Thursday, 27 October 2011

How A Christian Can Overcome Anger

Anger is common to us all. It arises when we are sharply disappointed. There are some things we should be angry about such as injustice, wickedness, corruption, abuse, oppression, and dishonesty. But for some people, anger has become a character trait. That is, they have become very "short-fused". And it's ugly. They get angry too often and for too little. As bad as this is, it is even worse when a Christian is afflicted with anger...

Unhealthy anger robs the Christian of spiritual beauty. It greatly diminishes the Christian's spiritual sensitivity to God.
Matt. 5:22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire.
Anger is not always bad. It can motivate a person to action. It can fuel a timid person with extraordinary confidence. But it can also be unhealthy when it is no longer for a noble purpose, or expressed in a considered manner.

Counselors and Psychologists offer several basic techniques for helping people to deal with anger. These include, behavioural therapy (counting under your breath, going for a walk, spending time alone to cool off). These indeed can be helpful, but there is else for the Christian to consider when anger is out of control.

Unhealthy anger can express itself as rage, depression, frustration or aggression. It might lead to yelling, over-eating, or alcohol-abuse. In every case, it is a focus issue. Unhealthy anger summons our attention. It steals our focus. I blinds our good senses. Consider the opposite of both anger and its effects-
- peace, joy, contentment, relaxation
- patience, moderation, self-control.
How can the Christian diminish the grip of unhealthy anger? Consider the words above (which are the opposite of anger and its effects). To diminish unhealthy anger we might need to find how we can cultivate: peace, joy, contentment, relaxation, patience, moderation and self-control. The Christian has a grossly unfair advantage when it comes to cultivating these. The Psalms reveal it; The Gospels model it; The Epistles explain it:Worship God.

For the Christian, unhealthy anger is not merely a behavioural issue, it's a worship issue. The effects of unhealthy anger, rage, depression, over-eating, alcohol-abuse, are really symptoms of misplaced worship. When we worship God we are expressing our surrender to Him. We re-affirming our trust of Him. We are declaring that God is good, His plan is good, His love for us is great, and our need for Him is greater. When we worship God we come into His presence where the Psalmist says is fulness of joy, the apostle says is incomprehensible peace, and the Revelator says that God's presence is the place of all power.

This is one of the reasons why it is critical to worship God in church on Sundays. It's true that we can worship God individually and in private - and we should do this daily by prayer and devotional reading of Scripture - but worshiping in church with fellow worshipers reminds us that life is not just about "me and God" it's intrinsically about "God with us". It provides the right seed-bed of humility for worship by singing together, praying together, partaking of Communion together, giving attention to the Preached Word together. Because we regard all of these things as "worship" we don't think of worship as just being the singing component of our Worship Service.

Worship of God in humility is a powerful antidote to anger. The next time you begin to feel anger rising, take a moment to worship God - "Oh God, I worship You. I need you right now. Please be my peace. Take my hand right now and lead me through this. Please bless those who are upsetting me right now. Lord, I want to glorify You in how I respond to this disappointment. 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, 21 October 2011


God thunders wondrously with his voice;
he does great things that we cannot comprehend.
Job 37:5
We often ascribe infinity to God. We describe His love as "infinite" love. We talk of His power as "infinite" power. But this is not quite the Biblical concept of God. In fact, neither the word nor the concept is used in the Bible to describe God. Rather, God is "Omni" ("all") - Omnipotent (All-Powerful); Omniscient (All-Knowing); and Omnipresent (Present everywhere). But compared to what we know and can do - God is Infinite!

F.W. Boreham loved the word "inifinite" to describe God. He linked it with another two unfathomable words- immensity and eternity. For F.W. Boreham this is what made God not only unique but utterly adorable. If I had my time over, FWB wrote, I would write and talk less about what God has done and concentrate almost entirely who God is. And these three inscrutable words summed up for the great Christian Essayist just why he felt this way. Yet, strictly speaking God is not "infinite". He is, rather, "all" (omni).

"Infinity" doesn't exist. It's a made up concept. That's one reason why it' wrong to describe God as infinite. Infinity is also impossible. By definition it can never be reached. God is not like this at all. He wants to be reached. Inifinity is never satisfied. God on the other hand is the very source of satisfaction. Infinity teases the learner by saying there's more to learn. God has nothing to learn because He is omniscient.

This God whom we worship is so far beyond anything we can think or even imagine that He seems to us to be infinite in every way. As we ponder this and marvel, there is possible only one other attribute of God that is even more amazing. God is not only infinitely great; not only eternal; not only immeasurably immense; He is imminent.
Rather than describing God with the awkward and uncomfortable word, infinite, we perhaps are more apt to describe God as "transcendent". This beautiful word pictures God as so far above us in every way. But there is an even more arcane word to describe God which makes the word transcendent stand to one side. It is the glorious word that should fill us to overflowing with hope every minute of the day: God is imminent!
How remarkable! How amazing! How aweful! Not only is God seemingly infinitely more knowledgeable than us, more powerful than us, more wise than us, more loving than us, more patient than us, more forgiving than us, more just than us, more compassionate than us - He is here! This is what imminent means. He is close. He is not merely "above" us, He is beside us.

The Prophet Isaiah stunned the world when He declared that God would one day reveal Himself not again as "El" (Almighty God) but asImmanuel (God is here 'immanu'=near, 'el'=Almighty God). Ponder the greatness of God and you'll probably resort to the technically incorrect word "infinite" to describe Him. Continue to ponder in awe and wonder as you (to steal a Star Trek phrase:) go to warp-speed in your admiration of God when you realise that He is imminent. Unlike the word infinite, imminent is an extremely accurate word to describe God. Right now as you read this, God is near you. You are just one breathed prayer away from the Omnipotent God we reasonably consider to be The Infinite One. He cares. He carries. He calls. He catches. Be struck by God's imminence and as you draw near to Him you almost certainly conclude that compared to our weak estate, God is relatively infinite.
Father, we join with the Psalmist and declare that You are far above us. You are all-together majestic. You are All-powerful. Truly as Jeremiah said- NOTHING IS TOO HARD FOR YOU! You are awesome. You are amazing. You are incomparably wise. I pray for those who are in a dark place at the moment, that they might experience Your imminence, 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, 14 October 2011

My Cloak, The Books, But Especially The Parchments...

My Cloak, The Books, But Especially The Parchments...
When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.
Second Timothy 4:13
As a pastor I have the privilege of being invited by people into their lives where very few others are welcome. You would be forgiven for thinking that as a pastor I might consider that the answer to every dark night of the soul is to pray harder. But I have come to realise that God has not just made us "spirits", He has created us with hearts and minds that also play a role in our well being. This is why the aged Apostle wanted his cloak, his books and his parchments at the lowest point in his life.

Being literally in a dark place, Paul knew that this depression would not merely be resolved by prayer alone. There were physical issues to deal with. This is why he wanted his cloak. Sometimes we are so sleep-deprived that no matter many pills we pop, or prayers we pray, or shots we drink, our world still seems dark. Sometimes our diets are so full of preservatives and manufactured chemicals that no matter visits we make to our therapist, or chants we make with crossed legs, we are still in a dark place. Sometimes are down-times just need a warm, familiar "cloak" to help us to get some sleep in a damp, dark prison cell.

Then again, while we can get adequate sleep, eat the right kind of a balanced diet, and physically exercise, we must also guardour minds. Paul needed his books. So much of how we feel actually starts between our ears. What we allow into our minds nearly always determines our outlook on life. And the person who fills their mind with ungodly amusement (a= "no" + muse= "to think") and deprives their mind of God's Life-Giving Word, is likely to experience darkness of mind. In the midst Paul's darkness in his prison cell, he could needed his books. What books are you reading at the moment? Do the books you are currently reading cause you to muse ("think")? Good reading can stimulate a darkened mind. This is what John Bunyan found in the 17th century when he was imprisoned for preaching the Gospel. He had his books. It's how Dietrich Bonhoeffer staved off the darkness of his Nazi jail cell. He hadhis books. Good books have a way clearing the fog in our minds. Paul had physical needs that his cloak could satisfy. But while his cloak could warm his body, it could not fire up his mind like his books. If you're feeling down, read a good book. Start with your Bible. Read a Psalm each day. Get a copy of Tim Keller's, Prodigal God. It is a good book. Get an F.W. Boreham book. They are all good books.

But we humans are not just bodies with minds. We are also creatures of heart. This is why Paul wanted his parchments - those letters written to him. These parchments poured something into his heart. They were the sentiments from one heart to his heart. His cloak could warm his body. His books could warm his mind. But his parchments could warm his heart. We all have physical needs, intellectual needs, but especially emotional needs. We all needparchments to warm our hearts. I have two particular files. In one file I keep complaints written to me. This file is large and thick (although it stopped being enlarged a few years ago for reasons that I am tempted to go into now but must resist the temptation for a more appropriate ocassion). The other file is my encouragement file. It is quite thin and not very large. But its contents do immeasurably more than its larger thicker cousin. Yet I do not regard this file as my parchments. My parchments are at home. Some are in a special drawer and comprise of handmade Fathers' Day cards, birthday cards, the ocassional Christmas card, and love letters I have received (all from the same person).
If you are enjoying life and finding it easy to be excited about everything - you're probably someone who is physically well, intellectually stimulated and emotionally replenished. But if your're not in that place. Maybe you need someone to bring you your cloak, your books and parchments.

Father, I pray for those who are in a dark place at the moment, that they might experience physical wellness. Refresh them with sweet sleep, healthy food, and adequate shelter. May they also be blessed with challenging books to fill, renew, and challenge their minds to be able to give you glory. And Father, satisfy their aching hearts with a kind word, an accepting look, and an affirming touch, 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, 7 October 2011


...and the house that is to be built for the LORD must be exceedingly magnificent, of fame and glory throughout all lands...
First Chronicles 22:5
Deserted Island ChurchesThe story goes like this...rescuers finally arrive after years of fruitless searching. They find the man on a deserted island and notice that he's constructed 3 buildings. After enquiring, the man tells them, "Well the first building is my house and the building near it is my church." "But what about that third building?" they ask. "Oh that's the church I used to go to!" It appears that church disruptions can happen in churches of even one person!

Naturally this (hopefully) made-up story is a little nonsensical. Because 1 person alone does not constitute "church"...

The Devil hates the ChurchGod loves it. Satan detests it. It's not merely a physical housing - but something of eternal substance:redeemed believers. When someone believes in Christ, they become united to His body, the Church - expressed locally by the gathering of believers under authority, to worship together, to partake of Communion, to be instructed, to encourage one another and to introduce people to Christ. Believing in Christ is not a solitary exercise! Not only did Jesus say that He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10) but He simultaneously stated He came to "build My Church" (Matt. 16:18). God loves the local church. Satan abhors it!

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul could write to the Corinthian church, who we know were a messed up lot - with complex baggage brought into their walk with Christ and is the reason Paul wrote to them in the first place, yet he take God's perspective and write-
2Corinthians 7:16 I rejoice, because I have perfect confidence in you.
Church as a Quarantine for HeavenChurch is like the Quarantine for Heaven. In one respect, you can't leave this life on earth and go directly to Heaven. You obviously have to come to Christ in this life because He is the only means of having our spiritually contagious cancer healed. But in normal circumstance, He doesn't take you straight to Heaven, rather, He places us in "spiritual quarantine" (the local church). It is in this Spiritual Quarantine that we are prepared for Heaven.

In Heaven we will serve Christ. Therefore, in Christ's Spiritual Quarantine He calls us to serve now. Read the teaching of Christ in the Gospels and you can't miss the emphasis Christ placed on this and the supreme example He set for it. Before we get to Heaven we must practice serving here on earth, but firstly in the Spiritual Quarantine of Christ's local church.

In Heaven we will sing our worship. Therefore, in Christ's Spiritual Quarantine He calls us to worship now. Christ sang with His disciples because He loved to worship His Father (Matt. 26:30). Before we get to Heaven, where we will sing our worship to our God for eternity, we are called to practice now in the gathering of the local church. Our worship is of course not just done by singing. In Heaven we will be to talk with God face-to-face for eternity. In the meantime, we are called to practise this now by praying together. In fact, if Christ's Spiritual Quarantine smells of something, it smells of the sweet fragrance of prayer. This is why one of the most important things we do as a church is to pray together in our Sunday night service. As a shepherd in the Quarantine, I can tell whose hearts God has touched and anointed for leadership within the church by observing our Sunday night prayer times. Godly leaders love God's House (the Quarantine) which Jesus angrily cried out was to be: "a House of prayer!" (Mark 11:17).

In Heaven we will discover things about God through the revelation of His Word to us. Therefore, we are called to give our minds to the teaching of God's Word in the Spiritual Quarantine of Christ, the local church. This is why we place so much emphasis on the sound teaching of God's Word, the Bible. There is a major trend today in some "trendy" churches to dismantle the Quarantine aspect of church and avoid the serious topics and teachings of the Bible in the pursuit of being "relevant". But as Ravi Zacharias says, "It is the truth that makes what you say relevant. If what you say is not grounded in truth - no matter how relevant you sound - you are irrelevant!"

But there's two matters that the Spiritual Quarantine must also deal with because we won't be able to deal with them in Heaven.

Firstly, in Heaven we will beholding the Omni-generous God, who has given all. He calls us to give in this life. He has ordained that His provision is given through His Quarantined people. Our giving enables the Quarantine to operate more effectively by increasing its capacity. Christ wants more Quarantines and He wants the existing Quarantines to cater for more people who want to be made fit for heaven.

Secondly, in Heaven we will not be able to witness to the lost about the Saviour. Christ calls us (read: "commissions us") to unashamedly bear witness to not-yet-Christ-believers and to pray that our witness will be fruitful and effective. It is my daily prayer that Christ use me to bring people to belief in Christ. Throughout each day, I pour my energies into doing whatever I can to either bring people to Christ, or to assist others who are also trying to do this. When I was a teenager, I had a powerful encounter with God. I was so deeply moved after I was baptised in the Holy Spirit with a profound burden for the lost that I dedicated my life to God to reach as many people as I could for Christ. This led me to the streets of Geelong each Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights where I would hand out Gospel tracts and preach to whoever would listen. I could never have imagined then that I would be preaching to thousands each week through radio and the internet. But in the midst of all this, I'm still praying for my neighbours, my students, my tennis buddies and those that I come into contact with and strike up a conversation with. Added to this I am extremely sensitive every Sunday when we have visitors and I am preaching perhaps the last time they'll ever hear the Gospel.
Psalm 84:1 ¶ How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD of hosts!
Christ loves His church. The Devil despises it! The Church is a living reminder to the Devil that Christ rose from the dead and is continuing His two-fold mission of saving the lost and building His church! Little wonder the Devil does all he can do to undermine the church. The local church is not an optional extra for those claiming to be a believer. Even a light reading the New Testament will leave the new believer realising that the 22 epistles refers to "one another" over 40 times, and "together" over 20 times. It employs these precious terms in one of its last epistles when it says-
Hebrews 10:25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
What a glorious reminder that the Church is not a sterile duty - no, it's a Quarantine of health and life that fits us for Heaven and places us in partnership with Christ as He seeks to win the lost of our Valley. This is why we meet each Sunday to worship, witness, and receive the Word. It's why we meet Sunday nights in particular to pray, testify and minister to one another. It's why we meet through the week in homes to study and reflect on God's Word, to share with each other our needs, and to support each other. By doing this we are helping to build not just a Holy, healthy life-giving Quarantine, but a "house that is to be built for the LORD must be exceedingly magnificent." This is what I have given my life for.
Father, help me to pastor your House with Your wisdom and Your strength. I pray that I might use every available means to spread Your life-saving Gospel. I pray that we as a church might have a great burden for the lost and do all we can by prayer, church-building, and personal witnessing to help bring these people to Christ, 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