Saturday, 26 March 2011

A Magnificent Church

There is a scheme and a plot to destroy the Church. There a devilish minions at work to wear down God's people and to take the wind out of their sails. This conspiracy of ecclesiastical destruction has their cohorts. They have conscripted media personalities, academics, and politicians. But completely unknown to these very powerful people and spirits there is a God more powerful who is completely frustrating their plans! While they seek to ridicule, reject, and relegate the Church, the One who who birthed it continues to promote it, power it, presence it, provide for it, preserve it, and prophesy through it! In fact, the Church is perhaps one of the greatest living miracles and testimonies to the proof of God there is! The God who loves it has declared that it should be "magnificent"!
For David said, "Solomon my son is young and inexperienced, and the house that is to be built for the LORD must be exceedingly magnificent, of fame and glory throughout all lands. I will therefore make preparation for it." So David provided materials in great quantity before his death. 
First Chronicles 22:5
The Old Covenant is a necessary "shadow" of the New Covenant (Heb. 10:1). Its Temple speaks of the Body of Christ (Jn 2:21). In a sense, we are like young Solomon - young and inexperienced. We need God's help to build His Church. Like Solomon, we are engaged in an enterprise of infinite importance - to build a Church that is "magnificent, of fame and glory through all the lands". The Church is not called to rule the world, but neither are we called to be insignificent. Rather, we are called to be magnificent for God! For those of us who are getting on in years, like David, we are helping the next generation by leaving a legacy for them to build on. And like David, we who are able to provide physically and materially for the House of God, do the best we can in order to build amagnificent House for God.

Can we, together, build a magnificent house for God, here in our community? To do so, we must-

1. Pray. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Pray for your preachers and teachers. Pray to the Lord of the Harvest to help us to harvest.

2. Serve and give with whatever God has given you. Your little means a lot.

3. Sharpen your gift and pool it. If you're called and gifted to be a singer - get singing lessons. If you're called and gifted to be a preacher take a preaching course with ICI College. If you're gifted to be a helper go to really good restaurant and observe closely the top waiters and learn from them. If you're called to be a shepherd, learn to listen from really good interviewers. Then, once you're sharpening your gift, pool it by combining it with the strengths of others. This is how you can 'leverage' your gift (multiply your effectiveness by having someone else's strength compensate for your weaker areas and your gifts compensating for someone else's weaknesses).
Father, help me to be a part of building for You a magnificent House. Help me to know what my gifts are, use them in my local church, and be compensated for by others who have strengths that cover my weaknesses. May we take ground for Your glory and be a part of winning souls to Christ and helping them grow in Christ. For Your glory, we pray, Amen.
Eph. 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Ps. Andrew

Friday, 18 March 2011

Finding Motivation

Norm MacDonaldWe are all motivated to do something. My motivation "problem" is that I'm not always motivated enough to do things that I don't want to do - even though they have to be done. I have to confess that I not only procrastinate difficult things, but I more frequently procrastinate the things that I don't enjoy doing. This of course also has an immediate spiritual implication for my walk with Christ.
Initially, I thought that I just generally lacked motivation, but then I realised that I could find plenty of things to do that I wanted to do or enjoyed, rather than do the things I needed to do. By doing the things I wanted to do I could excuse myself from the things that I didn't want to do by fooling myself that I've been "too busy", "too tired", or "too interrupted". For me, motivation is the fuel for action, and there are some things in my life that run on the smell of an oily rag while there are other things need more fuel than an A380 on take-off!
¶ Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.Phil. 3:12
Paul the Apostle was obviously motivated. What he achieved was outstanding. He wrote nearly two thirds of the New Testament. He introduced Christianity into Asia Minor and Europe. He planted churches, trained leaders, prayed ceaselessly, wrote prolifically, and looked accusing Emperors in the eye as he challenged them over the eternal condition of their soul. Did he ever lack motivation? Apart from his ministerial duties, I doubt though that Paul had to mow grass, take a dog for a walk, pick kids up from school, get the rubbish bins out every second Thursday, tidy up his garage after the kids have used his tools, maintain his churches' websites, produce teaching videos, upload a weekly audio podcast, do radio interviews, lobby politicians over issues of public concern, and maintain his apostolic duties. But I digress needlessly because I am sure that while he didn't have to do these mundane things that I all too frequently lack sufficient motivation for, he had far weightier responsibilities to bear that would have been n less arduous. Somehow, the seasoned apostle found the necessary motivation to keep going.
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.Phil. 3:14
Jesus was motivated. Was there ever a time when He was not motivated? I was reading Matthew 26 where Jesus went out to the Garden of Gethsemane to talk with His Father. He was in agony. He was motivated to do His Father's will but in this tender moment of Christ's incarnated humanity He asked the Father if there was another way - other than the Cross. How did Christ push through this episode of doing what had to be done even though He would have preferred another way? He yielded to the Father's will. I want to be motivated by the will of God too.
"And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will."
Matthew 26:39
¶ For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
Romans 12:3
I'm trying to learn this lesson of remedying my lack of motivation for certain tasks. I have to remind myself that God's will is best for my life and that as I submit to it, I am the one who will be blessed. My lack of motivation is processed through a growing knowledge of God's will. That is, He not only knows what will happen, He ordains what will happen in my life and circumstances. He knows my busyness and the demands placed upon me. He knows all of the interruptions that will come my way and has even ordained them for my benefit! And despite all of this, He wants me to be somewhat motivated for what I am responsible for - such as mowing our grass, doing the family dishes, picking up kids and so on.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them:Romans 12:6a
I'm learning that I need to keep up the appropriate fuel for each of my motivation tanks. When it comes to what God has gifted me to do, I am easily motivated. Not only that, I enjoy it and even feel energised from doing it. Mind you, I still have to regularly refuel this motivation tank. I've learned that reading the right material, listening to the right teachers and preachers, and meeting with similarly motivated people keeps me motivated in these easily motivated areas.
But I need to also fuel those motivation tanks for the responsibilities that I don't enjoy. For those moments, I remember Christ. I remember that Christ asked His Father to accomplish His will in His life even though He was somewhat reluctant to do it. I too can ask God for the strength to do what I must do even though I don't want to do it. I can also pray to God for His will to be done when I am struggling to do it. This is a key motivation principle for the follower of Christ.
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.Romans 12:11
Motivation ChallengeMotivation Remedy
Busyness ("I've been too busy")Write a To Do List with priorities and scheduled deadlines
Energy ("I'm too tired", "I couldn't be bothered")Plan to do it with someone else (If you're not motivated to do an exercise walk, organise to walk with someone else.)
Organisation ("I haven't had time")Commit to developing routines. Learn to stop doing some tasks in order to commence or recommence other tasks.
To be motivated to achieve anything, you must-
    1. Set goals (with deadlines) - For example, "For the month of March I will read one Christian book and two Biblical books."
    2. Meet with others who share similar goals. If your goal is to improve your praying, meet with others who want to pray (Legana Christian Church holds a weekly prayer meeting each Sunday night). If your goal is to read more Scripture meet with one or two others who are also committed to the regular reading of Scripture.
    3. Fuel your motivation with inspiration. If your goal is to lose weight: watch, listen, speak with, read about, those who have gone where you want to go. If your goal is to lead one soul to Christ this year read books on soul-winning, watch videos of effective soul-winners, speak with soul winners then move out of your comfort zone into another zone where lost souls dwell.
Spiritual motivation needs to be developed in order to maintain our spiritual disciplines. We all need some motivation to practice prayer, receive Scripture input in its various forms (reading/study/memorisation/meditation/praying), fellowship in a meaningful way, worship with all our heart, witness for Christ, and share our spiritual gifts. History is replete with believers and churches who lost sight of their vision for Christ's cause and glory and became unmotivated. May God help each of us to be fully motivated in both spiritual and natural responsibilities so that we are the best ambassadors for Christ that we can be!
Are there things you're putting off? Do you struggle with being responsible for those things that you should do but don't necessarily want to do? Like me, you might need motivating.
But have you identified those productive areas of your life where you are motivated? Can you identify in what ways you are spiritually motivated? Which of the spiritual Christian disciplines come easiest to you? Prayer? Witnessing? Bible study? Worship? Acts of service? Giving? Each of these disciplines can be expressed within the church and in the market-place. John Maxwell says that he would only need to see one day of a person's schedule to see where a person is both gifted and motivated. God has made you with some natural abilities that require minimal motivation, but He has also given you some responsibilities that will demand being done even though we are "too busy", "too tired", or "too interrupted". For those low-motivation areas, we need God's will to become our will.
Father, help me to do Your will. Help me to stay motivated for those things You've put delight in my heart for doing. Help me to be motivated enough to get done what I am responsible for but don't always want to do. Help me to be a source of inspiration and motivation for others. Help us as a church to motivated for what breaks Your heart: the reconciliation of lost people to You. For Your glory, we pray, Amen.
Eph. 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ps. Andrew

Friday, 11 March 2011

The Lord is MY Shepherd

It's the loveliest of the Psalms. It's also probably the most famous. Psalm 23. "The Lord is my shepherd..." It is the young Psalmist reminding himself and his readers of God's abiding and comforting presence. It is striking for its profound depth of what a relationship with God looks like. But it is shocking for what it focusses on!
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
Psalm 23:1-2
David wrote this Pslam when he was a young shepherd boy. Alone at night. Isolated by day. In fear of robbers. Prowled by wolves and the occasional lion. When David considered God in his night-time moments of watching his father's sheep, he reminded himself that God was his Shepherd. He must have realised that for the person who knows God, they are never alone. He might have taken great comfort from the knowledge that even in the midst trouble, it wasn't troubled waters that God offered. Rather, it was still waters to still troubled times.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Psalm 23:3
David tells us that God not only provides for us like a Shepherd, He feeds us and leads us. David tells us that if we make God our Shepherd He can restore our soul. Souls become dry. Souls become wounded. Souls become distracted. Souls can be lost. God restores souls. If you are dry, wounded, distracted or lost, you need your soul restored by the Soul-Restoring Shepherd.
 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me

Psalm 23:4
In David's darkest hour he sought for God. Beyond the scope of the words that he used to begin to describe it, David said that he experienced the Lord's presence as if it were a 'rod' and a 'staff'. Shepherds used these tools to guide or rescue sheep from danger. If you are experiencing God's disciplining - you are experiencing God's Shepherding presence! It is too easy to be confused by this experience as if God has left you - when in fact, He has drawn closer to you!
¶ You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Psalm 23:5
This skinny, "ruddy" (1Sam. 16:12) little shepherd boy found God to be the One who anoints His children in the presence of those who seek their harm! In fact, David found God to be the One who anointed him when it looked like his enemies were about to triumph. Initially David found this to be true with lions and bears (1Sam 16:26). He then found it to be true with giants. He then found it to be true with spiteful kings. He then found it to be true with enemy kingdoms. He then found it to be true when those who were closest to him betrayed him in the cruelest fashion. In these times, David found that God filled his victory cup. Not half full. Not two-thirds full. Not nearly full. Not even full. God filled David's victory celebration cup to overflowing!
¶ Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Psalm 23:6
What an amazing church we are each a part of. Over the past few weeks we have seen people repenting. We have seen people coming to know Christ for the first time. We have seen record attendances. We have seen God's amazing miracle provision for several people. We have seen people supernaturally recovering from sickness, illness and surgeries. We have seen people responding to the Holy Spirit in prayer an fasting. We have seen people turn up to Sunday worship when the Enemy has thrown all he can at them in a desperate attempt to keep them apart. We have seen people in our church called upon by other churches to share their story of how God has worked in their lives. All of this causes me to join in David's song and sing that God has been good to me, good to us. I have enjoyed an unbelievably blessed life. Like David, God's goodness and mercy has followed me all the days of my life. And like David, I am delighted to be committed to His House forever.
But there is something shocking about this beautiful Psalm. Do you see it? Do you see that in nearly every other Bibical statement about our relationship with God, it is just that: "our" relationship with God. Even Jesus taught us to pray, "OurFather...lead us...forgive us...our daily bread..." But Psalm 23 is an individual Psalm. When you feel alone, you are not. When you think there is no one, there is always Someone.
Last Monday night on the Discovery Channel's, Man Versus Wild, Bear was in the wilds of Alabama. As he lay down under a makeshift branch-hut, he looked his audience in the eye through the barrel of the camera and declared, "You may think that I'd feel incredibily lonely out here, doing this. But I'm not. In fact, it's a huge privilege for me to do what I do and because of my Christian faith I know I'm never alone!" I think Bear Grylls must have read Psalm 23.
Father, thank You that You never leave me. Thank You that You never abandon me. Thank You that even in my darkest hour, You feed me and lead me. Thank You that just when I thought You had left me, you prepared a victory table for me and filled my victory cup to over-flowing. I need You. I need to make You known. I want Your Shepherd's touch on my life so that I can live a discipline life. Shepherd my soul. Restore my soul. For Your glory, we pray, Amen.
Eph. 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ps. Andrew

Monday, 7 March 2011


In his book, THE 21 INDISPENSABLE QUALITIES OF A LEADER, John C. Maxwell tells the story of Lester Wunderman.
"In 1947, Lester Wunderman was arbitrarily fired from his advertising job in New York.  But the young man knew he could learn a lot from the head of the agency, Max Sackheim.  The next morning, Wunderman went back to his office and worked just as he had before--but without pay.
Sackheim ignored him for a month, but finally walked up to Wunderman and said, "Okay, you win. I never saw a man who wanted a job more than he wanted money." 
Wunderman went on to become one of the most successful advertising men of the century. He is known as the father of direct marketing.

Thursday, 3 March 2011


One of the best gifts you can receive is the knowledge of who you are. It is a tragic thing to go through life thinking that you something that you are not. If you have people in your life who care enough for you to tell you that you are not what you are trying to be, or that you are "this", then you are very blessed! This particular knowledge is particulalry needed within the church.
First Corinthians 12:15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.
Do you know who you are and what you are not? I've seen several spiritual gift surveys. Shortly after Kim became a Christian she took one of these spiritual gift surveys which her local church promoted. It revealed that her spiritual gift was: "martyr". Now you have to admit, this is a spiritual gift that you can only use once! While these spiritual gift surveys can be helpful, I think the most reliable way to ascertain who God has made you, and which gifts He has given you, comes from those who know you best.

I grew up in Geelong and attended a church where people were encouraged to use their gifts. There was one particular girl who was convinced that God had called her to be a singer. When she sang in a group you really couldn't tell that she couldn't sing in key, pitch her voice, breathe in the right places, or keep in time. But when she sang solo, these faults were obvious to all - except to her! To my knowledge, no-one ever told her the truth.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;Romans 12:6
We all tend to look at the world through our particular gifts. If we have the gifts of mercy and exhortation, we may wonder why others are so cold, aloof, and uncaring. If we have the gift of administration we may wonder why others are so disorganised. The danger with any particular gifting is the same danger as not appreciating the gifting of others - we fail to understand why others don't understand us and aren't more like us.
I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.
1Corinthians 7:7
I think I've figured out who I am. This has involved realising which gifts God has given me. It has also involved how I best express those gifts. And it has involved accepting how I need to steward what God has given me and given me to do.

While I enjoy teaching, training, and leading, there are times when stewarding those responsibilities is hard work, long hours, and subject to harsh criticism. But I've discovered that when I focus on the areas of responsibilities which God has given me (pastoring the church through teaching, producing outreach multimedia, writing apologetic and theological articles, managing staff, training leaders, giving Biblical counsel) I am most fulfilled - despite having to pay the price for this stewardship. When you come to know who God has made you to be and what gifts He has given you, you too may discover that others will be disappointed with who you are not.

This is why we not only need each other in the church, we need to understand (each other, and) how we complement each other. When we start doing this we are less likely to be monocular (seeing everything through our one lens) and more able to be multi-ocular (seeing things through the giftings of others). People who only view the church through their lens become unfairly critical of others who do not have their gift lens. They can become self-fulfilling prophets with 'prophecies' like I bet no one will reach out to me in church today. I'll come in late, sit in the corner, keep my arms folded, not smile, and leave early. This is an unfair 'prophecy'. It fails to appreciate that others have different gifts, different needs, different personalities and different social awareness skills. By the way, the person who regularly makes this kind of prophecy about the various churches they have "tried" and have discovered the same thing probably needs to ask the difficult question: What element in each of these church visits was the same? Rather than coming to church with a critical, fault-finding, self-fulfilling prophecy, it is better to participate in church with a prayerful, open-to-God, celebrate the different gifts/personalities/ministries of others, how-can-I-share-my-gifts-here, attitude.

Our church is growing. We are also growing in our appreciation of who we each are. When I came to Legana some 16 years ago, those in the church had preconceived ideas about who I was and what God enabled me to do. It didn't take long before they were shocked and disappointed. Many of these people voted with their feet. Some of them wrote nasty letters to me as they left. Some who left slandered me. But a few recognised that God had clearly called us here and that God had also called them to here too. These dear long-suffering folk endured their pastor's shortcomings and failings and stayed. Over the years some people have come with preconceived ideas about what a pastor is and what a church does, and have been disappointed, and have left. Others have come, been challenged, accepted the challenge that church is a body of diverse members who have differing gifts, differing personalities, differing values, and that it functions best when people do what God has called them to do with what He has gifted them with to do it. Thus, when one of us is hospitalised or sick, those with the gifts of mercy or exhortation can't help themselves! They visit! They prepare meals! They babysit! They care. In this way the leadership of a church functions as a team.
¶ Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;First Corinthians 12:4
Any church needs the following. But to be healthy, growing church there is an extraordinary need for these that God supplies through the Spirit's gifting.
A growing healthy church needs people who pray extraordinarily.
It needs people who serve extraordinarily.
It needs people who lead extraordinarily.
It needs people who care extraordinarily.
It needs people who understand technology extraordinarily.
It needs people who give extraordinarily.
It needs people who can teach extraordinarily.
It needs people who can train extraordinarily.
It needs people who can evangelise extraordinarily.
I thank God for Stephen Hill who has covered my back more times than I know. He brings to our leadership team some wonderful gifts that I and others on the leadership don't have. I also thank God for Colin Kettle. I'd probably be curled up in some corner rocking back and forth in the foetal position if it wasn't for Colin. I thank God for Karen Dickson who makes us sound so good on radio. I thank God for Josh Gee who puts so much effort into editing and producing our videos for DVD and online. I thank God for Kim who has a wonderful gift of hospitality who more times than I can count helped to cater for events at our church involving hundreds of people. Without her gifts of organising and hospitality we could never have hosted so many people in our home or in our church. I thank God for Judith Brain who looks after our church kitchen so well and cares so deeply for the needy and the hurting in our church. I could go on, and mention Sonia and our wonderful worship leaders, and the dozens of others who make our church what it is, but you get the idea. Without diverse people with diverse gifts we simply could not function as a church.

As we continue to grow we will have to, and we will be able to, focus more on our particular gifts and how God wants us to express them. This of course doesn't mean that God excuses our sinful foibles or doesn't expect us to develop our hatred for sin and our love for Him and His Word. We all must equally avoid excusing our personal sin with the lame justification that this is who God has made me and be committed to grow in ways that will stretch us, challenge us, and take us out of our comfort zones. (This is why we all need the grace of God to grow.)

If you do not know what gifts God has given you, ask those who know God and know you best. Ask yourself what you're most critical of. Look at how you spend your time - what do you most naturally default to? Within the church, where do you see the greatest need? These are some of the things that you can do to discover what gifts God has given you and who He has called you to be. Once you discover this, you learn how to express these gifts through your redeemed personality. (I've had to learn how to overcome my shyness to express the gifts God has given me.) When we are equipped to do this, we will fit together so the life of the Spirit can bring life to many.
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.
Colossians 2:19
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.
Ephesians 4:16
I look forward to the days ahead for our church where we will see God raising people up with diverse gifts that make for a strong local body of Christ-devoted followers who love Him and His Church passionately where we can work together to know Jesus and make Him known!
Father, help us to discover Your gifts in us. Help us to accept who we are and who we are not. May we find great fulfilment in using our gifts within the ministry that You have assigned to each of us. Lord, help us to see and understand how You have gifted others so that instead of being critical of who they are not, we can be complementary to them. Where we are deficient, bring others into our lives to make up for our lack. Where we need to grow and change, help us to do so. Where we have sinned in word, deed or attitude, correct us. May we multiply the value of Your Kingdom and see many souls saved, many souls refreshed, and many souls strengthened because of how You use us. For Your glory, we pray, Amen.
Eph. 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Ps. Andrew