Friday, 21 October 2016


The Psalmist once cried out to God for wings so that he could fly away from all his troubles. How many of us have joined the Psalmist in his prayer and added, “And me too Lord!” Yet God didn’t answer his prayer and never answers this for us either. As Francis Thompson found, running away from your problems only unleashes certain hounds who inevitably set off in pursuit and track us down. Wherever a person goes, they are often surprised to find their troubles have gone ahead of them. I think God didn’t give us wings for a reason.
Sir Arthur C. Doyle's telegram to his friends to flee!Legend has it that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle decided to play a joke on five of his friends. He sent a telegram to each of them one night with the message- “All is known. Flee immediately.” That night, all five of friends fled England for France! What secrets do we each hide hoping that we will never be found out? How often do we run from our problems only to find them awaiting for us?
And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest;
Psalm 55:6
We all know that troubles come in two varieties: the ones we create and the ones we didn’t. In both cases it is a test of our character (who we really are) when are confronted by them. Recently I had the painful experience of public humiliation. In that moment, all eyes were on me. I felt the Psalmist’s prayer of Psalm 55 pounding in my heart. I knew that in the next few moments my true character would be revealed to everyone in the room. It’s in moments like this that I am challenged to apply the Apostle Paul’s instructions to the Philippians when he told them to have the mind or attitude of the humiliated Christ-
You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death–even death on a cross!
Philippians 2:5-8
The opening chapters of the Book on human history reveals that mankind’s most natural impulse when confronted by our own failure is to:  i) hide, and if this doesn’t work, then: ii) blame 
And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden… He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
Genesis 3:8, 11-13
The antidote to blame is humility which enables us to accept responsibility. This especially applies to the kind of trouble which we contribute to. It is in this light that Psalms 51 and 32 offer us such hope. The author of these Psalms had failed terribly. It was the kind of failure that today would have not only meant the worst kind of public shaming, but also life in prison. David had resorted to the default human response to terrible failure and tried hide and cover it up. But as usual, this strategy always, always, always, makes the problems from failure far worse. Before he get fall back onto option #2, Nathan the Prophet removed it from him.
¶ Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.
Second Samuel 12:7-9
Nathan-before-DavidI imagine that David’s heart would have been pounding in his chest, his head would have begun to feel hotter, his mind would have been racing. What could he do now? The result of this moment was Psalm 51 where he made confession before God and, since it is a public Psalm, he also made confession before those he had let down. This is God’s remedy for our failure. David would teach this principle to his young son Solomon –
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
Proverbs 28:13
It’s doubtful that Solomon ever truly appreciated the riches of the wisdom that his father gave him in that moment, but then again, Solomon was never blessed with a Nathan in his life (he was the only king of Israel not to have a prophet minister to him).
When David confessed his sin to God, acknowledge the injury he had caused to the Name of God, sought to make restitution to those he had hurt, and surrendered his life afresh to God, he experienced the joy of God’s cleansing forgiveness.
¶ Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
¶ For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
¶ I acknowledged my sin to You,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
and You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
Psalm 32:1-5
I mentioned Francis Thompson earlier. He was an extremely bright young man with a very promising future as a medical student. But he stumbled. Something happened. He doesn’t tell us what. But we do know that after Medical School, he moved from Scotland to England and lived on the streets of London where he became an opium addict. In his worst moments his life hung in the balance and he was cared for by a kind-hearted prostitute. In his good moments he was one of English literature’s finest poets. G.K. Chesterton described him as “the greatest poetic energy since Browning.[*]  He wrote a poem called The Hounds Of Heaven. He describes the wayward being pursued by God through His ‘hounds’ (the ministry of the church, the ministrations of our conscience, and the mediation of the Holy Spirit). No matter where the wayward attempts to flee from these troubling hounds, he cannot. Like the hounds of old used then by hunters, God has a way of pursuing and bringing the wayward to their knees and summoning them to experience what King David described as the greatest blessing available to a man – the blessing of having our sins forgiven by God.
The other day I met with such a blessed person. They had stumbled. They had fled and hid. Things only got worse for them. The internal turmoil they had been experiencing had impacted their physical well-being. We spoke. They described their repentance and shared empathy for those they had hurt (a sign of genuine repentance). Many of the troubles they now faced had not vanished, but it was now obvious that they would now be dealing with their various challenges with the strength of a clean heart and the assurance of God’s presence. 
Maybe God has used you as one of His ‘hounds’? The Prophet Nathan was King’s David’s ‘hound’. If you are, chances you yourself were once ‘hounded’ by someone who cared enough to chase you down. The Apostle Paul spoke to the hounds of Galatia and gave them some sombre exhortations which godly hounds today should take careful note of as they seek to clip the wings of their wayward brothers and sisters who would rather fly away from their troubles than deal with them –
¶ Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.
Galatians 6:1-5
While the old saying, “If God wanted man to fly He would have given him wings!” is wrong in so many ways, when it comes to dealing with our failures - especially relationally - it’s very true. You may not be able to fly away from your troubles (Psalm 55), and even though you may want to take the next best alternative (running and hiding, Gen. 3) there is a grace available to you from God that can make you stronger, cleaner, taller (Psalm 32), if you confess, repent, make restitution, and seek restoration (Psalm 51). Interestingly, although we are created in the image of the God who is described as having "wings" which He uses to rescue (Exodus 19:4) and safeguard (Psalm 36:7), I think God didn’t give us wings for a reason.
Ps. Andrew Corbett  

Friday, 14 October 2016


It would be easy to think that the Bible presents an unimaginably glorious picture of God. He is described as being light. His appearance seems radiate the kind of light that not only blinds the viewer but also attracts them as well. The light that God emanates is not the photonic light of this temporal dimension, but the kind of light which only eternity can sustain. It is the kind of light that warms and comforts those who are drawn to it and the kind of light that warns and exposes those who try to run from it. God’s eyes are described as being like fire – they pierce the soul of the onlooker. When He speaks His voice is variously described as being like mighty thunder or the sound of many crashing waters over a gigantic waterfall. When He speaks, whatever He decrees happens. Everyone who is permitted to be in His immediate presence is not only overcome with a sense of their deepest purpose being awoken – to fully worship the Most Glorious Being in the Universe – but also to discover that in so doing, their deepest longings are infinitely satisfied. Thus, every picture of God on His Throne which the Bible reveals to us is a scene of unimaginable worship. But even though it would be easy to think that the Bible presents an unimaginably glorious picture of God, it declares that what we see is actually just a dim view!
And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.
Second Corinthians 12:3-4
The banished Apostle John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, he tells us, when he had the most amazing encounter with God that caused him to fall to the ground ‘as though dead’.
¶ Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. ¶ When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last…”
Revelation 1:12-17
God possesses certain unique glorious qualities including omnipotence (He is all-powerful), omniscience (He knows everything), eternality (He has no beginning or end and always is), and omnipresence (He is everywhere). In attempting to convey the grandeur of God’s omnipresnce, the Prophet declares that the heavens are God’s throne and the earth is His foot-stool.
¶ Thus says the LORD:
“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me,
and what is the place of my rest?
Isaiah 66:1
Yet despite all of these magnificent descriptions of the Exalted Christ, there are some who consider that, since Jesus became incarnate, he no longer possesses all of these divine attributes. This week I received a phone from a troubled believer who had heard a Bible College lecturer during the week declare that because Jesus now has a human body, He was no longer omni-present. One of the supporting Scriptures offered in support of this heterodox idea was Hebrews 12:2 –  
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:2
The argument offered from this verse is that since Jesus is somewhere (the right hand of God) He cannot be everywhere. This teaching is wrong for several reasons. Firstly, Christ’s incarnation did not remove any of His divine attributes, including His attribute of omnipresence. Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Upon meeting Jesus for the first time, Christ said to Nathaniel that He had been watching him (even though this was not physically possible) –
Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
John 1:46-48
Secondly, when Christ ascended, His physical identity (determined by His unique DNA) became eternally His. But since He ‘ascended’ into Heaven (which is perhaps best understood as being translated from this physical dimension into the ultimate dimension of Heaven), a spiritual realm, His physical material would have remained in this realm to await His return to earth. This of course means that Christ’s omnipresence is not depleted in anyway.
Thirdly, embedded into the Great Commission is Christ’s declaration of His omnipresence: “And behold! I am with you until the end of the age!” (Matthew 28:20). This is supremely reassuring for every believer – especially those who pay the highest price to believe! (Christ’s omnipresence is more than a theological theory!)
Fourthly, if the Biblical statement that Christ is seated at the ‘right hand of God (the Father)’ means that He is not omnipresent, then what does it mean for God the Father (since He is at the left hand of God the Son)?
Errors like this heterodox idea (that Christ is no longer omnipresent) highlight that despite the Word of God being so freely and widely available, we still see God dimly. And this is remarkable because even what we can see dimly is so phenomenally glorious. 
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
First Corinthians 13:12
And if what we see of Christ in the Scriptures is a “dim” view – and yet it is so incredibly glorious and wonderful – then heaven only knows what the full picture of Christ will be when we see Him face to face! The next time you feel all alone, remember – even the dim view of Christ which we receive from Scripture tells us that: Christ is with us – even to the end of the Age! Imagine what our worship could be like this Sunday if some us get a closer view of even this dim picture of the risen, glorious, omnipotent, omniscient, eternal, and omnipresent Lord! 
Ps. Andrew Corbett

Saturday, 8 October 2016

The Lessons Of The Barkley Marathon

barkley-marathons-horror-movieKim and I watched a horror movie last night called, The Barkley Marathon. I might be the only one who considers this documentary about a race through Tennessee’s Frozen Head State Park a “horror” movie. But consider things from my point of view: Only 40 contestants each year are accepted into this 200km foot race, which includes 5 laps of a National Park with each lap being different. It involves ascending and descending over mountainous terrain. All the while, each contestant is wearing a backpack – as each lap takes between 10 to 15 hours to complete. Runners stop between laps for just a few minutes for napping and calorie refuelling. To put things in perspective, this race is the equivalent of running the Overland Track from Dove Lake to Lake St. Clair and then running back again, and then turning around at Dove Lake and running to Mount Ossa (with the allowance for the fact that Mt. Ossa is only one third of the ascent of Frozen Head State Park)! Only 14 people have ever completed the Barkley Marathon! And as we were watching this horror movie, one of the contestants said something truly stunning to the Documentary maker!
barkley-marathon-course-washington-postAs I watched these contestants jogging up mountains, through forests, along creeks, via drains, and heard them talk about the discomfort (and eventual agony) they have to deal with, I recalled each of my 5-day-plus hikes and the gruelling pain I experienced doing each of them. But then the horror of these contestants’ feats grew as I realised these people were doing the equivalent 18 days of normal-person mountainous-bush-walking in under two and half days! As the contestants progress through the race, they battle cuts, abrasions, bruises, exhaustion, and the breaking of their wills. Curiously, most of the people who compete in this race, and even more curiously, the only people who ever completed the race are those with advanced Graduate College Degrees (Engineers, Chemists, Physicists and the like). I wasn’t surprised to hear this, and probably neither would anyone with a higher degree. The little known reason for this is that higher degrees aren’t so much about intelligence as they are about endurance.
The Barkley MarathonThe Documentary gave opportunity for those surviving contestants to share their stories. This was when I was a little stunned by what one of them said. He shared the story of how his father had worked hard all his life and saved for his retirement which was to commence with the trip of a life-time. But then, one year before his father was to embark, he suddenly died. This caused his son to reassess his own priorities. He had previously been a keen jogger. One of his jogging buddies mentioned that he had just run his first marathon. He wondered if he was capable of running a marathon. He gave it a go. After completing several marathons, then ultra-marathons, he heard about the Barkley Marathon (considered one of the world’s most difficult ultra-marathons). As he shared his story, it turned out that the loss of his father was not the only pain he had experienced. He had become accustomed to pain – not just the physical affliction type. Somehow, this gave him the mental strength to be able to endure these gruelling running races. As he was talking, the documentary showed him during this Barkley Marathon – cut up, blistered, dehydrated, running in the dark with a small head-lamp, as he trudged up a hill covered in briars. Then he said it.
“Most people could do with more pain in their lives – seriously!”
He went onto say, “Most people don’t know what they’re capable of. Only pain can reveal it to them!” By testing himself with these ultra-marathons, even with all the pain that they caused, he was discovering who he really was and what he was really made of. To get through the pain he had to endure. By enduring, he was becoming a stronger person.
When I heard him say this, I was initially stunned. I didn’t like hearing it. But he said it in such a thoughtful, matter-of-fact way, that it then made me ponder on it the next day. You see, the past year I have lived with pain. Spinal degeneration and a touch of Trigeminal Neuralgia will do that. Everything I have to do now happens a little slower. I have had to learn to endure. Toward the end, completing the F.W. Boreham Documentary became not so much about documentary film-making as it did endurance. I have now completed 7 out of 10 Biblical Greek exams. I’m a year overdue from completing it. When I do, it will not be a measure of my commitment to Biblical scholarship, as much as it will be about endurance. Preaching through the Book of Jeremiah over the past six or so years has not been easy. It has required doggĂȘd endurance. I can’t run, let alone do an ultra-marathon, and you might share my confession, but we all have to endure something in order to become who we are meant to be.
In the TV sci-fi series, Heroes, Claire does not feel pain. Initially, she thinks this is a wonderful gift. But then she grows to despise it. She no longer feels human. To be human is to experience pain.
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Romans 8:22-23
Life requires endurance. Marriage requires endurance. Parenting requires endurance. Business requires endurance. Pastoring requires endurance. In fact, it seems that the formula for achievement reveals that the greater the objective the greater the endurance required to achieve it!
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
First Corinthians 10:13 
barkley1-videoLarge-v2As I think about how we can win our community to Christ and see Christ’s church in Legana grow with the fruit of this quest, I know that this greatest of all quests will require extraordinary endurance. Together, we must endure in prayer, endure in our witness, endure in our observance of the Sunday-Sabbath, endure in our private devotions of Bible reading and prayerful reflection, endure in our sacrificial giving, endure in our prophetic stand for righteousness. And if this formula for achieving great things is correct, we will have to endure through adversity, discomfort and pain. The winner of the Barkley Marathon wins nothing other than the glory, but compared to the cost of our marathon to win lost souls from our community to Christ, the Barkley Marathon is a walk in the park in comparison! 

Ps. Andrew.