them from accepting, what many Biblical scholars regard as the Biblically plausible, scientific evidence that the earth was created some 4.5 billion years ago. Instead, they claim, the Bible implies that the earth was created between 10,000-6,000 years ago. They base this assumption on the addition of the genealogical records in the Scripture and arrive at a date for Genesis 1:1 of around 4004BC. People who hold this view are referred to as "young earth creationists". Of course, the climatologists are basing their climate-change research on weather patterns that appear to be 80,000 years old (they can determine this from polar ice cores). As soon as Young Earth Creationists are asked to believe the scientific claim that the earth is older than 80,000 years old, they immediately switch off. I have written little bit more about this in another article on my website.
Psalm 78:69 He built his sanctuary like the high heavens,
like the earth, which he has founded forever
.

Dr Jay Wesley Richards' 4 questions are indeed tough questions. Perhaps they can be answered this way-
(1) Yes, the planet is warming.
(2) Perhaps, this warming is caused by humans emitting too much CO2 into the atmosphere. Perhaps though, there is more CO2 in the atmosphere because of a cyclical planetary global warming (which is thought to occur every 1500 years or so).
(3) Global warming may not necessarily be a bad thing, suggests Dr Richards. This might especially be the case if global warming (and cooling) is a part of God's design for our planet. There seems to be some evidence that our planet has experienced extreme warming and cooling in times past. Al Gore, though, claims in his Academy Award winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, that the earth has never before seen such dramatic rises in temperature than we are currently witnessing. He claims that this is having a devastating affect on our global ecology and therefore the survival of humanity.
(4) But if the planet is warming and humans are the cause, and it is bad, will the various carbon emission reduction plans - Kyoto, Copenhagen, C.P.R.S. (Carbon Program Reduction Scheme) resolve this? Dr Jay Wesley Richards argues that while these measures will have some benefits, it is highly doubtful that that they resolve the problem. Jay then factors in the economic cost of such measures, both directly and then indirectly. He argues that if these various treaties and protocols were introduced it could come at incalculable human cost. He wonders how ethical this would be. Reduce carbon emissions, says Dr Richards, but not at any cost! (Watch a video of Dr Jay Wesley Richards)
Psalm 24:1 The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein.

Little wonder the Liberal Party have been in such turmoil over this issue. We want less carbon emissions. This will be good for our atmosphere and our ecology. But it is highly doubtful that a new tax on carbon emissions would achieve this. Senator Barnaby Joyce expressed this doubt this way- "If a new tax could solve the problem, then why not impose a world peace tax on everybody?"

Much of the climate-change shrill is firmly grounded in the belief that the earth is a collossal fluke. But the earth is the Lord's. He created it and He sustains it. While some believers interpret the prophetic passages of Scripture as predicting God will one day trash this earth and create a new one (therefore why care for this one?), other eschatologists (such as myself) regard such references to a "new heaven and earth" in quite a different way. I have written much about this different (and dare I say it, more "exegetical") way of understanding such references on my website (www.andrewcorbett.net).

I propose that we consider Dr Richards' 4 questions as the beginning of our guide to understanding this crucial issue. Unlike many Climate-Change Skeptics, I think we should not merely dismiss the scientific data. But, perhaps we should factor in to our thinking that the earth is created by God and sustained by Him. Along these lines we should remember that God created us. He sustains us. Even though we have rebelled against Him and demanded that He stop interfering with our lives, He has reached out to us and opened our eyes to see our true condition. Amazingly, He has undeservingly lavished His grace upon us so that we can receive His forgiveness and can be eternally reconciled to Him.

As serious as Global-Warming is, it is nothing compared to the potential of eternal-warming! I hope we can make a valuable contribution to both warming dilemmas as we share the glorious Gospel and its implications for te earth.

For what appears to be a balanced summary of both sides of the Climate-Change Debate, visit- http://www.arn.org/blogs/index.php/3/2007/04/06/getting_all_hot_about_global_warming.

    Father, help us to make a difference in our world today. Help us to care for our planet and enhance our ecology. But Lord help us to reach out to those who do not know You as beautiful. Grant it oh God that we can be used by You to lead people to the Ultimate Desire of their Soul: Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

YOUR MORE LIKELY TO BE LIKED IF

Andrew Corbett in India, with friendsSome people are naturally likeable. They enter a room full of people and everyone smiles. They tell a joke and everyone laughs. They get invited to everyone's parties. Even when they disappoint others they are quickly forgiven. But why? How is it that some people always seem to have friends no matter what?

HOW MANY OF YOUR FAULTS
DO YOU WANT YOUR FRIENDS
TO OVERLOOK IN YOU?

If all of your friends agreed to forgive you X times a year, how much would X equal? If all of your friends committed to be friend no matter how you treated them, how would this change you?

Friends come in about 6 billion different types. Some friends are self-reliant and interesting. These friends laugh a lot, try new things, have dreams and goals they are achieving, are always making new friends and introducing their friends to each other, and they are always lending a helping hand. Other friends are awkward. They don't initiate contact or conversation - but still expect it from others. They are pessimistic and reluctant to try new things. They always seem to be battling something. We also all have friends who are up and down. And then there are friends who are transactional (perhaps work colleagues or sporting team mates). No matter how you might describe your friends, in order for them to be a friend, a true friend, they must have learned or experienced your fault(s) and chosen to overlook it/them. This is one of the fundamentals of a strong friendship - covering an offense.
Proverbs 17:9 Whoever covers an offense seeks love,
but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.

Friends know (some of) each others' faults, weaknesses, and battles. We all have them- faults, that is. We each have different strategies for handling them. Some of us hide them as best we can. Some of us blame-shift. Still some of us just own up to them and hope others can make allowances for us.

WHAT MAKES A PERSON
MORE LIKELY TO BE
A GOOD FRIEND?


So if you are looking for people to be your friends, you might want to accept that not everybody is going to be able to overlook your faults. Don't worry too much about this. It's normal and average. But people like this usually make excellent acquaintances. They will chat with you about the weather, about work, sport or even politics. Most of your friends throughout your life will be acquaintances. Fewer of our friends will be close-friends. Most people will only every have around 7 close-friends thoughout their entire life and often only one or two at a time. These are friends who know your faults, failings, and bad-habits and have grown to overlook them. Then there are our closest-friends. Most emotionally healthy people will have one, maybe two, such friends throughout their lifetime. Your spouse is the most elligible person to be your closest-friend.
Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for adversity.

    A good friend hangs in there with you - they stick (Proverbs 18:24) - despite your faults. By the way, the One who knows you best loves you most.

    A good friend is cool-headed - they don't scare you (Proverbs 22:24) - even when they are under pressure they don't lash out at those around them.

    A good friend is generous - they don't use you (Proverbs 19:6) - they help you.

    A good friend imparts joy and shares in our highs and lows (Romans 12).

    A good friend is both interested and interesting - they have pursued wisdom and knowledge (Proverbs 27:9) - and can speak well.

    A good friend is honest - because they care they challenge, correct, rebuke and reconcile (Proverbs 27:6).

    People tend to attract friends if-

  • They smile and look happy around people.

  • They have a generous spirit.

  • They remember small details about people they are speaking with.

  • They are interesting- they try new things, read new books, take courses to learn, exercise, socialise and evangelise.


You are more likely to have (more)friends if you also emulate these traits. Of course, if you think about it, God is The Ultimate Friend. To worship God is draw near to your best friend.

Father, help us to make friends well. Help us to care for our friends and help them. Grant it oh God that we can be a better friend to more people.
Amen.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Understanding The Book of Revelation

I WAS GLAD

Psalm 122:1 I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the LORD!”

I love church. I love being in church on a Sunday. I probably have the best job in the world because I get paid to lead a church and focus my life on it. I enjoy my ministry. I enjoy our church. But I have discovered that even with things that we enjoy, there can be pressure, tension and difficulties. But like the Psalmist, I am still glad to be a part of the Church!

There was once a preacher who was invited to a small country church. He accepted the invitation and took his young son along with him. They arrived early at the church, which was open, but found no-one. While they waited for someone to arrive, they noticed a wooden box on the back wall with a slot in it. The preacher took out $20 and deposited into the offering box as his son looked on. Soon enough a few of the regulars turned up and the church service was under way. The visiting preacher poured his heart out and at the end of the service the deacon came up to him and vigorously shook his hand with genuine gratitude for the preacher's efforts. "You preached real well today pastor, real well. In fact, we have a visiting preacher offering box on the back wall into which the congregation can show their appreciation. And they really liked you today!" With that encouragement, the deacon gave the pastor an envelope. The pastor thanked the deacon and bid his farewells. In the car on the way back home he opened the envelope with his son looking on. Inside the envelope was $20. The pastor's $20! "Well Dad", said the son, "don't be disappointed! If you'd put more in, you would have got more out!"

When we do things with gladness we are 'putting in' and are then more likely to 'get more out'. Thus, an attitude of gladness affects our level of appreciation because being glad about what we have produces within us a sense of treasuring. Afterall, if you had treasure wouldn't you be glad? Coming together as God's people in worship we are treasuring God's presence and we are made glad.
Psalm 21:6 For you make him most blessed forever;
you make him glad with the joy of your presence.

We can be glad about so many things that we are often frustrated with: family, work, health, weight, finances, relationships, leisure time, time-management and so on. And sometimes when we are frustrated generally we become frustrated specifically, especially with 'soft' targets. This is why we often take out our general frustration on those closest to us, or those most likely not to challenge us. Sometimes this means that church becomes a soft target for generally frustrated people. So when life gets frustrating, it's hard to agree with the Psalmist when he says that he was "glad" when he went to the house of God (Psalm 122:1). It's at these times that we must choose to be glad. Being glad comes from a decision of our will-
Psalm 31:7 I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,
because you have seen my affliction;
you have known the distress of my soul,

In the great Forgiveness Psalm (32), the Psalmist has just experienced God's forgiveness and he declares to the people of God to-
Psalm 32:11 Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

So this Sunday, let's come together to seek the Lord. In so doing, we are proscribed by the Psalms to worship- to declare that God is great - and to seek God and to be glad in God-
Psalm 40:16But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
say continually, “Great is the LORD!”

Let us be glad and be glad together and be glad to be together !

Father, help us to be glad and to declare to this world that You are great! May we be caught off guard by Your magnificence at the most inconvenient times. When we are unnecessarily distracted by the mundane, please forgive us and help us to quickly repent and experience Your forgiveness. Give us a greater love for those closest to us, and an increasing love fr our church family. As this Sunday approaches in which You have ordained that we meet together to rest in Your presence through worship of Your Saviour, Jesus Christ, fill us with extraordinary gladness. Help us to encourage our brothers and sisters who have been embattled this week. Help us to rejoice with those who have triumphed this week. Help us to hear from You and draw nearer to You where we can hear Your whisper convicting us to repent, to stretch, to obey, or to reconcile. Please give us Your grace to be humble ambassadors to a lost and dying world that urgently needs to know You - the Source, Point, Hope and Reason for life, and to do so gladly.

Amen.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

The Book of Revelation Interpreted

GOD DEMANDS: BE HAPPY!

Joy. It is one of the hallmarks of the Christian life. It is a fruit of the Spirit. It is a happy, rejoicing response to our circumstances. For the believer, joy is the facial and emotional declaration to the world that God is good and that my highest desires for satisfaction and fulfilment are met in Him. Joy in someone is obvious to everyone. The face of a mother-to-be betrays the delightful joy of the news they have just had confirmed by their doctor. The boyfriend in a longstanding and wholesome relationship with his sweetheart cannot conceal that his former girlfriend has just agreed to become his fiance. His attitude and perkiness tell all around him that he is happy and joyful. The face of the father of an honoured student at her conferring ceremony is only matched by how many photographs he takes of his "little girl" as she graduates with her degree in surgical medicine. The despairing business-person who has been deeply betrayed in more ways than anyone will ever truly know, has just met a Saviour who they have strangely and mysteriously discovered to be infinitely faithful, reliable, caring and considerate, and now their whole world seems clearer and brighter. They are happy.

Joy and gladness are the natural evidences of God's presence. When the prophet Joel describes God's abandoning of rebellious Israel, he declares that joy and gladness has been cut off from the House of the Lord (Joel 1:16). We are to live joyfully. We are to live gladly. In fact, God commands it. Dare I say it, God threatens severe things if His people will not be happy. But I am now plagiarising. I have borrowed a thought from Jeremy Taylor which was borrowed by John Piper, which he borrowed from CS Lewis who borrowed it from Taylor as he borrowed it from the Scottish preacher - George MacDonald (Jeremy Taylor, quoted in C. S. Lewis, "George MacDonald: An Anthology" (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1946), 19). Here's how John Piper cites this amazing thought-
One is this: It is not John Piper who commands us to rejoice in the
Lord; God does. God elevates this experience of the heart to the level of
command, not I. And he does so with blood-earnestness. “Because you
did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart,
... you shall serve your enemies” (Deut. 28:47-48). “God threatens terrible
things if we will not be happy.” The fight for joy is not a warfare I appointed. God did.
"When I Don't Desire God", by John Piper, page 30,Crossway Publishers 2004

Joy is something, says Piper, that we must display. It shows our delight in God. It confirms our ultimate satisfaction being derived from knowing God. It declares to the world - "Hey! I've found it! I've found what we're all looking for!!!!"
Isaiah 52:7¶ How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”.

We need a church full of people full of joy!

Nehemiah 8:10Then he said to them, “...for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.

But we don't always feel happy or full of joy. It's these times, argues Piper, that we must fight for our joy. He draws upon a document called the Westminster Shorter Catechism in which it says from the outset: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Piper says this opening statement can be amended to The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. To truly give God His right glory demands that we enjoy Him and display our happiness to the world.

Not feeling joyful? Perhaps you need to repent of whatever is robbing you of joy and pray for God to restore to you the joy of your salvation (Psalm 51). Perhaps you need to change your diet or sleep habits? Maybe you need to seek God and ask Him to remove every obstacle to your happiness in Him?

Having a happy attitude can make the world of difference to how you see life, God and your future. Your happiness matters! A lot!
Matthew 25:21 ¶ ...Enter into the joy of your master.

Happy people laugh. Happy people sing. Happy people are thankful people.

Be happy! Make the decision to turn from accepting gloom, to only being satisfied with God's joy.
John 15:11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

I pray that in the midst of our circumstances we can be full of joy and happiness. I pray that we as a church will be rejoicing, full of joy, delighting ourselves in God, and happy for knowing Christ and His people. Happy people are attractive people. Let's decide to be happy for God's glory!

When we walk with the Lord In the Light of his word What a glory He sheds on our way! While we do His good will, He abides with us still, And with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there's no other way To be happy in Jesus, But to trust and obey.
Not a shadow can rise, Not a cloud in the skies, But His smile quickly drives it away; Not a doubt or a fear, Not a sigh nor a tear, Can abide while we trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there's no other way To be happy in Jesus, But to trust and obey.
Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share, But our toil He doth richly repay; Not a grief nor a loss, Not a frown or a cross, But is blessed if we trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there's no other way To be happy in Jesus, But to trust and obey.
But we never can prove the delights of His love Until all on the altar we lay; For the favor he shows, And the Joy he bestows, Are for them who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there's no other way To be happy in Jesus, But to trust and obey.
Then in fellowship sweet We will sit at his feet, Or we'll walk by His side in the way; What He say's we will do, Where He sends we will go, Never fear only trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there's no other way To be happy in Jesus, But to trust and obey.

("Trust & Obey", written by John H. Sammis and Daniel B. Towner)

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The Revelation Delusion

The Most Embarrassing Book In The Bible eBook, by Dr Andrew CorbettMuch damage to the credibility of the Bible has nearly been done by those who twist the contents of the Book of Revelation to force it to sound like it refers to the events of our present day. Time and time again, so called Bible-Prophecy teachers have been left with egg on their faces as their ridiculous speculations have proved to be completely wrong. Our Administrator forwarded onto me a copy of an email we were sent claiming that our understanding of the Book of Revelation was wrong and that we would be humiliated by the Lord when the Rapture took place on October 17th 2009!!!

You'll notice that I am writing this brief article after this 'day of humiliation'. But still the sillyness continues to be rolled out by many TBN preachers who (even inadvertently) misrepresent the Book of Revelation by claiming that it is written to us about our day. (I have compiled a small list of such of failed interpretations.) In the unlikely event that you are a now cynical believer reading this article, or even in the more unlikely event that you are a complete skeptic about Christianity and the Bible reading this article, I hope to take just a few minutes of your time to offer an alternate understanding of the Book of Revelation that will actually present a credible case for Christianity and the Bible. [Read the full article]

Friday, 6 November 2009

Consider This

There are times when we must stop. During these arrested moments the believer considers. To consider is to think, ponder, mull over, positively meditate, and dwell on.
Hebrews 12:3Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

We seem to be creatures who are easily distracted and too easily forgetful. The Scriptures confront these weaknesses with a remedy by calling us to pause from our frenetic helter-skelter and to leave the freeway of distraction and come aside to the rest-stop of reflection. It is here that Ancient-Tried-And-True beckons us to consider Jesus. Consider that He endured completely unreasonable hostility for our sakes (Heb. 12:3). By considering this, we are promised that it will bring refreshment to our near weary and faint hearts. Christ's suffering and humiliation is considerable.
2Tim. 2:8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel

A challenge to consider is a call to think afresh about previously unrealised things. A challenge to remember is a gentle rebuke against our weakness of forgetting to easily and too soon. Christianity should be considered and reminiscent.

Consider Jesus in His sufferings, remember Jesus in His triumph.

I was sharing with some one recently who was struggling in their faith. I encouraged them to consider the One we worship who walked the earth a mere 2,000 years ago. Consider His impact. Consider the response of His audience. Consider the reaction of His opponents. Consider how historians (both Biblical and non-Biblical, in His own day) recorded His life. "Extraordinary" "Divine" "Unlike any other" "Messianic" "Sublimely inspirational" - are the terms we might use to sum up the universal appraisal of His life and teaching by historians. Consider that this homeless carpenter from Galillee claimed that He was the eternal God revealed in flesh who would abide with all those who chose to follow Him - even to the end of the Age. Abide. "I will never leave you nor forsake you" - I will abide with you.

But the call to consider is also the call to commit. We consider Christ and His promise to abide with us, but Christ challenges us to consider his charge to us: abide in Me. Considering Christ should lead to commitment to Christ. For the follower of Jesus there is a continual invisible drawing within our souls that causes us to walk not by the happenstance emotions of our mere circumstances, but by a mysterious yearning for something not visible with our natural eyes. For the person of gifted-faith, sometimes it's easier to see with our eyes closed. This mysterious yearning is perhaps not so mysterious in its origin-
1John 4:13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

There are several ways to consider and remember Jesus.

Moment by moment the best way is in prayer.
Day by day the best way is in Scripture reading.
Week by week the best way is in the fellowship of God's assembled worshipers who give themselves to the Word, to Witness and to congregational Worship.
This weekly time together calls the redeemed to consider Christ through the words that we sing together, the Table of Institution, the preaching of the Living Word, and the fellowship of holy-provokers. This weekly time together calls us to remember Christ- what He has done, what He is doing, and what He will one day do.

Take this moment, this day and this week to consider Jesus and to remember Him. If the fire of passion for Him has dimmed, consider, remember.
John 15:16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Identifying The 8th King of Rev 17

Dr Kenneth Gentry is the author of BEFORE JERUSALEM FELL. In this book he makes an irrefutable case for why the Book of Revelation must have been written around 65AD (not 95AD). This is an interview I did with him for an upcoming DVD we will be releasing soon on how to understand the Book of Revelation, based on my book- THE MOST EMBARRASSING BOOK IN THE BIBLE.

Friday, 30 October 2009

HUMILITY

Clothe yourself with humility, the aged Apostle Peter writes (1Peter 5:5). Who would dare proclaim themselves an expert in humility? Yet the Scriptures command that followers of Christ be humble. To be an expert Christian is to be a humble Christian. Because of this amazingly high goal for Christian discipleship, no one can claim to be an expert Christian. "Clothe yourself in humility" is not just a command, but a major goal of following Christ. But it is a goal that we cannot attain. We must therefore continue to strive toward it, but actually draw on one of the major attributes of humility to achieve it: dependence upon God and His grace.

In the context of what the Apostle Peter is saying in First Peter 5, humility immediately requires submission to teaching and governing elders (1Peter 5:5). A humble person is a teachable person.

Here's some humility test questions based on this short passage-

How do you respond to someone who tells you what to do?

How do you respond to someone who corrects or directs you?


These seemed to be important questions for the Apostle Peter. He commences this chapter by addressing those who who were called to lead. While it is perhaps true that there are some leaders who do so because they are power-hungry and attention-seeking, for most church leaders it requires humility because they are serving people. Whenever you serve someone, you are inevitably going to be criticised, compared, or taken advantage of. This requires humility. Even though leaders may be in the 'spot-light' this actually demands humility to be prepared to put yourself forward in front of the scrutiny of others. It takes humility to serve. But pride can also stop someone from being served. If any Apostle knew this, it was Peter. Remember the night of His Lord's betrayal? While the disciples were fighing among themselves who was the greatest, Jesus stripped to the waist and took a basin and a towell and began to wash His self-absorbed apostles' feet. But when He came to Peter He met with resistance. Peter was too proud to let Christ serve (minister) to him! It takes humility to allow someone to serve you.

If asked to serve in some way, do you positively respond by serving?

If you have an offer of help or assistance from someone, do you generally accept the offer?


The over-arching point of Peter's passage is to have peace and harmony within the church. The clearest strategy he has in mind for achieving this goal is: humility. It seems that pride will always cause hurt, injury, and division. But humility - forebearing, forgiving, and forgetting - will always strengthen relationships (whether they be within the church or the home). Many churches have been destroyed because of pride. No churches have ever been destroyed because of humility.

Humility questions-

How quickly do you cover and forgive those who have hurt or offended you?

Do you generally overcome the temptation to tell others of the hurt you felt from someone else?

Mark 7:21 - 22 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.

Peter opens this closing chapter of his first epistle by charging elders to care for the church. These leaders were leaders because they were considerate. Because pride is essentially self-focus it is almost impossible for the proud person to be truly considerate of others. People who leave their mobile phones on while going to the cinema or theatre are inconsiderate enough, but those who actually talk on their phones during a movie or play are even more inconsiderate. I once heard of someone who was sitting on a long plane trip next to someone who had their iPod turned right up as they listened to the "Greatest Hits of the 80s". They endured Duran-Duran, Culture Club, Village People, Tina Turner and others. While they noise from the headset was inconsiderate enough, the passenger was clearly using their iPod experience to prepare for their upcoming TV appearance on "Idol". It was then that the Boy George song- So You Really Want To Hurt Me? - came on. The person beside this iPod Kareoker could take it no longer and ripped out one of their ear-buds and yelled "Yes!"
Romans 11:20b ...So do not become proud, but stand in awe.

Humble people consider those around them. They are aware of how others might be feeling. They remember if someone was sick or ill and asks after them next time they see them. They listen to others and remember things such as a person's name. If asked to do something, a humble person will be prepared to go out of their way in order to make the request happen (note Psalm 15).
James 4:6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Humility is our command and our goal. It should be strived for but only in the grace of God. That is, we become teachable, respectful, forgiving, helpful, considerate and thankful followers of Christ because of the grace of God (God's enabling). May God help us to serve Him and be served by Him in the humility that most glorifies Him to this proud world.
First Peter 5:5 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.”

Amen.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

CONFIDENT CHRISTIANITY

ConfidenceBeing confident is tight-rope for the Christian. Slip one way and our proper place of confidence looks and sounds like cocky arrogance. Slip the other way and it sounds like false humility. The first deviation is caused by an over-estimation of our own ability. The other deviation is caused by attention on our own ability. The Christian's source of confidence is not themselves, yet they are involved.
Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Confidence means "con" - with + "fide" - faith. It originates in the concept of having a "safe, sure, refuge". This is why the Scriptures reveal that -
Proverbs 3:26 for the LORD will be your confidence
and will keep your foot from being caught.

Hebrews 10:35The New Testament prescribes that Christians live confidently. But this doesn't mean that we are to be brash or bombastic. Neither is it the same as self-confidence. The apostle Paul contrasted this typemof confidence with the confidence that comes through a relationship with Christ. In Philippians 3:4 he told these Macedonians that he had many reasons for being religiously self-confident. But this was not the basis that enabled a person to approach GOD (1Tim. 1:7). Rather than mere self-confidence, we are told live confidently in Christ, because this is the path to receiving a "great" reward from the Lord-
Hebrews 10:35 Therefore do not throw aay your confidence which has a great reward.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians that they could have confidence when relating to God, because of Christ. Perhaps we live in too flippant a society that the idea of God being 'transcendent' is completely unconsidered. But for those who ponder how a man can approach an ordinarily unapproachable God, the idea of confidently approaching God is either absurd or ignorant.
Job 25:4a How can a mere mortal stand before God...

The New Testament teaching about confidently approaching and communing with God was shocking. Two millennia later, it is hardly earth-shattering news for a generation that has made mankind transcendent above a God who apparently resembles Morgan Freeman. But Morgan Freeman is not GOD. GOD is GOD. He is not to be trifled with. Yet the New Testament writes to an audience who had to be repeatedly reassured that they could now approach GOD: confidently.
Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

The more you seat in training, the less you bleed in battle.But confidence with GOD requires effort on our part. In fact, it mostly requires endurance. This is one of the most prominent themes throughout the Epistle to the Hebrews. We should regard this life as a precious opportunity to relish the opportunity to endure with Christ for GOD's glory. We need to live in the will of GOD by living to please and know Christ. Then we can enjoy a knowledge of the confidence that are invited to approach GOD-
1John 3:21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God;

Does your heart before God give you reason to be a confident before GOD? Are you a confident Christian? Make Christ your Advocate and Confidence.
Amen.

Friday, 9 October 2009

ENRICH YOUR READING

Most people don't know how to read. This was the claim of Professor Mortimer J. Adler in his book, "How To Read A Book". He says that most people read a book for the wrong reason. A student reads a text book to pass an exam - rather than to learn. A lawyer reads case notes to win a case rather than achieve justice. A businessman reads a prospectus to see how much money he can make rather than seeing how his investment can make the lives of people better. Prof. Adler admits that in the early days of his teaching career he read books simply to prepare for lectures and to be able to quote from them to impress his students. But then he had an epiphany...
Eccl. 12:12 My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

Perhaps some Christians read their Bibles because they feel they should. Some Christians are less sensitive to their conscience and because they have felt unmoved by their Bible reading, they have just abandoned getting anymore Biblical input than what they get on a Sunday morning. I certainly hope that as people join us and realise that we at Legana are serious about the Bible, they will become daily Bible readers. But why do want this? Another way of asking this question, is perhaps the way Professor Adler would challenge us- Why do you read your Bible?
Matt. 22:29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God."

Jesus rebuked people who made a big deal about reading the Bible but never coming to know God! We want to read the Scriptures so that we can know God and behold Him. This motive for Bible reading changes everything! We read slowly, carefully, and most especially prayerfully. Also read with a pen. Use it to underline, highlight, write a comment, jot down a thought. Some people even journal a prayerful response to what they read in Scripture and invite God to speak to them in writing through they are reading in Scripture and praying back to Him.
Psalm 27:5 For in the time of trouble
He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock.

When we read a passage of Scripture, like Psalm 27:5, we can pause ("Selah") and ask God in prayer to keep us in times of trouble; hide us in His protection when we feel like hiding from everyone else; keep us in sweet fellowship with His people ("in His Tabernacle"); hide me from people and troubles that seek to harm me; and help me to remain strong and faithful oh God.
Psalm 81:7 You called in trouble, and I delivered you;
I answered you in the secret place

As we read, we pray. As we pray we listen to what God says in our hearts by His Spirit. This way, we hope to fulfil Christ's instructions to know both the Scriptures and the power of God.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

The Two Witnesses

Which two New Testament authors knew Jesus at least two decades longer than any of the 12 Disciples? What qualified these two witnesses of Christ to be the most persuasive and compelling witnesses ever?

While many Bible Prophecy preachers have developed elaborate scenarios for the future arrival of the two prophetic witnesses as was foretold in Revelation 11, the context of the Book of Revelation is clear: John told his audience that his 'apocalyptic' message affected them and was able to be understood by them. Yet if these modern Bible Prophecy teachers are right, then the Apostle John was wrong!

I've written an article on the identity of the Two Witnesses described in Revelation 11 which might help you to understand the Book of Revelation a bit better...[read the full article]

The Secret Place

Some people have plenty of time to devote to their relationship with God through prayer, silence, contemplation, Bible reading and study. In years gone by some people even devoted their lives to this type of devotion. They were called monks. They generally lived isolated lives away from the hustle and bustle of normal life. I have grown to really love the times I get to be still, quiet, prayerful and reflective in my devotion to God. But I am also learning to adopt this attitude during the everyday busy-ness of life. This is becoming my "secret place".
Psalm 91:1He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

I find in the Gospels (the first 4 books of the New Testament), particularly the Gospel of Luke that Jesus was a man of activity. Yet He was also a man of "the secret place". We read that even during the busy times- those times when He was crowded with many needs and needy people that He was quiet, restful, prayer to His Father.
Luke 9:18Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?

You may not get extended periods of time to be alone and quiet so that you can read God's Word and pray. But you can learn to enter into the secret place with God in prayer and stillness.
Psalm 27:5 For in the time of trouble
He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock.

So the next time you feel swamped by the busy-ness of life you can go into the secret place that you and God share. It's that place where you pray. It's that place where you ask God to speak to you. It's that place where you open yourself to God to have Him prompt His Word for the moment into your soul. It's that place where you confess tot he Lord that you need Him.
Psalm 81:7 You called in trouble, and I delivered you;
I answered you in the secret place

Thursday, 24 September 2009

YOU CAN ACHIEVE

2Corinthians 1:17 When I planned this, did I do it lightly? Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner...

God wants to achieve something. When someone wants to achieve something they look at life differently. They treat time differently. They regard resources and their collection and distribution very differently.

What do you want to achieve? Whatever it is, you must do at least three things to achieve what you want to achieve.

Firstly, you know what you want to achieve. Some of us know in vague terms what these things might be but have never actually written them down. For clarity's sake it is a good idea to write down what you want to achieve. We notice in Paul's letter to the Corinthians that he not only had plans, but that he wrote those plans down as well. Good plans involve -

    (i) a clear achievable set of goals;
    (ii) a reasonable strategy for achieving those goals;
    (iii) a likely time-frame in which this strategy can be implemented.

If you haven't written down any plans that you want to achieve, then consider what your plans might be in the following areas (each of these has at least 3 sub-categories as well) -

My plans for -

    [a] my physical condition include ________________________________

    [b] my spiritual development include _____________________________

    [c] my personal organisation include _____________________________

    [d] my finances are ___________________________________________

    [e] my relationship with [ _____ ] include __________________________

    [f] my next holiday include _____________________________________

    [g] my retirement include ______________________________________

    [h] my ongoing education include _______________________________

    [ i ] overcoming my greatest fears include __________________________

    [ j ] raising my child(ren) include _____________________________

    [k] achieving the one big thing I'd like to do before I die include __________________

Prov. 16:3 Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.

Secondly, achieving involves commitment. Once your achievement plans are written down it might be worth prioritising them. When you do this, be careful not to confuse urgent with important. The important should always receive a higher priority than the urgent. Commitment to achieve necessarily involves help. Who can you get involved in your plans? Within a marriage this obviously involves husbands with wives and wives with husbands. How can parents
Prov. 15:22 Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.help children achieve? How can a pastor help?

Commitment to achieve rises when you seek help. It also makes you accountable which also dramatically increases your chances of achieving.

Thirdly, achieving requires refinement. Things change. Circumstances surprise. Sometimes what we want to achieve is not what we want to achieve when things change. There's no shame in changing your plans. In fact, you should. But it's still important to do steps 1 and 2.

As a church we want to achieve some things. What we want to achieve is something that only a church can achieve. That is, what we want to achieve is not merely physical or material - although we do want to achieve some very physical and material things. What we want to achieve is fundamentally God-glorifying and Jesus-exalting. It is a spiritual mission that is clothed in physical and material things. We want to achieve some things for God. Here's just a few...

We want to acheive an open-hearted church that reaches up to God in worship, reaches out to others and reaches in toward each other. Our strategy for doing this includes meeting together on Sundays and in our Home Bible Study Groups. Evidence that we are achieving this will be our inspirational worship services, growth in the number of baptisms and greater frequency of meeting with each for prayer and care.

We want to achieve a greater depth of prayerfulness. We will develop toward this by continuing to hold our prayer meetings on a Sunday night, other nights, mid-week mornings, and in our Home Bible Study Groups.

We want to achieve a greater depth of Biblical knowledge in society. We hope to achieve a broader, fairer, more accurate knowledge and understanding of God's Word both in the church and in the broader community. Our strategy for achieving this includes teaching God's Word on Sunday and in our mid-week Bible Study Groups, broadcasting on the radio, publishing on the internet, producing DVDs/CDs/MP3s and books.

We want to achieve greater connection with our community. An important part of the strategy for achieving this is the development of our Children's Education Centre which will be used to reach out to children and families within our community.

The advantage that believers in Christ have in achieving anything is that we can pray for direction, strength, and protection. As we strive to achieve, we can also pray to God for all of our needs to be met. This results in peace. And those who know say that one of the common traits of all people who end up become achievers is that they know how to deal with stress and worry and approach their tasks with a relaxed mind. Because we serve an All-Powerful God, we of all people have every reason to be filled with God's peace and tackle our achieving with a relaxed heart.

What do you want to achieve? Have you written these things down? Do you have a plan for achieving these things? Perhaps we can create a culture at Legana that will help those who are rescued from God's wrath to see that their lives can be given over to a Higher Cause to achieve many things for God's glory.

Amen.