Friday, 26 June 2009

Biblical Illiteracy Is Not Just About Big Words

I have a son who thinks he is the world's best speller. It's actually become a family joke just how bad his spelling is though. In his 5th year of Elementary School, he couldn't see the irony of how he had labelled his Spelling Workbook - "Speeling". Even now, at pre-tertiary level, Tiger (my son) still can't spell. I have to read and re-read what he has written in order to figure out what the correct spelling should be and this discover what he is actually trying to say.

Every good English teacher will tell his students, "Don't use a big word when a small word will do." Similarly, they will teach their students to write concisely - don't use a lot of words when you can say the same thing with just a few.* But sometimes it is a big word that is both simple and concise. This is especially so if the big word is unequivocal (it can only mean one thing). Scripture very carefully uses such big words. Let's look at four of these and then we'll conclude with Christianity's biggest word...[more]

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Can We Seriously Take The Bible Literally?

Asking a believer if they "take the Bible literally" is like asking a husband if he still beats his wife! The issue of Christians taking the Bible "literally" has become a major point of ridicule - even more recently by President-Elect Obama, who joined the chorus of ridicule by claiming during his election campaigning-

"Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is okay and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with Deuteronomy which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith." [Catholic News Agency]

President Obama should know better! [more]

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The 1 Minute Prayer

1Thessalonians 5:17 pray without ceasing

What could you pray for in just 1 minute? In Second Corinthians 1:11, Paul urges his supporters to help him by praying. In so doing, he tells them, they will be participating in the spread of thanksgiving to God and His blessings. We're all too busy at times. All too often we're too . . . (sorry something came up while I was writing this sentence) . . . distracted. This makes praying difficult. My most effective praying when I can get away from my distractions. But could take the occasional 1 minute to pray throughout our days?

The prayer Jesus taught His disciples to pray can be uttered in under 1 minute. It is often called the model prayer. If you think about its amazing potency to glorify God, petition God, cleanse the soul and calibrate the heart back onto God, it's even more profound. The next you pray it, you might like to take a full minute to consider just how magnificent it is.

Our Father we have a relationship with God! And please note "we" and especially note: "our". In the middle of the word Christianity is a cross "t", but in the middle of sin is the letter "I". To live for yourself just means ensuring that " I " is always in the middle of everything we do. But to live for God our Father (Christianity) means we live with and for others- this requires a cross.

Hallowed be Your Name Praise is an essential element to our relationship with God .

Your Kingdom Come The Kingdom of God is within the hearts of those He saves. We need to always ask God to save others so that His Kingdom is extended.

Your Will Be Done The need for us to be surrendered to God every time we pray.

Give Us This Day, Our Daily Bread It is not wrong to ask God to meet your needs - in fact, it is a mark of our dependence upon Him and as He meets our needs He is glorified.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation We should hate sin and plead with God to keep us even from the temptation to sin.

Yours Is The Glory Our praying, as with our lives, is to glorify God.

Go ahead, take the 1 minute prayer challenge.


Saturday, 20 June 2009


Sometimes simple concepts can only be best described with less than simple words. That is, if an attempt is made to explain something complex with inadequate terms, we are not being simple but simplistic. Being simplistic means that the fuller explanation is missing - thus the potential is: that because the explanation is insufficient the actual concept becomes misrepresented and therefore damaged.

For example, how do we describe God? If all we say is that God is love, we run the risk of being simplistic. Not even the Scriptures, which seems to default to simple concepts and language, leaves the reader with just this description. God is love, but He is much, much more than that.

How do we describe the salvation that God provided through Christ's redemptive work? In seeking to convey the heart of the Gospel, the New Testament uses a powerful (but not a simple word) to sum up the majestic work of salvation: propitiation. This word occurs four times in the New Testament and conceptually many more times than that in the Old Testament (where it is rendered as atonement).

It means that God's anger and wrath is vented on an atoning sacrifice (Jesus the Christ) so that the guilty who are called to be reconciled to God can receive mercy.
Romans 3:25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

It's not a simple word. And it's not a simplistic word. But it's a phenomenally profound word and concept: Propitiation. Thank God for it!

Thursday, 18 June 2009

There Is A Need To Plead

2Corinthians 4:1 ¶ Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.

At a time when Paul the apostle was greatly discouraged, he wrote to encourage the Corinthians. Perhaps discouraged that not enough people were turning to Christ through his ministry, Paul reminded himself by reminding the Corinthians, that we do not lose heart. The Gospel truly is good news! It was, according to Paul, ministering the mercy of God.

When you are a pastor and are discouraged (which is the most frequent job hazzard of this job) it is too easy to revert to human cleverness and present another Gospel that is more appealing to natural (carnal, that is- sin orientated) people rather than presenting a supernatural Gospel to develop supernatural people.

2Corinthians 4:2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

Paul seems to have understood the temptation to "tamper" with God's Word and present a watered-down Gospel. But he said that he refused to do this. So should we.

2Corinthians 4:3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing.

Perhaps you have shared the Gospel with your friends and have them dismiss your appeal to them. Paul understands this. But rather than remain discouraged about this, he unveils to his readers that the reason some people do not accept the Gospel is because they are spiritually veiled and blind.

2Corinthians 4:4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Paul's answer to this spiritual blindness is not some novel and fantastic (from the word: fantasy) notion about what some paperback preachers promote as "spiritual warfare", no, rather Paul sees the antedote to this spiritual malady as: the preaching of the Gospel.

2Corinthians 4:5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.

Preachers are essential to the plan of God. At Legana we have around 140 preachers on our preaching team. Some preach from a pulpit. Some preach from a desk in an office. Some of us preach in schools. And others preach in homes. But while the role of the preacher is indispensible to the saving of spiritually blind sinners, it is an impossible task. No preacher can save a sinner. Only God can. This is why does not dwell in his discouragement. He came to understand that as he preached, he was in actuallity an instrument of God's Spirit. Therefore, he could rest in the knowledge that as he preached it was the means by which the Holy Spirit opened the eyes of the spiritually blind.

2Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Just as God spoke the world into existence with a word, and then created light in the midst of darkness with a word, so this same God can speak life and light into the death and darkeness of a hardened sinner. As we share the message of the Bible (the Gospel) with unbelievers we are partnering with the Spirit of God to minister mercy, grace, light and life. For Paul's original audience, they understood this salvation in different ways. To the Jews this salvation was light. To the Greeks this salvation was knowledge. And to the Romans this desired salvation was Glory. All of these hopes of salvation were to be found in Christ and invested into sin-darkened sinners by God the Spirit- "For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2Cor. 4:6).

This Gospel of mercy, grace, light, knowledge and glory will eventually conquer more and more souls with the love of Christ.

2Corinthians 4:15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

This is what we too want to see- more and more people accepting the grace of God and coming to know Christ as Saviour and Lord.

2Corinthians 5:20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore [plead with] you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

Thus we plead too. It's not a matter of life and death - it's far far far more important than that because it determines our eternal state. This is our witness when we meet to worship and proclaim the Word. We plead with people (to be receive the mercy and grace and forgiveness and blessing of God) and we plead with God (in prayer to open the eyes of the spiritually blind when they hear the Gospel). Our ministry is a pleading ministry - I plead with you.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Helping Make Life Better TV Show Pilot

This episode features local songwriter and Gospel artist Erica Hofsink and Tom Pugh performing a song inspired by the recent Victorian Bushfires. We also feature an interview with Brian Hartley who was given just a few months to live just over 5 years ago. Through the grace of God, Brian has enjoyed an extended life and tells of how he was converted from the Christadelphian cult to Christianity.

Helping Make Life Better - How To Receive God's Rewards from Andrew Corbett on Vimeo.

We are looking to produce a complete series of these pilots and VODcast them through iTunes when they are complete.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Shame on you George!

Dateline, aired on SBS Television Australia, is one of my favourite TV shows. I love seeing what's going on in other parts of the world. I don't want to be insular. Instead I want to be globally aware. That's why I like Dateline. It goes where no other programs go. It does stories that need to be told.

But lately, the very left of centre, George Negus has been pushing his atheistic agenda with even greater virility. This agenda has been camouflaged with two significant interviews about Climate Change. Aired June 7th, the first of these interviews was with a British Lord who ridiculed not the arguments of the "climate change sceptics" but the intelligence of the climate change sceptics. Whenever I hear this bankrupt reasoning, I immediately become suspicious of the ideas about to be presented. And it appears that I was not the only one to twig to this presentation of shallow logic. In the following week's show George Negus acknowledged that they had received the most correspondence they had ever had - with all the correspondents objecting to George's bad journalism and obvious lack of objectivity.

George then decided to buttress his previous interview with someone who was going to clinch the deal: Wangari Maathai. She is an articulate Ethiopian Nobel Laureate who is passionate about climate change and global warming.
Watch George Negus's interview with Wangari Maathai

At George's prompting she dismissed the 32,000 scientists who have signed a petition objecting to the idea that global warming is the primary and direct result of human activity in burning fossil fuels. These scientists have demonstrated that atmospheric carbon increases result from (rather than cause) global warming. Are they right? According to George Negus's previous interview, these particular scientists are akin to flat-earthers and are laughable. At least Wangari Maathai didn't revert to ridicule as her argument. Instead, she just avoided defending the notion all-together and proceeded on the assumption that she was right. And why did she think she was right? Rather than showing an indisputable link between fossil-fuel consumption and global-warming, she simply gave the anecdotal evidence for global-warming. This included expanding deserts, rising sea-levels, and increased famines.

Her solution? Plant more trees. To this we sing: Amen. And we should agree with her that even if the climate-change sceptics are right, more trees is not going to be a bad thing.

But how many people can detect the underlying worldviews behind the climate-change debate? Is the earth the result of highly random unordered chaotic events? If it is, then it is surely a highly fragile bioshpere that must be carefully sustained. But what if the earth is the result of a well-designed, sovereignly governed, well-ordered, creation event? In this latter worldview we are called to be good stewards of our ecologies but we worship a Creator who has made our world remarkably resilient and able to endure and recover from human abuse.

I have written a little more about the issue of climate-change and global-warming on my website [read].

Friday, 12 June 2009


Wess Stafford
I recently read Dr Wess Stafford (pictured left) book, "Too Small To Ignore - Why Children Are The Next Big Thing". This books exposes the atrocious childhood experiences that Wess had when he grew up as a missionary's kid in nation of Ivory Coast. It was the policy of the denomination that his Dad was a missionary for, that all missionary kids had to attend the denominational boarding school several days drive away. While at Boarding schooling for nearly 6 years young Wess was subject to constant abuse (of every kind) as were nearly all of the other children attending this school. This horrendous experience could have embittered young Wess against Africa and against the Lord (since his abusers were Christian missionaries!), but he left Africa with great compassion for Africa and for the cause of Christ.

Too Small To IgnoreIt would take another 50 years for Wess before he would come to terms with what happened in his early schooling which eventually resulted in justice being done. But along the way, Wess developed an even deeper compassion for the world's poor. Eventually he would go on to become the President of Compassion International where he would advocate for the world's most vulnerable poor: children in poverty. Wess now champions a concern that should concern us all- How do we fight poverty on behalf of the world's poorest and most vunerable people?

Having grown up in Ivory Coast and then working in Haiti, Wess is well qualified to address this issue. He says that nations need a Six Spoked Strategy. Here is a summary of his proposition-

"In Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemishere, the average peasant family earns $140 a year... To send a child to school costs $50 a year " (Stafford, page 176).

The economy of a nation is critical to the well-being of that nation. If the national economy of a country is marked by a gross imbalance of trade (where a country does not export enough to 'pay' for its imports) it is likely to inflict poverty upon its citizens. Governments need to manage their economies well by avoiding and minimising debt and increasing national productivity, argues Dr Stafford.

"A big part of health maintenance, of course, is getting adequate nutrition. Some people think the earth can't keep up with the food needs of its population. This is not true. In fact, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) declared at a World Food Summit in Rome that the planet could produce enough food for every one of us to hav a daily diet of 2,720 calories. The average six-year-old needs only 1,800 calories a day. The average fourteen-year-old girl needs 2,200 and the average fourteen-year-old boy needs 2,500." (Stafford, page 177).

A balanced diet, clean water, sanitation, adequate shelter, and availability of necessary medicines are some of the basics needed to provide sufficient health care that all too often those nations in poverty are deprived of.

"What you don't know can't hurt you" is a lie, says Dr Wess Stafford (page 178). Being able to read can literally save lives and break cycles of poverty. Yet such a basic art is often denied to the world's poorest.

HaitiTrees, fresh water, sanitation, all matter. Agriculture is called "primary" industry for a good reason. In Haiti, Dr Staffords tells, greedy foreigners cleared entire forests for the rich supply of timber. Today the forests are all gone. This has radically changed Haiti's ecology. Trees help to preserve water, maintain soil nutrients, and act as a cooling agent. But Haiti is now in virtual perpetual drought. As rain clouds come over the once tropical Haiti the intense heat of the now bare ground drives the rain clouds up into higher altitude and then past Haiti.

Governmental corruption leads to national poverty. Good government facilitates national well-being. Democracy may not be the best way to govern a nation, wrote CS Lewis, but it's the best form of government that we have. A functioning democracy is an all too rare occurence among the poorest nations. A deep sense of vocation and calling is needed by all those in Public Service so that the gravity of their responsibility is carried out with a sense of dutiful diligence without fear or favour.

A wrong understanding of God and what appeases Him can lead to poverty. A right understanding of God helps avoid poverty, says Dr Stafford. He has seen many nations whose predominant understanding of "God" was largely superstitious and idolatrous resulting in worship practices that designated certain people groups to perpetual poverty without compassionate relief from their countrymen. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is Good News for the poor, the marginalised, women, and especially children. It is imperative that Christians do not shrink back from proclaiming Christ as Saviour, and the Hope of the World.
Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Wess Stafford says that all this must start with children, who he argues are the most vulnerable members of a society. He gives some remarkable statistics about the potential to shape a person's life and values if they can be influenced before they have turned 21. As I read Dr Stafford's book, I thought that it is not just the poorest nations that need to continually work on this six-spoked strategy. Our own nation could benefit greatly if Christ-followers worked toward shaping our own governments to implement this same six-spoked strategy.
We should encourage those followers of Christ who are involved in any of the six vital areas of cultural influence that their work is work of worship, devotion to the cause and glory of Christ and that what they do (no matter how mundane and unappreciated) has the potential to safeguard the welfare of many people who would otherwise be the victims of a Christ-less bureaucrat.
How the Gospel of Christ affects all of society for the enhanced welfare of all people - Christian or otherwise
1Corinthians 10:31 ¶ So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.


Saturday, 6 June 2009

Primary Issues

Christianity has a few non-negotiable beliefs which we might call "primary issues. These primary issues are emphasized in the teachings of Christ found in the Gospels, the teaching of the apostles as found in the Epistles, and the overall themes of the Bible. These issues are the matters of "first importance" (1Corinthians 15:3). These are the issues that have a direct bearing on how we regard God, ourselves, the nature of God's revelation, salvation, and our destiny.

It's rarely the issues of primary importance that divide Christians. It's more often than not, the secondary issues that end up dividing Christians. In the classic book on understanding the Bible by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart ("How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth") they make this case. In their section on how to interpret the Book of Acts, Fee & Stuart argue that Acts is a narrative with a message. But this message is not about how churches should be structured, or even a treatise on the roles within a church. These are secondary issues that might be supported from the Acts' account, but it would be wrong to think this was the purpose of Acts.

Andrew Corbett lecturing on the Book of ActsThe primary issues of Christianity have to do with uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the eternal second member of the Trinity; the fallenness of all mankind into sin; the singular plan of God to atone for mankind's sin; the absolute necessity for a person to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit (so that they can receive the divine gifts of faith, repentance and salvation); the inerrancy of the Scriptures as revealed in the 66 books of the Bible; and the evidence of the Holy Spirit's activity in a believer through sanctified fruitfulness and spiritual gifts.

Most denominations within Christianity are built around secondary issue differences. But of late, there has been a curious attempt to redefine Christianity by abandoning the primary issues and replacing them with mere spiritual practices such as contemplation, meditation, and forms of self-denial as if these were the actual primary issues.
2Timothy 3:5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

This pseudo-Christianity diminishes the importance of Christ and elevates the place of man. It proposes that all men are actually equal to Christ since he too was just a man. It was only because Christ became conscious of the divine within him, that he became 'enlightened'. Thus, his death on the Cross was a tragic waste- rather than the core of the eternal plan of God the Father Almighty to redeem mankind.

Which ever approach you take to understanding God and the person of Jesus Christ determines how you regard life and the after-life. The consequences of taking a wrong approach are rather eternal.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009


How do I need to grow?

Have you ever asked this question? Do you know the answer to the question if you were to ask?

Perhaps we need to ask another question before we ask this one. What has God called me to do for Him? Some of us can answer this without hesitation- a father, a mother, a friend, a helper, a student. With a little hesitation we might further answer that in addition to these important and primary callings, we are to serve the Lord by using the particular gifts that He has given us. The Bible lists some of these possible gifts in Romans 12, First Corinthians 12, 14 and First Peter 4:10-11. Perhaps your gift from God is to serve, or to encourage, or to teach, or to lead or to give? Where we might really hesitate after this stage of the process is when we answer the "Where?"part of the equation. For all of us, the answer to this question is two-part: within a local church and then in a mission-field.

Once these questions have been answered, we can now begin to answer the question: How do I need to grow? Of course we all need to grow in the same way when it comes to the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), the character and likeness of Christ (Ephesians 4:15), and the ability to share the love of God (Romans 14:15). Upon these foundations of constant growth, we need to grow in ways that best steward the gifts God has given us. This involves several aspects-

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.

Whatever gift has given you, it will always be channelled toward helping and loving others.

How well do you know those God has called you to share your gifts with?

Do you know who in your church or mission-field needs encouraging?

Can you tell when you have deprived a person for being responsible of their own actions?

Do you know when to give someone space and when to give them company?

People are not pains. People are Christ's Blood-bought treasure! These same people will let us down, offend us, and even disappoint us- but they are still treasured by Christ. Perhaps some of us need to grow in how we treat people-especially those who are not just people, but brothers and sisters. Please pray for me that I can better help people with the gifts that Christ has invested in me. I'm going to be praying for you today that God will help you to better help your brothers and sisters in our church and those in your mission-field.

Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

You know you are growing when the Lord takes you into new arenas, has you do new things, and has you encounter new challenges. When we allow Christ to stretch us where we might currently feel inadequate we are bound to grow. When was the last time you did something for the first time? Newness is the air the growing person breathes. Rather than dismissing a challenge as "I can't do that!" the growing person says, "How do I do this - because I'd like to have a go!"

2Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Growth takes time. God's lessons are learned over a passage of time. Walking with Christ is a persistent walk. It requires patience. But sometimes growth comes from practicing something, like memorising Scripture, or learning a new song, or being able to play an instrument. Sometimes growth into something looks like walking a path that seems to bear no resemblance to where we think the Lord is taking us. Perhaps this is how Moses felt as he tended sheep for 40 years all the while knowing that God had called him to be the deliverer of Israel from Egyptian bondage (Acts 7:25)?

Romans 2:7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

God has given us one mouth and two ears. This might be a clue as to what we should do more. We grow as we learn to listen better. There is a world of difference between hearing people's words and really listening to them. As I grow in my relationship to Kim this is probably the single biggest growth area I've had to learn. Good listening is an art form. Listening well doesn't mean agreeing but it does mean clarity. As we allow God to grow us into the people He wants us to be, it means that we will learn to listen more, and listen more clearly.

It seems to me that more Christ grew as a man, the more submissive He became. One of His final acts was to wash the smelly, dirty, naked, feet of his disciples as they argued over who was greatest. He submitted Himself to them. He could therefore instruct His apostles to write that we should all be submitted to one another (Ephesians 5:21), that wives should be submitted to their husbands (Eph. 5:22), that a church should be submitted to Christ (Eph. 5:24), and that believers should be submitted to their leaders (Hebrews 13:17). Growth comes from submission. A child must submit to their parents for their own growth's sake and it seems that in the spiritual sense there is growth that takes place when allow someone to care for us in a way that we can be submitted to them. This might involve counsel, correction,

I conclude these thoughts with what is probably the single most important factor in how we need to grow: our attitude. Our attitude is the window to the core of our souls. When we are growing into Christ our attitudes are the first evidence of that growth.

Am I thankful?

Do I rejoice for others when they succeed at something I have failed at?

Will I encourage someone else even when I feel particularly discouraged?

Can I help another when I feel unsociable and worn-out?

How do I respond to someone who irritates me and doesn't even realise it?

Why do I serve people?

All of these questions address our attitude.

Ephesians 4:23 Instead, there must be a spiritual renewal of your thoughts and attitudes. (NLT)

"Oh God, please help me to grow in the foundations of a Christ-follower. Please help me to grow in my love and care of others. Please help me to grow into the likeness of Christ for my life. And Lord, make clear to me who I am to minister with and to. Father, I also pray that I can understand what the gifts are that you have given me. Help me to grow in their use. May I be a blessing to people. Help me not to shirk away from doing new or first time things. Oh God, help me to listen better. I want to hear You. I want to really hear what others are saying as well. And Lord, when I want Your trials and tests to be over before You do, help me not to run away. Instead, Lord, help me to submit to your timing and to those You place over and into my life. Father, as I seek to grow I pray that my attitude will become transformed into a humble, servant-spirited, gentle, loving, kind, child of Yours. All this I ask Father, in Jesus' Name, and for Your glory.