Friday, 21 July 2017

The Media Have Their Guns Aimed At The Church And We Keep Giving Them The Bullets!

BOARD SAFE

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.
Acts 20:28-30
Two of Legana Christian Church's Board membersThis week I took a call from another pastor who expressed concern that the Church was coming under an increasing number of  attacks in the media over the last few weeks. Nearly every night this week on prime-time TV, there has been a damaging report on the state of the Church. On Monday night Four Corners aired a damning report on the Roman Catholic diocese of Philadelphia’s appalling handling of pedophilia committed by priests. A Current Affair, Today Tonight, have each exposed financial and psychological abuse of vulnerable people. On Tuesday night, The 7:30 Report presented a sickening exposé on how domestic violence is rife within the Evangelical and Pentecostal churches in Australia. And this Sunday night, 60 Minutes is reporting on a Baptist church in New South Wales that is in hot water. As I told this fellow pastor, it’s not that the media are attacking us, it’s that they have guns and we keep giving them bullets to fire at us! I want to pastor the kind of church that gives the media reasons to put down their guns. Here’s how we can do it.

A Church Should Be A Safe Refuge

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
 my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Psalm 18:2
The Psalmist declared that God was a safe refuge. The church needs to reflect this aspect of God’s character by also being a safe refuge. We want broken, hurting, damaged, lost and confused people to have good reason to feel safe when they come into our church on a Sunday. We do not want our message to sound like an attack on anyone – most especially, the vulnerable. For those who have observed us over the years, it has soon become evident that we help all-comers. On the occasions when I have been publicly attacked by someone opposed to Christianity, I have tried to engage with them which has often led to face-to-face meetings where I have heard their stories and listened to their pain. In nearly every instance this has ended amicably. When issues have arisen in the public arena we have used our profile and platform to contribute into the debate. (People still talk to me about our role in the Tamar Valley Pulp Mill development saga.) Of late, we have been quite outspoken about domestic violence and the sexual abuse of children. In each of our services we present God’s Word without shouting, screaming, or ranting, and while we always try to persuade people that the God of the Bible is worth trusting and that His offer of forgiveness is worth accepting, we do so in a way that people are free to choose to accept it, reject it, or come back and hear more. 

A Church Board Should Ensure Safeness 

But all things should be done decently and in order.
First Corinthians 14:40
The Board of Legana Christian ChurchThe Board of our church takes our responsibility to safeguard the welfare of those who enter into our community very seriously. We have installed video security cameras throughout our buildings and facilities. We are rolling out movement sensor lights around our facilities. We are replacing solid wooden doors with glass doors. We have mandated that every leader undertake Childsafe® training to be aware how to prevent, detect, or best deal with the abuse of children. We now require that everyone who serves on our rosters undertakes our Partnership course so that we can ensure that no-one in our church is put at risk and that we can vouch for everyone who serves in our church.
And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.
First Corinthians 12:28
Pastor Andrew Corbett with Legana Christian Church's Pastoral Care Team Co-ordinator, Donna HillLocal churches are designed by Christ to governed by divinely appointed, spiritually gifted, competent, elders and deacons. Elders govern the spiritual climate and health of a church. They are required by Scripture to be people of exemplary character and spiritual discipline (1Tim. 3:1-7). They do this prayerfully through teaching, preaching, and counsel. Deacons are required to administer the affairs of the church – property and finance management, regulatory compliance, staffing, discipline and development of leaders and ensuring that policies and procedures are adhered to (1Cor. 3:8-13). We don’t necessarily call each one who serves in this administration capacity a ‘deacon’ (which means servant), but those who serve on our church Board fulfil this Christ-ordained appointment for the welfare of His Church.
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, ¶ To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:
Philippians 1:1

Not Just About ‘Souls’

¶ 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.
Third John 2
The extent to how much we care about people is not limited to their involvement on a Sunday. We want children to be safe in their homes. We want wives to be safe in their homes. We want husbands to be safe to be around. We hope that the peace people experience on a Sunday from being with God’s people in God’s presence is transferred into their lives and their homes. We hope that our worship of our Servant-Saviour translates into each of us increasingly developing a servant attitude toward those we live with, work with, learn with, and play with. 
We will continue to strive to provide care for the hurting, assist the needy, counsel the troubled, train new leaders, and equip believers to be better ambassadors for Christ in their homes, schools, workplaces and clubs. Thus, for us, it’s not just a motto, it’s our public mission statement to be a church that is helping make life better.
Your servant,
Pastor Andrew

Friday, 14 July 2017

Lessons from the move into our new auditorium

From Hear To Hear

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
Dr. Andrew CorbettWe move through life. It is a journey. Along the way, we pass people, scenes, experiences, moments. These all become our memories. If we undertake our journey by always looking back to these memories we run the risk of bumping into our present – which can hurt. Life’s journey happens most sweetly when we keep moving forward. We leave the past behind as we walk into our future. While this can be challenging for any individual, it can be particularly difficult for a group of people such as a family, or church to journey together. 
“Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.”
Isaiah 43:18-19
Ephesians 3:20-21It can be difficult for a family to move house. Often they are leaving behind fond memories and a place where they have felt secure and comfortable, not to mention great neighbours. As difficult as this is (and our family has done it seven times) imagine moving home to another country! (We have several families in our church who have made this difficult transition.) Not only do they have to contend with a new house in a new location, they have all of the challenges of being without extended family networks, or even the benefit of long-term friendship connections. Churches also have to journey which similarly involves leaving some things behind – pastors, worship styles, and even buildings. 
Our church is about to undertake the next step in our journey. It involves saying ‘goodbye’ to our old sanctuary as we leave it for our new one. Kim and I helped to build our existing auditorium (which we opened on August 31st 1996). Twenty-one years later, we are now less than four weeks away from the Grand Opening of our new auditorium.
New Auditorium Grand Opening
For me, this means leaving behind the place where I have baptised several hundred people, married many couples, dedicated many babies to the Lord, preached several thousand sermons, counselled hundreds of people, and seen many more people finding saving hope in Christ. I’m sure that there will be many others who could also share fond memories associated with our old auditorium. Even though our new building has been constructed quickly, the move from our old auditorium into our new one has been a careful, considered, and collaborative one. Every step of our journey – from the need, through each stage of the development, has been transparent, explained and exciting. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Geoff Hill for the brilliant oversight of this project. He has sacrifices his time, sleep, and energy to make this happen. Along with Geoff, several other tradesmen have given of their time and skills to help us on our journey. 
One of the things we have said regularly through this building project is that it has never been about the building. One of the things that we have improved over the last couple of years is our ability to hear. We hear the heart-ache of people. We hear the struggles of those in relationship breakdowns are experiencing. We hear the confusion of young people. We hear the tears of the elderly. We hear the cries of the lonely. Everyone wants to be heard. It validates them. It tells them we care. It helps them to know that we aren’t here to merely preach at them – we are genuinely interested in them and how we can help them. This has led to our church building a reputation as a safe church – a church that cares.  
¶ I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,
Ephesians 4:1-2
As we transition into our new auditorium, we will be gathering in a building made from ‘rubbish’ wood which has been selected, shaped, and glued together (“LVL” – laminated veneer lumber). This is a picture of our church which is made up of broken people who have been selected by God, shaped by God, and joined together in Christ. It is a building which is nearly three times the size of our old auditorium. This too is indicative of what God has done in and among us over the past few years. It will be a building with a lot of glass. This should remind us that we are transparent and invite people to look in all the while remembering that we are called to reach out to those outside.
¶ And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
Colossians 1:9
But most importantly as we transition from the old to the new, let us continue to hear. May we hear one another. May we hear the broken, hurting, lonely, and confused – and may we especially hear God, who always hears us. I will always be reminded of this because of what my American friend Pastor Dan Miller requested. He apologised for not being able to attend our Grand Opening. On Facebook he wrote on my wall asking for a favour. He requested that I write “Ephesians 3:20-21” underneath the place where the Word will be preached each Sunday in our new building. Today, I honoured his request.
Ephesians 3:20-21
¶ Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21
Amen!
Pastor Andrew

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Hear To Help

HEAR TO HELP
How is our church known in our community? Whenever churches have taken the time to ask their community, they generally get feedback sounding like – irrelevantout-datedmoney-focussedjudgmental. Increasingly though, it seems they also get blank looks. That is, many people in their community aren’t even aware of the church in their community. Sometimes, we church-goers become so inward-focussed that we assume everyone (including those in our community) know who we arewhat we dohow we fail, and at least where we are. But the sad reality is, they don’t. Bill Hybels recently had a reason to go down to the back of his Willow Creek Church campus (in Chicago). A neighbour to the church called him over and pointed at the church and asked, “Hey, what is this?” As I recall the story, Bill asked him if he was new to the area. “No, I’ve lived here for years.” Even 20,000 member churches (such as Willow Creek) can have difficulties connecting with their communities!
For our church to connect well with our community we have to let them know that we are hear to help. If we can do this then they will at least know that we are also here to help.

THE CHURCH THAT JESUS DESIGNED

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 Church continues the earthly ministry of Christ. As we read the Gospels we note that Jesus taught people, healed people, fed people, and advocated for the poor and for foreigners. Hence, from the establishment of the Church, Christians developed social welfare delivery for the poor, education for the under-privileged, and health care for the sick, injured or dying. All the while, Christ commissioned His Church to proclaim God’s offer of salvation and forgiveness of sins for all those who would turn away from sins in repentance toward God. Thus, Christ’s design for His Church was for us to truly show love toward our neighbours by tending to both their temporal needs and their greatest and eternal need. 
And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as you love yourself
Matthew 22:39
Loving our neighbours surely involves caring about their welfare and doing what we can to help them. This begins with hearing them. Recently I heard a veteran Christian minister answer the question, “If you could spend time with a non-Christian for the final moments of their life, what would you say to them just before they died?” His answer surprised the questioner. “I would“, he began, “listen to them for most of that time, then after showing them that I cared enough to listen to their heart, I would ask if I could help them get to heaven, and if they gave me their permission, I would share the Gospel with them.”  Sometimes we have to hear to help.

HEAR, IF WE WANT PEOPLE TO LISTEN

Good FaithThrough the centuries, the Church has volunteered medical care, education, shelter, meals, leadership during times of adversity, relationship counselling, job training, and parenting coaching. God occasionally raises up people whom He gifts with talents and abilities to be able to meet these kinds of needs as they arise. Some Christians have made the mistake of thinking that the Church only exists to meet these temporal needs. Christ’s heart must break each time thismistake is made. Some Christians have made the mistake of thinking that the Church only exists to evangelise. Christ’s heart must break each time this mistake is made. Both mistakes admit a failure to truly hear Christ. If we want people to listen to us we need to hear Christ.

HEAR, HOW WE CAN HELP

Someone may look at the list above of how the Church has helped people down through the ages and claim that other groups can now equally or better meet these needs in society today. Thus, they might reason, the Church is now irrelevant. While we have already mentioned two grievous mistakes that Christians can make about the role of the Church, this mistake committed by an onlooker of the Church would be a heinous mistake. The world needs the Church now – more than ever!
Christ’s heart is for all people. His Church walks in step with Him. We share His heart with Him. Therefore, our heart is for all people. 
As Christ walked the shores of Galilee, the roads of Judea, and the streets of Jerusalem, He saw need. Many times He met these needs. People were fed. People were taught. People were healed. But most especially, people were forgiven and given a new start. Matthew, a despised tax collector for Herod Antipas on behalf of Rome, was transformed into a beloved apostle who eventually took the Gospel of God’s love and grace to Ethiopia. Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9) was a formerly mentally deranged woman whom Jesus cast, not one, but seven, demons out of. Space prevents us listing all such transformations narrated in the Gospel accounts. Whenever needy people encountered Jesus, transformation resulted. The same is true today and there is no other agency that can replicate or replace this vital ministry of the Church. Only Christ’s Church can meet the temporal needs of people while giving them a three-dimensional transformation. 

HEAR, A 3 DIMENSIONAL TRANSFORMATION

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
John 8:36
Jesus meets both our immediate needs and our deepest most urgent and most important need. While food, clothing, shelter, care, education, acceptance are important needs, they are not as important as being rescued from Satan’s bondage and set free from his spell. Miraculously, Jesus transforms a person’s past, present and future.   
¶ So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:31-32
Christ has commissioned and entrusted His Church to minister this miraculous grace to those who need it. This transforming grace is proclaimed by preaching and witness. This grace forgives a person for their sin-stained past and empowers them to repent.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Second Corinthians 5:17
This grace transforms a person’s present by giving them hope for today and a new reason to endure this life’s temporal adversities.
So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him.
Second Corinthians 5:9
And this same grace helps people secure an eternally blessed future.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
Second Corinthians 5:10
The need around us today is great: (i) marriage and family breakdown, (ii) hyper-loneliness, (iii) material idolatry, (iv) identity confusion, (v) suicidal despair. Only Christ’s grace mediated through His Church can possibly meet these needs. Sunday by Sunday we have people looking for the answer to their needs walking into our church services. Each day of the week, the transformed people of our church community bear witness to the transforming grace of Christ to those in need. These are the needy who have sought help from various sources but come away empty and still in bondage. This is not surprising because professional therapists, Government welfare workers, or hospital staff, rarely know how to meet the deepest, greatest, most important need within every human soul. This is why we, the church, are hear to help. Hopefully, as we continue to do this, more within and from around our community will hear that they too can have their needs met. Hear, hear.
Pastor Andrew

Friday, 30 June 2017

A DIFFERENT UNDERSTANDING OF THE AUSTRALIAN BUREAU OF STATISTICS OPINION OF CHRISTIANITY

2016ABS-Results-Christianity
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.)
2016ABS-Results-Christianity2
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. 
2016ABS-Results-Christianity3

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

unchanging-but-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

Renewed-GOD 
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
Amen.

Friday, 2 June 2017

deFining iDentity

defined-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

victim-victor

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.