Thursday, 24 July 2014

Glass Hearts

Imagine if we were all transparent. I don't mean our physical skin and organs, I mean our souls, our hearts - the real us. Imagine if our motives could not be hidden, concealed, or disguised. In a very real sense you don't have to imagine! There are certain proven ways to see someone's heart - to truly know what makes them the person they really are. And when we are prepared for others to see our hearts there is the promise from the Lover of our souls that we will be blessed. When the masks and cloaks that ordinarily cover our hearts are subjected to the heart of God and made pure - pure of discolouration, pure of evil intent, pure of selfishness - geniunely pure, then we become genuinely blessed with the greatest blessing there is: to see God.
¶ "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
Matthew 5:8
Achieving a pure heart, so I am told, is a slow and painful process, for the process demands the test of time, the test of trial, and the test of treasure. Each test increasingly exposes the concealed heart to the penetrating light of God.
And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Hebrews 4:13
Deborah Harry wrote the song Heart of GlassThis transluting light of God's great love burns so brightly into an exposed human heart that it exposes all those things in the child of God that have illegitimately found a home in our hearts. Things like: hurts - which should have been weeded out of our hearts with forgiveness (Heb. 12:15 - See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no "root of bitterness" springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled), greed - which should have been evicted from our hearts by the practice of generosity (2Cor. 9:11 - You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God), and self-centredness - which should been slain in our hearts (Col. 3:5 ¶ Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry).
¶ Guard your heart above all else,
for it determines the course of your life. 

Proverbs 4:23
It takes a refined heart to be the kind of ambassador for Christ that God is looking for. Over the years I have seen many men claim that God had called them into pastoral ministry. God treats this claim very seriously. Very, seriously. But sadly, I have to report that when the tests of time, trial and treasure, came, few remained loyal to their professed calling. These tests didn't change their hearts. These tests merely exposed their hearts.

Jesus told the story of two types of shepherds in John 10. One was good and the other was hired. The opposite of 'good' is not usually (if ever) 'hired'. But in this instance Jesus is giving us a glimpse into their hearts. One shepherd was 'good' not because he had to be, but because he really cared for his sheep. The other only appeared to care and only did so because he was paid. The way to distinguish the two shepherds according to Jesus is how they react under the pressure of an attacking wolf (Jn. 10:12). The good shepherd remains with his sheep because he truly cares for them. The hired shepherd flees, thus displaying what was truly in his heart.
He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
John 10:12-13 ¶
Some people are afraid of having a "glass heart", because, as Deborah Harry the lead singer Blondie, wrote and sang, hearts of glass are easily broken. Yes, there is a risk to have your heart encased in window of glass for all to see. You become vulnerable. Your caring can be taken advantage of. But it's still worth the risk. And I'm glad that many of you have taken this risk to being refined and somewhat exposed.

At this point in my life, I am surrounded by many people who have good hearts. They have been tested, some sorely, and have had their hearts beautifully revealed to be caring. When wolves come, these good-hearted people don't run. They take their stand, and care. In just eight weeks from now, I will have been pastoring Legana for 19 years. As I reminisce over this wonderful stint, I think of all the good hearted, faithful, caring people who are serving here. People like Judith. She has been with us for all nineteen years. No-one has attended more services at Legana than Judith (including me). Added to this, for the best part of these 19 years, Judith led our monthly outreach into the local Nursing Home. Added to this, she has organised and maintained our kitchen as well. Why has she done this? Because she has a heart for our church, and she cares. I also think of Stephen and Donna. They have been with us - nearly from the start. Have they been tested? HAVE THEY BEEN TESTED! They certainly have, and their hearts have been proven and revealed to be caring. From leading the Youth, MOPs, and our Media Team, and serving as an elder, they have allowed their hearts to be made of glass - that is, they have lived transparently so that anyone could see they care. And then there's Josh. He joined our church over sixteen years ago at around the age of 6. He is one of the most impressive young men I know. Has his heart been tested? Sure has. More than once. When Josh joined our staff, it was as a teenager for an eight week temporary casual stint. Five years later, Josh is still working for our church (and he is one of the hardest working staff members on our team). I could go on and on and talk about Geoff, Karen, Tony, John, Amanda, and others, who have been tested and had their hearts exposed as caring.
¶ " 'I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false."
Revelation 2:2
None of these dear folk serve in our church for acclaim, applause, or appreciation. They do so because they care. Most of the good that has blessed, guarded, and supported our church has been done quietly, confidentially, and without recognition. The other day I looked out in our carpark and someone was tidying up the spent heads of our agapanthus. They weren't asked to do so. They didn't tell anyone they were doing it. And no one thanked them. But they didn't mind. I know they had a heart of glass because I could see right into it. And even though they've only been in our church for a little while, their good-hearted service told me a lot about them.
What would people see if your heart was 'made of glass'? When a person comes humbly to God and seeks reconciliation with Him through Christ, God transforms them by giving them in a new heart. It seems that it takes some people no time at all to display this new heart, while for others the journey is slower and longer. The next time you are tested and tried by time (delays), trial, or temptation, remember, these are the means by which your Heavenly Father uses to complete the transplant. And when the transplant is complete enough He encases your heart in a 'glass' window into which others can see what He has done. But then again, if you really want to know what's in someone's heart, you don't need a window into their heart, you just need time to watch what they do when wolves come.


Thursday, 17 July 2014


Unwanted giftSome of the best gifts I've ever received have been ones I never wanted! I'm a gadget guy. So when I receive a gift that has no "on" button, I'm quietly confused. But I have to admit that all of the best gifts I have ever received have not been gadgets! Take the present that David Outhred gave Kim and me for our wedding. It was earthenware, pink, and went in a bathroom. It held tooth-brushes and tooth-paste...we used that gift for the first 15 years of our marriage! Then recently, Lynne Parry gave me a small, hand-made, wooden box. I had no idea what it was. But I now use this box nearly everyday! Some of the greatest, most practical, helpful, gifts in life come camouflaged with apparent ordinaryness. There is a profound life lesson here.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them...
Romans 12:6a
Unwrapping a giftAt our home group the other week, we asked the ice-breaker question: If you could have two super-hero powers, which two would you choose? Those in our group mentioned- flying, x-ray vision, mind-reading, auto-repair, super-fast, hyper-learning-capabilities, super-strength, and so on. Disappointingly, God doesn't offer us any of these super-hero powers in the list of gift categories in the Bible. I also wonder if we sometimes regard the gifts that God has given each of us as if they were of no value - in much the same way I responded to my earthenware and wooden box?
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.
First Corinthians 7:7
I suspect that the list of 'spiritual' gifts in the New Testament are not exhaustive. That is, of the gifts mentioned in Romans 12, First Corinthians 12, and First Peter 4, I strongly suspect that God has not limited the type of gifts He gives to His children just to those mentioned in these lists. Thus, God may give someone a unique gift. It may look like a glazed pink, earthenware thingy with holes in it, or a thin, teak coloured, hinged, wooden box. And like these sort of gifts, over time you grow to deeply appreciate them - or at least you should appreciate them. I have met people who are clearly gifted - but they didn't recognise it! They do not recognise the incredible value of their 'spiritual' gift. Compared to the publicly acclaimed gifts, they feel their abilities are not even gifts - they are merely the result of training or experience. But which gift isn't developed by the God ordained means of training and experience?
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
James 1:17
The very best of David HasselhoffI admire people who are great gift givers. I don't know how they do it (maybe they hav a gift for it?). They don't need to spend a lot of money to get someone a really valuable present. But imagine how they feel when the recipient of their much-thought-out gift seems to reject the gift they have been given. I wonder how God feels when His children also almost seem to despise His gifts to them? Have you met someone gifted with compassion but it was packaged in making teas and coffees (or baking, or cooking a meal, or baby-sitting)? Have you ever met someone who was gifted at organising but their gift was the package for preparing rosters, keeping records, buying supplies, putting up posters, setting out chairs, being on committees?

There are some people who cherish their God-given gifts. These are the people who gladly use them. The don't despise them. They are content with them. They regard the exercise of their gifts as a privilege. Therefore, while they appreciate it when they get it, they don't depend on the applause / acclaim / acknowledgements, of others for the significance of their gift.
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:
First Peter 4:10 ¶
God gives particular gifts for very good reasons. More often than not, we may never know exactly what those reasons are. But because we know God, we know that He only gives gifts strategically. For example, I suspect that those with the gift of giving may have an extraordinary ability to make money. But I similarly suspect that if they fail to recognise this as an essential part of their God-given gift, they may think that their money is merely the means for them to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. Inevitably, such a squandered gift leads to anguish and frustration - not comfortable contentment! The one with the gift of stewardship (managing things) may rise in the ranks of their company or organisation. They may never realise that their God-given gifts have been strategically bestowed upon them to help further the Church's potential to fulfil the Great Commission.

Do you know what gift/s God has given you? Have you embraced this gift? Are you using your gifts in the way the above Bible verses prescribe? God has an amazing (perhaps, uncanny) ability to place His children in the exact place where our particular gift is needed. The Apostle Paul discusses this in his famous chapter on how the body of Christ is fitted together with people who have different gifts. He reminds us that some gifts are prominent while most gifts are not. He helps us to see that each person's gift is needed and valuable. It reminds me of the story of King David leaving the baggage behind with those who were too tired to go on. After completing his rescue mission with his weary warriors, his men were reluctant to share their spoils with those who had remained back with the baggage.
And David said to his men, "Every man strap on his sword!" And every man of them strapped on his sword. David also strapped on his sword. And about four hundred men went up after David, while two hundred remained with the baggage.
Who would listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down into the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage. They shall share alike."

First Samuel 25:1330:24
Our church will only grow to our potential when we each contribute and pool our gifts. Those with the gift of faith tell us that they see our church much larger than what it is now. Those with the gift of encouragement remind us of this. Whatever your gift from God, it is strategically vital for God's purposes at this time that you gladly use it and surrender it back to God. Please, I beg you, do not feel that your contribution doesn't matter - or worse still - is not needed! We needed ushers who have a deep sense of their God-given gifts - and who recognise that by simply showing someone (who is struggling to see where they can sit) to where there are seats available, they may have just made it possible for a soul to come to Christ! We need intercessors to get to work. We need leaders to lead. We need those with the gift of music to play. We need those with the gift of serving to serve as if they were serving Jesus Himself. And then we each need to gain from the gifts of our brothers and sisters and pool our gifts back into our church so that we make the gear-change from being a good church to becoming a great church! By doing so, you will be playing your part in our team and literally making a difference for eternity in the lives of those yet to come to know Christ.

Ps. Andrew

Friday, 11 July 2014

The Wonder


Occassionally people say things to me quite innocently, but end up having a profound effect upon me. Sometimes it is something they have learned. Other times it is simply a part of their story which lingers in my mind. Things that linger in people's minds can be profound, thought-provoking, and fruitful - but sadly they are sometimes horrific, invasive, haunting, and traumatic. Our minds are created to wonder and this design feature can be one of the most aspects of being human if harnessed appropriately.
¶ Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Philippians 4:8
It's called cognitive behavioural therapy ("CBT"). Trained therapists show their troubled clients how to think differently. Thinking is now regarded as a behaviour - that is, just like any other behaviour, it is something you can control. While this might be the latest discovery in psychology, the Bible revealed this before these modern psychologists by about two thousand years! Not only does the Bible reveal that we can manage our thought-life, it prescribes what should ponder - and even wonder about.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it..
Psalm 139:4-6
The Psalmist was pondering the wonderful greatness of God. Pondering the nature of God and His dealings with a person, causes a person to deeply wonder. The conclusion of the Psalmist was that this was too wonderful for him to process. I sometimes hear people say that they think too much about spiritual things. I'm sure this Psalmist would like to gently correct them and say that the nature and acts of God cannot be thought about too much - rather these our minds do not have the capacity to fully ponder them! The same Psalmist goes on to reveal that he had been pondering the bodies that God had made for us (vs. 14). He's not the only one to do this. We are perfectly designed for life on earth (and the earth is perfectly designed to sustain our life here).
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well."

Psalm 139:14
Every part of the human body is designed by our Creator for a specific purpose - to primarily fulfil a specific purpose. Our body parts are designed to be treated in a certain way. Respect this, and we generally enjoy good health. Disrespect this, and pain and discomfort often result. The Apostle Paul had apparently been pondering this as well. He wrote-
Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
Second Corinthians 7:1 ¶
The prophet Isaiah was also struck by the wonder of God and His works. With hands lifted and knees bent, he said-
¶ O LORD, you are my God;
I will exalt you; I will praise your name,
for you have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure.

Isaiah 25:1
The Psalmist of Psalm 139 pondered this and was filled with wonder. God wants us to consider, ponder, explore, think about, what He has done, and to particularly ponder what He has done for us. We are designed by God towonder. It seems that God glories in our wonderment - that is, our wondering about God and His works glorifies God.


Jesus is the Ultimate Wonder. The prophet Isaiah used four very precise and powerful titles of the coming Messiah and the first these titles was Wonderful.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6
A quick read through the gospels leaves the reader struck by how often wonder marked Christ's ministry. He performed "wonders". Those who saw and heard Him, wondered (eg. Mark 1:27). And today, we wonder still. Jesus is still the greatest source of wonder for artists, musicians, philosophers, social entrepreneurs, poets, pastors and Tasmanians. If you're mind could do with some positive CBT ("Christ Based Thinking"), then take the time to wonder about Jesus, His Father, and their Agent on earth - the Holy Spirit, and what this God has done for you, in you and through you. This kind of "CBT" is what helps a person's mind to overcome those sad things that often haunt them. This kind of CBT leads you to conclude that Jesus is indeed: wonderful. It really makes you wonder.

Ps. Andrew

Friday, 4 July 2014


If you could choose your emotions, and we all can, then I would like to put in a good word for the emotion of delight. When our emotional team members are selected, delight is often left unpicked for our team. Like the awkward little school-kid who is always the last one to be picked for a side, delight has lost favour with most people today. Perhaps it's because delight is uncool. Perhaps it's because delight is now a little old-fashioned. Perhaps it's because delight unavoidably results in transparency - and transparency is downright uncomfortable! But delight is one of the few emotions that is sweetly fragranced. And whatever it handles, it fragrances with a fragrance that attracts blessings like nothing else can.
So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.
Genesis 29:20
Delight is a choiceJacob served Laban seven years for the right to marry Laban's daughter. But because Jacob delighted in the daughter of Laban, it seemed but "a few days". Delight transforms drudgery into enjoyment. Jacob could have chosen to grumble, complain, carp, or whine, but instead he chose to delight. He saw the whyin the what. Delight focuses on the why. The solo mum who has to work two jobs (and be a mother to her children) is able to delight in her work because it means that her children can be housed, clothed and fed. She knows that it is only for "a few days". She serves her customers with a sincere pleasant smile. She helps her fellow workers gladly. She has chosen to delight in her work..
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
Psalm 1:1-2
Our relationship with God is best enjoyed when we take delight in God and His Word (Ps. 111:2). The introduction to the Psalms (Psalm 1) opens with this reminder. Of all the things that should cause a person to delight - and there are many: our life, our spouse, our children, our work, our garden, our friends, our liesure, our books - there is nothing that surpasses God and His Word. To be delighted moreby anything else is deeply insulting to Ultimate-Source-of-Infinite-Beauty-and-Love. This is why the believer should delight in being with their brothers and sisters in assembled worship because when you delight in God you delight in what He deights in. He loves His church! God delights in His church!
¶ I was glad when they said to me,
"Let us go to the house of the LORD!"

Psalm 122:1
Last week I wrote about my recent health battles. In the midst of fatigue-battles I maintained three non-negotiable delights: I delighted in God's Word. (I have met people who have used their weariness or illness as an excuse to stop feeding their soul with God's Word.) Secondly, I delighted in prayer. (Even though my mind was cloudy and vague, I delighted in praying for others - most probably you.) Thirdly, I delighted in the House of God. The Psalmist said, "I was glad when they said to me, Let us go to the house of the Lord!" I delight in our church - not merely because I am the pastor - but because I genuinely love our church. I love our people. I love it when we meet together. I love that our church loves God and His Word. I delight in our church because God delights in His church!
I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.

Psalm 40:8
Shorlty after Kim and I arrived in Tasmania, we met someone who told us that none of their non-Christian friends would ever go to church. This is not unusual, but their reason for this sad fact was beyond disappointing. They said that their friends would never go to church after they heard what the church had done to him! When we enquired what happened to him that "hurt" him so badly, it turned out that it was by anyone's reasonable assessment:inconsequential. I wondered if he realised Who was truly hurt by his comments to his non-churched friends? I wonder how many others excuse their despising of Christ's Church when they should be delighting themselves in attending, supporting, and being the Church?
Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4
Your job, your marriage, your friendships, your walk with Christ, can all be delightful - if you choose it to be so. It's also worth pondering that we are created in the image of a God who delights and you have your best chance of realising your potential when you choose to bear the image you were created with and choose to delight in the right things. 
No more will anyone call you Rejected,
and your country will no more be called Ruined.
You'll be called Hephzibah (My Delight),
and your land Beulah (Married),
Because GOD delights in you
and your land will be like a wedding celebration.
Isaiah 62:4 MESSAGE
Ps. Andrew