Friday, 30 September 2016


IMG_bankruptcyI have discovered that excellence isn’t always expensive, even though it costs more than ‘acceptable‘. I first heard this when I was a teenager. A former bankrupt businessman came to our church in Geelong and shared his story of how his former business partner had cleaned him out and left him with a mountain a debts resulting in him being declared bankrupt. He went through a period of confusion as to why God would have let this happen to him. He had to surrender his home, his cars, his boat and his self-respect. Under the bankruptcy laws, he was only allowed to have a car worth no more than a few thousand dollars. In the depth of the darkness of his despair he came to a major realisation which ended up changing his fortunes and dramatically altering the course of his life.
Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.
Daniel 6:3
Eventually this bankrupt businessman would pay off all of his creditors and then go on to become a millionaire once again. But this might never have happened if he hadn’t realised two important things from Scripture. The first of these realisations was a huge challenge for him. He saw in Scripture that God called for His people to be thankful in all circumstances. Even though he had lost his house, cars, boat, and business – and now lived in a rented house – and was only allowed to drive a meagre car, he realised that he lacked gratitude to God for these things. Although he initially struggled with it, he began to express his thanks to God for what he had and stopped pining over what he didn’t have. 
Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!
Psalm 97:12
Unemployed, broke, and feeling sorry for himself, he sunk to an all-time low and struggled with the Holy Spirit’s conviction to be thankful. But at least he struggled. One of the things that he had learned from business is that difference between those who are successful and those who are not is often a very fine line. That fine line is not always a difference of the quality of the product or service being offered – as competitors can be selling exactly the same product or service – and yet one of them achieves remarkable success while the others don’t. The difference wasn’t the ‘what’ but rather the ‘how’. 
excellentHow involves the ‘spirit’ in which something is done. How do we interact with the customer? How do we go beyond expectations? How timely do we deliver to our customers? How well do we present ourselves when dealing with the customer? How well do we train our staff? The answers to these how questions is determined by how seriously a business is concerned with excellence. What this former bankrupt businessman realised was that if he was going to start over he needed the kind of attitude – spirit – which those few highly successful businesses have. He determined to combine his revelation about being thankful with a determination to do everything he could with excellence.
give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
First Thessalonians 5:18
This new resolve began Saturday. He went to his newly acquired, twenty year-old car and washed it, vacuumed it, and gave it a polish. It might not be much, but he was determined to show God that he was thankful for it. He also wanted the spirit of excellence to begin to permeate every area of his life – including his car, and the place where he now lived. After detailing his car, he mowed his lawns and weeded his front yard. He wanted to be faithful “in the little things” (Matthew 25:21) so that the LORD could entrust him once more with more. He determined that even though he was broke he didn’t have to act like it  –  or look like it! He ironed his shirts, polished his shoes, pressed his suit. He took steps to improve his physical condition. He ate healthy rather than conveniently. He took regular walks and accepted any invitations to try a new sport. 
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.
Ecclesiastes 9:10
God opened a marvellous opportunity for him in sales. This would soon lead to him being able to revoke his bankruptcy and satisfy all his creditors with 100% in the dollar of what was owed. As God prospered him, he maintained his thankfulness and the spirit of excellence in all he did. He became very concerned about his fellow believers and their churches not enjoying this same opportunity to be thankful with a spirit of excellence. This is why he was in Geelong that Sunday many years ago. He was sharing how he was now trying to help churches adopt a spirit of excellence in all they did – which included their devotion to Christ and their generosity toward Kingdom endeavours. As I recall, his visit to our church in Geelong had a profound effect upon many people and raised the level of giving, volunteering, and devotion to Christian disciplines quite dramatically. 
“Customer” ServiceGive the customer what they wantGive the customer some extra value to what they expected
PunctualityTurn up on timeTurn up before the start time and offer to help
GroomingLook decentLook smart and presentable
 Social interaction Be polite to everyone you interact withBe considerate (responsive listening) and attentive with those you interact with

UsheringWatch people find a seat, distribute the Communion elements, help take up the OfferingGreet people as they come past your station, assist newcomers orientate to the where-abouts of the amenities, connect parents to the Kidz Church registry table, and offer to get them a tea/coffee/other at the close of the service; when it comes to the Offering – put one in.
KiDZ Church WorkersPrepare your Kidz Church lesson on the morning you’re rostered on; deliver your lesson.Have your lesson and its material prepared days before (including any photocopying required) and add supplementary thoughtful comments to it; during the combined KiDZ church component set the example to the children by being attentive to the KiDZ Church Leader (don’t talk to other leaders while the KCL is addressing the children; when the KCL leads a song, sing it with passion to set an example to the children; when delivering your lesson to your group of children – manage the group, not the individuals; don’t have long pauses or gaps – keep the pace going; deliver your lesson with passion and expression; engage with their parents to let them know what you’ve done and give them an incentive for the parents to bring them back next week.
Pulpit TeamFulfil your rostered duty within the allocated time for itPrayerfully prepare a thoughtful presentation; practice it; have any supporting media arranged before Sunday; dress appropriately which shows effort; use the English Standard Version of the Bible; know how you’re going to conclude; deliver it with light and shade / appropriate gusto / from your heart as well as your notes.
 Worship TeamPlay your instrument; be at the pre-service rehearsal; have your music ready; attend practice nightsWorship with your instrument; know the music and words to the songs without constantly looking at your music; smile! ; look at those you’re leading ; be attentive to the worship leader – especially between the songs when they addressing the church; dress as if you think this is a Royal Command Performance!

For us as a church to be both thankful and striving for excellence need not cost you. It starts with what you already have – being thankful for it, and treating it with excellence. It means that we look to go the extra-mile, serve one another with joy and cross that fine boundary-line from acceptable into the unexpected excellent. It’s not a great chasm between acceptable and excellent – it’s a fine line
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,  so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:9-11

– Ps. Andrew

Friday, 23 September 2016

It Starts This Sunday

This Sunday, there will be someone coming to church who is looking for something. If someone really knew them, they might describe them as hurt and lonely. But they would never openly admit to that. They’re not quite sure what they’re looking for but they know they haven’t yet found it. They at least know that they crave for someone – anyone – simply to listen to them – to understand them. If someone could just see them, noticethem…care. They pray to God asking Him to help. Perhaps this is why they are giving church a go this Sunday.
remember that you were at that time separated from Christ … having no hope and without God in the world.
Ephesians 2:12
They will come to church this Sunday. They will wonder how God might answer their prayer for someoneanyone, who will give them time – listen to them – care.  The Devil knows he is at risk of losing one of his own if they go into his Enemy’s domain. He also knows he can’t injure the Spirit-filled, Spirit-sensitive, Spirit-led follower of Christ. It frustrates him that these Blood-Bought ones daily arm themselves in prayers of surrender to the One who shed His blood for them, and, that they sharpen their spiritual swords by filling their hearts and minds with the Word of the Lamb. But he can sometimes deceive them. 
For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.
Second Corinthians 10:4
If Satan hasn’t been able to deceive the Christ-follower with an excuse to not go to church, then he loves to use another old favourite trick that is nearly as effective: busyness. 
But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”  ¶ But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details!
Luke 10:40-41
This Sunday, someone is coming to church. They’re empty. They’re lonely. They ache and don’t really know why. They are open to God, but don’t know Him. They will watch closely those who do claim to know God. Will they notice them? Will they reach out to them? Will they listen to them. Will they care?
Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2
Will you notice them? Will you reach out to them? Will you listen to them? Will you care? If your prayer is indeed a prayer of surrender to the One who notices everyone, who reaches out to everyone, who listens to everyone, and who cares for everyone, then your prayer will be answered. In fact, someone will be coming to church this Sunday because someone who daily prayerfully surrenders their heart to Christ in private worship has already reached out publicly to them with an invitation to come to the place where Jesus meets with the hurting-hearted. Someone’s life is going to be saved and renewed and it starts this Sunday. 
Ps. Andrew

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Concentrated Christianity

In the movie, The Matrix, the lead female character, Trinity, learns to fly a military helicopter in twenty seconds. In the hit TV series, Heroes, one of the heroes, “Copycat”, can master any skill after watching it just once. And in real life, there are people who can flick through a many-paged book and read it in under a minute. Unfortunately though, most of us don’t live in the movies or TV shows, or have highly developed mental faculties. Instead, most of us have to work really really hard to learn how to fly a military helicopter or to be able to read War And Peace in under a minute. Achievements usually take time, effort, application, and a deal of concentration. And the deeper Christian life is no exception. Perhaps this is why our Enemy will today use multiple means of distractions to tempt the followers of The Conquering Lamb away from the rewards of concentration. This is a call to the Blood-Bought to shake off the bewitching of our Enemy and begin to experience concentrated Christianity
concentration-spans-ruined-by-smart_devicesWhen Abraham Lincoln was campaigning for President of the United States he would  travel from town to town to do ‘town hall meetings’ where the towns-people would fill their town hall as he would give a speech for an hour, his nominated contender would respond with his one hour speech, then each would be given another hour each to give their rebuttal. Their audiences would sit and pay attention to the candidates for the full four hours! Today, according the Statistics Brain Research Institute, in the year 2000 the average adult’s attention span was 12 seconds. That is, in the year 2000, you could hold an adult’s attention for just 12 seconds before they switched off! According to their follow-up research, in 2015 the average adult attention span had dropped by 3.5 seconds to 8.5 seconds! This statistic gets worse when we consider that attention spans decrease dramatically the younger a person is. The average 12 year old has a 4 second attention span and this continues to decrease as the age decreases (just ask any Primary School teacher!). Not only does this present every Christian witness with a serious problem (because the Gospel takes more than 8.5 seconds to be communicated reasonably), it also means that many new believers are never going to discover the awaiting riches of the spiritual life.
When I was growing up in the church I would hear preachers quote the prophet Isaiah to encourage believers to read bits of their Bibles –
For it is precept upon precept, 
precept upon precept, 
line upon line, line upon line, 
here a little, there a little.”
Isaiah 28:10
This verse was used to promote the idea that preachers could more or less surprise their congregations each Sunday by preaching something this Sunday which had little connection to what was preached the previous Sunday. But Isaiah was not commending Israel! The previous verse reveals that he was rebuking them for their spiritual immaturity –
To whom will he teach knowledge,
and to whom will he explain the message?
Those who are weaned from the milk,
those taken from the breast? 
Isaiah 28:9
Israel was being rebuked for only giving God their left-over attention. They had failed to concentrate on God and His Word, and therefore, they had failed to dedicate themselves to God’s will and ways. Treating your relationship with God by only giving Him “here a little, there a little” can never lead to the spiritual strength that can withstand spiritual attacks. In Israel’s case, the prophet says that their lack of concentrating on going deep into God’s Word would mean that they would be susceptible to brokenness, being snared, and being taken captive by the Enemy.
And the word of the LORD will be to them
precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
line upon line, line upon line,
here a little, there a little,
that they may go, and fall backward,
and be broken, and snared, and taken.
Isaiah 28:13
If you’ve made it this far into this article you deserve congratulations because you are better than average (since it would have taken you about 2.5 minutes to get to this point). Concentration requires practice. “Smart” devices (phones, tablets, computers) have all served to undermine our ability to concentrate. Many mature believers have derived great benefit from either fasting technology or returning to paper for a month for their Bible reading. They find that they are able to concentrate and savour God’s Word far better. I hope that despite the Enemy’s attempts to distract God’s people with more and more innovative ways, we can resist these temptations and develop a highly concentrated Christianity, for God’s sake.

Friday, 9 September 2016

The Problem With Doubling

The 2 Ronniescelebrity-stunt-double-brad_pittIn the world of ‘doubles’ we might think of The Two Ronnies, Woodford and Woodbridge, Laurel and Hardy, the Bryan Brothers. We might think of those unsung movie stuntmen who double for the stars in their action movies. We may even imagine the lure of gambling and its enticement to double your money with just one throw of the dice. But none of these are the type of doubling that we must now consider.
Have you ever had so much to do that you’ve found yourself wishing you could be in two places at once? Imagine having the power to double ourselves. Perhaps you might like to have another you – not to be in two places at once – but simply to get through everything on your To-Do List before their deadlines? 
Clark Kent, Daily Planet reporterI have met people who have a double! Despite the alluring appeal of having a double to be in two places at one time or to get twice as much done, these people are cursed by having a double! Initially they welcome the idea of their double, but over time they discover that having a double creates trouble. If you haven’t yet met anyone leading a double life, when you do you may discover just how troublesome it can be. These people are one person to a particular group of people and another person entirely to another group of people. Their trouble begins when they encounter representatives from both groups at the same time. It’s not undercover agents who must carefully manage this. Not that long ago I was indirectly involved in trying to deal with a situation where a pastor had been leading a double-life. One of his lives was spent in Australia where he was married and pastored a missions-minded church. This church welcomed the opportunity to reach out around the globe and take the Gospel to people otherwise ignorant of it. They largely did this by releasing their pastor to travel to these South East Asian countries to undertake teaching and training. The reports of his effectiveness and success bolstered their enthusiasm for further overseas involvement. What they didn’t know was that the pastor led another life. Because living a double-life is so troublesome, trouble has a way of gate-crashing these people’s other lives at the most inconvenient time. And for this pastor it did. And it was ugly. A lot of people were badly hurt.
doubleminded2We can be in “two minds” about something and not be “double-minded”. I’m often in two minds about things when there is a decision to make. This simply means that when things are boiled down to two different directions I can often see merit in both options. But to be “double-minded” is to wilfully choose to believe two incompatible ideas.
he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. . . Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
James 1:8, 4:8

Over the past few years I have quietly helped several people who had been living double lives. This kind of help is built on two things: trust and grace. The trust these people have given me has been the result of consistency, discretion, and honesty. For a double-minded person to be helped requires someone they can trust. Secondly, it requires a broader understanding of the grace of God. Many people only see God’s grace as if it was His turning a blind-eye to their sin. But God’s grace is never that! God’s grace is His enabling and provision for what we could not do or have by our own effort. Understanding God’s grace this way means we can begin to see what the Reformers distinguished as God’s extraordinary grace and God’s common grace. Sometimes God will miraculously intervene into a situation (“extraordinary grace”), but usually God will respond to those who call upon Him for help by enabling them to do what they could not do in their own strength or with their own resources. This is His “common” grace. In every instance of a person who has been living a double life, there are people who have been hurt. While this hurt cannot be undone, there are measures that can be taken to begin to heal it. For the double-lifer this path to healing their hurt ones is called the road to integrity.
May integrity and honesty protect me,  for I put my hope in you. 
Psalm 25:21
living lukewarmIntegrity comes from the word integer. An integer is a whole number (rather than a fraction). To be a person of integrity means to be a whole person (rather than a fraction of one person and a fraction of another). A person of integrity is someone who is who they are no matter who they are with. Who they are in private is who they are in public. A person of integrity knows who they are, what they are good at (and what they are not), how to apologise when they have hurt someone, and how to listen to those who have something to say to them. 
To become who you were created to be and to discover your life’s purposeand the right way to live, is only possible by following Christ and His teaching. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis – A person cannot claim that Christ was a good man and a great teacher and then ignore Him and what He taught! This is one of the worst kind of double-lives! For someone to present themselves as a Christian and yet live as if they are not, is for them, to live a double life. In the words of Jesus, this is living a lukewarm life (Revelation 3:20). And to the Lukewarm, Jesus speaks with tenderness and gravity. His tenderness is heard in His appeal, “I would rather have you be hot.”  Those who live ‘hot’ for Christ are passionate, devoted, committed to Jesus and His Word, ways, and will. This is living the Christian life with integrity. Amazingly, Jesus says He would rather have people be ‘cold’ rather than ‘lukewarm’. Those who are cold toward Christ does not misrepresent Him to the world, but those who are lukewarm do. This is where we hear the gravity of Christ to those who claim to be His followers yet don’t live like it. Jesus warns of a particularly dire eternal consequence for the lukewarm who are living a double life.
Living with one foot in the world and one foot in the Kingdom of Christ is a horrible double life. Such a person can’t truly enjoy the world because they know that sin is not just breaking God’s Law – it’s breaking God’s heart! Neither can such a person enjoy their relationship with Jesus, His people, or His Word. It is my prayer that everyone in our church will find their greatest joy in being with Christ in prayer, worship, Scripture, fellowship, and reflection. The spiritual heat generated by such grace-enabled followers of Christ attracts the cold-hearted to the soul-warming Saviour. And for those who are living spiritually double-lives, especially for those are young, I pray that you might open your heart to God’s love, light, life and lordship to discover for yourself that the Christ-hot life is far more beautiful than the cold or lukewarm double life.

Friday, 2 September 2016



One of the things which gripped me as a new Christian was just how short life on earth was compared with eternity. As I read through the Gospels I was struck by how often Christ made this contrast to put this life into its proper perspective. Even if, as the Psalmist declared, man lives to a ripe old age, his life is but “a breath” –  a mere “blade of grass” which sprouts in the morning and withers by the end of the day. This life is no mere dress rehearsal for next. It is of infinite and eternal consequences. The apostle told the Colossians that not a minute of it should be wasted. When it comes to the after-life, despite the teaching of those who identify as liberal Christians, the eternal Gate of Heaven into Paradise is not merely opened for the “religious”, but for the redeemed in Christ. And if we have any compassion for our fellow man we will do all we can to persuade them to repent from their rebellion and to humbly turn to the Saviour to accept His offer of salvation. Yet many will not do this because they are yet to see what Jesus described as the most convincing proof of all.

 Even though I hold to Reformed Theology (“Sovereign Grace”), I have good reasons to passionately believe that the Sovereign God who elects and foreordains also has elected the means by which unbelievers will open their hearts to receive the truth about Christ. This means is quite simple: Gospel proclamation. But Jesus reveals something both powerful and profound in His last prayer before He was executed.
¶ “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.
John 17:20-21
As much as I believe in Apologetics – the giving of good reasons to believe in the God of the Bible, without an application of what Christ described in John 17:21, every apologetic argument is basically rendered useless! This is why the local church is so incredibly important to the salvation of individuals within a community. When a local church is led by humble, God-honouring, called, competent, gifted leaders, who courageously work to maintain the unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:2) the result is a caring, compassionate, servant-hearted, spiritual community which balances beautifully the two aspects of Christ’s identity: Truth and Grace.
¶ And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth . . . For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
John 1:14, 17 
A recent survey of Australians found that 60% of Australians do not have a close friend who is a Christian.
It’s one thing to enter a Christian church and take a look. It’s another all together to enter into a Christian’s life and take a look! And based on what Christ prayed in John 17:21, it is another thing completely to enter into a Christian community and observe/experience authentic unity where there is forgiveness, tolerance, compassion, practical care, a willingness to listen to one another, and respect for leaders. Jesus said this kind of devotion to Him and the resultant unity would be a cause whereby the world may believe You have sent Me. I wonder how many members of the world enter our church on a Sunday and are initially shocked by and strangely moved by this unity of the Spirit? Without it, even the best apologetics by all the best apologists is of little to no value!

I wonder how many Christian parents with young children realise the tremendous power in what Jesus prayed in John 17:21? I wonder if they realise what the spiritual consequences are for their young children when they choose to be somewhere else other than in the gathering of their assembling church family? I wonder how many young parents appreciate that when Christ spoke about His Church being “one” as He and the Father are one, He was recasting the community of His followers in the language of family. Time with your church community in worship is not time away from your family – it is time which Christ says that your family needs with your spiritual family. Parents help their children to gain a much broader, richer, deeper, understanding of ‘family’ when they demonstrate to their children that attending church is family-time.
 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family.
Ephesians 2:19
Christ seeks to gather, to unite, to knit people together (John 17:21). His plan for the world is to build His Church (Matt. 16:18). Thus, the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians at a time when there was bickering and bitterness toward each other with a pastoral rebuke. When believers divide and isolate themselves they render the witness of Christ in the world as impotent. This, the Apostle says, was a devilish tactic. Believers were not ignorant of these devilish schemes (“Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christso that we may not be exploited by Satan (for we are not ignorant of his schemes)” – 2Cor. 2:10-11). But little wonder then that the devil’s primary scheme to undermine God’s plan of redeeming the world is to isolate, to divide, to individualise believers – because he knows that if the world actually sees a united, devoted, forgiving, self-sacrificing community of Christ-followers, they stand the best chance of becoming believers in the Christ. And the devil does all he can to prevent people coming to believe in Christ. 

In a world that is now more indifferent toward Christianity than any other time in history, the need for apologetics to advance the Gospel is desperately urgent. But without a network of strong, healthy, vibrant local churches led by caring, unifying shepherds (pastors and elders, officers and deacons, small-groups leaders) who do all they can to assemble their flocks weekly to feed their sheep and tend their lambs, apologetics can only do so much. Because when a local church becomes a model of a loving, accepting, forgiving and a well-disciplined community of passionate fully-devoted followers of Christ, the work of Gospel proclamation, and even apologetics, is made all that much easier. It is my hope that we will be willingly led by the Holy Spirit to be such a church!
Ps. Andrew