Friday, 27 May 2011


I was stoking the embers of our overnight fire the other morning and once again reflected on church. In a similar way, church is like these embers in my fireplace. In the morning I take the lightly glowing coals and move them into a pile together. The result is that they once again catch aflame. Once alight, it becomes appropriate to put some more kindling and wood on it. But if there was no flame, the extra wood would only be singed rather than burnt. Can you see how this is like church?
We are sometimes like those cooling yet glowing embers. Once on fire until we drifted from the flame, we became a mere glowing ember. Christ is like the fire-box and the Holy Spirit is like the directing fire-poker. It is the Spirit's desire to bring together the members of a church so that their glow becomes a flame. But even this temporary flame is doomed to become a fading glow unless new wood is brought into the flame. In a similar way, the church needs to be continually inviting pre-Christians to church to keep the flame of zeal and passion for the Lord burning brightly.
for our God is a consuming fire. 
Hebrew 12:29
But consider what happens to the wood in the fire-box. In order for the wood to become a burning coal, it must be transformed. When we come to Christ He doesn't leave us the way we came in. He transforms us. The flame of His Spirit begins to burn in our hearts. The wood has to give up something though. When we come to Christ, we also have to give up something. The wood lays down it's identity in order to be in a life-giving flame. We have to lay down our identities as selfish sinners and take on a new identity as followers of Christ.
so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
First Peter 1:7
Over the twenty years I have now been pastoring (nearly 16 of which has been at Legana) I have observed that people who come to church often get offended by someone within the church. I now wonder if this process of offence is not part of the Holy Spirit's transforming, purifying flame? The Holy Spirit may well be using the hurt, disappointment, and offence from another brother or sister in Christ to change us. How often have I heard the story of someone who has "tried" several churches, come to our church, but then experienced the same kind of hurt and offence which they experienced in their previous churches? In such a scenario, there is only one common factor: them. Could it be that if in every case where a believer feels offended in, or by, a church that it is the same flame of the Holy Spirit seeking to refine them through offensive fire emanating from another 'coal' (read: "believer") in Christ's "firebox"?
Then He said to the disciples, "It is impossible that no offenses should come...Luke 17:1
I've been trying to imagine what a piece of dried dead wood feels when it is placed in a fire. I guess it experiences instant transformation. I guess it experiences other pieces of wood similarly being transformed. I can imagine that the heat of the flame gradually may even become uncomfortable. But I guess that at some point, the wood comes to enjoy the flame. The wonderful colours it emits! The beautiful benefits of its warmth. Even the aromas of the different woods can be very pleasant. But, the woods would soon realise something. Unless it replenishes, it will die. The fire it has become integrated with, and come to love, must be renewed. More wood is needed. In the same way, a local church must continually strive to reach out to others, and evangelise.

An isolated coal or ember does not enjoy the benefits of community flame. When we come to church, it shouldn't be with the motive, what can this church do for me? But,what can we contribute to each other? This is the lesson of the fire-box: each piece of wood on fire not only benefits the other pieces of wood, but also benefits from the other pieces of wood. Church is like this. Why should you be a part of a church? Because weneed you! Why should you be a part of a church? Because you need us.
1Cor. 12:26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
The next time you sense yourself becoming isolated ask God to use the Holy Spirit in your life like a fire-poker to guide you back to the flame within Christ's fire-box, the local church. If you are already on fire but sense your flame is waning, ask God to use you to bring another to Christ and into His church. If you feel that your spiritual contribution to church is all one way, ask God to use you to be a blessing to even more people within the church. Maybe you've positioned your Christian walk within the fire-box, but intentionally on the outskirts of the fire. This may be like living your Christianity as a Sunday-only church Christian rather than as a two-winged Christian who enjoys the wing of the Sunday gathering of the church and the complementary wing of the small-group-community of the church, where the flame burns brighest.
Father, set us ablaze with Your love. Fill us with a fresh passion for Your cause, the Church. May our hearts burn with zeal to reach more people for Christ. Help us to see hurt, offence, and disappointment as a part of Your holy flame for our good. May we forgive easily and quickly so as to keep the love-flame of Your church's witness burning brighter. In Jesus Name', Amen.
Eph. 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Ps. Andrew

Friday, 20 May 2011

The Twofold Impact of The Gospel

Telemachus was a man of peace who enjoyed the quiet life away from hustle and bustle of cities. He enjoyed walking through forests and soaking in the serenity that complemented his life as a prayerful monk. He wanted nothing more in life than to be alone with God in prayer. But all that changed when God spoke to him and told him to go to Rome. "Rome?" Telemachus protested to the Lord. Out of love for his Lord, he set from his country setting of solitude to where all roads led. Upon arrival in the city that wasn't built in a day, he saw the crowds thronging into the Colosseum. He went with the throng and quickly became disturbed by what he saw taking place. He left his seat for the arena where the gladiators were inflicting their barbarism upon each other. Telemachus took advantage of the amphitheatre's acoustics and cried out, "In the name of Christ stop this madness!" 
Telemachus's voice carried all around the stadium. Hush fell over the stunned crowd. Then someone in the crowd yelled out to one of the gladiators, "Run him through!" A gladiator then thrust his bloody sword into the man of God who took his dying breathe to repeat his plea- "In the name of Christ, stop this madness!" A deeper hush fell over the crowd as the dying monk slumped to the dirt. As his lifeless body lay there, the gladiators ceased their fighting and walked from the arena. Then in utter shameful quiet each one of the thousands in the crowd filed out. News of what happened reached Emperor Honorius. He was so moved by the courage of Telemachus that three days later he outlawed the gladiatorial games from the Empire (404AD).

What do Telemachus, William Wilberforce, William Booth, and Martin Luther-King, have in common? They each had a deep commitment to the Gospel as the only means to salvation. But they each recognised that what a culture accepted as right or wrong had a direct bearing on the likelihood of that culture to either accept or reject that Gospel. They had not been duped into believing that no-one needed individual salvation, as some were teaching, and rejected this idea of Universalism (the idea that all people are actually saved with individually responding to the Gospel). They knew that Acts 11:14 plainly stated that acceptance of the Gospel was only means to salvation.
And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, 'Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter;
he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.'
Acts 11:13-14
None of these great men thought that social change was the same as accepting the Gospel. Neither did they think that Christian influence in the realms of society was the chief end of the Gospel. They were fully persuaded that the preaching of the Gospel was the means to salvation and that Christ alone was the means ofsalvation. William Wilberforce was a poltician who was frequently challenged about this but each time he responded by telling his challenger that the Gospel was both the means to salvation transforming an individual but it was also the means by which good manners were promoted for a society at large. That is, for the Christian, Christ's command to turn the other cheek governs how we respond to people who aggrevate us because it is written on their hearts. 
But Christ's command to turn the other cheek also serves to govern the response of those who are not born-again and helps a society to be more civil. This is what Wilberforce calledthe promotion of good manners. A society that is aware of what good manners are, is more likely to be aware that we all people are fallen sinners in need of a Saviour. As Wilberforce worked toward the reformation of manners in England, thousands upon thousands of people came to faith in Christ. 
Similarly, William Booth was preaching the Gospel across London but saw that many of the people he was ministering to were without food, clothing, and shelter. The result was that the Salvation Army was birthed and the long-standing Christian tradition of caring practically for those preached to was rekindled. "Christianity with its sleeves rolled up" was how people began to describe Booth's ministry. Martin Luther-King was a Baptist preacher who had committed his life to spreading the Gospel. But he saw two Americas: White America and Black America. He saw White America treating Black America poorly - "Madness" said Telemachus, "Bad manners" said Wilberforce, "Uncaring" agreed Booth.
¶ I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.First John 5:13
Imagine what society today would look like without the Gospel's influence. Time prevents me from discussing the similar work of my other hero, William Carey. His missionary work in India was dramatically and eternally affected by his realisation that the Gospel must shape both the individual and the society at large. He set about to outlaw an ancient Indian cultural practice of "Sati" (where a widow is burned alive on her late husband's funeral pyre). Amidst the attacks of cultural interference and trying to legislate the conversion of Hindus, Carey prevailed. He also set about to educate the lower castes. The legacy of Carey's work today is that around 300million people can trace their spiritual heritage to Carey's missionary work! 
A Gospel that says every man for himself is an imposter to the Gospel of Christ! The Gospel is immediately relevant for both the individual and society. For the individual it is the only means to salvation. For society it is the means to the reformation of manners and the goal of civility (treating each other kindly). 
Thus, when the forces of darkness attack the two-fold impact of the Gospel (both upon the individual for their eternal salvation, and a society for the reformation and preservation of manners) we should not be silent or inactive! Unless individuals hear and receive the Gospel they can not enter eternal life! Let us not entertain the utter foolishness of trendy, psuedo-spiritual, Pelagian, decaffe-soy-milk-latte-sipping, hoodwinkers who would tell us there is no hell, no eternal peril, no final judgment, no problem - and still dare to call themselves "Christian". The Gospel is under attack from within by these wolves. But similarly, let us not become anaesthetised to society's behaviour when they tell us to keep our 'religion' to ourselves! AS IF OUR FAITH IN CHRIST WAS EVER A PRIVATE MATTER!!!!! Faith in Christ is most certainly an individual matter - but it is most certainly not a private matter! 
We preach the Gospel because it is only means to salvation. Don't read that statement too quickly or pass over it as if it were just a collection of words. We preach the Gospel because it is only means to salvation! We preach the Gospel to our society because it is the only means to achieve good manners and civility. And it is the Gospel's unique ability to reform manners that best prepares the way for an individual to accept the Gospel and thus find salvation for their soul.
This is why I would like you to join with me in writing to our Federal Tasmanian Parliamentarians and let them know that The Marriage Act should not be amended in a way that redefines marriage to allow two people of the same gender to wed. The most loving thing a Christian can do for someone who has same-sex attraction is not to affirm their desires (in Romans 1, the Apostle Paul has something to say about Christians being equally guilty of sexual sin if they do not challenge sexual sin) but to lovingly challenge them with the truth of God's Word which calls them to surrender their every desire to the Lordship Christ who gives the hope of salvation. I think Telemachus would agree, and Wilberforce would join with Booth and Luther-King in saying, "Amen!"
Father, we pray for our friends, family and neighbours who do not yet know Christ. May they both hear and receive the Gospel. Open their hearts and prpare their minds to accept the truth. Remove the veil of blindness from their spiritual eyes. Give us a deeper compassion for the lost. Fill our hearts with love for those for whom Christ died. Cause us to pray as we should. Cause us to live lives that reflect our utter devotion to You. When we fall, pick us up. When we stray, bring us back. Fill our hearts, minds and souls with Your Word, the Truth, so that we can speak to our society and lovingly challenge the Devil's lies. Lift us out of our world through the inspiration of Your Word so that we can be of real use within our world. In Jesus Name', Amen.
Eph. 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ps. Andrew

Saturday, 14 May 2011


Even with all our technological advances, iPads, iPhones, Androids, Goooogles, 3Gs, 4Gs, Satellite TV, and the more, we still write. Recently several major book-sellers went into receivership. But this didn't happen because people aren't buying books. In fact, there are more books being sold than ever before. More is being written today than at any time in history. The head of Google recently noted that more information has been published online in the last 48 hours than from the beginning of time to 2000! We still read, therefore people still write. In fact, despite the Prophets of doom crying at the start of tech-rev that the Internet would be the death of text, the exact opposite has happened. People are now reading more than ever before. That's why I thought I'd write to you about some weighty matters.
¶ And the LORD said to Moses, "Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel."
Exodus 34:27
In ancient times they wrote on stone, then papyrus, then vellum (leather), then paper. Today we use paper products, computer screens, phones, and media devices to write. Increasingly, readers are embracing digital platforms for their reading. And while I love the simplicity and versatility of a traditional book, I am loving the newer digital platforms. In fact, I now sell ebooks at a rate of about 100:1 compared to the same title in traditional format. But all of this continues to highlight that we are reading, and therefore we still value good writing. Arguably, and perhaps amazingly, today's rock stars (if defined as high earning entertainers) are literary. They write. They help people escape from this world and its pressures to another world. They write of wizards, and vampires that unlike their streotypes are actually peace-loving, vegetarians, vulnerable confused souls, who long for a girl to truly love them...[sigh] The fact that these stories are made into movies almost ruins the original text, but then again, even these movies need a text-based script to give it form and structure. It's almost as if there is a natural symbiotic connection between being human and processing text.
it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus,
Luke 1:3
When I read a book written by a now deceased author, it is as if they are still living! I tried and read an F.W. Boreham essay every day. As I read his writings it is as if we are on his front verandah together in Kew in 1938, or 1948, or 1956. He comes alive each time I read his books. Text keeps things alive. The story is told of a meeting of computer executives who celebrating the growing influence of their digital business. Their discussions eventually came around to backing-up their valuable information. They discussed storing this priceless information on computer hard-drives. But then realised there was two problems with this, firstly computer hard-drives are notoriously unreliable and secondly there is no guarantee in the future that there will be computers around compatible with such devices. After much discussion they concluded that the best way to store their information was to write it down and print off several copies.

Interestingly, when God wanted to leave a lasting message to mankind He chose the printed word and ordained that thousands of copies be made and preserved to ensure its message survived for generations and millennia. Also interestingly, God's Word, the Bible, when read carefully also transports the reader into the story. When reading about Abraham, it feels as if he is alive at that moment! But is it also transports the reader from this world and its pressures to the real world of angels, demons, truest love, the greatest heroism, the most wonderful adventure and ofheavenly realms.
¶ I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.First John 5:13
And God's written Word is even more powerful than any other text because unlike my most favourite authors, its Author lives still. So if you're looking for an escape, a reality-check, and reminder of what's important, open God's Word and let more than its text do its best.
Father, fill our hearts, minds and souls with Your Word, the Truth. Lift us out of our world through the inspiration of Your Word so that we can be of real use within our world. In Jesus Name', Amen.
Eph. 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ps. Andrew

Thursday, 5 May 2011


Is it only crazy people who talk to themselves? One of the best preachers of the twentieth century was Dr Martin Lloyd-Jones. He famously said that the problem with most Christians is that they listen to themselves rather than talk to themselves! Perhaps he was right. Talking to yourself is not necessarily crazy but is instead a thoroughly Biblically spiritual and healthy thing to do. At least that's what the sons of Korah thought and shared this insight with the world that many today have found the secret to their sanity.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Psalm 42:5a
What are you listening to yourself saying to yourself? We get a clue what the Psalmist was hearing by the preceding verses in Psalm 42. In verse 1 the Psalmist seems to be saying that despite his ardent seeking he could not 'find' God. Thus in verse 2 he asks himself if he will ever come into God's presence
When shall I come and appear before God?
Psal 42:2b
The Psalmist hears himself getting more and more depressed.
My tears have been my food
day and night,
Psalm 42:3a
He hears from himself that there is no God. He hears from himself the taunts of his critics-
they say to me all the day long,
"Where is your God?" 
Psalm 42:3b
The Psalmist then hears why his 'church' has let him down. He laments that when he was in leadership within his church he cared for the hurting, but now that he was hurting and having a hard time, no one was reaching out to him. This disappointment with the throng who attended his church added to his disillusionment and growing depression. Because of what he was hearing from himself he had become unsocial, isolated, bitter and depressed. It was a downward spiral being fueled by what he was hearing from himself.

But he stopped listening to his own negativity. Maybe he realised that Negaitivity is loud, brazen, and proud. Just like an attention seeking precocious child, it doesn't exercise the usual modesty that well adjusted and disciplined children are trained to exercise. It jumps in front of people and tugs at their hands, eyes and hearts. And Negativity receives a lot of encouragement to keep up its disgraceful and childish behaviour. And amazingly, Negativity rarely has its bluff called. It interwines its disgusting language into the ordinary vocabulary of its victim so that it becomes unrecognizable. Meanwhile, its arch-enemy, Truth, is reserved, relatively quiet, calm, consistent, secure, and understated. It is also patient. Very patient. It will often wait for Negativity to wreak its damage before it seeks a hearing.

Truth caught the Psalmist's attention. It summoned him to stop listening to himself and to start talking to himself. The Psalmist addresses the core of his mind and heart (his "soul") by saying-
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?

Psalm 42:5a
Truth begins to fill the Psalmist's mouth-
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation
(Psa. 42:6) and my God.
Truth points the Psalmist to praise. Truth points the Psalmist to remember what God has done. Truth points the Psalmist to honest prayer. Have a look at Psalm 42. The next time you feel that Negativity has taken taken up its insidious position somewhere near your eardrum, just have a look in a Book for a less intrusive, but more necessary, chap called Truth. While Negativity is keenly interested in your ears, Truth is interested in your tongue. It coaches a tongue to be truthful. Rather than giving up on God when times are depressing, Truth takes us by the hand and says- "Go on, tell Him. Tell Him how you feel. Tell Him you're disappointed. But tell Him that even though it's difficult for you now, your desire is to always praise Him."
I say to God, my rock:
"Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?" 

Psalm 42:9
This Psalmist talked to himself - but he wasn't crazy. In fact, because he talked to himself, he wasn't crazy. The next time you feel like these sons of Korah, alone, rejected, abandoned, doubting, and scorned, stop listening to yourself and starting let Truth coach your tongue and start talking to yourself.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
Psalm 42:11

Father, help us to follow Christ well. May we understand in clearer terms the eternal consequences at stake in getting our foundations, fellowships and faith in good order. Cause us to be able to forgive others quickly and readily. Let no root of bitterness invade our souls. Fill our hearts with Your love for You, Your Word, and Your people. Fill our hearts, minds and souls with the Truth. In Jesus Name', Amen.
Eph. 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ps. Andrew