Friday, 11 August 2017

PROPHETIC PORTENDS THROUGH MY EYE-CUP

MY EYE CUP

First The Natural

But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual.
First Corinthians 15:46
These days I rarely misplace things. I have learned the value of routines for such matters as putting things where they belong. But lately, and curiously, I have lost certain things which are not of great value but they are of great value to me. It’s embarrassing to admit that in these moments I pray for their discovery and return. This all seems to have commenced around the time we began construction on our new auditorium. Upon reflection, I can see yet another way God has been teaching me some valuable lessons about my relationship with Him through this construction project.
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Luke 19:10
I won’t bore you with a catalogue of the things that I have lost over the past 14 weeks – which have nearly all been returned or found – but I will share about the latest one. A few days ago my eye-cup disappeared. No, I don’t keep my glass eye in a cup, partly because I don’t have a glass eye. An ‘eye-cup’ is a photographic term for the rubber and plastic surround to the view-finder on a DSLR camera. This seemingly insignificant bit of plastic and rubber is highly valuable to me because, (i) I use it everyday; (ii) the camera manufacturer doesn’t make them anymore. I looked “everywhere” for it without success. I began doing what I always do when I don’t know what to do. I prayed
The loss of my eye-cup was also particularly frustrating because I didn’t lose it. It wasn’t as if I took it off and randomly left it somewhere without being able to recollect where I put it. No, it had decided to run-away from home! Each time I have prayed for God to help me to locate what I had lost over the past 14 weeks, I have felt a degree of guilt. After all, God is extremely busy. He’s got a lot going on at the moment – what, with the situation in the Middle East, the various atrocities being committed by East African despots, and now the North Korean crisis. I could hardly think He was concerned with something so incredibly trivial as my eye-cup. 
But as He answered each prayer for such trivial losses, I began to realise something magnificent about our God. He is audaciously, gloriously, splendidly magnificent! No detail escapes Him. No task is too great for Him. I have discovered that the more I appeal to these facts about God, the more my soul appreciates His unfathomable magnificence and then the greater my confidence to pray every care to Him. This includes run away eye-cups.
¶ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.
First Peter 5:6-7
Yesterday morning, I had someone, who is not a part of our church, drop in to see me. As they looked inside our new auditorium they said, “I have felt God saying that this is the place where the lost will be found! Keep being faithful and God will be glorified in this place by bringing and saving the lost here!” 
At the end of the day, after daylight had gone, I hooked up my trailer (which I had taken to church to removed some of the left-over building materials), and as I did I noticed my eye-cup just near my trailer’s wheel! I nearly cried as I worshiped the Magnificent God and thanked Him for His deep care for my trivial matters. But I was awash in the realisation that each of these lost-and-found moments had been portends, prophetic sign-posts, of what God was ultimately going to do. I have found that what the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians has a broader application than just the point he was making about the nature of the resurrection, when he wrote, “First comes the natural, then the spiritual.” 
As we open our building this weekend, may we indeed pray that many who are now lost will indeed be found.
Pastor Andrew

Saturday, 5 August 2017

For Goodness Sake

For goodness sake
There was a news report this week about the alarming increase in childhood obesity. It included an interview with a mother who told the reporter how food packaging was to blame. Each time she went shopping with her toddler he would see the culprit food and cry, “I want it!” The mother told how even when she said no, her child would throw a tantrum and scream until she gave in to him. “If the packaging wasn’t so attractive to children”, she reasoned, “they wouldn’t do that!” she told the reporter. After all, good mothers give their children what they want.

WHAT IS ‘GOOD’?

Whoever gives thought to the Word will discover good,
and blessed is he who trusts in the LORD.
Proverbs 16:20
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked the young man. Good is one of those standards we all use to measure things, experiences, circumstances, and among other things, people. Unlike in the past, today we consider that good is in the eye of the beholder. Of course, if the Ancients held this new notion of goodness, the young man would have had no trouble immediately responding to Jesus with something like, “Good? I just reckon You are. It’s just my opinion.” But he didn’t, because the ancients didn’t view goodness as a matter of personal opinion. They regarded goodness as something independent of themselves and their opinions.
tantrum toddlerThere are many things, such as giving into a screaming toddler in a supermarket, that are considered (at least by all screaming toddlers) as good – yet, experience tells us they are not. There are usually not that many toddlers in a supermarket at any one time, but if all two or three of them decide to throw an I-want-that-lolly-pop tantrum, they make more noise than the dozens of adult shoppers who are also in the store! I reckon if we took a vote of those shoppers at that moment around 72% of them would vote that it would be good for the frazzled mother to give-in immediately to the tantrum-throwing toddler. (This would really be a vote for peace and quiet!) But I also reckon that if you surveyed those same people under different circumstances (while not shopping or listening to screaming toddlers) 72% would vote that it would be good for the mother to stand her ground and not give-in to her tantrumming-toddler.

Life teaches us that there are many things which most of us think are not good for us, but are actually very good for us. This includes things like exercise, constructive criticism, rest, attending church, and practising. But it also includes giving noisy people what they demand – such as giving screaming toddlers the lollie-pops they demand, even though it can lead to tooth decay and even obesity. This is one of the ways we know that some of the things called good are not because the consequences are universally bad. We should all pursue the universal good. It ensures the best welfare for all – which is surely what we want – even though tantrum-throwing toddlers won’t like it one bit! 
There are three issues facing our society at the moment which are not good. The consequences of these issues are devastating and literally deadly. These issues are: (i) The sexual abuse of the vulnerable (particularly children and women); (ii) Fatherless children (40%of Australian children now grow up without a father; teen suicides are 5 times higher from fatherless homes; around 75% of prisoners come from fatherless homes; boys raised in fatherless homes are more likely to commit rape; fatherless children fare worse academically and have the worst employment prospects); (iii) Deteriorating rates of mental health (one in five Australians experience mental illness each year; mental illness now accounts for 27% of all work disability in Australia; 14% of Australians suffer from anxiety attacks).
For goodness sake Australia, we should do all we can to address each of these three issues, and simultaneously do all we can to stop doing those things which matters worse. This at least should include-

  • Discouraging the sexualisation of women in the arts, advertising and media. It’s time now for us as a society to stop deluding ourselves that the public sexualising of women is morally neutral and confusing for most males.
  • Encouraging the raising of children by their married biological parents and encouraging potential parents to prepare appropriately for marriage not just their wedding. The research is overwhelming that children fare best when raised by their own loving married biological parents and we need to stop kidding ourselves that children can be raised by any two people.
  • Recognise that mental health outcomes and sexual morality are often connected. We should note which sector of society is more likely to suffer mental illness and its negative consequences (such as suicide), and find out what the common denominator is.

¶ Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good,
for His steadfast love endures forever!
Psalm 106:1
Coming back to our original conversation between Jesus and the young man who called Him, “good”, the young man rightly assumed that Christ was good because of what he heard and saw. Amazingly, all religions and people acknowledge that everything Jesus taught about how to live was universally good. But at the same time, most religions and people don’t know what Jesus taught! I guess this is why we hear people say that Jesus said nothing about marriage, or nothing about sexuality, or nothing about mental health, or nothing about how men should view and treat women? 
Jesus shocked His original audience by declaring that a good life is not attained by obvious and external things, but by that which is invisible and internal, yet soon becomes apparent to all.
For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”
Matthew 15:19
Rev. Sam Allberry, RZIMEach of the moral corruptions cited by Jesus are described in the Old Testament Law His audience was familiar with. This is why men like Rev. Sam Allberry, who has battled with same-sex attraction all his life, recognise that Christ taught that a person’s identity is not linked to their sexual attraction. Because of this, Sam acknowledges that Jesus, a man who never sex and never married, taught that sexual immorality would both immediately and eternally “defile” a person. This is why, he states, that he must battle with his same-sex attraction and live a celibate life, all for the sake of honouring his Lord and Saviour (watch). Before Sam, Dr. Henri Nouwen, a Catholic scholar who had come to the same conclusion as Sam, also prayerfully wrestled with his same-sex attraction because he too understood what Christ had taught about the matter. They battled for goodness sake. 

GO BACK TO GO FORWARD

I recently listened to Oxford Scholar, Os Guinness, describe how every major advance in culture, the Reformation – the Renaissance – the American Revolution –  involved “going back” in order to progress forward. Curiously today, those who identify themselves as ‘Progressives’ want to abandon the past and ‘move on’. Dr. Guinness showed how every culture that forgot the wisdom of the past was doomed to fail. For goodness sake, we in Australia need to remember that the things that do a society good are not always the things that tantrum-throwing toddlers demand – especially when, in those parts of the world where their demands have been met – those things which blight a society (abuse of children, sexual exploitation and abuse of women, increasing rates of suicide, deteriorating mental health outcomes) become even more widespread. 
¶ Thus says the LORD:
“Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
Jeremiah 6:16
Amen.
Pastor Andrew Corbett

Friday, 28 July 2017

A New Ministry

WHY I RESIGNED

A few years ago I resigned. That is, I resigned from my pursuit of majoring on being a great preacher. I think my motives were noble in this pursuit. After all, the Scriptures declare that preaching is the means of grace for people to come to salvation. It was reasonable then for any pastor to see the pulpit as their main responsibility.  But as I studied the life and ministry of Dr. F.W. Boreham I increasingly grew more in love with the pastorate than the pulpit. I stopped preparing sermons to preach and began to prepare sermons to pastor. Instead of the pulpit being my platform, it has become my tool for pastoring people. Sure, preaching can move and stir people. But unless it  leads people into worship of God it is failing both people and our Lord. That’s why the best preaching is really worship-leading!
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him.
John 4:23

THE GOSPEL AND WORSHIP


Some people see the Gospel as simply the message of God’s grace in forgiving us of our sins and securing our eternal redemption. In that view, the Gospel can be reduced to four spiritual laws based on just four verses of Scripture from Romans. You might already know that the term “gospel” comes from the Greek word ‘evangel’ (euangelion) which means good news.
¶ Now to Him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages
Romans 16:25
God Is The Gospel, by Dr. John PiperConsidering that God has given us more than just four verses of Scripture, the good news of the Gospel may not just be limited to four verses of Scripture or even just about God’s grace in saving us from our sins.This is why you will have heard me say that the Gospel begins at Genesis 1:1 and ends at Revelation 22:21. In this view, every verse of Scripture can be thought of as being like a pixel in a grand picture. What is this grand picture? It is the most magnificent picture of the most magnificently beautiful God. It is this picture of God which is the good news, the Gospel. This is why John Piper says, “God is the Gospel!” 
Salvation isn’t just about being forgiven of our sins. It’s about coming back into fellowship with God which begins with our sins being graciously forgiven by the Father because of what Jesus has done. It begins with this, but it doesn’t end with this. For the Gospel to run its course in the life of the redeemed there must be a transformation of who they are into the image of Christ.
For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.
Romans 8:29
This transformation into the image of Christ happens as we respond to the summons of the Gospel to surrender more of our lives asour worship to God. Of course, since Christ and the Father are in perfect union and share infinitely vulnerable love for each other, our transformation into the image of the Father’s Son involves us being drawn closer to God the Father as well. The process of coming closer to the Father and being transformed into the image of His Son is called sanctification. Our sanctification in this life can be seen by how much of our lives are offered to God in worship. Thus, something quite mystical happens to us when we worship – and especially when we worship in our local church – which often God ordains to involve humility on our part which invokes the rich blessing of God’s grace on us.
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
James 4:6
SAMSUNG CSCAnd the most profoundly mystical thing that happens to a worshiper is an increasing revelation of God’s beauty. Little wonder then, that the great worshiper, John Francis Wade, wrote the song, “O come let us adore Him!” (which we mistakenly relegate to the Festive Season!). For adoration is the most natural response to being in God’s presence and beholding Him.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Second Corinthians 3:18
The more we behold Christ in worship the more we willingly surrender to God and the greater the revelation we receive of the Father’s impeccability and beauty. The Father then becomes even more attractive to us and  the more we are attracted to Him, the more we want to surrender to Him in adoring worship. 
and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,
Hebrews 12:28b
SAMSUNG CSCThis is why our worship is most beautifully expressed in singing and music together because it involves our hearts, our presence, and our attention. It most naturally leads to us worshiping God with our lives. This transforming worship is most evident by how we treat others, particularly those who know us best. They, of all people, have a window into the genuineness of the revelation of God we claim to have. Thus, the one who claims to be a worshiper of God yet displays little transformation into the image of Christ because they are continually angry, critical, offended, offending, or complaining, is displaying that they have not surrendered to the Beautiful One at all. Yet when those we love get up close to us and look through the window of our soul and they see a kind-hearted, forgiving, gracious, patient, generous soul, it is obvious to them that our worship of the Father has caused us to surrender in love to Him.
¶ I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Romans 12:1

PREACHING AS WORSHIP LEADING

Dr. Andrew CorbettBut how does preaching lead people to worship? The fact that we now even ask this question reveals just how far from the Biblical concept of preaching we have moved. Sound preaching not only unpacks the Scriptures. Sound preaching not only explains Christian doctrine. Sound preaching brings people to a clearer picture of God and summons people to worship Him! This is why every preacher should be a worship leader because they are leading people to worship the Magnificent One. This begins at salvation, continues through sanctification, and is completed in our glorification as we are united with the Father in Christ by the Holy Spirit for eternity. Since Christ calls pastors to shepherd people, that is lead people to a closer walk with Christ, the pulpit becomes the pastors most valued tool for achieving this. That’s why I resigned from simply preaching, and have focussed more of my energies on pastoring through preaching with the aim of bringing people into richer worship of our Heavenly Father. Thus, when I am preaching, I am now worship leading. Please join me in worshiping our Saviour. I’ll tell you why, this Sunday.
Pastor Andrew.

Friday, 21 July 2017

The Media Have Their Guns Aimed At The Church And We Keep Giving Them The Bullets!

BOARD SAFE

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.
Acts 20:28-30
Two of Legana Christian Church's Board membersThis week I took a call from another pastor who expressed concern that the Church was coming under an increasing number of  attacks in the media over the last few weeks. Nearly every night this week on prime-time TV, there has been a damaging report on the state of the Church. On Monday night Four Corners aired a damning report on the Roman Catholic diocese of Philadelphia’s appalling handling of pedophilia committed by priests. A Current Affair, Today Tonight, have each exposed financial and psychological abuse of vulnerable people. On Tuesday night, The 7:30 Report presented a sickening exposé on how domestic violence is rife within the Evangelical and Pentecostal churches in Australia. And this Sunday night, 60 Minutes is reporting on a Baptist church in New South Wales that is in hot water. As I told this fellow pastor, it’s not that the media are attacking us, it’s that they have guns and we keep giving them bullets to fire at us! I want to pastor the kind of church that gives the media reasons to put down their guns. Here’s how we can do it.

A Church Should Be A Safe Refuge

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
 my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Psalm 18:2
The Psalmist declared that God was a safe refuge. The church needs to reflect this aspect of God’s character by also being a safe refuge. We want broken, hurting, damaged, lost and confused people to have good reason to feel safe when they come into our church on a Sunday. We do not want our message to sound like an attack on anyone – most especially, the vulnerable. For those who have observed us over the years, it has soon become evident that we help all-comers. On the occasions when I have been publicly attacked by someone opposed to Christianity, I have tried to engage with them which has often led to face-to-face meetings where I have heard their stories and listened to their pain. In nearly every instance this has ended amicably. When issues have arisen in the public arena we have used our profile and platform to contribute into the debate. (People still talk to me about our role in the Tamar Valley Pulp Mill development saga.) Of late, we have been quite outspoken about domestic violence and the sexual abuse of children. In each of our services we present God’s Word without shouting, screaming, or ranting, and while we always try to persuade people that the God of the Bible is worth trusting and that His offer of forgiveness is worth accepting, we do so in a way that people are free to choose to accept it, reject it, or come back and hear more. 

A Church Board Should Ensure Safeness 

But all things should be done decently and in order.
First Corinthians 14:40
The Board of Legana Christian ChurchThe Board of our church takes our responsibility to safeguard the welfare of those who enter into our community very seriously. We have installed video security cameras throughout our buildings and facilities. We are rolling out movement sensor lights around our facilities. We are replacing solid wooden doors with glass doors. We have mandated that every leader undertake Childsafe® training to be aware how to prevent, detect, or best deal with the abuse of children. We now require that everyone who serves on our rosters undertakes our Partnership course so that we can ensure that no-one in our church is put at risk and that we can vouch for everyone who serves in our church.
And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.
First Corinthians 12:28
Pastor Andrew Corbett with Legana Christian Church's Pastoral Care Team Co-ordinator, Donna HillLocal churches are designed by Christ to governed by divinely appointed, spiritually gifted, competent, elders and deacons. Elders govern the spiritual climate and health of a church. They are required by Scripture to be people of exemplary character and spiritual discipline (1Tim. 3:1-7). They do this prayerfully through teaching, preaching, and counsel. Deacons are required to administer the affairs of the church – property and finance management, regulatory compliance, staffing, discipline and development of leaders and ensuring that policies and procedures are adhered to (1Cor. 3:8-13). We don’t necessarily call each one who serves in this administration capacity a ‘deacon’ (which means servant), but those who serve on our church Board fulfil this Christ-ordained appointment for the welfare of His Church.
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, ¶ To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:
Philippians 1:1

Not Just About ‘Souls’

¶ Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.
Third John 2
The extent to how much we care about people is not limited to their involvement on a Sunday. We want children to be safe in their homes. We want wives to be safe in their homes. We want husbands to be safe to be around. We hope that the peace people experience on a Sunday from being with God’s people in God’s presence is transferred into their lives and their homes. We hope that our worship of our Servant-Saviour translates into each of us increasingly developing a servant attitude toward those we live with, work with, learn with, and play with. 
We will continue to strive to provide care for the hurting, assist the needy, counsel the troubled, train new leaders, and equip believers to be better ambassadors for Christ in their homes, schools, workplaces and clubs. Thus, for us, it’s not just a motto, it’s our public mission statement to be a church that is helping make life better.
Your servant,
Pastor Andrew

Friday, 14 July 2017

Lessons from the move into our new auditorium

From Hear To Hear

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Second Corinthians 3:18
Dr. Andrew CorbettWe move through life. It is a journey. Along the way, we pass people, scenes, experiences, moments. These all become our memories. If we undertake our journey by always looking back to these memories we run the risk of bumping into our present – which can hurt. Life’s journey happens most sweetly when we keep moving forward. We leave the past behind as we walk into our future. While this can be challenging for any individual, it can be particularly difficult for a group of people such as a family, or church to journey together. 
“Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.”
Isaiah 43:18-19
Ephesians 3:20-21It can be difficult for a family to move house. Often they are leaving behind fond memories and a place where they have felt secure and comfortable, not to mention great neighbours. As difficult as this is (and our family has done it seven times) imagine moving home to another country! (We have several families in our church who have made this difficult transition.) Not only do they have to contend with a new house in a new location, they have all of the challenges of being without extended family networks, or even the benefit of long-term friendship connections. Churches also have to journey which similarly involves leaving some things behind – pastors, worship styles, and even buildings. 
Our church is about to undertake the next step in our journey. It involves saying ‘goodbye’ to our old sanctuary as we leave it for our new one. Kim and I helped to build our existing auditorium (which we opened on August 31st 1996). Twenty-one years later, we are now less than four weeks away from the Grand Opening of our new auditorium.
New Auditorium Grand Opening
For me, this means leaving behind the place where I have baptised several hundred people, married many couples, dedicated many babies to the Lord, preached several thousand sermons, counselled hundreds of people, and seen many more people finding saving hope in Christ. I’m sure that there will be many others who could also share fond memories associated with our old auditorium. Even though our new building has been constructed quickly, the move from our old auditorium into our new one has been a careful, considered, and collaborative one. Every step of our journey – from the need, through each stage of the development, has been transparent, explained and exciting. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Geoff Hill for the brilliant oversight of this project. He has sacrifices his time, sleep, and energy to make this happen. Along with Geoff, several other tradesmen have given of their time and skills to help us on our journey. 
One of the things we have said regularly through this building project is that it has never been about the building. One of the things that we have improved over the last couple of years is our ability to hear. We hear the heart-ache of people. We hear the struggles of those in relationship breakdowns are experiencing. We hear the confusion of young people. We hear the tears of the elderly. We hear the cries of the lonely. Everyone wants to be heard. It validates them. It tells them we care. It helps them to know that we aren’t here to merely preach at them – we are genuinely interested in them and how we can help them. This has led to our church building a reputation as a safe church – a church that cares.  
¶ I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to 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,
Ephesians 4:1-2
As we transition into our new auditorium, we will be gathering in a building made from ‘rubbish’ wood which has been selected, shaped, and glued together (“LVL” – laminated veneer lumber). This is a picture of our church which is made up of broken people who have been selected by God, shaped by God, and joined together in Christ. It is a building which is nearly three times the size of our old auditorium. This too is indicative of what God has done in and among us over the past few years. It will be a building with a lot of glass. This should remind us that we are transparent and invite people to look in all the while remembering that we are called to reach out to those outside.
¶ And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
Colossians 1:9
But most importantly as we transition from the old to the new, let us continue to hear. May we hear one another. May we hear the broken, hurting, lonely, and confused – and may we especially hear God, who always hears us. I will always be reminded of this because of what my American friend Pastor Dan Miller requested. He apologised for not being able to attend our Grand Opening. On Facebook he wrote on my wall asking for a favour. He requested that I write “Ephesians 3:20-21” underneath the place where the Word will be preached each Sunday in our new building. Today, I honoured his request.
Ephesians 3:20-21
¶ Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21
Amen!
Pastor Andrew

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Hear To Help

HEAR TO HELP
How is our church known in our community? Whenever churches have taken the time to ask their community, they generally get feedback sounding like – irrelevantout-datedmoney-focussedjudgmental. Increasingly though, it seems they also get blank looks. That is, many people in their community aren’t even aware of the church in their community. Sometimes, we church-goers become so inward-focussed that we assume everyone (including those in our community) know who we arewhat we dohow we fail, and at least where we are. But the sad reality is, they don’t. Bill Hybels recently had a reason to go down to the back of his Willow Creek Church campus (in Chicago). A neighbour to the church called him over and pointed at the church and asked, “Hey, what is this?” As I recall the story, Bill asked him if he was new to the area. “No, I’ve lived here for years.” Even 20,000 member churches (such as Willow Creek) can have difficulties connecting with their communities!
For our church to connect well with our community we have to let them know that we are hear to help. If we can do this then they will at least know that we are also here to help.

THE CHURCH THAT JESUS DESIGNED

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
James 1:27
The Church continues the earthly ministry of Christ. As we read the Gospels we note that Jesus taught people, healed people, fed people, and advocated for the poor and for foreigners. Hence, from the establishment of the Church, Christians developed social welfare delivery for the poor, education for the under-privileged, and health care for the sick, injured or dying. All the while, Christ commissioned His Church to proclaim God’s offer of salvation and forgiveness of sins for all those who would turn away from sins in repentance toward God. Thus, Christ’s design for His Church was for us to truly show love toward our neighbours by tending to both their temporal needs and their greatest and eternal need. 
And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as you love yourself
Matthew 22:39
Loving our neighbours surely involves caring about their welfare and doing what we can to help them. This begins with hearing them. Recently I heard a veteran Christian minister answer the question, “If you could spend time with a non-Christian for the final moments of their life, what would you say to them just before they died?” His answer surprised the questioner. “I would“, he began, “listen to them for most of that time, then after showing them that I cared enough to listen to their heart, I would ask if I could help them get to heaven, and if they gave me their permission, I would share the Gospel with them.”  Sometimes we have to hear to help.

HEAR, IF WE WANT PEOPLE TO LISTEN

Good FaithThrough the centuries, the Church has volunteered medical care, education, shelter, meals, leadership during times of adversity, relationship counselling, job training, and parenting coaching. God occasionally raises up people whom He gifts with talents and abilities to be able to meet these kinds of needs as they arise. Some Christians have made the mistake of thinking that the Church only exists to meet these temporal needs. Christ’s heart must break each time thismistake is made. Some Christians have made the mistake of thinking that the Church only exists to evangelise. Christ’s heart must break each time this mistake is made. Both mistakes admit a failure to truly hear Christ. If we want people to listen to us we need to hear Christ.

HEAR, HOW WE CAN HELP

Someone may look at the list above of how the Church has helped people down through the ages and claim that other groups can now equally or better meet these needs in society today. Thus, they might reason, the Church is now irrelevant. While we have already mentioned two grievous mistakes that Christians can make about the role of the Church, this mistake committed by an onlooker of the Church would be a heinous mistake. The world needs the Church now – more than ever!
Christ’s heart is for all people. His Church walks in step with Him. We share His heart with Him. Therefore, our heart is for all people. 
As Christ walked the shores of Galilee, the roads of Judea, and the streets of Jerusalem, He saw need. Many times He met these needs. People were fed. People were taught. People were healed. But most especially, people were forgiven and given a new start. Matthew, a despised tax collector for Herod Antipas on behalf of Rome, was transformed into a beloved apostle who eventually took the Gospel of God’s love and grace to Ethiopia. Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9) was a formerly mentally deranged woman whom Jesus cast, not one, but seven, demons out of. Space prevents us listing all such transformations narrated in the Gospel accounts. Whenever needy people encountered Jesus, transformation resulted. The same is true today and there is no other agency that can replicate or replace this vital ministry of the Church. Only Christ’s Church can meet the temporal needs of people while giving them a three-dimensional transformation. 

HEAR, A 3 DIMENSIONAL TRANSFORMATION

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
John 8:36
Jesus meets both our immediate needs and our deepest most urgent and most important need. While food, clothing, shelter, care, education, acceptance are important needs, they are not as important as being rescued from Satan’s bondage and set free from his spell. Miraculously, Jesus transforms a person’s past, present and future.   
¶ So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:31-32
Christ has commissioned and entrusted His Church to minister this miraculous grace to those who need it. This transforming grace is proclaimed by preaching and witness. This grace forgives a person for their sin-stained past and empowers them to repent.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Second Corinthians 5:17
This grace transforms a person’s present by giving them hope for today and a new reason to endure this life’s temporal adversities.
So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him.
Second Corinthians 5:9
And this same grace helps people secure an eternally blessed future.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
Second Corinthians 5:10
The need around us today is great: (i) marriage and family breakdown, (ii) hyper-loneliness, (iii) material idolatry, (iv) identity confusion, (v) suicidal despair. Only Christ’s grace mediated through His Church can possibly meet these needs. Sunday by Sunday we have people looking for the answer to their needs walking into our church services. Each day of the week, the transformed people of our church community bear witness to the transforming grace of Christ to those in need. These are the needy who have sought help from various sources but come away empty and still in bondage. This is not surprising because professional therapists, Government welfare workers, or hospital staff, rarely know how to meet the deepest, greatest, most important need within every human soul. This is why we, the church, are hear to help. Hopefully, as we continue to do this, more within and from around our community will hear that they too can have their needs met. Hear, hear.
Pastor Andrew

Friday, 30 June 2017

A DIFFERENT UNDERSTANDING OF THE AUSTRALIAN BUREAU OF STATISTICS OPINION OF CHRISTIANITY

2016ABS-Results-Christianity
A Different Take On The ABS’s Numbers
The Australian Bureau of Statistics released the latest Census results this week. It’s interesting how these results were presented by the mainstream media. There were reports of Christianity’s decline; the dramatic risein the number of people selecting  “No Religion”; and the radical reformation of what now constitutes “a family” – with an 81% increase in those families constituted as being a “same-sex couple family”. Numbers, particularly statistics, can be difficult things to understand, especially when presented as percentages. Here’s a different analysis of the data from what you heard reported in the mainstream media…
The one who states his case first seems right,
until the other comes and examines him.
Proverbs 18:17
The ABS’s Decline of Christianity
The ABS Census collects a relatively wide range of data. Yet, when the media reported on the findings of the ABS, it seemed that they took delight in highlighting a decline in the number of people professing to be Christians, and a rise in both the number of irreligious people and same-sex couples. This is despite the fact that the Census revealed that 52% of Australians identify themselves as Christians. That is remarkable! It is twice remarkable when you consider the aggressive campaign waged to have as many Australians as possible select the “No religion” box. Thirty percent of Australians did. But 60% of Australians indicated that they are religious. That’s 14.64 million Aussies! And, of these, 12.2 million are Christians! It’s also worth considering that of the 30% of Australians (7.32 million Aussies), the Census had presented them with various Christian “denominations” as religions. (Many Christians object to be classified as religious, and nearly all would object to having their denominational affiliation identified as a distinct religion.)
2016ABS-Results-Christianity2
The ABS hints at this with their statement, “Part of the decline in religious affiliation is a general move away from the traditional Christian denominations.” I wonder whether the Census figures would have been quite different if the options given in the Census simply listed “Christian” without giving the major denominations as religious choices? “Nevertheless” reports the ABS, 52% of Australians identify themselves as Christians! Nevertheless indeed. It is not a figure to be lightly dismissed with the wave of a politician’s hand with the comment, “Christians are now irrelevant!” Such politicians should take care not to awaken the Sleeping Giant they mock. However, we Christian leaders have our work cut out for us as we seek to re-engage with a generation that deeply craves spirituality but despises crass formalism.
¶ But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty… having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
Second Timothy 3:15

The ABS’s Rise of No-Religion
I am actually thrilled that so many people have identified themselves as having “No religion”. This makes the Church’s task of evangelism so much greater – and, so much easier! One of the greatest obstacles to leading an Aussie to Christ has been the misinformed belief that if you are born in a Christian country, you are a Christian. Quite possibly, the ABS has now done the Church a tremendous favour by helping to distinguish fair-dinkum Christians from not-even-nominal-Christians (which is not Christian at all). We may find that the traditional resistance to the Christian message of God’s love and offer of forgiveness will increasingly be met with a less resistance. Rather than bemoaning the rise of the Aussies with “No religion”, we should explain more clearly, and demonstratemore boldly, what authentic Christianity actually is.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
James 1:27

The ABS’s ‘Evolution’ Of The Family
The ABS’s reporting of an 82% increase over the past five years in the number of same-sex couples in Australia, sounds dramatic. But it sounds far less dramatic when we look at the actual numbers. 
2016ABS-Results-Christianity3

In 2006, there were 26,000 same-sex couples in Australia. In 2011, there were 33,000. In 2016, there were 47,000. Curiously, the ABS declares that ‘Australia is raising its rainbow flag’. Curiously times two is that the ABS did not report that the actual numbers of Christians has dramatically increased over the past decade – they only promoted the percentage of Christians to the overall population has decreased. If we use the same measurement to evaluate whether Australia is indeed raising its “rainbow flag” we note that the percentage of individuals in a same-sex relationship in Australia in 2006 was 0.25%. In 2011 it was 0.29%. In 2016 it was 0.38%. Taken as couples, the percentage of same-sex couples in Australia was 0.78%. (The ABS reported that there are six million families in Australia in 2016). This is up from 0.66% in 2011. The problem with very small numbers presented as a percentage increase is that it doesn’t take much to make the percentage variation look dramatic. For example, if in 2006 I had ten people in my group, then in 2016 I had twenty, I could report that our group has experienced a 100% increase in numbers. Thus, the “81% increase in same-sex couples in Australia” needs to be seen in the light of the percentages comparing it to either overall population or the number of family households. But publicising that the number of same-sex people in Australia is now at 0.38% or that the number of same-sex couples in Australia is now 0.78% of all Australian families somehow doesn’t quite sound as dramatic.
He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.
JESUS OF NAZARETH, Matthew 19:4-6

The Future Of Christianity In Australia
Sadly, there are many struggling churches across Australia. But there many churches that are growing and thriving. Too many Christian leaders have succumbed to an extremely poor theology about the Church and Eschatology. Consequently they have interpreted certain social trends as inevitable and even prophesied in Scripture. There is, however, a far richer, far more Biblical, view of the Church and Eschatology that regards Christ as sovereign over the universe and that the Church is his means of revealing Him through the proclamation of His Word. As Professor Abraham Kuyper rightly declared, ‘There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine !’ 
It would be complacent if we stopped preaching, stopped teaching, stopped reaching, stopped praying, stopped dreaming, stopped raising up young leaders, stopped changing our methods. Scripture informs us that Christ is building His Church, and I don’t think that He’s finished just yet! As D.L. Moody once said, “The world is yet to see what Christ can do with someone fully surrendered to Him.” My hope is that it might. 
¶ After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Revelation 7:9
Andrew Corbett