Thursday, 31 December 2009


The Church, says the Apostle Paul, was God's secret (read: "mystery") plan from the foundation of the world (Romans 16:25). Paul taught this. He promoted this. He preached it. He wrote about it. He called the local church the revelation of God's mystery (Eph. 3:3) and will according to His purpose "in Christ" (Eph. 1:6).
Ephesians 5:32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 
God's purpose in the earth today relates to the local church. The local church is, to paraphrase the Apostle, God's Plan A. God loves the local church! He wants us to love the local church as well (Col. 2:2).

Having ministered in over 20 local churches this year on three continents, I have been blessed to see the differing expressions of God's purpose through the local church. Some of these churches were large. Some were quite small. Some were in cities. Some were in remote areas. Some were literate. Some met in homes. Some were well established while some were church-plants. It's hard not to be impressed from a casual reading of the New Testament that the local church is God's purpose and the hope of the world. Everywhere the apostles went they preached the Gospel and gathered the converts into an organised, structured community called "churches".
Acts 14:21-23 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
We can see from the New Testament that the will of God for all people is that they receive Christ through the preaching of the Gospel and become a member of a local church. This is why being a part of a church community is not an option for the Christian. And being "a part of" should be read as: "serving with my gifts and abilities" in the local church. A Christian is a servant. Being a servant is developed within the local church. For some people this might mean handing out newsletters in the foyer. For others it might mean the high position of leading a small group such as a Bible Study Group. For some this serving might mean a ministry of special financial support as God blesses and prospers their life. Perhaps for some it means gathering with a few others to pray together regularly for the needs of the group and the church. We should all be serving in the church in order to be a part of the church. When we serve within a church it causes our attitude toward our church to be sweeter (Romans 12).

Some people hate the local church. These people despise the New Testament notion of an ordered community being led by a God-ordained authority who lovingly lead, feed and care for the church. Some of these people who reject what the New Testament prescribes for the local church distort Scripture to justify either abstaining from being a part of a sanctioned church or develop such a critical, independent spirit that they reduce "church" to them + their bible + their lounge room. While there are some Christians living for Christ in countries which are hostile to Christ, where there are no other believers, the normative practice for any Christian is to be a part of a local church. This raises the question then- what constitutes a legitimate local church? The local church is legitimate, said the Reformers, when-

1. It is an ordered assembly of God's people who gather for the Word of God to be proclaimed.
2. It is sanctioned through the ordination of a minister to conduct the sacraments of the Lord's Supper, Water Baptism and Marriage.
3. It exercises godly discipline (both positive and negative, that is, through encouragement it disciples people into Christlikeness and corrects people when they stray into error).
Since we are all required to be in a local church, it is also imperative that we understand what Christ's purpose for the local church is.

Based on the Great Command and the Great Commission we can see four foundational purposes for every local church.
1. To gather together for collective worship of God - "to love the Lord your God with all your heart..."
2. To gather together for the Word of God to be taught - "teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you"
3. To gather together as a witness for God - "preach the Gospel"
4. To gather together for fellowship - "love your neighbour as yourself"

There are different ways to state these four purposes- "Up, In, Out", "Praising, Preaching, Proclaiming, Partnering", "Worship, Teaching, Evangelism, Fellowship", for example, but at Legana we put it this way: To Enthrone, To Empower, To Engage and To Encourage. While each purpose is important, there does seem to be a priority of purpose. This priority is clearer once we realise we can continue in three of these purposes once we are in Heaven, but one of our purposes can only be carried out in this life. Therefore, we must prioritise evangelism. We should pray for the lost to come to faith in Christ. We should live questionable lives to provoke the lost to consider the power of the Gospel to convert a sinner into a child of God. We should invite lost souls to our homes and events. As a church we currently cast the seed of the Gospel out into our community through our radio program, TV ads, church events, youth activities and in 2010 we will be introducing other vehicles for increasing our evangelism effectiveness. Thank God that this year we have baptised a tremendous number of people subsequent to their conversion to Christ! May we see more people publicly committing their lives to Christ in the coming year.

Psalm 92:12-13The righteous flourish like the palm tree
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. 
They are planted in the house of the LORD; 
they flourish in the courts of our God.

God's purpose for your life is intimately linked to the local church. This is the place where we are taught (read: "strengthened"). The local church is also the place where we not only are taught, but more importantly, where we learn. We learn to get along with others. We learn to serve. We learn to forgive. We learn to share. We learn to pray together. We learn to care. This takes place within the community of the church (our small groups). There is enormous spiritual benefit to being a part of the congregation of a church, but there is even greater spiritual benefit when a believer is a part of the congregation and the community (a small group) of the church. It is in a small group of the church (that meets to discuss Scripture and to pray and share together) that transformational discipleship happens. And this is God's purpose for your life- to be transformed into the likeness of Christ within the community of a local church.

Please join with me in prayer that we will be a part of building a strong, vibrant, healthy, Biblical local church that glorifies Christ and effectively reaches out together to see people reached with the Gospel.
Colossians 2:19 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.
I pray that we will continue to grow as a church. I pray that we will grow in number. That we will continue to see new people come to our church. That they will be welcomed and that those who don't know you personally will be challenged and will accept you as saviour. I pray we will continue to grow in knowledge. I pray we will be a disciplined people in reading your word. In committing your word to memory. To have wisdom in recalling the words we have read appropriately when speaking to our friends and family. I pray for those who speak and teachi in this church to be looking to you and your word for inspiration. That we who hear will know the truth when we hear it and likewise will be able to discern any untruths and know how to respond. I pray that indeed it is your word that is spoken from the pulpit and that people will be confronted with your word and your truth each week. I pray we will grow in love for our fellow man. I pray that we will be the good Samaritan of the new testament. We will show compassion and love for those around us. When we see others in need we will reach out. We will go beyond the norm in caring for others. We will be active in our good deeds. With our words we will uplift and encourage. With our actions we will help and support. We will continually lift others in prayer. Your love in us will be obvious to those around us and will lead to discussion and opportunity to witness. I pray we will grow in strength and boldness. We will have confidence in our salvation and speak out against those intent on tearing down the moral fabric of our society. When we see something wrong we will have the courage to speak out. When we see something wrong we will have the words to speak and the clearness of thought to act accordingly. Help us Lord to be true to your word. Help us to see things that prevent us from doing your work. Help us to recognise sin in our lives and help us to give it to you for forgiveness. May we seek a fresh touch by your Spirit to see your will accomplished in our lives. May our hearts capacity for you increase that we can compliment your work in this community. We love you and we love your people Lord. Amen
[Prayer submitted by Stephen Hill, Elder at Legana Christian Church]

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Revealing A Big Secret

Want to know a secret? It's the secret to achievement and success. Those who know it are very reluctant to share it with others (for reasons that will become obvious shortly). Once you understand the enormous power of this secret your potential to fulfil your life's dreams and goals and help the most number of people can be realised. But this secret is not for the faint-hearted. In fact, some people become aware of this powerful secret and put their fingers in their ears and start "La, la, la" -ing, because it is a secret that comes at a great cost. But it's not one of these New-Age fluffy notions. This is a secret that has been known by the great for millennia. Once you hear this secret you'll probably dismiss it with a wave of your hand and a "Oh that's not a secret - everyone knows that!"

Here's the big secret to success and fulfilment in life: bouncing back. The difference between people who achieve their goals, grow, and succeed and those who do not often comes down to resilience (the ability to bounce-back).

The Christian Gospel is perhaps the greatest bounce-back story ever told. Consider Jesus. He came to be King and Messiah. But, He was rejected, despised and scorned by those He came to help. Eventually He was put to death by those who should have accepted Him. But He resurrected! The Ultimate bounce-back! Then He consider His lead-apostle, Peter. He denied Christ three times before the cock crowed then met the searing eyes of His Master staring deep into his. His failure was rebuked without a word! He felt the pain of his mistake and privately wept "bitterly". But within a few weeks he stood before an entire city of pilgrims and boldly preached so that 3,000 were converted. He bounced back! But within a few years he publicly failed again. He cowered undered pressure from radical Jewish Christians who insisted on a two-staged conversion for Gentiles. This led to a publicly embarrassing rebuke from the novice apostle Paul. But Peter learned from his mistakes and bounced back. He would see out the rest of his days as one of the greatest preachers and church planters that the world has ever seen.

I remember hearing about the recruitment of a captain for the Titanic. The captain of the California was considered. He had a lot of experience crossing the Atlantic. He had sailed various types of ships. He was renowned for his leadership of crews. He was known to be a level-headed man. But...he was rejected because he had captained a ship that had hit an iceberg and sunk. Instead, the owners of the Titanic went with a captain who had never lost a ship. Of course we all now know that the Titanic did indeed sink on its first crossing. Ironically, surviving passengers were rescued by the California which raced to its rescue (it was slightly delayed because the captained had sailed so far around the icebergs that were known to be perilously interferng with the general shipping route). The captain of the California was a man who had learned to bounce-back.

Proverbs 24:16 for the righteous falls seven times and rises again,
The first step to bouncing back is making mistakes.

The second step is to get some rest. Pondering things when they still hurt and we are run down emotionally and physically will not help us to process them well. (In fact, when we are tired and idle and we then mull over things we are likely to become very emotionally unwell.)

The third step is to go through the pain and learn from what went wrong. This involves the language of hope- "Next time I do this, I'm not going to do it this way, instead I'll..." or "If I'd been more prepared this would never have happened. I'm going to make sure that I'm more prepared next time..." We need to regard our mistakes as practice. If you told a 10 year old child, "Try and jump over that two metre wide hole", you are saying something different than- "Practice doing a two metre long jump". "Try" and "Practice" carry different ideas. "Try" carries little room for error and an immediate expectation of success. "Practice" on the other hand carries abundant room for not getting it right and no immediate expectation of success.
Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. 
The fourth step is to turn your critics into your consultants. This requires a different type of hearing. Most of us become defensive when we are criticised. This prevents us from learning how to do things better. But we have to hear criticism as "I want you to do better next time" rather than- "You're utterly hopeless!" By the way, the more people you want to help, the bigger the leader you'll need to become and the more criticism you'll receive! I'm not yet as big a leader as I want to be yet, but I already receive my fair share of criticism. When I grew up I had a pastor who repeatedly said that The person who never makes mistakes never makes anything! I also grew up hearing the TV pastor, Robert Schuller, say Turn your scars into stars. All great people have had to learn this fourth step in order to bounce back. As a kid I played a lot of tennis. Sometimes up to six hours a day. When I couldn't get someone to hit with I would take a bucket of balls down to the tennis courts and hit them by myself often just setting up targets to hit. I played in lots of tournaments and there was one other kid that also played in some of these tournaments- Kel. But Kel was not very good. He lacked basic skills. He didn't even seem to enjoy playing that much either. And did I mention that he was over-weight? Whenever my brother and I were drawn to play Kel we sighed a huge sigh of relief because we knew it would be an easy win for us. Kel was ridiculed by the regular circuit players. But then a strange thing happened...Kel disappeared. We didn't see him for about two years or so. Then he suddenly reappeared. He was leaner, using top equipment, and could now hit a ball. The transformation was remarkable. I later found out that Kel went to a Tennis Academy in the USA and underwent radical fitness training. He had bounced back! Everytime his coach helped him it must have sounded like criticism, but Kel was able to turn this criticism into help.

The fifth step to bouncing back is to face your giants. Your giant might be the person you offended or let down and need to apologise to. Your giant might be an audience you flopped in front of. Your giant might be a project you that you previously failed to complete for some reason. Your giant might also be some unrepented of sin (in which case your giant is actually God). Facing this giant may involve apologising, publically asking for forgiveness, completing a task or project even though you no longer have to, or even repenting.

Perhaps two of the greatest examples of bouncing back are Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill. Both men publicly failed and were humiliated. Both men suffered great loss. But they went through the process of bouncing back and became two of the greatest leaders the world has ever seen. Every preacher knows what I'm talking about! We all preach messages that flop. I recently had one of our young people within the church share a dream with me where I was preaching and sending people to sleep. The problem was that in the congregation were some of my greatest preaching and teaching heroes who were all sound asleep from a message that dragged on for several hours and bored everyone to sleep. What I didn't tell the young person was that I have similar nightmares like this which serve to keep me on my toes. But I actually don't need nightmares to remind me that I can preach duds! I have memories!!!! It's these memories and the resultant humiliations that now cause me to preach "with a limp" (Gen. 32:31). I'm sure we each have some painful memories that have the potential power to keep us from bouncing back. But if we confront these giants we can bounce-back and achieve the success we are truly looking for.

As a church as we might look back over the past year and think that for every two steps forward we took one back. But if we can commit to bouncing back we can learn from our mistakes and grow as a result.
Proverbs 12:1To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction. (NLT)

Tuesday, 22 December 2009


We've seen some major changes this year. As a church we have several new people who have joined our church. We have made some physical changes around our church grounds - none the least the development of our Children's Education Centre. And personally we have changed our home quite markedly, special thanks to our builder- Geoff Hill, for doing such a stand-out job on our house.

Change will always happen even though we are reluctant to participate in it. Our bodies change and even do so despite our best efforts to prevent it. Our friends change. Our fashions change. Our expenses change. Our toys change. Our cars change. Change remains unchanging.

Ephesians 4:15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,
Positive change is called growth. Positive change is intentional change. We consider where we are and then consider where we want to be. The gap is called change. At the start of the year, Kim and I looked at our 2.5 bedroom house and our 4.0 children and decided that we needed to urgently extend our house. By the way, we purchased our home not for what it was but for what we saw it had the potential of becoming. Shortly after buying our house, the back corner dropped leaving major cracks in the wall. I couldn't afford the thousands of dollars needed to do the necessary underpinning repairs, so I did most of it myself with a shovel and pick. As I was digging away I was complaining to the Lord about how unfair all this was. I then felt the rebuke of the Holy Spirit and reproving words- Leaders solve problems. I've called you to be a leader who solves problems now stop you're complaining! We had a choice to see our house as a continual series of problems and to throw our hands in the air and say that it was just all too hard, or we could look for the solutions to the problems and begin to start implementing the solutions one by one. In one sense, the solution to our house problem was a "big" solution. But in another sense it was really a lot of little solutions which made up the overall solution. Sometimes we can see how things must change but we can only see the "big" solution not the series of small solutions that make up the big solution.

I look at my own life and consider where I am at now compared to where I want to be. My gap is very big. I have a lot of changing to do. I have to grow in my consideration for others. I have to grow in my knowledge of God, His Word, and the collective thoughts of His teachers who have written great books (2Tim 4:13). I have to grow in wisdom. I have to grow in physical fitness and endurance. I have to grow professionally as a pastor, writer, speaker and steward. I have to grow as a husband and father, provider and protector. I have to grow in my ability to grow the church and all those who are partnering with us.
Ephesians 4:16 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. 


Ultimately we know that God directs our growth (change). He not only allows what we consider "negative" change, He ordains it! He causes us to have to change. Circumstances constrain us to make sometimes sudden changes. My father in-law was a refugee. He was forced to flee communist Hungary. This change was forced upon him. And thank God that he did because it meant that he would eventually come to Australia with his new bride and have a drop-dead gorgeous you-gotta-be-kidding-she's-so-pretty daughter who would become my wife. Throughout history, it seems that like a mother eagle who forces her comfortable eaglets out of the security of their cliff-top nest, that God sometimes forced change upon people as well. Martin Luther was forced to change because he saw abuses that he could no longer tolerate. This change brought out the Reformation and the dawn of the Enlightenment era. Abraham Lincoln was forced to change the way African-Americans were being treated, and this resulted in the formation of the modern United States of America.

As we conclude 2009 and prepare for 2010 we can expect change- even unforeseen changes. But perhaps we need to embrace positive change where we take deliberate steps to change what needs changing.
Colossians 2:19 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.
Father, please help us to grow as a church. Give us the grace to change individually as we must. Sanctify us in this life so that we are continually changed to the likeness of Christ in both our hearts, attitudes, and responses toward others. Grant us the willingness to be conformed to Your will, even when we are most resistent to it. May we each see clearly how we must change and also be blessed with the vision to see each smaller component change that we must make. Give us increasing love for each other. Cause us to delight ourselves in repentance and prayerful surrender to You.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009


When I first arrived in Tasmania with my wife and (at that time) two small children, I didn’t know anyone. I had just taken up the pastorate of a very small semi-rural church of mainly elderly people. To support myself, I applied for a job with Australia Post (I had worked for Australia Post for several years in Melbourne while pioneering churches). Again, I didn’t know anyone in this new workplace of several hundred employees.

I had never seen a chaplain. I knew that the Australian military forces had commissioned chaplains who were regarded as Officers and served as a vital component in the emotional and spiritual well being of our troops, but I was largely unaware of any other context for chaplains. Then one day into the Delivery Centre walked the Chaplain. I had no idea who this well dressed man was. Charlie, a very rough veteran postie, lent across to me and said in an usually polite tone, that’s the chaplain…if you’ve got any problems you can talk to him…This chaplain clearly had the respect of Charlie (which, if you knew Charlie, you would know why his comments so surprised me).

When the chaplain approached our delivery team he was smiling and went out of his way to greet and talk with every worker. As he came to me he realised that I was new. He then took some extra time to enquire how I was settling in. He made no offer to be of assistance. He listened. At the meal break he came back over to me and talked more. He referred me to a resource centre, which I otherwise would never have known anything about. I followed through on his tip, and it proved to be of great help.

Over the ensuing months I talked more with Peter Pinder, the Australia Post chaplain, not because I had problems, but because he genuinely seemed interested. Even after I moved on from Australia Post I continued to have occasional talks with him. This connection lasted for 12 years and culminated when I was invited by the family to conduct his funeral at the Perth Baptist Church in 2007.

To me, Peter Pinder was the model chaplain. He was disciplined. He was educated. He was sensitive. He took initiative to reach out to others even when they didn’t immediately show their appreciation or make it easy for him. He never talked about his problems (it wasn’t until many years later that I realised that he had any problems). Although he was never paid well for his services, he managed his money very well and never complained about his pay- he obviously didn’t do what he did for the money.

My family was privileged to visit with Peter and Isobel when he took up a pastorate in Scotland. Even then, although Peter was dealing with his own issues he took an acute interest in what I was up to. He already knew that I was a collector of FW Boreham books and prior to departing for Scotland had given me an FW Boreham book out of his own library. Several boxes of his belongings from Scotland arrived in Tasmania after his funeral. Among those boxes were three very rare FW Boreham books that Peter had tracked down in Scottish second-hand books, which he had marked For Andrew Corbett. Even in the midst of his own difficulties he was still exhibiting the prime quality of a chaplain: care and consideration.

Now when I think of a chaplain, I think of the Rev. Peter Pinder. I remember a man who was highly professional (he had a Master’s degree in religious education, which he rarely told anyone). He dressed like a professional- you could tell when he was on the job! He communicated well within his own sponsoring organisation (ITIM), with the management of the various industrial workplaces where he ministered, and with the frontline troops: the workers. He made time for everyone- even those who gave him a cold response.

His written communication reflected his intellectual rigour. He understood the difference between “their”, “there” and “they’re”. He knew how to use an apostrophe- that “Gods” is totally different to “God’s” as “Schools” is totally different to “School’s”. He wrote what he meant. He didn’t present his readers with ambiguous abbreviations such as “etc”. He was discreet and knew how to keep confidences.

With fewer members of the general population attending churches regularly, there is less opportunity for some people to benefit from the pastoral care these churches provide. This is perhaps the irony of our age. General church attendance has decreased but spiritual hunger has skyrocketed.

I think everyone needs a pastor. But the next best thing to a pastor is a chaplain: someone who takes an interest in you; listens; helps you to find meaning in the midst of your pain; promotes thankfulness in the good times; offers resources for navigating life better; and, assists you to make sense of the world and your place in it in a spiritually coherent fashion. Of course, not everyone is going to recognise their need for a chaplain. But even the staunchest atheists have been surprised by the help of a chaplain: a listening ear, a caring prayer, or a supportive program.

With the growth of chaplaincy in sporting clubs, schools, hospitals and industry, I hope that this new breed of chaplains are baptised in the “Peter Pinder Anointing”. I hope that they above all see themselves as professionals who are fulfilling a vocation- not just doing a job. (A professional fulfils a role. An unskilled worker exchanges hours for dollars.) I hope that these chaplains become more educated and learn to be craftsmen in care, communication, and confidences. I hope that chaplains exhibit a servant spirit to the management team of their workplace and learn what their hosts expect of them. I hope that chaplains become a part of the “soul” of their workplace through interacting in social functions, extra-curricular activities, and representing their school/hospital/club to the wider community.

The ministry of Peter Pinder lives on even though he has been promoted to his reward. And if I can encourage other Tasmanian chaplains to reflect his example, his ministry will live on even longer.

Andrew Corbett
19th August 2008
Pastor of Legana Christian Church and President of ICI Theological College Australia | |

Wednesday, 9 December 2009


Prof Mortimer J. Adler
I've been reading the classic book by one of the world's all time great educators (Prof. Mortimer J, Adler) called How To Read A Book. It was first published in 1939. It is an amazing book. I'm impressed by what Professor Adler has written, but I'm particularly impressed with the way he has said it. Reading the book, you may not notice what I notice. But I am desperately keen to learn all I can about the best way to help others learn. Therefore, when I am in the presence of greatness I have my learning receptors maxed out. What I noticed was this: Professor Adler continually reminds his readers. Whenever he introduces a new thought about the subject at had, he will explain it, illustrate it, restate it, then show how to use it. When he has finished he helps his readers to take note of the main point about what he has just said. By the time I got to the 349th page of his book I realised that he subtley, continually, inconspicuously, reminded his readers about the main points of what he was saying. As a teacher, he had obviously learnt some profound things about how people best learn: they need reminding. Upon reflection, it seems to me that the best teachers are the ones who introduce something then in a number of ways remind their students about it. We are creatures who relish reminding.
Romans 15:15 But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God

If you've ever had the thrill and blessing of organising an event, you will have discovered the surest way to guarantee its success is: reminding. One of the most frustrating things I encountered as a Youth Pastor was getting the phone calls from youth about half an hour before an event to find out what was happening that night. Although, now that I think about it, it may have been more frustrating organising, promoting, hosting an event, only to have youth forget that it was on(?). Kim and I soon learned that we had to phone each of the kids just prior to the event to remind them that it was on in order to get them there. Organisers who refuse to remind will soon become former organisers!

Reminding can be tedious. Last week I met with a seasoned politician who gave me some advice. "If you think people heard you the first time, you're wrong. If you think they heard you after you told them six times- you're wrong! It's at that point when you think that you have repeated yourself so many times that no one could possibly have missed what you said that people are probably now just starting to listen." Just a reminder. No, not just reminder, but a powerful appeal to the very thing that somehow defines who we are. We all need reminding.
Psalm 71:16 With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come;
I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.

Have you ever noticed how often the Bible both repeats itself and orders that certain things (ceremonies, stories, rituals) be repeated? Being reminded helps us to stay focussed and therefore purposeful. Eugene Peterson says that the Sunday church service is largely about coming together to be reminded. He says this reminding is actually calibrating. That is, it helps us to bring back into focus that which has gone hazey. We celebrate a Holy Communion ritual to remind us. We sing songs that remind us of God's redemptive acts and greatness. We give financially to remind ourselves that God is our Provider. We pray to remind ourselves that God is our loving heavenly Father. We give heed to the Word preached to be reminded of what God has said. We meet together to be reminded that we are not alone in our struggle against the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Numbers 10:10 On the day of your gladness also, and at your appointed feasts and at the beginnings of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings. They shall be a reminder of you before your God: I am the LORD your God.

In the Old Testament parents were told to continually remind their children of God's Word. Most usually, when God sent prophets to Israel before they prophesied they reminded. Nearly all of the Old Testament prophets were historians- ministers of reminders. It seems that God ordained the Seven Feasts of Israel as reminders of not only what He had done, but even more startlingly, what He was going to do. Today under the New Covenant we celebrate some of the residual of these feasts but we are now reminded of what God has already done. Added to this, the Church has introduced cultural reminders, such as Christmas and birthdays to celebrate God's miracles. As we approach this Advent (the "appearing" of our Great God and Saviour, Titus 2:13) Season, we are both reminded and reminding. We are reminded of the greatest miracle the world has ever known, that God became a man and dwelt among us, and we are reminding the world of this shocking and morally confronting truth. I only say all of this by way of reminder.
1Corinthians 15:1Now I would remind you, brothers,* of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand,

    Father, we are reminded of your great faithfulness in Your Book of Reminders, the Scriptures. We are reminded of times past in our own lives when you have blessed, rescued, and healed us. Help us to be reminded more often of who You are and what You have done for us. Forgive us for forgetting the wrong things and remembering the wrong things. Help us to forget well the things You tell us to ignore, and help us to remember well the things You want us to be reminded of. Make us all ministers of reminding to a world that has largely forgotten. Amen.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Climate Change Questions

The earth is warming up. This is referred to as Climate Change. This apparently is a catastrophic problem because it melts the ice caps which causes sea level rises which causes the loss of some islands. It is also catastrophic because it seems to be caused by a change in our atmosphere- namely, increased CO2 emmissions - which makes our air dirtier. It is a problem. But as the events of the past week in Canberra have shown, it has divided opinion among Australians like little else has done. On the hand there are the Climate-Change-Advocates (read: Priests) who warn of cataclysmic disaster and a global catastrophe if something is not done nearly immediately to reverse these trends. On the other hand are the Climate-Change-Skeptics who deny that global warming is even happening. (It's interesting that the language being used is religious. See an interesting article by Chuck Colson about this.) Dr Jay Richards of the Acton Institute suggests that 4 ("tough") questions need to be adequately answered before we decide which camp we will join.
    (1) Is the planet warming?
    (2) If the planet is warming, is human activity (like CO2 emissions) causing it?
    (3) If the planet is warming, is it bad overall?
    (4) If the planet is warming, we’re causing it, and it’s bad, would the policies commonly advocated (e.g., the Kyoto Protocol, legislative restrictions on CO2 emissions) make any difference and, if so, would their cost exceed their benefit?

Jay goes on to say that these questions can only be answered by science, not Scripture. However, what he says Scripture does say, which should guide how we continue to respond to this problem is: God has appointed us as stewards of this planet. In his other writings, Dr Richards reminds Christians that the worldview of many "climate-change alarmists" is a-theistic ("a"=no + "theistic"=God). That is, they regard this world as the result of a rather random, chaotic, sequence of uncaused events that somehow is governed by the illusion of "laws" (gravity, planetary rotations and orbits, the empirical laws of mathematics and physics). As such, Dr Richards points out, they suspect the earth is extremely fragile and that mankind is actually an accidental intruder who is really just messing things up (this is my summary of what he said in an interview with Hank Hanegraaff on the Bible Answer Man program). Jay Richards reminds believers that the Bible says that the earth is the Lord's and that He sustains it (Psalm 24:1). The earth, according to Dr Richards, is extremely resilient, because it has been designed that way by an all-wise Creator.

There are many Christians who would agree with Dr Jay Wesley Richards, but for different reasons. These believers are climate-change skeptics because they reject, not just the science, but the scientific data. This is because they have a way of reading the Bible that restricts them from accepting, what many Biblical scholars regard as the Biblically plausible, scientific evidence that the earth was created some 4.5 billion years ago. Instead, they claim, the Bible implies that the earth was created between 10,000-6,000 years ago. They base this assumption on the addition of the genealogical records in the Scripture and arrive at a date for Genesis 1:1 of around 4004BC. People who hold this view are referred to as "young earth creationists". Of course, the climatologists are basing their climate-change research on weather patterns that appear to be 80,000 years old (they can determine this from polar ice cores). As soon as Young Earth Creationists are asked to believe the scientific claim that the earth is older than 80,000 years old, they immediately switch off. I have written little bit more about this in another article on my website.
Psalm 78:69 He built his sanctuary like the high heavens,
like the earth, which he has founded forever

Dr Jay Wesley Richards' 4 questions are indeed tough questions. Perhaps they can be answered this way-
(1) Yes, the planet is warming.
(2) Perhaps, this warming is caused by humans emitting too much CO2 into the atmosphere. Perhaps though, there is more CO2 in the atmosphere because of a cyclical planetary global warming (which is thought to occur every 1500 years or so).
(3) Global warming may not necessarily be a bad thing, suggests Dr Richards. This might especially be the case if global warming (and cooling) is a part of God's design for our planet. There seems to be some evidence that our planet has experienced extreme warming and cooling in times past. Al Gore, though, claims in his Academy Award winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, that the earth has never before seen such dramatic rises in temperature than we are currently witnessing. He claims that this is having a devastating affect on our global ecology and therefore the survival of humanity.
(4) But if the planet is warming and humans are the cause, and it is bad, will the various carbon emission reduction plans - Kyoto, Copenhagen, C.P.R.S. (Carbon Program Reduction Scheme) resolve this? Dr Jay Wesley Richards argues that while these measures will have some benefits, it is highly doubtful that that they resolve the problem. Jay then factors in the economic cost of such measures, both directly and then indirectly. He argues that if these various treaties and protocols were introduced it could come at incalculable human cost. He wonders how ethical this would be. Reduce carbon emissions, says Dr Richards, but not at any cost! (Watch a video of Dr Jay Wesley Richards)
Psalm 24:1 The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein.

Little wonder the Liberal Party have been in such turmoil over this issue. We want less carbon emissions. This will be good for our atmosphere and our ecology. But it is highly doubtful that a new tax on carbon emissions would achieve this. Senator Barnaby Joyce expressed this doubt this way- "If a new tax could solve the problem, then why not impose a world peace tax on everybody?"

Much of the climate-change shrill is firmly grounded in the belief that the earth is a collossal fluke. But the earth is the Lord's. He created it and He sustains it. While some believers interpret the prophetic passages of Scripture as predicting God will one day trash this earth and create a new one (therefore why care for this one?), other eschatologists (such as myself) regard such references to a "new heaven and earth" in quite a different way. I have written much about this different (and dare I say it, more "exegetical") way of understanding such references on my website (

I propose that we consider Dr Richards' 4 questions as the beginning of our guide to understanding this crucial issue. Unlike many Climate-Change Skeptics, I think we should not merely dismiss the scientific data. But, perhaps we should factor in to our thinking that the earth is created by God and sustained by Him. Along these lines we should remember that God created us. He sustains us. Even though we have rebelled against Him and demanded that He stop interfering with our lives, He has reached out to us and opened our eyes to see our true condition. Amazingly, He has undeservingly lavished His grace upon us so that we can receive His forgiveness and can be eternally reconciled to Him.

As serious as Global-Warming is, it is nothing compared to the potential of eternal-warming! I hope we can make a valuable contribution to both warming dilemmas as we share the glorious Gospel and its implications for te earth.

For what appears to be a balanced summary of both sides of the Climate-Change Debate, visit-

    Father, help us to make a difference in our world today. Help us to care for our planet and enhance our ecology. But Lord help us to reach out to those who do not know You as beautiful. Grant it oh God that we can be used by You to lead people to the Ultimate Desire of their Soul: Jesus Christ. Amen.