Friday, 29 August 2014


Grace Explained

What do you have to do to become a Christian? It is, of course, a trick question. The reason for this is that being made right with God has nothing to do with anything a person can do. Being made right with God is an act of God's grace. It is this act of God's grace which produces a relationship with God. Christianity is spelt - DONEThis relationship, like a natural relationship between parent and child, is not the result of the child's efforts. Those who teach that people must do certain things to have a relationship with God clearly do not understand the indispensible role of God and His grace to make this relationship possible. But those who confuse relationship with God with fellowship with God similarly do not sufficiently understand the grace of God.
Aseity and Grace
Grace is the unique trait of Christianity. All (other) religions and philosophies are non-gracious in that they require some act/s of devotion from their devotees to obtain what the claim is right standing before God - but not Christianity. Christianity's message is that God has done all the acts necessary to bring people into a right standing with God. While religions (and distorted versions of Christianity) teach that God did this so that He could gain from this fellowship with mankind, Biblically-informed Christianity teaches that man is the solebeneficiary of what God has done.

God has aseityNo person or their efforts can add any value to God or His worth! This is because God has aseity. This is the quality of 'needing nothing' not merely in the sense of 'contentment', but in the sense of absolutely complete, self-sufficient. God doesn'tneed mankind, neither does He need mankind's permission, invitation, petition, or direction. God alone has aseity. Then why has been gracious to us? Because of His great and infinitely undeserved love toward us. Consider this truth the next time you hear someone declare that God can't do something (bring revival, heal a sickness, save a soul) because people are not letting Him / inviting Him / praying enough / worshiping long and intensely enough ... and then compare these appeals with what the Bible actually teaches about God's grace and His aseity.
But Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Matthew 19:26
Grace is the unique trait of ChristianityAccepting God's grace is the only means of being made right with God. This is where God reaches out to a person who is spiritually 'dead' (that is, infintely estranged from Him) and enables them to be reconciled to Him (Eph. 2:1-5). This is why it is utter self-deception for a person to believe that they acceptable to God without ever being reconciled to Him by a received act of His grace.
"For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ."
Romans 5:17
God's grace awakens a person's conscience to feel as it should. This awakened conscience experiences the conviction of sin. This sense of conviction of sin is the result of God's grace in a person. It leads a person to cry out to God for forgiveness and then enables them to then turn from sin toward God ('repentance'). Thus, repentance (a 180° turn around) is a gift from God.
When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life."
Acts 11:18
Antinomiansim and graceIf we can only be brought into right relationship with God by His grace, then it sounds logical to say that our relationship with God could never be established, sustained or enhanced by any of our efforts. Many very popular preachers have built their ministries on this apparent Biblical fact of grace. The grace of God which brings a person into relationship with God has nothing to do with our performance - it is despite our performance! If you are trying to convince God that He made the right decision in forgiving and saving you by performing a level of religious devotion and service within the Church you are going to burn yourself out, suffer misery, and languish in self-loathing. May Paul's prayer for the Ephesians in 1:17-18 be my prayer for you - that the eyes of your understanding might be opened to the wonderful work of God in saving you. But God's grace doesn't stop with your salvation. God's grace enables you to fellowship with God. And I suspect that this is what many so-called "Grace teachers" confuse when they fail to make the distinction between relationship and fellowship.

I have a relationship with my wife. It's called marriage. Fortunately, for me, she's also my bestess friend. But when I neglect her, ourfellowship is strained. Restoring my fellowship with her requires intentional time, focus, sincerity, listening and talking, and taking a renewed interest in her. Fellowship is not performance-based but it is the result of the choices we make and the level to which we are prepared to sacrifice those things that detract from it. Thus, when a Pastor urges his congregation to forsake compromise, engage more with the Scriptures in their private devotions, spend more intentional time in prayer, make sacrifices to attend Sunday church services, he is not preaching "salvation by works", rather he is pointing out what always hinders a believer's fellowship with God and shedding light of God's grace onto how this can be addressed. Even his ministering of the Scriptures highlighting each of these exhortations from the New Testament is itself a work of grace in his hearers' souls. To claim that God's saving grace means that a believer never has to work or strive to develop their fellowship with God is to ignore those Scriptures which plainly state that working (Eph. 2:10) and striving (Luke 13:24; Rom. 15:30; 1Cor. 14:12; 1im. 4:10) are indeed required in following Christ (as distinct frombecoming a follower of Christ).
For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
First Tim 4:10
Exempt from God's Laws is not what grace is aboutThe idea that followers of Christ are exempt from keeping God's laws because they have been saved by grace is called "antinomianism" ('against the Law'). The Law was never designed to save a soul. The Law's purpose was to reveal the glory of God. When the first of the Ten Commandments thunders that there are no other gods but the True God, it is giving due glory to God. When the Law statutes against murder, it is reinforcing that God's image and glory are seen in those who bear His image. Thus, the Law reveals what falling short of the glory of God looks like (Rom. 3:23) and brings a person to recognise their sin and thus their need for God's forgiveness.
¶ What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet."
Romans 7:7
The New Covenant did not make any of the Moral Laws of God (expressed in the Ten Commandments) obsolete. On the contrary, the New Testament restates each the commandments and Christ is the Ultimate Sabbath Rest (Matt. 11:28; Heb. 4:1ff).

Grace is not opposed to Law. Rather, grace causes the believer to delight in the Law. It is by God's grace that God's Laws are now written on the believer's heart.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
Hebrews 8:10
After being with my wife for more than twenty-seven years, I know what she likes and doesn't like. I'd like to share the secret of how I discovered this: she told me. Because I love her, I don't want to do what she doesn't like. But would she still be my wife if I did do those things she didn't like? That is, would we still have a relationship if I caused her grief? Of course. We would still have our relationship of marriage. But would our fellowship be affected? From painful experience over nearly three decades I can conclusively report: Yes it is. What if she told me what she wanted from me in order to develop our fellowship (like, "Spend time with me!" "If you're going to be late for dinner, let me know!" "I told you that in confidence! Don't share with others what is only for your ears!"), would she be "legalistic"? Would I be justified in responding to her, "Honey, those things sound like rules, and our relationship is not based on rules but is based on love and grace."? Of course not! Thus, when a preacher urges those he is charged to love/protect/feed to spend time in God's Word every day, not to neglect weekly Sunday worship with the church (Heb. 10:25), take time out to pray, be generous, share your faith in Christ, not to use foul language, not to allow anger in, avoid idolatrous addictions - they are not being "legalistic", and the believer whose heart is yearning to know God and please Him doesn't ever hear those things as hindering their relationship with their Heavenly Daddy. Instead, they hear them as a King's request for Bethlehem's well-water.
And David said longingly, "Oh, that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!" Then the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate and carried and brought it to David. But he would not drink of it. He poured it out to the LORD.
Second Samuel 23:15-16
Ungraciousness does not promote God's graceOne final thought for those who are sharply criticising those of us who make this distinction between between relationship by God's grace (Eph. 2:8-9) and fellowship empowered by God's grace (Eph. 2:10; 2Cor. 9:8). Do you realise how you sound when you ridicule/mock/denounce preachers like myself when you do so on your blogs, Facebook walls, and YouTube channels? I personally find it bizarre that often the most viralent promoters of divine grace are too often quite among the most ungracious toward those they disagree with. The venom and nastiness with which they promote the love, kindness and grace of God while attacking those who call for holiness is quite literally disgraceful. Surely the measure of how much a believer appreciates God's grace is seen in how they they display that same grace to others?
so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Second Thessalonians 1:12
Ps. Andrew

Thursday, 21 August 2014


Why is Anna so greatly honoured? This is the question raging in too few circles. Some people are honoured in their generation. (This mostly happens for a day or two.) Fewer people though enjoy being honoured throughout the duration of their generation. But only a very small number of people are honoured throughout two millennia of generations, and even fewer who are such honoured are additionally honoured by people from every nation over that same time. Anna is one such person who unsuspectingly breathes this rarest of air. The reason for her acknowledged greatness always surprises those who discover it.
Fame sometimes brings fleeting honour. Noble achievements often brings deserved and prolonged honour. But what causes a person to be honoured perpetually - for millenniums around the world? The kinds of achievements that perhaps warrant this kind of honour are usually exercised by Kings, Emperors, political or religious leaders. Besides these elites, people who achieve the extraordinary are duly honoured by their nations. But Anna was none of these and didn't do any of the feats that most people would call extraordinary. Yet she is honoured still to this day in the pages of the world's most sacred text.
¶ There was also a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old, having been married to her husband for seven years until his death.
Luke 2:36
Anna probably had hopes and expectations for her future just as every other young woman does when they start their married life. But tragedy struck early for Anna. Life can sometimes take unexpected turns - even for a prophet or a prophetess. Her groom became ill shortly after they married, and in just a few short years, all her hopes of children and eventually grandchildren vanished when he died. It was perhaps then that the Lord began to speak sweetly to her heart about the Child that was to come - 'the Redemption of Jerusalem'.  
And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem."
Luke 2:38
By the time Anna saw the Child, she had waited over 60 years for the promised moment. She had kept herself sexually pure as a virgin until her marriage as Scriptures instructs. She had every reason to believe that because she was faithful to God that He would bless her and her marriage. But it seemed to all that God had let down! For a Hebrew woman, becoming a mother was a position of great honour and badge of God's blessing upon them. She was denied this. The other women in the city could only coldly speculate as to why God would deny her this blessing. (People's gossip and misunderstanding can be a most cruel burden to endure.) But Anna did what cannot come naturally when she was faced with this horrible adversity: she went to the Temple and worshipped God. I say 'unnatural' because it requires a deep work by the Holy Spirit in the heart of a person. Anna was such a person.

Too many people who profess faith in God, when facing adverse life-circumstances (such as busyness, tiredness, financial pressure, sport, visit by family), are lured away from church attendance. Like King David before her, when faced with deep sorrow, rather than shake a clenched fist at God - she raised her open and surrendered hands to God. Trials don't change people - trials reveal people. And while many people are enthusiastic for the things of God immediately after their conversion but then begin to wane as time goes on, Anna exhibitedabiding commitment to the House of God. Some people get excited about church when the crowds are there. But Anna's love for God and His House was not based on how many joined her. Anna was continually in the House of God worshiping the Lord.
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.
Luke 2:37
Anna knew God. She recognised that her body was a sacred gift from God. She learned to hear from God and to excercise her gift of prophecy to bless others. She grew in her trust and adoration of God and reflected this love for God by loving what He loved. She was faithful in attending the House of God. She developed in the spiritual disciplines, most especially in prayer (at a stage when many older women feel that they are of no use to God anymore) while in the House of God. She was honoured by God to see the fulfilment of His promise to her that she would behold the Child. And for all this she was honoured by God as He inspired the divine record of His Son's early stages of life on earth as the incarnate yet eternal Son of Man. Added to this cause for great honour, the Scriptures go on to say that after she had seen Israel's promised Redeemer, she boldly told everyone that He was now aong them.
And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
Luke 2:38
You are never 'wasting' time when you worship like Anna. Attendance at church is most worshipful when it is passionate, consistently regular, prayerful, gift-pooling, and evangelistic. Whether there is a handful of people, or hundreds of people, makes no difference to those who worship like Anna. Whether you 'see' God every time you enter the House of God or not, makes no difference to the one worshiping like Anna, because they have learned that they can see God more clearly with their eyes closed anyway. Whether you are up the front or obscured in the middle of the congregation doesn't change the fact for those who worship like Anna - God always sees us when we are in His House honouring Him. Put all of these factors together and you soon realise why God's smile rested upon Anna and He chose to greatly honour her.

Ps. Andrew

Thursday, 14 August 2014


Being a pastor is probably the greatest job in the world. This is especially true when a pastor is blessed with a loving, Christ-centred, Word-hungry, Spirit-filled church - like the one I pastor. And this privileged job comes with some incredible opportunities to grow in some challenging ways. I get to hear people's stories. I have the sacred trust of stewarding people's souls and it's in their souls that some of the most passionate dramas are played out! These experiences have helped me to learn how to care, how to listen, but most importantly how to begin to understand another person. Against this backdrop, I occasionally see others who don't enjoy this privilege and end up creating utterly avoidable conflict. I want to share with you (what now draws on the learning of several decades of experience) some things I have learned about other people.
¶ But Moses said to the people of Gad and to the people of Reuben, "Shall your brothers go to the war while you sit here? Why will you discourage the heart of the people of Israel from going over into the land that the LORD has given them? "
Number 32:6-7
"Shall your brothers go to the war while you sit here?" Before they had even finished explaining to Moses what their intention was, Moses had alreadyassumed it! But incorrectly! Of course, Moses is not the only one to do this. Weall do it all the time. We hear half of the story. We think we heard their story. Worse still, we think we already know what their story is - and we haven't even heard it yet! When some of the clans of Gad and Rueben came to Moses to ask for pasture and home land on the east of the Jordan, he assumed that they were saying, "We don't want to be a part of this nation anymore." Eventually, after Moses calmed down, they were able to clarify with him that this was notwhat they were saying at all. But a generation later, Moses' successors hadn't learnt the lesson either...
¶ And when they came to the region of the Jordan that is in the land of Canaan, the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh built there an altar by the Jordan, an altar of imposing size.
And the people of Israel heard it said, "Behold, the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have built the altar at the frontier of the land of Canaan, in the region about the Jordan, on the side that belongs to the people of Israel."
And when the people of Israel heard of it, the whole assembly of the people of Israel gathered at Shiloh to make war against them.

Joshua 22:10-11
When these clans from Gad, Manasseh, and Rueben decided to build a memorial altar, their countrymen assumed that they had set up an illegal sacrificial altar, and prepared to muster their battled-hardened troops to take action again those east of the Jordan. This is an all-too-common type of reaction by those who assume rather than understand. When people jump to conclusions about what they think someone else's motives are, the end result is more often than not and fractured relationship and hurt. It wasn't until the Promise-Land-Israelites actually talked with - and heard - their East-of-the-Jordan brothers that this potential dispute was diffused. 
Josh. 22:21 ¶ Then the people of Reuben, the people of Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh said in answer to the heads of the families of Israel, "The Mighty One, God, the LORD! The Mighty One, God, the LORD! He knows; and let Israel itself know! If it was in rebellion or in breach of faith against the LORD, do not spare us today for building an altar to turn away from following the LORD. Or if we did so to offer burnt offerings or grain offerings or peace offerings on it, may the LORD himself take vengeance. No, but we did it from fear that in time to come your children might say to our children, 'What have you to do with the LORD, the God of Israel? For the LORD has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you, you people of Reuben and people of Gad. You have no portion in the LORD.' So your children might make our children cease to worship the LORD.
Therefore we said, 'Let us now build an altar, not for burnt offering, nor for sacrifice,
but to be a witness between us and you, and between our generations after us, that we do perform the service of the LORD in his presence with our burnt offerings and sacrifices and peace offerings, so your children will not say to our children in time to come, "You have no portion in the LORD."'
Joshua 22:21-27
After the leaders of Israel heard this explanation their response was, they "... heard the words that the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the people of Manasseh spoke, it was good in their eyes." (Josh. 22:30) There are too many angry fathers who explode at the children before listening to them. There are too many angry husbands who explode at their wives without everhearing them first. There are too many managers and employers who verbally tear their staff apart without ever giving them the opportunity to explain themselves first. The Bible provides these stories to show us a better way to avoid and navigate such conflicts.

I spend a good deal of time with a couple preparing them for marriage largely concentrating in this one area: learn to understand the other person. This involves language-learning (everyone has their own language), the three types of listening, seeking to understand first, and separating the issue from the person.

Throughout my life I can reflect on those deeply painful moments when I have not sought to understand or listen to someone before I reacted based on my assumptions about them and their actions. Even more painfully - far more painfully - is when others have assumed to know my motives and assumed the worst. An older and much wiser retiring pastor said to me nearly twenty-five years ago that I could look forward to a pastoral career where I would be more misunderstood than most, and the object of otherwise calm people's anger and the opportunity to perpetrate more regrets than most would experience. As he shared from his experiences as a pastor he said that it was only later in his life and ministry that he realised that people treated him as God's representative. Thus, when they were disappointed with God, or angry with God, or feeling that God didn't really care, they would take it out on him and accuse him of being a disappointment and express their anger at him for being uncaring. The secret in these instances was to seek to truly understand why people were doing this and love them anyway. By understanding that a hurting person often wants to hurt someone, he was able to ignore their offences and minister the love, grace, and goodness of God to their wounded souls. The next time some prickly person comes across your path, or someone you love does something out of character, consider the other side of them: their heart, and seek to discover what's really in it, not what you think is in it.
¶ Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,
Philippians 1:27
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
Hebrews 12:14
Ps. Andrew

Thursday, 7 August 2014

The Genie Jesus Crisis

Change aheadIf some high-profile preachers are right, Jesus wants to give you whatever you ask for. They also preach that Jesus isn't "against"  anything, rather He is a positive thinker who only focuses on positive matters. Someone recently said that if this Jesus had been the actual Jesus who walked the shores of Galilee in the first century, He would never have been crucified - because He would never have offended anybody! It's almost as if Jesus has been reduced to the status of a Genie and these preachers tell their thousands of fans how to 'rub the bottle' and get Jesus to grant them their wishes. While this 'Genie Jesus' might sound like an extreme example of how some people treat Jesus, the more common (and arguably more perilous) distortion is when people treat Jesus as Saviour without treating Him as Lord!
For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough!
Second Corinthians 11:4
Jesus wants you to follow Him, not just on Twitter, but in life.Reinventing Jesus seems to have become a kind of industry today. It's not only charlatans trying to make a buck who have distorted the Biblical Jesus into some kind of Genie Jesus, but there are now non-Christian activists who are attempting to portray Jesus as Someone who was tolerant, non-discriminatory, and endorsing of (or at least silent about) their lifestyles. This commits the same kind of perilous error that some celebrity preachers make: it reduces Jesus into our agenda. It demonstrates an utter lack of understanding of who Jesus is and what it means to follow Him. It diminishes Christ to occasional relevance. Jesus can never be reduced or diminished to occasional relevance. He has no interest in being a segment of someone's life. He does not compromise on what He expects from people - and what He expects is not being religious! You cannot equate following Jesus of Nazareth with merely 'being religious'. He doesn't ask for a segment of our lives. He doesn't ask for an hour and a half a week. He doesn't even ask for a portion of your income. He summons His creation to be reconciled to Him and to begin to live as we were designed.
¶ Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."
Matthew 16:24
Face palming JesusGenuine commitment to Christ is never about trying to get Him to be our 'Genie'. Of course, His offer of salvation from our sins - resulting in eternal life enjoyed in Paradise is an attractive deal - reasonably too good to refuse. We are the beneficiaries. We gain greatly. For some, their lives get so far off track that they turn to Jesus to rescue them - to save them. But when we receive Jesus Christ as our Saviour it is by accepting the only offer Christ makes- to receive Him as Lord. 'Accepting' requires surrender. The person who receives Christ has accepted that He has gently conquered them. They are no long treating Jesus like a Genie or as the Activists do who distort Christ's teachings into unrecognisability.
because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Romans 10:9
At the time of the New Testament being written, a form of slavery was embedded in the Graeco-Roman culture in which the Church was birthed. When the New Testament uses words like "Lord" or "Master" it is drawing upon the background of this slavery language. Does this paint becoming a follower of Christ in a different light, knowing that it uses the words, "Lord" and "Master" to describe Christ, and words like, "follower", "servant", "slave", "bond-slave" to describe Christians? It should!
You will never be truly free until you become a slave of Christ.
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 
Romans 6:22
Chalmers Church LauncestonIn Hebrews 3:1, we are told to "Consider Jesus..." The unnamed writer to the Hebrews invites us to consider four sequential and great subjects. The first is foundational: Jesus Christ, the Apostle and High Priest of our faith. Consider whether you have reduced Jesus to a diminutive Genie - a Jesus you only turn to when you want Him to do something for you. Consider whether you have surrendered to Him and what that increasingly looks like. Consider whether you are growing as a servant in light of Christ's supremacy over your life.

After considering Jesus, the writer to the Hebrews invites his audience to consider one another (Heb. 10:24). Jesus Christ has ordained that following Him be done in a community of other followers. You cannot follow Christ and not be a member of a church. The writer to the Hebrews wants his audience to consider the implications of following Christ for joining, being active in, contributing to, a local church. This consideration led the author of Hebrews to regard participation in the church's worship service as an indespensible aspect of following Christ and living under His Lordship. So important is church in the life of a servant of Christ, that Hebrews says it should never be 'neglected'.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 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.
Hebrews 10:24-25
Jesus as a genie in a genie bottlePeople who have a 'Genie' concept of Jesus have probably never really considered the Biblical description of Jesus. They have therefore certainly never considered how vital their attending to Christ's church is either. "Do not neglect attending church" says Hebrews 10:25. This has little appeal to the one who treats Jesus like their Genie in a bottle (church becomes one of the several lesser priorities for their Sundays), but it has magnetic appeal to those who know Jesus Christ as Lord of Lord and King of Kings. And then Hebrews points us back to Christ in Hebrews 12:3 by inviting us to consider what Christ endured in order to redeem us and purchase the Church. The final 'consider' invitation relates to considering those who best surrender to Christ in Hebrews 13:7. It says, "Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith." Consider Christ. Consider His church. Consider what Christ went through in order to redeem us. Consider what those who have surrendered to Christ have gone through for the sake of Christ and His Church.
 I would give myself, Lord,
Fully unto Thee,
That Thy heart's desire
Be fulfilled in me.
I no more would struggle
To myself reform,
Thus in me to hinder
What Thou wouldst perform.
Thou Art All My Life, Lord, Frances R. Havergal
Settling for a 'Genie" Jesus when you could enjoy the Genuine Jesus is being, as C.S. Lewis put it, "...half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." (C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses) Jesus wants us to know Him, and make Him known. When He is treated as if He was some kind of Genie, and His Church as some kind of E.R., we send a very distorted picture to the world of what it means to follow Christ. It is my hope that we won't be 'Genie' Christians and that our church won't be a 'Genie' Church. Tasmania urgently, desperately, and critically needs to know the Genuine Jesus and He has ordained that He displayed gloriously through His Church. I long for the day when every church in Tasmania is full to the brim with followers of Christ and those seeking to meet their Lord. This Sunday, leave your Religious Genie Bottles at home - better still, don't wait till Sunday, ditch them now and open the sacred leaves of Scripture and come to know the One who conquers souls. Supposedy writing for a younger audience, C.S.Lewis in another place wrote this -
"If you're thirsty, you may drink."
They were the first words she had heard since Scrubb had spoken to her on the edge of the cliff. For a second she stared here and there, wondering who had spoken. Then the voice said again, "If you are thirsty, come and drink," and of course she remembered what Scrubb had said about animals talking in that other world, and realized that it was the lion speaking. Anyway, she had seen its lips move this time, and the voice was not like a man's. It was deeper, wilder, and stronger; a sort of heavy, golden voice. It did not make her any less frightened than she had been before, but it made her frightened in rather a different way.
"Are you not thirsty?" said the Lion.
"I'm dying of thirst," said Jill.
"Then drink," said the Lion.
"May I - could I - would you mind going away while I do?" said Jill.
The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.
The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.
"Will you promise not to - do anything to me, if I do come?" said Jill.
"I make no promise," said the Lion.
Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.
"Do you eat girls?" she said.
"I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms," said the Lion. It didn't say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.
"I daren't come and drink," said Jill.
"Then you will die of thirst," said the Lion.
"Oh dear!" said Jill, coming another step nearer. "I suppose I must go and look for another stream then."
"There is no other stream," said the Lion.

C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair, Chapter 2
Ps. Andrew

Friday, 1 August 2014


Change aheadSome change is imposed. Some change is sought. Some change is welcomed. Some change is resisted. Some change is so predictable but still manages to stun us as if it was impossible to see coming! Looking back over the past few years I can see the changes that have happened in my life. There are some changes that are currently happening in me. Looking at what has changed and what is changing helps me to see with increased clarity what changes are about to happen - and indeed,must happen. But, I find myself continually battling the desire to resist change. Perhaps because of my recent health battles, I've been reminded that resistance is a far weaker strategy than management when it comes to dealing with change. The result for me is, I have to make some changes.
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
Second Peter 3:18
It's difficult to see predictible change when you're young. It's difficult to accept predictible change when you're older. It doesn't mean you can't see it coming if you're young or that it's impossible to accept if you're older. With so much change change happening around us at the moment, the need to learn how to, at least, see and accept change is perhaps more urgent than ever. But seeing and accepting predictible change is only two thirds of the solution. Change must be managed. And while to many it doesn't feel like it can be (and certainly not every aspect of how life unfolds is within our control to manage), there is perhaps more than can be done to help manage change than obviously most realise. This was again just reinforced to me this morning.

Ford Motor Company Australia in GeelongIt is Friday. My day off. My Sabbath. Each Friday morning Kim and I go on a coffee-date. As we went into Launceston Kim remarked how many vacant shops there now are. I am told that in the downtown central business district there are seventy shops vacant. There will always be commercial property vacancies in any city. And for the most part, Launceston has had around 25 shops vacant at any one time. When online shopping began to take off over five years ago, retailers were advised that they didn't adapt to this change in retail spending habits. Most didn't. This change was utterly predictable, yet, for the most part, poorly managed by retailers. With our recent electricity black outs (not to mention the skyrocketting price of electricity), many people are eager to change the way they power their homes and businesses. Major utilities will have to change the way they go about their business in order to survive. (The laziest way they can manage this predictible trend toward domestically generated renewable energy is to seek government support.) In the city where I grew up, Geelong, its citizens are bemoaning the lack of Government assistance in keeping th highly inefficient Ford Motor Car Company running (Ford has announced that they will shut its Geelong operation in 2016). Someone didn't see inevitable change coming!

In 1997, we held a members meeting at Legana where I shared with our then small church that we needed to look beyond our four walls because technology would enable us reach out in unimagined ways to countless numbers of people. Most people scoffed at this. But we took the necessary steps to ride the multi-media change that began back then and today we nearly have as many people watching our live Sunday service electronically as we do participating in our building.
God will give ear and humble them,
he who is enthroned from of old, Selah
because they do not change
and do not fear God.
Psalm 55:19
Careers, status (single or married), family composition, ageing, retirement, expenses, sicknesses, and death, are all predictible changes that nearly all of us will/have/are experienc/e/ed/ing. Over the past 18 years that I have been pastoring Legana, I have had to change. In even more recent times, I have hadto change. I used to open all my mail. I used to take every phone call. I used to see every impromptu visitor. The busyness of my life now, has meant these things have had to change. The way I pastor our church has had to change. I now meet with the elders and pastors regularly as we discuss how we can care better for those in our church. I now meet regularly with the Home Group leaders as we discuss how to care for and disciple those in our church. These are recent changes. Whereas I previously tried to extend myself to every person, even those outside of our church, I have had to change. As the trappings of comfort lull my sense of urgency for reaching those who are separated from Christ and without hope (Eph. 2:12), I have to manage the inevitable change toward complacency and keep stretching and challenging myself.
¶ Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 
First Corinthians 9:24
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Second Timothy 4:7 ¶
Chalmers Church LauncestonIt's not only people who have to see, accept, and manage change. Churches must do it as well. I was so proud of our church last Sunday as we implemented some changes. Apart from our Easter events, it was our highest attended service for the year thus far. I'm sure some of you wondered what on earth we were doing, but for the most part everyone soon accepted the changes we made.

As Kim and I came away from our coffee this morning, we drove past the old Chalmers Church (on the Corner of St. John and Frederick Streets) and thought of all the hard work, all the prayer, all the preaching, and all the giving that went into making that Church possible and what a shame it was that at some point its congregation and leaders didn't foresee, accept, and manage the necessary change that eventually led to its demise. The day we as a church ignore change, refuse to change, and mismanage change, will be the day we stop fearing God (Psalm 55:19) and become irrelevant.
¶ Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
Hebrews 12:1
The changes that are unavoidably coming into my life over the next immediate chapter necessitate that I change with their introduction. The changes that are needed for us as a church to grow and reach those in our world - who are lost in bondage to the gods of materialism and therefore without hope and in eternal peril - must be recognised, accepted and managed. To do this, we must be open to God in prayer, grounded in Scripture, connected to those who have not yet accepted God's forgiveness, and have the courage to dare to exercise godly leadership and initiate wise changes. Two thousand years of Church history tells us that when churches don't do this, they die. When a church is not prepared to change where it meets, what it does as it meets, when it meets, its style of music, its fashion, its methodof communicating, and its programs, it is going to be irrepairably ruined by the change it is resisting. This should never happen to a church because at the foundation of following Christ is dramatic change! After all, when we converted from idolising ourselves to surrendering to Christ as our Saviour and Lord, it was like going from darkness into light, death to life, and abandonment to adoption. Christians, more than anyone, should be aware of how God changes entire states and nations over generations down through centuries. This is why I think not merely in terms of the next few years, but the next few centuries and the glorious plans our glorious God has for our church to give Him great glory - if we get changed well.

Ps. Andrew