Saturday, 30 May 2009

Can We Legislate Morality?



Some Christians argue that we cannot impose our morals onto a secular society. If by this they mean that we are not trying to commence a theocracy, I absolutely agree. But if by this they mean that Christians should not contribute into the formation of societal standards and welfare, I vigorously disagree. When we argue that women, children, minorities, the disabled, immigrants, should be protected by law against abuse and injustice we are actually promoting core Biblical moral standards. The Bible strenously charges us to look after "widows and orphans".

It is a myth to think that we cannot legislate morality. In fact, legislators can only legislate morality! Morality is the measure of right from wrong conduct. Laws only enforce what is right (even if they aren't right, once they are legislated they define what is right). The test of morality is whether a behaviour harms or deprives someone of their natural natural rights.

It is theologically faulty to confuse religious obligations with moral obligations...[Read More]

Friday, 29 May 2009

What Is Morality?

The issues of right and wrong are integral to the study of ethics which is a core component to morality. Right is understood as morally right, as distinct from absolutely right such as in the science of mathematics. Naturally, wrong is understood as morally wrong, as distinct from incorrect. Moral is understood to be: the best individual and social outcome. As Christians we believe that the best individual and social outcome is only achieved when the mind of God is sought and followed. In the Old Testament era, this was encapsulated within the Decalogue (The Ten Commandments). Now in the New Testament era, its understanding is enhanced by Christ’s teachings. . .[more]

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Lesson on Endurance from Shackleton


Shackleton's adventure is now remembered as one of the great stories of human endurance and true leadership. Perhaps as we enter into some of the darkest social and economic conditions the world has ever seen, God is looking for people who can endure. Christian leadership is pelletted by heart-ache, setbacks, betrayals and disappointments, but the godly Spirit-filled leader endure such things. But that's not all they do. They lead others. They don't leave people behind.

As Christian leaders stand up against the onslaught of moral breakdown - a spiralling divorce rate, a militant gay lobby, a shrill band of neo-atheists, and an economic reality check for the hordes of supporters of Word of Faith preachers (whose message of 'sanctified greed' has beguiled tens of thousands of sincere but gullible believers) it will require endurance. May God grant us this...[more]

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

THIS IS HOW WE MEASURE SUCCESS

What does "success" look like for a church? Perhaps growing attendances, or a balanced budget, or a regular number of people making 'decisions' for Christ, or even positive media coverage?

But these are not what indicate "success" for our church.

In fact, some of these 'success indicators' can actually inhibit true success (as I'll explain in a moment). Don't get me wrong though- I'd like to see each of these things happening in our church. But it is possible to have all of these things and not be truly successful because these factors can often impress the world, but fail to impress the Lord.

In his book TOO SMALL TO IGNORE, Dr. Wess Stafford says that failure is doing things really well that don't actually matter. Success can therefore be defined as doing things well that really matter. For a church then, this surely must mean that true success is doing and being what Christ has commanded - without compromise. We can therefore define "success" for our church as-

* UNITY
Ephesians 4:1b-3 walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

When we recognise that God has called us together to be a church that pools our gifts, talents, treasure, and time - even though we may disagree at times - when we are committed to the same purpose (knowing and glorifying Christ and making Him and His glory known) and we serve passionately, sacrificially, worshipfully, in joint adoration of Christ, we are successful as a church.

* SCRIPTURE
When we are reading, studying, sharing, defending, being shaped, guided, informed and inspired by Scripture, we are successful as a church. Ignorance is our blight, Scripture is our salve.
Ephesians 4:18, 20 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart...But that is not the way you learned Christ!

* CARE
When we care for each other in practical and spiritual ways, we are being a successful church. This is the essence of Romans 12:9-21. Care is not a job. Care is not a ministry. Care is what a successful church does for each other.
Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.


* GOSPEL
The Gospel was summed up perfectly by Dr. J.I. Packer who said- The message of the Gospel is: God saves sinners. Our Gospel is God-centred. Our Gospel says that salvation is the work of God through Christ. Our Gospel says that we are all sinners. Our Gospel says we cannot save ourselves. Our Gospel says we can be saved. Our Gospel infers that God loves us.

There is a "pop-Gospel" being preached that is Man-centred. This Gospel says that man can save himself by believing, repenting, and making a decision. This Gospel says that God meets man half-way. This is not our Gospel. We are a successful Gospel when we are committed to proclaiming the Gospel.

* PRAYER
We are a successful church when we are a prayerful church. Prayer is not a ministry that requires a special calling. All Christians are pray-ers. Prayer is what was happening when the Church was birthed (Acts 1, 2). Prayer is what the Church of Acts did whenever they met (Acts 2:42-44). We are successful as a church when we pray in our services, in our lounge rooms, with our children, with our spouse, with our friends, and with our study group (Col. 4:2).
Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.


* SERVING
We are successful when we serve each other with the gifts that God has given us.
1Peter 4:10 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.

I believe that these are the "goals" that will make us a healthy and therefore a successful church. In many ways we already have the seeds of these goals growing in our church. These are the goals that we are watering and cultivating. I think that if we ever exchange these goals for lesser goals like numbers or budgets, we may well be successful in the eyes of some, but I'm not so sure that we will be that successful in the eyes of the Lord.

Thank you for being a part of our church and committed to helping our church become "successful".

A Prophetic WORSHIP Band

Casting Crowns is one of my favourite bands. Their songs are often very gutsy and prophetic. How many other "worship" bands are dealing with topics like the one these guys deal with in this clip? These guys deserve all the accolades they get including their recent DOVE Award as Band of the Year. A truly remarkable award to be given to a band with such a clear prophetic message...

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Understand The Embryonic Stem Cell Debate

Understand the debate about Embryonic Stem Cell Research from an ethical perspective...

To watch the full presentation of this summary video click here.
To read the transcript of this presentation, click here.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

YOU ARE WHAT YOU ARE WHEN YOU ARE

...under pressure.

Do you know what's in your heart? Do you know what you really value? It's not until we are tested that find out.

We sometimes say that we would never "stoop" to carry out some moral failure, but given enough pressure, can we sustain this?

A few years ago there was a movie, Indecent Proposal, (which I have never seen) where Robert Redford's character offers a husband a million dollars to have one night with his wife. Initially the man is apparently disgusted at the idea but he then puts the proposal to his wife. As they mull over over the idea of $1,000,000, the disgusting sin doesn't seem so offensive. How much money would you need to disobey God? How much is your commitment to your spouse worth? Ravi Zacharias tells the story of the man on the plane who sits next to an attractive business-woman who is married. They are both travelling interstate. He flirts with her and then puts an offer to her: one night for one million dollars. She considers the offer. Eventually she accepts. As the plane begins to descend to land, he reduces his offer to $50. She is insulted. "What do you think I am!?" she demands. To which the man replies, "We've already established that, we're now just haggling over the price!"

Job 1:1 There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.


When things were going well for Job, Satan presented himself to God Almighty and alleged that the only reason Job served and loved God was because God had blessed him so much.

Job 1:9-10 ¶ Then Satan answered the LORD and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason?
Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land."


If you know the story of Job, then you'll know that from this point on the story, God tested Job through the removal of His protection and blessing and allowing Satan to bring nearly every kind disaster upon Job. While Job grumbled, sulked, and even had a pity party, at no stage did he renounce his commitment to God or denounce God's goodness. Coincidentally, it was when Job - in the midst of his own suffering - prayed for his critics to be blessed, that his own circumstances were turned around. Ultimately, testing had revealed what was truly in Job's heart. Under testing, doubt but not despair, complaining but not compromising, aching without forsaking, all came out of Job's heart.

What would God find in our hearts if we underwent what Job went through?

What would we find in our hearts if God undertook to test us like He tested Job?


WHAT I WANT IN MY HEART...
In my heart I want to cultivate a love for God through Jesus Christ. I don't just want to follow Christ - I want to love to follow Christ! I want this to be a heart issue for me. But I don't want to just love to follow Christ, I want to love Christ. Under the fires of testing I want to come out with the purified gold and silver of utter devotion to Christ. When I am being bombarded with temptation to betray my Lord and witness to the world of His glory, I want my heart settled and steered - not by my passions - but by my love for Him.

Psalm 26:8O LORD, I love the habitation of your house
and the place where your glory dwells.


In my heart I want a love for God's House where His people are - or more accurately - who His people are. This kind of love will be tested when I am tired and worn-out and I don't feel like being with people, but I have to. It will be tested when I am criticised by a brother of sister. It will be tested when a brother rebukes me rightly for something I did and shouldn't have done or even when I am rebuked for something that I didn't do but I should have done. It will be tested when I am tempted to be offended at someone's snide but thoughtless comments. What I want found in my heart is love and the humility to show it under such testing. Unfortunately for me, and perhaps for you because of me, I have failed this test too many times.

1Chronicles 29:17 I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness...


2Chronicles 32:31 God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart

At Legana we are wanting the Lord to make our hearts wholely His. We want our hearts fully surrendered to Him. No matter what trial, trouble, disappointment or heart-ache comes our way, we want to always praise and trust Him. We want our hearts to love God, to love His Word, to love His people, to love assembling to worship with God's people, to love sharing the love of Christ with others, to love learning God's Word, Will and Ways, and to love serving God even when its not convenient.

As much as I hope that all of these attribute are already in my heart, I'll never really know until I am under some real pressure whether the coal of my soul has been turned into a diamond heart.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Do Not Be Slothful

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Romans 12:11

Greg Koukl says, "The more you sweat in training the less you bleed in battle." The New Testament prescribes a non-slothful Christianity. This requires practice. Practice assumes trying, failing, stretching, gain, until the goal is achieved. In regards to spirituality, followers of Christ need to avoid slothfulness and develop their character, gifts, and fruit through practice.

The following clips illustrate what training, practice, and hard work can achieve in the "secular" realm. May they give us some inspiration to develop our spiritual life in Christ.
video
video

God's Sovereignty

They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful. (Revelation 17:14)

This verse (written around late 63AD) forms part of the context for the events about to occur with the ending of the Old Covenant
elements (the Temple, the Priesthood, and the Sacrificial system of Law). The events leading up to the close of the Old Covenant are referred to in the New Testament as "the last days" (eg. Hebrews 1:2) or "the end of the ages" (eg. 1Cor. 10:11; Hebrews 9:26). Revelation 17:14 describes the Conquering Christ who overcomes all opposition to Him, His Cause, and His people.

When someone has the ability to achieve their predetermined will and plan with exact precision by integrating all of the variables circumstances, free-will agents, and even disobedience, we refer to this phenomenon as "sovereignty".

This verse in Revelation is a clear statement of Christ's sovereignty. He is "Lord of lords and King of kings". He will always achieve His predetermined will and plan. And this applies no more powerfully in His plan of salvation. For those He saves are - "called", "chosen" and enabled by Him to be "faithful".

Thank God for His sovereign grace!

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

What We Do As A Church

We are a different church. We are contemporary, yet respectful of the past. We worship with new songs but rejoice with some classic hymns. We are small enough to know each other but large enough for a visitor to 'hide'. We have a pastor, but we also have elders and deacons. We have many young families but many singles. But none of these things make us particularly unique.

We want our church to grow. But we want our church to grow - not merely our public meetings. We could have lots of people turn up Sunday after Sunday and think that our church is growing, when in fact we may just be growing a crowd. For sure, we want people to visit our church and keep coming along. We are happy for people to be a part of a crowd that worships Jesus and receives balanced teaching from God's Word. But what we really want is for our church to grow. And this is what we are doing.

"Church" is the result of the Great Commission. "Church" exists because and for the Great Commission. The Great Commission is found in Matthew 28:19-20. It was Christ's last command to His disciples. If a group of people claim to be a church yet are not committed to (i) going to people of different nations and cultures with the Gospel; (ii) teaching the commands of Christ (of which there are around 500); (iii) baptising new converts into the community of faith; (iv) regularly assembling to worship God and share His love (which all these things are the essence of the Great Commission), they are a crowd and not really a church. This is why at Legana we have a strong missions emphasis, a teaching of the Word emphasis, an emphasis on water baptising new converts and an emphasis on assembling together on Sunday and meeting together through the week to learn and share God's love.
Romans 10:14 ¶ But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

So what are we doing? We are discipling. When we meet on a Sunday or a Wednesday, we are discipling. A disciple is someone who learns and follows. We want our church to be a Great Commission church that produces disciples who are teachable and know how to follow Christ even when circumstances scream at us not to. The mature disciple is not one who pursues a life of ease, but a life of growth and increasing dependency upon the Lord as they allow the Spirit of God to change them into a humble representation of Jesus Christ.

When life gets tough, things don't go our way, and our health suffers, will you still trust God? When church lets you down, even though your brothers and sisters didn't intend to be neglectful or offensive, will you forgive and stay in the community of faith? These are discipleship questions. Will we care for each other through our small groups when one of us is struggling? Will we seek God, read and study His Word, reach out in fellowship to someone we don't know so well? These questions are settled by how much we are prepared to be disciples of Christ. When your marriage goes cold, your work slows down, and your holiday plans evaporate due to the airline going bust- will you thank and trust God?
James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds

1Peter 1:6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials

Life can be great! Life can be fun! Life can be exciting. But life can also be life. Sometimes bad things happen in life. We'd rather they didn't. But the believer who is committed to learning about God from the Bible and following Christ no matter what the circumstances (this is someone who is well discipled) is someone who is going to get the most out of both life and their walk with the Lord. It's my prayer that we can be used by God to help more people to become disciples and to find the incredible joy of being that disciple of the Christ.

A New Model of Contemporary Church

What is a 'Church'?
Some people answer this question by limiting a church to a group of people who meet in a house for worship through prayer, sharing and Bible study.
Other people now claim that a church is a community of anonymous people who meet in a chatroom to discuss aspects of their faith in Christ.
Still others claim that a church is an institution with a priestly class, a liturgy, and a governmental structure.

Can a church be "independent"?

Can a church belong to a group of churches and share common ideals, methods, understandings, then still belong to that group if those things radically change?

Can a church be called a church if it is vague about what it believes?

What role should tradition have in defining what a church is today?

If one church disciplines a member, and that member leaves that church, should this member still be disciplined?

Should a church have a leader or leaders?

What do you think?

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Why Creation (& Not Evolution)


In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
Genesis 1:1


In age of scientific enlightenment, does the Bible story of Creation have any credibility? After all, it is now claimed that, science has explained nearly all of the mysteries of life from a naturalistic point of view by showing how life began, how life evolved and how the universe came into existence.

This idea is so entrenched in academia that anyone who dares to suggest that the Creation story of Genesis 1 and 2 is anything other than mythical is regarded with contempt. Or to put it more directly-
If you meet someone who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid, or insane (or wicked, but I would rather not consider that.)
Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion


Supposedly free-thinking, rational people no longer take seriously the Bible stories of creation- especially the story of Adam and Eve, according to Dawkins. At best, they claim, the Biblical creation story and the story of Adam and Eve are just primitive myths. Therefore, religion deals with myths and legends, but science deals with facts and truth. Yet in recent years this debate between Creationists and Evolutionists has been fought with scientific data and has stepped up and been waged in schools, courts and the media.

Are Science and the Bible at odds? Is there a contradiction between Science and Scripture? [more]

Friday, 1 May 2009

The Church I C. E. O.

There's several trends happening in the contemporary church today. Depending on who you listen to, the church is either trending toward a house-church model, a mega-church model, a satellite-extension service model, a multi-campus model or an "Apostolic" model. But behind all this window dressing, two things are observable. Firstly, each model appears to bear some kind of fruit (taking 'fruit' to mean converts to Christ). Secondly, all of the models require a different style of leadership and structure to drive them. We might call this- a "C.E.O." style of leadership.

The C.E.O. leader is growth orientated. Expansion, extension, evangelism, expensive and excellence are all key words in the CEO leader's vocabulary. The CEO leader works through other leaders and demands loyalty, team-work, submission, commitment, and honour from them. If someone questions or challenges the CEO leader they dealt with swiftly and harshly and to varying degrees: publicly.

The CEO leader builds their organisation through focussing more on a younger audience, delivering excellent music, and hosting large conferences. Why do they do this? Because it "works". And like Paul in prison writing to his beloved Philippians, we too should rejoice that the miracle of Gospel transformation in a human soul takes place, and the name of Christ is promoted and honoured.

But there is another model of church which some may wish to explore. It is more of a pastoral model. It encourages community. It seeks to get people involved with whatever God has gifted them with. It is led by a pastoral leader who uses the unfolding of God's Word to direct, discipline, develop and doctrinally inform those he cares for. He doesn't allegorise the sacred text to say what he wants to say. He rarely claims that God told him.

This pastoral-model church looks like young and old living and worshiping together. When they meet, crying babies are present, fidgety youth file in, stressed out mums struggle into the meeting, and exhausted dads takes their seats. The music is good but not slick. The preacher is clean shaven and neatly dressed because he thinks he actually represents the God he is teaching about by more than just his words. When he preaches he knows what's going on in the lives of most of the people in front of him. He sees others in the church ministering in ways that he knows they are gifted in and is not threatened by this.
At more times than he cares to admit he wants to quit because he feels the enormity of the charge that God has called him to- but he goes on because he knows that despite his inadequacies he is indeed called.

This type of leader prays. He cares for his few people. He longs to see their unsaved husbands saved. He longs to see their wayward daughters return home reconciled. He longs to see these marriages harmonious and these children not disillusioned with Christ and His church. He prays that he will be a good example and when it counts most that he will be found faithful.
He doesn't demand devotion and unquestioned loyalty. In fact, he is often challenged over something he said and more often than not realises that he was indeed wrong. His people know that he is a humble man by the way he apologises to them when necessary. His children know this too.

He attends his denominational conferences and is told that he is not blessed by God because his church is not growing like it should if God were blessing it. He listens to the line-up of CEO leaders. He admires them. He wishes them well. He wonders if he should become more like them. But then in quiet reflection the church that he sees is fundamentally different. It uses ordinary people that don't necessarily look good on TV. His church is noisy. His church laughs (not necessarily because someone said something entertaining, but) because something funny just happened. His church eats together often. Prays together regularly. They long to see its community blessed and care about the welfare of everyone in it. They wish other churches well.

Perhaps this is the type of church model you see as well?