Friday, 30 June 2017


A Different Take On The ABS’s Numbers
The Australian Bureau of Statistics released the latest Census results this week. It’s interesting how these results were presented by the mainstream media. There were reports of Christianity’s decline; the dramatic risein the number of people selecting  “No Religion”; and the radical reformation of what now constitutes “a family” – with an 81% increase in those families constituted as being a “same-sex couple family”. Numbers, particularly statistics, can be difficult things to understand, especially when presented as percentages. Here’s a different analysis of the data from what you heard reported in the mainstream media…
The one who states his case first seems right,
until the other comes and examines him.
Proverbs 18:17
The ABS’s Decline of Christianity
The ABS Census collects a relatively wide range of data. Yet, when the media reported on the findings of the ABS, it seemed that they took delight in highlighting a decline in the number of people professing to be Christians, and a rise in both the number of irreligious people and same-sex couples. This is despite the fact that the Census revealed that 52% of Australians identify themselves as Christians. That is remarkable! It is twice remarkable when you consider the aggressive campaign waged to have as many Australians as possible select the “No religion” box. Thirty percent of Australians did. But 60% of Australians indicated that they are religious. That’s 14.64 million Aussies! And, of these, 12.2 million are Christians! It’s also worth considering that of the 30% of Australians (7.32 million Aussies), the Census had presented them with various Christian “denominations” as religions. (Many Christians object to be classified as religious, and nearly all would object to having their denominational affiliation identified as a distinct religion.)
The ABS hints at this with their statement, “Part of the decline in religious affiliation is a general move away from the traditional Christian denominations.” I wonder whether the Census figures would have been quite different if the options given in the Census simply listed “Christian” without giving the major denominations as religious choices? “Nevertheless” reports the ABS, 52% of Australians identify themselves as Christians! Nevertheless indeed. It is not a figure to be lightly dismissed with the wave of a politician’s hand with the comment, “Christians are now irrelevant!” Such politicians should take care not to awaken the Sleeping Giant they mock. However, we Christian leaders have our work cut out for us as we seek to re-engage with a generation that deeply craves spirituality but despises crass formalism.
¶ But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty… having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
Second Timothy 3:15

The ABS’s Rise of No-Religion
I am actually thrilled that so many people have identified themselves as having “No religion”. This makes the Church’s task of evangelism so much greater – and, so much easier! One of the greatest obstacles to leading an Aussie to Christ has been the misinformed belief that if you are born in a Christian country, you are a Christian. Quite possibly, the ABS has now done the Church a tremendous favour by helping to distinguish fair-dinkum Christians from not-even-nominal-Christians (which is not Christian at all). We may find that the traditional resistance to the Christian message of God’s love and offer of forgiveness will increasingly be met with a less resistance. Rather than bemoaning the rise of the Aussies with “No religion”, we should explain more clearly, and demonstratemore boldly, what authentic Christianity actually is.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
James 1:27

The ABS’s ‘Evolution’ Of The Family
The ABS’s reporting of an 82% increase over the past five years in the number of same-sex couples in Australia, sounds dramatic. But it sounds far less dramatic when we look at the actual numbers. 

In 2006, there were 26,000 same-sex couples in Australia. In 2011, there were 33,000. In 2016, there were 47,000. Curiously, the ABS declares that ‘Australia is raising its rainbow flag’. Curiously times two is that the ABS did not report that the actual numbers of Christians has dramatically increased over the past decade – they only promoted the percentage of Christians to the overall population has decreased. If we use the same measurement to evaluate whether Australia is indeed raising its “rainbow flag” we note that the percentage of individuals in a same-sex relationship in Australia in 2006 was 0.25%. In 2011 it was 0.29%. In 2016 it was 0.38%. Taken as couples, the percentage of same-sex couples in Australia was 0.78%. (The ABS reported that there are six million families in Australia in 2016). This is up from 0.66% in 2011. The problem with very small numbers presented as a percentage increase is that it doesn’t take much to make the percentage variation look dramatic. For example, if in 2006 I had ten people in my group, then in 2016 I had twenty, I could report that our group has experienced a 100% increase in numbers. Thus, the “81% increase in same-sex couples in Australia” needs to be seen in the light of the percentages comparing it to either overall population or the number of family households. But publicising that the number of same-sex people in Australia is now at 0.38% or that the number of same-sex couples in Australia is now 0.78% of all Australian families somehow doesn’t quite sound as dramatic.
He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.
JESUS OF NAZARETH, Matthew 19:4-6

The Future Of Christianity In Australia
Sadly, there are many struggling churches across Australia. But there many churches that are growing and thriving. Too many Christian leaders have succumbed to an extremely poor theology about the Church and Eschatology. Consequently they have interpreted certain social trends as inevitable and even prophesied in Scripture. There is, however, a far richer, far more Biblical, view of the Church and Eschatology that regards Christ as sovereign over the universe and that the Church is his means of revealing Him through the proclamation of His Word. As Professor Abraham Kuyper rightly declared, ‘There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine !’ 
It would be complacent if we stopped preaching, stopped teaching, stopped reaching, stopped praying, stopped dreaming, stopped raising up young leaders, stopped changing our methods. Scripture informs us that Christ is building His Church, and I don’t think that He’s finished just yet! As D.L. Moody once said, “The world is yet to see what Christ can do with someone fully surrendered to Him.” My hope is that it might. 
¶ After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Revelation 7:9
Andrew Corbett

Saturday, 10 June 2017

The Unchanging But Always New


You Become Like What You Worship 

Although we are all created to bear the image of God, we are also fallen, which means that the image of God in us has been marred. Our fallen nature distorts how some people worship and therefore live. Every day we see the result of those who worship a god whom they believe is a war-mongering, violent, heavenly sultan, when they murderously enforce their religious beliefs. This sad reality highlights the maxim – you become like what you worship. But in stark contrast, everyday we also see the result of those who worship the God who is loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, kind, and generous. Thus, theseworshipers care for the infirmed, uphold justice,  give generously to charities, volunteer their time and expertise, and spend their annual leave undertaking aid projects in impoverished regions of the globe. They are worshiping the immutable God is always loving, always good, always just.
¶ “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.
Malachi 3:6

God Does Not Change

God has revealed to us that He is immutable. That means, He does not change. The unchanging qualities of God are comforting. He is steadfast. He is trustworthy. He is faithful. When we worship this unchanging God and meditate on these glorious divine attributes, we become like who we worship: steadfast, trustworthy, faithful. These are desirable virtues. They make someone reliable, dependable, consistent. 
the-unchanging-GODKnow therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,
Deuteronomy 7:9
The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
Exodus 34:6
Legana-Worship-7There is something about God’s immutability that appeals deeply to us. It’s comforting that we are created in the image of the God who does not change. The Psalmists described this comfort by declaring God to be a “rock”. They painted a picture of God as unchanging because He was immovable. But the thought of God as unchanging is also comforting because it seems that this means His worshipers, therefore, do not have to change either. But there is something significantly incomplete with this vision of our God. Here’s why.
¶ “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
Deuteronomy 29:29

Discover God

God is the unchanging but always new God. Not “new” in the sense of He changes, but new in the sense that as we worship and behold Him, we discover new things about Him. We learn from Scripture that His mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3:22-23). He declares new things –
Behold, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
I tell you of them.”
Isaiah 42:9
GOD-is-always-newThose who worship God are told to do so with new songs, new sounds, and a new heart. Everything about the unchanging God invokes new. As we worship the God who has an infinite treasure of new things to reveal about Himself to those who worship Him, we become like the One we worship and embrace new.
Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
Psalm 33:3
¶ I will sing a new song to you, O God;
upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you,
Psalm 144:9
Worship of the Unchanging God always produces newNew tends to engage the heart and mind in a way that familiar cannot. Without changing who or what He is, the Unchanging God is always new. Jesus warned that if we cling to the familiar – traditions – we would be in danger of nullifying the Word God and its effectiveness.
“Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like this.”
Mark 7:13 NET
If our worship is entirely familiar – and what we have always done – we are in spiritually perilous territory. The unfamiliar is nearly always uncomfortable because we can’t control it or be complacent within it. History is dotted with people who loved God but resisted the change the One they worshiped inspired. Many denominations were founded reluctantly. John Wesley did not want to found the Methodist Denomination. He hoped that he could help facilitate renewal within the Anglican (Episcopal) Denomination. But the change was resisted and the result was that a new Denomination was birthed. Hudson Taylor hoped that the existing denominations would see the need to reach out to the great nation of China. But they resisted and the China Inland Mission was birthed. History also tells us that those who once pioneered these new moves of God and ushered in needed change would later become settled and complacent and refuse to allow God to renew them. Thus, these once mavericks became monuments.
Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”
Matthew 9:17

When a worshiper beholds the One they worship, they are transformed. Everything about undergoes transformation. When a church commits to truly worship Christ and behold Him they will be continually transformed and renewed and everything about them, the way they worshiptheir music, their decor, their fashion, their systems, their art, the manner, their heart for others, will also be transformed. Rather than seeing new as our enemy, let’s smell its fragrance – for it is the aroma of the Christ who declared- Behold I make all things new (Rev. 21:5). Rather than complaining about these new changes look closer and you may just see the fingerprints of the Father.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Second Corinthians 3:18

Friday, 2 June 2017

deFining iDentity

Things happen in life which help refine us into fine people again – refining. After all, we each need refining from time to time. Our bad attitudes such as bitterness, ungratefulness, unforgiveness, and slothfulness all becomes dross which cloud our lives and makes us less able to reflect God’s glory. The refining of metals in a furnace, especially silver and gold, helps to remove their impurities. The more silver is refined, for example, the more it becomes reflective. This is the picture that Malachi paints in Malachi 3:3 where God is the Refiner and His people are the silver.
He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD.
Malachi 3:3
 These refining moments – where the Refiner uses tragedy, success, and criticism (among other things) to refine His children, help to form our identity. Our identity hosts our character which is who we really are, especially under pressure. When our Father’s refining runs its course, it makes us finer. The dictionary defines ‘fine’ as-
fine, adj.  of very high quality; very good of its kind : this was a fine piece of film-making | fine wines • worthy of or eliciting admiration :  a fine musician •  good; satisfactory :  relations in the group were fine.
When we are finer we are less angry, more patient, more caring, more resilient, more focussed and more diligent in our responsibilities towards others. Each of these things could be identified as one of the fruit of the Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23
Our identity is “who we are”. For the believer who is being refined by the Father, their identity increasingly becomes: a child of God, a joint heir with Christ, an adopted son or daughter of the Father, an ambassador of Christ, a new creation. Life’s refining moments shape us for the better. But sadly, sometimes a child of God does not recognise this. Rather than the Father’s refining leading them to behold Christ in worship in the midst of their refining (2Cor. 3:18), they look somewhere else.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Second Corinthians 3:18


I have met people who are not who they should be. They have been hurt. Some have been unjustly hurt – severely. This is sad. But it’s even sadder when it’s a believer who chooses to identify more with their hurt than the effect of beholding the glory of the Lord in Christ (2Cor. 3:18). I have also met people who have been horribly abused who have been refined into beautifully Christ-like believers. This kind of hurt takes years to refine from their identity. Initially, it dominated their lives and became their identity. They withdrew. They grieved. They hid. They even tried to ignore it. They took measures to protect themselves with excess food or pills or alcohol. When people asked how they were they would say little or say everything. But then they felt the Spirit’s gentle wooing.
¶ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
First Peter 5:6-7
In response to the Spirit’s invitation to hand over their hurt and pain (1Peter 5:6-7) they cry out to God in prayer, “Father, please heal my heart!” The Father answers their prayer by summoning them into His presence. They respond how any believer who comes into the presence of God does: they worship. And thus their identity (who they really are) is redefined to that of a worshiper. It is only when a hurt believer redefines their identity as a worshiper that they can begin to be healed. It is only from the posture of worship (surrender to God) that a believer can be truly refined. 
No matter what’ve been through, the Father can heal you and put you in His witness-relocation program by relocating you from being a victim who identifies with their hurt to being a victor who identifies with the glory of the Lord in Christ, the Ultimate Victor – who knows a thing or two about being hurt and abused.

Pastor Andrew.