Friday, 28 December 2012

Recovering From Hurt, Part 2


A hurting person is a broken person. A healed person is a whole person. In one of F.W. Boreham's essay's on Thomas Huxley, he demonstrates why he was not only a prince among preachers and writers but also a prince among pastors. Professor Thomas Huxley was a friend of Charles Darwin and was so vigorous in his defence of Darwinism and opposition to Christianity, that he became known as "Darwin's Bulldog". Christian leaders of his day would preach against him and rail from their podiums how Huxley was as "cold as ice and as hard as steel". But Boreham shows that Huxley was actually a broken man!

Four years after the birth of his son, Huxley experienced heart-break. He wrote in his journal Thursday: Played with my four year old son ... Friday: My son has taken ill ... Saturday: I carried my cold, lifeless son into my study ...Sunday: Scarlet Fever, God knows, Amen.

Thomas Huxley
Behind his appearance of ice and steel was deep hurt. They say that "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." But they are wrong! There is a pain that comes from disappointment, disloyalty, denouncing, and defamation that hurts far more than the pain caused by any stick or stone! Thomas Huxley felt that pain and shook his fist at God. F.W. Boreham masterfully points out that the contemporary Christians misinterpreted this fist-shaking as purely an intellectual objection to God, the Bible and Christianty - when in fact, it was in reality the ache of a broken man. He wonders how things might have been affected if someone hadpastored Thomas Huxley. That is, listened to him, shared with him a fuller revelation of God from the Scriptures, and prayed with him? (You don't need the title "pastor" to do this.) After the death of his beloved son, Thomas Huxley wrote "Amen" in his journal, locked it, and never opened it again.

¶ There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:1
The path to wholeness is wonderfully seen in Romans 8. A whole person is someone whose sins are forgiven and they now stand in Christ as a new creation (Romans 8:1-11). As a new creation, they have new ways to talk, new ways to react, and new ways to think (Romans 12:1-3).
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
As a hurt person, sometimes even the slightest criticism causes a reaction that is aggressive or deeply sullen. A whole person considers the criticism and evaluates it without malice toward their critic. A hurt person continually rehearses their hurt to others, whereas a whole person has chosen to put it behind them. Hurt people often withdraw from others. They either become independent, or overly dependent (thus continuing to set themselves up for disappointment). Worse still is when a hurt person finds another hurt person and they become co-dependent. This contrasts with a whole person who lives inter-dependently (relying on others and being relied upon).

It seems that Thomas Huxley never knew of the Saviour's willingness to forgive him especially since all he received from Christians was harsh judgment.

and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Romans 8:17
When you're broken, your resilience levels are extremely low. Whole people were broken people who had to learn to endure. Sometimes all you can do is just keep going. Romans 8:12-17 teaches that endurance requires a "putting to death" of fleshly )non-spiritual) desires and being led by the Holy Spirit. When you are led by the Holy Spirit you will discover that He calls you to walk humbly, love mercy, and to do justly which always involves treating people nicely who you would rather treat harshly. But the same Holy Spirit who calls us to reflect Christ in the way we treat others is the same Holy Spirit who helps us to do what He calls us to do.
so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Hebrews 6:12
The second step to becoming whole is learning to stand when you would ordinarily run to isolation, alcohol, your work, your toys, or your pills.
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.Ephesians 6:13
Thomas Huxley probably had no close models of Christian endurance. Today we desperately need followers of Christ to toughen up and endure rather than withdraw from Church or following Christ for the flimsiest of selfish reasons, and to actually model forgiveness and reconciliation rather than pettiness and victim-posture.


A person will be hurt and broken for as long as they deny what has really happened (or is happening). Romans 8:18-25 introduces the hurting person to reality. Romans 8:20 would have to be one of the prime candidates for most confronting Bible verse. It states, without apology, that life is full of "futility" (disappointment, heart-ache, betrayal, sickness, divorce, death, and so on). But Romans 8:20 doesn't just state the obvious. It points the hurting to "hope" in the One who actually subjected all of creation to this state of things.
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope.
Romans 8:20
Broken people struggle to accept that life is unfair at times. Whole people feel the same pain that hurt people do. But a whole person has life's setbacks sting them. A "sting" is pain that doesn't last. When a hurting person realises that bad things happen to good people, they are better able to process their pain. Victor Frankl, a survivor of the Holocaust Concrentration Camps, noted that the optimists were among the first to lose hope and die during their ordeal. Pessimists soon followed. It was the realists who stood the best chance of survival. Survivors of the Japanese Changi Prisoner of War Camp tell the same story. Facing reality, as unwelcomed as it may be, helps a person to become whole. This was dramatically demonstrated by former CIA Special Agent, Brian May, in the movie Taken, when he told his panicking daughter, "Listen to me...They are going to take you." Even though his daughter didn't want to hear that, she needed to hear it.

Thomas Huxley almost certainly did not understand this. He could not see any hope in the midst of his darkest hour - a time when a kind word, a listening ear, a heartfelt prayer may have made all the difference.


"Daddy! Catch me!" Ruby would cry out as she lept off a table into what she assumed would be my arms. It's no secret that my most often "go-to" verse in the Bible is Romans 8:28. In this section of Romans 8 (verses 26-31), we see that the fourth step to becoming whole is to trust God - despite our circumstances. Let the immensity of Romans 8:28 grab you by the shoulders and stare you down so that you are beckoned to look deep into its unfathomable eyes and get a glimpse of infinite peace.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28
Like Ruby, if you begin to get Romans 8:28 you'll probably be more inclined to jump off life's tables and into the divine arms of your Father. When the painful stuff of life happens, a hurting person questions God's claim to be God. But a whole person worships. Thomas Huxley once asked a Christian colleague why he trusted Christ. After listening to him Huxley remarked, "I'd give my right arm to believe that!" These are not the sentiments of a man of ice or steel, but of a hurt man.


Romans 8:32-39 is literally infinitely profound. The fifth step to becoming a whole person is to realise, really realise, really really realise, that God is love. And to then apprehend the profundity of this pre-emminent truth: God loves you! wholeperson rests in this sublimely magnificent fact. In fact, if you "get" this truth, you will have done steps 1-4 as well as step 5! In other words, you can almost bypass steps 1-4 if you do step 5 (although steps 1-4 result from doing step 5).
No matter what happens in life, good or bad (and good is often more testing), the whole person knows to the core of their soul that they are loved by God. Prophetically when writing to the Romans, Paul actually lists what the Emperor was about to do to them: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and sword (Rom. 8:37). In just a few years after Paul wrote Romans, Caesar Nero would take many of Paul's Romans recipients and impale them naked on tree posts and smother them in pitch to be lit as human candles to mark the way to the night games at the Colosseum. When this happened, Paul wanted these Roman believers to know-
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
Romans 8:38-39
It's a shame Thomas Huxley didn't know that God loved him. Recently, Jim Daly (the head of Focus On The Family) met with a prominent homosexual activist after inviting him out for a coffee. As they spoke, Daly saw the activist for the first time as a fellow human for whom Christ died. He writes-
"As our initial conversation drew to a close," Daly says, "I had felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to share a thought with my new friend. 'You know'—I addressed him by name—'God loves you just as much as He loves me. Do you know that?' There was silence across the table as this man dropped his head and looked off to the side. He wasn't able to say a word in response. But he didn't have to say anything. I saw tears in his eyes."
[Refocus: A Life That Reflects God's Heart]
It's a shame that Thomas Huxley didn't have someone like Jim Daly take him out for a coffee and share with him step 5. The challenge for us today though is that we are surrounded by so many broken and hurting people who need to know how to be genuinely whole and need to see models of what wholeness looks like.


Friday, 21 December 2012

When True Wisdom Appears

Some people fake Wisdom. In Paul's epistle to the Colossians he told them that fake wisdom and true wisdom have two different appearances. The shocking thing about Paul's distinction, is that what he describes as fake wisdom is usually, even today, thought of as true wisdom! And the problem with what he calls true wisdom, is that it is very boring! Before we discover how to be wiser in Paul's view, let's consider one of the oldest and greatest examples of wisdom.

Two prostitutes had babies.
¶ Then two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. The one woman said, "Oh, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house, and I gave birth to a child while she was in the house. Then on the third day after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth. And we were alone. There was no one else with us in the house; only we two were in the house. And this woman's son died in the night, because she lay on him. And she arose at midnight and took my son from beside me, while your servant slept, and laid him at her breast, and laid her dead son at my breast. When I rose in the morning to nurse my child, behold, he was dead. But when I looked at him closely in the morning, behold, he was not the child that I had borne." But the other woman said, "No, the living child is mine, and the dead child is yours." The first said, "No, the dead child is yours, and the living child is mine." Thus they spoke before the king.First Kings 3:16-22
Solomon's wisdom and judgment by RaphaelHow on earth could even wisdom resolve this problem? After all, Solomon wasn't there. There are no witnesses. And besides,some would scoff: they're just prostitutes so what does it matter? Given this impossibly difficult situation it's not wisdom that most people look for. Many people would rather pray and have God simply tell them straight up what to do. But Solomon's response was brilliant despite being initially shocking. Often the wisest course of action seems strange to those who can't see wisdom at work. King Solomon asked for asword to resolve this dispute!
¶ Then the king said, "The one says, 'This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead'; and the other says, 'No; but your son is dead, and my son is the living one.'" And the king said, "Bring me a sword." So a sword was brought before the king.
First Kings 3:23-24
Genuine wisdom has a God-glorifying flavour to it. Fake wisdom has a man-glorifying end to it. Genuine wisdom comes from God and causes its beholder to act humbly and at times: counter-intuitively. Certainly bringing a sword to resolve a dispute over the identity of a baby's mother seems a little counter-intuitive.
¶ And the king said, "Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other." First Kings 3:25
Solomon had no intention of hacking the baby with the sword. It was a test. Wise people conduct lots of tests. In a book that he contributed to, the Book of Proverbs, Solomon lists testing as one of the twelve ways to derive at a wise decision. In this instance the test was designed to reveal who the true mother was. And it did.
1Kings 3:26 Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because her heart yearned for her son, "Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means put him to death." But the other said, "He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him." Then the king answered and said, "Give the living child to the first woman, and by no means put him to death; she is his mother."
First Kings 3:26-27
This episode marked the beginning of Solomon's reputation as a wise man. The sad unfolding of Solomon's life is that despite starting out with the advantage of divine wisdom, he died a fool. Yet to most people who witnessed the latter part of his life, it appeared that Solomon was still incredibly wise. He wrote thousands of Proverbs, songs, poems, and scientific discoveries. Yet the latter part of his life was cloaked in fake wisdom. They are many wise-sounding teachers today who may have started out their journey with a spark of God-gifted wisdom but then forsook the truth of God's Word, His revealed wisdom, and began dispensing fake wisdom. It may sound wise to suggest that prayer should only ever be contemplative, but this wise sounding idea can not stand in the presence of the true wisdom of God's Word which invites us to present to God all of our requests and petitions in prayer (Philippians 4:6; 1John 5:15). It may sound wise to suggest that all religions will ultimately lead a person into eternal life in heaven, but it soons becomes apparent that this wisdom is a vile pretender when true wisdom enters the room.

The Apostle Paul knew that his beloved Colossian church was under attack from people employing fake wisdom. These people appeared to be wise - but they were not.
These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh."Colossians 2:23
His entire epistle to the Colossians is fueled by the pastoral desire for them not to be taken captive by these peddlers of fake wisdom. He contrasts this human wisdom, which he says merely has the appearance of wisdom, with God's wiisdom which is: a gift from God (Col. 1:9); the basis of true Biblical preaching about Christ (Col. 1:28); only found in Christ (Col. 2:3); the essence of true Christian fellowship (Col. 3:16); and the way in which we should be seen by the world (Col. 4:5).

There are many people promoting the appearance of wisdom today. They tell people that Jesus is not unique. They claim that following Jesus of Nazareth is only one of many ways to find God's approval and that any religion will ultimately get you to Heaven. They come up with clever ways of reading the Scriptures to make it sound like there will be no ultimate, final, and everlasting judgment on anyone. They reason that if God is love, and that surely love will win, that God would never really allow anyone to die in their sins (John 8:24). They assert that God is not really a Person, but a mere cosmic force and that we too are just expressions of that "universal force" which is why death is not really the end or even the beginning - it's just a doorway to the next reincarnated expression we morph into. To which Paul cries out to the Colossians - "Fake wisdom!" Against the backdrop of this first century fake wisdom, the Apostle speaks beyond his first century audience and into our present day.
¶ Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.
Colossians 3:5-6
Before Solomon experienced true wisdom, he had what only most of us could dream of. At the beginning of his reign God appeared to him and offered him anything he wanted. Wisely, he chose wisdom. Today we have a higher wisdom available to us in Christ. Don't settle for the false, man-made wisdom of self-appointed gurus - despite how large their TV audience is or how many Twitter followers they might have! You can begin to become familiar with this true wisdom as you open up His Book and allow it to cleanse, feed, and shape your mind. The next time you have a tricky decision to make, it's not so much a Word from Heaven you need, or man-made fake wisdom, but the true wisdom that comes being taught by the Spirit of God from God's Word resulting in a radical change of character. James calls fake wisdom "demonic"! And he calls true wisdom "pure".
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
James 3:14-17
Father God, please help us to be wise and grant us an increased desire to be washed, watered and wised by Your Word. Amen.
Ps. Andrew

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Becoming A Whole Person

Andrew Corbett

For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.
Matthew 9:21

Hurt people hurt people. We’ve all probably encountered that and perhaps we’ve even been the one doing the hurting. Being hurt hurts. But it can become a comfortable hurt. A hurt that we befriend. A hurt that makes us safe. A hurt that we can control. A hurt that gives us what we want. The process to becoming healed of this hurt can also hurt. And because it is an unfamiliar hurt, it creates anxiety. This causes the hurt person to blame-shift, to withdraw, and to become highly critical. Ironically, this makes helping hurt people really difficult. But it can be done.

Some people have only ever known hurt and pain. From the youngest age they were the victim. They felt that all they every really experienced was rejection, betrayal, and mocking from those they had a reasonable expectation of acceptance, loyalty and affirmation. For these people, wholeness has been allusive to the extent that as far as they know, they have never known it. The first step to healing for such hurt people is a clearer vision of what the map to wholeness looks like.

All hurt people travel with a map. From this map they derive the directions for navigating through their life. They come to certain “forks” in the road they are travelling on (which look like criticism or even a challenge, to anyone else). Their map marks these “forks in the roads” as attacks, or rejection, or pain. Their map suggests taking the high road. This road must be traversed by offence, anger, and slander

Whole people travel the same life journey but with a different map. They reach the same fork in the road but instead of their map marking these moments as attacks, rejection, pain, their map indicates growth, opportunity, and love. Their map suggests taking the low road. This road is traversed by humility, listening, and understanding. 

Many whole people were once hurt people. But they were blessed to have a glimpse of what wholeness looked like. When they saw it, it exposed their unforgiveness, malice, and withdrawal. It somehow revealed to them that each of those things were crippling them. This vision of wholeness encouraged them to use a different life-map. The next fork in the road was the hardest road-fork they had ever faced because they were so used to their fight or flight map that when they read their new map, its directions included: listening, blessing, teachableness, and even generosity! As a hurt person they had previously become defensive, spiteful and self-justifying. But their choice to be whole removed these responses from their map.

A whole person still feels pain - although they respond quite differently to a hurt person. A whole person still faces disappointment, disrespect, and disloyalty, yet they take the low road of blessing those who spitefully mistreat them. They hold their tongue - not because they really want to yell at the one standing in their way - but because they have chosen to listen first. Rather than become defensive, they become inquisitive. Although the criticism from another person stings, they treat it as a gift that might help them improve - rather than to let that sting fester into a serious hurt. At other times when someone expresses their displeasure with them they can reasonably assess whether this person’s opinion is what they use to define their identity or worth. In many cases, it will not be and in these instances they may find themselves quietly, but resolutely, disagreeing with their protagonist. And this introduces my final thought on achieving wholeness as a hurt person.

Whole people are neither dependent or independent people. Hurt people need other people. We all hurt from time to time and in those times we need the help of others. But some hurt people react by withdrawing from others and become independent. “I’ll never let anyone close to me again!” they silently vow to themselves. Of course, connecting two hurt people together often results in co-dependency. Hurt people in a co-dependent relationship feel that they both need the other person, and that the other person needs them. A whole person doesn’t allow someone else to become unreasonably dependent upon them. Even a parent knows that their infant child’s dependency upon them is reasonable for a season. A whole child will replicate their parent’s wholeness and grow to  become a reliable, dependable, interdependent adult. 

The Apostle Paul once lived as a hurt man. He then encountered Christ and became a whole man. He wrote to a people who were once hurt, the Colossians, and described to them the behaviour of hurt people.
But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 
Colossians 3:8-10
He then goes on to describe how whole people live-
¶ Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Colossians 3:12-14

And that’s one of the clearest visions a hurt person can have for what wholeness looks like. The only truly whole Person is the only Person who can truly help a hurt person to become a whole. Sometimes, because a hurt person is so down and feeling so low, all they can do is to reach out and up to just touch the hem of His presence (Matt. 9:21). But this simple act of praying can be the beginning of a journey to wholeness - a journey that Christ does not leave you to walk alone.

Andrew Corbett

Friday, 14 December 2012

The Why of Me

The WHY of Me

Ebenezer ErskineI'm preaching through the Gospel of Luke this month. As I've pondered the earthly life of Christ through Luke's account, several things stand out that have magnified the wonder of Christ to me.

Firstly, Luke was a Gentile but he felt it necessary to carefully use Jewish and Hebrew terminology to present Christ to his Gentile audience. He uses language that was not commonly in use by those who did not worship God. "Christ." "Son of Man." "Son of David." "Messiah." Sometimes we become overly-sensitive about using "Christian-ese" without realising that there is a richness to the language that rather being avoided should perhaps be explained to our audience. Here in Tasmania this is a growing challenge. We live in a state that has the highest rate of: "No Religion" ticked on the Census. Added to this, Tasmania has the highest rate of "absentee church members" in Australia (people who identify a church as their church but do not regularly attend). We also seem to have a somewhat hostile political climate that arguably scorns Christianity and Judeo-Christian values. Presenting an accurate picture of Jesus to a culture not familiar with the Bible is a growing challenge for us.
And blessed is the one who is not offended by meLuke 7:23
Sure, we could reinvent Jesus and "re-package" Him to a world more likely accept a kind, sensitive, misundertood, troubled, social worker. But this is not the Jesus that Luke is presenting to the world. Luke's Jesus is the One foretold by the Prophets. He is the One who came not to primarily set up relief-programs or give the world Millennium Goals. He came to save people enslaved, blinded, poisoned, and corrupted by self-deceiving-yet-enticing sin!
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
Luke 19:10
The second stand-out thing in Luke's account of Christ is just how much he wants his Gentile audience to become familiar with the Scriptures. He uses the established language of the Old Testament. He quotes frequently from it. And he then culminates his Gospel with this spiritual appetite whetting citation from The Christ -
¶ Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled."Luke 24:44
Everything in the Old Testament was written about Me, Jesus said. Wow. With this one verse in his Gospel, Luke has just taken a pinch of salt and sprinkled in the spiritual mouths of his readers. Imagine being a Gentile unfamiliar with the Old Testament Scriptures and you've just read that! Everything in the Law of Moses - all the ceremonies, all the animal sacrifices, the layout of the Tabernacle, the conquest of Canaan, and the ministry of the prophets - point to Jesus!
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
Luke 24:27
F.W. Boreham writes in A Handful Of Stars, that many people miss the point of the Bible. Why read the Bible? Jesus gave a profoundly simple answer: Me. And F.W. Boreham suggests that this sublimely simple answer to the why question is confused by readers who are looking for laws to keep when they read the Bible. They are looking for the Bible's Prohibitions (Thou shalt not...) - the things that God forbids. They may ignore the Precepts (Thou shalt...) - the things that God commands be done. To read your Bible like this is to live as a pauper while have a million dollars in your bank account! "Everything written about Me" Jesus said. The Bible is firstly about a Person, not Prohibitions or even Precepts.

Why do people join Christ's church? For worship? Being a worshiper is high and noble calling. For fellowship? Being in fellowship is needed. We are told to worship The Christ. We are told not to neglect to fellowship (Heb. 10:25). But before we are called to worship or fellowship, we are called to follow Christ. We could call ourselves a Christian and worship Christ but if we are not following Christ, we are a Christian in name only. We could call ourselves a Christian and fellowship with other believers but if we are not following Christ we are deluded into thinking that our mere associations make us a Christian.
They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?"Luke 24:32
Luke's Gospel present Jesus as Someone foretold in the ancient Scriptures. He presents Jesus quoting the Scriptures. He then closes his Gospel with the bold claim that all Scripture actually about Jesus! If we want to follow Jesus we must search for Him in the Scriptures. F.W. Boreham says that we must approach the Scriptures in the right order: The Person, The Precepts, The Prohibitions. By seeing the Person of the Scriptures our hearts are glowing with a warmth to do the Precepts of the Bible, and then are hearts feel revolt for the very things that the Scriptures Prohibit. We devote ourselves to the Person of Jesus. We delight to do His will. We despise those things He warns against. The order is important. The "why" is not a "what" but a "Who".
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures
Luke 24:45
Open your Bible today and you'll be opening more than a book. Join me in Luke this Sunday and it will cause you to join with Him on Monday. Why read the Bible? Because Jesus said, "It speaks of Me." The Why of Me is really the Why of Him.

Andrew Corbett

Friday, 7 December 2012



Geoff, Kim and I recently walked the Overland Track (from Dove Lake to Lake Saint Claire). On a walk like that you soon (re-)discover where your strengths and abilities lie. As I trudged along as Kim bounded along, I was glad to take any available opportunity for a break. Kimhowever was keen to not only do the Overland Track (again) but to take as many of the sidetracks as possible. This included climbing some of Tasmania's highest peaks. Geoff was invited to join in the mountaineering side-trips and declined each time. Out of sheer pastoral concern and sympathy for Geoff I agreed not to abandon him as Kim set off each time to clamber. As I observed Geoff resting with his baggage through the slits of my eyes, it reminded me of King David's early military career and just how relevant it is for today's church.

Before King David was King David, he was a type of mercenary army commander. But his "army" was a motley crew.
And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. And he became commander over them. And there were with him about four hundred men.  
First Samuel 22:2
Distressed, debted, discontented. Not exactly an army commander's first choice for his platoon! But this was what David had to work with. And it soon became obvious that despite their willingness to be in his army, not all of them were cut-out to be front-line soldiers.

On our 80km, 5 day hike, I witnessed many people thoroughly enjoying the experience. They seemed to soak in every sight, every sound, every smell. What ever inconvenienced them faded dimly into the background as they revelled in the joy of traipsing over rocks, up steep hills, through streams, down gullies, and across moors. Unlike me, these people were made for walking and walking and walking. In a church there a parallels to this. What is for some people with the gift of helps can be an utter delight, can be for those with the gift of giving a dreary drudge. What is an enriching experience for those with the gift of preaching can be a traumatic nightmare for those with the gift of mercy. 
David and his commandos had returned to their village to discover that the Amalekites had raided it.
¶ Now when David and his men came to Ziklag on the third day, the Amalekites had made a raid against the Negeb and against Ziklag. They had overcome Ziklag and burned it with fire and taken captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great. They killed no one, but carried them off and went their way.
First Samuel 30:1-2
Church Growth IdeasThe Bible tells us that David and his men wept till they had no more strength to weep. They were all overcome by exhaustion. Disappointment can have that physical affect on a soul. Disappointment plus exhaustion is a horrible chemical mix for a team. Soon, all the people were talking of stoning David! This was obviously not rational. They were blaming David for their setback! In their great distress (remember, these were already "distressed" and broken men when they joined with David) they now saw David (not the Amalekites!!!) as the source of their predicament. How would you have responded to a a situation like this?
And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.First Samuel 30:6
David sought strength from God. He was renewed mentally (he could now think clearly and wisely). He was renewed spiritually (his soul was now unsettled in the presence of the Almighty One). He was renewed physically (our bodies can be energized by non-physical means).
And David inquired of the LORD, "Shall I pursue after this band? Shall I overtake them?" He answered him, "Pursue, for you shall surely overtake and shall surely rescue."
First Samuel 30:8
As I sat, somewhat exhausted, at the foot of Mount Pelion East, I was reflecting on David's daring course of action from this point, and the new set of problems it caused. It seems that every time in church-life we take a positive course of action that it is potentially creating an unforeseen problem for some others. For example, just before I left for my hike I was asked about how we are going to roster our Christmas Day Service. Afterall, who wants to be doing "extra-curricula" activity on such a holiday? By rostering some of our team on for Christmas Day we are running the risk of using already tired and perhaps distracted people becoming even more tired and distracted. And then there's Easter in around 120 days or so from now. We face similar problems as a leadership. Like David, the window of time to act is very small. Like David, most of our teams are already made of somewhat exhausted people. Like David, we hear God say "Pursue ... overtake... hurry" Like David found, not everyone on the team can contribute equally. 
The main delight I experience in doing a long bushwalk is knowing that Kim has thoroughly enjoyed herself. I carry in 20+ kg backpack, some of the food needed for the trek, the cooking implements, and a few other incidentals. By doing this, I am contributing in a small way to making it possible for Kim to do such walks. Not that it's entirely needed on these sort of tracks, but I also provide protection for our baggage when she sets off up short mountain side-track trails. But in King David's case, those who were carrying and guarding the baggage were fulfilling a vital role of preserving the whole army's assets.
So David set out, and the six hundred men who were with him, and they came to the brook Besor, where those who were left behind stayed. But David pursued, he and four hundred men. Two hundred stayed behind, who were too exhausted to cross the brook Besor.First Samuel 30:9-10
Swimming off the jetty at Narcissus Hut, Overland TrackAll of David's 600 men were exhausted but 200 of them were too exhausted to continue so they stopped pursuing and remained with the baggage. Sometime life gets like that doesn't it. We are at times exhausted or even too exhausted yet the need to pursueurgently certain tasks is ever present. On our recent bushwalk there were more times than my manly pride will allow me to admit that I wanted to take a rest rather than keep up with superKim. In those moments of aching weariness I had to keep focussed on keeping going - pursuing. 
David strengthened himself in God and was able to rise to the challenge of not pursuing but finishing the task. When he eventually caught up with the Amalakite raiders his mission was only half complete. Please forgive me but sometimes I only complete things within our church by halves. I preach a message and sometime err by thinking my mission is done as I fail to complete the mission through challenging, confronting, or inviting people to respond. Or even worse, I preach but then fail to pray that the preaching might linger and be effective in producing the kind of change God calls for. David caught up with the Amalakites. But he still didn't have his goods or his family back! We can build a nice building, prepare a great worship or outreach service, present wonderful music and messages, but allow our exhaustion to keep us from completing the task: summoning lost sinners to be reconciled to their God. 
Overland Track, TasmaniaAmalakite raids don't happen often. But when they do they are nearly always most inconvenient. The times when God calls us to especially step up and pursue a mission are often the times when we are most exhausted, distressed, disillussioned, disappointed or indebted. Such was the case when William Carey embarked on his great mission to India and when Hudson Taylor embarked on his mission to China and William Wilberforce embarked on his mission to reform England, and when Christ went to the Cross. Each Christmas and Easter, it is the case with many of us. But thank God that Carey went to India and laid a foundation for over 300,000,000 people to come to Christ. Thank God that Hudson Taylor went to China were he laid a foundation that today sees over 10,000 Chinese a week come to Christ. And thank God that Wilberforce went so that millions of souls have now had the freedom to come to Christ.
David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken, and David rescued his two wives. Nothing was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that had been taken. David brought back all.  David also captured all the flocks and herds, and the people drove the livestock before him, and said, "This is David's spoil."
First Samuel 30:18-20
Now that I have completed another 5 day walk, I run the ever-present risk of bragging about my achievements and making those who have not done it feel inferior, or worse still, those who have attempted it - but not completed it - feel like failures. The reality is though, that I barelycompleted and most of the time I was struggling and glad of the opportunity to look after the baggage. In what might seem a surprising twist in the David story, those who did not go on with him to slay the Amalakites and recover what was their's, were not seen as slackers and in fact, some of those who actually did go with him and actually did fight were called wicked because of their attitude toward others less capable. These seemingly victorious yet apparently "wicked and worthless" warrirors felt that those who remained behind with the baggage did not contribute to their victory and should therefore not share in the spoils of victory.
Then all the wicked and worthless fellows among the men who had gone with David said, "Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except that each man may lead away his wife and children, and depart."
First Samuel 30:22
It's too easy in church-life to feel that those who aren't on the front-line of serving arenot contributing to the overall war-effort and desired victory. But this is dead wrong. At Legana we desperately need more baggage minders. Minding baggage can look like tweaking the sound, opening the door, distributing the communion, serving a cup of tea, washing up, weeding, sweeping, counting the offering, preparing a roster, and most especially praying. We need more people to celebrate the wonderful joy that God has given them to preserve our God-given resources (our "baggage") through serving others in what is non-front-line ways. And for the rest of us who can put on our boots and keep pursuing (though we are exhausted at the time), let us not think that our privileged roles are anymore important than those mind our baggage.
Who would listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down into the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage. They shall share alike." And he made it a statute and a rule for Israel from that day forward to this day.First Samuel 30:24-25
David wasn't inventing a new principle. God had inscribed this principle in the Law (Numbers 31:27). It shows that God can call someone into "ministry" and yet that ministry may not involve the typical front-line activities of standing before a conregation and speaking or even directing them. The apostle Paul had something to say about this also. In Romans 12 he lists how God has comprised the church with people bearing different gifts, talents, ministries, and abilities. Some, he may as well have said, will be called by God mind the baggage while the rest race off to pursue a very small window of opportunity to redeem that which is rightfully God's. 
Yesterday as I was at the airport on my way to film some interviews for the F.W. Boreham documentary, the Melbourne Football Club was in the Virgin Airlines' Lounge. What was interesting was not just that the team comprised of the players - but that the team also included non-playing team members. They had massuers, statisticians, first-aiders, admin staff, a really fat guy, and a few others. Interestingly, they all wore exactly the same team uniform. Even Football Teams understand that there's more to a victory than just what happens on a football field. It's a healthy church that can apply this same principle. If you feel like you've been left out or left behind in the mission of our church, don't just sit with the baggage - mind the baggage by praying fervently, serving diligently, and giving generously so that our victory can be made possible.

Friday, 23 November 2012

A Renewed Mind Transformed A Nation


Ebenezer ErskineThe young Ebenezer followed his father, the Rev. Henry Erskine, to their old kirk in 1690 for the Catechism Class. The children were drilled in the questions, but F.W. Boreham tells us that young Ebenezer was struck by the answer to the 43rd Question of the Shorter Catechism which starts with I am the Lord thy God. These words were planted deep into the mind of Ebenezer and would take a further twenty or so years before they would germinate.
Following in his father's footsteps, Ebenezer became a pastor at Portmoak, Scotland.
"I began my ministry without much zeal, callously and mechanically, being swallowed up in unbelief and in rebellion against God." Ebenezer Erskine
F.W. Boreham tells us-
'He feels no enthusiasm for the Bible; indeed, the New Testament positively wearies him. His sermons are long and formal; he learns them by heart and repeats them parrot-fashion, taking care to look, not into the faces of his people, but at a certain nail in the opposite wall.'
A HANDFUL OF STARS, page 58, Dr. F.W. Boreham
But Ebenezer's understanding of God and His Word was about to dramatically change. His wife, who knew God, prayed fervently for her husband to meet Christ. She then took seriously ill. The fever gripped her. She begain speaking to her husband in her delirium and "her words were wild and passionate." She spoke of the Lord and His dealings. Her husband was pierced "to his soul." As she lay on her death-bed, Ebenezer cried out to the God he did not know.
"At last, the Lord was pleased to calm her spirit and give her a sweet serenity of mind. This, I think was the first time that ever I felt the Lord touching my heart in a sensible manner. Her distress and her deliverance were blessed to me. Some few weeks after, she and I were sitting together in my study, and while we were conversing about the things of God, the Lord was pleased to rend the veil and to give me a glimmering view of salvation which made my soul to acquiesce in Christ as the new and living way to glory.".From the Diary of Ebenezer Erskine
The words of the Catechism: I am the Lord! I am your God. I am the Lord your God - gripped the mind of Ebenezer. These words of Scripture transformed his mind.
¶ Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2
Despite being religious, Ebenezer Erskine was lost. Then the Lord, the Lord his God, gripped his mind. He realised that the Lord God had a rightful claim on his life. He discovered that what he was taught in his childhood was no mere religious program, but life! Parents should ever be mindful that what they teach their children by word or by deed may take years before it germinates!

Ten years after his conversion the full impact of what Christ had done in his thinking was felt by congregation when he preached not from notes, not from rehearsal - but from his soul as he gazed through the eyes of those in his congregation into souls and declared that God is their God, their Lord, and that Lord thy God was their God! This sermon would go down in history as one of the greatest ever preached in Scotland. Ultimately he would lead to one of the greatness spiritual revivals Scotland had ever witnessed. All because a father sowed a seed of Scripture into his son, a praying wife pervently interceded for her husband, and the Lord God intervened.
Trusting in the Lord thy God,
Onward go! onward go!
Holding fast His promised word,
Onward go!
Ne'er deny His worthy name,
Tho' it bring reproach and shame;
Spreading still His wondrous fame,
Onward go!
"ONWARD GO!" Ira D. Sankey, 1881
¶ Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.
First Corinthians 14:20

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Redeeming Left-Handers

The Bible For Left-Handers
by Dr. Andrew Corbett 21st November 2012
There are some obscure verses in the Bible that seem to make is difficult for anyone claiming that every word of the Bible is inspired. These obscure verses tend to pop-up through the Old Testament. Some of them seem random. Some of them seem out of place. Take Judges 20:16 as an example-
Among all these were 700 chosen men who were left-handed; every one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.
Judges 20:16
Understanding The BibleSome people who believe the Bible to be divinely inspired resolve these obscure verses by using a combination of ignoring them and ascribing to them a "lesser" divine inspiration. But if the Bible's own claims about itself are taken seriously, then this approach can not be reconciled with such claims.
One of the primary claims of the Bible is that it is uniquely authoritative (2Timothy 3:16-17)...[continue reading]

Thursday, 15 November 2012



Joseph Scriven was in love. The day before his wedding he had arranged to meet his bride-to-be for a romantic tryst just outside Dublin. As she rode her trusty horse over the bridge where her love was waiting for her on the other side, the horse was startled and bucked her off into the River Bann below where she drowned. He wrote to his mother that his world had collapsed. He recovered and fell in love with Miss Falconer whom he intended to marry only to have his rival steal her heart. Heart-broken he left for Canada. He eventually fell in love again. But just before he married, his fiancé suddenly contracted pneumonia and died. He then wrote another letter to his mother that would be immortalized in verse for generations to come.
Joseph Scriven undoubtedly asked God "Why!?" It's a question that is asked which invites a non-verbal response, such as a hug, or simply time given listening to the anger, doubts, and frustrations of the hurt. Many people have found God in such inexplicable pain and loss. In asking God "Why?!" they soon discover that what they thought was God's silence was actually God's response. Us ponderous types tend to analyse and dispense theoretical answers to such questions from the hurt and broken who are battling the tragic loss or dibilitating injury of a loved one, while the more wiser among us are not entering into such vain exercises. Instead, they are making meals, mowing lawns, baby-siting children, washing clothes and answering phone calls. In the midst of Joseph Scriven's pain he found solace in not being the beneficiary of love but the giver of it.
He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. Second Corinthians 1:4 THE MESSAGE
Joseph Scriven found Christ in the eye of his storm. He began to look for opportunities to serve. He was seen around Port Hope, Ontario, chopping wood and milking cows to help certain widows out.
Scriven became a familiar sight around Port Hope, a big man with bushy white hair and full white beard, carrying a buck and a bucksaw, offering to cut wood for anyone who was unable to cut his own or pay someone to do it for him. But he wouldn't cut wood for hire.
History of Port Hope, Ontario, Canada*
Battling heart-ache, grief, troubles, disappointments, discouragements, temptations, and sorrows, Mr Scriven found Christ as his Healer, Burden-Bearer, Refuge and Solace. I was reminded of these things today after I had my morning meditation from Second Timothy where the aged apostle Paul lists those who had either "left" him, "betrayed" him, or "damaged" him.
¶ You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes...For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.Second Timothy 1:154:10
Despite all that had happened to Joseph Scriven, he turned to Christ rather thanfrom Christ. It is utterly bewildering that someone would be let down by a fellow believer and turn away from Christ! Firstly, it is not only possible to continue to love someone who has disappointed you and let you down - it is imperative that you do so. A casual reading of Colossians 3:12-14 seems to demand that our loving each other be done against the backdrop of reasons for strained relationships with each other. The next time you are offended by, disappointed with, angry about, another Christian, don't burn the relationship! Especially don't curse your church because of it. Rather, turn to Christ for the grace and strength to be able to fulfil Colossians 3:12-14 (and Romans 12:9-21). Secondly, don't hold Biblically uninformed views about what you can expect from those you love or those who love you. It is very possible for those who love you to let you down. Someone can still love you even though they disappoint you. Joseph Scriven found all of this to be true.
¶ Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive..
Colossians 3:12-13
These difficult experiences caused Joseph Scriven to pen these words to his mother-
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.
Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
Are we weak and heavy laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Saviour, still our refuge
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He'll take and shield thee
Thou wilt find a solace there.
"No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you."
John 15:15

Monday, 12 November 2012


What does it mean to be a Christian? Recently a minor Party Senator criticised Christians for voicing concerns over her Party’s policy agenda. She claimed that Christians should stop preaching “at” people because Christianity was really about helping the poor. Her claim was bolstered by a recent delegation of nearly 200 Christian ministers who agreed with her! But she’s not the only Politician to think that Christianity is merely about improving social conditions.

Just before Prime Minister John Howard lost power, his opponent was interviewed about being a Christian. He said that his Christianity was like that of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (the German pastor who withstood Hitler, was jailed for nearly three years by the Nazis and was executed at the command of Hitler- Hitler’s final command - which he gave two days before he committed suicide and the War consequently ended). Bonhoeffer, stated this politician, did not see Christianity as being about converting people. Rather, Christianity was about opposing injustice - which is why this German pastor withstood Hitler at the cost of his own life. If elected Prime Minister, this politician would promote Christianity as a force for social justice - not converting people “like evangelicals”!
It’s one thing for politicians to not understand what Christianity is about, but it’s quite another matter for so-called Christian ministers! Today there is a growing number of such ministers who deny that anyone need to be “converted” in order to become a Christian. For those of us who do know what a Christian is and care about how Christianity is understood, we are faced with the challenge of not only defending it - but getting on with it!
In John Bunyan’s unequalled classic, Pilgrim’s Progress, he tells of a man who prayed. As a result of praying he becomes aware of the burden on his back. This man realises that no matter how hard he tries he cannot free himself from this burden. He embarks on a journey to find relief and becomes Pilgrim. He meets Evangelist who points him to a hill called Golgotha. It is there that he meets the bleeding Saviour. As he gazes into the face of Jesus he cries out, "For me He dies! For me He dies!" The burden of sin, guilt and shame snaps off his back and rolls down the hill. At that point Pilgrim is converted! So firmly did Bunyan believe that Christianity only began with conversion that he was prepared to be jailed for that belief for some 17 years! 
Theologically, a Universalist believes that everyone is saved without having been converted. They base this idea on verses like Romans 5:15 which compares Adam’s sin condemning everyone with Christ’s death saving everyone. If the Universalists are correct, then Evangelicals are wasting their time preaching for people to be converted and should  instead be concentrating on helping the poor. But Universalists must ignore much Scripture and history to come to this conclusion. But what’s more concerning is this: if they are wrong their error has dire eternal consequences for millions of people.

To be converted to Christianity is a dramatic spiritual change. It is described as being “translated” (‘transferred’) from darkness to light (Col. 1:13; 1Pet. 2:9), brought from death to life (Eph. 2:1-5) and being “born again” (John 3:3).  
We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.
1John 3:14
The problem that the Universalist faces in sustaining their case from Scripture is: Scripture. Reading all of Romans 5 it becomes apparent that the salvation achieved by Christ is available to every person through the preaching of the Gospel to those who “receive the abundance of God’s grace” (Rom. 5:17). Salvation must be “received”. But this is not the only problem the Universalist must deal with. Not only does the Bible affirm that all people are in the grip of sin’s tyranny, human experience down through history confirms every time someone does something evil to other humans. But the same testimony of human experience points us to literally millions of examples of people who have been converted, some dramatically, to Christianity.
Conversion involves a change of heart, mind, spirit and will. It is not merely “turning over a new leaf” or “making a New Year’s resolution”. It is rather a miraculous transformation by the Holy Spirit which begins with a recognition of a person’s sinful guilt. This is called “conviction”. The Holy Spirit then opens that person’s heart to the Gospel where they receive God’s grace and forgiveness as they are enabled by the Holy Spirit to repent.
It appears in Scripture that God generally uses three broad approaches to lead people to repentance. Firstly, Romans 2:4 says that God uses kindness to lead people to repentance.
Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
Romans 2:4
Secondly, it appears that God uses miracles to bring people to repentance. Christ expresses His disappointment that many of the cities in which He performed miracles did not repent-
Then Jesus began to denounce the cities where he had done most of his miracles, because they hadn’t turned from their sins and turned to God. 
Matthew 11:20
Thirdly, God uses tragedy to bring people to repentance. 
God is in the business of conversion. He loves to convert people. He loves to rescue those who cry out to Him in humility. To those people, including Parliamentarians, who ridicule us Evangelicals for promoting Christianity by conversion, converted people like Apostle Paul, C.S. Lewis, and Andrew Corbett present a problem. It might also be worth noting that Dietrich Bonhoeffer would sound a loud "Amen!" He made this extremely clear in his book "Life Together" where he stressed the need for conversion and pointed out that the Christian community should only be considered as being constituted of those who have been converted. 
Phillip Adams, one of Australia’s most renowned ABC media personalities and an avid atheist, spoke at a Pastors’ Conference. He stated what should never have to be stated by atheist to a group of Christian leaders: If I believed what you claimed to believe that eternity, heaven and hell, and the need to be converted - I would be shouting it from the rooftops and I wouldn’t care who ridiculed or opposed me in the process!
It is my prayer that we will see many thousands of people authentically converted to Christ all around the world. It’s one thing to claim that we believe everyone needs to be converted in order to become a Christian - but it’s an entirely different thing to live like we believe it!

© Dr. Andrew Corbett