Thursday, 24 September 2009


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 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.


Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Understanding The Book of Revelation

If you were downtown and looked across the street over the parked cars and saw someone you knew rushing intently to push a little old lady over, what would you think of that person? Would your opinion of this person change if you later discovered that the cars you were looking over obscured your view of this person actually pushing this little old lady out of the way of a speeding sports car which was hurtling towards her and about to hit her? Sometimes, a bigger picture changes the entire picture!

This is what reading the Book of Revelation is like for some people. They have their understanding of the Book of Revelation obscured by their lack of understanding about history, Biblical language, and even modern opinions.

And this is one of the biggest problems with how people approach the Book of Revelation: the historical background to the Book is unknown to most readers. The second huge problem is that most people who promote themselves as experts on "End Times" or "Bible Prophecy" do not understand how the principles of sound Biblical hermeneutics apply equally to the Book of Revelation. For example, one of the first assumptions that those who employ sound hermeneutics use is, treat any Biblical book as if it was written to someone else. This demands that we study the original audience context as well as the Biblical context. But this presents a problem to the modern reader since we are at least two thousand years removed from the original audience. If we fail to address these problems when interpretting the Book of Revelation, we are doomed to commit the same errors that have plagued the history of Revelation's interpretation. (I have compiled a small list of such of failed interpretations.)
Continue to read...

Friday, 18 September 2009

Damned Universalism?

Romans 5:18Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.

"Universalism" is the idea that all people are saved irregardless of their religion, beviour, lifestyle, or even their response to the Gospel. This is because, they claim, the Bible teaches that Christ died for all mankind and that His death has sufficiently atoned for the sins of all mankind. The idea of "hell" is repulsive to Universalists. How, they argue, could a good/loving/forgiving God send anyone to hell to be tortured for eternity in damnable flames for simply not adopting a set of man-made beliefs? The best a person can do to please God, is to be (in the words of now President, Obama) "true to your own values", or as anoher Universalist put it: "live sincerely". Thus, Universalism naturally leads to moral and religious relativism.

But perhaps you're wondering about those Bible passages that speak both of the need to respond to the Gospel, God's commitment to judge the world, and the many predictive statements about only a few accepting God's offer of salvation? And I am too! Amazingly, Universalists often respond by dismissing these Bible passages as "later additions to the New Testament by Constantinian Church of 312AD".

This is a bewildering response for those who understand how the New Testament Canon (recognition of those writings divinely inspired by God) occured.

My major assignment during my undergraduate degree in Biblical Studies was about the formation of the New Testament Canon and its subsequent transmission (how it was copied) and translations down through the centuries. I discovered that the 27 books of the New Testament were completed by no later than 70AD (not 300AD!).

There is growing evidence that the Canon of the New Testament was widely recognised by the early second century. To claim that it was the Roman Catholic Church that manipulated the New Testament for its own controlling ends and then invented the Canon of the New Testament so that only those books they wanted in the Bible became the Canon is just not supported by the historical evidence- despite what Dan Brown's DaVinci Code and Angels & Demons asserts!!!

First of all, the Canon was recognised before Emperor Constantine came on the scene. In fact, it was on the basis of a recognised New Testament Canon during the 2nd Century that many Christians were martyred for not giving up their copies of the New Testament. (Google "Traditores" and you can read all about this period).

Secondly, it was not until the Council of Trent around 1550 that the Roman Catholic Church officially recognised the 27 books of the New Testament! This occured so late because there was no need to do so since the New Testament Canon was so obvious from the earliest moments of Chruch history. It appears that the Holy Spirit oversaw the formation of the Canon as well the original inspiration of the text itself.

But Universalists are forced to deny the authority of Scripture and dismiss its claims that all people must turn to Christ in repentance and faith - because the New Testament clearly does not teach Universalism. Even the few verses which they curiously appeal to, when read in context, do not say what they think they say. For example, Romans 5:18 says that Christ died for "all". Taken on its own, this verse seems to be saying that all people are automatically saved by virtue of Christ's death. But, if we read on to the next verse, we learn what is meant by "all" -
Romans 5:19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many [not "all"] will be made righteous.

One of those leading the charge against orthodox Christianity, the Bible, and the validity of the Church, is Professor Bart Erhman of the University of Northern Carolina. He has attacked the Bible and Christianity in books, lectures and TV appearances. He claims that the Bible contains over 5,000 textual errors. On closer examination, this claim is found to be without merit as most of these "errors" are very minor spelling differences which have no bearing on the content of the text.

Prof. Erhman also claims that the Bible is full of contradictions. He claims that one of the biggest contradictions is found in Genesis 1 compared to Genesis 2. But upon examination of these two texts, there is no contradiction at all. Genesis 1 is about the overview of creation while Genesis 2 focusses on God planting the Garden of Eden (see my video response to this attack by Prof. Ehrman).

Professor Ehrman also dismisses the New Testament's Gospel message as cruel and hardly representative of a kind, forgiving and loving God. How could this God of the Bible condemn innocent, deceased newborn babies to hell? Surely, this makes God sound harsh, ridiculous, and vindictive. Or, what about the natives who live in extremely isolated mountainous jungles who have never heard about God, let alone the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Firstly, there is a compelling case to be made from Scripture that God certainly does not automatically condemn newborn babies to Hell. But in any case, the Biblical picture of God is that He is infinitely just and only ever does what is right. Secondly, according to Romans 1 and 2 no one is without excuse when it comes to the existence and requirements of God. Based on Romans 2, God has given every person enough light to know what is right and wrong and to seek God.
Romans 2:12-15If you sin without knowing what you’re doing, God takes that into account. But if you sin knowing full well what you’re doing, that’s a different story entirely. When outsiders who have never heard of God’s law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience. They show that God’s law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within them that echoes God’s yes and no, right and wrong. [The Message]

I read one theologian's summary of Universalism's claims where he said that an after-life where everybody went to Heaven, nobody went to Hell, was emotionally very appealing. The only slight problem he had in accepting this view was: the Bible. The Bible, he reminded his readers, simply does not teach Universalism. On the contrary, the Bible presents that Christ has made a way for people to be saved from their sins and the eternal punishment it brings, if they will respond to God's offer by accepting His forgiveness. This is done by calling upon His name (Romans 10:9). As Paul the apostle told the Athenians, it is possible to call upon the Lord because God has put within each one of us a desire to know Him-
Acts 17:24-27 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,

Don Richardson is a Missiologist (he studies the work and history of missions). He has written many books about how God had revealed Himself to people and cultures before missionaries arrived with the Gospel. In his ground-breaking book, Eternity In Their Hearts, he gives example after example which show that God had revealed many aspects of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to cultures in preparation for the arrival of missionaries. He shows how many of these cultures actively sought the Lord and instantly recognised the truth of the Missionaries' Gospel when they heard it.

So how does God deal with people who have not yet had an opportunity to hear and receive the Gospel? Paul told the Athenians that God overlooks ignorance and will judge people based on the light of His revelation that they had received-
Acts 17:30-31 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

But we shouldn't be romantic about what this means. Mankind is so selfish that it takes a miracle for this self-worship to be overcome in a human heart. Mankind, in our most natural state, fundamentally hates God.
John 3:19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. John 3:20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.

John 15:18“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.

It's hard to miss this point when reading Paul's Epistle to the Romans: we are all sinners who love our sin and hate God and despise His laws. The opening chapter of Romans makes this abundantly clear and the rest of the Epistle explores this problem and God's gracious solution. If we understand that God has reached out to His "enemies" -
Romans 5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

In what sounds like almost vulgar language at first, is the assessment by Hank Hannegraaf (President of the Christian Research Institute) of the claims of Universalism. He sums up the "God of Universalism" as "the worst possible cosmic rapist". A rapist imposes himself upon a hapless victim. For God to save those who do not want to be saved, would be to act like a rapist and impose His will upon them by divine force. Although Universalism's goal is make God sound more loving and forgiving, it actually unwittingly does the opposite!

CS Lewis once said that for many people their statement on earth to God is one of defiance- "My will be done", will hear God respond to them on Judgment Day- "Thy will be done". God will then do for them the most loving thing anyone can do for another and validate their free will, and thus give them what they want: to be banished from God for eternity.

As Christians this should leave us bewildered as to why anyone would willingly reject the Most Beautiful Being In The Universe. But this is largely because we have had our "eyes" opened, our stoney hearts replaced with hearts of flesh, and our darkened depraved minds washed and renewed to purity. When we ponder what has had to happen to us in order for us to become Christians, we soon realise that we are saved because God has been extremely gracious to us. Understanding the grace of God as undeserved favour from God cancels out the demand many make upon God that if He is going to be gracious to some, He sould be gracious toward all. But this is illogical. It completely misunderstands grace not to mention justice.

Rather than thinking that all people have been saved by default of the Cross of Christ, the clear testimony of Scripture is that most people hate God and His laws and even His offer of salvation. They, therefore, brashly reject God's unique offer of salvation and have the temerity to tell God that they will be saved regardless of what God requires of them. But the New Testament reveals to us that salvation requires acceptance, leads to a Christ-like character, and we take this formed character with us into eternity. This is why it is an act of love to share the Gospel with others so that they can have the opportunity to turn from idolatry to the Living God and develop a character changing relationship with Christ that will bless them for eternity.
Rev. 20:15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.


Monday, 14 September 2009

Has Paradise Been Lost

To properly understand "the end" we need to properly understand the beginning. The latest installment from Hank Hanegraaff makes much of the idea that Paradise has been lost and must be 'restored'. The idea that Paradise was "perfect" has some serious implications for how we understand the Bible!
How would you define "perfect"? l'm not sure that too many people have pondered how many things in life are perfect. Perhaps most Christians would regard only two things as "perfect": (i) God, and (ii) The original Creation.

Biblical literacy involves being able to discern what is indeed a Biblical statement, and what is meant by a Biblical statement. When it comes to pondering what "perfect" means, we may have a problem if we look to support our two examples with Scripture. Firstly, Matthew 5:48 asserts that God is perfect. Not only is God essentially perfect, but so are His ways (Deut. 32:4), and His will (Rom. 12:2).

In Hank Hanegraaff's book, The Apocalypse Code, he makes the assertion that the end will ultimately be a restoration of Paradise: "Paradise lost will be Paradise restored." The assumption behind this statement is that the original creation was both "Paradise" and that it was "perfect". This is just one way in which our understanding of the beginning affects our understanding of the end.
[Read more]

Helping Make Life Better-Episode 1

Thursday, 10 September 2009

What Is A "Just War"?

Is there such a thing as a "Just War"? Can military conflict be thought of as advancing the Cause of Christ? Should Christians serve in the Armed Forces?...

Former Whitehouse Deputy Secretary of State (and Christian), Richard Armitage, has described the "Coalition of the Willing" (including the armed forces of the USA, UK, and Australia) as doing the "Lord's work" in their military campaign in Iraq. But does God really sanction war? Is there really ever such a thing as a "Just War"?

I am presenting this as a Pacifist. I do not come from a military family. I do not agree with war. I have never seen "action". I have never served in the military. But, I am an amateur war historian, and I have throughout my pastoral career pastored soldiers, airmen, and naval personnel. I have publicly and consistently denounced our invasion in Iraq even before the Americans proposed it. Therefore, I stand open to the accusation of bias when it comes to the issue of "Just War" - but it is a declared bias that the reader should factor into their own opinion about this vital topic.

There never was a good war, or a bad peace.
Benjamin Franklin

Read the full article

Wednesday, 2 September 2009


Prov. 22:25 lest you learn his ways
and entangle yourself in a snare.

Samuel Grafton once said- "A penny will hide the biggest star in the Universe if you hold it close enough to your eye." It's amazing how big a small problem becomes if you focus on it and let it fill your vision. Yesterday I had a tiny little piece of something stuck microscopically in my jeans. It was occasionally rubbing near my knee. I felt it at the start of the day but didn't worry too much about it. But as the day unfolded and I had several stressful (and immensely far more important issues than a tiny splinter in my jeans) arise, I increasingly noticed that this teeny-weeny, tiny, splinter had grown. I scanned the outside of my jeans searching for the offending splinter, but to no avail.

As the day went on and the stress of even newer difficulties were thrust upon me, I was duly distracted by the splinter in my jeans which now had a hyperdermic needle tip. Once again I searched for the pesky culprit. But it must have seen me looking since it was no where to be found.

I was trying to help people in very sensitive situations yesterday. But I was continually distracted by this splinter which had now been possessed by a demon-goth-lord-of-the-underworld and had stepped up its campaign of annoyance to a fully fledged war on my inner knee and thigh by no longer rubbing itself occasionally into my normally super-humanly tough skin, but now it was deliberately, yea: maliciously jabbing itself demonically into my leg.

Forget the fact that I have the greatest job in the world. Forget the fact that I work in with a talented loyal staff team who are committed to the Cause of Christ and are prepared to do so sacrificially. Forget the fact that I have a loving God honouring family. Forget the fact that I live in one of the greatest places to live on the planet. Forget the fact that I could eat today. Forget the fact that I woke up in a comfortable bed in a comfortable house in a comfortable street in a comfortable neighbourhood. Forget the fact that unlike 80% of the world's population, I actually had something to eat today. Forget all these things- there was a microscopic splinter somewhere in the seam of my jeans causing hell-on-earth-demonic havoc with my leg!
Heb. 12:1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.

Of course I should have known better. I should have realised what the old NY Times columnist, Samuel Grafton, meant when he said that with a penny you could block out the biggest star in the universe. I should have known that when you focus on a problem, even a trivial one, you "feed" it. It grows with attention.

I was reading the book of Nehemiah that other day and was reminded that Nehemiah had many problems in rebuilding Jerusalem. At one point his enemies requested an urgent meeting with him to discuss the rebuilding program. But Nehemiah refused to meet with them.
Neh. 6:3 And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?”

Nehemiah knew how to ignore life's "splinters".

Near the end of the day I determined to rid myself of this splinterous distraction. I changed my jeans. I now reflect that there are probably more times than I care to admit when I have lost sight of the big (read: "important") things in life, and sweated on the small stuff. An older and wiser pastor than me once said to me, Your are only as big as the problems you deal with. Yesterday I was reduced to the bigness of a splinter!

Jesus said-
Matt. 6:25-28, 31, 34“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ ¶ “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Sometimes we hold our small problems so close to our eyes that we block out our vision of the brightest Star in the Universe (Rev. 22:16).
Rev. 22:16 ¶ “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”