Friday, 17 February 2017



This week I had the occasion to speak to three individuals about the difference between Christianity and other religions. While all religions have certain beliefs which generally qualify a person to be an adherent of that religion, Christianity is starkly different. Of course there are some essential beliefs that define Christianity, but simply believing that these things are true is not what qualifies a person as a Christian. The reason is that belief is often confused with faith. And unlike all other religions, which are built on their Creed (set of beliefs), Christianity is a Faith with a Creed, not just a Creed. This distinction is not insignificant. It literally has eternal consequences. The three individuals whom I shared this with this week were each at a point in their life-journey where perhaps for the first time in their lives they could appreciate the gravity of the distinction. You see, each one had recently been confronted with the frailty of their own humanity. One of them had been told by doctors that they had only weeks left to live. The other had an incurable disease. The third had just come out of critical care. Here’s what I told them. 

After listening a bit to the first person’s story and having them tell me that they only had weeks left, I gently told them, “I want to help you to die well.” 
“Thank you” they replied, “I am a Christian, but I’m not one of those church-going Christians.”
“Many believe what Christianity teaches to be true,” I responded, “but they often confuse their understanding of three key words – belieffaith, and trust.”
I explained that a belief was simply an acknowledgement that something was true. Faith was being persuaded by the reasons that a claim was true and had implications for the believer. Trust was the result of that implication.
“For example,” I said, “one may believe that a plane can fly. You can even have good reasons to have faith that a plane can fly. But trust is boarding the plane to fly!”  
This was, I explained, how Christianity was different from all other religions. While religions have sets of beliefs, common to all of them – except Christianity – is the belief that if a person does enough good they can outweigh the bad and qualify to enter Heaven after they die. Reaching for one of the Legana Passports, which will be used in our KiDS Church over the next three Sundays, I drew the analogy that each time we did something wrong it was like receiving a blemish stamp in our life passport. No matter how many merit stamps we may get in our “life passport”, they could never cancel out the blemish stamps. It was like a convicted murderer being shuttled to the court for sentencing when on the way there a school bus laden with children falls over the edge of the bridge. Somehow, the convicted murderer breaks free from his chains and escapes to dive off the bridge and begin rescuing all twenty-eight school children from drowning. After saving their lives, Police once again secure him into the back of the van and take him to court. The Judge declares that this murderer has been found guilty and should be sentenced to the severest punishment. But the convicted man interrupts and says, “Not so fast your Honour! On the way here this morning I rescued twenty-eight lives, so I think we’re even now – in fact, I think you owe me!” As noble as the man’s actions were in rescuing those doomed children, no fair-minded judge is going to be persuaded by this appeal because when the man violently took the life an innocent human being it was a crime with capital (life-long) consequences. How much more then are we guilty when we sin against an eternal and infinitely good God?
Reaching for the other Legana Passport on my desk I continued.
“Imagine if when we die we stand before God with our blemished life-passport and have Him examine it. We cannot bear to look up into the face of God because our guilt and failure is obvious and undeniable. In that moment we know and accept that as the Judge of the Universe we are about to be sentenced and condemned for eternity” I told them. “But then Jesus comes over to us and offers us His perfectly unblemished Passport and tells us that with this Passport we have unfettered access to the best that Heaven offers. He then offers it to us. What would your response be?” I asked.
“Thank you” they replied.
“Precisely. And this is exactly what Jesus Christ did on the first Easter when He died as our Substitute on the Cross.” 
 “This is why” I went on, “we spell ‘religion’ as D, O, – it’s all about what you do. And it’s why we spell ‘Christianity’ as D, O, N, E, – it’s all been done for us by Christ.”
The question now is, I offered, whether you will move from belief to trust and get on the plane (Jesus)?
I had a colleague tell me that he had a man who had come to him and say that despite attending his church for over three decades he felt that something was missing in his life. The pastor listened to his story and then startled the man with, “I don’t think you’ve ever truly become a Christian – because what you are describing is someone who believes it to be true but has never actually put their trust in Jesus as their Saviour.” The man’s response to this was equally startling. “Thank God then, because if this was true Christianity I don’t want it because all I feel is empty!” The Pastor led the man to put his faith into action and to trust in the Saviour. The difference from that point was also startling! 
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!  ¶ And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.
Second Corinthians 5:17-18
Ps. Andrew

Friday, 10 February 2017

Launching Out Into The Deep


One of the stipulated conditions for being allowed to marry Kim, as I was to later discover, was that I had to learn how to sail. So serious was this stipulation, that my father-inlaw paid for me to do a sailing course at the Royal Melbourne Yacht Club. Upon completion of the course, I was duly entrusted with the family yacht. Fortunately, we lived right near Williamstown, Melbourne, which meant that mooring and regularly sailing the yacht was relatively practicable. But, alas, my entire sailing experience was confined to Port Phillip Bay. Other experienced sailors would talk with excitement about “sailing green” (through rough ocean) and negotiating ten to fifteen metre waves! I was content to limit my sailing to a very light shade of blue!  I do, however, have the utmost respect for sailors who venture out into the untamed green waters of the world and return as conquerors. But not all do. Going out into the deep has its rewards, but it also has its risks.
And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
Luke 5:4
“Launching out into the deep” in life involves combatting weariness, overcoming past failures, dealing with unresolved hurts, and trying to forget some possible bad memories. It can be done – but needs some mighty awkward hurdles to be negotiated first! When Jesus told Peter to launch out into the deep after he and his co-workers had toiled all night and caught nothing, Peter also had to get over his previous negative experiences.
And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”
Luke 5:5
crab-fishermen-bering-straitSailing vessels are always safe when secured in a harbour. But sailing vessels were never intended to remain within the safety of a harbour. Your life is like a ship and your journey through life is like navigating seas and oceans. Certain fishing boats, such as the Crab fishermen of the Bering Strait, up near Alaska, have to venture way out into some of the roughest seas on the planet. This Crab season only lasts a few weeks. Each season, several of these fishermen die. For those Crab fishermen who survive and make it back at the end of the season, the financial rewards are significant. They can earn up to a year’s wages in just a few weeks. 
Crab_Fishing_boat_Bering_Sea_AlaskaFishing on the Bering Sea is one of the most hazardous professions on the planet. Days spent lugging around heavy equipment amid giant swells and icy blasts of sea-soaked air — it’s not for the faint of heart. The isolation of those remote waters, the winter months shrouded in darkness and prone to stormy skies, the high winds and ice-covered decks — all stack the deck for hypothermia, drowning and other life-threatening accidents. Despite the danger, there’s still a good bit of money to be made as a fisherman on the Bering Sea — provided you’re willing to pay your dues and work your way up.
Discovery Channel
Millions of dollars are made by these Crab fishers in just one season. But it is only possible if they launch out into the deep. 
And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.
Luke 5:6
Spiritually the same principle seems to apply. The more we are prepared to step out of our comfort zone, obey Christ, and venture deep, the greater the reward. In just over a week, we as a church will be doing just this. Many of us have been planning, building, organising, training, investing, into this Journey campaign. One of our KiDS Church workers has spent the last three weeks building the material which will resemble the inside of a jumbo jet. This has also involved painting and shaping the various boxes now dressed up as pieces of luggage, for the luggage of life game the children will be playing. All of this effort for what will effectively be for less than sixty minutes of usage. Then it will be taken down and disposed of forever. This is launching deep. It is in this deep where we hope to catch the kind of young fish that Jesus spoke about.
And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”
Mark 1:17
This kind of deep fishing involves leg-work and knee-work. Some of us can do the leg-work, some of can do the knee-work. When a church launches out into the deep there is always a lot of leg-work to be done (advertising, catering, volunteer-coordination, multi-media presentations to produce, VIPs to be invited, décor to be updated, music to be learned/practised/rehearsed, leaflets to be delivered, sets to be made, curriculums to be written, social-media to be updated, and so on), and there is an even greater amount of knee-work to be done (prayer for appropriate weather, prayer for visitors to turn up and for God to open their hearts, prayer for the volunteers to be refreshed and ready, prayer for the musicians and singers to be prepared and able to perform with confidence, prayer for the children invited to join in, prayer for the children’s workers to well-preprared and able to hold the attention of the assembled children, prayer for our sound-team and media team to work in harmony, prayer for those involved in the catering to be well organised and in good health, and prayer for the preacher to have God’s anointing).  
Some of us may feel like we’ve already toiled all night and caught nothing. Even the thought of launching out into the deep is frightening. But in order for us to reach the precious catch which Christ summons us to fish for, we have to set sail and head for deep waters. On Sunday February 19th at Legana, you may feel as if you are out of your depth, but as these Bering Strait Crab-fishermen constantly remind themselves, it’s only for a season and the rewards are extraordinary. But as any of these Crab fishermen will tell you, it’s not a one man job – we all need to help each other out. If you can’t do some of the leg-work which needs doing, then we need you on your knees helping out with the knee-work. On Sunday February 19th, let’s all give 100% and truly make it a One Hundred Percent Sunday 
Deeply yours,
Ps. Andrew

Saturday, 4 February 2017

All You Ever Needed To Know About Windows

I would like us to take a moment to celebrate windows. These versatile building products possess all the attributes of greatness and genius. They are simple – glass and a frame. But they can also be intricate – tiny coloured pieces of glass and artistically shaped lead. They can be small. They can be massive. They can be found in a palace and in a hut. They let things in and keep things out. Their view can cheer a soul or strike terror in a soldier. They can be functional or they can also be stunningly beautiful. Windows done well are perfectly humble. And for all these reasons I think we not only need to take a moment to celebrate windows, but to also learn from them.
¶ “Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light.
Matthew 6:22 THE MESSAGE
Even though windows can be dressed up with drapes, curtains, blinds or shutters, they are not there to draw attention to themselves. They serve to reveal. They make it possible to see without battling the elements of wind, rain, or glare. Windows can help let light in and thus brighten up a room. Windows facing toward the sun invite its warmth in. They reveal, they brighten, they warm, and they do it all gladly.
From the outside of a home, windows tell a passerby what kind of home this is. The passerby may see a family sitting around a dinner table enjoying a meal, each other, and their guests’ company. The passerby may look in and notice the décor and see that the occupant has an eye for colour. They may also attempt to look in and fail and thus conclude that the occupant values their privacy. 
The Church is meant to be like a window. Windows have longed formed an integral and symbolic component of church building architecture. Our new church building, due for completion some time in June, will have some bold windows facing out to our community. This too is intentionally symbolic. 
In our Western Culture, we are living in a privacy-obsessed world. Life hasn’t always been this privatised. For most of human history for most human cultures, there has been a strong sense of community, togetherness, mutuality, and a higher degree of appropriate transparency. Because of this strong cultural undertow, it is often challenging for people who are now coming to Christ and being introduced to the church family to appreciate that God wants to do something in us not just in me. In fact, the Apostle Paul told the Ephesians (a church made up of Jews and Gentiles) that by God bringing them together into one church family, that He was showing the world that His Son is more important to His children than their ethnicity, language, skin-colour, or heritage.
To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 3:8-10
window-stained-glassIn other words, the local church is meant to be a window. As a window, the community where God has called the church to assemble can look in. When people look through the church as a window they will see the unsearchable riches of Christ deposited in people just like them! When they look at the church in their community they will see the thing they crave more than anything else (unconditional love, forgiveness, wholesome friendships, helpful instruction, grace to go on) evident in the lives of people just like them!
From inside the church looking out, the church as a window helps the believer to see the world more clearly. What was previously obscured by the elements of life, and now filtered out by the Christ-supplied window, enables the believer to see people as we’ve never seen them before. It enables to see the demands for what is abhorrent as a deep ache in the souls of those who seeking what they have not found.
Each Sunday, we webcast our service Live on the internet. It’s like watching our service on TV, only better, because you can watch it anywhere in the world on a smart-phone, tablet computer, smart-TV, or computer. This is an expression of our desire to be a window through which the world may look in. This is why it is important for all believers to gather together each Sunday and declare to the world that celebrating Christ in His House is more important to us than sport, business, or me-time. And when our service together is dismissed and the weekly webcast stops, our windows are still open for the world to look in – but not through one larger than normal window, but through the individual windows we each serve as for Christ when we go our way into our worlds.
So three cheers for the window and three cheers for Christ who has gifted us to be His window for a lost world to gaze through and behold His grace in people just like them. In this way, we are a window of hope to a person who feels there is none.

Pastor Andrew.