Friday, 27 June 2014

Religion And Politics

Religion & Politics Don't Mix and Other Myths
This is an introduction to the theology that leads to political engagement by Christians. It explores the notion of the separation of Church and State, how this has been misapplied and re-thought of by significant Christian leaders in the 18th, 20th, and 21st centuries. I conclude with a personal experience of what I consider positive political engagement looks like. - Andrew Corbett
Those who say religion and politics do not mix do not understand religion
They say art is the thermometer of culture. In this sense, politics might be seen as the barometer of culture. And we might add that Christians should be the thermostat of culture (not the thermometer of culture). By this we mean that art in its various forms - literature, music, visual art, movies, poetry, photography, and fashion, reflect what culture finds acceptable, disturbing, desirable, praiseworthy, and even beautiful. And politics is the popular affirmation (the essence of democracy) of a set of legislative policy agendas that give direction to a culture.

Germany, 1930sGermany in the 1930s is a case study in the interplay between artistic culture, political climate and the role of religion. It wasn't just that Adolf Hitler was evil. It was that he resonated with something not entirely righteous in the German culture. He became a barometric indicator of where Germany was now heading. When politicians feel public support for their raft of non-life policy agenda items, it is an indication of where our culture is heading. And when politicians take liberties with a non-life policy agenda, it actually feeds an indifferent culture with a diet to actually value non-life policies! And when this happens, it makes the Christian promotion of the Ultimate Life (eternal life) not only unappealing to a culture that increasingly values non-life, but repulsive! That's why we might say that politics is at least the barometer of a culture. This is why it is not only necessary for Christians to collectively work together to shape what culture values, but possible for Christians to do so - but not possible if we ignore what happens in our political spheres.

It seems that in the world's darkest moral hours, God's light shines through fewer but it does so more intently. Such was the case when Adolf Hitler was beginning to mesmerise Germany. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was from a privileged background and from an early age dedicated his life to Christ. While Hitler was merely a barometer of where Germany was going to head, Bonhoeffer was attempting to be a thermostat by challenging his ministerial colleagues to return to Scripture and see why they must collectively challenge the rise of the Nazi Party. But Bonhoeffer largely failed to convince his colleagues of the necessity to engage in the political arena.


Success in any field of life whether it be sport, business, politics, art, relationships, religion, or academics, is rarely just a matter of hard work. In fact, the most successful people in their particular field may not necessarily be the hardest working in their field. When someone has natural ability and divine gifting, it often means that this person has to work less! While nothing substitutes for hard work, there is something that leverages a person's hard work like nothing else can. If you can figure this out it can turn your frustration into adulation.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,
Galatians 4:4
Success in life, relationships, work, business, church, sport, school, more often than not belongs to those who understand when. Like millions of other people around the world, I'm watching Wimbledon at the moment (as I have done every year for the past 36 years). This Grand Slam tournament has not always been won by the best player in the field. And not every final at Wimbledon is the best match of the tournament. The players who win it have an ability to 'peak' at the right times. To win Wimbledon a player has to win 7 main draw matches in a row - but the most important of these matches is the 7th! If a player exerts themself too much in a match, they may not have much left for their next match.

The God we are in awe of, is a God who does things when the time is right. One of the key reasons His Son was a sucessful Saviour, was because He came to earth at the right time (Gal. 4:4). And when Christ came to earth, He understood the appropriate time for what to be done. He could have appeared in His public ministry from the age of 13, but He understood that the right time was when He was 30. He could have chosen to minister for 10 years to give His disciples the best possible training and grounding in Kingdom principles, but He chose to publicly minister for a year or two and spend only three years with His disciples. Knowing when seems to be one of the most important elements of success.
Rom. 5:6 ¶ For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
Mark 6:31
We recently remembered the gallant sacrifices made on D-Day (June 6th 1944). This is the day the Allied Forces landed on the beaches of Normandy. The planning for this day commenced in 1943. The timing of D-Day was imperative to its success. If they had landed in exactly the way either a day earlier or later, they would not have been successful and the loss of lives would have been inestimately higher.
Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."
John 11:32
God understands perfect timing. Remember that the next time you're looking to Him in prayer. And as you ponder His awe-inspiring timing and worship appropriately, consider that worship transforms the worshiper into the likeness of the One worshiped. Thus, your worship of the impeccable God will transform your concept of waiting from 'doing nothing' to one of the most important aspects of right timing. As Dr. F.W. Boreham has written, there is a great deal of difference between being still (waiting) and doing nothing. He tells of a man who had an uncanny ability for coaxing wildlife out where others had said there was no wildlife to be coaxed out. Asked how he did it, he responded that he always started early and found a suitable bush to hide in or behind, then he would wait. "For how long?" he was asked. "Usually after four or five hours some animals appear." Understanding timing involves grasping the importance of "When?" and the immense value of waiting.  

When I was young, I contracted Scarlet Fever. It meant I was off school for several months one particular year. Whether it had a lingering impact on my physical stamina or not, I'm not sure, but coincidentally from that time, I had chronic stamina issues that led doctors to wonder whether I was now hypoglycaemic. Up until this year I have been able to avoid bouts of exhaustion. But this week, I was again overcome with exhaustion (my second bout this year). When I suffer this kind of exhaustion I feel useless. I understand those who experience their bodies and minds doing involuntary things. I have great sympathy for those who battle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. My normal strategy is soldier on and press through. But this week I didn't have that option. I had to be still. In my stillness I was very aware that God uses these seasons to produce something that only these seasons can. Being still is not the same as doing nothing.
"Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!"

Psalm 46:10
The most successful churches understand together the power of when. They know that there are times to tackle certain issues, and there are times to elave them alone. There are times when Sundays should be given to special outreaches geared toward the non-churched and under-churched. But there are also times when a church must help its people go deeper into appreciating God's Word. There are times when a church has to concentrate on training the next generation and make allowances for people as they have a go and make mistakes.
¶ I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;

Psalm 130:5
In your life, I could confidently say that there has been unfairness. You've had times when you've worked hard and worked long for very little to show for it. This is frstrating. By learning that being still and waiting on God - is notwasting time, but is critical to success in life, love, family, work, business, sport, and with God, you begin to see thatright timing is not always easy to achieve but wrong timing is far too easy to find. Thinking about right timing reminds me of the story of the father who took his young son to the symphony. The son sat amazed at the vast array of instruments on the stage but none caught his imagination as much as the man with the cymbals. As the orchestra commenced, the starry-eyed boy gazed at the man in the suit with a cymbal strapped to each hand in the corner of the orchestra. Yet throughout the whole show the man with the cymbals did nothing. As the concert was coming to an end, the orchestra got louder and more passionate as they built toward their final crescendo and then suddenly the man in the tuxedo with the cymbals stood to his feet and separated his arms. The climax of their performance reached its most exciting point when suddenly the man with the cymbals smashed his cymbals together! The father took his son back stage to meet the orchestra. The boy met the man with the cymbals and asked him why he only got to use his instrument once. The man assured him that the secret to being a great cymbalist was knowing how towait and when to act. And I suspect that this advice is not limited to the realm of cymbals.

Ps. Andrew

Friday, 20 June 2014


tiredHave you ever met people who are always tired, never able to get things done, always running late, and misplacing everyday things? These are people who rush. They are often over-committed, always rushing, and slightly irritable. I'm sure you have, because there's so many of them. Here's where these dear folk went wrong...
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Matthew 11:28-29
Lady Goo GooThese precious folk have lost the art of resting. Pressure management coaches all say that whenever you rush something, it always takes longer! Strangely, whenever you rest well you always get more done!
And He [Jesus] said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
Mark 6:31
No one got more done than Jesus of Nazareth, yet He was never in a hurry.
Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."
John 11:32
RushingR - ready yourself (Build regular routines.Time taken to prepare well is never wasted time.)
E - eat nutritionally (a high sugar/carbohydrate diet can only bring temporary energy but longer term weariness.)
S - sow what you want to reap (your time, your talents, and your treasures.)
T - together (alone you can run faster but together you can run further!)
So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God,
Hebrews 4:9
The definition of rest 
Under the Old Covenant, God instituted a regulation for rest. This was called the sabbath. Under the New Covenant, Jesus is our Sabbath. In Him we rest. As Ps Phil Hills often says, "We work from rest rather than rest from work." 
Are you rushing or resting? Have you discovered the replenishing principles of the sabbath? Maybe it's time to slow down and instead of seeing Bible reading, prayer, and church attendance as diminishing your time, perhaps it's time to regard this time asseed being sown? 
Ps. Andrew

Friday, 13 June 2014

What On Earth Are You Good For?

What on earth are you good for?

What on earth are you good for? I can guarantee it is for a good reason. But in case you don't think it is, let me prove it to you.

People who felt of very little worth who have then put their trust in Christ have found their good reason for being on earth. Christ transforms people who feel that they are no good into people who do great good. He started doing this with a rag-tag bunch of Judean fisherman, zealots, and tax colectors.

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, "Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Matthew 10:5-6
Life Principle 1 ~ Connect WellMost people lack focus in their life. They spend their lives doing what they have to do rather than on what they can and should do. Jesus gave His first followers focus. When you spend your energies without without a sense that you are making a difference, it can leave you feeling unncessary and even useless. This is one of the most debilitating things that a person's soul can be afflicted with. But when you see your Saviour directing you, it gives your life focus. Before Jesus told His disciples to "Go!" He first told them to "Go to..." Jesus would rarely ask a new Christian to pack up their life and relocate to another part of the world and attempt to reach people who have a completely different language and culture. He told His first followers to start with their own community (Mtt. 10:6).

And proclaim as you go, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'
Matthew 10:7
As a follower of Christ your life focus starts by doing what you already do - connecting with people in your neighborhood and it then involves proclaiming. You already proclaim. We all proclaim. You are born and then reborn to proclaim. You can't notproclaim. Every person proclaims by:Life principle #2 - Share by proclaiming the kingdom of heaven
- choices and decisions they make.
- what they talk about most.
- what they keep silent about.
- what they wear.
- what they do with with their time.
- what they do with their money.
Christ calls us to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven. Too many people describe their lives as "hell". Followers of Christ are citizens of Heaven.
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ
Philippians 3:20
You may not think of your life or home as a taste of Heaven, but compared to what most in your neighborhood experience, it is! Even when you go through down or tough times, you may think that your witness is poor, but it is quite possibly then more than any other time that your neighbors are listening more closely to what you proclaim! You should live a life that causes those who watch it to question how you do it. Live a questionable life!
Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.
Matthew 10:8
Life principle 3 - Serve with your gifts to meet the needs of those around you"Heal the sick" is part of Christ's commission to meet the needs of a community. He didn't ask them to do anything they couldn't do. He gave His first followers gifts and then simply asked them to use these gifts among people who needed them. What do you find easy? Cooking? Sewing? Lawn-mowing? Child-minding? Tutoring? Whatever your answer to this question probably reveals the gifts that God has given you. The other thing that helps to reveal what gifts God has given you are the needs you see in your neighborhood. I feel I might have gifts of leadership, teaching, and discernment. I see needs in our community. You might have gifts to show compassion and empathy and readily see a need among teen-mums in our community (if you do, please talk to Heidi Sands of Baby Mum who is looking for some mentor-types to help with unwed teen Mums). You might have gifts of hospitality. Perhaps you see the need to connect with your nextdoor neighbours? This might result in you inviting them or your work-colleagues over for a BBQ at your place. Maybe you have the gift of teaching a rather patient disposition? You might look at the influx of non-English migrants and see a need you can meet. Christ calls His followers to serve. It's not much, but nearly 17 years ago our local tennis club was looking for someone to help coach the children of our children. I volunteered. Seventeen years later, I'm still there. I get a thrill everytime I see one of them come along to one of our church events like Carols By Candle-light. In Acts 9:36, Dorcas rates a special mention for the extraordinary good she did in her community through her ability to sew. Consider how you can serve others to meet some of the needs in our community.
Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food.
Matthew 10:9-10
So much of the good that has been done for the Kingdom of God has been undone by those who have served God yet succumbed to greed. Your life focus should never be about accruing wealth or serving merely to get.
And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.
Matthew 10:11
Life focus principle #4 - lead and be a positive influenceIn every community there is a person of significant influence. Jesus told His first followers to seek out such a person. This "man of peace" is someone who can open doors because of their widespread connections with others in the community. This person might be your neighbour who knows more of their neighbours in your street than you do. If you take the time to "greet" the people whom God brings across your path, you may be a vital part of accomplishing great good - in fact, eternal good.  We sometimes think good leadership must involve leading many. But good leadership involves influencing influencers. 

God has a good reason for you to be on this earth. He has given you the ability to do great good when you connect with people. You can do this! He wants you to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven - a realm where He is on the Throne, and calling all people to turn away from eternal harm and come to Him. He has also given you gifts that enable you to serve others and meet needs. We do this with pure motives. We don't do it to get / to grow our church / to be acclaimed / to benefit materially. And God has enabled you to influence at least one other person who has influence with others. These are the principles that Christ gave His first followers to live a focussed life of doing good on the earth.

Ps. Andrew

Friday, 6 June 2014


Many people now live in a world where everyone looks at them but no-one sees them. As strange as this is, it is also a world where many people have physical contact with them but no-one touches them. Added to these shameful blights, is that in this world many people say things to them but no-one talks to them! This is not how our Maker designed for us to interact. And a result of this, although we are designed to be nourished, satisfied and strengthened with someone truly seeing us, carefully touching us and appropriately speaking to us, we now live in a world of people who are weakened because they do not experience this triune source of strength.
And behold, one in the likeness of the children of man touched my lips. Then I opened my mouth and spoke. I said to him who stood before me, "O my lord, by reason of the vision pains have come upon me, and I retain no strength.
Daniel 10:16
People need someone to look at them. Jesus once asked His disgusted host, Simon the Pharisee, "Simon, do you see this woman?" (Luke 7:44) Of course Simon saw the woman! That's why he was so disgusted! But Jesus knew that there is a world of difference between looking at someone and looking at someone. How many people really see you. Everybody needs at least one person to see them. When the aged Daniel was at a low and confusing point in his life, someone saw him - this heavenly visitor looked not just at him but into him. Who sees (in) you? God has made women beautiful to look at. It is natural and right that a woman spends time accentuating her God-given beauty in how she grooms, clothes, and makes herself up. But God has made each woman extraordinarily beautiful intentionally for just 1, 2, or a few related men (her father, her husband, her brothers for example). It appears that when a women does not receive these rightfully deserved affirmations of her beauty, she goes to great lengths to show off her beauty and looks for affirmations from other sources. Of course this makes the role of a dad toward his daughter all the more critical.

This look came at a time in Daniel's life when he was particularly lonely, unaffirmed, and uncertain. It became a part of the cause of the strengthening that Daniel experienced.
Again one having the appearance of a man touched me and strengthened me.
Daniel 10:18
Daniel was strengthened not just with a look but with a touch as well. We are designed by our Maker to give and receive strength through touch. There are far too many people today who have been weakened beyond what's acceptable simply because they have not been appropriately or sufficiently touched. A handshake, a hug, a backslap, a hand on a shoulder, a kiss, have far more power than most of us realise. When women do not receive touches they may be tempted to invite inappropriate touches. (Dads, give your daughter a hug before day's end.)
How can my lord's servant talk with my lord? For now no strength remains in me, and no breath is left in me."
Daniel 10:17
A look, a touch, a word. Daniel's strengthening was made complete with a word.
And he said, "O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage." And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, "Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me."
Daniel 10:19
"He spoke to me, I was strenghtened" says Daniel. I used to say that there are no words that can help at this time when attempting to comfort the bereaved. I found myself saying this to myself (just as I had previously said it to hundreds of others) at the time we were shocked to be told that my father-in-law had suddenly died. Just as I was saying it to myself, I felt the gentle loving rebuke of the Holy Spirit reminding me that the ultimate comfort and source of strength can only come from words and that the greatest expression of this is the Bible. Since that time, I have never repeated the myth that words alone cannot heal, comfort, or strengthen.
God has given us eyes not just to see with but to understand with. "I see" is a way of saying, "I understand." But our eyes are not merely to see and understand things, they are primarily to see and understand those God places in our world.Helen Keller (who was born deaf and blind but was taught to read and write and communicate with others through touch) said that: There are none so blind as those who will not seeHelen Keller was an uncontrollable wild child - until someone looked at her. This someone was Annie Sullivan. She connected with Helen with a look, a touch and then a word. And the previously unteachable, uncontrollable, incommunicable young girl was set free and strengthened to be the curious, co-operative, talkative, thoughtful woman that she was destined to be. Because someone looked at her, touched her, and strengthened her with words, she-
... received many honors in recognition of her accomplishments, including the Theodore Roosevelt Distinguished Service Medal in 1936, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964, and election to the Women's Hall of Fame in 1965. She also received honorary doctoral degrees from Temple University and Harvard University and from the universities of Glasgow, Scotland; Berlin, Germany; Delhi, India; and Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Additionally, she was named an Honorary Fellow of the Educational Institute of Scotland.*
Our Maker has designed how we are strengthened. "Man does not live by bread alone" Jesus reminded us, "but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." A weakened person who craves the strength that can only come from a look, a touch, and a word, may think that their hunger for strength is satisfied by food. (Anyone noticed what's happened to obsesity rates in areas where the Maker's methods are ignored? See Phil. 3:19.)  Our Maker has meant for us to be in worshiping communities where we are strengthened by looks of real love from others, the tender touches of those who see us, and by words of life shared with us by those see and hold us. This is the air we breathe within the protective, healing, strengthening bounds of our local church. The world craves church. They crave what their Maker has designed for them: someone to truly see them, someone to tenderly touch them appropriately, and someone to speak deeply and sweetly into their soul. Without this triune source of strength feeding a person's soul, that person is left to look for strength in a bottle, a pill, a bed, a meal, or a needle. This futile hunt was powerfully captured in the movie Good Will Hunting.

Will Hunting was not loved by his father. Instead of looks of love, touches of tenderness and words of wisdom, Will's father looked at him with disgust, scorn and neglect. Instead of touches to comfort, reassure and heal, Will's father beat him spanners, electrical cords, chains and burned him repeatedly with lit cigarettes. Instead of words of life, encouragement, and wisdom, his father verbally abused him. Will grew up weak. We recognise his weakness as obvious in the way he scorned others, spoke to people with malice, and continually got into fights and treated girls as objects of lust. The next time you see a prickly person who's hard to like, consider that they might be a person craving the Maker's strength that comes from the Maker's agents who share a look, a touch, and word on His behalf. Will Hunting was dramtically strengthened when someone used the Maker's method. 

A community psychologist, Sean Maguire (played by Robin Williams) is the first person in Will's life to really look at him. It is Sean, who understands that Will has never been touched. (Many young men crave the fatherly touch of a man and in their weakened state of identity confusion are often taken advantage of by an older male predator - which only adds to their confusion.) Sean touches Will. And it is Sean Maguire who speaks to Will. Although many have spoken to Will Hunting throughout his twenty years, no-one has ever said anuthing to him. Sean Maguire corners Will in his office. He touches him tenderly on the shoulder. He says to him, "It's not your fault." Will doesn't hear him (although he hears Sean's words). "I know" he responds. "No. It's not your fault" says Maguire now with both hands on Will's shoulders. Will shruggs this off. Maguire moves closer, looks Will in the eye, and repeats his word to him. "Stop messing with me", says the tearing Will. Maguire moves closer to Will and Will breaks down. The two embrace and finally the strength that can only come from a look, a touch and a word, floods into Will's dry, empty, shrivalled soul. He has just experienced what the Maker's agents feast on each week in their church community.

I knowIt's not your fault Will.The moment of healing.

This is why meeting together each Sunday for church is more beneficial and strengthening than most of us realise. Hopefully I've shown you by now that those incidental parts of our Sunday congregational and Wednesday small group meetings are notincidental at all and that your presence is vital both for strengthening others and for being strengthened. The man looked at Daniel, touched Daniel, and spoke a word to Daniel, and he was strengthened. Couldn't you use some strengthening as well?

Ps. Andrew