Thursday, 24 December 2015

Do You Speak Gift?

Gifts are, according to Dr. Gary Chapman (the author of The Five Love Languages) a "love language". I suspect though that the best-selling author may have misrepresented the linguistic power of gifts as only capable of expressing degrees of the warmest aspects of a person's affection for another. Take it from me, gifts not only speak the dialect of affection, they also speak volumes about what a person feels generally - and who this giver really is.

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

Every gift narrates a story. When David's mighty men brought their Commander a cup of cold water from the well of Bethlehem, they weren't just giving him water. This gift in a cup told a story that introduced three loyal and devoted generals who were prepared to risk their lives to bring delight to their king. This well-water spoke the language of war and told of night skirmishes, breaching through enemy ranks in the dead of the night - just to get a cup of Bethlehem well water. This cup of water spoke volumes about their unquestioned willingness to obey David. Little wonder then that David, who was fluent in the language of Gift, recognised that such use of this language by these mighty generals was not merely the vocabulary of devotion but was in fact: worship (the highest form of love), which is why he poured it out on the ground to the Lord as a gift to God.

One of the most embarrassing experiences Kim and I have ever had with gift giving happened at a time when we were particularly struggling financially. We had been given a very beautiful under-glass torsion-pendulum clock. It was still in its original box. We thought it would make a great Christmas gift for my brother and his wife. When my brother rang to thank me for this most generous gift, his first statement was: "That church you served at in Melbourne must have really loved you guys!"

 "They sure did!" I replied.

 "Yeah, I could tell by what they engraved on the brass base of the clock you just gave me!"

No matter how much I pleaded with my brother to let me redeem my embarrassment, he was adamant there was no way he was going to give this back - or let me ever live it down! We had made a terrible mistake with the language of gifts. We had given a gift that had cost us nothing.

Then Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take and offer up what seems good to him. Here are the oxen for the burnt offering and the threshing sledges and the yokes of the oxen for the wood.  All this, O king, Araunah gives to the king.” And Araunah said to the king, “May the LORD your God accept you.”  But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.Second Samuel 24:22-24
King David didn't make my embarrassing gift-giving mistake. As the above Scripture passage tells, he refused to give God any gift that cost him nothing. He could not give a gift that didn't speak the language of the best gifts fluently. Neither would he give God second best gifts. He taught his son Solomon the language of gift-giving-

¶     Honor the LORD with your wealth  
       and with the firstfruits of all your produce; 
    then your barns will be filled with plenty,
         and your vats will be bursting with wine.  
      Proverbs 3:9-10

To be a Christian requires speaking the language the gifts. It starts with the gift of our lives to God in response to His gift of His life to us.  This is why the Apostle Paul in his epistle explaining what it means to be a Christian (the Epistle to the Romans) says that living as a Christian starts by-
          ¶ I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God,
to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, 
which is your spiritual worship.
  Romans 12:1

And as the Apostle concludes his Epistle to the Romans, the language of Gifts becomes even clearer
as describes the gifts God has given each one of us to give to others (Romans 12:4-6) and then how we are to live as a local church by giving not just our gifts but ourselves to our church family (Romans 12:9-21).

It is my hope that we can each learn the language of Gifts by discovering God's great gift of His Son to us, the various gifts He has given to us to share with His other great gift to us - our spiritual family, our local church. As we learn the language of Gifts we learn that why we give is a direct reflection of what we give. This is why Jesus commended the poor woman who gave two small copper coins as being more generous than the wealthy who gave much much more but only gave to be seen and impress others (Mark 12:42).

Christ deserves our best - not our leftovers

For all that Christ has given us, let us give Him our best - our best effort, our best talents, our best attention, our best gifts, so that more people will come to receive His best gift for them.

See you in "the Gift Centre" (church) this weekend.

Ps. Andrew

Friday, 11 December 2015



Jesus was asked, "Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the Law?" (Matthew 22.36)  There's many things He could have said, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, defend the rights of the oppressed, and while all of these are commandments in the Law of Christ, none of them are the greatest

'And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ Mark 12:30
What I find fascinating about the New Testament documents is that for all the difficulties that the apostles of Christ faced toward the end of the first century, doctrinal heresies, declining church attendance, sexual misconduct within the churches, increasing moral decadence outside the church, increased persecution from the State, and a rise in evangelistic apathy among believers, all of them appealed to this greatest commandment in their closing letters. 


Love comes in a variety of forms and even though in English we really only have the one word which can apply for all forms, there is quite a distinction between them. We love a good cup of tea. We love it when our team wins. We love our mothers. We love our brothers and sisters. We love our children. We love our sweetheart to whom we are married. We love God. I have deliberately attempted to progress up the scale of love with these examples of how in English we use the one word ("love") to describe these various delights. Corresponding to this upward scale is another upward scale going from "Virtually involuntary" to "I chose to, because I benefit" all the way up to "A voluntary choice even when I do not benefit and it actually costs me". 

This correspondence highlights that the deeper and higher the form of love, the greater and more costly the commitment required. It also shows that the greatest love is not based on whimsical involuntary things such as how I feel at the time, after all, who doesn't love a good cup of tea or coffee? My love for a nice cup of coffee requires very little effort or commitment from me. Unlike the greatest form of love, this kind of almost involuntary love requires very little from me whereas the highest form of love is not determined or maintained merely by how I feel. This is why: 

Decisions create Actions and Actions create Feelings.

If you want to feel love for someone, then you must first decide to, then secondly, do loving acts for that person. 

The who has been redeemed by God has received a complete change of heart and mind. Their will has been healed from the ravages of sin's evil lurings. They now chose to love the One who has redeemed them.

"Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Luke 7:47

When it comes to the highest love, loving God, it requires the most important decision, the highest commitment, and the most devoted action. It was the Apostle John who outlived all the other apostles. He witnessed the persecution of Christians across the empire. He saw many believers forsake Christ for the love of the world. He wrote one of his last letters on behalf of Christ to the church at Ephesus with supreme pastoral tenderness and reminded them of the essence of what it means to call oneself a "Christian" -
"But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first."
 Revelation 2:4
John had previously written to the Ephesian believers and told them plainly how to love God. What he said sounded uncannily like the second part of Christ's answer to His questioner. 
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
 Mark 12:30-31
John put legs on this command of Christ by explaining how believers were to show their love for God - 
By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
¶ For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

 First John 3:10-11
John used the word brother to speak of the believers brothers and sisters in Christ. While the believer is called to love all people, we are called to especially love our fellow brothers and sisters.
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
 Galatians 6:10
 And this is why followers of Christ are told how to love God by the anonymous author to the Hebrews, especially as the pressure from the world increased - 
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
Understanding that the deepest, highest form of love is a totally voluntary, completely devoted to, and selfless serving act, it is then possible to see how God can command it. For the believer, God's commands are not a burden (1John 5:3), rather, they are a means of grace. That is, there is power within the Word of God for the believer to obey the Word of God. The love of God which Christ calls His followers to is a commanding love. Thus, Christ is commanding love. In this sense, it is a verb (something He is doing). But it also describes the kind of love that God calls for. In this sense it is an adjective (a description, and a quality).

To help His followers to keep this great two-part command, Christ said, "I will build My Church!" (Matthew 16:18) This is why attending the House of God each weekend is not merely about being religious, or even traditional - no - and a thousand times "No!" It is about loving Jesus! When we all gather on the Lord's Day to worship God together, to share in Communion together, to receive instruction from God's Word together, and to pray for one another together - we are loving Jesus! When Saul the Pharisee was waging persecution against the Church he was struck from his horse on the Road to Damascus and questioned by Christ, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?" (Acts 9:4) To love Christ is to love His Church and especially the local church of fellow brothers and sisters where He has placed you in His body. This is why it is for the love of Christ that I go to church this Sunday, and I invite you to fall in love with Jesus afresh this weekend in His church, your church, as well.

Pastor Andrew.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Dash Well


I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
-The Apostle Paul,
Second Timothy 4:7
(The Bible reference is wrong.)
The dash on a tombstone represents the lifetime of the person.
We will all have a dash. Some will be long. Some will be too short. Some will be honoured. Some will be filled with regret. A few will have one that will cause many to be deeply and eternally thankful. On every tombstone there appears a birth date, a dash, and a life-on-earth end date.
¶ 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
Many people waste their dash. Fear, hurt, or laziness can each be the cause a person's dash being wasted. But God created us to be courageousfree, and powerfully creative. He has placed within deep longings that actually require courage. When was the last time you did something for the first time? Doing something for the first time takes a bit of courage and often trust. A Daddy smiles at his two-year old, claps his hands, and tells his child to jump from the 'great height' into his waiting arms. Almost without exception the child responds with a shrill of delight and a leap! But as we get older, our ability to take more leaps becomes more difficult for us. We fear. But we probably fear because we've been hurt. "I'll never try that again!" is phrase we should probably be a little more careful with because sometimes hurtmakes us stronger, wiser, better, and therefore more likely to succeed if we will but try again! Take courage and make your dash a courageous dash!
For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.
Second Timothy 1:7
I think there's a powerful spiritual application here. Too many people regard their Christianity as something they did rather than who they are. Too many people regard Church as a place they go rather than who they are part of. You don't go to church on Sunday - the church comes together on Sunday! And by so doing, we realign our lives toward God through worship, we reimagine the grandeur of God through celebration of the ordinance of the Lord's Table, we refresh our spirits through the shared gifts of the Holy Spirit, and we renovate our minds through the teaching of God's Word. All of this means that when the church comes together every individual has their dash significantly enhanced.
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.
First Peter 4:10
Our dash is seriously enhanced by deepening our spiritual life. After all, when we take courage and seek God for a closer relationship with Him so that we can move on past our hurts and receive the strength to rise up to life's challenges, the immediate result is that others benefit. When we consider Jesus, the spiritually deepest person who has ever walked the earth, we notice that His dash was infinitely profound as measured by His impact on others. The deeper we become spiritually - when we prioritise time with God in His Word, take the time to pray for ourselves and others, give of our time/talent/treasure to bless others, the more others benefit.
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ...And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.Galatians 6:2, 9 


The purpose of your life is not holidays, renovating your house, fishing, sleeping in, watching a screen, or even eating. You were designed by God to leave a great dash. It is God's will for your life to flourish, prosper, and find great fulfilment. When we let God have His way in our lives and cooperate with His Spirit to grow as a deeper follower of Christ, we are setting our lives up to leave behind a great dash.
¶ Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.
3John 2
Being a spiritually deep person doesn't mean that our dash is difficult, boring, and religious. On the contrary, and by all means, we should live life to the full. Travel, explore, learn, love, build, play, taste, and meet as much as you can. But all the while, help others in the process. The more your life blesses others the more your dash will one day be seen by others with great fondness, appreciation, and thankfulness. I suspect this is why the Apostle Paul could look back over his 65 years or so of life just before he was executed and tell his younger protégé Timothy -
¶ For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
Second Timothy 4:6-8
Paul left behind a remarkable dash. I am an eternally grateful beneficiary of his dash. It is my pastoral desire to help you however I can to leave the best dash behind that you can. I've said it many times that my job as a pastor is to help people to die well and the best way we can achieve that is to live well. I pray that your life will one be a great dash!

Ps. Andrew