Saturday, 24 March 2018


The site of the original Legana Church buildingIt was July 1995 when my life had a major course adjustment. We had recently pioneered a church in very tough part of Melbourne. We had seen the church grow quickly and saw some amazing stories of conversion to Christ happen before our eyes. In three years, the hall we were meeting was just about full. We had a Board that loved our church and helpe to oversee our growth. Then God spoke. Our time was up. I remember the following Sunday when our resignation was announced to church and it was met with tears from the congregation. The shock, sadness, and disappointment was quickly forgotten when it became obvious who God had already prepared to take over. We were presented with several opportunities by the leadership of the Assemblies of God, but none of them were God’s will for us. Then one, very none-eventful, night, God spoke to me. “I’m sending you to Tasmania!” We didn’t know anyone in Tasmania. We arrived unknown, unannounced, and uninvited. 
Kim and Ebony helping with the initial Legana Church building projectI was invited to preach at Legana Assembly of God on Sunday September 10th, 1995 which met in the Legana Memorial Hall. The following Sunday, September 17th, was the existing pastor’s last Sunday, and after I had preached the week earlier, the pastor asked me if I would be prepared to have my name presented to the church’s members as their next pastor for them to vote on. Perhaps because I was the only candidate these 17 members had to choose from, I got their vote and commenced as pastor of Legana on Sunday September 24th 1995. In the hand-over from the outgoing senior pastor to myself, I boldly declared that God had revealed to me that this was the church I was to sow my life into and that it would grow to be a church of hundreds. The pastor and his assistant smiled at me with one of those ‘I’m-smiling-on-the-outside-smiles-because-on-the-inside-I-think-you’re-an-idiot’ smiles. I guess they thought, “This guy is stupid! How could this church ever be hundreds of people when the whole town of Legana is only 1500 people?!”  
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Matthew 16:18
Stephen Hill, 2008Because Christ told Peter that He would build His Church, His words have shaped my life as a minister within His Church. Time and time again the Holy Spirit has caused me to see how Christ is far more concerned for our church than I could ever be! And with my mind’s eye I occasionally get what seems to be a glimpse of what He has in store for us – where I again see a church of hundreds of people – which I saw before I even commenced my pastorate at Legana. In my early years, in my energetic exuberance, I gave glimpses of my glimpse to my congregation. This was largely met with looks of indifference – and a few gave me those same creepy smiles that the outgoing pastor and his assistant gave me the first time I shared it! Then there were those who baled. They left with claims that since I wanted more people to come to Christ and join His Church I obviously didn’t care too much for them. Undaunted, I persisted in teaching several sermon series on Christ’s vision, mission, and make-up of the church. Still, not many caught a glimpse of the glimpse. But some did. And they rolled their sleeves up too and joined me behind the plow.
Does he not speak certainly for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop.
First Corinthians 9:10
Ten Little Christians, Poem 
Ten Little Christians came to church all the time;
One fell out with the preacher, then there were nine.
Nine Little Christians stayed up late;
One overslept on Sunday, then there were eight.
Eight Little Christians on their way to Heaven;
One took the low road, then there were seven.
Seven Little Christians, chirping like chicks;
One didn’t like the singing, then there were six.
Six Little Christians seemed very much alive;
One took a vacation, then there were five.
Five Little Christians pulling for Heaven’s shore;
One stopped to take a rest, then there were four.
Four Little Christians each as busy as a bee;
One had his feelings hurt, then there were three.
Three Little Christians couldn’t decide what to do;
One couldn’t have his way, then there were two.
Two Little Christians each won one more;
Now don’t you see, two plus two equals four.
Four Little Christians worked early and late;
Each brought one, now there were eight.
Eight Little Christians if they double as before;
In just seven Sundays, we have one thousand twenty four.
In this jingle there is a lesson true;
You belong either to the building, or to the wrecking crew.
~Author Unknown
I was speaking with a pastor this week who said that he believed God gifted local churches with particular strengths that made them unique. He believed each church then played a part in contributing to God’s plan for their city. The part we are gifted to play is a part of our ongoing story which is summed up in our symbol.
Churches take on a shape based on their strengths, giftings, resident ministries, and leadership. It’s a beautiful thing that God places His children in appropriately shaped churches. This also includes where He places certain pastors. Naturally (or perhaps I should say, supernaturally), churches can change shape as they grow. This is why it is important for a church to understand who God has called it to be. This is what we might call a church’s identity
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Ephesians 4:15-16


Some churches have the shape of a corner store. All of the customers are regulars. They know they can their newspaper, milk and bread and a few treats in their corner store. They also probably know the owner of the corner store. Some churches are like department stores who not only sell milk, bread, and newspapers, but they also a wider range of items in their departments. Customers probably don’t know the manager of the store, because they are more likely to know the department staff they see regularly. And still, some churches are like shopping centres where customers come because they enjoy the experience of being there and the almost unending range of things that are offered.


Dogs, like churches, come in different shapes. There are really small dogs. There are really big dogs. But the strange things about really small dogs is that they are the most ‘yappy’ of all dogs! It’s as if they think they can bluff bigger dogs into thinking that they are actually larger than they are – if they bark a lot. When a really big dog, such as a Great Dane, enters into a compound of various other dogs, there is no doubt in the other dogs’ minds that this Great Dane is bigger than them. Yet, the Great Dane doesn’t have to yap and bark to demonstrate how big it is. Churches can be like dogs. I think we should carry ourselves more like a big dog than really little dog. This requires a big attitude, a big heartand a big role in protecting the people of our community – even if they aren’t members of our church.
While we are in a canine mood, I also think that within a church comprised of what Jesus described as sheep (John 10:11-14). Australian shepherds use trained sheep-dogs to direct, care for, and protect their sheep. Despite the benefit these dogs undoubtedly provide for sheep, sheep have a natural aversion to dogs. Within a local church, God places a shepherd and then calls people to assist by serving as ‘sheep-dogs’ (elders, home-group leaders, team leaders, department leaders). Charles Spurgeon writes in his book, Soul Winning, that his success as an evangelist was largely due to his ‘hunting dogs’. He describes an incident where he was talking with one of his deacons after a Sunday morning service whose eyes were scanning the balcony of their church sanctuary as they chatted. Spurgeon, says that he was mid-sentence when the deacon suddenly excused himself and darted up into balcony. Upon returning some time later it was discovered that the deacon had spotted a person in anguish of soul and had approached them with an offer of leading them to Christ which was accepted. 
I hope that we can become a church of sheep who are being transformed into big dogs, sheep-dogs and hunting-dogs. When we are called upon to explain our commitment to Christ and His Church, it is reassuring that because we are on the side of truth, we can present our case reasonably without sounding like a little dog trying to bluff those around him.
but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,
First Corinthians 3:15


First Responders are members of the Emergency Services (Police, Ambulance, Fire Brigade). Even when these people are off-duty, they are still ready to be on-duty. When they attend a disaster, they arrive equipped, in uniform, and ready to implement their training. They enter into the disaster – but they distinct from it. 
I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
John 17:15-16
I hope that our church equips everyone to have the demeanour of a First Responder. That when we go about our daily activities we ready to be on-duty by sharing the Gospel’s message of hope and forgiveness with those whose lives have crashed.
The vision for our church over the next few years isn’t just about our church growing to hundreds and hundreds of more people, or having improved facilities, or more staff, or more programs, it’s about who we are becoming in the process. It’s about answering the call from God to be a difference where it is needed. It’s about stepping up so that we can step out into a world that doesn’t know how to do life/relationships/love very well. It’s about caring enough to pray for the lost, hurting, and broken in our community to come to the Refuge. It’s about being present where it’s messy – equipped to help, in ‘uniform’, ready to implement our training. It’s about a greater commitment to the assembling of God’s people that at times will require sacrifice and raise questions from those who want what you have been found for. 
¶ 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 7:9-10
Pastor Andrew

Thursday, 15 March 2018


There are many things in life which we take for granted. Those things which we often take for granted the most are usually the things we value the most. Sadly, it often takes the loss of these things before we realise just how valuable they are to us. I’m using the word things extremely broadly and honestly, probably inappropriately. This is because the ‘things’ that should matter the most to us are not material things.

making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
Ephesians 5:16
Everyone gets two precious gifts from God for which none of us are thankful anywhere near enough. The first is our life. The second is the time we are given to use it for good. Both of those most precious gifts are of incalculable value. Consider for a moment that if we are prepared to surrender them back to God in this life and time, He will give us eternal life! This infinitely valuable gift comes at the supreme price that God Himself could pay. If you consider all the vain things that charm us most – possessions, riches, good health, popularity, fancy clothes, fine food, new toys – they pale into pathetic insignificance when compared with the infinitely valuable and incomparably extravagant gift of eternal life given to all those who are prepared to surrender their life and time to God. Isaac Watts was so moved by this incomprehensible thought that he wrote-
Isaac Watts
When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
save in the death of Christ, my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them through his blood.
See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.
Have you surrendered your life and you time back to God? Is God the Navigator of your life – or just a passenger? You do not know how much of your life you will have at your disposal, or how much time you have in this life. What a tragedy of eternal proportions would be if you scorned God and His offer of eternal life for the false and vain hope that you could live better without God! Your life and your time are seeds that can only bear fruit when planted in the right soil. Your job is not the right soil. The object of your earthly affection is not the right soil. Your money and possessions are not the right soil. The accolades of the crowd is not the right soil. Surrendering your life and life to God is the only soil that you have been created, designed, and intended to sow your life into!
For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Matthew 6:32-33
When you seek first to sow your time into God’s service, you are developing godliness (Christlikeness), you will be fruitful and effective and position your life for His blessings in this life and in the life to come! 
for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
First Timothy 4:8
The only thing you can take with from this life and time into the next dimension of eternal life and eternity, is your level of godliness (1Tim. 4:8).

We sometimes find them irritating. We sometimes find them annoying. We sometimes find them frustrating. We sometimes wish they would stop interrupting us. People. Some we like. Some we don’t. If we could learn to listen to people, and to see them, I’m sure we would have more time for them. The main way that God ministers His grace to us is via people (1Peter 4:10). I think He does it this way because it develops one of the most desirable virtues of godliness in us – humility. It takes humility to be ministered to by another person. Our pride prevents us from spending time with people who deeply care for us because we know that they will challenge us and make us feel uncomfortable. Our pride prevents us from letting people get too close. Our pride prevents us from being honest with people about how we are struggling. Our pride stops us from reaching out to others because we think our problems mean that they should reach out to us. Our pride stops us from showing hospitality to strangers because strangers are just strange to us. Yet it is the very thing we push out of our lives that God has ordained to enrich our lives!
Our pride stops us from realising the truth that people are more important than we think!
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Romans 12:10

Being planted in a church brings together in one place of each of these things for our good. It involves our life. It involves our time. It involves people. God has designed for us to each grow by being planted in a church whereby these 5 things happen. Firstly, we worship God in Christ together (Heb. 10:28). This is essential for our souls to be nourished (Col. 2:19). Secondly, we are to come together in united fellowship to encourage one another to good works (Heb. 10:24-25), to receive prayer and to confess our sins to one another (James 5:16). Thirdly, we assemble as the church to receive instruction from God’s Word which also brings insight/inspiration/illumination. Fourthly, we come together as the church to be discipled in godliness so that we can each be more effective in our witness as people see Christ being more fully formed in us by GOD’s Word and Spirit. Fifthly, we multiply our evangelistic effectiveness when we come together because a non-Christian, the apostle Paul tell us, is more inclined to believe when they are in a gathering of believers (1Cor. 14:24).  This is why we meet Sunday morning, and then again Sunday night, and then fortnightly in our Home Groups. God has ordained these gatherings of His people so that you might grow up into Christ (Eph. 4:15-16). He calls this growth, a walk (Col. 2:6). If your walk with Christ has come to a standstill, then something is wrong! Horribly wrong! If your love for God and His church is not growing, then you are not growing! But it does not have to be this way. Father God wants to lead you out of the shadows and into the green pastures where He has prepared a table for you (Psalm 23). Come back to the table and fall in love again with God and His House (Rev. 2:4-5). 
I can guarantee you that church is far more important than any of us think!  

Pastor Andrew

Friday, 9 March 2018



What would it have been like to have been with Christ? 

Was there ever a man in more demand than Jesus of Nazareth? Thousands upon thousands of people waited eagerly day after day to see, hear, and meet Jesus the long-awaited Christ. Royalty wanted to meet with Him. Religious leaders wanted to meet with Him. The sick and infirmed queued to touch Him. All the while Jesus was on a mission of paramount importance and not only had all these enormous physical demands laid upon His shoulders, He also had unimaginably evil forces attempting to oppress, distract and thwart Him. Yet, with all this happening, the Gospels are punctuated with individual encounters with the Christ.
He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
¶ The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”
John 1:41-43

A night with Jesus by Nicodemus

I’m trying to learn from Christ. This involves paying prayerful attention to what He taught, but it also involves how He taught. For me this encompasses how He interacted with people. His interaction with Nicodemus is fascinating. 
The first thing I notice in John’s third chapter is that Jesus risked His reputation by befriending someone from a group of people He had publicly condemned for hypocrisy. Jesus didn’t just spend time with those who were already His friends.
And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that He was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to His disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Mark 2:16-17
Jesus was surprisingly accessible to individuals. Nicodemus came to Jesus by night. Jesus made Himself available. Perhaps He had developed a habit of being in a particular place at night. Nicodemus knew where to find Him. When Nicodemus met with Jesus He attempted to give Christ His due, and while many preachers would welcome the stroking of their egos, Jesus immediately overlooked this and looked directly into Nicodemus’s heart, and answered the Pharisee’s unasked question. This exchange exposed Nicodemus’s religion as mere cold formalism – and not the heart-connected, soul-satisfying, intellectually enriching, entrance into GOD’s intimately love-drenched presence. Christ was not intimidated by speaking to ‘The Teacher of Israel’ and was prepared to give the first properly done rebuke in human history.
Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.
John 3:10-11
The rebuke that Christ had offered in public to the Pharisees, He now gave personally in private. Unlike our rebukes, Christ’s must have been tender and soothing. Nicodemus welcomed what followed. What followed was Jesus giving the light that Nicodemus lacked.  
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
John 3:19-21
Jesus was a friend to Nicodemus.
In John chapter 4, Jesus befriends a Samaritan woman and heals her soul.
In John chapter 5, Jesus befriended an invalid and healed his lame legs.
In John chapter 6, Jesus has a conversation with Philip, then a small boy, and then Simon Peter, and then feeds them.
In John chapter 8, Jesus spoke with a woman dragged out into the dirt to be stoned and saved her life.
And so on.
In each of the nine days that John selects to paint a picture He depicts Christ as being present with individuals. Now that Christ has been resurrected and glorified, and dwells in eternity, how much more does He now have time to be with individuals? 

What did people feel who had been with Christ? 

It’s possible to be physically and geographically with someone but not present. What I am learning from Christ’s interactions with this sample of people whom He was present with, is that being present is a demonstration of God’s love. With each person that Christ engaged with, whether it was a religious Pharisee, a woman with a reputation, an elderly invalid, a young boy about to eat his lunch, an adulterous woman, a blind man, a grieving sister, a Roman Procurator, a thief on an adjacent cross, a beleaguered disciple, Christ was present.
We busy people are generally lousy at being present. We can be with someone and be a million miles away at the same time. While someone is chatting with us we are continually checking our phone screens. This is rude and a denial of our presence. Presence involves seeing and hearing. It involves connecting to some level with someone’s heart. This all takes practice. In the Gospels I see Jesus being present. What must people have felt when Jesus was present with them? We can do more than surmise the answer, we can experience it now.    
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am (present) with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:20
Pastor Andrew.

Friday, 2 March 2018



closed-door1One of the many things in which life and Scripture agree, and repeatedly remind us, is that our lives are constructed in what we interpret as chapters or seasons. Yesterday, the last day of February, was the end of a season. Today, the first day of March, is the beginning of a new Autumn. Recently, I had to stop doing something I enjoy which I had done since I was a child. For me a door closed and a season ended. I knew that day would eventually have to come. Fortunately, I had a hand in determining when it would be. But for many, life’s doors close without notice and seasons suddenly halt without our permission. It is in these times that the child of God needs reminding that it is our Heavenly Father, not mere circumstances, who closes doors for our benefit and changes our seasons for His
¶ “ ‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.
Revelation 3:8
I was quite ill recently. It involved being hospitalised for four days. I had well-meaning people tell me that ‘the Devil was having a go‘ and that we needed to pray against Satan’s schemes. I’m yet to find any Biblical justification for praying against Satan (or anything for that matter) in the Scriptures – but I can’t help seeing the Scripture teach the buffeted child of God to give thankspraise, and worship to the Lion/Lamb in the midst of their adverse cirmcumstances. 
give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
First Thessalonians 5:18
You too may have experienced a door closing in your life. It may look like the end, but it’s probably just the beginning.
for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
First Corinthians 16:9
Joseph was given a multi-coloured coat from his father, Jacob. This flagrant display of favouritism drove his envious brothers to stage his death and sell him into slavery. A door closed for Joseph. He was bought by Potiphar. A door opened for him and a new season began. But Potiphar’s wife resented young Joseph’s high moral stance and unjustly had him thrown in prison. A door closed for Joseph. Pharaoh dreamed a dream. Joseph was the only one who could interpret that dream. A door opened for Joseph and that night he was made the Prime Minister of Egypt.
One day, our lives will end. A door will close. But for the child of God, a glorious eternally open door will be set before them. Then, we will ultimately discover what most of life’s veterans have found to be true, when God closes a door, He does it for our benefit and His purpose.
  The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
   The face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
  When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
 ¶ Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
              Psalm 34:15-19

At the tender age 15, Frank Boreham was a junior clerk at a brickworks. His job involved checking the dispatching freight trains as they pulled out. On one particularly foggy morning, he and a rail worker went down to the tracks to do their respective jobs. Frank was to check the deliveries while the rail worker was to switch the tracks so that the train headed in the right direction. At that junction the switch points were controlled by dual levers. Frank was often embarrassed by his awkward day-dreaming and clumsiness but never more so because of this fateful morning when when he inadvertently took his position in front of the other lever to the one the rail-worker then switched. Just as the freight train came past the junction, the lever behind Frank suddenly knocked him under the train. Frank was dragged some fifty metres along the tracks before the train stopped. His right leg had been severed just below the knee. He spent 9 months at the door of death battling septicemia. Finally, his parents were told by doctors to prepare for the worst. Frank's mother went to their local church to plead with God for the life of her son. She prayerfully and tearfully bargained with God that if He saved her son, she would give her Frank to God for Him to use however He wanted - wherever He wanted. News came that very hour that Frank's condition had suddenly improved.

Frank had had aspirations that required him to be able-bodied. He loved playing cricket. He loved nature walks. But that door was now closed to him. The door that God opened for Frank was a door that led him to Christ, into Spurgeon's Pastors College, then as a pastor in Mosgiel, New Zealand, then the world stage as a writer and preacher from which he was awarded a Doctor of Divinity Degree from McMaster University (Canada) and an O.B.E. from Queen Elizabeth II.  And I for one am glad that God closed the door that He did for Frank, because He, as He always does, opened another for Frank's benefit and for His own purpose, as He always does.

Pastor Andrew

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Bruised Reeds Bewildered


The prophets foretold of the Messiah being both powerful and yet gentle. He would vanquish his enemies, yet gather his people as a shepherd gathers lambs. He would punish rebellious nations with a rod of iron (Psalm 2:9) yet be attentive to the distressed and destitute (Psalm 22:5). He would treat the broken with dignity and respect, yet mete out justice to those responsible for their plight (Isa. 42:3). We are presented with a powerful portrait of the strength and compassion of the Messiah in the prophetic psalms and poems of the prophets while being told that despite this, He would be misunderstood, slandered, and maligned.
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
Isaiah 42:3
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Isaiah 53:3
Despite Christ showing unequalled compassion for people, unprecedented care for those close to Him (including His mother and brothers and sisters, and His disciples), His need to, at times, be alone was misunderstood by these people in particular. As unimaginable as it may seem, His mother and siblings at times felt neglected by Him –
¶ And His mother and His brothers came, and standing outside they sent to Him and called Him. And a crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And He answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?”
Mark 3:31-33
His disciples experienced times when they felt He didn’t care for them – 
But He was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
Mark 4:38
jesus-speaks-with-a-man-born-blindAnd one can only wonder how the portico full of ill people felt when He walked over some of them and past others of them to restore a man who had been lame for 38 years while seemingly ignoring their plight!
In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”  The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.”  Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk. And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. ¶ Now that day was the Sabbath.”
John 5:3-9


But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.
Luke 5:16
jesus-praying-all-nightJesus often withdrew from people. The One who loved people the most needed to have times of space and distance from them.  Pastors, the most visible representatives of Christ, in days gone by, were almost universally trained that the best day to take off in a week was Monday. Unless someone has ever experienced what it is like to be needed and wanted by so many people so intensely over the course of a day, it is difficult for them to imagine how wearing this can. I imagine that it is also difficult for people to understand that even the most caring people need quiet time alone to recharge and restore – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Christ’s disciples certainly found it difficult. Mary and Martha found it difficult. Christ’s mother and siblings also had reason to struggle with it. Seasoned pastors turned professors of theology and ministry would instruct their protégés that an intense day of ministry, where preaching just one sermon is equivalent to the expenditure of emotional and even physical energy of labouring 8 hours (let alone preaching twicea Sunday), leading a training meeting, being available for counselling and comfort, showing hospitality over lunch in between services, takes a toll on a pastor. Monday, they would counsel, is the day you need to withdraw and restore. All of these regular Sunday activities for a pastor would only be a fraction of the drain that Christ must have felt nearly every day of His incarnate ministry. Little wonder then, that Immanuel needed to often withdraw from people to be of most value to people. And while it appeared He was alone we know that He was never by Himself. 
For those of us called to care and shepherd others where we are continually attempting to repair bruised reeds and not snuff out struggling candles, we run the certain risk of being misunderstood when these precious lambs confuse our absence for indifference or our silence for rejection. Christ ran that risk and was the subject of such misunderstanding. They challenge for Christian carers, especially those called to shepherd, is to recognise that our needed times of isolation and quiet are not times by ourself but with the Enthroned Father who has no need to slumber or sleep (Psalm 121:4) who gives restoration and strength to all those who wait on Him (Isa. 40:31).
Pastor Andrew

Friday, 16 February 2018

WHEN NOT TO ASK, Becoming An Experienced Carer

IT's always done with the best of intentions. We see someone, we feel a measure of compassion for them. We approach them. We reach out to them. Most people appreciate being asked. But not everyone. Those who have no foreseeable way of ever being 'better' than they are often dread being asked. Sometimes to them, we utter the fateful words and all our good intentions are undone. I've been on both sides of these conversations. Lately, I've been on a side I never thought I'd spend too much time on. Before I explain myself, I need to tell you a weird story. 
When He went ashore He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them and healed their sick.
Matthew 14:14
BEFORE I talk about Stephen King’s, The Green Mile, I need to disclose a journey I’ve been on secretly for the past fifteen years or so. Some of us are born with gifts and natural abilities. My journey began because I was frustrated that I wasn’t naturally what I knew I needed to be for the call Christ had on my life. People would tell me that I had a gifts to teach and lead. Many pastors would be content with this. I wasn’t. I began a habit each Sunday morning before I went to church. I didn’t tell anyone. I would go for a walk and pray. I asked God to change my heart, to give me compassion for others, to help me to hear people, to help me to see people, to help me to help people. I prayed to God that people would be healed as they heard the Word preached.                                                                                                                          
And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”
Luke 7:13
compassionate-hands2After a few years, my heart had been softened toward others in answer to these pleading prayers. There was an embarrassing downside to this answer to my prayers though – and it has nearly jeopardised Kim’s willingness to accompany me to the movies! I now cry easily at anything remotely moving in a movie. Several times on an interstate flight while watching a movie Kim has jabbed me and told me to “Stop it!” The sobbing I thought I am concealing in a very mild manly manner is apparently not that manly or concealed!
But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.
First Thessalonians 2:7
This prayer for supernatural compassion has continued all these years later. And here’s where it now gets nearly too weird for Stephen King. I mentioned from the pulpit the other Sunday that as I have been praying that God would help me to be a faithful pastor. But something strange has been happening. I prayed for someone with a ‘kink’ inside their neck causing them headaches. Shortly after this I was diagnosed a kink inside my neck (after an MRI exam) causing me to have headaches. I prayed for someone with painfully irritated tongue. I began to have an irritated tongue. I prayed for someone with what sounded like a bulging spinal disc causing them back-pain and someone else unable to come to church due to their back-pain. I then began to experience excruciating back-pain and was diagnosed by another MRI with two bulging spinal discs. I prayed for someone with an infected toe. Soon after this I walked bare-footed onto my lush lawn to water it and was suddenly bitten on my toe by a ‘Jack Jumper’ (think, ‘Fire Ant‘) which overnight turned into an infected toe. And then I received a prayer request from a dear friend in Missouri, Pastor Ted Heaston, asking me to pray for his left ankle to recover. This week I was discharged from hospital (for the second time in two weeks) with a severely infected left ankle! 
On the day that I hear that Pastor Ted is now in the clear with his ankle, I too have just come from my doctor and heard that my infection is now subsiding. There are other examples of this sort of thing, but these samples give you the idea of what’s been happening in my world over the past few months in particular. This has given me a new insight into the world of those who are unwell, injured, in pain, or sick. Armed with this insight, and now having to endure my own chronic conditions which I won’t bore you with, I can tell you there are things you shouldn’t ask a person who is having their own health battles, especially, How are you?
For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
Second Corinthians 5:2-4


Genuinely caring people can have the best of intentions but be unhelpful in either their comments or questions. On the other side these conversations, I can say that it is nice to know that someone cares when you hurt. One of the reasons a question like, How are you? can hurt so much is that it can show a lack of consideration and thoughtfulness. Similarly, those in pain can also feel a bit exasperated when someone says to them,’You’re looking well. I guess you’re now better.‘ And probably the worst thing to say is, “I know exactly what you’re going through!
¶ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
Second Corinthians 1:3
People who are not well can get tired answering the question, “So how are you?” (Especially when it should be obvious that they are not well – or worst still, there is some evidence that this is their new reality.) Instead, try this, “Can I get you a cup of tea?” “Would you like me to get you a chair?” “Can I carry that for you?” Experienced carers who have a relationship with the one who is hurting can get away with things like, “How can I best pray for you?” Often times this invites the hurting one to share  what they feel comfortable sharing. The problem with always being asked, “How are you?” is that after a while you feel you’re invalid who just whinges all the time! During one of my recent stints in hospital, I appreciated being asked by nurses and doctors, “Are you in pain at the moment?” Or, “Can I get you something for your pain?” 
As I've said, most people appreciate being asked how they are. But, the next time you meet a grieving parent, a chronically ill person, someone physically disabled, or someone battling depression, you'll now know what to ask and what not to ask. And if you ask me to pray for your rare exotic medical condition, forgive me if I hesitate for a moment before I pray for you, but at least now you'll know why! 
Pastor Andrew